Tony Abbott and the unreported breaching fatalities.

youtube video summary of key issues

Think the unthinkable.

In 1912 the 2,229 passengers and crew on the RMS Titanic all thought that the ship was unsinkable but a single iceberg proved them all wrong. When it comes to Tony Abbott, at the moment he, like the Titanic, appears to be “unsinkable” in his quest for the Prime Minister’s job. However the following statement may well prove to be the political “iceberg” that sinks his power hungry aspirations.

“Centrelink collects compliance data on behalf of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). Centrelink does not collect ‘Post Breaching Terminal Outcome Statistics’ and is therefore unable to assist with your request for this information”. Centrelink Letter C10/1866. 18th May 2010 Neil Skill, Assistant Secretary, Portfolio Coordination and Parliamentary.

Every Employment Minister, e.g. Tony Abbott, had a clear Duty of Care obligation to ensure that breaching activities did not recklessly endanger the health, welfare or safety of breached welfare recipients. This legal fact is now emphasized by the changes in breaching legislation that came into effect on July 1st 2009. As the above statement by Neil Skill makes quite clear, Centrelink collected this information of behalf of the Department of Employment which means that it was collected for the Minister of Employment. Any review of Centrelink’s annual reports during the Howard Years makes it quite clear that the DSS and Centrelink collected vast amounts of information for the Department of Employment. However, any close scrutiny makes it quite apparent that the most critical information of all, the humanitarian impact of breaching activities upon individuals, was totally absent from these reports. It was a clear case of “Don’t ask. Don’t tell”, i.e. the Department of Employment didn’t ask and Centrelink most definitely didn’t tell.

The total absence of this vital information represents empirical evidence that neither the FaCS Minister nor the Employment Minister demonstrated any concern for the humanitarian consequences of breaching activity. Given the number of individuals being breached each day, this callous lack of concern for the impact of breaching activity upon individual welfare recipients was reprehensible. This lack of concern was also plain stupid for it clearly demonstrated a reckless, perhaps sociopathic, indifference to human life. Unfortunately for the government ministers responsible for enforcing breaching legislation, a reckless indifference to human life that results in the death of a person is a Homicide. Regardless of the actual cause of death, every Breaching or Compliance Measures triggered fatality was a fatality caused by a reckless indifference to the consequences of breaching activity.

It is quite clear from DSS and Centrelink annual reports, especially with the use of the term “Scorecard”, that the core emphasis of breaching activity was to save money rather than lives!

In last month’s email I asked the question “When Tony Abbott was the Employment Minister, was the weekly breaching triggered death toll more or less than 4 deaths per week?”

Tony has had a month in which to launch a defamation case but he has not done so. Could this be because the only acceptable defence in a defamation case is Truth and therefore Tony knows that a defamation case would be unwinnable?

If you have done your homework then you should know the answer to the above questions. If you have not done your homework, then I guess I’ll have to put my school teacher hat on and provide you with two probable answers that are based upon published Centrelink data.

Lies, damned lies and statistics.

Joseph Stalin once quipped, “One death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is merely a statistic”. As callous as that statement is, Centrelink’s annual reports confirm that when it comes to the consequences of breaching, it is essentially correct. These reports are chock a block with statistics, but as Neil Skill indirectly pointed out; they contain absolutely no references to the lethal consequences of breaching. At-risk Aussie battlers, real people were dehumanized and converted into statistics that painted a glowing report of the efficiency of the breaching system. However, by careful scrutiny of that data it is possible to reverse the dehumanizing process and calculate the deadly consequences of breaching.

The baseline data comes from Centrelink reports:

  1. FY 2000-01 – 346,078 breaches at 13 weeks with no risk assessment.
  2. FY 2009-10 – 914 breaches of 8 weeks duration were issued after risk assessment process called a “Vulnerability Index” assessment was undertaken.

What is immediately clear from these basic statistics is that breaching is a high risk activity that should never be undertaken without first performing a detailed risk assessment. A study of the 2009-2010 statistics published in the September 2010 report of the Disney Review of compliance measures reveals some very significant details such as 20-21% of welfare recipients were found to be “vulnerable”. Keeping in mind that the 20-21% figure applies to a two month breaching period and the FY 2000-01 breached were for a period of three months and therefore the FY 2009-10 figures used in assessing vulnerability is probably too low.

Applying a median 20.5% vulnerability index to the FY 2000-01 statistics indicates that a staggering 70,946 lives per placed at risk by being breached.

