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Centrelink target ‘was picked up by Labor system’

9 January 2017
David Crowe
The Australian

The federal government has hit back at Labor attacks over a $4 billion welfare crackdown, rejecting claims of a Centrelink “victim” and insisting he was never targeted by the automated data-matching system at the centre of the political dispute.

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Labor infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese stepped up criticism on Friday at a press conference with former welfare recipient Curtis Dickson, who has been asked to repay $750 from the student assistance he was given several years ago.

Mr Albanese said the student had experienced one of the many mistakes made when a computer-generated algorithm used an annual average figure to calculate income and hit people with debt letters seeking repayment of benefits. “Despite knowing that Centrelink made a mistake, because he’s been threatened with action from a debt collection agency, he’s been forced on to a repayment plan for a debt that he knows that he doesn’t actually owe,” he said.

However, Mr Porter said Mr Dickson’s complaint was not related to the online compliance intervention system but instead stemmed from the manual system used previously by Labor to check claims against income reports from the Australian Taxation Office. “Differences between ATO information on Mr Dickson’s earnings and the information reported to Centrelink were identified manually under precisely the old manual system operated by Labor when in government,” Mr Porter told The Australian.