11th Aug 2017

Centrelink sends ‘threatening’ letters to vulnerable clients

Centrelink sends ‘threatening’ letters to vulnerable clients
Leon Della Bosca

Centrelink has again been accused of threatening vulnerable Australians with intimidating messages and letters warning them against committing welfare fraud.

Critics have lashed out at Centrelink for sending ‘intimidating’ and ‘threatening’ text messages to welfare recipients, many of whom may be doing it tough or suffering from mental illness.

However, the Department of Human Services (DHS) says the messages are ‘educational’ and merely intended to inform people of their obligations.

A DHS spokesperson said the Taskforce Integrity letters and texts were not sent to age pensioners, nor to anyone receiving disability support or to those with an intellectual, severe mental or physical disability.



centrelink threat letter

Just last week, Centrelink was in hot water for using the Australia Federal Police (AFP) logo on letters to customers.

The DHS sent ‘threatening’ letters to clients telling them to update their details, listing a range of penalties for committing welfare fraud, which include prison sentences and criminal records.

In order to help detect welfare fraud, the DHS and the AFP started Taskforce Integrity in 2015. The taskforce has targeted areas judged to be at higher risk of non-compliance. Since 2015, an estimated 85,000 letters bearing the AFP logo have been sent.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert believes the Government is trying to intimidate vulnerable people who are struggling and had done nothing wrong.

"This is the action of an authoritarian government and shows contempt for people, fairness and process," she said.

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) Chief Executive Cassandra Goldie shares the sentiment.

"Put yourself in the shoes of someone who gets this kind of message when they are struggling to make ends meet and get through to Centrelink," said Ms Goldie.

"The Government has a high duty of care to people who are accessing income support payments because they are often vulnerable, but these texts come across as warnings.”

However, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge defended the letters, saying, "I think the taxpayer is quite happy to support those who are down on their luck at any particular time. They also expect there to be integrity in the welfare system and we have a robust system of ensuring that and recouping money when it has been overpaid."

The latest round of criticism follows the bungled robo-debt recovery scheme, which a parliamentary committee recommended should cease because the program had a "profoundly negative impact on the lives of thousands of Australians".

Read more at The Age

Do you think the Government has learned anything from the Senate inquiry into Centrelink? Have you, or has someone you know, received one of the letters? Does it seem threatening? Or did it seem more ‘educational’?

Related articles:
Centrelink debt collectors get heavy
Centrelink's 42 million call fail
Centrelink to target age pensioners





COMMENTS

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Strummer
11th Aug 2017
10:01am
Centrelink is an easy target. Maybe some people find being reminded of their responsibilities threatening. Personally, I've never had a problem with Centrelink and have always found their staff to be courteous, knowledgeable and helpful.
heyyybob
11th Aug 2017
10:59am
My experience also :)
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:09am
Being reminded of one's 'responsibilities' by a 'taskforce' incuding (gasps) Federal Police... is hardly an appropriate way to remind people to simply keep their social security details up to date, is it? I mean - it's not as if the electoralrolls and the driver's licence etc and the Medicare card are not cross-referenced, is it, along with tax details?

The attitude of individual staff is irrelevant - it is the intimidating manner in which the entire issue has been approached from the outset.

This is nothing but a beat-up and a childish attempt to sound tough on 'dole bludgers', when no such thing exists in this nation of entitled Social Security recipients.... and all this from a bunch of overpaid ass-holes with the brains and integrity of a flea pack... and the attitude of an Obersturmmbahnfuhrer...

To the gallows with them all!!
Roby
11th Aug 2017
11:54am
Yes TREBOR only those that are cheats need worry you seem to have a problem. I WONDER ?
Happy cyclist
11th Aug 2017
2:54pm
I think the first para seems threatening. If it had been put at the end I think the letter would have been better. Mentioning the police in the opening para does, to me, create a bit of a threatening tone and also a tone of "we know you're guilty". I think the premise of the letter is perfectly acceptable but I also can see why recipients felt threatened.
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
5:03pm
Most are guilty so what is the problem?
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
7:06pm
I was waitin for some dock-head like you to show up, Roby - the only problem I have is with the insolence of office and with the kinds of brainless twats who defend the indefensible such as the insanity of signing a letter from Centrelink with the name of some assistant commissioner in the AFP when a simple request would have sufficed.

Only a moron would consider that reasonable.

So what exactly is YOUR problem?.. dock-head. You deluding again that there are millions of pension and unemployment benefits thieves out there waiting to rob you. When are you going to offer them all a job?

You apology will not be accepted for your idiotic inference.
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
10:51pm
I'm with you, Trebor - let's hope we can one day find this cowardly trash who hides behind the anonymity of this site. Why the moderators allow him/her/it to stay on here while calling people "scum" is not a good look for this site, so I think I'll let them know so they can ban him/her/it for life.............
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:01pm
Not to bother. I've got him pegged. He's a twenty-something yob with a menial job, probably labouring sometimes, in a pub with a mobile phone that he can't handle properly, who thinks that by talking big and her-herhing with his fellow yob mates, and casting meaningless accusations at others, he will somehow raise himself above the gutter and become one of the apparently so wonderful rich 'Liberal' elite. Thing about most Liberal supporters is that they are working class like everyone else, but somehow imagine that by putting themselves in that group they will become better.

If his grandmother heard him say she was a pension bludger who should be euthenised, she'd tear his ear off and feed it to the cat while righteously kicking him up the bum for mouthing off at his betters, and I'm sure his mother and father - if he has such - would do the same.

Thousands of 'em born every day in this once-great country gone to the dogs...
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
11:07pm
Sadly have to agree, Trebor - trash like him/her/it are ten a penny and it's not worth the time taken to reply! Btw, maybe you got the age wrong - probably closer to 7 or 9yo, with an uncle named Donald Trump!
TREBOR
12th Aug 2017
11:29am
Already paid your way for many years, boy - now dig deep - it's your turn. I want to see you down there head down and arse up 18 hours a day... you'd better get cracking to fulfil your role as provider for retirees...
linhmartin
12th Aug 2017
11:57am
Spent a lot of my working life in the Army, Roby, and I'd love to show you some of the things I learnt - if you've got the guts to come out from behind your anonymous little nametag!
Otherwise just go away and play with the traffic, you annoying little dirtbag!
Frank
12th Aug 2017
12:22pm
Strummer, all laws and regulations are seen as threats by some, particularly when they cant get their way.
Roby
13th Aug 2017
9:03am
Hey Army boy what you do clean the latroons that's all you would be good for.
You want to know why you have been locked out by Centrelink it is because as you appear to be overseas from July on overseas pensioners lose the pension after six weeks until they come back to OZ
You may have to get a job as your pension is gone from tomorrow he he.
linhmartin
13th Aug 2017
12:53pm
I've been o/s since April and won't lose my pension because I've worked and paid tax all my adult life (and earlier, for that matter).
Judging by the low level of intelligence and (lack of) common sense shown by your posts you've probably got another 50 or so years before you're due for pension, so I'd keep an eye on the rules until then if I was you - you'll need that long to work them out!
Now go away, you nasty little dirtbag - you've got no idea what you're talking about, and I've got far more important things to do than waste time on you!
My apologies to everyone else on this thread, but if you read some of Roby's pathetic/disgusting comments you'll hopefully understand why I'm reacting like this (yes, I know, it's the Donald Trump syndrome - always sink to the level of your opponent!).
Roby
14th Aug 2017
7:56am
Hey Armyboy I thought you all got a pension from the army where you Kicked out probably dishonourably.
linhmartin
14th Aug 2017
1:14pm
You know nothing, Roby. Now pick your dummy up off the floor and ask Mummy to wipe your filthy mouth.
I'll be back in Oz in a couple of months so we can meet and have a nice 'chat' - that's something I'm really looking forward to!
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
2:36am
Showing your ignorance, Roby. Totally discredits you and renders all your comments ill-advised and irrelevant when you don't know simple stuff like that military pensions are only received by those who did at least 20 years.
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
2:37am
Once again OG shows his arrogance and propensity to make ASSUMPTIONS that have no validity. Makes him one very large ASS.
linhmartin
17th Aug 2017
1:04pm
Give it to 'em, Rainey - what a pair of losers!
dweezy2176
11th Aug 2017
10:05am
CentreLink employs a lot of "deadwood" and so has to ensure it is "agile & innovative" on a, fairly, regular basis to keep these "tudge-d" minds occupied.
A, pretty, bland effort compared with some of its more open aggression this one. Still, they needed to work "Taskforce Integrity" their new toy into the "clients'" psyche .. soooooo!
"
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
5:04pm
Not too sure they employ "deadwood" but they do deal with "deadwood".
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
2:41am
They employ arrogant, inept, lazy, overpaid, over-privileged people who are totally lacking in empathy and compassion and disinterested in the rights of clients and in trying to understand the difficulties the disadvantaged face trying to navigate a complex and frightening system. Yes, they deal with SOME deadwood, and with a lot of genuinely disadvantaged, needy people who have suffered a lot and deserve respectful help.
floss
11th Aug 2017
10:27am
So C.Link is still open I thought Mr Sludge had closed the place as they can't be contacted.
Ted Wards
11th Aug 2017
11:03am
I dont find it threatening but work with people who receive these letters and it upsets them because they are confused and not sure what they should do. Most of them dont know what an app is or what on line means. I ask them are your details up to date? Some of them havent updated contact details so they thought they were in trouble so I have assisted them to do this but via phone. The issue is remembering that not everyone is tech savvy and would find this confusing at the least. Its no use assuming everyone of every age in every circumstances will have access to technology. Many dont
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
5:05pm
What a lot of rubbish? They have learnt how to use their bank account so should have no problem learning how to make sure their welfare keeps coming.
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
2:46am
You really do show your ignorance and arrogance, OG. What a nasty, ill-informed narcissist you are!
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:04am
Taskforce Integrity? An oxymoron, methinks... one has visions of serried ranks of aircraft carriers sailing into harm's way, guns and planes bristling and ready to take on the world.... then they confront Auld Mrs McGillicuddey over a 10c mishap in her pension...
Not a Bludger
11th Aug 2017
11:12am
The letter seems fine to me.

