PERTH (CU)_Less than a fortnight out from the federal election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese will go head to head in the second leaders’ debate next week. The hour-long debate will be aired by the Nine network at 8.30pm on Sunday (8 May), during which a panel of three journalists will interview the two leaders. The news follows the opposition leader’s return to campaign grounds after recovering from COVID-19, as candidates continue to make promise after promise, from cheaper medicines to a cap on home loan rates.
Robodebt returned to the headlines on Saturday, after the Labour party pledged to launch a royal commission into the discredited scheme if it wins the elections next month. Introduced by the Coalition in 2016, the unlawful method of automated debt assessment and recovery raise $1.8 billion in debts against nearly 500,000 Australians. The scheme was ruled unlawful in 2019, and a settlement was reached between Canberra and robodebt victims the following year, but the Coalition has never detailed who was accountable for the scandal.
Accordingly, Labour is vowing to lunch a commission, budgeted at up to $30 million. It will be tasked with determining what was used in the implementation of the scheme and who was responsible for it. “Against all evidence, and all the outcry, the government insisted on using algorithms instead of people to pursue debt recovery against Australians who in many cases had no debt to pay,” Albanese said in Perth on Saturday.
According to Labour MP Bill Shorten, robodebt has preyed on vulnerable citizens like the unemployed, people with disabilities, pensioners and university students. “I have spoken to families who absolutely believe that the pressure of the unfair debt notices raised against loved family members contributed to them taking their own life,” he said. “The robodebt campaign over four years was the government going to war with its own people and it didn’t have the legal authority … Australians are owed an answer.”