Inquiry into surveillance in public places

Georgia King-Siem

As part of its broader inquiry into surveillance regulation in Victoria, the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) has now turned its attention to surveillance in public places. Previously, the VLRC has looked at surveillance in the workplace.

The consultation paper released in March 2009 considers current practices and regulation and goes on to consider the nature of privacy in public areas and what risks and benefits surveillance offers. The consultation paper puts forward four basic principles from which future reforms may flow. Reforms under consideration include:

  • The use of an independent regulator;
  • The development of voluntary best practice guidelines;
  • Mandatory codes with criminal and civil penalties;
  • Licensing of overly invasive surveillance practices;
  • Amendments to bring the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic) up-to-date;
  • A statutory obligation not to seriously invade another’s privacy.

With the help of two volunteers (Rhys Michie and Craig Silva), Liberty is preparing a written submission which addresses each of these proposed reforms. Although broadly supportive of the proposed reforms, Liberty believes a federal legislated and actionable right to privacy would provide a more flexible approach to protecting privacy (among other reforms).

In any given instance, there will be competing public interests: the public interest in protecting personal privacy against the public interest in protecting public safety or property or even in freedom of speech and expression.
If you would like to know more, please contact either Liberty Victoria or go directly to the VLRC website ( and look under ‘current projects’. Submissions close 30 June 2009.

Georgia King-Siem is a Vice-President of Liberty Victoria.