On 31 July 2019, the Senate referred an inquiry into Centrelink's compliance program to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 4 December 2019. On 18 September 2019, the Senate granted an extension of time for reporting until 25 March 2020. On 13 February 2020, the Senate granted an extension of time for reporting until 19 August 2020. The reporting date has been further extended to 2 December 2020.
Further detail about the scope of the inquiry is provided in the terms of reference.
Inquiry update – September 2020
The committee tabled an interim report on 1 September 2020 to address evidence received about the operation and impact of the income compliance program in the first 12 months of the inquiry.
With a wide range of matters relating to the income compliance program's legality, implementation and impact still uncertain at the time of that interim report, the committee is continuing to pursue further evidence about these matters in the next phase of its inquiry.
Call for further submissions
The committee is inviting new submissions, including supplementary submissions from organisations and individuals who have already provided evidence to the inquiry, and requests that these are provided by 17 September 2020.
New and supplementary submissions should address the existing terms of reference, however the committee is particularly interested in receiving further evidence about:
- the legality and impact of using a 'reverse onus of proof' to acquire income information in the income compliance program
- Services Australia's processes and progress in repaying debts based on income averaging to date
- the impact that changes to the income compliance program have had on individuals, the community sector and Services Australia since November 2019
- the future of Centrelink compliance activities and programs, particularly compliance activities for the recovery of social security overpayments, in light of those changes.
The committee is also interested in receiving personal accounts and evidence about the experience of individuals who are still being impacted by the income compliance program or other Centrelink compliance activities based on averaged income, particularly those who:
- have outstanding income compliance reviews that have not been completed and are currently paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- have outstanding reviews or reassessments of their income compliance program debts, or are seeking to have a review or reassessment
- received, or are waiting to receive, a repayment of a debt based on income averaging
- have been subject to debts raised based on income averaging in other Centrelink complianceactivities
- believe that they are entitled to a refund of a debt, but have been informed otherwise by Services Australia.
Making a submission
If you would like to make a submission, you may find it helpful to look at the guide for preparing a submission. It includes suggestions on what to include in a submission, a check list, and information about what happens to your submission once it has been received by the committee.
Submissions may be published on the internet
The committee can decide to receive submissions as public documents—which are published on the committee webpage. If your submission is published, the information in it, including your name, can be searched for on the internet.
You can ask for your submission to be confidential
The committee can also decide to receive submissions on a confidential basis or with your name and personal details withheld. If you do not want your submission to be publicly available, you can ask the committee to keep your submission confidential – please include the word confidential on the front of your submission as well as a reason for requesting confidentiality.
Getting help with a compliance debt or refund
While the committee welcomes submissions from individuals about their experiences of Centrelink's compliance program, it does not have the ability to advise on, advocate for, or take action relating to individual cases.
For assistance with your compliance debt or refund, please contact the services below:
If you are unsure about any information you have been given about a potential debt from Centrelink, if you are having trouble doing what Centrelink asks, or if you have questions about the refund process, you can contact Centrelink at 1800 086 400 for general compliance program help or 1800 171 846 for refund help.
If you want to know about the Robodebt Class Action, speak to Gordon Legal (https://gordonlegal.com.au/robodebt-class-action) for further information.
If you need legal advice, you can contact your local legal aid provider (www.nationallegalaid.org) or welfare rights organisation (www.nssrn.org.au).
If you need advice on a repaying debt to Centrelink, you can contact the National Debt Helpline (http://www.ndh.org.au/Debt-problems/Centrelink-debt or 1800 007 007) to talk with a financial counsellor for free.
If you want to talk with someone about the impact of the Centrelink compliance program on your mental health and wellbeing, you can contact one of the services below: