Robo-debt and Tyranny

So here is an interesting thing – the government is being sued.

The occasion was the announcement at Parliament House by Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon that his law firm Gordon Legal will be launching a class action on behalf of people who have been targeted by the government’s robodebt program.

I haven’t been following the story too closely – here is my understanding of what is happening. Australia operates a means-tested welfare system.  Some welfare recipients move in and out of paid employment and end up having received too much welfare and as a result are required to repay that amount.

I find it hard to get excited. If someone has made the effort to get a job and has received ‘too much’ welfare let them keep the difference as a reward for having gotten a job. But, I understand, the politics of envy and resentment dictate otherwise.

So here is the thing: It is my understanding that the government has very broad powers to recover money. The robo-debt collection process may be annoying, intrusive, embarrassing, and what-not but it isn’t clear to me how and when a court could intervene.

But then, we read this:

…  if Gordon Legal is successful in convincing the courts that the government has been guilty of “unjust enrichment” in attempting to gouge money from thousands of poor people it was not entitled to …

And:

…  the government has accepted it cannot prove the debt is owed. Sadly, thousands of people who didn’t know any better have paid up.

That raises two issues.

One – if true this is not a debt-collection, but unauthorised taxation. The collection of taxation without parliamentary approval is a crime known as tyranny. Even if the Commonwealth loses this case, I suspect that nobody will be prosecuted. Alas. Not enough former politicians and public servants go to jail for my liking – this is indicative of a governance problem.

Two – how is this different from the stories we heard during the Banking Royal Commission about evil financial institutions gouging customers?

 

This entry was posted in Oppressive government, Politics, Rule of law, Taxation, Wasteful Spending. Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to Robo-debt and Tyranny

  1. C.L.

    Agree, 100 percent.
    This is just another stupid LNP policy – bogan red meat posturing for the Ray Hadley demographic.
    2030 people have died after receiving a robodebt notice.
    I hope they win the case.

  2. candy

    It is cruel policy, I have to say. To go back some 7 or 8 years to find an outstanding debt, with a new computer system designed to find small debts, a system that was not even dreamed of at the time, seems illegal.

    There are many ways to save some money eg. cancelling the Mid Winter Ball, all expenses paid travel work holidays for an MP and all their family to join him or her.

  3. bespoke

    I find it hard to get excited. If someone has made the effort to get a job and has received ‘too much’ welfare let them keep the difference as a reward for having gotten a job.

    Feel free to hand over your own money, Sinc.

    But, I understand, the politics of envy and resentment dictate otherwise.

    Black is white.
    up is down.

  4. Neil

    2030 people have died after receiving a robodebt notice.

    I think you will find that is a normal death rate. 900,000 people received robodebt notices over a period of 2 years

    https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/2030-people-have-died-after-receiving-centrelink-robodebt-notice/10821272

    The department sent more than 900,000 debt letters to individuals during the period 1 July 2016 to 31 October 2018. A total of 2030 of those individuals died during the same period, which represents 0.21 per cent.”
    This was more than ten times lower than the overall death rate for all of the department’s customers during the same period, which was 3.64 per cent.

  5. C.L.

    I think you will find that is a normal death rate. 900,000 people received robodebt notices over a period of 2 years

    We would have to know how they died before accepting that analysis.

  6. Oh come on

    I’m not certain about the process, but isn’t ‘Robodebt’ just a case of Centrelink checking with the ATO to see if any PAYE taxes were received during the period when benefits were being claimed; the logic being that if the ATO has received PAYE revenue from a taxpayer’s employer, then they must be employed and may not be eligible for a welfare payment, depending on how much they earnt? That doesn’t seem unreasonable on the face of it, but I may be missing something.

    I’m also not sure why the government says it can’t prove that the debt is owed. It seems fairly straightforward to me. If they can’t prove that welfare is paid improperly, how would they ever catch welfare cheats? I realise that Centrelink is pretty hopeless, but surely even they would be able to sit a ‘client’ down and say ‘you were paid this much Newstart allowance over the following period. During the same period, the ATO received this much from XYZ Company for work you performed for them. Given the amount of tax received, it would seem you earnt an income substantial enough to make you ineligible for Newstart payments during that time. Please explain’?

