“The Robodebt scheme was a shocking and shameful episode in our nation’s history which caused severe distress to hundreds of thousands of people,” said Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO.
According to Goldie, this damning report shines a light on the horrific abuse of government power which was cruelly unleashed on people going through the hardest of times.
“It also finds that community attitudes towards people who receive income support are strongly influenced by their political leaders.”
ACOSS strongly endorses the Commissioner’s major recommendations to change the way that policies are designed so that the people they are meant to serve are central to the process, and that policy is administered in a way that avoids stigma or shame, is accessible and sensitive to people’s circumstances.
“As the Commissioner said, the narrative of taxpayer versus welfare recipient must end for good,” added Goldie.
The ACOSS CEO highlighted that all political leaders have a responsibility to change that narrative to one based on respect and dignity.
“The demonisation and abuse of people on low incomes for political ends and headlines must stop once and for all.”
Specifically, the creation of an advisory body comprised of people with lived experience to advise the government on policy design would be a major advance.
The recommendation to legislate a consistent framework for automation in government services should also be a high priority for Government action, along with clear review pathways and transparency of algorithms and methodologies to enable public and expert scrutiny.
ACOSS also welcomes the recommendations relating to the consideration of vulnerability by Centrelink, to facilitate greater access to Services Australia by peak bodies and advocacy opportunities to identify systemic issues as they arise and to ensure there is engagement with those organisations in the development of new policy, particularly in relation to social security or the administration of payments.
Finally, they endorse the recommendation that any future debt recovery action is ethical, proportionate, consistent and transparent and that the six-year debt recovery limit be reinstated.
ACOSS notes the Commissioner’s “reluctant” conclusion that it would be impractical to establish a compensation scheme due to the diversity of people’s experiences and the impacts of the scheme.
“With financial security comes the dignity to which social security recipients are entitled and to which the Scheme was so damaging.”
ACOSS stands with the hundreds of thousands of victims of Robodebt who endured being falsely accused of owing the government money they did not owe.
The council said they have a deep respect for all who spoke out about their Robodebt, and the people who shared their stories with the Royal Commission.
They also acknowledge the community organisations and grassroots groups who campaigned fiercely against Robodebt, from its inception as well as those in parliament and elsewhere who stood up against it.
ACOSS thanks Commissioner Catherine Holmes AC SC and Counsel Assisting for their professionalism, expertise, and humanity.
Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.