3rd Dec 2018
Top lawyer accuses Centrelink of running ‘elaborate sham’
Author: Ben Hocking
Centrelink running ‘elaborate sham’

A prominent Victorian barrister has criticised Centrelink’s robo-debt recovery program as an ‘elaborate sham’ and wants to challenge the scheme in the Federal Court.

Gavin Silbert, QC, who retired as the state's chief crown prosecutor in March, told Fairfax Media that the Department of Human Services had ignored its legal obligations and was acting like a bully towards some of the nation's most vulnerable people.

Mr Silbert has been providing pro bono advice to a client that he knew, who was asked by Centrelink to repay a debt of $10,230.97, accrued between 2010 and 2013. His repeated requests for explanations on how the debt was calculated have been ignored and his client last week received a letter threatening to impose interest charges on the original debt.

Mr Silbert is keen to launch Federal Court action to test the legal basis of the robo-debt program and the Government's apparent unwillingness to provide particulars.

“I'm itching to get this before a court,” he told Fairfax Media.

The robo-debt program, introduced by the Coalition government, calculates debt by taking a fortnightly average rather than discovering the exact amount that was claimed.

Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen defended the robo-debt recovery scheme and also explained that a review by the Commonwealth Ombudsman had found that the method of calculation complied with all of the relevant legislation.

“Of the thousands of DHS payment cases that go the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), the vast majority of decisions made by the department are affirmed,” Mr Jongen told Fairfax Media.

“When decisions are set aside or varied it’s almost always because new evidence has been provided by the customer or obtained by the department.”

Earlier this year, Professor Terry Carney, a member of the AAT for 40 years, said that robo-debt recovery often involved enforcement of “illegal” debts that were sometimes inflated or non-existent.

Prof Carney explained in an academic paper that the program calculates welfare recipients’ income, and averages it over fortnightly periods rather than discovering their actual income for each and every fortnightly period. The latter, he says, is the proper basis for calculating the debt.

He says when Centrelink asks for payment of alleged debts or evidence to disprove them, “most vulnerable alleged debtors will simply throw up their hands, assume Centrelink knows that there really is a debt, and seek to pay it off as quickly as possible”.

The welfare agency did this even though a report by the Commonwealth Ombudsman in April 2017 “demonstrated that most debts calculated this way were greatly inflated, and that some were false (zero debts)”, he says.

Have you fallen foul of Centrelink’s robo-debt collection scheme? Have you had success with an appeal?

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    COMMENTS

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    Nerk
    4th Dec 2018
    10:12am
    Mr Jongen is a yes man and what ever he is told goes.
    Cowboy Jim
    4th Dec 2018
    11:25am
    Henk mentioned that on the wireless - "I am only a public servant and I have to follow the rules introduced by the current government". I don't blame him (would not want his job), gets up people's noses all the time on one side and on the other you have an administration bent on saving from Centrelink. He simply cannot win a trick.
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    6:55pm
    His contracted position - as opposed to former public service tenure and 'absolute' "independent" advice to government - is now compromised, and has been since the heady days of Hitler Howard and his changes to senior public service positions to create of them contracted ones, thus suborning their 'independence' and making them direct servants of the government of the day.

    It wasn't only Hitler Howard ... Labor had a hand in it to for the same reasons.... basically so as to control the allegedly independent public service directly from Der Fuhrerbunker.
    johnp
    9th Dec 2018
    9:28am
    Re. "Only a public servant" Yep sure but what does his salary amount to ?? Bet its a lot more than most of us will ever see !!
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    10:16am
    Robo debt? Well which government brought that one in? The same one which lowered the the assets test to a level which would knock out many retirees whilst NEVER comparing our pension system to overseas trading partners, something this lot always do where money for the top end of society is concerned. Tax cuts anyone?
    Old Geezer
    4th Dec 2018
    10:25am
    Mick you will find your beloved Labor bought in Robo debt. Liberals just fixed it so it did a better job. If people do the right thing then they simply have nothing to worry about so it therefore a great way of making people be more honest.
    maelcolium
    4th Dec 2018
    10:46am
    Wrong again OG - the automated debt recovery system is entirely the work of your beloved LNP https://auspublaw.org/2017/03/centrelinks-robodebt-system/

    Read the report and educate yourself so you won't have to make stuff up to suit your ideology.
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    10:58am
    That was my understanding too maelcolium.
    Another advertisement from OG for the boss methinks.
    thommo
    4th Dec 2018
    10:58am
    Mick, agree with you 100%. The LNP almost lost the 2016 election, and you can bet age pensioners and other retirees helped to bring that result about, the main reason being because Abbott and Morrison changed the assets test for which they will never be FORGIVEN OR FORGOTTEN....And you can bet the age pensioners won't miss this grubby lot at the coming election, when they'll be routed, and never to be heard of again. And good riddance..
    Kaz
    4th Dec 2018
    11:25am
    OG It’s wrong to assume someone is not honest. I always kept Centrelink uptodate with my mother in law’s bank details. Interest being her only income other than the pension. We were advised that she earned more than allowed (interest?) (6 months prior) and so she must repay a certain amount. We didn’t query it and paid. I wonder if I should have checked their calculations (which weren’t provided). We received a letter saying her pension would be reduced every fortnight (after paying the amount due!). How far behind are they?! How do others cope when budgeting payment to payment?
    Cowboy Jim
    4th Dec 2018
    11:31am
    And I do not forget or forgive the ALP (Rudd in particular) for making the missus work another 18 months. He changed the retirement age without talking to anyone; mind you the other mob might have done the same but at least Howard went to an election with the 10%GST proposal. With an offer of work life extension before the election the ALP would never have been elected. The extra 2 years came right out of left field!
    Old Geezer
    4th Dec 2018
    11:40am
    They run courses on how to rip of Centrelink so no wonder they assume people are not honest.

