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Centrelink under scrutiny over use of robo-debt system to target aged pension

17 January 2017
Christopher Knaus
Guardian

Advocates for older Australians will seek assurances from Centrelink about the government’s plans to use the controversial automated debt recovery system to save roughly $1bn from the aged pension budget.

Charts released last week as part of the midyear economic and fiscal outlookshow the government believes it can save $1.1bn from expenditure on the aged pension over the four years to 2019-20, primarily by “expanding and extending data-matching activities with the Australian Taxation Office”.

Aged pensioners are already being caught up in the debt recovery system, including leading foetal alcohol syndrome researcher and Australian of the Year finalist Janet Hammill, who says she was wrongly issued a $7,600 debt. 

The Council on the Ageing, the peak group for older Australians, said it had received few complaints about the process so far. 

But the COTA chief executive, Ian Yates, said he planned to meet with the Department of Human Services to seek assurances that older Australians will not be put in an unfair position.