  7. RomeoWhiskey

    Feel free to hand over your own money, Sinc.

    Great quote. Means tested means Means Tested

  8. Oh come on

    I mean, it certainly sounds ridiculous and unreasonable if Robodebt involves combing through tax records that are years old searching for discrepancies, but I don’t see a problem with it happening every few months or whatever.

  9. C.L.

    How many people with jobs are rocking up to Centrelink for an extra 200 bucks?
    As a general principle, though, if the government wants to recoup monies after an established date (at which a recipient had got back on his or her feet), the same should be done for farmers, small businesses and corporations. That would also have the advantage of returning some serious dollars to the treasury.

  10. Sinclair Davidson

    Feel free to hand over your own money, Sinc.

    I do. Many thousands of dollars each year.

  11. notafan

    Someone I know is being chased for an alleged debt from 2012/2013 for Austudy

    This someone scrupulously reported income and the issue is not the total for the year but when they stopped studying and went to full time employment.

    Centrelink are actually chasing debts outside of the ATO record keeping requirements

    They could at least being doing this in a timely manner.

  12. Jonesy

    Typical labor oriented ambulance chaser. Keeps the feds in the public eye for the next three or four years over welfare.

  13. bespoke

    Sinclair Davidson
    #3159476, posted on September 19, 2019 at 10:37 am
    Feel free to hand over your own money, Sinc.

    I do. Many thousands of dollars each year.

    Very lazy almost ‘Progressive’.

  14. Tim Neilson

    How many people with jobs are rocking up to Centrelink for an extra 200 bucks?

    Lots. It’s a big part of the cash economy – people very happy to work for cash so they don’t lose their “entitlements”.

    I’m not sure whether those people are the ones this story is about, though.

  15. Neil

    We would have to know how they died before accepting that analysis.

    Yes but it is a good reason not to trust the media. 2,000 people dying out of a total of 900,000 over 2 years is normal

  16. Ellie

    So the burden of proof is on the accused, not the accuser. This is considered an economic or financial crime? Did they knowingly obtain financial advantage? Am sure some did, but I wouldn’t trust the accuser – it’s the Govt.

  17. None

    There iz no problem with a targetted welfare system or asking for repayment of overpaid monies.
    The problem here is the robo debts are estimates and sometimes totally wrong and often target people still on welfare ( who may or may not have had a few weeks work once).
    The person targetted then has to prove the correct amount by coughing up payslips years after the fact or else torment employers for copies ( employers cough up enough of their time and money for compliance, let u snot go to employers who have since gone out of business) or somehow prove ot wasn’t them. To me that sounds like being accused and asked to prove your innocence. That can drive people to suicide and has.
    A couple of years ago I was told by a contractor some inside dirt which suggested to me a lot of people inside know fuck about their data or systems, there were a lot of internal politics and clients are the bunnies forced to pay. Maybe they were not exagerrating.
    I say good re: the class action. I suspect millions and millions of monies have been wasted or extorted instead of repaid by people who owe it. Sort of like that QUT lady who tried it on with the students.
    Sinc talks like someone who is on the public teat…oh wait.

  18. struth

    Sinc….really?

    People are dying on goat tracks around Australia and you don’t care the money is being wasted on welfare.
    FMD.

  19. Dr Fred Lenin

    I hope the government is found guilty and fined $340 billion dollars ,the fine will of course be paid using taxpayers money,not the personal money of those responsible for the crime ,thats how their system works . Ideally companies suffering financial loss dye to the politicuands detruction of cheap reliable power should have a class action for compensation ,again any penalty paid for by the taxpayers ,not the politicians and their carpetbagger owners . Quite a unique system ,those responsible for the crime get off and the oenalty is imposed on the innocent,have to be invented by the lawtrade that one .

