The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, called on the Federal Government to urgently fix Centrelink’s automated debt collection system before Christmas.
“It’s been over two weeks since I raised the fact that Centrelink’s new IT system was spitting out numerous incorrect debt notices,” Mr Wilkie said. “The Federal Government and the Minister personally should have swiftly intervened to suspend the system until the problems are sorted out, but so far they’ve done nothing.”
“Now here we are four days from Christmas and my office is still being inundated with calls and emails from all around the country telling stories of how people have been deemed guilty until proven innocent and sent to the debt collectors immediately. Many of these debts have been found to be incorrect.
“I’ve now heard stories of debts as high as $10,000 or more although the many stories I’ve heard of much smaller debts are equally significant for people on very low incomes.
“People are terrified about how they will put food on the table or provide Christmas for their kids. My office has spoken to people who are distraught because they have received a threatening letter warning of an enormous debt. Several people have even gone so far as to speak of suicide.
“The Minister for Human Services must step in today personally and direct Centrelink to stop this ham-fisted approach. If the system can’t be quickly fixed then it must be at least deactivated until the problems are sorted out. To let this phantom debt hang over some of the most vulnerable people in society over the Christmas and New Year shutdown period would be grossly irresponsible.”