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Stop the waste and we can stop attacking the poor

As the government scrambles to claw back money from the old, the sick, the pregnant, and the unemployed, they put no such austerity on their own spending.

In the 2014 budget from hell, Tony Abbott promised to cut off free flights for about 100 former politicians. But while legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in October 2014, it has inexplicably failed to be even put to a vote in the Senate.

According to Mathias Corman they’ve been too busy but who could forget the tortuous filibustering by Bridget McKenzie and James McGrath in September because the Senate had nothing to do.

After Choppergate, Abbott called for a review of politicians’ entitlements which proposed certain reforms, one of which recommended six electorates larger than 500,000 square kilometres receive a third staffed electorate office.  But Nationals MP Mark Coulton, whose seat of Parkes falls over 100,000 square km short of the guideline, wanted another office too so bugger the rules – full speed ahead.

According to the mid-year financial update, establishing the seven extra offices will cost taxpayers $8.1 million over the next four years.  What do they actually do with four offices (including the one in Canberra)?

Whilst on the subject of offices, Malcolm Turnbull’s Digital Transformation Office is also costing us a fortune.

The DTO was launched by Mr Turnbull, then communications minister, in July 2015, to drive his vision of “agile and innovative” government by working with departments to enhance their use of digital technology.  The project was re-launched in October with a new name, the Digital Transformation Agency.

Contracts publicly notified on the federal procurement website AusTender show that much of the DTA’s spending since it was established in July 2015 has been on contractors and temporary staff including $125,000 paid to recruitment outfit Hudson to provide a personal assistant for 12 months.

A DTA spokeswoman confirmed that $18.5 million in contracts had been agreed with labour hire firms.  Other taxpayer-funded spending by the micro-agency includes $1 million for five months of “agile coaching” by a private sector outfit Pragmateam, $43,000 on whiteboards and hundreds of thousands of dollars on public relations.

What is “agile coaching” you ask?

The spokeswoman said the agile coaching spending was needed to make sure DTO projects were run in accordance with best practice.

“The contract with Pragmateam allows for up to five expert coaches to guide the DTA, and other government agencies, through the different stages of the Agile methodology,” she said.

“This ensures that projects are run in accordance with best practice and ensures knowledge transfer for future application.

“The Agile methodology underpins the DTA’s work internally and with other agencies.

“It involves fast and intense development, testing and adaptation drawing on a wide range of expertise.

“This contrasts with more ‘traditional’ approaches to software and service design which involve lengthy specification design and rigid implementation approaches.”

What an outstanding example of babble!  That spokeswoman will go far.

The federal government spent a record amount on digital advertising in Australia last financial year.  Figures published by the Department of Finance in December showed total government advertising spending for major campaigns cost taxpayers $174.7 million in 2015-16, up by nearly $70 million from the previous year.

The Australian Electoral Commission’s pre-election advertising campaign was the most expensive single spend in the report, costing a total of $50.9 million.  Australian Defence Force recruitment advertising campaigns cost $31.4 million in 2015-16.  Promoting the Turnbull government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda cost $14.9 million.  A national campaign to reduce violence against women and children in Australia cost $13.4 million.  More than $10 million was spent to promote the government’s North Asia free trade agreements.  Promoting the now axed Green Army program cost $3 million in 2015-16.

Then there is our MPs’ penchant for RAAF jets to ferry them around.

RAAF jets chartered to pick up and drop off federal politicians flew without passengers on 107 occasions at a cost of $610,571 from July to December in 2015.

The “ghost flight’’ trips cost up to $18,000 just to fly to Perth without passengers. But wage costs for the RAAF crew push the total cost higher.

The latest figures include two passengerless flights made to pick up and drop off Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her partner, David Panton, in October 2015.

An empty plane flew from Canberra to Perth on September 20 at a cost of $17,996, to bring back Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Social Service Minister Porter to be sworn into Malcolm Turnbull’s first Cabinet.

In November, a jet again flew empty across the Nullarbor — costing $16,740 — to collect Senator Cormann and other MPs including Andrew Hastie, Senator Chris Back, Steve Irons and Senator Linda Reynolds for a sitting week when commercial flights were available.

On flights, MPs and staffers are offered wine, craft beers, gourmet hot meals and heated hand towels by crew.

These few examples are indicative of the cavalier fashion with which our common wealth is used and abused by those who see politics as a career and who have no qualms about using Treasury as their political warchest to be used to further their own careers and to provide them with a celebrity lifestyle – no skill or talent required.

If you are looking for double-dipping rorters who rip off the system and take no personal responsibility, look in the mirror.

 


26 comments

  1. corvus boreus

    Kaye Lee,
    The latest effort has been to slug a whole bunch of people with wrongful claims of governmental debt.
    Due to a recent policy shift, based upon government directives for the latest ‘clampdown on welfare cheats’, when Centrelink staff cross-referenced data with the ATO, they then aggregated and amalgamated all yearly income with any welfare payments, then applied a formula (ie they fudged).
    Thus people who had made full and honest declarations and ceased benefits entirely upon gaining employment have been hit with notifications to pay up or face fines. In some cases the amount being demanded amounts to thousands of dollars.
    Thus far a large percentage of debt notifications queried and investigated have been found to be erroneous.
    http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/01/03/federal-government-defends-centrelink-automated-debt-recovery
    Dodgy and mean.

