The Albanese Government has today tabled the response to the Robodebt Royal Commission.
The Government has agreed, or agreed in principle, to all 56 of the Royal Commission’s recommendations as part of the ongoing work to restore faith, integrity and trust in government.
The Government is providing $22.1 million in new and additional funding over four years from 2023-24, and $4.8 million each year ongoing, to support implementation of the Commissioner’s recommendations. This follows the announcement of an additional $228 million in funding for Services Australia in 2023-24 to improve frontline service delivery and $1 billion in additional funding for Services Australia since October 2022.
The Albanese Government has also permanently increased the base rates of working age and student payments, expanded eligibility for Parenting Payment (single), and delivered the largest increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance in over 30 years.
The Royal Commission found 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”.
With those words, the Royal Commission summed up the human tragedy that was the Robodebt Scheme – a Budget measure introduced by the Abbott Government, expanded by the Turnbull Government and defended, until the last minute, by the Morrison Government.
To this day, people who served as senior Cabinet ministers in the former government continue to maintain that “when the problems were brought to the attention of the government at the time, the program was stopped”. Such claims are demonstrably false and an insult to the hundreds of thousands of Australians harmed by the Robodebt Scheme.
The Albanese Government is fulfilling our commitment to put people back at the centre of the work of government and invest in better services for the Australian community.
We will continue to implement reforms to strengthen the Australian Public Service and bolster the powers of oversight agencies to ensure a failure like the Robodebt Scheme can never happen again.
The Government’s response to the Robodebt Royal Commission includes additional funding for the Commonwealth Ombudsman to boost its oversight of government agencies, and new funding to reinstate the Administrative Review Council to support better decision‑making across government.
The Attorney‑General’s Department will also receive additional funding for the Office of Legal Services Coordination and the Office of Constitutional Law to improve how legal risk is identified and how legal advice is provided to Cabinet, and new funding to develop a legal framework to support automated decision‑making in appropriate circumstances and in a manner that is consistent with the principles recommended by the Royal Commission.
Throughout the Royal Commission we saw courage, leadership, and ethics on display from victims, advocates and whistleblowers. To those who shared their stories with the Royal Commission – thank you.
Again, the Government thanks Commissioner Holmes AC SC and her team for their dedication, professionalism, and forensic work on the Royal Commission.
The findings and referrals made by the Commissioner in the confidential chapter of the Report are not addressed in the Government's Response. Investigations into these matters are being undertaken by the appropriate authorities.
The full response to the Report of the Royal Commission can be found on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website.
Quotes attributable to Minister for the Public Service Katy Gallagher:
“Robodebt was a shameful chapter for public administration in Australia.
“It didn’t come out of the blue – the previous Liberal-National Government spent years gutting the Australian Public Service and putting public servants in a challenging and vulnerable position.
“Since coming to Government, we have begun the task of rebuilding and investing in the APS and we will continue to deliver on our commitments to reduce outsourcing and have more capability in-house.
“We recognise that the public service is an enduring institution central to the strength and success of our proud democracy. A stronger public service delivers better government and better outcomes for all Australians.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten MP:
“To those who took their own lives because of Robodebt and their families we pay our respects. The horrible pain inflicted upon you should never have happened.
“To the activists, advocates, whistleblowers, journalists, members of Labor and the cross bench, and of course the victims themselves who fought tirelessly for accountability and justice, today is because of you.
“Never again should people receiving government supports be demonised as second-class citizens.
“While today’s response helps ensure Robodebt cannot happen again, it is now time for the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, to unequivocally apologise for the pain caused to the victims and their loved ones by the party he leads. There can be no justice until there is a sincere acknowledgment of what they did.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth MP:
“Today marks another step towards reversing the damage caused by the former Liberal Government’s unlawful Robodebt Scheme.
“Our Government is committed to a strong social security safety net and service delivery that puts people at the centre and we’re putting in place changes that will deliver enduring benefits for all Australians for years to come.
“We will continue to push forward with reforms to ensure a failure like the Robodebt scheme can never happen again.
“We want to do better and we have committed to carefully consider options for legislative reform, including appropriate statutory limitation periods for the raising and recovery of social security debts, to comprehensively address the issues identified by the Royal Commission.”
Quotes attributable to the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC MP:
“In the words of a judge of the Federal Court, the Liberal Party’s Robodebt Scheme represents ‘a shameful chapter in the administration of the Commonwealth social security system and a massive failure of public administration’.
“The Liberal Party’s Robodebt Scheme was not an innocent mistake.
“When the Scheme’s ‘unfairness, probable illegality and cruelty became apparent’ at the beginning of 2017, the Royal Commission found that – instead of abandoning it – the path taken by the former government ‘was to double down, to go on the attack in the media against those who complained and to maintain the falsehood that in fact the system had not changed at all’.
“To this day, people who served as senior Cabinet ministers in the former government – including the Opposition Leader and the Shadow Attorney-General – continue to deny this history. The Australian people, and especially the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Robodebt Scheme, deserve so much better.”