  20. Oh come on

    The thing is that a very large number of welfare recipients, for one reason or another, need to report their incomes fortnightly before they receive their payment. It doesn’t seem a stretch to me that a not-insignificant number of them, after obtaining employment that would make them ineligible for welfare, continue to report little or no income so they can keep receiving welfare payments. It seems to me that people who do this are knowingly defrauding the system.

    Or even people on Newstart who find a job and take their sweet time to tell Centrelink about it, pocketing the payments as a nice little extra on top of the income from their new jobs in the meantime. I find it hard to believe that this would be a terribly uncommon occurrence.

    It seems to me that there needs to be some form of compliance checking system to ensure welfare recipients are eligible for their payments and some enforcement mechanism to recover payments made to those who weren’t eligible for them. No idea if robodebt is an effective and fair method of doing this, but I don’t see why there shouldn’t be something like robodebt in place to keep people honest and identify wrongdoers.

  21. Roger

    As I understand it much of this is targeted not at welfare recipients per se but at family payment recipients whose pay rate varies because of over time etc. and who have incurred debts because they’ve inadvertently underestimated their income to Centrelink at some point in the past.

    These folk, who are on payment plans to repay these debts, are even having their tax returns confiscated by Centrelink/ATO.

    It would seem to me to be a good way to piss off what should be one of the Lib’s natural constituencies – “working families”.

  22. Up The Workers!

    If it is true that “the collection of unjust taxation without Parliamentary authority is truly a crime known as tyranny”, then how do the Australian people launch a class action for the return with interest of the squillions of dollars collected illegally as spurious ‘religious’ Halal taxes?

    I’m not a member of the ‘religion’ which criminally imposes this vile tax on almost everything I eat.

    Is Peter Gordon going to facilitate that too, or does he only act against the Australian Government in such matters?

  23. Oh come on

    So the burden of proof is on the accused, not the accuser.

    Well, no. If you agree to accept welfare, you agree to immediately inform Centrelink if your circumstances change (for example, if you get a job). You also agree that Centrelink can make any inquiries necessary to ensure you are being paid correctly. So if Centrelink goes to the ATO and discovers that they have collected thousands of dollars’ worth of PAYE tax paid by an employer on your behalf while you’ve been collecting unemployment benefits, it seems perfectly reasonable that it’s incumbent upon you to demonstrate why you were entitled to those unemployment benefits when it appears as though you were not unemployed when you received them.

  24. Roger

    OCO,

    That would be fraud and Centrelink’s approach to that would be quite different.

    See my comment above.

  25. Sinclair Davidson

    Oh for the love of god – there is no such thing as a halal tax or a kosher tax.

  26. Sinclair Davidson

    The thing is that a very large number of welfare recipients, for one reason or another, need to report their incomes fortnightly before they receive their payment.

    If only there was a technology that could keep track of such things.

  27. Up The Workers!

    Maybe if A.L.P. public serpents weren’t so egregiously incompetent that they keep paying professional Centrelinkers OPM that they are obviously not entitled to, then the Federal Government wouldn’t have to try to claw it back from time to time.

    Could Gordon be suing entirely the wrong party in this matter?

    It seems to me that the Government is doing absolutely the right thing and the members of the A.L.P.’s C.P.S.U. are the obvious guilty party who have repeatedly done the wrong thing.

    Should the taxpayers therefore lodge a money-gouging class action against Gordon Legal and/or the C.P.S.U.?

    Just saying…

  28. stackja

    Income reporting
    How much you or your partner earn affects your payment. We need to know what you and your partner earn so we pay you the right amount.

    What to report
    We need to know the gross amount you and your partner earn. Gross income is the amount you earn before tax and other deductions. This is so we can pay you the right amount. If your earnings change, even by a small amount, you need to tell us.
    You must report even when your income is zero if you either:
    get a payment with mutual obligation requirements
    are a compulsory ParentsNext participant.
    Income can be money you:
    earn from a job
    get from another source, for example an investment
    get as a gift or allowance.

    Centrelink allow some volunteer work to be counted as meeting obligation and pay these volunteers.

  29. candy

    because they’ve inadvertently underestimated their income to Centrelink at some point in the past.

