Attorney-general George Brandis has come up with a solution for people who’ve been asked to prove they don’t owe a welfare debt: Just call Centrelink!
The first question on Monday’s Q&A was asked by Fred Thorpe, a former teacher and mother of three whose disability support pension is up for review.
Brandis was pushed on what people should do if they’d been sent an incorrect debt notice from Centrelink and now faced being thrown off welfare.
“When a notice is issued and a mistake has been made and it appears to the person who has been issued that a mistake has been made, they can contact Centrelink and sort out the problem,” Brandis said.
The audience, including Thorpe, burst into laughter.
Everyone at home who has had even the slightest bit of contact with Centrelink was screaming at their TV.
Centrelink’s long call wait times have been in the spotlight in the wake of the automated debt recovery controversy.
Government ministers say the average call wait time is around 12 minutes – but that doesn’t square with the experience of many, who say they often wait on hold for hours.
Even ABC 7.30 host Leigh Sales couldn’t get through.
Thorpe eventually told Brandis that she HAD been calling Centrelink every day, for 90 minutes a day, waiting to speak to someone. So, of course, Brandis had another classic piece of advice.
"You can go to your local Centrelink office."
Let that sink in.