Federal Police drop investigation over welfare recipient’s data

Claims Minister illegally shared private details won’t be investigated.

AFP won’t investigate Tudge leak

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) will not investigate allegations that Federal Government Human Services Minister Alan Tudge unlawfully shared a welfare recipient’s private details with the media without her consent.

The Australian Labor Party asked the AFP to investigate whether Mr Tudge had broken the law back in March.

Last month, Robert Richter, a Queen’s Council and former chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said it was “reasonably clear” that the law had been broken when the details of welfare recipient Andie Fox, who had been a vocal opponent of the way Centrelink was chasing her debt, were leaked.

“The Australian Federal Police will not be pursuing Labor's allegations that I broke privacy law,” Mr Tudge said in a statement.

“The AFP made clear that the protected information released by my office (prepared by my Department) was approved for release and was therefore not an unauthorised disclosure.

“Social security law and family assistance law allow for the release of limited information to respond to incorrect or misleading information in the media about specific cases, in order to maintain public confidence in the integrity of government programs.”

Mr Tudge’s statement also alludes to a $321 million funding boost to the AFP, announced on the same day as part of the Government’s Budget.

“Labor's referral was always a political stunt and part of its Centrelink scare campaign. While the Coalition is increasing resources to the AFP, the Labor Party is wasting them,” Mr Tudge said.

Shadow Human Services Minister Linda Burney says Labor has now asked the Privacy Information Commissioner to resume his investigation into Mr Tudge’s handling of private information.

“Frankly if the Minister thinks this is the end of his troubles he is mistaken. Lawful or not, Mr Tudge acted deeply unethically,” she said in a statement.

“Serious questions remain about Alan Tudge and his office's handling of highly sensitive information and Labor will continue to push for answers. Labor will now ask the Information Commissioner to resume his investigation into Mr Tudge's handling of private information and I look forward to that outcome.”

Opinion: If this isn’t illegal, changes need to be made

Now that the legality of the decision to release the details of a private welfare recipient appear to have been settled, we should now switch our attention on whether this is how we want the law to function in these cases.

There are cases where the release of personal information may be justified, but these need strict accountability rules. The current regulations that require the Secretary of the relevant department to issue a certificate for the formal release of information usually offers good privacy protection but, in this case, this protocol wasn’t followed.

The Secretary of the Department did not issue a certificate to release Ms Fox’s personal information, with Centrelink claiming it had the right to release information “for the purposes of the social security law”.

It seems a bit of a stretch that releasing the personal details of a welfare recipient to a journalist meets a purpose of social security law, but now that the AFP has dropped its investigation, that seems to be the case.

This has profound implications for how Centrelink can use personal information of all welfare recipients, as they no longer require formal mechanisms to release a person’s details to a news outlet.

Australia’s privacy laws do not offer a great deal of protection at the best of times, but we must make sure that any details released are formally documented and have some level of accountability.

Do Australians deserve better privacy protections? Should the law be changed to ensure personal details are better protected? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

RELATED ARTICLES





    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Patriot
    11th May 2017
    9:56am
    As per rules of a "True" Dictatorship: "One rule for them and One Rule for US - the peasants"!
    Wake Up People!
    Kaz
    11th May 2017
    11:03am
    True. ...and he was condescending this morning during a media conference with that horrible Michaela Cash. They truly do believe they are better than others
    PlanB
    11th May 2017
    1:52pm
    OMG what a bogan that Cash is -- OH I can not wait for the next election -- don't know who I will vote for but it will NOT be these pack of bastards -- maybe no one unless they all smarten up
    Play Fairly
    11th May 2017
    3:50pm
    I cannot wait for the next election either. I have never known of such despicable people as those who are in control of this government. The Centrelink "fake debt" fiasco, and then paying $15 million to Debt Collectors to collect "fake debts" from people who don't owe a cent, warrants a Royal Commission into how the whole disgusting episode was allowed to happen. The government has a duty of care to ALL Australians, whether they are on Centrelink benefits or otherwise.

