The response of former prime minister Scott Morrison to the robodebt royal commission’s findings could come under the microscope of a powerful committee.
The Greens have sought to refer Mr Morrison to the privileges committee, which deals with matters including contempt of parliament, arguing the former prime minister had made “deliberately false” statements.
Greens MP Stephen Bates asked Speaker Milton Dick to consider the motion, arguing that Mr Morrison misled the House when he used a statement on indulgence last Monday to defend his role in the scheme.
Mr Morrison, who was not in the chamber at the time Mr Bates spoke, has rejected all adverse findings of the royal commission against him and said he was entitled to rely on his department’s advice that legislation was not required to enact the scheme.
Mr Bates said Mr Morrison last week made statements that “clearly contradicts the findings of the royal commission”.
“Even after the full release of the report into the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme, the member for Cook has deliberately made assertions that are clearly false,” Mr Bates said.
“Given the evidence before the royal commission, and the timing of the member for Cook’s statements after the release of the report, it appears clear that he not only deliberately made false statements but did so in order to mislead the House.”
The royal commission report found Mr Morrison had “allowed cabinet to be misled” on the legality of the scheme when he was social services minister.
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 illegally recouped more than $750m and has been linked to several suicides.
Last week, Mr Morrison said the adverse findings against him were “disproportionate, wrong, and unsubstantiated”.
He accused the royal commission of “unfairly and retroactively” applying a consensus the debt recovery program was unlawful, described the royal commission more broadly as a “quasi-legal process” and hit out at Labor for a “political lynching”.
Mr Bates said it was “fundamentally apparent that the house cannot hold a minister, or indeed a prime minister, to account if the relevant minister makes false statements to the house”.
Mr Dick will now consider the motion and told the House that he would report back “as soon as possible”.
“It is highly important I consider this matter carefully and thoroughly,” he said.
Mr Morrison has been contacted for comment.