I applaud Centrelink for overtly moving to detect fraudsters.

After all, falsely claiming "benefits" (ie money for nothing and aka my taxes) is theft and a crime and should be dealt with promptly and decisively - no fear or favour.
quiltwitch
11th Aug 2017
11:44am
Their end goal is to catch the cheats, but their doing it with a sledgehammer approach & terrifying a very vulnerable group of people.

They most definitely ARE sending the letters to people on disability as well, & I can assure you that there are very few cheats on DSP. You have to jump through so many hoops to even get it & most of them would dearly love to be able to work & live a "normal" life.

To people used to dealing with bureaurocracy, the letter is just another example of someone taking 10 words to say 2. To people who aren't, they see the AFP logo & the threats & go into a panic, with somethimes devastating consequences.

I 100% agree with catching fraudsters, just not with an initial letter like this to everyone. Most are trying to do the right thing & are already scared of getting it wrong & losing their lifeline
Ted Wards
11th Aug 2017
11:50am
Unfortunately quiltwitch the screening process for the DSP is not as rigorous and you may think. I work with many who have a small insignificant thing wrong with them who have been on the DSP for over 10 years. There are many who would not have to be on the DSP if they took more responsibility for their health and fitness levels. Being obese should not be a reason to receive DSP but it is.
Triss
11th Aug 2017
1:32pm
I agree with you, Quiltwitch, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. CentreLink starts out by calling everyone cheats when only a small percentage can be called that. It would be more professional for them to address the people who do the right thing and pitch their communications towards them.
Enneagram 8
11th Aug 2017
1:41pm
The biggest crooks wear ties not tattoo's. the Governments are the biggest crooks out there.
These politicians are the biggest scammers out there.
They rob, steal, lie, cheat, murder and get away with it.
They have a salary package of $300,000 a year. with Full pension on retirement for the rest of their lives.
Why don't they take a cut in salary to $150,000 a year. They could live on that very comfortably. This would help get Australia back to the thriving country it once was... Not chasing dole cheats...of around a few hundred dollars.
These Politicans, make me sick to my stomach. I'm suppose to vote for an asshole I know nothing about, never met the guy, never spoken to him I don't know him at all.. And I'm suppose to trust this guy to run our country . How can you vote for someone you don't know personally???? Its utter bullshit.. The only people on earth that cause problems are Politicians, they make the law to suit them and what benefits them not the for the people. They are merely public servants who serve us, not their own greedy pockets. They are corrupt to the core all of them it doesn't matter who you vote for... a cesspit of corrupt powerful men.. Look up on facebook Fiona Barnett what she says about Kim Beazley He's only one of many she can't name.. https://www.facebook.com/fiona.barnett.940
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
4:33pm
Well said, Enneagram - great rant! And oh, so true! Yet we still waste time arguing the toss on forums like this where everyone's here for their own self-interest. We would be better off trying to dismantle the entire political system and starting again!
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
4:48pm
Very few cheats on the DSP? It is more like very few genuine people on the DSP. It is not hard to jump though all those hoops as it is extremely difficult to tell if someone has a genuine bad back.

Anyone can become a polly so why not give it a go yourself?
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:12pm
More cheats on corporate and business taxation and other rorts, OG... and the amounts involved are billions more...
Rainey
14th Aug 2017
2:03pm
Yes, Trebor. If we dealt properly with all the corporate and business cheats, the useless overpaid incompetent bureaucrats and politicians, and all the overpaid inept idiots in Centrelink and other government agencies, we'd balance the budget tomorrow! Centrelink cheats should be caught and dealt with, but the savings would be a drop in the ocean compared to savings from ending corporate, business and government cheating and waste paying high incomes to incompetent fools and lazy seat warmers.
linhmartin
14th Aug 2017
2:43pm
How true, Rainey. Most posters (with a couple of notable exceptions) are trying to be so 'tolerant' and politically correct that the real culprits are overlooked - and that includes those lazy, incompetent staff who are getting away with blue murder because their supervisors/managers are just as bad!
I'm about to make my third complaint to Telstra in less than a month because three customer service staff have each separately acknowledged that I've been hit with a not-insignificant invalid charge and all promised a refund, but as yet no refund (surprise, surprise!).
Nan Norma
11th Aug 2017
11:19am
I remember years ago my father, who had asbestosis and received a disability pension, getting a Centrelink letter to tell him he had to look for work. This really upset him as he was a very sick man. So these letters might not sound much but can cause distress.
My Centrelink app just stopped working. also, some savings accounts can't be updated on centrelinks website.
e
11th Aug 2017
11:20am
Maybe we can bring back the "Dob In" phone number, that would sift out alot of the so called fraudsters, and that would give employment to people investigating the calls!!
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:54am
Trouble with a lot of those complaints is there is no foundation in them, and they are based on personal spite, stupidity, and often plain dumb-ness on the part of the reporter.. You need only look at the endless recital of the 'dole bludgers' sitting around the bars drinking bourbon and coke - as if.... you can't even consider bourbon and coke unless you've got some Johnny Cash coming in beyond your rent and food...

You get people complaining about 'that single mother' who goes out all the time... and she's got a job, too! As if she could work and not pay tax and thus be guaranteed of being recorded for income...

Too many people just assume without any knowledge, and never let reality or truth get in the way of a good negative story about someone.
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
12:02pm
And those that are well founded too often result in a shoddy inquiry and no action, leaving the minority of skilled fraudsters free to continue to rort the system forever, while those who try to comply but make innocent mistakes are persecuted.
Ginaus
11th Aug 2017
11:22am
... of course Centrelink aims the vulnerable.... others would go in and thump on the table.... never let them intimidate you....
Charlie
11th Aug 2017
11:23am
Is it the widespread use of computers that is making it more difficult for people to prioritize things. To choose between trivial and important, minority and majority, upside down and right way up. The world is getting full of it.
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
5:06pm
Excuses that's all.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:00pm
Plenty of that going around, IG - especially when it comes to those with cunning tax avoidance arrangements etc.

