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How Turnbull plans to raise $4.6 billion from the unemployed

The Turnbull government plans to raise a windfall of $4.6 billion over the next four years, and this is how they intend to do it.

Centrelink is averaging annual earnings over every fortnightly reporting period. This means that you are determined by them to have earned income at the same time as you received unemployment benefits. Therefore, you must pay those benefits back.

First you receive a letter advising of discrepancies between ATO and Centrelink records. You are asked to provide pay slips etc, and declare your income for the year/s in question. When you declare income, your problems can begin in earnest. Declared income is averaged out, Centrelink claims you’ve earned in every fortnightly reporting period, a debt is raised against you, you are threatened with debt collectors and ultimately jail, if you don’t comply.

In fact, you may have been unemployed for six months during which time you were entitled to benefits, then in work for six months. The government intends for you to repay the benefits to which you were absolutely entitled, by averaging out the income you received for six months work as fortnightly income over the entire twelve months.

More and more people are revealing this is exactly what has happened to them. It is the government’s intention to continue this practice for the next four years in order to achieve its $4.6 billion goal.

It beggars belief that this is a systems error. If this is the case, those responsible for the design and implementation of the system are unbelievably, inconceivably incompetent. Centrelink’s Hank Jongen claims the methodology hasn’t changed, but no one has explained why, if nothing has changed, the system has begun averaging annual earnings over every reporting fortnight, and raising debts as a result.

At the same time, Centrelink and the AFP announced the implementation of “Taskforce Integrity” to pursue fraudulent claims. As well, the government declared on the Tuesday before the election that they’d discovered a brand new, unspecified way, to raise $4.6 billion.

The government is falsely accusing people of fraud, by falsely declaring legitimate welfare benefits to be illegitimate. They are threatening people with debt collectors and jail, if the legitimately claimed welfare benefits are not repaid. In other words, unemployment benefits have become repayable loans. I don’t recall that new legislation, or that amendment. Does anyone?

They are doing all this in partnership with the Australian Federal Police.

This is a situation out of a dystopian novel. Kafka comes to mind.

This is no systems error. This is deliberate policy. I hope there are lawyers out there all over this. Because we have to establish exactly who is obtaining financial advantage by deception. Increasingly, it sounds very much as if it is our government, by exploiting people at their most vulnerable.

If this mess is indeed an error and not deliberate policy, Centrelink and the relevant ministers have now been made thoroughly aware of it as such. So why do they continue to insist that nothing is amiss, and why do they not halt the distribution of letters until the error is fixed?

Of course, fixing the error may affect their $4.6 billion dollar goal.

Centrelink has now begun using its Twitter account to refer people to Lifeline if they are experiencing distress. Lifeline is a voluntary organisation given little or no support by the federal government. The government has also ripped millions from frontline services for domestic violence victims, community legal aid centres, and over a billion from aged services. You can bet that these outrageously underfunded services will be stretched to their limits by Turnbull’s latest attack on vulnerable citizens.

I cannot remember anytime in this country when a government department has referred citizens to an emergency service because they are experiencing suicidal levels of distress as a consequence of that government’s policies.

Does anyone?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.



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  1. Steve Laing -

    This is as nasty, heartless and deliberate an act of bastardry that I believe I have ever witnessed. This is a national emergency, but the minister is on vacation, and the Prime Minister is at the cricket. There is apparently no issue, as the ABC seems loath to report on it.

    It would appear that yet again, the poor, the disabled, the unfortunate, are expected to pay for Malcolm and his teams economic incompetence. As was stated on another discussion on the Guardian. This is class warfare. It would appear that the phony war is over, and the citizens must be punished for not being appropriately fawning over Malcolm at the last election.

  2. Peter F

    Perhaps they think it is reasonable because of the millions of jobs they have created: so many in fact that they have to import workers to fill the vacancies.

  3. Cleanlivin

    LNP policy…….
    Same as Iraq! Prove these (WMD) false allegations are false, otherwise we will beat you up!

  4. Wayne Turner

    Aka STEAL from the unemployed.A clear sign this government is CORRUPT and needs to be removed straight away.Along with the GUTLESS puppets of the LNP – The AFP – Australia’s F*cked Police.

  5. win jeavons

    This may be holiday time for overpaid politicians, but it is no holiday for its victims!

