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The LNP war on welfare recipients

Yesterday I watched, incredulous (I know, only a fool with no sense of the immediate past could continue to be startled by any action performed by this government) as Minister for Social Services Christian Porter claimed across the media that the Centrelink debt recovery process was working just fine, and the fact that a “few” citizens are being unfairly targeted was of no great consequence. If they’re upset, too bad, get over it, there’s nothing wrong with our process, was Porter’s basic message.

Here are some of the things that are wrong with the Centrelink process.

Porter seemed oblivious to the astounding news that the situation is of such concern A Current Affair, not renowned for warm feelings towards welfare recipients to whom they usually refer in stale Murdochian/conservative speak as dole bludgers, felt compelled to devote airtime to advising those on the receiving end of unpleasant notifications from Centrelink and the Australian Federal Police, apparently threatening jail terms for non compliance, how to cope.

Porter stated that one in five people who receive these letters do not owe a debt. However, the onus is on the recipient to prove to this to Centrelink. In what universe is a government department, assisted by the AFP, empowered to force citizens into the position of guilt until you prove innocence?

Here is how Centrelink is legally obliged to deal with investigating debts.

Quite how the AFP became co-opted as debt collectors for a government department I have yet to fathom. I believe it was a “joint task force” action, Centrelink having morphed from a public service into a “force” in the conservative war on welfare, and the AFP, well, ever since failed Prime Minister Tony Abbott took up lodging in their barracks nobody’s known where they’re at.

This is the first time the AFP logo has been used on Centrelink material. Obviously, the intention is to intimidate.

Image from humanservices.gov.au

Porter continued to stare defiantly into the cameras and insist that any problems were the fault of Centrelink “customers”, past and present, not the system. Nor were they inspired by the contempt, ingrained like decades of neglected playground grime, the government has for any welfare recipients, other than the Gina Rinehart demographic.

At one point Porter went so far as to blame Labor for the situation, on the grounds that in his opinion the ALP hadn’t done a satisfactory job chasing up false welfare claims when they were in government. This might be amusing, considering the LNP refusal to address the matter of corporate taxes, were it not so destructive to lives undeserving of government persecution.

Here is how you will only be protected by the Turnbull government if you’re a millionaire.

No part of this latest debacle bears even a remote resemblance to the practice of good governance. Yes, systems develop glitches, we  saw evidence of that very recently with the Census train wreck. In an alternative reality, Porter might have acknowledged the imperfections and failures of the system, and put threatening the populace on hold until the glitches were resolved, thus salvaging some good will and damping down the massive backlash.

He didn’t even have the nous to take that path.

The LNP is enslaved by ideology, to the extent that it will eat itself rather than look outside the narrow confines of its ideological box. Which is fine by me: get on with the cannibalism until you’re a midden of shining white bones, is my position.

Criminalising people is what this government excels at. Unfortunately, the very people deserving of criminalisation generally go free: far easier to target the already vulnerable. There’s nothing wrong with prosecuting people who make false welfare claims. However, as in so much else, this government has no sense of proportion in these matters and that, combined with its need to create scapegoats in a despicable effort to shore up its increasing unpopularity, has led to a savaging of Centrelink “customers” that has already dramatically backfired, as well it should.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 


61 comments

  1. Jaquix

    Another absolute disgrace. No “crackdown” on those oil companies who have been revealed recently to be getting away with MILLIONS in undeclared/overclaimed/misreported expenses (R&D I think). Not a peep out the government about that. As far as these Centrelink letters go, Porter blithely assumes that the recipients (who have a whole 3 weeks in which to jump to attention) are still living at the same address. You could be away on a holiday and come home to find the AFP on your doorstep (OK I exaggerate out of frustration) because you hadnt been at home to open their letter.

  2. nurses1968

    On Independent Australia
    Red Ned Sandi Keane •

    Anyone got an old 2c coin to help this poor bastard out?

