The Senate has voted to conduct an enquiry into the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) automated debt recovery system.
Senator Rachel Siewert (Greens) said the inquiry would enable those who had been affected to have a voice.
Senator Siewert said the inquiry would look into all aspects of the DHS system including the lack of human oversight; the onus of proof being on the recipient; the experiences of people told they had a debt when they did not; and the fact that people could not get through to Centrelink on the phone and its website.
She said the inquiry would assess the impact on the public and how much service capacity was given to Centrelink to cope with the program.
The decision of the Senate was welcomed by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) whose leaders said its members would use the inquiry to reveal the full extent of dysfunction with the policy and more broadly with the Department.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said DHS had incorrectly chased thousands of Australians for money when they either owed nothing or a fraction of the amount being pursued.
“Our members working in Centrelink are looking forward to this inquiry,” Ms Flood said.
She said it would be an important opportunity for hardworking staff in the Department to speak openly about how things had gone so wrong.