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Morrison, Payne to appear at robodebt inquiry

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Former prime minister Scott Morrison will appear on the witness stand as part of the robodebt royal commission.

Mr Morrison will answer questions during the second block of hearings of the royal commission, which will be held in mid-December.

Former human services minister Marise Payne will also appear as a witness to the royal commission.

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The second block of hearings is set to focus on the impacts of robodebt on individuals affected, as well as the government’s response to shortcomings of the scheme.

Welfare recipients falsely accused of owing money

Robodebt was initiated under the former Liberal-National government and falsely accused welfare recipients of owing money.

Automated debt notices were issued by a process called income averaging, which compared people’s reported income with tax office figures.

The means of debt recovery, data-matching and the investigation carried out by the Commonwealth ombudsman will also be put under the spotlight during the next round of hearings.

Mr Morrison will appear on December 14 at the commission, with the whole day set aside to hear testimony from him.

Former PM was minister at the time

The former prime minister was the social services minister and treasurer at the time the robodebt scheme was in operation.

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Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said Mr Morrison and other senior colleagues owed an explanation to the Australian public.

“(Either) they knew robodebt was unlawful and immoral but kept bulldozing the robodebt scheme believing they would not get caught, or on the other hand, they had no idea for four and a half years that the scheme was unlawful and immoral and they were simply recklessly negligent and ignorant,” Mr Shorten said.

Personal case studies to be presented

Previous sessions of the royal commission heard Mr Morrison may not have been told about legal advice that should have stopped the scheme from going ahead.

The commission is investigating how the scheme, which operated between 2015 and 2020, went ahead despite government departments knowing the debt calculation method was unlawful.

Other witnesses being called during the next round of hearings will include national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union Melissa Donnelly, Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie and the former director of the Department of Social Services Catherine Dalton.

Personal case studies of those who were affected by robodebt will also be presented during the hearings.

-AAP

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