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Pull the plug – Twelve months of robodebt is enough

21 June 2017
ACOSS
Australian Council of Social Service

ACOSS again calls on the Federal Government to immediately end the robodebt program ahead of the release of the Senate Inquiry report today.

“Since its adoption twelve months ago, robodebt has issued thousands of debt notices in error to parents, people with disabilities, carers and those seeking paid work, resulting in people slapped with Centrelink debts they do not owe or debts higher than what they owe” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO.

“It has been a devastating abuse of government power that has caused extensive harm, particularly among people who are the most vulnerable in our community.

“Robodebt attracted so much bad publicity that a Senate inquiry was initiated earlier this year which attracted 155 submissions, 87 of which were submitted confidentially.

“The Senate Committee held hearings in most capital cities and heard disturbing stories of wildly inaccurate debts, people spending hours on the phone to Centrelink and people experiencing deep distress and anxiety.

“Given this evidence, we expect the Senate report to call for major change of the robodebt program.

“Government must consider the Senate Inquiry report carefully and not extend the program as planned to hundreds of thousands of others, with 760,000 people expected to be affected in total.

“Frankly, robodebt must be abolished.

“The fundamental flaw of robodebt is the lack of human involvement in the detection and calculation of debts.

“We urge the Federal Government to finally sit down with stakeholders, including those representing people affected, to redesign Centrelink debt collection so that humans are involved and there is a fair, accurate and humane process undertaken.

“People needing help should be treated with dignity, not harassed into submission by automation.

ACOSS calls on the government to: 

  • Pull the plug on the flawed and unfair automated robodebt recovery system;
  • Ensure people contacted about potential overpayments are not bullied or intimidated;
  • Guarantee fundamental principles of procedural fairness and reasonableness apply to all Centrelink clients;
  • Protect people’s confidentiality and privacy; and
  • Convene a roundtable of key stakeholders and experts as soon as possible to design a humane and fair approach to debt recovery.