But that's an entitlement, isn't it? Sorry...
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
2:49am
It would help if Centerlink's computers actually worked reliably and information submitted was processed. A Centrelink employee told me it could take up to 4 months for a changed circumstances notification filed by a client to actually be processed, and then the client is blamed for overpayments!
linhmartin
17th Aug 2017
1:12pm
Right on, Rainey - I was blocked from accessing my Income and Assets records on 18 June after logging out to get requested "evidence" and trying (unsuccessfully) to log back in and continue updating.
Despite three written complaints, I'm STILL locked out and no-one's even bothered to try and tell me why, or how/when access will be unblocked (I'm o/s, so no way will I hang onto the phone for half an hour at international calling rates). All they've gotta do is send me a response email with acknowledgement of the problem and an undertaking that it's being addressed; they eventually send an email 'receipt' each time, but there's nothing in them other than a phone number to call - so why do they bother with an online service at all!).
MjP
11th Aug 2017
11:25am
Unfortunately Strummer my experience was very different from yours, I went into a Centrelink Office to report my income one year and was told by the person controlling access that I didn't need to. Some 15 months later I received a phone call from them saying that my income for that year was over the limit and as I hadn't reported it they were going have me repay not only my payments for that year but also for the following 18 months. After going through 3 reviews with them and having all reviews find the same thing they started recovering the money. I appealed to the AAT and they found that because Centrelink had never advised me that I needed to advise them of my income I didn't owe them anything and they had to repay to me the money I had repaid. I lost count of the number of times I spoke to their operators and how long I wasted on the phone but it was considerable. I now go into their office and speak directly to someone whenever I need to and have found their staff very pleasant and helpful face to face.
Happy One
11th Aug 2017
11:25am
Very saddened by the letter sent by Centrelink and the AFP; it was a terrible thing to send to vulnerable people (and I can confirm it was sent to Disability Suport Pensioners!). Perhaps this kind of message could be drafted by someone with more compassion next time? Centrelink staff are pretty wonderful usually though!
Triss
11th Aug 2017
1:47pm
You're right, Happy One, I reckon this one's a Bully Boy Letter.
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
5:07pm
Some people need more than Bully Boy letters to get them to full fil their obligations.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:13pm
Most corporate thieves need a lengthy prison sentence.... not to mention rorting politicians and thieves of the nation who sell it out to their mates.
Mootnell
11th Aug 2017
11:26am
subliminal threat to those that feel vulnerable. Many of our older generation get very concerned over letters like this even when they have done everything correct. Even the contact information is confusing for the very elderly with no postal or phone number listed clearly, only internet which many older people would not have.
I've read this month of two young men who both committed suicide over pressure from centrelink, the unremitting letters sent to one of them was terrible. Whilst they are not wholly responsible for these mens actions they certainly were a catalyst.
The Gap
11th Aug 2017
11:31am
No problems being reminded of responsibilities. Never had a problem with staff.
Triss
11th Aug 2017
1:52pm
Even if you don't have a problem with reminders, The Gap, this is a very badly written letter coming from a government department.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:15pm
And why waste the time of an AFP 'assistant commissioner' in signing it? It's a CENTRELINK letter asking if information is up to date, fer chris' sake.

ONLY if there is clear evidence of any fraud should the time of the AFP be wasted at all, and there are plenty of really big issues out there to command their time at the moment - other than this blatant attempt to intimidate those with the least, and with no power to oppose.
quiltwitch
11th Aug 2017
11:34am
I've found Centrelink staff to be exceptionally helpful over the past few months, but this letter has been poorly thought out. It's not even a matter of whether or not people are tech savvy, it's this page full of words accompanied by the AFP logo. If someone had set out to deliberately frighten people they couldn't have done a better job. Save the threatening letters for those that don't comply, not just everyone.

I'm a Nominated person for my son who's on DSP so get a copy of any correspondence sent to him. I read this letter as it was intended & didn't panic, but my son had a huge panic attack & was convinced the govt was going to take away his money. He's a highly intelligent man with a mental health disorder and at 35 is just starting his first p/t job after completing some study. He has many friends with mental health disorders & to them, this letter was absolutely terrifying. One committed suicide as it was the final straw. Several days after the letter was received, they sent an SMS as well (to reinforce how serious it was) & then he received a letter headed Request for Information - Please call us (full of statements about what would happen if you didn't).

Luckily I was able to do the phone calls to sort it all out as he was ready to quit his new job, empty his bank account & move away off the radar as he was so convinced he was going to lose his DSP & his hard won small savings.

I don't know why they'd say they're not doing it to DSP receivers because they most definitely are & those without a nominated person to sort it out for them are having some extremely frightening times. It's been very cruelly handled. I feel like I should offer to rewrite it for them in a manner that's easy to understand - it's not that hard for goodness sake!
Triss
11th Aug 2017
1:59pm
Actually, quiltwitch, I think you should do a rewrite and send the amended letter back to them, especially as it worried your son so much. These govt people live and work tucked away from from our ire knowing the floor staff
will be the ones to cop the complaints.
Ugly Truth
11th Aug 2017
11:43am
Centrelink got Dan and Bradstreet's Indian call centre to harass my wife who suffers post traumatic stress due to criminal attack by Government enforcement agency. My wife according to Centrelinks records is suffering severe mental issues and anxiety. For $200 overpayment my wife received up to 5 calls per day threatening to take all her furniture and other goods . The Vic Ombudsman in its various forms were advised of this criminal behaviour and nothing was done .They were to busy forming the Apex gang because white juveniles were not committing enough crime and this was racist. (read their reports). I had to threaten the life of a manager of the debt collection agency before it stopped.
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
11:51am
We've all had our own experiences with Centrelink - someone should write a book about it! I've never really had too much trouble with them because my "MO" for dealing with them has always been to remind myself that they're required to react from a script rather than by using their own intelligence or imagination which might, horror of horrors, allow them to be somewhat flexible in certain circumstances!
But my "support" is wavering over this latest stoush because I was trying to update my personal details on 18 June when I was prompted to "provide evidence", so I logged out, copied the required evidence, and tried to log back in to continue updating - but was barred from doing so with a prompt: "Your Income and Asset details cannot be updated at this time. Please try again later." (at least they said "please", which is not a common occurrence...).
I've been trying every day since, but the block is still there - and now I've just filed my third complaint to try and find out what's wrong and/or how I or they can fix the problem. Unfortunately, both previous complaints were met with an identical response, "Our records tell us you're overseas. If you'd like to discuss with one of our staff, please call (the Melbourne number supplied). Charges apply." And I keep telling them I'm in Vietnam and can't afford to hang on the line for half an hour waiting for someone to answer the phone - and why should I need to anyway, when all I want is for someone to unblock access to my Income and Asset records so I can continue the updating I started two months ago! There's surely nothing they can't already do now that needs me to tell someone what I've already told them in writing - "My access is blocked, please unblock it"!
And now we hear they're sending "reminders" for people to do precisely what they're stopping me from doing and, worse, don't seem the slightest bit interested in doing anything to help me comply! Grrrrrrrrrrr.................
*Imagine*
11th Aug 2017
7:42pm
I have experienced a similar 'lock out' when updating an asset change with a new car, logging off to check bank statements then logging back on. I buried this lock out and was informed by an efficient C/L employee that my change has to be ( and I don't recall the exact wording) logged; checked; updated or something similar then it will be live again. The issue was related to making a change, logging off then attempting to make another change before the first was 'qualified' in some way. Just give it a week or so and take a screen shot as evidence.
*Imagine*
11th Aug 2017
7:44pm
Don't you hate spell checks? I queried the lock out - I didn't bury it.
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
10:44pm
Thanks Imagine - I figured it would be something like that, but strange that Centrelink have now had two opportunities to tell me the same thing but instead suggested I might want to talk to their staff on the phone (they obviously haven't read much about all the complaints from people trying to do exactly that, with little or no success). It's been two months now, so one can only hope - in the meantime, I've ensured there's a paper trail with three complaints (and one to the ombudsman if the third doesn't work). Otherwise I'll head down to our local office on return to Oz - I've always found Centrelink office staff much easier to deal with than the faceless "customer service reps" (when you can get them on the phone) anyway.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:26pm
Centrelink has been steadily eroded by this government, with staff reductions and the replacement of face to face contact with robotic response - up to and including handing off some of its work to the AFP long before any real legal issue has arisen.

I've studied terrorism, and this is a form of terrorism intended to instill compliance with the demands of the government body, rather than dealing with the facts that are present, and only dealing adversely with those who actually breach the rules as a matter of deliberate action.

In short terms - it's called bullying, and is more and more prevalent in this nation at this time as the only way an inept government (of both parties - I support neither) can even begin to control its people so as to impose its own agenda on them first and foremost.

You will note, in that comment, that such government has clearly lost the plot and is operating without any civilised constraints..... and must be reined in.
maelcolium
11th Aug 2017
11:59am
It's not Centrelink staff that are the problem. It's the relentless pressure of the Minister who is channelling this Government's attitude to people in receipt of welfare payments.