    If he paid a 5c coin the “machine” would still have a 3c discrepancy

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C1R15SmUkAA6H3m.jpg:large

  3. Michelle Petrat

    Unfortunately, a lot of so called battlers voted for them and Pauline. Just as they did for Trump. The awakening will be painful but the wrecking goes on daily

  4. David1

    It’s taken just 4 days of the new year for me to explode in anger over this absolute horrific bastard (sorry for language) Porter to confirm how low this unAustralian Govt has sunk.
    Not content with the murderous Dutton committing all manner of crimes against humanity, now Turnbull silently sits back allowing Porter to cause emotional and financial fear among beneficiaries. Some according to Independent MP Wilkie suicidal.
    After the tragic episode involving the young autistic man (thank God for his wise caring mum) who knows what agony he was going through. Damn them, damn them to hell

  5. paulwalter

    Sick and cruel manifestation of a sick mentality dislocated from reality… a sort of electronic panopticon or concentration camp that panders more to the sadistic impulses of the people running things than with anything to do with efficiency and fairness.

    Watch it, rest of Australia, they are coming after you next.

  6. Ricardo29

    Said it before, there are no depths of depravity to which this bunch of bastards will not stoop. I only hope those affected by their actions who voted for them remember next time.

  7. Stephen

    About the only thing the current government is good at is vicious and soulless cruelty to the weak, and grovelling subservience to the entitled few our Lords and masters.

  8. Lorraine Stansfiewld

    This government destroys all that is good in this country.

  9. Keitha Granville

    Write to your MP, your Senators, the Director of Centrelink, the Minister for Human Services ( that’s a contradiction in terms ) the same letter to all – keep copies. Do NOT let them get to you, no matter what. At some point someone with enough cash and friends in the right place will stop this madness, the government will be forced to scrap it and thousands of people will have to be paid back, with interest added for the days they’ve been without.
    If your benefit has been cancelled or significantly cut, call your MP on the phone and demand some response.Let them know you need to eat.
    These people are public servants – we are the public, so make them serve.

    Oh – and don’t shout at the poor people who have the misfortune to work in Centrelink – it’s not their fault or their doing. I imagine they are horrfied but helpless to do anything.

    Fight back, we have to fight back.

  10. Egalitarian

    Michelle Petrat: If you can divide the sheep or herd.Confuse them you can manipulate them to do anything.

  11. Adele

    There is no “glitch”. The data matching system is doing exactly what was ordered by the current government, check the 2012 legislation. Their claims of programs not doing what is intended are disingenuous. This is our elected representatives achieving the outcome they wanted by bullying those most at risk to lose and then shifting the blame on to it’s ground down public service.

  12. Wayne Turner

    I agree with Adele.The CORRUPT and LYING government have set this up,to STEAL from the less well off,and people that have done NOTHING wrong.This is all done on purpose by this EVIL government.

  13. Olly Olsen

    Just FYI when dealing with the ATO it is quite normal that you are required to prove your innocence, rather than they prove your guilt. So there is precedent…luckily the ATO dont usually go down that route.

  14. lawrencewinder

    Another step in Australia’s descent into a fascist state. And where the hell are labor and the greens in all this?

  15. Kaye Lee

    Porter considers a 20% failure rate acceptable? His idea of quality and control and mine differ greatly.

    I would like to know how many politicians have paid back incorrect “entitlement” claims, how long they were given to do so, if there was interest charged or “consequences”/threats for anything less than immediate compliance.

  16. Wayne Turner

    “And where the hell are labor and the greens in all this?” – Labor already said this new system should be scrapped.I’m NOT sure about the Greens.

    Don’t forget the MSM are the cheer squad mouth piece of this government.They hardly report what Labor or the Greens say.I was lucky to hear it once that Labor are against it.

    The MSM are scum like this government.

  17. Suziekue

    Did the government think we wouldn’t notice?

