Media Release: Government’s Robodebt response welcome

Philippa DuncanMedia release, Policy, Policy submissions

Economic Justice Australia has welcomed the Federal Government’s response to the Robodebt Royal Commission and its commitment to treat people on income support with respect.

“It’s time to move from a social security system that punishes and shames people to one that supports people to thrive and reach their full potential,” Economic Justice Australia CEO Kate Allingham said.

Ms Allingham welcomed the Federal Government accepting the majority of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

“The Government needs to collaborate now and turn these recommendations into reality to restore a strong safety net and create a Centrelink that is easy to access,” she said.

“However, we would like to see the question mark removed from the seven recommendations the Federal Government has only given in-principle support, particularly legislation on the limitation of debt recovery, more face-to-face support and social workers at Centrelink and a customer reference group.

“Dealing with Centrelink is often frustrating, confusing, stressful and time-consuming.

“We have to stop pushing people online and give them the option of talking to a real person, with access to a social worker when they need. 

“It’s also very important that the Government listens to people who use Centrelink, because that did not happen during Robodebt.

“Today’s response is positive and we look forward to working with the Government to capture this unique opportunity to restore a strong safety net and create an equitable Australian society where everyone can thrive and reach their potential.

“We are very pleased to have been specifically named as a peak advocacy body that should be consulted prior to implementation of projects involving the modification of the social security system, however we remain concerned about our capacity and that of our member centres, where we get our grassroots intel.”

Economic Justice Australia is the peak group for community legal centres that help people around Australia with free advice on social security. We work with our members to defend the public interest and improve the social security system. This was recognised by the Robodebt Royal Commission which documented how we helped sound the alarm on this policy disaster.

“The phones are ringing off the hook at our member centres with people needing legal help so it’s crucial the next National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP) delivers more funding for social security matters,” Ms Allingham said.

“While we wait for the NLAP review, our legal centres also need immediate funding to help people now. Credit to the Government for committing to fixing Centrelink, but it’s important to remember there are still problems at Centrelink.

“People are still getting debt letters with scant information, the system is still incredibly complex and confusing and there are still alarmingly high rates of automated payment suspensions.”