Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore is calling on the Government to urgently act on the recommendations in the report released today by the Senate Committee inquiring into the Centrelink robo-debt system.
The report contains 21 recommendations following consideration of more than 156 submissions, 1400 emails and nine public hearings.
The first recommendation is for the program to be halted until all procedural fairness flaws are addressed and other recommendations of the report are implemented.
Senator Kakoschke-Moore pointed to two other recommendations in particular, which relate to her lines of questioning during the inquiry.
Recommendation 4 recommends that all data-matching guidelines and protocols be adhered to, including the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act, regardless of whether tax file numbers are used in the data-matching process.
“The data-matching landscape the Department has been operating is like the wild west of privacy regulation,” Senator Kakoschke-Moore said.
“The voluntary guidelines which can be subscribed to when a TFN isn’t being used, weren’t even being followed.
“Besides the obvious privacy concerns, Centrelink was able to go back seven years to calculate alleged debts rather than four if the Act applied, which in itself caused enormous distress to individuals.”
Recommendation 15 recommends that community legal service funding be reviewed in the next budget to ensure community legal services are able to meet the need for legal advice relating to the robo-debt system.
Senator Kakoschke-Moore highlighted the importance of community legal services in assisting vulnerable and disadvantaged clients seeking advice on robo-debt matters when the SA Government announced a funding cut to the Welfare Rights Centre SA. See more here.
“The case load of community legal centres such as the Welfare Rights Centre SA dramatically increased as debt letters were sent out,” Senator Kakoschke-Moore said.
“These services must always be adequately funded but when a flawed system is rolled out by the Federal Government creating an even bigger workload, the government needs to take responsibility for that.”
The report can be found here.