  18. jim

    Boy oh boy, Man oh Man, can the LNP get any meaner than this… Oops I shouldn’t of thought that. Btw, what will be gained after they pay the millions it cost to run the heartless scheme. Shame on you LNP Shame Shame Shame.

  19. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    Feedback forms and emails are a low level of protest but here are some electronic addresses if you wish to remind ministers of their policy lapses on behalf of less comfortably constituents.

    The Q Government is trying to offer concessional public transport forms for job-seekers. The federal LNP seems to be holding up the implementation of this initiative as special transport Gocards are required.

    Social Security and Disability:

    For Pearce WA: http://christianporter.dss.gov.au/contact

    For Ryan: http://www.janeprentice.com.au/Contact-us

    Health:

    Sussan Ley in Farrer: Minister.Ley@health.gov.au

    Ken Wyatt in the Marginal Electorate of Hasluck in WA: Minister.Wyatt@health.gov.au

    Unemployment: (Centrelink Youth Allowance is $290 p/fortnight)

    Senator Michaelia Cash (WA) https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Contact_Senator_or_Member?MPID=I0M (Difficult to contact)

    Scott Morrison in Cook NSW https://www.scottmorrison.com.au/contact-scott

    Barnaby Joyce in New England http://www.barnabyjoyce.com.au/Contact-Our-Office/

    For Complaints to Key Crossbenchers who stitch ip deals with the LNP

    David Leyonhjelm senator.leyonhjelm@aph.gov.au

    Derryn Hinch senator.hinch@aph.gov.au

    Definitely a low level of protest but it is still an option.

  20. David1

    To give Labor MP’s some credit, from Bill Shorten down they are tweeting their concern about this ‘foul attempt to rort beneficiaries’. Health Shadow Minister Catherine King says she is working non stop helping constituents, same for others I have heard from.
    To be expected not one Govt MP showing any concern. I am more convinced than ever this is a setup rort by Porter.
    I have been reminded time and again since 2013 and the advent of this Tory L-NP Govt, these words that are ringing true.

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

    No need to worry about Trump, we have our own attacking us from all sides.

  21. Zathras

    You can’t blame these Neo-Cons for sticking it to “the undeserving poor”.

    They’ve been demonising them as bludgers for decades and tried failed punitive measures such as “Work for the Dole” but they still keep coming.

    There must be more of them than the government is letting on, draining the public coffers,

    After all, they are using up public money that the rich don’t contribute toward but always feel entitled to claim for themselves.

    Add this debacle to the recent pension cut and it makes you wonder where the political advantage may be.
    There’s no political going back from those two events – some voters have long memories when it comes to money.

    I await the next Poll with much interest.

  22. win jeavons

    I find this government and its spokesmen utterly contemptible . How much lower can they go, using a bad computer program to terrify the vulnerable, then refuse to listen , A suicide on unChristian Porter ‘s doorstep would be poetic.

  23. Michael

    Michelle Petrat – we need “adopt a battler” approach – they are the ones who have been duped

    Keitha Granville – bring the message home – letter receivers invite those you list to their place for dinner and a chat? – copy AIMN to keep progress – date sent, to, response, etc.

    Wayne Turner – send letters to MSM editors with copy to a new section on AIMN called “letters MSM will not print” – letter writers then update with date printed if any – rolling percentage tally of those letters printedof total maintained by issue/date headings, etc – I am in for $50.

  24. keerti

    Yet another instance where polititians and public servants have forgotten who their employers are, that they are the servants not the masters.

