Showing posts with label Scott Morrison's personal war on the poor & vulnerable. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scott Morrison's personal war on the poor & vulnerable. Show all posts

Friday, 22 May 2020

North Coast Voices received a takedown notice on 19 May 2020


On 24 April 2018 North Coast Voices published a blog post title "Hank Jorgen and Centrelink unleash the dogs…..".

On 19 May 2020 the blog received a Google takedown notice for that particular post, effective immediately.

Now apart from its title, the post only contained one sentence of comment by North Coast Voices:

"Forget establishing that an actual debt exists – this is 2018 and come hell or high water the Turnbull Government wants to use Centrelink to prop up its financial bottom line in time for the May 2018 budget papers."

The remainder of the post comprised of extracts from two online mainstream media articles - one by journalist Alice Workman published by Buzzfeed and the other by journalist Noel Towell published by the Canberra Times. These extracts were followed by inclusion of five tweets politely critical of 'robodebt' and two links to NotMyDebt.

Both media articles are still online.

So what sin had North Coast Voices committed?

Well apparently it had used a BuzzFeed extract which mentioned a business called Detective Desk - an IT company whose services were used by at least one debt collection agency (Australian Receivables Ltd) whom Services Australia had contracted until 3 February 2021 to assist with debt management/recovery under the automated data matching Online Compliance Intervention System process aka robodebt.

One can deduce this because the 2017 Buzzfeed article now has a new headline and is prefaced by a grovelling apology which runs thus:

CORRECTION

An earlier version of this article, which was entitled 'Your private information is being sent overseas by Centrelink', included some statements about Detective Desk which were corrected and are retracted by BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed regrets these errors.

One has to wonder if the unknown person or persons who decided to chase up mention of this company and remove any part of the original Buzzfeed article from view after all these years was doing so because a class action is now underway in the Federal Court of Australia which may expose the full lengths that Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison, first as Minister for Social Services, then Federal Treasurer and finally as Prime Minister, went to in order to unlawfully claw back money from vulnerable welfare recipients.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Morrison Government expects to be forced to refund est. $555.6 million unlawfully taken from at least 449,500 Centrelink clients






In July 2016 the federal Coaltion Government began to issue income compliance notices based on automated data matching.

At the time the then Minister for Social Social Services Scott Morrison expected to clawback an est. $1.7 billion dollars over five years from individuals who were, or had been in the past, receiving a Centrelink pension, benefit or allowance.


By 2019 at least 570,000 of those over 600,000 income compliance notices were considered to be unlawful. As were Australian Taxation Office garnishee notices associated with these alleged debts.


Refunding these wrongfully raised debts would see at least $555.6 million returned to Centrelink clients.


Becoming a member of a class action does not expose a ‘robodebt’ recipient to any additional legal liability with regard to the alleged debt.

However, the Morrison Government is possibly hoping many victims will not realise this and sign the Centrelink Opt Out Notice – Federal Court of Australia – ‘Robodebt’(Social Security Debt Collection) Class Action (VID1252/2019) notices it is currently sending out.

Gordon Legal has outlined possible court dates:

On 6 March 2020 the Honourable Mr Justice Murphy of the Federal Court ordered that the parties hold a mediation prior to 19 June 2020. This is an opportunity for the matter to be resolved with the consent of both parties.

Justice Murphy also ordered that, if the matter does not settle at mediation, a trial will begin in the Federal Court on 20 July 2020 (or if that date is not available, on 21 September 2020).

Services Australia (formerly the Dept. of Social Services-Centrelink) despite its denials continues to raise alleged debts and send out notices.


The Guardian, 18 May 2020:

Hundreds of thousands of Australians affected by the government’s robodebt scheme will receive notices from Centrelink about an upcoming class action under orders from the federal court.

Guardian Australia last month revealed secret government advice showing the commonwealth hopes to settle the case and has privately admitted more than 400,000 welfare debts were unlawfully issued under the scandal-ridden “income compliance program”.

But the parties are yet to reach a settlement, setting up a potential trial as early as July where law firm Gordon Legal will seek interest and compensation as well as the repayment of debts unlawfully claimed by the government.

