Investigation into former Australian government’s illegal debt recovery scheme officially launched


The Royal Commission has launched a major investigation into an illegal debt collection program launched by the Australian government in 2016 and has promised to hold those responsible to account.

On 27 September, the Commission held its first public hearing in Brisbane and made brief opening statements on the investigation.

The commission said the first two weeks of hearings would take place in October to consider several issues, including the timing of the automation of illegal debt collection schemes.

Commission chairman Catherine Holmes, a former Chief Justice of Queensland, said those overseeing the program would be subject to investigation.

“Many people at various levels of government will be asked to describe their roles … using the robodet method.” she said.

“But the focus is on … people in senior positions who had or should have had a director.”

What is a robodet scheme?

In July 2016, Australian government welfare agency Centrelink said: Online compliance intervention This was later dubbed “robodet” by the media and would assess overpayments and issue debt notices to welfare beneficiaries.

The scheme used an automated data marching system that compared the reported income of welfare beneficiaries with data from the Australian Taxation Service to determine if they were being overpaid.

However, it was later discovered that the system falsely accused welfare recipients of owing money to the government and forced them to pay it back.

The scheme is estimated to have erroneously recovered approximately $750 million (US$480 million) from 381,000 Australians.

At the time, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, former Minister Alan Tudge, and former Attorney General Christian Porter oversaw the plan.

A federal court then ruled the plan illegal in 2019, and the former coalition agreed to settle. $1.2 billion 2020.

the victim was urged to come forward

Meanwhile, the commissioner called on victims of the scheme to come forward with their experiences.

“This was a difficult and stressful time in the lives of thousands of people who were told they had debts to pay,” Holmes said.

“I understand that many people don’t want to revisit the experience, but submissions from someone who is ready to explain what happened in their case would be a great way to get the details of what happened and the human experience.” It is very useful in establishing the impact of

Epoch Times photo
On September 8, 2015, at the Supreme Court in Brisbane, Australia, the Chairman of the Royal Commission, Catherine Holmes, issued a statement to the media. (AAP Image/Pool, Mark Cranitch)

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten told reporters on the morning of September 27 that the plan was “the biggest failure of the Australian administration in social security”.

“This was a scheme aimed at getting the Centrelink crooks to pay for what they owed…the truth of the matter is that the scheme was illegal,” he said.

“When machines… faulty algorithms claimed debt, the blame was reversed and citizens had to prove why the government was wrong.

“These were the battles of David and Goliath.”

The investigation is expected to examine how the scheme was introduced and why federal ministers ignored warning signs during its implementation.

We will also investigate the use of outside debt collection agencies and other concerns raised by the public.

Alfred Bui


Alfred Bui is an Australian reporter based in Melbourne, focusing on local and business news. He is a former small business owner and holds his two master’s degrees in business and business law. Please contact [email protected].