Centrelink overhaul lauded as payments cop fierce criticism

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As the government extols the virtues of its Centrelink IT overhaul – with no reference to its flawed and damaged robo-debt scheme – a new report slams the adequacy of welfare payments.

But first the ‘good’ news.

Indian digital services company Infosys has fought off IBM and Accenture to secure a lucrative contract with Services Australia to transform the complex 30-year-old payments calculation engine used to work out the eligibility of Centrelink recipients.

Infosys senior vice-president Andrew Groth says that the deal will help to create a “flexible welfare service delivery system for the future”.

“A robust, responsive and agile welfare entitlements system is crucial for all Australians, particularly those in need,” he says. “Infosys is tremendously proud to support Services Australia on such a transformational project that underpins the Australian community and broader economy.”

Meanwhile, a new research report says that Centrelink is driving people into homelessness.

Dangerously low payments are driving people into poverty, and putting them at risk of homelessness, according to the Homeward Bound report, authored by solicitor Sophie Trevitt and undertaken by the National Society Security Rights Network and Canberra Community Law.

“Homeward Bound examines the experiences of hundreds of people struggling to survive on dangerously low Centrelink payments and facing the threat of homelessness,” says Ms Trevitt.

“People on the Newstart Allowance are struggling to live on less than $40 a day. They are entirely cut off from the private rental market, and with extremely long wait times for public housing, many were forced to sleep in their cars, in the living rooms of friends and families, in parks, caravans and refuges.”

She has called on the government to increase Newstart payments by $75 a week, index future increases to inflation and review payments every six months. Perhaps surprisingly, one quarter of Newstart recipients are aged over 55.

Kasy Chambers, chief executive of Anglicare Australia, told The New Daily that Australians who relied on Newstart had been effectively locked out of the private rental market.

Anglicare’s recent rental affordability snapshot found that of 69,000 rental listings in Australia, only two would be affordable to Newstart recipients. “That would have included a room in a share house too,” Ms Chambers said.

Homeward Bound found:

  • People relying on Centrelink are struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
  • The commonwealth government should immediately raise the Newstart Allowance, Family Tax Benefit and Rental Assistance.
  • There is insufficient affordable, social housing … across the country to ensure all members of our community have somewhere safe, secure and decent to live.

Ms Trevitt said the robo-debt scheme was only one part of a system of often punitive, difficult to navigate and inadequate social security measures that drive vulnerable people further into poverty, put their tenancies at risk, and contribute to rising rates of homelessness.

The report is the first stage of a national research initiative mapping the experiences of people on Centrelink.

Should Rental Assistance be reviewed urgently? Has it kept pace with the realities of rental costs?

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Written by Janelle Ward

100 Comments

Total Comments: 100
  1. 0
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    Don’t we Have Enough Indian Call Centres, soon we would need to learn Punjab or similar.
    Not a good out come, as these new telecommunication devices play havoc with my hearing.
    The devices are already outdated as they go on sale and same with there Operation.
    There are a service Provider, which would have you dealing with there System and People.
    {;-(

    • 0
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      Ype I lost my job to India. I was made “redundant”, and found out 6 months later that my
      little department area was outsourced to India. A hard pill to swallow

    • 0
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      in Australia price is king, most prefer to buy cheap

    • 0
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      Many people from India are very nice people but, why do Australians lose work to outsourced Indian call centres? Because, Indian call centres pay their workers with peanuts not with water melons !!!
      It’s a great Australian shame that our government supports underpaid labour.

    • 0
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      Just had an Indian knock on my door offering free LED lights (Energy saving initiative by the Vic Government), rang the company, was answered by an Indian, they get the contracts because everything is privatized.

    • 0
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      Why do we continue to pay politicians to farm out the responsibilities and functions of government?    Shouldn’t they be working at retaining Australian jobs and Privacy within the Public Service,  instead of contracting out functions to overseas labour providers. 