    Believe it or not, I heard today that Morrison is now going to have sewerage tested in order to ascertain in which areas drug addicts reside, and then welfare recipients residing in those areas are going to be drug tested. What then? I bet there are no $'s allocated to put these addicts into rehab, and there are no plans to actually HELP these people. It seems the "game" is to hand out punitive treatment and point the finger at those who need assistance to kick their addiction, but not actually doing anything to help them. Show some good faith Morrison, and start building rehab centres to help our youth get some treatment, otherwise we will lose several generations to drug addiction.
    If you can afford $64 billion in tax cuts for big business, you CAN afford to help solve this problem.
    MICK
    11th May 2017
    4:55pm
    You are on the money Play Fairly. I sort of get a bit worked up with the current bunch but they remind me of the true dictatorship when they lie, deceive, break the rules, waste the wealth of the nation whilst calling it government policy and behave as though they own the country. And then you have the media owned and controlled by the big end of town to make sure its interests are satisfied. It must be obvious to those who want to see WHY there are tax cuts for the rich when we have debt. Not rocket science.
    MICK
    11th May 2017
    5:35pm
    Patriot: they are awake. It's just that they lack the intelligence to differentiate between propaganda and fact.
    The media in its current form needs to be banned as it is the reason why people believe lies.
    ex PS
    12th May 2017
    3:41pm
    This is exactly the thing that the government promised would not and could not happen. Everyone that complained that this government could not be trusted was howled down as a left wing agitator.

    Well it has happened and the "Lefties" have been proven right. This government can't be trusted to look after the majority of voters.
    disillusioned
    11th May 2017
    10:14am
    They got a big slice of the Budget pie, of course they'd drop anything that might jeopardise this windfall. What a country!
    HDRider
    11th May 2017
    11:29am
    Now you actually accuse the Federal Police of being corrupt in an online forum? I don't understand where all these idea's come from other than one of these silly reporters who tell ONE side of a story on here.
    Should you believe that the Gov't did NOT have the right to reply to allegations made against it in public you may wan't to re think. Even the QC said REASONABLE, a favourite with law makers etc, covers their arse if things go wrong! So, if we go by what you say, I reckon you will be arrested anytime now for slander etc....
    This is really about a disgruntled Centrelink customer airing their views in public, I would also want the right to reply in public to set the record straight.
    Rosret
    11th May 2017
    12:26pm
    HD the Federal Police are not corrupt - just powerless.
    Mr Trudge will have his day. Just wait. The wheels turn.
    Every move he makes, every little mistake he takes - the opposition will be waiting.

    I wish the Liberal party would realise that with our huge migrant intake the old Holden vs Ford, Labor vs Liberal are over.
    People vote for the team with the most integrity and overall balance of social concern and business ingenuity.

    We are not America we don't vote for bullies on an ego trip.
    HDRider
    11th May 2017
    12:45pm
    I didn't say they were Rosret, and they are NOT ruled or ordered what to do or say by ANY Govt minister if it is illegal. I'm suggesting that before people slag off against Police and jump to conclusions because of a political hatred they should count to ten first.
    This is NOT about, and never was about, a Minister or fed police, it was about someone LEAKING their OWN personal info to reporters.
    If so many people believe rorters should be protected, until their day in court, when they become fair game for everyone, they should just vote accordingly!
    When you show me a TEAM in politics I'll eat my hat, there is NO I in TEAM and I see NO TEAM anywhere Rosret, guess the rumble will continue for another age lol
    Old Geezer
    11th May 2017
    12:49pm
    Our Federal Police simply has better things to do than this stupid nonsense.
    MICK
    11th May 2017
    5:14pm
    What are they doing Geezer?
    Old Geezer
    12th May 2017
    10:59am
    That's what they told me when I rang them once about a scam they should be looking into. It only took about 10 years for them to realise I was right and warn people.
    Not a Bludger
    11th May 2017
    10:46am
    What a storm in a teacup for all you permanently outraged lefties.

    Minister Tudge quite properly made public the facts to refute false claims by a person apparently rorting the system.