  6. Ken Butler

    This new computer programme should also be able to be pointed in the opposite direction because if one in five are wrongly accused of diddling Centrelink then this super computer should be able to find what percentage of people have been short-changed by Centrelink itself.
    Using similar assumptive algorithms, it should be able to balance the scales. It could provide the poor, the disabled, and the unfortunate with appropriate letters of demand.

    Greed flows in one direction; justice flows both ways.

  7. Rossleigh

    Just to repeat what I said on another post:

    Meanwhile, Sussan Ley shows the government’s concern for taxpayer funds by claiming expenses for a trip to the Gold Coast where she bought a property. But it’s ok because she was seeing “stakeholders” who can’t be named for privacy reasons.
    The $800,000 purchase was an “impulse buy”!
    Surely someone who has nearly a million bucks lying around for impulse buys could help out the poor taxpayer by not claiming a mere few hundred for her trip….

  8. MichaelW

    There must have been a lot of research and planning gone into this cruel scheme to come up with an exact figure.

    Why don’t they recoup some real money $46 billion or more from tax evading big bushiness?

    I didn’t expect 2017 to get any better under this coalition, never thought it could possibly get worse, and we’re only a few days into the new year.

    As for people seeking help from legal centres, good luck. After the savage cuts already made, another funding cut of 25% is in the pipeline this year.

  9. shvogue

    Consider that Dunn & Bradstreet, along with two other debt collection agencies, have *already* been engaged on multi-million dollar contracts. That means this exercise has been planned and the scope of the task is already known to government. Twenty thousand ‘overpayments’ per week over four (or more) years with a given percentage requiring knocks on your door and harassing phone calls from the polite debt collector. How to else can the preemptive use of debt agencies, on contracts totalling around $15M, be explained? It’s all part of the same LNP ideological picture.

  10. Doug

    I’m sure the “good Ol’ boys” will be going after the tax dodging companies next.
    Oh! There goes another flying pig.

  11. Christine Farmer

    Does this mean that, should averaged-out earnings over the year exceed the Newstart amount, any excess will be considered a debt to be repaid to Centrelink? That’s punishing people for getting a job. Why would you bother if you will just lose money? How did we get to this? It’s outrageous.

  12. Susan

    The LNP came to power in Sept 2013 with an agenda to destroy the living conditions of the unemployed, students and pensioners. Nothing has changed in 3 years, they don’t care.
    Wait for the next election and then dis them.

  13. nexusxyz

    Same cruel mentality that was applied to the unfortunate Boat People that were used as an example so that these mentally degenerates could claim they had immigration under control which they did not as they we deceiving us big time. Going down the path the UK has gone where people are suffering malnutrition and are committing suicide. So what if the odd Dollar is not declared as its spent in the economy whereas the thieving corporations spirit the money off shore.

    Ironically welfare expenditure is quite low and not that generous in Australia.. Can anyone envisage these clowns embracing something like a Universal Basic Income.

