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One Nation brands Centrelink robo-debt recovery 'malicious' and 'criminal'

18 January 2017
Fergus Hunter
The Sydney Morning Herald

One Nation senator Brian Burston has labelled Centrelink's contentious debt-recovery system "malicious and bordering on the criminal", adding Pauline Hanson's party to the chorus of concern surrounding the automated clawback.

One Nation's intervention is likely to pave the way for a Senate inquiry, proposed by Labor and requiring the Greens and another three crossbench votes in order to be established. On Wednesday, the opposition's human services spokeswoman, Linda Burney, said the inquiry should be established to find out "just how the government got this so wrong".

Senator Burston, whose party has supported crackdowns on welfare spending, said the Centrelink debt-recovery project was impacting people "who are among the most disadvantaged in our community" and "puts an unacceptable burden on the staff at Centrelink".

Calling for an immediate suspension of the program, he said it had been "negatively impacted" by government decisions on its implementation and was ignoring protections put in place for social security recipients.

"I do not believe this is an accident. It is deliberate, malicious and bordering on the criminal. If the minister is not responsible for having the system ignore the 'limiting point', he should have known about it," Senator Burston said.

The limiting points, according to the senator, were a feature of the original system, which allowed staff to more easily establish a client's status with Centrelink.