Damning evidence that the government knew robo-debt was illegal

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Damning emails have revealed that the Morrison government knew that the controversial robo-debt scheme was illegal and that the debts were not lawful.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has accused the government of breaking the law and Greens senator Rachel Siewert has demanded the government come clean on how long it has known its debt-recovery scheme was unlawful.

Confidential emails between tax office officials were provided to a Senate committee on Thursday, revealing that the Department of Social Service had received legal advice that thousands of debts raised were “not lawful debts”.

It’s unclear as to how long ago the legal advice was received.

The email from the Australian Taxation Office’s general counsel, Jonathan Todd, was dated 19 November 2019, and sent to ATO commissioner, Chris Jordan marked ‘Sensitive: Legal’.

“In further discussion with the DSS, it appears that what you need to raise is: they have advised you that they have received legal advice that debts based solely upon DSS own income averaging of ATO annual tax data are not lawful debts (‘robo-debts’),” read the email.

“They have also suspended the raising and recovery of robo-debts as of today.”

A week later the government settled a court challenge brought by Victoria Legal Aid over a robo-debt, rather than allow it to proceed to court.

The Prime Minister was asked in Parliament on Thursday: “Does the Prime Minister regret administering an illegal robo-debt scheme?”

Mr Morrison handballed his opportunity to respond to Human Services Minister Stuart Robert, who claimed the changes were in response to community feedback.

“These changes are designed to make the program more robust by requiring additional evidence,” said Mr Robert.

“This means we’ll no longer raise a debt where the only information we’re relying on is the averaging of ATO. For those debts raised to date, the statement was made that services Australia will be carefully and methodically working to identify those customers.”

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said the government must now reveal how long it knew robo-debt was illegal.

“People in our community have been traumatised and harassed for years and years, many have large debts they don’t owe and are being forced to pay with interest and they want and deserve answers,” said Senator Siewert.

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I don’t care about robodebt, whatever it is.

What is more important to me is whether the information was leaked or gained legally.

This was a high security email.

Maybe it was that bastard Assange.

Information like this should not have to be leaked, the voters have a right to know about government incompetence.

The article stated that the email was given to a Senate committee and thus became a public document. I suspect the ATO want to distance themselves from RoboDebt, releasing these emails may take the heat off them.

I challlenged Centrelink and took them to Administrative Tribunal when I received a letter from robodebt due to an administrative fault on their part and had about 2/3 of the amount cancelled.  If it was illegal - am I now entitled to get the rest back, esp as my disposable income is now far less than when Centrelink made the error some years back.  Interested to see what others think - guess if you don't challenge again you never know!

This is what Class Actions are about. All people who have been ripped off by this corrupt government should be looking for a Class Action to join.

Thieves have to bought to account, maybe if the locked in at any cost supporters get a hit to the hip pocket, they may start to think about who they are voting for.

I am glad that is has turned out to be illegal, but will people be compensated for the stress caused, and for those who lost loved ones to suicide because of the pressure. Makes me wonder what else might be illegal, like the unemployed signing job plans that you are supposed to negotiate but their is no negotiation they just have to sign or get cut off their payments.

Government lawyers warned the tax commissioner the controversial "robodebt" programme could be illegal on the same day the Federal Government suspended the scheme.

Seems like a fairly quick response to me.


Point is why did they not make sure before they even started it?

Computers like people are not perfect

Ignorance of the law is  no excuse.  For the government to claim they did not know this scheme might not be legal is a weak cowardly  cop out.

In State Government any scheme or project worth over $100,000 requires a process that requires legal oversight.  This is in the form of peer scrutiny with questions around legality and probity refered on to the legal department.

What we are being asked to believe is that no one, not one person connected to this project, had a suspicion that the concept may not be legal.

It fails the common sense test.  Not everyone connected to this project could be so thick.  More likely they were too scared for the sake of their careers to bring it up. If this was the case, it uncovers an even worse problem, people should not be so scared that they can't do their jobs properly.

I know there is a difference between State and Federal procedures, but this is pretty basic stuff.

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