I look forward to the day when the ATO sends threatening letters to the corporate parasites to remind them of their obligations to pay their fair share of taxation or when banks are finally brought before a Royal Commission to answer for their crimes. Won't happen of course because the LNP are beholding to their sponsors and wouldn't want to scare the horses! Meh - thank heavens they will be turfed out in 18 months!
Tom Tank
11th Aug 2017
12:51pm
Well said.
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
1:38pm
Agree 100%!
Triss
11th Aug 2017
2:13pm
You're so right, maelcollum.
Batara
11th Aug 2017
2:32pm
You're right on the money there maelcolium. Tudge is one of the more heartless in a Government devoid of compassion. Who could have been stupid enough to put him in this portfolio for which he has no aptitude?
Roby
11th Aug 2017
2:47pm
Who you going to put in charge from the Labor party Batara Penny Wong or some union thief be O k if you are a lesbian/peodophile
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:16pm
Couldn't be worse....
glennmor1
11th Aug 2017
12:01pm
As an ex Centrelink employee of over 23 years, I understand that customers get frustrated with receiving 'multiple letters'. It is near impossible for them to find the right balance, as there are customers who say they do not get advised of things (such as payment rate changes, confirming updates to personal details etc. etc.). some say they get too many letters and some are comfortable with the amount they receive. Having experience with creating letters to send to customers, it is also hard to find the right balance of level of information, language to use (i.e. what words to use), and ensuring that all the relevant details are included. Note: any letter such as the one being discussed, would have been drafted then reviewed several times before finally being sent tot eh Minister for approval. I personally find the wording of this letter very simple to understand, as should most people who actually read through the letter carefully, and should not cause disquiet unless the person is deliberately defrauding the Government. It is clearly stating there is a joint Centrelink/AFP taskforce that has been set up to identify welfare recipients who are defrauding the Government. It also clearly explains the difference between deliberate fraud and an unintentional oversight. It explains that the 'quickest' way to update details is via the app or online, with the inferred credit that anyone who cannot access these for anyone will understand that they can ring up or go to an office. Finally, it clearly states what constitutes deliberate fraud, and warns what the potential consequences of doing this are. All the information in this letter is important, as even unintentionally failing to update details may cause a customer to receive a debt, which neither the customer or Centrelink wants. I would be interested to see how people would word this letter differently, whilst ensuring that all the relevant information is included. Note: Mjp, you can consider yourself very lucky at the AAT, as on the original claim form that you signed, just above the place where you signed, there was a statement that on signing the claim form you were aware that you were required to notify of any changes to your circumstances within 14 days. It is very likely you did not read this at the time you signed, as it has been established that a substantial percentage of people just skip over it and sign the claim. However, as you signed the claim the debts should have stood, especially as the fact that you went into an office suggests that you knew you were not entitled to the amount you were being paid, but never sought confirmation via the callcentre for example.
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
12:19pm
Thanks glennmor1 - I also had the task of drafting customer letters (for Telstra) and realise it's not always as simple as we would all like. However, in the case of these allegedly "threatening" letters from Centrelink I would have insisted on at least one change - remove the AFP logo! Its very presence is threatening to people who've done nothing wrong, and it adds nothing to the information in the letter.
By the way, I'd be interested in your comments to my own current situation with Centrelink - see my posting two above yours.
Cheers...
Rosret
11th Aug 2017
2:07pm
GM1 may I suggest you have never been the recipient of a letter similar to the letter above. There are two ways of writing informative notifications and this is nothing but threatening.
Many elderly have very little communication with the world - and this is what is sent. Its horrid.
Would it make your day or make you feel horrible inside? I suggest the later.
Linhmartin drafting letters for Telstra is totally different to Centrelink and I would imagine that you wouldn't throw the letter of the law at them for an overdue account.
There is a process where by successive letters would escalate in severity as the debtor continued to fail to pay there bill.
In this case they haven't even done anything wrong.
I have been a Telstra customer for decades and never have I been threatened as Centrelink has with this customer!
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
4:45pm
You're right, of course, Rosret - Telstra customers have different needs to Centrelink customers (most of the time, anyway!). My comment that writing letters for customers "is not always as simple as we would all like" was not an agreement with g1, it was just an acknowledgement of the fact stated (that it's not always as simple...).
And you're right about Telstra's letters, although it wasn't always that way. When we in OTC were dragged kicking and screaming into a "merger" with Telecom Australia to form Telstra, one of my first jobs was to look at the then Telecom's customer letters and, in a word, I found the bulk of them "disturbing" - and promptly embarked on a campaign of rewriting as many as I could in the time allowed, with the first "casualties" being anything I thought could be regarded by recipients as 'threatening'.
And from that time on, the sending of debt recovery letters and similar was always done by consultants who didn't use the Telstra brand (Disclaimer: that was many years ago and I have no idea if the same process is still in place).
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
5:37pm
That letter is in no way threatening so what is your problem?
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
6:35pm
You seem to be the one with a problem, OG - you can't get off your soapbox. Get a life, mate - and show some respect for other people's opinions!
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
6:44pm
Respect for people who encourage fraudsters. No way.
P$cript
11th Aug 2017
7:22pm
OG is right it is no way threatening compared to what he puts in his comments.
linhmartin
12th Aug 2017
11:59am
Too true - he and Roby must be joined at the hip (or the mouth)!
Pamiea
11th Aug 2017
12:13pm
I received one recently. I didn't find it too threatening but I certainly got the message that I had to comply with updating my details within a certain period of time.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:09pm
If they haven't got my details by now, they never will.... I'm always above board on everything and try to stay in front of meaningless demands.

Got nothing to hide, not even my sometimes radical views, which every government worth its salt is entitled to...

I can ring the top security service and they know who I am - after all - they once wanted me to work for them along with the aforementioned AFP .... but that's by the by.... doesn't mean I will kow-tow to them or anyone else through an imputed fear.... EVERY organisation needs a few dissenting voices to stay straight and level... they missed out there.

That's why I'm here.... as Her Majesty's Permanent and Totally Loyal Opposition (unelected).... something that is the right of every citizen in a democracy, and I show no fear or favour.
Pamiea
11th Aug 2017
12:13pm
I received one recently. I didn't find it too threatening but I certainly got the message that I had to comply with updating my details within a certain period of time.
HKW
11th Aug 2017
12:17pm
I can see NOTHING WRONG with this letter. Just a simple reminder to those who may consider fraudulent intention towards honest Australian taxpayers by claiming multiple welfare payments for multiple wives and children. Those people are usually overly sensitive directing the blame on the authorities who only follow the law of the country.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:13pm
Signed by an assistant commissioner in the Gestapo? Why? it's a social services letter..... not a threat....

Is THAT what they pay some female Deputy Commissioner in the AFP to do? Sign letters to Social security recipients reminding them of vaguely possible adverse actions for breaches of law thus far unsupported by any fact or evidence?

That's one hell of a lot of pay and perks for doing nothing..... what a comment on female AFP deputy commissioners that is.... she should be insulted to be accorded one of those 'sheila job' things to do instead of real policing catching terrorists and corporate crims and stopping leaks from government departments and such...
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:14pm
When was it the law of the country that the AFP had to intervene, n writing, in a simple request for updated information from Social Security recipients?
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:15pm
When was it the law of the country that the AFP had to intervene, in writing, in a simple request for updated information from Social Security recipients?
Annick
11th Aug 2017
12:41pm
I have only had one problem with Centrelink, it was years ago when a Centrelink worker made a mistake with recording my earnings for the fortnight. They forgot to save the amount. When I received my payment I knew that a mistake had been made. I went straight into the local office with the overpayment in my hand. The office staff were not allowed to take the money instead I was told that a letter would be sent. When I received the letter it was accusing me of not declaring my earnings, which was wrong. I went back into the office and asked to speak to the manager and told him if the letter was not withdrawn and removed for my file I would be charging them with slander as the mistake was made by a Centrelink staff and not me. I received a letter of apology and a better worded letter asking for the overpayment back.
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
12:52pm
I can't see anything wrong with that letter at all. In fact that AFP logo gives it some urgency rather then it just being another Centrelink letter to be ignored. Keep up the good work Centrelink.
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
1:35pm
Do you really view correspondence from Centrelink as "just... another Centrelink letter to be ignored", OG - or are you having a bad day and/or playing devil's advocate?
Whatever, there are many other ways to convey urgency on a letterhead without displaying a police force logo - which, as the public outcry has already shown, is seen at least in some quarters as overly threatening.
Triss
11th Aug 2017
2:45pm
You should see something wrong with that letter, OG, it looks as though it has been written by someone who slept through most of their English lessons.
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
4:33pm
It looks like standard Centrelink letter language to me.

