Robodebt victims ‘shafted’ by settlement

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The settlement of the class action lawsuit against robodebt for $112 million in compensation minus legal fees has “shafted” the victims of the unlawful debt recovery scheme, according to Not My Debt founder Lyndsey Jackson.

On Monday the federal government and Gordon Legal announced they had agreed to settle the class action lawsuit against the automated data matching and debt recovery program, known as robodebt.

The settlement totals $1.2 billion, but the vast majority of this is refunded and zeroed debts already announced by the government, with $112 million to be provided to the more than 400,000 clients of the lawsuit in compensation.

As part of the settlement, the government has not admitted any liability for the scheme, or that anyone involved with it knew that it was unlawful.

Shafted: Grassroots activists say the robodebt settlement heightens distrust in government

The decision to settle the class action before it was heard in court has left many victims of robodebt and organisers against the scheme disappointed and frustrated, with many seeing it as a missed opportunity to hold ministers and senior public servants to account, and to obtain a legal precedent to prevent a similar scheme in the future.

Ms Jackson said there is a widespread feeling of disappointment among clients of the class action.

“People are definitely feeling that $112 million in compensation isn’t a very big amount for the number of people affected, and we’re not going to get any closer to figuring out what went wrong,” Ms Jackson told InnovationAus.

“There isn’t any accountability, no one is taking the stand for this. There is a feeling of disappointment that there was a settlement. People are feeling that Gordon Legal are the winners, that the Labor Party are the winners, but it doesn’t take much maths to see that most people will get a couple of hundred bucks.

“That’s not close to the hours, stress and inconvenience caused for people going through this.”

Despite the $1.2 billion settlement and untold damage wrecked by the deeply flawed scheme, no-one who oversaw the program is being held to account, she said.

“There’s still this real distrust and feeling that the government got away with something. It’s just shocking that no minister has lost their job over this,” Ms Jackson said.

“We’ve got $1.2 billion paid back because it was illegally taken from Australians. How has no-one been held accountable? It’s just shocking. What does it take for a minister to lose their job?”

Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union’s Thomas Studans said feelings are “complicated” for victims of robodebt following the settlement.

“On the one hand, yes, it’s the biggest settlement in class action history, and one of the biggest in terms of how many members there are. But in terms of payment, they’re not getting a whole lot of money. We know there are people that that wouldn’t even cover the printing of their file,” Mr Studans told InnovationAus.

“I understand it is a big win and people need relief quickly and needed this judgement, but there are no precedents or anything that could be useful going forward to really make this stick for the government,” he said.

“They’ve admitted no liability in making the settlement, it seems to be favourable for the government in terms of them avoiding scrutiny.”

“We’ve missed out on that opportunity, and that is what is galling for us and for members of the class action. There’s no closure for any of it.”

The campaigning against robodebt won’t stop after the class action settlement. There have been renewed calls for a Royal Commission into the scheme this week, in an effort to get more transparency and accountability for robodebt.

“We need to take stock. It’s been five years and everyone has worked their fingers to the bone, and this is a bit of an anti-climax,” Mr Studans said.

“We need to ponder our next move and there are a variety of options. The Royal Commission is the most promising method of public accountability, but there have to be other options.

“It’s not Gordon Legal’s or Bill Shorten’s victory. It could have been any politician or any major law firm, the groundwork was done by five years of campaigning by people who are not getting the credit they deserve for bringing this to light.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

  1. A 3 years ago

    Why didnt Gordon Legal tell the full story
    Rather get up hopes of people that had been ripped from the Robodebt.
    What sort of Law firm is this?
    Not one that acted fairly on behalf of the people.
    Go on and on in their lawyer language and who can make sense of what it all means.
    It is to confuse the people who trusted them.
    Then advice you to read online frequently asked question’s. As if thats clear or makes sence.
    Another sidetrack.
    Not available for any question’s.
    Most of these people wouldn’t follow their lawyer language.
    Definately not made simple for most.

    The opt in opt out option..
    As with what’s known now

    Best move was to opt OUT

    How it has all played out.
    Gordon Legal raised false hopes for people , OPT in and they fight for us.
    The SMART ones opted OUT.

    So many people put their trust in this law firm not knowing. Their real gain behind it all.

    • April Baez 2 years ago

      I received the money I had repaid for this fake debt to Centrelink in 2020. I have not been told the amount I will receive in compensation yet. Just a letter today by mail that I am in category 2 and the information I need to send Centrelink to receive settlement. No amount stated. Now I’m hearing people are only receiving about $280.00 each in compensation !
      I am stunned. I feel ashamed for trusting a legal firm to go to court in November.
      Now I heard they pulled out of the case before the court date.
      I feel afraid how this could happen in a country like Australia.
      Australia has acted like a third world country, where deals are made behind closed doors so only those few can make a quick large bit of cask whole those of us who have suffered the indignity of being called a liar and have suffered humiliation over false accusations are given Nothing for their suffering.
      Gordon legal, you should be ashamed!

    • Lee gribble 1 year ago

      Shafted is an understatement
      Im on a disability support payment with severe anxiety and ptsd. I went back to work after extended time off and i was stressed out serverely paying back money to c/link. They didnt care what they took ir how i coped during that time.
      It confused and messed up direct debits for my bills etc.
      I recieved $11 for my trouble. Out rageous when we all kno the solicitor made a bundle.
      I cant believe it.
      I seeking to sue myself for the distress this caused while i was working

  2. susan 3 years ago

    If that is correct about Gordon Legal being the winners and looking that way. They are just as bad as the Robodebt.

    Vulnerable people who been through the stress of being ripped off already.
    Have the faith in Law firm Gordon Legal as genuine.
    As it is playing out ( which I have been told I will not receive any repayment back)
    Who and what has Gordon Legal done?
    Taken advantage of many people, knowing they never were going to receive anything.
    What sort of Law Firm is this? Not an honest one not one that works for fair.

  3. Steven Gaunt 3 years ago

    Good easy win for Gordon Legal, pity about us victims

  4. Frank Wyatt 4 years ago

    Who gave the lawyers acting on their behalf the authority to settle; such a settlement needed to address ALL of their needs not just a minority. There should be a Royal Commission into this scandal.

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