Top lawyer says Minister Tudge may have broken the law

Leaking of Centrelink client’s personal information may be a criminal offence.

Top lawyer says Minister Tudge may have broken the law

A leading criminal lawyer believes it is “reasonably clear” that Human Services Minister Alan Tudge – or someone from his department – broke the law when they supplied a Centrelink client’s personal information to a journalist.

Robert Richter, a Queen’s Council and former chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, believes the disclosure of the information could lead to a prison sentence of up to two years if proven beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal court.

Mr Richter was engaged by the Labor Party to assess whether Mr Tudge had committed a criminal offence by passing on the details of welfare recipient Andie Fox, who had been a vocal opponent of the way Centrelink was chasing her debt.

Mr Richter’s advice suggests releasing Ms Fox’s personal information to “set the record straight” was unlawful, although Mr Richter notes he did not know precisely what was released and by whom.

“It is reasonably clear that the minister or one of his office’s staff has committed an offence,” Mr Richter wrote.

“The disclosure of Fox’s information would be punishable by up to two year’s imprisonment if proven in court.”

Mr Tudge has dismissed the legal advice, saying the disclosure was approved by his department’s lawyers and was necessary to correct misleading public statements.

“Labor’s lawyer provided an opinion without knowledge of what information was disclosed – he has admitted this,” Mr Tudge told the ABC.

“I received clearance to release the information from the Chief Legal Counsel of the Department of Human Services, who is intimately across the details of the case and the relevant laws.”

Labor has already referred the disclosure of Ms Fox’s personal information to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The AFP is still investigating the situation.

Privacy Information Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has also made his own inquiries about the disclosure.

Mr Tudge told Parliament last week that his department took the protection of people’s information very seriously.

“It is governed by the Privacy Act which has very strict provisions, but there is also provision in the law to provide discrete pieces of information to correct the record on certain occasions,” he said.

Read more at The Guardian

Should criminal charges be brought against Alan Tudge? Share your thoughts in the comments.

RELATED ARTICLES





    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Arthron
    4th Apr 2017
    10:42am
    Bring it own. These LNP ministers are so out of touch in their merciless class war.
    Old Geezer
    4th Apr 2017
    11:13am
    Just show how bad the law is in Australia today where the real criminals get away and anyone that exposes them gets put in jail.
    Play Fairly
    4th Apr 2017
    2:06pm
    I hope Labor follows this issue until the whole system is exposed for what it is.....a gross misjustice and unfairness towards the needy in our society. People are literally being flogged for situations over which they have no control. There are redundancies, businesses closing, with people losing their homes as a direct consequence, kids trying to find openings and jobs that don't exist.... and this mob of Centrelink overlords believe they can use gestapo tactics and muscle men as they please. The government IS NOT FIT TO HOLD OFFICE.
    This issue alone should be enough to bring down the government.
    Pete from Bargara
    4th Apr 2017
    11:35am
    It's not a crime to be incompetent. Pushing a scheme to chase welfare recipients for debts incurred by overpayment based on faulty logic is stupid. Booking 670 million in budget saving is screwing over a large number of disadvantaged people for small amounts while handing out 24 billion in tax cuts to overseas investors.

    Stupid. Incompetent. Not a good combination.
    maelcolium
    4th Apr 2017
    11:51am
    Try avoiding a speeding or drink driving conviction because you claim incompetence or stupidity. They are not a legal defence, and even if a person has some form of disability, they may still be found to be competent enough to stand trial. Consider someone committing a crime and claiming they were drunk - no defence.

    The question will be whether releasing the information was wilful and I think the purpose of "setting the record straight" falls in the category of a wilful act with purpose to discredit another party. IMO case closed. There are rumblings of a class action against the Minister for the robo debt debacle, so the release of private and confidential information is a walk in the park for a competent prosecutor and jury.
    Old Geezer
    4th Apr 2017
    12:05pm
    Well Slater and Gordon need the work.
    pedro the swift
    4th Apr 2017
    11:42am
    Stupidity or incompetence is no excuse, as is not knowing the law, as is pointed out to the population at large. He should be charged and sentenced as appropriate.
    Dreamer
    4th Apr 2017
    11:44am
    People like Tudge don't belong in Gaol. That costs us money. He should just lose his big salary and the senior position of trust that we are paying him for. ie sack him.
    Old Geezer
    4th Apr 2017
    11:51am
    Yes and he would only getting a better paid job elsewhere.
    Janran
    4th Apr 2017
    6:08pm
    Sack him without benefits and also give him a HUGE fine in lieu of jail time. That'll hurt him the most.

    These entitled people in the LNP Government have no idea what it's like to have to need Centrelink to survive. Most people are very embarrassed to admit they needed welfare to get by after losing their job due to their boss becoming insolvent, or in between multi-casual jobs that make them the working poor. These are the people who are trying very hard to get off welfare.

    Many who are caught up in the Robodebt debacle are the very ones who ARE trying to wean themselves off Centrelink payments, with part time or casual work being the reason they've had to gestimate how much they earned the previous fortnight, when they haven't yet received their pay or a payslip from an employer.

    This Government is so damned cruel to battlers. Now the battlers have even lost the Sunday penalty rates. CRUEL.
    neil
    4th Apr 2017
    12:24pm
    He "supposedly" broke the Law and the trust of his position and the people he represents, so criminal charges SHOULD be raised against him.
    Not a Bludger
    4th Apr 2017
    12:28pm
    Just another leftie, rentseeking lawyer taking the ALP's coin (when not taking my taxpayer's coin via legal aid) whilst spouting socialist mantras re privacy.