  14. Anne Mctighe

    Another example of deception, fraud by this state government, help us and sign this petition at at the end of this letter, and To Mike Bairds e-mail system 4.1.17
    John Sidoti MP
    Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Roads Member for Drummoyne
    Your reference 00223272 – received Tuesday 3.1.17. Thank you for your correspondence.
    Your letter is not clear to which Minister you are writing on behalf, either Duncan Gay or Premier Mike Baird? Please clarify this.
    Mr Sidoti, the issues I have written to Premier Mike Baird have NOT been addressed, at all. Most certainly NOT on a ‘number of occasions’.
    I am continually writing for Premier Mike Baird to address these issues. NOT to ignore and pass them on. Mike Baird needs integrity, honesty and learn how to properly address petitions and restitution of property.
    Politicians cannot just make FRAUDULENT judgements and not be held accountable for them, and it is Mike Baird’s responsibility to stand down Duncan Gay because of his lack of judgement on every level. Bullaburra bridge was built in breach of a law, the public need to be aware of this and the contempt that this State government holds towards the law and the people.
    Duncan Gay paid 1 million dollars to a private landowner west Bullaburra, yet is moving heaven and earth, committing deception, fraud, untruths, selecting the data for the Bullaburra Bridge and RMS reports to de- fraud our family. I have sent Premier Mike Baird some of the documents. Criminality, Breaching statute law, acting with Discrimination, acting with inequality, is bias and prejudicial.
    ******** In truth, you cannot tell me it’s been addressed, when it has NOT. We have nothing. ‘I’m trying to save the company money’, Richard manager of Seymore Whyte. We need a retaining wall, et al. Our land is washing away.
    So your telling me, All of the state government is corrupt then, when you ignore, disregard, and sit back, do nothing, but collect my e-mails and arrogance, you all show, by not responding to our pleas for fairness and restitution of property. May god forgive you, you are all liars, speak untruths, and trick and deceive people, even if it means their death by the trees and forced to cross the Great Western Highway. Premier Mike Baird does not care about any one of us, it was a harsh realisation we came to, you all support fraudulent conduct of the ministry. Now I know why people turn to terrorism, understanding ‘hate’. It hurts. It hurts to be deceived. To be kicked in the guts when a petition is sent and restitution of property is sought.
    You all lie. Your all despicable. Your all failing in your parliamentary duty. Breaching your Ethical guidelines. Breaching your Duty of Care. Breaching statute law. You are all Bastardizing Parliament, it is our Australia too. Get out of Parliament, all of you are dirty, phoney parliamentarians. Placing your selves above the law, and discriminatory and unjustly treating people with inequality and unjustifiable hardship.
    e-mail to Premier Mike Baird Tuesday 3.1.17
    How was your Christmas? Ours was unresolved? We need a public inquiry into –your government, but you let us suffer
    State government supports, ‘Political bias’, ‘Political despotism’, ‘Political interference’, ‘Political discrimination’, ‘Political Ministry Against Statute Law’, ‘Political unfairness’, ‘Political misleading’, ‘Political deception’, ‘Political fraud’, ‘Political abuse’, ‘Political power’.
    Despotic Duncan Gay has corrupted integrity, honesty, trust and fairness.
    Deceptive Duncan needs to step down.
    Dangerous decisions Duncan, threatening public lives every single day, Duncan Gay needs to step down.
    ‘Political dictator’, ‘Political tyrant’
    Duncan Gay’s abuse of people knows no bounds, 1 million dollars to a private landowner west Bullaburra, our family offered $7,000.00, for a crushed car, house, garage and property, cracks throughout house, cracked beams, dishonest, deception and fraudulent Duncan Gay. Still has not answered our correspondence, financial abuse, absolutely disgusting, supporting corruption in the ministry, you are cruel, sadistic, autocratic, making us suffer because of your bastardisation of your ministry. We have nothing, no car, no compensation, nothing,
    Mike Baird you are bastardising your ministry, because you accept corrupt ministers, at the expense of peoples lives and livelihoods. A corrupt and fraudulent government is no government at all.

  15. Jaquix

    The are bastards. I look forward to the resumption of polling soon, to see how they are going in the public opinion. Sadly the Labor Party has been missing in action on this issue, apart from a very polite letter from Linda Burney asking for the issue to go to the National Audit Office. Meantime, so much worry and frustration for the most vulnerable. And the oil companies go on their merry way, rorting taxpayers by wilfully misrepresenting certain allowances on their tax returns. That should be easily fixed with just a few ATO staff, and “claw back” millions if not billions. Amazingly, there is no interest by the Liberals for this simple, extremely cost effective “crackdown”.

  16. Marcus

    $4.6bn……or about 1/3rd of what corporate tax avoiders are bilking Australia on an annual basis.

  17. Niall McLaren

    There is an aspect of this sort of activity that will not reach public attention, and this is the often devastating effect this type of event has on the victim’s mental state. In my work as a psychiatrist in a working class area, I commonly see people who have been given the run around by Centrelink. Contrary to the usual government propaganda, the vast majority of people on unemployment benefits are honest people who would much rather work than track off to pointless job interviews, JCAs, interviews with their “employment consultants” etc. If you are an honest person who is barely getting by from one pay day to the next, getting a bill for $10000, or even $1000, can be a shattering experience. It’s not as if they can turn to their relatives and borrow the money, or go to a bank or anything, they are left terrified and in fear of being put out on the street. They can’t sleep, can’t think, they are irritable and argumentative, home life deteriorates, some turn to the booze and so matters get worse. And the relevant minister can afford to buy an $800,000 unit on an impulse? Shit, after a lifetime of work, I certainly can’t do that.

  18. Jacob Hodgman

    This is killing people. It’s that simple. Any politician supporting this is culpable. Meanwhile our govt pollies spend a Newstart yearly income on a single (and unnecessary) one day trip. So out of touch, and obviously incapable of relating outside their own sphere of self-congratulation.

