RoLIA Secretary/Treasurer Mr Ben Giles was invited by the Public Law and Government Committee of Young Lawyers NSW to present at the ‘Public Law in the Pub’ event.  The topic of the event was “Do we need a right to privacy?”  Also speaking at the event was Mr Nigel Waters from the Australian Privacy Foundation.  Both speakers focused primarily on the proposed statutory privacy tort.  The topic initiated debate among the present young lawyers.

Ben’s presentation focused on:

1. Conflicts between the proposed tort and the rule of law, including:

–          Stifling of free speech and free press.  Emphasis was placed on how a free press is beneficial to the rule of law.  Examples included the ability of the media to investigate alleged crimes and other matters of public significance where there may be a privacy interest involved, eg. the case of Dr Jayant Patel.

–          Uncertainty as the proposed tort as drafted includes a number of subjective tests.

–          Over-legislation as current laws could be strengthened or enforced more efficiently rather than drafting new legislation. An example was the existing enforceable privacy rules contained in the Commercial Television Code of Practice.

2. Surprising Examples that would not be covered by the proposed tort

–          e.g. Although possibly unethical much of the conduct of paparazzi press  would be untouched by the proposed tort.

Overall the event was a great success and RoLIA would like to thank Mr Greg Johnson, the President of the Public Law and Government Committee for the invitation to be part of this highly topical discussion.