    Yes Labor changed the age you get the OAP but retirement age is any age.
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    12:29pm
    OG, who runs these courses, come name names or are you talking about the courses that Centrelink actually run.
    Or is it just another comment plucked out of the air.
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    1:00pm
    This is OG's standard 'slag off Labor' comment. Required to pick up his pay cheque from party HQ.
    A pity none of the BS ever makes any sense and not able to be corroborated with facts. Who needs facts when you are trolling though. That takes effort and a leg to stand on. OG has neither.
    johnp
    4th Dec 2018
    1:47pm
    Yes OG. Would love to see who they are where you said "They run courses on how to rip of Centrelink" Where is that info ??
    Rae
    4th Dec 2018
    3:01pm
    Old Geezer it is LNP policy that has millions of workers on casual fortnightly zero hour shifts. If the Government really wants a HR system that crazy and with workers needing government top ups because hours worked are unpredictable then they need a system that works. Just dividing by 26 doesn't do that. These people would need to pump in figures fortnightly. It's insane. Just one more failure through looking after bosses and letting worker's pay the price for it.

    Go back to a 40 hour week with decent conditions and share a bit of the profit with those creating it through their labour.
    Rosret
    4th Dec 2018
    10:34am
    At last.
    How about a royal commission into these guys and the staff.
    The psychological damage they do to people in desperate conditions is something out of a David Copperfield novel.
    Old Geezer
    4th Dec 2018
    11:40am
    Another farce like the Banking RC. No thanks.
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    12:24pm
    Another troll comment.
    The banking RC has shown how the average punter is treated by the top end of town. Ripping off customers & clients just for their own greed. Even the dead where subjected to the ongoing greed from the banks.
    The only RC that's been shown to be a farce was the one into unions that found nothing.
    The banking RC was fervently opposed repeatedly by this greedy government until the Nationals had had enough from the banks & their treatment of farmers etc forced the Liberals into backing down.
    Just remember OG Madam guillotine was used on the the top end of town & their supporters that made the poor poorer & the rich richer.
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    1:01pm
    OG - so ONLY Royal Commissions into Labor and into unions are allowed? And the abnking RC uncovered nothing?
    Troll comment. YLC needs to remove you from this website.
    Old Geezer
    4th Dec 2018
    4:58pm
    Mick etc you can't honestly say the Banking RC achieved anything other than making it so much harder to get finance resulting in an accelerated tumbling property market. Banks will do nothing different and continue to make mega profits.
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    7:01pm
    Nothing wrong with a tumbling property market - it's been overblown for years now if not decades, ever since the advent of the Mandatory Dual Income Family as the yardstick for economic activity, and has been due for a fall for ages.... those who will suffer are the parasites and vultures who invest in property ... cancellation of negative gearing will not affect HOME owners... and if investors then choose to leave their properties lying fallow - it's their loss...
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    9:20pm
    Yes let's get rid of this negative gearing BS & no grandfathering either. As of today it stops, no compensation, no warnings just, as of today no further negative gearing.
    But it won't happen as a lot of Pollies use negative gearing & would be out in the cold. So be it.
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    4th Dec 2018
    10:07pm
    Trebor, I agree that property values have been inflated, but a lot of good, honest battlers will be badly hurt by reduced property values. Consider the outcome if your property value falls to less than the mortgage and you have to sell due to a job transfer, illness or job loss. Think about the strugglers who borrowed heavily to buy a property to secure their future, only to find that when cancellation of negative gearing makes the mortgage unaffordable, they have to sell for way less than they owe on it. Many folk in this situation are far from wealthy. Many I know don't own homes because they are in the military and forced to move about frequently, so they buy investment properties to secure their eventual retirement. I know a few who bought in Townsville and now struggle to find anyone to pay rent for the property and literally can't give it away! In your state of envy and resentment, you grossly oversimplify things. Stop the ASS-U-MEs and investigate the circumstances of some who would be cruelly hurt by falls in property values. And consider the potential effect on society. It's a bit like franking credits. Your envy of those who benefit from them appears to blind you to the true facts.
    Lothario
    4th Dec 2018
    10:09pm
    OGR - Trebor's a simpleton. Legend in his own outdoor dunny
    TREBOR
    5th Dec 2018
    12:37am
    You could try growing up, Loathie... it is you who are the simpleton - you don't even know the difference between a budget forecast and cash in the bank (DUHHH) ...... but you still crow on..... everyone laughs at you and knows you are full of it, and are nothing but some kid with a big head and nothing inside it.

    Rainey - you are arguing for the old certainties that people used to enjoy - of having a job etc and being in one place to raise a family and create genuine wealth - not just the current nonsense that Loathie tosses about - of some doing it fat while many do it thinner and thinner...

    The boy is simple...

    But back to the subject - you simply cannot guarantee those things any more - and pushing more and more people, via immigration to prop up demand, into a steadily lowering economy for the many will not solve the problem, only make it worse when the collapse comes.

