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Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Page: 1121

Pensions and Benefits


Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (14:52): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Government Services, Senator Ruston. In May, Anastasia McCardel—the mother of Bruce McCardel, who was in receipt of a disability pension until he died in November last year—received a call from a Centrelink officer and was told her son, Bruce McCardel, owed a debt of $6,744.52. Ms McCardel has said:

I wanted to know how they thought Bruce would have worked his way through his paperwork when he actually was dead.

What advice can the minister give Ms McCardel?


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaMinister for Families and Social Services and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:53): I thank the senator for her question. Obviously, it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment about an individual case in this place. However, I am more than happy to take the matter on notice and provide the senator with a response after I've had discussions with the minister responsible for the Department of Human Services, Minister Robert, in the other place. However, I will not be making any public comments about a particular case in this place.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brown, a supplementary question.



Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (14:53): I have a first supplementary question. Ms McCardel has said that the Centrelink officer:

… made out that I was responsible for those payments.

Does the minister consider Ms McCardel responsible for payments made to her deceased son?


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaMinister for Families and Social Services and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:54): I do refer to my answer to the previous question. I am more than happy to take the question on notice and discuss it with my colleague in the other place, Minister Robert, because I don't believe it's appropriate for me to stand in this place and make a comment on a particular case on an allegation that you have made, but I am more than happy to take the matter up with Ms McCardel directly.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brown, a final supplementary question.



Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (14:54): The government's robo-debt scheme is seriously malfunctioning with inaccuracy, cruel enforcement measures and a lack of oversight. When will the government stop targeting vulnerable Australians and admit that its harsh and unfair robo-debt scheme has failed?


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaMinister for Families and Social Services and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:54): I thank the senator for her follow-up question. Without being specific about any particular cases, which I have indicated that I will not be prepared to do, broadly speaking, as the Minister for Families and Social Services, my focus is not on debt recovery. My focus is on two things. One is to make sure that my policies are developed in such a way so that people don't incur debt in the first place. The other is in providing a fair and sustainable social welfare system going into the future. This also includes ensuring that people get what they deserve and what they are entitled to. When somebody does receive a payment for which they are not entitled, there is a reasonable expectation in this place and a reasonable expectation in the wider Australian community that we will recover that debt. In certain circumstances, there is an argument where we are more than happy to speak to individuals who have specific circumstances to assist them through difficult times. (Time expired)