Office of the Australian Information Commissioner - Home

Australian Government - Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
Australian Government - Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

Main menu

Partner visa data matching program exemption

Our reference: DMA14/00017

[redacted]
National Manager
Serious Non-Compliance Branch
Business Integrity Division

By email: [redacted]
CC: [redacted]

Dear [redacted]

Data matching program protocol: Matching between Department of Human Services and Department of Immigration and Border Protection

I refer to your correspondence dated 4 December 2014 to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) regarding the Department of Human Services (DHS) Data matching between Centrelink and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection program protocol (the protocol).

The purpose of the proposed data matching program is to identify individuals:

  • who have incorrectly declared their relationship status to Centrelink
  • involved in migration fraud through the partner visa programme administered by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).

DHS has requested an exemption from the notification requirements contained in Guideline 6 of the Guidelines on Data Matching in Australian Government Administration 2014 (the Guidelines). The request is made in accordance with Guideline 10 of the Guidelines.

Consideration of issues

Guideline 10 outlines matters that an agency should address when seeking an exemption from the Guidelines on public interest grounds. DHS has addressed the public interest grounds for this request in its letter dated 4 December 2014 and in the protocol.

DHS advises that this data matching program is intended to target and detect individuals who are taking premeditated steps to be non-compliant and commit fraud. DHS considers that notifying individuals of a match prior to investigation may undermine the investigation process as individuals may have the opportunity to destroy relevant evidence.

DHS states that deviating from the notification requirements contained in Guideline 6 will have a minimal privacy impact for the individuals concerned. Any person who is investigated will be provided with the opportunity to respond to information obtained through matching, and other third party evidence collection, at a time that will not compromise the investigation. Further, resulting adjustments or amendments to individuals’ personal information will be provided to them to comment on and/or dispute through established appeal and review processes.

DHS identifies a number of benefits that will arise from its data matching program including:

  • ensuring that Centrelink payments are only made to those individuals who are entitled
  • detect and investigate fraud and non-compliance
  • provide net savings by detecting overpayments and recovering debt
  • contribute to the whole of government approach  to identify serious and complex fraud so that the integrity of outlays and taxpayer expectations are met
  • provide net savings by detecting overpayments and recovering debt
  • increase public awareness and raise voluntary compliance.

Decision

I have considered the information before me and agree that compliance with Guideline 6 would significantly reduce the effectiveness of the data matching program.

Consequently, I consider it appropriate for DHS to be exempt from the notification requirements in Guideline 6 in relation to this particular data matching program.

The exemption will be for a total period of three years from January 2015.

It is my normal practice to make an advice provided in accordance with Guideline 10 publicly available. I note that DHS has not requested that this advice be kept confidential.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this matter, please contact [redacted], Adviser on [redacted] or by email at [redacted].

Yours sincerely
[signed]
Timothy Pilgrim
Australian Privacy Commissioner

23 December 2014