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Politicians must take responsibility for their greed, wastage and negligence

If you go to the website #notmydebt you’ll find fifteen pages of stories written by people who’ve received demands from Centrelink to repay debts the department has falsely raised against them. It’s a harrowing read.

Depending on which explanation you prefer, the aggressive efforts to extract monies from people who do not owe them has been caused by faults in the department’s new automatic compliance system; a malevolent attack by the LNP government on welfare recipients, or a combination of both.

Centrelink has advised some punters that their best course of action is to begin repaying the alleged debt while the review process is underway, that is, before it has been established that they actually owe anything. This places punters in a Kafkaesque bind: repaying a debt is an acknowledgement that you accept its validity. Punters are also threatened that if they don’t agree to a repayment scheme, their alleged debt will be referred to debt collectors, and their credit rating affected.

Regardless of acknowledged systemic faults, and an own-motion investigation launched by the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office, the robo-debt collection scheme is set to widen its net to include pensioners and disabled people in the coming months.

The latest information from Centrelink whistleblowers (who have, by the way, been threatened with prosecution and imprisonment by their overlords, as have welfare recipients accused of fraudulently obtaining benefits) indicates that there are indeed serious faults in the system AND that Centrelink authorities have ordered officers to proceed regardless of these faults. Indeed, officers have been instructed to refrain from acknowledging any errors they discover unless the citizen in their sights spots the error first, causing a crisis of conscience for some Centrelink employees who are obliged to refrain from identifying systems errors to distraught punters.

How any of this can be consistent with legal process is beyond me: it’s beginning to sound very much like the Turnbull government illegally obtaining money from citizens by deception.

Even Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz has expressed his disapproval of Centrelink’s methods after a member of his extended family received a debt notice.

At the same time, a report from the Australian National Audit Office into the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s payments for the management of contracts for security and welfare services on Manus Island and Nauru reveals:

…$2.3 billion in payments made between September 2012 and April 2016, which it stated were not authorised or recorded correctly.

“$1.1 billion was approved by DIBP officers who did not have the required authorisation and for the remaining $1.1 billion there was no departmental record of who authorised the payments,” it stated.

The report further stated that contract variations totalling more than $1 billion were made without a documented assessment of value for money. (emphasis mine)

Is there any venture on the planet in which $2.3 billion dollars is spent without proper authorisation and record of authorisation, other than the Australian DIBP? Why is Immigration Minister Peter Dutton still in the portfolio, given that his department has apparently gone rogue?

Add to this the ongoing politicians’ expenses scandals exposing levels of rort (travel expenses being the least of it, it’s the office expenses we ought to be worried about) that if politicians themselves hadn’t written the rules would be criminal, and you have a grim picture of rampant abuse of public money, with minimum accountability.

You also have an exceedingly grim picture of the powerful and privileged attacking the most vulnerable. There is as well the abhorrent spectacle of greedy politicians refusing to take responsibility for their own indulgence and wastage, and instead accusing those least able to defend themselves of fraudulent behaviour.

Prime Minister Turnbull has promised action on politicians “entitlements.” Perhaps if it is made more difficult for MPs to get their entire upper bodies into the trough and wallow, politics will in time become less attractive to those amongst us with the least integrity. One can only hope.

News just in: Get Up has set up a website “Fraudstop” that advises people affected by Centrelink’s false debt claims of their options.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

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19 comments

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  1. Ray

    The modern politician is self absorbed ego driven and has no more intelligence than assembly line worker in a factory. Though the factory worker probably has more integrity.

  2. Stephen

    Turnbull government illegally obtaining money from citizens by deception.

    It may start as deception but it rapidly escalates to outright fraud and then follows the extortion.
    I worry that the system is as they say working as intended and worry, does this give them legal coverage for their actions?

  3. brickbob

    Projection and deflection is what this whole debacle is about,they know they are robbing the public blind by stealing our money to fund everything from holidays to corporate boxes at sporting events to keeping their flying hours up,so all the blame and publicity spotlight is shone on the most vulnerable people in the country.
    They have made a big mistake and will pay a heavy price at the next election which they know they will’lose anyway,so up until then they will go for broke and will lie and cheat and steal as much money as they can knowing that the AFP and Media will continue to cover for them.””””””””

  4. Klaus

    I am afraid, this government already shows many hallmarks of a fascist government.

    * They treat ordinary Australians with contempt
    * They use the public purse as if it was their own
    * They treat offshore asylum seekers with torture
    * They prey on the vulnerable

    Here is a short article on their methods of getting the money from the vulnerable, courtesy GetUp.

    https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/159b47a89f82b951

  5. 245179

    So “Brick” we toss them out…….replace with who. A whole bunch load of independents ( like that would work, yea right, all them cooks in the kitchen …we all know the saying )
    One Nation…….hell i said that word ( will do the mouthwash immediately )
    Greens………….same as above
    I’m struggling here, someone please give me an option

  6. Sam

    I prefer the likes of Barnaby who pretty much says ‘ they’re all bludgers anyway so who cares? ‘to the likes of Abetz and that other Tasmanian senator who act like they care only to make sure they temper their ‘concerns’ by adding that they believe recent changes to the debt recovery system have addressed most of them.

