Labor’s Shadow Human Services Minister Linda Burney has asked the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to investigate the actions of Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, after his office sent a journalist confidential information about a Centrelink claimant in order to counter information contained in one of the claimant’s negative blog posts.
Burney says “the actions of Minister Tudge are immoral, and unethical, and reckless at best, and illegal at worst. And I want to know whether or not the actions have been illegal.”
— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) March 2, 2017
Last month, Minister Tudge’s office provided Fairfax Media with a brief on blogger Andie Fox, containing material which had been approved by the Department of Human Services (DHS)’ legal counsel. An article referring to that info was published over the weekend.
But, The Guardian has revealed Tudge’s office also accidentally sent extra personal information about Fox. That “bonus” information included further tax details, and even went into her relationship history.
When questioned about that extra info, Tudge’s office said it didn’t believe the release of those extra details would contravene privacy laws, as DHS legal counsel had okayed the rest of ’em.
Tudge: “Information provided by my office … was done with the approval of the Chief Legal Counsel of the Department of Human Services.” pic.twitter.com/9QiY68eBYK
— Karen Barlow (@KJBar) March 2, 2017
In a statement, Tudge pointed to two previously-untested provisions enshrined in social security law to back up his claim the department was entitled to “correct the record.”
However, Burney’s letter to the AFP says “a number of legal experts publicly stated that reliance on [section 202 of the Social Security Act 1999] is not available and is contrary to a proper reading of the Act and decades of established departmental practice.”
Burney’s letter ain’t a guarantee that action will be taken against Tudge, but it’s still a damning claim. Watch this space – the security of your private information could well be at stake.
Photo: Matt King / Getty.