Thursday, 13 February 2020
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Government Services, Senator Ruston. How many Australians were pursued under the government's illegal robodebt scheme?
I thank Senator Brown for her question. The senator may be aware that on 19 November the Minister for Government Services, the Hon. Stuart Robert, made an announcement in relation to further refinements in relation to the income compliance program. Those measures were designed to strengthen and improve the program that was introduced by the Labor Party in 2011. The program changes are designed to make it more robust by requiring more information to be provided in relation to people when we are seeking to determine whether a debt has actually been incurred. As you'd be aware from announcements last year, the government is no longer using income averaging solely as a reason for raising a debt. However, as you would also be aware, this matter is before the courts, so any further comment in relation to this—
You've reminded the minister of your question. There was an assertion in the question about the legality of it, so the minister is in order and being directly relevant in addressing that. I think there was the word 'illegal'. The minister can be in order in addressing that as well. I have allowed you to remind the minister of the question. I call the minister to continue.
Thank you very much, Mr President. As the senator would also be aware, this chamber and the other chamber were advised at the time, and it was also advised in the media, that we would no longer be using income averaging with the ATO as the sole reason for determining a debt for somebody who potentially had been overpaid by Centrelink. We also advised that there was a review being undertaken. That review is currently underway and forms part of the process that is currently before the courts. I am not in a position to pre-empt the outcome of the court's deliberations.
I would refer the senator to my answer to the previous question, and that is that the review is afoot, and when I am in a position to come back to this chamber with more information, I will do so.
I would once again refer the senator to my previous answer, when I advised her that there is a review underway in relation to the matters she has raised. Once that review is completed, she will be able to get the answer to her question.