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Robo-debt And Denial: The Protocols Of Centrelink

21 June 2017
New Matilda

This is the third feature in Ben Eltham’s 2017 investigation into Centrelink’s robo-debt program. The first article in the series was published in January, and the second article in March.
Centrelink’s sprawling data-matching empire is opaque, error-prone and almost completely impossible to understand, writes Ben Eltham. And it’s expanding across government programs and agencies.
After listening to weeks of harrowing testimony, Siewert has found the Senate Inquiry a draining experience.
“You come out of those hearings and you feel really drained. The evidence we hear is very distressing – hearing of people’s experiences and feeling their sense of powerlessness and despair.”

Digital Transformation Office 'locked out' of robo-debt debacle: Paul Shetler

3 March 2017
Canberra Times

The Prime Minister's Digital Transformation Office was "locked out" of helping with Centrelink's robo-debt, the former head of the agency says.
Paul Shetler, who was handpicked by Mr Turnbull to lead the government's technological revolution, says he and his colleagues first heard about the automatically generated debt program in the media.

New online payment tool recovers $2.5 million in welfare debts

8 November 2016
Australian Government Department of Human Services

A new online tool allowing people to repay Centrelink debts in a couple of clicks has recouped almost $2.5 million in welfare debt in less than 2 months.
The Money You Owe tool allows people to view their debt balances, set up repayment arrangements via Direct Debit and make repayments via a credit or debit card using their Centrelink online account.

New technology helps raise $4.5 million in welfare debts a day

5 December 2016
Australian Government Department of Human Services

A new online system is helping to raise $4.5 million in debt owed to the Commonwealth every day, a huge leap from the $295,000 per day in the past.
The new online compliance system, which became fully operational in July, is now initiating 20,000 compliance interventions a week – a jump from 20,000 a year previously.
Over 3 years it is expected to carry out 1.7 million compliance interventions.

ACTCOSS calls on Sentator Seselja to support the suspension of the government’s debt recovery program

13 January 2017
ACT Council of Social Services Inc

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) supports ACOSS’s call for immediate suspension of the Centrelink debt recovery program (link is external), until such a time that all issues can be rectified and convene a roundtable to work through how to redesign the system, citing significant risks that the program is harming Canberra residents who have at some time in the past accessed income support entitlements.

Errors in Centrelink’s debt recovery system were inevitable, as in all complex systems

14 February 2017
The Conversation

While there has been some controversy over the government’s reliance on big data to save taxpayers’ money, none of the commentary has come close to understanding the complexities hidden in the notion of the error rate.
The system that Centrelink employs is an example of artificial intelligence, and the problems it faces are intrinsic to all decision systems.


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