The former PM and all the architects of this unlawful scheme which drove thousands to despair and suicide must face consequences for their part in Robodebt. Managing editor Michelle Pini reports.
Scott Morrison, since being unceremoniously dumped as Prime Minister, shared the following revelation with his band of media cohorts, this week:
“If people think I’m rocking myself to sleep at night in the foetal position, no, I’m not.”
Well, he f*n should be, since the rest of us were in the foetal position the entire time he was PM.
PM AND FIVE-MORE-MINISTRIES MORRISON — 'WELFARE COP'
Instead, former Prime Minister and Five-More-Ministries Morrison went to great lengths about the books he’s reading and the curries he’s cooking, now that he is no longer in the top job.
Indeed, upon reading the warm, fuzzy glimpse into his life, one could be forgiven for thinking Scotty is now retired and not actually still employed as a Federal Member of Parliament on a base salary of $200K per annum. But we digress.
Certainly, there was no mention in the News Corp “article” of his Government’s illegal Robodebt scheme, which destroyed thousands of lives and for which Morrison was the chief architect and even proudly referred to himself as the "welfare cop".
If the Robodebt Royal Commission was a fictional television series, we would surely consider the plague proportions of amnesia, the litany of criminal misconduct and the complete lack of concern for the consequences brought to bear by those charged with its implementation, including the then Prime Minister, to be far-fetched.
Unfortunately, a record number of Academy Awards should be presented to the extensive cast of villains in the real-life gut-wrenching drama unfolding over the period of its 31 days of hearings, so far, at the Royal Commission. We have witnessed a steady stream of Oscar performances from lawyers that clearly and confidently ignore the law, public servants who unabashedly serve only themselves and nonchalant, if not completely immoral, Morrison Government ministers whose cold, heartless disregard for the destruction of the lives of others, could make hardened criminals blush.
With a couple of notable exceptions, the common denominators characterising the majority of government representatives that have given evidence at the Royal Commission are both a criminal absence of personal accountability and any discernible remorse.
ANNETTE 'I DON'T RECALL' MUSOLINO
Their collective statements can be summed up by today's encore appearance from former Chief Counsel Department of Human Services Annette Musolino, which went something like this:
Let me check my notes...I have no recollection of that.
I was unaware of that.
Oh! But now that you've put all that evidence on the screen, I can see that [countless memos/reports/articles from eminent lawyers/experts warning of the illegality of Robodebt] may have gone to my email.
But I can't recall reading them.
So, sure, I probably read the warnings of illegality, but I never turned my mind to the possibility that the scheme might actually be illegal.
ALAN 'WE WILL HUNT YOU DOWN' TUDGE
Other key protagonists, so far, include former Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge. As previously reported, the person who famously vowed to hunt people down and send them to gaol for fabricated debts, “didn’t recall” much at all during his testimony.
Tudge then channelled Bart Simpson as he fingered almost everyone he’s ever come into contact with as being responsible.
And then there was the part that went something like this:
QUESTION: Are you a lawyer?
TUDGE: Yes. But I never practised law.
QUESTION: Did you study constitutional law?
TUDGE: Yes. No. I don’t recall.
QUESTION: Are you familiar with the concept of ministerial responsibility?
TUDGE: Well, in the broad sense of the term.
STUART 'DOUBLE DOWN' ROBERT
Former Human Services Secretary Professor Renee Leon, lost her job after she was given the task of winding up the Robodebt scheme.
Professor Leon told the Royal Commission that former Government Services Minister Stuart Robert resisted the Solicitor-General’s advice that the scheme was unlawful.
When Professor Leon advised Robert that they should apologise, admit their error and inform everyone they would take steps "to correct the error”, Robert replied:
“We absolutely will not be doing that, we will double down."
It is not possible to watch the gut-wrenching testimony of the victims, whose lives were irretrievably shattered, to see the factual evidence that drove thousands to take their own lives, followed by the parade of pathetic, disrespectful performances from the perpetrators of the scheme, without coming to an inescapable conclusion. That the vast majority of this latter group – and especially those at the top, not only knew that what they were doing was unlawful and immoral, and ignored advice to the contrary, they did not even bother to “turn their minds” to the irreparable destruction it caused, or feel a modicum of shame at their part in it.
Perhaps we should now "turn our minds" to the sort of consequences Scott Morrison, Alan Tudge, Stuart Robert, Christian Porter and Michael Keenan, together with the majority of their respective staff members – all of whom are paid extremely handsomely to serve the public – must face, for their part in this deplorable chapter in our nation's history.
Certainly, this Royal Commission has not been for the faint-hearted. For the victims, some of whom bravely gave evidence, and for their families and friends, it must be an unimaginable ordeal. For those of us who have managed to watch some or all of it, it is simply sickening and a grave reminder of the depths of depravity that can lurk beneath the façade of our democracy.
The Robodebt Royal Commission concludes next Thursday (9 March) and it is almost unfathomable that there could be any further deliberate mendacity or absence of moral fibre on display still to come. But of course, if we have learned anything from this inquiry it is that, unlike their collective memory, the extent of depravity inherent in these government representatives knows no bounds.
This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter – usually only available to subscribers – and may be read online in the IA members-only area.
You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.
Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.