Tag Archives: Canberra Times

When you hand over private info, you are not informed of a caveat on confidentiality

5 Mar



Last time you were required to divulge private information to a government agency, did you do so in the belief that the agency would keep your information confidential?

Because if you did, that’s likely the last time you’ll have the luxury of holding that belief.

Nobody who has compulsorily given private data to Centrelink has ever been informed that there is a caveat on confidentiality.

Nobody who has ever compulsorily given private data to any government agency in the belief that it is confidential, has ever been warned that if they speak publicly about that agency, they have forfeited their right to confidentiality. 

Canberra Times hack Paul Malone has today written a column headlined “Time for the truth behind Centrelink controversy and Andie Fox.” The piece is a particularly inept and resentful defence of his use of a citizen’s private data, given to him by DHS Minister Alan Tudge, to put Centrelink’s “side of the story” of a dispute between that user & the service provider.

The core of his defence is that the user spoke publicly about her own circumstances, ergo Centrelink has the right to respond by revealing her circumstances as they know them, to the media.

Malone justifies his tawdry piece thus:

It should be noted here that Andie Fox chose to publish her personal details in her original 1200 word article 

In fact Ms Fox revealed her personal relationship status in the article she wrote and submitted for publication.

In the privacy agreement between Centrelink and Ms Fox, Centrelink undertook to protect the private data Ms Fox was compelled to reveal. Ms Fox at no time agreed, or was asked to agree, to refrain from criticising or otherwise speaking publicly about the agency. Neither was she informed that should she criticise the agency, it would abrogate its undertaking to keep her data private.

These details apparently entirely escape the moral and ethical capacities of Paul Malone, The Canberra Times editors, and Alan Tudge.

I asked some public servants how they feel about this turn of events. Obviously, I’m not going to name them.

Our jobs rely on the public having faith in our confidential handling of their often sensitive information. Why would they be honest with us if they don’t have confidence that we will keep that safe and secure?

A public breach of security or privacy is likely to jeopardise [compliance], causing fear and suspicion, and pushing more people into the non-compliant basket.

It also feels like the integrity of the entire PS has been tarnished [by Tudge’s actions against Fox].

We are constantly bombarded with reminders about privacy and dire warnings about the consequences of breaches, and the head of an agency goes and does this.

I had to sign a declaration before I was given access. Very serious shit to divulge private information.

I’m absolutely horrified at the actual release of the information, the vindictive purpose of the release and also for the Canberra Times publishing it, rather than acknowledging they’d received  information that contradicted other claims.

The relationship between a government agency and a citizen is unique. As I’ve noted before, we are compelled to reveal intensely private information to certain agencies. We do this because we are compelled, and we must trust their staff have been trained in the moral, ethical and legal requirements to respect our privacy.

Minister Alan Tudge’s disgraceful betrayal of that trust damages all APP agencies, and all their staff. It irreparably damages those agencies’ relationships with the public. The Canberra Times, in publishing Malone’s sordid pieces, is colluding with an unprecedented destruction of trust between public servants, politicians and the public.

There is nothing in this hideous saga for the LNP government and The Canberra Times to be proud of, and there is absolutely no defence Paul Malone can invent that justifies the damage he has done to Ms Fox, and in a broader sense, to our society, the fabric of which is held together by the civilising influence of mutual trust.







Voluntary euthanasia & the religious right

22 May

Tomorrow, May 23rd, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill introduced on May 2nd by Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, will be debated in the NSW Parliament. Ms Faehrmann’s Bill is similar to the Death with Dignity Act which has seen physician assisted dying operate safely and successfully in Oregon since 1997.

Chrys Stevenson, speaker, blogger and advocate for voluntary euthanasia, has written this piece on the extraordinary infiltration of Faehrmann’s private briefing on the Bill by Sydney GP, Catholic and committed anti-euthanasia campaigner, Dr Catherine Lennon.

Dr Lennon also has history with the RU486 controversy, in which she referred to the drug as “human pesticide.”

To find out how Lennon managed this gatecrash, and just how extreme her views are, do read Stevenson’s excellent unpacking of the bizarre events, and find out who is Lennon’s political relative by marriage.

What Stevenson importantly  demonstrates is the lengths to which the religious right will go in order to impose their fundamentalist ambitions on the entire community. This is something we probably all need to be aware of, if we aren’t already.

The religious right’s impudent meddling in the most intimate  and private of human affairs, from decisions about reproduction and contraception, sexual morality throughout life, and then death, never ceases to offend me. I have a terminal illness which has been in remission for some time now. I have, more than once, been very close to death. What I fear is not dying, but being forced to live in circumstances that are intolerable to me. Nobody else can decide what those circumstances are. Surely no other person has more right than I do to determine the hour of my death, if I am in a position to do that, let alone religious fanatics who are complete strangers to me in every possible way.

We need more conversations in our society about dying, and how we can prepare ourselves for that inevitability. This piece in the Canberra Times by journalist Jenna Price is a start, although I do question the notion of a “good death,” which can place unrealistic demands on the dying and their loved ones. There are many reasons why a death can’t be “good”, depending on one’s interpretation of that word.

In the meantime, it seems to me that the enemies of any kind of chosen “good death” are the zealous religious right, who apparently feel their god prefers to watch us suffer than to mercifully die. This makes no sense to me. If in dying we go to god, as they would have it, why aren’t we all throwing ourselves off the cliffs like lemmings, the sooner to attain the promised better life with god in the sweet hereafter?

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