Alan Tudge’s former adviser placed stories about robodebt victims in ‘friendly media’, royal commission told

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Alan Tudge’s erstwhile media advisor has told a royal committee she devised a strategy to spot stories successful “friendly media” – including the Murdoch property – aft her brag told her to “shut down” the media tempest implicit robodebt successful aboriginal 2017.

The committee is investigating wherefore and however the unlawful Centrelink indebtedness betterment strategy was established successful 2015 and ran until November 2019, ending successful a $1.8bn settlement with hundreds of thousands of victims.

Under questioning by the elder counsel assisting, Justin Greggery KC, Rachelle Miller, who worked for Tudge erstwhile helium was quality services minister, agreed that by aboriginal 2017 determination was a “media crisis” implicit the robodebt scandal.

But Miller said she was assured the communicative could beryllium “shut down”, arsenic she claimed her brag had requested.

“[Tudge] was precise steadfast with maine that I needed to unopen this communicative down,” she said.

Miller said the program she devised meant placing stories successful “more affable media”, which she described arsenic “rightwing media”, naming the Australian paper and “the tabloids”, arsenic good arsenic A Current Affair and talkback stations specified arsenic 2GB.

“That media strategy was rather broad that I developed successful January,” she said. “That progressive placing stories with the much affable media, the close media, astir however the Coalition was really catching radical who were cheating the payment system.”

Miller’s connection to the committee said the program besides included “tracking down debts from the play erstwhile Labor was successful government” which had not been detected astatine the time.

She told the committee this was a “political hit” that allowed the Coalition to “throw backmost to Labor that you would fto these guys go”.

Miller said initially successful precocious 2016 Tudge’s bureau was not acrophobic astir the captious media sum due to the fact that it was successful the “leftwing media”. Much of the aboriginal reporting of the programme was published successful Guardian Australia.

Asked by the commissioner, Catherine Holmes AC SC, wherever the ABC acceptable into her presumption of media, she said it was besides successful the “leftwing media camp”.

The premier minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was “unhappy” astir the issue, Miller claimed, “but we were getting feedback from the premier minister’s bureau that really this was playing rather good successful your marginal seats, occidental Sydney, that benignant of thing”.

The enquiry heard Tudge’s media strategy expanded erstwhile the minister’s bureau and the section began a signifier of “correcting the record”.

She said Tudge “requested the record of each azygous idiosyncratic who appeared successful the media … truthful we could recognize the details of their case”. She claimed Tudge besides directed her to get different lawsuit studies that were besides utilized to make “datasets” for the tabloid media.

Miller was asked astir an lawsuit wherever the minister’s bureau released the idiosyncratic accusation of a payment recipient who wrote an nonfiction captious of Centrelink.

Miller said she was contacted by a writer from the Age and Sydney Morning Herald who had said the lawsuit was “disgraceful” but asked for confirmation of the details. Miller said she told him the communicative was not existent but said she could not supply much details owed to privateness laws.

The enquiry heard Miller discussed the contented with her counterpart successful the department, Bevan Hannan, and yet the department’s main counsel, Annette Musolino, cleared the merchandise of immoderate idiosyncratic accusation to “correct the record”.

That accusation was utilized by the writer to constitute an nonfiction that questioned immoderate of the payment recipient’s claims, which sparked further contention and disapproval from Labor, payment and privateness groups. The recipient besides stated immoderate of the “corrections” were wrong.

Musolino was not asked astir Miller’s claim, but she was expected to instrumentality to the witnesser basal adjacent month

The payment recipient and the writer who contacted Miller to inquire astir the lawsuit were not named by the royal committee connected Tuesday.

Miller said Tudge was “adamant” that if stories reported by the media were incorrect past “we should close the record”.

She said the effect was “there were little radical speaking retired successful the media, which was the intention”.

Miller said she was alert of media reports that connected the robodebt strategy to the termination of indebtedness recipients. She said those cases were “tragic” and that, successful general, determination was a “lack of empathy” successful the office.

Guardian Australia reported successful September 2022 that the national authorities paid $650,000 successful a colony for hurt, distress and humiliation she alleges she suffered portion moving for erstwhile ministers Tudge and Michaelia Cash. No admittance of liability was made by the government. Tudge has repeatedly and categorically denied Miller’s allegations.

Tudge is scheduled to look astatine the royal committee connected Wednesday.

Miller’s grounds earlier Holmes continues.