Tuesday, 02 June 2020 11:02

EFA says robodebt fiasco should be examined to restore faith in welfare system

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EFA says robodebt fiasco should be examined to restore faith in welfare system Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Digital rights organisation Electronic Frontiers Australia has called for a detailed examination of the robodebt fiasco so that there would be an understanding of how so many people were incorrectly asked to repay money to the government.

EFA chairwoman Lyndsey Jackson said the program had been stopped in its tracks due to "tireless community action that has seen the Australian Government finally concede the true nature of the robodebt program and to refund money taken unlawfully from welfare recipients".

The government announced last Friday that it would refund about $725 million to people who had been wrongly asked to repay money to Centrelink. The backflip came after years of denying that the debts that were demanded were incorrectly calculated.

Jackson said Robodebt should never have been started. "Digital rights specialists spoke up about this unlawful program early and often, but they were largely ignored as the damage compounded," she added.

Despite the announcement that money would be paid back, no government minister has offered an apology for the stuff-up.

"Technology and automation casts a wide net, and people become collateral damage when due care and diligence is lacking," Jackson said.

"This is not the only government program that seeks to replace human care with automated punishment. Technology should be used to help people, not to abuse them at scale."

Jackson added that all Australians deserved to know the full truth of what led to the robodebt fiasco "if we are to have faith in the so-called integrity of our welfare system".

"We must now examine this unlawful program in detail — warts and all — so that we can understand how it was allowed to happen and make the necessary changes to prevent a recurrence. Those responsible must be held to account for their actions, and be reminded that actions have consequences," she said.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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