  2. Terry2

    CB

    This debt recovery debacle is going to end in tears all round. The government has let contracts to debt recovery firm Dun & Bradstreet, which has a $10.8m contract and another two companies, Probe Group and Australian Receivables, both of whom are on $2.5m contracts.

    These guys don’t care if the debt is real or if the algorithms are wrong, they just want the money and by hook or by crook they will make sure they get it.

    You have to feel for centrelink staff who have been given no additional resources at a time of the year when they are at their busiest particularly with pensioner enquiries about the revised asset scheme at the same time : I see that the government are going to give centrelink staff training on handling violent and angry “clients” probably also flack-jackets. You watch, there will be armed security guards on duty at centrelink offices soon.

    Peter Dutton is probably loving it and wishing he could send all these defaulters to Manus or Nauru.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Have you ever tried ringing Centrelink?

    When Marise Payne was the responsible Minister, I rang her office instead…and it worked. The lady there was able to access the system and do what I required. I would encourage ALL Australians to ask for similar assistance from Christian Porter’s office. Ring all his offices with your queries pointing out that spending two hours on hold is bad for the nation’s productivity so you are really just trying to help repair the budget.

  4. Ella Miller

    Kay Lee,
    I had a bit of a chuckle at “what an outstanding example of babble”
    My thought just before I read that line was , what on earth is this woman talking about? What the heck is ‘agile methodology’?

    Your list clearly shows the waste. We could add the cost of the trip by the group that went to a conference which dealt with saving money.

    Shameful LNP waste.

  5. Ella Miller

    Kaye Lee, ‘have you ever tried ringing Centrelink?”

    Yes, I have to reply to a letter asking for information…..it cost me $70 through no fault of mine.
    The query came about because I had the audacity to withdraw money from my own account.
    I rang, wrote a letter and am still waiting to be reimbursed. I believe there is an ability to recover losses caused by Centrelink …but don’t hold your breath ..and don’t ask me how.

  6. king1394

    Meanwhile there is no attempt by Centrelink to reimburse anyone who over-estimated income. I’m sure the ATO could equally as well data-match and show up many cases of people who expected more income than they actually earned and had their payments cut. For example, As many parents will know, some of the Parenting Payments are based on a predicted income for a coming year. A lot of these debts are probably related to someone getting a weekend’s overtime during the year and equally there would have been people factoring in regular overtime payments that did not actually eventuate. My daughter and her husband, both shift workers, fell foul of this.

    Regarding the already renamed once Digital Transformation Office, I am left very cold by the statement that $18.5 million in contracts had been agreed with labour hire firms. Labor hire provides ‘plug in, pull the plug’ workers who have no security and often are paid very much less than the labor hire company receives for their work. It would have to be one of the most unreliable ways to development a workforce, which makes the training component look extremely dodgy. The whole thing appears to be a scam

  7. Sir ScotchMistery

    Anyone want to buy a bit of C4?

    Tongue firmly in cheek for those 2 f*ck-knucles from the AFP who are constantly confused when they read this blog.

  8. Wayne Turner

    Change the government and it will change the attacks against the less well off – A shame the ignorant just re-elected this mob last year.

  9. Keitha Granville

    agree with Kaye Lee, ring the Minoister, ring your Senators. Make them work for YOU, cos YOU are paying them to do that.

    The system is broken

  10. Judith W

    Re “agile coaching” – was the new Centrelink software created using agile methods or “more traditional approaches” that typically involved detailed specifications and rigorous testing? I know which method I’d prefer!

  11. silkworm

    Good article at the Guardian on Centrelink’s false-debt bullying of a young autistic man whose mother is head of Autism Australia.

    Oops! They picked the wrong target. She is now the headline act on ABC24, denouncing the government.

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

    I bet Dun & Bradstreet have a “special relationship” with the LNP.

    Disabled people of Australia, unite. Rise up out of your wheelchairs and strike those Centrelink workers. (Or if you can’t get up, run over their toes.)

  12. amethyst3009

    I was sent a bill for $69000 (yes sixty-nine thousand dollars). I knew this was rubbish, however, it still upset me. I went to Centrelink office where they immediately instigated an appeal. Debt is now $3200.
    This second ‘assessment’ came with no information on how the debt had been calculated. An hour at CL (again) on the phone being moved from department to department, ‘Debt raising’ department and a separate ‘debt collecting’ department.

    I still don’t understand how the figure was achieved, but I have agreed to pay $50 per pay, as I don;t wish to pursue it further. I have been quite ill since these incidents, which i believe caused so much stress that it has been a causative factor in my illness.

  13. silkworm

    Christian Porter: Hand over your money or the little crippled boy gets it.

