No need for Centrelink to prove your comments are adverse: they only need to think so before exposing you to media.

1 Mar


Information Privacy on computer keyboard background

Further to yesterday’s post on the release to Fairfax media of private information by Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, the minister has justified his decision to take this action on the grounds that he is entitled by law to reveal personal details if the individual has made complaints in the media Centrelink considers false.

In other words, if you complain in the media about Centrelink, your private information can be released by that department in its own defence.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s Use or disclosure of personal information regulations address this situation thus:

6.22 Examples of where an individual may reasonably expect their personal information to be used or disclosed for a secondary purpose include where:

the individual makes adverse comments in the media about the way an APP [Australian Privacy Principles] entity has treated them. In these circumstances, it may be reasonable to expect that the entity may respond publicly to these comments in a way that reveals personal information specifically relevant to the issues that the individual has raised[8]

The APPs and the APP guidelines apply from 12 March 2014 and cover both Australian Government agencies and organisations covered by the Privacy Act. 

I would argue that it is never reasonable to expect that Centrelink will divulge your personal information to the media under any circumstances, and 6.22 needs to be scrapped. The paragraph makes no reference as to whether or not your adverse comments are justified. You only need to make comments Centrelink considers adverse for them to reveal your private information to the media. 

Criticism of a government agency can see you stripped of all privacy. Think about that.

This should make anyone who entrusts Centrelink and other government agencies with private information, very nervous.

At the same time, if you need Centrelink assistance you have no choice but to give them all the private information they require. This is a lose-lose situation for citizens, and it is entirely unacceptable.

Andie Fox, the subject of Tudge’s vengeful action, is a middle class professional woman, like millions of others who claim Family Tax Benefit, and the millions of older Australians who claim part pensions. Tudge, in this instance, has not gone after his stereotypical welfare recipient. So don’t feel you are safe in your demographic, because you aren’t. Should you get Centrelink offside, your private information can be given to the media whether your complaints are justified or not, without any consultation or warning.

There is a website titled “Not my debt” where you’ll find page after page of adverse commentary on Centrelink. There are thousands of critical tweets. There are hundreds of articles in mainstream media and the blogosphere dedicated to adverse commentary on Centrelink. Yet Alan Tudge went after one woman.

If you think your privacy is safe with government agencies as long as you keep your mouth shut, think about what kind of country you’re living in, and what kind of person you’re becoming because of it.

Centrelink is an apolitical body. An individual’s private information held by the agency must not employed as a silencing tool by the government of the day.





30 Responses to “No need for Centrelink to prove your comments are adverse: they only need to think so before exposing you to media.”

  1. doug quixote March 1, 2017 at 8:17 am #

    Apparently there is precedent for the course followed:

    L v Commonwealth Agency [2010] PrivCmrA 14: “the complainant had complained publicly about the agency’s handling of their application.The agency received several enquiries from the media about the issues and disclosed the complainant’s personal information in responding to those enquiries. A journalist included that information in an article. The information provided by the agency was confined to responding to the issues raised publicly by the complainant. The complainant alleged that the agency improperly disclosed their personal information to the journalist. The Commissioner considered that the complainant was reasonably likely to have been aware that the agency may respond, in the way it did, to the issues raised. Therefore, the Commissioner took a preliminary view that IPP 11.1(a) permitted that disclosure. ”

    Whether that is a correct decision about the acceptable use of private information appears not to have come before superior courts. It may well be that the decision was wrong in law or that the regulations themselves are unlawful.

    In the meantime our custodians of privacy consider they have the right to counter criticism as they have. I don’t like it; neither should you, dear reader. Have a word to your MP. Send the matter viral. Whatever it takes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Moz of Yarramulla March 1, 2017 at 10:00 am #

      The Commissioner considered that the complainant was reasonably likely to have been aware that the agency may respond, in the way it did

      So if you complain about the Immigration Detention Department and they kick your door open at 2am then bundle you off to Nauru… that’s suddenly legal because “well, they’ve done it before, you should have expected it”? Cornelia Rau wasn’t just “an unfortunate error”, now she’s a precedent?

      It also seems to me like a declaration of open season on the politicians who support this stuff. What possible grounds could they have to complain about their private information being publicised after they support this treatment of others?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Moz of Yarramulla March 1, 2017 at 10:13 am #

        To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we doxx politicians, just that by what Tudge (and Turnbull by not stopping this) are saying it’s going to be hard not to say “what did you expect?” when the same happens to them.

        It would be entertaining as funk if Andie Fox did sue and make them minister disclose as much as possible about his affairs in court. The argument for suppression would be hilarious “these are my private details” “he has argued most strongly that publication of any and all private information is both necessary and good”… “suppression denied” (I wish)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson March 1, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

        Yes, Moz, my view exactly. All gloves are off. No privacy for politicians any longer.


    • paul walter. March 1, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

      Now, THAT is a worthwhile relevant comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson March 1, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

      Thanks DQ, am entirely in agreement. Send the matter viral. Whatever it takes.
      The power imbalance between an individual and a government agency is astronomical. Private information should never be used as a weapon in response to criticism.


