Politics Opinion

Albanese Government must take action against Robodebt masterminds

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Scott Morrison remains in the Parliament despite recent findings about the Robodebt scheme (image by Dan Jensen)

The Albanese Government's future popularity may rest on the action it takes against the architects of the Robodebt scheme, writes Michael Galvin

 

ANTHONY ALBANESE has 320,000 followers on Instagram and I am one of them. Instagram is a great way to keep track of what people like the Prime Minister choose to say and show about their lives.

Albanese is so far ahead of the other Party leaders in Australia that it is not funny. The numbers of Instagram followers tell their own instructive story:

Clearly, in the political firmament, Albo is a bit of a rock star. I have been following him for the last couple of years, and especially since he became Prime Minister. No doubt his staff do the routine work for him, but he would probably average about two posts a day, every day.

And this is the thing: he always looks so damned relaxed and comfortable! Clearly, he is capable of doing the job, genuinely likes the people he meets, and works hard. These are good things. And polls consistently show that about two thirds of people approve of his performance, while about one third do not. I suspect a sizeable minority of those disapproving come from his left rather than his right.

For this group, not only is Albanese far too relaxed and comfortable in his job, he is also far too conservative, too cautious, too risk-averse, and too mindful of the protocols of office.

The purpose of this article is to fire a warning shot across the bows of Albanese and his minders: the PM might be as happy as a pig in mud these days (and it is good that he obviously likes his job), but he must take note of reality as it is now for millions of his fellow Australians.

Are all the folks out there relaxed and comfortable? You have got to be joking. Australia today is a highly stressed place, and this stress could turn to anger at any moment, and a complacent PM could easily become its target.

Take me, for example. I’m angry and I am as Labor as you can get.

I am angry because my son-in-law feels he cannot afford to go out for a decent cup of coffee. He is so stressed out by the extra $1,500 a month he needs to find for the mortgage.

I am angry because my daughter hoped to spend a big chunk of her wage this year paying down the principal on her mortgage, and she now is struggling to stay where she is financially.

I am angry because Australia is a country that seems to be incapable of housing all its people.

I am angry that so many Australians cannot afford to buy a place to live or even rent one.

I am angry because the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) encouraged the belief that there would be no interest rate rises before 2024, and people believed him.

I am angry that 17 Australians died on the White Island volcano disaster in 2019, and criminal prosecutions in New Zealand are only beginning now (justice delayed, justice denied, and all that).

Most of all, I am really, really angry about Robodebt.

About former ministers and senior public servants now hiding unnamed and protected inside sealed documents. About the prime mover in all this, Scott Morrison, still in the Parliament. About Kathryn Campbell still being on her $900,000 salary despite being up to her neck in the whole scandal. Both would have been gone by now, if either of them had any self-respect at all, or sense of their disgrace.

I have no idea what Campbell might be charged with, but it doesn’t matter. The 'Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme' found her incompetent, at best. No one needed a Royal Commission to work that out, her regular trips to the witness box made that patently obvious.

People are sacked for incompetence every day. It doesn’t need a Royal Commission, and then some, to sack the average Joe for reckless incompetence.

And yet, unbelievably, Campbell is still drawing a $900,000 salary paid by taxpayers through the Federal Government. Why? How can this be?

If Scott Morrison could get rid of a perfectly competent CEO of Australia Post in an afternoon, why can’t you do something about Campbell.

Do something, Mr Albanese. Your supporters have a lot to be angry about. A little less emphasis on due process, on being relaxed and comfortable, and a lot more obvious effort into taking charge.

You are in a knife fight, mate, you gotta fight. Your enemies can and do. Shaft people, that is.

We need to see some justice for Robodebt. Whatever it takes.

Move on from the fantasy that we can all be all one big happy family, and all differences can be negotiated away. It didnt work for Barack Obama, and it is not working for Joe Biden. And it won’t work for you down the track.

Of course, no one thinks that you are the cause of all these problems. But no one blames paramedics for the accident when they turn up. They still have to do their job.

It’s the same for you, Albo. Australians have every reason to be very angry at the moment. This anger hasn’t been channeled onto you yet. But things can change quickly. Show us that the Robodebt villains are being punished. By fair means or rough justice, I don’t care.

“Due process” at the moment is a cop-out protecting people with real blood on their hands. There are many other things you could be doing regarding punishment for these people than waiting for the slow wheels of “the system” to take its course.

Michael Galvin is an adjunct fellow at Victoria University and a former media and communications academic at the University of South Australia.

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