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3.1 General Principles

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There are no secrecy provisions in the legislation, but staff have an obligation to respect the confidential nature of a client's dealings with DSH. Moreover, the Public Service Act and the Crimes Act prohibit the disclosure of information except in the course of official duty. The Privacy Act 1988 also limits the disclosure of personal information.

As a general policy therefore, no particulars of a client's dealings with DSH and no part of the contents of a DSH file are to be disclosed to any person other than the client or the Bank without his/her specific written authority, or, where the client(s) is deceased, his/her legal personal representative. (see Exchange of Information with Westpac, GO 3.2 this chapter). Likewise, some information about a client's service is not to be obtained from the Department of Defence without his/her written consent. Some disclosures of personal information are permitted by the Privacy Act and access to some information in documentary form can be sought under the FOI Act.

Care should also be taken to ensure, in the case of a joint tenancy or tenancy in common, that personal information which is properly confidential to one party is not disclosed to the other party.  In every case the disclosure of any information will be at the discretion of a senior officer who will also ensure that classified matter is not disclosed.

The delegate may authorise the disclosure of information without the authority of the client or his/her representative to the following departments or organisations, provided the delegate is satisfied that the information is relevant to their particular function or statutory responsibility and, provided the request, stating the reasons for requiring the information, is made in writing:

  • Taxation Office;
  • Commonwealth Department of Social Security. (In addition, if information obtained in the course of investigations carried out into a client's financial circumstances reveals that they are receiving assistance from the Department of Social Security to which they are not entitled, the full circumstances shall be made known to that Department);
  • The Official Receiver in Bankruptcy;
  • The Commonwealth Ombudsman (or his representative in a State);
  • Any Court (upon service of an order or subpoena). However, where the delegate considers there are grounds for the Minister to claim Crown privilege, this aspect should be investigated before delivering the subpoenaed documents.
  • These disclosures would be permitted by IPP 11 1(d) of the Privacy Act 1988.

Except as provided (above), the address of a client may not be released without his or her authority but DSH may accept a sealed, stamped envelope for on-forwarding. (see Privacy Act 1988 - Chapter 7)