The Headlines: What’s Been Unearthed By the Robodebt Royal Commission

The Robodebt Royal Commission: What’s Been Said

On January 23, the Robodebt Royal Commission heard the stories of some folks who were traumatised by the Centrelink scheme that wrongly claimed they owed the government money. The recounts weren’t pretty. 

One such individual who was hurt by this automated ‘debt recovery’ scheme was a 76-year-old pensioner, Rosemary Gay. This pensioner was told by Centrelink that she owed the service $64,998. Gay said that this wasn’t possible but Centrelink ignored her and started taking money from her pension to pay this nonexistent debt back. 

It was only much later that Gay was vindicated. This experience transformed Gay’s life for the worse.

As Gay said, “I was really angry with them… This happened in 2016 from a miscalculation… Here we are in 2020, and they’re offering to refund the money they’d taken.”

“It was a system that could destroy peoples’ whole lives so simply.”

Moreover, Gay wasn’t the only person to be caught up in this scheme. Centrelink’s Robodebt program took the tax info of over 381,000 individuals and incorrectly asserted that they owed the welfare system a whack of money. This system stole more than $750 million from some of Australia’s most vulnerable individuals. 

The Robodebt Royal Commission is trying to determine how such a lousy system came to exist and how it exactly worked. Next week, former ministers Christian Porter and Alan Tudge are expected to provide evidence regarding this scheme.

The Fight for a Northern Territory Alcohol Ban Reignites

In Alice Springs, criminal activity has been on the rise. To combat this issue, the Northern Territory Government has suggested that this city limits the sale of alcohol within its borders. However, the gov stopped short of regulating such limits or banning alcohol in its entirety. 

The Northern Terrority’s Chief Minister, Natasha Fyles, believes that harsher alcohol regulations won’t meaningfully reduce the Alice Springs crime rates. She instead believes that the terrority’s ‘banned drinkers register’ and certain prevention services will help solve this issue. 

As Flyes said, “The Federal Intervention was tried in 2007, it did not work then, and it will not work now. It targeted and disempowered Aboriginal Territorians and entrenched disadvantage, rather than improved it.”

Nevertheless, a number of First Nations individuals and leaders disagree. These individuals want the Northern Territory Government to formally put in place alcohol-selling restrictions. 

Take, for instance, Labor’s First Nation member for Lingiari, Marion Scrymgour. This member of parliament reckons the Northern Territory Government needs to more effectively regulate the sale of alcoholic products. 

“At the moment, it’s all open slather,” said Scrymgour. “And if you want to be restricted you have to opt-in to be restricted. And communities aren’t resourced to do that.”

Related: Where Australia Stands on the Age of Criminal Responsibility

Related: WA, SA, and the NT Have Flooded — Here’s How You Can Help

Is Novak Djokovic Playing Up His Hamstring Injury?

In the fourth round of the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic defeated Alex de Minaur. However, after the match, de Minaur took some jabs at Djokovic for playing so well with an allegedly hurt hamstring. 

“You tell me how you thought he looked out there. Playing him, I thought he was moving pretty well, so I don’t know,” said de Minaur.

“Today, I was out there on court against him. Either I’m not a good enough tennis player to expose that, it looked good to me. He was just too good in all aspects.”

When discussing his hamstring, Djokovic said, “Tonight, I didn’t feel any pain. I moved as well as I have the whole tournament. It means we are progressing in the right direction.”

“I do not want to celebrate too early, because I don’t know how the body’s going to respond tomorrow, and for the next match, but what I felt tonight was fantastic.”

In 2022, Djokovic wasn’t allowed to perform in the Australian Open due to not having a COVID-19 vax.

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