Questions on the Robodebt Royal Commission

SUBJECTS: Robodebt Royal Commission findings about failures to support vulnerable Australians
Thank you, Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Government Services. What does the Royal Commission into Robodebt say about the treatment of vulnerable people in the Social Security system, and what were the failures to support vulnerable recipients under Robodebt?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: I thank the Member for Fraser for his question. The concept of vulnerability is important in our Social Security system. The demographic of Australians who need access to income support payments is wide, it's very varied, but it can include people experiencing physical, psychological, social, or cultural disadvantages. Vulnerable people can struggle with understanding, accessing, and navigating our Social Security system and it is well established that they may require additional support.

However, when the Robodebt scheme commenced, the notion of vulnerability was simply trashed. It was thrown overboard. The sort of cohorts of vulnerable people who receive no extra support when the scheme started include those in full time residential care, victims of terrorist incidents, those with intellectual or physical impairment, those fleeing domestic violence, the homeless. Of course, though, in the Royal Commission, the former Coalition Minister, Cabinet Ministers defence, was essentially one of no one told us. But why did Coalition ministers need to be told that some Australians are vulnerable?

You can hear the woe is me cries of the former Coalition Cabinet Ministers asking How can we be expected to understand what's happening to hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens? The former Coalition Ministers expect us to accept their threadbare dispense that they were just following the orders of their public service. They have to accept because don't read the newspapers, they don't go online, they don't talk to people in the street, and they don't hear from the people complaining.

It's interesting to note that in 2021, the entire Dutch government resigned after it was found that they had been instituting claims against 20,000 families in Holland, which were based on a fraudulent proposition. Now, before Question Time, the Member for Deakin gave a speech. He gave a speech which is destined for the liner of the kitty litter tray of history, when he complained that our focus on Robodebt is all politics, let me explain to the opposition on behalf of myself and on behalf of Labor. Robodebt is political, but not in the way that's insinuated by those opposite. For Labor, for the Albanese government, for me it is political when you bully the poor, when you pick on the vulnerable, when you demonise them, when you trash their reputations in the paper, that is political. It's political. When you divide this country into those on welfare and those not on welfare. It is political when you seek to divide the country and say that some people are lesser than other people. I say to the Coalition, this issue will never cease for you until you get up and accept what you did wrong, which was bully the poor in this country.