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Tudge fudging it on robo-debt system changes

15 February 2017
The Hon Linda Burney MP
The Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Human Services, ALP Member for Barton

Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, has announced for a second time that he will make changes to his error prone robo-debt system after thousands of honest Australians were targeted for inflated or non-existent debt, but he still will not apologise.
It has been 50 days since Labor formally raised this issue with the Minister - since that time the Government has insisted that the system “is working well” and that they would “continue with that system”.
At least one of the key changes pledged by Mr Tudge, the suspension of repayments while a review is underway, was actually announced a month ago - and none of the proposed changes have been explained in any detail to Centrelink clients or the opposition.
The changes come after months of Ministers insisting that there are no problems with the program despite a litany of cases in which those who do not owe debt have been targeted and calls from welfare groups and the opposition for the system to be suspended.
Alan Tudge, Christian Porter, Barnaby Joyce and Malcolm Turnbull have all previously denied any issues with the robo-debt program but Mr Tudge has refused to provide details about the amount of debts changed on review.
Changes to the robo-debt system should be retrospective - it is only fair that those who have already received debt notices are able to have theirs reviewed before being forced to pay debt which may not exist.
These changes are a start but they do nothing to solve the underlying problem, the system makes too many mistakes. Making it easier to have debts reviewed is simply an admission that many debt notices have been issued incorrectly.
Alan Tudge must apologise to those who have been wrongly targeted by his error prone robo-debt system, pause the system and fix it before it is expanded to target even more age and disability pensioners.