Fairfax and Centrelink unite in an unprecedented move to publicly persecute one woman.

28 Feb

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Early in February, writer and blogger Andie Fox published an account of her interactions with Centrelink over a failure by her ex partner to submit tax returns that led to the department issuing her with a debt notice for over-payment of Family Tax Benefit.

It’s a harrowing account and it resonated with very many people who’ve endured the tortuous process of attempting to explain their situation to Centrelink, after being notified of debt they do not carry. As you may recall, Centrelink is responsible for the unprecedented failure of an automated system that has harassed, threatened, engaged debt collectors and otherwise hounded citizens who have no debt, or a good deal less debt than the department claims.

On Monday, Fairfax journalist Paul Malone published an article titled Centrelink is an easy target for complaints but there are two sides to every story. The article contains the private details of Ms Fox’s interactions with Centrelink, provided to him by the department with the authority of the Minister for Human Services,  Alan Tudge.

Tudge later triumphantly tweeted the article, which contains details Ms Fox contests.

Just to make it clear: Centrelink has released the private details of an individual citizen without her permission in order to present Alan Tudge’s “side of the story.” 

In case there might be any doubt about Tudge’s intentions, Paul Malone and Fairfax have confirmed in their headline that Tudge’s only goal is to use the personal information of a citizen to present his side of the story.

Let’s first consider that both Alan Tudge and Paul Malone are protected by the institutions that employ them. Ms Fox is protected by nobody. So we have the unprecedented situation of Centrelink and Fairfax media joining forces to expose a citizen’s private data in an attempt to claw back some face for Alan Tudge, after the outrageously incompetent debt debacle he oversaw earlier this year.

This is not a question of “both sides of the story.” The actors have no equal ground. It is a breathtaking and unprecedented attack by the LNP government and a compliant Fairfax media on an individual. And it should make everyone of us very afraid.

Family Tax Benefit is paid to millions of families. Not one family is safe from exposure by Alan Tudge, not one, should that family publicly complain about Centrelink. Your private data is fair game in Tudge’s desperate and doomed efforts to appear competent.

There is absolutely no other reason for Centrelink to release Ms Fox’s private data to Fairfax media. Absolutely none.

In other words, any private data held by any government department can now be used as a weapon against you, should you have the temerity to publicly describe your interactions with that department. It can be used to put that department’s “side of the story.” It will be supplied to the media by faceless bureaucrats who do not have to be named, and authorised by their minister. 

You write a piece about Medicare? Expect to see you health records appear in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Can there be any more effective way to silence citizens than to threaten them with media exposure of their most private and intimate information?

In Australia today, the LNP and Fairfax media have joined forces in persecuting one woman to save a lamentably incompetent  minister’s face. Think about that. 

The very fact that Tudge has chosen this course of action confirms his incompetence, and his unfitness to hold his position.

There’s a lot more to be unpacked from this situation, too much for one blog post.

To be continued.

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51 Responses to “Fairfax and Centrelink unite in an unprecedented move to publicly persecute one woman.”

  1. Cliff February 28, 2017 at 9:41 am #

    Just when you think that the LNP cannot go lower they up and surprise everyone. They truly hate the public.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 28, 2017 at 9:47 am #

      I think they do hate us, Cliff.

      Like

    • Sam Jandwich February 28, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

      Yes Cliff my thoughts exactly… though it’s not just the LNP and this is not a new phenomenon.

      What is inexcusable however is that unlike children’s services, mental health care, and even the criminal justice system to some extent, the policy development arms of institutions that are supposedly there to help people in trouble – centrelink, homelessness, asylum-seekers, victims of domestic violence – have apparently not learnt from the rather-obvious-but-not discovery that people who find themselves in difficulty are in fact not evil and sinister.

      In fact I’m a bit tempted to do a PhD on misanthropic approaches to policy, but my resilience level in the face of same is so low right now I’m not sure I’d survive it/-;’

      Liked by 1 person

      • helvityni February 28, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

        Sam Jandwich, we are very punishing society.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson February 28, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

        Do it, Sam. You’d have such a wealth of research. It needs to be done.

        Like

  2. Barry Waters February 28, 2017 at 10:20 am #

    Alan Tudge has discovered that hiding his ministry’s shortcomings is the best way to bring rorters to heal. One can only hope that The Herald’s part in this sordid little expose was actually an unwitting attempt to exploit a government leak.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. helvityni February 28, 2017 at 10:35 am #

    There’s not one good piece of fruit on that Liberal apple-tree, they rot before they ripen…

    We (the voters) have to cut the tree down and fumigate the land…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Stephanie Cornwallis February 28, 2017 at 11:13 am #

    Hmmm. Tudge. Rhymes with sludge, fudge, and nudge nudge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • helvityni February 28, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

      🙂 Tudge will not budge, he has to be pushed…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson February 28, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

        Turnbull can’t afford to push anybody, Helvi. He’s got a one seat majority, and he can’t afford the scandal of sacking a minister. Tudge will stay until he’s voted out.

