Go to top of page

New privacy code for public servants after Centrelink 'robo-debt' debacle

18 May 2017
Gareth Hutchens

A new privacy code will be developed for Australia’s public service in the wake of Centrelink’s “robo-debt” debacle, it was announced on Thursday.

An investigation is also being restarted to figure out how the minister for human services, Alan Tudge, was able to send internal departmental briefings to a journalist about a welfare recipient’s personal circumstances.

Timothy Pilgrim, the Australian privacy commissioner, said the new privacy codewill be developed for Australia’s public service, with help from Martin Parkinson, the secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, to be implemented in 2018. He made the announcement on Thursday, during the final day of public hearings in a Senate inquiry into Centrelink’s automated debt recovery system.

Pilgrim said he will also be auditing the Department of Human Services (DHS), which oversees Centrelink, in the 2017-18 financial year, in relation to its controversial data-matching program and online compliance intervention (OCI) system.

He said there were “privacy issues that warrant monitoring by me” including whether the DHS
“has taken reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of personal information used in the data-matching and debt recovery process, and whether individuals have had a reasonable opportunity to correct their personal information.”

Last month Australia’s ombudsman released the results of a three-month investigation of Centrelink’s debt recovery system.


Pilgrim says now that the federal police have advised they won’t take any action against Tudge, he has restarted his inquiries with DHS about the release of Fox’s personal information. “They’ve been cooperating and responding to my questions,” Pilgrim said.