A proposed expansion of the government’s controversial robodebt scheme could target thousands of Indigenous people living in remote areas and other "sensitive" welfare recipients.
The Centrelink "robodebt" system attracted severe criticism for demanding payment for old debts, despite many people not actually owing money to the government.
Some had payments cut unfairly, while others went through a bureaucratic nightmare trying to get false debts removed.
The Guardian Australia reports that confidential cabinet documents show the scheme will fall $600 million short of its required budget savings unless it is expanded to target “sensitive” groups that were originally excluded.
The documents reportedly say that if the scheme is expanded 240,000 older Australians, 40,000 people in remote areas (50% of whom are Indigenous) and 70,000 others considered vulnerable by Centrelink would be subject to the debt recovery program.
The scheme is set to be examined by two senate inquiries.
However, a spokesman for Government Services Minister, Stuart Robert did not elaborate on the possibility of expanding the scheme.
“The government is not considering any proposal to commence online compliance for vulnerable Australians,” he told the Guardian Australia.
“Income compliance for our targeted welfare system is not new, It has been in place since the 1980s. In fact, online income compliance was ramped up with data matching under the former Labor Government in 2011.”