Robodebt scheme 'set off alarm bells from the get-go', inquiry hears

A key critic of Robodebt has told the royal commission the controversial scheme's central method lacked "simple mathematics". Emeritus Professor Terry Carney told the

inquiry he was sceptical about the then-Coalition government's now-defunct debt recovery scheme from the "get-go". Professor Carney worked at the Administrative Appeals

Tribunal (AAT) — which appeals decisions made under Commonwealth law, including Robodebt — for almost 40 years "From the very early stages, from the get-go so to speak …

when I first became aware of budget papers, what was being proposed, all sorts of alarm bells went off in my mind that this was not a legally-founded process," he said. "I

thought I must be missing something, the legal foundation was, unquestionably to my mind, completely missing." The 2015 program used data-matching algorithms to work out

whether Centrelink recipients had been overpaid but unlawfully claimed almost $2 billion in payments from 433,000 people.Scheme lacked 'sufficient strength of

evidence' Professor Carney found Robodebt was illegal and made decisions in favour of welfare recipients in 2017, claiming its income-averaging method lacked "sufficient

strength of evidence" and "simple mathematics". The Commonwealth never appealed any of the Tribunal's rulings against the scheme, which Professor Carney said was

"unprecedented". "The department [usually] rapidly appealed or went to the court of appeal or both whenever a major policy initiative was an issue," he said. The

commission heard about five months after his findings against Robodebt were delivered, his bid to renew his contract as an AAT member was rejected by Cabinet.