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How has Centrelink come to normalise contempt?

In The Saturday Paper this weekend there’s an editorial addressing the recent Centrelink scandals that, among other extreme dysfunctions, have seen the private data of two clients released to that publication, The Guardian, and The Canberra Times.

What you might not know is that The Saturday Paper declined to publish unsolicited private data sent to them by Centrelink, and that those private details belonged to a young man, Rhys Cauzzo, who died by suicide after receiving automated debt notices and subsequent harassment by Centrelink, and debt collectors Dun and Bradstreet:

Recently, private information about welfare recipients has been leaked to the media in the hope of discrediting critics. After The Saturday Paper published Rhys Cauzzo’s story, the department shared his personal data with our reporter in the hope of changing the piece.

The construction of citizens as enemies of Centrelink is engendered by the conservative ideology of Minister Alan Tudge, and senior departmental staff such as DHS secretary Kathryn Campbell, who use as their starting point the proposition that the majority of clients are criminals, or criminals-in-waiting.

(Sound unnervingly familiar? The assumption by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton and his lackies that asylum seekers are criminals. I said a while back that what they do to asylum seekers they’ll do to Australians).

In her evidence before a Senate committee last week, Ms Campbell, who played a leading role in creating and presiding over the robo-debt system, refused to acknowledge that the system has any flaws, and remarked that clients have a responsibility to provide the department with correct information. Here you’ll find an excellent piece by Jack Waterford on Ms Campbell, and her “relentless suspicion of the poor.”

The ideologically-driven belief that Centrelink clients (or asylum seekers) are fraudsters is used to justify ill-treatment of them for political gain. The public does not like fraudsters.

Both DHS and DIBP are designed to deal with stereotypes, not human beings. The Ministers and senior staff in both departments are too lazy, too ignorant, too arrogant, too well-paid and too privileged to question their assumptions about those less comfortable in the world. Misfortune of any kind is perceived as a reprehensible moral failing, and as such, punishable by those with the power and authority to punish.

In the upper echelons of these departments you’ll find no broad view of context, of societal and cultural influences: the individual is entirely responsible for his or her own predicament. Society does not exist. There are individual men and women and there are families, but there is no society in the context of which the lives of individuals and families are played out.

Your part in destroying a country has nothing to do with its citizens subsequently seeking asylum in your country. Your ill-conceived policies have nothing to do with people becoming working poor, jobless, homeless, and needing assistance from the state. There’s bunch of rabid Thatcherites running DIBP and DHS.

Ministers such as Tudge, and senior public servants, treat welfare recipients as deviants. Welfare recipients embody what the ruling class fears most: loss of its power and its financial security. They must be punished for their carelessness, but more than that, they must be punished for reminding the comfortable just how close discomfort can be.

Ms Campbell may embrace the Thatcher ideology in her attitudes to citizens, however, it is easily unveiled as a comfortable and convenient delusion. Kathryn Campbell might reflect, if she has the capacity, that were it not for “clients” she’d be out of a job. Campbell’s $700,000 salary is entirely dependent on the misfortunes of millions. So much for the individual’s sole control over his or her circumstances.

The revelation that Centrelink authorities sent unsolicited private details of a dead man to the media, in the hope of changing the journalist’s story, ought to be beyond belief. Sadly, it isn’t. Sadly, we have in this country at least two bureaucracies whose leaders have modelled a pathological lack of humanity, and the dire weakness of all bullies. It’s time to get rid of the Tudges, the Campbells, the Duttons and the Pelluzos. We’ve travelled far enough down the path of cruelty and unreason. It’s time for a change.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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  1. Photontrace

    Is that a misprint of the number of zeros in Ms Campbell’s salary? I think I understand what was meant, if the comma indicates it.

  2. paulwalter

    Yes, this Cambell is a scary monster the equal of Tudge, Porter, Abbott, Jongen and Turnbull…a megalomaniac sadist nazi.

  3. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Fantastic, Jennifer Wilson. Compassionate and rousing.

    Centrelink needs a Royal Commission investigation and heads should roll.

  4. helvityni

    Monsters all of them on that side, and to think that there’s talk of having the heartless Dutton as our next PM…?

  5. Davidius

    Hmmmm……the word ‘tudge’ summons up all manner of visions. A large wad of foul-smelling and noxious matter, pollutive in the extreme and deposited by a grotty beast, generally unpleasant to be near or to be obliged to listen to.

  6. Pete Petrass

    I believe this is the same woman who chooses to maintain 3 offices in Canberra at a cost that would probably represent most of what is allegedly being rorted by all of those welfare criminals. Perhaps Centrelink should be sending her a robo-debt notice for wasting taxpayers money.

  7. Maeve Carney

    This whole idea that welfare recipients are somehow all either criminals or potential criminals is utter abhorrent. What I think is worse is that when the flaws of the system have been pointed out to the politicians they still insist that everything is going well. Heartless and immoral people.

  8. babyjewels10

    Alan Tudge is an active Christian. I once wrote on his Fb page and someone replied that I clearly didn’t know Mr. Tudge personally because he’s a wonderful person. Far out. I was then banned from commenting.