    At least with the straight up cold and heartless bastards you know immediately where you stand and aren’t let down when they stay true to themselves and follow the party line.

  7. Ross

    You will find more humanity in the monkey enclosure at the Melbourne zoo than in all of this coalition government.

    (No disrespect to our simian cousins)

  8. Ricardo29

    Sam, thats no reassurance, not when its the vulnerable constantly under attack. Knowing you are being beaten up doesnt make it acceptable. Regardingthe Centrelink thing, and I may become part if it, I think the employees should go on strike, en masse, and refuse to handle anything to do with it. If those being targetted just boycotted the process too, or marked their envelopes “return to sender”, then the system should grind to a halt.

  9. Möbius Ecko

    Sam you do know that Barnaby is one of this government’s greatest rorters. He attended Gina’s friend wedding in India with other L-NP pollies but is the only one who has refused to pay back the public money he claimed. He runs multiple offices in his electorate and spent a small fortune refurbishing his main office. So much more if you search, but more than any other L-NP he’s not in anyway remorseful for the rorting, and seems to wear it as a badge of honour.

  10. longwhitekid

    Wow, Eric the Nazi Abetz disapproves of something…incredible. I guess because suddenly the system has backfired on him. I still want my money back, by the way, for the fourteen years of deliberate fraud he undertook serving parliament whilst knowingly holding a dual citizenship. Can we send him a debt notice for the salary and allowances he illegally obtained by deception, during that entire period?

  11. Wayne Turner

    Corrupt government.Sadly with no avenue to be chucked out now,but there should be.They can take the GG with them.

    Plus the corrupt AFP who clearly are just puppets for this alleged government.

    CLASS WARFARE LNP STYLE.

    Welcome to corrupt Australia.

  12. Luke

    The same bastards who hounded poor Slipper out of office for ripping us of for $900, called the Feds in, and you can bet your life they were stealing from as at the very same time.

  13. MichaelW

    There is no flaw in the system, it is working exactly as these coalition grubs wanted it.

  14. iggy648

    Let’s ask Malcolm Turnbull to own it. He’s been a bit quiet about it. Probably ashamed but too cowardly to say so.

  15. Niall McLaren

    The real rip off by politicians is their superannuation. They get it whether they are unemployed or working, surely the ultimate “double-dip.”

  16. MichaelW

    My mother (living in a nursing home) 4 months ago had her pension reduced because her assets were wrongly assessed by over a hundred thousand dollars, after all this time of phone calls, letters and emails by me it has finally been restored.
    Why couldn’t that have been fixed in 21 days? No back pay at present for the months of reduced income, no 10% fine….No letter phone call or email, only found out after checking her bank account.

  17. Arthur Tarry

    This article describes a catalogue of LNP incompetence and, some would say, corruption yet there still no ripple of discontent or disappointment in the general community, at least in my electorate.

  18. Ill fares the land

    History is replete with examples of despotic leaders abusing their “subjects” and recruiting a tribe of sycophantic ass-kissers who carried out their dirty work with a combination of zeal and pleasure.

    In the modern era, the despots are our political masters and their masters – in the case of the Coalition this means the rich and big business – and they recruit their mindless bureaucrats and private agencies to carry out their “mission”. As usual, anytime the target is weak, those carrying out the mission resort to bullying. This is one by-product of the 24/7 reality TV world we now inhabit. Those shows showcase and encourage the very worst and even vile human behaviours and those shows make it OK to treat fellow humans as less than human – when someone is reduced to a “number”,, or part of a denigrated group, it becomes so much easier to treat them as nothings; as cheats, liars and system-gamers. I wonder how many in Centerlink draw a full day’s pay for 2 hours of work – another example of the system being gamed, but apparently that is OK.

    Now, it is fine for those who have been overpaid allowances to be asked to repay over payments. The Centrelink system has provision for that, because quite often circumstances change and that means allowances are overpaid before people are able to or remember o advise Centrelink (OK, there are those who deliberately cheat Centerlink, but that’s not true of the majority who receive some form of benefit.

    But the present debt-recovery system is a “pig in a poke”; relaying as it does on a flawed algorithm that makes assumptions – in order to serve a political outcome. Instead of identifying those who appear to have been overpaid and sending a more professional letter indicating that there appears to have been an over payment, and then asking for details of income, including dates, we get a witch hunt. I note in this instance, it appears that public servants have been “incentivised” to be even more belligerent. Once upon a time, there was a notion that this kind of internal KPI measurement was an anathema to the public sector. Of course, the quid pro quo was the entrenchment of a lazy and entitled work ethic. This is an example of a process where any form of incentivisation is asking for trouble. In the end, idiots will always behave like idiots, but it is surprising how easy it is to push “normal” people into behaving appallingly. This has been shown over and over in real life and laboratory situations.

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