Dr MEHREEN FARUQI ( 15:14 ): I speak on behalf of The Greens in debate on the Electronic Transactions Legislation Amendment (Government Transactions) Bill 2017. Schedules 1 to 4 relate to the electronic service of documents and enable digital transactions between the Government and citizens by amending a number of Acts. This bill gives a range of government agencies the power to communicate and serve notices by electronic means. It allows notices or other documents to be sent to an email address specified by the intended recipient and the digital option may be chosen if desired. As more commercial transactions and activities are undertaken online, it is time for government agencies to be able to do the same. That is a welcomed move. But as we move towards an increasingly digital future clear safeguards must be put in place to ensure the protection of citizens’ data. Steps must be taken to ensure that data is not used without the explicit agreement of the provider for any purpose other than what is knowingly agreed to. People give their information to the government in good faith and expect it to be kept private. We must ensure that this service is not outsourced and is kept in public hands.
I expect protocols to be in place for agencies to use an alternative method of communication if, for instance, the email bounces back and to ensure that notices are not lost or sent to the wrong persons. This bill amends the requirement for government notices and information to be published in a newspaper to allow for more flexibility for these to be published online, in print or on publicly accessible websites that will cause the notice to come to the attention of persons who may be affected by it. It is important that this principle be kept in mind and that there is an intent to make sure that the notices, wherever they are published, come to the attention of the public.
Schedule 4 to the bill adds a new section to the Road Transport Act 2013 to allow fora trial of a prototype digital driver licence through the Service NSW app. This is the future for all kinds of documents. Just as tickets to shows, airline boarding passes, loyalty cards and even our wallets are migrating on to our smart phones, the driver licence is headed down the same path. I understand that the Privacy Commissioner has been consulted on the digital driver licence trial. The Government must provide clear assurances that the data will be protected using the latest technology and will only be used for stated purposes when citizens are aware of its use. The Greens have consistently called for citizens to be given digital rights, including the appointment of an independent and dedicated digital rights commissioner. For all the convenience that a digital licence would offer, I have some concerns about privacy safeguards and clarity in the use of information. For instance, would people hand their smart phones to police officers if they are pulled over? If the officer can look at a licence on a phone, what else would be accessible and what would be off limits? There are concerns that when law enforcement officers check a driver licence and gain access to a person’s smart phone it will open up the possibility for a potential breach of privacy.
As the Government implements the trial it must guarantee that people will have means available to have full control over and knowledge of what is handed to law enforcement officers. This can be done through technological means that would reassure citizens they have control over what information they are providing to the police. One example could be an app that would only display a driver licence to a police officer and would lock the rest of the phone. It would be appreciated if the Minister addresses some of these uncertainties in reply. It would be helpful to hear how the Government plans to implement technology that creates convenience without eroding privacy. This bill has no requirement for the relevant agencies to report back to Parliament or a committee, or to the public once the trial is over. There must be a requirement for the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation to submit a detailed and publicly available report on the trial of digital driver licences in New South Wales.
Before I conclude, I will briefly talk about technology, government processes and democracy. Governments and parliaments must use technology to allow citizens expanded opportunities to engage digitally with the democratic functions of the State. Of course, one clear example of that is Parliament accepting online petitions. Another is freedom of information, which is fundamental to democracy and which could be made so much easier using technology. Information gathering, storage and publication is becoming increasingly efficient. We must move towards all government departments proactively releasing information in an easily searchable format. As we move today to allow government transactions to be carried out digitally, we must also move towards a future of greater transparency, more accountability, and more engagement with democratic governance that advances in technology have offered us.
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: Hear, hear!
Dr MEHREEN FARUQI: I acknowledge that interjection.