Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has criticised the Federal Government over Centrelink's new debt recovery system, saying it was designed by a "dunderhead".
Social Services Minister Christian Porter has defended Centrelink’s unpopular debt-recovery system, arguing it was “about as reasonable a process as you could possibly derive”.
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.
The minister in charge of this nightmare, Alan Tudge, is currently enjoying an extended Christmas break. In his absence, Social Services Minister Christian Porter has appeared on the ABC and claimed that the system is actually working extremely well, and that they have received a low number of complaints for the 169,000 letters that were sent out last month.
"These are not debt letters," he told the ABC. "They are polite letters, the initial letter that goes to the welfare recipient saying that an issue has arisen, that there may be a discrepancy and we require some further information."
So what's actually going on, where are these letters coming from, and what the hell should you do if you've got one?
"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."
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.
Minister for Social Services Christian Porter has kicked off 2017 by defending the new automated debt recovery process implemented by Centrelink, which has seen some letters demanding money repayment sent in error to welfare recipients.
Speaking on ABC RN Breakfast on Tuesday, Porter stated that of the 169,000 letters sent out to welfare recipients in Australia since the start of the financial year, only 276 complaints have been received by Centrelink -- a complaint rate running at 0.16 percent.
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.
Some recipients are required to supply paperwork from up to five years ago, but Mr Porter said that applied to a "very small number" of people.
He added that the system had recovered $300 million since the start of the financial year.
"What this system is doing is raising real debts around real overpayments based on real cross referencing of evidence," he said.
But Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney said it should be suspended, citing "inherent problems right across the system".
[...]Ms Burney today tweeted that the system needed to "get it right before threatening people", referencing the #notmydebt social media campaign launched in response to Centrelink.