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Centrelink debt letters need to end: ACOSS

15 February 2017
Andrew Leeson, AAP

Hundreds of thousands of Australians have been left feeling afraid and unsafe after Centrelink incorrectly sent them debt letters, community groups say.

The Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Cassandra Goldie says sending debt letters to people, in some cases incorrectly, does nothing to address worsening poverty in Australia.


Andrej Panjkov, a lecturer at the Australian Catholic University, said it took him months to fix an incorrect Centrelink debt.

"I tried to reverse it and I found it an incredibly difficult process," he said.

A letter from Centrelink gave no explanation of the debt, he said.

"They just threw this number out. It really is a shakedown."

Activist group GetUp organised the protest after Human Services Minister Alan Tudge confirmed changes to the process and made it easier to appeal debts.

People who asked for a review of their debt would not enter a repayment schedule right away, Mr Tudge told ABC radio on Tuesday.

GetUp national director Paul Oosting said the changes were not enough to fix the "car wreck" of a program.

"The entire automated debt program needs to be scrapped immediately ... more horror stories pour in every week," Mr Oosting said.