Showing posts with label law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label law. Show all posts

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…...

Friday, 15 May 2020

Law Council of Australia is very concerned with some aspects of Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton's proposed amendments to the Australian Security and Intelligence Act 1975 (Cth) (ASIO Act)


"The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment Bill 2020 will modernise ASIO's powers and, in doing so, improve ASIO's capacity to respond to these threats [by]....lowering the minimum age of a questioning subject in relation to a terrorism matter from 16 to 14...empowering the Attorney-General to issue warrants, including orally....allow non-intrusive tracking devices, such as a device placed on a vehicle, or in a person's bag, to be authorised internally...." [Minister for Home Affairs & Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton in House of Representatives Hansard, 13 May 2020]

Law Council of Australia, media release, 13 May 2020:

Statement on proposed amendments to the ASIO Act by Law Council President, Pauline Wright


The Law Council of Australia is very concerned with some aspects of the proposed amendments to the Australian Security and Intelligence Act 1975 (Cth) (ASIO Act) released today in parliament.
If adopted, the amendments would redesign the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO’s) compulsory questioning warrant regime and repeal its specific detention powers.
It would also make some significant changes to ASIO’s surveillance powers, including permitting warrantless (that is, internally authorised) surveillance in relation to the use of certain tracking devices.
The Law Council welcomes the repeal of the ASIO detention regime in relation to the investigation of terrorism, which is consistent with its longstanding policy position. However, the amendments propose a re-design of the use of questioning warrants and we are concerned that there may be very limited time to scrutinise the proposed laws, which are lengthy, complex and highly intrusive on individual rights.
The proposal to reduce the age of minors who may be subject to questioning from 16 to 14 years and the conferral of powers on police to apprehend and detain persons for the purpose of bringing them in for compulsory questioning also requires detailed scrutiny by the Law Council, amongst the many other amendments.
The Law Council is concerned that the government is now rushing the Bill, despite having had over two years to develop the re-designed questioning legislation since the PJCIS tabled its report in May 2018.
Now there is a sense of urgency given that ASIO’s current questioning powers are due to sunset in 7 September, and the amendments are set to commence by or before that date.
This is not a Bill to be hurried through.
The Law Council will need to carefully scrutinise the Bill and we look forward to providing a comprehensive submission to the inquiry. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment Bill 2020 can be found here.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 May 2020:

With Federal Parliament flat out dealing with the social and economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is hardly the right time for a government to introduce legislation giving ASIO the power to question 14-year-old children, interfere with the rights of legal advisers, and enable the tracking of individuals without the need for a warrant..... 

Dutton's law would allow ASIO to seek a warrant so it can question young people aged 14 to 18 if they are a target of an ASIO investigation into politically motivated violence: broad criteria to say the least. 

Then there is a serious attack on the fundamental right of a person, whether they be 14 or 40, to choose their own lawyer when they are subject to investigation by ASIO. The bill allows for a prescribed authority, which is a judge or Administrative Appeals member selected by the government, to stop a person ASIO is seeking to question from contacting their lawyer if "satisfied, based on circumstances relating to the lawyer, that, if the subject is permitted to contact the lawyer, a person involved in activity prejudicial to security may be alerted that the activity is being investigated, or that a record or other thing the subject may be requested to produce might be destroyed, damaged or altered". 

This power is sweeping and allows for hearsay "evidence" to be used. All ASIO would have to do is tell the judge or AAT member that it has heard from "sources" that the lawyer requested by the detainee is a security risk. 

But even if the lawyer passes muster and sits with his or her client, the ASIO officers doing the questioning can have the lawyer removed. The explanatory memorandum of the bill says that can happen, "if the lawyer's conduct is unduly disrupting questioning. This may be the case where, for example, a lawyer repeatedly interrupts questioning (other than to make reasonable requests for clarification or a break to provide advice), in a way that prevents or hinders questions being asked or answered." So if the ASIO officers are badgering or harassing a frightened 14-year-old, or asking questions that are completely irrelevant, they have carte blanche. 

As a lawyer, one hears and reads stories about colleagues in authoritarian states where such powers are given to and used by security agencies, but one never expected it in democratic Australia....

Sunday, 9 February 2020

State of Play in Scott Morrison's Personal War On The Poor And Vulnerable: at least 9,600 angry people are taking on the federal government over 'robodebt'


These emails are just two examples of correspondance which has seen the light of day, concerning the legality of Morrison Coalition Government's Dept. of Human Services-Centrelink income compliance program or 'robodebt', since government made admissions in Amarto v The Commonwealth and was notified of an intent by certain persons to commence a class action arguing that the Commonwealth has taken money from Centrelink recipients unjustly.











