STATEMENT: Centrelink Robo-Debt Debacle

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (16:38): I would like to take the opportunity to report to the House an initiative that has had a significant impact on many, not just in my electorate but across the country, and that is the government's cruel, unfair and unnecessary Centrelink robo-debt disaster. I have been contacted by a large number of my constituents who have been very unfairly subjected to threatening letters from the government demanding they immediately repay a debt that they often do not actually have. These are not people who have been rorting the system, as the government has attempted to accuse them of; they are people who went to Centrelink for help in a time of need—as they are, and should be, entitled to do—and they reported their earnings when they were asked to do so. The stress that this has caused to many people in my electorate is severe. For many, the task of having to prove their income and earnings from upwards of six years ago has been very difficult. Even those who are able to obtain records are forced onto repayment systems while a review occurs.

I want to take the opportunity to share the personal experience of one of my constituents, and this is with his permission. This constituent is a former police officer and a current senior legal professional. He expresses great concern about the difficulties that he had in dealing with an incorrect debt and reflects on the fact that, with all his skills and knowledge, it was a very stressful and difficult process. He can only imagine how hard it is for people who do not have those resources at their disposal.