Govt to refund $721m in unlawful debts, but won’t apologise to victims

Government admits the program was unlawful but refuses to apologise for it.

minister robert stuart and attorney general christian porter with centrelink overlay

The federal government announced on Friday it will refund $721 million to hundreds of thousands of Australians charged debts under the flawed robo-debt welfare scheme.

Repayments will be made for 470,000 debts to about 373,000 Australians.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said Services Australia had also admitted the system was “not sufficient under law”.

“The government started this program over half a decade ago based on the best information at the time,” he said.

“We have advice now that shows that when the program started, the information for the use of averaged ATO [Australian Tax Office] income was not sufficient and further proof points were needed.”

Australia’s attorney general, Christian Porter, who was social services minister in 2017 when the robo-debt scandal began, said the government thought the scheme was lawful at the time.

“We received advice at the time the program was lawful, and many governments have used ATO averaging data over many years – Labor and Liberal,” he said.

“We had proceeded on the basis it was lawful.”

A robo-debt class action is still pending, but all welfare payments the government recovered using the ATO’s discredited income averaging calculations would be repaid, said Mr Robert, along with interest and recovery fees.

Any unlawful debts raised after 2015 under the scheme are now the subject of a class action from Gordon Legal, which is also demanding compensation on top of refunds.

Mr Porter also did not rule out compensation for those hit by debts after 2015, saying the government had not finalised its position.

“That’s something we’ll deal with in mediation and no doubt that’s a position put by the class action,” he said.

Mr Porter, who described the whole saga as an “unfortunate outcome”, still would not apologise – citing the ongoing class action – nor concede the government’s handling of the program was negligent.

“I’m not going to use that word because there’s litigation ongoing and, as attorney general, I can’t use that sort of language in the context of the litigation,” he said, defending his government’s methods of recouping “large amounts of money paid out in the welfare system that exceed what the person should have received”.

“That’s often a mistake on the part of the person who nominates their income. 

“Sometimes it’s other matters. But every government has to try and work out a way to recoup overpayments. In this instance, we used a method that had been used for many years. It later became clear that was an insufficient basis and we’re refunding the money.”

Government services shadow minister for Bill Shorten has demanded an apology for anyone who had suffered “untold hardship and distress” and who deserved an ironclad guarantee the ordeal was over.

“This government has not fully realised the error of their ways,” he said.

“The government needs to rule out today the people they are refunding, they are not going to try and get again,” he said. “After all, the government spent $63m on debt collectors over the last few years, chasing debts they were never the owed, using taxpayer money.”

Mr Shorten said some robo-debt notices were “the final stress straw” that broke some who had been “already mentally pretty vulnerable” before the issue arose.

“We do have reports of people taking their own lives,” he said. “This has been illegal hardship by a government against its most vulnerable citizens.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says the government should apologise to thousands of Australians wrongly made to repay funds to Centrelink.

“The government should apologise ... People were distraught, people receiving these debt notices in the mail, many of them having no idea what it was from – and many of them, getting notices from the government, just paid it,” said Mr Albanese.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said repayment was a positive step, but it was impossible to count the social and economic cost of the scheme.

“This is a historic day. I am overwhelmed thinking of the untold suffering that this illegal scheme has caused,” she said.

Mr Shorten claims the payback may be a sleight of hand Coalition politicians are using to avoid scrutiny in court.

“They’re now facing a court trial courtesy of the class action ... So, when the ministers have to appear in court – that’s what’s motivating them.”

However, Liberal backbencher Fiona Martin defended Mr Robert, saying that when he was made aware of the problem in November 2019, he immediately pressed pause on the robo-debt scheme.

“The issue has now been addressed. So he has acknowledged that the ATO data was not sufficient and he is making steps to rectify it,” she said.

Mr Robert’s announcement came right after Prime Minister Scott Morrison held his own major press conference in which he had made no reference to the illegal robo-debt scheme.

NSW Labor senator Tim Ayres believes this was designed to avoid media scrutiny.

“Last Friday [22 May] was an announcement late on Friday afternoon about a $60 billion error in the government’s JobKeeper scheme,” said senator Ayres.

“This Friday afternoon [29 May] it is a $720 million bungled robo-debt scheme. I really worry about what next Friday afternoon is going to bring.”

According to Guardian Australia, Services Australia had informed cabinet ministers in February the program was “no longer viable” and advised it be scrapped. The report was based on leaked government advice prepared for ministers Robert, Anne Ruston [Minister for Families and Social Services] and Christian Porter.

“The income compliance program is currently estimated to deliver $2.1b in fiscal savings and $1.2b in underlying cash over the forward estimates to 2023-24,” read the ministerial submission.

“However, the program is no longer viable or cost effective given legal advice about the use of averaged ATO income data.”

Services Australia had also admitted it received legal advice from the Australian government solicitor saying it was “not possible to use bank account information, by itself, to raise debt”.

Anyone who had made repayments through the robo-debt scheme will not need to do anything to obtain a refund for a debt that was raised wholly or partially using the ATO data, says Mr Robert. From 1 July, Services Australia would be actively contacting affected individuals.

