JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
24 June 2021

VALS, Liberty Victoria, the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre, the Human Rights Law Centre and Fitzroy Legal Service call on the Andrews Government to implement laws to protect Victorians’ private information that is being collected for contact tracing.

Check in data has played a vital role in strengthening Victoria’s contact tracing system during the pandemic. It relies on the Victorian community having faith that their personal information will be managed correctly and only used for the specific purpose of contact tracing.

These leading legal, human rights and civil liberties organisations have serious concerns about reports that Victoria Police have attempted to access check-in data for the purpose of criminal investigations.

The Western Australian Government has already legislated to prevent the use of contact tracing check-in data for criminal investigations. The Andrews Government needs to do implement similar legislation to make it clear that check-in information can only be used for contact tracing purposes.

Quotes Attributable to Andreea Lachsz, Head of Policy, Communications and Strategy, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service 

“The Andrews Government needs to be proactive in protecting the integrity of the contract tracing system. Victoria cannot afford another major breakout because public faith in check-in data security was undermined by it being used for purposes other than the public health uses for which it is intended.”

Quotes Attributable to Julia Kretzenbacher, President, Liberty Victoria 

“Successful contact tracing requires trust and in order for Victorians to trust the system, they need to be confident their personal data is only used for a public health purpose. The Government needs to introduce laws which state expressly that check in data can only be used for public health purposes. Police already have sufficient and strong investigation powers, they do not also need access to private check-in data.”

Quotes Attributable to Gregor Husper, Principal Lawyer, Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre   

“Victoria Police has once again shown its inability to balance invasive policing techniques with personal freedoms and community wellbeing. The Andrews Government must safeguard personal contact tracing data from over-reach by Victoria Police.”

Quotes Attributable to Meena Singh, Legal Director, Human Rights Law Centre

It is integral that the privacy of people ‘checking in’ using QR codes is respected and that the data is only used for its designated public health purposes – contact tracing. The Andrews government must make it clear that QR code data cannot be accessed by members of Victoria Police in any other circumstances. Anything less undermines the entire objective – and effectiveness – of this vital public health measure.

Media inquiries:

VALS: Patrick Cook, Senior Communications and Media Officer, 0417 003 910, pcook@vals.org.au

Liberty Victoria: Julia Kretzenbacher, President, 03 9670 6422, president@libertyvictoria.org.au 

FKCLC: Gregor Husper, Principal Lawyer, 0412 823 341, gregor@fkclc.org.au

Human Rights Law Centre: Evan Schuurman, Media and Communications Manager, 0406 117 937, evan.schuurman@hrlc.org.au

To determine eligibility VALS will:

  • enquire as to the Aboriginality of the client;
  • enquire as to perceived or actual conflict of interest;
  • enquire as to compliance with the Means Test;
  • consider the merit of the client’s matter.

Aboriginality
The first time someone uses VALS they must provide proof of their Aboriginality using the Confirmation of Aboriginality Form. This form must be signed and sealed by the Officer Bearers of a recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation.

Conflict
VALS must not decline to provide assistance to an eligible person, group or body on the grounds that the other party to the matter is an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. In circumstances where the relationship between the parties to a case would result in a conflict of interest, that conflict must be managed in accordance with the Victorian Legal Practice requirements and Policy Direction 9 – “Managing Conflicts of Interest” – of the Attorney-General’s Department Policy Directions for the Delivery of Legal Aid Services to Indigenous Australians (2008).

VALS will not act if a conflict of interest exists. A conflict of interest may be an ‘actual’ conflict of interest or a ‘perceived’ conflict of interest. A conflict of interest can involve:

  • Clients who have different interests, such as VALS may have advised or acted for person “A” (old client) who has an interest that conflicts with person “B” (intended new client).
  • Clients and VALS, such as a VALS staff member or Board Member has an interest that conflicts with an intended new client. Conflicts involving client-provider relationships are:
    •  An owner, director, manager, employee, contractor or agent of VALS and/or;
    • An employee of the Department; and/or
    • A close relative (spouse, de facto, parent, sibling or child) of any of the above.

VALS provides assistance on a first in best dressed basis (i.e. provide direct assistance to the party who approaches VALS first). VALS will refer the other party to another legal service provider or “brief out” the client to a private lawyer (subject to the client meeting the requirements for brief outs). Where appropriate, VALS may act for one client and provide assistance by brief out to the other.

Means Test
Where a person seeks casework assistance, VALS must ensure that applicants satisfy the Means Testing provisions of the Policy Directions.

VALS must ensure that all applicants for legal casework assistance satisfy one or more of the following requirements:

  • Under 18 years of age;
  • Main source of income comes from Community Development Employment Projects; (CDEP) participant wages or Centrelink (or equivalent) benefits; or
  • Gross household income is under $52,000 per annum.

Note: Household income includes the income of your partner, spouse, relative including an adult child who you live with.

The Means Test will be administered in two parts:

Part A: Requires the completion of a small number of questions relating to the applicant’s personal circumstances and income level.

Part B: Is required where applicants do not satisfy the criteria in Part A. It requires more detail about the applicant’s income, assets, employment status and number of dependents.

Merit Test
Discretion will be used to determine if a particular case has merit.