Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

A constituent’s Centrelink story

The so-called ‘welfare reforms’ made by the federal government have caused stress and hardship for some sole parents and people with disabilities, but there are many other people who also have to deal with the way ‘mutual’ obligation is enacted through our welfare system. Following is an example I recently received from a constituent:

My son left school last year and immediately got 2 part time jobs which reduced his youth allowance to around $16 per fortnight.

When he first met with Centrelink they told him that he was 1 and 1/2 hours short per fortnight of the requisite time when they would release him from obligations. Then he went through the process of registering with a job network provider ( Mission Australia) .

He was required to attend a meeting at Mission Australia. He rang them and told them that he couldn’t come because he was working so they said that if he didn’t turn up he’d be breached. So he arranged to have half a day off from his employment to go to this meeting.

A couple of weeks later he advised Centrelink and Mission Australia in writing that he now had full time employment. Centrelink insisted that he had to turn up at their office in person. So he arranged another half day off to meet their appointment.

They continued to send him weekly reporting letters saying that he was receiving Zero dollars and if he didn’t return the form they would cut off his benefits. He advised Centrellink and Mission Austalia twice in writing (on the forms they sent out) that he has full time employment.

Last week he got a letter saying that he had to attend an appointment with Centrelink due to his failure to report. He rang them and said that he was in full time employment, that he had already notified them of this fact and that he was not receiving any benefits.

They insisted he attend so he took another half day off work on Wednesday to go to the office. When he got there they told him to wait and after two hours he asked when he was going to see somebody . They then said that the appointment had been cancelled. Today he got a letter saying that they were cutting off his benefits ($0) because of failure to report.

Is that dumb or what? With a less understanding employer my son might well be out of work now because of incompetent bureacracy.


137 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Lynette2

    No surprises here at all.

    What would the difference in cost be between paying this kid’s allowance and the cost of all this fusspottery? Not to mention postage.

    A friend of ours received 6 letters from Centrelink in one week about her carers payment. Six different amounts.

  2. He would have been better off ignoring the letters from Centrelink – but then, they have incredible powers to take further court action.

    If you’ve ever seen Centrelink in court, they are ruthless and unbending in their enforcement of these mean and tricky laws.

    I thought Mission Australia were christians?

  3. One is forced to wonder at times whether Social Security hasn’t been deliberately crippled and made toxic in order to drive people away from using it.

    I wonder what the real unemployment figures are? It would be easy to work that out with tax records, I guess. The unemployment figures which are bandied about are about as “truthful” as much of the spin the Howard government puts out.

  4. Graham Bell

    To the Constituent who wrote that letter [please forward]:

    Unfortunately, this is typical of bureaucracy-gone-mad in 2007; if anything, bureaucracy-gone-mad is even worse in the corporate sector.

    I have given up trying to deal with this sort of stupidity and arrogance directly because you only end up getting hurt yourself [my main adversaries are middle-rankers and above in the Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs; base-level staff who deal directly with the public do try to do their best].

    So ….. instead of whimpering in a corner or raging against cruel fate ….. I just strike back from a different direction, so far as the law allows me.

    The one thing you must keep sight at all times, no matter how unjust the provocation, no matter how illogical the bureaucracy ….. YOU ARE NOT HELPLESS … YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ….but whatever you do, it must be completely within the law.

    You’ve made a good start by telling Senator Bartlett about it. Hope your son does well in his new job.

  5. Andrew

    Unfortunately, this idiocy has always gone on in Centrelink. It’s what happens when they’re required to operate according to legislation that sticks people in pre-defined boxes, rather than acknowledge that a vast majority of job-seekers have special circumstances and commitments.

    Personally, a couple of years ago, I was studying full-time, and the way that my course panned out, my final semester at uni only had a part-time load. Therefore I had to switch to Newstart from Austudy, at which point Centrelink started treating me like I was incompetent. No longer was I able to sign on via the internet – I had to do it in person. Despite the fact that I was studying 15 hours a week, and working as many hours casually, I was expected to front up to compulsory “jobseeking” training. I had to apply for 10 jobs a fortnight, despite the fact that I was trying to finish my undergraduate course and had a perfectly satisfactory casual job. And to add insult to injury, I was told that if I got offered full-time work, I was required, by law, to withdraw from my course.

    To their credit, the Centrelink officer was sympathetic to my circumstances, but told me that it was federal legislation and they had no control over it, and I could either say “Yes” and get benefits, or I’d be on my own.

    If there’s one consolation, though, all this bureaucratic nonsense certainly gave me the motivation to go out and get a job pretty damn quickly, once I’d graduated.

  6. Marilyn Shepherd

    It has always been thus. Years ago I was at death’s door and applying for a disability pension. The commonwealth doctor said that even though my condition was not curable it was not permanent, it is just that I would die from it in the end.

    I had to go to a tribunal after 10 days in hospital on the verge of dying – the panel took one look and stamped “permanently incapacitated” so they have left me alone since.

  7. The fact that if you are employed for an hour or more a week you are counted as being employed is farcical. The other thing that is farcical is that the ABS does not keep figures on underemployment.

    The stupid thing about the Welfare system is that it does not care about students. I know because I am a student. There is little income support for students so that they can focus on graduating their course. The Government seems to prefer students to be working rather than furthering their education. That is exactly why we have a skills shortage in certain vital areas and an education crisis. Not to mention the exhorbitant cost of education.

  8. Helen

    This rings a bell. Recently a relative of mine (relief teacher trying to find a longer term position – her teaching area is one of those that is oversupplied) was ordered onto work for the dole – she had been unable to work during recovery from an essential major operation (and because a relief teacher, was deemed ‘not employed’ and therefore ineligible for sickness benefits – but allowed to be on unemployment benefit even though incapacitated!)She was advised by a C’link officer to stay signed on while working (she had enough teaching contracts to support herself for the rest of that year) because it would then be easier in the school holidays if she needed to claim a benefit. She did received benefits in the school holidays, and then they said she had to work in a charity retail shop once term started. She had already applied for a number of jobs, and as she often gets rung at 6 in the morning for relief teaching work, would have been unable to commit to their roster, plus has a few health issues that were not satisfactorily accommodated by the employment conditions. She had work every day that they asked her to come in, then got a long term teaching contract (half a year) which was very time consuming due to distance she had to travel and much planning for challenging class in lower socio economic area. She informed C’link, and they said they would tell the charity shop that she wouldn’t be coming, but the charity wrote her a terse letter saying she hadn’t fulfilled her obligations and they hadn’t been able to organise their roster as she ‘hadn’t turned up’. Centrelink seem good at pressuring others but not so efficent themselves. Their approach seems awfully counterproductive where already motivated people are concerned. My relative loves teaching and didn’t put herself through a 4 year degree in order to slack off. She felt the officer in charge of work for the dole behaved very unprofessionally also.

  9. BigBob

    In defense of Centrelink, this is a huge organisation that has to deal with complex legislation and the heavy hand of their political masters.

    Plus, under the new legislation, what discretion was allowed to staff and employment agencies, has been pretty much taken away – if you don’t follow the rules, to the letter of the legislation – they are compelled to follow the designated procedure – stupid or not.

    In this case, it would be worthwhile going up the chain of command and retell the story.

    There are some good people at work there and some absolute knuckleheads – unfortunately it is the luck of the draw which one you encounter.

    Especially as it has now been brought to your attention, the management do not like bad news stories in the news or with politicians.

  10. Peter

    This unfortunately is par for the course with Centrelink.

    I suggest your Son lodge a claim for Compensation for Detriment Caused by Defective Administration. This should include the lost wages due to Centrelink incompentence.

    Should Centrelink reject this claim then I urge your Son to write a formal letter of complaint to the Ombudsman.

    Don’t you just crack up laughing when the Centrelink mouthpiece consistently tells us “that Centrelink errors are rare.” Just look at the national audit website ( and see how wrong he is. In a February 2007 report the ANAO claimed that 30% of age pensions are being paid at the incorrect rate.

    When will the Government clean up this mess?

    Peter (not real name for fear of retribution)

  11. Graham Bell

    Why is it that there are screening procedures to keep terrorists out of the ADF and the public service, to keep child molesters out of childcare facilities, to keep convicted white-collar criminals temporarily out of directorships ….. and yet there are no psychological and other tests to screen manifest sociopaths, dangerous obsessives and bullies out of jobs in Centrelink, Veterans’ Affairs and similar organizations where there is a clear difference in personal power on the other side of the counter?

    Sociopaths and bullies are attracted like flies to such organizations where they can dominate and profoundly affect the lives of others to their heart’s content. This is a problem that has been around for decades …. and psychological tests to identify such ratbags have been around for decades too.

    Oh yes, applicants for employment in Centrelink, Veterans’ Affairs, do indeed have to satisfy Key Selection Criteria [some of which can be rather peculiar] and go through all the detailed administrative processes before they get the job …. but there’s nothing to screen out those who cause so much harm to the people they are supposed to be serving!

    So let’s start psychological screening of employees …. and start social-impact quality assurance programs inside Centrelink, Veterans’ Affairs, etc., too. It just might cut down a lot of the distress and injustice that is going on unnoticed in Australia.

    Nice thought and definitely should be tried, of course, but justice is not guaranteed …. for instance, when I contacted the Veterans’ Affairs Ombudsman she gave me the flick; when I enquired about an Administrative Appeals Tribunal action, the fine print meant I would have had to hock everything I had and take a fearful risk [Justice is not about being right or wrong but about winning or losing the case].

  12. All these stories and anecdotes really only lead to one sane conclusion.

    We should entirely abolish the welfare state.

  13. CORAL

    Here is my advice to anyone dealing with Centrelink.

    Don’t let them bully you.

    Centrelink officers are told to bully welfare recipients beyond the limits of the legislation in relation to hours of work, in line with John Howard’s total lack of compassion.

    In some instances, they have told men applying for Parenting Payment (Single) that males don’t go onto these payments – they go out to full-time work.

    If you are a young person, get one or both of your parents (or some other advocate) to help you deal with anything that you consider unreasonable or unfair.

    A lot of problems with Centrelink are caused by part-time job sharing arrangements e.g. one person working 3 days a week and the other working 2 days a week, with no communication happening between them at all.

    Graham Bell:

    I once worked with a terrorist in a federal government department, but it didn’t come to light until years later i.e. the employer didn’t know about it until the guy eventually gave himself up to police.

    I walked around in shock for several days, because I had never worked with anyone more diligent, competent, well-dressed or polite.

    To the person who thinks you can get justice eventually – sometimes you can’t – not if you have 4 government departments working together against you to ensure NONE of them have any financial liability.

  14. Graham Bell

    Andrew Bartlett:
    This whole business is getting more ridiculous as each day passes.

    On one hand ….. Santo Santoro resigns from the Senate because of apparent conflicts-of-interest and share-dealing shenanegans; a minister loses his job for the stated reason that he met a man with a bad reputation; a shadow minister gets the chop because he wrote a reference for a dodgy character seven years ago.

    On the other hand ….. protected, virtually anonymous, almost completely unaccountable public servants are still free to continue inflicting untold permanent harm on innocent people, the very people they are paid to serve, not only without any risk whatsoever of facing responsibility for the damage they have done ….. but with the entire legal resources of the Commonwealth Of Australia at their disposal to save them from the embarrassment of having to answer questions about their own personal involvement in suicides, family break-ups, bankruptcies, loss of employment and heaven knows what else.

    So …. we have …. parliamentarians being hounded for what seems to be the normal way of doing business in Australia these days.

    And then, in marked contrast ….we have ….. a public service that is completely out of control, a law unto itself; plundering and misusing public money; beyond all criticism and accountability.

    Why don’t you and your fellow parliamentarians get together …..put your fears and the ghost of Lionel Murphy’s ASIO Raid back in its coffin where it belongs …. and start kicking down some doors in various government departments, demanding face-to-face straight answers, sacking the depraved monsters on the spot before they harm anyone else. Of course there would be a flurry of litigation afterwards but that would be hardly a challenge to a parliament that has experience in putting up retrospective legislation.

    The alternative to taking decisive action is far too unjust to contemplate.

  15. Seamus

    Comment 13, Coral –

    “Centrelink officers are told to bully welfare recipients beyond the limits of the legislation in relation to hours of work, in line with John Howard’s total lack of compassion.”

    Proof please. Centrelink officers are told to apply the social security law to claimants seeking support. The social security law reflects Government policy with the attendant legal safeguards (e.g. judicial review of administrative action). The effectiveness of these safeguards may be another issue, of course.

    “If you are a young person, get one or both of your parents (or some other advocate) to help you deal with anything that you consider unreasonable or unfair.”

    This is excellent advice. Your local Welfare Rights Network member – can also provide advice and assistance.

  16. Seamus

    Comment 14, Graham Bell –

    “…almost completely unaccountable public servants”

    Decisions are subject to review and appeal. Officers are accountable for their actions and decisions to their supervisors all the way up the chain to the Departmental executive and then – notionally (I don’t have to explain this, do I?) – to the portfolio Minister.

    “…the very people they are paid to serve”

    At the risk of causing a storm, public servants are accountable to Government. The Government is then accountable to the people. If public servants believe that they are accountable to people and not Government then they are already on a slippery slope of contravening the principle of acting apolitically.

    “…to save them from the embarrassment of having to answer questions about their own personal involvement in suicides, family break-ups, bankruptcies, loss of employment and heaven knows what else.”

    Mr Bell, to imply that public servants are willingly causing harm through the application of law and policy is offensive and incorrect.

    I originally had a whole series of comments about what people have said – not all critical- but thankfully the word limit prevented it. These are really important issues and the discussion is worth having.

    Please also see the Social Security Act re: Youth Allowance –
    and the Guide to Social Security Law re: Youth Allowance –

  17. Donna


    I have been told, through the grape vine nonetheless, that Centrelink are pursuing single mothers, alleging they have been ‘dobbed in’ for fraudulently receiving parenting payment. The fraudulence, it is alleged, is because they are believed (by Centrelink) to be residing with their expartners.

