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Big business manages government data

New South Wales shadow minister for finance, services and property Clayton Barr (far right) and a handful of supporters made their feelings known outside the Grafton Service NSW Centre on Tuesday July 25. Image: Contributed

New South Wales shadow minister for finance, services and property, Labor’s Clayton Barr, was joined by a handful of supporters on Tuesday July 25, outside the Grafton Service NSW Centre.
Mr Barr alleged that people’s data was at greater risk of falling into the wrong hands following the NSW Government’s decision “to allow international private corporations to deliver essential services in NSW”.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis voiced a different view.
“He’s crying wolf,” Mr Gulaptis said, although he conceded that there had been several government data breaches – there is a current Federal Police investigation into the leak of Medicare details and, in October last year, the Australian Public Service Commission confirmed the data-set for 96,000 public servants was downloaded nearly 60 times before being removed from public view.
In May this year, the Service NSW (One-stop Access to Government Services) Act 2013 was amended “to prescribe various corporations as approved persons that may provide customer service functions on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer of Service NSW”, the government’s explanatory note states.
Mr Barr said the change would “threaten the security of people’s personal information”.
“Service NSW holds everyone’s intimate details – where they were born, where they live and what health conditions they have,” he said.
“Prior to these changes … people … could take comfort from the fact the government held their personal information tightly and securely.”
The Pty Ltd companies are: Concentrix Services, Datacom Connect, Peakbound Holdings, Probe Group, Salmat Contact Solutions Australia, Serco Citizen Services (British parent company), Stellar Asia Pacific and Telco Services Australia.
Mr Barr put it this way following a failed attempt in the Legislative Assembly on June 22 to disallow the regulation change: “[These] companies are vying to take on the role of holding the sensitive data of six million customers in NSW including the British-headquartered global services giant Serco, a California-based company, Concentrix Services, which specialises in identifying and maximising ‘revenue generation’ opportunities, and two companies that have Philippines-based call centres, Stellar Asia Pacific and Telco Services Australia, and even the company that collects debt on behalf of Centrelink, Probe Group.”
Mr Barr took aim at Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, saying in a media release: “Chris Gulaptis was very vocal when his government wanted to ban the greyhound industry. He even voted against his own party.
“But when it comes to protecting the personal details of his constituents he has been very quiet.”
Mr Gulaptis rejected Mr Barr’s statement.
“There is no evidence of any leak of private information; he’s looking for a problem where there isn’t one,” Mr Gulaptis said. “He’s just trying to brew up some trouble.”
Mr Barr said the Service NSW change was a continuation of the government’s “rabid privatisation agenda”.
“Sell, privatise, outsource and send offshore is the standard mantra of the Berejiklian government,” he said.
Mr Gulaptis had a different view. “From my perspective as a country member the leasing of assets in the city so that we can get infrastructure in the country is one of the best things that has ever happened to the Clarence Valley,” he said.
“We wouldn’t have a Grafton bridge, for example, if Port Botany wasn’t leased.
“What benefit do Clarence Valley residents get from having Port Botany in public hands, when compared to the benefit they’ve got by having it leased?
“He’s just trying to make a political argument over nothing, which is typical for Labor at the moment, because they don’t have anything to stand up and crow about.”