The emails indicate the federal government's knowledge that sole use of the automated data matching system to calculate a 'robobebt' was unlawful. 

However they do not indicate exactly when the federal government became aware of this fact and Minister for Government Service & Liberal MP for Fadden Stuart Robert is refusing to disclose the exact date - in large measure because at least 9,600 people have now registered to take part in a class action being undertaken by Gordon Legal.

This class action asks the Federal Court of Australia not just to rule on the legality of 'robodebt', but also to determine whether the so-called collection fees levied by Centrelink should be refunded, whether those who have repaid all or part of those amounts should be paid interest and, whether the persons affected are entitled to compensation for any distress or inconvenience caused.

Gordon Legal has said it is pursuing the class action despite the government’s backdown, given that Centrelink has not promised to return the money taken from its clients nor promised to provide compensation for inconvenience and distress.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Lismore Diocese in the NSW Northern Rivers region once again focus of historical child sexual abuse allegations


Former Catholic priest Clarence David Anderson died in retirement at Toowoombah Qld in April 1996 and peacefully rests in a Goonellabah NSW cemetery, but his alleged victims are still seeking justice....

Newcastle Herald, 23 January 2020: 

A PARISH priest is suing a NSW Catholic diocese and an order of nuns [believed to be the Presentation Sisters] in what is believed to be the first Australian case of a serving Catholic priest seeking compensation for alleged child sexual abuse by a priest. 

 The Diocese of Lismore has denied liability for alleged crimes by the late charismatic "surfer priest" Clarence "David" Anderson against the then 12-year-old altar boy in the 1960s, and has given notice it will seek a permanent stay against the priest's case in the NSW Supreme Court. 

The move, initiated by the diocese last week, means survivors are "back to square one" in some dioceses despite legal reforms following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the priest's lawyer Mark Barrow said. 

The permanent stay application is despite the diocese offering compensation to two families in 2004 who alleged Anderson sexually abused two brothers aged 9 and 14 in the Macksville area between 1966 and 1968, and two other brothers, aged 9 and 15, in Tweed Heads parish in 1969.

Melbourne-based Broken Rites put the two families in touch with each other after both were told they were the first to complain about Anderson, and that the diocese had no knowledge of allegations about him. Anderson was a priest for just seven years. One of his alleged victims was advised by the Diocese of Lismore in 2002 that Anderson resigned in 1970. He died in 1996......

The Guardian, 25 January 2020:

The abuse is said to have occurred at a church on the north coast of New South Wales, which sat on the grounds of a boarding school....

It is the second time in recent months that the diocese has attempted to have an abuse case thrown out due to delay.
In December, the Lismore diocese successfully applied to permanently stay a case brought by a woman who alleged she was abused in the 1940s by a priest named John Curran, who has since died.
The church’s approach to delay conflicts with findings of the child abuse royal commission.
According to Broken Rites; In 2020, a legal firm is acting for eleven of Father David Anderson's victims, suing the Lismore Catholic Diocese for compensation.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Grafton civil rights law firm has a win in the High Court of Australia which should stop NSW Police from unlawfully arresting people for the sole purpose of questioning them when there was no intention at the time of arrest to bring them before a magistrate


The Grafton civil rights law firm of Foott Law & Co. had a win in the High Court of Australia on 4 December 2019 in the matter of a 2013 wronfgul arrest. 

In this lengthy progession through the lower courts to the High Court solicitor Joe Fahey was assisted by Dominic Toomey SC, Dallas Morgan and Dean Woodbury.

The High Court dismissed the appeal in State of New South Wales v Robinson and ruled concerning the power of a police officer to arrest a person, without a warrant, under s 99 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) ("the Act") when, at the time of the arrest, the officer had not formed the intention to charge the arrested person with an offence. A majority of the High Court held that s 99 of the Act does not confer a power to arrest a person in such circumstances.....

The High Court unanimously held that in New South Wales, at common law, an arrest can only be for the purpose of taking the arrested person before a magistrate (or other authorised officer) to be dealt with according to law to answer a charge for an offence ("the single criterion"). Nothing in the Act displaced that single criterion. An arrest under s 99 can only be for the purpose, as soon as is reasonably practicable, of taking the arrested person before a magistrate (or other authorised officer) to be dealt with according to law to answer a charge for an offence. A majority of the High Court held that it followed that the constable did not have the power to arrest Mr Robinson pursuant to s 99 when, at the time of the arrest, the constable had not formed the intention to charge him. The arrest was unlawful.


