Updated: Aug 30, 2022
Robodebt refers to the informal debt recovery system initiated by the Coalition Government in 2015. The system resulted in $2 billion in payments being unlawfully claimed from more than 430,000 and was heavily criticised. The Albanese Government has announced a Royal Commission into the scheme with a final report due by April 2023.
Establishment of Debt Recovery Scheme
In 2015 then-Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison, and then-Minister for Human Services, Marise Payne, discussed a service which would seek to increase budgetary savings by furthering the pursuit of Centrelink's outstanding debts.
This scheme was formally announced by the Abbott Government within the 2015-16 federal budget. In December of 2016, then-Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, announced the debt recovery scheme was able to issue 20,000 notices of debt per week. The scheme, by now referred to as "robodebt" within the media, was then overseen by then-Human Services Minister, Alan Tudge.
As part of the Royal Commission announcement. Prime Minister Albanese noted four focus aspects:
"The establishment, design and implementation of the scheme; who was responsible for it; why they considered Robodebt necessary; and, any concerns raised regarding the legality and fairness
The handling of concerns raised about the scheme
The outcomes of the scheme, including the harm to vulnerable individuals and the total financial cost to government
Measures needed to prevent similar failures in public administration."
Such a royal commission will also have the authority to compel witnesses to testify. As such, Former Liberal Ministers, Mr. Morrison, Ms. Payne, Mr. Porter, Mr. Tudge and Stuart Robert are all potential witnesses due to their involvement in the scheme.