The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Mr Robert,
My name is Elliot Dolan-Evans and I am a voter in Footscray, Melbourne. I am currently completing a PhD at Monash University in political economy and feminist studies, I am a registered medical practitioner, and a law graduate awaiting admittance to the Supreme Court of Victoria.
I write this open letter to condemn the Robodebt Centrelink Scheme unequivocally and urge you to stop enforcing the unsubstantiated debts of vulnerable Australians. If this scheme is to continue at all, which it should not, then any Australian being contacted by Centrelink must be provided with all documents (including the Debt Schedule) that demonstrates the alleged debt, along with calculations and notes determining the alleged debt made by Centrelink, and free legal advice to effectively and fairly challenge it.
As a legal graduate, I am greatly concerned that the hundreds of thousands of Australians who have been contacted by Centrelink have not been given due process under the law. There is a lack of information provided by Centrelink in the first instance to their Robodebt, and even on subsequent requests for proof, Centrelink do not provide the required documents. I have been assisting several friends, colleagues and vulnerable members of the community, and not once has the Debt Schedule of the person alleged to have a debt ever voluntarily sent by Centrelink. Only through FOI requests does this occur, which is a process most Australians do not know how to initiate. Then, when the Debt Schedule is provided, there are no notes, no workings, and no indication as to how the Robodebt has been calculated. A vast majority of Australians do not understand their rights concerning Robodebt claims, do not know the correct process in obtaining documentation, and community legal clinics are so under-funded in this country, by the Australian government, there is no capacity to assist.
As a medical doctor, I am severely concerned that the harassment of vulnerable Australians with Robodebt claims is having a deleterious outcome on mental, and subsequently, physical health. The number of people that I have assisted, who are all predominantly university graduates and young, have been devastated mentally by the ordeal of Centrelink harassment and the quick referral to aggressive debt collectors. This is undeniably translating to poor physical health, and I have serious concerns for those more vulnerable. This is without mentioning the incredibly burdensome financial costs of unproven and unsubstantiated Robodebts. I assert, again, that these debts are unproven and unsubstantiated until Centrelink properly provides all documentation and explanation to those it is trying to extract money from. Otherwise, it is a complete abuse of government power and intimidation, towards people who generally do not have the tools and knowledge to challenge these Robodebts.
Again, I demand that the Centrelink Robodebt Scheme is immediately halted. The physical, financial, and mental impacts that it is having on Australians is absolutely and unequivocally damaging and is fundamentally unjust. For all of those who have been accused of having a debt, whether paid or not, Centrelink must provide all documentation relating to their debt immediately and provide free legal advice to help navigate these damaging accusations.
Elliot Dolan-Evans MBBS, LLB (Hons), BAppSci (Hons)
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