The LNP war on welfare recipients

5 Jan



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.

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.



23 Responses to “The LNP war on welfare recipients”

  1. Noely (@YaThinkN) January 5, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    If this letter did not have the AFP logo on it, you would most likely have been scanning it and forwarding on to ACORN or ScamWatch as a phishing letter. Which as we all know is illegal?

    I also don’t see how onus is on the punter (I refuse to use words client or customer like Govt do) to prove they don’t owe the money, isn’t that also illegal?

    I have to say, I feel for the Centrelink staff. I know it is horrible for the victims of this Government phishing exercise but they are also victims. I hope they are contacting their Union to get assistance? Dealing with Centrelink at the best of times is a stressful experience, this would be stress on steroids, so staff would be stressed as well, a position the Government should never have put them in either.

    While I’m bitching… Also a bit sick of seeing many blame tech for this issue. Software is only as good as the people building it, the testing, and most importantly, the direction and instructions given by the client. ie PEOPLE. I find it very difficult to believe this new algorithm was not tested and the ERROR (not a fecking ‘glitch’, that word annoys me too, limits the failure) would have been picked up, which begs the question, who at Centrelink or above, decided:

    “bugger it, close enough is good enough, they can prove they don’t owe, in the meantime enough will be scared enough or too busy to argue and pay up, so that will make the budget look better” 😦

    Liked by 4 people

    • Marilyn January 5, 2017 at 8:47 am #

      Centrelink has had poor software for many years. Two years ago when I went for my aged pension assessment I produced all the relevant financial documents which were duly copied and a statement given to me. A few weeks later my assessment arrived and my assets included two previous Super accounts that no longer existed crediting me with another $100,000 in assests which I most certainly did not have, although I wish I did!

      To make matters worse it can only be alhtered by a qualified operator and requires a personal visit to Centrlink.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson January 5, 2017 at 7:05 pm #

        It’s unnecessarily cumbersome & punitve, imo. Works on the assumption that everyone is a rorter


    • Moz of Yarramulla January 5, 2017 at 9:33 am #

      Nope, choosing to work for Centrelink is just like choosing to work for Immigration or ASIO. We established that with the victors justice courts at Nuremburg, which Australia wholeheartedly supports.

      If someone genuinely has only the choice between working for Centrelink and being a “customer” of Centrelink, the only ethical, lawful choice is to become a “customer”. Choosing to victimise others for your own benefit is a crime.

      But you’re right about the software “I made a machine to commit the crime, so I’m not responsible” doesn’t work anywhere else, why should it work here? Centrelink has a legal obligation to give people the benefit of the doubt and to be a “model litigant” when they do take legal action. They have clearly not done that here, and those in charge should be prosecuted.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson January 5, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

        I’m inclined to agree with you, Moz. And your last para is indisputable. I don’t know where this disgraceful episode will end, but I hope it’s in a courtroom.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 5, 2017 at 7:08 pm #

      Excellent points, Noely, especially the comments on the tech issues. It is unbelievable that errors weren’t picked up.


  2. AnnieM January 5, 2017 at 7:48 am #

    As usual Jenny you write how I feel about this whole disgusting debacle. Thank you, Annie

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson January 5, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

      Thanks Annie. You and others here make it worth getting up at 4 am to write blogs. 🙂


  3. helvityni January 5, 2017 at 8:32 am #

    Nice to see little Finland having progressive initiatives, I believe Holland is also planning to do something similar.
    Here we are training our Centrelink employees in the martial arts, you just never know how irate the poor clients get.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson January 5, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

      Yes, a fine example, Helvi. Doubt we’ll be following any time soon.


  4. silkworm January 5, 2017 at 11:57 am #

    Not only are they driving people towards aggression, they are also driving some towards self-aggression (suicide). This will end in tears all around.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. paul walter. January 5, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

    I think the thing with tech and Noely’s comment actually resolve. The computer software being dud is part of their gruesome simulacra; the, wish-fulfillment for them of a panopticon or cognitive concentration camp they would apply in reality, but in this case via electronics instead. the like of which there hasn’t been since the great dictatorships of the thirties and forties of last century.

    The final solution is a technical one, a sort of ultimate Foucaultian or Kafkaesque nightmare, but like Nauru it is more about gratifying the sadistic impulses of the bureaucratic and political monsters running things than to do with any great concern about fairness of efficiency.

    They yearn to turn this country into a giant Nauru, but an electronic Nauru suits their impulses for the time being.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson January 5, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

      Their hatred for citizens is insane, PW. They want a country for themselves and their cronies. The rest of us are mere pests.


  6. Marilyn January 5, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    There is a vicious streak in Truffles that we all saw over the Utegate scam but many chose to ignore as Abbott ran amok, but Truffles makes Abbott look benign.

    Being a barrister and merchant wanker requires a deep pool of cruelty, Truffles has it in spades.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Macam January 8, 2017 at 6:12 am #

    Our politicians have become nothing more than self serving thieves, writing their own rules and treating the public purse as a personal slush fund.
    Jail is too good for the mongrels…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Henry November 1, 2022 at 11:44 pm #

    Thhanks for sharing



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