RoboNDIS Blog Post by Marie Johnson

The NDIS is a social, economic and innovation system compromised by the NDIA systems and processes, which I believe are the most defective and dangerous in government. Overseen by the creators of RoboDebt, these systems have created risk to life, including for my family. Yet another ‘new’ IT system cannot overcome the deep biases, defects, and exposures, precipitated by the lack of ethics, risk management and co-design. Only a Royal Commission can do that.

Marie Johnson, Former Head of the NDIA Technology Authority

Today marks the beginning of the end of the Robo hunger games – a whole-of-government robo machinery architected and executed by the previous government, without ethics, without controls, without governance, creating harm to human life, including children. 

Commenting on RoboDebt in Parliament, Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese described the previous administration as: 

“…they were the architects of the scheme which has caused so much pain for so many people, and which has caused some people to lose their lives…” 

I wonder whether Prime Minister Albanese knows that these architects were indeed the architects of both RoboDebt and RoboNDIS. And what would his reaction be? 

As many as a million Australians have been harmed. Justice for some is not justice, as the harms from the robo machinery continue in plain sight. 

One has to wonder why the Labor Government has not moved to end RoboNDIS, which means the harm continues. My family amongst those harmed. 

A View from Inside Robo Government 

I was the Head of the NDIA Technology Authority, at the time that RoboDebt was being created within DSS and DHS, as part of a whole-of-government strategy. NDIA systems were delivered by DHS. 

So my observations are not only about RoboNDIS, but about the whole-of-government automation landscape at that time which gave rise to both RoboDebt and RoboNDIS. 

When my daughter applied for the NDIS, I had the insights to take photographs of her physically lodging her large lever arch folder application at the NDIA office, and kept a detailed chronology of the horror that was to come over the ensuing years. 

I am traumatised by the dreaded burden of knowing ahead of time exactly what my beautiful daughter was in for. I did not have a crystal ball; I did not need one. I knew the defective systems and processes. Nobody can escape these unharmed. That’s what defective systems and algorithms do: they do not discriminate. 

And I watched the last day of the RoboDebt Royal Commission hearings with the menacing knowledge that RoboDebt and the robo assessment machinery of government, has not stopped. 

The RoboDebt Royal Commissioner, all Members and Senators of the Australian Parliament, and members of all Australian governments need to know this.  

RoboDebt continues in the NDIA, together with RoboNDIS. Large scale population-wide systems of automated administrative decision making driven by deeply hidden and unexplainable defective algorithms, devoid of ethics, creating risk to life.  

RoboDebt and RoboNDIS are not two separate coincidental programs. These were administered within the same portfolio DSS; created by the same people; using the same defective methods; during the same period of time. 

They were each intentionally designed as part of the foundations of the whole-of-digital-machinery-of-government Digital Transformation Agenda and automation strategy, driven by Transformation Office/Agency and executed primarily by DHS. 

It should be remembered, that DHS has been the ‘technology’ provider for NDIA, and often spoke for the NDIA at Senate Estimates on technology matters. 

RoboDebt and robo assessment practices have not stopped. It was the design and intent of the Digital Transformation Agenda, that these practices would be common across government. 

Evidence of DTO involvement (emails/documents) and details of the Digital Transformation Agenda was seen in RoboDebt Royal Commission evidence. Specifically, the Digital Transformation Agenda: 

“… will produce significant improvements in service delivery along with efficiencies for government …includes creating new digital standards and common services for agencies … The agenda is broad and ambitious … further offsetting savings (which may be drawn from efficiencies from adoption of the common platforms)” 

NDIA and RoboDebt were in the tent together in January 2017, with NDIS emails between RoboDebt architects who were working on staff in the NDIA, and yet were responding to DHS executive about sensitive leaks about RoboDebt. Those same RoboDebt architects continued working on RoboNDIS for years, even during the RoboDebt Royal Commission. 

The Labor Government stated that the RoboDebt Royal Commission was necessary to ensure RoboDebt never happens again. And yet, RoboNDIS was hiding in plain sight throughout the RoboDebt Royal Commission, with the APS as an institution effectively making a mockery of the RoboDebt Royal Commission Terms of Reference. 

Indeed, the full reach of the perverted whole-of-government machinery that facilitated the RoboDebt catastrophe, is yet to be reckoned with both in terms of lawfulness and the scale of the harmed caused to Australian citizens, including children and people at risk. 

There is no separating RoboDebt from RoboNDIS from whole-of-government. 

And there can be no ‘learnings’ from the RoboDebt Royal Commission alone. The ‘learnings’ will only come when the combined common RoboDebt + RoboNDIS malfeasance is confronted and people are brought to account – for BOTH. 

