A couple of weeks before the end of financial year I got an angry call from Centrelink telling me i was avoiding them. Turns out they sent me a letter to an old address and when the due date arrived, they called and threatened me.
After complying and informing them that I moved house, as is usually the case with young people after finishing uni, they then told me that their robodebt data from the ATO from eight years ago didn't match up and I needed to get them data from my previous employers.
Anxiety shot though the roof and stress climaxed into anger and despair not knowing how much I owed and how I could retrieve data which, frankly, should have been put on them to retrieve and not me.
This whole situation and stress, brought out a side of me that I did not want to show my partner. Granted it was just me storming off in a huff to another room when I thought my partner showed a lack of interest but it made her upset, which in turn made me disappointed in myself.
Depression also kicked in and I was feeling unsure of my future. I understand now that I am not in any trouble with any authorities, provided I pay any debt that I may owe, however with a mind full of depression, anxiety, self loathing and stress, your mind goes to places that should never go.
Centrelink and this process caused an unprecedented amount stress which affected my quality of life in such a way that it impacted my sleep, work and relationship. I wholly blame the Department of Human Services, Centrelink for the six moths of stress it caused me and would welcome and join any class action lawsuit if one were to arise from this. I doubt one will be created but I can hold out hope.
This process is putting the burden of proof on the accused and then when we comply, they send us a debt notice. I say this due to my personal experience with Centrelink which is outlined below.
1) Centrelink sends me a letter to an incorrect address.
2) They call my personal phone and threaten me with a large debt because I ignored them.
3) I let them know they sent their correspondence to the wrong address and I then tell them my new address.
4) They then accuse me of under reporting citing evidence from shared private data from the ATO.
5) They give me the task to retrieve evidence that they can then use against me to raise a debt notice. If I fail in providing them with data, they will use a method proved to be incorrect to raise a debt notice which i found out was to be upwards of $5,000.00.
6) They then use said evidence that I retrieved for them on their order, against me to raise a debt notice of $3,090.00.
I take issue with being forced to take time out of my days to go to my previous employers of eight years ago to get pay slips just so that they can then use it to say I owe them money.
It isn't just, and it isn't right, nor fair that our government can implement a process like this to its citizens.
All this makes you wonder that if this was a private entity, would it be legal? The answer is probably, and regrettably, no.
When special rules apply to government entities over private entities, something is wrong, even if it is for welfare.
I understand the need to get back money for overpayments but the method that this department is using to retrieve it, specifically their computer algorithm is unprofessional and unethical at best.
After all is said and done, what satisfaction I can take from this, and I say this as a rusted on Liberal voter, is come election day, I will vote for someone that will not stand for this. I am also letting my member, a Liberal party member know with a polite letter why I will be putting his name last and it will feel good.
I will not be putting a '1' next to the Liberal party for the first time in my life for the next federal election and I encourage you all to do the same and find a member you can vote for that will look after your rights as a citizen of this great nation.