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

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Morrison Government to settle 'robodebt' class action out of court reportedly for in excess of $1.2 billion

 

In July 2016 the Turnbull Coalition Government began to issue income compliance notices based on automated data matching to recipients of government cash transfers such as Job Seeker, Youth Allowance, Abstudy, Single Parent Payments and Family Tax Benefit payments.

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.


On social media and elsewhere the scheme began to be called 'robodebt' and unverified reports began to emerge of vulnerable people in receipt of large robodebts suiciding.

In February 2019 it was revealed that the Morrison Government had spent between $400m to recover just $500m from welfare recipients through the flawed 'robodebt' scheme.

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


In November 2019 the Morrison Coalition Government called a halt to using automated data matching to calculate income compliance, as it was faced with at least one adverse court judgment and a forthcoming class action in the Federal Court of Australia.

On 29 May 2020 the Morrison Government announced that it now accepted that many debts raised under the 'robodebt' system were unlawful and, consequently, that it would refund 470,000 debts raised totalling $721 million to 373,000 people. This refund did not cover all members of the class action.

The class action was scheduled to go to trial on 16 November 2020.

Yesterday, Monday 16 November, came news that the class action had been settled out of court by the Morrison Government. Presumably in order that Morrison & Co. along with senior Social Security and Centrelink bureaucrats could avoid the possibility of having to give evidence in court, to avoid any legal admission of liability and, to avoid the risk of a detailed adverse judgment.

It seems that Scott Morrison's personal war on the poor and vulnerable, begun when he was Minister for Social Services and continued on during his time as Treasurer and now as Australian Prime Minister, has cost the federal government well in excess of  $1.2 billion when one factors in the federal government's legal costs and the pre-existing 'robodebt' scheme administration costs - including debt recovery agent commission payments.

Gordon Legal, media release, 16 November 2020:


Gordon Legal announces today the settlement of the Robodebt Class Action, subject to the approval of the Federal Court of Australia.


The settlement reached with the Commonwealth of Australia means that if approved by the Court, since the commencement of the Robodebt Class Action, more than $1.2 billion in financial benefit will have been provided to approximately 400,000 group members.


In settling the class action, the Commonwealth has not admitted that it was legally liable to Group Members. [my yellow highlighting]


KEY POINTS:


The total financial outcome achieved is made up as follows:

  • The Commonwealth has today agreed to pay $112 million in compensation to approximately 400,000 eligible individual Group Members, including legal costs;

  • The Commonwealth is repaying more than $720 million in debts collected from Group Members invalidly and will continue to provide refunds;

  • The Commonwealth has agreed to drop claims for approximately $398 million in debts it had invalidly asserted against group members of the class action;

  • Subject to Court Approval, a Settlement Distribution Scheme will provide that eligible individual Group Members’ entitlements will be assessed and all amounts due to them be paid in 2021.


Subject to approval by the Court, a notice setting out the details of the proposed Settlement Distribution Scheme and the Court approval process will be provided to all Group Members.


Gordon Legal Partner, Andrew Grech said:


We want to acknowledge the courage of the lead applicants; Katherine, Elyane, Steven, Felicity, Shannon and Devon, who led these proceedings on behalf of all Robodebt victims in pursuit of this class action, which has allowed this outcome to be achieved today.


Our clients have asked us to especially thank Bill Shorten for his relentless pursuit of this issue, for his compassion over the last four years for vulnerable Australians hurt by Robodebt and for bringing the case to Gordon Legal’s attention when it seemed that all other options had been exhausted and only resorting to the legal system would help.


Once again we would like to acknowledge the work of the legal team at Victoria Legal Aid, who worked tirelessly to bring a number of individual claims before the Federal Court before the Class Action was commenced as well as the efforts of many community legal services in the Welfare Rights Network, such as Social Security Rights Victoria who have been advocating for victims of Robodebt for the last few years.


Our clients would also like us to acknowledge the Federal Court of Australia for its preparedness to schedule frequent case management hearings and to facilitate a trial of the proceedings so quickly, notwithstanding the difficult circumstances of the Melbourne Covid-19 lockdown.”


ENDS –


For more information visit: https://gordonlegal.com.au/robodebt-class-action/robodebt-faqs/


Monday, 13 July 2020

Scott Morrison admits to being on holiday on the day an elderly Victorian man died from COVID-19 infection


Sometime around 5 July 2020 Australian Prime Minister & MP for Cook Scott Morrison began a planned fortnight's holiday.

Like his holiday trip to Hawaii during some of the worst days of the 2019-20 bushfire season, he did not announce his plans.

Indeed this time he went to some lengths to disguise his absence by doing a phone interview on 2GB radio which was aired in the early evening of 6 July.