    I think also that work can be sporadic/casual or short term and misreporting of income is more probable. Not just one regular hours long term job where welfare stops and regular job starts and welfare is finished.

    For sure there are those who have deliberately frauded but there are people with a mish mash of employment and personal circumstances going back years and ATO and Centrelink are investigating them now looking for the smallest financial discrepancies.

  30. Fred

    I have had Centrelink chasing me for $140 from Austudy I received in 2011. This has been going on for 2 years, has involved many people, reviews, phone calls letters. All over $140.

    These are the facts. I received Austudy. Then got a job. Centrelink averaged out my income over the period that I was on Austudy and miraculously found that I was overpaid.

    The problem is the method of averaging. I might be unemployed for 6 months. Then I might earn $50,000 in the next 6 months. According to Centrelink, I have earned $25,000 while I was on welfare. The government will lose this case big time.

  31. Behind Enemy Lines

    This is a tough one. While I disapprove of how we handle welfare, I’m mindful that well-meaning people can get unintentionally crosswise of the rules. The government doesn’t have to beast them.

    However, I also know that slick rorts are the order of the day. At one point you could arbitrage the rules for (a) forward estimates of next year’s income for eligibility purposes and (b) allowable margin of error for actual income received over that time. By exploiting the allowable margin of error at each end, you could keep getting government subsidies year after year, legally, when in fact you were never at any point eligible under the basic requirements.

    During the run-up to the handover of Hong Kong, there were also a lot of ‘single mums’ on full public benefits living in Sydney northern beach mansions while the cruel millionaire husbands who ‘abandoned’ them were back in Honkers working full time.

    It’s like superannuation. The government holds it out to you as a great benefit (to buy your vote), and then takes it away with the other hand (to punish you for benefiting from it).

    I don’t know if there’s a solution, but I’m with Sinc on the robocall business.

  32. max

    Gary North:
    “No Protestant church member who refuses to tithe to the local church should be allowed to vote in that church, any more than a person who does not pay taxes should be allowed to vote for politicians who will collect and spend taxes. The Protestant church, however, has set the pattern for the modern State. The Protestant church allows non-tithing members to vote. The modern State allows welfare recipients to vote.

    Christians did not like to pay tithe to God and now they complain when new god ask for more than 10%

  33. Thefrollickingmole

    Unless it’s in the current financial year they shouldn’t be doing it.
    When I was doing a lot of short term jobs I would have been unlikely to have remembered the names of 1/2 the contractors 2 years later let alone 5.

  34. Oh come on

    If only there was a technology that could keep track of such things.

    LOL there is, it’s Centrelink’s ancient computer system! The data stored in there is what they use to cross-reference with the data the ATO holds.

    That would be fraud and Centrelink’s approach to that would be quite different.

    In extreme cases they might go there but generally they just make you pay it back – sometimes (but not always) with interest. I’d say a lot of people accept a few cheeky extra welfare payments that they aren’t entitled to; possibly more than you think.

    From what I’ve seen on TV, the robodebt ‘victims’ have been welfare recipients, not people receiving the Family Tax Benefit. And in any case, whether you’ve been overpaid or underpaid FTB based on your annual income estimate is determined when you submit your tax return, so I don’t see how robodebt would have anything to do with that.

    Unless it’s in the current financial year they shouldn’t be doing it.

    Yes I agree. Going back years and years is preposterous.

  35. Oh come on

    Oh and let’s not forget that a lot of people who are Centrelink regulars are dum dums. I got a job but my Newstart hasn’t been stopped – lucky me!

    Kind of like those people who tell you they claim all sorts of non-deductible things on their tax return and it must be okay because their return went through.

  36. Percy Popinjay

    Any of those heroic disabled Ozzie ISIS fighters receive a robo debt demanding repayment of the DSP they fraudulently received?

    No, didn’t think so. Some animals are indeed more equal than others.

  37. Old School Conservative

    Oh for the love of god – there is no such thing as a halal tax or a kosher tax.

