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Turnbull Govt Must Implement Robo-Debt Inquiry Recommendations

22 June 2017
CPSU
Community and Public Sector Union

The CPSU has urged the Turnbull Government to urgently implement the key recommendations of a Senate inquiry into the Centrelink robo-debt debacle, with the program still in force and now being rolled out to target pensioners.

The inquiry’s final report has provided numerous recommendations to fix the flawed and unfair policy, calling on Government to suspend the debt program until this is done. 

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This Senate Inquiry has confirmed what our hardworking members in Centrelink already knew all too well. Robo-debt is a shameful shambles that’s caused unreasonable suffering to hundreds of thousands of Australians who’ve received debt letters and the staff who’ve tried to pick up the pieces.”

“This report, based on detailed testimony from dozens of witnesses including CPSU members, highlights that Centrelink and the Department of Human Services more broadly is in crisis. Our members warned that removing previous safeguards and moving to an automated debt system would not work, but their warnings fell on deaf ears.”

“The Turnbull Government must listen to this committee’s recommendation that DHS is adequately resourced and staffed. This is an agency in crisis, yet the Government’s latest Budget cut another 1,100 jobs on top of the 5,000 permanent jobs that have already been slashed. The impacts on people needing Centrelink and DHS services are snowballing, with 42 million calls blocked with a busy signal just in the first 10 months of this financial year.”

“Importantly, this committee has agreed with the CPSU’s calls since the start of the year for the robo-debt system to be put on hold until it can be fixed. The Government's changes have not fixed the system, it remains deeply problematic and pensioners are about to cop the full brunt of robo-debt with that rollout underway."

“The inquiry has also recognised the importance of human oversight in pursuing potential Centrelink debts. Many of the problems associated with robo-debt have been caused by the fact it’s automated. The number of debt letters that have gone out to people who actually owe nothing, or a fraction of what’s being claimed, highlights the need for humans not robots to deal with such matters.”