The Turnbull government says it is catching twice as many welfare cheats as Labor did in power, forcing those who lied to Centrelink to repay the extra money they took home.
Centrelink's controversial debt-recovery program will be investigated by a Senate committee to determine why thousands of Australians were incorrectly told they needed to repay money.
The government has been accused of “backflipping” over Centrelink’s automated debt recovery program after it decided to give the system a facelift, as Labor demands improvements be made retrospective to include all affected welfare recipients.
Labor frontbencher Linda Burney declared Human Services Minister Alan Tudge had made a “stunning admission” after The Australian revealed he had directed his department to introduce a number of “refinements” as he attempts to deal with the political fallout.
What is it about us, what kind of bongo juice are we on when we fall for some schmaltzy rubbish suggesting that everyone should be allowed to keep overpayments?
This whole debate is a Groundhog Day for me. I once had the welfare portfolio and there were inevitably occasions when people had overpayments and were expected to repay them. There was always the possibility to pay back over time, but many took umbrage at having to pay anything at all. Many in the media, and just about everyone in opposition, played it for all it was worth. The department, Centrelink and the government were always portrayed as mean and nasty people who just wanted to give welfare recipients the boot.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has launched an investigation into the Centrelink debt recovery debacle – which both major parties played a hand in creating.
Labor’s leadership team of Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek pioneered the “robo-debt” data-matching system Centrelink is using to target current and former welfare recipients for apparently not declaring their income properly — but they now argue it should be suspended.
“The automation of this process will free up resources and result in more people being referred to the tax garnishee process, retrieving more outstanding debt on behalf of taxpayers,” Mr Shorten said at the time.