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Community sector up in arms over Centrelink’s Robotdebt

Organisations have called to cease the ” bullying” of clients.

A consortium of leading organisations from Australia’s community sector is calling on the government to immediately pull the plug on Centrelink’s RoboDebt.
The organisations have called to cease the intimidation and bullying of Centrelink clients and their families caught up in the automated debt recovery debacle, and provide a commitment that people’s protected information will not be publicly released.

Spokesperson for the group Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, said the Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge must respond to people’s very real concerns about privacy, particularly with the opening of the Senate inquiry into Centrelink and the flawed RoboDebt scheme.

“First the Minister threatened people who had a debt with jail time. Now, he has released private information in response to a client who publicly challenged the error-riddled scheme. The effect is a climate of fear for individuals and families affected across Australia,” she said.

The group call on the Minister to:

  • Pull the plug on the Government’s flawed and unfair automated RoboDebt recovery system;
  • Ensure people contacted about potential overpayments are not bullied or intimidated;
  • Guarantee fundamental principles of procedural fairness and reasonableness apply to all Centrelink clients ;
  • Protect people’s confidentiality and privacy, particularly during the Senate inquiry; and
  • Convene a roundtable of key stakeholders and experts as soon as possible to design a humane and fair approach to debt recovery.

“RoboDebt’s flawed data-matching has caused immense distress and anxiety among people targeted. Instead of responding to the damaging effect of this government program on people affected, Minister Tudge has targeted those who speak out,” she said.

“The Minister was wrong to release private information and we fear it will reduce people’s willingness to come forward and tell their stories at the Senate inquiry into RoboDebt and Centrelink.

“We welcome the Privacy Commissioner’s invitation for anyone concerned about the security of their personal information to contact his office.”

Goldie said that Centrelink payments are there as a safety net for when people really need it.

“A $3,000 debt notice to a government minister may not seem like a lot of money, but for a person trying to make ends meet, it is a tipping point,” said Goldie.

“The community sector reiterates its call for urgent redesign of Centrelink’s debt recovery process in light of the ongoing systemic problems. We need a process that is accurate, humane and fair.

“RoboDebt must be shut down before more harm is done.”

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