Public hearings into new national laws that could allow employers to snoop on the private lives of their employees will be held today.
The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has strong concerns about the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020 which could see employees forced to submit to ASIO checks, security background checks and historical reviews of their personal internet and email usage.
ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks said the lack of consultation in the development of the draconian legislation will lead to a serious erosion of civil liberties for workers.
“In its current form, the Bill creates a vastly expanded range of ‘critical infrastructure’ so broad, it could require more than two million workers to hand over their internet history and emails in industries such as energy, food and grocery, health, higher education and public transport,” Mr Hicks said.
“We understand security clearances and checks are required in sensitive industries, particularly in public service and defence, but it doesn’t pass the pub test to have apprentice electricians held to the same security standards as ASIO officers.
“Workers are already subject to strict industry checks. These new provisions are unnecessary and go too far.
“Workers should not have their professional lives put on the line by their internet history, which could reveal to their employers they had been looking at other jobs.
“There is also no case to justify the claimed heightened risk to the critical infrastructure ETU and CEPU members work on, and there is no evidence that existing industry legislation is inadequate.
“This is an attack on civil rights, will create onerous requirements for industry, and increase Big Brother-style monitoring of law abiding citizens.
“Despite the Department of Home Affairs assertions of deep and wide consultation, our members, their representatives and other unions were never engaged, consulted or notified during the Bill’s development.
“There has been an abject failure to consult with workers or their representatives.”
The ETU welcomes the opportunity to discuss these issues further at the public hearing today to ensure the Bill “appropriately and proportionally balances the individual rights of workers against plans to manage the security and resilience of critical infrastructure”.
The ETU is the Electrical, Energy and Services Division of the Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia (CEPU). The ETU represents more than 61,000 electrical and electronic workers nationally, while the CEPU, in total, represents about 90,000.