Unfortunately a lot of people on Centrelink ignore all letters and only take notice when their welfare gets stopped. So I see it as a attempt by Centrelink to get them to take notice before they have to take such action. They would have already tried other ways without any response.
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
4:48pm
Too many assumptions there, OG - unless you know for a fact something that we don't?
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
5:31pm
No assumptions just facts.
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
6:44pm
OK, OG - you say they're all facts, so please enlighten us all with answers to the following, all taken from your post above:
...Define 'Centrelink letter language'
...How many Centrelink customers/welfare recipients 'ignore all letters and only take notice when their welfare gets stopped'?
...Who told you the letter in question is an attempt by Centrelink to get 'them' to take notice before 'they' have to take such action?
...What 'other ways' has Centrelink tried?
...How do you know?
Looking forward to your answers, otherwise we'll have to assume there's no basis to your snide comments and insinuations that everyone's a thief except you!
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
7:38pm
What's up, OG - cat got your tongue?
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:00pm
Excuses are like a-holes, OG - everybody's got one...
Gazman
11th Aug 2017
12:54pm
The Article says "A DHS spokesperson said the Taskforce Integrity letters and texts were not sent to age pensioners, nor to anyone receiving disability support or to those with an intellectual, severe mental or physical disability."
Then how come I received the same letter when I am on DSP with only one year till I am to receive an Aged Pension.
Me Thinks some-one is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.
Which is typical of this Governments strategies
Ted Wards
11th Aug 2017
3:28pm
I work with aged and with people with disabilities and mental health, they all received this letter. Not even the department knows what its doing!
David
11th Aug 2017
12:58pm
I don’t see anything wrong with the letter. If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.
It’s like stealing when you overclaim your Centrelink benefits…stealing from honest taxpayers.
Triss
11th Aug 2017
2:48pm
Like CentreLink customers, David, all taxpayers are not honest.
David
11th Aug 2017
3:32pm
Triss, I never said all taxpayers were honest.
Fraudulent welfare recipients are no different to fraudulent taxpayers who over claim their deductions or under claim their income. The full force of the law should come down on them.
I was referring to those welfare recipients who over claim their benefits, who are being subsidised by those taxpayers who are honest, like me. Obviously not all taxpayers are honest like me. In my former job I collected $700 million from dishonest taxpayers
I’ve paid over 500,000 in taxes (in today’s dollars) during my working career and strongly detest those who cheat not just on their welfare benefits but also with their taxes.
Many of those dishonest welfare recipients are also dishonest taxpayers.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:17pm
You're not alone, David - but the issues of Social Security seem to evade you.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:35pm
Social security provides a network for those in need.. which still does not make it a charity handout.... and it has clear social purposes in cutting down on crime and other desperate means of survival.

THAT is clearly why it does not need to be attacked and dismantled as a social safety net for ALL.

Not only that, but its expenditure is predictable, and due to the relatively low levels of income involved, it actually generates a bottom line for taxation on many fronts, due to the simple reality that it is mostly spent almost immediately. It is thus a stable underpinning of taxation revenue, unlike, say, business tax, which is infinitely malleable and does not pay every fortnight anyway.

Put simply - a government can rely on the amount disbursed as social security returning to it in short order through the cycle of taxation... something that income levels with discretionary income emphatically do not do, and the higher the level of discretionary income, the less actual impact into the tax cycle.

That is why we need a thorough review of tax in a positive way.... government cannot continue to feed the mule less and less hay until it doesn't eat any more, without it dying.
David
12th Aug 2017
10:32am
Trebor, what do you mean by “…the issues of Social Security seem to evade you”? Without knowing my background, on what basis do you come to this? Do you think that the issues evade me just because I have a different opinion to yours?
I worked for 34 years dealing with Commonwealth legislation, including the Social Security Act 1991 (SSA), and have helped a number of people in dealing with their disputes with Centrelink over the years, so to say that the issues of Social Security evades me is without basis.
Where do you come up with the statement that Social Security “…has clear social purposes in cutting down on crime and other desperate means of survival.” Unfounded statements like this show that you don’t understand the purpose of the SSA. There is no reference to what you claim to be this purpose in either the SSA or its EM.
You said “…it does not need to be attacked and dismantled as a social safety net for ALL”. Who are you saying is attacking and dismantling it? I’m certainly not.
What do you mean by “…its expenditure is predictable”? The amount of expenditure on welfare would vary depending on how many people overall are eligible, what their level of income/assets are, the amounts recovered from those welfare recipients that have lied about their income/assets etc.
I’m not sure what you mean by “…it (I’m assuming you mean welfare benefits) actually generates a bottom line for taxation.” Many welfare recipients would be paying little or no tax, depending on their other sources of income.
Quite a number of the points and issues you raised confused me, hence the number of questions I have raised to clarify where you are coming from.
TREBOR
12th Aug 2017
2:08pm
Don't want to argue right now, David.. perhaps it was the references to your tax and 'stealing' - which seems to presume that such events as rorting C'Link are widespread when the reality is that only a very small percentage actually do that - kind of hit the wrong spot.

Roby's telling us that pensions are now charity... his grandma will kill him when he gets home from the pub...

We've all paid fifty years of tax etc, and at the income levels of some of us it would seem we've paid a lot along the way... anyway - social security is an entitlement which should not bring any rancour or condemnation... I merely defend the unemployed here, who could all do with a long-term stable job that will enable them to one day retire with a little bit ... pensions have nothing to do with it...
TREBOR
12th Aug 2017
2:10pm
The expenditure of social security payments, being of a low level, is almost immediately back into the tax cycle and the economy, and can thus be relied upon as a datum. If a government hands out a billion bucks, it can guarantee that billion will find its way home in a week or so,unless side-tracked into some fat cat's coffers or some multi-national.

