While it's getting increasingly hard to keep up with all the Centrelink news, by now you're probably at least aware of the broader, automated debt recovery fiasco. 

Namely, that the system was designed to inaccurately extrapolate data and put the burden of proof on recipients, not the agency, that they didn't owe whatever figure was conjured up. There's also the government's deeply shitty response to these facts, and that, somehow, they've seen fit to extend the program to pensioners and disabled people.

There's also the fact that stories of Centrelink fucking over recipients are becoming frighteningly easy to come by, to the point where it's demonstrably affecting already at-risk people's mental health because obviously.


Now, on top of the media backlash, public outrage, leaks from within the department and even plans for a Senate inquiry into the mess, activists are fighting back.

Groups protested in both Tudge's electoral office in Wantirna South and Redfern today, where Rebecca Harrison took out her letter and lit that mutha up.


Speaking as someone who'd received a debt letter herself, Harrison argued that Tudge is living in a fantasy world if he believed any of his extremely tone-deaf claims, namely that he hadn't heard of anyone being contacted without owing anything (check out that first tweet above, Al) and problems could be solved with a quick nip into Centrelink:

"No one can walk into a Centrelink office and sort out an incorrect debt, in ten minutes or ten hours.” 

“This automated debt recovery system is causing havoc in my life, and the lives of many other people. The debt letters are often wrong, meaning that thousands are being forced to scramble to chase up payslips from years ago. This creates anxiety and fear amongst ordinary people who have done nothing wrong, and who are simply claiming welfare payments they are perfectly entitled to. We deserve to be treated like human beings, not as statistics in some computer system.” 

“This is a government policy designed to extort money from the poorest in society, while MPs like Alan Tudge and Sussan Ley claim millions in entitlements and the largest corporations get away with paying nothing”. 

“We need more than an investigation or a suspension of the Centrelink debt recovery program. It clearly has systemic problems which cannot be fixed by making minor modifications. More and more welfare claimants will continue to be hit with false debts unless this automated debt program is abolished altogether.”

The Wantirna South demonstrators also occupied Tudge's electoral office, where they hoped to give him a "taste of what it's like dealing with Centrelink". 

Amazingly, this included mock hold music and a debt letter for the $300 million the government has taken from welfare recipients through the (clearly faulty) recovery system since the start of the financial year.


Unfortunately, but also appropriately, Tudge was unavailable to take the letter as he was on holiday.

Still, if the tweets are anything to go by it looks like it was a heck of day.


The next #NotMyDebt protest is scheduled for January 31st, 12:30pm, outside Melbourne's State Library. See ya there, comrades.

Source: Twitter.
Photo: Twitter / Matthew Karstunen.