Centrelink staff ‘deserve apology’ over robodebt woes
CENTRELINK employees at the coalface of the robodebt debacle deserve an apology, says the peak sector union.
CPSU Tasmania regional secretary Zac Batchelor said at a rally on Thursday that union members had warned the federal government about robodebt as far back as 2017, and would now be left to clean up its mess.
"We're calling on an apology for the staff - the staff who did the moral thing to raise concerns that this was going to have a terrible impact on the community," he said.
However, he said simply an apology would not be enough.
"We want real change. We want the public service to be able to give frank and fearless advice," he said.
He said staff had been reprimanded for speaking up about robodebt, and he called for staff to be able to raise concerns without fear.
"I've spoken to many staff who no longer work for the department, and they're suffering from mental health issues as a result of the program," he said.
"If you know that a computer algorithm is spitting out something that a quarter of the time is wrong, and you've got to ring people up about those debts, and you know that there's a fair chance they may not owe it, how would you feel?"
Clark Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Franklin Labor MP Julie Collins also raised their concerns about the debacle.
Mr Wilkie said some of the unsung heroes of the robodebt debacle were Centrelink employees.
"I'm sorry that you had to be at the coalface of this, everyday dealing with anxious, upset, sometimes suicidal, sometimes angry clients who were being so badly treated," he said.
"No member of the Australian public service should have been put through what they were put through."
Ms Collins said the government needed to do better by public servants.
The federal government was contacted for comment but the Mercury was directed to a National Press Club speech made by Government Services Minister Stuart Robert on July 7.
Originally published as Centrelink staff 'deserve apology' over robodebt woes