Centrelink Debt Recovery, Welfare, Law (Australia), Australian Politics, Australia News, Scott Morrison, Bill Shorten

Centrelink Debt Recovery, Welfare

Coalition won’t rule out passing new laws to reboot robodebt scheme

Coalition won’t rule out passing new laws to reboot robodebt scheme

6/2/2020 7:53:00 AM

Coalition won’t rule out passing new laws to reboot robodebt scheme

Exclusive: using new legislation to legalise averaging of ATO data for debt recovery was explored in September

Guardian Australia can reveal the opinion from the solicitor general – referred to in a ministerial submission that has formed the basis for the government’s response to an ongoing class action – was received in September.It suggests the government was aware of serious legal doubts about the scheme two months prior to settling a federal court challenge and eight months before it announced it would refund 460,000 unlawful debts, worth $720m.

'Let's not blow it,' says Boris Johnson on eve of English pubs reopening Troops sent to DC during George Floyd protests had bayonets, top general says Council says coronavirus 'waiting for you' at pubs

A spokesman for Stuart Robert on Monday declined to discuss “privileged legal advice” and twice failed to rule out the use of legislation to legalise the averaging of tax office income data for future debt recovery.It is understood this option was discussed by ministers in March and last month, when the government finalised the announcement of 470,000 refunds, but no decision has been made.

In February, ministers were told of the possibility of using legislation in the context of defending the Gordon Legal class action.“This option was canvassed by the solicitor general in his opinion in September 2019 and could be modelled on taxation legislation,” the ministerial submission said.

“Legislative change could be prospective or retrospective. However, a prospective legislative change may not affect past debts, so may have no impact on the [Gordon Legal] class action.”The opinion was also delivered well before a 19 November email provided to a Senate committee in which the Australian Tax Office confirmed it had been told by bureaucrats the scheme was unlawful.

It is the latest development in the robodebt scandal, which has forced the government to promise refunds to 330,000 people and face the prospect of further payouts for interest and compensation.Asked to rule out seeking to legalise income averaging in the enforcement of future Centrelink debts, Robert’s spokesman would only say: “The government announced in November last year that debts would no longer be raised wholly or partially using averaged ATO income data.

“This remains the government’s position.”He did not respond directly when pressed further to rule out the use of legislation, pointing to general comments from Robert about the future of the scheme made on Friday.Laws to legalise income averaging to raise new Centrelink debts would face an uphill battle passing the Senate.

Despite the pledge to not use the averaging of annual pay data to allege welfare recipients misreported fortnightly earnings, the government has not closed the overall income compliance program.The program is considered “no longer viable” on a large scale by the agency responsible, Services Australia, unless staff can once again raise debts based on averaged ATO annual pay information.

Coronavirus: 'I missed the Guinness' - Pubs reopen in Northern Ireland The nightmare that is 2020 is only halfway done, are these the worst days of our lives? | Brigid Delaney Singapore faces its worst-ever outbreak of dengue fever

On 17 September, Robert said the government had not received “any comment from the department to say anything otherwise what we are doing is lawful”.He added that the income averaging of ATO pay data was also used under Labor in comments made at a press conference following the announcement of the class action.

Asked if the comments were made before or after the solicitor general’s opinion was received in September, Robert’s spokesman said: “It is not the government’s practice to discuss privileged legal advice.”It is likely the opinion was prepared for the successful federal court challenge brought by Victoria Legal Aid, which the government settled in November.

Separately, the opposition’s government services spokesman, Bill Shorten, appeared open to the prospect of a judicial inquiry into the robodebt fiasco on Monday, following calls from law academic and robodebt expert Darren O’Donovan.“Yes, I think there should be some form of inquiry,” he said. “There has been a human toll.”

But he said the opposition would have to discuss whether that would be a judicial inquiry or other probe.The prime minister, Scott Morrison, expressed regret about the botched scheme on Monday but stopped short of apologising, citing the class action.

Asked whether he would apologise over the robodebt scheme, Morrison said it was a “difficult issue to manage”.“And the government has great regret about any issues or pain that has been caused but this is something we’re working through and we’re making it right,” he said.

The prime minister, who announced aspects of the robodebt scheme in 2016 as treasurer, also argued the unlawfulness of using income averaging did not mean “those debts don’t exist”.“And I think all Australians would agree that it’s important that if there are overpayments of welfare or other things like that, then the government has to be diligent about taxpayers funds and make sure that we recover monies where it’s right to do so,” he said.

Covid-19 infections 'higher in care homes in England that use more agency staff' Leicester residents could be fined up to £3,200 for breaching new lockdown laws Trump heads to Mount Rushmore for divisive fireworks celebration

“But you’ve got to do it in the lawful way and we will ensure to continue to do that with our projects going forward.” Read more: The Guardian »

what idiots WTF? Congo health ministry confirms at least 4 new Ebola Deaths in city

Costa reopens 300 branches in UK with new rules - here's what you must doCOSTA COFFEE has announced more than 300 branches are now open for drive-thru and takeaway. Those who visit the branches will need to follow new rules as social distancing measures are put in place. yeah i will just drink coffee at home thanks

New uniform rules and parents' 'natter' banned from the gates as schools reopenUnder new rules to stop the spread coronavirus school ties, blazers and bags must be left at home, some pupils may have to wear their PE kit every day and mums and dads will be given allocated times to drop their kids off My daughter in year 6 has not been allocated a space so has been told to stay home

Spain holidays: Costa del Sol reopens beach hotspot today with strict new rules in placeSPAIN holidays could look very different in the future as new safety rules and regulations are put in place to protect tourists. And now, one city in Spain has introduced stringent new measures to keep sunbathers on their beaches safe.

Greece holidays: Nation makes dramatic U-turn allowing Britons to return under new rulesGREECE has now made a dramatic U-turn and said that Britons can visit the popular holiday destination from June 15. But the summer holiday experience may not be what visitors expect as they must follow strict new rules. Donald Trump was taken to an underground bunker during protests over the death of GeorgeFloyd They needed to think; Brits and Germans are their largest numbers of tourists and loyal returners; discriminate as they set out to do was going to in long run do immense damage, and the Chinese come look tick the box and depart, they don't spend money in tavernas shops bars

Looking at your phone while walking could be illegal in Japanese cityCouncillors in the city of Yamato are set to vote on a proposal to ban the activity after research reportedly showed that too many people were looking at their phones while walking. but you did this for what ? Sounds a good idea as so many people do walk looking at their phones. Thank you Japanese people. I am sick and tired of people staring at their phones here in London and walking into me each time I walk on the pavement.

Looking at your phone while walking could be illegal in Japanese cityCouncillors in the city of Yamato are set to vote on a proposal to ban the activity after research reportedly showed that too many people were looking at their phones while walking. Good Japan usually gets it right Not so daft eh!