“Services Australia will now put in place the mechanisms needed to start making refunds, including how affected customers are advised of next steps,” said Mr Robert.The “proactive refund strategy” would “reduce the incentive for the applicants to persist with the class action and minimise the commonwealth’s potential liability for interest and legal costs”, Services Australia told government ministers in February. It said the move would show the government was not “waiting for the court process to dictate its actions” and could “assist to temper criticism of the government’s actions.”

However, the firm handling the class action is sceptical the refund is in its clients’ best interest.

Gordon Legal partner James Naughton said the federal court should ensure that robodebt victims did not waive their rights to damages or interest on their refunds, should they automatically receive one.

Mr Naughton said it was not reasonable that the government “having now conceded that it acted unlawfully, should unilaterally decide that it can take its time to pay it back”.

“Our clients will also want the government to explain to the court why it made this announcement without any consultation with them or the court and has chosen not to address their claims for damages for the distress and inconvenience or the interest they are entitled to receive because the government has had the benefit of their money unlawfully,” he said.

There have been calls to scrap the income compliance program. However, the government says it will continue, although it will no longer use income averaging of ATO data. The government claims it has not raised any debts wholly or partially using averaged ATO income data since November last year.

Do you think robo-debt should continue in light of all these revelations?

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Ducky
    1st Jun 2020
    10:06am
    Can't imagine too many will get any money back, they will always find a reason not to pay.
    Sundays
    1st Jun 2020
    10:27am
    I’m shocked that there is $720M to be refunded! Not to mention the cost of administering this poorly thought out scheme, and the stress on people unfairly targeted. It’s come to this because the Government and in particular Stuart Roberts refused to listen to common sense or the voices of Centrelink employees. They were obsessed with seeing all Centrelink recipients as cheats and took the easy, and very flawed approach to try and make recoveries. Recovering overpayments is essential but the onus is on Centrelink to prove there is a debt not the client. It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Class action.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    12:32pm
    Over 95% of those caught were cheats. it's just the courts in this country now believe the small minority and we all suffer the consequences.

    Lets hope the class action gets thrown out of court where it belongs.
    Eddy
    1st Jun 2020
    1:12pm
    Do not agree with you Retiring Well. To make a claim that 95% were cheats seems irrational to me. You are, I suggest, just trying to defend the indefensible.
    The concept of averaging annual ATO data to calculate a fortnightly income for Centrelink goes against any common-sense. How could any supposedly sensible person not see the flaws in the concept. Then when the flawed rationale was pointed out to them our political masters defended the system passionately. They were only bought to book when they realised that the system was indefensible and they would have to explain in court. Also the next election was a couple of years away (so hopefully voters would forget what a mess they made of it all).
    I wonder if others who passionately defended so called Robo-debt in these columns now feel sorry for the comments they made? Maybe not.
    Kato
    1st Jun 2020
    9:07pm
    It won't get thrown out of court as the lnp has admitted it acted unlawfully they are in the process of trying to get Gordon legal to mediation to settle, Why would you when the guilty party has admitted it's acted unlawfully.
    thommo
    1st Jun 2020
    9:27pm
    What we need to do is find out who was the architect of this ROBODEBT swindle.
    Well now we know. It was in fact our PM, Scot Morrison, who made ROBODEBT, in conjunction with his mate Corrmann.
    Why hasn't Morrison being brought to book over this? You tell me, but he should be ousted from office NOW.
    ROBODEBT was no mathematical mistake. It was based on a deliberate falsehood and was a cruel and malicious ideological policy of the LNP.
    Anonymous
    2nd Jun 2020
    2:15pm
    Labor was responsible for Robodebt not the LNP at all.
    Arvo
    2nd Jun 2020
    3:43pm
    The law disapproves of unlawful conduct because it is immoral or contrary to public policy.
    Misty
    2nd Jun 2020
    4:33pm
    Retiring Well. Labor may have been responsible for implementing the Robodebt programme but it was changed under the LNP Government in 2016, a Centrelink officer originally checked the results of the income matching with the ATO and sent out about 20,000 letters a year investigating the findings but in 2016 it was automated and was sending out 20,000 a week, that is when the trouble started.
    Hoohoo
    5th Jun 2020
    2:34pm
    Thank you, Misty, for pointing out the Liberal's part in automating hundreds of thousands of letters sent out falsely making demands on poor people, with the threat of legal action should they not comply immediately. What a MONSTROUS action by a so-called democratic government!

    If these poor and/or elderly people didn't cough up immediately, they'd end up with a henchman/enforcer (from a private debt-collector agency) at their front door, serving them with a summons. It was nothing short of Gestapo methods by Morrison and Cormann from the LNP.

    And now they've been forced to admit their action was wrong, they release it to the media right after the PM has a press conference (without mentioning the elephant in the room or his own part in it!) late on a Friday afternoon, a renowned dead part of the news cycle. What a disgrace!

