Our old mate Stuart Robert is back. Is there nothing this man can’t screw up?
Today (29 May 2020) at 4pm Friday he had to take out the trash. This time he announced that Robodebt would be binned, all debts cleared and all monies refunded. Cost of this disaster – $721 million!!! The payments, including interest, will be made to 373,000 people from July 1st.
About 470,000 debts were raised through the scheme, which is now the subject of a class action challenge (which, I suspect made the LNP drop this). The scheme is about 5 years old and Stuart today called the change a “refinement” of Centrelink’s debt recovery programs. The scheme was deemed unlawful in 2019, with the Federal Court saying Centrelink could not have been satisfied the debt was correct.
A bit of background – The system matched Australian Tax Office and Centrelink data to claw back overpaid welfare payments. People were then automatically contacted if Centrelink thought they might owe more than $1000. However, one in five debt letters sent were based on false information.
There was no apology.
Human cost of this disaster – More than 2030 people died after receiving a Centrelink debt notice, also known as robodebt – https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/2030-people-have-died-after-receiving-centrelink-robodebt-notice/10821272 including a 19 Year Old mother – https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/3-top-story-of-2019-robodebt-claims-the-life-of-a-19-year-old-mum,13448 and a 22-year old man – https://www.mamamia.com.au/centrelink-robodebt-death/Tweet