The Australian Greens are calling for the Government’s automated debt recovery system to be scrapped and investigated through a senate inquiry.
Australian Greens spokesperson on community services Senator Rachel Siewert said:
“Prior to and over Christmas, the automated debt recovery system caused anguish and stress to people using our social safety net, impacting on the mental health of those that we should be supporting.
“These demands from Centrelink are deeply distressing and my office has heard from many people about their experiences of receiving a notification that they were thousands of dollars in debt and would need records from many years ago to dispute this.
“Just before Christmas I wrote to the Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge asking for him to explain the debacle and suspend the program. Since then it has become clear that the program has caused too many issues to remain viable, subsequently the view of the Australian Greens is that the automated debt recovery system must be scrapped altogether.
“Clearly using an automated system when trying to claw money back from people who were accessing support was bound to be flawed, particularly when the infrastructure for people challenging the debts is so broken. Getting through to Centrelink on the phone or accessing the website verged on impossible even before this program was rolled out. Last estimates we heard again of the millions of unanswered calls and busy signals to Centrelink.
"I'm pleased the Ombudsman will be reviewing this debacle but the Parliament needs to hear from the people affected by this flawed approach. When Parliament resumes I will work with Senate colleagues to initiate a senate inquiry into the debacle. We need clear answers on how this program went so wrong and what the real implications are”.