Question Time

SUBJECTS: Who was responsible for ending Robodebt

QUESTION: Thank you, Speaker, and my question is to the Minister for Government Services. Who did the Royal Commission into Robodebt conclude stopped Robodebt?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FO RTHE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: In recent days, there have been many who have claimed to have stopped Robodebt. Last week, the Member for Cook claimed he stopped Robodebt, where he said I closed the scheme down during the operational phases of the scheme, when the issues and unintended consequences first arose. But he's not the first Liberal, former Coalition Liberal Minister, to now claim credit for stopping Robodebt. Stuart Robert, the former Member for Fadden, he also famously claimed credit in this place. He curiously didn't credit the Member for Cook for it. Whilst the Commission doesn't deal with the Member for Cook's claim that he stopped Robodebt, presumably because no one except for the Member for Cook thought that he would ever say that, Commissioner Holmes did have something to say about Mr. Robert’s claims. She found the evidence provided to the Commission by Mr. Robert on this point to be less compelling. She continues that Mr. Robert was informed of the existence of AG’s advice warning of potential illegality on the 4th of July 2019. And for the record, Mr. Robert decisively acted almost five months later. But not to be outdone, there's another former Liberal Robodebt Minister who's also popped his head up to claim credit. It's the former Member for Aston, Alan Tudge. Breaking the habit of 15 years of Parliament, I read The Spectator last week. It was actually sent to me. Mr. Tudge, Mr. Tudge outs himself that he effectively stopped Robodebt by removing all the bad parts of the scheme.

He writes, I paused the raising of debts and he lists some other areas which he changed. He then essentially asserts that after his interventions, there was nothing bad to see here. I mean, for the record, I remind Mr. Tudge that after he civilised Robodebt, it went for three more years. There were 156 AAT decisions that the DHS were wrong because Robodebt used averaging to calculate the debt. And there were many articles. And in fact, between 2017 and June 2020, hundreds of thousands of people were still Robodebted. But nonetheless, if Mr. Tudge wants to claim credit for stopping it, well done. But who really did end the illegal Robodebt scheme? And I draw attention now to the words of the Royal Commissioner. She congratulates Madeleine Masterton and Deanna Amato. These are individuals, citizens who took on the Federal government. She says the litigation of Masterton and Amato, in both cases conducted by Victorian Legal Aid, played a crucial role in the demise of the scheme. The Royal Commission concludes, this succeeded in exposing the illegality of Robodebt when other possible forms of check on the scheme did not. So, to be perfectly clear in answer to the question, those opposite did not stop Robodebt until the legal system forced them.

And now the Leader of the Opposition has to decide, will he agree with the Royal Commission's findings or will he keep white anting the Royal Commission, showing they've learnt nothing?