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The human face of Centrelink debt debacle

6 January 2017
Anthony Albanese MP
Anthony Albanese MP, Labor Member for Grayndler

Today I have joined with victims from my electorate of Grayndler to speak out about of the Turnbull Government’s Centrelink debt debacle.

Over the Christmas and New Year period I have been inundated with calls from constituents distressed because they have been issued debt notices and threats of debt recovery action for debts that they never incurred. 

Thousands of people with disability, students, pensioners and people recovering from life threatening illnesses are being told by the Turnbull Government that the onus is on them to prove that they have not acted fraudulently. 

These people represent the human cost of the Government’s actions. 

They deserve to be treated with dignity, which is why Labor’s Shadow Minister Linda Burney has today called for the Commonwealth Auditor General to investigate this fiasco.

Today Paul Shetler, the handpicked head of Malcolm Turnbull’s own digital transformation office has described this bungle as “cataclysmic”. 

He has rightly stated that any commercial entity that that was sending incorrect debt notices to 20 per cent of its customers would go out of business.

This Government is treating vulnerable people with no respect.

Whenever this Government feels it is losing control of the agenda, it makes a huge show of targeting people on welfare, for purely political purposes.

In this case they are sending threatening letters to people who have done nothing wrong and whose only crime is that they have at some point received welfare benefits.

Of course we should require people who have been overpaid to repay their debts but there is never any excuse for politicians exploiting vulnerable people for political gain.

It is time for the Prime Minister to intervene and make sure that Australians are treated fairly and respectfully by Centrelink and not denigrated by his Government.