Friday, 29 November 2019

Morrison Government's union busting 'Ensuring Integrity Bill' defeated in the Senate


Prime Minister Scott Morrison's pride and joy, the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019, intended to weaken and perhaps even destroy registered unions in Australia was negatived in Committee of the Whole by the Senate.

The vote was tied at 34-all, with One Nation's two senators along with Senator Jacqui Lambie voting with the Greens and Labor.

It took 147 days for political commonsense to prevail but on 28 November 2019 the Senate politely told the prime minister and his hard right cronies where to go.

Another bill Morrison is reportedly hoping to pass before the parliamentary Christmas break is the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019 which removes provisions for asylum seeker detainee medical transfers to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru ('medevac').

BACKGROUND

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), media release, 26 November 2019:

In a blow to the Morrison Government’s arguments for the Ensuring Integrity Bill currently before the senate the Federal Court has ruled the union regulator, the Register Organisations Commission (ROC) investigation into the AWU was invalid. 

Justice Bromberg has ruled that the ROC did not have grounds to order an AFP raid on the offices of the AWU and has ordered the return of the documents that were seized on behalf of the regulator in their first act after being established by the Liberal Government in 2017. 

The decision comes as the Morrison Government attempts to pass the Ensuring Integrity Bill in the Senate which would give the ROC the extreme power to determine which unions are deregistered and which officials are disqualified under the dangerous and hypocritical new union-busting law. 

Under the EI Bill the ROC would have the power to begin deregistration proceedings against a union which had made a handful of paperwork mistakes over a period of 10 years. 

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil: 

“The Morrison government has been telling Senators that the ROC is an impartial body which can administer the extraordinary powers granted under EI. The Federal Court has just found it conducted an illegal raid on a union office. 

“Giving union busters more power to drag unions into courts over minor paperwork breaches, some that would only cost a company an $80 fine, Will cost members and the taxpayer millions in legal fees. This is before accounting for the cost of not being able to campaign for higher wages, better working conditions and safer workplaces. 

“To defend themselves from the ROC’s harrassment the AWU was forced to expending significant resources over two years to get justice. If the Ensuring Integrity Bill passes, all unions could face this harrassment over paperwork breaches. 

“Questions also need to be asked of the ROC who is continuing to waste tax payer’s money to challenge this finding. “This ruling gives the crossbench senators a stark example of how the Morrison government targets unions and will stop at nothing to try and bust unions. Ensuring Integrity will become another tool for union busters and should be rejected. 

“The Federal Court decision is a vindication for the AWU but also a warning for the Senate crossbench who weighing amendments which would give this discredited body even more power.”

BACKGROUND

On 20 October 2017, Mr Chris Enright, the Executive Director of the Registered Organisation Commission (ROC) and a delegate of the Commissioner decided to conduct an investigation.


Judgment in Australian Workers’ Union v Registered Organisations Commissioner (No 9) [2019] FCA 1671 was delivered on 11 October 2019. The judgment concluded that; "the decision to conduct an investigation as to whether ss 285(1), 286(1) and 287(1) of the RO Act had been contravened was affected by jurisdictional error and is invalid."

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019 was introduced by the Morrison Coaltion Government in July 2019 and was currently before the Senate for the second reading debate when the ACTU penned the aforementioned media release.

*Images of ROC document come from the published Federal Court judgment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019  is apparently scheduled for a second reading before 5 December 2019.

This bill removes provisions in Schedule 6 of the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Act 2019These provisions (commonly referred to as the medical transfer, or medevac, provisions) established a framework for the transfer of transitory persons from regional processing countries to Australia for the purpose of medical treatment or assessment. The Bill also amends the Migration Act to allow for the removal of people brought to Australia under the medical transfer provisions back to a regional processing country once they no longer need to be in Australia.

On 27 November 2019 a nonconforming petition was tabled in the Senate asking for medevac provisions to be saved. It contains 51,299 signatures.

On the same day Professor David Isaacs, Clinical Professor, Paediatrics & Child Health, Fellow, Royal Australasian College of Physicians was joined by doctors in Canberra urging senators to reject the medevac repeal bill. Professor Isaacs carried an open letter signed by 5,040 doctors urging Senator Jacqui Lambie to save medevac.

Friday, 22 November 2019

ROBODEBT: it's wonderful how the threat of legal action can energize the Morrison Government


Faced with three court cases which will inevitably expose the shaky ground on which the Centrelink income compliance program - aka robodebt - was built in July 2016, the Morrison Government now makes a limited, tactical response ahead of court hearings.