      What a mess we are in already as a direct result of privatisation;  e.g selling off Telstra and Australia Post.  Allowing functions within Centrelink to be contracted out,  as well as the privatisation of Detention Centres and the leasing of our Australian Ports to overseas entities.

      Not too many Australians are happy with the service they receive from their communications provider,  and it is not uncommon for Australia Post “snail mail” to take longer than a week to reach you if it comes from another state.  Articles coming from overseas can often arrive in less time than it takes domestic mail to move from one Australian State into another.   Privatisation of our communications has been a backward step, particularly for those endeavouring to run a business.

      Now it seems “Infosys” is going to have access to the personal information and banking details of all Welfare and Pension Recipients.

      I don’t feel confident that this government has any idea as to how badly they have performed by selling out Australians through the privatisation of former government functions and responsibilities.

    • 0
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      I am afraid I can see several confused comments above, other than from Play Fairly whose comments are quite correct. The article is about Software outsourcing, NOT Call Centres, please get your bearings right.

      Going from IBM / Accenture to Infosys is going from bad to worse! While IBM is very bureaucratic it still follows rules and can be trusted, whereas one must have major concerns with Infosys about it’s quality as well as security of personal data going to India. Instead of robo-debt type of failures, we may end up with a variety of failed systems and lots of excuses. BAD move.

      Also, note that Robo-debt is NOT the fault of outsourced software companies, rather it is the utter failure of Centrelink staff who devised the business rules based on which software was written. So, if clowns decide the rules in Centrelink, their heads should roll.

    • 0
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      GM
      Who do you Think You Be Talking To, when a Problem Arises.
      You quickly Passed Over To The System’s People.
      From my Knowledge Indian Companies use there Own People and Australian Call Centre will not be one of Them.
      Their System and Their People.

    • 0
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      Chris, this article is about replacing IBM with Infosys for IT systems. Call Centres are only a small part and usually separately outsourced – more likely you may talk to Serco, that British company, who is one of the Outsourcers who also look after Detention Centres!!! Big concerns there too regarding where personal data goes!

      Have you ever talked to IBM, leading you to conclude you may have to talk to Infosys? Infosys is a major NASDAQ listed company (with bigger fish to fry) and I am not sure they are even interested in call centres.

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      GM
      Any Problems and there will be, as the Nature of there Business is to under Score there competitors at any unrealistic level.
      Once in Place, old System Replaced they control the Usefulness of the System and Updates are at a Cost. “Old System Redundant.”
      The Centerlink Staff will be Reliant on Their Release of Useful Information.
      These Conglomerates have many Identities, to which they control how well the other Operations Run.
      You say they this “Infosys” not interested in Call Centres, I bet they Control them under another Name.
      Sad part is this is allowed to Happen by this Gov.
      The more confusion, frustration to both the Client and Staff the Better.
      Then the claim is Not Us “Infosys”, Just Like the Government.
      I’m having this Problem with AGL at the moment.

    • 0
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      Chris B T -You are spot on.
      GM- I’m talking about jobs for Australian citizens in Australia. Not in India, Not in Philippines, Not in Britain. Speaking of Britain, it is well known they employ underpaid slave labour.
      It is also well known that Coles and Woolworths in capitol state cities employ workers on temporary work visas for low salary contracts from overseas in Australia and segregate them to ethnic suburban store locations. eg, Ashfield, Hurstville, Rockdale, Bankstown on a ratio of 5 to 1 Caucasian etc,etc.In regional areas, the ratio is opposite.
      Telcos engage foreign call centre operatives. Energy suppliers do the same.
      Telephone conversation on issues with service and billing with the foreign operatives is absolutely frustrating , 1) one can hardly understand them because of their strong accents 2) it’s like talking to a brick wall because they have no empathy with Australian customer’s issues.Fortunately, some have online messaging resource where you state your problem in writing and they write back to you even though one may have to wait 10 minutes for them to write back and obtain a resolution.
      With 670,000 unemployed people on Newstart why is the government outsourcing employment to foreign countries?