    Centrelink, according to my source, assume this allegation if women still have their names registered with the city council for rates on previous marital residences and have not yet settled.

    It is causing some women considerable duress, particularly because they are told that someone has ‘dobbed them in’.

    Would you like to comment on my source’s claims?

  18. The Feral Abacus

    Could Senator Bartlett comment on how much time he and his staff spend dealing with complaints about Public Service decisions?

    And whether the Public Service Review and Appeals processes function very well?

    And whether or not successful appellants actually have their grievances resolved as per the Appeals boards’ decisions?

  19. Marilyn Shepherd

    Public servants in Australia today get away with literal murder. Deporting people to the wrong countries without documents, forging documents to do it. Vivian Alvarez was dumped like a cockroach to die in the Philipines and all the people involved have been promoted.

    There is a code but it is in the same place as John Howard’s accountability.

  20. CORAL


    It seems you may be somewhat naive about what goes on in government departments.

    I have worked for Social Security and been a client of Centrelink for quite a long time. I know what they do.

    Donna is right in what she is saying, but you can actually live in the same house as your ex-partner (or anyone) as long as your finances and personal life are kept separate – a situation very much open to abuse by all and sundry.

    A woman without a husband may be persecuted by many people, not just Centrelink.

    Even before the new Welfare to Work arrangements were announced, a friend of mine with a primary school aged child was being pressured by Centrelink to increase her hours of work beyond what the legislation required.

    Even though I have a disability and am over 50, Centrelink has tried to get me to do a 2 year university counselling course so I can do VOLUNTARY work.

    University courses cost MONEY, and the amount of writing and typing involved would cause me further injury.

    In the last 20 to 30 years, lots of paid work has gone VOLUNTARY. This is wrong. People should be paid for what they do, no matter what it is.

    Years ago, I asked Peter Dutton to change the name of the Work for the Dole scheme to the Work for Pay scheme.

    It’s a pity about Santo Santoro. The state-of-the-art expensive private aged care centre I volunteer in – not a Centrelink requirement since they switched me to a Disability Support Pension – has had an accreditation team come in 3 times in the last year, thanks to him.

    I heard on TV that the reporting of elder abuse will become compulsory in April 2007. I don’t think nurses are going to dob each other in.

    I suspect my own mother has been a victim of elder abuse by an agency nurse brought in to replace a nurse that was sick.

    There are many truly excellent nurses, but with the current shortage, I don’t think some care what they do or who suffers.

  21. ken

    What a scream the irony is delicious – this hot bed of socialist nationalisers, ie public provision of everything, hate the market (accept of ocurse when they make money themselevs), oppose privatisation, regulate freedom etc

    and then kick the crap out of dear old public serveants at every chnace.

  22. The Feral Abacus

    ken – there is indeed a level of irony, but more a level of disgruntlement at the efforts of sections of the public service to frustrate the delivery of – to use your term – the public provision of everything.

    I’ve been a public servant too, and I know a lot of my colleagues did a pretty good job most of the time. But there is that minority of misanthropes who gravitate to positions where they can gratuitously wield power over ordinary people. Additionally there are some pervasive cultural problems that can neuter the review and appeal procedures, and see the tweaking of processes to obtain the desired outcome.

    These problems have major impacts on peoples lives, and shouldn’t be ignored.

    That’s my 2nd comment here in 24 hours, so I’ll be quiet for a while.

  23. ken

    Agreed – “minority of misanthropes” as in all walks of life – and yes should be dealth with. Anotehr irony is that usually the worker system of protectyion, so also belveiod by msot on this site protects them at the expesne of the impact their bad behaviour has on the majority trying to do the right thing.

    Unfrotunatrly the generaliasiotn and across the board slander – like “all council workers are bludgers’ or even lord forbid all pollies aer crooks!!for example, becomes a truism.

    Most of the biggest crtiics have never walkded in my shoes as it were, usually have wildly unrealsitic expectations, and bascially are kickign the wrong people.

    Thasts me for 24 hours too – shoosh u lot cheeering

  24. Graham Bell

    Seamus [on 16]:
    What you have said is absolutely true ….. on paper ….. and for favoured members of the community with organizational, social and financial backing it is still true. {hence my own scorn for Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs]

    The reality for many ordinary Australians in 2007 is very different.

    It is because of inappropriate, unjust, inefficient and selective IMPLEMENTATION of existing laws, guidelines, practices, standards and regulations that the system is now failing.

    There are indeed still honest and impartial people in the Public Service but they are a declining minority [met some of them myself]….. I stand by what I said earlier about the Public Service being out of control now and I stand by my appeal to parliamentarians to regain control of it.

  25. Seamus

    Comment 17, Donna – “Would you like to comment on my source’s claims?“

    Yes, thank you. There was a really interesting post about tip-offs at Larvatus Prodeo, highlighting that a simple cost/benefit analysis could show that the cost of investigations outweigh the possible debt recovery from any cases of fraud identified. But if they’re not using tip-offs, well, Centrelink compliance probably think (wrongly it would seem) that they’re onto something.

    Comment 18 – The Feral Abacus (can I call you Dr Hewson?) – Centrelink, the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal all have this information in their annual reports. I, too, am interested in the Senator’s further thoughts on these aspects of this discussion.

    Comment 19 – Coral – I’m sorry that you took offence, and upon further consideration – particularly in light of what I’ve recalled the welfare rights network and ACOSS saying in the past – it is perhaps reasonable to say that some bullying does occur. I can’t necessarily expect you to provide proof.

    I can, however, assure you that I’m not naïve, particularly not about the administration of social security law – as I would hope my comments have illustrated.

    You mention that you worked in Social Security, which I take to mean that you worked sometime before 1997 (the break in DSS between policy and service delivery leading to Centrelink) and before Youth Allowance, mutual obligations, open plan offices, welfare to work etc. This doesn’t invalidate your experiences as a recipient, but it does mean that given things have changed so much in that environment, your experiences and those of your friends are the only perspectives directly available to you now.

    Comment 24, Graham – I think we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  26. CORAL


    I was not offended by your comments.

    Other people may have perspectives and experiences that go well beyond the gamet of your particular set of beliefs and experiences.

    I’ve worked in 4 federal government departments and I know what they do.

    Yes, there are individual public servants who think they may take the law into their own hands – but the legislation when linked across a number of departments can work against the ordinary person in really discriminatory ways.

    The mercenary attitudes of our so-called welfare agencies – even towards their own employees – ought to be soundly condemned.

    The magistrates and judges in our courts are no better.

  27. Donna


    Thank you for your response.

    I seek your opinion once more on this topic.

    Would a Government agency, say Centrelink, pursue an individual, or the relative/s of an individual, because an individual was critical of Government policy?

  28. David


    Judging by the responses to this subject matter, I hope that you will take it further by making contact with the new Minister for Human Services.
    Judging by the responses from talkback listeners to the segments that Hank does on 2UE and 4BC here in Brisbane, this rot shows that the message has gone out by DHS to get tough with Centrelink customers.

    As someone who understands the operation of Centrelink, we must also consider that in recent months, that agency’s funding has been reduced due to the Department of Human Services wanting more money to fund its Access Card. I believe that Medicare has also seen a cut. Perhaps you could confirm this.
    Recently, I had two visits to the local Customer Service office of Centrelink and they have toughen up various procedures and even lining up at Carer’s counter then being told to go to the DSP counter where previously, two queries being dealt by the same officer.
    Anyone who fails to answer a formal letter from Centrelink within the specified time will see payment stopped. There’s no excuse for your constituent to go through that experience and a clear case for “Defective Administration”.

    Sadly the Howard government doesn’t know what compassion means and just imagine Centrelink administering over 100 individual projects. We should also consider the roles of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the A.A.T. Has anyone notice the role of DEWAR in appeals to the AAT.

    One can check out the AAT’s website transcripts section.
    I will respond further.

  29. Graham Bell

    Seamus [on 25]
    We could indeed agree to disagree ….. somehow, I think it’s possible we may well agree on a few points:

    [a] The need for tough psychological testing to screen bullies, sociopaths and sadists out of the Public Service before they can cause even more harm.

    [b] The need for middle-ranking and senior public servants adhere to the spirit as well as to the letter of laws and policies.

    Flexibility is fine but not when public servants can bypass – and even contradict!! – those same laws and policies to impose their own whims and prejudices by informal means, such as by firm verbal suggestions and other sneaky tricks to cover their backsides whilst remaining free to abuse their power.

    They are merely employees, not medieval lords-and-masters; if they can’t handle that …. sack them.

    [c] The need for the whole Ombudsman system to be overhauled, expanded, streamlined and made proactive …. or abolished altogether.

    [Though you would probably disagree with my views that recruiting Ombudsmanen from such a narrow field carries the risk that they might bring with them too many unfortunate attitudes that counterbalance and cancel out their depth of knowledge of the public service …. and that their duty is not to achieve balance or somesuch but to defend those who lack power from those who abuse the power with which they were entrusted].

  30. John H.

    If you are having problems with government agencies there is only one viable strategy: fight back. Check their service charter and the obligations under the legislation. Know your common law rights. You will be surprised at how often government departments breach their charter. Send in a complaint not to the ombudsmen but to the local manager and cc to the local politician. Make sure your argument is sound. Then watch them run. Takes work but if enough of us were doing this the public service would be in ruins, thereby demanding a complete change. This will hurt people there but remember they are hurting us, the “just following orders” doesn’t wash with me, public servants must accept responsibility for their failures. I know, I was one for a decade and left because I found the culture intolerable.

  31. Paul Walter

    Thought comments coming from former or current public servants interesting.
    They remind me of a friend of mine who is a long-term employee and sounds like he feels he is a guard at Long Bay when he talks about having to compromise his principals when dealing harshly with “clients” due to unreasonable ( brutal ) government policy and restrictive regulations within Centrelink.
    I have no doubt that tabloid government and media have scapegoated welfare recipients for decades. Politicians and columnists go on about these the way the Klan does about “nigras”
    It is a nasty tendency amongst politicians and other powerful people and Howard’s mob are not the only ones involved either.

  32. John H.

    It is perhaps not without significance that the numbers of people with disabilities working in federal governments have declined significantly under the Howard Government. In The Crisis of Global Capitalism, Soros writes,

    In a highly competitive environment, people weighed down by a concern for others are liable to do less well than those who are free of moral scruples. In this way, social values undergo what may be described as a process of adverse natural selection. The unscrupulous come out on top. This is one of the most disturbing aspects of the global capitalist system.”

  33. CORAL

    John H:

    There are still plenty of people with disabilities (workplace injuries) working for the government. They won’t compensate or superannuate them out, and they avoid being sued for damages.

    Sometimes they offer tiny redundancy packages. People go on working in silence; still suffering pain.

  34. Are you observing Centrelink!?

  35. Thanks for the interesting responses. Many years ago (about 1989-90), I used to work as a social worker in the Dept of Social Security – the predecessor of Centrelink. Much has changed since then, but a lot of the basics are still the same.

    Both from that experience, and subsequently, I’d have to say that generalised attacks on Centrelink staff is unfair. Whilst there will always be the occasional petty tyrant in any position of authority, it is govermnent policy and the related area of departmental culture which have the biggest impact.

    I can well remember how a hairy-chested media comment by the relevant Minister suggesting a crackdown on so-called ‘bludgers’ would almost immediately translate into a more hardline attitude amongst staff in the compliance section in the offices where I worked.

    The letter of the law is both very complex and (in some areas) highly discretionary.

    The mulititude of extra hurdles and hoops that are in place these days simply provide many more opportunities to find reasons who someone might not be eligible for assistance or might be ‘breaching’ requirements. In addition, staff can get in trouble for being too ‘flexible’ (i.e. applying common sense).

    It has always been politically popular to be seen to be tough on welfare recipients, and I imagine it always will be. This will always override the fact that a lot of ‘tough’ welfare measures are counter-productive and often cost more money than they save (although that cost is often paid by another Dept, level of government or by non-govt welfare organisations).

  36. CORAL

    Another consideration is the number of cheats Centrelink has to deal with. Lots of people do the wrong thing, and then it comes back to haunt all of us.

    The same applies to insurance companies.

    I know a lady who is currently on a Centrelink ARO (review) team. She and I share the view that good things come to those who don’t deserve them, while honest people are treatly unfairly.

    Between 1985 and 1987 I worked in the Debt Recovery Unit. There were double-income couples cheating the taxpayer to the tune of $100,000 or more – despite the fact they were both fully employed.

    Today there are probably even more scoundrels doing the wrong thing.

  37. CORAL

    The following may be of interest to the disabled seeking employment.

    When I was out shopping yesterday, I encountered a young disabled woman working at the checkout at Coles.

    Her right arm had no hand – only some tiny stumps of fingers – no doubt a birth defect.

    She used her left hand for almost everything but seemed to be managing okay.

    My main concern is that she might be more vulnerable to an occupational overuse injury in the left arm from doing that kind of work.

    The higher potential for compensation payments is probably only one of the reasons employers don’t want disabled workers.

  38. Graham Bell

    What is so unjust and, in the long run, threatening to the foundations of our way of life is that immense amounts of our money are sloshing around in very peculiar ways inside the defence, health and finance sectors of our economy and the nomenklatura connected to those sectors become curiously luckier and wealthier …… and yet, at the same time, ordinary citizens trying to do the right thing are bullied over loose change.

    So Australia really has become a Banana Republic after all.

  39. Donna

    Absolutely right Graham.

    I know a young woman who was bullied so much by Centrelink that she was admitted to hospital with a stress related illness.

    She swore that there was an investigator parked outside her home, and that she couldn’t leave the house without being followed. She even suspected her phone was being tapped.

    They were relentless with their pursuit, initiated by the Federal Government’s encouragement of ‘dobbing in’.