    It won't matter how good Morrison has been throughout COVID or finally stimulating the economy, THIS SHIT WILL STICK all over his face, and rightly so. All I hope is that the class action continues until after the next election, so Murdoch can't distract people from this outrageous ROBODEBT and that the LNP still doesn't have an energy policy to address climate change, coral reef destruction and rampant bush fires ravaging our country from late Winter to Summer.
    Hoohoo
    5th Jun 2020
    2:55pm
    Now I know why you're called 'Retiring Well', Retiring Well - you must be on a government or Liberal Party pension (ironically paid for by poor people's unjust ROBODEBT fines).

    Your comments are astounding!
    - "Over 95% of those caught were cheats" is a blatant lie.
    - "... and we all suffer the consequences." What? You mean the government has to pay back the money it falsely took (stole)? You sound like a criminal whingeing in his gaol cell, about having to suffer the consequences of his actions. Poor pet.
    - "Lets hope the class action gets thrown out of court where it belongs." Hello mate?, the government has already admitted guilt! I can only imagine our judiciary system will be marching those responsible INTO court, not throwing it out.

    My question is this: Is the Commonwealth or the LNP responsible for the fines incurred in error by ROBODEBT? I ask this because the only way the class action will stop is if the Class Action is offered HUGE amounts of $$$. We all know the Liberal Party has very deep pockets, due to donors who buy influence with their donations. I know it sounds like I'm alleging corruption. I am. It is. Labor's in on it, too. All legal, of course.
    sainter
    1st Jun 2020
    10:53am
    Stuart Robert and Anne Ruston to make an apology about this bungle,that would be an absolute impossibility...it's always someone else's fault with issues like this.Another case of nothing to see here and both Robert and Ruston remain in their ministry jobs....Business as usual.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    12:32pm
    No apology needed at all.
    MjP
    1st Jun 2020
    1:56pm
    Retiring Well of course there is an apology needed, the Government acted illegally.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    3:33pm
    Not government did not act illegally at all.
    Kato
    1st Jun 2020
    9:10pm
    retiring well they acted unlawfully and have admitted such. They were in the wrong you can spin it until you peg out and or the lnp decide your pension was obtained contrary to there whim of the day.
    thommo
    1st Jun 2020
    9:29pm
    You've got your head in the sand Retiring Well.
    sainter
    1st Jun 2020
    10:53am
    Stuart Robert and Anne Ruston to make an apology about this bungle,that would be an absolute impossibility...it's always someone else's fault with issues like this.Another case of nothing to see here and both Robert and Ruston remain in their ministry jobs....Business as usual.
    Buggsie
    1st Jun 2020
    11:14am
    I have no issue with the Government recovering benefits obtained fraudulently but the Robodebt scheme was clearly flawed from the start.
    \Anyone with even a small knowledge of how welfare recipients' benefits were calculated using fortnightly earnings would or should have been aware that Averaging annual Taxable income to calculate overpayments was a nonsense.
    Successive Ministers responsible for the scheme participated in a large scale white collar crime against some of the most vulnerable people in society, purely to appear to be decisive against so called welfare fraud.
    The matter should be referred to the Federal Police for investigation and charges laid where appropriate.
    The dodgy financial dealings of some banks are bad enough but for our elected representatives to resort to coercion and extortion is worse.
    Apologies should be made, resignations offered and accepted and charges followed up when laid.
    Lets hope that the current class action brings some justice - refunds of monies collected illegally are a start, but interest and compensation are also necessary.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    12:33pm
    If your taxable income is a lot higher than what you told Centrelink then you deserve to be investigated.
    Eddy
    1st Jun 2020
    1:30pm
    The key word Retiring Well is 'investigated'. That is exactly what Centrelink did not do. Anyone who wilfully understates their fortnightly income to Centrelink could be guilty of fraud same as if one wilfully understates their annual income to ATO. However since ATO assess annual income and Centrelink uses fortnightly income the two systems are not compatible. Any disparity between ATO data and Centrelink data could be used as a tool to initiate an investigation but in Robo-Debt it was used as absolute proof. Therein lies the problem, no actual investigation, just assumption and reversing the onus of proof.
    MjP
    1st Jun 2020
    1:59pm
    Well said Eddy, I completely agree with you.
    Rae
    2nd Jun 2020
    7:55am
    Centrelink needs to rehire those put off and do some actual investigating and checking. Sorting out the data entry training. Too many documents are lost or wrongly entered.

    Perhaps it's a bad idea to let and Jane or Joe at the computer system at all. Just employ some operators and make Centrelink an easy service to access with few glitches.

