We’re currently studying the report of the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme. The report describes a scandal of huge proportions, in which government inflicted enormous damage on individuals—even to the extent of a number of suicides occurring.
The scheme involved the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) supplying income assessment data to the Department of Human Services (DHS) on some 860,000 social welfare recipients. The ATO data reported PAYG income based on employer returns for specific periods during a year. The DHS then used the income data and assumed that the income from one period of time was income across longer periods of time (say a year). They called this ‘averaging’.
To quote directly from the Royal Commission Report:
“…the way averaging was used in the Scheme was essentially unfair, treating many people as though they had received income at a time when they had not … with the further fiction that they now owed something back to government…”
That is, the income assessments made by DHS based on ATO data were wrong. On the basis of these false incomes, people were sent bills to pay back social security payments they had received.
There is now, of course, a lot of political payback surrounding the issue, much we would observe likely justified. But there is a bigger issue at play.
There is a gross institutional failure in Australia when it comes to government operations being subject to transparency and checks and balance. Much of what are claimed to be ‘check and balances’ is government scamming the people. Take one example.
November this year marks the start of strengthened unfair contract laws for small business people. But government departments are not subject to these laws. That is, Australian governments are not prepared to apply to themselves the same rules which they apply to the community. Australia has a big problem in this respect, and it makes for bad government.
The Royal Commission report runs to over 1,000 pages. When we’ve finished our study, we’ll produce a detailed assessment.
On the issue of contracts, we’ve had a number of people ask us for assistance in devising their own contract or reviewing a contract they have been offered. SEA does not provide legal, accounting or other advice. But we have developed guidelines on contract assessment/construction that many people find helpful. SEA members can access that information here. These give good starting points that can be checked by a lawyer.