Government to refund $721m worth of robodebt

The federal government will refund automated welfare debts worth more than $700 million in the latest development in the robodebt saga.

Stuart Robert

Last November the government paused Centrelink’s ill-fated AI debt recovery system which used a computer-based income averaging algorithm to match ATO data with welfare payments, and delivered automated letters demanding repayment based on the result.

Shortly after that, the federal court ruled that a debt against a Victorian woman using the system was not validly raised.

Late on Friday government services Minister Stuart Robert announced all debts would be repaid.

“The best advice we have is that raising a debt wholly or partly on the basis of ATO averaged income is not sufficient under law,” government services Minister Stuart Robert told a press conference.

“So we will return that money and move forward with our income compliance program with further proof points.”

The public sector union has welcomed the announcement that 470,000 debts affecting 373,000 Australians would be refunded, but said it could have been avoided if the government had listened to frontline workers.

“Even before the scheme was rolled out, people working in Centrelink were telling the department that the scheme was flawed and would cause serious problems,” CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said in a statement.

“Our members are experts, they are on the frontline of this work every day, and had they been listened to in the first place they could have saved Stuart Robert $721 million.”

A class action against the government which commenced in the Federal Court last year is set down for trial between July and September.

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2 thoughts on “Government to refund $721m worth of robodebt

  1. This is very positive to see a great result with the robot dept system . When I was asked to repay over $2500 then in the same conversation this was raised to a higher figure to $3600 back in 2017-2018. I was very surprised that I had too at all. I was receiving family tax benefits, and every time I was payed. I was giving the exact figures. I figured that the ATO and Centrelink were working together and the adjustment would have happened at the end the financial year.

    1. I have paid back 3 lots of this due to robot debt and it’s significant. No one would help and when I saw a computer print out once I told them not correct. Although the girl agreed apparently it was up to me to prove them wrong. Yeah right not an easy task. It’s caused me great stress and financial pain

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