Under court orders issued in March, the government has been told to identify all potential class action members and send out notices via MyGov or by post about the upcoming court challenge by 25 May.

More than 12,000 people have registered with the firm, but under Australian law people identified as members of the “class” are considered part of the action unless they “opt-out”, which would allow them to pursue their own individual claim.

Labor’s government services spokesman, Bill Shorten, said the government should “settle this case immediately, restore public confidence in Centrelink by allowing the court to be the independent umpire, and pay the victims back their money as well as interest”.

This would allow the hundreds of Centrelink workers working on limiting the government’s robodebt exposure to be moved back to the frontlines of helping their fellow Australians with their social security needs in this time of national challenge,” he told Guardian Australia.

Since July 2015, more than 600,000 debt notices had been sent out under the scheme, which the government conceded was unlawful in federal court in November, while thousands more received letters demanding they prove they were not overpaid by Centrelink.

Some debt recipients had their tax returns seized over the debts, while others were also forced to pay a 10% “recovery fee” on top of the alleged debt.

Gordon Legal believes the case would represent one of the largest class actions in Australian history.

Late last week, the government declined to answer several written questions about the robodebt scheme, successfully applying for public interest immunity in the Senate.

Services Australia declined to answer how many debts had been issued using the unlawful “income averaging” method or whether it would repay victims, including debts recovered from deceased estates.

This question relates to a court case that is currently before the federal court of Australia,” the agency said. “Services Australia will abide by any decision of the court.”

But a ministerial submission to cabinet, leaked to the Guardian, revealed the government hopes to settle the case and that Services Australia expects to “administer 449,500 refunds determined under the programme”, worth $555.6m.

The robodebt class action notices come as the government pushes ahead with plans for an inquiry into class actions in Australia.

Porter last week claimed a “lack of regulation governing the booming litigation funding industry is leading to poor justice outcomes”.

But Labor has argued the inquiry is a response to Gordon Legal’s class action against the robodebt scheme.

If the parties do not reach a settlement, a trial is expected between July and September.

The government’s legal advice shows it expects to lose the class action under Gordon Legal’s claim of “unjust enrichment”, although it believes the compensation claim is less likely to be successful.

This is likely to result in the commonwealth being ordered to repay debts within a timeframe set by the Court, and to pay interest and legal costs,” the advice said.

Court documents show the number of potential victims expanded in March after the government withdrew an earlier claim that people receiving Carer Payment were not subjected to the scheme.

The government has conceded in court that debts that relied on income averaging were invalidly raised, but claims it should not have to pay compensation because it does not hold a common law duty of care to welfare recipients…...

Monday, 11 May 2020

From an Australian prime minister who has never taken a paycut for the last thirteen years comes this callous move....



Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott John Morrison (pictured left) is on a reputed annual salary in excess of $549,229 - plus free, staffed accommodation & other perks. 

He who has been in a top percentile income category for at least the last 13 years, has decided it is time to renew his personal, prosperity doctrine-driven, war on the poor and vulnerable.

By 24 September 2020 approximately 1.75 million Australians between the ages of 15 to 64 years will be reduced to living on between $18 to $40 a day if single or $72 a day if a couple.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 May 2020:

Hundreds of thousands of unemployed Australians face a huge cut in their incomes just before Christmas as the Morrison government prepares to wind back income support despite warnings from the Reserve Bank the economy will not return to its pre-coronavirus size until 2022. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday stood by the government's plans to phase out the coronavirus supplement for JobSeeker recipients and the JobKeeper program from mid-September, saying they came at a significant cost that would have to be borne by future generations.

The Reserve Bank of Australia, releasing its first major economic forecasts since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, expects unemployment to reach 10 per cent in the June quarter and recede only slightly to 9 per cent by the end of the year. 

It forecast the jobless rate, which was at 5.2 per cent in March, to still be at 6.5 per cent by the middle of 2022, saying unemployment will not fall quickly....

