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The Political Exemption: A Justifiable Invasion of Privacy in the Political Sphere?

Author

Tegan Cohen

This article argues that the ‘political exemptions’ in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) pose a threat not only to privacy, but to core democratic values, and are therefore unjustifiable. While the threat to privacy imposed by the exemptions has grown more intense in recent years as new technologies usher in increasingly covert and data-intensive techniques for electioneering, proposals to change the law have gained little traction in Parliament. Instead, supporters of the exemptions maintain that the provisions support the proper functioning of the Australian democratic system. This article examines the operation of the exemptions under contemporary conditions, mapping the coverage of the provisions against the current technological and political milieu, in order to evaluate the effects of the exemptions on democratic processes. The analysis reveals that not only do the exemptions expose voters to a greater threat of privacy invasion, they threaten key democratic values which underpin the Australian political system.

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