Thus social security is a solid underpinning of economic calculations and is reasonably predictable, including its effect on the economy.
David
12th Aug 2017
2:59pm
Thanks for your comments Trebor.
Where is your evidence that there is only a very small percentage of Centrelink rorting?
Centrelink fraud is not a small percentage as you claim. My references to tax (and Centrelink) stealing were well-founded. The 2014-15 annual report of the Department of Human Services says that $2.5 billion in debts were raised from 2,350,131 Centrelink customers in that year (p.103) – an average of a little over $1,000 per customer with a debt. The reality is that the rorting is widespread and that the Government needs to crack down on this.
Having paid over $500,000 in taxes over my working life and seeing it wasted this way hits the wrong spot with me.
For all those welfare recipients that are honest (you said you are in this category), wouldn’t you rather the Government crack down on $2.5 billion of wrong payments to welfare receipients rather than let this massive amount be wasted? Doing so would enable the Government to increase welfare payments to the needy and also enable the Government to spend more on roads, schools, hospitals etc. Only someone who is rorting or stealing from Centrelink would be against this!
How can you say “If a government hands out a billion bucks, it can guarantee that billion will find its way home in a week”? I can see no basis or logic in this. As I said previously, much of the payments to welfare recipients are not subject to tax as many of them are below the tax-free threshold. On the other side, much of the expenditure by welfare recipients on the basics of life is not subject to GST, such as that spent mortgage payments, rent and fresh food. These items of expenditure were exempted from GST for equity reasons.
linhmartin
12th Aug 2017
4:23pm
Interesting stuff David. I have no facts, but I think an acknowledgement of 'human nature' implies that there are many welfare recipients who cheat the system - and good luck to Centrelink for going after them with the police. But they should be properly targeted, as in all criminal investigations - I object to the 'scattergun' approach that's reportedly been applied in this case, with genuinely vulnerable people receiving the same threats as those who arguably deserve them!
And if it's true that $2.5 billion in debts were raised from 2,350,131 Centrelink customers, I can't help wondering how that stacks up against the billions of taxpayer dollars rorted by far fewer politicians like Smokin' Joe "double-dip" Hockey, that arrogant ex-speaker on the northern beaches with her helicopter rides, and their greedy ilk?
David
12th Aug 2017
6:50pm
Thanks for your comments linhmartin.
All forms of cheating/rorting should be condemned, whether that be by welfare recipients, taxpayers (both individuals and businesses) and politicians.
The helicopter politician you referred to was Bronwyn Bishop. She travelled from Melbourne to Geelong (my home town). What she did was disgraceful.
Regarding the Centrelink letter you referred to, I personally think that it was ok. The reason I think so is that the letter asks the welfare recipients if their details are up-to-date, it sets out their obligations and advises them of what the consequences are if they are dishonest. It also thanks those welfare recipients who are doing the right thing and the letter clearly states that the majority of welfare recipients do the right thing. I respect your right to believe otherwise.
All types of fraud should be condemned, whether that be by welfare recipients, taxpayers understating their income or overstating their deductions or where politicians rort their allowances. All these fraudulent acts should all be hit with the full force of the law. After all, it’s money they’ve ripped off from those who are honest and in the end, that’s less for genuine welfare recipients, schools, hospitals and roads.
linhmartin
12th Aug 2017
7:20pm
Amen to that!
Nan Norma
12th Aug 2017
7:55pm
Ok. Lets start with the politicians. They are the biggest rorters. They point the finger at the poorest people while the other hand is taking the cake. How can anyone be expected to live on the unemployment pay. There is not enough employment for everybody.
sunnyOz
11th Aug 2017
12:58pm
Can definitely confirm this. I help out an elderly (80+) lady whose husband dies 2 years ago. He was in a nursing home - she at own home, so they both were entitled to the single aged pension. She received a rather threatening letter demanding money be repaid as she had been 'overpaid' (according to them). She was extremely distraught as she was sure she had done all the right things. I had to assist her in getting letters from doctors, aged care place, etc before they RELUCTANTLY backed down. And only after we insisted we get it in writing which they were loath to do. Funny how clients have to provide everything in writing but they can do things verbally (then no record). I now assist her with all paperwork - whether it be for insurance, Centrelink, even energy bills. I am sure the elderly are targeted by some companies, departments, etc.
Mootnell
11th Aug 2017
1:08pm
Whole heartedly agree with your comments. The elderly get very distraught and confused with all the compliance letters sent to them from a myriad of businesses i.e. power, Telstra etc. Centrelink is just one of them. This confusion is compounded when they are visually impaired and have dementia. Elderly should have a personal interview (with a family member or carer in attendance) once yearly and then left alone, they have enough to cope with. It is inhumane to attack those that have paid their way whilst those that haven't just ignore it all. The
elderly are sitting targets to be bullied.
Florgan
11th Aug 2017
1:19pm
TAME and warranted.
If your doing the right thing, it's of no consequence, if your doing the wrong thing... stop ripping ME the tax payer OFF
Triss
11th Aug 2017
2:55pm
Government and media are doing a good job, Florgan. You are annoyed at the thought of OAPs and disabled ripping you, the taxpayer, off and yet ex politicians who retired in their 40s are spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars every year jetting off on multiple holidays with their families and you don't consider that a rip off. I find that odd.
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
2:44am
Yep, and tax cheats (most of them wealthy) and big corporates and the rich using loopholes unconscionably and immorally, and overpaid bureaucrats not doing their jobs properly but taking fat salaries and benefits... it goes on and on and on, but the arrogant privileged with no empathy just keep attacking the easy targets who, in reality, take far less from YOU, THE TAXPAYER, than all the immoral fat cats who never face justice.
Rosret
11th Aug 2017
1:46pm
Yes - it is inappropriate and unacceptable.
A positive informative letter can be sent to people reminding them of the action they should take should xyz happen to change their circumstance.
Imagine if every time we went to the ATM a message reminded us of the consequence of identity theft or at every road intersection there were a set of rules to remind us of the force of the law if we have an at fault accident.
Its as horrible as those videos from the Video stores that spent 10 minutes of telling us how horrible we were copying videos when we had just hired one legally.
It is threatening, intimidating and totally demeaning with probably no positive effect.
Its purely a reminder, "You are a lesser person and I am going to be the bully to remind you that this is charity."
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:18pm
Precisely.
Raphael
11th Aug 2017
2:44pm
Blah blah blah
If you commit fraud you will be charged
Many people claim ignorance
Stop bloody whining about nothing
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
2:33am
Not whining about nothing, Raphael. People make mistakes. People struggle to understand. People suffer wrong decisions by Centrelink. People suffer fear and confusion. Not all are privileged to enjoy the intelligence, education, and confidence that allows folk like you to ASSUME that it's all easy and straightforward navigating a complex system when you are down and out and haven't had the opportunity to build understanding of the system and confidence to defend your rights.
Roby
11th Aug 2017
2:50pm
Don"t see to many of you wingers on this sight giving up your pensions so if you get free money you have to be accountable and not cheat like so many of you do.
Triss
11th Aug 2017
3:57pm
Snide generalisation, Roby. Specifically who on LifeChoices cheats and how do you know?
Roby
11th Aug 2017
4:08pm
You seem worried about the letter Triss do you cheat?

mmm
Triss
11th Aug 2017
7:53pm
No.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:02pm
It's not free money - it's bought and paid for pension money and other social security money.

Thanks for coming, Mein Fuhrer.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:19pm
Real people are always concerned about the rise of neo-Fascism and tyranny in THEIR country, Roby - perhaps that doesn't apply where you came from.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
11:37pm
Did you say that to your grandmother in the hearing of your parents... BOY? She'd tear your ear off if they didn't first.
Allie
11th Aug 2017
2:59pm
I got one of these earlier on this year.

I was in a particularly vulnerable place and spent several hours on hold to get through to speak to Centrelink about the letter.

When a real person finally said hello I burst into tears from the fear and threat and the long wait on the phone.
The Centrelink worker was surprised by my reaction to the AFP logo on a Centrelink letter. She then went through my files to see if there were anything untoward. She reassured me there wasn't but I wanted a letter confirming this. I never got one.

The threat of 'prison' when I am a carer for my disabled husband and a support for my grandson whilst his mother was trying to escape Domestic Violence was all too much for me.
This is the most disgusting abuse of Right Wing Government powers I have ever encountered ( until my sole parent daughter had to deal with robodebt!!!)

Every time the LNP gain government I have to intercept the letters to my husband because during the Howard years he became so threatened and depressed he planned his suicide. I was lucky enough to recognise the signs and got him to our GP in time.

Those who do not have to depend upon Social Security to live have no concept of just how tenuous it feels. Through no fault of our own a long series of chronic illnesses has dogged us throughout the years. The last thing we need is to feel threatened. It is hard enough to put up with the abuse from self funded retirees who accuse us of being bludgers and 'lazy' etc.

Just leave us in peace to live the best we can on the little we have. Please.
Nan Norma
11th Aug 2017
3:08pm
I'm with you Allie. In my previous blog I wrote how distressed my father, who was dying of asbestos, was because Centrelink sent him such letter. Told him had to go look for work and that his disability pension would be stopped.
Roby
11th Aug 2017
4:06pm
One wonders how much welfare some families get they are allon the pension get a carers pension as well the daughter gets single mothers pension for a dozen kids by various fathers and the sons are all on the dole and to cap it off they all live happily in public housing and we wonder why the country is going broke ?
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
4:53pm
Having a nice day, Roby? (doesn't sound like it!).
Nan Norma
11th Aug 2017
4:53pm
I do see your point there Ruby. But we should be careful not to judge without knowing all the facts.
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
6:49pm
Unfortunately many make it hard for those who are genuine.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:02pm
They do that, OG - they do that - but as usual you know not of what your speak in reality.. or perhaps your tongue is forked.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
10:04pm
.. and you would know that how? Do you have one thing that you can support to offer here, or are you just another kid troll sitting down to a bourbon and coke?

Respect your elders - they've always been and always will be - better than you....

I'd post for you Bob Menzies statement on the introduction of the Pension - but it would be wasted on your clear lack of intelligence.
Rosret
12th Aug 2017
4:40pm
Absolutely so sorry that you received a letter like this. I hope you are OK now.
Isn't it amazing that we spend so much government money funding Beyond Blue and other well being venues and then have another department doing exactly the opposite!
There seems to be one sector of the community that believes everyone on welfare is a dole bludger. Yes - some are - but most aren't!
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
12:24am
So sorry for you, Allie.

No, OG, it's not that many make it hard for those who are genuine. It's that the system is broken, and the broken system drives increased dishonesty and ignores the frauds but persecutes the genuine and destroys hope and opportunity.

