After countless hours, over a period of 6 months on the phone and providing documents (178 pages of bank statements & immigration records-available free from immigration on a 1359 form) finally got onto someone with authority that could see the light.
Debt reduced from $9,800 to $477.
Basically debt was when I was studying & also working part time in a detention center outside Australia, fly in fly out.
Every-time I left the country I wasn't entitled to centrelink so auto cut off when passing through immigration, so not entitled to centrelink for that reporting period so there for, no centrelink payment & blocked by the computer from reporting, with the words "You are unable to report as you are not in receipt of benefits" thus THERE IS NO DEBT for periods when you are not on benefits.
Robo Debt averaged ATO yearly income over 26 ( p/a ) even fortnights for the whole 2 year period including periods, sometimes for months, that I wasn't on benefits or even in Australia.
I think also if we went to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal we would have got the $477 waived as well.
Robo-Debt computer called "Customer First" by centrelink did the final calculation on imputed updated data supplied by our review officer, so we had no real way of knowing if it was correct.
Also were told that we would get a letter sent by the review officer with calculations as to how the $477 was worked out, known as an "Adex Schedule " a type of spreadsheet but surprise surprise this never arrived.
To top it off were incorrectly told that if we entered into a payment plan to pay the $477 we wouldn't get interest but interest was applied from day one !,.
Had to ring another team to get the interest waived as the computer that applied the interest wasn't set up properly to recognize the payment plan,!
what a debacle the whole process is.
Don't give up, lodge an appeal, then get an ARO (Authorized Review Officer-from centrelink) make sure its a FORMAL ARO review (not done by the outsourced debt team as a review) then go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (free service) remember if it get to the AAT stage its up to centrelink to prove you have a debt not you to prove you don't.
Read Professor Terry Carneys papers on how the whole process is illegal.
Centrelink has lost around 3000 cases at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and they haven't appealed one.
Don't pay any money until you have exhausted all appeals.
Also those you speak to on the debt line aren't really centrelink employees. They are outsourced contractors, who know very little about centrelink law and are reading from a script, working for Chandler & McLeod a Japanese multinational and large donors to the Liberal Party.
It wasn't until 6 months into the process that our issue finally got reviewed by an actual person employed directly by centrelink, a manager higher up the tree & employed in the actual centrelink debt team in Adelaide (not in the fake outsourced debt teams in the other capital cities that don't know what they are talking about.)
She had authority and was able to understand centrelink law and how it is applied to payments.
She was immediately (after we had been stuffed around for 6 months) was able to reduce the debt by over 95 percent, something that should have been done on our first phone call to the so called debt team some 6 months prior.