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Robodebt – Morrison’s latest disaster

In August 2022 Peter Dutton was interviewed in Adelaide. In a wide ranging interview he stated, many times, that if a Royal Commission was set up to look into Robodebt, then Bill Shorten should be the first minister to appear.

Asked several times about Scott Morrison’s responsibility for the scheme he repeated his charge that Shorten, alongside Tanya Plibersek, had designed the scheme.

Clear differences have since been identified between the two iterations. In an AAP Factcheck, it was found that Labor’s scheme required the input of actual human staff in determining whether there was indeed a debt, and another crucial difference was the burden of proof was moved from the government to the welfare recipient.

Scale was another. When the system was automated, the number of referrals and debts raised rose from 20,000 a year, to 20,000 a week.

Before the Royal Commission was even begun Mr Dutton implied that the Royal Commission would be a sham, and it would turn into a tricky political game, in which Anthony Albanese would attempt to inflict revenge on his predecessor.

A strange observation, when we see the damage done to over a half-million Australians. Many of them, and many others who simply believe in good governance, would be savouring the prospect of the likes of Morrison, Tudge, Porter and Robert being brought to some form of justice, whatever that looks like.

What was the report’s outcome?

If we fast forward to July 2023 the report has been released. It has named several former Coalition ministers, and several department heads and senior public servants, as having failed in their duty to oversee the program, and to deliver a fair and reasonable service to the taxpayer.

Mr Dutton now seems to think that, although he has now apologised for the scheme on behalf of the former government, the Labor Party was enjoying the findings of the Royal Commission way too much. He described Bill Shorten as “gleeful”.

It seems he seriously underestimated the Royal Commissioner, who has earned herself a reputation as a direct and fluent communicator, with a tendency to call a spade a spade. She has delivered a report which is clearly her own work, and not ghost-written by Anthony Albanese.

Most damning was her finding that the program was unlawful, and that somewhere along the line senior public servants chose to evade their responsibilities to the parliament, apparently to pander to Scott Morrison’s desire for favourable results, and favourable press coverage.

When Marise Payne was giving evidence before the Royal Commission, she was asked who ultimately was responsible when mistakes were made in formulating public policy. She answered, “Responsibility is always borne by ministers.”

Morrison was the senior minister at the inception, and he presented the policy to cabinet. The only problem was that, through ignorance, wilful or not, or plain oversight, the question of legality had not been settled, and this led to the subsequent finding that the scheme was “unfair and unlawful.”

How have the former ministers behaved since the Royal Commission?

Christian Porter resigned from parliament, before the Royal Commission began. Alan Tudge has resigned from parliament, after his evidence was taken. Stuart Robert has resigned from parliament, after his evidence was taken.

Scott Morrison has remained in parliament. He has disputed the findings of the Royal Commission.

Alan Tudge and Stuart Robert have also disputed the findings. Considering the short attention span of the majority of Australians there is no guarantee that the outrage will continue for long.

Are there to be any legal consequences for those named?

It is unknown how many of the key figures have been referred for civil and or criminal charges. Those so named will inevitably face some sort of accounting for their failures, although it might end up only involving a slap on the wrist.

When the political class prosecutes its own, there is always a feeling that me-tooism will prove too strong for their blood. Today’s witch-hunt often runs out of steam, so do not be surprised if, in a couple of years, they collectively decide to call it all off.

The whole sorry mess has been labelled as “cruel and crude,” but we will only know the outcome when the legal process has ended. Remember, it is a classic case of us against them. Politicians have been shown to put their own interests first, and we all know that maintaining the rage is not their strong suit.

Our political culture is imbued with a crude and cruel mind-set. We need to treat those who need our help better. Those on welfare, refugees and the disabled are our fellow citizens. Politicians use these groups as straw men, set up to divert our attention away from their own malfeasance.

If all else fails, it was a pleasure to see the likes of Morrison, Tudge and Robert squirming on the witness stand. Perhaps that is the only satisfaction we will get.


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  1. Harry Lime

    If serious consequences do not arise,the duopoly of the two major political parties,(for now) will see their remaining bases fleeing to the Greens, Independents or others at an increasing rate.The ‘rusted ons’ are either falling off the perch, or have lost heart.The timidity of Labor on critical reform,such as taxation,the welfare system,(who knew?’),the ridiculous influence of corporates,especially the fossil fuel lobby,and last, but not least,the bullshit they’re trying to pass off as climate action,whilst falling over themselves to approve more mines.(despite the mealy mouthed excuses) Weak as piss. As for the thing that passes for Opposition leader,he appears not to have advanced from his bully boy cop days.Someone should buy him a new clock…and a current calendar.His ego is way out of kilter with his lack of ability.He’s an embarrassing spoon.

