6.8.6 Secrecy Offences

Context

Child support legislation contains offence provisions for the breach of the secrecy requirements.

Act references

CSRC Act section 16, section 16AA

CSA Act section 150, section 150AA

On this page

Offence of disclosure of protected information

The child support legislation provides secrecy requirements (CSA Act section 150 and CSRC Act section 16). For more information on the secrecy obligations see 6.3.

The secrecy requirements apply to:

  • the Child Support Registrar
  • the Minister for Human Services
  • the Minister for Social Services
  • the Secretary of DHS
  • the Secretary of DSS
  • DHS employees and contracted staff
  • DSS employees and contracted staff
  • the Commissioner of Taxation
  • a person employed or appointed by, or providing services to, the Commonwealth
  • the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department or an employee of that department who has received information in relation to overseas maintenance orders or the enforcement of child support overseas
  • any person if the information concerns a credible threat to the life, health or welfare of a person (6.3.3)
  • a person with a 'sufficient interest' (6.3.3)
  • a payee of a registered maintenance liability who has notified DHS in accordance with the CSRC Act section 113A, of their intention to institute private payee enforcement proceedings (5.4.7)
  • members of the AAT
  • officers of a Court.

A person listed above must not (CSA Act section 150(2) and CSRC Act section 16(2)):

  • make a record of any protected information (see 6.3.3 for the definition of protected information), or
  • communicate any protected information to a person, either directly or indirectly.

The exception is where the person makes the record or communicates the information (CSA Act section 150(2A) and CSRC Act section 16(2A)):

  • under or for the purposes of the child support legislation, or
  • in the course of performing their duties under, or in relation to, the child support legislation.

The penalty for breaching the secrecy provisions is imprisonment for up to 1 year.

Offence of unauthorised use of relevant information

A further offence, which deals with unauthorised use of relevant information, applies to any person (who is not a person listed above):

  • who makes a record of information, communicates, or otherwise makes use of information, and
  • that information is information about a person obtained from the records of DHS, or is information to the effect that there is no information about that person held by DHS.

See the CSA Act at section 150AA and the CSRC Act at section 16AA.

Example: This offence would apply if personal information was incorrectly sent by DHS to a person (e.g. a letter mailed to the wrong person) and that person records, communicates or otherwise uses that personal information.

The above offence would not apply if a person were to record, communicate or otherwise use personal information that was obtained legally from a source other than DHS or the Registrar.

People who have legitimately been given personal information (for example, payees who have initiated private payee enforcement proceedings under section 113A of the CSRC Act) may use or record that information for the purpose for which it was given, but would be subject to the offence provisions if they were to otherwise use or record it.

The penalty for breaching the secrecy provisions is imprisonment for up to 1 year.

Last reviewed: 8 February 2016