Thursday, 13 February 2020
Pensions and Benefits
Last year I gave a commitment to the Senate to provide further advice in relation to the debt pause in Far North Queensland. Following the Far North Queensland floods in February 2019, Services Australia temporarily paused operational compliance and social welfare debt activity in relevant local government areas, including Townsville. It's routine practice for Services Australia to temporarily pause operational compliance and social welfare debt activities in regional areas affected by natural disasters, as is the case currently with the bushfire affected areas in the southern states and the recent floods. This ensures that, during what can be a very difficult time for customers, particularly when they're displaced or experiencing hardship, they can focus on the immediate recovery from disaster.
Last year I said to the Senate I would provide an update when the pause in relation to Townsville and the area was to be lifted. Today I am advising the Senate that, in the coming week, operational compliance and social welfare debt activity raising recovery and compensation will recommence for the LGAs that were affected by the February 2019 Far North Queensland flood. To be clear, this does not apply to cases where income averaging has been used as the sole basis for debt raising. As the government announced in November, where Services Australia calculated debt solely through the income averaging method, the debt recovery process is still frozen.