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Prime Minister apologises for robodebt debacle

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised for the robodebt scheme. (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised in parliament to Australians who unduly suffered because of the so-called 'robodebt' data-matching scheme.

Morrison spoke in response to opposition government services spokesperson Bill Shorten's testimony about a cancer patient who had to sell his house to pay for medical treatment, but still had robodebt collectors chasing him in hospital.

"I would apologise for any hurt or harm in the way the government has dealt with that issue and to anyone else who has found themselves in those situations," said Morrison.

The prime minister said the act of raising and recovering debts was "a difficult job".

"Of course I would deeply regret any hardship that has been caused to people in the conduct of that activity."

The robodebt scheme saw computers match records from multiple government agencies to identify Australians that had been overpaid their entitlements.

But the system was riddled with errors, with many people chased for debts even though they did not actually owe any money.

Three years later, the government was forced to refund $721 million to 470,000 Australians who were affected by the scheme.

Morrison's apology came despite the attorney-general Christian Porter's insistence last week that he would not say sorry because of a class action lawsuit in progress.

Only a day earlier in parliament, the prime minister had blamed the opposition Labor Party for forcing the government to claw back entitlements.

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