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Jan 9, 2017

Let them eat Centrelink debt notices

Could there be a more stark sign that the government is out of touch than that Centrelink is sending debt collectors after the most vulnerable while the Health Minister bought an investment property on a whim while on a taxpayer-funded trip?


Centrelink office

There couldn’t have been a more stark set of political controversies over the summer break than Centrelink’s failed algorithm chasing money from the most vulnerable and Health Minister Sussan Ley buying an apartment on a whim while visiting the Gold Coast for an announcement.



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32 thoughts on “Let them eat Centrelink debt notices 

  1. Northy

    Brilliantly written, Josh.

  2. thelorikeet

    “how could it happen in the first place” – spot on question.
    Averages are in the year 7 curriculum, and while the pitfalls of applying averages across different variables are a bit more sophisticated, no undergraduate who proposed this algorithm would get a passing grade (even with the help of “Taskforce Integrity” – do George Orwell and Aldous Huxley both work for Centrelink?)

    The rush to put government on the internet has surely done as much damage to Malcolm Turnbull as his lurch to the very-not-internet world of Abbott, Abetz and Andrews

  3. Dog's Breakfast

    The centrelink saga is a next generation eff up, combining incompetence with poor design, bad thinking, political tone-deafness, and class warfare.

    Sussan Ley’s is just another example of an entitlements system so broad that anything can pass muster. Fixing that shouldn’t be too hard, but neither side really wants that. BTW, who pays $3000 for internal flights to the Gold Coast? Is she the member for Heard Island?

  4. Saugoof

    That whole Centrelink saga really highlights two points about this current government for me. First is that they just assume that everyone receiving Welfare (of the Centrelink kind, not middle age welfare like negative gearing) is an undeserving bludger. The second is that they really have no idea about how to fix their budget, so all they can come up with idiotic short-term patches like this.

    It really takes an extraordinarily incompetent government to be attacked on ACA for beating up on the unemployed.

  5. klewso

    “Porter’s Porkies”? Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the first time this Turbott government has lied to us.
    While Centerclunk tell their “customers” to keep slips for 6 months – then they demand copies years old….. WTF?

    1. Peter Hamish

      ” While Centerclunk tell their “customers” to keep slips for 6 months – then they demand copies years old….. WTF?”
      Yep. What this gets down to is Common law verses Civil Law ( Roman law ). Civil/Roman Law is contract or written agreement based. Common law is more culturally based and you are innocent until proven guilty regardless of the contract. So, if Centrelink tell you to keep your slips for 6 months but then demand pay-slips from years back, then under Civil/Roman law if you can’t produce the evidence ( pay-slips ) you lose.
      Lost of law but no justice.

  6. klewso

    As for Ley?
    I thought one of the highlights of the ‘silly season’ was that hillbilly – and Gnats Leader – Cousin Jethro, defending her?
    With his record?
    * Writing off a 90G Toyota Landcruiser CommCar – driving into a flooded causeway on his way to his NSW property – while a Queensland Senator?
    * Leaving us with the bill for he and his wife to fly back from an Indian wedding and contract signing of Gina’s (after attending as trophy scalps on her ‘politician’s wampam belt’, along with Bishop and Gambaro);
    * Stiffing us with the bill for various attendances at weddings and such – after writing them off as “political business”; and
    * Spending 25 million of our $tax to move the APVMA to his New England turf?

    1. klewso

      Almost forgot – then there was his meddling in the family squabbles of the Rinehart-Hancock’s under official letterhead?

  7. zut alors

    Whaaaaat? Are you actually suggesting that Abbott might aspire to the role of Health Minister? This is the MP who was forced to pay back $9,400 in travel expenses in 2013 – travel undertaken to promote his ‘Battlelines’ opus.

    Not to mention further questions raised about his dubious travel expenses for sporting events. The Liberals continue to boast what great money managers they are but they appear more cavalier than clever.

  8. AR

    Re the Waiting-in-Wing Ears, Clown Prince Pretender, could even the trogs. & DelCons truly be so unhinged?
    To be fair though, those $50B tax cuts for corporations have to be funded somehow and everyone knows the dole is too much.

  9. Rob Pilgrim

    So the Lying Nasty Party have simply replaced the amateur rorter who has been caught out with the Teflon coated professional. Why? To show her how to do it better?

  10. AR

    I was so stunned by the thought of MrU468 returning that I had little left over to consider that See No Donors is considered to be a safe pair of hands.
    Could somebody find Alice and ask her what is going on?

  11. bushby jane

    Does Sussan Ley really think it is ok for us to pay for all her extravagant travel claims? Surely that is all it should amount to. These claims are actually small beer compared to her USA trip.

    1. klewso

      Shhhh. It’s probably not her fault …. maybe no one’s told Princess Sus that The Age of Entitlement is over.

      1. klewso

        “Princess Leya”? ….. “Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!”?

    2. zut alors

      Certain MPs’ travel expenses would almost qualify as an investment – if the tickets were one-way.

      1. klewso

        …. having an incremental effect on the IQ of parliament. Real public service?

  12. Venise Alstergren

    Dear Josh,
    I’ve realized that the Golden Globes award for best picture went to a movie called ‘La La Land.’ Could this be the place where so many of our politicians live?

    1. Venise Alstergren

      The thought of Tony Abbott coming back into play-I use the term advisedly-has caused me to throw up. Thanks Josh.

  13. Bill Hilliger

    Chris Kenny stenographer extraordinaire, is someone still employing him? Well, I never would have believed that!

