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Ch 32 Requests for Information
The following information is intended to assist Delegates regarding the manner in which requests for information received from Centrelink and from the Defence Legal Service and its representatives in relation to MRCC claimants are to be handled.
Commonly asked questions regarding providing information to Centrelink include:
- what information the MRCC can provide to Centrelink regarding MRCC clients, and
- what Centrelink notices are appropriate.
The following guidelines are appropriate:
1.any request for information regarding a MRCC client from Centrelink must be in writing. It is sufficient if this information is faxed to the MRCC.
2.the notice from Centrelink MUST be addressed to an individual MRCC officer (by name) or to an individual position in MRCC which can be identified (e.g. Claims Manager A to K).
3.the notice from Centrelink MUST include the section of their legislation under which the request is made.
4.the Delegate who handles the Centrelink request for information MUST put an appropriate comment on Defcare which details the information that has been provided to Centrelink as a result of the notice issued by Centrelink staff.
It should be noted that Centrelink must provide a 'Notice of Completion' or a 'Notice of Charge Rendered' once the information request has been completed. The Centrelink request for information remains current until a completion notice or a notice of charge rendered is received.
It is also important to note that Delegates should not give information regarding MRCC Clients to Centrelink over the telephone since this may result in a serious breach of the Privacy Act 1988.
What information should the Delegate provide to Centrelink?
1.Centrelink is able to recover benefits it has paid to a person from SRC Act incapacity payments and lump sum redemptions of incapacity benefits so MRCC Delegates are able to release details of any such payments which might have been made in individual cases.
2.Although Centrelink cannot recover benefits from a SRC Act permanent impairment (PI) payment that has not yet been paid to the claimant, Centrelink may adjust a claimant's benefits to take account of any PI lump sum compensation received. Delegates are therefore able to provide Centrelink with details of PI payments.
Note: A garnishee notice given by Centrelink under Section 1123 of the Social Security Act 1991 gives Centrelink the power to recover their funds from PI payments. The MRCC is not compelled to advise Centrelink of any such payment in the same way it is compelled to advise Centrelink of incapacity or lump sum redemption payments if a preliminary notice has been issued by Centrelink under Section 1174 of the Social Security Act 1991.
Defence Legal Service
From time to time, the National Office of the MRCC in Canberra receives requests from the Defence Legal Service (DLS) of the Department of Defence or its legal representatives for information and documents regarding compensation claims lodged with the MRCC under the provisions of the SRC Act. This information is required by DLS or its representatives to assist in the conduct of the Commonwealth's defence of common law damages claims by current and former members of the RAN.
These claims for damages are most commonly in relation to the collision of HMAS Voyager and HMAS Melbourne in 1964 although the MRCC can probably expect an increasing number of enquiries in relation to the similar collision of HMAS Melbourne with the USS Frank E Evans in 1969 and other naval incidents. The Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) is usually the Commonwealth's solicitor in such proceedings although, in some cases, DLS engages the services of private legal firms. The claims for damages are usually the subject of legal proceedings before the courts in NSW or Victoria.
The Commonwealth (and the Department of Defence) maintains that it is properly entitled to MRCC information and documents in order to defend any common law claim against the Commonwealth arising from the claimant's RAN or other Commonwealth service. Specifically, the Commonwealth (and the Department of Defence as the claimant's employing agency) relies, for justification for release of information and documents by the MRCC, upon Information Privacy Principle (IPP) 11.1(e). This principle relates to access to information and documents in order to protect the public revenue – see the Privacy Commissioner's guidelines.
When requests for information and/or documents are received, National Office's practice is to do a search of Defcare records to try to identify whether the individual who has claimed common law damages has also lodged a claim for compensation benefits under the SRC Act. If a SRC Act compensation claim has been lodged, DLS, AGS or the private legal firm is advised of the State/Territory office that is responsible for dealing with the claim. If the request for information/documents is considered to be compliant with IPP 11.1(e), it is referred to the relevant MRCC office with a request that the requested information and/or documents be provided as soon as possible.
If it is decided to release information in accordance with IPP 11.1(e), it is imperative to ensure that details of the information and/or documents which are released are recorded on the paper file and also on Defcare records – IPP 11.2 refers. The note must say that the personal information in [this] record has been disclosed relying on exception 11.1(e); and when, by whom, to whom and for what purpose the disclosure was made.