Police refused OIA request to release correspondence with Westpac, Hager says

Dirty Politics author lays complaints with Privacy Commissioner, Ombudsman after Police refuse to even acknowledge if the correspondence exists.   Paul Brislen talks about Westpac and Nicky Hager on NBR Radio and on demand via MyNBR Radio.

Click the NBR Radio box for on-demand special feature audio: Paul Brislen savages Westpac

Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager has requested documents from the Police under the Official Information Act and the Privacy Act, he said this afternoon through a member of his legal team, Felix Geiringer.

The Police have not been willing to provide the documents under those acts, Mr Geiringer says. "Indeed, the Police have refused even to acknowledge the existence of correspondence with Westpac under those acts. This is despite Mr Hager expressly asking the Police to list all of the documents they were wholly withholding under those acts."

Mr Hager says he has complained to the Privacy Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman about the Police failure to respond fully to his requests for documents. Representatives of both those organisations have met Mr Hager’s lawyers and have been liaising with Police over these complaints. 

On the matter of Westpac handing over personal information about Mr Hager to police without a court order, Mr Geiringer's statement says, "Now that the fact of this breach of privacy has been made public, Mr Hager intends to seek a full and frank disclosure of the extent of the breach from Westpac. He looks forward to receiving Westpac’s response to that request and will be considering his options to take this matter further. 

"Mr Hager is very concerned by this breach. His case before the High Court includes a claim against the Police under the Bill of Rights Act for seeking and obtaining that information without a production order. He fully intends to explore all options open to him now that he is free to do so."

His lawyer says Mr Hager could not lay a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner up to now because "Until this weekend, Mr Hager only knew about the privacy breach by Westpac through court discovery. Documents provided through discovery are not allowed to be used for any other purpose until they are relied on in open court. Since this part of Mr Hager’s case has not yet been argued, he has not been able to make use of his knowledge of this breach, not even to raise the matter with Westpac or the Privacy Commissioner."

Earlier today, a Westpac spokesman would not comment to NBR about the bank's policy in regard to handing over customer data without a production order, saying "We don’t give the policy out because it’s an internal policy."

After being forwarded a copy of Mr Geiringer's statement, Police spokesman Grant Ogilvie told NBR, "Our response is that we are not going  to comment on matters which are subject to ongoing judicial processes and are still under active investigation."

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