Turnbull government needs to own up to Centrelink debt debacle

The Turnbull Liberal Government’s acknowledgement of the Centrelink debt recovery system farce on Monday was completely inadequate, Lisa Chesters MP says.

“Bendigo and central Victorians who received dodgy Centrelink debt recovery notices are justified in not being happy with the Turnbull Liberal Government’s handling of the matter,” Ms Chesters said.

"Yesterday, the Liberal Minister responsible, Mr. Allan Tudge, admitted there were errors and said the Government would fix them, but refused to suspend the dodgy program.

"The system must be suspended until changes are made to make sure it is fair to everyone — that means those currently paying disputed debts should have the review completed before they are forced to pay.

"People need to have confidence in the system and right now there is not. As a result almost everyone receiving a debt notice is disputing their notice and I can understand why.”

Ms Chesters said frustrated and angry people were contacting her office in droves.

“Far too many Bendigo and Central Victorians have contact my office with complaints about dodgy Centrelink debt notices over the past six to eight weeks.”

Ms Chesters said the Liberal Government’s decision to outsource the debt collecting to private commercial outlets like Dun and Bradsheet has backfired.

"The Liberal Government's decision to outsource its debt collection to commercial third parties has not reduced the workload for Centrelink agencies because it's Centrelink who is responsible for investigations. It has created extra work for a Centrelink workforce which is already understaffed and stretched.

"It has also demonstrated how wasteful this Liberal Government is. The question needs to be asked - will the outsourced debt collection contracts ever collect enough to cover the cost of the debt collection program?”