    That 'worse' will be in more ways than just loss of property investments....
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    5th Dec 2018
    6:50am
    We could - and SHOULD go back to those old certainties, Trebor, if we had competent government instead of self-interested egomaniacs who have no idea what real life is like and don't care (a bit like Lothario, actually, boasting about saving 90% of his salary and then trying to imply that he knows what hardship looks like!)
    George
    5th Dec 2018
    11:53am
    Absolutely, another Royal Commission just waiting to happen. Labor keeping quiet?

    Good on the barrister - hope YLC keeps us updated.
    Old Geezer
    5th Dec 2018
    2:18pm
    The problem with failing property price is that people don't feel near as wealthy and the more prices fall the less they will spend. Consumer spending keeps our economy ticking along nicely. If consumers tighten their belts then the economy suffers and we will be quickly in recession.
    I can remember when
    4th Dec 2018
    10:47am
    Robo-debt is a disgrace. It makes assumptions and calculations (often based on averages which is different from how the act requires) then asserts you have been overpaid without the detail that needs to be provided and asking you to collect the info to prove you were not overpaid. Previously Centrelink (and before that DSS) had to get that info from employers and financial institutions and actually calculate any debt (or underpayment) based on the information collected. (I worked for DSS/Centrelink for 15 years)

    On top of this the media make the assertion that anyone with a debt has committed fraud, when only a fraction of overpayments are the result of fraudulent intent (e.g. if you get paid arrears in wages that you were owed following a Fair Work investigation, you may well incur a debt).

    Dealing with Centrelink is difficult and confusing for most people and robo-debt makes no allowance for this, instead causing often unnecessary distress.
    thommo
    4th Dec 2018
    10:47am
    We all know that Centrelink's robo-debt scheme is a sham, but no one has challenged them,..until now that is...
    But more the shame attaches to this shameful government for authorising it. Neither Turnbull nore Morrison or anyone else have said anything against it...Even Labor stays quiet about it.
    But this Govt will be exposed at last for the mongrels they are, and we will have Mr Silbert QC to thank.
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    11:01am
    It works because the end of the food chain does not have the will or the funds to go to court. If the bastards tried this on with the top end they'd be snowed under with litigation and would remove the behaviour within days.
    I feel sorry for the bottom end of society: raped relentlessly by the top and their governments and given up irish to fight the bastards.
    HS
    4th Dec 2018
    10:55am
    Was extreme collateral damage to over 20,000 innocent welfare recipients necessary, just to weed out a handful of mongrels?
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    11:03am
    Agree with your sentiment. They would have known who the crooks were and could have gone after them one at a time. As with all things that requires funding to do and the bastards want to employ nobody so the automated method was developed.
    Perhaps compensation needs to be awarded when the wrong people have been hounded. That would resolve the problem.
    KB
    4th Dec 2018
    2:04pm
    Totally agree with yo hS AND mICK.
    Lothario
    4th Dec 2018
    2:06pm
    What damage ?
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    2:10pm
    Take of your LNP blindfold Lothario.
    Damage to one's health due to undue stress & anxiety just as one example, use your brains for once
    Lothario
    4th Dec 2018
    2:11pm
    If you didn’t rort the system , why wud you be stressed and anxious ?
    Sounds like a ploy to get more money from taxpayers
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    2:18pm
    that comment only proves you are a brainless troll for the LNP.
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    9:43pm
    Correct 1984.
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    4th Dec 2018
    10:00pm
    The worst of it is that they don't catch the mongrels. The cheats have connections and are savvy to all the legal loopholes. I know one who, despite being perfectly fit and healthy, has been bludging on disability for 40 years. Inherited $1 million recently and stashed it in a foreign bank and is still collecting. Built of lavish waterview mansion and moved a gay lover in on carer benefit, paying rent, and collecting rent assistance. Knows every trick in the book to rort the system and steal. I've reported many times, but there's never even an investigation.
    TREBOR
    5th Dec 2018
    12:40am
    Hmm - yes.. the ATO is getting on to those who stash cash Offshore... as Loathie knows full well - with his claims (LMAO) of expertise in such matters....

    Amazing story, Rainey - but I believe you. there are some who get away with things that others would not even dream of....
    tisme
    4th Dec 2018
    11:21am
    how about fighting for the money the government owes carers?? paying us 3.50 an hour to be on the job 24/7 its a scam and down right slavery but no one seems to care for carers
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    7:13pm
    Hear, hear... a carer on pension should get a double pension just to cover the costs of transport etc.... one OAP and one Carers ...

    At the very least a significant increase in Carer Allowance to cover actual costs....

    I must begin keeping a diary.... and starting a campaign....

    Today:- Trip to Disabled's art class... spent $3.20 at library to copy medical travel forms .... time spent ... two hours driving, three hours waiting and running errands,one hour shopping with her, half hour lunch with her friend = total time minimum of 7.5 hours. Kms traveled 156.

    One full day's work at CommCar driver rates or taxi.... or chopper pilot rates if you are a Bronnie.... private jet if you are a WA MP ....

    Thursday:- Doctor's appointments. Start 9.45 am, appointment 11 am, second appointment 2.00pm. Shopping and running around for her in between for family etc. recreation time at a club. Drive home, arrive 5.00 pm. Total time spent 7.25 hours, distance traveled 172 km.

    Another full day's work......

