Ministry’s robo-debt decisions underpinned by “flawed assumptions,” official says

Bundy replied, “In hindsight… it was a flawed assumption.”

The officer was questioned about her department’s decision not to appeal administrative appeals court rulings wiping out robo-debts because the rulings were not supported by supporting documents.

She agreed that the department should have appealed those decisions if she had disagreed.

The commission was shown an email from one of Bundy’s colleagues, saying they would be concerned if Human Services did not appeal a “zero debt” decision.

“If they don’t, it will open Pandora’s box,” the colleague said.

Terry Carney, who worked at the Administrative Court for almost 40 years, repeatedly ruled that the robo-debts could not be legally enforced.


He noted that it is not the responsibility of welfare recipients to provide payroll data or risk being saddled with debt.

He found that the practice of income averaging lacked “sufficient evidence” and “simple mathematics”.

“From the start, I read the budget papers and saw what was being proposed – all sorts of alarm bells went off for me,” Carney said.

“The legal basis was completely missing.”

Carney said it was common during his long tenure for the Department of Human Services to be quick to appeal decisions where important government policy was at stake.

But the ministry never appealed a decision that found a robo-debt was not legally enforceable.

The robo debt program was eventually scrapped in 2019. Ministry’s robo-debt decisions underpinned by “flawed assumptions,” official says

Callan Tansill

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