Machine Gunning the welfare Life Boat: Pages 4 to 6. (Part 2 of 7 parts.)

“Centrelink does not collect ‘Post Breaching Terminal Outcome statistics.’

In fact for a quarter of a century, neither the former DSS nor Centrelink made a substantive effort to collect the broad range of critical human impact assessments that are absolutely vital for any valid assessment of Compliance Measures. While Centrelink has the resources to investigate and prosecute 10 or more welfare recipients per week, it apparently does not have either the capacity or the political will to monitor the humanitarian disaster, especially the fatalities that were triggered by compliance measures.

Is that a case of “See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Report no Evil”?

Term of Reference #4 requires the Minister to provide the panel with “adequate resources” so that a valid review can be undertaken. Unfortunately, because Centrelink management have not evaluated the human impact assessment data contained in Centrelink’s database (and community reports) this review is of questionable merit. In order to provide a balanced and objective review of compliance measures it is essential to have access to the whole truth rather than just the comfortable truth and if the review report is to have any validity and merit in regard to the impact and effectiveness of compliance measures. Lacking any human impact assessment, these annual reports are extremely misleading for they have all failed to be impartial and objective when it came to the reporting of the humanitarian consequences of legislated “Compliance Measures” such as Post-Breaching Terminal Outcomes, i.e. deaths, Survivor Sex, Eviction, and no money for food, electricity, shelter or live preserving medications. These disastrous consequences are still not on the public record. It appears that from the very beginning, when it came to the reporting on welfare management issues, Public Perception Management was deemed to be far more important than revealing the truth about the humanitarian consequences of Compliance Measures.

Who knows have many lives would have saved, how much suffering avoided if those responsible for submitting these annual reports had been as frank as the Auditor-General and had made sure that Parliament was confronted with the truth about the inhumane impact of breaching policies?

The consequence of this blatant lack of Transparency, this outrageous concealment of the truth, is a generation long rolling humanitarian disaster that, like the Stolen Generation and Forgotten Generation humanitarian disasters, has profound future legal consequences and political implications.

Recommendation #1:

The Minister order a review to determine the number of Compliance Measures triggered fatalities and that this information immediately be provided to the review panel for both assessment and inclusion in the panel’s report to Parliament.

A potential legal implication of failing to prevent the avoidable deaths triggered by compliance measures:

“I was only following orders” was not an acceptable excuse at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals. In the same manner, “I was only following standard operating procedures” or “I was only implementing Howard Government policy” is also not an acceptable excuse for the appalling humanitarian disaster caused by the consequences of Breaching/Compliance Measures.

T.o.R. 2.(a). 2 “Reducing Financial Hardship”.

“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.

Tony Abbott & Amanda Vanstone.

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 simple 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 jargonize Compliance Measures, they were and still are, a Deliberate Act of Reckless Endangerment that shows a blatantly callous reckless disregard for human life by imposing a potentially dangerous level of financial hardship whilst deliberately making it even more difficult for unemployed people to carry out effective job search activities.

T.o.R. 2. (j) …vulnerability and reasonable exclusion.

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”.

Reasonable exclusion acknowledges that some welfare recipients are “exceptionally vulnerable”. It is absolutely vital that Centrelink’s compliance measures do not deliberately make these “exceptionally vulnerable” people even more vulnerable. Increasing financial hardship is not logical for it does not decrease vulnerability; it significantly increases vulnerability! There is therefore absolutely no excuse for continuing to deliberately engage in a heartless criminal act of Reckless Endangerment?

Even with the current Serious (Compliance) Failure “case management” system and ‘reasonable exclusion’ provisions, Centrelink management can never be 100% certain that there will be no “negligent injury” to any person who is deprived of their only means of meeting basic living cost? These ‘negligent injuries’ include:

  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.

T.o.R. 2. (c) “The impact of compliance measures …on long term unemployment”.

On the 14th April 2010, I spoke 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 impact of compliance measures and expressed concern that my actions would undo the “good works… of the last two years”. The problem now is that the current “good works’ only serve to highlight to any reasonable person the more than two decades in which breached welfare recipients had no such support! Case managed financial support is a tacit admission that there are grave, potentially deadly risks associated with compliance measures. When asked in court how many people have already been killed by compliance measures, my response will be to refer the court to Assistant Secretary Skill’s letter. Compliance measures have killed and, I most definitely do not regard that as an acceptable solution to reducing the problem of long term unemployment! Just how it is possible to build “good works” upon a 25 year long deliberate humanitarian disaster that has traumatized millions and killed thousands?

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 a secret Parliament Privilege “confidential” classification, and two Parliamentary Privilege suppression orders. Why the need for this political secrecy?

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