  14. silkworm

    Compensation Application form (SS509) – Use this form to claim compensation for financial loss or personal injury suffered as a result of our negligence or defective administration.

    https://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/forms/ss509

  15. Matters Not

    debt recovery debacle is going to end in tears all round … have to feel for centrelink staff who have been given no additional resources

    Here’s another perspective. This debacle is not the fault of this ‘Government’ but all down to ‘public servants’ and their obvious incompetence – either in the Tax Office or in Centrelink – but probably both. As a ‘responsible’ Government, we gave the public servants a simple task to write a few letters after they did a bit of mathematical ‘cross checking’ to recover significant funds incorrectly paid to welfare recipients – who should never have received payments in the first place. So simple. So easy.

    And again they stuffed it up. The evidence abounds. The public servants are just hopeless. The monies to be recovered will only come via the private sector. Thanks to Dun & Bradstreet, the Probe Group and Australian Receivables we will recover so much money, incorrectly paid by public servants.

    So as a responsible Government we will proceed to privatise the Tax Office, Centrelink and indeed any other agency that can’t do its job. Under our new arrangements there won’t be any ‘overpayments’ – indeed (ideally) there won’t be any payments at all. Thus we can cut the numbers of public servants across the board, and save significant amounts of monies.

    And so it goes. …

  16. Michael Taylor

    MN, that’s a scary scenario.

    It was an old trick of Howard’s when he wanted to kill off an agency or a department: set them up to fail. And the government had the right person hand-picked to do the job. First will come the review, followed by the restructure, then another review because the restructure failed, and this review – surprise surprise – recommends the death sentence. The sentence is always death. It then has to be decided how it will be carried out.

  17. Michael Taylor

    amethyst3009, that is horrific. I am sorry this has been done to you. I truly am.

  18. Matters Not

    MT, we already have a ‘privatised’ government – headed by a PM who’s financially speaking (at least for tax purposes) – a resident of the Cayman Islands. So why not go the whole hog.

    After all the Tax office allows 679 international companies to pay zero tax. Useless bastards. Get rid of them.

    There ought to be a law. Hang on …

  19. Kaye Lee

    The Digital Transformation Office’s first leader, UK-import Paul Shetler walked away from his job in November saying the Australian Public Service must wean itself off the “eye-watering” expense of hiring contractors and temps to undertake its IT projects.

    He was firmly of the belief that the public service needs its OWN experts and deplores the loss of expertise that has come from this continual VERY expensive outsourcing.

  20. Deanna Jones

    Amethyst, you could try making an appointment to see the Centrelink social worker if they still have those there. You could also go to one of your local community welfare organisations as they often have people who are very good at helping you deal with Centrelink and have direct line numbers for certain staff.

  21. Terry2

    Minister Christian Porter has been given a target for savings and in his case he is trying to recover $4 billion in so called overpayments and that is his sole focus. According to him everything is going “incredibly well” and he is not going to do anything about the debacle.

    Those receiving letters are unable to respond in person as centrelink staff – when you finally get to the front of the queue – will tell you that they cannot access the data and direct you to an online portal which will not allow you to clarify or resolve the problem. This is a scenario from hell as you are being ‘accused’ of something but you can’t speak to your accuser.

    I am impressed with the people in centrelink who are coping with all this crap. They know the system is broken but they are in fear of their jobs should they say anything : what a mess !

    Is there nothing that the Turnbull government does that they don’t stuff up in a spectacular way and then tell us that it’s all going “incredibly well”.

  22. Ill fares the land

    Good article.

    Unfortunately, once you start talking about “waste”, you can get on a treadmill from which there is no escape.

    The topic of certain government services being represented at the federal and state level is one area of unparalleled waste. That representation is fine in principle, except for the fact that they compete – primarily to push costs onto the other. This happens most egregiously in health, where this game of pushing costs to the other departments costs the economy billions.

    Speaking of health generally, it is the most obvious example of a government-funded, but essentially privately-resourced service that is designed to facilitate massive transfers of wealth from the taxpayer to doctors (largely excluding GP’s); corporates (who now dominate radiology, pathology and the private hospital sector – solely because they are the areas where the greatest opportunity exists to slash costs and/or to over-price in the pursuit of profits) and a succession of lazy bureaucrats on fats salaries (note the “rather corpulent” Canadian-import nurse who heads up the Transforming Health “initiative” in SA on a $500,000 salary as an example). If there are problems funding health, look to those who are getting rich from gouging the system – without any real controls in place (those that exist are perfunctory only, because the medical profession can afford to fund powerful lobby groups to hold governments to ransom, so any regulation is largely that which the medical profession is prepared to tolerate)

    The privatisation of the TAFE system that invited all manner of cheats, liars and rogues to flood in to the industry to set up mickey-mouse courses that deliver nothing, but cost the taxpayer an absolute fortune.

    Don’t get me started…….

  23. helvityni

    Turnbull must Australia’s wealthiest PM, yet under his reign the poorest are treated the worst; where is this government’s sense of fair play…or is it just a sentiment they spout on ANZAC Days…and the humble foot-soldiers suck it up with gratitude.

  24. Wayne Turner

    This corrupt lying scum need to be chucked out ASAP. They are STEALING from the less well off to give to themselves and their well off mates.They are truly evil.

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