Damning revelations continue to emerge about the federal government’s illegal Online Compliance Intervention debt recovery scheme—known as robodebt—used to automatically issue debt notices to allegedly overpaid welfare recipients.
After receiving computer-generated letters declaring that they owed the government massive debts, supposedly due to exceeding harsh income limits, welfare recipients were subjected to harassment by profit-driven debt collectors or the tax office, which garnisheed their tax returns.
The government threatened to jail people unless they paid the demanded amounts or produced documents, going back up to seven years, to disprove any alleged over-payments. People living in poverty were treated like criminals for failing to keep accurate records of income.
Despite government denials, it is now known that the robodebt system was used increasingly against the most vulnerable members of the working class—i.e., those suffering homelessness, medical conditions, mental ill-health, family and domestic violence, or facing crisis situations or caring responsibilities.