Class action begins into robodebt scheme despite pause of program’s automation

Lawyers will be challenging the legality of the Federal Government’s robodebt, with federal Labor launching a class action against the program in the Federal Court.

Labor has filed a writ in the court stating they had repeatedly called for the scheme to be scrapped, but the government had denied there were any issues with the program.

Robodebt victims will be included as plaintiffs in the case along with 4,000 robodebt complainants registered with Gordon Legal, the law firm running the case.

Shadow Government Services spokesperson Bill Shorten said the class action was unavoidable.

“This is a drastic but unfortunately necessary move for the victims of robodebt – Australians who have been hit with harsh, inaccurate and almost certainly illegal – debt claims from the Government,” Mr Shorten said.

He said that Labor wanted to fix the issues, but the government was not willing.

“Labor has been willing to work with the Government to help them fix this mess but up until this week they refused to budge an inch,” Mr Shorten said.

He added the “only avenue of recourse for victims acting in good faith is the courts.”

The Federal Government announced on Tuesday that it was pausing the automated parts of the debt recovery process.

Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert said he had asked his department to identify to discussions the “small” cohort of Australians who had a debt raised solely on the basis of income averaging.

However, Mr Shorten said Mr Robert’s decision proved there were issues.

“Minister Stuart Robert’s pausing of the scheme and junking of its key features this week is a very late admission there is something rotten at the core of robodebt,” he said.

“Two major questions remains for Mr Robert and the Liberals: How much have they and their malfunctioning scheme taken from ordinary Australians that they were not entitled to? And when will they give it back?”

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