Most Interesting to Watch

Last week, Sinc posted about the Government’s robo-debt program and the pending legal challenge.  So wrote Sinc:

if true this is not a debt-collection, but unauthorised taxation. The collection of taxation without parliamentary approval is a crime known as tyranny.

Well said Sinc.  Well said.

This morning, Professor George Williams, dean of the UNSW Law School, wrote this in the Oz:

One lingering question over robo-debt is whether it is lawful. There is a credible legal argument that the government is acting outside the law by demanding the repayment of money it is not actually owed. It also may be that the government is in the wrong by asserting a debt and then putting the onus on people to show why that is not correct. These issues no doubt will be tested as part of the class action.

And here’s the rub:

The fact these arguments can be mounted shows the government failed to properly lay the legal foundations for the scheme.

The result of this court case will be interesting.  All the more for the flow ons to the ATO

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11 Responses to Most Interesting to Watch

  1. Roger

    There is a credible legal argument that the government is acting outside the law by demanding the repayment of money it is not actually owed.

    Outside the law, you say, George.

    Sort of like…theft?

  2. Let me get some sort of clarification here.
    This robo debt thing, the government goes back to the founding of Australia to see if the books balance and if they don’t the mug taxpayer gets hit again?
    Is that it?

  3. Suburban Boy

    The robo-debt process has two stages. In stage one, the mendicant (“client” in approved terminology) is asked for information about an apparent under-reporting of income and advised that if the discrepancy cannot be explained there will be a debt to the Commonwealth.

    Stage two only kicks in if the medicant refuses (or is unable) to explain the discrepancy. Having been asked politely to explain his situation (see stage one), in the absence of an explanation the Commonwealth is entitled to assume that the mendicant has in fact under-reported income and as a result owes money to the Commonwealth.

    Perhaps others think that being a mendicant of the Commonwealth should come without any corresponding duties. I suggest that ordinary, tax-paying Australians will generally think that providing the Commonwealth with information to determine a mendicant’s eligibility for payments is little enough to do in return for an income.

  4. Gavin R Putland

    Suburban Boy at #3164816:

    I suggest that ordinary, tax-paying Australians will generally think that providing the Commonwealth with information to determine a mendicant’s eligibility for payments is little enough to do in return for an income.

    The mendicant provided that information six years ago or more. And now the Commonwealth says: Let’s demand that the mendicant supply the information all over again, and raise a debt if (s)he fails to do so. For good measure, let’s use a deliberately flawed algorithm (income averaging, double-counting of variant employer names) to accuse the mendicant of having been overpaid, and hope that the mendicant doesn’t have the ability to jump through the hoops needed to clear up the deliberate misunderstanding. After all, mendicants probably have less ability to jump through hoops than your average punter. Yay!

  5. Rossini

    What’s the problem, if the claimant has claimed too much you gotta pay it back!

  6. John Brumble

    There seem to be rather a lot of claims flying around with very little in the way of hard information or evidence. Given that this is a massive bureaucracy, I am not surprised that there are instances where the wrong person has had a demand sent to them. That’s certainly an argument to ensure that there are systems in place to contest these claims and that they are adequately structured and resourced.

    However, that doesn’t mean that the entire system is dodgy, or that these collections should be scrapped. Debtors lie. Constantly.

  7. Gavin R Putland

    There are still some Cats who don’t get it.

    Means-testing of welfare is applied on a fortnightly basis. Therefore you are not obliged to report income to Centrelink for those fortnights in which you do not receive any benefits. Therefore, if you find a steady job that causes you to fail the income test, you say to Centrelink “Thank you; please cut me off!” and assume that you won’t hear from them again…

    Income-tax liability is calculated on a financial-year basis. Income assessments from the ATO are therefore not divided into fortnights can cannot be used for retrospective calculation of welfare entitlements.

    Q. So why would Centrelink retrospectively calculate welfare entitlements on ATO data and demand that you explain the excess on pain of having to pay it back?

    A. Because it wants to pull a swifty. This is not the inevitable failing of bureaucracy. It is not an honest mistake. It is not a glitch. It is not incompetence. It is deliberate, malicious, criminal fraud.

    Do you not believe me? You know that the ATO uses despicable tactics against small business owners, right? And you know that welfare recipients are much more unpopular that small business owners, right? So why wouldn’t you believe that Centrelink uses even more despicable tactics against welfare recipients?

  8. Gavin R Putland

    Re Gavin R Putland #3164941: “can cannot be used” -> “and cannot be used”.

  9. John Brumble

    No, no, Gavin. I get it. #believealldolebludgers

  10. 2dogs

    It would be magnificent if it gets struck down by the application of clause 29 of the Magna Carta (Imp) 1297.

    Repealed in old blighty, but still the law here. May it be ever thus.

  11. Tim Neilson

    It also may be that the government is in the wrong by asserting a debt and then putting the onus on people to show why that is not correct.

    That’s been the case in the income tax system for decades and has consistently been upheld by the courts.

    It may be different for debts that aren’t properly “tax”.

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