26 September 2023

PS staff welcome Royal Commission

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Many staff members in Services Australia have welcomed the Royal Commission into the Robodebt scheme as many had raised the alarm about the scheme’s flaws at its inception.

The Royal Commission was announced last Friday (25 August) to examine the former automated debt assessment and recovery scheme which was ruled unlawful by the Federal Court in November 2019.

Welcoming the Royal Commission, the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said its members had raised the alarm about flaws in the Robodebt scheme from the very beginning.

The Union said that before the scheme was implemented, CPSU members working in Centrelink advised the Department and Government that the scheme was flawed and would cause serious problems.

“These workers are experts in the system,” CPSU said.

“They work on the frontline of social security service delivery every day and when they raised the alarm about how vulnerable people would be harmed, they should have been taken seriously,” it said.

“For the Government and the Department to ignore their serious concerns was not just negligent, it caused untold damage to welfare recipients, and ultimately breached their trust in the social security system.”

CPSU said the $1.8 billion settlement of the Federal Court class action in June 2021 showed that its members’ warnings were legitimate.

National Secretary of CPSU, Melissa Donnelly said that when public servants’ concerns were ignored, they had been forced to implement the scheme “knowing full well the harm it would wreak”.

“Our members take their jobs seriously; they want to deliver quality support to Australians who rely on the social safety net,” Ms Donnelly said.

“[The] announcement of a Royal Commission into the scheme finally gives voice to the community members and Centrelink staff who were treated so poorly by the previous Government.”

The Final Report of the Royal Commission is to be delivered by 18 April next year.

The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference can be accessed in the Federal Executive Council website at this PS News link.

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