Union led campaign forces federal government to dump proposed snooping laws

24 November 2021

The federal government has backed down on plans to introduce sweeping new national laws which would have allowed employers to snoop on the private lives of their employees.

The unamended Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020  first made available for public consultation in July would have allowed employers to force their workers to undergo ASIO checks, security background checks and historical reviews of their personal internet and email usage.

ETU Assistant National Secretary Michael Wright welcomed the Government’s move to scrap the most invasive provisions within the bill with a total of 59 amendments being made to the bill before its passage. 

Most importantly, the proposed bill’s section that was going to enliven the AusCheck regime being applied has been scrapped.

Further proposed measures which have been removed include:

  • The sections which would have given the Minister discretion to declare certain assets to be systems of national significance;
  • Powers for the Minister to make orders around systems of national significance;
  • The sections that imposed new requirements for critical infrastructure risk management programs.

Mr Wright said the unamended bill was too vague and broad.

“The bill put forward by the government in July created a vastly expanded range of ‘critical infrastructure’ so broad, that it would have forced two million workers in industries such as energy, food and grocery, health, higher education and public transport to hand over their personal details,” Mr Wright said.

“It was invasive and went well beyond what can be considered to be reasonable. The ETU welcomes the removal of these outrageous provisions which the government never should have contemplated in the first place.

“We understand security clearances and checks are required in sensitive industries, particularly in public service and defense, but workers are already subject to strict industry checks,” Mr Wright said.

Mr Wright said the government’s backdown is a direct result of a sustained union led campaign opposed to the measures. 

“The provisions in the unamended bill were an overreach which infringed upon the rights and privacy of two million working Australians. Union members across the country made it clear that they were not acceptable. We’re pleased the Government listened and scrapped them.”

The ETU is the Electrical, Energy and Services Division of the Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia (CEPU). The ETU represents more than 61,000 electrical and electronic workers nationally, while the CEPU, in total, represents about 90,000.

This article was publised on 24 November 2021.