    It worked years ago without all the computerisation.
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    8:45am
    Retiring well...my taxable income was correct, the robo debt got all the dates wrong, even when I reported correctly...and centrelink admitted fault and I am still owed more money.
    Youngagain
    2nd Jun 2020
    5:53pm
    Retiring Well, according the Centrelink, if my partner and I jointly own an asset worth $2000 then the asset must be worth $4000 and our respective shares are worth $2000. With that sort of mathematical incapacity, it's a wonder their stuff ups only impacted some 350,000 people. I would bet there were hundreds of thousands more impacted by other mistakes, illegal acts and outright bullying. I certainly know of several instances of honest people being persecuted by Centrelink based on miscalculations and mis-interpretations.
    Maggie
    1st Jun 2020
    11:16am
    This whole business is totally shocking and just totally destroys the credibility of the government. Given that we have all probably seen on TV some of the victims of this injustice, and noted how ill -equipped they were and are to find their way through any kind of battle with anybody let alone Centrelink or the ATO amounts to cruelty.
    Any apology at this stage would be meaningless coming as it would be, to try and redeem some political points.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    12:34pm
    So it's OK to ignore letters until the debt collector arrives at yo door.
    MjP
    1st Jun 2020
    2:02pm
    Retiring Well of course it is not OK to ignore letters, but the onus of proof should have always stayed with CentreLink not put on people to prove they were innocent.
    Triss
    1st Jun 2020
    2:49pm
    The trouble seemed to be, Retiring Well, Centrelink had the idea that, right or wrong, they could walk over people roughshod and no-one was going to stop them or hold them to account so their abuse escalated.
    Rae
    2nd Jun 2020
    7:58am
    Yes Retiring it certainly is if you owe no debt. You then proceed to court where you prove no debt and receive an apology from the creditor who got it wrong.

    Of course when you do this type of intimidation to poor and fragile people they do pay up. When criminals do it we call it extortion.

    What kinds of people are the Liberal Party and IPA encouraging in the Party?
    Horace Cope
    1st Jun 2020
    11:32am
    Just to clarify this; recovering overpayment of Centrelink benefits was started by a Labor government and the RoboDebt scheme was introduced by a Liberal coalition after obtaining legal advice that to use that system was within the law. Subsequent legal opinions have shown the system to be flawed and therefore not within the law. It has to be pointed out that any person with even a rudimentary mathematical ability would have known that dividing an annual income by 26 can never accurately produce how much a person has earned in any particular fortnight.

    As regards an apology, why is it deemed necessary? If the system was considered legal at one stage and subsequently found to be illegal at a later stage with an immediate reimbursement put in place, why should an apology be offered. With a repayment averaging just over $1500, is that in and of itself an admission that things were wrong?
    Maggie
    1st Jun 2020
    1:25pm
    You are very hard on the thousands of people who suffered horribly as a result of wrongful claims. Granted, an apology wouldn't fix the situation, and even if the govt. thought it was legal, it would be the decent thing to do.
    Eddy
    1st Jun 2020
    1:38pm
    I am sure all the banks, insurance companies and superannuation funds who took funds from their clients for no service thought that what they were doing was 'legal' and were probably advised so by their legal advisors. However a Royal Commission, ASIC, APRA and other regulators came to the realisation that it was not legal. Most of them apologised and paid some money back. Why cannot the Government?
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    2:15pm
    Speeding tickets are unlawful under our Constitution too. So should the money be given back?
    Triss
    1st Jun 2020
    2:59pm
    With the gap between wealthy and non-wealthy widening daily our speeding tickets should be caluclated in the same way as Finland.
    The Finns have a day fine system that is calculated on the driver's daily disposable income divided by two. Not unusual for fines to be in the $1000's.
    Eddy
    1st Jun 2020
    3:04pm
    Please explain Retiring Well where speeding tickets violate the constitution. My reading of the constitution is that it is no more than an agreement between the states to facilitate federation, dividing up governmental responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the states. In basic terms if a responsibility (ie Defence, foreign affairs, immigration, customs etc) is not ceded to the Commonwealth then it is a state responsibility.
    Greg
    1st Jun 2020
    3:25pm
    Retiring Well - haha, okay if you say so. Sounds like sovereign citizen folks.
    sainter
    1st Jun 2020
    5:13pm
    Why an apology Horace Cope.did you ever apologize when you did something wrong,or is it a case it happened no worries.
    sainter
    1st Jun 2020
    5:13pm
    Why an apology Horace Cope.did you ever apologize when you did something wrong,or is it a case it happened no worries.
    Kato
    1st Jun 2020
    9:13pm
    retiring well : dual citizenship is unlawful under the constitution also did any of those caught pay Australian Taxpayer's funds back that they received unlawfully.
    Anonymous
    3rd Jun 2020
    12:34pm
    Gee I must be very unlawful then with not dual citizenship but citizenship of 3 countries.
    libsareliars
    1st Jun 2020
    11:43am
    Totally agree with all the comments. This is criminal, heads should roll, but i'm not holding my breath. People have committed suicide over these non-debts. What a disgrace and a debacle. This government couldn't run a chook raffle and do they take lessons in cruelty to belong to the LNP. Honestly! Jobseeker should also be kept at the level it is now.
    KSS
    1st Jun 2020
    2:01pm
    So easy to pull the suicide card with no evidence, libsareliars, but then anything else wouldn't fit the Labor narative now would it?
    Triss
    1st Jun 2020
    3:07pm
    A young man, Rhys Cauzzo, 28, was reported to have taken his own life, KSS, after being hounded for $17,000.
    Kato
    1st Jun 2020
    8:58pm
    Nor yours kss. you have shown no proof there wasn't.
    Misty
    2nd Jun 2020
    12:43pm
    When I was Googling Robo Debt one sentence was about the no of deaths where Robo Debt was supposed to be a contributing factor.
    Arvo
    2nd Jun 2020
    4:03pm
    Is something unlawful also criminal?

    It's No Crime To Be Unlawful

    Well, technically, it's not. No criminal sanctions are attached to the Act and nothing in the Act makes any form of vilification a criminal offence. ... 'Unlawful' is conduct prohibited by law, an 'offence' is also conduct prohibited by law but at a more serious or higher level.
    Wake Up
    1st Jun 2020
    11:50am
    When you have a system so complex that even the people responsible don't understand what hope have we got. I am a self funded retiree & have to fill out 196 pages of pure BS every year just to get a Low Income health card. To top it off data that was entered by Centre link is wrong & no amount of trying can get it corrected, have even logged a complaint & 6 Months later they marked it as resolved so I can fully understand how errors occur. There needs to be a compete over haul of this department & not by insiders who are locked in just protecting their jobs.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    12:40pm
    If you qualify for a Low Income Health Card then you now qualify for Jobseeker. Check it out as it's an easier way of getting a Low Income Health Card.
    Rae
    1st Jun 2020
    2:31pm
    They can't get addresses right either. The whole Department is in disarray and needs fixing. The job providers get paid hundreds of millions for nothing and Indue billions to "control" spending. $63 million for debt collectors is a pure waste of money.
    Wake Up
    1st Jun 2020
    10:13pm
    Retiring Well you seem to have a point of view on just about everything but in this case you are very uninformed.
    Anonymous
    2nd Jun 2020
    10:22am
    I am very well informed and I make up my own mind and don't take the word of others as fact at all. Media have to be the worst. I know of many people affected by Robodebt and they all were rorting Centrelink and got caught out. Now they want someone to blame for their own greed.
    Wake Up
    4th Jun 2020
    10:12am
    Retire Well If you are so well informed you should know that a retiree is not eligible to apply for Jobseeker
    Wake Up
    4th Jun 2020
    10:12am
    Retire Well If you are so well informed you should know that a retiree is not eligible to apply for Jobseeker
    Laura52
    4th Jun 2020
    10:35am
    That is correct Wakeup , according to the Services Australia website: You can’t get JobSeeker Payment once you’re Age Pension age or older. This is because you no longer meet the eligibility requirements. Read more about who can get JobSeeker Payment.
    Laura52
    4th Jun 2020
    10:36am
    The conditions are here: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/jobseeker-payment/who-can-get-it
    Misty
    1st Jun 2020
    12:06pm
    My son has been one of those caught out by this Robo ATO programme, he has been forced to pay back Family Tax Benifits that the ATO says he owed them and now they are asking for income records 15 years ago or he will be hit with another debt, I thought you only needed to keep records for 7 years and how come they waited until now to ask for these, he did his tax returns for 2016/17 with an accountant and nothing was said then, he can't do fis 2018,19 returns until this is sorted out, a nightmare.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    12:37pm
    Family Tax Benefits are balanced out each year with your tax return so his debts have nothing to do with Robodebt at all.
    KSS
    1st Jun 2020
    2:02pm
    Family tax is not a Centrelink welfare patment and therefore would not have been part of the Robodebt. It has to do with his tax returns to the ATO.
    Misty
    2nd Jun 2020
    1:10am
    I just Googled "Is Family Tax Benefit classed as welfare?', and it comes under welfare payments such as pensions, New Start etc and my son has to estimate his salary and cannot do his last Tax Return as the ATO wants a record for the year 2005 which he no longer has.

    1st Jun 2020
    12:29pm
    Good as if you rort Centrelink you deserve to get caught. Courts made a very bad decision with robodebt indeed.
    Greg
    1st Jun 2020
    1:02pm
    You obviously don't understand what has happened here. In the normal course government has stated that if you earn x dollars per year you get a payment based on that. Some people need to estimate their income which is fine, some of those people underestimated their income so are paid too much and have to pay it back, again that's fine.

    What's happened here is a person may earn $20,000 for 6 months and earn no other money for the year so that amount paid should be based on what the person earned in 12 months, ie $20,000 and that's what they were paid for.

    This Robo-debt calculated incomes as if the person earned that $20,000 all year, ie $40,000 so the system asked for money back suggesting the person was paid too much.

