The Robodebt royal commission will focus on the actions of senior decision makers, the senior counsel assisting said on Tuesday as the inquiry kicked off in Brisbane.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promised during the most recent election campaign that he would establish the royal commission if elected.
“The letters patent direct the commissioner to inquire into the specific factual matters which are set out with a focus on the decisions and actions taken or not taken by those in positions of seniority,” senior counsel assisting Justin Greggery said in his opening statement.
“The factual inquiry with its focus upon the role played by those in positions of seniority will be the basis upon which the commission makes recommendations it considers appropriate.
“Those recommendations may include recommendations needed to prevent a recurrence of any failures of public administration which are identified in this inquiry.”
Former Queensland Supreme Court chief justice Catherine Homes, who led the commission into the state’s 2010-2011 floods, will head the $30m probe.
Both she and Mr Greggery noted the royal commission’s short timeframe – an April 2023 deadline – and said efficiency and speed would be essential.
Between 2015 and 2019, the former federal government used an automated system to match tax and Centrelink data to raise debts against 443,000 welfare recipients for money it claimed was overpaid.
In total, $751m was wrongly collected from 381,000 people.
The scheme has cost taxpayers more than $1.8bn in compensation after the government agreed to a settlement with victims following a class-action lawsuit.
More to come