I found out I had a debt when my tax return was garnished in 2018.
My partner and I had just had our first child, I also moved house (rent more expensive than my last), and I started a new job (paying less than my previous job), suffice to say, we were under a heck of a lot of pressure, both emotionally, physically and financially.
I had a small tax return of about $500 I was expecting - enough to just help a little with the expense we had just had to wear.
I received a letter from the tax department saying it had gone to Centrelink for a robodebt and blah blah blah - that's when I contacted Centrelink and confirmed I had a debt.
They had been sending letters to an address I hadn't lived at for 8 years.
Talk about stressful - I have never felt so much pressure in my life.
The new baby, new job, new more expensive rent, and now Centrelink telling me I owed three and half grand, and they could garnish my wages, stop me from leaving the country etc. All my immediate family live overseas, and my work has previously taken me to Nauru and Manus Island with NGO's. I need to be able to leave the country. It was the most stressful period of my life. I ended up selling heaps of my stuff to pay the debt - a rowing machine, spin bike, mountain bike, a playstation, and then every cent of overtime I got working through the 2018 Christmas period.
The Department's advice to me was "just pay the debt and then request a review".
I wanted a review because their story just wasn't consistent with my own recollection of the study I was doing in 2011. Anyway. I paid the debt in full by January 2019, requested a review of the decision - I have never received one letter from them about that. No confirmation they had received it, nothing about the process it self. Nothing.
I rang multiple time to confirm my request for a review of decision had been received. They confirmed it had.
After 6 months I made a complaint about the amount of time it was taking. Here we are now, nearly November 2019, and I have not heard a thing about my review.
Terrible. Absolutely terrible.
Having worked in the public service, the inefficiency of this particular initiative is mind numbing, and the subsequent refusal of the government to acknowledge the nature of the problems identified, is something I would never have expected from a Liberal democracy.