Mar 3, 2017

Alan Tudge and DHS think it’s legal to leak private citizens’ details to the press. It isn’t.

"I’m struggling to see a basis for a genuine argument that the disclosure of Fox’s information did not involve a breach of the Privacy Act," writes Michael Bradley.

Michael Bradley — Managing partner at Marque Lawyers

Michael Bradley

Managing partner at Marque Lawyers

Simple narrative: welfare recipient writes in the media about her problematic personal experience of dealing with Centrelink in relation to its pursuit of a debt for alleged overpayments of welfare — which she disputed. Kafka-esque is such an overused motif, but it’s pretty apt for Andie Fox’s bureaucratic ordeal.

Centrelink and its overlord, the Department of Human Services (DHS), apparently felt that Fox was being unfair. As has now been revealed in Senate estimates as standard practice for DHS whenever it is being criticised by one of its “clients”, the department dug out Fox’s file and reported on her personal situation to the minister. At which point, look, I managed to resist the Orwellian reference to the Ministry of Love, but the minister is Alan Tudge, for god’s sake. So Dickensian.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

36 thoughts on “Alan Tudge and DHS think it’s legal to leak private citizens’ details to the press. It isn’t.

  1. Ian Roberts

    Is there no limit to the fcuking arrogance of these creeps and the disdain they have for us all? I hope some pro bono lawyers weigh into this. The Coal-ition junta needs to learn that the law does constrain them.

    1. Decorum

      Pro bono be damned! I would have thought that *any* lawyer would be interested in this little goldmine, particularly now that Tudge has gone all-in and removed the possibility of any subsequent “Oops! How did that happen? I’m sorry you’re upset” kind of apology.

  2. billie

    The robo-debt clawback of $4 billion dollars matches the cost of implementing the Indue card for all welfare recipients. Some interesting background as to the owners of Indue card and its beneficial recipients


    1. MAC TEZ

      thanks for the link Billie , very interesting and disturbing reading to be had there.

  3. sharman

    I think it is funny that this woman can put in the correct paperwork to receive benefits but oops cannot manage to put in the correct paperwork when her circumstances change. As for the suggestion that the department leaked her details, no she put her details on the record when she was moaning on her blog.

    1. redfernhood

      So every complainant of Tax Office action has put all their details into the public record? That’s news to every accountant and tax lawyer in Australia.

    2. Zeke

      No, the department leaked the details of one of its social security benefactors to the press, and this is a crime.

    3. Lesley Graham

      Sharman did you not just read the article, if this can happen to this woman it can happen to anybody. Go online and get a copy of Brazil by Terry Gilliam, and see what happens when a department becomes too big for the taxpayer base that it is meant to serve. This government is overstepping it’s own rules if you aren’t more than a little perturbed by this I think you need to re-examine your humanity.

    4. Charlie Chaplin

      ” First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.

      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

      But don’t let it worry you, Sharman. Though there are two sides to every story, governments are the good guys always, aren’t they?

  4. redfernhood

    Mr Bradley has been measured and restrained. The Privacy Act has certainly been breached. The non-disclosure provisions of the Social Security (Administration) Act have also been breached…unless the comparable provisions of the taxation law would not be breached by a similar disclosure. The case law, and Tribunal administrative law, on that doesn’t hold out much hope to Tudge and the DHS. “For the purposes of the social security law” should cover revealing information in court proceedings or as required by court processes; revealing information for the political convenience of a government or of a bureaucrat has never been allowed in a taxation context where the wording is essentially the same.

  5. Dog's Breakfast

    Bewdiful! Thanks again Michael.

    I hope this one really blows up in their faces. Civil action would be hilarious!

  6. Flat tyre

    Love ya work Michael.
    The last paragraph nails it.

  7. paddy

    Lovely work M.B.
    It’s quite refreshing to read such a clear explanation of just how the law has been broken.

    1. MAC TEZ

      That it is Ralph , thanks for the link !

  8. klewso

    Just before the last election there was a leak re the NBN? What happened in the aftermath of that?
    What’s the difference between that “leak of confidential information” and this?
    ‘They know who the leaker is’ in this case? And it didn’t embarrass this government – at that time anyway.

  9. JMNO

    Thank you for that very clear explanation which the MSM hasn’t managed. I think you are the first to mention the Privacy Act and the Privacy Principles to which all public servants have to sign up. If a public servant revealed a client’s personal information to the media s/he would be sacked and quite rightly so. I haven’t read S202 but I would assume it relates to the release of information to law enforcement agencies investigating a specific offence against the Commonwealth or similar circumstances.
    It is very concerning that Coalition Government ministers do not seem to understand the rule of law and how to abide by it, and they don’t seem to be receiving advice on what they can and cannot do or say publicly. Nor, for example in the case of Dutton, that in a democracy a government minister should not give him or herself personal, unfettered, unaccountable powers to make decisions about individuals.

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details