The following rights apply to anyone in receipt of a Centrelink benefit:
- The right to receive the correct amount and type of benefit you are entitled to
- Centrelink must decide your entitlement according to the legislation and they must be able to establish that any decision made can be supported by the legislation
- The right to privacy
Centrelink has wide powers to collect information relating to your eligibility and as a consequence is entitled to give and receive information about you to or from government agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office or the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
The right to see your Centrelink file
Under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) you are entitled to a copy of your Centrelink file. Information that cannot be obtained includes information supplied by someone else confidentially, another person’s personal information and some medical records.
For further detail on how to request your Centrelink file, see How to make a request to Centrelink for your file.
The right to written notice of decisions with reasons
You have the right to receive a written decision containing the reasons for the decision, the legislative basis for the decision and the evidence considered. This information must be supplied within 28 days of a written request.
Your rights if visited by a Centrelink field officer
Centrelink field officers (or Mobile Review Teams) may call at your home. These officers have no right to enter your house without your consent. You do not have to answer questions or sign statements in their presence. You have the right to decide whether or not you will invite them into your home. If you wish you can request that any interview take place at a Centrelink office or to have the questions addressed to you in writing.
Your rights at Centrelink assessment interviews
Centrelink has the right to ask you to attend an interview for the purposes of assessing your correct entitlement to a Centrelink benefit. However, you also have rights with regard to these interviews. You have the right to request that questions be put to you in writing and you may reply in writing. Generally you will have 7 or 14 days in which to respond. You also have the right to have a friend or relative accompany you to the interview.
Your right not to attend a "prosecution interview"
Centrelink may request you attend a prosecution interview if you have a debt. It will be a prosecution interview (as opposed to an assessment interview) if Centrelink provide you with a warning that anything you say may be used against you in a court of law and that the interview will be taped.
The prosecution interviewer may suggest that there is no need for you to attend the interview just "send them a letter". You should say you first want to get legal advice.
You have the right not to attend such an interview, or if you do decide to attend, you can walk out at any point you wish. No penalty can be imposed on you for not attending such an interview, or for stopping it once it has begun. Neither can your current payments be stopped for not attending a prosecution interview.
Your right to seek independent advice before giving Centrelink information
You have the right to seek independent advice about any Centrelink matter. If you wish to consult with an independent advisor contact the Uniting Communities Law Centre or the Legal Services Commission, see Social Security in our Service Directory for contact details.
Your right to have an advocate
You have the right for an advocate to be present at any Centrelink interviews or medical examination. You can also nominate another person to handle Centrelink business on your behalf.
Your right to refuse to make a statement immediately
Any request for information must be given in writing and you should be allowed at least 7 days to respond.
Your right to appeal
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.