Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

PM shoots down robodebt royal commission

There's no need for a royal commission into the botched robodebt scheme because 'it's being fixed', Scott Morrison insists.

Labor is demanding a probe into the discredited robodebt scheme, which is also facing a class action alongside an ongoing Senate inquiry.

But the prime minister says the government is dealing with the issue.

"We're aware of what the issue is and we're fixing the problem, we're getting the payments made," he told reporters in the NSW south coast town of Eden on Tuesday.

"Let's not forget what this issue is about - the use of income averaging as the primary reason for raising a debt."

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus says nothing short of a royal commission will do.

"The way to get complete answers - the way to get Australians the answers they deserve - is through a royal commission," Mr Dreyfus said.

Mr Morrison has apologised for the robodebt scheme and promised to reimburse more than 300,000 people targeted.

The repayments will likely exceed $700 million.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese wants the royal commission to uncover exactly when the government knew the program was illegal.

"Australians deserve the truth. The government has continued to hide from scrutiny and refused to answer basic questions about the scheme," Mr Albanese said.

"Only a royal commission will ensure they are held to account."

The Greens have welcomed Labor's support for the probe, with senator Rachel Siewert saying the party will continue campaigning for justice.

"The government has obfuscated and denied what has happened with robodebt for years now and they will continue to do so unless we have a formal judicial review," she said.

The scheme matched Australian Taxation Office and Centrelink data to claw back overpaid welfare payments.

It was ruled unlawful last year, with the Federal Court saying Centrelink could not have been satisfied the debt was correct.

Mr Albanese says a royal commission could help provide recommendations on automated data-matching.

He said the inquiry could also examine how much the scheme cost taxpayers, how many debts were issued and how many people were harmed.

The previous Labor government introduced a similar process in 2011 but had each case reviewed by a staff member at the Department of Human Services, while the coalition moved to a fully-automated system in 2016.

The class action against the scheme looks set to go to trial over three weeks in the Federal Court, starting in September.

Essential polling for Guardian Australia earlier this month found 53 per cent of respondents supported a royal commission, while 23 per cent didn't.



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