Ok, I paraphrased one of the tagline from Robocop for the title but at least I haven’t stolen my entire media strategy from 1984…
I did find the ABC’s framing of the robodebt fiasco in this tweet rather interesting.
ABC Politics @politicsabc
No, I’m not talking about the use of the word “controversial” instead of “illegal”. The idea that the government is refunding debts is such a mishmash of language and concepts I have to despair that the average person will ever have any understanding of what’s going on. I mean, you can refund money and you can forgive a debt, but what on earth does it mean to “refund a debt”? Particularly when it’s highly improbable that it was an actual debt in the first place.
Anyway, I’m not concerned with the past we need to move on and allow me to put on my Rostradamus hat and predict the future.
- If some journalist should have the temerity to suggest that the whole robodebt scheme was illegal, we can look forward to Scott Morrison “rejecting the premise of the question” before explaining, “We looked at the scheme and there were some discrepancies and we’re working through these to ensure that people haven’t been inadvertently issued with debt notices where they shouldn’t have been. Of course, we still expect people to pay back money where they’ve been overpaid and that’s what we’re seeking to do but we won’t be issuing any more debt notices to people who don’t owe money.”
- Now that the announcement has been made, we can expect no action from the government for quite some time. When Ray from Sunshine or Sally from Nimbin goes to a media outlet and manages to get their story told about how they had the money taken from their tax return/family payment, then we can expect Stuart Robert or Cormann the Barbarian to front the media and explain that this is taxpayer money and before it’s refunded we need to be sure that the person didn’t actually owe it. It will further be asserted that because said person hasn’t actually applied to have it returned it was reasonable to presume that they believed that they actually owed the money and didn’t want it back. However, if they wish to have the money returned then they should contact Centrelink for a form which they then send to the Tax Office and a short wait, they’ll be assessed and asked for evidence to prove that they actually filled out the correct form with their own pen.
- In the next few days, the individual making the trouble will either be given something to shut them up or some story will emerge of how they were convicted of animal cruelty, terrorism, fraud or, even worse, taking part in an environmental protest.
- At this point, there may be a series of stories about how nobody realised that they’d actually have to apply to have the money refunded, Morrison and others will say that of course that was the case and why did they think that it would be automatic because only those having a go deserve a go. Chris Kenny and other Murdoch miscreants will attack those owed money for being too lazy to check out what needed to be done and that it’s just typical of those who think that the world should be handed to them on a platter and if only they worked harder they could be like Rupert and given $50 million to keep regional newspapers going just long enough for the cheque to clear.
- If a followup story is done on how difficult the form is to a) find b) fill out and c) lodge, then a government minister will make the announcement that there needs to be a complete overhaul and that the government is looking into it, but we need to be careful because we are dealing with taxpayer money. As a result all repayments will be suspended until this is done. Nobody will think to point out that it’s actual the person’s money that was obtained under an illegal system.
- Josh Frydenberg will be trotted out to announce that they’ve only repaid $49,031 of the $721million thanks to superior economic management by the Coalition and as well as a bungle by Treasury, The Liberals will be hailed as GEM (Great Economic Managers) by certain economists, who know that when something goes right, it’s all down to them but if there’s a mistake it was because of Treasury.
- If some journalist should suggest that the reason that the full amount hasn’t been paid was because some people starved waiting, then Morrison will argue that starving was a choice because they could have always taken advantage of all the retraining opportunities and got a job, but “How good is living in Australia and having a choice?”
- People will take to Facebook to complain, because Twitter will have been taken over under orders from Trump because too many people were tweeting that Republicans were more upset about Kaepernick kneeling on the grass than a cop kneeling on George Floyd’s windpipe.
Yes, it seems farfetched but this 2020 remember!