    Apparently, the dobbers may be receiving a gratuity, according to a reliable source.

    The investigation came to an end when a prominent member of the community stepped forward and told Centrelink to lay off.

    This is why I say the Federal Government is misogynistic. They encourage neighbours, fellow workers, anyone who is of a nasty disposition, to interfere in womens lives, and ‘dob them in’, based on a bigoted, do-gooders moral judgement of women, which is often way off the mark.

    Incidentally, the final cost to the taxpayer was considerable. The investigators fees; the health fees; the lost wages costs due to the hospitalisation and time taken off work.

  40. ken

    Donna – I know there are issues that you see in a certain way, but your starting to sound like Coral, generalsing from the particular.

    lest just say they might be harsh, unfair, unjust any particualr condemnation that springs to mind, but try not to confuse the issues – like is Hicks female, habib?

  41. Donna

    Please don’t say that Ken

    Maybe I know a bit more about this than you do – perhaps? The problem is that someone close to me has just spent a few days in hospital.

    Prior to that she was being investigated by Centrelink. They claimed that someone ‘dobbed her in’ for living with her husband, which just wasn’t true.

    She contacted a prominent business individual within the community to speak on her behalf. He did, and Centrelink has not bothered her since. But the stress was overwhelming for her.

    I spoke to a particular individual within recent days on behalf of my friend. This person is a reliable source who is an advocate of some description. What this person told me was consistent with my friend’s experiences that they use private investigators to tag clients being investigated.

    What I was further told was that they (the Federal Government) have promoted this concept of civic duty to ‘dob welfare frauds in’. Certain groups will be more vulnerable to this ‘civic duty’ than others, particularly women with children. So you have people, such as neighbours, work colleagues, expartners etc, inappropriately interfering and making moral judgements on other people. And they can, and are often, completely off the mark.

    Single women, who are often feeling quite stressed already, don’t need this further stress. They’re not told who it is that’s dobbed them in. If they ask for their files under FOI, it does not reveal Centrelink’s conversations with the ‘dobbers’. The FOI policies are carefully crafted to conceal their ’sources’, and who has used this Government agency to harass them.

    And that’s just what they’re doing to women all over Australia right now. They have designed policies to harass and undermine women.

    And, apparently, they are paying gratuity towards those self-perceived civic members of society who interfere in the lives of women.

    … to be continued

  42. ken

    Donna – I hear exactly what you saying, but from this unfortuatne experience you really can’t quite make the leap of a total attitudianl generalisation.

    I faced exaclty the same issue with mandaorty reporting of child abuse when introdced – (something know one can object to in principle)unfrotuatnly their are alwasy unintended consequences of any seemingingly appropriaet activity.

  43. Donna

    But Ken

    It’s not just one experience.

    I am to single mother issues what John Tracey is to Indigenous issues what Marilyn is to refugee issues.

    I am aware that a pretty dodgy character, with ties to the infamous men in black, wrangled his way into a meeting with a cabinet minister in North Queensland in recent weeks.

    I am also aware of another MP in Brisbane who thought he could use his position to pressure childrens services staff into making an adverse judgement against a mother, all to help out his mate who happend to be the father. Thankfully CS did not budge. He went on to table the experience in Parliament quite unfairly.

    There is another MP who organised an ‘information’ session for ALL Federal Liberal cabinet and MPs. The guest speakers were people who are quite radical mens rights ‘advocates’. These organisations have been receiving healthy funding since. Contrastingly, women’s organisation received significant decreases in their funding.

    There is a couple who moved to a mining town in Central Qld a few years ago. The marriage broke down. The husband remarried quite quickly. The wife and children were left struggling in a town with unaffordable housing and inadequate employment opportunities for women.

    Through Centrelink policy. They were able to create a ‘debt’ for this Mother, because of some interesting formula which indicated they had ‘share care’ for 31% of the time.

    This ‘debt’ is being paid to the new wife of the exhusband, while the Mother struggles to keep her family afloat.

    All over Australia women are finding themselves in ‘debt’ to centrelink for the tune of over $2000. The ‘debt’ is being repaid to the new partners/girlfriends or whoever has been delegated as ‘carer’ by the father. Usually it’s not him who is the carer.

    Policies created have also included the withdrawal of the education supplement, so that women cannot go to university and improve their circumstances for their families.


  44. ken

    OK I surrender – the whole world and Centrelink existst for the sole purpose of terrorising single mothers – but belive me I’m not paranoid, no I’m not , really, truly,………………….

  45. jan

    I am on a disability benefit because of a number of health issues, one of which is very serious. I am also on my own with a child to raise, with no help from the father. My dealings with centrelink have been, for me, a horror story. Although a lot of the staff have been polite, others have treated me with total disrespect. My benefit was suspended because of a document they said i had not provided. I got out of a sick bed in order to go and fill in their form, insisting that they did, in fact have the document. They said they didn’t because it was not on the computer. I was in a lot of pain and quite unwell but that counts for little. After much discussion, filling out another form, telling them that I was going to make a complaint to ‘Hank’ and, by this time 2 officers later they finally located the form which was the reason they suspended my disability benefit. (Even kind enough to give me another copy of it) I cannot begin to tell you other problems I have had over the last year and i believe sincerely that it’s because i am a single mother, and they really couldn’t give a rat’s butt whether i died tomorrow or not. One less on the system eh! I have hardly stopped crying since and i am in more pain now than before i had to go to their stupid office. I have complained ‘upstairs’ but ‘Hank’ doesn’t take phone calls from the peasants, only emails. My complaint has been referred on. Thanks centrelink for reminding me, once again that i am a disabled bludger on your system. Have a nice easter because we aren’t having one at all. The reinstatement came too late for us!

  46. Donna

    No Ken

    Your not paranoid. You’re just disrespectful.

  47. Donna

    And it’s people like you, who put women posters down with your one liners, who play a part in not have the matter addressed and discussed on a public forum. Very few women would hop on here and communicate their experiences if having to face those sort of put downs.

    It’s not your experience. Your not a woman. So who are you to position yourself as someone who gets to judge the experience of others as valid or ‘paranoid’.

    I don’t have to speak up for women. I’m not on welfare. I also don’t have to worry about childcare for my child at some ungodly hour because Centrelink decided that appropriate employment included sending me out to turn down the beds of clients in a City hotel under some dodgy ‘workchoices’ legislation.

    What sort of individual are you to dismiss and silence claims as just being ‘paranoid’, when some disgraceful legislation has been created allowing Centrelink to place investigators outside of womens homes, tapping their phones, and hounded them into hospital.

    What sort of politicans would create legislation like that?

    The same politicians had a Bill overthrown recently, empowering Centrelink officers to raid ‘fraudsters’ homes to confiscate their belonings and gather ‘evidence’.

    Who do you think they had in mind when they created this Bill?

  48. CORAL

    Contrary to Ken’s opinion, I have a “centrist” position on Centrelink, having had dealings both inside and outside of this organisation at different times.

    I agree with Donna that life is difficult for a woman with no man in the house, particularly if she is raising children on her own.

    A lot of anti-female/anti-child policies come back to the misogyny of John Howard. Based on past experiences, I might even say the same of Bob Hawke – even when I had a husband.

    John Howard also wants to make sure everyone dies before receiving either a Commonwealth pension or superannuation payments.

    I’ve had dreadfully behaved neighbours try to persecute me using the police, but I made sure it didn’t get them anywhere.

    I know how to stand my ground when it comes to wrongdoers – whether I am dealing with police officers, the Family Court, Centrelink, or the many ordinary citizens who treat sole parent females in a substandard fashion.

    Just don’t get me started on ex-partners and the Child Support Agency.

    I am not entirely opposed to government agencies raiding homes, because there are plenty of people doing the wrong things in today’s society.

  49. Donna

    Thank you Coral for your insight.

    I have to ask you this, given your own personal account of discrimination as a single mother, and also given the Federal Government use of vernacular in their policy reports such as ‘targeting single mothers’ … who will be the Centrelink clients positioned as ‘frauds’, and therefore deserving of invasion.

  50. David


    Since the posting of my previous message, further responses have been posted and it’s good to see.

    We know that Centrelink does make mistakes and shows that the overall staffing numbers within that agency is something that should be considered.
    I know there’s duplication of letters that are fowarded out but considering the complexities of the agency’s computer system, more staff are needed.
    From my experiences, the staff have been helpful and for those in the frontline, they’re always the last to know what’s going on.
    We must also consider the reduction in funding to Centrelink, thanks to the Department of Human Services taking funding for the Access Card project.
    It is also good to see your reference to your previous role.

  51. jan

    Hi Coral

    In reference to your post (48) I would like to point out a few areas of concern.

    Firstly, I think that it’s great that you have learned how to stand your ground and fight for your rights. Unfortunately, there are many, many people out there who have not yet achieved this ability. In fact, they are totally intimidated in just having to go to a centrelink office, let alone fight for themselves. I always thought that I had reached your level, however, when you are unwell, and especially when your life very much affected by your illness it can really wear you down, believe me. You just want any centrelink issues to be cleared up, in order that you can get on with concentrating on raising your child, and coping with your health problems. However, it has been my experience that, just when centrelink assures you that everything is allright and they have whatever ridiculous bit of information that they currently need, you get a few weeks reprieve and then there is another ‘problem’ that they miraculously seem to find, again requiring you to come into the office so they can ask you a whole heap of the same questions you’ve already answered again, or there is some paperwork that they say you haven’t supplied, and, when you go in an ask why it is that your personal information is being regularly misplaced (usually after they have stopped your payment), depending on how hard you fight on the day is dependant upon whether they will actually get off their backsides and put a bit of effort into locating documents already supplied to them. This can be extremely distressing when you are sick, in pain, under medical care at the same time, and all you want to do is lay down and rest, and do exactly what your doctor has told you to do. Unfortunately, if your payment has already been stopped you don’t really have a choice but to get up and go in, which has been the case for me on more than one occasion.


  52. jan

    Hi Coral (again)

    Re post 48

    In reference to government agencies being given the power of ‘search and seizure’ I believe that this would set a very dangerous precedent, leaving the doors wide open for further harrasement and intimidation. If someone’s home requires raiding I believe that this should be the job of either the state or commonwealth police, and only after the issue of a warrant by a magistrate who has been sufficiently satisfied that there are good grounds for a search. A large number of these homes will have children residing in them who could (for whatever reasons) be at home when this is going down.

    I wonder why government agencies such as centrelink are wanting these powers with the powers they already have to search into backgrounds, bank accounts, etc, and with their connection with the tax department. Being that centrelink is the major area of complaints made to the commonwealth ombudsmen’s office I think that this would be a very scary move indeed, e.g. what about over zealous investigators who could ask you to prove where you got the money to buy every single thing they see in the place, especially if you are a person who stands up for yourself and they decide to ‘put you back in your place’? What if you are a person who has already made complaints about centrelink? I think they have enough powers of investigation now, should they really need to use them.

  53. ken

    Unfortunately Donna – while I understand you taking offence you have form in a) ignorantly generalising, for example the stigmatisation of socio-economic status as an indicator of antisocial behaviour in youth, specifically in reference to Cronulla kids, and b) taking three posts after the error being pointed out before grudgingly acknowledging it.

    So despite two relatively innocuous posts by me pointing out that just maybe the application of the particular to the general might be a tad too much in this matter – whoosh blind persistence. Hence the lampoon.

    WRT to Coral I made no reference to your position one way or the other on Centrelink, the reference was to your unfailing ability to have a friend, family member or personal experience that relates to and then applied generally to every post on this site – and the delicious irony of Donna (I think from memeory), using this as a mechanism to cyber bully you (remember gossip over the back fence) on a previous post as a redneck when in this case she was doing exactly the same thing.

    No doubt AB will censor this post, by the selective application of his comments policy, as he won’t want to upset the small proportion of potential voters he has up there.

  54. Donna


    While I was originally going to respond in great detail to what my comments were on the Cronulla riots and youths, in comparison to how you have misinterpreted my comments, I have decided not to respond nor be baited into an unproductive debate (with you attempting to ‘lampoon’ other supporters)on what I did or didn’t say.

    I don’t think you can every assume how posters will vote either Ken.

    While I will quite willingly admit I enjoy most of your posts, I think No.53 (Missing a hash key on my computer) was probably your lowest I have read. I don’t want to be associated with it.

    Hope you had a great Easter Ken!

  55. Donna


    You are right. Often women feel exhausted, disempowered, isolated in their experience.

    They are vulnerable targets who, when speaking up on their experiences, are dismissed or silenced by arrogant others without a great deal of respect towards women.

  56. kenneth

    Well Donna if my memory is wrong and I misinterpreted the Cronulla issue then I’m wrong – its usually very reliable though, can’t remember yesterday but long term is still OK.

    I still dont think the hunderdsd of offices and thousands of staff aer all set up for one end aim, althogh I do understand that for some the whole system seems insurmountable.

    I actually thought #44 was probably worse – anyway have fun. Hopefully AB will allow indulgence.

  57. jan

    Thanks Donna

    whilst i agree that there are a number of people doing the wrong thing, it is beyond me as to why centrelink is making an obvious concerted effort to force people who have provided ‘more’ than the required professional evidence of their disability into situations where they may feel that they have no option but to go against their professional advice in order to get some peace from the constant ‘call-ups’ by centrelink, either by mail, or by phone. There seems to be little if any allowances made for the fact that being on a disability support benefit is hard enough, given that there is often the need for numerous medications, medical consults, etc. I wonder why it is that, for some people who have a DSS assessment it is done by a psychologist, when nothing on their doctor’s medical report relates to anything other than medical information. I was under the assumption that ‘medical’ doctors would do these assessments. As I have said before, there are many centrelink officers who do treat clients with respect, and with dignity, but there are also a number who see their job as a ‘powerbase’ and treat vulnerable people like dirt. The system set up for handling complaints re centrelink certainly needs looking at urgently, as does the amount of misinformation that is given out by their staff. I hate pension day because i dread ringing the bank before going to pay the rent, or getting prescriptions filled, or buying food, because i have lost all faith in centrelink’s ‘left hand’ knowing what the ‘right hand’ is doing, and once that ‘allmighty button’ has been pushed it’s back to square one again. If the stuff up is a centrelink stuff up it’s just tough luck, spend more money that you can’t afford to go in, stand in a queue for however long,in pain, go through the same crap you’ve already gone through before, to find out that someone didn’t do their homework the last time and the button got pushed again. Apology? not on your nelly from centrelink!

