Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Robodebt: Government stole $720 million from society’s poorest

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The Australian government’s Robodebt scheme – an automated system for issuing Centrelink debts – was found illegal in a May ruling by the Federal Court.

Robodebt claims have been identified as a contributing factor in numerous suicides by families who have lost loved ones. These stories are only a fraction of Robodebt’s enormous human toll.

The ruling means the government will be forced to pay back $720 million to welfare recipients who had received unlawful Robodebt notices. At least 75% of money brought in by the scheme will need to be repaid or wiped.

In total hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on administering this barbaric scheme.

PM Scott Morrison originally refused to make an apology but conceded under huge public pressure. Opinion polls indicated that 74% of Australians felt the government should apologise.

Morrison’s forced apology is totally fake. The government had warning as early as March 2016 that debt automation could lead to incorrect debts being issued.

Despite warnings that the scheme was seriously flawed, they pushed ahead with further attacks on Australia’s most impoverished, announcing a crackdown on welfare just three months later!

These policies were a deliberate targeting of the poor and vulnerable. They flow from the government’s agenda of reducing expenditure on social services so it can be reallocated to tax cuts and handouts to the richest in society.

This is the result of a system that intentionally makes welfare inaccessible to many, and a traumatising and dehumanising experience even for those that are able to access payments.

Capitalism does not care about the lives of ordinary working-class people, especially those that are disabled, unemployed, studying, or unwell.

The government has not stopped these attacks and is trying to reboot the scheme with new laws to make it legal.

This callous system should never have been implemented. All Centrelink debts raised as a result should be wiped.
Moreover, all welfare payments should be raised to the level of a real living wage.

But as long as there is a ruling class that hoards all of society’s wealth, those most in need will be under constant attack.

We need a determined fightback not only against this government, but against the capitalist system that subjects people to impoverishment and dehumanisation.

By Sheri Bryson


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