Contributed by Ben Wilson
Anyone who might have thought that Centelink’s Robo-Debt cruelty is over has been mistaken. The government agency has been caught once again, ripping off from thousands of Australians.
Managers are telling staff to keep on chasing debts that are known to be false. The order comes from high up and is consistent with all that is going on across the system.
The serious allegation that these debts are being chased, comes from Liberal party backbench Senators who are incensed enough to break ranks and openly criticise what is going on.
They are getting their information from whistleblowers within Centrelink, who are leaking out insider information, despite having being threatened with the sack if caught. It gives an inkling of the dissatisfaction existing within the system, felt by those who are being forced to administer what they consider a disgraceful policy. A policy aimed at waging a deliberate war against the most disadvantaged Australians – the unemployed, single parents, the disabled and age pensioners.
The Robo-Debt system is no accident. It comes together with a range of other punitive measures, including extending the time of non-payment, for breaches that do not have to be backed up with proper evidence. It is always the victim’s obligation to disprove a Centrelink claim, and this can be difficult, given that Centrelink will often refuse to provide relevant information.
The cruelty comes form the hardly hidden rational that the role of Centrelink, is primarily to reduce the numbers on the books by any means. It is not about providing the best outcome for those forced by circumstances, to ask for help. It is about making signing onto Centrelink and staying there as difficult as possible, to force people to find another means of survival.
If this was not what it’s about, something would have been done by now to fix up the built in unfairness. Instead, the Robo-Debt system continues to be used. Debt collection has been privatised, with bonus payments to provide incentive to aggressively collect debt, even even in the most dubious circumstances.
Online help services are also being privatised, as assistance provided by local Centrelink offices is cut back.
While this is going on a smoke screen is being created, to paint all those on benefits as thieving malingerers that needed to be denied a free ride.
It justifies cutting government expenditure and handing over a larger slice of the pie to the richest individuals in Australian society and major overseas shareholders.
The attacks on Centrelink recipients is connected to the government’s efforts to destroy decent full time work and pull down wages and working conditions, based on the false argument that if you give more to the rich, they will invest and fix up the economy. The most unfortunate are looked upon as a cheap source of labour.
By this means heartlessness, greed and judging people by the size of their bank account are being transformed from a attitudes into policy.
We need to understand all this, because only then can see what is going on. They are waging a class war against us. Knowing this, it is clear that there is no choice but to continue fighting back.