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Centrelink staff tell welfare recipients they agree debt system is 'unjust and callous'

25 January 2017
Christopher Knaus

Unionised Centrelink staff have written an open letter to welfare recipients saying they share their pain about the “unfair, unjust and callous” automated debt recovery system.

The letter was released by the Community and Public Sector Union on Wednesday, as the Department of Human Services issued its own statement lambasting the media for saying the system has a 20% error rate.

The union says its members will be handing out the letter on behalf of staff at a small number of Centrelink offices around the country. “We know that the automated debt notices are unfair, unjust and callous,” the letter says. “We acknowledge that, in a great many cases, they are not your debts.

“Many of us warned the Department of Human Services that the debt system wouldn’t work. Despite our combined hundreds of years’ experience in welfare systems, the department is still not listening.”

The department’s statement, titled “Let’s talk about facts”, said repeated claims that Centrelink’s automated system has a 20% failure rate were wrong and misleading.