Labor’s Human Services spokeswoman Linda Burney has written to the AFP requesting an investigation after Centrelink bosses today agreed an individual’s personal information handed to a journalist last week was protected information.
Human services boss Kathryn Campbell told a senate estimates hearing the information had been run by the minister’s office first and provided to the media under lawful exemptions.
“The only information which we are able to release is information which is specifically to correct the record,” Human Services staffer Jonathon Hutson told senators.
“Information concerning an individual which has not been made otherwise public is not released, and has not been released in this circumstance.” Ms Campbell said the exemption had been used many times.
But Ms Burney announced this afternoon she wanted the AFP to test whether the release of information was legal.
Centrelink’s controversial debt recovery system was scrutinised in estimates today, along with call wait times for the agency.
Ms Campbell defended the automated system, saying “data-matching” in debt recovery was nothing new and almost half of recent complaints aired in the media had nothing to do with the system.
She conceded about 6600 people could have learned about money owed to Centrelink through debt collectors.
Ms Campbell defended releasing personal Centrelink information, saying the agency could “correct the record” and has been able to do so for many years.
“Unfounded allegations do unnecessarily undermine confidence in the department and the social welfare system,” she told senators.
“The time spent dealing with unfounded allegations takes staff effort away from dealing with other claims.”