Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Will Anthony Albanese’s government be up for reform to address issues found in Robodebt royal commission

By Scott Prasser - posted Wednesday, 15 March 2023

The Albanese Government’s royal commission into its predecessor’s robodebt scheme, has now completed its public hearings and is preparing its report due in June.  

It was appointed to discover who was responsible for the robodebt scheme, the advice that developed it, its implementation, costs and harm to those targeted.

There is much already to learn from the commission’s open public hearings – one of the virtues of such inquiries.


Whatever the political motivations were in appointing this royal commission it was suggested that it would inevitably identify senior public servants, the quality of advice they offered and possibly bring the public service into disrepute.

Indeed, it has, and more.

It has highlighted serious flaws in how a major national policy was developed, processed through cabinet and then implemented despite issues concerning its legality, efficacy, and effectiveness having not been properly addressed.  

We heard from witnesses how competitive life is between departments and between departmental secretaries with some seemingly undermining others.

The hearings showed the consequences of the loss of permanent tenure for departmental secretaries and senior managers now mostly on contract.

Also, on display were some of the worse aspects of bureaucratic buck-passing, while failing to report their concerns having moved to a different part of the public service and thus it was “not their responsibility” – more colloquially known as NMP – not my problem.


Indeed, the royal commission uncovered a culture where staff were discouraged from informing senior management and even ministers in face-to-face meetings of the scheme’s problems.

Such obeisance to the hierarchy and those in authority has its place, but it meant that those who knew could not communicate freely to those who didn’t.  

Missing in action were the central agencies like that great interfering, know-it-all, Prime Minister’s Department supposedly in charge of ‘whole of government’ co-ordination or the Finance Department, the guardian of the public purse.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

This article was first published in the Canberra Times.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

10 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dr Scott Prasser has worked on senior policy and research roles in federal and state governments. His recent publications include:Royal Commissions and Public Inquiries in Australia (2021); The Whitlam Era with David Clune (2022) and the edited New directions in royal commission and public inquiries: Do we need them?. His forthcoming publication is The Art of Opposition reviewing oppositions across Australia and internationally. .

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Scott Prasser

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Scott Prasser
Article Tools
Comment 10 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy