Speaking in Perth, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Shadow Government Services Minister Bill Shorten announced the party was committed to establishing a royal commission, the highest form of inquiry empowered to summon witnesses, on the Robodebt scheme before the end of the year.
The scheme’s failure saw 443,000 Australians wrongfully sued by Centrelink for $1.7billion in social security debt they didn’t owe, after the federal government in 2015 switched to an automated income-averaging system who produced false information.
Hundreds of thousands of Australians paid off those debts before the court ruled that the scheme was illegal and, in many cases, incorrect.
In 2020, the federal government had to repay $721 million in debts that were wrongly collected from 381,000 people.
A class action settlement worth at least $1.8 billion has also been approved for victims of the scheme.
Mr Shorten today said the royal commission would cost up to $30 million and ‘find out who was responsible’ for the scheme failing.
“We want to know about the processes, what advice did they get, did they get bad advice? Have they received no advice? Or did they get good advice that they ignored,” he said.
“We want to report on the harm. Essentially, the Royal Robodebt Commission is about justice for victims.”
Mr Shorten also claimed that the proposal for a royal commission was at the request of the victims of the scheme.
“I haven’t come across any victims of Robodebt who don’t want a royal commission,” Mr Shorten said.
“I just think taxpayers want justice, victims want justice.”
Mr Albanese also blamed the Prime Minister for not taking responsibility for the scandal.
“It was a guy who was Minister of Social Security who presided over the regime and once again he will not take responsibility,” he said.
Scott Morrison earlier said the “issue has been resolved” when asked if the Coalition would also open investigations.
“There have been numerous investigations into this and there have been court cases that we have fully cooperated with, and almost $750 million in response to that,” Mr Morrison said.
“And the changes in the regime have been put in place.
‘So the problem has been solved, but any such investigation I would imagine would have to start with the process of assessing earnings, average earnings, which was introduced by the Labor Party.’
Retrospective photos of federal politicians