TV interview – Channel 9, Today Show
Subjects: Privacy penalties, censure of former Prime Minister.
KARL STEFANOVIC, TODAY HOST: Companies that fail to protect their customers' data will now cop tougher fines. The new laws have just passed through Parliament following major privacy breaches during the Optus and Medibank hacks. For more, we're joined by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus in Canberra. Good morning to you Attorney-General, appreciate your time.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: Morning Karl.
STEFANOVIC: What are the new fines?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The new fines are $50 million, or a proportion of turnover. They're much higher - they're an increase from $2.2 million, which is what the fines are at the moment. And we hope that this will be an incentive for companies to take better care of the personal data of Australians.
STEFANOVIC: So, have you charged Optus yet, or fined Optus or Medibank?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: They won't be retrospective. They're looking to the future and we've already seen Telstra just this morning announcing that they are going to increase their data security. That's precisely the kind of response we want to see from corporate Australia - looking after the personal data of Australians.
STEFANOVIC: So, do Optus and Medibank get away with it?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, they're still being investigated by the Information Commissioner. What's important here is that they are now taking all the steps that they can to repair the damage that that was done by these shocking breaches of data security.
STEFANOVIC: Given all the secrecy around some of this stuff I wonder if it's going to be prohibitive for you to actually find out what happened, say for example, in an Optus or a Medibank situation, and then take action, appropriate action, and be able to qualify that quantify that and prosecute?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Optus and Medibank are both cooperating with authorities to do everything they can to repair the damage. They have been cooperating and telling us, as far as they can, what happened. We've responded also by setting up a joint taskforce between the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Signals Directorate which will be able to attack the hackers and that's the first time that that's happened.
STEFANOVIC: So, both these companies, 10 million customers each, multiple violations, what will they potentially face in terms of fines?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: There are serious fines potentially that can be levied if the Information Commissioner decides that there has been a serious breach that's caused serious harm. I don't want to get ahead of ourselves, that's a matter for her to decide down the track.
STEFANOVIC: But as a case of law, potentially what are they?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, as I said earlier, $2.2 million is the maximum fine that can be imposed at the moment. That's why we've rushed through the Parliament, new laws that passed yesterday, to increase the penalties to provide a much greater incentive for Australian companies to look after Australians data.
STEFANOVIC: You see what I'm getting at? That these are two potentially of the biggest corporate breaches in terms of information this country has ever seen and you get a $2.2 million fine - it's not even a slap on the wrist.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah, and it's a problem caused by the former government which just sat on its hands in every way. Didn't look at the Privacy Act. Didn't bring it up to date in the way that we are doing. This is just a first step. I've got a review of the Privacy Act that's going to be completed by the end of this year and we'll be bringing more legislation to modernise the Privacy Act to the Parliament next year.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, censure motion against Scott Morrison is set to be moved to this week, but nothing really happens to him does it?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's really important that the Parliament mark its disapproval of this shocking attack on principles of responsible government that we saw from the former Prime Minister. We can't let it go unmarked by the Parliament. The former government thought it appropriate to pass a censure motion on its former minister Bruce Billson for taking money from the Franchising Council while he was still in Parliament. This is much more serious. These are the actions of a Prime Minister who had himself appointed to some five ministries and kept it secret from the Parliament. It's a very serious attack on our democracy and we can't let it go unmarked.
STEFANOVIC: But does the punishment match? What you're saying is it being such a serious attack on democracy and what happens to him is absolutely nothing.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Censure by the Parliament is a very, very unusual step. And I think that that is in itself a very serious punishment.
STEFANOVIC: All right. Good to talk to you. Thanks very much for your time.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks very much