Alan Tudge admits he knew scheme was inaccurate
But he denied the “overlay of fraud” made it more likely people would repay the money.
“There was a strategy to the process,” council assisting the commission, Justin Greggery KC, put to him.
“I’d disagree with that,” Tudge said.
The scheme used Tax Office annual income data and averaged it over 26 fortnights, presuming income was the same across each, and put the onus on welfare recipients to prove they didn’t owe the government money.
“I was aware the system through the data matching process had the potential to create inaccuracies and I was aware of that in January ,” he said.
“It had potential to not be a perfect surrogate of what their income was.”
The commission heard that top bureaucrats and lawyers within his department, including the former secretary Kathryn Campbell and chief legal counsel Annette Musolino, went to a legal conference in June 2017 at which eminent barrister Peter Hanks KC warned the program was potentially illegal.
Tudge said he would have expected to be notified by Campbell or other senior bureaucrats if they had learned of legal issues relating to the scheme, agreeing it would’ve been a failing within the department for him not to have been told.
“A failure for which you are responsible for as the minister,” Greggery put to him.
“I don’t know that you can say that,” Tudge replied.
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