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Calls for Centrelink debt bungle probe: claims welfare recipients are being wrongly hounded

4 January 2017
Daily Telegraph

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has been asked to investigate faults with Centrelink’s new automated data matching system that has resulted in welfare recipients being wrongly hounded to pay debts.
“I’ve had four people now approach me ... who I would describe as presenting as suicidal,” [Independent MP Andrew Wilkie] told reporters in Hobart.

Ombudsman asked to investigate Centrelink

4 January 2017
The West Australian

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has asked the Commonwealth Ombudsman to investigate faults with Centrelink's new automated data matching system after receiving more than 100 complaints to his electoral office about problems with the debt recovery process.
"The government has terrified countless people, ruined the Christmases of many and even driven some people to contemplate taking their own lives," Mr Wilkie said in a statement. [...] "You don't have to be a genius to tell that taking someone's yearly income and dividing by 26 is not always going to produce accurate results if only because people's circumstances change," he said.

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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