Tuesday, 1 June 2021
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
Let me thank the member for Clark for his question. The government is committed to a very strong social safety net, as are all members in this House. Services Australia will pay over $125 billion this year in support payments, and, as at late May, 5.36 million Australians were in receipt of some payments.
As the House is aware, we run a very targeted social welfare system. With that comes complexity. This includes complex interactions between members' income and their assets, as well as how much they earn. It's for these reasons that a key obligation of our welfare system is for individuals to update the department on their circumstances, if they change, to ensure that entitlements are accurately calculated. The department, of course, has an obligation to undertake substantial compliance activity to ensure the right people get the right amount of money at the right time.
As the member has noted, debt raising was paused during the height of COVID and has recommenced from 1 February this year, because Services Australia has a lawful obligation to do so. From 1 February, the department has also included SMS notifications on changes to repayments and repayment plans, as well as nudges, in line with myGov messaging. Services Australia has used the debt pause to re-evaluate exactly how its approach to service offering is made with respect to overpayments and to make it as contemporary as possible. For example, the IVR, the interactive voice response, when you dial into Centrelink, now provides—