Labor promises royal commission into failed Robodebt scheme if elected

Speaking in Perth, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and shadow minister for government services Bill Shorten announced the party is committing to establishing a royal commission, the highest form of inquiry with the powers to summon witnesses, into the Robodebt scheme before the end of the year.

The robodebt scheme saw hundreds of thousands of Australians wrongly pursued by Centrelink for welfare debts. (AAP)

The failed program saw 443,000 Australians wrongly pursued by Centrelink for $1.7 billion in welfare debts they didn’t owe, after the Federal Government in 2015 switched to an automated income averaging system that produced false information.

Hundreds of thousands of Australians paid those debts before it was ruled in court that the scheme was unlawful and, in many cases, incorrect.

In 2020, the Federal Government had to refund $721 million in debts that had been wrongly collected from 381,000 people.

A class action settlement worth at least $1.8 billion was also approved for victims of the scheme.

Mr Shorten today said the royal commission would cost up to $30 million and would “find out who was responsible” for the failed scheme.

“We want to find out what with the processes, what advice did they get, did they get bad advice? Did they get no advice? Or did they get good advice that they ignored,” he said.

“We want to do the accounting of harm. In essence, the Robodebt royal commission is about justice for the victims.”

Shadow minister for government services Bill Shorten speaks on the robodebt scandal.
Mr Shorten today said the royal commission would “find out who was responsible” for the failed scheme. (9News)

Mr Shorten also claimed the proposal of a royal commission is at the request of victims of the scheme.

“I haven’t met victims of Robodebt who don’t want royal commission,” Mr Shorten said.

“I just think taxpayers want justice, victims want justice.”

Mr Albanese also took aim at the Prime Minister for not taking responsibility for the scandal.

“This is a guy who was a social security minister who presided over the scheme and yet again he won’t take responsibility,” he said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese holds a press conference in Perth.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Mr Morrison should be held accountable for the scheme. (9News)

Scott Morrison said earlier the “problem has been addressed” when asked if the Coalition would also establish inquiries.

“There have been numerous inquiries into this and there’s been court matters which we’ve fully cooperated in, and almost $750 million in response to that,” Mr Morrison said.

“And the changes in the scheme have been in place.

“So the problem has been addressed, but any such inquiry, I imagine, would have to start with the process of income assessment, averaging of income, which was introduced by the Labor Party.”

Tanya Plibersek shared a throwback photo to Twitter to remind young Australians to enrol. The deadline to do so 8pm tonight.

Throwback photos of federal politicians

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