Between 2015 and 2019, the Robodebt scheme was responsible for raising Centrelink debts through an unlawful averaging process using Australian Taxation Office (ATO) income information.
As a result of this, a Royal Commission was established in August 2022 tasked with looking at what happened and to come up with recommendations to ensure the same mistakes are never made again. Royal Commissions are public inquiries that are established in rare and exceptional circumstances that relate to the Commonwealth and its responsibilities.
On 7 July 2023 the Report of the Royal Commission into the Robot Debt scheme was published.
The Commission made 57 recommendations as a result.
The recommendations fall under categories including the effects of Robodebt on individuals, automated decision making, data matching, improving the Australian Public Service and the role of advocacy groups and legal services
Some of the recommendations handed down by the commission include:
- Changes to policy and process design with emphasis on the people they are meant to serve; including the use of clear terms, plain language and easier engagement
- Change to the dialog around social security to ensure it is not stigmatised and shameful
- Identification of circumstances affecting a person’s capacity to engage with a compliance activity ( such as mutual obligations) being recorded on their file
- Making engagement with Centrelink easier for advocates and legal services
- The establishment of a body that will monitor and audit any automated decision-making in the future
Economic Justice Australia, which BCLS is a member of, has issued a media release about the Commission’s findings in more detail; it can be found here: https://www.ejaustralia.org.au/media-release-robodebt-royal-commission-findings/
The full report and recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Robodebt schemer can be accessed here: https://robodebt.royalcommission.gov.au/publications/report