    He should be applauded for his action in ensuring that taxpayers' monies are are only passed to those genuinely in need and not to rorters.

    Further, those caught rorting should be publically named and shamed.
    Kaz
    11th May 2017
    11:05am
    Do you include big business tax avoiders, corruption and when safety breaches occur?
    Kaz
    11th May 2017
    11:06am
    Wake up.
    Patriot
    11th May 2017
    11:14am
    NaB
    "The LAW is the LAW" no matter what the motivations to (not) apply it are!
    OUR Servant's actions have/had the potential to harm his constituents - i.e. - those he is expected to "Serve & Protect".
    .The same as when I commit a "misdemeanour" traffic offence which did not harm anybody and was "Committed in Innocence", I get punished even though I'm not in a "Position of Trust".
    NAIL THE BASTARD!!!!!
    Trees
    11th May 2017
    11:15am
    In this instance I agree with Not a Bludger that it wasn't a bad thing this time, the problem is if you let one breach go where do you draw the line?
    When you have a law set in place it should be adhered to no matter who you are or your position in government.
    Placido
    11th May 2017
    11:31am
    Ahh yes but what about all of the hidden assets that this government's members seem to have in abundance--they only DISCLOSE when caught out and then get a limp wristed slap on the wrist.
    they are the true RORTERs.
    Kaz
    11th May 2017
    11:53am
    It is also about a power imbalance here. Here was one welfare recipient (ie powerless). Then we have a government (ie powerful) deciding to release her details to 'save the public's faith in the system'. Rubbish, it was a punishment to stop others. Newsflash: it didn't work, we don't have faith in that system. That reason is a furfy anyway - in my work at child safety, we were not allowed to talk publicly, no matter what people said about us and it definitely damaged reputations.
    Rosret
    11th May 2017
    12:32pm
    NaB - not a lefty at all. I am ashamed of him and I am very disappointed he has "got away" with this behaviour.
    I want to vote for a party I can be proud of - its so important to vote for the right person and not just blindly fly one flag or another.
    After all that is why the Catholic Church is in such a pickle. There is nothing wrong with the religion - just the creeps that infiltrated the ranks.
    MICK
    11th May 2017
    5:19pm
    About the sort of comment one might expect from a right wing puppet Bludger. Rules for some, (different) rules for others.
    Sort of reminds me about the national debt debate. A huge ongoing and unrelenting fatma was put on Rudd and Gillard about the debt. This kept going for a couple of years after Abbott was put into office. Now you rarely head about 'debt' despite Abbott and now Turnbull having blown the numbers out of the water. So why is the media? Same place as with Tudge. Disinterested. I suspect if it had ne Labor it would be raging for months.
    So do something right wingers can never be Bludger: be fair. Yeah...just like the budget!
    TREBOR
    11th May 2017
    10:55am
    Information held in trust is exactly that - when demanding control over private details, there is an absolute responsibility to retain its privacy.

