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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.

Talking Point: Centrelink debacle shows insensitivity to the most vulnerable

9 January 2017
The Mercury

Andrew Wilkie, the independent federal MP for Denison, said last week that some people who have, over the Christmas break, received aggressive letters from Centrelink are close to suicide.
It is not surprising, and it is shameful that it is so. It is also extraordinary that politicians like Christian Porter and Alan Tudge, the Ministers responsible for Centrelink, think its OK to boast about the recovery of debts from generally low-income Australians while their government does little or nothing about the fact that some corporations and many wealthy individuals in this country pay little or no tax.

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.

Centrelink debt recovery not the success that Christian Porter claims

7 January 2017
The Age

Damaging criticism and publicity like this normally would have a minister rushing to initiate a review, or at the very least expressing regret for any (unintended) distress caused. But Mr Porter has remained his usual phlegmatic self, saying the letters sent initially to welfare recipients were "polite" and that only a "small" number of people had been asked to refund money they did not owe. He reiterated his belief that the program was working well, and said it would be extended further to recover nearly $4 billion in welfare debts over the next four years.

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.


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