When 2% is huge statistic.

A closer examination of the 914 breaches (compliance penalties) issued in FY2009-10 reveals that 2% of the breaching penalties had to be waived because the people who would have been breached lacked the financial resources required to survive being breaching, i.e. it was manifestly clear that applying a breaching penalty would seriously endanger the lives of those breached. Under normal circumstances 2% is deemed to an insignificant number well within Chi, i.e. the standard of variation that applies to statistics. However, in this case it means that 18 lives were saved by not imposing a breaching penalty. Anyone who saves 18 lives would be hailed a hero whilst anyone responsible for 18 deaths would be answerable in the courts for their deadly actions.

2% of the FY 2000-01 breaching penalty means that a staggering 6,922 people were possibly at risk of dying as a direct consequence of being breached. My personal belief is that if that number of people had died as direct consequence of breaching, someone would have noticed and raised the alarm. In the tables below I ‘discount’ the fatality rate in order to determine the most probable death toll.

Table One: Estimate of Probable Fatalities in the 0.02 – 2% range.

Percentage of Survivors.

% of possible  Fatalities

Number of Probable Fatalities

98%

2%

6,922

99.8%

0.2%

692

99.98%

0.02%

69

Even if 99.98% of breaching victims survived, i.e. 2 in every 10,000, it is highly probable that at least 69 people may have died,. In 2002, Tony Abbott and Amanda Vanstone signed off on the 2002 Welfare Reform Discussion Paper. Unintentionally, paragraph 47 of that document allowed Breaching to be defined as ‘An Act of Reckless Indifference to Human Life’:

“The targeted, and therefore deliberate, reduction of support to people who have no other means of support, so that they are unable to meet their basic costs of living”.

You don’t need a law degree to realize that this means that every breaching was a deliberate act of reckless endangerment because when you deliberately set out to prevent people from meeting their basic costs of living, you are deliberately setting out to stop these people from living!

To be fair, let’s discount the above figures by a massive 50%. This gives us the following results shown below in Table 2:

Table 2: Estimate of Probable Fatalities in the 0.01 – 1% ranges.

% of Breached Survivors.

% of possible  Fatalities

Number of Probable Fatalities

99%

1%

3,461

99.9%

0.1%

346

99.99%

0.01%

35

3,461 deaths equates to 66 -67 deaths per week, an attrition rate that should have been alarming obvious even to Centrelink officials and they would have spoken up. However, 346 deaths equates to ‘only’ 6.65 deaths per week or approximately one death per day. Given that Centrelink was imposing breaching penalties at the rate of approximately 3 per minute, one death per day somewhere in Australia would easily have escaped notice, especially as fatalities were not only caused by suicide but also by strokes and heart attacks triggered by the trauma of being breached. Even less obvious deaths resulted from destitute victims being unable to purchase live preserving medications such as Ventolin or other Insulin.

The best case scenario of ‘only’ 35 breaching triggered deaths, is a figure that is probably far too low as it is entirely inconsistent with the three per minute breaching rate that applied throughout FY2000-01.

The statistics thus indicate that in FY 2000-01, the probable breaching triggered death toll was in the range 35 – 6,922 with the most realistic range being 346 – 692 fatalities. This would put Tony Abbott’s “Scorecard” weekly death toll average in the range 6.653 – 13.30. Whether you choose to pick the lower or higher figure or somewhere in between, you still wind up with a weekly death toll that far exceeds the four ‘Roofgate’ deaths. Even if you accept the lowest estimate of ‘only’ 35 deaths in FY2000-01, you still have a death toll that is almost 9 times greater than the ‘Roofgate’ fatalities.

If an independent judicial inquiry into the Roofgate deaths is needed, then surely a similar inquiry is necessary to look at the breaching triggered death toll? If it was wrong for Peter Garrett to fail to report the four Roofgate deaths, it was also equally wrong for the Employment Minister to fail to report the FY 2000-01 breaching triggered deaths.

Muddying the Waters.

On June 24th 2000, Cheryl Kernot issued a press release that contained highly detailed information about the Howard Government’s enforcement of breaching quotas. (The depth of detail suggests that the source was from someone of similar rank to Neil Skill.) Centrelink staff later testified at the independent Pearce Inquiry that they were forced to meet breaching quotas. Since the imposition of such quotas would constitute both Malfeasance (the misuse of lawful authority) as well as Fraud, it is no surprise that Senator Vanstone and Centrelink management denied any knowledge of this alleged activity.

