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Letters Patent – plain English

  • Letters patent
Publication date

Letters Patent – plain English

The preamble (or introduction) to the Letters Patent explains what the Robodebt Scheme ("the Scheme") was and why a Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme has been established.

For example, the preamble:

  • describes the debt assessment and recovery programs covered by the Scheme
  • acknowledges that harm was caused to individuals by the Scheme
  • acknowledges that in November 2019, the Federal Court of Australia declared that demands for payment of alleged debts under the Scheme were not valid and
  • acknowledges that over 400,000 debts raised under the Scheme will be adjusted to zero or repaid.

The terms of reference require the Royal Commission to look at:

1. The establishment, design and implementation of the Robodebt scheme

This includes information about:

  • who was responsible for its design, development and establishment
  • why it was considered necessary or desirable
  • any advice or processes that informed its design or implementation
  • any concerns raised about its legality or fairness

2. The use of third party debt collectors under the Robodebt scheme

3. Concerns raised following the implementation of the Robodebt scheme

This includes information about:

  • how risks were identified, assessed and managed in response to concerns raised
  • the systems, processes or arrangements in place to handle complaints about the Robodebt scheme
  • whether complaints were handled in accordance with those systems, processes or arrangements
  • whether complaints were handled fairly
  • how the Australian Government responded to legal challenges, including decisions made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
  • when the Australian Government knew, or ought to have known that debts were not, or may not have been, validly raised
  • whether the Australian Government sought to prevent, inhibit or discourage scrutiny of the Robodebt scheme

4. The intended or actual outcomes of the Robodebt scheme

This includes information about:

  • the impacts that the scheme had on individuals and families
  • the costs of implementing, administering, suspending and winding back the scheme, including associated costs such as obtaining advice and legal costs

The Royal Commission will be able to make any recommendations it considers appropriate. This includes ways to prevent any public administration failures identified from happening again.

The Royal Commission will focus (but not limit) its inquiry and any recommendations on the decisions and actions of people in senior positions.

The Royal Commission is not required to look into matters that it is satisfied have already been dealt with or will be dealt with by another investigation or proceeding.

The Royal Commission is declared a relevant Commission in relation to the Royal Commissions Act 1902 and the Taxation Administration Act 1953.

The Royal Commission must:

  • begin its inquiry as soon as possible
  • complete its inquiry promptly
  • carry out the inquiry in a professional, impartial, respectful and courteous way
  • appropriately manage any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

The Royal Commission will submit any recommendations to the Governor‑General before they are made public and will submit a report of its findings, including recommendations, by 18 April 2023.