Politics News

Former Minister for In-Human Services Alan Tudge faces Robodebt RC

By | | comments |
(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Former Minister for Human Services Coalition MP Alan Tudge appeared before the Robodebt Royal Commission today. And what a performance it was.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses suicide

Watching Tudge squirm, point fault wildly in all directions and act as though he was blissfully blind, deaf and dumb while Minister for Human Services during the whole dark period of the malfeasant and illegal Robodebt scheme, simply confirms the lack of humanity which characterised the Morrison Government. 

If your memory needs refreshing about Tudge, he is the one who had an affair with his staffer, Rachelle Miller, who was later given a payout of $650K, for reasons that have remained shrouded in mystery but which did not lead to him resigning from the Morrison Ministry. 

And if that doesn’t jog your memory, this oft-repeated statement might:

“We’ll find you, we’ll track you down and you will have to repay those debts and you may end up in prison.”

It’s important that that threat made by Tudge – which became synonymous with the unlawful scheme that drove 2,000 people to their deaths and tormented thousands more – is reiterated often, possibly until the end of time, or at least until Tudge faces consequences for his actions. Now, if you watched Alan Tudge’s performance at the Royal Commission today, you will know that he has attempted to argue that he was unfairly quoted out of context.

Tudge originally made the statement on A Current Affair but, according to him, it was only directed at people who were defrauding the system and not other recipients. It was then repeated in the five years since by his "enemies" and others in relation to welfare recipients and this “annoyed” him because "they didn’t make that distinction".

Except this is clearly a lie.

Independent Australia has reported on this fraudulent scheme and the part of Tudge, Morrison, Robert and Porter in its execution for years, including details provided by former Victorian Chief Prosecutor Gavin Silbert KC on the obvious illegality of the scheme.

It is simply not possible that Tudge, a lawyer, and the responsible minister, was not aware; and if he really is so obtuse, then the many lawyers employed by his department and other Federal Government departments would have clearly known and informed him. 

And today, the Royal Commission referred to a range of media articles quoting press releases issued by Tudge's department, lauding the Morrison Government's performance in relation to the debt recovery scheme. These had appeared in what Rachelle Miller referred to yesterday as “more friendly media”. At IA, we prefer to refer to this media contingent as the mainstream media cabal, but we digress.

Justin Greggery KC asked if Tudge could see that since that quote was always cited in relation to both fraudulent behaviour and unintended oversights, people might conflate the two. And then Greggery asked why, if it was wrong and it was important to him, Tudge didn’t issue a statement to correct the misrepresentation. Or mention that the fraud component made up only 0.01 per cent of all Robodebt notices.

For the remainder of his testimony, Tudge “didn’t recall” much at all and channelled Bart Simpson as he fingered almost everyone he’s ever come into contact with, including:

  • his secretary;
  • his assistant secretary;
  • the previous minister (Stuart Robert);
  • Christian Porter and his department;
  • Mathias Cormann and his department;
  • government lawyers;
  • public servants in general;
  • A Current Affair;
  • the media in general;
  • his enemies;
  • Labor (of course); and
  • probably (as we didn’t see the entire performance) Dan Andrews.

Other highlights included this from Tudge:

Despite being on leave with my family, I was keeping an eye on the media and left my family, my young family, in England to return to fix the issues, if indeed there were substantive issues.

I was specifically keen to understand the process and put myself in the shoes of the recipient.

I was underwhelmed with what I saw.

No doubt people who received threatening notices and menacing Human Services phone calls at their place of work, many of whom could barely feed their families, would have appreciated the huge sacrifice made by Tudge in cutting his overseas holiday short.

And our favourite moment of the proceedings 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.

Of course, since we now know that he systematically bullied staff as well as Robodebt recipients, was aware of the questions raised by legal experts and a few not-so “friendly media” outlets and did nothing, Tudge's claims of being somehow unaware of the harm he was causing are completely fabricated.

And the most damning indictment of Tudge’s culpability came from his former media adviser Rachelle Miller.

Miller gave evidence at the Royal Commission that the Morrison Government had released personal information of Robodebt "case studies" to dissuade others from speaking out.

Miller said:

[Tudge] requested the file of every single person who appeared in the media … you could see the exact transactions that they'd had with Centrelink.

This would send a clear message … that maybe consider it [going to the media] twice.

According to Miller, this resulted in "less people speaking out in the media which was our intention".

As Dr Jennifer Wilson wrote in IA:

Senior public servants in two government departments knowingly entered into a lengthy conspiracy to torment and fraudulently extract money from some of the most vulnerable and impoverished people in society.


We now know that highly paid public servants together with ministers of the crown and elected MPs, the embodiment of privilege every one of them, conspired to enact a program they knew to be illegal. That this was done in a manner designed to cause maximum fear and distress to those already struggling, should cause significant alarm in all of us.

Today, the national broadcaster, until now notable for its near disregard of the proceedings, televised the Robodebt Royal Commission.

Unfortunately, a short while later, the ABC 24 live broadcast was interrupted, mid-sentence, as Tudge stuttered and writhed to defend his behaviour.

The announcer said something like, And we'll stop it there. We're not going to show you all of it... Now here's a segment about a kitten stuck in a tree...

Hopefully, the result of this Robodebt Royal Commission will not be that we forget what happened here — that innocent people were tortured and traumatised by the Federal Government over debts they didn't owe, many to their deaths. 

If you would like to speak to someone about suicide, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.

Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.

Recent articles by Michelle Pini
The New South Wales paleo-progressive Premier Perrottet

Some may be fooled into thinking New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet is ...  
EDITORIAL: The New South Wales paleo-progressive Premier Perrottet

Some may be fooled into thinking New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet is ...  
EDITORIAL: No accountability or public shaming for Robodebt criminals

If public trust is to be restored, at the very least, the people responsible for ...  
Join the conversation
comments powered by Disqus

Support IAIndependent Australia

Subscribe to IA and investigate Australia today.

Close Subscribe Donate