Thursday, 19 September 2019

At last, a class action to be mounted against Morrison Government's error-prone 'robodebt'


If any of the following applies to you and you are considering joining this class action challenge on behalf of Centrelink clients who were served with a debt notice, the following are first contact details for the law firm which may act for you if you are eligible:

Gordon Legal

Ph: 1300 55 50 16

Informaton at https://gordonlegal.com.au/robodebt-class-action/ Online contact form at https://gordonlegal.com.au/contact

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The Guardian, 17 September 2019:

Gordon Legal has put out its official statement on the class action: 

"The law firm will challenge, on behalf of affected persons, the government’s use of a flawed calculation system by Centrelink to unlawfully take back tens of millions of dollars from many thousands of Centrelink recipients, including pensioners. 

The money for pensioners, carers, widows, students, farmers and unemployed people was taken from them due to a one-size-fits-all online compliance system. 

The robodebt scheme has been in place since mid-2016, its legality was first raised with us by the new shadow minister for government services, Bill Shorten. 

The basis for the challenge is that that the federal government financially benefited when it wrongfully took and banked money that legitimately belonged to recipients. 

Gordon Legal Senior Partner Peter Gordon says ‘investigations reveal between two to three hundred million dollars have been wrongly taken from people, and making it even worse was many were hit with penalties of 10% on those amounts.’ 

‘These people are the least able groups to afford the heavy-handed actions which are based on a system that used ATO averages that didn’t take into account individual circumstances.’ 

‘The unfair and incorrect assumptions had a devastating financial impact on people’s lives. The emotional distress for people who have done nothing wrong has been high.’ 

‘The robodebt system put debt collectors onto innocent people to chase unlawful debts.’ 

‘They have been unfairly financially disadvantaged and must be repaid with interest, penalties dropped and damages paid.’ 

‘The amounts owed will vary from case to case but the average repayments could be a few thousand dollars which is vital from a financial and wellbeing perspective for these people who are least able to afford it.’

Peter Gordon says ‘The people in this class action were not gaming the system. They had honest claims to payments and allowances that Robodebt wrongly assessed, penalised and pursued with harsh consequences.’ 

‘If you have been unfairly affected by Robodebt, you should register your details on the Gordon Legal website and we will be in touch.’ 

Gordon Legal considers a class action is likely to be the best way to deliver redress for people unfairly impacted by Robodebt." [my yellow highlighting]

Peter Gordon: 

"The class action element of the claim is reasonably straightforward. What is innovative about this is to bring a claim against the government for damages for unjust enrichment that will require the high court to recognise legal principles, which I hardly recognised in other common law countries, particularly the United Kingdom. It may break new ground. We think there … is a strong legal basis for it. 

In order for a class action to proceed, either in a state court or the federal jurisdiction, you need to demonstrate that there appear to be several more people who have claims with similar or the same common issues in the fact of law, and there are clearly a large number of people who have similar issues of fact and of law. 

So the question of its status as a class action is not particularly controversial. Under class-action law, not every case needs to be exactly the same. They only have to be roughly similar. Not every case needs to be bound to succeed. You simply need to demonstrate that there are cases that have similar issues that the court can resolve for the benefit of everybody. 

Everyone who believes they are aggrieved is entitled to bring their own actions, whether they are in the ART or as appropriately advised. We are working with the legal aid agencies, but it doesn’t take, I think, a lot of consideration of what has happened to understand that if a template approach has been applied across 800,000 people, and there are admittedly, on the part of the government, 150,000 errors that have been made, that’s a very large number of mistakes which have been made. If they’ve been made, there is a limit to the ability of any court system and indeed bureaucracy to take them off one by one. 

We think it’s appropriate that if there are common issues that have been got wrong by the Commonwealth, that they be addressed in a way that gives everyone release, not just those who are able to access lawyers and legal aid or have the wherewithal all the records to be able to do it themselves."

Bill Shorten: 

" Let’s be clear, we’ve asked the government to fix this, but they’ve got it wrong. If the government through parliament won’t fix the problem, I think giving justice to victims through class action is a legitimate political approach to take. 

Question: Should the program then in your view be suspended while this class action is even being looked at? 

That would be smart for them to suspend it. The question you have to ask is why is the government looking at a blanket scheme looking at annual wages data against people getting fortnightly payments? 

They are hoping they can shake down people into paying up. This is a government building their government position based on this faulty, immoral and quite possibly illegal scheme, but they should suspend it and rule out extending it to anyone else, and in fact they should revisit their own files and perhaps sit down and work out why this is wrong and stop it. 

The government keeps reaching for blaming Labor pre-2013. Robodebt, this online compliance system, was introduced by the current government. 

The current government announced compliance campaigns in 2015, 2016, and they started introducing robodebt, their use of an algorithm to data match. 

It was born under this government and the pathology of robodebt is sick, it has caused countless harm. I give a shoutout to the media, you’ve all covered the problems of robodebt, but at what point in Australia do you say once you’ve seen individual case after individual case it is called a pattern, and the pattern shows robodebt is immoral itself. 

