It now appears the cost of the damage done to people by Robodebt is around $1 billion. We don’t begrudge anyone compensation but this is a massive cost that should have been avoided.
It is surely one of the worst examples of government mismanagement and incompetence, entirely predictable and predicted.
The Government received advice at the outset that the program was lawful. In January 2020 the Government Services Minister told a second Senate inquiry into the scheme that that legal advice was confidential. And it remains so.
Christian Porter, a lawyer and now the First Law Officer of the Commonwealth, seems untroubled that there was no lawful basis for a program for which he was responsible.
He will not apologise but says on ABC Insiders:
That system was also not a sufficient basis for raising debts, even before the automation … civilly, it was unlawful. There was no lawful basis for it.
It is not plausible that the Department of Human Services would have proceeded with this controversial scheme without taking reliable advice as to its legality. The Minister should have satisfied himself that it was legal. Instead, he appears to have shown little interest in the question until now.
Who is taking responsibility? Should not the Prime Minister and the now Attorney-General step down? Christian Porter was the responsible minister in 2016 when it was dreamed up.
It was reckless to have damaged people to the extent that $1 billion dollars would be needed in compensation.
Is no one is to be held accountable for this? It seems not.
PS: The Sydney Morning Herald/9News quotes Scott Morrison has having ‘great regrets’ over what’s happened but The Guardian reports that the Government may reboot robodebt.