    Just an example....
    KSS
    7th Dec 2018
    3:18am
    Your choice TREBOR, your responsibility.
    dreamer
    4th Dec 2018
    11:21am
    There is a God
    Old Geezer
    4th Dec 2018
    11:38am
    Ha ha
    HS
    4th Dec 2018
    11:45am
    Nah, there is no God but there is a human person's moral sense of right and wrong, viewed as acting as a guide to one's behaviour.
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    11:52am
    No there isn't
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    1:02pm
    Bet on it dreamer. Only those touched will appreciate the statement though.
    floss
    4th Dec 2018
    11:31am
    Was Robo -dept. ever legal or just a farce introduced by the wost Federal Government in Australian history.Rubbish O.G.you are always wrong at least you are consistent.
    Old Geezer
    4th Dec 2018
    11:37am
    ROFL
    Cat
    4th Dec 2018
    11:55am
    "...a review by the Commonwealth Ombudsman had found that the method of calculation complied with all of the relevant legislation". - And in their minds that makes it perfectly ok to totally ignore it alltogether if that 'method of calculation' that complied with 'all the relevant legislation' causes false debt to be generated and destroys peoples lives. Perfectly fine to totally ignore if that 'method of calculation and relevant legislation' sets the public up for false debt.

    This is evidence of how stupid and morally bankrupt people can be. It just proves what social commentators have recently said, that society in general has plummeted into standards of indecency and depravity.
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    1:04pm
    Where's a pro bono lawyer when you need one?
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    7:16pm
    'legislation'? Again that clearly shows that the legislation needs to be changed. Again - it is unconscionable that any person demand money repaid without stating how, when, where and why, and also place the onus of proof on the victim.

    The only avenue in which this can be resolved is a court, which demands evidence in full on money matters.

    Bring on the court case..... as I said - which ever way it goes, it has to be done to clear the air.
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    12:01pm
    Robo debt should be taken up by the ATO & applied to the top end of town. No explanation on how the debt was incurred, no justification or detail given to the top end of town, just a $ value on what must be paid to the ATO with a very short time frame.
    The current or future governments won't do that to their top end of town mates now would they.
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    1:05pm
    Love it.
    You forget that the top end of town would be in court the next day with a top Senior counsel. The case would be over in a day with costs awarded to the 'poor' rich person who had been so viciously attacked by the ATO. I can read the headlines now.....
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    1:06pm
    Oh yes....call is 'ROBO-RICH'.
    George
    5th Dec 2018
    11:54am
    Absolutely, use it in the ATO - will generate billions not millions!
    trood
    4th Dec 2018
    12:17pm
    Not only is the country going down the gurgler under this govt so is Centrelink, one of many, what is next?
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    1:07pm
    The country has gone down the gurgler. Current debt around $600 billion. Its all Labor's fault? How many times even after 6 years do the liars try it on.
    Lothario
    4th Dec 2018
    1:12pm
    Yep labor committed the expenses
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    1:31pm
    Labor left $148 billion.
    Current (LNP) debt $600 billion.

    Not one single thing to show for the last 6 years of government other than expensive unfounded malicious attacks on Labor and handing out money to the topp end.
    Time to go crooks.
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    1:59pm
    They have one thing to show for it Mick. The money gouging of the assets of pensioners.
    Lothario, if your LNP mates can't fix the issue, & make it more than 3 times worse in a 6 year period while the poor get poorer & the rich richer then they are doing a crap job & should be sacked & they will be next election. Look at what happened to the LNP in Vic, ROFL.
    Lothario
    4th Dec 2018
    2:07pm
    LnP’s fixes it
    Budget surplus by 2021
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    2:14pm
    It's still 2018 & they have gone backwards for the last 6 years, LNP are wee weeing in the wind. They won't be in power to do any more damage in 2021 as it's all a fairy tale for all you fairies. LNP in Vic got a right kicking 2 weeks ago
    Dream on
    Old Man
    4th Dec 2018
    4:24pm
    MICK, I have pointed out your untruth about the debt before and it pains me to do it time after time. You appear to be a slow learner. Yes, Morrison increased the ceiling of future debt to $600B to allow for future possible debts but that is not the figure that is owed. The figure owed by government as at July this year is $341.0B.

    To point out another of your untruths, Labor left a debt as at September 2013 of $174.577B so the Coalition has not doubled the debt, close but no cigar. I might also point out that if you include the balance that Labor took over of $24.2B in credit, Labor spent $198.777B whilst in office. Your masters who subscribe to the theory that if you tell a lie often enough that it becomes the truth would be proud of you.

    Please don't slip into your predictable union bully boy mode and just refute my figures if you can. If you can't refute the figures then it would be expected that you will refrain from telling the untruth about Australia's debt.
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    7:17pm
    DUH. A 'budget surplus' is not cash in the bank - recorded debt is cash not in the bank......

    DUH!
    Lothario
    4th Dec 2018
    7:51pm
    A budget surplus is not cash in the bank ?????

    Dummkopf
    Lothario
    4th Dec 2018
    8:40pm
    Old Man - given Labor left us with $175 Billion debt and budget commitments in forward years which were massive deficits, it a miracle our current debt is only $341 Billion

    The servicing of labor debt alone has cost us $50 Billion over the last 6 years . Not to mention labor commitments of over $120 billion that had to be unwound over 6 years.

    This means that nett effective increase in debt by LnP is close to ZERO or in fact negative
    Old Man
    4th Dec 2018
    9:33pm
    I don't care to extrapolate the figures, Lothario, that is a pointless exercise. My point was that there are untruths that need correction.
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    9:45pm
    OM - you are cooking the books. Provide your figures!
    Lothario
    4th Dec 2018
    9:50pm
    When labor left, we were $174 Billion in debt and our annual deficit was running at $43 billion

    Use your common sense MICK

    Servicing that debt alone costs us $50 Billion. And if LnP had not stemmed the tide, we would have been $500 Billion in debt by now
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    10:00pm
    "A budget surplus is not cash in the bank ?????"