  9. Tina Clausen

    Best article I have read in a long time and so very true. It goes to the heart of exactly what the moral failings of our privileged politicians are and the contempt they hold for ordinary Australians. They have totally forgotten who they are here to serve, instead they are busy lining their own pockets and pandering to the banking and mining industries as well as the multi-national corporate business world.

  10. Rossleigh

    Spot on, but I wonder if other media outlets will show the same sensitivity as “The Saturday Paper” and decline to publish.

  11. Jennifer Wilson

    Photontrace, Ms Campbell earns $700,000 pa.

    Thanks for the appreciation, readers.
    I’m heartened by the walloping they got in WA. Not as easy as they thought to channel us into Trumpism.

  12. Wayne Turner

    The reason this mob paints people on centrelink as criminals,and criminals in waiting is because: It’s ANOTHER case of this lot “projecting”.The party of rorting entitlements,gravy train of negative gearing,lying,and corruption of the likes of the AFP.

  13. ozibody

    Indeed Wayne ! …. Is it possible to compile a list of Federal Parliamentarians who own Investment Properties , and the extent thereof ?

    M/s Cash’s recent (late) ‘declaration’ of her latest acquisition … “late” so as to avoid the fuss about M/s Susan Ley’s ‘exposure ‘ – had a shortish fling on social media ; too easily outlived..

    The current Government will not act on this, but the facts in the light of day will certainly inform the electorate – including some of their own constituency.

    Savvy investors are being encouraged to become light on shares and pile aboard the property market – fed by the prospect of Currency kerfuffle World wide.

  14. Matters Not

    While all federal politicians must declare their real estate holdings on the publicly accessible register of member’s interests, one wonders how many Cabinet Ministers disqualify themselves when ‘negative gearing’ comes up for discussion in the Cabinet room? Surely as men and women of integrity they would absent themselves because of an (obvious) ‘conflict of interest’ when Budget initiatives/possibilities are under consideration. (Yes I know, Cabinet meetings wouldn’t be the same without Peter Dutton to advise.)

    Can’t recall reading about such happenings. Can’t even recall the press gallery asking about same. But perhaps that’s not the role of the Press Gallery? Apart from regurgitating Press releases, what exactly do they do re ‘digging’?

  15. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Are there absolute obligations on the Cabinet Ministers to declare within the Cabinet Room?

    If not, those requirements must be implemented tout de suite.

  16. Matters Not

    No stated obligations to declare. No need. They are men and women of complete integrity.

    Just glance at the historical record! The evidence is there for all to see. And besides we have the Press Gallery that asks all these probing questions.

  17. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    So the answer is that there needs to be total and enforceable disclosure within the Cabinet Rooms too coz the little dearies don’t know how to behave otherwise.

    Don’t you find it intensely interesting that every step of our lives is measured and scrutinised and yet the law makers sail happily above scrutiny and the Law.

    No wonder old losers like Bronnie Bishop don’t want to retire. No scrutiny while in office.

  18. keerti

    “They must be punished for their carelessness, but more than that, they must be punished for reminding the comfortable just how close discomfort can be.” An instructive remark that reminds me of something similar said to me by a beggar I was passing in the main street of Byron Bay. As I walked by he said to me,” You are only ever one step away from where I am.” tudge and he henchmen would do well to live with such an insight.

  19. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Very true, keerti.

    If I were a mean and nasty person, I would wish such an event on Tudge and anti-Christ Porter regardless.

  20. Sir Scotchmistery

    LOL. I love the tongue in cheek (mis) use of the word “integrity”.

    Can I also point out that nothing changes until we all get out on the street and bitch.

  21. Richard Creswick

    Sir Scotch you are right and the opportunity to get out on the street and bitch comes in ten days with March in March. We should (will) be there to let this group of idiots know what we think of them and their actions (can’t say policies).

  22. Sir ScotchMistery

    Totally forgot about that Richard. Unfortunately that is a thing that needs an organisation.

    Anyone joined the “March in March” organisation?

  23. ozibody

    Wayne Turner …. Thank you for the informative http://www.realestate.com.au link.

    The preponderance .of investment properties held by NLP parliamentarians clearly indicates to me the current Government is unlikely to make any real changes to the Negative Gearing legislation….. without more weight and information to promote action.

    Any investment property holding in excess of three or four can create significant tax savings to the likes of a Parliamentary salary.

    From the retirement perspective, a property portfolio represents a considerably boost to Parliamentary Pension ! ….. Understatement !

    All the LNP talk about neg. gearing adversely impacting on the general public (75% of whom probably hold ONE property) is garbage ….. which when blown up makes news.

  24. Kronomex

    When you are a nasty vindictive and thin skinned creep and surround yourself with like minded sycophants the rot will set in and solidify until such time as your party is removed. My sympathies lie with the Centrelink workers who want to help but are tied in knots by the behaviour and rules of those with the real power and who don’t give a damn about the little person on the receiving end of this almost Soviet style power structure.

  25. Max Gross

    Guillotine Day cometh

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