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Centrelink recipient's data released by department to counter public criticism

27 February 2017
Christopher Knaus and Paul Farrell
The Guardian

Senior government officials have approved the release of a Centrelink recipient’s personal information to counter her public criticism of the department.

Welfare recipient Andie Fox wrote an article for Fairfax Media earlier this month setting out her difficulties dealing with the agency after she began receiving calls from a debt collector.

But, over the weekend, she was shocked to discover details of her interactions with Centrelink and claim history set out – with some information she says is incorrect – in a separate article by Fairfax Media.

The article, headlined “Centrelink is an easy target for complaining but there are two sides to every story”, used information released by Centrelink to challenge Fox’s claims. 

Fox has now questioned whether the department breached her privacy. She has lodged complaints with Centrelink and other organisations about the release of her personal information.

“It’s an incredibly disturbing event,” she told Guardian Australia. 

The department confirmed that Fox’s personal information was approved for release to Fairfax Media. It said it was necessary to correct the public record about several inaccurate claims Fox had made. 

The information was approved for release by a deputy secretary. The department’s head of legal services and general counsel both said they were comfortable with the release of the information. It was then provided to Fairfax Media by the office of the human services minister, Alan Tudge.