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Quote of the Week



There is a litany of stories from those on the CDC [Indue Cashless Debit Card] about it not working at places where it is meant to and the fees involved, fees for rent transfers, fees for shopping at Coles, fees and defaults of up to $26 because Indue hasn’t paid loans on time. Despite all of this there is much more to come on the CDC agenda.” [Mel Mac writing in The AIM Network, 13April 2020]

Friday, 17 April 2020

Will COVID-19 draw the poison of right-wing extremism from society?


A hopeful message from Britain....
After decades of festering extremism growing under successive Liberal-National federal governments in Australia, post-pandemic will ordinary Australians use the threat of their vote to insist that the inchoate autocratic theocracy governing from Canberra change its ways and rid itself of rigid, often cruel, ideological politics once and for all? 

Will voters insist government applies equal respect, access and equity to all in our society? Or will they meekly allow Morrison & Co to return to their war on the poor, the vulnerable and First Nations, with barely a murmur? 

Will they continue to support newspapers which support that class war, climate change deniers or openly racist politicians, or will they keep their money in their pockets and refuse to purchase blatant propaganda? 

Will voters stay silent out of politeness when their local MP regurgitates mindless prepared talking points instead of listening to what people in his/her electorate are saying, or will they speak up loudly and firmly saying 'We are not going to take this from you anymore'?

Every citizen is invited to consider if this time of national emergency might possibly allow a reset of the relationship between the politically powerful and the population.

Is this the time we demand that democracy returns to Australia?

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

One aspect of Scott Morrison's personal war on the poor and vulnerable becomes the subject of a legitimate study


Income management quarantines a portion of social security payments, placing these funds in a special account that can only be used to pay for essentials such as food and bills, and cannot be used to purchase alcohol or tobacco. Compulsory income management was first introduced to Australia - and, indeed, the world - in 2007 as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (‘the intervention’), and has been through several incarnations in the decade since. A comparable policy - ‘money management’ - was introduced to New Zealand in 2012.

While numerous government evaluations of income management have been undertaken in Australia, their findings have been inconsistent. Stakeholders and politicians alike have called for a rigorous and independent study of the program to better understand its impacts.

To date, no evaluations - independent or otherwise - have been conducted into money management in New Zealand.

This project therefore represents the first large independent study of compulsory income management in Australia and New Zealand. It investigates how income management has developed as a policy, how it is being implemented by service providers, and how it affects the lives, choices and autonomy of benefit recipients.

A key aim of this study is understand the lived experiences of those who are subject to compulsory income management, and feed these findings back to policymakers.  [About The Study, February 2020]

University of Queensland, media release, 25 February 2020:

COMPULSORY INCOME MANAGEMENT ‘DISABLING, NOT ENABLING’, STUDY SHOWS

Restricting where and on what social security payments can be spent does more harm than good, according to the first large, independent study into Compulsory Income Management (CIM) policies in Australia.

The University of Queensland’s Professor Greg Marston said the majority of participants using the BasicsCard or Cashless Debit Card reported practical difficulties making purchases and paying bills, which introduced new instability into their lives.

Income management proponents say it can stabilise recipients’ lives and finances, and our study found some people have experienced these benefits,” Professor Marston said.

However many more people have faced additional financial challenges because of the policies.

Many also found their expenses had increased as they were blocked from participating in the cash economy and burdened with new fees and charges.”

The study team said CIM had often been framed as an intervention to strengthen benefit recipients’ independence, build responsibility and help transition people away from “welfare dependency” and into work.

Professor Marston said previous evaluations had raised significant concerns about the capacity of income management policies to meet their stated objectives, yet income management continued to be expanded.

There have been recent moves to extend the Cashless Debit Card across the Northern Territory, but our findings show that CIM has in fact weakened many participants’ financial capabilities and autonomy,” he said.

To manage their finances, many participants have become reliant on family members, service providers or automatic payment systems.”

Researcher Dr Michelle Peterie said the study was unique for its focus on individuals’ and communities’ experiences with the Cashless Debit Card and BasicsCard.

These voices have frequently been lost or ignored in the policy debate,” she said.

Dr Peterie said the research showed a voluntary, opt-in form of income management could have a place, however the social, emotional and economic costs of continuing with a compulsory, widespread system outweighed the benefits.

