Scomo or scummo? Ex-PM’s involvement in robodebt saga triggers calls for his resignation

Jul 11, 2023
Calls for Scott Morrison to step down from government duty following release of robodebt report. Source: Getty

In the aftermath of the release of the robodebt royal commission report, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under intense pressure from politicians to retire from parliament.

The report, released on Friday, July 7, found that Morrison neglected his responsibilities as a minister regarding a “crude and cruel” illegal robodebt scheme that allegedly led to numerous suicides.

Shortly after the finding were published, Morrison –who is currently holidaying in Europe– released a lengthy statement denying any wrongdoing.

“I reject completely each of the findings which are critical of my involvement in authorising the scheme and are adverse to me,” he wrote.

“They are wrong, unsubstantiated and contradicted by clear documentary evidence presented to the commission.

“It is unfortunate that these findings fail to acknowledge the proper functioning of government and cabinet processes in the face of not only my evidence as a former prime minister, and cabinet minister for almost nine years, but also the evidence of other cabinet ministers.”

Members of both the Nationals and Liberal Parties, including Nationals leader David Littleproud, Liberal MP Bridget Archer, and Senator Andrew Bragg, have publicly suggested that Morrison should resign as the member for Cook.

Government services minister, Bill Shorten, further intensified the pressure on Morrison by declaring that any “self-respecting politician” would be “embarrassed and humiliated” by the adverse findings revealed by the royal commission.

“What Mr Morrison does is an issue for him and the Liberal party,” Shorten told ABC Radio.

“Mr Morrison was the Liberal social security minister … when robodebt was rolled out … It’s up to Mr Morrison. He must live in a separate world to the rest of us.

“… anyone who reads the royal commission is going to form, I think, a different view about Mr Morrison’s proposed timetable for staying in parliament.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton has defended the former PM, saying that though “mistakes” were made by “individuals” involved in the unlawful scheme he won’t be asking Morrison to resign from parliament.

National MP Barnaby Joyce, who previously held the position of deputy prime minister under Morrison, was also wary of offering his opinion on what should happen to Morrison, saying “it is not my role to speak on behalf of Scott Morrison.”

Speaking to Sunrise, Joyce said that demanding Morrison to resign from parliament had “a whiff of not being earnest.”

“I don’t like telling other politicians to leave politics, right? That’s their decision. They will make that decision, and when they decide to make it, they make it,” he told the program on Monday.

“It’s a decision that’s best made by the person themselves as to what they want to do with their career, not for other people. Otherwise, you always get the inevitable. We tell all the Labor Party members they should leave politics, they tell us that we should all leave politics.

“There’ll be no one left in the place.”

Robodebt was an automated program introduced by the Coalition from mid-July 2015 to November 2019, aimed at recovering debts from those receiving social security benefits.

The purpose of the system was to verify that beneficiaries were accurately reporting their income to prevent overpayment of welfare funds.

Unfortunately, approximately 443,000 people receiving benefits received false letters accusing them of owing money to the government as a result of the program’s implementation.

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