Go to top of page

Centrelink fiasco: when can the government release your personal information?

1 March 2017
Paul Farrell and Christopher Knaus
The Guardian

Centrelink’s decision to release a welfare recipient’s personal information to a journalist has drawn heavy fire over the past 48 hours.

Welfare recipient Andie Fox wrote an article for Fairfax Media last month setting out her difficulties dealing with the agency after she began receiving calls from a debt collector. But her interactions with Centrelink and claim history were later set out – with some information she says is incorrect – in a separate article by Fairfax Media.

The case has thrown up a range of issues and reopened the question of how and when a government agency can release personal information about an Australian.

Here’s an outline of when the government can release personal information and what can be done if a person feels that their privacy has been violated.

When can a government agency release personal information they hold about a person?


Is this how Centrelink accessed Fox’s data?


What’s wrong with this approach?


Which options do people have if they feel their personal information has been breached?