Jarrad Madgwick died by suicide on May 30, 2019. He was 22 years old. He had suffered bullying at work and left the job, became homeless and had no income after he had been in dispute with Centrelink over desperately trying to claim an income support payment, which had failed due to an administrative error where he'd uploaded the wrong document accidentally when he applied. He called Centrelink one last time to find out why his Newstart Allowance application had failed and learned it was because he owed Centrelink a $2000 robodebt. Just hours later, he took his own life. He was not the only one. To put this in perspective, the robodebt scheme's original objective was to recover $1.7 billion over five years from "overpayments" to both current and former social security recipients. It used data-matching historic records of benefit payments made to individuals with past income tax returns, with the intention of identifying discrepancies and recovering money from those who were known to be struggling through virtue of their eligibility approval. Fast forward to 2020, in the midst of COVID crisis, and we see almost $14 billion of that same tax payer money going to businesses claiming JobKeeper despite reporting rising profits in the first six months of the scheme, and $10.2 billion being paid to businesses that had not met the scheme's 30 percent turnover eligibility threshold. Was there an algorithm in sight to data-match these overpayments? Don't be silly. The ATO stated, "If a JobKeeper overpayment is identified, we may decide the overpayment does not have to be repaid, particularly if there was an honest mistake." The ATO decides those matters on a case-by-case basis. No algorithms. No auto garnishing of income. I'm sure we all remember the scandal of Harvey Norman claiming $22 million in JobKeeper despite reporting record profits, while only "volunteering" to repay $6 million of it. How nice to have the choice. At the time, then treasurer Josh Frydenberg enlightened us to the reasons why: "...to ensure the strongest possible economic recovery and avoid the scarring impacts on the labour market." And there we have it: it's about utility. Naivete has no place in politics. Welfare isn't actually about welfare, it's about doing the bare minimum to reduce the threat that abject poverty experienced by the "have nots" (such as homelessness, crime borne from desperation, healthcare demands, etc.) has on the "haves". It's not about helping people, it's about maintaining balance. It's not about leaving no one behind, it's about not wasting able-bodied potential workers who can be utilised to make someone else money. It was never about welfare. It is a coming-of-age tale to confront this hard truth: that the government is literally not there to help you, but to improve the lives of those already doing okay. The government's flat-out denial of their duty of care - despite its statutory basis in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act (2013) (Cth) - is cruel at best. The government does owe a duty of care to the people of Australia, it just doesn't seem to be enforced either by the government themselves or the judiciary, who are reluctant to potentially muddy the waters of the separation of powers. MORE OPINION: But someone needs to throw some mud into the filtered Evian of the government springs. Last week Jarrad's mum, Kath, shared her son's story as the Robodebt Royal Commission entered its final day. With the RC coming to a close, the true cost - the human cost - of this scheme had never felt so palpable. Nor the Commonwealth response so callous. I leave you with Jarrad's final social media post, "Free will is an illusion that inhibits us from correcting the system. Instead ... punishing people that are products of the environment." May these words echo in Canberra as the shame of this era in social "welfare" policy embeds itself in the legacy of the Australian government's treatment of those it is meant to serve.