The robodebt scheme is arguably a ‘retrogressive measure’ in breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations as they pertain to the right to social security. The Government’s attempts to ‘modernise’ the delivery of social security to Australians, while seemingly legitimate on its face, have resulted in debts being raised which are not ‘duly justified’ (potentially not even at law) and have had significant consequences to many Australians — which in some cases may have been grave.
LV recommends the following:
a. The Department must ensure that its debt-raising processes are consistent with the right to social security as recognised under international human rights instruments.
b. The ‘robodebt scheme’ should be suspended.
c. The social security laws should be amended to introduce prohibitions against the use of solely automated processes which have legal or other significant effects for individuals (including specifically the raising of debts).
d. The Department should consider alternative means of identifying and recovering overpayments which do not place the burden of disproving a debt on the social securityrecipient.
e. Where data-matching technology identifies a discrepancy, the Department should determine for itself that the discrepancy is accurate, including by conducting a manual review and using its own information collection powers, before issuing a debt notice.
f. When communicating with a social security recipient about an overpayment, the Department should provide a proper, meaningful opportunity to the social security recipient to respond, and give them information about accessing reviews.
g. The Department should provide help to all social security recipients to obtain clarifying information. This should include using its coercive powers under social security laws and more readily offering means to provide information other than online options. A specialised service should be developed for social security recipients with special needs or who are vulnerable.