Removal of flawed averaging from Robodebt welcome but devil will be in the detail

The Australian Council of Social Service is relieved to hear that the Government is finally halting one of the most harmful parts of its error-ridden Robodebt scheme. However, the devil will be in the detail, which remains to be seen. ACOSS has a longstanding position for Robodebt to be abolished.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said:

“We have repeatedly warned the Government that Robodebt is grossly unfair and contrary to basic legal principles, especially the use of automated averaging to calculate debts, and the reversal of onus of proof, which has led to inaccurate assessments and people being pursued for debts they do not owe.

“While we’re relieved to hear that the Government is finally halting the use of averaging to calculate debts, we call on the Government to replace the entire error-ridden program with a humane form of debt recovery.

“At the Government’s own admission at least 1 in 5 robodebts are reduced or waived. Many more people have likely gone ahead and paid knowing the debt is incorrect but without being able to prove this.

“Robodebts hit people even when they’re at their most vulnerable. After the death of a family member, in the wake of a natural disaster, when they’re living on next to nothing and have been getting rejection after rejection in today’s competitive job market.

“Robodebt is an abuse of government power, and it should have never seen the light of day.

“Robodebt is among a long list of policies that degrade and harass people while they search for paid work, study, live with disability or care for children. The corrosive effect on people’s mental health is clear. Seeking help from Centrelink has too often become unsafe for people trying to get through difficult times.

“Instead of making life harder for people with damaging policies like Robodebt, the Cashless Debit Card and ParentsNext, the government should increase the grossly inadequate Newstart payment so that people can get through tough times.”