Letter to the Editor: Stop Harassing Vulnerable

21 January 2017

HUMAN Services Minister Alan Tudge is disingenuous when he says the Labor Party wants to “stop us asking these people to explain” their alleged Centrelink debts.

What Labor wants is for the government to stop harassing pensioners, people with a disability, vulnerable families, and young people, with debt collectors.

What Labor wants is for the government to show some concern for Centrelink staff, who are reportedly being told to ignore obvious errors in the calculation of debt unless customers directly object.

What Labor wants is for the government to ensure there are, in fact, enough Centrelink staff to help the many thousands of people who are being targeted with debt collection letters and are trying desperately to seek clarification and get help.

Centrelink’s auto-debt program is unfair and flawed. The government should suspend issuing debt notices until a full investigation is undertaken.

Despite what Mr Tudge suggests, not everyone receiving welfare is a fraud, not everyone is out to abuse the system, not everyone deliberately understates their income. Genuine mistakes are made, by welfare recipients and by Centrelink.

Mr Tudge says there must be “integrity in welfare payments”. There must also be integrity in how welfare debt is recovered. Sadly, the robo-debt debacle has none.

Meryl Swanson, Member for Paterson