Labor will establish a Royal Commission into the robodebt debacle if it wins office at the upcoming federal election.
The government’s automated debt recovery system, which relied on algorithms to pursue debt recovery from people who in many cases had no debt to repay, ended last year in a $1.8 billion settlement to repay affected parties.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has pledged to establish a Royal commission by the end of the year.
A royal commission would “expose the truth of the … illegal robodebt scheme, return integrity to the public service, and ensure a disaster like this never happens again,” Mr Albanese announced on Saturday.
He said the terms of reference would include establishing who was responsible for setting the scheme up and investigating what advice and processes informed its design, as well as the harm the scheme caused to those caught up in it.
It would also look how complaints were handled by Services Australia and the Department of Human Services, the use of third-party debt collectors, and how much the implementation and wind-back of the failed scheme cost.
Mr Albanese said the scheme has been the subject of government denial, obstruction and cover-ups.
“It is vital that robodebt victims and the broader Australian public know the truth of the robodebt disaster,” he said.
Government services spokesman Bill Shorten said it necessary to understand the origins of the scheme to ensure it didn’t happen again.
“We do not know whether poor legal advice was given or whether legal advice was simply never sought. We do not know if public servants were inappropriately heavied and politicised,” he said.
A Labor government will begin consulting on the proposed royal commission immediately after the election, Mr Albanese said.
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