The many thousands of Australians who fell victim to Robodebt deserved answers, and their plight was summed up succinctly by today’s Royal Commission report which stated that:
“Robodebt was a crude and cruel mechanism, neither fair nor legal, and it made many people feel like criminals. In essence, people were traumatised on the off-chance they might owe money. It was a costly failure of public administration, in both human and economic terms.”
After years of cruelty, denial and obfuscation by a succession of LNP governments, I welcome the Royal Commission’s findings.
I was among the first to raise the alarm about Robodebt, as early as 2016, in public, with the Ombudsman, and relevant Ministers, after hearing from many distressed constituents who had received frightening and unfounded debt notices. We heard countless shocking stories, including in one case a person who was presented to our office so distressed they curled up into a ball and broke down in tears. Too many people’s lives were destroyed by Robodebt.
The Government must now bring to account those responsible for this shocking abrogation of responsibility and introduce much-needed systemic reforms to Centrelink. Australians deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and have access to an effective income support system.