As an SA trained lawyer, Senator Vanstone would have been well aware that any breaching quota triggered that occurred in SA could be classified as felony murders, a crime with no statute of limitations.

Further muddying the waters is the fact that the Howard Government ignored the breaching triggered death toll and attempted to double the penalty to 26 weeks. There is thus no problem in proving that the Howard Government had a sociopathic, reckless disregard for the lives of breached welfare recipients.

Whether you work on 35 deaths or 6,922 deaths, approximately 10% of those deaths occurred in SA and can be probably be reclassified as Felony Murders. What on earth was Tony thinking when he made his “Industrial manslaughter” comment and when he called for a judicial inquiry into those deaths? Tough talking Tony may appear to be dynamic leader. However, given his repeated failure to acknowledge the implications of what he is saying, it is quite apparent that he totally unaware that his verbal diarrhoea is fast leading the Liberal Party into a legal and constitutional disaster of unparalleled magnitude.

‘Dot.com’ economics.

As this blog indicates, it is no longer just my task to convince politicians that breaching legislation was the evil engine that drove a humanitarian disaster of holocaust proportions. Instead it is now my task to convince the ‘dot.com’ organizations that generate income from whistle blowing, e.g. WikiLeaks, that there are potentially huge profits to be made from publishing the documents that expose the cover-up of breaching triggered deaths. The simple reality is that web site ‘hits’ are the key to generating revenue, i.e. the more hits the bigger the revenue stream. WikiLeaks was once the premier website for generating income from whistle blower revelations. However, WikiLeaks now has some serious competition as other dot.com organizations jump on the bandwagon. Whilst you may want to maintain the wall of silence that has surrounded breaching triggered deaths for decades, the reality is that the ground rules have changed. The wall of silence has been breached and there will soon be competitive pressure on the whistle blower professionals, i.e. WikiLeaks and other whistle blowing ‘dot.coms’ to generate income which can be garnered by exposing the breaching triggered deaths. An election at this time would almost certainly be a ‘opportune time’ to maximize the publicity surrounding breaching fatalities. Instead of a debate about Carbon Tax, the key election issue would almost certainly be refocussed onto the issue of a Breaching Victims Compensation Tax.

Even More Muddiness: Constitutional Issues.

Whilst the Australian Constitution gives Federal Parliament the right (and the responsibility) to legislate for the provision of welfare payments, the Constitution also places some significant constraints on that legislation that politicians have chosen to ignore. The now defunct term “Breaching” and the current term “Compliance failure penalty” both refer to the Crown accusing welfare recipients of Breach of Contract, a legal issue that the Constitution makes quite clear is a matter for the High Court.

The only reason that this legislation has never been challenged in the High Court, or any other court, is the simple fact that welfare recipients have lacked the financial resources needed to challenge the legislation. However, with four million breaches and almost a million compliance penalties issued, a class action challenge is a reality that must be considered now that the wall of silence surrounding breaching triggered deaths has been breached by Neil Skill.

Damage Control.

For both the Coalition and the ALP, damage control starts in the party room.

Those politicians (and public servants) who are responsible for causing and/or concealing breaching triggered deaths must come clean so that there can be some house-cleaning. For the good of the party, those politicians tainted by breaching triggered deaths should be out of the party (and out of the country?) before the next election. Maintaining the wall of silence or shooting the messenger are null options because the truth is out of the box and there are simply too many people who will soon be out to make a profit from that truth.

Breaching deaths and the cover-up of these deaths has been going on for decades and so the cumulative total is going to be very high. Based up DSS/Centrelink reports and other statistics, I estimate that the cumulative death toll is in the range of 2 – 4 times the official 9/11 death toll of 2,978. If my estimate is wrong then, as Tables 1 and 2 indicate, my estimate is most likely to be too low. Last year the WA Government paid out $3.2 million for one unintentional death in custody.

  1. This begs the question, what is reasonable compensation for deaths that were initially considered an acceptable consequence, were then classified as confidential or classified as “irrelevant”?
  2. Perhaps for you the more important issue is how voters will respond to having to pay a hefty compensation tax levy?

Ponder this – The Political ‘Incompetence’ of the ALP Government.

