As Centrelink chases down debts as low as $20 for some welfare recipients, the government has decided to waive nearly half a million dollars owed to the taxpayer by former Family First Senator Bob Day and his staff for the time when he was declared ineligible to be elected by the High Court.

In April, the Court of Disputed Returns found that Day was incapable of sitting or being chosen as a senator because the lease of his Adelaide electorate office was effectively paid to him by the Commonwealth, which was in breach of section 44 of the constitution.

Department of Finance officials then wrote to Day saying that he had to pay back salaries, superannuation, and staff payments. Day applied to the Special Minister of State to have the debt waived and Ryan yesterday confirmed the government’s intention to absolve Day of his debts.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on RN Drive yesterday confirmed the amount could be as high as $464,000 for the total costs back to February 2016 — the day the lease was signed and Day became ineligible. Joyce defended the decision, stating that Day had turned up to work to do the job, and indicated it was unfair on the staff to have to pay the money back. 

The $464,000 is on top of the $1.8 million in grants given to trades training schools connected to Bob Day.

It came just a week after the Senate heard that Centrelink had a policy to waive debts of less than $50 but has pursued debts as low as $20 if it was the remainder owed of a larger debt.

Former-One-Nation-party-member-who-never-was-a-senator-but-still-thinks-he-is Rod Culleton can also apply for a waiver but hasn’t done so yet.