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      They outsource because it is cheaper, it is all about being ‘back in the black’.

  2. 0
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    Who is Sophie Trevitt and what are her qualifications to conduct a survey to arrive at her conclusion? What were her questions and to whom were those questions put? You see, what we have is somebody who has an opinion just as those who respond in this forum also have an opinion. I’m certain that some people cannot live off Newstart just as there are some who can. This difference is also similar to rental subsidies in that Australia is a vast country with totally different cost depending on which state one resides or whether it’s city as opposed to country. It’s nigh impossible to formulate a policy that will be acceptable to everybody.

    • 0
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      It says where she’s from so how about we accept her suggestion, have some compassion and lift Newstart. There is so much wealthfare that I cannot understand why people have an issue with giving those who are the lowest paid a helping hand. Employers screwing low paid workers, banks screwing customers but paying millions to its CEO, govt implementing what was essentially an illegal system, using remaining NDIS funds as part of the surplus, subsidising mining industries, etc. and what DON’T we know?

    • 0
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      Well said Kaz, agree entirely with you. Why is it that some people love to shoot the messenger when they don’t agree with their ideas. It’s not just Sophie Trevitt saying the government needs to lift the Newstart payment – it’s John Howard, it’s business people, it’s economists and anybody who has any sense of compassion to those doing it extremely tough.

    • 0
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      Gee libsareliars, She’s not the messenger, she wrote the message and by the way if all libsareliars then how can John Howard be believed?

    • 0
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      Hi Horace, here’s a little puzzle for you to work out.
      1. Check out the new start money for a 65 year old person.
      2. Check out the rental market
      3. Take out the rent
      4, take out the electricity
      5. take out food
      6. take health cover (joke)
      7. Work out what’s left and then you may understand the reason for the article above.

  3. 0
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    im not a worker im a carer on welfare, the govt pays me 3.00 an hour to care for ( in my case ) 4 adults 24/7 now age 60 im damaged i rent a house i cant afford, i cant work because of all the damage no super no nothing. so many like me face life on the streets when our caring days are over, if they ever are. talk about economic slavery ( supposed to be against U.N rules but they dont do anything cept put tents up in arab and african countries

    • 0
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      I can empathise tisme, I was forced into retirement deemed ‘too disabled to be safely employed’ in the very year Universal Superannuation applied to the industry in which I’d been working 18 hour days, 7 days a week. My ‘golden handshake’ after over 20 years working was a whopping $1,000!!! Retirement plans before Universal Super didn’t include single women, women, it was deemed, would live off of the proceeds of their husband’s super! However, I am one of the more fortunate in that I live off of a single DSP Centrelink payment and do live in public housing, but it’s still hard to make ends meet.
      I also spend my time out on the streets and can confirm there is an increase in the numbers of people, particularly women and those who are retired, ‘sleeping rough’ on the streets! I wish that I could offer some people a safe place to sleep but to do so would contravene the Tenancy Agreement I signed when entering public housing. The entire system is screwed, the only ones seemingly getting ahead are our politicians on their lucrative retirement schemes.

    • 0
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      I get $130 a fortnight, hours not specified… but on call hours I worked out I’d get about $1 an hour, not including the excess costs for petrol etc.

    • 0
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      Why don’t the 4 adults you care for pay the rent tisme? It seems you are being taken advantage of because 4 lots of disability pension should cover rent, water and electricity.

    • 0
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      I was wondering if there are extra payments for each additional ‘cared-for’ person, Rae… but I agree that tisme should be checking on this… something is not right.

      I know people who do in-house visiting and assistance – and they are paid well, thank you … still wouldn’t do it – the ex’s daughter deals mainly with the mentally disabled.. too much work for me, I’m afraid.

    • 0
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      tisme would benefit from a reliable Retirement Payment scheme, one in which there was no avenue for government(s) to treat it as a political or ideological football, and in which a guaranteed minimum payment would apply according to the Menzies principle of ‘regardless of contribution’. tisme’s situation does not provide super etc…. sounds a cruel way to live – I am carer for one and it’;s a serious burden in many ways.

