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Dole-bludgers, leaners and other neoliberal fantasies

19 January 2017
Overland

Centrelink is in the news again after an automated debt recovery system with an overly simplistic data-matching algorithm effectively made up debts for some welfare recipients. This follows the gaffe in September 2016 when members of the Federal Government argued that welfare recipients who turn down paying work shouldn’t be eligible for government assistance. In a disappointing but entirely expected move, the government declined to fix the ‘debt-recovery’ system, in a continuation of their campaign to undermine welfare through continual cuts to unemployment spending.
These cuts are usually defended by the cultural construction of the ‘bludger’: a largely mythological figure who prefers a life on welfare over working and who needs to be discouraged from their idleness by the formulation of harsh laws surrounding the eligibility of Centrelink recipients, already struggling, in financial and emotional distress, far below the poverty line.

Where is Compassion and Concern for Dignity in the Centrelink Debt Collection Debacle?

19 January 2017
ABC Religion and Ethics

In the social services sector, religious voices are significant because faith-based organisations tend to be informed by values of justice, thus informing our choice of vocation.
While we might not always use explicit language about our faith traditions in efforts to be inclusive of all, the recent Centrelink Automated Debt Collection debacle has strongly reminded us of some of the biblical stories underpinning our advocacy.

Whistleblower or misguided luddite? Centrelink rejects serious allegations

19 January 2017
The Mandarin

Centrelink says concerns reportedly emanating from some of its staff — via their union and a left-leaning activist group — are the result of misunderstanding the complexity of the welfare system and personal disagreements with policy and technological change.
In response to the most serious allegations since the “#notmydebt” campaign began to push back against the agency’s letters asking people to clarify differences between information about past welfare payments and tax data, spokesperson Hank Jongen implies that some employees either don’t understand or don’t agree with how the system works.

Whistleblower: Turnbull Government Defrauding Everyday People

19 January 2017
GetUp!

A brave whistleblower is risking their job to expose the shocking inside truth behind the Turnbull Government's bullying debt-threat debacle.
The whistleblower has revealed the flaws in the Turnbull Government's broken data-matching computer that create tens of thousands of false debt threats -- and confirmed that these flaws aren't a mistake, they're the way the system was designed to work.

Second Liberal senator attacks Centrelink debt retrieval and demands solution

19 January 2017
Guardian

A second Tasmanian Liberal senator has criticised Centrelink’s debt recovery system, urging his colleagues to avoid “another talkfest” and “get the problems fixed”.
The recently elected Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam has written to the human services minister, Alan Tudge, to express concerns about the troubled system.
He told Guardian Australia he had conveyed concerns raised with his office to Tudge and sought an urgent solution.

Pensioners, families, disabled targeted when Centrelink debt recovery scheme expands

18 January 2017
news.com.au

Centrelink's robo-debt recovery scheme is set to be expanded this year despite calls for an inquiry into the system.
Pensioners, families and the disabled will be among those targeted as the Government attempts to claw back billions in overpaid welfare to help repair the budget.
New figures released in the midyear budget update papers show the Government expects to regain an extra $2.2 billion from parents, pensioners and people on disability support, Fairfax media reports.

Disability advocates hold fears for mental health, suicide

18 January 2017
The Courier

Disability advocates say expanding Centrelink’s debt recovery system to people on disability support will push clients who are already suicidal over the edge and “inundate” overstretched mental health services.
Grampians Disability Advocacy’s Fiona Tipping said she already has a caseload of people in Ballarat who are suicidal as a result of their disability support pensions being rejected or cancelled.
On Tuesday it was revealed the government plans to extend its controversial debt collection system to people on aged pensions and disability support pensions later this year.

A Group Of Disgruntled Centrelink Clients Serve Alan Tudge's Office With A Fake Debt Notice

18 January 2017
Huffington Post

A handful of protesters have parked themselves in front of Liberal MP Alan Tudge's office, protesting the Centrelink #notmydebt saga with an abundance of chants and issuing his office with a "debt notice" of $300 million.
The group played mock Centrelink hold music, and chanted "Hey Tudge, we won't budge" before being moved on by police at 2:35pm.

A statement regarding the Government bullying of Centrelink staff

18 January 2017
Andrew Wilkie MP Independent Member for Denison

Media reports that Centrelink staff are being bullied into silence ring true. There is no doubt that the Centrelink debt recovery program has reached the point of high farce, and I don’t doubt that both the Government, and by direction senior Centrelink management, are now pulling out all stops to try and silence the workers tasked with carrying out the program. 

Problems could be solved by talking to people: Anglicare Australia responds to Centrelink Automated Debt Collection

18 January 2017
Anglicare Australia

Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers has supported calls by ACOSS, the National Welfare Rights Network and others to suspend the Centrelink automated debt recovery process, and for government to sit down with the people most affected to put a more respectful process in place.

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