Over the years, from my inside experience in the NDIA, my experience across government and from my personal experience with my family interacting with the NDIA, I have written about the systemic defects of the NDIA NDIS. 

My evidence and opinions have been provided in submissions to JSCNDIS, statements which are protected by Parliamentary Privilege. Evidence and opinions have also been provided to other inquiries, and media articles. 

I could see the common patterns emerging with RoboDebt, my family had experienced the damaging impact of these with RoboNDIS. I well understood and had knowledge of these whole-of-government strategies. 

I knew that the combined RoboDebt + RoboNDIS story would be so disturbing, as to be almost unbelievable. 

Others reached out with the same stories. The many JSCNDIS inquiries received thousands of submissions, saying the same thing. I was not alone in my view. Far from it. 

Through the phenomenal work of #NotMyDebt activists, the resulting RoboDebt Royal Commission unlocked a vault of documents and evidence that can now be used to connect the dots and expose and explain what’s happening in the NDIA. These documents needed to be on the public record to help the RoboNDIS Class Action effort establish the case for a Royal Commission into RoboNDIS. 

Otherwise, RoboDebt and RoboNDIS might be seen as two separate instances of unlawful and bad public administration. Separately, each is a human catastrophe. 

Combined, what needs to be recognised and understood, is that the state has created and weaponised a new whole-of-government instrument of power. A weapon that can’t be explained or controlled. 

No one at the RoboDebt Royal Commission could really explain how the algorithms worked. And no NDIA officer could explain to JSCNDIS exactly how the RoboNDIS algorithms worked either. In neither instance, has ethics been part of the governance, or even understood. 

Indeed, even as the RoboDebt Royal Commission was hearing questions of misfeasance/malfeasance in public office, at that very same time the same algorithmic methods and processes were being used in the NDIA. The alarm bells should be howling at this, and this is why a Royal Commission into RoboNDIS is an urgent and necessary extension of the RoboDebt Royal Commission. 

The algorithmic genie is out of the bottle with no ethics guardrails, a risk uncontained by a clueless APS leadership. 

Indeed, the full reach of the perverted whole-of-government machinery that facilitated the RoboDebt catastrophe, is yet to be understood. 

The Independent Review cannot deal with this challenge. It does not have the power to investigate; it cannot give whistle-blower protection; it cannot give any protections such as Parliamentary Privilege or the protections of a court; it cannot compel witnesses; it cannot overcome veils of FOI, secrecy, and Cabinet confidentiality; it cannot refer matters for criminal or National Anti-Corruption Commission investigation. 

There are people in the bureaucracy, ex-public servants, and those who work for providers, who might want to provide evidence, but are reluctant to do so due to concerns about protections. 

Deeply systemic issues, defects, unlawful practices presenting risk to life, and potentially corruption remain hidden and unresolved. 

Australia has distinguished itself globally – ignobly – not only for creating, perpetuating, and covering up one catastrophic unlawful algorithmic program, but then pushing into the NDIA, the same methods, systems, and people – to become RoboNDIS. 

All this as part of a bastard ‘whole-of-government’ automation strategy, driven by the oxymoronic Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), executed by DHS/Services Australia. 

The full story will be told, and *ALL* people involved brought to account. 

Otherwise, there is no justice or trust while there is full knowledge that the same evil continues unstopped in the NDIA, facilitated by the same machinery of government that created RoboDebt. 

Human devastation caused by the same people, same methods, and same systems of brutal unlawful automation. 

I never want to hear another mother talk about the suicide of their son or daughter, caused by the perverted machinery of government that is still operating. Soul destroying testimony on the last day of the RoboDebt Royal Commission. ‘His beautiful face.’ 

The horrible truth is these stories repeat through the NDIA. I know. 

The RoboNDIS horrors are almost unspeakable, but we will speak and bear witness. The bureaucracy and politicians need to be held to account – not just for the crimes and unlawfulness of RoboDebt, but also for the crimes and unlawfulness of RoboNDIS. 

Very soon, I will talk more about this in detailed testimony to the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS (JSCNDIS) Inquiry into the Culture and Capability of the NDIA, testimony which will then be covered by the protection of Parliamentary Privilege. The Committee already has my testimony, not yet published.  

Others will also give their powerful expert testimonies. These hearings will be a turning point that I and the NDIS Class Action community believe and hope will trigger the Royal Commission into RoboNDIS. 

The NDIS Class Action NDIS Royal Commission effort is building massive evidence of unlawful practices and breaches of legislation across the full gamut of public administration in Australia. 

There is a moral, ethical, and legal duty to stop this. 

A Royal Commission into RoboNDIS will reveal a scale of malfeasance that has taken place over years, beyond RoboDebt. And yes, the Australian community has every right to ask, how and why. 

The *FULL STORY* is about to be told.