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Press releases

A statement regarding the Government bullying of Centrelink staff

18 January 2017
Andrew Wilkie MP Independent Member for Denison

Media reports that Centrelink staff are being bullied into silence ring true. There is no doubt that the Centrelink debt recovery program has reached the point of high farce, and I don’t doubt that both the Government, and by direction senior Centrelink management, are now pulling out all stops to try and silence the workers tasked with carrying out the program. 

Problems could be solved by talking to people: Anglicare Australia responds to Centrelink Automated Debt Collection

18 January 2017
Anglicare Australia

Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers has supported calls by ACOSS, the National Welfare Rights Network and others to suspend the Centrelink automated debt recovery process, and for government to sit down with the people most affected to put a more respectful process in place.

Turnbull has pensioners and people with disability in his sights

17 January 2017
The Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Human Services, ALP Member for Barton; The Hon Jenny Macklin MP, Shadow Member for Families and Social Services, ALP Member for Jagajaga

Reports today reveal that the Turnbull Government’s attack on pensioners and people with disability is set to extend to the Centrelink debt recovery debacle.
Around 3 million pensioners and people with disability are in the sights of the Turnbull Government’s error riddled debt recovery program.

Tudge misses own 21 day deadline on robo-debt debacle

17 January 2017
The Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Human Services, ALP Member for Barton

After 21 days, Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge still hasn’t responded to representations made by Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney calling for a halt to his deeply flawed robo-debt program.
Centrelink clients get 21 days to respond to initial correspondence before they are assumed to be guilty and forced to start paying while they search for evidence to prove their innocence.

Government must abandon Centrelink’s Auto-Debt Recovery Program to prevent further harm

17 January 2017
Australian Council Of Social Services

In a statement today, ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “This error-riddled Auto-Debt Recovery Program must be stopped without further delay. The tweaks announced by the Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge do not address the fundamental problems and serious concerns expressed by us and a broad range of stakeholders.

Turnbull has pensioners and people with disability in his sights

17 January 2017
The Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Human Services, Labor Member for Barton

Reports today reveal that the Turnbull Government’s attack on pensioners and people with disability is set to extend to the Centrelink debt recovery debacle.
Around 3 million pensioners and people with disability are in the sights of the Turnbull Government’s error riddled debt recovery program.

Misleading claims about online compliance system

16 January 2017
Australian Government Department of Human Services Media Hub

Commentary on the department’s online compliance system continues to incorrectly say 20 per cent of letters are being issued in error. This is misleading and a misrepresentation of the process.
Initial notices request information to explain differences in earned income between the Australian Taxation Office and Centrelink records. These result in a debt in 80 per cent of cases. The remaining 20 per cent are instances where people have explained the difference and don’t owe any money following assessment of this updated information.
This is how the system is designed to work, in line with the legal requirements of welfare recipients to report all changes in circumstances and the department’s obligation to protect government outlays.

Centrelink debt recovery scheme - It’s time to repair our broken welfare system

16 January 2017
Australian Association of Social Workers

Centrelink’s automated debt recovery system and its policies of coercion and confusion are causing significant distress to many disadvantaged Australians, the Vice-President of the Australian Association of Social Workers, Christine Craik, said today.
“People look to their government for support, not intimidation,” Ms Craik said.

National Social Security Rights Network calls for suspension of Centrelink online debt system and a new approach

16 January 2017
National Social Security Rights Network

As a result of our experience helping people respond to the new system so far, we support widespread calls to suspend its use unless and until concerns about it are addressed. We oppose any further roll-out of the system to other forms of data-matching at this time.
Our fundamental concern is that the new system creates an inherent and unacceptably high risk that a person may accept and repay an incorrectly raised debt. This risk is not adequately addressed by the present system. This is also leading to unacceptable levels of distress and worry among people affected and more can and should be done to reduce this.

[PDF: http://www.welfarerights.org.au/sites/default/files/news/NSSRN%20stateme...

Letter to Commonwealth Ombudsman

16 January 2017
Andrew Wilkie MP Independent Member for Denison

Thank you for investigating the debt notices that are currently being generated by the Department of Human Services.
I have now been approached by several current and ex-Centrelink employees who have recently left the Department due to the new debt recovery program. I am deeply concerned by what these employees have told me and summarise the information conveyed to me below:
[PDF]

A statement regarding the Government’s Centrelink backflip that looks like a bellyflop - Wilkie

16 January 2017
Andrew Wilkie MP Independent Member for Denison

The Government’s indication it will modify the Centrelink debt recovery program, while a concession of sorts that there are problems, misses the point which is that the program is deeply flawed and must be shut down immediately.

Centrelink disaster relief effort under way

14 January 2017
Tasmanian Council of Social Service Inc.

Tasmania’s community service sector has rallied together to provide immediate support to Tasmanians impacted by the Centrelink debt recovery debacle.
Several community organisations have pooled funds of over $12,000 to increase resources for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) in Hobart and Launceston to provide access to a dedicated Welfare Rights Officer, Monday through Friday.

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