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A functional Centrelink is key to tackling poverty

This afternoon the Senate had the opportunity to speak on the Government’s response to the Centrelink robo-debt Inquiry which was tabled out of session last month.

“Given that it is Anti-Poverty week it was quite poignant that we were discussing the Government's appalling approach to some of the most vulnerable members of our community who were subject to the robo-debt debacle, Australian Greens spokesperson on Community Services Senator Rachel Siewert said today.

“Central to tackling poverty is a strong social safety net that is adequate, simple to access and that people can have confidence in. 

“Instead, the Government has yet again shown their contempt for people accessing the social safety net in their grossly inadequate response to the Centrelink robo-debt Inquiry recommendations.

"It is frankly insulting to the people who gave evidence to the Inquiry to have that evidence basically blown off. People who in many instances were scared to give evidence because they thought they would be targeted for speaking out.

"The people who gave evidence at the Inquiry were vulnerable people, whose data had been automatically matched without oversight, people who had been harassed by debt collectors days before Christmas, people living below the poverty line wrongly told they only had a number of weeks to pay back thousands of dollars. This Inquiry was about the lives of vulnerable Australians.

“This response shows a Government deeply out of touch with people dependent on our social safety net and its particularly insulting in a week such as this, Anti-Poverty week.

"The Government does not bother to properly respond to the recommendations and continues to pretend that nothing changed through the OCI process which is not true and is clearly pointed out in the Committee report.

“This response also comes in the context of the Government announcing last week that they will be staffing Centrelink call centres with private contractors from Serco.

“While it seems that the Government is finally admitting that staffing of Centrelink call centres is inadequate, it is beyond comprehension that they would seek to ameliorate this problem through employing private contractors.

“We must have a social safety net that actually works to tackle the shameful rate of poverty in this country – one in six children live in poverty.  

The Government response and committee recommendations can be found here.

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