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Ombudsman asked to investigate Centrelink

4 January 2017
The West Australian

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has asked the Commonwealth Ombudsman to investigate faults with Centrelink's new automated data matching system after receiving more than 100 complaints to his electoral office about problems with the debt recovery process.
"The government has terrified countless people, ruined the Christmases of many and even driven some people to contemplate taking their own lives," Mr Wilkie said in a statement. [...] "You don't have to be a genius to tell that taking someone's yearly income and dividing by 26 is not always going to produce accurate results if only because people's circumstances change," he said.

Centrelink Debt Recovery 2GB

4 January 2017
2GB, archived at Porter's own website

CHRIS SMITH: I want to return right now to the growing issue of welfare rorting in Australia. Some of the figures on this subject are rather staggering, but the Federal Government is now vowing to extend its program to recover $4 billion in welfare debts from almost 2 million Australians who may have incorrectly received benefit payments. Now, remember this is taxpayers' money.

AUDIO with full transcript.

‘This is the biggest issue in Australia’: Centrelink debacle gets worse

4 January 2017
news.com.au

The Centrelink debacle is getting worse, with more Australians each day revealing they have been slugged with demands to pay back tens of thousands of dollars they don’t owe.
Furious Aussies, many of whom were on the dole for only a brief period years ago, are demanding action from the Government, which is denying a problem exists.

Christian Porter flags broader debt recovery effort

4 January 2017
The Australian

The federal government has vowed to extend its program to recover $4 billion in welfare debts from almost two million Australians despite admitting to “small instances” where people are being asked to refund money they do not owe.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter declared the program to be working so well it would be ramped up over the next four years, as he ridiculed Labor demands to suspend it in order to stop the false claims for refunds.

Federal government defends Centrelink automated debt recovery

3 January 2017
SBS

SBS World News Radio: The federal government is defending Centrelink's automated debt recovery system amid reports of wrongly issued repayment notices.
A group of volunteers helped create the 'Not My Debt' website and social media pages.
She says some of the most socio-economically vulnerable people are being incorrectly sent letters from Centrelink demanding repayment.

Christian Porter defends ‘polite’ Centrelink debt letters

3 January 2017

The social services minister has defended Centrelink’s “polite” debt letters generated by a new automated system amid criticism some welfare recipients have been hounded over false debts.
Christian Porter confirmed so far this financial year 169,000 review letters have been sent out, indicating there might be discrepancies after data from different agencies is matched up.

'Facing years of debt': what it's like being in the middle of a Centrelink stuff-up

3 January 2017

All welfare recipients - including people who got student support payments - are subject to the new compliance measures.
[...]
For some people, the automated system assumed that the welfare they receive in a fortnight is the same across the year - without taking into account that some people work casually or only during certain periods.

Centrelink's automated debt recovery system working 'incredibly well': Minister Christian Porter

3 January 2017

"These are not debt letters. These are letters that use automated cross-referencing information from the ATO to information received at Centrelink, which shows there might be a discrepancy," he said.
"The complaint rate is running at 0.16 per cent. That's only 276 complaints from those 169,000 letters. That process has raised $300 million worth of money back to the taxpayer which was overpaid. From what we've seen in a high volume system it's actually working incredibly well."

Govt defends efforts to recoup overpaid Centrelink benefits despite wave of complaints

3 January 2017
ABC The World Today

The government's today defending its efforts to recoup the overpayment of Centrelink benefits to welfare recipients - saying the program's working well despite isolated complaints.
But the opposition says that doesn't tally with a wave of complaints flooding into politicians' offices across the country from angry and frustrated Centrelink clients who feel they've been duped.
AUDIO

Minister defends 'polite' debt letters from Centrelink

3 January 2017

Welfare recipients are tweeting criticism of the system under the hashtag #notmydebt.

Labor's spokeswoman on human services Linda Burney has called for the system to be suspended.
"Get it right before threatening people - not that hard," Ms Burney tweeted.
She said no MPs who checked the emails to their electorate office could possibly say the system was working.

Centrelink's 'crude' new data-matching system falsely claims people owe large amounts of money

3 January 2017

The big data system was brought in last year as a part of the federal government’s campaign to rein in unjustified welfare costs. Unfortunately, the debt claims are incorrectly targeting many legitimate welfare recipients, according to the website NotMyDebt, which arose out of social media concerns from those who have been falsely accused by Centrelink.

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