Help stop the Centrelink automated debt collection

QCOSS urges you to take action to stop the Centrelink automated debt collection process.

About the issue

As part of the 2016/17 Federal Budget, the government identified $4billion of savings to be achieved through recuperation of overpayments made through the income support system. 

Since July 2016 the Australian Government has ramped up the system for identifying possible fraud by cross-referencing data from Centrelink with other areas of government, principally employment data from the Australian Tax Office. The fully automated system, known as an Online Compliance Intervention System, is examining records from up to six years ago although legislation has been passed that removes any statute of limitations on investigations. 

There are 20,000 letters being issued a week, an increase from the 20,000 a year issued with the previous system. Almost 170,000 notices of potential overpayment have been issued since July 2016. 

The system does not appear to be able to accurately match the periods of work with the periods of benefit receipt.  It instead appears to be using automated methods such as averaging income across the 26 fortnights of the year in question, creating false impressions of double payments.

The Government has not provided any information on the number of people affected.  

Actions to be undertaken by the Australian Government

  • QCOSS calls on the Australian Government to:
    • suspend the current scheme including any further action against individuals who have been affected
    • ensure the scheme is independently reviewed including cases of individuals already affected
    • convene a roundtable of stakeholders to ensure that those affected receive the information, support and assistance they need to address the issue, and
    • ensure Centrelink is adequately resourced to support all operations including any future debt recovery actions.

More about the issue in the QCOSS Policy Statement - Centrelink Debt Issue.

Action you can take


QCOSS has sent letters to all Queenslandand Senators and Federal MPs, Minister Tudge and the Prime Minister.  Feel free to use these as the basis for you letter or draft your own.

Letter to Senators and MPs

Letter to Minister Tudge

Letter to Prime Minister

Contact details for Senators and MPs

Make a submission to the Senate Enquiry - Design, scope, cost-benefit analysis, contracts awarded and implementation associated with the Better Management of the Social Welfare System initiative

A Senate Enquiry has been announced and this is our next formal piece of advocacy on this issue.  We will be working with the COSS network as well as submitting our findings about the issue.  If you wish to be involved in this submission please let us know by emailing [email protected]. Submissions close on 22 March 2016.

Tell us your stories

QCOSS is continuing to collect stories of impact about this issue.  Send your stories to Karen Murphy [email protected]