The Senate Community Affairs References committee have tabled their second interim report into Centrelink's Income Compliance Program known as robodebt.
The Committee has tabled this second interim export as it is not in a position to finalise the inquiry because of problems with access to information due to claims of public interest immunity by the Government and the COVID-19 pandemic limiting the Committee’s ability to hold hearings or seek further evidence.
The committee has made 5 recommendations including that an independent review is immediately initiated into the policy, design, administration and impact of Centrelink’s compliance program.
The committee recommends that:
1. Services Australia immediately terminate the Income Compliance Program
2. Services Australia ensure its communication strategy relating to the repayment of unlawfully-raised compliance debts takes into consideration the additional needs of and provides appropriate supports to:
• vulnerable populations, such as people with disability or who are experiencing homelessness;
• people with low literacy and numeracy; and
• people for whom English is not a first language
3. Services Australia immediately allocate additional staff to focus on contacting customers who have not engaged with the refund process in order to ensure the repayment of all unlawfully-raised compliance debts to all affected individuals is completed in a timely manner.
4. Services Australia immediately review its evidentiary responsibilities for raising overpayment debts in all of its compliance programs, with particular reference to:
• the responsibilities of the agency under sections 1222A and 1223 of the Social Security Act 1991 for proving an overpayment debt is due to the Commonwealth; and
• whether section 66A of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 provides an appropriate legal basis for requiring individuals to update income information where there has been no change in circumstances.
5. An independent review is immediately initiated into the policy, design and administration and impact of Centrelink's compliance program, including the Income Compliance Program.
Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie; 0418 401 180