  4. 0
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    Now there’s a red flag if ever I have seen one – dangerous !!
    Where it says
    “Indian digital services company Infosys has secured a lucrative contract with Services Australia to transform the payments calculation engine used to work out the eligibility of Centrelink recipients.”

    • 0
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      Good God!! How much are they being paid to do that? Money lost again to the Australian economy and never to be seen again… do these political spenders think we’re made of money out here?

    • 0
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      Mate … just wait and see after the preparation of the final project plan and definition of all the requirements in a document including the real costing you will see a very big increase from the original quote….. I wonder if the original quotation from Infosys is public for AU citizens to view and then compare with the real development prices and I am sure that a hardware replacement will be part of the project.

      During my time in IT I have never seen a project that gets closer or better that the original quotation it is always something else not included or not analysed properly that create a massive overhead in cost ….. SO wait and see the results more money and more money

    • 0
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      Isn’t India a ‘socialist’ nation sweating under the weight of the Chinese just over the border – the same Chinese who invaded Tibet in 1956? Isn’t India a ‘socialist’ nation right next door to deeply disturbed Pakistan with its serious issues of Islamism?

      What is going on here?

    • 0
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      Trebor, ever since Keating’s recession, Outsourcing has become the standard and jobs / IT have been outsourced as a so-called attempt to have lower costs. However, as Aussie has correctly noted, all these foreign companies (IBM, Infosys, etc, etc, etc) all ensure the prices build up by charging for “Extras” or “Changes to Original Requirements” and we the taxpayers are no better in the end, with our own people having lost their jobs, some on the dole forever, and with less Income Tax take for the Govt. A lose-lose situation for the Govt and Australian people. Trump is trying to change a few things in USA, we need such a radical leader here, the sooner the better.

      BTW – I am completely confused by your comments about India being physically close to China & Pakistan – no relevance I think.

    • 0
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      China and Pakistan are both national security concerns – do you want your information/life data handed to a Taliban derivative or a ‘socialist’ Chinese government?

      Not only physically close, but joined at the hip – India being a socialist nation and having Islamic issues as well, and whre there is a will, there is a way.

    • 0
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      Trebor, I agree with your comments about China & Pakistan, however that has no relevance to any work done in India who will have no dealings with those two (practically enemies). Nothing to do with being “socialist” too – why is that a bad word anyway? We are drifting…

  5. 0
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    This is a typical example of why there are no jobs in Australia. Government penny pinching is costing people their livelihoods, jobs, tax revenue and suicides.

    • 0
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      Putting Australian money back into the Australian economy reduces the drainage to offshore entities… if you pay Australian workers, they pay tax here, then those they spend money with (should) pay tax here, and so it goes, with the only Black Holes being where someone has the opportunity to offshore profit or spend it offshore or hoard it in a non-taxpaying bolt-hole that the government approves for them …

      For example -$50Bn start-up money, and now climbing, for submarines built Offshore, with no reciprocal contract anywhere on the horizon (or below it?). What kind of $50Bn deal are the French going to offer us? Making wine bottles for them or cheese to export to them? Do we have some desperate ‘international security’ need to boost the ailing French economy?

      Now what kind of damned fool would sign up to such an agreement?

      Stoopid is as stoopid does, as they allus say down in Green Bow…

  6. 0
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    Did I read that Infosy was being paid $1 billion? Tighten your belts, pensioners.

  7. 0
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    I wouldn’t be surprised that in implementing a new system all sorts of letters will be sent out in error. We’ve paid you too much, you aren’t eligible, you don’t come within the criteria. It will not be smooth sailing. As for Newstart, it’s just short of criminal whay they pay unemployed people, but then our prime miister does belong to the Pentacostal church of Hillsong and I think most of us know what they are about. One of their edicts is only help those that help themselves, sound familiar. Of course, if you are on the dole you aren’t helping yourself, are you? By the way Blowlo how’s that praying for rain going for you? It’s funny how not many people say they voted for the Liberals, I wonder why that is?

