7.1.2.10 Disclosure of Information

Disclosure of Information by the Secretary or Centrelink

The Secretary or delegate may disclose, in certain circumstances, information that was acquired by an officer in the performance of his or her duties or functions under the PPLAct. The situations for disclosure are:

  • to a person if the Secretary certifies that it is necessary in the public interest to do so, or
  • to an Agency Head (1.1.A.70) for the purposes of that agency if the disclosure is required by a Commonwealth law, or
  • to a person with the express or implied authority of the person to whom the information relates, or
  • to the Minister to enable the Minister to consider a complaint or issue in relation to a matter that arises under the PPL scheme if the Secretary reasonably believes that the disclosure is likely to assist the Minister, or
  • to an SES or APS employee in DSS or Centrelink for the purpose of briefing, or considering briefing, the Minister if the Secretary reasonably believes the disclosure is likely to assist the Minister to consider a complaint or issue in relation to a matter arising under the PPL scheme.

Note: The Secretary can only delegate the power to disclose protected information to an Agency Head (PPLAct paragraph 128(1)(b)) to the Chief Executive Centrelink or the Chief Executive Medicare.

Privacy Act 1988 section 14 also applies to information disclosed under PPLAct section 128.

Protected information (1.1.P.270) about a principal (1.1.P.260) may be disclosed to the principal's payment or correspondence nominee (subsection 128(6)).

The Minister has made guidelines, in the PPL Rules, for the exercise of the Secretary's or Centrelink's power to give a public interest certificate (i.e. disclose information that is in the public interest) under PPLAct paragraph 128(1)(a).

These guidelines require the Secretary or Centrelink to consider:

  • any situation in which the person to whom the information relates is, or may be, subject to physical, psychological or emotional abuse, and
  • whether the person in such a situation may be unable to communicate his or her circumstances because of age, disability or social, cultural, family or other reasons.

The guidelines state that the Secretary may give a public interest certificate for the disclosure of relevant information if:

  • the information cannot reasonably be obtained from a source other than DSS, and
  • the person to whom the information will be disclosed has a genuine and legitimate interest in the information (including a Minister), and
  • the Secretary or Centrelink is satisfied that the disclosure is for the purpose of rules:
    • 4.5 (preventing or lessening a threat to life, health or welfare),
    • 4.6 (enforcing laws: criminal law relating to an indictable offence punishable by imprisonment of 2 years or more; a law imposing a pecuniary penalty of 40 penalty units or more; or to prevent an act that may have a significant adverse effect on the public revenue; an offence or threatened offence against a Commonwealth employee, Commonwealth property, Department premises or Centrelink premises),
    • 4.6A (for the making, supporting or enforcing of a proceeds of crime order),
    • 4.7 (correcting a mistake of fact),
    • 4.8 (briefing a Minister so that a Minister can: respond to complaints or issues; be informed for meetings or forums he or she is to attend; correct mistakes of fact, misleading perceptions or impressions or misleading statements; be informed about an error or delay on the part of Centrelink or the FWO; or be informed about an instance of an anomalous or unusual operation of the PPLAct or the Fair Work Act 2009),
    • 4.9 (information about a missing person to assist with formal inquiries or to locate a person, where there is no reasonable ground to believe that the missing person would not want the information disclosed),
    • 4.10 (information about a deceased person to assist with formal inquiries, to help a person locate a relative or beneficiary of the deceased person or to help with the administration of the estate of the deceased person, where there is no reasonable ground to believe that the deceased person would not have wanted the information disclosed. Information may also be disclosed to establish the death of a person or the place where the death is registered),
    • 4.11 (for the purpose of research into the matters of relevance to a department administering any part of the PPLAct, the family assistance law or the social security law and for the purpose of statistical analysis of those matters),
    • 4.12 (to assist in the performance of the functions of the Family Responsibilities Commission or the exercise of its powers),
    • 4.13 (for the purpose of contacting the person in respect of their possible entitlement to compensation or other form of recompense in a reparation process),
    • 4.14 (giving information to a Child Protection agency for the purpose of contacting the parent or relative in relation to a child),
    • 4.15 (giving information about a resident or tenant of public housing or other state or territory managed housing to: facilitate rent calculation or rent deduction; and facilitate administration of an income confirmation service to avoid mistakes, underpayments and overpayments of rent, pensions, benefits and allowances).

For the purpose of rule 4.8, a Minister is a Minister administering the PPLAct, a Minister of State administering any part of the social security law, the family assistance law, the Human Services (Centrelink) Act 1997, the Prime Minister, the Minister administering the Fair Work Act or the Minister administering the Human Services (Medicare) Act 1973.

Act reference: PPLAct section 128 Disclosing personal information

Human Services (Centrelink) Act 1997

Human Services (Medicare) Act 1973

PPL Rules Part 4-1 Information gathering

Policy reference: PPL Guide 9.3.1 General Administration & Delegation

Disclosure of information by AAT members - threat to life, health or welfare

A member of the AAT may disclose information if the information concerns a threat to the life, health or welfare of a person and the member believes that the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen the threat. If the threat suggests that an offence may be or has been committed against a person the AAT member can disclose information for the purpose of preventing, investigating or prosecuting that offence.

Act reference: PPLAct section 130A Disclosure of information by AAT members-threat to life, health or welfare

Last reviewed: 14 August 2017