    True Sinc. No Australian government has implemented a halal tax.
    BUT the costs of halal certification are borne by the consumer. Using “tax” to loosely describe the method of recovering costs is wrong but resonates in the mind of punters.

  38. Oh come on

    Anyway, to sum up – in theory, I don’t have a problem with a robodebt-type system carrying out non-intrusive audits of the welfare payments people receive (obviously these become intrusive if an irregularity arises) to ensure they are in compliance with the obligations they take on when they accept government welfare.

    HOWEVER I think it is fair to say that many people find Centrelink rules, conditions, eligibility criteria etc for various payments and services to be confusing. Centrelink rulings and decisions – usually computer generated – often seem capricious and abrupt, even though people may well be trying to follow Centrelink’s rules. A good example is when you report what you think would be an insignificant change of circumstance and the computer automatically cancels your payment – that’s happened regularly to an older relative of mine. Yes they reinstate it but it requires a trip to the local Centrelink office, which is never much fun. I can see why people stop reporting things like changes to circumstances simply because they’re sick of being punished for doing so! Or avoiding contact with Centrelink as much as humanly possible because its operations seem so Byzantine to the average person.

    All in all, Centrelink is absolutely bloody hopeless and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they made a complete pig’s ear of the whole thing, so maybe stick a fork in robodebt after all.

  39. Frank Walker from National Tiles

    BUT the costs of halal certification are borne by the consumer.

    I also bear the costs of doctors wanting to retire and not working until they are 90.

    I have no moral claim to forcing them to work, nor do I as a consumer have a moral claim to demand companies stop certification programmes I see no value in.

  40. David Brewer

    Too many separate issues here to give a simple answer:

    1. If a person has been paid welfare benefits to which they were not entitled, then in principle these should be recovered. Otherwise why stop welfare at all once a person is back in work, no longer a student etc.?

    2. However, it’s unfair to go back seven or eight years – unless fraud was involved – since people can be expected to have spent the money they erroneously received.

    3. It is claimed that up to a quarter of demands for repayment are wrong. If true, that is unacceptable; the government should be checking cases carefully before issuing demands.

    4. Not sure about the claims of reversing the burden of proof. But if the department, after a careful check, assesses that a person has been overpaid, then if you are that person, logically you are going to have to convince the department they are wrong, or pay up, or face the consequences.

    5. De minimis. Why bother chasing people for amounts under, say, $200? Too much hassle for not enough revenue. Spend the resources on chasing fraud instead – there is no double plenty of it around.

    6. If large numbers of people are being overpaid, then the system needs to be made more efficient in cutting off benefits when they are no longer entitled.

  41. Terry

    Oh come on
    #3159674, posted on September 19, 2019 at 2:58 pm
    “Oh and let’s not forget that a lot of people who are Centrelink regulars are dum dums”

    Well yes, quite possibly, but to be fair that goes for most of those employed on the public teat.

  42. Terry

    Taxation and welfare needs to be much, MUCH simpler.

    Far too complicated, requiring far too many unproductive boffins and hangers-on to administer.

  43. Squirrel

    Surely there should be no less rigour and persistence in pursuing people who are assessed as having received more in welfare payments than the relevant law authorises than there is in pursuing people who are assessed as having a tax debt.

    When this case really gets going, I expect the Universal Basic Income proponents will jump on the bandwagon with a fairly obvious argument. What we’re less likely to hear, of course, are serious arguments about self-reliance and taking every opportunity to reduce the churn (with the associated large amounts of admin costs) of people’s money through Australia’s gigantic, complex tax and welfare systems.

  44. sfw

    I’ve been self employed for many years, about 6 years ago my wife suffered an injury and hasn’t worked since. I went to centrelink to see bout a low income health card. The requirements to qualify were extremely onerous for someone who has an income that fluctuates depending on the weather and if and when people pay their bills. I gave up as the reporting requirements meant that I could not reasonably estimate my income fortnight to fortnight.
    Two- my wife was assessed as disabled by her doctor, her insurance company (2 off) agreed and paid her out. Centrelink won’t recognise her as disabled, apparently there are 20 criteria you have to meet to be ‘disabled’ by centrelink and she couldn’t tick every box. My father in law got his local MP involved, in the end centrelink agreed verbally that she is disabled but that there is nothing that can be done if you don’t tick all the boxes. Yet around my rural town there are slackards everywhere on disabled benefits for depression and bad backs, bludgers nearly all of them.

