Re: This is not the first time
Actually it was also illegal because it wasn't generating reliably accurate information, something they were alerted to by the people building the system prior to the launch.
They alerted the dept. to the fact that only approximately 20% of debts generated would actually be in arrears (as the averaging means everybody on casual would have to have the exact same hours every fortnight for it to not detect them incorrectly). I mean the math given to the company contracted to build the software literally doesn't work, which is why the company contacted them.
The company were then told by the dept contacts each one would be checked manually prior to any notices being sent out. This was not the final form obviously as all of the false positives were sent out without any human oversight.
The further issues were that little-no investigation of incorrect notices and a brushing off of claims occurred with staff being told that all of them were just making excuses. Mid-level staff knew the issue was occurring, but a lot still refused to wipe the false debts, pursuing the false claims and garnishing payments from client bank accounts. When confronted, staff were instructed to say there was an incorrect calculation, and reduce the amount, usually clients would have to confront the staff and challenge the debt three to four times prior to it being wiped, during this process clients would be told that all payments would be stopped during the challenge process or if the client took legal action or talked to the press.
Now some of the people who went to the press hadn't actually released their details except a first name, centerlink decided then to release all of their information some of which the newspapers didn't actually include, they released information such as people's full names, addresses (see some of the daily tele articles), and financial states. Not only this, but they also released some of the misleading information that had been generated by the system making the further claim that they had accrued these debts by cheating the system. Others were not even people who had gone to the newspapers, they were legit cheats or had made mistakes on their forms.
Add in that it turns out they were informed of the issues with the debts within 6 months of the start of the program, they refused to record their conversations prior and during the program with legal council (which could indicate a foreknowledge what they were doing was illegal), and kept pushing on the lower levels of management that they were all legit.
If this were a private company they could be sued for fraud, negligence resulting in wrongful death and possibly a bunch of other charges. As they are a government department the most we can hope for is that the people in positions responsible are sacked and are never allowed to work in government again. Doubtful that will happen, but we can hope.