Government rejects 'robo-debt' inquiry findings

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The Turnbull government has rejected findings of a Senate inquiry into its controversial "robo-debt" system for welfare payments, the Canberrra Times reports.

Responding to a June report which slammed the process of issuing debt notices to thousands of Australians based on matching and averaging of income records held by Centrelink and the Tax Office, the government said some third parties' complaints had been "aimed solely at scoring political points".

The inquiry said debts calculated by averaging of income across a 12-month period should be reassessed, with the system redesigned and effective risk assessment process put in place.

It said the program had caused a "profoundly negative impact on the lives of thousands of Australians" and was responsible for trauma suffered by innocent welfare recipients required to prove they did not owe money demanded by Centrelink.

In April, a Commonwealth Ombudsman report found Centrelink's demands on former welfare recipients were neither "reasonable" nor "fair".

Yesterday, the government said there was no evidence to support the recommendation that the online system should be put on hold.

"The government's clear position, supported by the independent Commonwealth Ombudsman report, is that it is appropriate to ask people for information when there are differences between their income details held by the Department of Human Services and other third parties such as the Australian Taxation Office," it said.

It said the Department of Human Services was in the process of writing to all recipients of debt notices from the online system to remind them of their review rights.

The department was seeking to call recipients who had been referred to debt collection agencies.

The government said it took seriously the use of individuals' private information and income reviews were only used when recipients failed to provide the information needed to calculate their fortnightly income.

Controversy about debt demands has dogged the government since late 2016, despite Human Services Minister Alan Tudge maintaining the system was working effectively.

Greens community services spokeswoman Senator Rachel Siewert said the response was grossly inadequate and showed contempt for recipients of debt notices.


Government accused of insulting 'robo-debt' recipients in inquiry response (Canberra Times)

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