  58. The Feral Abacus

    Regrettably I have to resort to personal anecdote, but there are occasions when anecdote has its uses.

    Contrary to over a decade’s documented evidence from medical specialists, two acquaintances of mine were told by admin officer interviewers that there was “nothing wrong with” them, and that they needed to “snap out of it”. Same office, two Centrelink interviewers, two applicants, separate occasions.

    I think it is of great concern that public servants should be proffering medical opinions in the course of carrying out their duties, particularly when they (presumably) have no training whatsoever in the relevant fields, and especially when they have been supplied documented expert opinions to the contrary. I note too that one interviewer withheld information when asked a direct question about appeals processes.

    This illustrates failings at two levels –
    1) That Centrelink attracts employees willing to abuse their positions to deny legitimate applicants the benefits to which they are entitled
    2) That Centrelink managers are not providing adequate supervision of staff to prevent such abuses occurring.

    ken, in both cases the applicants were articulate, tertiary-educated and well prepared, one being a former public servant. My point is that there need not be explicit discriminatory direction for systematic problems to arise. My concern is that if clients such as these experience difficulty in gaining access to their entitlements, how will the everyday punter fare?

  59. CORAL


    Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you.

    I don’t believe that Centrelink is targetting ONLY sole parent females with its “search and seizure” plans. An idea like that is verging on paranoia.

    A “single mother” is a woman who has never been married. I haven’t been single since I was 18 years old. According to boxes filled in on government forms, I am a divorced parent.


    I’m wondering if you have not been on the receiving end of some kind of vendetta – perhaps being perpetrated by someone you know i.e. anonymous denunciator (persecutor) as previously described by Donna.

    If further problems occur, please try to take an advocate with you.


    My unfailing ability to have a friend, acquaintance, neighbour, relative (or myself) involved in a particular issue or experience is a reflection of the large number of people I have had contact with.

    Yes, I have been cyber-bullied by a particular person across nearly every thread, but I am trying to be nice in view of paranoic tendencies (not entirely unfounded).


    I’m glad you have seen the value of anecdote. Your acquaintances’ experiences are a direct reflection of the general attitudes of the Howardship.

    Centrelink officers have been told to get rid of as many legitimate clients as possible – sending the disabled and unpartnered parents out to work – while benefits continue to be paid to the completely undeserving.

    Discrimination is inherent in the legislation. That’s how the system works now.

    Those who are not being persecuted by Centrelink may be getting something equally bad in the workplace instead.

    In the last 2 weeks, I’ve never heard so many stories of people being underpaid, overworked or UNPAID AT ALL. Some of the people complaining are foreign workers. Most are low income earners.

    I tell them to stand up for their rights and stick together as a group with their co-workers. I guess that’s what a union is.

    Individual contracts have a negative, divisive effect.

  60. CORAL


    You are probably right about frontline Centrelink staff being the last to know what is going on, but it isn’t anything new.

    Social Security had the same problems more than 20 years ago, when there WAS adequate staffing.

    There’s nothing like being dumped on a mini-budget hotline and dealing with distressed sole parents, when you haven’t even been afforded the opportunity to read the legislative changes before the phones start ringing.

  61. jan

    Hi Coral

    Many thanks for your reply. I don’t believe that what is happening is a ‘personal vendetta’ as much as it is misinformation (on numerous occasions), laziness (in reference to getting documents provided by me from the relative storage department (much easier to just make me give them another copy), or the fact that they have been provided, more than once with doctor’s reports, specialist reports, certified test results, etc. They have even conceded that I looked unwell and uncomfortable! As well, if you know that you’re doing nothing wrong then obviously there is no need for centrelink to be harassing you, other than mismanagement, or by direction of legislation. (I too am an educated person).

    Personally, I am also hearing lots of very similar stories, too many for it to be a ‘single person vendetta’, unless, of course it is a vendetta because I have made a formal complaint (still waiting for an anser by the way, but i suppose that’s a little hard when centrelink themselves gave me the evidence to show that they did have a copy of the document over which they suspended my payment – it has their own fax no, time, and date right across the top!)
    I sincerely believe that the ‘vendetta’ is being applied to people who have legitimate disablities in order to pressure them into surrendering their benefit. Why is it, all of a sudden that centrelink has its senior representative in tele, on radio, and in the press on a very regular basis. That would make you wonder if centrelink is having issues and needs to make itself look good to the general public. Personally I can’t ever remember seeing so much of centrelink in the press. Why are many officers suggesting further study, but not also letting people know that further study can, in fact, then affect the type, and amount of payment that the applicant can receive? It’s like a lot of things they suggest, but don’t give you the whole picture of.

  62. jan

    Hi Coral,

    I would like to clarify that the person who did my DSS assessment at the centrelink office was not an actual centrelink officer. They were a person whom centrelink employs from ‘outside’ to do assessments. I did ask this person if they were medically qualified, to which they answered “Yes, I am”. I then asked what their qualifications were and they told me that they were a Psychologist, and that they were employed from outside by centrelink to do a report on me, but that it was centrelink who actually makes the decision. I would question the ‘medical’ training involved in being a Psychologist, however, a few weeks later my DSS was granted, with no work requirements, although i have been told that this could change, something that concerns me, being that, with all of the evidence that centrelink has been provided it is obvious to anyone who has ‘done their homework’ that these disabilities are unlikely to change, other than to get worse, rather than better. I did investigate external studies, being that i am awake at all hours of the night, but i have been told by centrelink after that suggestion that if i am able to study i am able to work. Does that mean that, on the nights when i am up because i am too uncomfortable to be able to sleep that they will find me work, and a babysitter, and transport until i feel unwell again? Why would a Psychologist be employed to write a report when nothing on the medical reports is of a psychological nature, only a medical one? I thought that I was a pretty strong person emotionally, but this really has sat me back on my heels and forced me to question the system that portrays itself as ‘helping those who need help’.

    Sure, there are some really smartalec people employed there, but there are also some very good ones, however, i do believe that centrelink officers are being directed to get as many people as possible off disabilities.

  63. Donna

    Hi Jan

    Here is a URL address to an article you might like to read. It’s all I could come up with using a quick google search. I did read the legislation a couple of years ago and this article confirms what I read, albeit a critical appraisal.


    I didn’t say:

    ‘Centrelink is targetting ONLY sole parent females with its “search and seizure” plans. An idea like that is verging on paranoia.’

    What I said was:

    ‘who will be the Centrelink clients positioned as ‘frauds’, and therefore deserving of invasion.’

    Of course the other ‘targeted’ (their choice of word not mine) group are disability pensioners.

    Call that paranoid if you must. Given I’m not on welfare I have no need to be paranoid. However, I think it’s quite unkind to resort to such put downs when there’s enough evidence (such as written policies) that indicate they are, as I have stated, ‘targeting single mothers’, and we’ll add disability pensioners to keep you happy, and Ken as well.

    There is also a large difference between using anecdotes, and apparently having relatives who have worked in every government department in Australia to back up your Personal POV, and therefore make your opinion the expert opinion on a whole range of topics, particularly when you only have to pick up ‘The Courier-Mail’ to read the same opinion.

    Now here’s a definition of a single mother for you that I have cut and paste from Wikipedia:

    ‘a woman may be a single parent after divorce, after giving birth to or adopting a child outside marriage, or after the father has died. …’

  64. CORAL


    It would be helpful if we knew the type of disability from which you suffer.

    The cynic in me thinks Centrelink may have called in a psychologist to make you doubt your own sanity.

    Sometimes people with disabilities are assessed by psychologists to find out if there might be a psychological overlay to their problems.

    My answer to this is – yes, there generally is – after people have been sufficiently abused by the system, or by co-workers if they have a work-related disability. Just dealing with pain each day can have negative effects on the psyche.

    I was assessed by an Occupational Therapist. When I told her what Social Security did to me as an employee, she did not look as if she would take their side. I took documents with me dating back two decades.

    You are right in thinking that Centrelink just wants to get everyone out to work, but they are more likely to try to push the more intelligent among us into various types of non-manual work requiring study.

    The Howard government has proven many times over that it doesn’t care about women, children or the disabled.

    I agree with you that Centrelink officers do make a lot of mistakes, but my main gripe is that they don’t provide written information to clients to keep them abreast of changes to payments or legislation (as they once did) – something to remember if they cut you off unexpectedly.


    I think the “search and seizure” agenda would be applied to ANY welfare recipient, including Aged Pensioners.

    Some years ago, a guy I knew was forced by the CSA to sell his car to pay a huge child support debt for 3 children (one disabled). I don’t know if they seized his vehicle or not – sounds pretty fair to me.

    Yes, I know lots of people who have a story to tell, but I have never claimed to be an expert. My anecdotes come from real life, not from the newspaper.

    I’m sure most people have friends, relatives, acquaintances and neighbours who work in various government departments and other workplaces.

  65. jan

    hi coral,

    let’s just say that my doctor put 4 areas (that’s what was asked for on the doctor’s report)that she considered to be ongoing disabilities, one of which is spinal and involves 4 disks in the lower back alone, (very current radiologist report also supplied), arthritis in all limbs, and 2 ongoing stomach issues. There are also reports re another 4 problems, one of which is immediately life threatening, with little chance of survival should it rupture. I am in almost daily pain with the spinal problem, being that the lower back is not the only area that is damaged, and i am regularly immobile, both with the pain, and with the problem of walking, and sitting, and bending. A great day for me is the odd one when i can walk without pain. They have official evidence of every single medical issue and are aware that i require regular assistance from family (child) and friends. They also have a ‘very’ long list of medications. Perhaps i am a little upset at the prospects for the future, although, mentally my doctor feels that i am handling that side well, given what a few of the more serious issues are. She has also spoken with the assessor, and she was also surprised to hear that it was a psychologist, rather than a doctor, which is what she assumed it would be also. If centrelink wanted me to doubt my own sanity they will be waiting a long, long time, although, how sad it would be if that were to be the reason that a psychologist was used. Is that really their right? Morally, decently, I don’t believe so. I would rather believe they are more decent than that.

  66. Lana

    This is a message for single mums being affected by changes to Parenting Payment Single from 1st July:
    I have complained loud and long regarding these changes and the fact that the children are going to suffer as much, if not moreso, than their mums.

    Not only will single mums and their kids be financially penalised and made more vulnerable to bullying by Centrelink and employment agencies but there will also be negative child outcomes in terms of time spent in non-parental care and perhaps at home alone (particularly during school holidays).

    What I have been able to ascertain is this:
    If there are NO FORMAL CARE ARRANGEMENTS for your kids – for example, if they are in high school with no OSHC – then you are not obliged to take work that will see you separated from them when they are not in school – including during holidays. This is from the horse’s mouth.

    So, don’t allow them to bully you or put your kids at risk or cause you ubdue stress in return for your pittance (probably a fraction of the tax your ex pays and almost certainly less than taxpayers pay to Mal Turnbull’s wife for him to rent ‘her’ home when he’s in Canberra).

    Read ‘The Labour Market ate my Babies’ and see that this Government’s policies are leading us down a dangerous road and the only corporations not benefitting from Mr Howard’s vision are those quaint old-fashioned units called ‘families’.

  67. CORAL


    I can’t say I disagree with you at all.

    Women without formal care arrangements for high school aged children probably won’t be able to hold down a job anyway if they need time off for the equivalent of 3 months of the year.

    No doubt Centrelink expects sole parents to work part-time during the school term and face starvation and eviction during the school holidays (or perhaps something worse happening to their children if they continue to work).

    As it is, some of my teenager’s friends have to spend the school holidays looking after younger siblings while both of the parents work.

    We also need to look at this issue in relation to changes to child support arrangements.

    I think the main aim of the Howard government is to leave more money in the hands of wealthy and middle class non-residential parents – rather than to achieve the stated aims of either the Family Court or the Child Support Agency.


    Sorry to hear of your long list of problems.

    I’m wondering if it might be worth your while to get a solicitor to write to Centrelink and ask them to stop causing you ongoing stress. Stress exacerbates pain. (Even losing your temper might help!)

    As for the assessment by the Psychologist – never underestimate what the government is willing to do to the ordinary person in order to reduce or cancel a payment.

    Governments (whether local, state or federal) are not concerned with people’s rights. Even a state-of-the art electronic abacus would have no “rights” button.

  68. Lana

    Thanks Coral. You have highlighted the other blow to single parents dealt by the Coalition – the changes to Child Support.

    The reduction of the cap on maximum income used to determine child support payable saw my son’s support reduced by over $300 a month. Nice one John – a lovely gift for all those high income earning males out there whose kids live in poverty.

    At the same time I was informed that I would be required after July 07 to drag myself from pillar to post to justify the receipt of the pittance called Parenting Payment Single. Thing is, single parents are not ‘unemployed’ – there’s no way we can compete on a level playing field with those without kids.

    I have worked on and off over the years but it’s tough with no car and no family support. I have always made sure I am home during holidays.

    Now, there’s NO WAY I will take a job before my son turns 16. If I did and then, after 12 weeks or more, left the job we’d be faced with trying to get by on ‘enhanced’ Newstart which is only about $18 a week more than someone without kids gets – is that all the Coalition think kids cost? Eighteen dollars a week? Single parents and their kids will be much worse off than even childless unemployed. This is disgraceful!