    Government every thing it touches turns to shit

  45. Behind Enemy Lines

    David Brewer
    #3159796, posted on September 19, 2019 at 5:18 pm
    Too many separate issues here to give a simple answer. . .

    Nicely said, David. I agree with all of your points, given that we’re talking about overpayments not claims of fraud.

    sfw
    #3159887, posted on September 19, 2019 at 7:08 pm
    My father in law got his local MP involved, in the end centrelink agreed verbally that she is disabled but that there is nothing that can be done if you don’t tick all the boxes. Yet around my rural town there are slackards everywhere on disabled benefits for depression and bad backs, bludgers nearly all of them.

    Sorry to hear it, sfw. It’s enough to make any honest taxpayer — to borrow a phrase from Orwell — vomit with rage.

  46. Diogenes

    OCO (and wise & noble Doomlord),
    you have both confessed you don’t know how the robodebt is being generated and commenting from ignorance. The basic problem stems from a difference in reporting periods… you are reporting to Satanlink fortnightly, and the ATO ‘reports’ an annual figure to Satanlink.

    Assume you are scrupulously honest, unemployed for the first 6 months of a financial year and you don’t earn a single cent for that 6 months, and you correctly declare this. For the 2nd half of the financial year you are working and earn say 52k (lets keep this simple and forget other complications like income bank or deducations), and you correctly declare you are now working and earning 1K a fortnight and you payments stop NB- THERE IS NO FRAUD, or fudging or shading as many are implying.

    Now 8 years down the track, Satanlink asks the ATO , ‘how much did OCO/Doomlord’ earn in FY2011/2, ATO responds 52 K (NB this is the ONLY number the ATO gives to Satanlink). Satanlink now put 2&2 together to come up with 17 , ie they simply divide 52K by 52 weeks and simply assume that you earned $500 a fortnight income , even for the period you were not working, and start screaming YOU DEFRAUDED US – GIVE US BACK {insert figure} ! Unless you still have all your payslips you cannot prove that all your income came in the 2nd 6 months.
    In what universe is this
    a) a valid debt ,
    b) fair, given
    1) you are legally only required to keep tax records for 7 (not 8 years) ,
    2) who keeps every single payslip for 8 years when you are only required to keep the Payment Summary(aka Group Certificate)
    3) given 2 most people change jobs more frequently than 7 years and may find it difficult to approach their former employer
    4) again given 2) OCO or Doomlord were working for the late unlamented chain of “Jaime Oliver” restaurants who no longer exist, whom can they approach for old pay records ?
    5) you spend hours on the phone waiting to talk to someone from Satanlink to find out what you need to do to prove you do not owe this debt, you supply the information, which is then lost, so you resubmit, and then they say , “Nope we don’t believe you, you still owe us {x dollars}”, so you spend days trying to get the appeal started, and finally you get the appeal started, and the appeal finds in your favour.

    Satanlink have the power to garnishee wages/ stop payments/stop tax returns until the ‘debt’ they illegally claim you owe has been paid off, this is where the tyranny comes in.

    Personally I hope he wins and Satanlink is forced to repay every debt they invalidly raised as well as a penalty for stress. I almost got caught in a similar situation out many years ago as I was working a few hours casual here & there whilst on Newstart, and they said I underreported my income and therefore owed them several hundred dollars, (I was actually overreporting slightly) , and that was due to my pay period being 1 week out of synch with the Satanlink reporting period. Luckily I had copies of my weekly ‘bundy’ cards ( the employer was playing silly buggers with our hours/payments – so I made sure I kept copies to keep them honest). The copies of the timecards were supplied with the hourly rate & Satanlink actually ended up paying me @ 100k

