Editorial

The government has generated controversy over its Centrelink automated debt recovery scheme.

The government has generated controversy over its Centrelink automated debt recovery scheme.

On page 3 of this edition we feature the story of a Mount Isa part pensioner who was shocked to find out his pension was halved at the start of this year.

The changes are as a result of a stricter asset test which reduces the pension by $3 per fortnight for every $1000 of assets above the new assets test threshold. 

While that might not sound like much, it can be a real jolt to the lifestyle of some of our older residents who rely on the pension to get by.

The changes come as the federal government also clamps down on Centrelink debt, with many issues discovered in the automated scheme.

The scheme has produced nearly 170,000 notices of potential overpayments since July, with thousands of Australians incorrectly told they have outstanding debts.

Coalition ministers and the Department of Human Services have defended the system, which cross-references employment data from the Australian Tax Office and Centrelink, however it unfairly places the burden of proof on those receiving the letters and many people have simply paid up to avoid the hassle.

I understand there is a budget deficit and the Turnbull government has a responsibility to live within its means however it seems the government is going after the weakest members of our community to claw back its revenue.

Pensioners and those on Centrelink are least likely to have lobby groups representing them in the halls of parliament and most are unaware of their rights and often frightened by complex and threatening letters. The government is not helping its own case when many of its members are in the news for taking advantage of parliament’s own generous entitlements, claiming travel for polo matches, buying personal property and the like.

It’s hardly any wonder that trust in politicians is so low when they say one thing and do something completely different themselves. The Turnbull government needs to stop demonising those less fortunate as “bludgers” and instead see them as human beings needing respect, and sometimes, help.

And if it wants to claw back money, how about getting rid of the middle class welfare that is negative gearing? DB

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