A senior Liberal says Scott Morrison should take personal responsibility for his role in the robodebt scandal.
Liberal senator for Western Australia and a former government whip Dean Smith has publicly spoken out about the former prime minister’s denials that he had any responsibility for the botched debt recovery scheme.
Mr Morrison on Monday gave his strongest denials yet about his role in the scheme that illegally recovered more than $750m from 380,000 people from 2015 to 2019 and also sent incorrect debt notices to more than 400,000 Australians.
The scheme has also been linked to a number of suicides.
“I do, however, completely reject the commission’s adverse findings in the published report regarding my own role … as disproportionate, wrong, unsubstantiated and contradicted by clear evidence,” Mr Morrison told parliament.
Senator Smith is one of few Liberal politicians who have spoken against Mr Morrison.
“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 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.”
Mr Morrison received the strongest criticism for a politician in the 990-page report into the robodebt scandal by the royal commission, with Commissioner Holmes finding he had misled the cabinet and failed in his duties by not ensuring the legality of income averaging.
“As Minister for Social Services, I’ve played no role and had no responsibility in the operation or administration of the robodebt scheme,” Mr Morrison said today.
He also said the Albanese government was politicising the scandal to attack him.
“This campaign of political lynching has once again included the weaponisation of a quasi-legal process to launder the government‘s political vindictiveness, they need to move on,” he said.