Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Pensions and Benefits
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) robodebt and the income compliance program has caused enormous harm and trauma to hundreds of thousands of Australians, and
(ii) the Government has not genuinely apologised to robodebt victims;
(b) acknowledges that:
(i) the Government is only refunding illegal debts from 2015, which will leave many victims behind, and
(ii) the social and economic costs of this program have not been fully identified and examined; and
(c) calls on the Government to establish a Royal Commission into robodebt to examine all elements of this program.
Labor won't be supporting this motion today, but we have acknowledged the need for an independent investigation into robo-debt. We agree that the government has refused to provide basic information about this government program because it believes that the disclosure of information may materially affect the Commonwealth's position in the negligence claim of the robo-debt class action.
The Senate has previously agreed to orders for the production of documents requesting details of the program and legal advice, and confirming that legal professional privilege is not a recognised ground for refusing to provide information to the Senate. If the government complied with these orders a royal commission may not be needed. That's why we are opposing the motion today, and will instead allow the government to—
Honourable senators interjecting—
If I could finish! We will instead allow the government until the final sitting day of this sitting week—Thursday 18 June—to do the right thing and reconsider its position on the public interest immunity claim and its attempt to cover up the robo-debt scandal.