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Oz government on its Centrelink debacle: 'This is fine'

10 January 2017
The Register

Why stop digging when we've only just started?
Australia's Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has finally weighed in on the country's Centrelink debacle, having returned from holidays with a sheet full of talking points.
Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the minister denied there was any problem, said he wasn't aware of the system creating any false debts, and denied that anybody has been asked to pay back debts they don't owe.

Centrelink debacle shows Menzies' safety net has lost its way

10 January 2017
The Age

Given the current furore over the Centrelink debt-recovery debacle, this is a fascinating reminder of how far politics has shifted since then. Despite exploiting fears about Labor's supposed "socialist objective", Menzies expanded social welfare to introduce the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, increased support for age pensioners and increased unemployment and other benefits.

Government accused of abandoning Aussies in their hour of need

10 January 2017
Starts At 60

The government decided to ditch it’s hard-working employers at the Department of Human Services who managed debts owed to Centrelink, despite their warnings that switching to an automated computer system would end in disaster.
Sure enough, it wasn’t long before Centrelink was sending out letters and hounding people for money they simply did not have thanks to a glitch in the system.

Government should not view Centrelink as a weapon of deficit reduction

10 January 2017
St Vincent de Paul Society

The St Vincent de Paul Society has called on the government to ensure that Centrelink is kept in public hands and properly resourced to support people rather than punish them, after a debt recovery scheme aimed at returning nearly $4 billion to the budget left thousands of clients with miscalculated bills.

Inside a Centrelink office: Chaos at branch as system flounders

10 January 2017
Herald Sun

“Centrelink is letting me die,” reads graffiti scrawled on the wall of the disabled toilet at a branch in Sydney’s inner west.
That’s the perception of some Australians trying to negotiate a benefits system that appears seriously flawed, where letters slamming people with bogus debts of thousands of dollars were widely distributed over the Christmas period.

Centrelink Non Complience Process

10 January 2017
National Foundation for Australian Women

The National Foundation for Australian Women is profoundly concerned by the Ministerially approved processes for so-called debt-recovery from Centrelink clients, and calls on the Government to cease using the process pending receipt of a report from the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

'They don't care about average Australians': Centrelink staffer speaks out about debt controversy

10 January 2017

Staff inside the Centrelink unit responsible for income reviews and eligibility assessments warned officials from the Department of Human Services that automated data matching would lead to incorrect debts being issued to low-income and vulnerable Australians, an insider has revealed.

A union claims almost every Centrelink debt letter is wrong and will bring a 'perfect storm' of complaints

10 January 2017
Business Insider Australia

Centrelink staff will not be able to cope in an expected “perfect storm” of customer enquiries arising out of the debt data-matching scandal, the union representing public service workers has warned.
The Community & Public Sector Union has demanded the federal government immediately suspend the automated big data system, which in the past week has been hammered for its lack of accuracy in determining debts.
“This scheme is an absolute nightmare for thousands of Centrelink customers who’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, and the staff who are bearing the brunt of this mess,” said CPSU assistant national secretary Michael Tull.

Centrelink crisis: people targeted with inaccurate debts may be able to sue

10 January 2017

People who have been unfairly targeted with inaccurate Centrelink debts could have grounds to sue the government, according to the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
The social services minister, Christian Porter, continued to defend the automated system on Monday, saying the debts being issued were “fairly and legitimately calculated after a very staged and methodical process”.
The commonwealth ombudsman confirmed to Guardian Australia it had initiated its own investigation of the debt recovery system.

Centrelink staff 'bearing the brunt' of debt recovery system backlash

10 January 2017
ABC News

The main public service union has warned Centrelink and Medicare staff are "desperately overstretched" and struggling to cope with the public backlash over a flawed debt recovery scheme.
The warning comes after the man hand-picked by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to lead digital projects said the public services needed "radical upskilling" to deliver services.

Public sector union calls for immediate suspension of Centrelink debt recovery scheme

10 January 2017

Centrelink's controversial debt recovery system must be urgently suspended, according to the public sector union which has warned staff are already struggling to cope.
The CPSU says service standards have already dropped to “unacceptable levels” following thousands of job cuts in the Department of Human Services, and now the latest scandal is piling on more pressure.

Drag on welfare is not the poor but the comfortable

10 January 2017
Canberra Times

What stops most middle class people from committing fraud – say, by claiming false expenses, making dodgy tax claims or exaggerating their assets to a bank – is thought to be a calculus of the risk of being caught and the extent of public disgrace if one is caught. By contrast, politicians seem to assume that underclass and working class fraud, like other crimes, including violence, being committed by them is deterred only by the severity of jail sentences.

The theory might be wrong, at least as far as welfare fraud is concerned.

Centrelink's automated debacle shows we need to rethink welfare and work

10 January 2017
The Age

There is a dark irony in the fact that many of those who have been hit by Centrelink's automated debt recovery debacle are on benefits in the first place because automation is dramatically changing the face of work, making it harder for many people to find secure, paid employment.
While the still-unfolding event is a political mess for the Turnbull government, and a personal tragedy for those caught up in it, it's important that we reflect on what it means for how our politics deals with welfare and work.