    No excuses. The least Tudge should do is apologise and make a commitment that this will not happen again.
    Kaz
    11th May 2017
    11:08am
    True. Then he can move on. To make his next blunder.
    Patriot
    11th May 2017
    11:15am
    TREBOR,
    Next time I defend a misdemeanour traffic offence in Court, "Can you be my Magistrate please"?
    TREBOR
    11th May 2017
    11:41am
    Yes, I've often wondered if I could technically pay a technical breach..... say - off the court a note saying - "I hereby technically pay this fine. Thank you.".
    Hardworker
    11th May 2017
    11:12am
    Good article Ben. You are exactly right. There is a very strict process to go through before this information can be released, unless they have changed it since I worked for the Commonwealth Government. This is definitely a cover-up. Maybe it's more about nobody else wanting Alan Tudge's job so they need to keep him. Regardless of who is right in the assessment or who is wrong, NOBODY'S personal information should be released in this way. This was disgusting and should be pursued further.
    pedro the swift
    11th May 2017
    11:29am
    I smell cover-up. I find the whole purpose of so-called "privacy" conditions in any organisation is to set up conditions to allow them to pass on what ever they want anytime, not to protect your data.
    Tudge should be dismissed.
    MICK
    11th May 2017
    5:20pm
    Pretty well right. I remember how this lot shielded Bronny Bishop when she was caught with both hands in the till. This is a repeat of that.
    Couldabeen
    11th May 2017
    11:41am
    As I understood it, the Minister did not give any personal details about the complainant that the complainant had not already put in the public domain through her deliberate and specific action. From what the Minister said, the complainant had misrepresented both her situation and the response from the Department.
    Every Government Department that is tasked with providing assistance to client groups of the public, either as individuals or collectives frequently face what amount to be attempts to blackmail the Department when they do not get what they want. Any Departmental employee having direct contact with aggrieved parties has the "I'll take it to "A Current Affair"" or similar current affairs program in a bid to coerce the Department into acceding to their wishes to avoid potentially bad publicity.
    I worked in a Commonwealth Government Department for many years, before the internet and Facebook and Twitter. In many cases the hands of the Department were tied even when the complainant had had their moments of glory in their local paper about the cruel heartless bureaucrats from the Government had denied them their "rightful" entitlement.
    Many of these people had been over reaching beyond Legislatively allowances in their claims for many years and were upset when the correct rules were applied.
    Any Government Department that provides benefits and assistance to members of the public will have claimants who will push the envelope a far as they can as loopholes are found and exploited. Most Departments keep it very quiet that people have found these loopholes for as soon as people know that the weakness has been identified and closed, they will seek ways around the detection.
    Kaz
    11th May 2017
    11:57am
    Think about your position and think about a client's position - I know what position you would prefer. Move on.
    Old Geezer
    11th May 2017
    12:04pm
    If a client hangs out their dirty washing in the media then they deserve everything they get.
    Rosret
    11th May 2017
    12:42pm
    Yes, she was wrong - there is no denying that. However his office would have gone through all the people who made claims in the media until they found a "bunny" to make an example of.
    The software is in error. They know and they continue to use it.
    That is what makes me so angry. This is their response to not fixing a mistake.
    As a person who once worked in the computer industry I shake my head at this outcome. If it was my programming - apart from being matted by the boss - I would have been so upset at myself and all those responsible for allowing it to go live without being fully tested.
    Old Geezer
    11th May 2017
    12:46pm
    It doesn't matter if the software doesn't align the to fortnightly reporting system as it is picking up difference between what is happening and what is expected. People just need to explain this difference. it is as simple as that . The tax system has been doing this for over 40 years now. Everyone I know that has been picked up by this system actually owes money to Centrelink so as far as my role as a taxpayer is concerned it is a great system.
    Angelique
    11th May 2017
    1:09pm
    Yes I agree. The woman was publicly trashing the government dishonestly. I do not have a problem if it is was true.
    Old Geezer
    11th May 2017
    12:00pm
    Good justice has prevailed.
    MICK
    11th May 2017
    5:22pm
    And you always say this where your side of politics is concerned whilst condemning the other side for every indiscretion.
    I'd like to see a level playing field but unlikely this will happen whilst right wing politicians are supported and protected by the big end of town.
    Rosret
    11th May 2017
    12:18pm
    This is very 18th Century. Troll through everybody with a Centrelink file who dared to make a negative twitter comment until you find a false claim - It's not hard to do after all its just pub chatter and then humiliate and make an example of them.
    It's probably not in the same league as sacking the FBI chief - however the same power play is at hand.
    What has changed in the last 300 years is that the people run the State not the politicians. We do remember - we do vote. He has made a shameful mistake and at least he needs to apologise.
    I would love all those people who actually wasted multiple hours with erroneous billings to form a joint action against Mr Trudge, the man who has insisted robo flop continue.
    Where are you Slater and Gordon?
    Old Geezer
    11th May 2017
    12:47pm
    Slater and Gordon are on life support.
    MICK
    11th May 2017
    5:25pm
    Those who own the game play by their rules Rosret.
    Last look Slater & Gordon shares were around 10 cents. Geezer is on the money here.
    Old Geezer
    12th May 2017
    10:58am
    Slater and Gordon is being kept alive by some back room boys I believe. It should have folded ages ago.
    KSS
    11th May 2017
    12:40pm
    This was and continues to be a witch hunt by the Labor Party. They clearly have nothing better to do.
    It was the Centrelink recipient who, through her blog made public her personal details including the fact that she also acknowledged she had in fact done the wrong thing which had lead to one of the debt collector show cause letters. Unfortunately for her, the claims she made against Centrelink were false but in any case related to their processes and procedures including timeframes. The Minister simply attempted to rectify these false claims she made. He did not divulge any personal information that she herself had not made public. He did make public the dates and times Centrelink had attempted to contact her which were the main cause of her complaint (that they didn't).

