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Centrelink: Debt-recovery 'monumental mess' to be investigated by Senate committee

8 February 2017
Henry Belot
ABC News

Centrelink's controversial debt-recovery program will be investigated by a Senate committee to determine why thousands of Australians were incorrectly told they needed to repay money.


With human oversight greatly reduced, some Australians were contacted by debt collectors before they realised they needed to correct their records.

The Senate inquiry was moved by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert and passed with the support of Labor and the Nick Xenophon team.

Senator Siewert said the program was a "monumental mess" and accused the Government of not providing answers or a guarantee they would improve the program.


Labor attacked the Government during Question Time on Wednesday, asking why a 67-year-old pensioner was erroneously told she owned the Government money.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Human Services Minister Alan Tudge should have stood up in Question Time to say "I'm sorry, we made a mistake".

Coalition Ministers have continued to defend the program, claiming welfare should only be given to those who are entitled to it.


The Senate inquiry has been welcomed by the main public sector union, the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which is preparing to launch strike action over the program next week.

"Our members working in Centrelink are looking forward to this inquiry so they can shine a light on what's caused this shameful crisis and what should be done from here," CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said.