The overwhelming finding is that compulsory income management is having a disabling rather than enabling affect on the lives of many social security recipients,” Dr Peterie said.

This was true across all of our research sites.”

Professor Marston said a policy approach that focused on providing employment and training opportunities and ensuring accessible social services and affordable housing would be a better starting point for creating healthy, economically secure and socially inclusive communities.

The research involved 114 in-depth interviews, conducted at four trial sites (Playford, Shepparton, Ceduna and Hinkler), and a mixed-methods survey of 199 people at income management sites across Australia.

ENDS


Image: The Conversation, 26 February 2020



Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Calling out an intentionally cruel Morrison Coalition Government


Zoë Wundenberg (left) is a highly qualified careers consultant and un/employment advocate who is also a journalist.

This is an article she wrote for the Bega District News.

Far too many newspapers in rural & regional Australia are not tackling this subject in any depth, even though their communities will be affected by the relentless rollout of the Indue Cashless Debit Card aka the 'Humiliation Card'.

So well done Zoë and Bega District News Editor, Ben Symth.

Bega District News, 10 February 2020:

I am finding myself rubbing my eyes, as if to clear away the disbelief, every time I see the news. I have to be honest - I'm struggling to come to terms with what we are seeing emerge from government leadership and I just cannot rationalise the social welfare policies that have been rolled out since the last election, in particular.

My naivete refuses to let me believe wholeheartedly that anyone elected to represent the people could deliberately intend to be cruel.

I want to believe that those in positions of power are just not understanding the reality of the situation, or can't empathise with something they've never experienced themselves. Or, perhaps, have been swayed by data that can so easily be stacked to say whatever the author want it to say.

I don't want to be a cynic. But I'm becoming one. As a nation, we continue to be labouring under the belief that people who don't have a job have something wrong with them - that if you don't have any money, it's because you can't manage it; that if you receive welfare payments, you are going to waste income support on drugs, alcohol and gambling.

The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey states that people experiencing unemployment are "3.1 times as likely to have used meth/amphetamines". This oft-quoted line from the report is regularly trotted out to justify the quarantining of income support payments on the basis of preventing social harm. However, what this figure actually refers to is the difference between 1.5 per cent of employed people and 4.6 per cent of people experiencing unemployment. It is not an encompassing statement about drug use across the board and does not equate to people experiencing unemployment being three times more likely to take drugs in general.

Would it surprise you to know that 74.3 per cent of people experiencing unemployment don't use drugs, or that more employed people are "lifetime risky drinkers" or "single occasion risky drinkers (monthly)", according to this same survey? Perhaps it would floor you to realise that one in five Newstart recipients actually have a job? They just don't have enough hours to completely lose their Newstart payment.

In light of this, I can understand why Senator Anne Ruston recently said that the scope of the cashless welfare card needs to have a "broader application than perhaps the social harm reduction that the original policy was designed on", because that initial purpose is such a flimsy basis that it simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

I looked into how a person would go about applying for an exemption from the card and the list of criteria was astounding.

According to the exit application and support documentation, to successfully exit the program "you must show reasonable management of your affairs, including financial affairs."

To do this, they will assess your Indue account information including transactions made and transfer history AND cashless debit card hotline information (presumably the recordings of calls "for training purposes"), applications for urgent Centrelink payments, suspensions, protection orders made against you, and even health information including episodes of medical care relating to drug and alcohol issues, to name a few. This breach of personal privacy dumbfounds me. That you are put on the program regardless of whether you actually have a history of drug, alcohol or financial issues, and then are forced to prove yourself capable when the very program stunts your agency and restricts your capacity to pay the bills they require you to in order to exempt you is preposterous.

As a citizen, the current investigations into a national rollout with the big four banks involved to further curb our freedoms are frightening. The rollout itself is terrifying enough, but it makes you wonder what's next? What's the bigger picture, here?

I have no answers, just a growing sense of dread. I think Thomas More must be in office, because it is quite clear that this government is first making thieves and then punishing them. But Utopia, this is not.