    1. zut alors

      He’s the Nauru Island Specialist, a major string to his remarkable journalistic bow. No other Oz journalist can boast Nauru on their CV.

      Kenny, ace reporter, taking us to unparalleled highs of investigation.

      1. klewso

        “Join Limited News and See the World – According to Rupert!”

  14. crakeka

    I have heard that the same erroneous formula is being used to calculate child support and Legal Aid debts.

    1. Itsarort

      I’m pretty confident that the formula for calculating child support hasn’t significantly changed since 2008. However, the front-line staff working at CSA are just as stretched as Centrelink.

  15. Graeski

    My mother turned 87 on December 27 last year. She suffers from dementia and has been in an aged care facility for the past 4 years. When she went into care we had to sell her modest two bedroom apartment that she’d lived in for the past25 years to pay for her bond. Every penny from the sale went into that bond. We had no choice.

    On December 23 rd last year – the day everything shut down for the Christmas holidays – Centrelink sent a letter to my mother demanding that she go online and provide information about the sale of her house within 14 days or they might stop paying her pension. My mother – who doesn’t know which day of the week it is, or where she is, and who can’t remember which end of a telephone handset you speak into.

    The aged care centre forwarded the letter on to me. It arrived in my letterbox this afternoon.

    What kind of monsters send threatening letters to 87-year old dementia patients at Christmas time?

    This government is beyond inhumane. It is pure evil.

    1. Walter KOMARNICKI

      this is appalling treatment on the part of Centrelink – to send a letter to an 87-year old dementia sufferer – just before Christmas – demanding she go online to respond to their demands or else….
      why not employ more people who can discern how to communicate with people humanely and compassionately? it would make for better relations all round and not entice some people to go over the edge…
      when unintended consequences collide with diminishing returns, everyone hurts and nobody wins.
      but then again, why should they bother – after all, they have only a captive audience to deal with.

  16. Graham R

    The evidence is piling up, isn’t it, that our political servants long ago stopped identifying with the bulk of their employers, and instead identify with the ruling corporate Class – just like the pigs at the end of Animal Farm.

    Speaking of pigs, Ley’s spontaneous decision to buy a chunk of the Gold Coast couldn’t have been scripted better by Orwell to demonstrate the divide.

    And just by-the by, when did you last hear a politician refer to us as “citizens?” The word has been abolished, and officially so at Centrelink where citizens are referred to as “customers.”

    This Centrelink automation “stuff-up” has occurred before, in Michigan:
    Here’s the important sentence from the article:

    Attorneys representing claimants have said that many refuse to ever apply for unemployment benefits again.

    And there you have the reason for the “stuff-up.” This a deterrent, a part of the war on all pensions.

    Odd, isn’t it, how none of the multitude of politician expense-scandals seems to have that deterrent effect on other politicians having a go under the “rules?” Obviously they are made of sterner stuff than the average Michigan pensioner.

  17. klewso

    How can anyone take government seriously when the ‘prickles’ in this one don’t?
    Arfur Sinodinos – with his record for chronic/strategic selective memory losses – is going to take over (perhaps permanently) while “she’s away”?

  18. Dion Giles

    Surely when a Centrelink computer programme goes ape the duty of the Minister responsible is to put an IMMEDIATE stop on its operation. Does the Minister simply ignore this duty because the victims of the malfunction are only plebs?

  19. Rowena Braaksma

    There is a precedent for this bureaucratic behaviour in the Qld Health Payroll system scandal which the Health minister at the time demanded be rolled out, against all advice including a failed one month trial which displayed widespread problems, (everything from huge overpayment to not being paid at all). Debt collectors were sent to nurses and doctors and other health dept employees. Employees were threatened with gaol if they didn’t repay debt immediately. The departments solution to this massive problem which STILL GOES ON TODAY was to institute a code system and new payslip which was impossible to decipher and to place all the onus on staff to track back not just weeks but months of activity to find and provide the proof to correct the problem. HR takes the stand that they are in the right and employees have to repeatedly contact and actually fight the department to make the corrections. HR will often then do an audit of an employees pay going back years with another adjustment which is always in the negative either by removing entitlements or deducting leave balances which the employee then has to investigate and redress. Underpayments to employees are not investigated by HR, it is up to employees to scrutinise every payslip carefully and keep clear private records of every hour worked and be vigilant and aware of all their entitlements, super contributions and what paypoint they are on and when that is supposed to change. I’m actually not sure what the huge HR departments do now. They do not manage the payroll successfully. My husband works for QHealth on occasion and his pay is always wrong. Employees do not receive advice at the time of any changes or reasons for change. HR also pretty routinely do not return phone calls, employees are forced to use an online contact system to report discrepancies. My husbands experience is that he gets told to use this system, never hears from HR when he does as requested so then he has to contact a belligerent HR representative by phone. Everyone I know who works for QHealth (with the exception of HR of course!!!) closely scrutinises their pay and keeps private records for years to be able to defend themselves in these ongoing disputes with HR over pay issues.

    1. Graham R

      So this is to be the new normal: the citizen (now when did you last hear a politician use THAT word?) is regarded by the State as the enemy. The citizen’s considerable political weakness in all transactions with the State is to be taken full advantage of, with redress made cumbersome, frustrating and difficult. Outright fraud or incompetence will routinely be engaged in.

      It would seem that Q Health was the advance model for Centrelink and now Veterans Affairs, who have the added twist of having one’s personal details aired publicly should you have the temerity co complain publicly.

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