    My intention is to undertake a three year uni degree commencing July 07. This way I retain PPS plus an education supplement. It’s the only way I can think of to be a mother to my son while he is still at school and not have us starve or end up homeless.

    I’m not even sure if a Labour Government will fix this. Mr Rudd hasn’t made clear what he will do regarding single parents and the disabled. I’m not sure who to vote for to help us – I think it’s unlikely that the Coalition will win but how do we get the right people in the Senate to overturn these disgraceful poverty- and stress-inducing changes?
    Wish us luck Coral. Thing is, any woman can be left holding the baby – no woman can afford to be complacent about these changes.

  69. jan

    Hi Lana

    I believe that it is a very sad indictment that, until such times as genuine welfare recipients realise and accept the power in their vote that little is going to change. That is what happens when governments orchestrate general opinion against a particular section of the population whilst treating each section as though they don’t deserve to exist, let alone have a roof over their heads, or eat! Andrew Bartlett seems to be the only person within government who is not too afraid to look at the issues affecting the most vulnerable people in this society. How you educate people to the power of their vote? Awareness is a wonderful gift to give and perhaps that’s one way. Referring people to this site is a nice idea too.

    Hi Coral!

    I had already decided that, should there be another suspension of my disability benefit for whatever ridiculous reason that i will definately be getting legal advice because i have tried to please centrelink to the point that i was almost ready to throw it in and take my chances healthwise until a few people helped me to go back to the place of the fact that my child needs me around as physically able under the circumstances, and not dead, or in a wheelchair. Next time i will fight them. Politely, but legally.

  70. CORAL


    I was fired by the Dept of Social Security in 1987 because I had developed a work related disability while in their employ.

    There was a Labour government in place at the time (Bob Hawke – Champion of the Worker, I think).

    I don’t think the ALP will help us out very much. I don’t think Kim Beazley put up much (if any) opposition to the Welfare to Work legislation.

    The University study sounds as if it would be a good idea from a number of perspectives.


    At the last federal election, lots of women with children (married, single and divorced) voted for John Howard after receiving a pre-election bribe in the form of 2 extra family payments of $600 per child.

    My sister received $2400 for her two children. When I advised her not to vote for John Howard, the dollar signs in her eyes prevented her from thinking past her greed.

    Now that she can’t get any parenting payment (partnered) unless she goes to work (forewarned by me), I think all of the Liberal candidates will hit the bottom of her ballot pile.

  71. jan

    Hi Coral!

    Yes. This unfortunately is where people don’t always look at the ‘bigger picture’. This is also where ‘intimidation and low self-esteem’ causes vulnerable people to be too scared to acknowledge their own rights. It is also a disgusting indictment on our political scene that many politicians seem to think that their constituents don’t even deserve a reply when they do write or email them. I truly believe that, if more people emailed their parlaimentarians asking what their intentions are with regards to single parents, disabled, carers, housing, and homeless, etc, well before the next election (just don’t expect too many replies) the voice is then going out, as is the potential for smart politicians to realise that a ‘very’ large section of the voting population could go elsewhere on the day for this reason alone. Strength in numbers, so to speak. We have a man on this site who obviously is willing to listen, and therefore, he, and those like him have to be seriously considered among those who could represent us at ballot time. As far as i am concerned, we are ‘all’ equal when it comes to filling out a ballot paper. It’s an eerie, kharmic coincidence that the largest amount of voters are not the wealthiest within this country. “Your vote – your power – make your vote count!” Educate yourself about preferences, (very important) and remember that pollies should listen to the people, rich or poor!

  72. Donna


    I read your post on another forum. Well done!

  73. Lana

    Hi Donna – Thanks!

    I’m desperately trying to make people aware of how the Coalition is hurting women and children – my son and I are already doing it so tough and it’s only going to get harder – and I don’t understand why we’re being punished. I stayed with my child and have taken the responsibility his father shunned. I should be supported. And my son must have the right to full time parental care.

    I was a manager for a major Aussie company before I was a single mum. It was a high power, high stress job but NOWHERE NEAR as important or vital as mothering. There is no other job once you have kids that can compare. Unfortunately, kids can’t vote and single mums are not politically ‘hot’ so the Government gets to treat us any way they like. The worse, the better.

    It’s appalling the way single mums are represented in the media. ‘A Current Affair’ last night made me want to throw a brick through the TV. I couldn’t get over the guy from the Aust. Family Assn. saying that the most important thing a child can have is a breadwinner. What about a mum? A safe and peaceful home? Food and education? If he represents the views of the AFA then the AFA has had its day.

    Anyway, there’s a couple of books you might like – ‘The Labour Market Ate My Babies’ and ‘Putting Children First’. These books explain how business and economy focussed society is displacing kids and devaluing motherhood. It’s very worrying.

    Thanks again for your encouragement Donna – best wishes to you.

  74. CORAL

    It’s a sad fact that most people consider those living on welfare as little more than a liability.

    John Howard has publicly chastised a member of his own parliamentary team for saying that Julia Gillard could never understand the needs of families because she is “deliberately barren” – having had no children at all.

    I think John Howard is a misogynist and a hypocrite. His own attitudes towards women are far worse.

    Now he expects women to have 3 children each; and work full-time for the rest of their lives at the same time.

    If you asked elderly women if they think the modern woman has it any better than they had it, I think most of them would tell you, “No”.

    Women in that age group were respected as homemakers and mothers. No one expected them to do all of the housework and childraising, while holding down a full-time job as well.

    Some men do their share of the housework, but I am told the bulk of them still do not.

  75. Lana

    Well said Coral! It is misogynistic and hypocritical – and unsustainable.

    And, as you say, I was just talking to an older lady the other day who commiserated with me on how hard it is to be a mum these days – she said we ‘aren’t allowed to be mothers’ and ‘the role of women is less valued now than it was 50 years ago’and ‘kids aren’t allowed to be kids’. She’s right. Kids are under enormous stress and being medicated left and right.

    Even Germaine Greer – that feminist icon – said that society places no value on motherhood or child raising today which is even a step backwards from when she started out – she said you need only ‘look at the way the Child Support system is designed’.

    It’s still a patriarchal society – and, under the guise of equality, men are still seriously undermining the role of women in society.

    My hope is that the next generation, our sons, will shift the focus off the economy and back onto humanity.

  76. CORAL

    Under the Howard government, the society has become more patriarchal, not less.

    The ALP certainly cared more about children than the Liberals, but I don’t think that’s the case any more.

    As I mentioned previously, Kim Beazley didn’t put up much (if any) opposition to Welfare to Work – certainly not that I saw or heard anyway.

    I think the modern generation of young men and women have accepted that they will all have to work throughout their lives, due to the low birth rates of the past supplying too few workers to support an ageing population.

    It is my belief that widespread use of the contraceptive pill has been the primary player in the destruction of the very fabric of our society – creating promiscuity, lack of commitment, greed, self-focus, child spoiling and neglect.

  77. Lana

    Dear Senator Bartlett
    Thanks for allowing us to commandeer your blog.

    Sir – What are the chances of the ALP, if elected, overturning the Welfare to Work requirements for single parents and the disabled and re-instating the pensions as before?

    Is there a way to vote which will, in your view, increase the chances of this happening? Will voting for the Democrats rep be the best we can do to see these policies overturned?

  78. jan

    I am really starting to hope that people, especially those like myself who are living day to day begin to educate themselves about their governments. Start with a ‘very’ interesting book called ‘God Under Howard’ by Marion Maddox. It will scare the daylights out of you!

    As I said before, the way that people vote will be vitally important. Being aware of where preferential votes go is again vitally important, as is voicing your concerns to as many members of parlaiment as possible.
    What is happening to single parents, and the disabled in this country has to stop. Too many women are paying with their health, surrendering children, being forced to leave children alone at home for varying periods of time in order to oblige a government that couldn’t give a damn. I did a little exercise some time back to see just how many of the ‘middle class’ people I know were aware of what is happening. Those who asked how they could verify it were directed to the Acoss site to educate themselves. The opinions I got back were that the ‘rorters’ needed to go, but, in their opinion no decent person in this country would want to see what has been happening to date, or what is going to happen. They just weren’t aware because it didn’t affect them. “Awareness!” That one special word so cleverly concealed, but while welfare recipients don’t sound out loud and hard to their politicians, media, etc it stays the same. Attitudes to welfare recipients, I believe have been cleverly orchestrated by governments who are only partially telling the truth. I don’t believe that Andrew is one of them. More people need to be using this site as a means of getting their stories out, and more people need to be made aware that this site actually exists. Get my drift?

  79. Jan

    My husband is on a disability pension, for good reason. Today friend of ours recieved a Work Details Report form to be filled out regarding my husbands “employment” with them.
    He has never been employed by them, the letter came from an office on the other side of the state. What disturbed us most though they listed his full name and birth date
    How could this happen??

  80. Lana

    There are no depths to which Centrelink under the Coalition won’t sink.

    A couple ogf months after I started asking questions about the changes to PPS I got a bill from them claiming they had overpaid me by over $600.

    I asked when/how this could have happened. They said it dated back to over a year ago (!) when I did temp work. At the time I was scrupulous about phoning in my earnings, providing payslips etc. I queried the bill and requested it be investigated. They never got back to me and have been deducting money from my fortnightly payment. I am powerless to stop it.

    I am extremely suspicious of this bill, its timing etc.

    The message is – ask questions at your peril.

  81. Donna

    Jan and Lana

    Contact Welfare Rights. Don’t bother with the Ombudsman. Feedback regarding the Ombudsman is that it is not an impartial body.

    If you see any workmans vans outside your house, take down the rego number, or even take photos. Give this to Welfare Rights.

    If Centrelink are doing an investigation on you, apparently they are meant to inform you in writing.

  82. jan 1

    Hi Lana

    I believe that your issue is all part of the ‘get mean with them policy’.
    Don’t expect replies from centrelink when you make a complaint. They don’t like complaints because they won’t admit under any circumstances that it was even remotely possible that they stuffed up. I too have never received a reply to a complaint that i made to Hank’s office, even after they referred it back to customer relations. Don’t take it personally. From what i hear we are far from being the only ones they don’t answer. Take some good advice – where centrelink is concerned be prepared for anything! Don’t blame it on the staff, blame it on the heroes who give them directions to follow.
    It seems that, these days centrelink officers are under direction to do whatever is necessary to enforce guidelines, or to make life uncomfortable for those who dare to have the nerve to make a complaint. After all, Lana, you are supposed to be one of the intimidated, low self-esteem ones and you really are not supposed to be thinking for yourself – centrelink can do that for you!

  83. CORAL


    I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of a Labour government overturning the Welfare to Work legislation.

    The bottom line is that we don’t have enough people in the younger generations to support an ageing population, sole parents and the disabled.

    I think this is the primary reason that the government is trying to get as many people into work as possible – and expecting the elderly to work for years longer before they retire.

    In 1969, we were told to have 2.3 children (Zero Population Growth). Unfortunately, idiots didn’t take into account the likely effects on the disadvantaged.

    Add to this the widespread use of the oral contraceptive pill from about 1960, and you have a recipe for social disaster.

    I’m sure the very spoilt younger generations from smaller families will have no problem in finding a final solution to people who are unable to support themselves as younger adults, or into old age.

  84. Alison Alloway

    As a Centrelink Senior Supervisor (1985-1998), I confirm staff during that period did have considerable discretionary judgement.
    We were in fact encouraged to make judgements according to “natural justice” and individual circumstance.

    Under the Howard Government, many changes occurred. Centrelink became a “corporation”, the hierarchical system was altered so that front-line Supervisors were abolished and base-line staff had the powers of all decision making within a few months. By this, I mean an 18 year old with just three months inside the Dpeartment has full powers to determine your eligibility for Disability Support etc. One immediate consequence of this was the advent of massive fraud by Centrelink staff. (There were seven offenders within the office I worked, alone. I understand there were hundreds around Australia.)

    Almost immediately following the election of John Howard, elegibility for benefits and allowances started being altered.

    The parental cut-off point for Austudy and Newstart was dramatically lowered in 1996.
    This IMMEDIATELY saw a huge reduction in the numbers of students and young people in collecting benefits.
    It was so different to the days of the Hawke Government when we Social Security (as we were called then) staff, went out into the schools, in the final week of school and took applications from students for their JobSearch (ex student) Allowance.

    The income and assets test for aged pensioners was lowered, meaning many people who would have qualified before Howard’s election, were now excluded.

    I left Centrelink in 1998, shortly after Howard disbanded the CES and privatised the employment agencies. I had sufficient wit and intelligence to foresee what was going to happen, and I didn’t want to be around.

    I am sorry to read where so many people are experiencing grief and hardship now. I honestly couldn’t make any of the hard, callous decisions which the staff are obviously being told to make today.

  85. Donna

    Thanks for that Alison

    It’s very brave of you to speak out.

  86. jan 1

    Hi Allison,
    I need to say ‘thank you so much’, both for your honesty, and also your bravery. You are a very ‘special’ person. Having read your piece I know that, in reference to young staff who are ‘not long in’ making these decisions that you have been very honest, I just never thought that I would see a centrelink employee (ex or otherwise) actually admit it. It is blatantly obvious to anyone with even limited education that certain recipient areas are being handled in ways that are not morally, or ethically right. I personally must admit that i have found it difficult at times to understand how some people can willingly do this, ‘though, they obviously have their needs, and their reasons. I think i would rather be out of a job too if it meant that i was following this kind of direction.

    Thank you once again for having the compassion, and the honesty to confirm what a lot of us have probably long ago worked out.

    I wish you health, happiness, and peace.

  87. Alison Alloway

    Just for the record, the Australian Bureau of Statistics definition of “employed” now means “at least one hour per week in paid employment or in a business”. (If you go into the ABS website, you will see this definition was changed in 2001)

    When I worked at Centrelink, the old Social Security Act of 1947 defined full employment of “20 hours or more per week.”
    If a client was employed for less than 20 hours per week, we rated them as “UNDER-employed” and told them to maintain their registration at the CES and to be “actively seeking and available for full-time work.” In other words, these people were counted by the ABS as being “unemployed”.