  47. Diogenes

    Oops – I changed numbers in my example I mean 52K/ 26 fortnights is 1k a week or 2K a fortnight.
    and Satanlink paid me around $100 not 100K

  48. I’ve had a taste of the Robo-debt experience. I only hope I made it as unpleasant for the Department of Hopeless Slugmongrels as they did for me.
    Two years ago I got a letter which said an investigation would be made to determine if I had collected Newstart while employed. I knew damn well I had not. I gathered the relevant documents, wrapped them around my virtual baseball bat, and waited.
    The next letter acknowledged that I was in the clear. In true Centrelink style however they added a finger wagging paragraph telling me that if I DID try to cheat the system, they’d find out about it. And then I’d really be in trouble.
    I was prepared to leave it be. But a few weeks later I heard Christian Porter in uber-smug mode declaring that the Department had received very few complaints. You can translate that as ‘Sure, there have been lots of people screaming abuse across the counter and down the phone. But hardly anyone has put anything in writing.’ So I put my feelings in writing and mailed my feelings, along with bank statements and payslips, off to Canberra. Just to rub it in, I sent a copy of everything to the Shadow Minister too.
    I never heard back from either of them. I don’t think I implied too strongly that Porter was the product of incestuous parentage, or that his head was dangerously far up his own backside – but then again, maybe I did. At any rate, that Robo-debt ruckus seemed to knock his star out of the firmament. He’s not being described as a future PM so often, these days.

  49. None

    The problem is the method of averaging. I might be unemployed for 6 months. Then I might earn $50,000 in the next 6 months. According to Centrelink, I have earned $25,000 while I was on welfare. The government will lose this case big time.

    yep that’s exactly the sort of scenario I’ve been hearing about. I hope them motherfukers gets sued heads roll and public servants get jailed but somehow I don’t think our felons in the justice system will give us the benefit of that sort of Justice. Honestly I don’t understand why people do all sorts of strange things so they could qualify for some sort of welfare. It’s like wanting to be in gaol.

  50. Tel

    I do. Many thousands of dollars each year.

    Wealth transfers, plus free medicine are some of the biggest government expenses. You will be handing over a lot more thousands every year if we move to a model of “universal basic income”.

    I wouldn’t even entirely be against the idea of UBI providing:
    * it replaced every other program.
    * they sacked a lot of public servants.
    * if reduced government invasion of privacy etc.

    Thing is, none of those will ever happen … also many poor people are poor because they have no ability to handle money (and yes that’s a teachable skill, but only some people get it). Universal basic services are a better idea (no money changes hands, you simply get the thing you need) … like government payments towards somewhere to live that isn’t particularly good but keeps people off the street. It’s a matter of getting the voters to accept that poor people are not owed a luxurious living by everyone else. Having a small co-payment is also a good idea to prove that people actually want the thing.

  51. Gavin R Putland

    I’ve said before and I say again: #RoboDebt is the biggest speculative-invoicing scam in the history of the world. It’s fraud on an industrial scale. From a libertarian rule-of-law perspective, it’s an abomination. From a conservative Laura Norder perspective, it’s an abomination. There’s no need to bring up any leftie-luvvie welfare-rights arguments, and it should be a matter of grave embarrassment to libertarians and conservatives that the fightback is being led from the left.

    Fred at #3159585 wrote:

    The problem is the method of averaging. I might be unemployed for 6 months. Then I might earn $50,000 in the next 6 months. According to Centrelink, I have earned $25,000 while I was on welfare…

    It’s worse than that. Centrelink know when you started working because you told them at the time. They know about any piddling amounts that you managed to earn while on welfare because you told them at the time. But they don’t look at the info that you have already supplied — unless you demand it from them under FOI and then give it back to them! But by the time you’ve worked that out, if ever, they have probably already started collection processes against you.

    In the course of this fight, Centrelink staff are NOT ALLOWED to correct any overcharge that they discover. They are REQUIRED to wait for you to discover it. In other words, they are REQUIRED to behave in a manner that would expose you to criminal charges if you did it.

    Tim Neilson at #3159489 wrote:

    [P]eople very happy to work for cash so they don’t lose their “entitlements”. I’m not sure whether those people are the ones this story is about, though.

