Tony Barber survived a battle with cancer. But now the 29-year-old has to battle a bureaucratic nightmare after receiving a Centrelink debt notice for $4500 in the lead-up to Christmas.
His is one of many complaints about the automated Centrelink system the federal government is using to claw back $4 billion in overpayments and the way the system calculates welfare recipients' debts
Mr Barber took time off work in 2010 for chemotherapy and received welfare payments before returning to work in January the following year.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese says it appeared Centrelink had taken Mr Barber's income from the periods when he was working and applied it over the whole year, not taking into account that he was sick, out of action and entitled to welfare.
Mr Albanese said the federal government's callous approach to the problem made him sick to his stomach.