There are currently an est. 15,000 people receiving a working age welfare payment, other than an Age Pension and Veterans’ Pension,  who have been mandatorily placed on the neverending cashless debit card 'trial' program, with a further est. 23,000 people living in the Northern Territory to be forced onto the program in 2020.

What most people don't realise is that to date Indue Ltd only has 96 mixed merchants on its approved list and a whopping 729 businesses on its blocked list - including Australia Post, Deaf Services Queensland, Crisco Hampers, Casino Council, Westlawn Finance in Casino, and eBay to name a few.

Nor do they realise that Indue Ltd has placed conditions on card use that are not disclosed upfront on those federal government websites which include information about the cashless debit card.

The biggest brazen lie currently being told by the Morrison Government is that the Indue Cashless Debit Card operates "just like a regular bank card" - it does not. 

The most important difference is that an eftpos bank card is normally attached to a bank account which pays interest on the balance held in the account on the last day of each calendar month - Indue does not pay interest on the balance held on a cashless debit card.

The second brazen lie is that a person who has been forced onto the Indue Cashless Debit Card can exit the trial program if they can prove they are good financial managers - it is nigh on impossible to exit as only 2 per cent of all applications are approved after input from the Australian Dept. of Government Services, various state or territory government departments and the local 'trial' community panel.


Crime and violence 
“Lived in the same house for 5 years, before the card my street would be pushing it to have 5 break-ins a year. Last month’s there were 5 break-ins in a 4 day period!!” “I've lived it the same street for over 9 years and there has never been a break in until just recently there were two thefts” 

Financial hardship 
“Currently seeing a financial counsellor as I am spending more then what I usually would due to blocked merchants” “Everything to do with my finances has become more difficult. Indue doesn't pay bills on time which leads to defaults and extra fees. Because money is split it makes it harder to budget. I no longer get high interest on my savings as I can't save due to the 80% going to Indue” 

Financial hardship - rent payments 
“We aren't able to have our rent or bills processed by Indue. I personally could not pay my rent off the card for nearly 3 months. I had to sell whatever I had to make up the cash for rent.” “I myself experience this myself the stress of trying to sort money out and paying my rent is so hard as my real estate doesn’t accept this card therefore all my money in my normal account goes entirely on just rent, nothing left”

Stigmatisation of social security recipients 
“When I use my Indue card I have people often make snarky comments about it. I have anxiety and hate using it. I try and cover the logo every time I have to use the card.” “I feel embarrassed to pull my card out and pay at places so I will often avoid shopping on busy days as the added stress makes my anxiety unmanageable.” “I personally have been called a junkie and a dole bludger at the supermarket”

Access to second hand goods 
“My loan company does not accept the Indue card forcing me to use my 20% on loan repayments therefore I am forced to buy brand new goods for my children instead of second hand on marketplace.” “Cash only. Can't buy it. My sister can't buy a second hand washing machine. Because it's cash only.” “I have missed out on second-hand furniture from FB buy, swap, sell sites, I can no longer purchase FAR CHEAPER products for things like crafting, clothes for kids, bras etc off eBay as it is banned.” 

People’s wellbeing 
“I suffer from anxiety, depression, severe stress disorder and PTSD. I was in a DV relationship for 5 years where my money was controlled by my abuser. I left him over a year ago and now I am back in a DV relationship with Indue. My health has deteriorated. I suffer from chronic migraines, they have increasingly gotten more frequent and worse because I stress about money if Indue will pay my bills on time. I also sleep very little of a night due to stress. Overall my health and well-being has gone downhill.” “I had to go on medication again because it just feels like I’m in an abusive relationship again and they're just going to cut it off to change the rules again whenever they want.”

Harassment for cash 
“Frequently see persons around the region requesting donations of food, clothing, blankets and money. Never saw this previously before this card was introduced.” “I've been harassed and abused for having physical cash in my wallet ever since the trial started.” “I've had a lot more people ask me for change than before the card was introduced.” 

