Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, delivered the following 90 second statement to the Parliament.
“Australia’s welfare system was created to provide a safety net for our most vulnerable. But, for thousands of Australians experiencing domestic violence, outdated social security law is actually making their situation even more dangerous.
“For instance survivors of domestic violence, usually women, are pursued by Centrelink for the debts caused by their abusive partner. For example the perpetrator uses violence to force the survivor into providing incorrect information about their relationship or his income, then forces her to hand over her Centrelink payments. In other words the survivor never gets a cent, but must repay the debt.
“And making things worse, current legislation doesn’t allow for such debts to be waived, which is why in 2017 I introduced the Relieving Domestic Violence Victims of Debt Bill to enable such debts to be waived, not that it was supported by Liberal or Labor.
“Moreover Centrelink assesses payments by relationship status, which means that a person trying to flee domestic violence can’t access Centrelink payments if they’re considered ‘a member of a couple’ and her abusive partner is earning over $1000 a week. This forces survivors to be financially dependent on their abuser at the crucial time when they’re deciding whether to stay or leave.
“All of which is so very wrong on so many levels. It needs to be fixed. And fixed urgently.”