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MEDIA RELEASE: Tribunal uphold secrecy around key Robodebt documents

Key documents behind the former Government’s decision to set up the failed Robodebt scheme will not be released, following a decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The Tribunal has decided that only a single document of the twelve being contested would be released. The full set of documents could reveal what former Prime Minister Scott Morrison and senior ministers including Christian Porter and Alan Tudge knew about the unlawful scheme when they had responsibility for the program

Technology expert and human rights advocate Justin Warren, who first requested access to the documents under Freedom of Information (FOI) in 2017, said it was a disappointing outcome.

“The unlawful and underhanded Robodebt regime stole money from hundreds of thousands of Australians. We deserve to know everything about how this happened so we can ensure that it never, ever happens again,” he said.

“Until we know the truth, the whole truth, of how this abhorrent scheme was proposed, built, and sanctioned—and by whom—we have to assume the government intends to do it again.”

The documents at the centre of the case include early business plans produced by the Department of Human Services – now known as Services Australia – to justify the unlawful Robodebt scheme.

The case forms part of the Grata FOI Project and is being run pro bono by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Social Justice Practice. The legal team will consider options for appeal.

Jacinta Lewin at Maurice Blackburn, said: “Robodebt caused significant harm to many Australians who were relentlessly pursued for false debts. While we are disappointed with today’s outcome, we hope the Royal Commission into Robodebt will uncover some of the hidden truths behind the scheme that devastated so many lives.”

Maria Nawaz, Acting Executive Director, Grata Fund, said: "The AAT decision today is extremely disappointing for all of us, particularly for affected communities hoping for transparency and accountability for the ministers that were responsible for the pain inflicted by the unlawful scheme. The new Government has committed to the principles of transparency and accountability of government and it in incumbent on them to change the culture of secrecy within their departments and promote the principles of democratic accountability.”     

Access to the decision: 

The full decision will be published on austlii here.

Media contacts:  

Belinda Lowe, Grata Fund, 0428 805 696 or [email protected] 

Paddy Murphy, Maurice Blackburn, 0490 297 391, [email protected] 

Background materials:

Further information regarding the case can be found on the Grata Fund’s website hereStories about the impact of the unlawful Robodebt program are available at the #NotMyDebt website here.

This is a joint release of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and Grata Fund. 


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