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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 27

Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (13:42): I also rise to call on the government again to admit that they have made a mistake with Centrelink and with the robo-Centrelink debt recovery program. The minister's comments this morning go nowhere near satisfying the issue or explaining in any detail or acknowledging that he and his department have made a mistake with this program. We have heard already that at least 40 per cent of the debt notices being sent out are wrong. The government need to acknowledge that they made a mistake.

My electorate, like many regional electorates, has been inundated with phone calls from people who have received letters that they claim are wrong and, since, many of these people have been able to prove that these letters are wrong. But that has not stopped the debt recovery agencies hassling and threatening people and saying to them that they will increase the debt by 10 per cent if they do not agree to a payment program—people like a 70-year-old Bendigo resident who is a part-pensioner and earns a part-time income as an integration aide. The ATO and Centrelink assumed that she was working for two different employers. This was wrong. She is not the only one who was sent a letter about mistakes regarding employment. Countless people have contacted my office because the ATO and Centrelink assumed that they were working for two employers when they were not. This government needs to stop going after the most vulnerable in our community. (Time expired)