Privacy breach by Westpac?
In response to allegations (noted in this blog post) that police had obtained Nicky Hager’s account information from Westpac without any court order, the following news release by Felix Geiringer on Hager’s behalf was issued today. Via Scoop:
Several people, including news media, have been seeking comment from Nicky Hager and his legal team about the revelation on the weekend that Westpac Bank gave the Police his private banking information (including over 10 months of his banking transactions from all of his accounts).
It is difficult for Mr Hager to comment at this time. The part of his claim that deals with the legality of these Police information requests was deferred during the first hearing and has not yet been argued. However, Mr Hager is keen to clarify the position and answer the public’s questions as much as he is able.
Until this weekend, Mr Hager only knew about the privacy breach by Westpac through court discovery. Documents provided through discovery are not allowed to be used for any other purpose until they are relied on in open Court. Since this part of Mr Hager’s case has not yet been argued, he has not been able to make use of his knowledge of this breach, not even to raise the matter with Westpac or the Privacy Commissioner.
Mr Hager had also requested documents from the Police under the Official Information Act and the Privacy Act. Had he been provided with documents under those Acts he would have been able to use them to take this matter further. However, the Police have not been willing to provide the documents under those Acts. Indeed, the Police have refused even to acknowledge the existence of correspondence with Westpac under those Acts. This is despite Mr Hager expressly asking the Police to list all of the documents they were wholly withholding under those Acts.
Mr Hager has complained to the Privacy Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman about the Police failure to respond fully to his requests for documents. Representatives of both of those organisations have met with Mr Hager’s lawyers and have been liaising with Police over these complaints.
Now that the fact of this breach of privacy has been made public, Mr Hager intends to seek a full and frank disclosure of the extent of the breach from Westpac. He looks forward to receiving Westpac’s response to that request and will be considering his options to take this matter further.
Mr Hager is very concerned by this breach. His case before the High Court includes a claim against the Police under the Bill of Rights Act for seeking and obtaining that information without a production order. He fully intends to explore all options open to him now that he is free to do so.
In the circumstances, neither Mr Hager nor his lawyers are able to give interviews on this topic at this time. However, it is hoped that we will be free to do so in the future.