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Centrelink robodebt royal commission: What we know

Australian currency fanned out. Australians line up outside the Centrelink offices.
The controversial Centrelink robodebt scheme was ruled unlawful in 2019. (Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has unveiled a royal commission into the controversial robodebt scheme.

The automated matching of tax and Centrelink data to raise debts against welfare recipients for money the former Coalition government claimed to have overpaid was ruled unlawful in 2019.

But the Morrison government never detailed who was accountable for the scheme and which ministers knew of its problems.

The royal commission is expected to cost $30 million, with the final report to be delivered to the Governor-General by April 18, 2023.

Albanese said key lessons needed to be learnt following the controversial scheme.

"It is vital, so that we get to the bottom of how robodebt came about so that we can ensure that it can never ever happen again," Albanese said.

"We know that almost 400,000 Australians fell victim to this cruel system. A human tragedy with very real consequences for its victims."

What will the royal commission focus on?

At this stage we know the commission will look in to the establishment, design and implementation of the scheme.

The government wants to know who was responsible for it, why they thought robodebt was necessary, and any concerns raised regarding the legality and fairness.

Albanese dismissed criticism the commission would be an opportunity to attack the former government, saying there was a human cost to the scheme.

"People lost their lives. Every single one of my local constituents, and every member of Parliament can tell stories like this," he said.

"Those people who were most vulnerable were the least likely to go to their local member, to have the confidence to do that. And that's why we need to get to the heart of why this occurred."

Royal commission labelled a ‘witch hunt’

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the royal commission was nothing more than a witch hunt.

"[The Prime Minister] should be concentrating more on how he can help families and less on how we can get square with Scott Morrison," Dutton said.

"It's clear that this is nothing more than a political witch hunt. And Anthony Albanese is spending more time looking in the rear-vision mirror than he is looking ahead."

The Prime Minister said he did not want to pre-empt the commission, when asked whether former Coalition ministers, including Morrison, would be giving evidence.

  • With AAP

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