- One year has passed since the commencement of provisions authorising the collection, use and disclosure of personal information for the purposes of dealing with fraud and corruption against the Commonwealth (also known as integrity purposes).
- As the government continues its commitment to strengthen counter-fraud, it is timely to discuss the changes and how they are intended to operate in practice.
- The public interest in enacting the provisions is said to outweigh the potential privacy impacts on affected individuals. The Government considers that the narrow purposes for which personal information is authorised to be shared, coupled with additional safeguards, are a proportionate response to the risk of fraud and corruption.
A year ago, provisions commenced in the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) (‘Crimes Act’) authorising the collection, use and disclosure of personal information for the purpose of preventing, detecting, investigating or dealing with fraud and corruption against the Commonwealth, while including safeguards to ensure their operation does not unduly interfere with the privacy of individuals. It is timely to remind Commonwealth, state and territory agencies, and private sector entities of these provisions, particularly as the government continues its commitment to strengthen counter-fraud arrangements and reduce the amount of public money being lost to fraud and corruption.
On 24 August 2018, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Act 2018 (Cth) (‘CLAPOOM Act’) became law. The CLAPOOM Act contains a range of measures to improve and clarify Commonwealth criminal justice arrangements. These measures included the addition of Part VIID to the Crimes Act, dealing with the collection, use and disclosure of personal information that may be relevant for integrity purposes.
The addition of Part VIID is a response to a recommendation of the 2015 Independent Review of Whole-of-Government Internal Regulation by Barbara Belcher to address issues associated with entities’ authority to seek and disclose personal information relevant to a fraud investigation (Report to Secretaries Committee on Transformation, Volume 1, Recommendations, August 2015 at p 39; Revised Explanatory Memorandum to the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (‘EM’) at , p 42). The measures in Part VIID are likely to have a positive financial impact by reducing the complexity of investigating or otherwise controlling fraud against the Commonwealth to help increase recoveries and prevent fraud occurring (EM at , p 4).
The government has committed to providing a total of $16.4 million to the Australian Federal Police (‘AFP’) and Attorney-General’s Department (‘AGD’) over two years (in addition to $0.1 million of capital funding to the AFP) to pilot and continue measures to strengthen Commonwealth counter-fraud arrangements (Budget Measures, Budget Paper No. 2, 2019-20 at p 55). Specifically, $9.9 million will be provided to the AFP to improve coordination of operational counter-fraud activity and $6.5 million for the AGD to establish a pilot counter- fraud policy and data area. The AGD pilot will take the form of the Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Centre (‘Centre’) (discussed below).