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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 51


Ms BURNEY (Barton) (15:09): My question is to the Prime Minister. Anne Foley is a 67-year-old pensioner who received a Centrelink debt recovery notice for around $36,000. As a result, Centrelink cut off Mrs Foley's pension, causing her considerable stress and anxiety. But, two weeks later, Centrelink admitted they got it completely wrong and reinstated her pension. Are pensioners like Anne suffering because the only thing the Prime Minister is focused on is trying to fix his broken government?

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (15:10): I would invite the minister to respond in more detail to the question. I assume the honourable member has given the details of this constituent of hers to the minister beforehand. But, if she has not made that available, then the minister will certainly investigate the matter that you have raised. I just want to repeat what he said: that the focus has been to ensure that, where anomalies are detected consistent with practices put in place long ago under the Labor government, people are able to correct the record. And, of course, if they do owe money to Centrelink, it should be recovered. I will ask the minister to enlarge on that.

Mr TUDGE (AstonMinister for Human Services) (15:11): As the Prime Minister said, I would be happy to look into the case that the member has identified. I am sure she would have informed that constituent of hers to call the 1800 number. I am sure she would have informed her constituent that that person has an opportunity for a reassessment or a review or a further appeal, because those opportunities have always been the case.

I am always very careful when Labor puts up examples of people who have been aggrieved. I make no judgement of this particular case but, over the summer, Labor put up some 52 examples to the media of people who were so-called aggrieved by this process. It transpires that a third of all of those cases had nothing to do with the online compliance system. Of the ones that did, the majority also owed money back to the taxpayer. The member for Barton herself admitted that she could not know whether or not the people she put up to the media actually owed money but she put them up in any case. I will provide some examples of the ones which she did put up to the media. It provides a very clear case as to why we need to do this important work for the taxpayer. Here is one: a Victorian person had received—

Mr Burke: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on direct relevance. This question deals with one constituent who had received a debt notice of $36,000 and had her pension stopped. That is what is relevant to this question.

Mr Dutton interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection will cease interjecting.

Mr Morrison interjecting

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Treasurer will cease interjecting, as will the Leader of the House. The Minister for Human Services has the call.

Mr TUDGE: As I was saying, here is a case that the Labor Party put up to the media. The person who had received—

The SPEAKER: I would just say to the minister that he has had a preamble. There was a very specific element to the question. He is entitled to address—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Members on my left will cease interrupting me. He is entitled to address the policy issue but, in the remaining time, he needs to bring himself to the specific part of the question or wind his answer up.

Mr TUDGE: As I said, I am very happy to look at that particular case, but here is another example of the ones which they put up to the media.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr TUDGE: This goes to the heart of why we need to have a robust system like this. It is a person they put up who had declared income of $9,000 when in fact the ATO data showed $48,000 from a business.

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat. There are four seconds left. The Manager of Opposition Business is seeking to raise another point of order under relevance, I presume.

Mr Burke: Mr Speaker, you gave a ruling on relevance and the minister is flouting that ruling.

The SPEAKER: I will be the judge of that. As I said, the question did have a specific element. It had another element to it as well. With four seconds to go that is probably enough, I think, and I will call the member for Fisher.