Thursday, 3 December 2020
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the Minister for Government Services. If the government has done nothing wrong on robodebt, why did the government agree to pay $1.2 billion to its victims, including $112 million in compensation?
I thank the member for Maribyrnong for his comeback question, once again. As we've been saying all week, on 19 November last year the government announced that it would be refining its program, based on its view that collecting debts using averaged income data from the ATO was insufficient.
Mr Dreyfus interjecting—
On relevance: the question was very specifically referring to the landmark class settlement of two weeks ago, and the minister well knows that the 400,000 people included in that landmark settlement were people who were robodebted between 2015 and 2019. He is being irrelevant going back 26 years.
I say to the member for Maribyrnong: taking a point of order is not an opportunity to debate the matter or to further explain the question. That's why there is a time limit on questions. You had up to 30 seconds. The Leader of the House, on the point of order?
With respect to standing order 98 and that contribution from the member for Maribyrnong, it appears that he is asking for an expression of a legal opinion. This matter has—
Opposition members interjecting—
Without detaining the House with a long explanation, certainly the practice around that standing order makes a number of distinctions, but, even so, the beginning of the question wasn't doing that. I have a different problem, and that is that it was a very specific question. I say to the minister that he has had about a 50-second preamble. He needs to either bring himself to the question or wind his answer up.
This government didn't invent income averaging. But the reason why the government sought to settle a matter was based on the announcement on 19 November last year, where the government arrived at the conclusion that the use of income averaging, a practice that had been going for 26 years, was not sufficient. As soon as the government reached the conclusion that it was not sufficient, despite 26 years of history, the government then sought to repay, as any government would. The fact that the use of income averaging went back to the Keating days means, frankly, that this government ended Labor's use of income averaging and, as part of that, commenced repaying Australians where an insufficient debt was raised because income averaged ATO data had been used for a quarter of a century.