    You DO understand the difference between a 'budget' - a forward estimate - and actual money in the bank, don't you?

    I thought not.... you may continue to make a fool of yourself ..... everyone knows....
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    10:03pm
    Ah - so now the increased debt is the result of having to service Labor's debt..... in other words, your mates just borrowed on top of borrowings to pay back interest and some debt?

    God, you're a dreamer....... Howard Costello entrenched lower revenue by selling off the farm and then giving tax cuts... that's where the underlying problems are...

    The more you comment the more you show your utter lack of any genuine knowledge..... keep on... the audience is loving every minute of it....

    Dumbkopf ... I'm more Kraut than you....
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    4th Dec 2018
    10:10pm
    Actually, much of the debt increase under Labor was due to having to honour obligations created by the LNP gifting very generously to the well-to-do. 80% of the benefit of tax cuts and government gifts under Howard and Costello went to the 20% wealthiest people - and Labor was forced to honour the obligations H & C created. Most of them didn't take effect until late in the LNP reign, but Labor inherited these obligations and was stuck with them. Given the power of those who benefited, cancelling wasn't a valid option.
    Old Man
    4th Dec 2018
    11:27pm
    Here you are MICK:

    https://theconversation.com/factcheck-has-australias-net-debt-doubled-under-the-current-government-100819
    TREBOR
    5th Dec 2018
    12:42am
    Umm..OM ... $148/341 seems a bit more than double.....

    Rainey got it right.. right there.....
    Old Man
    5th Dec 2018
    10:20am
    Thanks Bob, where did the $148 come from? Surely you are not thinking that Labor took over a debit balance rather than a credit balance in 2007.
    Richard
    4th Dec 2018
    12:23pm
    We need independent scrutiny of a number of Government Decisions both liberal & Labor. Listed below are just a few of the top. Perhaps the mooted "Integrity Commission" could be the answer?
    1. Rabo debt calculating and disclosure responsibilities.
    2. Asset test maximum for pension disqualification.
    3. Insistence on Deeming interest at the same level for years when actual income interest has diminished enormously.
    4. Why politicians pensions are effective immediately on exiting parliament, are much more lucrative and not means tested for life not to mention the travel and other perks they get.
    5. Why low end pensioners who can not afford to get independent advice let alone go to court, seem to be the largest section of the community targeted for cuts, with the gratuitous comments like "if you have done nothing wrong - you have nothing to fear".

    And I'm sure many more contributors to this blog could add many more to the list.
    Think about, it the B--- never question there own entitlements at least not since the independent Member for North Sydney, Ted Mack who died recently, left Parliament. The only one I ever remember to do so in 50 years and I'm 72.
    Lets call it the "Ted Mack Integrity Commission"!
    Sen.Cit.89
    4th Dec 2018
    12:43pm
    Good-on-ya Richard. I despair at the injustice.
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    1:11pm
    We need a government to run/control the government. Love it.

    We do need a Federal ICAC, call it what you like. If we get this we then need proper funding and we need it to be independent. That means NO POLITICIAN or vested interest can lean on it to taint its work and prosecutions.
    Just imagine the results: half of the LNP MPs in jail and likely one quarter of Labor MPs.
    I'd better be careful....I might be caught out with this government's new laws on 'harming the government', an attempt to gag citizens under threat of being thrown into prison.
    VICMT
    4th Dec 2018
    12:45pm
    One of my daughters recieved a bill for over $20,000,which they claimed went back over several years. She’s a hard working mum with two kids, one of which is on the autism spectrum and needs care. She was very careful with her information to Centrelink and wanted to provide all details on a spreadsheet she had kept. They weren’t interested in this and wanted original pay slips going back 5 or 6 years, which she provided. Still no joy. The same old scam of averaging incorrectly.
    She has had to appeal and finally starting to get some sense out of a more intelligent officer at Centrelink. Last I heard, their claim down to $2000 and they still working.
    She did tell me that she was aware on one occasion that they were going to over pay her. She called to point this out and was told it was too late for them to fix and they did nothing. Effect of this may have been max $200 and not $20,000.
    So much for acting honestly and in good faith. The time, effort and distress this has caused my daughter is staggering.Problem is that good faith needs to work both ways. It clearly does not with Centrelink. It will be intersting to hear if they even apologise!
    Would be good to be able to pass this on to the QC as another example of Centrelink’s activities.
    sunnyOz
    4th Dec 2018
    3:05pm
    VICMT - totally agree with you. I personally have been through similar - CL totally stuffed up my payments. So badly did they stuff it up, that they accidentally incorrectly cancelled my payment.
    I know what it is like trying to get them to tell you, or show you, their calculations. They say they don't have to. Like your daughter, I too keep a detailed spreadsheet and log history as I do not trust them that in 3/5/7/10 years, CL will come back and say they have over paid me.
    I agree it should be a two-way street. If we make an error, then agree, there should be some accountability. But if CL make the error - then they should wear it. I know of one lady in her mid 70's that got hit with a robo debt of $8,000. The stress and upset this caused her was disgusting. Her son took on the fight, and after 16 months, she received a letter stating the debt had been wiped. They did not say they had made an error and that she had never owed anything. Instead of admitting their error, they made themselves look like a generous 'aren't we kind' lot. None of us bought it.
    As for an apology from CL - no such luck!
    VICMT
    4th Dec 2018
    4:09pm
    Just heard. Centrelink just finished review of my daughter’s appeal. Her calculations were all correct and they have found that SHE OWES NOTHING!
    As for any apology - forget it!

