RoboDebt must go: Community sector calls for end of Centrelink’s auto debt recovery program and the bullying of victims

A consortium of leading organisations from Australia’s community sector is calling on the government to immediately pull the plug on Centrelink’s RoboDebt, 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, says 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.

“We 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.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Media contact: ACOSS 0419 626 155

Signatories: 

  • ACOSS
  • Adult Learning Australia
  • Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
  • Australian Neighbourhood Houses and Centres Association
  • Children and Young People with Disability Australia
  • cohealth
  • CORE Community Services
  • Council to Homeless Persons
  • CPSU (PSU Group)
  • Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA)
  • Danila Dilba Health Service
  • Dawn House
  • Disabled People’s Organisations Australia
  • Down Syndrome Australia
  • Edmund Rice Centre
  • Federation of Ethnic Communitie’s Councils of Australia
  • Financial Counselling Australia
  • Forster Foundation
  • GetUp
  • Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand
  • Homelessness NSW
  • Joblink Plus Ltd
  • Jobs Australia
  • MCRN
  • NAPWHA
  • National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC)
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)
  • National Shelter
  • National Social Security Rights Network
  • NCSMC
  • NSW Council of Social Service
  • NT Shelter Inc
  • NTCOSS
  • People with Disability Australia
  • RUAH Community Services
  • SACOSS
  • Save the Children
  • Southern Youth and Family Services
  • St Vincent de Paul Society
  • Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association (SCOA)
  • TasCOSS
  • VCOSS
  • Victoria Legal Aid
  • Welfare Rights Centre Sydney
  • Western Australian Council of Social Service
  • Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA)
  • Youth Action
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