By Zane Alcorn
I became aware that Centrelink were trying to pin a cooked-up “robo-debt” of $5558 on me through a text message from the aptly named Probe group debt collection agency.
There resources about how to dispute a Centrelink debt letter, including GetUp! which has a page that sends a bunch of letters to key places in one go.
But given the large and growing number affected by this $4.5 billion heist, I thought I would share my experience of disputing the debt in 10 not exactly easy steps.
1. Keep a diary of interactions with Centrelink
Centrelink staff is caught between two worlds: their managers are trying to make them implement the robo-debt policy but in many cases, the staff themselves are opposed to it. The Centrelink staff union, the CPSU, is against the policy.
Anyone who has ever had to deal with Centrelink will know that every staff member you speak to seems to tell you a slightly different story. It is not uncommon to be told that they have made an appointment or are sending you a letter, or fixed some problem, only to find out later that they did no such thing.
Centrelink whistleblowers have also reported that staff have not been properly trained in how the robo-debt system works, but have been explicitly told by management not to fix any obvious errors that they can see themselves. Instead they will only correct errors that the debt victim points out to them.
For all these reasons, it is important to get the name and staff number of the Centrelink staffer you are talking to every time you speak to them. Jot down notes on what they have said and keep this diary handy.
Read more here.
This story originally appeared in Green Left Weekly and appears by kind permission here.
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