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PM denies fault over illegal Centrelink robo-debt debacle

Prime Minister Scott Morrison – who was social services minister when the robo-debt scheme was conceived and as treasurer touted the billions of dollars it was supposed to rake in – has denied responsibility for the welfare debacle which has resulted in a $1.2 billion class action settlement.

Nov 25, 2020, updated Nov 25, 2020
Photo: AAP/James Ross

Photo: AAP/James Ross

Morrison continued the welfare debt recovery program as prime minister and pinned a promised return to surplus on its projected windfall.

The government finally pulled the plug on the policy late last year in the face of a Federal Court challenge and settled a class action earlier this month, before the case went to trial.

The robo-debt scheme removed human checks from the system and completely automated the process while also reversing the onus of proof and making welfare recipients prove they didn’t owe money to the government.

Thousands of debt notices demanding repayments were based on false information.

But Morrison argues the use of income averaging brought the robo-debt scheme undone, not the full automation of the process.

“It’s actually not about the computer, it’s about the assumption made that a debt is raised by averaging people’s incomes,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday.

“Income averaging was found not to be a valid means of raising a debt, that’s what it’s about. This is just the Labor Party trying to throw some mud.”

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Robo-debt victims are set to receive $112 million in compensation, be repaid $720 million and have $400 million in unlawful debts wiped.

Labor is pushing for a royal commission into the illegal program.

“We’ve got on with fixing it, that’s what we’ve got on with doing, Labor wants to just keep kicking it along for their own political reasons,” the prime minister said.

-with AAP

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