11 June 2020

Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (16:58): Before moving general business notice of motion No. 598, I ask that the name of Senators Siewert and McCarthy be added to the motion. I, and also on behalf of Senators Siewert and McCarthy, move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

   (i) the robodebt scheme inflicted unnecessary pain on thousands of Australians by demanding money many did not have,

   (ii) the scheme reversed the onus of proof and forced victims into a bureaucratic nightmare until the Federal Court decided the debts were "not validly made" because of the way they were calculated,

   (iii) the Federal Court rejected the fundamental design of the flawed policy – the reliance on "income averaging" to decide who breached the income test,

   (iv) the Federal Government expected to "save" $2.3 billion through the scheme over 4 years but has only revealed they will repay $721 million already collected,

   (v) the Federal Government is refusing to apologise to people caught up in its controversial robodebt scheme, despite conceding hundreds of millions of dollars in debt were racked up unlawfully,

   (vi) lawyers acting for hundreds of thousands of welfare recipients who have had unlawful "robodebts" raised against them have urged the Government to apologise over its handling of the scheme, and promised not to use the apology against the Government in court, and

   (vii) for the Federal Government, sorry seems to be the hardest word;

(b) acknowledges the vulnerable Australians who have suffered, and in particular those who took their lives as a consequence of the stress and shame of being pursued for a robodebt; and

(c) calls on the Federal Government to formally apologise, without prejudice, to all victims of the robodebt fiasco.

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