The truth is in the wild because of the inept incompetence the current ALP government. So who could be a minister even more inept than Peter Garrett? Mark Arbib and Brendan O’Connor have put their hat in the ring for that dubious distinction. In May last year ‘St Mark’ was so intent upon the anointing of his Chosen One that he totally lost the plot. He only found out third hand about Neil Skill’s letter after a certified copy was delivered to Nick Champion’s electorate office. So much for being on the ball. As for Brendan O’Connor, his inept handling of the Keystone Cops aspects of the cover-up was so farcical that it will probably spawn a whole new generation of corny Irish jokes. So how will these ministers respond once the public pressure is on? Will they attempt to distance themselves from the breaching fatalities debacle by throwing Tony Abbott to the wolves? Does tough talking Tony actually have the potential to be a good political scapegoat?

  1. What was Tony‘s role in the enforcement of breaching quotas?
  2. Who supported the attempt to increase the breaching penalty to 26 weeks?
  3. Who made the “Industrial manslaughter” comment?
  4. Who for months demanded an independent judicial inquiry into the cover-up of the Roofgate deaths?

“I was only following orders”.

Since the 1946 War crimes Tribunals hearings, the “I was only following orders” excuse has been completely unacceptable in Crown courts. If you are one of the politicians who supported the imposition of a 26 weeks breaching penalty, then I have a question for you.

Why did you ignore your duty of care obligations and support that sociopathic, murderous legislation?

You need a good answer to that question for you are almost certainly going to be asked that question, either in court or during the next election.

Ronald Medlicott (Christian welfare justice activist.)

CODA – Background stuff.

‘Roofgate’ (a.k.a. The Home improvement (Ceiling Insulation) Program.)

There are direct parallels between ‘Roofgate’ and the humanitarian disaster caused by breaching legislation. Both were launched with good intentions but turned out to be deadly disasters that put huge numbers of lives at risk and resulted in fatalities. Both were extremely ill thought out schemes that were totally devoid of Due Diligence safeguards, an oversight that allowed both schemes to exploited by the ruthless and greedy. In addition the fatalities in both schemes produced an administrative hiatus that resulted in even more deaths. The key difference between ‘Roofgate’ and Breaching is that the Opposition political parties opposed the Ceiling Insulation program’s expenditure and, once the scale of the disaster finally dawned upon them, they were not backward in exposing the disaster for political gain. Conversely, breaching legislation enjoyed the support of the Coalition, the ALP, The Australian Democrats and Family First. When the first fatalities occurred, there was the same hiatus as happened with Roofgate and so even more fatalities occurred. Because of the widespread party support for Breaching, every party had much to loose and nothing to gain by exposing these deaths and consequently they remained a secret and the fatalities continued to occur.

Breaching legislation was based upon the fatally flawed assumption that depriving an unemployed person of a welfare benefit for 3 months would force them back into the workforce. The unexpected reality was that traumatized hypertensive victims of breaching died from heart attacks and strokes or else committed suicide. The scale of these fatalities precluded any political party from seeking to gain political mileage as happened with ‘Roofgate’. The irony in both situations is that the individual fatalities were not secret; people who investigated some of these deaths, e.g. coroners, failed to find the common link behind the deaths. Separated by both time and distance, each death (or house fire) was seen as an isolated event. Post breaching fatalities were individually reported to literally hundreds of CES/DSS/Centrelink offices spread across the nation and so the fatalities appeared as isolated events unrelated to Breaching.

As with ‘Roofgate’, the only people who knew about the underlying cause of these deaths were the high level administrators who had ‘super-user’ access to the information in the respective departmental databases.  ‘Roofgate’ took months to expose but breaching fatalities have remained a secret for decades because they are now an official state secret.

The problem with the Senate issuing Parliamentary Privilege Suppression Orders is that these are precisely the sort of documents that spark the interest of the professional web whistle blowers. Letters and emails that are the subject of those suppression orders are the stuff of life for WikiLeaks, Open Leaks and other web based whistle blowing news media organizations.

The state of play is that we are gambling. You are gambling that the documents that I posted off will either be intercepted or ignored if delivered to the intended recipients. I am gambling that some documents will get through and that they will be posted. If they are posted, how will the millions of voters who have been breached or issued with a compliance penalty respond to this news?

I rather suspect that these voters will react with some angst and that future support at elections may not be forthcoming for either the Coalition or the ALP. If this happens then the current parliament may well be the first of a long string of minority governments.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in News and politics, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Tony Abbott and the unreported breaching fatalities.

  1. Pingback: ACMA investigation of Gillard Gov’t rip-off plus SAPOL may finally investigate unreported breaching fatalities. | Ronald's space

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s