CPSU backs Wilkie bill on Centrelink robo-debt

The CPSU has welcomed independent MP Andrew Wilkie’s private member’s bill to help protect Centrelink customers caught up in the robo-debt crisis.

Mr Wilkie’s proposed legislation would prevent the Department of Human Services from receiving payments from customers for debts under review.

CPSU members working in the department have provided clear evidence of the major problems with the automated debt compliance system, with a large proportion of customers contacted owing nothing or only a tiny fraction of the amount claimed.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “Andrew Wilkie’s private member’s bill is a common-sense response to this terrible robo-debt crisis, and would help thousands of people who’ve been unfairly dragged into this mess.”

“Several hundred thousand debt letters have been sent out since this deeply flawed system began operating, with many vulnerable customers being pressured into making payments even though they are convinced they don’t owe the department any money.”

“Mr Wilkie’s bill is sensible and we support it, but it’s not a total solution to this problem. Many of these debt letters shouldn’t be going out in the first place, and there’s also the very serious underlying problem with inadequate staffing levels, because of the 5,000 jobs that have been cut, and under-resourcing more generally in this agency because of Budget cuts.”

“Our members in DHS are preparing to reveal the full story of the robo-debt crisis to the Senate inquiry that was confirmed last week. Our evidence will also make it clear the long-term solutions that are needed, including the conversion of thousands of casual staff to permanent positions so DHS has properly trained people to deal with these issues quickly and efficiently.”

“Australians are finding it harder and harder to get the help they need from DHS and they are waiting longer to have their claims dealt with. Robo-debt is a terrible mess but it’s equally disgraceful that 36 million phone calls to this agency went unanswered last year alone.”

MEDIA CONTACT: SIMON FRAZER 0409 493 290