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Tudge fudging the numbers on Centrelink robo debt debacle

12 January 2017
The Hon Linda Burney MP
The Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Human Services, ALP Member for Barton

The Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, still isn’t across the detail of his bungled robo debt recovery program, contradicting his senior minister and his own department.
Linda Burney, Shadow Minister for Human Services, raised concerns following a number of confused and inconsistent statements made by Mr Tudge since he returned from holidays just this week.
While Mr Tudge has claimed that the program had “recouped” or “recovered” $300 million since July 2016 - that is not what his senior colleague Minister for Social Services Christian Porter has been telling the media. Mr Porter maintains that the $300 million figure refers to identified “debts” not funds already recovered, a major issue for a program with an error rate of at least 20%.
Mr Tudge’s remarks also conflict with comments made by his own department , Hank Jongen, General Manager of Centrelink has also been telling the media that the government’s figures refer only to “identified” debts rather than those that have been recovered.
According to Department of Human Services annual reports the level of “raised” debt which is actually recovered is about 55% per annum.
According to Alan Tudge, Minister for Human Services “[The system] has successfully recovered over $300 million of incorrectly paid taxpayers’ money…”
- Statement provided to media, 10 January 2017
According to Christian Porter, Minister for Social Services
HOST: Is that [$300 million] what’s actually been recouped…?
PORTER: Uh, no , that’s the amount of decisions that have been made, that’s the amount of debt that’s been, uh, raised is the terminology that Centrelink use.
- Radio Interview, ABC Wide Bay, 9 January 2017
“The minister is still in holiday mode. At the very least Mr Tudge should be able to answer basic questions about the figures he’s using.” Ms Burney said.
“One of the ministers is wrong - which one is it? This has serious implications for the government’s continued defence of its embattled robo-debt system.”
“I’d hoped that the Minister finally returning from holidays would give us come clarity, instead it has only muddied the waters further”.