PM says sorry for massive robodebt bungle
Sorry seems to have been the hardest word for Prime Minister Scott Morrison when it comes to the $700 million robodebt bungle.
But he finally uttered the word in question time today when confronted with a harrowing example of the fallout for thousands of Australians chased by Centrelink for illegal debts.
For weeks the PM has refused to offer a general apology citing ongoing legal issues regarding a class action.
But that changed after former Labor Leader Bill Shorten raised the example of a cancer-suffering grandfather Raymond who had to sell his house and move to a shed to afford medical treatment.
"He said debt collectors ripped him to shreds over a $2,300 robodebt while he was in hospital. Why won't the Government apologise to Mr Murphy and thousands of other Australians who they owed with their unlawful robodebt scheme?'' Mr Shorten asked.
In response, the Prime Minister said he was sorry.
"Of course I would deeply regret - deeply regret - any hardship that has been caused to people in the conduct of that activity,'' he said.
"The Government has many difficult jobs that it has to do dealing with Australians in very sensitive circumstances and that is true particularly at this time.
"It is our instruction that we would hope that all agents of the government when pursuing the debt recovery option that they would be sensitive to people's circumstances.
"And in relation to the particular gentleman that you referred to, that is a very distressing situation that you have raised.
"I would apologise to any hurt or harm in the way that the government has dealt with that issue and to anyone else who has found themselves in those situations."
Originally published as PM says sorry for robodebt bungle