Thursday, 11 June 2020
Pensions and Benefits
Before moving general business notice of motion No. 628, I ask that the names of Senators Siewert and Griff be added to the motion. I, and also on behalf of Senators O'Neill, Polley, Siewert and Griff, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that the Morrison Government:
(i) has announced it will refund at least $721 million that it unjustly enriched itself with by raising unlawful debts against Australians,
(ii) for years denied Robodebt was illegal, but on Friday 29 May 2020 conceded that "There wasn't a lawful basis" for the scheme, and
(iii) only admitted Robodebt was unlawful and suspended the scheme after a class action was launched on behalf of 600,000 victims; and
(b) calls on the Minister representing the Minister for Government Services to produce all answers to questions asked by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation and References Committees relating to Robodebt over which there have been public interest immunity claims made.
The government notes that income averaging has been a longstanding practice of successive governments going back decades. A random sample of 500 debts raised by Labor's data-matching compliance activities in both 2009 and 2011 indicates that averaging was utilised to raise debts in 16.8 per cent and 24.4 per cent of cases respectively, evidencing the long-term use of this practice. The government opposes this motion, which deals with matters that are currently before the courts. Further, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee has sought a range of information in relation to the income compliance program, including legal advice over which the government has made claims of public interest immunity.