The Senate has backed an inquiry into Centrelink’s widely criticised data-matching program, which is intended to claw back welfare overpayments but whose accuracy and impact on welfare recipients has been condemned.
The Senate’s Community Affairs References Committee will scrutinise the program following a motion lodged by the Greens’ Senator Rachel Siewert and Labor’s Senator Doug Cameron.
The government yesterday rejected a motion by Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie that condemned the program and human services minister Alan Tudge, who has denied the system is flawed.
“It is not acceptable that we have a debt recovery program now in place and running its course, where by the government’s and by Centrelink’s own admission, some 20 per cent of the debt notices that are being distributed are wrong,” Wilkie said.
“That is simply not acceptable. Something like 20,000 debt notices are being issued by Centrelink each week right now. That means that in the order of 4000 debt notices are going out each week from Centrelink and they are wrong. We know they are wrong, and so far the government has nothing to rectify it.”
Tudge said that Centrelink’s data-matching program dated back to 1990 and was introduced by Labor and argued the letters sent by the welfare agency were not debt notices.