However, as press releases are a poor substitute he had to return to Canberra and show his face on 9 July because social media had begun to comment negatively on his absence.

On 10 July he again fronted the media where he admitted that he will be at his holiday retreat for the next week and will conduct any government business from there via phone, email or video conferencing.

This two-day return to work over he went back to "Jenny and the girls".

On 11 July now he was openly holidaying he decided to attend a football match at Kogarah, where he didn't wear a mask or practice social distancing but did scoff a beer or two or three or......



Something which I'm sure impressed those living south of the Murray River - especially the millions of Melburnians suddenly in COVID-19 lockdown due to a surge in infection numbers, as well as the familes of an elderly Victorian man in his 90s who died sometime on 10 July and a Victorian man in his 70s who died sometime during the night of 11 July after succumbing to this serious disease.

Morrison returns to Canberra at the end of this week ahead of the government's update on the economic and fiscal outlook on Thursday, 23 July 2020. On that Thursday he is also expected to announce how many people will be losing the JobKeeper wage subsidy by the end of September.

* Images found on Twitter,  Daily Mail Online @rami_ykmour

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Like most political bullies 'Scotty From Marketing' Morrison runs away when he is publicly caught out


Crikey inq, 1 June 2020

Crikey inq, 1 June 2020: 

It’s been a while since Australian politics saw an act as gutless as Scott Morrison’s on Friday. 

Mere minutes after the prime minister finished another of his interminable post-national cabinet monologues and walked away from journalists, Government Services Minister Stuart Robert issued a media release revealing one of the most expensive backflips in Commonwealth history. The government would repay at least $720 million in fake debts it had “raised” against welfare recipients under the now discredited robodebt scheme. 

 At a media conference conveniently on the Gold Coast, rather than before the same journalists Morrison had just walked out on, Robert tried to claim he’d moved quickly to address the scheme’s flaws: “the information presented to me saw a change in November, I acted swiftly on behalf of the government to pause debt recovery and to refine the system.” 

Robert refused to apologise to the 373,000 victims (at a minimum) of the scheme. Christian Porter, appearing on the ABC yesterday, also refused to apologise. Both at least fronted the cameras. 

Scott Morrison ran away. 

Coward. 

This was Scott Morrison’s scheme, one he — the former social services minister — proudly boasted about as treasurer in the 2016 election campaign, claiming it would pump billions into the budget bottom line. 

Now it’s fodder for a Friday afternoon garbage dump, with junior ministers sent out to publicly eat the shit sandwich. 

It’s unlikely the scheme will ever generate a single cent of additional revenue, given the repayment, the likely compensation, the legal costs associated with a number of cases, and the extraordinary costs of implementing the supposedly automated scheme, including the siccing of debt collectors onto innocent welfare recipients. 

Morrison and his colleagues, and the Social Services public servants who devised and implemented the scheme, will be hoping to avoid accountability for the debacle, which goes back to a single fact: there was always a serious question mark over the legality of the mechanism at the heart of robodebt, income averaging. 

The government gave up pretending income averaging was lawful last November, just before settling the case brought by Deanna Amato in the Federal Court. 

Robert is trying to pretend that that was when the penny dropped about income averaging, and the government is refusing to say how long it knew about the lack of a legal basis for its flagship savings measure. 

As is now well documented, however, the lack of a lawful basis was clear from early on. 

Social security law expert Matthew Butt raised serious questions about the legality of income averaging in early 2017, noting the limitations on its use under legislation and that Human Services’ own guidelines recommend that averaging be used selectively. 

Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) member Terry Carney found that there was no legal basis for the debts raised at the same time, in decisions the government declined to appeal. The government instead dumped Carney from the tribunal while it stacked it with former Coalition MPs, staffers and party members. ....

Why did public servants prepare and implement a scheme they knew had a strong chance of being found unlawful? Was legal advice sought? Or did Social Services, like the Department of Health in the sports rorts scandal, refuse to obtain legal advice it knew would show there was no legal basis for the proposed actions? 

The financial cost of the debacle is only one aspect. Robodebt needlessly inflicted misery and anxiety of hundreds of thousands of Australians. The number of suicides caused by the receipt of automatically generated debt letters is unlikely to ever be known. 

Throughout, the bureaucrats involved have sought to stymie or evade accountability. In the most recent round of Senate estimates hearings, departmental officials like Social Services secretary Kathryn Campbell refused to provide basic information, like the number of victims of income averaging, to a Senate committee. 

Similar obfuscation is likely to be used against attempts by the Senate to establish the crucial issue of how much Social Services knew about the unlawfulness of income averaging when the scheme was crafted in 2015, what advice was sought and what was communicated to the minister.....

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