As the Government puts their fingers in their ears and say LA LA LA over the Centrelink debt scandal – in which thousands of Australians have been sent notices indicating they owe Centrelink money – Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has finally, clearly stated Labor‘s position: scrap it.
Shorten, who is on holidays ’til the end of the week, hadn’t spoken on the shitstorm as yet, leaving it entirely up to social services spokesperson Linda Burney to shoulder the response. Speaking to Fairfax, Shorten said that Malcolm Turnbull should admit the program doesn’t work and suspend it:
This farce has to end. This stuff-up has delivered a summer from hell for thousands of people who have done absolutely nothing wrong. They are hounding ordinary Australians for debts they do not owe. It’s a toxic mix of incompetence and cruelty. I’m saying to the Prime Minister, just admit you’ve stuffed this up and suspend the program now.
Shorten further said that the notices had ‘ruined Christmas’ for a sizeable portion of Australian recipients. His comments follow Anthony Albanese‘s remarks on Friday, where he made similar calls for the government to suspend the program:
— SBS News (@SBSNews) January 6, 2017
A report in The Australian at the end of last week indicated that Labor bears some of the responsibility, given that they introduced the enhanced auto-matching computer system that the Coalition has ramped up.
Some estimates indicate that a solid chunk – up to 30% – of the debt notices being sent out are not legitimate, sometimes forcing recipients to dig through six-year old payslips to prove that they do not owe the debt. MP Andrew Wilkie says that he has received calls from people who reported feeling suicidal at seeing the size of the debt they allegedly owed.