Over two million Australians to have internet history scoured by employers

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The extension of the “draconian” security measures proposed in a new bill will allow employers to spy on the personal Internet and email activities of more than two million Australians, a union has warned.

The increased powers have been described as “beyond ridiculous” by the Electrical Trades Union, which will allow employers to impose invasive measures on ordinary workers traditionally imposed in high security sectors at risk of espionage .

Under the bill, 11 “critical infrastructure” industries described as potential security risks include the food and grocery sector, transportation, financial services and the water sector and sewers.

He proposed applying powers to quash potential threats of domestic terrorism on professions such as chiropody, physiotherapy and those operating a life insurance business.

The ETU will argue in a public hearing in parliament on Friday against the bill mandated to extend the AusCheck background check system to those working on what are classified as “critical infrastructure assets”.

“This means that large swathes of the Australian population may be subject to invasive security checks, eroding fundamental rights to privacy and seriously compromising our civil liberties,” the union will submit.

ETU national policy adviser Trevor Gauld told NCA NewsWire that the security law amendment bill was “far too broad and far too vague in its application.”

He said just four industries listed in the bill – hospitals, transportation, food retail, medical and health care – alone account for two million workers (according to labor force data from May 2021) that will be “subjected to significant profiling by their employer for matters completely unrelated to their employment under the guise of counter-terrorism”.

Australians who work in industries such as food and grocery will be placed under a similar microscope to those at risk of international espionage, Gauld warned.

“This is how broad the bill is,” he said.

“An apprentice electrician now represents a terrorist threat to the electrical industry; this is more than ridiculous.

“Chiropodists, I admit, are pretty important people, but I never would have thought of a chiropodist as a national terrorist threat.”

The bill requires employers to conduct thorough audits to “identify every hazard where there is a significant risk” and to present “an annual report on its critical infrastructure risk management program” to its board or to its governing body.

But Mr Gauld said the expansion of “draconian legislation” had been presented with minimal consultation with industry leaders.

“How the rules under these laws will be developed, the appeal methods that will be in place and the protections that will be in place to prevent employers from abusing workers’ private information are not transparent,” he said. he declared.

“It’s absolutely too broad – expanding this program will allow employers to assess employee conduct offenses, assault offenses and petty theft.

“Is the government seriously suggesting that speeding fines and petty theft are some sort of bridge crime that leads to terrorism?” The fight against terrorism should be left to ASIO and the competent authorities, not the employers. “

A spokeswoman for Home Secretary Karen Andrews said the bill would only apply to “a relatively small number of employees” and was more aimed at assessing “information relating to the identity, criminal history, citizenship status, residency status and / or the right of an individual to work in Australia ”.

“Australians are not fooled by the ETU’s gross exaggerations; the community rightly expects those working on critical infrastructure in our country to be of good character and able to pass a basic background check, ”the spokesperson said.

“The AusCheck program does not include any provision for accessing or evaluating” personal internet and email history “.”

Industries listed in the bill as “critical industries” include:

  • communication
  • data storage or processing
  • financial services and markets
  • water and sanitation
  • energy
  • healthcare and medical
  • higher education and research
  • food and groceries
  • transport
  • space technology
  • defense industry


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