Bloody hell, there it is: Scott Morrison has apologised to victims of the robodebt scandal, which saw thousands of Aussies hit with debt notices later found to be the result of system error.
“Of course I would deeply regret –deeply regret – any hardship that has been caused to people in the conduct of that activity,” Morrison said in parliament today.
“I would apologise for any hurt or harm in the way that the Government has dealt with that issue and to anyone else who has found themselves in those situations.”
The Government announced May it was scrapping the scheme and paying back the $721 million worth of debts raised.
Minister for Social Services Stuart Robert, who oversaw the scheme, also offered some words for robodebt victims – although neither “sorry” nor “I apologise” were among them.
“If any member can refer any hardship cases through to me and I will ensure the department looks at it. Mental health and suicide, as we all know, and we all appreciate, are very delicate issues,” Robert said.
More than 2,000 people died after receiving an automated Centrelink debt notice, according to data released by the Department of Human Services last year. While this data did not include a cause of death, one-fifth of these people were aged under 35. Some families of people who died by suicide following robodebt notices said the financial stress was a contributing factor.
A class action lawsuit has been launched against the Government over the scheme.
Just last week, Attorney-General Christian Porter refused to apologise for the scheme, citing the class action.
“The system was flawed. I’m not going to use that word because … as Attorney-General I can’t use the sort of language in the context of the litigation,” he said.
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