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Centrelink: Labor refers minister to Australian Federal Police over alleged privacy breaches

2 March 2017
Eryk Bagshaw
SMH

Labor frontbencher Linda Burney has referred Human Services Minister Alan Tudge to federal police over allegations he broke social security laws by releasing the personal information of a Centrelink recipient to the media. 

Ms Burney, Labor's human services spokeswoman, described the case as "shocking".

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Documents seen by Fairfax Media reveal Mr Tudge's office asked the department for extra personal information on the woman, including her tax returns and the date of her separation from her partner, so that the Mr Tudge could respond to any criticisms that might come up in Question Time. 

Mr Tudge said the information was provided to the media to correct "false assertions". 

"It was done with the approval of the chief legal counsel of the Department of Human Services," he said. 

"The government takes privacy very seriously and complies with all the requirements of the relevant legislation to ensure that Australians' information is safeguarded appropriately." 

The escalation came after department chiefs were interrogated in senate estimates hearings in Canberra on Thursday. The questions focused on the department's decision to release the information to the media and to Mr Tudge's office after the woman had written about her treatment by Centrelink in an article published by Fairfax.

Ms Burney said she believed Mr Tudge's actions to be "immoral at best" and "illegal at worst." 

"It has gotten to the stage with Mr Tudge that there needs to be a thorough investigation," she said. 

"That is why I have taken the very serious step of writing this afternoon to AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin."