House debates

Monday, 30 November 2020

Questions without Notice

Pensions and Benefits

3:02 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Government Services. Has the minister asked his department for a report on how many Australians have taken their own life as a result of the government's illegal robodebt scheme? Why did the government persist with the Prime Minister's robodebt scheme when it knew it was illegal and was driving people to self-harm and suicide?

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme) Share this | | Hansard source

The government certainly rejects the premise of the Leader of the Opposition's question. As I said in the first answer, this government did not invent income averaging. It did not. And, as I tabled in the House, the process of income averaging has gone back at least 26 years. Substantially. I also pointed out, reading the member for McMahon's press statement from 2010, that those opposite went forward on 3.8 million compliance-type reviews and raised $2.2 billion. So, the collection of debts is an ongoing process.

In terms of customers that we are refunding to, it's important the House understands there are about 3,300 deceased customers whose estates are entitled to a refund under the program. From August this year, the agency has been working with the estates of those customers to process refunds—a process that's been overseen by appropriately trained staff. Conflating that with issues of harm and with suicide, I suggest, is not something that we should be walking into quickly. It's something we should be treating with care and respect right across the House.