    I thought this would be of interest to people. The unemployment figures quoted today by the ABS are badly skewed. The only way to get a clearer picture of Australia’s REAL unemployment rate would be to look at Centrelink’s statistics for people on Newstart etc.

  88. spog

    You can’t use Newstart Allowance numbers as an indicator of “real” unemployment. There’s a reason it’s not called unemployment benefit any more – it covers a rather wider range of people than the unemployed alone. In fact, it’s possible to be a full-time worker and still be getting Newstart Allowance.

    Yes, the official unemployed figures might be a bit sus, but Newstart numbers are not a good alternative.

  89. Alison Alloway

    Thanks for that, spog.

  90. CORAL

    Let’s not forget that in the mid to late 1980s, the Hawke government had no problem firing its own injured workers en masse (mostly women), ensuring they got little or nothing.

    No government (Liberal or Labour) cares very much about the workers when their numbers are in surplus to the number of jobs.

    It naturally follows that the idea that we need to bring in foreign workers to fill job vacancies is little more than a myth.

    In addition to moving their operations overseas, unscrupulous employers are bringing cheap labour here, further compounding the unemployment problem, and undermining wages.

  91. CORAL

    I have now re-read my posts #83 and #90 and am now desperately trying to find a correlation between the two.

    I think Howard and his wealthy cronies are deliberately deceiving us into believing we have a shortage of workers in order to force wages down using foreign labour.

    They intend to work the elderly into early graves so they don’t ever have a chance to claim their superannuation or a government pension.

    In my very large extended family, even in those who had children before the contraceptive pill was introduced, the birth rate was not a lot higher than 2.3 per couple – possibly about 3.

  92. Angus

    Its amazing and I think everyone who has the unfortunate task of dealing with Centrelink has gone through simular time wasting practises. Last time I was at Centrelink, I was told that I should find some work, even though right in front of him my profile showed I was doing 6 Subjects at Uni and doing my Teaching Practical as well as cimmunity work all unpaid. I replied ” You know if we all had Jobs, you’d be unemployed, and then can you imagine dealing with this system. Thank god there are so many unemplyed people, otherwise no pay check for you”.

  93. dinah

    I dealt with C-link as a single parent working part time and followed the rules, diligently reporting my earnings. On more than one occasion, I was informed that I owed a debt (overpayment). Sometimes I believed they were right and duly paid, other times I did not agree and questioned it. I have to say, each time I questioned it, after a few phone calls and letters, they would inform me that they had waived the debt.(short of admitting they were wrong) My impression is that they do not expect or like to be questioned. The thought that went through my head was that many people would not question C-link decisions and that may be what they count on. I had no need to resort to an ombudsman. The mere fact that I said I did not agree and was willing to follow protocol (theirs) in order to prove this (which I could) was enough to have them back down. They do make mistakes.

    If you don’t believe you owe the money and can prove it (hopefully you still have the payslips to show this) and if you did declare your earnings. then if they overpaid you it is their mistake, not yours. You are not powerless to stop them,nor to reverse this,even if it was a year ago. Also, find tax records and let them know you have documents to prove your claim. Years ago C-link underpaid me for a period of time, and when this was confirmed they reimbursed me the full amount even though some time had passed. I was particularly pleased about this because I had been told (on the phone) that too much time had passed and not to expect the full amount. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your rights but remember you have to deal with them in the same way they deal with you. Think like a bureaucrat. Good luck.

  94. Amy

    Re Centrelink.
    A noticed an earlier comment on whether Public Servants take laws into their own hands – I know a person who works in a Call Centre for Centrelink – who told a group of us at a social function one night – that if anyone peed her off or got angry she would “flick them off for investigation”!! True to her word when we had a falling out – all of a sudden the compliance unit sent me a letter requring me to provide years worth of earnings (this is still ongoing). When I asked why – it was a tip off from a woman!! ha suprised – NOT! There are some really dumb public servants out there and as they say – a little bit of power!

  95. CORAL

    That’s right, Amy, and it’s nothing new. In 1986, I worked in the Department of Social Security with a very young man who thought he was God.

    He stopped people from receiving dole payments, in breach of the legislation and guidelines.

  96. CORAL

    In the last 3 weeks, I have received 3 different letters advising of changes to my family payment. The third letter is even more wrong than the other two.

  97. Nems

    Its sad to see that some of you have had such difficult, frustrating and obviously hurtful experiences dealing with Centrelink. I am sorry to see that. Having worked there for some time I know this is not the intention of the major majority of staff, but I cannot speak for all as some seem want to do by generalising from a few to all.
    Maybe i can shed some light in a few areas (although I’m sure i’ll also open up other areas for problem stories).
    The use of psychologists, OT’s..etc is with Job Capacity Assessments, ie not medical assessments. They are charged with looking at potential to work, how much, now and in future.. where they don’t have the expertise they can use other references to establish the impact of a condition. The expectation with these, and all staff, is that they will be trained in their jobs (obviously training is like school, some are better than others) and how to assess the details infront of them.
    As for ‘targeting’ mothers… hmmm I think if you want to be fair (your choice if you do) you’ll find all correspondence refers to ‘parents’ and doesn’t mention gender at all. Much study has shown that ‘stay at home’ parents struggle to return to the workforce and the legislative changes are aimed at improving this. Obviously not everyone agrees that parents returning to work/study whilst children still at school is correct, but centrelink is charged with enacting the policy of the government of the day, and to try to do this fairly – to customer and government. Not an easy balancing act, and yes sometimes its easy to get it wrong.
    If you’re unhappy with a decision, question it. There are appeal processes for exactly that reason and they were set up in acknowledgement that we don’t always get it completely right. As for targeting those who ask questions.. No, certainly not by intention (again not by major majority – I’m not naive enough to not believe it does/has happened) but if we are double checking a record we will check it completely.

  98. Nems

    This is to attempt to not have to go over, and over any other mistakes/discrepencies. I am often amazed at custs wanting only to look at one bank account reduction in their favour that is incorrect, when others may have increased (this is an eg, not a cross to be crucified upon)
    I’m sorry, but anything longer than 3yrs ago is ancient history when dealing with the volume of change within DSS/Centrelink.
    Ok multiple letters – frustrating, yes. Required for any change of rate and sent automatically, so often without any knowledge of the staff member you enquire with. Its an unfortunate situation, but only solution would be large increase in staff to vet each of the millions sent each wk. Don’t think too many want to pay for more public servants. Although do love the “if everyone had a job, you wouldn’t” argument..wrong, but cute.
    Tip Offs – No, people are not paid for them, wow that would be an interesting career to discuss over dinner.. Yes, generally identity is kept private. Privacy is a cornerstone of all whistleblowing. Does this mean it’s possible to rort, of course. Centrelink is again compelled to investigate each tip off it receives.
    I prefer in my role to think of all the customers/people/families that I have helped over many years. Those that I have found solutions to problems for, that I have been able to set up with services that help them. Have I changed the world, no. Have I made decisions that have disadvantaged someone? probably, but not by a ‘mean’ spirit or desire to be god.. instead applying rules as required. Have I paid people I know don’t deserve what they are getting? probably, but again not by negligence, but by applying rules as required.
    I was taught to have a solution, not just a prob but i haven’t seen any put forward here. Maybe we should just pay everone based on there own perception of their eligibility?
    Social security was set up as safety net, not career choice. Now over 25% of population receives some assistance from Centrelink

  99. Donna


    You stated:

    ‘Social security was set up as safety net, not career choice. Now over 25% of population receives some assistance from Centrelink’

    I think that comment demonstrates a bit of disrespect.

    People using Centrelink are largely a transient group of people. It’s not their career choice. If 25% of the population received assistance, they will largely move on from assistance, and others will take their place.

    Are you considering FTB when you make the above comment as well? Because, as you would know, you can be working and receiving FTB and other assistance such as rent assistance.

    I think you could probably take into consideration the above comments and experiences rather than be dismissive.

    As far as ‘targeting mothers’, the policies actually state ‘targeting single mothers and disabled’. It’s federal government vernacular. Maybe you should look up Centrelink policies.

  100. Nems

    Trying to fit answers/comments to 96 posts in 2 is difficult, particularly to be much more than short. 4000 characters and you choose 2 lines.
    ‘career choice’ was very deliberate as shows how few when generalised to many can be so very wrong. Income support payments are no career choice for anyone. The vast vast majority of customers I deal with male and female do not wish to be in the situation they are. They would love nothing more than to be completely self sufficient & require no govt assistance. Some are transient, some are not.
    Yes I include FTB. Not sure of your exact point, on purely factual basis you can work & receive every payment.
    All training I have received has stressed avoiding stereotypes such as single mothers/dole bludgers.. obviously you have some piece of literature that states your direct quote. What I know is we work toward treating everyone the same regardless of gender, colour, religion..etc.
    “the above comments” yours or the previous 96? Please re read my opening two sentences re 96.
    Tone is not easy to interpret via written work. You may recognise this: (ever so slightly adjusted)
    It’s not your experience. Your not a customer/staff member. So who are you to position yourself as someone who gets to judge the experience of others as valid or ‘paranoid’ or dismissive or disrespectful?
    I’m not disrespectful, I do everything I can for my custs, but I doubt i’ll convince you of that. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, difference of opinion often leads to improvements in all. Thank you for yours, it makes me have to think.
    Can I ask, how you would solve the problems? what should we expect of parents in return for payments received? should it change with childs age? how do we assess if someone should look for work due to circumstances/illness? how do you apply this to millions of custs consistently? How much do we pay on a payment? What income do we use to work it out?
    Can you answer these without having a go at me?

  101. Donna

    I don’t get what you’ve done.

    You’ve taken a post responding to someone else, deleted most of it, merged it to another post to you, and told me there was an ‘adjustment’ and to reply to a problem that I never raised.

    Then you end with ‘can you answer these without having a go at me?’

  102. Tina

    What i hate the most about a “customer” of centrelink now, with a birth defect was it my fault that i was born without enough oxygen? And ended up with only half my body that works properly, is that i work as much has i can in an inapproiate job that involves heaps of walking,study part time @ TAFE to try and get a better job and i have to tell centrelink and DWER all the time what my disability is, how it effects me, and what special needs i have. 10 years ago the centrelink people use to come to my home for appointments together- and now i have to go in the their offices. I think for people with real disabilities that have been known to centrelink since childhood should beable to have the centrelink staff in their home for appointments. One look around my home and even a young child could see how my disability effects me. Gee it could even be part of the new ‘ Welfare to work program’ Considering that i am trying my hardest to be a productive member of the community, Can’t i expect abit of service considering I am a customer? This would also have the duel affect that if people were doing the wrong thing they wouldn’t want the centrelink people around. Then wouldn’t that be good for the customers and good for the government?

  103. kk

    hmmm so the world of the “welfare” is changing for the better?
    well perhaps for the “deserving” people in this country it might seem to be.
    what about the people at the bottom of the pile?

    i mean the ones who went to a rotten school where the only thing you had to look forward to was ending up on the dole because there were no jobs

    the ones who this government effectively said remain dependent on their parents until they turn 21 (the so called youth allowance)
    you can drink, gamble, smoke and vote at 18 but the Howard government says you have to be 21 to receive any money in your own right.

    the ones who worked hard at places like target and woolworths only to have their own cut by the time they turned 21 because they dont want to pay adult wages?

    the ones who find themselves in a maze of casual and intermittent work with no hope of ever securing a permanent job and hence having to spend their lives “chained” to the centrelink monolith?

    i mean filling out endless forms ,applying for 50,000 jobs that you never hear anything back from,

    “compliance” interviews with “Job” Network services (thats a laugh) and even if you make one small mistake you risk getting booted off the “drip feed” for 8 weeks!

    the amazing thing is that even if you do squeeze into some lowly paid insecure casual position you still lose about 75 cents in the dollar.

    i mean lets get real here for once despite what the “elite” men and women of this government think no one would CHOOSE to be on welfare if there were any viable alternative that would last.

    Its like the so called skills shortage…unless you are a 16 year old forget about doing a trade despite Workchoices and all the banter about this no employer will take on a 26 y/o male as an apprentice because of the wages. in other words you are too “expensive”
    put it this way it doesnt work in the REAL WORLD im afraid

  104. Donna

    Tina and KK

    Bloody good posts.

    Articulated the deficits in the system in a way I couldn’t.

  105. Jan 1


    Re post 97. U say that psychologists, etc, are used for job capacity assessments, however, this was not my case. I was told that I had an appointment for a medical assessment for an application for a disability benefit. This occurred as a result of my doctor’s advice, given a number of health problems that i have previously elaborated on.

    On the day of this assessment I was invited into an interview room, where the person introduced themselves and told me that they were there to assess my application for a disability benefit. I made a point of asking them if they were medically qualified and they answered in the affirmative. I then asked what their qualifications were and I was told that they were a psychologist, which i found rather surprising, being that none of the medical results that they had with them at that time had any hint of a psychological nature, although a number of questions that i was asked were definately of a medical nature. i would also query a psychologist’s professional ability to assess ‘range of movement’ in parts of a person’s body, as this is definately a medical, and not a psychological area. So, with respect, are you saying that centrelink assesses disability applicants based on their (centrelink’s) ‘own preferred choice of assessor’, rather than the use of a person who is properly trained in assessing physical problems? I was also asked, towards the end of the assessment what i understood regarding one particular ailment which is of a very serious nature. I found that to be an unecessary question, given that it was obviously asked in order to gauge reaction. Nems, i ask you, if you were on your own with a child, and had not
    one, but a number of ongoing health problems (all provided to centrelink), one of which had the potential to be immediate life threatening would you not be concerned enough to be perhaps surprised, and upset at having to answer such a question? Of course I was.