What we and Gordon Legal is going to do is testing the legal foundations of robodebt, because my own research in the last couple of months has led me to believe it is almost certainly illegal and I just have to do research through the stories you’ve covered to say there is a sickness at the heart of robodebt which needs to be cured."


Publishing video footage of animal cruelty could now incur penalties of up to one year in an Australian prison.


The Northern Star, 16 September 2019, p.6:

Animal rights charity Aussie Farms have slammed the passing of a new ‘ag-gag’ law that introduces a criminal charge for “inciting trespass onto agricultural land”.
Several Northern Rivers agricultural businesses were targeted, including Northern Co-operative Meat Company, when Aussie Farms published a map online and called for activists to collect and upload evidence of animal abuse.
But the new law includes simply publishing footage of animal cruelty, or publishing a map of factory farms and slaughterhouses where such cruelty is known to occur, regardless of whether incitement to trespass was intended by the publisher, and regardless of whether the cruelty was legal or illegal.
It follows years of covertly-obtained footage being broadcast to the public by Aussie Farms and other animal protection organisations, revealing widespread practices such as the use of gas chambers in pig slaughterhouses, the live shredding of male baby chicks in the egg industry, and most recently, the slaughter of male baby goats at a high profile Victorian dairy farm.
Publishing such footage now could incur penalties of up to one year in prison.
Executive director Chris Delforce said “consumers had a right to know about the cruelty occurring ... within Australian animal agriculture” and the new law was “designed to limit the public’s ability to see what’s happening inside farms and slaughterhouses”......
On 12 September 2019 the Australian House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019.

It passed the lower house by a majority of just 8 votes, with Labor, Independent, Greens and Center Alliance MPs voting against the bill becoming law.

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Chamber_documents/HoR/Divisions/details?id=732



Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Australian PM Scott 'Liar from the Shire' Morrison caught manipulating and misleading the electorate yet again - this time over the cashless welfare card


"In these trials, we have seen 48% of drug takers using fewer drugs, 41% of drinkers drinking less, and 48% of gamblers gambling less." [Liberal Party of Australia, Our Plan, April 2019]

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party are living up to their reputations as a politician and party who rarely speak the truth.

One social media user called Morrison out over his misuse of statistics, as he pushes forward with his plan to control and penalise all wefare recipients by restricting access to Centrelink cash transfer payments (pensions, benefits, allowances etc) by placing these payments on the Indue Limited Cashless Debit Card.

Turns out that hidden in his misuse of statistics is the fact that of those Ceduna and Kununurra cashless debit card trial participants surveyed in 2017 only est. 8 people self-reported a reduction in the use of alcohol.

[https://twitter.com/AusGovSlave/status/1173505356317655041]

The 2017 final trial evaluation report itself notes that there was a risk that participants may only have reported lower alcohol consumption, illicit drug use or gambling because they believed that: a) to claim a reduction in use was the more socially acceptable answer; and/or b) this is what the questioner wanted to hear.

It noted that some existing data sets relied on were for broader areas than the trial sites and could not be reliably narrowed to those sites and, that there was no adequate time series data available to perform robust preTrial and post-Trial comparisons.

The final report also notes that survey did not necessarily gain a statistically representative random sample of the underlying population due to unequal selection probabilities.

Eight Byron Bay businesses closing shop for 20 September 2019 global climate strike


Echo NetDaily, 13 September 2019:

There are few better ways to prove you’re serious about taking action on climate change than putting your money where your mouth is.
And a handful of Byron business owners are doing just that, electing to forego their profits so their staff can take part in next Friday’s global climate strike.

The March School strike for climate change Byron. Photo Aslan Shand.
Bella Rosa, Endless Summer, Baskin Robbins, Tasa Jara, Retrospect Gallery, Etnix, Beyond Oil electric transport, and Sustainable Futures Australia will all shut up shop between 10am and midday on September 20 for the global day of action.
One of the local organisers of the strike, Emma Briggs, said volunteers would be speaking to other local businesses in the coming days to encourage them to get on board.
‘I understand this is a significant sacrifice for business owners in a busy period, but the sacrifices we’ll all have to make if we fail to turn around the climate crisis will be far greater,’ Ms Briggs said.
‘It is the young people who will have the most to lose if we continue with business as usual.’
‘We would like to thank all our supporters very much, and hope that consumers will consider patronising the participating businesses who have shown they care about more than just short-term profit.’
Following the success of previous school climate strikes in Byron Bay, students are organising buses to bring in hundreds of strikers from around the shire to rally at the Rec Grounds at 10am and march to Main Beach.
There will also be a screening of the film Inferno at the Beach Hotel at 8.30am, with the march to kick off at 10am.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

How long have charity fraudsters been recruiting 'scammers' using Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government's Jobactive program?


