Centrelink debt letter process “designed by a dunderhead” said MP

No doubt you’ve been hearing a lot of controversy about the Centrelink debt letters in recent days. Well, now there’s

No doubt you’ve been hearing a lot of controversy about the Centrelink debt letters in recent days.

Well, now there’s even more controversy with reports of people being asked to pay back thousands of dollars in money they were overpaid by the government.

And according to the government, one in five people who’ve been sent a letter saying they owed money didn’t actually have to pay anything back.

It all comes down to a debt recovery system that Centrelink is using, and it’s got welfare recipients and politicians fired up.

You might remember reading yesterday about social services minister Christian Porter’s defence of the letters, in which he denied they were debt letters and said they were “polite”.

He claims there’s been only a handful of complaints. out of the 169,000 review letters send.

Read more: MP claims Centrelink letters were ‘polite’

Well, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie is the latest to refute that, claiming he’s received more than 100 complaints about the debt recovery process to his electorate office.

Now, according to NewsCorp reports, he’s calling for the Commonwealth Ombudsman to step in and investigate what many are describing as faults with the system.

If you’re one of those people who has received a debt notice, then you’re bound to be amused by what Wilkie had to say.

“You don’t have to be a genius to tell that taking someone’s yearly income and dividing by 26 is not always going to produce accurate results if only because people’s circumstances change,” he said in a statement.

“The government has terrified countless people, ruined the Christmases of many and even driven some people to contemplate taking their own lives.

NewsCorp also reports that he told reporters he had been approached by people he believed were “suicidal” over the issue.

“This is terrifying people, and we’ve got a government who is saying there is no problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, the ABC reports him slamming the debt recovery system itself.

“The methodology behind the calculation is wrong and it’s obviously wrong — I mean, it was designed by a dunderhead,” Wilkie said.



  1. peter  

    Its the your guilty unless you can prove your not, this is not how this country works.The building on the hill is full of dunderheads from all parties its me me me me not a lot of thought process .

  2. Like I’ve said many times. I am so glad that I live in New Zealand and not Australia.

  3. S McAlpine  

    I would say that only the people who have worked so hard over years to hide their assets, and milked the system would be the only ones complaining! There is a lot of scaremongering and hype going on!
    So who is next? Hopefully we will eventually also make the Politicans accountable for their over-the-top generous perks and allowances, to them and their families for life!
    Fair is fair, after all no matter how you look at it, we pay for the lot.

    • Bobbie  

      I worked for many years in Centrelink (from when it was DSS). The vast majority of people applying for pensions or benefits are honest. Many people who could be eligible, do not apply – because they don’t want to feel embarrassed, needy, or under the eye of a huge government department. Most people have worked hard, been good citizens, and have been forced to apply due to ill-health, misfortune, or lack of suitable opportunities.

      Most people who were overpaid were found to have simply overlooked or being unable to understand their finances and the (often complicated) rules. There were a small percentage who deliberately tried to defraud the system, but they were normally discovered due to normal investigative procedures.

      Bringing down the cold hand of “Big Brother” scares people and renders them unsure of their rights and future. Some will cancel their pension, or pay up immediately – without querying the accuracy of the demand.

      It is vital that you keep your own file with details of all dealings with government departments – including details of phone calls. Include times, dates, names, position title, and what was said. Get a receipt number and tell the person you are keeping a record. This could “save your bacon” if you can later prove that you were given incorrect or incomplete information. Make sure you always advise of any changes (up or down) in your finances or circumstances within 14 days. Get a dated receipt or copy of any documents you show to Centrelink (it is a huge organisation and sometimes things do go astray). Be polite – the staff are carrying out government orders – they do not “have it in for you”. Lodge an appeal if you are not satisfied about a decision – or go to see your local MP.

  4. Peter  

    I am with Wilkie on this. The algorithm they are using is seriously flawed.

  5. Vincent Calvo  

    Vincent Calvo

    When I received the letter I thought it was a scam as they demanded a certain amount without giving any specific details and I was about to ring scam watch, I decided to go to Centrelink and call the number given in the letter but no specific details was given,when it happened, dates and the weeks when their computer didn’t collect my payments.
    Please explain,I should I do?

  6. Marj Blamires  

    Sadly Centrelink think they are a law unto themselves, they cannot defend this process, vent when they averaged the income over 26 weeks why did they not send a ‘polite’ enter asking for payslips and take it from there.
    None of Centrelink’s letters are polite, they are all threatening and demanding most of their staff are rude, they ask for respect but give none. The whole department needs an overhaul.

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