Here’s what the OAIC had to say about *THAT* video

Remember that video, the one Twiggy Forrest commissioned via his charity, Minderoo to tout his policy of cashless welfare? Featuring CCTV footage taken from remote Indigenous communities in WA, the video was bandied about the media and taken to Canberra to guilt-trip MP’s into ignoring the human rights implications (and rise in violent crime) that came out of the initial trials of blanket income quarantining.

In order to inform evidence in my submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Cashless Debit Card Bill (which closed on Monday), I was curious to know if the ‘evidence’ being touted by Twiggy Forrest (from the CCTV video) was from the period before or after introduction of the cashless welfare card as this would seem to bear on the effectiveness of the card to stop violence if, in fact, the incident occurred during the trial itself.

But how could I determine when the imagery was recorded? I needed to know who owned the CCTV camera which recorded it- which brought up a whole host of new questions about their right to share it with Andrew Forrest or any of his many minions in the first place?

I wondered if the camera was owned by the local council or private interests and I wondered what is permitted to be done with such footage and whether the use of it in lobbying and the media is permitted under the Privacy Act? This article explores privacy and civil liberties issues with CCTV.

To clarify matters, shot off a quick email -included at the foot of this post- to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (which administers the Privacy Act).

After what the OAIC admits is an ‘extended delay’, I received a response this week. Interestingly, the OAIC does not address whether it is legal for Minderoo to have obtained the footage in the first place under the Privacy Act in order to create the video to feed to the media, but has limited their response to the power of the Privacy Act over media organisations- which is interesting enough in itself.

According to information filed by Minderoo with the ACNC, Minderoo is listed as a ‘small’ charity with a ‘revenue’ of $250k. Whether their turnover is above or below the $3million required for it to be required to be held to account for anything it does under the Privacy Act is more difficult to determine. Interestingly, the ACNC link to the Minderoo Foundation Annual Report does not work.

I found a 2017 Annual Report for the Forrest Foundation at this link which provides interesting reading but it is not clear to me in my very brief look what part of the many millions of dollars boasted of flows through to Minderoo or what the relationship between Minderoo and the Forrest Foundation is. This would be an interesting matter to follow up in its own right.

For their part, the OAIC has advised that to uncover whether any breach of the Privacy Act has occurred in the construction and dissemination of the video, I need to know the organisations involved in advance of my complaint which I am advised to identify through FOI.

Apparently this is not the OAIC’s problem to determine, but mine because the OAIC has chosen to interpret my broad question of ” [whether] the sharing and publication of this footage is in breach of privacy legislation?” as “appear[ing] that your enquiry concerns the acts and practices of a media organisation”, despite that I specifically named Andrew Forrest and his charity Minderoo in my enquiry.

I leave you with their response:

Dear Rosie

Apologies for the extended delay in our response to you and thank you for your enquiry.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (the OAIC) regulates the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (the Act) which sets out the manner in which Australian and Norfolk Island government agencies, and many private sector organisations, handle personal information.

The Privacy Act exempts the actions of media organisations, when the act or practice is done in the course of journalism, as set out under section 7B(4). This means that the Australian Privacy Principles (the APPs) in the Act do not regulate the handling of personal information by media organisations, when it is done in the course of journalism. A media organisation can claim the exemption if it is publicly committed to observing published, written standards that deal with privacy in the context of the activities of a media organisation.

A media organisation is an organisation whose activities consist of the collection, preparation and dissemination of news, current affairs, information or documentaries.

It appears that your enquiry concerns the acts and practices of a media organisation. Unfortunately, the OAIC is unable to assist you in this instance.

Complaints about the acts and practices of newspapers or media organisations should be made to the Australian Press Council on 1800 025 712.

Complaints about the acts and practices of broadcasters should be made to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on 1800 226 667.

Further information on the coverage of, and exemptions from, the private sector provisions is available on our website in resource Privacy business resource 13: Application of the Australian Privacy Principles to the private sector.

Please also be aware that The OAIC does not hold records of other agencies/organisations or in this instance the ABC. You could lodge a Freedom of Information request with the ABC in regards to accessing the information you have requested. You will need to directly contact the organisation that holds the information you are seeking or alternatively contact the regulators of the newspaper specifically to see if they are able to assist you.

If you wish to apply for access to documents held by an Australian or Norfolk Island government agency, then you need to make a request in writing, under the FOI Act, directly to the agency that holds the records. Further information about making an FOI application, including details of what needs to be included, is available on our website in the published FOI Fact Sheet 6 – How to Apply.

We have also published guidance on applicants’ review rights and making a complaint about how an agency has handled your FOI application.

We apologise that we are unable to assist you further in this instance. If you have any further enquiries, please contact the OAIC enquiries line on 1300 363 992.

Yours sincerely

Nicola

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

From: Rosie@ATCRA [mailto:]
Sent: Saturday, 16 September 2017 3:23 PM
To: Enquiries <enquiries@oaic.gov.au>
Subject: EN17/14849 use of CCTV footage

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to enquire about the use of CCTV footage in the video paid for by Andrew Forrest & Minderoo, published in several places including the ABC News web site at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-09/forrest-pushes-welfare-card/8789972

I am curious to know how this footage was obtained as I would like to establish the dates and locations when the incidences in the video took place. I would also like to know if the sharing and publication of this footage is in breach of privacy legislation?

thank you

Rosie Williams

rosiewilliams.com.au

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