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The Kenny Report, Sky News, 29 September 2022

Chris Kenny: You’ve been proposing for months now reforms to the privacy laws. If they had been taken up and enacted, would they have prevented this hack or done anything to lessen the effects?

Senator Henderson: Well, Chris, good afternoon and great to join you. And yes, as you say, Julian Leeser, the shadow attorney-general and myself have been calling for urgent online privacy law reform since July, picking up on the extensive work by our government. And look, while we can’t say exactly in terms of the scope of the cyberattack, there is certainly the potential that if these laws had been enacted, Optus customers would have had the right to ask Optus to cease using their personal information, and Optus arguably would have had an obligation to provide full disclosure about the use of personal information, including of former customers.

Because let’s not forget, Chris, that Optus was holding information of former customers, probably without their knowledge. So it may well have made a very big difference. But it’s very disappointing that our calls for urgent privacy law reform for online platforms and social media platforms fell on deaf ears and it took the Optus cyberattack for the government to wake up.

Chris Kenny: Yeah, well it is good that you’ve done that work and there are some proposals on the table. Presumably then you’d welcome the fact the government is now looking at this, but the laws will have to go further. Given what we know now through this Optus breach, they’ll have to go further than what you’d proposed back in July.

Senator Henderson: Well, we do welcome the change of heart from the government, and of course the Attorney-General has indicated that he will be bringing forward some amendments to the Privacy Act, perhaps by the end of the year, perhaps early next year before they are passed.

We say that’s not good enough, that most of the work for this reform has been done by our government. The Attorney-General’s Department did very extensive consultation after releasing the draft Online Privacy Bill. That was an exposure draft, a lot of consultation followed and yes, further amendments may well be required, Chris, but most of that work has been done and it’s not good enough that this should be pushed off to the end of this year or next year. We want to see these urgent amendments in the Parliament in the next sitting week.

Chris Kenny: Yeah, the sooner the better. Now, do you agree with the push to get Optus to pay for things to actually cover the costs of customers who are having to get their driver’s licences redone or have to get a new passport? Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay through government. Customers themselves shouldn’t have to be paying. Is the government right to force Optus to pay and should that actually be legislated as well?

Senator Henderson: Well, I certainly don’t agree with the government’s original position, basically saying that Optus customers need to bear the cost of applying for a new passport. So I’m pleased that they have shifted their position. We want those fees to be waived. Now, whether the government then seeks to be compensated by Optus is a matter for the government.

But certainly, Optus customers who are suffering so extensively at the moment, who require a new passport, need those passports urgently and they should not have to pay those fees.

Chris Kenny: Just one last thing, Sarah. People in your hometown of Geelong have been pretty cock-a-hoop at the moment. You must be keen to get back down there.

Senator Henderson: Chris, I’m absolutely delighted. The Geelong Cats is a mighty team. Wonderful to be there for the premiership win. Very sad, of course, to see Joel Selwood go as captain. We are a mighty team, so proud of course, and looking for the back to back victory next year.

Chris Kenny: I tell you what, he went out in style. What a fantastic leader Joel Selwood is, he just about deserves Australian of the Year after the way he handled that grand final and the aftermath. Thanks for joining Sarah.

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