Compliance is a two way street: Part 2 of 5 parts

“Assistance is targeted at those most in need. People with no other means of support are assisted in their basic costs of living”.

Paragraph 47, 2002 Welfare Reform Discussion Paper.

That statement highlights the critical but very obvious fact that welfare payments are made to people who are what can be legally defined as “At-risk”. It also highlights the shocking fact that Breaching/Compliance Measures are in reality:

“The targeted, and therefore deliberate, partial or total removal of the only means of support so that At-risk people are unable to meet their basic costs of living”.

No matter how much you may Gild the Lily with bureaucratic jargon, Breaching/Compliance Measures were, and still are, a Deliberate Act of Reckless Endangerment that shows a contemptuous and blatantly callous reckless disregard for human life.

Consider the following statement from page 52 of the RTF downloadable version of the 2008-09 Annual Report:

When a job seeker, who is either exceptionally vulnerable or has vulnerable dependants, faces an eight-week non-payment period, Centrelink offered financial case management services to help prevent hardship. Eligible job seekers had their essential expenses paid up to the limit of the income support they would otherwise have received. Essential expenses include reasonable costs of living, such as food and other household provisions (for example, laundry detergent, and personal hygiene and pharmaceutical products), rent, mortgages, medical expenses, rates, gas, electricity, telephone, public transport and other reasonable costs.

In 2008–09, 2805 job seekers were assessed as eligible for financial case management and 2322 job seekers accepted the offer. Non-government organizations serviced 650 job seekers and Centrelink Social Workers serviced 815 job seekers. At the time of data extraction, 857 job seekers had not been linked with a provider.

It has taken decades to those responsible for the management of the Federal Government’s welfare system to openly acknowledge that welfare recipients are people who are “At-risk”, i.e. they or their dependants are exceptionally vulnerable”.

Having acknowledged that welfare recipients are “exceptionally vulnerable”, it is absolutely vital that Centrelink’s compliance measures must not deliberately make these “exceptionally vulnerable” people even more vulnerable. That people management approach is neither logical nor legal, so why do it? Although never officially reported to Parliament, the fatal consequences of Breaching/Compliance measures has been known, and concealed, for decades but that is no excuse to continue to deliberately engage in this criminal act of Reckless Endangerment?

A Deliberate Act of Reckless Endangerment is a serious criminal offence in every state and territory, i.e. “A reckless disregard for human life that results in a death” may be Murder!

Even with the current Serious (Compliance) Failure “case management” system, can Centrelink, be 100% certain that there will be no “negligent injury” to the person who is deprived of their only means of meeting basic living cost? “Negligent injuries” such as:

  1. Mental or emotional trauma.
  2. Family or partner breakdown.
  3. Economic loss.
  4. Eviction with resultant Adverse Exposure injury.
  5. Nutritional injury.
  6. Adverse health consequences.
  7. Fatalities from Breaching trauma shock, e.g. strokes or heart attacks, and suicides.

Whilst none of the above “injuries” are reported in either the old DSS annual reports or in the current Centrelink annual reports, most of these consequences have been extremely well documented by community welfare organizations or have been reported from time to time in the news media or on current affairs TV programs. The absence of these well documented humanitarian consequences from annual reports to Parliament suggests that these consequences are being deliberately concealed, perhaps as a means to avoid accountability.

On the 14th April 2010, I spoke at length with, a representative of Employment Minister Arbib’s staff, Mr. Phil’ O’Donahue. He was concerned about the “unintended consequences” of my efforts to expose the humanitarian consequences of Breaching/Compliance Measures and expressed concern that my actions would undo the “good works… of the last two years” that the Rudd Government had achieved. However, the “unintended consequences” of Breaching provide the foundation upon which those “good works” were built. This foundation includes the many Post-Breaching Terminal Outcomes”, that have yet to be reported to Parliament and so it is reasonable to question just how is it possible to build “good works” upon a decades long deliberate humanitarian disaster?

For the last 7 years I have been trying without success to obtain the precise number of people who died after being breached. Unfortunately, covering up the truth extends far beyond omissions in the annual reports to Parliament. During this period I have “accumulated” a large file of feedback from politicians and bureaucrats which includes:

  1. A secret Parliament Privilege “confidential” classification, and;
  2. Two Parliamentary Privilege suppression orders.
  3. Two submissions “tossed overboard”, i.e. suppressed by rejection of the truth.

Clearly, there is considerable effort to deliberately avoid Transparency when it comes to the “uncomfortable” humanitarian consequences of Breaching/Compliance Measures.

The simple reality is that the Social Security (Administration) Act 1986 deliberately deprived people of the protection of the courts and this made welfare recipients extremely vulnerable to exploitation; so vulnerable that, over the years millions have been exploited and thousands have died.

Fair Game, Dead Meat, page 7, Paragraph 18.

A Grassroots discussion paper: Senate Secrets – Series 4: Internet Justice

Breaching/Compliance Measures made “exceptionally vulnerable” people even more vulnerable to exploitation by the insensitive, the unscrupulous and the predatory. Here are some examples of how easily Breaching legislation was “hi-jacked”:

  1. Sexual predators surf the Internet. Did do you know about the sexual predators who surfed the Job Network using job vacancies to reel in their victims? Unsuspecting victims would be breached if they did not attend a job interview with one of these predators!
  2. …11% of breaching victims were forced to survive by criminal actions such as Survivor Sex.
  3. The Scorecard. This highly insensitive term is used in Chapter 3 of the Centrelink 2001-02 Annual Report. The ‘Scorecard’ may be a throwback to the mid 1990s when, I became aware that some CES staff were engaging in the vocational sport of Breaching Competitions. The winner won a bottle of booze at the Friday night happy hour.(Limit $60)
  4. Administrative Convenience Breaching. On one occasion when “un-breaching” a client who was meeting their job search obligations, I asked why some of my clients had been breached. I was informed that ‘If we write a letter to attend an interview they sometimes won’t come but if we breach them, they always come’!
  5. Breaching for profit. As a Job Network recruitment consultant, I became aware that Breaching could be misused for financial gain. Agencies with a FLEX 3 “Intensive Assistance” contract could sign up a FLEX 3 – long term unemployed client, and then collect the government’s up-front payments for providing job skills training assistance. With up-front payments of up to $3,000, the profit was not in training the client and placing them in a job. The profit was in taking the up-front payments and then finding a “legitimate” excuse to breach the client so that another victim, err, client, could be signed up.
  6. Cheap Labour. In good faith, I referred two of my long term unemployed Job Club clients to a vacancy listed in the CES’s job vacancies database. Both women came back extremely distraught. The “employer” had ‘offered’ them work at $2 per hour, well below the minimum wage in 1996, and had threatened to contact the CES and have them breached for refusing a job if they did not accept the position. I contacted the CES and reported this employer’s actions to the CES. The job vacancy was removed, but a day later it was again re-listed!
  7. Sound Economic Management. On June 27th, 2000, an ALP MP, Cheryl Kernot, issued a press release that provided detailed information about the Howard Government’s implementation of Breaching Quotas. Although the Howard Government denied any knowledge of Breaching Quotas, some Centrelink staff testified at the Independent Pearce Inquiry that they were being forced to meet breaching quotas. In a conversation with a Customer Service Officer at the Elizabeth office of Centrelink, I asked about how people could be breached and was informed that being 10 minutes late meant a 13 week breach. In an ABC interview in 2002, the government again denied any knowledge of this activity.

Breaching Quota activity had to be denied for to acknowledge it was to admit to defrauding hundreds of thousands of At-risk Aussie Battlers of legitimate welfare entitlements. Even worse, to admit to this activity was to accept responsibility for both the humanitarian consequences and the legal consequences of breaching quotas, e.g. the deaths of welfare recipients.

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