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The Prime Minister’s dismissal of Independent Member for Clark Andrew Wilkie’s question, during Question Time today, shows just how out of touch the Federal Government is with the deep distress caused to elderly Australians on the Age Pension by the Centrelink automated data-matching system.

“This is reminiscent of Robodebt,” Mr Wilkie said. “The automated data-matching system at Centrelink is now spitting out reams of threatening and confusing correspondence to people on the Age Pension. Has the Government learnt nothing from the Robodebt debacle?”

Increasingly Mr Wilkie is hearing from elderly constituents who have received correspondence from Centrelink as a result of Automation of Income Stream Reviews, which detect discrepancies in additional income. Some constituents have received two or three of these letters in a matter of weeks.

“One 89-year-old woman got a letter she described as terrifying that asked her to go online otherwise her pension would be cut off,” Mr Wilkie said. “Another elderly woman had her Age Pension cut off because of an error in reporting her income that a human eye could have easily picked up, but a computer did not. Another couple have started getting automated letters every few months.”

Mr Wilkie said adding to the stress are long delays in mail delivery, and Centrelink only allowing 14 days for people to provide information.

“Often by the time people get the letter they only have a few days to gather the data,” Mr Wilkie said. “The letter states if you don’t provide this information by the nominated date your payment may be stopped. This is absolutely terrifying for people who rely on the Age Pension from week to week.”

“I’m all for making sure people get the right amount, but surely this automated system must be improved with the addition of at least a human review before these letters are spat out in their thousands.”