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What to do if you get a Centrelink debt recovery letter

9 January 2017
Fraser Coast Chronicle

Centrelink recipients across the region are being told to pay back false debts sometimes amounting to thousands of dollars because of a faulty computer algorithm.
The Federal Government and Centrelink have come under heavy criticism from all quarters over the automated system that has been used to match welfare recipients' reported income.
Amid all the anger the government agency began using Twitter to refer welfare recipients to crisis support hotline Lifeline as the hashtag #notmydebt began trending on the social media platform.

Three simple ways to avoid more IT failures like Centrelink and the census

9 January 2017
Guardian

Centrelink’s software problems, like those of Queensland Health, the Census and Victoria Police before them, arise from pathologies created by the powerful labour hire and outsourcing industries.

Centrelink’s software invents second employers and additional income. Queensland Health bungled the pay of nurses and doctors and also sent them nasty legal letters. Queensland lost a staggering $1bn through that disaster. The census website system fell over.
These would be extraordinary mistakes even for a small business, and yet they’re being made by government departments with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend. How does this happen?

Centrelink would be 'shut down for fraud' over debt letters, says Malcolm Turnbull's former digital guru

9 January 2017
The Age

Centrelink would be shut down for fraud for its conduct in the recent botched "debt" recovery efforts if it were a private company, according to the Commonwealth's former digital government chief.
Former Digital Transformation Office chief Paul Shetler also says the Turnbull government lacked the political will to push through its ambitious "digital transformation agenda".

Turnbull's desperate cash grab from the needy, via Centrelink

9 January 2017
Independent Australia

It beggars belief that this is a systems error. If this is the case, those responsible for the design and implementation of the system are unbelievably, inconceivably incompetent. Centrelink’s Hank Jongen claims the methodology hasn’t changed, but no one has explained why, if nothing has changed, the system has begun averaging annual earnings over every reporting fortnight and raising debts as a result.

Computer bites government: PM's Centrelink debacle

9 January 2017
The Age

For the Turnbull government these days, ineptitude comes in many forms, success in few. One of the latest examples where its performance has baffled the dwindling number of its supporters and brought smiles to the faces of its opponents is the decision to let Centrelink's computers loose on Australia's least wealthy and most vulnerable citizens in the weeks before Christmas.

Talking Point: Centrelink debacle shows insensitivity to the most vulnerable

9 January 2017
The Mercury

Andrew Wilkie, the independent federal MP for Denison, said last week that some people who have, over the Christmas break, received aggressive letters from Centrelink are close to suicide.
It is not surprising, and it is shameful that it is so. It is also extraordinary that politicians like Christian Porter and Alan Tudge, the Ministers responsible for Centrelink, think its OK to boast about the recovery of debts from generally low-income Australians while their government does little or nothing about the fact that some corporations and many wealthy individuals in this country pay little or no tax.

The ‘cruelty’ of the Centrelink cash grab may just be starting

8 January 2017
The New Daily

The Turnbull government’s mass invoices – constructed from data matching to claim discrepancies exist with Centrelink’s casual, disabled and vulnerable income earners – are expected to be used across the entire pensioner and social security sector. New discrepancies can be created over a recipient’s claimed asset values to substantiate invoices for ‘over-payments’.

Episode 08 - Not My Debt

7 January 2017
Well May We Say

For the first (unexpectedly more bumper than ever) episode back after the holiday break, Jeremy is joined by Lyndsey Jackson of notmydebt.com.au to discuss this government's war on the poor, in particular its attack on anyone who's ever used Centrelink.
AUDIO

Centrelink debt recovery not the success that Christian Porter claims

7 January 2017
The Age

Damaging criticism and publicity like this normally would have a minister rushing to initiate a review, or at the very least expressing regret for any (unintended) distress caused. But Mr Porter has remained his usual phlegmatic self, saying the letters sent initially to welfare recipients were "polite" and that only a "small" number of people had been asked to refund money they did not owe. He reiterated his belief that the program was working well, and said it would be extended further to recover nearly $4 billion in welfare debts over the next four years.

Labor flips on ‘robo-debt’ system Shorten, Plibersek pioneered

7 January 2017
The Australian

Labor’s leadership team of Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek pioneered the “robo-debt” data-matching system Centrelink is using to target current and former welfare recipients for apparently not declaring their income properly — but they now argue it should be suspended.
[...]
“The automation of this process will free up resources and result­ in more people being referred to the tax garnishee process, retrieving more outstanding debt on behalf of taxpayers,” Mr Shorten said at the time.

Welfare shock

7 January 2017
Shepparton News

Jayde Harvey, now 24, was shocked when she got a letter from Centrelink just before Christmas, asking her to clarify how much she earned when she worked part-time while in high school.
Similar letters have been sent to thousands of people across Australia in recent weeks as part of a new program to recover overpayments by linking welfare payments with records from the Australian Taxation Office.

Centrelink hounds cancer survivor for debt

6 January 2017
The Australian

Tony Barber survived a battle with cancer.
But now the 29-year-old has to battle a bureaucratic nightmare after receiving a Centrelink debt notice for $4500 in the lead-up to Christmas.
His is one of many complaints about the automated Centrelink system the federal government is using to claw back $4 billion in overpayments and the way the system calculates welfare recipients' debts

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