How has Centrelink come to normalise contempt?

13 Mar


In The Saturday Paper this weekend there’s an editorial addressing the recent Centrelink scandals that, among other extreme dysfunctions, have seen the private data of two clients released to that publication, The Guardian, and The Canberra Times.

What you might not know is that The Saturday Paper declined to publish unsolicited private data sent to them by Centrelink, and that those private details belonged to a young man, Rhys Cauzzo, who died by suicide after receiving automated debt notices and subsequent harassment by Centrelink, and debt collectors Dun and Bradstreet:

Recently, private information about welfare recipients has been leaked to the media in the hope of discrediting critics. After The Saturday Paper published Rhys Cauzzo’s story, the department shared his personal data with our reporter in the hope of changing the piece.

The construction of citizens as enemies of Centrelink is engendered by the conservative ideology of Minister Alan Tudge, and senior departmental staff such as DHS secretary Kathryn Campbell, who use as their starting point the proposition that the majority of clients are criminals, or criminals-in-waiting.

(Sound unnervingly familiar?  The assumption by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton and his lackies that asylum seekers are criminals. I said a while back that what they do to asylum seekers they’ll do to Australians)

In her evidence before a Senate committee last week, Ms Campbell, who played a leading role in creating and presiding over the robo-debt system, refused to acknowledge that the system has any flaws, and remarked that clients have a responsibility to provide the department with correct information. Here you’ll find an excellent piece by Jack Waterford on Ms Campbell, and her “relentless suspicion of the poor.”

The ideologically-driven belief that Centrelink clients (or asylum seekers) are fraudsters is used to justify ill-treatment of them for political gain. The public does not like fraudsters.

Both DHS and DIBP are designed to deal with stereotypes, not human beings. The Ministers and senior staff in both departments are too lazy, too ignorant, too arrogant, too well-paid and too privileged to question their assumptions about those less comfortable in the world. Misfortune of any kind is perceived as a reprehensible moral failing, and as such, punishable by those with the power and authority to punish.

In the upper echelons of these departments you’ll find no broad view of context, of societal and cultural influences: the individual is entirely responsible for his or her own predicament. Society does not exist. There are individual men and women and there are families, but there is no society in the context of which the lives of individuals and families are played out.

Your part in destroying a country has nothing to do with its citizens subsequently seeking asylum in your country. Your ill-conceived policies have nothing to do with people becoming working poor, jobless, homeless, and needing assistance from the state. There’s bunch of rabid Thatcherites running DIBP and DHS.

Ministers such as Tudge, and senior public servants, treat welfare recipients as deviants. Welfare recipients embody what the ruling class fears most: loss of its power and its financial security. They must be punished for their carelessness, but more than that, they must be punished for reminding the comfortable just how close discomfort can be.

Ms Campbell may embrace the Thatcher ideology in her attitudes to citizens, however, it is easily unveiled as a comfortable and convenient delusion. Kathryn Campbell might reflect, if she has the capacity, that were it not for “clients” she’d be out of a job. Campbell’s $700,00 salary is entirely dependent on the misfortunes of millions. So much for the individual’s sole control over his or her circumstances.

The revelation that Centrelink authorities sent unsolicited private details of a dead man to the media, in the hope of changing the journalist’s story, ought to be beyond belief. Sadly, it isn’t. Sadly, we have in this country at least two bureaucracies whose leaders have modelled a pathological lack of humanity, and the dire weakness of all bullies. It’s time to get rid of the Tudges, the Campbells,  the Duttons and the Pelluzos. We’ve travelled far enough down the path of cruelty and unreason. It’s time for a change.




