So many of my constituents have contacted me saying they're being wrongly chased for debts they don't owe. It's a disgrace that the Liberals have sent out letters to tens of thousands of people wrongly claiming they owe a debt to the Commonwealth.
*** If you've been accused of a debt you don't owe, you can contact my office for assistance on 07 3899 4031. Please have your CRN handy if possible. ***
One local wrote to me and said:
"I'm feeling completely helpless and overlooked by the Department ... and the current Liberal Government. ... I am adamant that I correctly reported my income to Centrelink."
"I am writing to express my concerns over the Government's new data-matching system, which has left me (and no doubt many others) with an incorrect debt, and an incredible amount of frustration and anxiety."
Another, a single parent who had been through terrible family trauma, had received a claim for a supposed debt of $13,500. She wrote:
"This Centrelink debacle is causing so much stress on already stressed families ... By clawing back money from people who already have so little, the government are acting in a careless and destructive manner to the Australian people."
And there were many more stories.
Shadow Minister Linda Burney is pursuing the government over the debacle. This week, she said:
"Malcolm Turnbull must show some leadership and suspend his Government’s robo-debt mess with nearly half of all Australians disapproving of the scandal-plagued system.
Incompetent Human Services Minister Alan Tudge believes that those falsely accused of owing debt should have to hand over the money until they prove their own innocence but he reckons that Liberal MPs caught rorting the system should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Mr Tudge continues to insist that the program is working well despite scores of stories about false debt appearing in media reports, an active ombudsman’s investigation, possible legal action and calls by welfare groups for the system to be suspended.
Late last week Mr Tudge again reiterated his commitment to continuing the program which is set to target aged pensioners and people with a disability later in the coming year.
Mr Tudge can’t keep denying there is an issue, clearly the community disagrees with him on the robo-debt system.
Many in our community are deeply distressed, and the best the Mr Tudge can do is a letter to the editor in regional papers. That simply isn’t good enough.
Legitimate Centrelink debts should be collected, that’s only fair.
But the Turnbull Government has no right to threaten pensioners, people with disability and vulnerable families with debt collectors when they’ve done nothing wrong.
Labor will continue to hold the Turnbull Government to account for its mismanagement of Centrelink."