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Government pin hopes on automated welfare debt recovery system to claw back $4 billion

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 5/12/2016 A Current Affair

The government are hoping a new automated system matching welfare recipient's details with information from the Australian Tax Office will aid in the recovery of $4 billion in Centrelink overpayments.

Every day, $4.5 million in Centrelink debt is being identified.

It has led to debt notices worth almost $650 million being issued to customers in the past four months.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge says the overall objective is to ensure people are receiving the payments they are entitled to, but no more and no less.

© AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy "Whereas we used to have a manual process of checking people's income records on Centrelink with those on the taxation office's database. Now we have an automated system, so we can do that very quickly, very rapidly and be able to capture more people," Mr Tudge told A Current Affair.

"Previously it took us about a year to do about 20,000 interventions. Now we can do 20,000 interventions in a week."

One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson has proposed her own method of fixing the country's ballooning welfare debt: a national identity card.

She says the system she has proposed and spoken with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about would stop people from rorting welfare payments by using fale identities and aliases.

"If you want to access taxpayer-funded services, then you apply for the card, you present the documentation, prove it is you on a points system, you collect the card. If you don't want the card, fair enough - you pay full price," Ms Hanson said.

One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson. © AAP Image One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson. "The whole fact is you need to stop them getting welfare in the first place if they're not entitled to it."

Australian Council of Social Services CEO Cassandra Goldie has criticised the ramped-up debt recovery action, claiming it is frightening people unnecessarily.

"It's a terrible time of the year and people are feeling like they are going to jail when in most, an overwhelming majority of cases, this is about people who have struggled to keep Centrelink up-to-date with the changed income circumstances," Ms Goldie said.

"People are receiving very small amounts of money anyway to pay for food, to cover bills, to keep a roof over their heads and of course, as we go into Christmas, into the festive season, this is the time of severe financial distress for families and individuals."

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