    The person did indeed receive the correct amount of assistance and these letters should not have gone out using the calculations that they did.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    1:15pm
    If that was the case then Robodebt would not pick up any inconsistencies as the averaging would be less than what was expected.
    Eddy
    1st Jun 2020
    2:36pm
    No Retiring Well, it is not good to rort Centrelink or any other organisation or individual or to claim debts that are not valid debts and make full use of coercive powers to enforce debt repayment. Also, I am not aware the courts have not made a decision regarding legality of RoboDebt, however the government has. Rather than go to court and try to defend the indefensible the government has decided to repay the money raised by this flawed system. However the government is not willing to compensate people for the pain and suffering inflicted by Centrelink. If the government made a determination that a specific percentage (say 10%) of the repayments would be added for 'pain and suffering' would go some way to compensate.
    Eddy
    1st Jun 2020
    2:36pm
    No Retiring Well, it is not good to rort Centrelink or any other organisation or individual or to claim debts that are not valid debts and make full use of coercive powers to enforce debt repayment. Also, I am not aware the courts have not made a decision regarding legality of RoboDebt, however the government has. Rather than go to court and try to defend the indefensible the government has decided to repay the money raised by this flawed system. However the government is not willing to compensate people for the pain and suffering inflicted by Centrelink. If the government made a determination that a specific percentage (say 10%) of the repayments would be added for 'pain and suffering' would go some way to compensate.
    Greg
    1st Jun 2020
    3:30pm
    That second comment proved you don't understand the system that was used.

    If you don't know what you're talking about why talk at all.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    3:31pm
    The only pain and suffering was from getting caught rorting Centrelink.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    3:32pm
    I know very well how it all work and quite frankly if worked too well as people got finally got caught out. Now they want to turn it against the government instead of themselves.
    diamond
    1st Jun 2020
    4:47pm
    Retiring Well. It hasn't been to court. The government has admitted it was unlawful. The class action has yet to come. You obviously haven't a clue how this has occurred or you wouldn't be attacking the innocent people who received these illegal debts.
    Kato
    1st Jun 2020
    9:01pm
    No they didn't . It hasn't been there yet the government admitted they were at fault and robotheft was unlawful.
    Anonymous
    2nd Jun 2020
    12:24pm
    I'm actually glad that Ribodebt has been scraped as they can now catch more people off guard with the need system they have in mind. Bring it on.
    Justsane
    5th Jun 2020
    12:33pm
    Greg, You stated: "What's happened here is a person may earn $20,000 for 6 months and earn no other money for the year so that amount paid should be based on what the person earned in 12 months, ie $20,000 and that's what they were paid for.

    This Robo-debt calculated incomes as if the person earned that $20,000 all year, ie $40,000 so the system asked for money back suggesting the person was paid too much."

    Is this actually the case? I didn't think that Robodebt worked like this. If the ATO has information that a person earned $20,000 in one specific year (even if he earned it over only a 6 month period), how could Centrelink's Robodebt say that he earned $40,000 that year?

    I thought that with Robodebt, the $20,000 would be averaged over 26 fortnights, so that Robodebt would say he earned approximately $769 per fortnight, which obviously would not have been the case, and that's where the error would lie.
    Joyful56
    1st Jun 2020
    1:51pm
    This is a disgrace - they knew it was illegal, cruel and was killing people. Plus I've heard that those poor individuals who have been forced onto the also unjust and taxpayer rip off Indue Card will receive their "refunds" via this card - despite that they may have paid back their "debt" directly. More unjustness from this government - it just never stops.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    2:11pm
    Nothing wrong with the welfare card at all. Everyone on welfare including the age pension should be given one.
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    2:13pm
    So If I get a speeding ticket and commit suicide then the speeding ticket is to blame.
    KSS
    1st Jun 2020
    3:09pm
    "This is a disgrace - they knew it was illegal, cruel and was killing people. "

    Well no Joyful56. At the time it was NOT deemed to be illegal, cruel is your emotional subjective opinion and killing people is emotive and unsubstantiated.
    Eddy
    1st Jun 2020
    3:17pm
    Of course not Retiring Well, if you got a speeding ticket you would go to the High Court because, as stated in your 2:15 pm post, you believe speeding tickets are unconstitutional. Best of luck.
    Kato
    1st Jun 2020
    8:54pm
    retiring well : you no doubt mean that politicians rorting the system using Australian Taxpayer's funds and there expense accounts above there wages is Welfare should be on a card as they have proven time after time they can't manage money. The sports rorts the community funding rorts using Taxpayer's money is Welfare. Mining companies receiving tax breaks and excises Welfare. Now we have big businesses such as the uniting church group plus mirvac rorting the job keeper system taxpayer's money again Welfare.
    You being on here at the behest of your bosses the lnp. Welfare - show us your card.
    Anonymous
    2nd Jun 2020
    10:28am
    I have at all to do with the LNP or Labor. I lobby both where I see unfairness and where I see greed as well. Many of you have benefitted greatly from my lobbying.
    Joyful56
    1st Jun 2020
    1:51pm
    This is a disgrace - they knew it was illegal, cruel and was killing people. Plus I've heard that those poor individuals who have been forced onto the also unjust and taxpayer rip off Indue Card will receive their "refunds" via this card - despite that they may have paid back their "debt" directly. More unjustness from this government - it just never stops.
    KSS
    1st Jun 2020
    3:47pm
    Heard from where exactly Joyful56?
    Misty
    10th Jun 2020
    7:23pm
    Tonight on A Current Affair one mother told us that her son committed suicide because of this Robo-Debt.
    Kon
    1st Jun 2020
    2:29pm
    Hey Retiring Well, were you a politician in your previous life?
    Anonymous
    1st Jun 2020
    3:28pm
    Nope.
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    6:41am
    HI Retiring Well, I was given a robo debt notice and I proved Centrelink/the government/robot debt system wrong. I declared my income correctly every 2 weeks. Hence, I am not a "cheat". I will explain what happened.