    • 0
      0

      It’s interesting how people think depending on their bias. Here we have a person ridiculed for praying for rain because his belief in his God makes him accept that a prayer for rain is worthwhile yet in the Mid North Coast, just last week, a group of Aboriginal people did a rain dance to the squeals of delight of others. Those Aboriginal people have a belief in their Spirits which makes them accept that a rain dance in honour of their Spirits is worthwhile. The sad part about this is I will be accused of racism, an accusation that will be false, by those who see any comment about any race for any reason to be racist.

    • 0
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      I propose a national rain dance… my mother claimed some far western Lakota blood, and I once did a rain dance Indian style on the top of a pair of water tanks in drought – it rained solid for two days….. the neighbours thought I was crazy…

  8. 0
    0

    We all (most of us anyway) complete a tax return each year yeah? ATO is linked through the system. So why the hell can’t they just look at your details and your income off your tax return and decide if you need some help? Why do we have to jump through all the bloody paint in the ar$e centrelink hoops which include being demeaned and told you are a liar (yes it has happened) by the rude centrelink staff? Keep the system simple and you wont have stuff ups like robodebt and the “punitive, difficult to navigate and inadequate” system.

    • 0
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      Who completes a tax return? No one I know does, not the retired ones anyway!

    • 0
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      Those with any ‘earned income’ are obliged to submit an annual return… that is why the argument about franked credits is a nonsense – unless some are cheating…. and that’s usually the ‘big boys’ who have the opportunity to hide income in many bolt-holes, courtesy of governments respective.

      Footnote:- You don’t seriously think our well-heeled ‘socialist’ Laborites really want to close down all the loop-holes and bolt-holes, do you? They’d be in line to cough up, too – and the ‘betters’ shouldn’t be paying taxes!!

    • 0
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      Oh – and only a percentage of returns are thoroughly checked…. chances are you could go through life and never be checked…

  9. 0
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    Why are we expecting welfare payments to increase? Can’t people on welfare understand the present government is going through a crisis, with lower tax revenues (stagnant wages = lower taxes). The present government couldn’t care less about recipients, as long as they meet their objectives, like spending billions to house refugees offshore, (to keep us safe from marauding men women and children who may one day brandish a kitchen knife while cooking) and this translates to shortage of funds. Remember too, that increasing revenue through increase in taxes would be the LNP’s or any other parties death knell, so let’s not rock the boat, I mean who voted these leeches in at the last election?

    Wasn’t it those who had a self interest to preserve their standard of living and bugger the rest of the Australians who are slowly drowning in poverty? Yes the Labour party wasn’t perfect by any means, but their basic philosophy was sound, and the scare campaign by the LNP and that non electable Palmer spending $50 million on false advertising did have an effect on the election outcome . The press worked overtime to put the LNP and supporters as the party who could do no wrong, maybe because they could generate controversy and gullible people would believe their trail of deception. Where were the commentators and editorial staff that presented a balanced view and see through the smoke screen? What happens to the 49% of people who didn’t vote for the LNP? are they to be discarded as “welfare trash”? We were once prosperous, but don’t be fooled what have the LNP achieved in the past 6 years? You guessed it bugger all.

    It was Whitlam who I remember dragged Australia out of the 60’s doldrums,, and we began a new journey of wealth and prosperity, especially after opening up trade relations whit China. Yes, prosperity brought with it severe inflation and yes, the Labour party should have taken steps to fight it, even if it meant stepping on the toes of the 4 pillars of Australian robbery plus the reedy and voracious building societies (Clients of building society Pyramid were paying out 18%-20% but charging home buyers 27%). In all, welfare recipients were enjoying a decent life.

    Then came the scare mongering and the LNP could see that Whitlam was too liberal and too generous towards the poorer people and starting to bite into big business and big profits. So who did Fraser employ to do his dirty work, none other than that drunken buffoon the governor general, who sacked Whitlam. It worked! The LNP got voted back in.