  106. Jan 1


    further to my last post I would be interested to know how you define a disability. I have known many disabled people who suffer no pain. I also know a few people who are disabled, and live many days each week in pain. I wonder (again, with respect) how centrelink can expect those in the latter category with medical issues that are ‘not’ going to change for the better to go out and work, either in paid, or voluntary capacities. Who takes the responsibility for this if a person’s condition worsens as a result? I just don’t see how centrelink is basically able to go over the top of a medically trained specialist’s opinion, especially when they are provided with all of the medical documentation to support it. I can promise you Nems, people who are on a disability benefit and live like that don’t do so happily, or easily. Why do they have to live with the extra worry of whether or not, at some time, some centrelink office will decide that they can go out to work? I think that another ‘look’ needs to be had in this area. Or is it going to be legal for people to be working under the regular effects of painkillers, anti inflammatory drugs, etc. Your opinion would be appreciated.

  107. Nems

    Hi Jan1
    I’m assuming that you know how your ‘ongoing health problems’ impact upon you extremely well, that you understand the conditions involved and what the prognosis/treatment is for them. Actually i’d be surprised if you couldn’t teach most of us a hell of a lot. My guess is you gained this knowledge through your own research and the advice of your doctor/s. The allied health staff employed by all JCA providers (they are not all from Centrelink, so no not its own preferred assessor of choice) gain the knowledge to assess the impact/s. They combine this with information from the customer to make an assessment. I will stay on course that it’s a JCA, but would happily be willing to accept that someone told you it was a medical assessment. but I think you made the point well that that wasn’t what actually happened. As for the later question.. yes can understand concern. We often have to ask questions that some find difficult/infuriating. I am speculating as I don’t do JCA’s, but often in my roles I have found many (not all) custs don’t understand their own investments, situation and yes medical condition.. Not everyone is as educated about their condition/s as you seem to be. Maybe it is a standard question, I just don’t know, but again yes can understand concern.
    The answer re overriding doctors is simply that they are medically trained, not work capacity trained. Doesn’t mater if i agree with that, but its the reason.

  108. jan 1

    Hi Nems

    Many thanks for your informative, and understanding reply. I wish that I had been lucky enough on a few occasions to have been dealt with by someone with your reasoning ability, rather than some whom I allowed to intimidate me whilst unwell so much that I found part-time work that lasted just a few months before I was seeing the doc for treatment most days for three weeks before x-rays, then being told that working was now out of the question. Yes, I have done extensive research on a few of my medical conditions – the others I accept that I can live with. When raising a child on your own I believe that you should be totally aware of medical issues that are serious enough to take your life in an instant. In that nems, I sincerely believe that only a few officers have shown me the support, respect, or correct advice. If anything, I have found a few of the others to be domineering, rude, and evasive in giving out information. It seems too easy for centrelink to stop a benefit ‘before’ getting info, moreso when it turns out that the error was theirs. It is a useless exercise to make formal complaints. We obviously don’t deserve an apology if it is shown to be centrelink’s error. Nems, I believe that, when people provide willingly medical reports, test results, etc that show without doubt that they have medical issues, some of which will not improve, they at least deserve respect, rather than tactics designed to intimidate them into making decisions that are not in their best interests, although made out of fear of losing payments. I know that people do wrong things, but, if you have nothing to hide you should not have a problem with proving a disability with reports, results, etc. I don’t need someone to ask me what I understand about a certain condition, which just happens to be the most serious. Of course there has been an impact. I don’t need to be reminded of it when they had also obviously researched it. Take care.

  109. Alison Alloway

    I have been reading the above with astonishment. Centrelink now employs private psychologists to do “assessments” for Disability Support Pension? (I wonder how muich this is costing the Agency?)

    When I was at Centrelink, eligibility was determined by a Commonwealth Medical Officer’s (Doctor of Medicine) assessment.

    Having made many determinations myself from the Doctors reports, it was quick and easy and rarely ever involved appeals.

    I would have a good deal of concern over eligibility being determined by a psychologist who is not qualified to judge on medical grounds who can or cannot work.

  110. jan 1

    Hi Allison!
    Thank you so much re the above post. Now you may see how confusing, and frustrating it was to me, moreso being that I do have knowledge of the different ways that questions can be placed, asked, and the impact guage of certain questions, being that I was trained for that. However, I still fail to see why medical problems that are likely to get only worse, rather than better require the assessment of a psychologist, moreso when the doctor’s report and backup info was all of a medical nature. Also, whose opinion holds weight at the end of the day on medical problems? I was told that the psychologist was asked to do an assessment in order that centrelink would then decide if I qualified for a DSS. If the application was based on ‘medical’ grounds, should not the doctor’s opinion be the deciding factor, or should not the assessment be carried out by another doctor on behalf of centrelink. I still will happily debate a psychologist’s actual level of ‘medical’ training, particularly when it is relative to medical problems, let alone those that have already been confirmed from other medical sources apart from the client’s own practitioner.

  111. CORAL


    Let me tell you about doctors.

    Anyone who doesn’t want to pay you (whether it be Centrelink or Workers’ Compensation, etc) knows which doctors will say there is NOTHING wrong with ANYONE.

    I have experienced this both as an injured employee and as a medical secretary working for an orthopaedic specialist.

    There are plenty of misogynistic doctors around. Some are misandrists as well.

    As long as they’re reeling in their millions, they do not care who else suffers.
    They want to maximise their incomes and minimise their tax bills by making injured workers suffer.

    I have no problem with Centrelink using Psychologists and Occupational Therapists for assessments.

    An Occupational Therapist, for example, is best able to interpret the relationship between a particular injury/disability and the likely effects of a particular job.

    The people you perceive as “non-medical professionals” are also more likely to take into account other responsibilities in the person’s life that might affect their ability to work e.g. whether or not they have a spouse or parent to help them; whether or not there are other people they have to look after (children, elderly parents).


    Here are some suggestions which I hope you will find useful.

    Firstly, you can stop insulting the clientele via this blog.

    Secondly, you can help us vote John Howard out. It’s about time he received the final solution.

    Thirdly, you can find a way of stopping the government from fudging the unemployment statistics and using them to bludgeon people who cannot find work.

    Fourthly, you can start listening to people like Tina and KK, instead of sitting in your ivory tower taking home a much better level of pay.

    Fifthly, you can cease showing no interest in the opinions of past Centrelink employees. If nothing has changed, or things have changed for the worse, their opinions are still relevant.

  112. KK

    Again this government says the unemployment rate is 4 or 5%, well where I live in Launceston in the top part of the apple isle I find that hard to believe, 10 years ago the official unemployment rate here was 11%. Now they reckon it is 5%! If you look on the AJS website on any given day you will see that the only jobs that are effectively there are for tradesmen. Well perhaps if Messrs Howard and Costello had actually not ripped the guts out of the TAFE system 10 years ago there might actually be tradesmen to fill these postions.
    What is their solution? Build an “Australian Technical College”!

    What hipocrisy….I remember when Amanda Vanstone was the Minister for Education when they doubled the HECS fees the first time she stated “we don’t believe in training for trainings sake”

    All these ATC’s are is an expensive duplication of the state run TAFE system that this government had gutted for the past decade….even now the ATC’s cant reach their enrolment quota!
    Talk about hipocrisy…..well as far as 5% unemployment it’s a fantasy. (The queue at the local Centrelink office still seems just as long!)

    I go out and do seasonal work here cutting vines in a local vineyard….yet the wages are so low that I still receive part Newstart.

    So what am I? Employed or unemployed???

    Well at least I am willing to take the jobs when they are there.
    It’s like a local abattoir here…well the only one left they employ their people through a labour hire company and yep you are casual….no holiday pay, sick pay or public holiday pay and believe me the wages aren’t much good either.

    Well Mr Howard all I can say is if you think people have never been better off in Australia….I would hate to see what happens when the inevitable next recession happens!
    Because every bubble bursts in the end.

  113. CORAL


    In answer to your question, you are being exploited, lied to and financially abused. Soon you will be gastronomically abused also.

    When John Howard talks of people being better off, he is only thinking of the rich exploiters he aids and abets.

  114. KK

    Unfortunateley I know that I get exploited, but what can you do?

    I still believe I am a victim of this malicious system. No matter what Howard or co says it is a soul destroying set up.

    When the Youth Allowance was first brought in I think the income level then was around $23,000 to qualify for the maximum amount you could get living at home.

    My father was a cleaner earning $28,000 with two children to support so I could only get around $50 a week off the government, supplemented by a few casual hours here and there (I did try to go to uni but had to pull the pin after one semester), the only other way you can get any money off the system is to have both parents sign a piece of paper basically saying they disown you.

    Then unfortunately the only real alternative you have is to take whatever low paying retail job you can get , then it was abount $7 an hour!

    Well at least John Howards kids have had the benefit of “a booming economy”, I guess you only get ahead now if you are born in to the money.

  115. CORAL

    It’s moving more towards that every day, KK.

    Yesterday I attended a conference at the Child Support Agency, which is investigating why I haven’t received an increase for 3 years.

    It seems that paying parents can engage in Salary Sacrificing – i.e. putting part of their gross income into superannuation where it does not form part of their taxable income for the year.

    Since child support is calculated on the taxable income, it seems my ex-husband may be putting part of the child support into super and earning interest on it for himself.

    If so, he is in effect landing other tax payers with his child support bill via Family Payment from Centrelink.

    Since Centrelink has a finite budget, I want to know why the Taxation Department has not been providing the Child Support Agency with details of Salary Sacrifice.

    This is just another way in which John Howard is robbing the poor and giving the money (plus interest) to middle and high income earners – while also sending sole parents and disabled people out to work.

    The female solicitor who interviewed me at the CSA said my ex-husband probably didn’t know he was depriving our son of support.

    So I asked her what she thought was the likelihood of a woman with an IQ of 150 having been married to someone that dense.

  116. I busted Centrelink fabricating evidence & hiding evidence from the DPP & The Federal Courts.
    I posted a website in the USA located at :: Hiding Your Options.
    Centrelink have been trying for over 2 years to close it, however, this is what they told The Privacy Commission after I complained to them about data from other websites found in my file –

    ” I wrote to Centrelink seeking further information on its alleged collection of information published on your website;
    In its response to this Office, Centrelink have advised the following:

    It has collected your website information for inclusion in your Centrelink file.
    Centrelink became aware of your website and the information published therein, through your reference to it in your interactions with Centrelink staff.
    Centrelink has statutory obligations under section 8 of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to deliver services “under the law in a fair, courteous, prompt and cost-efficient manner”.
    The collection of your information from the above-mentioned website is for the purpose of managing its delivery of services to you.
    The information is necessary for the management of this ongoing relationship with you, as it gives a sense of what issues you have raised with Centrelink, and your past interactions with its staff.
    It is Centrelink’s intention to retain this information on your Centrelink file.

    I intend to decline to investigate this matter under section 41 (1)(a) of the Act on the grounds that there does not appear to have been an interference with your privacy in this instance. ”

    So there you have it, Centrelink are watching this site & any other site they can find (Hi to all @ where people criticise them, downloading data & placing into clients files, on the grounds of “managing their delivery of services”.

    Centreflunk Forum :: Discussing Your Options

  117. CORAL


    Yes, it’s reaching a point where we cannot trust any person or government organisation to do the right thing.

  118. Adrian Gregg

    I left my job 2 months ago due to poor wages and NO chance of a “raise” ever – was getting 400$ a week as a Juinor Cinema Technition but was Designing, Building, installing and servicing Very Very High End Computer Systems for over 30 cinemas to screen the movies you see today, in addition i had to purchace a new laptop to do my job. so natually as at least half of my WPA was being “neglected” by management i left. They paied me the 4-6 weeks they owed me. and that was that I thoght. so i applied for Newstart so With my New experiance and stacks of IT certificates to my name i thought it would be an easy task.

    After paying many bills with the money i got though my (own) redundency i applied for newstart with no money left and only the goverment for help.
    I was rejected twice for no good reason.
    i was told that leaving work due to WPA’s not beeing met by enployer is NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
    so now after endless meetings with centerlink I now have Newstart. BUT..
    I will not start to recive it untill the 1st week in september which is 6 weeks away.
    I have lived for the last 2 months on selling all my posessions (Bar my laptop).
    so i have 6 weeks thats 600$ rent, and god knows how many other bills to pay with nohthing. I asked centerlink what i sould do with this (4 Months) of no payment. they said the 2 grand i got from my employer should cover it. which i used 1 and a half months ago to pay back rent with.
    So my question is this. Im 33 soon to be homeless. WHAT DO I DO?>
    Do i turn to Crime ( an idea ive been seriosly thinking about)

    so if this seems a bit hard to understand I havent eaten for 3 days . im sorry.
    and so should centerlink when i *go*

  119. CORAL

    Adrian Gregg:

    Here are some suggestions:

    Ask Centrelink to apply hardship provisions to your case. Take an older adult with you and go back immediately, with your request for hardship provisions in writing. Set out what you have told us here. Keep a copy.

    Contact your Federal MP and see what he can do. Don’t wait for a decision from Centrelink before doing this. Phone first, and also send (or preferably hand) him a copy of the letter you personally handed to Centrelink staff.

    If your politician won’t help you, give him a serve through the local papers.

    Be aware that you can ask for a review of all Centrelink decisions. If you are still dissatisfied, you can appeal their decision through the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.

    At the next election, make sure you put all of the Liberal and National Party candidates at the BOTTOM of the voting order for both the Senate and House of Representatives, since THEIR legislation has done this to you.

    Centrelink can send you to an aid agency with a food voucher, I think. Ask for one anyway. It might help your case.

    I once saw an aboriginal woman get a voucher for some milk for her baby, who was clearly starving.

    In any event, try The Salvation Army, Lifeline or the local church. Someone is sure to help out with food.

    Good luck with it. Please let us know how you got on.

    Oh, and next time, try to find a new job before quitting the last. The unemployment rate is much higher than the government would have us believe.

