Centrelink Senate inquiry one step closer

A Senate inquiry into the Centrelink debt recovery program will be voted on.

Debts in a filing system

Today the Senate will vote on a motion to establish a Senate inquiry into the maligned Centrelink automated debt recovery program – a move that could put the agency and Government under more pressure.

Labor’s Doug Cameron was yesterday joined by The Greens’ Rachel Siewert in giving notice of the motion, with the backing of the One Nation Party and Nick Xenophon’s group of independents likely to see the motion pass.

Senator Rachel Siewert said that the inquiry was needed as there was no proof that the system would improve. “It is bizarre that despite the rollout of the automated debt recovery system going so dismally wrong and at the expense of struggling Australians, the Government has offered no answers and next to no guarantee that they will improve the program, nor have they committed to abandoning it,” she said in a media release.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and Special Minister of State Scott Ryan continue to defend the system, despite Labor citing instances of erroneous debt notices, sometimes to the value of tens of thousands of dollars. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who spoke in December of being contacted by constituents considering suicide over the issue, also told Parliament that the flawed system had taken a severe toll, both financially and emotionally on those affected and their families.

The inquiry would cover the impact of the automated debt recovery process on families, the elderly, those with a disability, students, and recipients of unemployment benefits, as well as the administration process implemented by the Department of Human Services, and the review process for those served with debt notices.

A remit of the inquiry would be to establish the error rate of the notices, which Centrelink staff are said to claim is about 80 per cent. The Department of Human Services, despite not yet providing an actual figure, refutes this claim.

The motion comes just days after the Department of Human Services was notified by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) that its members plan to hold rolling strikes following the backlash they have received due to the program.

Read more at TheAge.com.au

Read more at Greens.org.au



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Tom Tank
    8th Feb 2017
    An enquiry should be held.
    To use that tired old saying, "if there is nothing to hide they have nothing to worry about".
    8th Feb 2017
    8th Feb 2017
    Enquiry is absolutely essential - both to establish the truth in full, as well as to improve the system for all.
    Old Geezer
    8th Feb 2017
    An enquiry is a waste of taxpayers money. Keep up the good work Centrelink with your over 85% success rate.
    8th Feb 2017
    A little pain for a vocal few seems to me to justify a political witch hunt.

    With those who have been vocal and up front on Radio and TV about
    being called to account, how many were innocent of the charges and how many actually owed that which was indicated.

    Remember the man who said " he protesteth too much."

    A senate inquiry is just another way fro some to line their pockets with travel expenses.
    8th Feb 2017
    OG, I see things differently. I think Centrelink logic works a little like poker machine logic. Poker machines are supposed to return between 85% and 90% to players. Let’s be generous and call it 90%. Let’s say my playing is exactly average. I put through 100 dollar coins and get $90 back. Then I put through the $90. I get back $81. I put through the $81 and get back $73. And so on. $73 gets me $66. $66 gets me $59. $59 gets me $53... $48... $43... $35... $28... $25... $23... $21... $19... $17... $15... $14... $12... $11... $10... $9... $8... $7... $6... So after feeding my money in 24 times I have 6% left of my original bank.

    Now, say I have contact with Centrelink once a month. If I haven’t been stuffed up after two years I would be amongst 6% of the lucky ones. The other 94% would be trying to get Centrelink to fix up a stuff-up.

    That’s how I think the percentages work. (The $6? I had a beer and walked home. Slainte!)
    Old Geezer
    8th Feb 2017
    McGroger. That's how pokies used to work. They are far less generous now. Never got it myself in that how can you win when the system is designed to win too? Talk about a fools game.

    It has been very interesting to see most of those complaining to the media did actually owe money.
    8th Feb 2017
    Privatise it you can then blame some one else. Why not they have sold every thing else.
    8th Feb 2017
    I read today they are planning to sell the West Australian Mint. Now there is a consortium I'd like to have a share in.

    I wonder if the other half of all our gold is included in the deal.
    8th Feb 2017
    Stop trumping and trying to make this better than they are OG. Also the typical comment "if you haven't anything to hide you have nothing to worry about" A mantra said by many dictatorial regimes that become dictatorships. How would you like it if policemen kept turning up at your house when you have done nothing wrong and wanted to search your house and saying "if you have nothing to hide you will let us" Stuff without much evidence and just a fishing expedition to see if they can catch anyone and infringing your privacy. This even seems to happen a lot when someone says that someone has done or going to do something. Or I thing they have something illegal in there house.

    Reminds me recently when a driver was chased by police because someone said the person had a knife. Turned out the guy was a tradesman and the supposed knife was a screwdriver. You may think this was fair. Yes it may have been but the way it was handled was bad. The guy was arrested. Why was he arrested before even a search was done. When he protested he was charged with obstructing the police. Consequentially it was thrown out of court as laughable by a magistrate.

    The same happened in the USA where a guy was reported to be breaking into a car he owned. % police piled on top of him. Injuring him and then he was charged with obstructing the police.

    Talking about fishing expeditions this reminds me of a photo I was sent many years ago supposedly showing me going through a red light apparently the camera didn't catch all the license plate it was also dark at the time.. The problem was was that I was nowhere near the place at the time they reckoned I had this infringement. Being only a partial reading I can only assume they send the same thing out to all motorists that matched the partial.
    8th Feb 2017
    Absolutely - an inquiry should be held. No one should be threatened with legal action until it is proved that a debt is really owed. Neither should debt collectors be appointed until a genuine liability is established. Also, 14 days is too short a time for people to dig out some of the types in detail that Centrelink requests to substantiate entitlements especially when payslips, etc from years ago needed to be found or replaced.

