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The Turnbull government is changing the Centrelink debt letter system, but it's still not backing down

16 January 2017
Tony Yoo
Business Insider

Centrelink’s data-matching process has taken a political hammering in the past fortnight amid claims of inaccuracies in alleged debts calculated as owed by some social security recipients.

While the Coalition government has refused to suspend the practice, the human services department has now made some concessions in its procedures.

Human Services minister Alan Tudge has ordered the department to make some minor changes to improve the process. According to The Australian, the reforms include:

  • Adding Centrelink’s 1800 telephone number to the debt notification letters.
  • Altering wording to demand “overpayments be reimbursed” to make the message “clearer and more intuitive”.
  • Customers will have a chance to request an internal review of the supposed debt before debt collectors are called in, as long as the review is requested immediately after the first notice
  • More stringent checking of the destination address for letters, by cross-checking against electoral rolls and other government data

Business Insider has contacted the department of human services for comment.


Opponents of the data-matching system, such as Labor MP Linda Burney and independent Andrew Wilkie, have said that some have paid the alleged debt despite disagreeing with it, due to the “intimidation” factor. Wilkie also said that he’d been in touch with welfare recipients considering suicide as a result.