Scott Morrison has been savaged for casting himself as the victim in the robodebt scandal in his defiant defence of the adverse findings made against him by the royal commission.
In a fierce speech on Monday, the former prime minister described the findings as “disproportionate, wrong, unsubstantiated and contradicted by clear evidence” and lashed Labor for leading a “campaign of political lynching”.
Government Services Minister Bill Shorten, who ordered the robodebt royal commission, said Mr Morrison needed to remember he wasn’t a “victim”.
“Scott Morrison’s not the victim of Robodebt. There were 434,000 Australians who were the subject of lawbreaking by the Coalition governments,” he told Sky News on Tuesday morning.
“Scott Morrison thinks it‘s all about him. The Royal Commission didn’t believe his evidence. He gave it under oath, (so) he certainly does, I don’t dispute that, but the Royal Commission was damning about him misleading cabinet.
“In Mr Morrison’s world, he’s like this blame free factory, no blame attaches him.”
In a scathing 900-page report, Commissioner Catherine Holmes found Mr Morrison “allowed cabinet to be misled” and “failed to meet his ministerial responsibility” to ensure the program was lawful.
Mr Morrison argued in parliament on Monday the royal commission was “weaponisation of a quasi legal process to launder the government’s political vindictiveness” and said Mr Shorten himself failed to raise concerns about the scheme when he was leader of the Labor-led opposition.
“I played no role and had no responsibility in the operation nor administration of the robo-debt scheme,” he said.
On Monday night, Liberal senator Dean Smith broke ranks and called for Mr Morrison to take personal responsibility for his role in the robodebt scandal.
“I think the Australian community is looking for parliamentarians to stand up, to accept responsibility, to take personal responsibility … it just undermines public confidence in our parliamentary system if people keep avoiding taking personal responsibility” he told ABC TV’s Q+A program.
When host Patricia Karvelas asked Senator Smith whether he would have preferred Mr Morrison to take personal responsibility, he simply replied “yes”.
A stunned ABC audience gasped, paused for a moment before applauding the senator.
Ms Karvelas pressed on, asking the senator whether Mr Morrison was doing the Liberal Party “damage” by remaining in parliament.
“Yes,” was his answer.
“The Liberal Party is in a rebuilding phase … We have a lot to do in terms of rebuilding trust between the Liberal Party and the community. Issues like this stand in the way of us being able to rebuild that trust,” he said.
“It’s very, very difficult for the Liberal Party to move forward while these issues are unresolved.”