Parliamentary memos show that the Coalition will use its Centrelink ‘robo-debt’ system to target families, age pensioners and the disabled in order to recover a further $2.2 billion.
Despite thousands of complaints about the accuracy of Centrelink’s debt-recovery program, MYEFO papers published last week reveal that the Government still intends to take aim at the Age Pensions of older Australians. Along with the $1.5 it expects to retrieve from pensioners and disabled Australians, the Coalition believes it will recoup another $700 million from families who are receiving parenting payments or who have received them in the past.
The new campaign will put around 4 million Australians in the ATO’s sights, including 2.5 million age pensioners and around 800,000 disability support recipients.
The Department of Human Services has confirmed the plan, saying its data-matching technology will scour through annual tax returns to hunt down anyone receiving suspect income from investments, businesses and real estate interests.
Should any suspicious information be found, Australians should expect to receive a notice to explain, followed by debt notices, a visit from debt collectors or criminal prosecution.
Centrelink’s debt-recovery system has been the focus of much controversy after many Australians received what they believed to be incorrect requests for further information and, in some instances, have been harassed by debt collectors or threatened with jail time.
After thousands complained about the inaccuracy of the system, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge finally acknowledged that the system was flawed, even though reports show that the Government knew about the problems prior to the program’s launch.
Earlier this week, Mr Tudge said that some modifications would be made to the letters, but is sticking with the campaign despite investigations by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Labor is calling for the program to be suspended until the issues are sorted.
Should the Government fix its flawed system before it begins to target pensioners? Have you received a debt notice? How have you handled it?