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Whistleblowers expose true horror of Centrelink debt grab

16 January 2017
Andrew Wilkie MP
Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent Member for Denison

The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, will reveal the shocking inside story of the flawed Centrelink debt grab that includes staff being set daily debt notice quotas and urged to work overtime and compete to haul in the most debts.

Single mother Andrea Russell will also be available to describe her experience of challenging a bogus $11,800 Centrelink debt that she’s had to start repaying while she gathers seven years of payslips from four different employers, including one that no longer exists.

Mr Wilkie has today written again to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, this time to report evidence from Centrelink whistleblowers who’ve contacted his office with concerns about the flawed debt recovery process. 

The letter is attached and includes shocking new information that Centrelink staff are given a quota of six to 10 debt notices a day and encouraged by senior staff to work overtime and compete with each other for the highest quota. 


Employees are discouraged from questioning debts and discouraged from pausing debt repayments if customers are in financial hardship.

Mr Wilkie said the Prime Minister must step in immediately and suspend the automated process that has terrified countless people and even driven some to contemplate taking their own lives.

“The system’s a complete dud and must be fixed or binned,” Mr Wilkie said. “The computer says debt, but often there’s no debt. By knowingly issuing these questionable debt notices and collecting money that turns out not to be owed, this Government is stealing from taxpayers.

“Every day new cases of bogus debts are coming into my office which has received hundreds of complaints from people who have recounted deeply disturbing stories about Centrelink’s debt hunt.
“I’m appalled by all this, appalled that the Government has been aware of the problem for many weeks and taken no action and appalled that the Minister is claiming that there are no problems.”