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Government cannot defend Centrelink debacle

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, Treasury spokesperson for the Australian Greens, says the Turnbull Government has significant questions to answer over the bungled mess created by its obsession with demonising Australia’s poorest people.

He said the Australian Greens also support increased resourcing for Centrelink services so that ‘customers’ can be treated with the dignity they deserve.

“This Government’s focus on ‘fraud crackdown’ as one their main savings items is nothing more than the vilification of income support recipients. Of course the Greens agree that addressing genuine instances of fraud is important, but this current round of data matching is causing needless stress to vulnerable Australians.

“When one in five of these requests for re-payments to Centrelink are wrong, you have to conclude that the fraud recovery program has problems.

“The Centrelink system is fundamentally broken and urgently needs repairing.

“It’s not tenable for the Minister to say that people with incorrect requests for repayment can easily fix this by contacting Centrelink when we are hearing that you often can’t get through to Centrelink.

“The Government has failed to significantly increase funding for fixing the broken Centrelink system. For instance, the number of calls to Centrelink that hit a busy signal has ballooned out to nearly 29 million for 2015-16, up from 22 million the previous year. (1)

“There is clearly a need for the Department of Human Services to have a large injection of staff funding, but this failed to materialise in MYEFO.

“If the Government is so hell-bent on catching out ‘frauds’, then it’s time they turned their attention to those extremely wealthy individuals and businesses, who we know are using tax loopholes to cost the budget bottom line to the tune of millions and millions.

“This government’s debt recovery assault, on recipients who are already in poverty, is a diversion away from the entrenched problems of economic fairness and employment opportunities caused by successive Liberal and Labor governments  – the truth of the matter is that the Minister would rather be defending his government’s fraud recovery program than explaining why the poorest Australians are being treated as the scapegoats for failed policy. “

(1) Source: www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/centrelink-hangs-up-on-29-million-calls-senate-estimates-hears-20161020-gs7ecj.html

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