The Guardian, 15 September 2019:

Anonymous, 32, South Australia

My strange experience with a Jobactive provider happened back in November 2015. It was a week of pure, concentrated weirdness.
The provider found me a job with a charity. They handled everything. My case manager even took the picture for the photo ID.
There was a man who handled what limited training there was by phone. The day after, I had a trial shift. I had to collect money door-to-door with no information about what the charity actually did, who ran it or what the money we were raising was for – only that it was for children in the Philippines.
The leaflets they gave us to hand out were about cancer, copied and pasted from Wikipedia, even though the charity was supposedly about education. When I spoke to people I couldn’t even answer basic questions. And people were still generous. A blind man gave me $20. It was absurd and awful.
When I asked my point of contact questions, he grew frustrated and aggressive with me. He told me to look on the website but it was just pictures of kids with vague descriptions; no programs, no initiatives. It’s been taken down since, but the mission statement was just a copy of the tax definition of a charity.
I looked up as much as I could about the company. I found the names associated with it had run similar charities that had been exposed as frauds by the ABC. These names weren’t on the website or any training materials. [This charity] didn’t have anything a normal charity had.
I didn’t know what to do, so I reported this to the ACCC and even made a police report. When I told my caseworker, they tried to make me keep doing the job. They told me they’d had their office look it up and that the charity was properly registered, but anyone can register for a business name. I read charities have a year before they’re audited.
When my questions about how the collected money was spent still weren’t answered, the case manager called my point of contact. That’s when they agreed that something wasn’t right and that I didn’t have to do it any more. They joked nervously about ending up on A Current Affair.
A few weeks later I had another appointment and my case manager casually mentioned that another client was still collecting money for [the charity]. She knew they were shonky and still nothing had been done.

Insecticide poisoning caused the death of 15 Satin Bowerbirds found at Modanville, near Lismore in recent weeks


Echo NetDaily,  September 2019:

Insecticide poisoning caused the death of 15 satin bowerbirds found at Modanville, near Lismore in recent weeks, investigators have revealed.
A Satin Bowerbird. Source: Wikipedia
Investigations conducted by North Coast Local Land Services have confirmed that the bird deaths were caused by the banned insecticide Fenthion.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is now seeking assistance from members of the public in a bid to determine how the poisoning occurred.
As the responsible regulator for pesticide use, the EPA is exploring the possibility that the birds, which are a protected native species, may have been deliberately targeted.
No other bird species is known to have been impacted.
EPA Manager Regional Operations North Coast Benjamin Lewin said the killing of native birds, whether through intentional or reckless pesticide misuse, was a serious offence.
‘We are encouraging anyone with information on these deaths, or anyone who may have seen some activity that could be related to this illegal baiting, to contact the EPA as soon as possible,’ Mr Lewin said.
Fenthion, which was banned from use in 2014 with a phase out period of one year, is a broad-spectrum organophosphorus insecticide.
It is extremely toxic to birds and substantial penalties exist for its possession and use.
The chemical was widely used in the past for insect control on a broad range of fruit crops and for external parasite control on livestock.

Monday, 16 September 2019

NSW land clearing for agriculture now thought to exceed 27,100 hectares annually


The Guardian, 13 September 2019:

A highly secret government-commissioned review into skyrocketing rates of clearing of native vegetation for farming in New South Wales has been completed and is likely to add to simmering tensions between the Liberals and Nationals within cabinet.
The review, which was triggered when land clearing exceeded 20,000 hectares in less than a year, has been undertaken by the NSW Natural Resources Commission, an independent body, and is soon to be considered by cabinet.
It is investigating clearing rates since the new Biodiversity Conservation Act began in August 2017 and whether the Act is working to preserve biodiversity.
The NRC’s chief executive, Bryce Wilde, confirmed his agency had been asked by the premier to do the review on 14 January, just before the state election, and had handed the findings to the government six weeks ago.
It did not seek any public or industry submissions, although Wilde said the NRC had sought expert input from consultants, who signed confidentiality agreements.But the mention in an estimates committee on Friday was the first time it had become public. The NRC said the review was “cabinet in confidence” and had sought information from departments only.
The review – and what to do about the escalation of land clearing in NSW – will add to the tensions between the Liberals and Nationals over stewardship of the environment.
The Coalition partners are already at loggerheads over key policies including management of wild brumbies in national parks, water policy and calls by the Nationals to allow logging in the River Red Gum national park on the Murray.
This week the agriculture minister, Adam Marshall, whose seat covers much of northern NSW where the land clearing is occurring, flagged introducing a “regional code” for clearing in the north-west of NSW, saying the current laws were not working well for large-scale farming enterprises.
This was interpreted as a plan to further relax the rules for when farmers can clear without a permit – at least in this region.
Regional codes were foreshadowed in the Biodiversity Conservation Act and a pilot is being run near Walgett.
But the secret NRC review is likely to bolster the arguments of the environment minister, Matt Kean, and the senior portfolio minister, Rob Stokes, who are known to be deeply concerned about the rapid escalation of land clearing and its impact on biodiversity......