    Trudge should be congratulated for calling out Ms Fox's spurious claims for what they are and putting the facts into the public domain - which is precisely what the Richter's of this world are trying to prevent.
    Not a Bludger
    4th Apr 2017
    12:29pm
    Note:- Trudge should read Tudge.
    Tom Tank
    4th Apr 2017
    3:01pm
    Missing the point here it was about the public disclosure which is against the law.
    thommo
    4th Apr 2017
    12:33pm
    I hope he goes to jail..poetic justice....
    Polly Esther
    4th Apr 2017
    1:16pm
    Could he go 'straight to jail, not pass go and not collect 200 dollars' (pounds) ?
    or in other words,
    Does he have a monopoly on dirty deeds?
    BillF2
    4th Apr 2017
    1:16pm
    Two things should be borne in mind. Firstly, the Privacy Act does not protect the individual. It was designed to protect big business and government from individuals. Secondly, the government makes the rules and has all the legal advice taxpayer money can buy to justify their actions. Morality and fairness do not enter into it. All that matters is for the minister to be proved right and for the individual to be criticised without redress. Given the odds against it, any action against Alan Tudge has a snowball's chance in hell of success.
    Old Geezer
    4th Apr 2017
    2:48pm
    Agree.

    I had a phone call from someone who said they were from a certain reputable company and they wanted me to verify my date of birth etc. I said no not until I verify that you are genuine. This fellow was genuine and he said he had been ringing people for days and I was the first person who had not given my details without verifying he was genuine first. I said you are joking and he said people just give their details no questions asked.

    No wonder people have their identity stolen.

    I actually have a false date of birth and sometimes use it and if they don't pick it up I know they are not genuine.
    floss
    4th Apr 2017
    1:18pm
    I will give a 100to1 it will never happen these people are above the law, he was told to take this path by our P.M. Must agree with you O.G.
    Hardworker
    4th Apr 2017
    3:42pm
    This Government just wants money and they don't care how they get it. This has been going on in every Govt department since they won the election. ALL previous Govts have misused the taxpayers money assuming the coffers would never run dry. Alan Tudge would have signed the Privacy Act and therefore should at the very least lose his job. His role is not about tit for tat, it is about professionalism and due process. What a wimp that he took this particular case so personally! All he needed to do was ignore it and get on with his job.
    Grumpy.
    4th Apr 2017
    4:38pm
    I wonder if he really is a council. Maybe you meant a COUNSEL.

    Every year we cop another Tudge stuff-up. I wonder if the PM had a decent majority, would some of these Ministers survive?
    Rosret
    4th Apr 2017
    4:50pm
    The other issue that is not mentioned here is that the Human Services Minister Alan Tudge staff would have gone through EVERY person's records and bank details who made public comment until they found the one who had offered false information. Once they had found 'the one' they then proceeded to make an example of her.
    I doubt he will go to jail however what he did was very wrong indeed.
    Janran
    4th Apr 2017
    6:21pm
    Good point, Rosret. And they found "the one", which negated all those other people who are very legitimately complaining about the injustice imposed on them from Robo Debt.

    I say sack Tudge without benefits and also give him a HUGE fine in lieu of jail time.

    These entitled people in the LNP Government have no idea what it's like to have to need Centrelink to survive. Most people are very embarrassed to admit they needed welfare to get by after losing their job due to their boss becoming insolvent, or in between multi-casual jobs that make them the working poor. These are the people who are trying very hard to get off welfare.

    Many who are caught up in the Robo Debt debacle are the very ones who ARE trying to wean themselves off Centrelink payments, with part time, short shifts or casual work being the reason they've had to gestimate how much they earned the previous fortnight, when they haven't yet received their pay or a payslip from an employer.

    This Government is so damned cruel to battlers. Now these battlers have even lost the Sunday penalty rates. Such CRUEL bastards - just so they can give tax cuts to big business.
    Watto
    4th Apr 2017
    6:33pm
    Sack him without benefits and also give him a HUGE fine in lieu of jail time. That'll hurt him the most. No No No Send him to jail and put him in with some of the hard men.
    Then film him sqealing like a little girl
    Sundays
    4th Apr 2017
    6:40pm
    What happened to government ministers who used to say that they couldn't comment on specific cases. Trudge may have thought he was making a point, but disclosing someone's personal information is a definite breach of privacy. I hope he is held to account.
    gadsby
    4th Apr 2017
    10:25pm
    lol show me a minister who hasn't,and will he be prosecuted for the crime he has supposedly commited???
    of course not.
    KSS
    5th Apr 2017
    7:51am
    When you have all finished crucifying Mr Tudge for doing nothing more than setting the record straight (and with the advice from lawyers as I understand the original reports), can you then go after Ms Fox who not only put her personal details out there in her blog but then lied about how she was treated by Centrelink as a cover-up for her own false claims in the first place?
    noremaci
    12th Apr 2017
    8:37am
    Mr Tudge may or may not have made an error in judgement but he is after the fraudsters who are blatantly stealing from the legitimate customers of Centrelink. In Richter's case we have someone who, as a confirmed 'Civil Libitarian' wholeheartedly supports those who commit crimes and prey on the community. I would suggest he is the one who should be charged with the offences of 'Accessory after the fact', a charge which could carry penalties of far more than two (2) years. Give me Tudge any day - at least he tries to do the right thing.


    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

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