    It took 9 months for it all to be sorted out as my issue was passed from one centrelink worker to anothe, 3 people in fact, when I finally came across a kind centrelink worker who looked at all of my payslips and said, oh my, the debt is quite incorrect.

    This is what happened:

    a). I got my notice in November 2018 and started repaying the government back but decided to contest it or asked for a reassessment.

    b). In February 2018, I asked for a copy of the debt schedule as it took 4 months for me to get my payslips from a previous employer. I had to ask Fairwork to help me.

    c). The debt schedule was incorrect. The robot debt stated that I was over payed in July 2015 for carers payments. But, get this, I didn't apply for carers payments in July. I applied for carers payments in September 2015 and my payments started in November 2015. So how could I have cheated the system when I didn't apply for carer's payments until 2 months later?

    b). I changed jobs. Robo debt stated I was still at my previous job when in fact I started another job, 2 weeks after leaving that job. The dates of leaving my previous job and starting my new job were incorrect, despite me declaring everything correctly etc.

    I got an apology from the nice Centrelink worker who said it was a huge error.

    And I know of this happening to so many other people who were and are truthful in declaring their income. The system is so flawed because if one changes jobs, or has two jobs, robo debt doesn't take into account the changes in weekly income and just averages out the incomes.

    I rest my case.
    Rae
    2nd Jun 2020
    8:20am
    Laura that is the major problem with Centrelink. Either the data operators are deliberately entering wrong information or the computer is changing the data willy nilly.

    My son has been recently unemployed from rural farm work and came home to live. His wife went home to her family. Centrelink continued to get the addresses wrong, sent the wife's health card to my address, heaven knows why, and it took weeks just to get the right addresses registered.

    When Government Ministers who know nothing take over running a public service after sacking the experienced public servants this sort of chaos happens.
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    8:42am
    That is correct Rae...I couldn't get over the huge errors with robot debt getting all the dates wrong and the nice man at centrelink was gobsmacked...I did get most of my money back but....not all of it and now I am part of the class action.
    Anonymous
    2nd Jun 2020
    10:24am
    Good story Laura52 but I don't for one minute believe a word of it. I bet Centrelink has a very different take on this.
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    10:45am
    Retiring well, I got most of my money back ...and I was sent a copy of their debt schedule...which didn't match my ATO and payslips and dates. I am happy to show you if you want proof;)
    Youngagain
    2nd Jun 2020
    6:07pm
    Ignore RW, Laura52. He is just a stubborn, ignorant fool who is annoyed that his earlier comments were proved wrong. He has been proved wrong over this again and again. Clearly, he has no idea of reality but prefers to live in la la land.

    A blind fool could see the flaws in Robodebt. It wasn't just unlawful. It was downright STUPID, and the fact that someone said it was 'lawful' only shows that some idiots are brainless. An annual income divided by 26 DOES NOT necessarily expose the income attained in particular fortnight periods. A brainless moron could figure that out. But some people are so intent on demonising anyone who needs welfare that they can't see past their own noses.

    Centrelink's errors are mind-boggling. They get it wrong all the time. And when they get it wrong, they too often dig their heels in and abuse their power trying to avoid accountability instead of recognizing their obligation to deal fairly with applicants and rechecking to get it right.
    Karl Marx
    1st Jun 2020
    5:09pm
    Read all the comments from Retiring Well aka Old Geezer aka LNP troll
    What a disgusting, horrible excuse for a human being, if he is one at all.
    The LNP can cause genocide & this cretin will still say well done LNP they deserved to be annihilated. We know his LNP bum buddies are determined to have all pensioners, unemployed, underemployed & those less fortunate to be driven to poverty where they will have total control.
    About time Retiring Well aka Old Geezer aka LNP troll either wakes up to reality or kicks the bucket, one or the will do
    Karl Marx
    1st Jun 2020
    5:11pm
    one or the other will do.
    Anonymous
    3rd Jun 2020
    12:38pm
    Who is Old Geezer? Sounds like a fellow after my own heart. Gee I'd love to meet him.

    Unfortunately I am actually real and I do know what is really going on as I don't listen to the news especially the ABC and SBS. Turn off you tellie and think instead. I do.
    Misty
    4th Jun 2020
    1:13pm
    Retiring Well, how do you really know what is going on if you don't listen to the news?, are you psychic?.
    Mariner
    5th Jun 2020
    11:05am
    I remember Old Geezer, sounded like Ret Well. Too much so it probably is one and the same like Karl Marx suspects.
    gibbo111
    6th Jun 2020
    7:22am
    Fully agree Karl , retiring well is a miserable selfish clown
    Greg
    9th Jun 2020
    4:33pm
    I thought it was a given - obviously RW is Old Geezer who actually was Very Care Bear or similar.

