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Data breach notification bill misses deadline

Whistleblower protection squeaks through

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In spite of a committee report recommending that Australia's Senate pass the proposed data breach notification bill, the overcrowded legislative program has put paid to the legislation for now.

With the government presumably holding its last parliamentary sitting before this year's election, and with the political distraction of the ALP government playing hot-swap-the-leader on Wednesday evening, the data breach notification bill was not brought forward for a vote.

On Thursday evening, former prime minister Julia Gillard called a Labor Caucus vote on her leadership, losing to her predecessor Kevin Rudd.

The only chance the current legislation would have would be if the country's prime ministerial redux Kevin Rudd decides to delay an election long enough for there to be another sitting of federal parliament. This is not completely out of the question, since the election could be delayed until November, but it's unlikely.

However, the Senate did manage to pass laws strengthening whistleblower protections in Australia.

The two bills passed late last week puts an obligation on commonwealth public officials to report suspected wrongdoing. The law allows officials to make reports to their own agency, directly to the commonwealth ombudsman, or if they are reporting intelligence issues, to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.

However, the whistleblower protection bills are criticised for exempting too many national security agencies, an issue that has become prominent in the light of the ongoing revelations of US snooping by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who fled to Russia after sensationally releasing NSA PowerPoint slides and other data in Hong Kong. Snowden is believed to remain in the Moscow Airport transit area while his possible asylum – and the need to travel without a US passport – is sorted out (or not). ®

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