Level of cash in the community 
“Observing 2nd hand market there has been a definite decline and drop in social numbers at markets etc” “Seen first-hand businesses close and markets fail due to lack of stall holders and attendees”

“No benefits, my pay goes to bills food and to my children. I never have money left over to use on alcohol and i am not a drug user or have ever gambled. I am a student nurse doing the best I can for my 2 babies” “In fact since being reduced to only 20% of my pay in cash I've been able to provide less for my family than usual. Not to mention rent payment issues constantly.” “Its destroyed my self-esteem an made it so i never leave the house. I only go to coles and home. To ashamed to use it for public transportation to visit my son so he miss out as well."

“I have had the card not work in Woolworths when trying to purchase groceries (in their defence, they were having major EFTPOS issues at the time, but the Indue card wouldn't work when other cards did), I have missed out on opportunities to purchase second-hand goods due to not having access to cash - i.e. a $15 line trimmer, and have overhead people talking about the card after seeing me use it or having it not work as being the one 'given to the alchos' although I do not gamble, take drugs or drink alcohol.” “I'm currently having details with rent and have had major difficulties with paying a road side mechanic as well as every option I was allowed to choose in this question.” “A lot of discrimination being on CDC. Unable to purchase second hand goods as well as unable to go to the markets on weekends. Constant fear of the CDC declining when purchasing food.”

“Card declined despite available funds, inability to pay my bills as required without having to send off invoices each time, Rent problems, Exclusion from venues related to kids, Inappropriate service from DSS.” 

“I was shopping for groceries as Aldi and I could only afford to pay part of my payment on my card as I only had a small amount left and I just enough cash to pay the rest, as Aldi requires to process cash first, I did but then when I went to pay with my card it declined and said it couldn't be used, so then I had to stand there embarrassed with my groceries already half paid for but unable to pay the rest.” 

“I have agoraphobia and now am forced to leave my house because my online shopping is declined which is very distressing.” 

“I would love to share my story more in depth. I moved to Hervey Bay 2 yrs ago for support and a house to live in following my husband’s suicide. I have family here and they allowed me to live in their investment property while I waited for support payments from Centrelink. (It took 4 months by the way). The reason I am on this trigger payment is beyond my control and I have repeatedly discussed this with dept of social services. I have since bought a house, have an excellent credit rating and am a damn good mother to my sons. My youngest has turned 5 and I am now able to begin looking to return to work next year. Even my teenage son has a job and works at MacDonald’s. We shouldn’t be lumped into this long term welfare dependency category just because we moved here 2 years ago. I wish we didn't, because I wish my husband never took his own life, and I wish I never had to receive a goddamn single parent pension.” 

“My cousin was refused an apartment due to being on the card for he cannot pay his rent from it according to the landlord.” “We get degraded and called dole bludgers.. I am a mother of two and i have a spinal injury from working as a jillaroo for 7yrs! i don't want to be made to feel like a second class citizens in my own country!” 

“I get discriminated by people every time I use the card. People have negative things to say or roll their eyes at me and treat me as if I am a huge inconvenience to them. I am a carer I do not deserve to be on this card.” 

“Stranded no way to pay Car loan not paid Rent won’t process School fees” 
“Online purchases blocked, lack of solution or feedback to enquiries, lack of information and inadequate response, Family cash needs, transfer fees” 

“My son was placed on the card at seventeen, he was too young to purchase alcohol, too young to gamble and doesn't do drugs. The card didn't help him gain employment. He has found himself feeling less than at times, and without access to certain products due to the restrictions on the use of the card. After ten months of searching, he finally landed a job, and he can hardly wait until he can send the card back to Indue.” 

“This card has made my depression and anxiety much worse than it was I can't even stand to leave my house because of it” 

“I’ve been demoralized in line at the shops been discriminated trying to buy second hand stuff. Have lost any self-esteem i had and am now isolated in my house. I never leave except to go to Coles” 

“Card chip stopped working. Was left without card for 2 weeks because I wasn't told I could get a temporary card until new card arrived... Was left to survive the fortnight with the 20% cash from account” 

“My rent was not able to be paid without warning, as my housing limit was set to $0. Every 6 months i have to fill out 2 forms and get my landlord to sign them just so i can continue paying rent. They didn't send me a text, email or letter to warn me it was going to happen.”