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Centrelink Debt Recovery 2GB

4 January 2017
Chris Smith
2GB, archived at Porter's own website

CHRIS SMITH:

I want to return right now to the growing issue of welfare rorting in Australia. Some of the figures on this subject are rather staggering, but the Federal Government is now vowing to extend its program to recover $4 billion in welfare debts from almost 2 million Australians who may have incorrectly received benefit payments. Now, remember this is taxpayers' money.

[...]

Just to explain to my listeners how this system works. You've sent letters to 169,000 welfarerecipients, but there, they aren't debt letters. They're advising them of discrepancies, right?

MINISTER PORTER:

That's right. They're letters seeking information to explain a discrepancy, and the discrepancy is a fairly simple one. We cross-reference information thathas been provided to the ATO, and obviously generally from employers about how much a person earned in a year period, and then we cross-referencethat against how much that person themselves have indicated to Centrelink that they've earned in that yearly period. And where there's a discrepancy,we, through the new system that we have, send a letter simply and plainly asking for information from the person that explains that discrepancy. So thefirst letter that goes out is not a debt letter, it's certainly not threatening, and a process follows whereby the person can go online or use the assistanceof Centrelink officers to explain the difference.

CHRIS SMITH:

But you've scared the willies out of some people: 276 complaints. Of those complaints, how many were founded?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well what measure we use is essentially in how many instances where we start a compliance action, in how many instances does that end up in theraising of a debt payable to the Commonwealth. And in about 80 per cent of the instances it ends up in a debt payable to the Commonwealth, which iswhere that $300 million so far, comes from. In the other 20 per cent of occasions the discrepancy is explained fairly simply, again usually by peoplegoing online and providing the explanation as to why that discrepancy exists, that's between the ATO information and the information they provided toCentrelink, and the matter it doesn't proceed.

AUDIO with full transcript.