Two of the biggest government fiascos, the VET FEE rip off and the Robotdebt persecution will be remember for many years. The latter was shameful and egregious.
The federal court recently approved a settlement worth $1.8bn between the commonwealth and victims of the Coalition’s Robodebt scheme.
Justice Bernard Murphy last week criticised the federal government’s “massive failure”, noting the court had heard “heart-wrenching” stories of pain and anguish from victims of the Centrelink debt recovery program.
The judge said it should have been “obvious” to government ministers and senior public servants that the debt-raising method central to the scheme was flawed and unlawful.
The Robodebt scheme, which ran between 2015 and November 2019, saw the government unlawfully raise $1.76bn in debts against 443,000 people.
The government pursued about 381,000 people, unlawfully recovering $751m, including through private debt collectors. He noted that one mother had linked her son’s suicide to the debt recovery program.
The government has agreed to repay at least 381,000 people $751m and wipe all debts – worth $1.76bn – that were raised using the unlawful method of “income averaging” tax office data to check welfare payments.