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Talking Point: Centrelink debacle shows insensitivity to the most vulnerable

9 January 2017
The Mercury

Andrew Wilkie, the independent federal MP for Denison, said last week that some people who have, over the Christmas break, received aggressive letters from Centrelink are close to suicide.
It is not surprising, and it is shameful that it is so. It is also extraordinary that politicians like Christian Porter and Alan Tudge, the Ministers responsible for Centrelink, think its OK to boast about the recovery of debts from generally low-income Australians while their government does little or nothing about the fact that some corporations and many wealthy individuals in this country pay little or no tax.

Turnbull risks alienating voters one letter at a time

6 January 2017
The Australian

Malcolm Turnbull and his ministers are playing with political fire in their hunt for $4 billion in savings from the welfare system by sending off letters to thousands of Australians with a clear warning that debt collectors will be called in to recover old payments.
The blowback from voters is already dangerous and is certain to get worse when the vast program grows across time. The vitriolic complaints about the exercise during the past few weeks have been based on the first batch of 169,000 letters from Centrelink that assume welfare recipients need to repay some of their benefits. It is a taste of things to come.

Get back to work: Calls for Human Services Minister to return from holidays to clear up Centrelink debt recovery mess

5 January 2017
Perth Now

Last week, Centrelink tweeted that its offices were closed and people needing help, support or advice should call Lifeline.
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge is still on holidays, leaving Social Services Minister Christian Porter to deal with the fallout.

Centrelink debt recovery: Labor calls on audit office to investigate controversial scheme

6 January 2017
ABC News

Labor has called on the National Audit Office to investigate Centrelink's controversial debt recovery scheme that has been criticised for mistakenly targeting vulnerable Australians.
The Government has defended the scheme — which cross references employment data from the Australian Tax Office and Centrelink — despite the Opposition claiming it was brutal and poorly designed.

Here's The Lowdown On The Centrelink Debt Crackdown Shitstorm

3 January 2017
Pedestrian Daily

The minister in charge of this nightmare, Alan Tudge, is currently enjoying an extended Christmas break. In his absence, Social Services Minister Christian Porter has appeared on the ABC and claimed that the system is actually working extremely well, and that they have received a low number of complaints for the 169,000 letters that were sent out last month.

"These are not debt letters," he told the ABC. "They are polite letters, the initial letter that goes to the welfare recipient saying that an issue has arisen, that there may be a discrepancy and we require some further information."

So what's actually going on, where are these letters coming from, and what the hell should you do if you've got one?

Government backs Centrelink debt system despite 'incorrect' $24,000 demand

29 December 2016

The system has been described as a “drag net”, which sends out about 20,000 notices a week that effectively reverse the onus of proof onto welfare recipients. 
Many individuals do not receive the initial letter from Centrelink, due to either a change of address or the lack of a MyGov account. If no dispute is made, the government takes it to mean that the debt is accurate. 
The government is charging 10% debt recovery fees, and [human services minister, Alan Tudge] has threatened those who do not pay with jail. Many problems appear to stem from the comparison of annual pay information reported to the tax office with the income reported to Centrelink fortnightly. 
Labor, [Independent MP Andrew Wilkie], and the Australian Council for Social Service (Acoss) have all called for the system to be temporarily suspended pending an investigation into the complaints.


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