The video and audio surveillance appears to target front counter staff and members of the public who enter the main foyer and front desk areas.
Council appears to be relying in part on its own 2006 Electronic Communication Policy for the 'right' to snoop at will, but this policy is silent about the right to privacy of third party users of council premises and, says nothing about audio surveillance of the front counters at Maclean and Grafton chambers.
A ratepayer, concerned that their privacy could be invaded, brought the issue up with the Review.
Not all conversations, particularly at Maclean, where the space incorporates a Centrelink access point, are necessarily between council staff and the public.
Clarence Valley Council’s general manager, Scott Greensill, responded to the Review’s October 30 enquiry in a written statement on Monday November 3.
He said CCTV (audio and video) surveillance has been undertaken at council foyers in Maclean and Grafton since late 2011......
The Grafton foyer displayed a sign warning that both video and audio were being recorded at the time of the Review’s enquiry.
The Review lodged a further enquiry with the NSW Department of Justice, regarding which legislations were applicable: “The Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 does not apply to audio surveillance,” the department wrote.
“The Surveillance Devices Act 2007 prohibits the audio recording of private conversations without consent.
“‘Private conversations’ are defined to mean those where the circumstances reasonably indicate that the people having the conversation desire that it only be listened to by themselves, or by other persons with their consent.
“A conversation which occurs in circumstances where it can be reasonably expected that it will be overheard is not a private conversation.
“Private conversations can be recorded in some situations with the consent of a principal party [perhaps the council in this situation] to the conversation for specified purposes, for example, protecting the lawful interests of that principal party.
“Whether or not a conversation is private will depend on the factual circumstances of the individual matter.
“The Attorney General cannot however provide legal advice or comment in relation to the particular matter referred to in the request.”