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Friday, February 01, 2013

Centrelink not subject to NSW privacy laws

Deputy President Magistrate Hennessy in AGU v Commonwealth of Australia [2013] NSWADTAP 3 reached the unsurprising conclusion that Centrelink, part of the Commonwealth Department of Human Services is not a public sector agency for the purposes of the NSW Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act, and as a result is not subject to the NSW Health Records and Information Privacy Act. 

While it clearly did not come within the statutory definition of a (NSW) agency, the appellant's unsuccessful arguments revolved around provisions in the legislation that seek to bind the Crown in all capacities. The Appeal Panel said these provisions were for the purpose of overriding the common law presumption that the Crown is immune from civil suits, not to extend the act's privacy principles to Commonwealth agencies.

Not mentioned in the decision is that the Department and Centrelink are subject to the Commonwealth Privacy Act.

Privacy law, Commonwealth or state is confusing and messy, and the combination even more so. It is not surprising that citizens such as AGU can get off on the wrong foot. Surry Hills Legal Centre representing AGU perhaps should have picked up that arguing obscure points while pursuing remedy through NSW law to an ADT review and an appeal was always something of a lost cause.

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