  25. Cheryl

    I received one of those letters, I have a cervical spine injury, not supposed to have stress. Phoned the number on the Centrelink letter I received from Canberra its like bashing your head against a brick wall, he didn’t want to listen at all, to busy intimidating. Tried to say I had money in two different accounts, one had been closed years ago. Which only left the current account. I spoke to my bank @ was told all agencies are updated. When I finally convinced him there had only been one account for years. This went on for sometime tried my car next which total value is 3 hundred dollars. Phoned @ asked to speak to a Social Worker who agreed I owe no money. Iasked her to note I would never line up at Centrelink I would never phone them, they don’t answer anyway @ if they wish to speak to me in future. I will only speak to a Social Worker, or Centrelink could phone the Police @ have me arrested. Have worked closely with the law for over 18 years in two States @ know it would be easier to have it delt with in a court of law. Work hard all your life @ this how it all works out. Politicians I would rather be younger healthy @ working at least I was treated with respect.

  26. Jennifer Wilson

    Yes, Adele and Wayne, I was giving them the benefit of the doubt with the word *glitch*, it is beyond belief that no one in Centrelink tested this system for errors before launching it on the public. If they didn’t test it, they’re incredibly incompetent, if they did and found the errors and continued anyway, they lack all morality and decency and have likely broken the law.

  27. helvityni

    David I, two top posts from you, you are saying what I been thinking about; this leaves me to say; I totally agree with your sentiments..
    .
    Too much to worry about here, I’ll talk about Trump’s failings when things improve here…I’m not holding my breath though… we need a better government, it’s that simple.

  28. bobrafto

    Anyone notice how quiet the ABC is on this matter?

  29. king1394

    I am waiting for the Centrelink/ATO averaging system to uncover all the people who have been underpaid by Centrelink over the years.

  30. David1

    helvityni, thanks for your comments appreciated.

  31. Roswell

    This is warfare on welfare, pure and simple.

  32. crypt0

    Like Keitha said …
    Write to your MP, your Senators, the Director of Centrelink, the Minister for Human Services and so on.
    Its paper warfare.
    The ‘strayan people will put up with anything as long as it doesn’t affect them personally … now between the pension thing and now this farce, it’s increasingly affecting some of them personally.’
    Too bad they hadn’t seen it coming before the 2016 election.
    This can hardly be called a surprise !!
    It’s the LieNP FFS !!

  33. olddavey

    THE PLAN
    1. Shut down the system immediately
    2. Have all paid and unpaid notices audited by actual human beings
    3. Credit all clients’ bank accounts who have paid unowed amounts with the amounts paid plus 10%
    4. All clients who have been wrongly accused of being overpaid to receive individual letters of apology from Turnbull, Porter and Tudge.
    5. Turnbull to grow a backbone
    6. Porter and Tudge to be sacked from the ministry
    7. Culpable Centrelink exetives to be demoted
    8. Centrelink to have staff increases commensurate with the need to provide reliable and humane services
    9. Supplier of software package to be denied access to any future government contracts and be publicly shamed
    Turnbull to have the guts to admit he couldn’t organise a fart in his underpants and step down

    Michael Griffin, who went public in a big way has had hid debt reduced from $3197 to $54.
    Of course he spoke up, but many don’t know how to do that, like this young man who was only saved by his mother:

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jan/04/heartless-core-autistic-man-chased-centrelink-debt-collectors

    And how many more will there be like this who will never have the wherewithal to dispute these claims.

    Now, I don’t get annoyed very often, but if Tudge or Porter came near me they would be punched.

  34. Mhoira White

    Porter said they had already recouped $300m. so how many people have blindly paid up out of fear & how many actually owed those debts ? Will they be getting a refund & an apology

  35. Kronomex

    Christian Porter – Demonic Minister for the Department of Inhumane Services.

    We must remember that it’s Labor’s fault.
    We must remember that there is no way that the LNP is going to even consider hitting the 1% and corporations. That’s tantamount to political suicide and loss of big money topping up the party coffers.
    We must remember that anyone who is poor can’t afford the pay to play legal system to fight back. Mind you come election time they will suddenly love the poor and promise lots of pie in the sky to get their vote.