  19. Egalitarian

    This is what Blind Ideology is all about .These arse-soles are drunk with it.

  20. Ryan

    If the ATO doesn’t threaten jail for non payment of tax debts, I have a really hard time believing that Centrelink will.

    I’m not saying that they’re not threatening legal action. I’m saying they’re not going to throw you in jail.

    Major errors in journalism is what I expect from News Corp so congratulations for reaching their level.

  21. Michael Taylor

    Ryan, until recently I worked on social security litigation reviews as well as drafting ammendments to social security legislation. I know, first hand, that it was not uncommon for welfare recipients to be incarcerated if they had defrauded (‘defrauded’ being the key word) the Commonwealth of more than $10,000. It was the decision of the court, of course, but government solicitors would certainly push for it.

    Now, tell me again, where is this major error?

  22. Kaye Lee

    Ryan, tell that to Alan Tudge.

    Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has ramped up the Government’s war on welfare debt by appearing on A Current Affair and threatening to jail those who owe Centrelink money.

    “We’ll find you, we’ll track you down and you will have to repay those debts and you may end up in prison,” he said.

    Earlier in the year a mass-mail campaign by the police and Centrelink targeted welfare recipients in specific areas, threatening jail if they provided inaccurate information. Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) Chief Executive Cassandra Goldie has joined a long line of critics against the Government’s threats.

    “It is appalling that the Minister for Human Services is telling people on the lowest incomes three weeks before Christmas, that if they have a debt with Centrelink they may go to prison,” she said.

    “This is false, highly irresponsible and risks causing a huge amount of unnecessary stress and anxiety amongst people who are already doing it tough.

    “We are not a police state and people should not be made to feel like they are doing the wrong thing by claiming a social security payment,” she said.

  23. Kutica

    As a former Lifeline counsellor, it mystifies me why the government would be referring affected welfare recipients to this volunteer service. Lifeline counsellors offer a sympathetic ear to help people facing extreme personal challenges get through the night or to cope until they can seek help from a relevent organisation (in this case, funnily enough, a government department). Counsellors do not offer advice. They reflect a caller’s problems back to the caller in the hope they will be able to decide for themselves the action they should take. Perhaps if the government would like Lifeline to expand its role, it could consider commensurate funding.

  24. Kim Southwood

    As a Queenslander just had the eerie feeling that Malcolm Turnbull is channelling Joh Bjelke Petersen with his current ministry. Bizarre!

    Except MT is no country boy!

  25. Kim Southwood

    As a Queenslander just had the eerie feeling that Malcolm Turnbull is channelling Joh Bjelke Petersen with his current ministry. Bizarre!

  26. Florence nee Fedup

    What are the stakeholders the minister visited. Stakeholders in what? Who were they? I suspect they are more about gathering allegations of large number of rorters with aim of demonizing those on welfare. Not really about clawing money back.

  27. Michelle Petrat

    People and Kaye wake up. This is very symptomatic for a true police state. You have the AFP colluding with Government to press money out of people by presenting falsified evidence in form of flawed data matching algorithms.

    With contradicting evidence to be produced by the accused.

    To top it, 6 years back.

    These are worse methods than the Stasi used against its citizens.

    Call it what it is, a police state

  28. jim

    It really makes the unemployed want to get out there and get a job.,NOT!

  29. Testybarkofanoldbiddy

    What this whole data matching system does not take into account is the working credits that allows you to keep more of your income while your working and receiving benefits.

    When taking a person’s annual income, and dividing it by 26, there is NO room for such measures to enter into the calculation. Removing the working credits which is what their calculations are doing is manufacturing false debts.

  30. Max Gross

    Can you imagine what a wasteland Australia will be in another three years of LNP malice?

  31. Norman

    I was working the Australian government when Howard introduced Mutual Obligation.
    Both customers and the govt had about the same number of obligations.
    Then day by day, the govt reduced its obligations.
    Currently, I think they have none.

  32. Norman

    I have a friend in the dept of Immigration.
    When Howard removed ethnic affairs and shoved in citizenship, a lot of senior and experienced people said something like “This is not why I work at this place” and they left.
    A lot of corporate memory was lost.

    That suited the new people making policy as there was no-one who could, or would, tell them that the new policy was dodgy.

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