Go to top of page


This Man Got A Centrelink Debt For A Time He Wasn't Even On Centrelink: More farcical cases of debt collection blunders.

6 January 2017
Huffington Post

Brett, from Sydney, was told by Centrelink on Thursday that he'd been overpaid and that he owed them $2360.06. They cited two periods in the past, one in 2013 and another from mid-2014 to mid-2015, when they claim he'd been working and therefore not entitled to benefits. The problem is, though, the 2013 period was before he'd ever even applied for Centrelink payments.

This Man Got A Centrelink Debt For A Time He Wasn't Even On Centrelink

6 January 2017
Huffington Post

Brett, from Sydney, was told by Centrelink on Thursday that he'd been overpaid and that he owed them $2360.06. They cited two periods in the past, one in 2013 and another from mid-2014 to mid-2015, when they claim he'd been working and therefore not entitled to benefits.
The problem is, though, the 2013 period was before he'd ever even applied for Centrelink payments.

Centrelink is referring some people distressed from its data-matching debt claims to Lifeline

6 January 2017
Business Insider Australia

Customers suffering distress and anxiety from debt notification letters sent out from Centrelink’s data-matching system are being referred to Lifeline by the federal welfare agency.
On Wednesday, independent MP Andrew Wilkie claimed that he had been in touch with people who were suicidal as a result of the allegedly false debt notices. He said that “the government has terrified countless people”.
Now social media records show that Centrelink’s official account has been advising multiple customers to get in touch with Lifeline in the midst of correspondence

Centrelink referring people to Lifeline as one person receives notice of 140k debt

6 January 2017

Centrelink has been openly referring to Lifeline people who say they have been targeted for repayments of non-existent debt under a new automated system.
NITV News has revealed that Indigenous Australians have been caught up in the growing debt claims issue. Some people attested they were receiving demands for repayments of more than $20,000, as Centrelink accused them of under reporting their income while receiving benefits.

Inaccuracy of Centrelink debt notices not acceptable: Xenophon

6 January 2017
RN Breakfast

Earlier, this week the Social Services Minister Christian Porter told me that Centrelink's automated compliance system was 'working incredibly well'.
But the stories of the distress caused by what many see as debt recovery notices keep coming in.
South Australia Senator Nick Xenophon says he's been inundated with complaints about Centrelink debt letters and referred the matter to the ombudsman late last month.

Centrelink is using debt collectors like never before, says Legal Aid

6 January 2017
The Courier

Centrelink is using debt collectors like never before and making snap decisions based on “limited information” since the introduction of a new automated debt recovery system, Victoria Legal Aid has said.
Collectors have been used by the government agency before but never based on such an “inaccurate and blunt” system, Civil Justice, Access and Equity executive director Dan Nicholson said.

Centrelink cut South Australian student's payment without warning, MP claims

6 January 2017
ABC News

A South Australian high school student has been left "begging and borrowing from friends" after Centrelink cut off her payment just before Christmas, according to NXT Member for Mayo Rebecca Sharkey.
Ms Sharkey said her office had been inundated with pleas from people who had recently received letters from Centrelink looking to recover debt.

Centrelink crisis 'cataclysmic' says PM's former head of digital transformation

6 January 2017

The man handpicked by Malcolm Turnbull to head the government’s digital transformation has said the error rate in Centrelink’s data-matching process is so unfathomably high that it would send a commercial enterprise out of business.
Paul Shetler, the former digital transformation office head, criticised the government’s response to its latest IT crisis, telling Guardian Australia it was symptomatic of a culture of blame aversion within the bureaucracy.

Turnbull risks alienating voters one letter at a time

6 January 2017
The Australian

Malcolm Turnbull and his ministers are playing with political fire in their hunt for $4 billion in savings from the welfare system by sending off letters to thousands of Australians with a clear warning that debt collectors will be called in to recover old payments.
The blowback from voters is already dangerous and is certain to get worse when the vast program grows across time. The vitriolic complaints about the exercise during the past few weeks have been based on the first batch of 169,000 letters from Centrelink that assume welfare recipients need to repay some of their benefits. It is a taste of things to come.

High Farce: The Turnbull Government’s Centrelink ‘Robo-Debt’ Debacle Continues To Grow

6 January 2017
New Matilda

In the lead-up to Christmas, tens of thousands of Australians started receiving threatening debt collection notices from Centrelink and its agents. Coming from a government that couldn’t run an online census, you can probably guess what happened. Ben Eltham explains just in case you can’t.

The Centrelink debacle, and a LongRead about the dangers of chronic stress

6 January 2017

Dr Matt Fisher writes below in a timely Croakey #LongRead that chronic stress is a profoundly important threat to health and wellbeing that is often under-recognised and poorly understood.
In this light, the Centrelink debacle can be seen as just one small element of a much larger pattern that is creating the perfect conditions for chronic stress and associated health and social problems, according to Fisher, a Research Fellow at the Southgate Institute for Health, Society & Equity at Flinders University in Adelaide.

Centrelink fiasco means the political year starts under a welfare cloud

5 January 2017
The New Daily

Centrelink’s ongoing debt drama is shaping up to remain a troublesome issue as politicians return from holiday and Parliament resumes in February.
Peter Horbury, from Social Security Rights Victoria, says the issue is merely bubbling along now, as people try to deal with Centrelink. But after a certain number of weeks have elapsed, the debts can be passed to debt collectors. “If you think there’s a fuss now wait ’til the debt collectors go out,” Mr Horbury told The New Daily.

Get back to work: Calls for Human Services Minister to return from holidays to clear up Centrelink debt recovery mess

5 January 2017
Perth Now

Last week, Centrelink tweeted that its offices were closed and people needing help, support or advice should call Lifeline.
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge is still on holidays, leaving Social Services Minister Christian Porter to deal with the fallout.

Disability advocates add to calls to suspend Centrelink debt recovery system

5 January 2017

Disability advocates have put further pressure on the government to suspend its automated debt recovery system, while Centrelink continues to refer distressed and suicidal individuals to Lifeline.
Disabled People’s Organisations Australia, a collection of disability support and advocacy groups, has called on the government to immediately halt the recovery process, which has relied on a crude and automated data-matching process to begin chasing 169,000 debts from welfare recipients since July.

Aussies panicking over Centrelink demands to pay up to avoid debt collector

5 January 2017

"I finally had enough and had a lengthy conversation with a Centrelink rep where the phone call went on for over an hour. I wouldn’t take no for an answer, so she did my review manually in minutes and then, sure enough, found I was not guilty at all. Human common sense overriding an incorrect computerised system."

Media Release: Centrelink Debt Recovery Fiasco Must Be Suspended

5 January 2017
Disabled People’s Organisations Australia

Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia) calls for the Centrelink debt recovery process to be immediately halted, amid concern about the impact on people with disability.
“We are concerned that the current debt recovery process, that uses automated data matching, is particularly unfair for people with disability,” says Matthew Bowden, Co-CEO, People with Disability Australia, and spokesperson for DPO Australia.

The LNP war on welfare recipients

5 January 2017
No Place For Sheep

Yesterday I watched, incredulous (I know, only a fool with no sense of the immediate past could continue to be startled by any action performed by this government) as Minister for Social Services Christian Porter claimed across the media that the Centrelink debt recovery process was working just fine, and the fact that a “few” citizens are being unfairly targeted was of no great consequence. If they’re upset, too bad, get over it, there’s nothing wrong with our process, was Porter’s basic message.

Here are some of the things that are wrong with the Centrelink process.