Senate Inquiry into Centrelink’s Auto-Debt Recovery System
9 February 2017 at 8:53 am
The Greens and Labor have secured support for a Senate inquiry into the government’s controversial Centrelink automated debt recovery system.
“The automated debt recovery system has been a disaster and now the government has to explain how it went so wrong,” Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said on Wednesday.
“This inquiry is going to be uncomfortable for the government who have refused to back down on a disastrous process that is affecting so many struggling Australians. The inquiry will enable those who have been affected to have a voice and to tell us how they have been affected.
“The lack of human oversight, the onus of proof being on the recipient, the catalogue of experiences by struggling Australians who have been told they have a debt when they do not, the failing infrastructure that means people can’t get through to Centrelink on the phone and the website, all of this must be explained now in a Senate hearing.”
Siewert said the inquiry would assess the impact on Australians, and how much capacity was given to Centrelink services to cope with the program.
“We will look at advice given to Centrelink staff, how many debt notices were in error. No stone will go unturned,” she said.
On Tuesday Centrelink and other public service workers announced rolling industrial action.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said staff in the Department of Human Services (DHS), including Centrelink workers, was planning six days of rolling strikes over a stalled enterprise bargaining process and the auto-debt recovery program.
The union said Centrelink, Medicare and child support workers would strike and take other forms of industrial action at various times and various locations starting on 13 February.
However, the CPSU said staff providing critical services, including “those dealing with customers unfairly targeted by the flawed automated debt recovery”, would not participate.
CPSU deputy national president Lisa Newman told Pro Bono News the auto-debt recovery program was a “debacle” and a symptom of years of budget cuts and staff reductions.
“It’s important to emphasise that this industrial action is targeted at the Turnbull government and its ideological attacks on DHS, along with the senior management that’s blindly followed that agenda,” Newman said.