    Those people on welfare (and I agree there are some cheating the system) are always the scapegoats, and as Australia’s population ages, there will be more of us in old age. The simple principles of economics have been ignored. What could we have done in the past 6 years?

    1. Increase our migration intake of younger people.
    2. Make it more attractive for young couples to have more children to maintain a small population increase not decrease.
    3 Make affordable loans available for family housing especially in regional areas
    4. Encourage new industries like renewable energy
    5. Stop union bashing and set minimum living wages
    6. Get Super funds to invest in Australian companies (mandatory if necessary)
    7. Help the consumer stand up to big business
    8. Stop Australia’s resources being plundered by a few rich billionaires (like iron ore, rarer metals, natural gas etc.) that belong to Australians and therefore get a much better return for the public
    9. Stop lying about controlling energy prices when in fact the big companies (many overseas owned) can charge what they like in a loosely controlled market.
    10. Tell the Americans (Trump & Co), we also have Australia’s interests at heart and believe in free trade.

    These are a few suggestions, and there are many more, but unless we do something and tell the LNP to get off their well polished leather parliamentary seats and actually do something novel and positive for the whole of Australia, then it ain’t going to happen in our lifetime.

    • 0
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      8. Stop Australia’s resources being plundered by a few rich billionaires (like iron ore, rarer metals, natural gas etc.) that belong to Australians and therefore get a much better return for the public.

      Amazing that with all the kerfuffle about Aboriginal rights (right and wrongs, depending on your view), that there is no equivalent movement from the average Australian who does not identify with some group, as Aboriginals clearly can and do.

      I, being of Irish/Scottish/German ancestry, do not really identify with any one of those groups – I lack some clear identifying marker such as features and skin colour etc – so am part of the silenced Majority – they who have no voice but have a desperate need to scream loudly (Harlan Ellison – thank you)…

      Millions of dollars are poured into ensuring that Aboriginal groups get a fair return on ‘the lend’ usage, from resource extraction to cattle running etc (Ammaroo Station in the NT has just entered an agreement with local tribes) – yet there is no such ‘agreement’ with the Australian people as a whole – apart from the very limited ‘royalties’ that are sucked into State revenue and become just a pittance after admin costs etc… and are thrown at any pet project without an over-arching plan in place for the State, and the Nation. Most likely to fund a raise for the politicians and their good mates…

    • 0
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      6. Get Super funds to invest in Australian companies (mandatory if necessary)

      The Trebor Scheme – the National Retirement Packaging Group separate and far removed from government and business – would invest in approved Australian infrastructure and business, at a fair rate of interest…

      Small business loans here are currently at 5-6% here.. Singapore will give a business loan with an effective rate between 6.5-13%……

      With the trillions of super invested and social security etc under one roof, the pool is huge… and a fair rate of interest would return enough to sustain the fund and the loans would get the nation on track for ITSELF and keep it there!

    • 0
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      Then there are shares investments, lie a super fund, though I hesitate to suggest business ventures directly by and on behalf of the Fund … for reasons of possible conflict. Like a Union, once you get into business ventures to provide your running cash flow, you become part of the problem and not of the solution… and you generate conflicts of interest.

    • 0
      0

      Well said JojoZep and Trebor

  10. 0
    0

    Wow – talk about making a golden cow out of base metal, the government is EXTOLLING its changes to RobberDebt as a great and magnanimous action on their part?

    THAT gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘Spin’™. Hush, but their kindness and innate sense of decency and morality know no bounds….. *ROFL emoticon implied*

    All those years ago I looked at Australia First askance, and considered them a ‘bit radical’ for me…. now, like the angry protestors at the inception of the ‘global economy concept’, I see that they were totally right and a long way ahead of the game…

    Bring the global economy to heel – make it serve YOU and not itself – that’s my advice to nations being robbed blind by it. NOBODY in his/her right mind would sign up to such a deal as those offered by ‘globalists’…NOBODY!!

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