Bill Shorten sets sights on audit of myGov

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Many of these will be involved in the policies the new government campaigned on, and for which it is seeking to swiftly change arrangements.

The agency pays out more than $230 billion a year to people across more than 470 million claims. During the pandemic it also dealt with all the claims for emergency payments, which led it to temporarily add an extra 2000 staff.

However, it has come under pressure in recent years for increasingly forcing people online to make those claims, with nearly 30 Centrelink or Services Australia shopfronts closing around the country, leaving 318 dedicated outlets. Shorten has previously said people seeking support and services must have the option to speak with real people, not merely be pushed onto a website or sit in an automated phone queue.

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Another top priority for Shorten in his new role is launching a royal commission into robodebt as soon as possible.

The robodebt scheme, which was subsequently ruled unlawful, used an automated system that measured a person’s average income to claim hundreds of millions of dollars in alleged debts from 433,000 Centrelink recipients. The government settled a class action in 2020 for a total cost of more than $1.8 billion.

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Despite the legal action and multiple inquiries, Shorten said it still wasn’t clear who ultimately was responsible for the scheme.

He also wants the royal commission to provide wider lessons for government about the use of algorithms and automation in deciding payments, including those in the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.



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