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Labor calls out government for breaching privacy laws amid Centrelink fiasco

28 February 2017
Asha McLean
ZD Net

Labor has accused the Australian government of breaching privacy laws by leaking confidential information about Centrelink customers.

The accusation stems from Centrelink's new automated debt recovery system that has seen some letters demanding money repayment sent in error to welfare recipients.

Opposition human services spokeswoman Linda Burney moved a motion in the lower house on Tuesday, arguing that the government had conducted a vindictive campaign to gag those who complain about the Centrelink scandal by leaking their details to the media.

"They have made it clear: If you speak out, they will target you," she said. "They wanted revenge on those who have spoken publicly. We serve the people in this place, and it's not for us to target them."

Burney is also demanding an apology on behalf of those she said have been targeted, while the rest of her party is demanding the government reveal who authorised the release of the confidential information.

The remarks came after it was revealed the Department of Human Services (DHS) provided information on welfare recipient Andie Fox following an article she wrote for Fairfax Media.

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Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge insisted that the government is allowed to release a person's private information under social services laws in order to correct the record.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull previously called the debt recovery system "quite appropriate" and said it boils down to the fact that the government has an obligation to ensure that Australia's "very extensive and generous" social welfare system is allocated correctly.

Tudge said on Tuesday the government would continue with the controversial debt recovery system in order to protect taxpayers' money.