Australia

Victim of bungled robodebt scheme says she’s ‘furious’ with the government’s response to $1.2 billion settlement

The main plaintiffs in the settlement between the victims of Robodette and the federal government have accused them of inadequate response to the case.

Judge Bernard Murphy approved a $ 1.2 billion settlement between Robodette victims and the federal government on Friday, blasting plans to be the “shameful chapter” of the executive branch.

In response to the outcome of the settlement, Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg said the issue is currently being dealt with.

“There was a settlement. I apologized. The Prime Minister himself said of the harm, injuries and hardships caused by the operation of the plan,” Frydenberg said.

He said the former government was also responsible for the robodet policy.

“Debt collection is very difficult, but it’s a process adopted by successive governments and clearly accepts the settlement announced by the court today,” he said.

Plaintiff Felicity de Somerville said the response from Frydenberg was not sufficient.

“I’m furious with the treasurer and his comments today. I’m from the profession [nursing] The pillars of what we do are honesty and accountability, and if this happened in the field of my work, it would be a complete fuss, “she told SBS News.

“You have to take responsibility for what you are doing, and the government knew what they were doing. They knew that what they were doing was not ethical. Was. “

In 2017, Ms de Somerville noticed that Centrelink removed six months’ wages from his account without warning when he tried to pay for his one-year-old daughter’s severe chest infection.

She said that filing a proceeding would only increase her debt, but she is still happy with the results for the victims who could not claim their situation.

“Gordon Regal and government analysts were recalculating people’s debt. My debt actually increased. Financially this didn’t help me, it burdened me ..

“But I’m still really happy with the result, as John Smith, a disabled Springvale who didn’t know how to navigate the system and was silent, is compensated. It’s not me. . “”

Judge Bernard Murphy said on Friday that raising debt using a flawed income averaging tool caused financial hardship, distress and anxiety for vulnerable people.

He said he was ashamed and hurt that many were mistakenly branded as “welfare scammers.”

The settlement distribution system also resulted in “a huge waste of public funds.”

“The proceedings exposed a shameful chapter in the administration of the Federal Social Security System and a major administrative failure,” Judge Murphy told federal court.

He said it should have been “obvious” to the government that many welfare recipients could not earn a stable or constant income and could only be hired part-time, casually, or intermittently. It was.

However, Judge Murphy was not convinced that the federal government knew from the beginning that the Robodette program was illegal.

“When I choose between stuffing and conspiracy, I remember the maxim that you usually have to choose stuffing,” he said.

The over 648,000 class proceedings were led by Gordon Regal.

Judge Murphy has approved the company for $ 8.4 million and said it will give 680 people who oppose the settlement the opportunity to opt out.

The judge said government ministers should have known that the Robodette program was flawed.

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Gordon’s legal partner Andrew Gretsch said the settlement’s approval would close the victims of the Robodette program.

“We hope that this result will provide peace of mind and some certainty to all class action members and serve as a powerful deterrent to similar ruthless welfare practices for both current and future governments,” Gretsch said. Said.

Automatic matching of taxes and Centrelink data to increase debt to welfare recipients allegedly overpaid by the government was found illegal in 2019.

The Commonwealth then settled the proceedings without acknowledging legal liability.

Plaintiff Felicity de Somerville said the response from Frydenberg was inadequate.

“I’m furious with the treasurer and his comments today. I’m from the profession [nursing] The pillars of what we do are honesty and accountability, and if this happened in the field of my work, it would be a complete fuss, “she told SBS News.

“You have to take responsibility for what you are doing, and the government knew what they were doing. They knew that what they were doing was not ethical. Was. “

She said that filing a proceeding would only increase her debt, but she is still happy with the results for the victims who could not claim their situation.

“Gordon Regal and government analysts were recalculating people’s debt. My debt actually increased. Financially this didn’t help me, it burdened me ..

Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg said the federal government would accept the settlement announced by the federal court.

Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg said the federal government would accept the settlement announced by the federal court.

AAP

Jennifer Miller said in May that his son Liscazzo played a “very prominent” role in killing himself about four years ago after Robodette was chased by Centrelink and debt collectors.

Ms. Miller opposed the settlement at a previous federal court hearing, arguing that no one in power was held liable.

“The only thing I’ve ever experienced is politeness. I didn’t show respect,” she told the court.

“I wasn’t accountable. This proved to be an illegal process early in the work.”

Miller said he tracked his son despite knowing that Centrelink had mental health problems and provided the media with personal information about him.

Another person who opposed the settlement, Jeremy Lee, detailed his experience in a “targeted and punitive” program.

He also raised concerns that the federal settlement could prevent politicians from publicly admitting Robodette to be illegal.

“The government would have used state power to persecute the weakest members of society and used public funds to prevent them from being held accountable,” Lee said.

Under the settlement, the victim will receive $ 112 million in compensation, repay $ 720 million, and eradicate $ 400 million in illegal debt.

Judge Murphy previously described it as a “good reconciliation,” but also questioned how fair the final allocation of funding among group members was.

“There is a set of people with strong and weak claims,” ​​he said.

“And instead of allocating them, strong claims get everything, weak claims get nothing.”

Readers seeking help can contact Lifeline Crisis Support at 13 11 14. 1300659467 suicide callback service. For more information, please visit the following URL: Beyond Blue.org.au And lifeline.org.au..

Place of originVictim of bungled robodebt scheme says she’s ‘furious’ with the government’s response to $1.2 billion settlement

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