Thursday, 2 March 2017
I live in and represent an amazing community in the electorate of Longman. It is an electorate that really is a community of communities. As I mentioned in a speech yesterday, the average median income in my electorate is just $27,000 a year. That is just over $500 a week. If the people in Longman have not had enough financial stress in their lives, now they are faced with the Centrelink robo-debt debacle. If that was not enough, we have now seen this government take things to a level beyond belief. They have now exposed personal details. Can you actually believe this? The government's handling of this issue has been what can be called quintessential LNP—careless, heartless and dispassionate. These are just ordinary people in Longman who do not need to be harassed by a robotic system that lacks any semblance of empathy.
One Longman resident is a 63-year-old lady. She was the victim of one of these robotic attacks last year. She came to me for assistance. She asked that her story about this debacle be told. She said that it had to be brought to light, but that her personal details should not be. She was told that she owed over $4,000 for an overpayment of her Newstart allowance. I cannot even begin to imagine how she felt when she went to the letterbox and opened that envelope. But what makes this story worse is that this was not the first time. Back in 2013, she was erroneously informed that she owed $300 to Centrelink. Imagine her having finally settled that last issue, which was quite stressful, only to be faced with this yet again. I am sure what still sits in the back of her mind is: 'When will the next letter arrive? Do I have to go through this once more? Can I deal with this again, with the process of going through Centrelink?' and having her debt cleared because she actually did not owe one. Does she have to do this again at the age of 63?
On behalf of the people of Longman, enough is enough. The other robotic system that lacks empathy, the Turnbull government, must fix this mess. They must fix it respectfully and protect the privacy of all Australian people, including the people of Longman.