ABC News, 19 November 2019:

The Federal Government is immediately halting a key part of the controversial robodebt scheme to recover debts from welfare recipients and will freeze some existing debts, in what appears to be a major backdown in the operation of the scheme.
In an urgent email circulated to all Department of Human Services compliance staff today, seen by 7.30, the general manager of the debt appeal division wrote:
"The department has made the decision to require additional proof when using income averaging to identity over payments.
"This means the department will no longer raise a debt where the only information we are relying on is our own averaging of Australia Taxation Office income data."
The averaging process has long been one of the most controversial parts of the scheme.
Legal groups have said that it causes inaccuracies in the debt amounts, and wrongly shifts the burden of proof onto alleged debtors.
The email also sets out that the department would undertake a sweeping review of all debts where averaging was used.
"Customer compliance division will methodically work through previous debts identified as part of the online compliance program and respond to their requests for clarification," it said.
The department will also be writing to affected customers.
"For customers who are affected, the department will freeze debt recovery action as CCD identifies them and looks at each debt. The department will also write to affected customers to let them know," the email said.
7.30 has contacted the Minister for Government Services and the Department of Human Services for a response.

The Australian Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert was very careful in his wording of the change in approach to 'debt' collection as was wording on the Department of Human Services website.

It appears that little is altered with regard to robotdebt unless individual welfare recipients fall into the category of a) never having engaged with DHS/Centrelink after having received an initial notice informing them of an "income discrepancy"; b) also ignored any followup letters/emails
/texts/phone calls and c) whose alleged debt did not occur in a time period for which Centrelink still retains all documents concerning cash transfers made to the individual recipient.

It is only this category of welfare recipients who has never offered verbal or written information concerning the alleged debt, therefore they are the only persons who by Mr. Robert's reckoning may have had their alleged debt solely calculated by flawed data matching with the Australian Taxation Office.

The number of people who remain in this category after DHS/Centrelink's debt recovery program has been running for more than three years is not known - it could be as little as est. 6,500 or as many as est. 600,000 individuals.

Make no mistake, the Morrison Government will not easily abandon this lucrative stitch up of the poor and vulnerable.

In the 2018-19 financial year alone the total debt from income compliance activity was valued at $885.8 million and the value since the program began now totals $1.86 billion.

BACKGROUND

The Monthly, 19 November 2019:

Asher Wolf, one of the original grassroots campaigners against the robodebt program, says the government’s move is tactical. “Don’t trust DHS to act in good faith not to ramp up robodebt again. If you back off from challenging the government – for even a minute – on mendacious data-matching schemes, they’ll slide right back into old patterns of cruelty.”
Today’s move could even endanger the government’s projected return to surplus, which relies on some $2.1 billion in prospective debt recoveries under the robodebt program over the 2019–20 to 2021–22 period. “The Coalition’s AAA credit rating is balanced off raising preposterous, erroneous, illegal debts,” says Wolf. “I have no doubt the Coalition will come after the same people they always attempt to hurt: the poor and the vulnerable.”
Gordon Legal, website, 19 November 2019:
You may be aware that the so-called Robodebt issue has been widely reported in the media and has been the subject of both a Parliamentary Inquiry and a report from the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Government does not appear to accept that the Debt Notices, issued by Centrelink on its behalf are invalid and that it has an obligation to repay the money it has already collected under the Robodebt Scheme.
Unless the Commonwealth agrees to change its position then our current view is that people with a claim of the kind broadly described above should pursue their rights by commencing a Group or Class Action.
ABC News, 17 September 2019:

A class action will be launched against the Government over the so-called robodebt scandal, arguing the Government's automated debt system is unlawful.

Key points:

  • Lawyers will argue the Government could not rely on the robodebt algorithm to collect money
  • The action will seek both repayment of falsely claimed debts and compensation for affected people, lawyers say
  • The Opposition says the robodebt billing practices are "verging on extortion"
Opposition government services spokesman Bill Shorten announced the action, which will be brought by Gordon Legal, and comes after sustained pressure on the Government over the system.
Peter Gordon, a senior partner at the law firm, said the collection of money based solely on a computer algorithm was unlawful.
"The Commonwealth has used a single, inadequate piece of data — the robodebt algorithm — and used it to seize money and penalise hundreds of thousands of people," he said
Read the full article here.