    One of the big firms needs to take Centrelink on in a class action.

    A normal business would not get away with such unconscionable actions.
    Maybe we need a Royal Commission into Centrelink.
    Rae
    5th Dec 2018
    8:12am
    If it's been semi "privatised" that may be possible. Although taking on SERCO could be a challenge for even the best legal team.

    What we need is to overthrow this fascist "privatisation" policy and get a fully functioning Public Service providing goods and services PAYG taxpayers expect.

    Yes "privatisation" was a Nazi economist policy dreamed up in Berlin in 1934. It destroyed Germany then and is destroying every country that is using it again right now. The UK and Australia in particular.

    By the time it's sorted we'll need a whole new gaol just for those who have legislated and profited from this despicable and socially destructive policy.
    Lothario
    4th Dec 2018
    1:11pm
    Publicity seeking w$nker
    MICK
    4th Dec 2018
    1:29pm
    A self portrait.
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    2:01pm
    If the cap fits
    I think it does ROFL
    sunnyOz
    4th Dec 2018
    3:06pm
    Self promotion?
    sunnyOz
    4th Dec 2018
    2:51pm
    Not a robo debt, but I have personally experienced the complete one way street that Centrelink use for calculations.
    Around the time I went on the Aged Pension, I also had a part time job. Despite my giving CL all relevant information, and on time, they completely stuffed up and worked out my part pension so wrong, they actually cancelled it. It took much hassling and time to work it out - well, I hope it is worked out.
    I asked for a breakdown of how they had worked their calculations, but I was curtly told that they don't have to give a breakdown. Both my accountant and I strongly disputed their figures, (I was considerably underpaid), but we hit a brick wall.
    I totally do not trust CL and their calculations, and what's to stop them in 3/5/10 years coming back saying there had been an error and they had overpaid me?
    I belong to a seniors group and a number of members (some in their 70's and 80's) have received robo-debt letter going back years. They have no way of knowing if it is correct as CL will not give breakdowns of how the so called overpayment occurred. And all these people insist they have at all times provided correct information when requested. And of course, these seniors had no reason to keep details of every singe phone call, letter (nearly all are not on computer), contact, etc. Now they are well and truely bitten.
    I know of NO other business or facility that can say you owe money without any supporting evidence. Definitely CL rule is 'guilty until you can prove your innocence'. And with the might of CL and their legal people against you, it is a huge intimidation.
    Old Geezer
    4th Dec 2018
    5:07pm
    Centrelink have their rules so you need to learnt the rules and play the game. Centrelink even told me that. They have so different ways of calculating income to accountants and I can see why they do. If they didn't then people who didn't need welfare would be getting it.
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    7:23pm
    When my now disabled ex's husband died, and she was forced onto SOCIAL SECURITY payments, The Good Colonel CLink defined her total $10,000 superannuation FUND as $10,000 received annually and cut her payments for two years. She, a naif in such things and totally disorientated and struggling to raise three kids while suffering intensely from grief, simply let it go on, until finally she got it sorted.

    No back payment, though...
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    9:26pm
    What's good for the goose isn't good for the gander
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    5th Dec 2018
    6:46am
    A good friend declared a jointly owned asset generating $10000 a year - half owned by her partner. She was shocked when Centrelink adjusted their pensions to the amount payable if they were earning $10,000 each. Centrelink's logic? If it's jointly owned, you both earn $10,000 per annum from it. After 5 advices that they were wrong, Centrelink finally decided to correct the error, but they adjusted from the date of the 5th advice, not from the date of the original application which contained CORRECT data that they interpreted incorrectly. Appeal after appeal after appeal failed. My friend finally gave up trying to secure the backpay and just gave thanks for finally receiving the right amount. Then, as required by law, she advised the income had increased to $11000 a year, carefully stating that as it was a JOINT asset, each part-owner received half - i.e. $5500. Guess what? Idiots at Centrelink adjusted the pension again to the amount payable if it generated $11,000 EACH, and my friend is still trying - after 4 months and 6 advised corrections, not being paid correctly.
    Charlie
    4th Dec 2018
    3:37pm
    Well the size of debt is partly due to the time it took Centrelink to figure out somebody was wrongly paid.. A robotic measure of their own inefficiency.
    Old Geezer
    4th Dec 2018
    4:59pm
    The size of the debt indicates the extent of the fraud happening by those on Centrelink nothing else.
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    9:14pm
    A great majority of the supposed debts (98.74%) have proven to be either a no debt or far less than originally demanded & in 99.32% of cases no fraud found so no criminal charges could be laid.
    So your comment that it shows the extend of fraud id totally false
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    10:05pm
    The government 'side' here need desperately to keep calling it 'fraud' in a feeble attempt to justify an unjustifiable attack on people forced onto Social Security..... they have no other ammunition left in their locker apart from the smear shells....

    Kinda reminds you of HMS Gloworm fighting a German cruiser, and out of real ammunition, so firing illumination rounds at the Krauts....
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    4th Dec 2018
    10:15pm
    And what about cases where Centrelink owes the client? It's their ''policy'' not to pay interest, and clients have a mammoth battle to claim back pay - often failing on minor technicalities. I know of cases where C/link required a new application to be lodged and then turned around and said payment was only due from the new application date. Their assessors get it wrong often, but there's neither apology nor compensation.

