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Centrelink debt recovery program to be investigated at Senate committee today

8 March 2017
Matthew Doran
ABC News

Centrelink's bungled robodebt recovery program will be investigated by a Senate committee today, with representatives from the tax office and department of human services among those to be grilled.

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The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) will be among those to present evidence to the committee today, after warning the roll out of automated debt recovery could cause significant distress and unjust outcomes.

"We would not see this kind of debt collection process in any other kind of corporation environment," ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said.

"Unfortunately when this program was released, it was just seven weeks out from Christmas. We had 20,000 letters going out per week — to date we think over 200,000 people have been affected by this.

"On the Government's own figures, at least 20 per cent of these so-called 'discrepancy notices' have been incorrect.

"We cannot know exactly the scale of how many people have been adversely affected. We don't know how many people have felt intimidated and entered into agreeing to repay debts they didn't believe they owed. We don't know how many more are inaccurate."

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which represents those employed by Centrelink who have had to deal with the complaints and compliance since the rollout of the program, warned the problems went further.