Minister Alan Tudge refusing to suspend or scrap the automated debt recovery system demonstrates a huge failing to comprehend the struggles and distress that the program has caused to people accessing the social safety net, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said today.
“The Coalition is scrambling around trying to work out why voters are so disillusioned and sick of major parties, well they only have to look at the huge disconnect demonstrated by Minister Tudge today.
“Rather than empathise and listen with open ears about the overwhelming failures of the debt recovery system and the Centrelink system at large, Minister Tudge put his hands over his ears and continued to spruik a damaging system that has well and truly flat lined.
“Has the Minister no comprehension of how broken Centrelink is or is he choosing to ignore it? For him to defend wait times by referring to the average wait time of 12 minutes to get through to Centrelink on the phone is farcical.
“Thousands of people wait hours and hours to get through, the number of calls to Centrelink that hit a busy signal ballooned out to nearly 29 million for 2015-16, up from 22 million the previous year. He says to just go in to a local branch if you can’t get through – what if you’re rural or remote? What if you get there and get told to call up, which we know is occurring.
“I urge the Minister to step out of his ivory tower and go talk to people who feel completely at a loss, having to prove their innocence and rake through their records from years ago.
"If the Minister truly listened he would realise where the automated debt recovery system needs to be abandoned".