Robodebt taken to Court over dodgy debts, reconfirming it needs to go

The Australian Council of Social Service welcomes the landmark case launched by Victoria Legal Aid in the Federal Court, challenging the disastrous Centrelink automated debt recovery system, Robodebt.

Victoria Legal Aid is representing Madeleine Masterton, who works as a nurse in a Melbourne hospital and was pursued by Centrelink for an alleged Robodebt of around $4,000 without information on how it was calculated. Victoria Legal Aid is arguing that the process of estimating debts through Robodebt is unlawful.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “Robodebt has unleashed thousands of debt notices in error to parents, people with disabilities, carers, students and people seeking paid work, resulting in people slapped with Centrelink debts they do not owe or debts higher than they owe.

“It has been a devastating abuse of government power that has caused extensive harm, particularly among people who are the most vulnerable in our community.

“ACOSS has repeatedly called for Robodebt to be stopped, warning of the serious harm it is causing.

“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 is leading to inaccurate assessments of what people may, or may not, owe, and of people being pursued for debts they do not owe.

“It is disappointing that it is being left to an individual and her lawyers to litigate in the Courts to stop this injustice. ACOSS congratulates them for their courage and determination in taking up this legal challenge. We urge the Government to act now and end this fundamentally flawed and brutal debt collection system.

“Robodebt is among a long list of policies from this Federal Government that degrade and harass people living with disability, caring for children, studying or searching for paid work.

“Instead of making life harder for people with damaging policies like Robodebt, the Cashless Debit Card and ParentsNext, a good government would increase the grossly inadequate Newstart and Youth Allowance payments to ensure our social safety net does not trap people in poverty.

“Our social security safety net should provide people with the support and dignity they need to escape the poverty.”