Robo-debt lawyers want government apology

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stopped short of saying sorry for the welfare robo-debt scandal.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stopped short of saying sorry for the welfare robo-debt scandal.

Lawyers for hundreds of thousands of people who copped unlawful welfare robo-debts have demanded the federal government apologise for the bungled scheme.

The commonwealth is refunding $721 million in Centrelink debts collected through the automatic income averaging scheme from 373,000 people.

Gordon Legal founder Peter Gordon said lawyers acting for the class action would not use an apology against the government in court.

"It is extremely important that the people who have suffered from the robo-debt class action receive an apology from the government," he told AAP.

Mr Gordon said it was important for people hurt by the scheme to hear the government was sorry.

Attorney-General Christian Porter, who oversaw the expansion of the program when he was social services minister, is refusing to apologise because the matter is still before court.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also stopped short of saying sorry.

"The government has great regrets about any pain or injury that has been caused here, but those are issues we are still working through and we're making it right," he said Monday.

The robo-debt scheme matched annualised pay information from the Australian Tax Office with income reported to Centrelink by welfare recipients.

While income averaging was used under the previous Labor government, the coalition made the decision to remove human oversight from the program.

Income averaging was ruled unlawful last year, with the Federal Court saying Centrelink could not have been satisfied the debt was correct.

Australian Associated Press