    You can't hide, your obnoxious comments, talking down to everyone and just basically smartarse comments don't change. You are obviously trying to "hide" behind another profile but it doesn't work, we are not dumb.......but maybe you are to think you can hide.
    Kato
    1st Jun 2020
    8:30pm
    Let's be clear and honest it wasn't Robodebt it was Robotheft by the current incumbent the lnp. Income averaging may well have been used by all the other incumbents but they didn't employ debt collectors to harass innocent people into suicide over an unlawful scheme and or con. There were calls when Porter was the incumbent minister as to the law-fullness of the con. They chose to ignore those calls? “I’m not going to use that word because there’s litigation ongoing this will be used to the end of time and they will challenge any point no matter how small to avoid full scrutiny this is the purile state of our current political system. The pm said today they are fixing this well you can't fix death by harassment or any other way so you fail on that score. They should be held accountable and this should never be allowed to be forgotten. If they think this is going to blow over and they avoid any accountability then think again.
    Rae
    2nd Jun 2020
    8:22am
    Let's hope the Independent judiciary brings them to task on this after the Court case is over.
    thommo
    1st Jun 2020
    9:07pm
    No apology from these mongrel bastards eh. Well just vote them out of office at the next election, or sooner if that's possible. That's the only way they will ever get the message because these mongrel bastards think they've got us all by the "short and curlies".
    How wrong they are.
    They're lucky this isn't the 1918 Russian Revolution.
    Anonymous
    2nd Jun 2020
    10:26am
    No apology needed at all.
    Misty
    2nd Jun 2020
    12:36pm
    Centrelink spokesperson Retiring Well?
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    6:39am
    HI Retiring Well, I was given a robo debt notice and I proved Centrelink/the government/robot debt system wrong. I declared my income correctly every 2 weeks. Hence, I am not a "cheat". I will explain what happened.

    It took 9 months for it all to be sorted out as my issue was passed from one centrelink worker to anothe, 3 people in fact, when I finally came across a kind centrelink worker who looked at all of my payslips and said, oh my, the debt is quite incorrect.

    This is what happened:

    a). I got my notice in November 2018 and started repaying the government back but decided to contest it or asked for a reassessment.

    b). In February 2018, I asked for a copy of the debt schedule as it took 4 months for me to get my payslips from a previous employer. I had to ask Fairwork to help me.

    c). The debt schedule was incorrect. The robot debt stated that I was over payed in July 2015 for carers payments. But, get this, I didn't apply for carers payments in July. I applied for carers payments in September 2015 and my payments started in November 2015. So how could I have cheated the system when I didn't apply for carer's payments until 2 months later?

    b). I changed jobs. Robo debt stated I was still at my previous job when in fact I started another job, 2 weeks after leaving that job. The dates of leaving my previous job and starting my new job were incorrect, despite me declaring everything correctly etc.

    I got an apology from the nice Centrelink worker who said it was a huge error.

    And I know of this happening to so many other people who were and are truthful in declaring their income. The system is so flawed because if one changes jobs, or has two jobs, robo debt doesn't take into account the changes in weekly income and just averages out the incomes. This happens for people who work casually or part time when hours of working differ.

    I rest my case.
    Anonymous
    2nd Jun 2020
    10:25am
    I have seen too much to even believe one word of that epic story.
    Karl Marx
    2nd Jun 2020
    10:38am
    See Laura52, RW just won't believe that ANY Australian has an honest bone in their body apart from himself & his LNP mates & top end of town rich. He labels all (apart from himself & his mates of course) as just thieving, dishonest parasites on society.
    He will protect his beloved LNP trash to the hilt because he's an LNP troll who isn't even worthy of the same air everyone else breaths.
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    10:42am
    Well Retiring well, my payslips and ATO all match...all correctly reported...so that's my proof I guess ;) Cheers
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    10:46am
    Retiring well, I got most of my money back ...and I was sent a copy of their debt schedule...which didn't match my ATO and payslips and dates. I am happy to show you if you want proof;)
    Anonymous
    2nd Jun 2020
    12:28pm
    I have on many occasions now been overpaid by people and have asked them to check their accounts. After getting on their high horses they have all come back to me and told me I owe nothing. People just don't believe anyone that tells the truth any more which works to my advantage. I have no issue with owning up to anything if I am wrong at all.
    Laura52
    2nd Jun 2020
    12:33pm
    That's good of you:) I know I wasn't in the wrong so I pursued it via the correct channels and then I was told I was correct, an error was made on Centrelink's part so it all worked out in the end:) I care for my ill elderly parents and I I don't have any reason to cheat or rort the government.
    Anonymous
    2nd Jun 2020
    2:58pm
    You were one of the very few who did the right thing and it got sorted out in your favour. Since many more others got caught rorting the system then it was a great system.
    4b2
    3rd Jun 2020
    9:35am
    Why is this not surprising. This coalition as well as past coalition governments cant say sorry, admit they ever make a mistake, never apologize, and try to cover up mistakes and embarrassing leaks by classifying them as state secrets or cabinet confidential.
    Time we get rid of them.
    Anonymous
    3rd Jun 2020
    12:40pm
    But you haven't seen what is coming from both the LNP and Labor. I have and I don't like it at all.


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