The bungled Centrelink debt-recovery controversy has again come under fire with a Perth woman claiming she was hounded to pay back more than $26,000 she allegedly didn't owe.
An extortion racket is punishing the poorest and most vulnerable people in Australia. But far from being a criminal enterprise run by a mafia gang, it’s the Australian government running the racket.
A Metford man has slammed the federal government after he received a letter from Centrelink telling him he owed thousands of dollars, saying the situation was “a debacle”.
Danny Gilligan is one thousands across Australia who believe they have been wrongly targeted by the welfare agency, which has drawn widespread criticism in recent weeks as similar stories have emerged.
The human services minister’s comments came in his first interview since returning from holiday. While he was away, an enormous controversy engulfed Centrelink as scores of people reported receiving letters asking them to pay back money they didn’t owe.
Doctors from top Australian universities say they too were hit with erroneous Centrelink debt notices — and even they can’t seem to fix the mistakes.
Darren O’Connell, who has a PhD in economics and lectured at Curtin University, told news.com.au he has tried eight times since November to get his inaccurate debt removed from the system, but the letters keep coming.
“Centrelink is letting me die,” reads graffiti scrawled on the wall of the disabled toilet at a branch in Sydney’s inner west.
That’s the perception of some Australians trying to negotiate a benefits system that appears seriously flawed, where letters slamming people with bogus debts of thousands of dollars were widely distributed over the Christmas period.
Centrelink's automated system, which has ramped up since October, is now sending 20,000 review letters about supposed discrepancies each week, with scores of Australians - including people with cancer - telling news.com.au of the anxiety, stress and even suicidal thoughts prompted by the debt letters that dropped through their mailboxes just before the festive period.
A social media campaign #notmydebt is sharing stories of individual’s debt letters and the effect it has had on them.
Bathurst man Greg Simpson has joined the call for Centrelink to gets its act together after he received a debt letter for almost $8000 just before Christmas.
If my bill was only $1000 I might have just paid it and not questioned it."
"I finally had enough and had a lengthy conversation with a Centrelink rep where the phone call went on for over an hour. I wouldn’t take no for an answer, so she did my review manually in minutes and then, sure enough, found I was not guilty at all. Human common sense overriding an incorrect computerised system."