The Federal Government has called a ‘Robodebt’ royal commission. 

The Albanese government says it will run a royal commission into the former government's unlawful debt recovery scheme known as 'Robodebt'.

Former Queensland Supreme Court Justice Catherine Holmes will lead the commission that is due to report back by April 18, 2023.

The inquiry will examine, among other things: 

  • The establishment, design and implementation of the scheme; who was responsible for it; why they considered Robodebt necessary; and, any concerns raised regarding the legality and fairness;

  • The handling of concerns raised about the scheme, including adverse decisions made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal;

  • The outcomes of the scheme, including the harm to vulnerable individuals and the total financial cost to government; and

  • Measures needed to prevent similar failures in public administration.

The 2015 robodebt program used a data-matching algorithm to compare financial details of Centrelink recipients to find if they had been overpaid. The system frequently came up with incorrect debts, unlawfully claiming almost $2 billion in payments from 433,000 people, and wrongly recovering a total of $751 million from 381,000 people.

A $1.8 billion class action settlement was ordered last year for what Federal Court Justice Bernard Murphy described as a “massive failure”.

The Government has allocated $30 million for the Royal Commission, which will be headquartered in Brisbane.  

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the scheme was a “human tragedy”.

“The royal commission will examine the establishment of the scheme, who was responsible for it, and why it was necessary, how concerns were handled, how the scheme affected individuals and the financial costs to government, and measures to prevent this ever happening again,” he said.

“People lost their lives.

“Every single member of parliament can tell stories like this.”

Former PM Scott Morrison was social services minister when the scheme was established, and has previously claimed the problem was dealt with by his government when it was scrapped in 2020.

Previous attempts to obtain documents from the creation of the Robodebt scheme have been shut down.