Wednesday, February 01, 2023

#Robodebt Royal Commission

It has been heartbreaking watching the livestream of the Royal Commission into the 'Robodebt" today. I knew the system was bad, but I had no idea it was intentionally defective. 

Robodebt was/is the system dreamed up by the recent LNP government to recover money from people they accused of committing 'welfare fraud'. They 'streamlined' the process by automating it and removing client service officers from the information collection process. Problem was, the system assumed income was earned all year when clients typically had patchy employment records. 

The result was that debt letters were sent to a great many people who had no debt at all. Not only were they sent letters saying they had $3,000 or $30,000 debt but the letters were threatening, written on AFP (Australian Federal Police) letter head, with  no telephone number which would allow people to ring and query. Many people didn't respond to the letters, either because  people had sent all their records to Centrelink and assumed they would be ok, or for example because they didn't understand the letters or had no access to computers to check records online. A ' no response' would result in more threatening letters and calls from debt collectors who were sent to collect these 'debts'. With such a vulnerable population it is no surprise that recipients suicided when they saw no way out. 

Minister Tudge was being examined today and it is clear that the government was focused on kicking the opposition (by showing they had never followed up 'welfare cheats') they didn't care who was trampled in the process.

Today we heard of a case of a young woman who had left her job because of workplace bullying. She had given correct records to Centrelink but she was issued a debt and even though she rang them, staff were forbidden to look up customer records. She couldn't win.  The system issued another debt letter even though she was identified on the system as vulnerable. She suicided. 

Tudge, a trained lawyer himself, seemed unconcerned by this heartbreaking evidence, only interested in shifting the blame and puffing his chest. 

Such a Kafkaesque system could only operate in an atmosphere where the bosses believe all welfare recipients are cheats. 

I'd put them all in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Let then strutt and blame-shift behind bars.  

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