  2. Phil Pryor

    Harry is on track and opens issues for more discussion, but that is all we get. We need a new party, perhaps, a progressive, honesty, loyal and patriotic inclusive party. But the world is short of such a party, as ego, pose, profit motive, careerism, loudmoutherey, all take a toll of simple honesty. Donors and patrons come out of the woodwork like the (media) maggots they are. We even overlook nations in our talk, saying “Erdogan”, or “Boris”:, or “Trump”, like huns spoke of some spirit or image. I get depressed and pessimistic more these times, as all relevant items of social, political, environmental and economic relevance are in decline. The future is gloomy, even doomed. The USA spends ten times more on Murder Machinery than all the rest and a USA driven lawless NATO (for that is what it is) is a future nightmare for world peace and harmony. Here, we are not even marking time, on the spot. So many are disappointed at local political criminality, time serving, egofixated selfishness…as for Peter Duckwit-Futton, he’ll continue to fail to succeed.

  3. Harry Lime

    In case anyone has missed it,everything that Morrison has ever touched has turned to shit.Of course it’s nothing to do with him,it’s just a lifetime of coincidences.Let Robodebt be the coincidence that breaks his run of outrageous, self serving lying.

  4. Ross

    Royal Commissions, we have had a poultice of them in the last 10 or so years. Some as Mark says are ghost written by the government of the day to cause the opposition some discomfort.
    Some turn around and bite the government that initiates them and a few make the odd politician head for the exit in haste. Most Royal Commission disappear and are quickly forgotten but none have come close to this one in the scale of its findings and possible outcomes.
    Politicians of every stripe are held in fairly low regard by the great unwashed who generally don’t expect much for their vote. Public servants on the other hand rate much higher in the publics view.
    I’ll bet none of us expected this sort of outcome and don’t be fooled this has a long way to go and is far too juicy for even our main stream media to let go in a hurry.
    The thought of possibly seeing senior federal politicians, senior public servants even an ex prime minister up before the beak is breathtaking and exhilarating in the extreme.
    If nothing else we can all thank Commissioner Catherine Holmes for ridding parliament of a few of its more odious members.

  5. Pete Petrass

    All this talk of slaps on the wrists is just disgusting. Here we have the absolute biggest failure of public administration in our history along with over 2,000 deaths – the scum that oversaw this horror story deserve more than a “slap on the wrist”!!!!!
    IF that is the end result, particularly for the likes of Morriscum, Tudge, Porter and Robert………then anyone could justifiably argue what was the point of the RC???

  6. Mark Buckley

    As I said Pete Petrass, we’ll need to wait for the situation to play out. I agree with you, but how many times have we heard the line that both sides get caught doing the wrong thing, so who can point the finger of blame? At the end of the day, they have more regard for their own kind than they do for us.

  7. Phil Pryor

    Steve, D has made broader comment on the requirements of this immense topic area, requiring observations and assessments over many decades, and quality of definition of terms and if necessary, sources. Simplistic outbursts are too often based on obsessions. It is essential here to comment while finding ways to re-establish peace, but it seems that is nigh impossible. Only a deep understanding of Russian history and culture might allow any of us to consider the depths of the problems faced here. Peoples, borders, barriers, cross cultures, ethnic variations, these curse the rational ways. We have had horrible wars over time becase of minorities, supremacist majorities, oppressions, with glaring ones , Alsace-Lorraine, Sudetenland, Polish Corridors, Balkan nightmares, Bosnia. endless Jewish centred conflicts, Kashmir, Kurds, Armenians, even Quebecois and Basques and Irish over time….I know of heartbreaking stories of unfairness, criminality, slaughter, and you will too. Let us seek peace. Aha, I now see the bounce of my computer and loss of a draft have had me, head down, on the wrong site. It should be on “executions.” Pardon.

  8. Canguro

    Under the sub-header ‘Are there to be any legal consequences for those named?’, Mark Buckley writes…

    If all else fails, it was a pleasure to see the likes of Morrison, Tudge and Robert squirming on the witness stand. Perhaps that is the only satisfaction we will get.

    Sorry Mark, but not good enough. You’re being far too lenient. If the squirming under public interrogation is the only consequence facing these arguably criminal amigos, then I’d suggest we ultimately are living within a system that is effectively impotent in the face of great evil. I’ve long argued in favour of the maxim ‘Do the crime, do the time.’ These men all knew what they were doing was illegal. They also knew that people were suiciding as a function of the stress they were experiencing from their being targeted by an illegal government program of illicit service of debt notices… notices aimed at the most vulnerable members of this society. It was utterly unconscionable. The main perpetrators have demonstrated little or no insight or remorse into their actions and the consequences of those actions.

    Throw the book at them is the only responsible recourse. It’s way beyond time to privilege hiding behind the shield of the ‘Honorable Minister for this or that’, or to accord greater protection due to the fact of these people were elected members of parliament. They were, nothing more or less, simply, crooks in suits. White collar criminals who perpetrated a massive injustice on a massive scale.

    Jail time is the minimum sanction, or as I’ve argued elsewhere, shaven heads, dressed in sackcloth, shackled in a tumbril and paraded through the streets of all the major cities of this country with the citizenry invited to throw rotten fruit and eggs at them, for days & weeks on end. Seriously, nothing less.

