13 November 2023


SUBJECTS: Robodebt Royal Commission report into failures to support vulnerable Australians

KATE THWAITES, MEMBER FOR JAGAJAGA: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Government Services. How is the Albanese Labor government formally responding to the Royal Commission into the Robodebt scheme? And how does this compare with other responses to the Royal Commission?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Thank you. Today, the Albanese government has formally responded to all 56 recommendations of the Robodebt Royal Commission. Robodebt, as members of the House will know, was a cruel and crude mechanism. It was neither fair nor legal. It made many people feel like criminals. It was costly in both human and economic terms. So today, the Albanese government says, never again. We've already ceased the use of debt collection agencies for debt recovery in Services Australia. We've stopped the reverse onus of proof. We've stopped treating people who use our Social Security safety net as second-class cheats. And last week we announced 3000 new jobs on the frontline of Services Australia to help people process their claims and calls. But we can say never again, but Australians can't have true RoboJustice until the opposition join us in a full-throated apology. Now, to be fair, some in the opposition have shown courage. The Member for Menzies said, “as someone who is a Liberal and believes in the sanctity of the individual, due process, and the presumption of innocence, it offended all of these. It was illiberal, it reversed the onus and it hurt people.” The Member for Flinders has said, “it's now apparent that the expanded compliance system, now known as Robodebt, is one of the poorest chapters in Australia's public policy history and one that sits at the feet of the Coalition in its time of government.”

Senator Paterson said, “it's incredibly regrettable. It should not have happened. We have to learn these lessons. It was the government that I as a member of and I really regret that it happened.” But so far, the Leader of the Opposition has not taken the high road as some of his colleagues had, but rather last August took the low road and accused the Royal Commission of morphing into a witch hunt. The victims of Robodebt have noticed the truculent refusal, the deafening silence of a full-throated apology by the Leader of the Opposition. You cannot have justice for Australians, the promise that never again will it occur, when the potential alternative government doesn't own the problem. You cannot have justice for the victims unless there is a guarantee that it won't be repeated again, and that the lessons have been learnt. However, the Leader of the Opposition so far has given no sign of fully owning the disaster which was Robodebt. We all know the difference between a standard politician’s apology, if you are offended, I'm sorry, and a real one. So, it's time, Member for Dickson. It's time for a real apology today in the Parliament. Right here, right now. Copy your courageous backbenchers, own the sins of the Coalition, and stop airbrushing history.