  2. kristapet March 1, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    This is very frightening for our dwindling civil liberties
    ……….And, then, they also want to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act??

    Liked by 2 people

  3. cowper133 March 1, 2017 at 12:20 pm #

    Note that the change to the Act was made by the LNP. That says it all in my book! No respect for people on any sort of so called welfare yet they have their own noses so firmly in the trough they are too busy to actually govern.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson March 1, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

      Yes, cowper, I did note that, however I was unable to track down the earlier versions of the regulations to substantiate my suspicions


  4. paul walter. March 1, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    Here is a report just out in the Guardian that is very germane indeed to this Jennifer Wilson is vindicated here.

    Just click the link and give it a read:

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter. March 1, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

      Tried to reply there, in particular to a good poster called anonymous coward, but what a shocker to type out something there. Eventually it jumped to another page I had been at earlier.


      • Moz of Yarramulla March 1, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

        Weird, I’ve never had that problem on TechDirt. I do habitually copy and paste my comment into a text editor before clicking buttons on any site, because of the number of similar experiences I’ve had, though. Sadly necessary given the number of times it happens.


  5. 8 Degrees of Latitude March 1, 2017 at 3:20 pm #

    I am revolted by the notion that it is OK for governments and their agencies to breach essential social conventions as to privacy, in order to defend their actions should they be criticised. That this self-serving administrative privilege should be mandated by legislation scares the shit out of me. To speak frankly about the matter. Someone with the gonads to do it should move for disallowance.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. paul walter. March 1, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

    Here another report from NM’s astute writer Ben Eltham:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. franklongshank March 1, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

    I dunno. Call me old fashioned but the only people that would be concerned about this issue are the maggots that suck off the public purse. I have no compunction to dob the fat slugs in, and publish their names, date of birth, Facebook page, astrological sign, address, even their diabetes numbers are fair game.

    The bastards ought to feel some sense of shame and awkwardly step away and redeem themselves and go get a real job. This may come as a shock, but I’ve NEVER been on Centrelink like most of you. No dole. No pension. Nothing. I actually pay taxes and keep most of you bludgers on family benefits! And I DO resent it.

    Centrelink wasn’t designed for able bodied fuckers like you to abuse and then write blog posts about your injustice. WTF?!. Your sense of entitlement is nauseating.

    What the country really needs is more Social Justice Warriors! (I jest of course.)

    Get a job selling pencils on street corners. Or go sell your children into bondage and prostitution if you feel so strongly about it, or else go die in a ditch. It matters not to me. You ought to feel ashamed for expecting a bent penny from me. Rightfully so. When does this snivelling sense of self-entitlement stop? Any ideas?


    • doug quixote March 1, 2017 at 10:50 pm #

      Increase the dosage, Nurse.


    • paul walter. March 1, 2017 at 11:31 pm #

      Which maggots “sucking off the public purse”, Frank?

      Murdoch? Rinehart or maybe James Packer? The PM maybe even?

      Yes, More social justice warriors.


    • havanaliedown March 2, 2017 at 7:42 am #

      Frank, you and I should be in charge of all spending reductions, in every government department. First dibs at this lot at the Department of Finance:


      • paul walter. March 2, 2017 at 7:16 pm #

        Just so Rob Stitch..totally!


    • allthumbs March 2, 2017 at 8:58 am #

      I pretty much said the same thing to Tony Abbott in an email, telling him to lead by shining example and throw himself at the mercy of the free market instead of continually sucking on the public tit and get himself a real job.

      Sure he is damaged goods, got fired from his last position so his net value to any organization is going to be compromised and it’s a buyers market, he could try an internship and work for free as well as on Sundays at twice the free rate.

      Margie and his daughters are lookers and they could help with the household costs, your bondage and prostitution scheme seems like a winning plan for big ears.

      His addiction to the entitlements and public purse have taken away all his masculine temperament, he obviously has no self esteem, pride or to put it plainly no balls at all to walk away from the cosy decades long security of tax payer money that have supported his lifestyle choices for what seems a very good part of my adult life. (even Credlin went out and got a real job though she did not wander too far from the fold sucking up to Murdoch for the gig).

      Even now Tony uses taxpayer’s money to fund his doomed attempt at another tilt at the leadership, spending his time scheming instead of representing. What a useless slug he is.

      Typically it is a sign of Tony’s enduring lack of self-awareness that has plagued him all his life, a bit like Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense, unaware that he is really dead and just a ghost that nobody can see.

      He should get a job.


      • havanaliedown March 2, 2017 at 9:06 am #

        I come for the Helvi, but stay for the Allthumbs


    • d24 March 2, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

      This blog’s becoming a kind of drop-in centre for attention-deprived elderly men.


      • doug quixote March 2, 2017 at 10:34 pm #

        Do you speak from personal experience or from a glass house?

        We await your valuable contributions.


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