    When all is said and done and they shelve this travesty (which they will do) they will blame everybody else except themselves for this debacle. Turnbull is hanging on by a thread and this is another nail in his coffin and I’ll be surprised if he makes to the end of the year as PM and (snort, snigger, chortle) leader of the party. We’re six days into 2017 and they are up shit creek already. Can’t wait to see what happens for the rest of the month let alone the rest of the year.

  36. paulwalter

    Mhoira White, you could add lost of productivity from demoralised and persecuted workers.

  37. Kaye Lee

    Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley is facing the heat following revelations her purchase of a Gold Coast investment property coincided with a taxpayer funded trip to Queensland.

    In May 2015, Ms Ley made a $1.3 billion drugs-funding announcement at Wesley’s Hospital in Brisbane.

    The Herald Sun reports she and her husband bought a $795,000 Gold Coast investment property during the trip.

    http://www.9news.com.au/national/2017/01/06/07/28/minister-bought-property-on-taxpayer-trip#vf1H9vhxvZME5G41.99

    I wish these people would stop flying around the country making announcements which are thinly veiled excuses to see to their own personal affairs or to catch their footie team playing.

  38. Wayne Turner

    Kaye: The LNP a bunch of lying self serving rorters. Ley negative gearing that property too I bet.The real reason why they are against any changes to negative gearing.Self serving scum.

  39. John

    Porter considers a 20% failure rate acceptable?

    Funny how its not part of the workforce participation calculation – if the government can accept 20% failure of its software, why cant it accept a 20% failure rate of its policies toward providing full employment. The federal government has made a political decision to maintain a labour underutilisation rate of 15 – 20% to drive down the cost of labour for its capitalist mates and to force those in work to increase productivity, if they were consistent they would spend the money on job creation instead of busywork on systems and software.

  40. Michael

    Can you just picture Tudge or Porter receiving one of these letters and having to deal with the automated consequences – that should be the starting point

  41. David1

    Imagine the fear that went through the young autistic man Michael Griffin, when he saw the logo of the Govt’s personal Secret Police the Feds at the top of the letter from Centrelink.
    The Opposition and Greens should be demanding to know wtf that logo is doing on personal communications between a Govt Dept as in Centrelink and a private person. it would scare the daylights out of anyone let alone an autistic lad.
    In my opinion that is exactly why it is there, once again the Feds boss must be hauled in to explain and then given his marching orders.which sadly will not happen as the gutless Turnbull will yet again dissolve into a wobbling jelly of useless.

  42. David1

    Cheryl thanks for telling us about your shocking mistreatment by Centrelink, must have been awful experience for you. I would like to copy and post to Catherine King Labors excellent Health Shadow and a couple of other worthwhile Labor MP’s….with your permission of course. The more ammunition they have, better their attack on Porter and co.
    It is obvious by the huge amount of public response condemning this shameful attack on beneficiaries, questions will be asked and answers demanded.

  43. Michael

    David1 – wonder if Tudge and Porter would accept a dinner invite from Michael Griffin to discuss further?

  44. paulwalter

    Kaye Lee, it is doubling embarrassing for the government because it has emerged at the same time as the Centrelink scandal.

    I can not think of a better example for the “Let them eat cake” mentality than Sussan Ley.

  45. Kaye Lee

    She said it was an impulse buy. Oh darling, that looks like a nice little place – $800,000? No problems.

  46. silkworm

    Catherine King on ABC24 questioning Ley’s excuse of “impulse” buying, and also the fact that Ley’s husband accompanied her.

    I would also wager that Ley has taken money from the Pharmacy Guild to push their products.

  47. Kaye Lee

    The Pharmacy Guild doesn’t have any products. The Guild are an entirely different body to pharmaceutical companies. They represent small business owners and their employees.

  48. David1

    Silkworm on the other hand, not to put too finer point on it replace Guild with Pharmaceutical and you would be completely within the bounds of reasonability…. 100%

  49. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Porter has exposed himself once and for all as one of the most ugly of the LNP menagerie.