  120. Adrian Gregg

    Thanks very much for your suggestions.
    I never knew most of em!!.
    AGAIN centerlink COULD have told me some of those services.
    Im going to appel for hardship. if that dosent work.
    I can’t take an older person in with me. Im 33 so it might look odd.
    and yes I really thought the job situation was a lot better than it was. OK i was unemployed for many years before landding this my 1st job at 30 years of age.
    mainly due to adult adhd which as of the last 4 years has been meicly treated and now im completly “normal”.
    so i know somthing of how centerlink works. but i really think 4 years ago they were a LOT LESS stringent.

  121. CORAL


    I’d still take another person with me (any reasonably confident adult), who can also act as a witness to what is said – taking notes for example. Make sure you get the name of the interviewer whenever you visit Centrelink.

    Here are some other contacts if you or anyone else needs help with Workplace Agreements not being fulfilled on the employer’s side.

    Workplace Infoline: 1300 363 264

    You may still have some comeback with your previous employer, but putting food on the table and paying rent are the current priorities.

    Last night, I was speaking with a 16-year-old boy who has just had his Health Care Card cancelled. He has high needs for expensive medication. His older sister, who is quite healthy, still has hers.

    John Howard is a pig towards the sick, disabled, women and children – also men parenting children alone.

  122. kk

    well heres my lastest “drama” with centreflunk, you get sent off by a rogue employer to lay a floor in a department store, neither you or the other person doing the work with you is a qualified floor layer or being supervised by someone who is, you refuse to do this and you risk getting kicked off the “drip feed” for 8 weeks. gotta love it huh. this other person is an “apprentice” who has not actually attended TAFE or filled out a training book in 2 years of being there, he has also done 18-20 shifts and night shifts without being paid the proper wage for it.
    they also recieve no supervision for about 3/4 of the time, another employee of this company has been there for 7 years doing the same thing for 7 years and guess what he has no trade papers to show for it, this is bad thats for sure.

  123. CORAL


    Sorry to hear it. Have you tried nursing? I think you only need a TAFE Certificate III with on-the-job training to become an Assistant in Nursing.

    According to the Minister for Health, you can earn 7% more if you work as a nurse in a nursing home, but it’s a challenging job requiring plenty of patience.

    Other than that, we just have to try to fix Howard’s workplace abuses at the ballot box and get back to joining the unions – maybe show some solidarity within the workplace as well.

    If this country really had a shortage of workers, this kind of stuff wouldn’t be going on.

    I once made the mistake of suggesting that Chinese workers might receive about $1.00 an hour.

    The Chinese workers making the recently recalled Mattel toys (lead paint and loose magnets that could be swallowed) were receiving between 25 and 50 cents an hour to produce dangerous products.

    Hands up all of those who want to work a 60 hour week for $15.00, while poisoning other people’s toddlers!

  124. David Craig

    I am not happy to say this at all, but I am comforted knowing that other people out there in the community have fallen victim to the unempathetic, unfair and unjust dealings of Centrelink. I too am currently fighting them and the government over their ridiculous and unfair guidelines, which have left me with a nearly broken marriage, constant state of depression, angry and tired, and highly stressed wondering how I am going to put food on my familys table.

    After recently losing my job very suddenly and under extremely difficult and comprimising circumstances, I approached Centrelink for help. I have a wife and two young children and suddenly found myself out of work. At 43 because there is a need to obtain a certain level of income to provide fr your family, I knew I needed get back into work immediately. I thought in the meantime Centrelink might be able to help with Income support. How wrong I was.

    Because my wife is working part time and her income apparently exceeds the threshold(mind you it only pays the mortgage and some food, and maybe an electricity bill every now and then), Centrelink would only grant me $14 a fortnight as income support. This was an insult and a kick in the guts to us. On this amount, I am supposed to pay for fares and travel to look for work, provide food for my family, and live. I dont think so.

    I am still fighting this decision, it has now been 9 weeks since I lost my job, and the debts are piling up by the day. Apart from committing suicide, there is rarely any other way out when you think about.

    Anyway, I decided to write to my local member who has told me that all they can do is write to the minister on my behalf.

    The problem for out situation is this. We dont fall into a need help category as far as the government is concerned. And that is where the welfare system has fallen down. It is does not cater for short term genuine cases that need assistance, it only caters for minority groups.

  125. CORAL


    Sorry to hear your sad story. John Howard doesn’t give a stuff about anyone unless they are wealthy.

    Have you asked Centrelink to apply the Hardship Provisions to your case?

    See if you can get some help with food and counselling from Lifeline, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul or similar aid agencies.

    Do you have relatives who might help you out temporarily?

    Can your wife increase HER hours of work until the situation improves?

    You didn’t tell us what employment category you belong to. Perhaps someone reading here could help you out with a job. I hope they can.

    Having a chat with “A Current Affair” couldn’t make things any worse, could it?

    A bit of bad PR for John Howard would be welcomed by a lot of people contributing here.

  126. kk

    this is just another demonstration of how cold hearted this government has become, theres no humanity there at all.
    Ironically if you seperate from your partner then centrelink will pay you the full amount! you are damned if you do, damned if you dont.
    as i say im 26 and despite a reasonable employment history I aint got no hope of getting any thing full time or permanent.
    even so called adult apprenticeships i would be willing to work for the meagre wage they offer just to be able to get a foothold back in the job market but guess what its not going to happen either, it’s pitiful when you actually are willing to give something like this a go but despite all your best efforts and supposed wage subsidies you are 9 times out of ten unemployable………..well i guess you can be “retired” at 26 in this country can’t you…sad really

  127. CORAL


    This sounds like sex discrimination again. I’m guessing you are female.

    You should try dealing with the Child Support Agency. They’re only interested in well-to-do men and their new working wives who have no children – not women and children living in poverty.

    If you submit an application for review of your child support, your ex-partner receives every detail of your financial circumstances, while you don’t receive a single document.


    Is there any chance you could send me a copy of the latest “A Guide to Australian Government Payments”?

    Centrelink doesn’t send me anything. When my payment changes, I don’t even get a letter. If I go in there, the information brochures I need have sometimes run out.

  128. togret

    Coral, the guide, and other information,is here

  129. CORAL

    Thanks, togret. I’ve already looked there, but could not find some of the information I needed to know.

    I prefer using guides that I can pick up and use any time. It’s much quicker and easier.

  130. Jemma


    I am half way through my degree, and centrelink policies have changed so that I now have to report to centrelink every fortnight to hand in ‘activity agreement’ forms to say that I am still studying.

    My friends at uni who are not on parenting payments do not have to do this. I have asked at the centrelink counter as to why this is, but recieve no logical explanation.

    I feel that I am being discriminated against as I am a single mother. There appears to be an assumption that as a single mother, my moral decency is questionable, and I need to be surveilanced constantly so that I dont cheat the system.

    I dont have the time or the petrol money to go to centrelink every fortnight to do this! But more than that, I feel offended that I have to prove myself to centrelink more than other students just because I am a single mother.

  131. CORAL

    That’s right, Jemma.

    You could take it up with your Federal MP.

    Centrelink could simply check with the university on a regular basis (say 4 times a year) to see if you are still enrolled there and attending lectures.

    You could also lodge an official objection with the Centrelink Manager (also State and Federal Managers) stating your reasons, with an emphasis on discriminatory practices which cost you time, money and energy at the expense of your children.

    I am a disabled sole parent. Because I am now paid a Disability Support Pension instead of Parenting Payment (Single), I have suffered discrimination at the hands of the Taxation Department as well.

    I am required to pay tax at a lower income threshold than a fully able-bodied sole parent, even though my pension is supposed to be non-taxable.

    So what did I do? First I had to go to the trouble of filling out an Income Tax Return. Then I sent a letter in with it, objecting to this discriminatory situation and requesting a PRIVATE RULING.

    Yesterday I received my Notice of Assessment. It appears I have been granted a LOW INCOME TAX OFFSET, which has reduced the amount of tax payable to NIL.

    Next on my hit list is the Child Support Agency, which is refusing to collect arrears dating back 18 months. They have a discretionary power which they have decided not to exercise.

    I was supposed to receive a response to my objection by 1 December. It arrived in the mail today, with my objection rejected. It states that the father is happy with their decision, and the taxpayer can pick up the tab.

    The paying parent (usually a man) can hide all of his financial details while the applicant has to supply every last detail of her financial affairs for HIM to peruse and comment upon. NOTHING comes back the other way.

    Another thing, Jemma. Never describe yourself as a single mother. You’re either a “divorced parent” or “unattached parent”, with the power and responsibility of 2 people!

  132. CORAL

    I have more thoroughly scrutinised the CSA’s decision and read their leaflet in relation to an appeal to the SSAT.

    Apparently they have to lay all of their cards on the table (i.e. respondent’s documents) at that level – not before.

    In effect, my ex-husband has had 2 CSA solicitors working for him at the taxpayers’ expense, hiding his documents and applying new legislation retrospectively by 9 years.

    They have very clearly sided with him, and believed everything he has said – despite the fact he has had a fully self-supporting wife without any children for 7 years, and has been working 3 jobs himself.

    The income from 3 jobs, of course, has sent him BACKWARDS. (His principal job alone is a very tidy income.) His wife’s income is not relevant. He has still not paid off the tiny mortgage on his home. His word alone is the “gospel truth”.

    Bring on the harps and violins!

    By contrast, my son and I have spent the last 11 years living close to the breadline. They say I clearly need all of the support I can get, but then I don’t get it!

    Because they are exercising Information Control, I cannot tell whether or not it is worth taking it to appeal.

    Thanks, John Howard, your legacy is wonderful.

  133. CORAL

    Today I went to a Group Session at a Family Dispute Resolution Centre.

    It seems to me that the Family Court might use this organisation to bully women into entering into 50/50 parenting agreements with men who are both selfish and irresponsible.

    I watched the video and listened to the spiel. I’ve never heard such airy-fairy nonsense.

    I think the main aim is to get all of the women out to work and give men an easy ride financially, while the children become nomads without any kind of stable home environment.

  134. ken

    What extraordinary trouble he is going to Coral – I wonder why?

  135. CORAL

    That’s a good question, Ken.

    My 15-year-old son shot through to live with his father nearly 3 months ago, because he couldn’t get his own way. Other teenagers had told him what THEY had done.

    There was some skulduggery occurring involving the grandfather, right after I applied to the CSA for a reassessment of my child support, which had not increased for 3 years, despite his extra jobs.

    I think my ex-husband’s new wife might be extremely financially irresponsible. I don’t know. When he lived with me he was strong, healthy and successful. Now he looks 10 years older than I do.

    Even his own relatives say he is overcompetitive. He was a GPS athletics champion at 15 and an Australian judo champion at 16. He is used to winning.

    When the marriage broke up, he endangered our little boy to the point where I had to stop him from seeing him.

    Then right before he remarried, he kicked a drug addict out of his house and lied about everything to the Family Court. Luckily, our two adult sons produced affidavits that said he was also lying about them.

    At that time, he was also investigating a move interstate.

    What can I say? The guy is a chameleon. His set of values appears to change depending on who is influencing him.

    BTW the new wife cannot have any children for genetic reasons. I suppose he must want to empower himself and HER, but his chances of getting a Parenting Order for a 15 year old are approximately nil.

    Under the law, I am the residential parent. The child is biologically mine but not his (sperm donor father).

    What do YOU think, Ken?

  136. FatBoy (Not real name for fear of retibution)

    I went on to a Disability Support Pension after being diagnosed with Hear Failure in 1994. As a family man with a young child, I still had a desire to work to give my family a reasonable standard of living, so in 1996 applied to Centrelink for a part-time position in a call centre.I obtained the position, receiving part DSP, part wages. My health deteriorated during the three years I was there and eventually I applied to be retired on health grounds. Centrelink sent me to Health Services Australia to be medically examined (remember, this is the same organisation that said I medically qualified for a DSP) I was examined, and despite having a blood pressure reading of 180/120 on multiple medications,and supporting evidence from my cardiologist, the classified me as fit for duties (remember, I’m still on the DSP) Centrelink then stated that if I didn’t pull my socks up and improve my work standards (despite headaches, visual disturbances, shortness of breath, fluid retention,abnormal heartbeats and depression) I would be faced with two alternatives. Either resign with two weeks notice or accept resignation as an Inefficient Worker. I accepted Inefficiency as it offered 8 weeks pay in leiu of notice and it was the path they were pushing me down.
    Some time later I attempted to take legal action against Centrelink for Disability Discrimination, and within two weeks of initiating that action, I was informed I was being investigated for “failing to adequately declare my income to Centrelink whilst working for Centrelink” Thet raised adebt of $5,700 against me which I defeated following the appeals process. I had no money to go to Federal Court and was forced to withdraw my case for fear of losing on a technicality which would mean I would have to pay their legal costs to date which were a staggering $130,000. Centrelink bullied me, shifted the playing field, lied, committed fraud and committed slander in their attempt to grind me down. It is not over yet. I need legal help

  137. CORAL

    I feel very sorry for you, FatBoy. I hope someone comes forward to help you financially.

    Is Health Services Australia the same organisation that has the Commonwealth Medical Officer (CMO) i.e. Health Department?

    Was the person who examined you there a cardiologist or thoracic specialist?

    Are you in a union?

    Did Centrelink actually FIRE you as an inefficient worker?

    Did you contribute to the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme? Were there exclusions relating to your heart problems?

    Have you ever applied for workers’ compensation in relation to your heart problems or depression etc?

    If you can answer these questions, someone reading here may come up with a solution or suggestion.

    Someone in Canberra told me that Centrelink treats its staff so badly, they are constantly having to advertise jobs.

    The government may discriminate against women and children, but discrimination against the disabled across many government departments and agencies is clearly the worst.

Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good.

    The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one. (more…)

  • A final comment on Labor’s leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there.

    Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition.

    But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs – interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it.

    It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same.

    You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.