I recently met with a man who, after a hideously disadvantaged childhood as a victim of gross injustice and bureaucratic failure, fought for his country, serving in the military for many years, then worked and payed taxes, but at 55 became genuinely disabled - largely as a result of abuse for which the government was responsible. The way his case was dealt with by an arrogant little over-privileged upstart at Centrelink was appalling. The way his appeal was handled by a fat-cat lawyer was worse. When I stepped in, his family was desperate - living in a campervan with his wife on the verge of a breakdown caring for a disabled husband and a daughter going through major trauma, and draining savings at a terrifying rate. I got through to a Centrelink social worker who got them immediate benefits and was absolutely appalled at what they had been put through. The problem was a total lack of empathy on the part of Centrelink staff and refusal to try to understand that people in desperate circumstances and with complex disadvantaged backgrounds don't understand the rules made by privileged folk with no comprehension of genuine need, and simply don't know how to play the ''game''. But the system favours the smart fraudsters who learn the rules. They don't get these threatening letters. Only the vulnerable, like Allie, suffer this kind of intimidation.
KSS
11th Aug 2017
3:46pm
I see nothing wrong or threatening with this letter and in fact I think it should be sent to everyone who gets any form of welfare regardless of age or circumstance. If people take Government payments, they should expect to be tracked and audited to ensure only those in genuine need are collecting it.

By receiving this letter people cannot say they didn't know the rules. Do the right thing and they have nothing to worry about from Centreline, the AFP or anyone else.
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
5:08pm
I agree.
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:06pm
Not at all - not at all - a benign letter from Centrelink asking if details are current and up to date should always be signed by an assistant AFP commissioner...

Some of you are a dumb as planks tonight.... thank god the football's on and I can do my hair rather than put you straight constantly.

You are welcome to return to NAZI Germany of Stalinist russia or any other creep hole of freedom any time you want., guys... this is AUSTRALIA - and we don't send intimidating letters signed by neo fascist running dogs of government.

I'm amazed that an assistant AFP commissioner would so demand her position as to put her signature on this nonsense.

What part of 'asking for clarification is not a demand with menaces' do you not understand?
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:09pm
Sorry - that was 'demean her position' - another PC appointee it seems and a lackey of government rather than a servant to her duty.

Clean-out needed of all senior public servants... we don't have Fascists here, and it is clear they are getting above their station.
KSS
11th Aug 2017
8:39pm
Pull your head in Trebor and stop insulting people who disagree with you by calling them 'dumb' and linking them (us) with Nazi Germany and Stalinists. Back in your box until you can maintain a civil discussion without insults.
Roby
11th Aug 2017
9:18pm
don't Worry TREBOR is a Labor Stooge never worked a day in his life
just wants free money an a big Bludger we are better of without people like him in this country
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
10:06pm
If the cap fits - wear it. The attitude of the NAZI and the Stalinist is writ large in many of the comments here today that are negative to those in rightful receipt of social security payments.

I guess you just missed it...
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
10:18pm
I'm not the yob sitting in a pub big-mouthing off with his flea-brained mates about things they know nothing about and trying to big-note himself by seeking to be associated with 'Liberal' business honchoes, as if somehow that makes a pub dweller with yob mates a 'better' class of person than those who can't find a job at this time with one in six unemployed or under-employed.

You have got to be kidding me..... some pub-swilling yob who can't spell thinks he knows it all?

Make a perfect NAZI.... too dumb to know better.
Rosret
12th Aug 2017
4:55pm
KSS there is a difference to sending an informative letter when a citizen applies for a Centrelink benefit as to receiving a random threatening letter in the mail.
I get hackers phoning me about "my fraudulent tax return" - I know its a hoax. A lot of elderly don't. This letter looks just like a scammers letter.
There are appropriate ways to track those people playing the system and this isn't it. The government has a multitude of linked databases. It just makes people feel horrible and causes unnecessary stress.
People will desensitize to over the top threats and the outcome will be they will ignore all posted information.
Old Man
11th Aug 2017
4:09pm
It has been my experience that people who squeal the loudest about unfair tactics surrounding welfare payments are, in the main, those who have something to hide. There is a small group of people who will readily rort the system and expect public sympathy when they are caught out. What we are really dealing with here is a warning that some are breaking the law and should expect penalties to be imposed if they are caught. How many in this forum are prepared to support criminals?
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
5:02pm
Sounds like a lot by most of the comments Old Man.
MD
11th Aug 2017
5:38pm
But there you may have it OM, although we could do with some degree of indication however vague, of quantifying percentages relative to your question re criminal supporters. Criminals come in many forms and aren't restricted to welfare recipients, which is the thrust of this article. "Rorters" exist in all walks of life - numerically most maybe at the lower socio-economic strata and financially those within the privileged few. Probably best to leave the institutionalized element well alone as they currently seem to be doing very well digging their own hole.

The same applies to Robys' sweeping comment - it also begs qualification, ie, how many "families are all on the pension" (& etc) ? As you have seen fit to slur entire families with your professed knowledge that "they are all on the dole" perhaps, if you don't mind the suggestion and as it obviously annoys you because "the country is going broke" that you should have the courage of your OWN convictions and duly report them.

Have we, as a society (apologies Maggie) become so thin skinned that response to a formal communication from a government department needs to meet with each and everyone's approval, regardless of former qualifications or otherwise to this effect ?
For those currently enjoying the privilege of a social payment, whatever the form, it requires reciprocal responsibility to ensure its continuity. Some folk aren't happy with the marriage laws, others with the Constitution, drink/drug drivers with the Road Traffic Act and so on and so forth the stupidity of it all continues to spiral of this planet, but pahleeese, let's not get our knickers in a twist over a morally supportable (and justifiable) letter from the slink.
Old Geezer
11th Aug 2017
6:46pm
Agree too many minority groups with minority causes trying to hood wink the majority.
linhmartin
11th Aug 2017
6:54pm
Agree with a lot (but not all) of that, MD. I just wish that people on this forum would stick to the facts, state their opinion and then allow others to do the same instead of the continual barbs and insinuations of posters like Roby and Old Geezer, in particular, who simply won't allow anyone else to have an opinion without sniping at it!
Life is far too short for us all to be at each other's throats over a media report, ferchrissake!
TREBOR
11th Aug 2017
8:07pm
Oh - I don't know - I yell from the rooftops whenever I see a despotic government seeking to intimidate those with the least, and acting as if it has some absolute right to dictate anything and everything to its people who put it there.
Rosret
12th Aug 2017
5:07pm
Actually Old Man I have no affiliation with Centrelink. I watched Centrelink cross check maintenance payments against my daughter-in-law's income and tell my son the payments needed to be doubled. However it wasn't even the due date for submission of tax returns and they decided she had earned nothing in the last financial year.
Neither human had made a mistake nor asked for a change in maintenance payments - just Centrelink's software. Try talking to a computer! They aren't AI yet.
I have had bills over the years. Some looked as though I was in debt already and they felt quite threatening and it was just the usual monthly bill.
Then the NRMA with their over 50 "special" bill. I think they thought it would make me feel good. I hated opening up the premium payment bill. I didn't ask to be treated differently and it made me feel yucky inside and a reminder that I was indeed growing old.
Rosret
12th Aug 2017
5:18pm
MD, when was the last time you received a letter like that in the mail reminding you of the road rules or marriage laws etc. I would say never. Not even the 17 year old getting their driving licence for the first time receives a letter like this.
It would serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever.
If you want to remind people of legislation then by all means send out pamphlets to educate and inform. However there is no excuse for writing unjustified threatening letters.
HDRider
11th Aug 2017
4:47pm
They do say, "targeting certain areas" , in sure we can guess where and who if the feds are helping out lol. Where's the problem, nothing to hide nothing to worry about!
True the ABS who I told, sorry can't answer your questions I'm really ill and having chemo, they still keep phoning me to answer questions, next they will start threatening me, now there's a better story lmao
Rosret
11th Aug 2017
10:08pm
I hope you get well soon HD.
glennmor1
13th Aug 2017
10:04am
I have noted the comments made not only in respect of my comments, but others as well, and these display the variety of thoughts and beliefs people have, note offensive/abusive comments add nothing to the discussion.
1) A lot of people have focussed on the use of the AFP logo on the letter, however there is both Centrelink and AFP logos as this has obviously be designed as a combined communication from both organisations due to this being a joint agency taskforce.
2) Centrelink has tried many ways to try and 'dissuade' those welfare recipients who are considering or actually defrauding the department. This has included Hank Jongen appearing on programs such as A Current Affair, working with the media, especially newspapers, to publicise the penalties where people have defrauded Centrelink by large amounts, been taken to court, and either jailed or received large fines, as well as other methods.
3) There is still a tip-off line which I always promote, as Centrelink can only catch fraudsters when they become aware of them, and families, friends and neighbours know they are better than a Government department can do. However too often these people remain silent as they think 'it is only a small amount', or 'they are not really hurting anyone', or 'it is not really my business' etc. etc.
4) The reality is that all these 'little amounts', amount to millions of taxpayers dollars per year which could be spent on other things. Also whilst they receive these at the rate of hundreds of dollars a fortnight, they generally only repay them in the tens of dollars.
5) This letter mailout appears to be designed to do 2 things, a) clearly explain the difference between customers who were inadvertently overpaid and those who are intentionally defrauding the department, and b) clearly explain the possible penalties for those caught defrauding the department, as a disincentive.
6) There is a specific language used by Centrelink, that has been developed over many years to make letters as clear and concise as possible, whilst ensuring that hey are legally correct and include the relevant information. As previously stated, no matter what language or format they use, they cannot make all people comfortable all the time.
Suze
13th Aug 2017
10:39am
Well put glennmor1
linhmartin
13th Aug 2017
1:04pm
Most of what you say is common sense, g1 - but I disagree re use of AFP logo as I know many old folk are nowhere near as lucid or competent/confident as they were at a younger age and simply get frightened when they see something like a police logo on a letter from Centrelink (I'm sure you'll agree it's not a common occurrence - and perhaps that alone is the cause of much of the angst that's been/being expressed).
And we've all read about 'mistakes' made by Centrelink in targetting people for various alleged crimes - remember the recent fuss about robo-debt?
And I know from experience that once Centrelink has made a decision about you, it's v.difficult to get it changed - right or wrong (in my case they were wrong, but v.reluctant to admit it - and when they finally did there was no mention of "sorry" or even "please/thank you").
Centrelink has a tough job to do - but there are many ways they could do it better - and even get the public on their side, which is certainly not the case right now. Who's fault is that, I wonder?
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
12:11am
I agree with most of what you say, glennmor1, but I think Centrelink's heavy-handed approach is a little too intimidating for those whose literacy levels are not high and who fear authority. My main problem, though, is that the real frauds somehow never seem to be caught. I have repeatedly sent detailed evidence proving that a woman has been defrauding the system claiming disability for 40+ years. No action taken. She just continues to prosper. Even presented with proof of a large inheritance and suggestions as to where money might be hidden, Centrelink did NOTHING. The law now allows her, after 40+ years of milking the taxpayer, to use inherited wealth to build a luxury waterfront home, and then to continue receiving benefits for the rest of her life. That's just so wrong! (She even cunningly included a private ''carer suite'' in the house so her lover can live-in and receive a carer pension and allowance while she receives a single rate pension and benefits from his contribution to rates, water and power costs etc.)

