On the 21st of June 2017, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee handed down its report into the "Design, scope, cost-benefit analysis, contracts awarded and implementation associated with the Better Management of the Social Welfare System initiative" (AKA robodebt).
You can download the full report and read it for yourself here.
It's a bit dense for casual reading, but there's a great series of accessible summaries with irreverent analysis (and GIFs!) from "IT consultant, tech analyst, and sometimes journalist" Justin Warren.
You can read these installments of Too long, Justin read (#TLJR):
part one; part two; part three; part four;
and the Coalition Senators' dissenting report here in part five.
But a question that's come up quite a bit on social media is "but has anything actually changed?"
And "what do we do about it?"
There’s a lot of information that’s useful in a practical way that came out of the Inquiry, but probably would not otherwise have surfaced — that people who have paid robodebts can apply to have their tax return reassessed for the relevant year/s is one example of that.
“What do we do about it?” is a very good question, though.
We keep doing what we’re doing, because it is, slowly, working:
- people can challenge bogus debts, and we can spread the word that it’s possible to challenge them;
- we can help people find out how to challenge debts, and support them through that process;
- we can cost the Department money with reviews and FOIs and complaints and by depriving them of the “payments” they thought they were going to scam;
- we can keep up the pressure on MP’s, and make sure they know that people will remember this at election time and that we will make it matter; and
- we can make sure that people who have debts don’t feel alone and helpless.
This campaign still has a lot of work to do, but there has been progress:
- tens of thousands of debts recalled from debt collectors at the beginning of the year;
- a massive reduction in the number of letters being sent and letters being sent by a slower, more expensive method;
- a significant overhaul of enforceable privacy guidelines for the entire public service; and
- the prevention of robodebt being expanded to target aged and disability pensioners.
More than $18 million dollars of false debt was revoked in just NSW alone by mid-2017.
We’ve given them a few good black eyes, and we’ve made this bullshit policy cost them.
They want this, and us, to just go away.