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The government’s horrific start to the year is fully deserved and completely appropriate

15 January 2017

The government’s horrific start to the year is not only fully deserved, it is completely appropriate. The Centrelink shemozzle and entitlements abuses are a wonderful amalgam of the absence of respect for those on welfare and the tin-eared political nous which characterises this government.
Let’s not pretend that Centrelink issuing faulty debt notices is just a case of IT gone wrong.
Faults where people are issued debt notices of $14,000 due to the system incorrectly duplicating employers, or because it hamfistedly averages annual income over 52 weeks are not really IT glitches, but rather are part of the policy design.

Tasmanian community sector sets up relief fund for people hit by welfare bills

15 January 2017

A disaster relief fund has been formed for Tasmanians struggling with the mounting stress of Centrelink’s controversial debt recovery system.
The state’s community service sector has rallied together to provide immediate support to Tasmanians needing legal advice, advocacy and support about their debt notices.

Centrelink data-matching problems show the need for a government blockchain

14 January 2017
The Conversation

Governments across the globe are experimenting with the blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, as a way to reduce costs and provide more accountability to the public. In Europe alone, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Estonia are experimenting with blockchains to fight corruption and deliver public services.
Australia, too, is looking at what a blockchain might achieve. The recent problems with Centrelink’s automated data-matching system show precisely where a government blockchain would fit in.
Rather than siloing our data in government agencies, we could create a single source of information. This would speed up our interactions with government, while reducing errors and fraud.

Centrelink disaster relief effort under way

14 January 2017
Tasmanian Council of Social Service Inc.

Tasmania’s community service sector has rallied together to provide immediate support to Tasmanians impacted by the Centrelink debt recovery debacle.
Several community organisations have pooled funds of over $12,000 to increase resources for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) in Hobart and Launceston to provide access to a dedicated Welfare Rights Officer, Monday through Friday.

Tales of Centrelink debt collection woe in central Victoria

13 January 2017
Bendigo Advertiser

When a Bendigo aged care facility decided to change its name, a simple re-brand was probably the only thing on the board’s mind.
But the decision – inadvertently – set in motion a series of events that left one of its former employees owing $2558 to Centrelink.
At least that’s what Rob K and his accountant have since discovered.
He was one of the tens of thousands of Australians to receive a Centrelink debt recovery letter in the second half of 2016 as part of an automated nationwide audit.

Seven Hills single mother battles Centrelink over 'unexplained' debt

13 January 2017
Blacktown Sun

In April last year, Michelle Lawson received an unpleasant surprise from the Department of Human Services: she apparently owed them more than $6000, from single-parent benefits received years earlier.
The Seven Hills mother-of-two declared her part-time income fortnightly and it was checked annually against her tax returns.

False to say there is a 20% error rate in Centrelink debt recovery system

13 January 2017
Australian Government Department of Human Services

Labor's ongoing accusation that there is a 20% error rate in the Centrelink debt recovery system is false.
Every letter that is initially sent is based on a discrepancy between an individual's income data held at the Australian Taxation Office with their self-reported income data at Centrelink. The first letter simply notes the discrepancy and gives an opportunity for the individual to explain it. This is not a debt letter.

Minister, get out of your ivory tower and speak to people actually struggling on Centrelink

13 January 2017
Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens Senator for Western Australia

Minister Alan Tudge refusing to suspend or scrap the automated debt recovery system demonstrates a huge failing to comprehend the struggles and distress that the program has caused to people accessing the social safety net, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said today.

The Centrelink and expenses scandals reveal the rot at the heart of our democracy

13 January 2017

Australian democracy right now may be more vulnerable than many care to admit. One reason is that the branch office mentality of so many politicians often leads them to assimilate and ape American trends. The usual suspects have been flaunting their Trump fandom, but others may come to see his victory and his politics as something to be more closely emulated.
More serious, though, are multiplying signs of a kind of structural rot whose sources are internal.

ACTCOSS calls on Sentator Seselja to support the suspension of the government’s debt recovery program

13 January 2017
ACT Council of Social Services Inc

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) supports ACOSS’s call for immediate suspension of the Centrelink debt recovery program (link is external), until such a time that all issues can be rectified and convene a roundtable to work through how to redesign the system, citing significant risks that the program is harming Canberra residents who have at some time in the past accessed income support entitlements.

National Social Security Rights Network recommendations: Centrelink online compliance and debt system

13 January 2017
National Social Security Rights Network

The National Social Security Rights Network (NSSRN, formerly National Welfare Rights Network) and its member services are struggling to respond to the number of calls from people distressed about Centrelink’s new online compliance system and being informed they have debts they think are wrong.

The Robo-Debt That Doesn’t Exist

13 January 2017
Eigen Magic

After looking at where the headline $4 billion figure came from previously, we now turn our attention to another big number that’s getting bandied about the place: $1.7 billion in over-payments that the Government wants to claw back.
This number comes from the 2015-16 Federal Budget. The Hockey/Cormann budget. The “lifters and leaners”, let’s go smoke cigars within view of the cameras budget. You know the one.
Anyhoo, on page 116 of Budget Paper No. 2 [PDF] we find this statement:

Centrelink mess is what the government wants

13 January 2017
IT Wire

The mess created by the Australian Government's bid to automate the search for people who are cheating on their welfare entitlements shows no sign of disappearing, with ministers standing by the methods used.
These methods have been shown to be generating false positives by many media organisations but the government refuses to budge.
The view of many is that this is typical political behaviour: make a mistake and then refuse to own up to it.
But a different theory appears to be more logical: Malcolm Turnbull and his ministers are refusing to budge because they want a situation of this kind to exist.

Tudge either doesn't understand or deliberately misleading on robo-debt debacle

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

Alan Tudge, Minister for Human Services, either isn’t across his portfolio or is deliberately misleading the public a leaked Centrelink robo-debt memo shows.
In a number of media interviews since he returned from holidays just this week Mr Tudge insisted that the thousands of people slugged with false robo-debt notices were able to request assistance from Centrelink staff in person or by phone.