The humanitarian consequences of Breaching/Compliance Measures that were reported to the Pearce Inquiry and which were summarized in the inquiry report are evidence of the planning and execution of a welfare policy that was shorn of any socially or morally imposed limitations. The Breaching Quotas were the product of a sociopathic mindset that may also have been responsible for the Howard Government’s amoral attempt to double the Breaching penalty to 26 weeks.
In international maritime law, the first rule of the sea to protect the lives of those at risk. The annual reports contain clear evidence that Centrelink management, put “obeying orders”, i.e. complying with the Howard Government’s Breaching Quotas policy ahead of obligations such as the Duty of Care owed to welfare recipients and the principle of Safety First in order to protect lives that are “exceptionally vulnerable”. That “exceptionally vulnerable” people were breached by imposing a Compliance Failure” penalty of 13 weeks without welfare payments with no risk assessment or risk monitoring was blatant negligence by Act of Omission.
The current commitment to “Compliance Measures”, especially the continued willingness to breach the “exceptional vulnerable” raises the serious question of the suitability of the current Centrelink management team to hold such critical positions, i.e. to be responsible for the welfare, the safety, the very lives of hundreds of thousands of At-risk people.
When it came to Compassion and plain old fashioned Common Sense, these humane virtues do not appear on the radar when it comes Centrelink’s policies and practices towards welfare recipients who how been overwhelmed by the rolling disaster known as “Unemployment”. In the 2008-09 annual report, the use of the word “compassion” was appropriately used twice to describe the attitude of Centrelink staff when dealing with flood and fire disaster victims. However, when it came to welfare recipients who survive daily on the dole, there was no reference to the use of the word “compassion”. Instead, Centrelink’s annual reports are top-heavy with words such as:
- “failure” used 10 times,;
- “compliance” used 50 times;
- “fraud” used 53 times.
Those words indicate the attitude of Centrelink management towards the people that they are supposed to protect. Table 14 of the 2001-02 annual report was titled, Client Partnership Outcomes, yet it focussed upon “Compliance” and “Prosecutions”. Instead of a caring, nurturing attitude, these reports reveal that attitude of Centrelink management appears to be based upon Domination, Control and Punishment of the ‘criminals’ who have to rely on the dole to survive.
These reports are about Dominance triumphing over Tolerance.
This “Do as we say or else…” welfare management approach is, in practical terms, no different from the threat posed to western societies by hard line religious groups such as Al Qeada and J.I. Given the appalling death toll and suffering caused by compliance measures, “Who are the real terrorists”?
Given the obligation to make a true and full report to Parliament each year that would enable both the Parliament and the public to make an informed decision about Breaching/Compliance Measures, the deliberate ommision of a Humanitarian Impact Assessment in Centrelink’s annual reports makes it quite clear that those who sign off on these annual reports have a serious compliance failure problem of their own. I believe that that is generally referred to as a case of “Three fingers pointed backwards”.
In the last decade, our society has been shocked by several humanitarian disasters such as The Stolen Generation, The Lost Generation and the appalling abuse of Wards of The State. Common to these disasters is the appalling exploitation of children, not only by guardians, but also by professionals charged with the care of At-risk children. These professions include members of the judiciary, child care workers, teachers and priests. The painful lesson to be learnt from this is that position, title or status are not an infallible guide to the suitability of persons to hold positions that require them to act in a fair and impartial but compassionate manner when dealing with At-risk people, be they children or adult welfare recipients.
Participation Solutions Teams
Participation Solutions Teams carry out the actions required by the compliance framework. Teams are located ‘virtually’ across the country under a one-governance arrangement. The primary role of the teams is to assess cases when customers have not met their participation requirements.
Page 52, RTF Downloadable version of the 2008-09 Centrelink Annual Report.
Leaving aside for the moment critical issues such as the constitutional validity, legality and professional qualifications of these teams, it is imperative to consider the psychological profile, the attitudes and value systems of the members of these teams. The painful lesson of The Stolen Generation and The Lost Generation is that some of the people in positions of power were exploitive predators or power freaks who misused their powers to satisfy their own desires.
It is therefore a legitimate question to ask if Centrelink can provide a 100% guarantee that not one member of any of these teams is in that administrative position because of the power that they have over defenseless, At-risk welfare recipients?
- Can Centrelink management be absolutely sure that none of the CES staff who may have engaged in either Administrative Breaching or had participated in Breaching Competitions are members of these Participation Solution Teams?
- Can Centrelink management be absolutely sure that none of the Centrelink staff who may have engaged in providing ‘insider assistance’ to Job Network agencies involved in Breaching for Profit activities are not members of these Participation Solution Teams?
- Can Centrelink management be absolutely sure that none of the Centrelink staff who may have enthusiastically engaged in Breaching Quota activities, are not members of these Participation Solution Teams?
- Can Centrelink management be absolutely sure that not one of the Centrelink staff on the Participation Solutions Teams are ideologically biased in the same manner as Mr. Godwin Grech, the senior Treasury official who allegedly misused his position in an attempt to discredit the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd?
- As a trainee TDO in 1995, I attended a training session at which a senior CES case manager from the Adelaide office gave a talk to the group about dealing with unemployed people. Her attitude was evident in that she referred to unemployed people as on the garbage heap! Can Centrelink management be absolutely sure that none of the Centrelink staff on the Participation Solutions Teams are emotionally or intellectually biased against welfare recipients in a similar manner to the above mentioned CES senior case manager?
As a teacher, I try to avoid asking questions that I cannot answer.
In this case the answer to all of the above questions is a resounding NO! Centrelink management cannot give any such reassurance because, ‘officially’, these activities never took place!
In 1998 when the Breaching for Profit activities were in full flight, Centrelink management imposed an administrative solution to this problem, a supposedly secret moratorium on Breaching in an attempt to stem this illegal activity. I say supposedly secret because the emails flew thick and fast and Job Network consultants talked about it with their management, their peers and/or former workmates. If, as the law requires, this fraudulent activity had been reported to law enforcement authorities by Centrelink management, then agencies and Centrelink staff involved in this criminal activity could have been identified and dealt with in accordance with Due Process of Law. By failing to alert relevant police authorities to this fraudulent activity, did Centrelink management Obstruct and/or Pervert the Course of Justice and/or make themselves Accessories after the Fact?
Had the uncomfortable truth about this activity being reported, then welfare recipient’s who were defrauded of legitimate welfare entitlements as a result of this criminal activity, would have been able to receive restitution as well as be able seek compensation for various forms of “Injury” through tort actions.
Given the ease with which Breaching/Compliance Measures have been hi-jacked by numerous third parties for unintended purposes, legislation, policies and practices that deprive a targeted minority of the protection of courts is totally unacceptable. What makes this activity even more unacceptable is the dubious validity of the legislation that underpins Breaching/Compliance Measures.