I know there are thousands of cases like hers. Yet I know of desperately needy folk who made innocent mistakes and suffered terribly, and many who were wrongly denied benefits they should have been granted. The bottom line is that the system isn't working, because it's a flawed system managed by overpaid, inept people who don't have even the smallest comprehension of the problem they are supposed to be trying to solve - and really have no interest in understanding it, because they are arrogant and self-opinionated and find it easier and more comfortable to simply blame the victims of a failed system, rather than acknowledge the failure and seek a better way.

(We see that attitude clearly in OG's frequent posts. Sadly, this is the attitude of many who SHOULD be seeking ways to address the failure of our welfare system, rather than just attacking the easy targets.)
linhmartin
17th Aug 2017
1:24pm
That's horrific, Rainey - I'd be going straight to my MP to complain about Centrelink ignoring, failing to act or, at the very least, failing to tell you their 'findings'. Have you tried the media? - most would follow up that kind of story in a heartbeat!
Rainey
22nd Aug 2017
10:56am
The problem, linhmartin, is that the clever cheats know how to cheat. It's morally wrong to spend a huge inheritance on a luxury home, but it's legal. If she can get a doctor to say she needs a carer, it matters not how she managed to get that diagnosis or how wrong it is. Centrelink accept it. What is sad is that the system looks after the cheats very well and the moral needy very poorly!
Nan Norma
14th Aug 2017
4:56pm
Lets be honest. The dole money is not enough to live on. (Won't even put a roof over your head) To suggest EVERYONE on the dole is a bludger is propaganda. If you can't find employment you are left to do whatever you can to survive. Politicians would like us all to believe the unemployed don't want to work that way they can justify leaving them to live in poverty. They want people to work till they are 70 knowing full well very few will be able to work. This way they can pay them dole money instead of a pension.
It's funny how the politicians make rules for us that we are expected to obey, but they don't. The unemployed are being used as cheap labour.
Carrot
16th Aug 2017
3:53pm
My main problem with Centrelink is trying to talk to a real person. You just get told to go on line!
I know someone who received one of these letters, and it really upset her. If you need to contact Centrelink by phone be prepared for a looooong wait. I tried while in hospital and it kept dropping out.
Rainey
17th Aug 2017
6:18am
Richard Branson supports the idea of a universal basic income, and many eminent and highly successful entrepreneurs agree, including Zuckerberg and Stewart Butterfield (of ''Slack'' fame).

These are people who would be extremely unlikely to tolerate laziness or lack of ambition, and who would likely be furious at the suggestion that workers should support bludgers. But they support the universal income concept because in a world of shrinking employment opportunities it gives everyone the chance to pursue creative and innovative ideas. It reduces poverty and the adverse psychological impact of basically having to ''beg'' for sustenance and fear authority. It eliminates the huge disincentives to striving that currently apply to those on welfare - transforming the welfare system from a system that oppresses to a system that empowers. And it eliminates the huge cost of managing a broken system that keeps people down and destroys hope and the cost and socially harmful impact of harsh policing measures.

Zuckerberg and Butterfield say:

"If I had to support my family growing up instead of having time to code, if I didn't know I'd be fine if Facebook didn't work out, I wouldn't be standing here today," says Zuckerberg. The tech titan grew up financially secure thanks to his dad's career as a dentist. "Now it's our time to define a new social contract for our generation. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things."

'Self-made multimillionaire Stewart Butterfield, the CEO and co-founder of the workplace chat program Slack, has also recently publicly advocated for the idea of a basic income payment. He, too, says that making a cash payment will support and empower risk-taking.
It "doesn't have to be much, but giving people even a very small safety net would unlock a huge amount of entrepreneurialism," Butterfield said in a recent Twitter exchange on the topic.'

It's good to see people of this calibre acknowledge that opportunity blessed them and enabled them to achieve, and that those who are not similarly blessed may be just as talented and capable - but unable to achieve because they are exhausted and frustrated by the need to put bread on the table every day.

It's way past time we shed this ridiculous snobbish notion that those born ''on the wrong side of the tracks'' are lesser beings with lesser ability, and that disadvantage is the fault of the victim, and explored ways to extend opportunity to everyone and deliver some equity in our society.

Close Centrelink down and implement the universal basic income, with fair supplements for the needy aged and disabled and NO penalty for working and earning additional income (except via responsible progressive taxation) and our world would be a far better place for all.
linhmartin
17th Aug 2017
1:36pm
It's a radical idea, Rainey, which would take a v.courageous government to introduce. But they're trialling a basic universal income in Finland as we speak, and several of my Finnish relatives say it seems to be working well (they're mostly our age but have children and grandchildren in the workforce so whole families are affected one way or another).
There are "issues" to be managed, of course (including, in Finland's case, a rapidly growing presence of Roma) but no one's said anything bad about it yet - even those not (yet) included in the trials...
jamesmn
20th Aug 2017
3:06pm
Centrelink /taxation department are just 2 agencies that DO NOT talk to each other I had a instance with the taxation dept. recently they ended up putting in a dept. recovery agency who were arrogant pigs. They told me they do not talk to each other fortunaly it was resolved by the taxation dept. I still had the collection agency sending me sms,s for about 4 weeks after it was resolved.
jamesmn
20th Aug 2017
3:07pm
Centrelink /taxation department are just 2 agencies that DO NOT talk to each other I had a instance with the taxation dept. recently they ended up putting in a dept. recovery agency who were arrogant pigs. They told me they do not talk to each other fortunaly it was resolved by the taxation dept. I still had the collection agency sending me sms,s for about 4 weeks after it was resolved.
linhmartin
20th Aug 2017
5:24pm
And yet most of that "robo debt" stoush was precisely because ATO and Centrelink DO talk to each other - or at least they're supposed to, so they can compare files and nab people who tell different stories (by accident or design) to both agencies.
I've probably opened a can of worms by saying that, because it plays right into the hands of those who are convinced that most if not all Centrelink customers (dare I use that "c" word in the same sentence as Centrelink?) are cheats anyway! For the record and whatever it's worth, that's NOT my intention!


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