The Commonwealth public service is trying to "bully" Centrelink workers into staying silent on the government's "robo-debt" debacle, according to an independent federal MP.
Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie says the "data-matching" debt recovery effort had reached the point of "high farce" and that Centrelink workers were following their consciences and speaking out about the internal workings of the system.
Mr Wilkie's comments came as another key independent politician, South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, pledged to attempt to decriminalise whistleblowing in the public service.
Public servants at Centrelink have been threatened with disciplinary action or even criminal prosecution as their bosses at the welfare agency try to stem the flow of internal leaks about the agency's robo-debt campaign.
The department followed up the latest revelations with a statement that said some of its workers "do not welcome technology driven change".
But Mr Wilkie said the department was desperate to silence its own workers.
"There is no doubt that the Centrelink debt recovery program has reached the point of high farce, and I don't doubt that both the government, and by direction senior Centrelink management, are now pulling out all stops to try and silence the workers tasked with carrying out the program," he said.
"No public servant should ever be required to support an immoral policy and the government can hardly be surprised that quite a number of public servants are now speaking up.
"For the government and Centrelink management to now be referring to the federal whistleblower framework and the Public Service Code of Conduct is further evidence that they just don't get it because the debt recovery program is the problem, not Centrelink staff.
"Full strength to the rank and file of the Australian Public Service who see the terrible injustice in this farcical situation.
"And woe betide any Australian government that takes disciplinary action or even jails a public servant for following their conscience."