The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, this morning introduced a Private Member’s Bill that would ensure Centrelink cannot make automatic deductions from a person’s payment to settle a debt while the person is appealing that debt.
“One of the most worrying aspects of this whole sorry Centrelink debacle is that some people who have been hit with a bogus debt have had their payments reduced straight away, even if they have lodged an appeal through Centrelink’s own review process.
“We know that close to 4,000 people a week are receiving incorrect debt notices so this is not a small number of people. Having to repay a fake debt immediately has placed some people in severe financial hardship.
“While the Government should really shut down the entire debt recovery program, at the very least they should let people follow proper process and appeal a debt if they think it’s wrong, without that person being assumed guilty straight away.
“This Centrelink fiasco has dragged on since before Christmas and it’s only more alarming that the program will soon be expanded to target age and disability pensioners. The Government must admit that it got it wrong and shut down the program immediately, rather than trying to harvest more money from some of the most vulnerable people in society.”
Information about the Bill is available at http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;page=0;query=BillId%3Ar5807%20Recstruct%3Abillhome.