        Like

  5. kristapet February 28, 2017 at 11:51 am #

    Shame on Fairfax! – Ethical standards dropping low – if, “exposure”, was the aim, they need to re-appraise their journalistic methods, and expose, without hurting the victims of who have been wronged
    This LNP-PHON government has no shame or standards
    Thank you for speaking out for the vulnerable and unprotected, and for your courageous writing
    This government is the wild west on steroids, lawless, merciless, and without conscience
    High Noon is coming very soon, I hope.
    They, (LNP-PHON) need to be corralled, and the key thrown away, never to be found again – maybe, I mean vanquished, (by legal means) because, they could bribe & spin their way out of any circumstance – their downfall must be epic, and all their corruption and spin exposed, without mercy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 28, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

      God knows what Fairfax hoped to gain by this. Ms Fox also writes for them.

      Like

      • Adrian Jackson September 2, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

        Probably Fairfax trying to prove to the LNP that they really aren’t pro-ALP after all. Like the ABC board, they get sucked into playing this game, apparently unaware that there is nothing they can do to get the LNP to revise their view of them as The Enemy. Nothing.

        Like

        • paul walter September 2, 2017 at 11:30 pm #

          Oh yes. that is perfect reading of it. They are so insular they don’t understand why they held to scorn for it either.

          Like

  6. Moz of Yarramulla February 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm #

    I’m appalled. Also terrified. Just how far over the line do I have to step before they do this to me too? Is there any way to know where the line is?

    Also, I thought this stuff was strictly Murdoch material, seeing the “better half” of Australian media in the gutter greatly saddens me. I’ve had my details published in a Murdoch rag, complaint upheld but … oh, the only actual power to punish is in the hands of the courts. Don’t fancy a civil lawsuit… the best you’ll get is a fauxpology.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 28, 2017 at 2:51 pm #

      It’s a frightening precedent, Moz. I only hope some legal people step up and take it on for Ms Fox pro bono.

      Like

  7. 8 Degrees of Latitude February 28, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    Well, I don’t know Minister Tudge. His ascendancy beyond his point of competency postdated my self-deletion from the swill pit. It’s probably a good thing I don’t know him, because otherwise I would be very seriously inclined to knee him in the groin. Of Fairfax, and of the ethical standards of the journalist concerned in this instance, I can only sigh. To take up your last line, Jennifer: To be continued.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 28, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

      I now hear Alan Tudge came from IPA. It’s starting to make a lot more sense.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 8 Degrees of Latitude February 28, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

        The Incontinent Piddlers Association? Yes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • helvityni February 28, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

        Who is Ted Lapkin ( Q&A), I have a feeling that I have ‘met’ him before, but where…?

        Like

        • silkworm February 28, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

          He’s a Zionist, an apologist for the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

          Like

          • helvityni February 28, 2017 at 4:54 pm #

            Thanks, silkworm. I also remembered that he used to write articles on ABC blog, the Unleashed that later became the Drum.
            Never liked anything he wrote…

            Like

            • doug quixote February 28, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

              Snap!
              🙂

              Like

            • Marilyn February 28, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

              He also worked for Nelson and Abbott to draw up ”we hate refugees” policies. He’s a former Mossad spy and all round right wing nutter.

              Like

          • paul walter. March 10, 2017 at 2:58 am #

            And a IPA goon from about a decade ago.

            Like

        • doug quixote February 28, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

          At the Drum Unleashed as it was ca 2012, where “a vigorous exchange of views” was had between you, me and others v Lapkin. He espouses IPA crap ad nauseam.

          Like

          • helvityni February 28, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

            WOW, thanks DQ, I knew I KNEW him from somewhere, even though he looked rather aged and a bit weird when I saw him on Q&A…
            First they had Akerman, now Lapkin. get some bright young people on your shows, ABC.

            Like

  8. doug quixote February 28, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

    If there has been a breach of a private citizen’s privacy and a release of confidential documents that is a serious breach of the Privacy Act.

    If a federal minister is responsible for such a breach he should be sacked.

    There are no excuses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Moz of Yarramulla March 1, 2017 at 8:55 am #

      The term is “chaff bag”, I believe. Sacks are for peasants.

      Like

  9. paul walter. February 28, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

    Marvellous stuff.

    While the country has been diverted by silly “terrorist” Keystone cops stuff and whistleblowers who saw the writing on the wall persecuted, all this process, backed by surreptitious legislation. has been shifted in through the back dawn ready for springing on the sheep-like public through apparatus like the Centrelink monstrosity, a deliberately constructed event intended to reinforce the realisation within the public that it is disempowered: the new totalitarianism is emphasised through the premeditated unfairness aspect.

    First asylum seekers, then the unemployed and aborigines, now casual workers.

    Who’s next?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 28, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

      I don’t know but I’m prepared.

      Like

      • paul walter. March 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

        See you on the cattle truck to Woomera.

        Like

  10. Marilyn February 28, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

    Attacks on individuals are not unprecedented but this attack seems to be deeply personal, why Malone brought into it though beats me.

    But let me remind readers how far liberals are prepared to go to demonise and how quickly the media leap in.

