Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall speaks about Consumer Data Rights

14 February 2023

I rise to speak about putting data ownership where it belongs: with consumers. It's tempting to sit in this House and pass legislation based on the written word. Customer data rights remind us that we are really here to do is benefit our communities and help all Australians get a better deal. The Treasury Laws Amendment (Consumer Data Right) Bill 2022 follows in the footsteps of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Consumer Data Right) Act 2019, which inserted a new part IV(D) into the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and allows consumers to share their data with trusted parties.

Over the last few months, we've had a lot of scandals and headlines about the retention of data by certain companies and how secure that has been, so it's quite at odds to know that, whilst companies are holding it, consumers themselves do not have that right to their consumer data. At its core, the intention of the CDR initiative is to hand back to consumers ownership of their own data. It is a truly transformational initiative. So far, it's been rolled out in banking, energy was initiated at the end of last year and telecommunications is currently being considered.

The bill being considered by the parliament now takes it to the next logical step. It enables consumers to use their data to take actions which are designed to, amongst other things, get them a better deal. To achieve this, the minister must declare by legislative instrument the types of actions that can be initiated under the CDR. Certain parties must also be assessed and accredited. Importantly, consultation with Treasury, the ACCC and the Information Commissioner is mandatory. In the current and evolving environment, the CDR initiative is becoming increasingly important. Many consumers are already under stress, and this will only increase. CDR can help consumers to alleviate that stress.

CDR creates an opportunity not just the individual consumers but also for small businesses. Small businesses can either use CDR to get better deals or be participants in the provision of CDR services. Small business has an added layer of complexity, and this needs to be incorporated in implementation. To make this real for consumers, we need to focus on what's important to them. Consumers want to get a better deal, so they need to understand how they go about it. The implementation of this bill will be critical. Consumers must have knowledge of how it operates; must have trust in the participants, processes and outcomes; and must have the confidence to use it.

It's critical at this stage of the development of CDR that consumers be involved and how it is going to be rolled out. To maximise the benefits, this will require a flexible, collaborative and innovative process than may otherwise be the case. Consumers and what is most important to them must be an integral part of the rollout. What we do in this next stage will dictate the success or otherwise of CDR as an initiative. We need to put consumers squarely at the centre of the outcomes of this bill, and I urge the government to really put that at the forefront of their mind. We do this actively by engaging and educating them now.

I welcome the measures proposed in this bill, as would all consumers, because it gives control back to consumers and enables them to reap the benefits of their own data. I encourage the government and the minister to adopt innovative approaches to expeditiously designate the types of actions that can be initiated under the CDR. Such approaches must not compromise consumer protection, rigorous data management or risk minimisation for all participants. Last year, we saw what could happen, and we must avoid any repeats.

I implore the minister to exhaustively address the need for extensive engagement and education so consumers can take advantage of this excellent initiative. And I urge the government to do a review, nevertheless, of a number of legislative instruments to ensure that we are up to date with data protection, because we have seen the cost, the damage and the impact when there are insufficient protections in place. I commend the bill to the House.