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As pollies await their fate, Robodebt focus turns to senior public servants

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An independent reviewer has been appointed to investigate possible public service code of conduct breaches under the robodebt scheme.

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=A royal commission report released on Friday found former coalition ministers, including ex-prime minister Scott Morrison, dismissed or ignored concerns about the legality of the scheme.

It included a sealed section, recommending further investigation and action against several unnamed individuals.

The government announced former public service commissioner Steve Sedgwick will look into alleged breaches of the code by public servants linked to the scheme.

“The code taskforce has been established and is in place and Steve Sedgwick … has started as the independent reviewer,” a spokesman for Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher said.

“Department and agency heads have either made, or are making, referrals to the Australian Public Service Commission of the public servants named in the sealed section of the report.”

Robodebt victims could reopen claims for compensation following the damning report on the illegal scheme.

Class action lawyer Peter Gordon said his firm had written to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese following the report’s release requesting compensation.

The former government settled the class action lawsuit in 2020 for more than $1 billion after a court ruled the debt recovery scheme was unlawful.

Royal commissioner Catherine Holmes wrote in her report there was no practical way of setting up a compensation scheme for those affected by robodebt.

“It is impossible to devise any set of criteria that will apply across the board, because people were affected in such varying ways,” she said.

The commissioner said a better use of public money would be to increase the rate of social security payments.

Following the release of the report, Mr Morrison has faced calls to step down from parliament.

He has rejected suggestions of wrongdoing or that he misled cabinet.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said the former prime minister should be embarrassed by the royal commission’s findings.

But he said it was up to Mr Morrison to stay and “protest his innocence” if he wished.

“That’s up to him, but anyone who reads the royal commission (report) is going to form a different view about Mr Morrison’s proposed timetable for staying in parliament,” he said.

Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer told Nine newspapers she was disappointed by Mr Morrison’s response to the report’s findings.

Nationals leader David Littleproud said Mr Morrison, who represents the Sydney seat of Cook, needed to decide whether he was still set on serving in federal parliament.

“It’s a matter for Mr Morrison to determine whether he’s still got the heart to continue on,” he said.

Federal police and the National Anti-Corruption Commission are considering the report.

Mr Shorten said he understood the undisclosed sealed section would be made public once investigations were completed.

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