The decision today by the Department of Human Services to stop using the deeply flawed Robodebt process, where debts are raised purely from averaging ATO income data, is a welcome backflip and one that will bring some comfort to many Centrelink recipients. The Minister must now admit the Robodebt scheme was flawed from the start and should apologise to all those affected.
Robodebt has been particularly problematic in Tasmania where reliance on Government pensions and payments is higher than the national average. No wonder I have been approached by hundreds of Tasmanians distressed with having received inexplicable and frightening debt notices. Many have been brought to tears and some have talked of being driven to self-harm.
No debts should be raised against Centrelink recipients without clear proof, an explanation of the debt and a sensible timeframe for repayment. I have raised concerns about the Robodebt process with the Commonwealth Ombudsman on three separate occasions and I’m glad the Government has finally admitted that it’s a dud.
This must mark the end of the Government treating Centrelink recipients like criminals.