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CPSU Welcomes Senate Inquiry Into Centrelink Robo-Debt Crisis

8 February 2017
Community & Public Sector Union

CPSU members will use a Senate inquiry into the Centrelink automated debt crisis to reveal the full extent of dysfunction with the policy and more broadly in the Department of Human Services.

The Senate this afternoon confirmed the inquiry into the automated debt system introduced last year, which has resulted in tens of thousands of Australians being incorrectly chased for money when they either owe nothing or a fraction of the amount being pursued.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “Our members working in Centrelink are looking forward to this inquiry so they can shine a light on what’s caused this shameful robo-debt crisis and what should be done from here. This debt program has been terrible for the more than 200,000 ordinary Australians who’ve been sent letters, but also for hardworking staff.”

“The Department of Human Services has been far more concerned with gagging its staff and fudging it performance indicators than fixing this mess, so this is an important opportunity for staff to speak openly about how things have gone so wrong and their suggestions to maintain the integrity of our welfare system without the unnecessary collateral damage.”

“Our members were warning for months that this automated debt system would not work, but this is an agency where the bosses don’t listen to their staff. The situation has highlighted the dysfunctional workplace culture across this agency, and the damage caused by years of budget cuts and the 5,000 jobs that have been slashed.”

“The focus of this inquiry is clearly the automated debt system, but we would encourage Senators to also examine the major problems more widely with this agency, and the impact that’s having on staff and customers.”

“Australians are finding it harder and harder to get the help they need and they are waiting longer to have their claims dealt with. It’s a disgrace that 36 million phone calls to DHS went unanswered last year alone and that staff have gone more than three years without a pay rise as they’ve fought to hold onto critical workplace rights and conditions.”

“Our members will participate in this inquiry but they’re also continuing to apply pressure through all other means available, including six days of industrial action beginning on Monday next week. It’s time for the Turnbull Government to provide adequate funding and staffing in DHS so Australians can receive the services they need and deserve.”