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Centrelink trawls social media complaints

2 March 2017
Dan McCulloch, AAP
news.com.au

Senior bureaucrats responsible for Centrelink say their workers sift through print, broadcast and social media for individual complaints.

Deciding on whether to report grievances to the human services minister depends on the circumstances of each case.

"There would be a number of complaints that would be made, particularly on social media, which would be unidentifiable and indeed may be of a relatively minor nature," Human Services staffer Jonathon Hutson says.

"If there was a substantial article in a newspaper or indeed a substantial article on broadcast media, that would be a lot more important in terms of how we would deal with it."

Centrelink bosses, appearing before a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday, have been grilled about the welfare agency's controversial debt recovery system and the sharing of private client information with the media.

Human services head Kathryn Campbell says "data-matching" in debt recovery is nothing new, and almost half of recent complaints aired in the media have nothing to do with Centrelink's automated system.

Ms Campbell conceded about 6600 people learned about money owed to Centrelink through debt collectors.

[...]

Ms Campbell said the person involved made a number of unfounded claims which could have a knock-on effect for others.

"It was in the opinion of officers that this was likely to concern other individuals, that they may see this and think that they too had erred and not met their commitments," she said.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert argued there were "errors and omissions" in the information released which undermined integrity in the system.

"If you're going to release something, at least do it properly," she told the Centrelink heads.