    As for the threat of imprisonment, no government minister or official should threaten that because only a court has the power to do that. Any minister or government official that issues such a threat should be charged with abuse of power.

    PS I'm beginning to wonder if "Old Geezer" isn't a government stooge.
    8th Feb 2017
    The problem is they are not making it easy to prove you do not owe anything.....

    ..... some very unwell people are being harassed & its dreadful.
    8th Feb 2017
    Yes I think it needs to be made easier, like being able to contact them by phone without a long wait, costing you even more money if you only have a mobile phone. More time to respond, something like 30 days would be better.
    8th Feb 2017
    You put it as if Centrelink are doing something wrong-No they are not- the system has been streamlined by the Coalition - BROUGHT INTO EFFECT by LABOR when they were in government. It is a check that people are disclosIng the correct financial info - and many aren't - of course the majority are and if you haven't anything to hide what is the problem ?if you get a letter telling you figures are out of whack? and what is wrong with those people who ignored original letters advising figures didn't match. This is thre the trouble started - people did not respond. then there was the second letter and then the 3rd- Of course that is when the whinging started. Come on take some responsibility for your non action people. After all there is a few of us paying taxes to pay you money and we want value. Good on Coalition Government (and Centrelink) for continuing to catch out the "bad eggs"
    Queensland Diva
    8th Feb 2017
    The "problem" as you put it is that the algorithm used by Centrelink is incorrect and people who DO NOT OWE MONEY are being harassed by Centrelink and debt collection agencies to prove that they are innocent of sometimes supposed debts going back 6 years or more. No innocent until proven guilty and you will start to pay back the money until you can prove you don't owe it. But apparently that's OK because, hey, if you're on Centrelink benefits you are obviously sitting up all hours of the night trying to work out ways to rort the system. And no this is not Labor's doing - it's entirely down to the coalition. Please try to get at least SOME facts into your argument.
    Old Geezer
    8th Feb 2017
    If 85% owe money then what harm does it do ask the 15% that have done the right thing? None. Most of those being harassed by Centrelink are being harassed for a good reason. They have been overpaid and owe money.

    If you are on welfare then you would have plenty of time to respond to that review letter. If you are busy working then it would be very unlikely you would get one.
    8th Feb 2017
    Someone should have told these people back whenever they sought Centrelink assistance that they would need to keep all their payslips etc. Or a logbook of work hours and pay rates etc.

    I also get OG's point as I know of quite a few people claiming benefits they aren't entitled to.

    The welfare bill is out of control.

    That doesn't excuse the government though from charges of mis management. They have obviously taken the sacking of staff way too far.
    fish head
    8th Feb 2017
    Perhaps before everyone dives off the deep end of an enquiry, Centrelink does a little of the heavy lifting and CHECK THEIR OWN FILES never mind expecting all people to be computer literate, have access to one, be able to understand their file. Files are only as accurate as the input operator who is human and fallible. But that's one of the problems, isn't it? Not enough staff.
    Old Geezer
    8th Feb 2017
    Not enough people taking those review letters seriously is the main problem here. Just ignore it and it will go away attitude.

    There are computers available at Centrelink and staff available to help you use them so no excuse about being computer illiterate. If you use a mobile phone you can use a computer.
    8th Feb 2017
    Too many instances where Centrelink has it wrong to just ignore.Friend with well paying job had a heart attack and now on DSP. Centrelink system with its averaging out sent a bill for $20k. He owes nothing. My stressed friend was able to get all the info together and took it into the local Centrelink office. They couldn't help and told him he had to ring the hotline. Difficulty in getting through etc, etc. How is this system working correctly again?
    8th Feb 2017
    Yes Sunday way back at the beginning of the government legislation I tried ringing Centrelink to ask a simple question. One hour and 15 minutes later after that awful music I was ready to kill someone.

    I think the Australian people are pretty placid really to be dealing with mis functioning systems as well as they do.

    Possibly the solution is to pack up the tent and drive to a country Centrelink office somewhere that still has a hope in hell of helping.
    8th Feb 2017
    Left work in July 2016 and submitted all my information to Centrelink. I knew there would be a debt and further debt incurred since. I have heard nothing so made an appointment to see one of the financial advisors. I was told that there was a debt investigation underway and was to told it could take up to 12 months to complete.
    I hate to think how much they will say I owe by then just because they did not update my details correctly when I did the right thing.
    8th Feb 2017
    OG At again. The patron saint of FIGJAM. Get off the barrel mate. We've heard your sanctimonious comments numerous times. We know you have 400k in the bank and live off the interest. Well believe it or not, not everyone has been blessed with your circumstances. If Centrelink have got it wrong that's once too many. Your holier than thou attitude contributes nowt and is incredibly annoying.
    Old Geezer
    13th Feb 2017
    Yes it's OG again and yes anyone can do what I do. it is not rocket science but if you are so lazy you just put on money in the bank then whinge about it then you need to get off your posterior and do something about it. It has nothing to do with being blessed or any of that other nonsense.

    Centrelink will get it wrong simply because those that are defrauding the system are playing the system. To catch these people then Centrelink needs to flush them out and by doing so will flush out a few honest folk as well. They are given the benefit of the doubt but if they re too lazy to do what is asked of them then it is too late to whinge to the media and show the world how lazy you are.
    9th Feb 2017
    By Now everybody would know there WILL be a Senate Enquiry re all this

    Recently this article was posted in SMH and again today in other media, it well worth a read
    see this link- hope it posts correctly
    Old Geezer
    13th Feb 2017
    What a lot of rubbish that story is! How can she be responsible for her ex-partner's tax debt? That is the first of many bit of fiction within that story.
    13th Feb 2017
    Proper Debts need to be RECOVERED, end of lesson

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