    Nobody bothered about the vulnerable on Welfare (just like the vulnerable in Detention) until some well-described and outrageous cases became apparent.

    If the guillotines still existed, I’d like Porter to have his smug face pointing out the wrong side of the blade.

    However, nobody else in the Lib/Lab dinosaur duopoly deserve any better for consecutive abuses and impoverishment of Australia’s most vulnerable.

    INcrease Welfare payments ABove the poverty line …

    … and INcrease ALLowable INcome from ALL sources before any Welfare payments are reduced.

    You listening too, Labor???

  50. Jason

    Hopefully enough liberal voters get the message that the coalition really doesn’t care about them. I really hope this drives them to vote for someone else. Otherwise they deserve all they get. It’s disgusting how a social safety net can be degraded so badly. Neoliberalism is so damn powerful the masses are lapping it up instead of demanding the government increase these services for those who need them.

    What makes me most angry is it’s punishing people who got work. How can that be justified?

  51. silkworm

    Where are the churches on this government persecution of the most vulnerable?

  52. Oz

    Mandatory early retirement for this government please, all parliamentary privileges CANCELLED immediately. Wankers!

  53. Rob Borch

    As ‘Christian Conservatives’ they should be ashamed. But the will use the ultimate ‘Get out of Jail Free’ – “I’m not perfect, but I’m a Christian, so I’m forgiven.” Not available to the aged, unemployed or disabled apparently. Well, if there is a God, (something I’m beginning to seriously doubt in my older years looking at the world around me), I suspect that gift did not come entirely free. I suspect that God intended that we should at least TRY to act morally and in good faith when we grasp for that gift. I continue to be dismayed by how far the very religious often veer away from the path and believe they are the only ones on it. A classic case of studying ‘The Word’ so intently they miss the Message. Indeed, if there WAS and all powerful God, surely these people would be bursting into flames all around the world. INEQUITY, not Welfare, is the problem of our age, people. 65 people own 50% of the world’s wealth. If I were God, I would think that was obscene and immoral.

  54. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well said, Rob Borch. I think a lot of people are as perplexed as you (me included).

  55. Michael

    Silkworm – god’s will? in god’s hands? moves in mysterious ways in LNP?

  56. David1

    I am so happy to see Labor are following up on their initial responses on social media being highly critical of Govt’s disgusting attack on beneficiaries, plus voicing support for those already under stress, by putting words into action.
    Well done to all of them.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jan/06/centrelinks-debt-recovery-failures-referred-to-auditor-general-by-labor?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Politics+AUS&utm_term=207309&subid=1473726&CMP=ema_792

  57. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    David1,

    I also respect Catherine King, Shadow Minister for Health. She is a Labor leader in the making.

    However, when you send your message to her, could you also raise the reality that there would be much fewer debts to Centrelink, if Labor at least whilst in government had raised the allowable income levels for Newstart and other welfare benefits before those benefits are adversely affected.

    Temporary and/or meagre supplementary incomes earned by people’s toil and ingenuity, should not see their benefits diminished unless those other incomes become equivalent to the minimum wage.

    In the meantime, Labor can also advocate for a significantly higher Newstart just as the Greens have been doing for years.

  58. David1

    Jennifer that’s not Cath’s direct area of responsibility, although of course there are ramifications in the health area. I will mention to her and I am sure she will pass on to Jenny Macklin and Judy Collins.
    Sometimes it seems to those observing, Labor is not always first cab off the rank when iit comes to responding to this Govts bastardy, however in this case they are on to it as one.

  59. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks David1,

    I’m aware Macklin is the Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services but coming from King, it might receive more gravitas.

  60. ksttccKay Stevenson

    Every new Govt. should be required to post their pre election promises and swear to serve ALL the Australian people. Lies unwittingly published in the Press should be revealed by the Press and acknowledged. I, like all the others, deplore the lack of humanity, lack of ownership and disregard for mental and physical damage this Govt. is imparting.

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