Questions on the Royal Commission into Robodebt



BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: I thank the Member for Newcastle for her question. The Robodebt illegal scheme was a shocking piece of public administration and anyone who tries to say otherwise is in denial about the consequences, for the heart of the Royal Commission


SHORTEN: you are running a protection racket.


SHORTEN: Thanks, Mr. Speaker. A key witness has emerged in the Royal Commission to help explain how an unlawful scheme can run for four and a half years without it being publicly identified as unlawful by ministers. This witness I refer to is Professor Terry Carney. He's an Emeritus professor. He's taught thousands of law students from Sydney University to Monash University. He served on the AAT and its predecessor bodies for four decades. Now he's identified 210 cases that were decided by the AAT over three years, decided on questions of lawfulness. So 210 cases, all were in favour of the applicant, not the Commonwealth. He decided five of them himself, so he's reviewed the whole list, found 200%, he even ruled on five of them himself. He's gone to the heart of the explanation how an unlawful scheme, run by ministers. How did they not know about it? How is it see no evil, hear no evil, plausibly deniable. We didn’t know.

What he said is with 210 cases. When governments lose cases on the law, this goes for all governments of all persuasions across our time, when you lose a case on the law, you either choose to act on the decision or you choose to appeal it. But neither happened in 210 cases. They did nothing. Now, one case may be slipped under the radar. Two cases, three cases. But it does really strain the credibility that you can have 210 cases over three years. Nothing to see here, Your Honor.


SHORTEN: It is a matter of fact that Professor Carney looked at 210 cases and the then government didn't do anything, like literally did nothing. They didn't question the law that they were operating under.


SHORTEN: Well, I won't give a concluded view, certainly not just stating the facts. 210 cases, nothing happened. The problem is that we see this pattern in the evidence emerging. I'm sorry. One thing happened. Professor Carney didn't get renewed in his position in 2017. So we've got a missing million dollar report, shelved. We've got the masters and legal opinion never revealed. On 140 occasions the Coalition Minister said, I don't recall the evidence. You don't have to draw concluded views yet, but we know where it's going.