The Guardian • Issue #2022


Robotdebt royal commission announced

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2022

Last month, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese officially called a royal commission into the unlawful debt recovery scheme known as “Robodebt.”

The Albanese government has selected Former Queensland Supreme Court Justice Catherine Holmes to supervise the commission, with a final report due by 18th April, 2023.

According to Albanese, “The royal commission will examine the establishment of the scheme, who was responsible for it and why it was necessary, how concerns were handled, how the scheme affected individuals and the financial costs to government, and measures to prevent this ever happening again.”

Speaking on the failure of the previous government and its handling of Robodebt, Government Services Minister Bill Shorten added that “The [former] government has never satisfactorily explained how this monster scheme got away from the system and got a life of its own.”

Robodebt was an attack on Australia’s working class and poor and deeply affected the lives of countless people, taking approximately $750 million from 381,000 Australians – averaging almost $2,000 per person. Some were told they owed more, much more.

The ABC reported on one victim of the scheme, Emma Warren, who was told she owed $8,000 to the government. Warren is a Newcastle resident who was a researcher and tutor at the University of Newcastle until 2015, when she became too sick to continue working. She told ABC: “I was just so absolutely shocked […] I’d been someone that had always been doing the right thing by the government. […] To be saddled with a debt of $8,000 when you’re unable to work, it was just crushing.”

However, stories like these appear to be of little importance to opposition leader Peter Dutton. The royal commission into Robodebt is an opportunity to learn and prevent such a disaster from reoccurring. But Dutton believes otherwise, stating:

“It’s nothing more than a political get square with Scott Morrison […]. [They’re] looking in the rear vision mirror rather than in front. He should be concentrating on families and less on how he can get square.”

Forget that the Albanese government has already raised the minimum wage, passed a climate bill, stripped the ABCC of its powers, and put content forward on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, apparently, the new Labor government isn’t looking forward enough!

While we won’t know the commission’s findings for several months, this commission is a positive step in shedding light on the injustices of many welfare recipients in Australia over the course of the Robodebt fiasco. While it is unlikely that those responsible will face any consequences for implementing this scheme, hopefully the report can ensure that this never happens again.

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