12 August 2023




Federal Member for Blair Shayne Neumann has joined calls for the Federal Opposition to make a formal apology over Robodebt, saying thousands of people in his electorate were unfairly affected by the unlawful debt recovery scheme.

This week, the Albanese Government successfully moved a motion in the House of Representatives urging Parliament to accept the findings of the Royal Commission into Robodebt, apologise to victims of the scheme, and commit to ensure it never happens again. The motion passed 88 votes to 51.

The scheme, which ran from 2015 to 2019 under the former Coalition government, used annual Tax Office data to calculate average fortnightly earnings and automatically issue debt notices to welfare recipients.

More than 500,000 Australians were caught up in the fiasco, which illegally recovered more than $750 million and was linked to several suicides.

It is estimated that in the electorate of Blair, there were around 6,300 Robodebt victims, while across Queensland more than 95,000 people were affected.

The Royal Commission report on Robodebt, which was handed down last month, made several adverse findings against former Coalition government ministers in charge of the scheme, including former Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The investigation, led by former Queensland Supreme Court Judge Catherine Holmes, found that Mr Morrison allowed Cabinet to be misled on the legality of the scheme when he was Social Services Minister.

Mr Neumann backed in the motion in Parliament this week, and said the Liberals and Nationals needed to accept responsibility for their role in overseeing Robodebt.

“There were more than 6,000 victims of Robodebt in my electorate alone, and I have spoken to many people from Ipswich and the Somerset Region who were affected by this terrible scheme.

“It’s very disappointing that the Opposition remain unrepentant over their role in the program and voted against our call for an apology to the victims of Robodebt.

“It’s time for real apology and to be real with victims and frontline staff.

“Robodebt was a gross betrayal and a human tragedy. It was illegal and it was wrong. It should never have happened and it should never happen again,” Mr Neumann said.

Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten, who spoke at a recent forum on Robodebt with Mr Neumann in Ipswich and who moved the motion in Parliament this week, said the scheme represented a breach of trust.

“What Australians want to hear from the political class and the people privileged to represent them is that it was wrong, not just unintended.

“The previous government was a government of law breakers. It’s time to apologise to the victims, time to apologise for the staff.

“It’s time to show real repentance for the illegality of your actions,” Mr Shorten said.