  9. andyfiftysix

    I am with Canguro, they knew what they were doing. It was wilful malevolence on Scots part. He was so full of his own importance after the “not on water” fiasco. You know , where the people smuggler became the devil amd people drowning at sea was all the smaggler’s fault. Really we all knew all along it was our dismal failure that created the demand. Prime bible classes on christian ethics just thrown out the window.
    So Scot , fresh out of his skin with excitement persued a policy of tightening the screws even harder on those in financial difficulty.
    No amount of screaming from the trenches was going to move him, he had god on his side.
    What i want to know is HOW a so called christian man can be so fucking callous. Hang em high.
    The public servants had already been primed, they were to do the government’s bidding. Any deviation was going to end their careers. Tony shit head abbott already prepared the groundwork. But To me, its like ww11 war crimes, “i was only following orders”.
    Morrison pleading that its all wrong shows that he hasnt learned a thing. Where is HILLSONG to condem his behaviour? Hiding to protect what little credibility they have left i imagine.
    Whats Dutton trying to do? Deflect the blame, its all shorten’s fault. Acusing labor of that which he has already done. I didnt see him come out and criticise the policies when he was in cabinet. He was part of the whole dirty saga.

  10. New England Cocky

    Yawn!!! I have given up any hope that the Robodebt monster Ministers will get anything more than a slap on the wrist with a wet tram ticket.

    No demand for resignation.
    No indictment for mis feasance or mal feasance or even damages favouring the abused recipients.
    No personal responsibility for legal costs from defending their actions against Australian voters.
    No loss of all post politics benefits.

    Just business as usual with nothing to see here, only suffering workers recovering from nine (9) years of the most incompetent misgovernment Australia has experienced since 1901 ….. or before.

  11. Kerri

    Why do we pay taxes?
    The right would have that we pay to support theirs and their mates lifestyles.
    The left believe we pay taxes so that the government can help in areas of communal need.
    Well….. that is.. they used to believe that

  12. Fred

    Canguro: I notice your reference to the “Honorable Minister”. It’s a pity that all ministers don’t respect the position they occupy and behave honorably and equally resign their ministry when they don’t behave.

  13. B Sullivan


    Left and right are opposite directions not a group of people. The people you refer to are moving to the right. Their actions do not alter the moral, political direction that Left points to. People’s attitudes change, the nature of Left and Right do not. It is not a good idea to refer to the Left or the Right as if they were opposing factions. If Labor’s policies and actions do not reflect the values of the Left they should not be described as such. It is extremely misleading because they are clearly headed in the opposite direction.

  14. Terence Mills


    The principal players have already resigned or been voted into history (Morrison, Robert, Tudge). It is unlikely that criminal charges will follow as these guys didn’t break any laws, they actually made the laws which were corrupt.

    Morrison may have lied to the Commission which could bring about a charge of perjury.

    This article in The Conversation explains the difficulties in bringing these people before the courts.

  15. New England Cocky

    @ Terence Mills; Interesting article, but I retain my above position.

  16. Mark Shields

    Let’s face it, we all know that our politicians are as crooked as Shephards Staff’s. But what are we OBSERVERS actually going to do about this filthy political corruption? I SUSPECT VERY LITTLE: Because we Australians are so flaming lucky when it comes to International Affairs! … However, one day, not so far from now, we will probably have to deal with a foreign agent on our own territory, if we haven’t already! Someone who is very curious about our own sense of Freedom. I bet no one suspected this!…

  17. B Sullivan


    Left and right are opposite directions not a group of people. The people you refer to are moving to the right. Their actions do not alter the moral, political direction that Left points to. People change, the nature of Left and Right do not. It is not a good idea to refer to the Left or the Right as if they were opposing factions. If Labor’s policies and actions do not reflect the values of the Left they should not be described as such. It is extremely misleading because they are clearly headed in the opposite direction.

  18. Uncletimrob

    I find it fascinating that scummo can still maintain that he is a christian when he treated people under robodebt like he did. Perhaps he is one of those christians who came to my bedside, when as a sick 16 year old who didn’t know if he would wake up the next morning, and told me that God was punishing me for something ……. YES true story. He is certainly no better than them, and I hope that if there is indeed a “maker” that he tells scummo to fuck off. (deliberately no capitals where there could be some by the way)

  19. Tanya Carroll

    Mmm @Mark Buckley & @Terence Mills plus who ever likes to take a bit of deep drive into the unknown regarding this cruel heartless Robodebt scandal & yes, the main one who did it without thinking he just might get caught out by it all too. Check this link out or should l say how many of those former Federal Government LNP mob must had enjoy looking the other way & had their heads in the sand over that time too. 🙁

    The robodebt timeline, month-by-month

  20. leefe

    If the scheme itself has been found to be illegal, and if there was legal advice given as to that fact, how can those who developed, promoted and implemented the scheme not have acted illegally?

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