We admire the strength of Tasmanians who continue to fight the effects of Centrelink robodebt in the courts. Information revealed this week that Tasmanians comprise 4.5 per cent of the approximately 10,000 applicants registered for the class action.
The disproportionate rate of Tasmanians involved in the robodebt class action is likely a reflection of the prevalence of low incomes in our State. More than 120,000 Tasmanians live below the poverty line including those who access Newstart and other government support programs.
The high rate of underemployed or part time workers in Tasmania has also added to the impact of robodebt as fluctuating incomes such as these make people particularly vulnerable to automated income matching systems. 94% of jobs created in Tasmania in the past five years were casual or part-time (ABS).
Robodebt created a culture of fear and dread around our social safety net that has driven people away from support when they need it most. It will take years and considerable system change to reverse the damage that has been done to people’s confidence in the social security system.
In consultations about their experiences with robodebt, Tasmanians told us that getting a debt notice sparked feelings of anxiety and depression, particularly because the process of questioning the debt was time consuming and arduous. Other people told us their already inadequate incomes were reduced further as a result of robodebt systems, forcing them to make choices between heating their house and feeding their families.
Thank you to all in the community services industry (and beyond) who continue to support people affected by this blatantly unfair system and to advocate for the Federal Government to acknowledge its failure..
Robodebt was flawed from the start and many of Tasmania’s most vulnerable people experienced unfair, impersonal and damaging treatment. The right thing for our Federal Government to do now is to apologise to all who have been impacted and refund those people whom the robodebt system incorrectly targeted.