Hundreds of thousands of people have been caught up in a massive Centrelink affair and now a major inquiry will look into how things went so horribly wrong.
A royal commission into the controversial robodebt program is preparing to hold its first public hearing.
The commissioner and assistant senior council will make brief opening statements in Brisbane on Tuesday, but no witnesses will be called.
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The illegal debt collection program began in 2015 and falsely accused welfare recipients of owing the government money.
The system automatically issued debt notices to people identified through a process called income averaging, which compared their reported income to figures from the tax office.
Similar techniques had been used in the past, but the scale of the robodebt system was unprecedented.
More than $750 million was wrongfully recovered from 381,000 people.
The scheme was ruled illegal in 2019 and a $1.2 billion settlement was reached between robodebt victims and the former coalition government in 2020.
Labor promised to convene the royal commission ahead of the election and followed through shortly after their victory.
The commission will be chaired by former Queensland Supreme Court Chief Justice Catherine Holmes.
The investigation will explore the design and implementation of the robodebt system and the impact it had on victims and their families.
It will review the use of third party debt collectors and other concerns raised.
Anthony Albanese called the robodebt program a “human tragedy” when he revealed the terms of reference for the investigation in August.
“It is essential that we find out how robotic debt came about so that we can make sure it never happens again,” the prime minister said.
“People have lost their lives. Every one of my local constituents and every MP can tell stories like this. »
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton strongly criticized the commission, describing it as a political witch hunt and a tool for Mr Albanese to ‘get along with Scott Morrison’.
© APA 2022