Victoria Legal Aid, 8 September 2019:

The Federal Court has been told that Centrelink has wiped the debt at the centre of a second test case against its robo-debt scheme. The case will go to a hearing in early December.
Our client, Deanna Amato has been told her robo-debt of $2754 had been wiped, after a recalculation process found the true overpayment to be just $1.48.
‘I'm happy that I don't have a big debt looming over me anymore, but on the other hand, I'm stunned that it was recalculated so easily after I took legal action’, said Deanna. 
‘Centrelink will make you jump through hoops to prove your innocence, but it turns out they were capable of finding out if my reporting was correct and that I didn't owe them anything like what the robo-debt claimed I owed. It makes me question the system even more’, she said.
The 33-year-old local government employee says Centrelink has refunded her over $1700, after they took her full tax return earlier this year. At the time, she had never spoken to anyone from Centrelink about the supposed debt.
‘It was scary when Centrelink took my tax return out of the blue. I had no idea what my rights were, or if Centrelink even had this kind of power over my money, so I turned to legal aid for advice.
‘Now that they have wiped the debts of both Victoria Legal Aid cases, it makes me wonder how many people have paid supposed debts that were completely inaccurate.  I hate to think of more people suffering because of incorrect calculations.
People may be handing over money they don't even owe, because they're too afraid, or don't have the means, to challenge them. That's why I think the system needs to change’ said Deanna.
Rowan McRae, Executive Director of Civil Justice Access and Equity at Victoria Legal Aid said our legal challenges to the scheme continued – ‘We cannot accept a system that is so clearly flawed and causing overwhelming hardship to the most disadvantaged people in our community.’
‘We are contacted every day by people who are feeling overwhelmed by this system that puts the onus on them to disprove debts. It is important that a court looks at the lawfulness of the process Centrelink relies on to decide that people owe them money’. said Rowan.
Deanna says she is keen to have the court look at the decisions that led to the debt being raised. ‘It turns out, when I was receiving Centrelink assistance, I reported my income, yet they still were able to raise a debt of almost $3000 and take my tax return. The fact that Centrelink wiped my robo-debt, does not change my feelings about this court case going ahead. The robo-debt process needs to be seriously examined,’ she said.
‘If I hadn't taken this legal action, I don't think Centrelink would have ever realised the problem with my so called ‘debt’, Deanna said.
Deanna Amato’s case will go to a hearing in December with our first client Madeleine Masterton’s to be scheduled for hearing after that case is determined. [my yellow highlighting]

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

"The right to peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democracy and must not be thrown away for political expediency."


The Daily Examiner, letter to the editor, 9 October 2019, p.13:


Amend or reject
PEOPLE will face more time in jail for peaceful protest than for grievous bodily harm if the government’s Right to Farm Bill becomes law.
The bill provides for three-year prison terms for protesters while the penalty for permanently or seriously disfiguring another person is a maximum of two years. Is this really the sort of society the Coalition government wants us to become?
Under this proposal people as diverse as Wallaby great David Pocock and the knitting nannas could go to jail for making their point peacefully and democratically.
The government claims these dangerous laws are needed to protect farmers from trespassers, but the law already has those safeguards. The irony is that farmers may have the most to lose.
Farmers have led campaigns to save the Pilliga and the Bentley region from coal seam gas and the Hunter, Bylong Valley, Gloucester Valley and the Liverpool Plains from coal.
The right to peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democracy and must not be thrown away for political expediency.
History tells us that when governments erode the civil liberties of any group, they erode them for us all. This bill must be amended or rejected.
Chris Gambian, Chief Executive, NSW Nature Conservation Council
BACKGROUND
Parliament of New South Wales, Legislative Review Committee, Review Digest, 24 September 2019:
"The Bill significantly increases the maximum penalty for the offence of aggravated unlawful entry on inclosed lands from $5,500 to $13,200 and/or imprisonment for 12 months. The potential penalties rise to $22,000 or three years imprisonment if the offender is accompanied by two or more persons or if s/he does anything to put the safety of any person at serious risk. Large increases in penalties can result in excessive punishment where the penalty is not proportionate to the offence. However, the Committee acknowledges that the penalty increase is designed to better reflect the severity of the offences as well as the impact such offences have on farmers and primary production activities. It is also to account for the risks caused by trespassing on agricultural land and interfering with agricultural equipment and infrastructure.....
The Bill introduces a new offence that applies to those who incite or direct trespass without committing trespass themselves, which could attract a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment. The Committee notes that the creation of new offences impacts upon the rights and liberties of persons as previously lawful conduct becomes unlawful. "