In 2018 Queensland’s Attorney General sought the Queensland Law Reform Commission (“QLRC”) to recommend whether Queensland should consider legislation to appropriately protect the privacy of individuals in the context of civil surveillance technologies.
While most other Australian jurisdictions already have specific surveillance device legislation, Queensland does not. Currently in Queensland, the Invasion of Privacy Act 1971 regulates the use of a listening device to listen to or record private conversation. However, this legislation does not extend to other types of surveillance devices.
The QLRC Review
On 29 June 2020, the QLRC published their ‘Review of Queensland’s laws relating to civil surveillance and the protection of privacy in the context of current and emerging technologies’.
The Review recommended the Invasion of Privacy Act 1971 be repealed and the introduction of new legislation, the Surveillance Devices Bill 2020, which if implemented will see significant reforms to Queensland’s current practices in the use of surveillance devices. The purpose of the Bill is to provide for an individual’s privacy to be protected from unjustified interference from the use, or the communication or publication of information obtained from the use of surveillance devices.
The Key Reforms
The Bill proposes that the use of surveillance devices be prohibited unless an exception applies. This means that it will be unlawful to use a listening device to monitor or record a private conversation without the consent of each party to the conversation. Under current Queensland legislation, it is generally lawful to record a private conversation without consent.
A further reform the Bill proposes is criminal sanctions for the possession, communication and/or publication of information obtained from surveillance devices. There will also be criminal prohibitions on the use, installation, or maintenance of surveillance devices.
A new independent regulator, the Surveillance Devices Commissioner, along with a Surveillance Device Commission will be established under the proposed Bill. Its role will be to receive and deal with surveillance device complaints under the legislation. Complaints made to the Commission can be referred to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. This system provides a civil mechanism for the resolution of a complaint about an alleged contravention. Remedial relief including compensation for loss or damage suffered of up to $100,000.00 can be ordered under the proposed Bill.
The Future of the Surveillance Devices Bill 2020
The Queensland Government has indicated that changes will be made to the existing legislative framework, however these changes are unlikely to be seen until after April 2021.