23 Responses to “How has Centrelink come to normalise contempt?”

  1. kristapet March 13, 2017 at 9:25 am #

    Indeed. 100%.
    Definitely, High Time for, “It’s time to get rid of the Tudges, the Campbells, the Duttons and the Pelluzos. We’ve travelled far enough down the path of cruelty and unreason.
    It’s time for a change.”
    The whole stinking, LNP, and those that liaise with them, or form expedient bonds need to be removed.
    I hope we get to vote them out, sooner than later
    God help us, if, Peter Dutton becomes PM, if there is a leadership spill.
    If that happens, I hope there is protesting,rioting and railing, in vast numbers across the nation
    Kathryn Campbell needs to be “de-culted, or an “intervention”, and, “no exit”, pension,
    as well as, AlanTudge, who needs a frontal lobotomy or electric shock treatment – something, to rewire their calcified “brains”
    George Brandis also needs relocating with Dutton – preferably “off-world”
    All without pensions or “jobs for the boys” placements in cushy jobs
    Maybe they all do, they all need “treatment!
    Something has to give
    I would not advocate such “extreme measures”, normally, but these are desperate times
    requiring desperate measures, and “bullies” need their just deserts!
    I share your justified anger, about their unjust, cruel, atrocious, behaviour

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson March 13, 2017 at 10:34 am #

      Thanks, kristapet. It’s certainly alarming that we’ve got to this state.


  2. stefrozitis March 13, 2017 at 9:55 am #

    I hope you don’t mind I will share this well thought-out piece on facebook

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barry Waters March 13, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

    Just when you think our Coalition government can go no lower, can scrape no more dregs from barrels, can dig into no deeper cesspit, they crawl out from under the Centrelink mushroom looking like toads on a toadstool. They should continue their cries about renewables just to add a little spice to their awfulness

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Marilyn March 13, 2017 at 5:37 pm #

    Lest we forget the ALP voted for the robo crap.


    • doug quixote March 14, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

      A broken record, Marilyn. Labor isn’t perfect but it is the only realistic alternative.

      You won’t change the Looters & Nutters, buoyed by Trumpism and pandering to One Nation and the Bernardi/Christensen RWNJs.

      But we just might manage to steer Labor into better policy.


      • Marilyn March 15, 2017 at 2:06 am #

        If I hear one more clown tell me the ALP might come up with a better policy on anything I will scream.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Maureen Helen March 13, 2017 at 8:19 pm #

    This is seriously alarming, Jennifer. Thank you for your considered piece. I have shared it on Facebook.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Arthur Baker March 14, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    I’m on a short break in the Blue Mountains now. It’s idyllic. But a black cloud threatens. Soon after my return to Sydney I will need to visit a Centrelink office and try to get some sense out of them. It happens to be just a 5-minute walk down the road from my place, but I’m allocating half a day for it. It will be all I can manage to remain civil to them. I guess it’s not the fault of the frontline workers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson March 15, 2017 at 6:08 am #

      Good luck, Arthur. It’s not the fault of the frontline, and I’m guessing they are copping a lot of flack.
      That being said, like any workforce, there’s the helpful & the unhelpful


  7. doug quixote March 14, 2017 at 7:48 pm #

    The Intervention “success” has already seen paternalism and demonising of the less well-off in our society. Asylum seekers are a cheap shot, and welfare recipients are next. The working poor are under attack through loss of fulltime jobs and cuts to penalty rates.

    Its the thin edge of the wedge, but getting thicker. As is the electorate, it seems.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson March 15, 2017 at 6:09 am #

      I watched Four corners on Monday, DQ, and thought this is where we’re headed under the LNP’s governance.


      • paul walter. March 15, 2017 at 11:46 am #

        That is the case. The latest example of people disempowered through the sort of lawlessness that neo lib “weak government” creates is the INPEX rip off debacle in Darwin, where Kawasaki refused to pay $200 million to its contractors to pay up to 800 workers over four months.

        Neat stuff, eh?


  8. paul walter. March 19, 2017 at 11:25 pm #

    To me pretty much a related issue:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson March 20, 2017 at 7:31 am #

      Just read that. What a vile country we are becoming.


      • paul walter. March 22, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

        Put it up at FB and you’d be surprised how virulent some of the reaction was.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson March 23, 2017 at 6:29 am #

          You know, PW, I feel thankful every day that I encounter so few trolls, both here & on Twitter. Their bile is nauseating.
          Having made that boast I’ll likely have irritated the gods. Prepare for inundation.



  1. How has Centrelink come to normalise contempt? – Papuq's Snippets - April 29, 2017

    […] Source: How has Centrelink come to normalise contempt? […]


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