The victims of the unlawful robodebt scheme are owed a formal apology by the Coalition, Government Services minister Bill Shorten says.
Mr Shorten successfully moved a motion calling on parliament to accept the findings of the scathing royal commission and apologise to the victims of the scheme.
It also called on parliament to commit to ensure it never happens again.
He said it was time the Coalition made amends.
“We believe the nation and parliament can’t move on without accepting a genuine account of what went on,” Mr Shorten said.
“Ceasing the scheme after four and a half years is not enough. The royal commission is not enough.
“What Australians want to hear from the political class and the people privileged to represent them … (is) that it was wrong, not just unintended.”
The scheme, which ran from 2015 to 2019, used annualised data to calculate average fortnightly earnings and automatically issued debt notices to welfare recipients.
Hundreds of thousands of Australians were impacted by the scheme, which unlawfully recouped more than $750m and has been linked to several suicides.
Commissioner Catherine Holmes report made several adverse findings against former coalition ministers in charge of the scheme, including former prime minister Scott Morrison.
The now Liberal backbencher has said the adverse findings against him were “disproportionate, wrong, and unsubstantiated”.
He is the only former minister mentioned in the report who remains in parliament.
Opposition frontbencher Paul Fletcher argued the Coalition had already apologised to the victims of the scheme.
“We are sorry,” he said.
Mr Fletcher said the motion was a “political” hit and did not actually address any of royal commission’s findings.
“There is a serious risk that the passing of this motion could compromise the rights of particular individuals who become a subject of proceedings in the future.”
Mr Shorten said it was not an issue of Labor versus Liberal.
“It’s about those who think that robodebt who think it was illegal, unlawful … a war on the poor, against those who are so emotionally bound up in defending their term in government that they just can’t hear anything else,” he said.
The motion was passed 88 to 51, with Liberal MP Bridget Archer voting with the government.