Kathryn Campbell – a senior bureaucrat who headed the Department of Human Services and was in the top job during the inception of the Robodebt scheme in 2014 – has been suspended.
The move follows disturbing findings from the royal commission into the illegal scheme, which falsely accused welfare recipients of owing money to the government.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told the ABC that Ms Campbell had been suspended without pay as a result of what he described as “failings with bureaucracy” and “human tragedy” caused by the scheme.
The Robodebt royal commission handed down its findings a fortnight ago and was especially scathing of Ms Campbell’s role.
“This was a decision made by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and appropriate bodies. It’s not appropriate given the potential legal matters that are involved to go through all of the detail there,” Mr Albanese told the ABC.
The royal commission determined that Ms Campbell had done “nothing of substance” after being made aware of the program’s illegality. She also provided misleading advice to the federal cabinet as part of an Expenditure Review Committee in 2015.
Around 443,000 Australian welfare recipients were delivered false debt notices and, as a result, the commission concluded a “number of people” took their own lives.
Ms Campbell previously refused to accept that people had died over the program.
“We have apologised for the hurt and harm but none of us can imagine what goes on in individuals’ lives,” she told a 2020 Senate hearing.
Since the release of the royal commission’s findings, a number of independent MPs including Zoe Daniel and Rebekha Sharkie have called on Ms Campbell to be sacked or resign.
However, news that senior bureaucrats in the federal government were behind shifting Ms Campbell into a $900,000 a year role, weeks before the Prime Minister announced she was being removed as DFAT’s secretary, will leave some people wondering if the suspension from the role is punishment enough.
Do you think it’s fair Ms Campbell has lost her job over this? Or should the blame lie with the politicians who orchestrated the scheme? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.