    I know someone who was underpaid for 8 years. When the error was detected, C/link resisted paying what was owed for 16 months and then claimed the law does not provide for interest to be paid when pensions are underpaid. The pensioner then had a mammoth battle with the ATO to avoid paying tax on the lump sum at the rate that would have applied if it was all earned in one year.
    Jim
    4th Dec 2018
    4:28pm
    Whenever I hear a lawyer wanting to start or encourage a royal commission, my first thought is always what’s in it for them, am I just being cynical? There is always a competition on this site to see who can blame which party the most, just a little hint from my experience of 50 years voting, they all stink, and there is very little difference between both major parties, their aim has always been what is best for me and how long can I keep or get my snout further in the trough.
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    8:28pm
    Same here Jim. I have voted for independents for quite a while now. My voting strategy is alway put the sitting member last followed by the next major party candidate. No 1 etc will be independants then Greens etc then major party candidates last but ALWAYS the sitting member last. I let the major parties know how I vote but really they don't give a rats. Never ever follow the "how to vote cards" issued by the different parties.
    When it comes to the Senate, same thing & if I have to number 100 plus boxes then what's I do.
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    10:06pm
    X 3.....
    Old Geezer
    4th Dec 2018
    5:04pm
    If you earn $100,000 a year and collect Newstart for six months you need to be investigated. That's all this Robo debt does. It pick out those who fall through the normal cracks and should do so too. I used to design programs that did this for audits and what they uncovered was truly amazing and would have taken many man years to do manually. All you do is set normal parameters and run a series of programs to pick out those that don't fit. That what the Robo debt does.
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    7:25pm
    Rubbish - Joe the Mining engineer is tossed on the scrap heap by mine closures.. spends six months of the year unemployed and hunting a job... the mines re-open and he is back on for six months' at $100kl p.a.

    No need to look at him at all... all his income details are on the system shared between ATO and Colonel C'Link... only a complete idiot would consider any such thing.... and Centrelink employs plenty of those....
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    8:37pm
    OG, Utter utter rubbish, again not knowing what the hell your talking about. If this supposedly great program comes up with a claim to investigate then it should then be taken over by a Centrelink officer with all the facts in front of them & call in the individual for a please explain & asking them for accompanying documents. Not just send out an debt notice from centrelink with not details etc. And if that means more staff then so be it as the systems they use should make the job quicker & easier to filter out the very very few that are scamming
    Old Geezer
    4th Dec 2018
    5:15pm
    A few years ago a client had a child who left school and they were claiming Family Tax benefits for him while he was at school. As soon as he finished school in year 12 they had the payments stopped. Now after leaving school their child earnt more than a child is allowed to earn per year to get family tax benefits so they wanted it all paid back.

    So we put together a case where Centrelink had requested that family payments were to be made fortnightly and there was no way of knowing that child would earn any money at all when he left school. They got a letter saying the debt was cancelled.

    If we had not known the rules then this would not have happened.

    So learn the rules and play the game your way not Centrelink"s way.
    1984
    4th Dec 2018
    8:45pm
    How about Centrelink learning the rules first & making the appropriate enquiries first. The more I read about Centrelink the more I realise they are the ones that don't understand their own rules, processes & procedures.
    And it's not a game OG, it's peoples lives that are being turned upside down because the governments over the last 20 years or so have become scrooge like & bullies
    Jim
    4th Dec 2018
    11:24pm
    I recall about 10 years ago, I had only been on the pension for a few months, and I got notified my pension was going to be cancelled, rang Centrelink, their answer was I hadn’t notified Centrelink of my wife’s tax file number, I told them to check again because I had notified them, the first young lady apologised and said she would sort it out, if only it had been so easy, I got another call saying even though I had notified them they didn’t have my wife’s permission for me to see her tax file number, you couldn’t make this up! My wife was sat next to me during the final conversation they asked her over the phone if she gave her permission for me to see her tax file number, of course she said yes, but how the hell did they know it was actually my wife giving the ok, it could have been anyone but apparently that was ok. I had a further 2 instances over the following years, without going into the details I was put in touch with head office over another issue, when Imspoke to one of the higher ups, he told me the issue was ridiculous and he would sort it straight away, when he came back he sheepishly told me that the issue was genuine, the only reason he could give me was that there were so many different rules and regulations and it was impossible for staff to know them all! The 3 issues I had with Centrelink were all sorted out quickly, but not one of the issues should have been considered, they were all quite erroneous, the point being another person might have been stressed over them.
    Old Geezer
    5th Dec 2018
    12:22pm
    Jim those are the privacy laws that protect the criminals.
    Knows-a-lot
    4th Dec 2018
    6:20pm
    Bastardry from Centrelink down to the soon-to-be-booted-out-of-office Lieberal scumbag government!
    Jim
    4th Dec 2018
    11:30pm
    Unfortuanately the bastardry has always been there and will continue no matter who is supposedly running the country, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up, the next mob with Shorton ideas in the driving seat might be even worse, he’s already indicated what he thinks about pensioners.
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    6:53pm
    Whichever way this turns out - it needs to be fully aired and full details made public, for the public good.

