Government refunds $700m robodebt payments

The robodebt notices for alleged welfare overpayments were based on flawed calculations (Supplied)

Almost $700 million in wrongly-reclaimed government “robodebt” payments has been returned to hundreds of thousands of people, including the estates of thousands of dead Australians. Source: The Age.

Deputy chief executive of Services Australia Michelle Lees told a Senate estimates committee yesterday that 402,000 people have either received a refund or had their debt reduced to zero.

In May, Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert announced the Government would repay $721 million to Australians who received debt notices for alleged overpayments of their welfare based on flawed calculations.

To October 26, the Government has repaid $697.1 million, Ms Lees said, which made up 94 per cent of all refunds.

The remaining 6 per cent, or 38,000 people, includes a group of customers who were yet to make contact with the agency, she said. That group also included people who may have died, people in prison, or other cases which required extra work from the department.

Under the robodebt program, debts were sent out to Australians when a discrepancy was found between what people were claiming in welfare and earnings and their tax data. But tax data is averaged, and the computer program assumed discrepancies between fluctuating weekly income and the tax data was a debt.

Labor proposed a royal commission into the robodebt scheme in June. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said he would start an inquiry if Labor won the next election, so that a “disaster like this never happens to the Australian people again”.

FULL STORY

Almost $700 million in robodebt claims repaid by federal government (By Rachel Clun, The Age

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