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Paul Shetler condemns government over 'appalling' Centrelink fiasco

9 January 2017
George Nott

If the government was a private company it would go out of business or be shut down by regulators for fraud over the Centrelink debacle, says former Digital Transformation Office head Paul Shetler.

Speaking on RN Breakfast this morning, Shetler said the fiasco, in which potentially thousands of Centrelink payment recipients have received erroneous debt review letters, was “entirely preventable”.

“I’ve got to say I’m not really surprised. I do have to say I am shocked by this, I think it’s pretty appalling that this kind of stuff happens,” he said.


Shetler was personally appointed by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to lead the government’s digital transformation as head of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) in July 2015. Last October the DTO was relaunched with a new name, the Digital Transformation Agency, and Shetler was demoted to chief digital officer. Within two months he had resigned.

Speaking out on the latest in a line of government IT fiascoes, Shetler said continual failures were “not OK”.

“We’ve seen this happen repeatedly with myGov, we’ve seen this happen repeatedly with other DHS systems we’ve seen this happen with census fail, we’ve seen this happen with the ATO, all in the course of about a year," he said.

“In any other government this would be viewed as a really bad thing. For some reason – and I’m not really quite sure why – in Australia people just sort of say ‘well OK, it’s alright’. It’s not. It’s not OK. It’s not OK when the government cannot deliver the basic services that people are paying for. We are paying for these things. Any other kind of service that we were paying for, if things were just failing like this, it would not be OK.”