    Indeed they’re not. Dole recipients who earn cash in the underground economy, and report it neither to Centrelink nor to the ATO, are not caught up in this scam. The people who are caught are those who are at least legit enough to have their income reported to the ATO. Centrelink then processes the same income in a deliberately invalid manner.

    David Brewer at #3159796 wrote:

    3. It is claimed that up to a quarter of demands for repayment are wrong.

    That claim comes from Centrelink itself, and refers to the percentage of initial accusations of discrepancies that are successfully refuted. The actual percentage of false accusations is greater by an unknown margin, because the system is designed to scare and bamboozle ignorant people into paying up.

    Re Gordon’s tactics:

    If I remember correctly, the “unjust enrichment” argument was successfully used against exorbitant penalty fees imposed by banks: the contractual provisions purporting to impose the fees were found to be unenforceable because they resulted in “unjust enrichment”.

    Hence I suspect (although I haven’t been told) that the government is relying on some technicality whereby people who have been tricked into acknowledging false debts are now obliged to pay them, and that Gordon hopes to pull the rug under that by means of the same argument.

    Be that as it may, I note that under Chapter 2 of the Constitution, “The executive power of the Commonwealth… extends to the execution and maintenance… of the laws of the Commonwealth.” I therefore submit that the executive power does not extend to actions calculated to cause breaches of those laws — such as generating a speculative invoice from a deliberately flawed algorithm and challenging the victim to disprove it, knowing most victims are ill-equipped to do so. For the same reason, I submit that the Commonwealth’s duty to be a model litigant and a model creditor is not only a moral duty, but a constitutional duty.

  52. Percy Popinjay

    It’s a matter of getting the voters to accept that poor people are not owed a luxurious living by everyone else

    Good luck with that. We’re basically at the 50/50% tipping point now. Get a few more hundred thousand recent third world immigrants on the electoral roll and it’s all over.

    Labore/Greenfilth Goat Rodeos in perpetuity.

  53. Terry

    When are we going to stop using the tax and welfare system as a weapon of tyranny against the people?

  54. John A

    Gavin R Putland #3160070, posted on September 20, 2019 at 12:55 am


    Re Gordon’s tactics:

    If I remember correctly, the “unjust enrichment” argument was successfully used against exorbitant penalty fees imposed by banks: the contractual provisions purporting to impose the fees were found to be unenforceable because they resulted in “unjust enrichment”.

    If that was the case, that is bad law, and they should not have won. The penalties for such things as knowingly or carelessly drawing a cheque against an account with insufficient funds need to be exorbitant so as to act as disincentives to repeat such behaviour. The fee to a receiver of a cheque which is dishonoured is usually insufficient to recover the costs of the extra processing involved.

    Now that’s all gone. No wonder the banks love plastic cards and online/internet banking – you can’t make a payment unless there are sufficient clear funds available – stops the problem at the source.

    Meanwhile, this bad case law means that other businesses cannot impose heavy penalties for bad behaviour by customers, suppliers or employees, which means there is a “reverse incentive” to not cease bad behaviour – actions do not receive their natural consequence/s.

  55. Oh come on

    Diogenes, I am perfectly happy to stand corrected on the matter. I am, as you may have gathered from what I have written, not especially fond of Centrelink. I’m well aware how profoundly inept it is as an institution. However, after reading some of the detailed experiences of some here, I do admit I am a little surprised that it is so maliciously inept, so insouciantly and determinedly inept. I now have this image of a Centrelink agent thundering ‘you owe us! Pay up! What do you mean you don’t owe us anything? The computer says…er…yes, there you are, see? It says you owe us. What? Don’t be ridiculous – I can’t give you any evidence because we don’t keep records for that long. You’re being entirely unreasonable. Now cough up!’

  56. Amused

    As someone who extensively advertised part-time roles over the space of about 1 year, I can tell you that every second applicant has no bones in asking if they can be paid cash or have their working hours limited so as not to impact the money they receive from Centrelink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.