Peter Dutton has ruled out calling for Scott Morrison’s resignation after scathing conclusions were delivered about the failed debt robbery scheme, lamenting the “politicization” of the report.
The Liberal Party leader was greeted with a standing ovation as he addressed the party faithful at the LNP State Conference in Brisbane over the weekend.
During his speech, Dutton accused the incumbent government of leading the country “down the path of division” with the upcoming Voice to Parliament referendum.
“We need practical action,” he told thousands of supporters.
“We are proposing a path of unity, which is first achieved when the Prime Minister steps away from what he sees as his moment in history.”
Opposition leader Peter Dutton has ruled out asking Scott Morrison to resign over the debt robbery scandal.
But the conference has been overshadowed by a painful week for the party, after three former Liberal ministers and a sitting MP came under fire over the Royal Commission’s findings on the debt robbery scheme.
Commissioner Catherine Holmes SC, former Chief Justice of Queensland, found that former Prime Minister and MPs Stuart Robert, Alan Tudge and Christian Porter were all responsible for some aspect of the failed $750 million debt recovery programme.
It was called a “crude and cruel mechanism” that made people feel like “criminals.”
Commissioner Holmes discovered that Morrison had failed in his ministerial responsibilities in his capacity as social services minister at the time by revealing what robodebt actually entailed.
Commissioner Catherine Holmes SC found that Mr. Morrison (pictured) had not fulfilled his ministerial responsibilities in his capacity as social services minister at the time.
But Dutton appeared to ignore suggestions that Morrison should go, instead warning Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Government Services Minister Bill Shorten against his “joy” and politicizing the findings.
Instead, he pointed to statements Morrison and the other ministers had made at the time the findings were handed over.
“When the problems came to the attention of the government at the time, the program was stopped,” Dutton told reporters.
‘I’m sorry for the people affected negatively, I’m really sorry.’
The illegal scheme, which ran from 2015 to 2019 under the previous Coalition government, was set up to recover alleged Centrelink debts using an automated system to compare people’s Centrelink and tax data.
Hundreds of thousands of Australians were mistakenly targeted by the program.
Dutton accused the Labor Party of “politicizing” the report on the failed debt robbery scheme
On Saturday, Dutton said Shorten’s attempts to politicize the findings had been halted in federal parliament, including “inappropriate” statements he had made about the Royal Commission.
“He’s really come close to the line, if not off the line,” Dutton said.
He has seen political advantages in this situation, of that there is no doubt.
Dutton told reporters his party would take the recommendations “seriously”, including how departments provide information to ministers.
He also pointed to the timing of the report, the tome arriving a week before a by-election at Fadden’s headquarters in Queensland.
The Liberal Party hopes to retain the crucial seat after Robert’s resignation.
“I think the people in Fadden are much smarter than that: they have seen the personal smears against (Liberal candidate) Cameron Caldwell, they have seen the political advantage at the time of publication of this report,” Dutton said.
‘They’re not stupid, they can see that.’
A defiant Mr Morrison, who is holidaying abroad with his family, said in a statement on Friday that he “rejected the findings which are critical of my involvement in authorizing the scheme and are adverse to me”.
“They are wrong, unsubstantiated and contradicted by clear documentary evidence presented to the Commission,” he said.