Robodebt reviews to be dropped for nearly 200,000 Australians

Nearly 200,000 Australians will have their Robodebt reviews dropped and debts wiped, with the federal government deciding to throw out the outstanding cases.

On Wednesday, The Australian reports, Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth will formally announce the Albanese government’s decision to drop the cases, citing concerns that further attempts to pursue them would prove time-consuming and less than fruitful.

“The Robodebt fiasco is something that should be of deep concern to all Australians,” Ms Rishworth said in a statement to the newspaper.

“It was meant to save money, however, we know it had a significant human cost.

“We know that as late back as 2016, there were members of the public flagging concerns that these debts weren’t right. Individuals felt increasingly anxious, depressed and worried because these debts kept coming and they couldn’t understand them.”

The Robodebt system involved an automated process which sought to determine whether someone had received more government benefits than they were entitled to. The system issued automated debt statements, which caused an unknown number of Australians to be chased for debts they didn’t actually owe.

Two months ago, the government announced there would be a royal commission into the Robodebt scheme, led by Catherine Holmes, a retired judge and former chief justice of the Queensland Supreme Court.

“We are removing any doubt that has been hanging over the heads of Robodebt victims for almost a decade,” said Government Services Minister Bill Shorten, who described the scheme as “illegal” and “shameful”.

“These dodgy debts were raised by the former government in an illegal shakedown against some of the most vulnerable to underpin their discredited surplus forecasts.”

The almost 200,000 people in question here had their reviews put on hold in 2019 under the then-Coalition government.

The Federal Court found the Robodebt system to be unlawful and approved a $1.8 billion settlement with its victims.

Public hearings before the royal commission begin at the end of the month.

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