    Perhaps Ms Burney should also engage Ms Gillian Triggs for further advice on how run a trumped up case
    HDRider
    11th May 2017
    12:50pm
    Thank heavans, someone else who actually took note of the original case and hasn't jumped aboard the political hate train! Why do people in here not understand this, and surely it all need's changing then, it should work for all parties. ie if you LIE in a public forum/blog then you must be held accountable for those lies.
    Totally agree KSS, well said
    Rosret
    12th May 2017
    8:30am
    No KSS - he used a "bunny" to deflect a serious flaw in the Centrelink software.
    We aren't off subject. He wants it to be about her - but its not.
    MICK
    11th May 2017
    4:51pm
    It must seem strange that whenever a Liberal Party minister is concerned wrong doing is ok but when the same thing happens on the Labor side it is a national crime. We need fair rules which apply equally, not bastardry which is heavily biased according to what side of politics you represent.
    Anonymous
    11th May 2017
    5:40pm
    and this from micky, our masked labor brown noser, a labor lemming never seen before, always in agreement with those who attempt to defraud the tax-payer.
    MICK
    11th May 2017
    8:46pm
    Defraud taxpayers? Me? You are on the crack again heemsjerk.
    If you want to talk about defrauding taxpayers look at (now) $65 billion gifted to top end of town, not doing anything about multinationals and rich Australians not paying their rightful taxes and those who send their profits to offshore tax shelters.
    So which are you heemsjerk? All of the above. Never was there a greater government stoolie than you my friend, devoid of all honesty and supporting that which is indefensible and abhorrent to real Australians who expect a fair go...........oh yeah "fairness", the word of choice from your fuhrer.
    You disgust me Go away.
    Baby Huey
    12th May 2017
    4:16am
    Just another criminal politician.
    Old Geezer
    12th May 2017
    11:04am
    I was on a jury in a case where a woman took advantage of Centrelink in a big way. What I learned from what was presented in this case is something that should be made public to everyone as it would show the extent to which some people go to for "free money". These people think it is their God given right too do defraud Centrelink and know all the rules of this game and what they can get away with.

    So after that experience I think anything Centrelink does to expose these people is a good move. If you have done the right think then what have you to worry about?
    Lookfar
    12th May 2017
    3:41pm
    That is totally assertions, OG, not a shred of proof, as almost everything you say, shame on you.

    A freudian slip? "done the right think" ?
    ex PS
    12th May 2017
    3:49pm
    I think some people are missing the point, it is not about this individual doing the right or wrong thing to protect his job. It is about undermining the trust of the Australian people that their information is safe in government hands.
    What this incident tells me is that if it suits this government to release my confidential information to the public, that is exactly what they will do, and to make matters worse, they see nothing wrong in it.
    This is a serious breach of trust.

    15th May 2017
    6:49am
    On the other hand, I can point to several cases where privacy law (specifically related to financial services) has protected people who appear to have committed acts of theft, fraud and forgery and financial services providers who have acted improperly. Seems to me the law in Australia is increasingly designed to protect the crooks and persecute honest citizens.
    billy boy
    16th May 2017
    12:06pm
    a good comparison to, trumps sacking of the FBI boss, very convenient to the (trump russia) investigation, sadly


    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles