No compensation for hidden category of Robodebt victims

Services Australia say that most Robodebt refunds have been issued, while a Swan View resident says she is a victim of Robodebt and has not been compensated.
September 14, 2023
Gera Kazakov

FIONA Elsing of Swan View believes she is a victim of Robodebt who has never been compensated, while Services Australia says “a very small number of former customers are still owed a refund.”

Ms Elsing said she is not considered to be a Robodebt victim as she got a debt adjustment on the basis of her payslips, which is why she believes she hasn’t been reimbursed, and is also why she believes she may not be counted amongst the statistics of victims.

She believes she is not the only one who is yet to receive any compensation because of this circumstance as well.

Ms Elsing said she always followed Centrelink’s rules to a tee, but said in 2016 her problems began.

“I reported my earnings, every fortnight, and I got paid my little bit,” she said.

Ms Elsing said she was out of work for most of the year due to sickness, and then to her surprise she got a letter from Centrelink which said she had a debt for $1600 – a debt she said was raised using her ATO income information.

“I absolutely freaked out. I’m on the dole, I have no savings, I’m a single woman, I don’t have a husband to fall back on, and they’re telling me I owe them $1600,” she said.

Ms Elsing said she was in contact with Centrelink as soon as the notice come in an attempt to sort out the debt.

“I couldn’t see where I’d gone wrong, I’d reported my income, like I had for the previous three years! – I did nothing different,” she said.

“So, I went down there, and they couldn’t really explain it – they were very evasive, and they said ‘you mustn’t have reported.’

“And I said, ‘if I don’t report I don’t get your pathetic amount of money,’ so I did report.

“I know how to fill in the forms, because I’ve been doing it for three years!” she said.

Ms Elsing said she successfully appealed the debt  through the use of her payslips, and had the amount reduced.

From that, a few months passed by, before Centrelink again contacted her and explained that they were going to take her to a debt collector.

She said they wanted $400 out of her, and after begrudgingly accepting, as she was back in full time work, she paid back the money.

Ms Elsing said she applied to be a part of the class action. She got back in contact with Centrelink, who informed her she wasn’t eligible for reimbursement as her debt was adjusted on the basis of her pay.

“So, I rang Centrelink again, and they said ‘oh no, you don’t get anything, because we adjusted your debt on the basis of your payslips – so you don’t get anything.’

“So, how can I be working and pretty much not earning much – for three years – and it’s all fine, and then the last year, all of a sudden, I owe them all this money, and to this day, I haven’t got that $400 back!” she said.

Services Australia was contacted for comment and directed Echo News to their website for information about Robodebt.

Services Australia website states that a Robodebt was a debt raised using average ATO income information. It also states that not every Centrelink debt is a Robodebt.

The website states that those who haven’t received a refund may be because Services Australia does not have their current contact information or bank account details.

The Services Australia website states that those who are owed a refund are those whose debts were raised through averaged ATO income information, the debt was issued through their income compliance program between July 2015 and November 19, 2019, and some or all of that debt had to have been repaid.

Those who are not eligible for a refund are those whose debts were later recalculated through their payslips.

The Service Australia website states other categories of non-eligibility for the class action settlement included debts that weren’t based on average ATO information, and those who also made no repayments, as their debts were zeroed.

The Commonwealth and Gordon Legal settled the Robodebt class action with the Federal Court approving the settlement on June 11, 2021, with eligible class action members receiving payment in September 2022.

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