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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (8 August) . . Page.. 2578 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

I cannot comment on the case of Mr Waterhouse, but in light of Mr Rugendyke's question I will seek advice from the Gambling and Racing Commission as to whether Mr Waterhouse has applied for, or perhaps obtained, a licence to practise as a bookmaker in the ACT.

MR RUGENDYKE: My supplementary question has been answered. It was to be about the degree of stringency applying to applications for ACT licences. It seems to be harder, which is probably a good thing.

Centrelink information on student absences

MR BERRY: My question is to the Minister for Education, Mr Stefaniak. It relates to recent reports about Centrelink procuring information from ACT government colleges. Can the minister confirm to the Assembly that his department is currently providing to Centrelink information downloaded from records held by ACT government colleges on student absences? Can he confirm that information on all absences is being passed on, not just that relating to students who are Centrelink clients? How long has the department been providing Centrelink with this information?

MR STEFANIAK: I do not know whether Mr Berry is aware of it, but the department has provided to Centrelink for many years attendance information on government secondary school students who receive allowances to enable them to continue their studies. With the improved computerised record-keeping systems now in use in our schools, the department now provides attendance information to Centrelink on all government secondary school students. I am advised that Centrelink follows strict protocols with regard to the privacy of individuals. As is the case in other states and territories of Australia, the department is authorised under the Privacy Act 1998 and the Social Security Administration Act 1999 to provide such information to Centrelink.

I understand that there has been some talk in the media about instances in relation to one of our colleges. That is very much a Centrelink issue, a Commonwealth issue. I do not think that the ACT has a huge amount of choice in the matter because of the nature of it. However, I do stress that they do have strict protocols with regard to the privacy of individuals and that this information has been passed on for some time. I think you spoke in terms of all students. I am not quite sure of that.

Mr Berry: All absences.

MR STEFANIAK: The information I have relates to attendances. I will probably need to check to make sure that it refers to all absences. Certainly, the information has been passed on for some time as a result thereof.

MR BERRY: Can the minister tell the Assembly whether the information on student absences has been passed on to Centrelink without informing students, parents or even, originally, college welfare officers? Can he confirm that the department was warned at a meeting in June that there were major flaws in the information it was passing on? Why did the department ignore those warnings?

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