    It is unconscionable that a government department would demand money without providing details, and is more in keeping with a socio-fascist regime than the one in which we purportedly live....
    Sundays
    4th Dec 2018
    7:39pm
    I agree!
    TREBOR
    4th Dec 2018
    10:08pm
    Don't tell Lothario - he'll get it into his head that somehow this absolutely neutral statement is an attack on his pets in government....

    The boy simply has no idea.... shows his age and his real status every day....
    Rae
    5th Dec 2018
    8:49am
    The "pets in government" are too stupid to recognise fascist policy as it wipes them away unfortunately. Calling it "conservative" is worthy of Goebbel's propaganda machine. Our education system has failed abysmally to save us from fascist policies.

    The UK has the same system and look what happened there. People's lives are being destroyed by the same inefficient computer programs and "rules".

    Of course like in Berlin in the 30s those making money never did protest until their group became the target and by then it was far too late. The IPA has infiltrated government departments and Parliament itself and it's incredibly dangerous for the common weal.
    IPA members have been in head positions of these departments.

    We need a miracle and while waiting evasive action is needed. Certainly thinking how to protect your assets and self from them.

    I'm concerned by Penny Wong's attitude to retirees. I'm surprised she fails to see her own bigotry shining through. Dangerous times these!
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    5th Dec 2018
    7:08am
    A little detective work and I've uncovered OG's secrets. The reason he doesn't own a house and pays no rent either, and earns more now than when working, is that he runs a nudist retreat on the Sunshine Coast. Started it on retirement. Twigged him when he said he often runs around naked. Then it all fitted. The retreat generates half a million a year. Of course, as manager he lives at the retreat at no personal cost. The reason he feeds differing numbers is because there are differing numbers of guests at various times. And that ridiculously low living cost he stated (which we all knew was impossible for the average retiree) - well, that's due to the fact that the business feeds him, houses him, pays most of his car expenses, and offers plenty of fringe benefits. The free Gold Coast weekends are promotional deals, sponsored by businesses chasing contracts to supply to the retreat. So, folks, when you read his egomaniacal and very offensive BS, just visualize an ugly and wrinkled old man with a sour disposition running about naked. UGHHH! The very thought of it is enough to make me retch!
    1984
    5th Dec 2018
    9:59am
    ROFL I just had a vision flash, of course he will deny every word you have written
    Cowboy Jim
    5th Dec 2018
    10:11am
    Might have to check him out, do not live far away from the supposed location. I am pretty sure the locals would know him. OGR - I like your way of thinking.
    Old Geezer
    5th Dec 2018
    12:07pm
    Looking forward to meeting you all in my birthday suit.
    Captain
    7th Dec 2018
    9:18am
    My sister lives "near there". I am sure she will report on OG's activities. Best wishes to all the little ones out there.
    Returned Serviceman..
    5th Dec 2018
    9:12pm
    Labor or LNP whose shite for the next 3 years,they are tarred with the same brush,but they do show you can fool most of the people most of the time going by the comments here.
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    7th Dec 2018
    8:34am
    So when C/link loses a case against a single mother who they overpaid $40,000 - loses because she did EVERYTHING right and it was 100% THEIR ERROR - their only public comment is ''it's important to advise Centrelink truthfully of all changes in circumstances''.

    DUH! You LOST because SHE DID. It's also important for the dim wits at C/link to get it right, but obviously they are too inept. And so they persecute innocent people. They put this HONEST woman through 3 years of hell! Not many would have either the stamina or the resources to defend against that kind of bullying.
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    8th Dec 2018
    8:03pm
    Forget attacking honest pensioners via Robodebt. Why doesn't the government do something about the ''technically legal' cheats. The woman who is milking the system having kids and doesn't have any intention of trying to get a job because welfare is too generous. The Muslims getting benefits for multiple wives and tribes of kids. The immigrants doing 'child swaps' to get child care allowances. The disabled (NOT!) woman who is living in a water-view mansion she owns outright - having spent over $1 mil to buy it so she could get a full pension - with a ''carer'' (actually her lover) pulling carer benefit and allowance plus rent assistance to pay her lover. Between them they are pulling more income than my son-in-law, who is supporting a wife and disabled child, paying off a mortgage, paying $15K a year tax, and getting NONE of the benefits this woman enjoys. She has never worked. Faked disability for over 35 years. Contested a will claiming ''need'' because she is confined to a wheelchair but she dances, runs marathons, and took a brace off to win a Limbo contest. (Won the will contest, by the way, because the named beneficiary was an SFR - with HALF this woman's income and a home worth $300,000 less. But judge said the applicant was a 'poor pensioner' and therefore clearly needy.)

    People are getting lifetime rights to public housing and then staying there while earning $2000 a week, driving a Mercedes and owning a boat.

    Centrelink is stuffing up everywhere. Recently lost a court case after suing a woman for $40,000. Lost because it was 110% THEIR ERROR. She did everything right and had no idea they were overpaying her, despite her totally honest declarations. Their comment. ''It's important to advise Centrelink truthfully and update your asset and income details regularly''. She DID, you MORONS. You can't read and calculate correctly.

    It's time to STOP this legal rorting. Fixing a broken system should take precedence over persecuting pensioners.
    anonysubscribe
    9th Dec 2018
    6:21pm
    over years I have thrown in the towel and just do what centrelink asks.
    I fought them early on and won a few small battles but realised that I do not have the time or energy as I grow old to fight the unending hordes of storm troopers. I fear centrelink will find some new loophole to trap me with some new law or regulation which retrospectively removes benefits and prefer to cower in silence before the dark lords.


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