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Suspend Centrelink Robodebt Until System Fixed, Senate Report Says

22 June 2017
Josh Butler
Huffington Post

A Senate committee has excoriated the controversial Centrelink 'robodebt' compliance system, calling for a radical overhaul of the welfare debt recovery program including an immediate re-assessment of invoices and recommending the entire scheme be halted until issues are ironed out.


On Wednesday night, four months after it was launched, the inquiry's committee handed down a scathing report. Among 21 recommendations for the government and Centrelink, the committee called for the Online Compliance Intervention to be halted until a number of issues in the system are addressed, and to not restart again until at least 2018. The enquiry also recommended all debts determined by income averaging be re-assessed "immediately".

"The committee recommends the Online Compliance Intervention (OCI) program should be put on hold until all procedural fairness flaws are addressed, and the other recommendations of this report are implemented," the report read.

"The committee recommends that all people who have had a debt amount determined through the use of income averaging should have their debt amounts re-assessed immediately by a team of departmental officers with specialist knowledge of the Online Compliance Intervention program, using accurate income data sourced from employers."

Another prominent recommendation was that the Department of Human Services "update its privacy policy to ensure that it does not publicly release sensitive information it holds about individuals, for any reason." This is seemingly a reference to an incident where Human Services Minister Alan Tudge authorised the release of information about a Centrelink client to a Fairfax journalist, including tax and relationship data.

Other recommendations included giving welfare recipients "a fully-informed opportunity" to have any debt recovery fees waived, that recipients be given access to the data used to calculate alleged debts, and that more information about the system as a whole be provided.