Finance Welfare Centrelink clears robo-debt in legal case

Centrelink clears robo-debt in legal case

centrelink
Centrelink has wiped a second robo-debt in a case going through the courts. Photo: TND
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Centrelink has wiped a $2750 debt in the second Federal Court case against the controversial robo-debt collection of welfare payments, but a hearing is still expected to go ahead.

Government worker Deanna Amato, 33, had her $2754 robo-debt cleared after the overpayment was recalculated at $1.48, Victoria Legal Aid said.

“I’m stunned that it was recalculated so easily after I took legal action,” Ms Amato said, after a hearing in the Melbourne court on Friday.

“Centrelink will make you jump through hoops to prove your innocence, but it turns out they were capable of finding out if my reporting was correct and that I didn’t owe them anything like what the robo-debt claimed I owed.

“It makes me question the system even more.”

Centrelink refunded her more than $1700 after it took her full tax refund this year, she said.

Nurse Madeleine Masterton is also fighting her case in the same court.

Both Ms Amato’s and Ms Masterton’s debts have now been cleared, prompting concern about others who might have paid inaccurate debts.

“It makes me wonder how many people have paid supposed debts that were completely inaccurate,” Ms Amato said, adding the system needed to be changed.

The federal government’s automatic debt collection system has been criticised for being inaccurate after reports of peopling paying false debts.

The Senate’s community affairs committee will scrutinise the system, as Labor calls to axe robo-debt, while the Greens push for a second inquiry.

Victoria Legal Aid spokesman Rowan McRae said the system must go.

“We cannot accept a system that is so clearly flawed and causing overwhelming hardship to the most disadvantaged people in our community,” he said.

“It is important that a court looks at the lawfulness of the process Centrelink relies on to decide that people owe them money.”

Ms Amato’s case will go to a hearing on December 2, while Ms Masterton is due to have a hearing after this case is determined.

-AAP