    Ali B arrived here 1 week before TPV’s were invented by Ruddock, he arrived only with 1 change of clothes and pictures of his wife and kids which were then taken by the DICS.

    Roqia arrived in January 2001, the government knew who she was, they knew her husband was in Australia but used her as a pawn to uphold TPV’s and denial of family reunion under those TPV’s.

    Then Ruddock started the lie ”they are really from Pakistan”, as if torturing, jailing and abusing women and kids from Pakistan was fine. The entire media of Australia piled on, the Australian and Fairfax sent journos to ”find” Ali’s family, most of whom were 110 miles south of where our stupid journos. went. (Paul McGeough found a cousin in the right region within a week of being there), the demonising ended up with the lie of 22 court cases, blah, blah, blah.

    The final insult was after the Afghan authorities found Roqia’s papers in Ghazni province and were about to approve them, Russell Skelton pretended to talk to people in Bamiyan (where he and the Australian went earlier), and Vanstone used fake papers to send the whole family into orbit, even claiming the baby born in Adelaide was born in Quetta, Pakistan.

    They almost died in the snow but Roqias brother )the Man who Jumped) walked to Pakistan to find them and we held a fund raiser here.

    Of course the reprehensible Laurie Ferguson was shadow immi. minister of the day and told me it didn’t matter if they died in the snow because they were not genuine.

    Attacks on small people who cannot fight back are common, the media abuse of them is common, but not usually so unwarranted as the attack on this young woman.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 28, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

      Also, Marilyn, Andie Fox is a middle class professional woman, not Centrelink’s stereotype of welfare recipients.

      Like

  11. paul walter. March 1, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    Yep. Deeply person, deeply deliberate and a new outright low in the conduct of Australian politics.

    SHAME ON PAUL MALONE FOR BEING A PARTY TO IT!

    Like

  12. allthumbs March 10, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

    A little off topic, but an interesting experience today.

    I posted at Bolt’s blog a cartoon by Bill Leak regarding Rupert Murdoch in commemoration of Bill this afternoon and his sad demise. This was is the link to the image.

    http://www.cagle.com/bill-leak/2011/05/bill-leaks-cartoon-for-5202011

    I picked this one rather disingenuously suspecting my post would not be posted and sure enough it wasn’t.

    I followed up with another post saying I hope my original post with the link to the cartoon (and described the cartoon) wasn’t 18c’d because the irony would be too great.

    A post with a Bill Leak cartoon concerning Rupert Murdoch not appearing in an Andrew Bolt blog page celebrating Bill Leak in a Murdoch owned newspaper because of the perceived offense to the owner of Newscorp was self censored by a Newscorp underling.

    And sure enough the my second post was not published either.

    This is the measure of the calibre of the free speech warriors, the craven arse lickers such as Bolt, the hypocrisy, the sheer amount of front and their façade of courage these cowardly fuckers brandish in their typical yellow bellied sycophantic crawl across the media landscape.

    Like

    • paul walter. March 10, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

      Will say a prayer for him that he goes to a place where he no longer lives in fear and can find the truth a friend not an enemy. This life is a veil of tears.

      Like

      • havanaliedown March 10, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

        My friend saved Bill Leak’s life a few years ago when he fell, pissed, off John Singleton’s balcony. He stabilised Bill until the rescue helicopter collected him.

        Like

    • havanaliedown March 10, 2017 at 5:52 pm #

      That cartoon takes the piss (deservedly) out of Bob Brown. It’s a good one too.

      I think you read way too much into not getting a post published.

      Like

      • allthumbs March 10, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

        Can you offer another explanation, two posts, with no cussing, no name calling, one with a link to an actual Leak Cartoon, the other with a succinct but true description of the cartoon with no accompanying surmise or explanation of Leak’s intent, aim or target?

        Try it yourself, let us know how it goes, if you dare.

        Like

        • havanaliedown March 10, 2017 at 8:22 pm #

          I have “posted” plenty of messages there over the years, but in the last few years rarely being published. It’s probably a volume thing. I actually quit being that interested in his site, and not bothering to comment when a paywall/registration went up. I also cancelled my e-subscription to The Australian in Feb 2015 when they were actively pushing for “regime change” by printing any old gossipy crap put about by Nikki Savva (I think Abbott must have spurned her advances). Anyhow have a nice weekend.

          Like

  13. Adrian Jackson September 2, 2017 at 7:50 pm #

    The moral bankruptcy of the Abbott / Turnbull government is clear and breathtaking. Why has it not been exposed?
    1) A spineless opposition, under Shorten’s leadership, that has been complicit in some of the LNP’s worst excesses, and too gutless to oppose others
    2) the Murdoch press, which unhesitatingly and relentlessly demands that readers support the LNP’s every policy and every action
    3) the other key media, the ABC and Fairfax, have been cowed by years of LNP complaints about so,-called left-wing bias, to the point where they bend over backwards to be seen to be ‘fair’ to a coalition that doesn’t know the meaning of the word

    Like

    • paul walter September 2, 2017 at 11:32 pm #

      Because people are sensitised to it. It’s like the cosmic noise, they no longer conceive of what it is like without it.

      Like

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