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The government admits robodebt was ‘flawed’ but here’s why it can’t say sorry

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Attorney-General Christian Porter won’t apologise for the faults of the robodebt scheme that forced thousands of Australians to wrongly pay back benefits, citing continuing legal action.

The government announced on Friday that $720 million will be refunded for around 470,000 welfare debts thrown up by the scheme because of faulty income assessments made by the Australian Taxation Office.

Asked on ABC television’s Insiders program whether he would now apologise for the system, Mr Porter admitted: “The system was flawed.”

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But he would not apologise because there was litigation ongoing.

“As attorney-general I can’t use that sort of language in the context of the litigation,” he said.

“There’s litigation ongoing and it argues negligence and we don’t concede that,”.

Labor believes the government should be apologising for the distress it caused these people.

“There was suicides as a result of people who received these debt notices for debts that they didn’t owe, that were illegal, and that the government now concedes were illegal,” Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

Mr Porter is the latest cabinet minister to back in Government Services Minister Stuart Robert, with Keith Pitt on Saturday declaring the minister had nothing to apologise for.

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But Mr Albanese is far less forgiving, saying this issue is not over.

“What should be over is Stuart Robert’s career, because this gaffe-prone minister has mishandled everything he’s ever touched, any time he’s been a minister,” he said.

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