On 16th May Channel 7 broadcast a welfare bashing segment that was manifestly biased because Channel 7 management had chosen to ignore the manner in welfare recipients are defrauded of legitimate entitlements. As part of the formal complaint process, Channel 7 was contacted; the response was a 2nd welfare bashing broadcast on June 2nd, 2011.
All possible efforts will be made to hold Channel 7 management accountable for this evil and reprehensible misuse of Channel 7’s Public Broadcasting License. If you are a shareholder, you should be seriously concerned about the legal liensing consequences of the actions of Channel 7’s management.
If you are a Federal Politician, you should also be concerned because, as reprehensible as Channel 7’s welfare bashing activities may be, they do provide an opportunity to by-pass Senate suppression orders and bring these issues into public forums via alternate avenues.
Below is the text of my letter to Channel 7.
25th May 2011
To: Seven Network (Adelaide) Pty Ltd 40 Port Road HINDMARSH SA 5007
Re: Violation of Article 4.3.1 of the Code of Practice by Today-Tonight on 16-05-11:
Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice January 2010 4.3
In broadcasting news and current affairs programs, licensees: 4.3.1 must broadcast factual material accurately and represent viewpoints fairly, having regard to the circumstances at the time of preparing and broadcasting the program;
18.104.22.168 An assessment of whether the factual material is accurate is to be determined in the context of the segment in its entirety.
I am lodging a complaint against Channel 7 for violating Section 4.3.1 and 22.214.171.124 of the above mentioned Code of Practice It is my belief that Channel 7 acted in a manner that was totally inconsistent with both the Code of Practice and possibly even with the terms and conditions of its broadcast license.
I was appalled with a Today-Tonight segment on welfare rorting on 16th May 2011 which portrayed an incredibly one sided, unfair and biased view of the issue of welfare system rorting. For almost 7 years, TodayTonight has been in possession of documentary evidence of injustices perpetrated against welfare recipients that are a matter of national interest, if for no other reason than eventually taxpayers are going to be hit with a legal liability bill that will make the Stolen Generation compensation bill seem like a 5 year old child’s pocket money.
Point #1 The segment mentioned 800,000 fraud reports but failed to mention that on average, 96. %5 of calls are false, often maliciously false. Centrelink’s own annual reports reveal that this tsunami of false, unverified and anonymous calls is so bad that it is now actually making it much harder to identify real cases of fraud! Consequently, Centrelink, the AFP and the National Audit Office are working on ways to weed out these malicious calls from people who deliberately misuse the hot-line to dob-in innocent welfare recipients who they consider are “fair game”. In the segment there was absolutely no mention of this staggeringly high rate of false reports and viewers were left with the blatantly misleading impression that welfare recipients are dobbed in 800,000 times a year. The problem is that some of Centrelink’s own staff may be the source of some of this malicious, time wasting and hugely costly activity yet efforts by Centrelink to stamp it out never rated a mention. WHY NOT? Surely the Code of Practice principle of Fairness includes balanced reporting of Centrelink’s internal problem, Was it a case of impartial Fairness wasn’t one of the editing criteria for this segment?
Point #2 No timeframe is given for the 800,000 reports. Implied but not stated is 800,000 fraud reports in the last year but the real time frame may well refer way back to when Centrelink was established in 1997. The only impartial and unbiased figure is the number of reports that have lead to prosecutions in the last financial year. How many people twigged, 800,000 reports but only 3,500 prosecutions? Point #3 $2 Billion in fraud. What $2 Billion? A figure of about $460 million was mentioned later in the segment but again there was no time frame for this figure and no breakdown to sort out alleged welfare rorting from alleged Workers compensation rorting. The segment was a skilfully edited blending of both forms of rorting that conveyed the erroneous impression those welfare recipients on compo’ are welfare rorters who have ripped off $2 Billion.
Point #3 Astute listeners may have picked up on the hastily glossed over fact that that some of the rorters were Centrelink staff. However, T-T provided zero information about this rorting, so it is perfectly reasonable to ask why this rorting was not exposed by the T-T investigators? Today-Tonight has been in possession of information for almost 11 years that welfare recipients have been the victims of fraud stemming from the misuse of Breaching legislation by the Howard Government through the implementation of “Breaching Quotas”, which should be more correctly referred to as ‘Performance Indicator Measures’ Regardless of the name used, in reality it was Fraud due to the Malfeasant Misuse of Federal Legislation. “Fairness”? This information was provided to Channel 7 in a press release issued by Cheryl Kernot way back on June 27th 2000
Point #4 Senior Centrelink managers are paid a ‘Productivity Bonus’ which they do not get for the 228,000 people who received overpayments in FY 2009-10. They get it for payment recovery, even if Centrelink is not entitled to fully recover the over-payment due to “the 6 Week Rule”.
Point #5 THE 6 WEEK RULE is legislation that caps accidental overpayments to welfare recipients to the overpayments made in the last 6 weeks – not payments made in the last 6 weeks,; just the overpayments. Some Centrelink staff do not advise welfare recipients of this rule and use bureaucratic intimidation to coerce welfare recipients into making “re-payments” that they are not required to make. How many times in Today-Tonight interviews has Hank Jongen mentioned this rule? Is it ZERO? If so, why? Is his productivity bonus a Conflict of Interest issue that motivates him to avoid mentioning this critical piece of information? Or is it a case of editors acting unfairly and deliberately editing it out of the segment so that welfare recipients will not learn of this legislation?
Point #6 Since August 2004, I have provided Today-Tonight with documents, both by certified and regular post and by email. These documents relate to the refusal of the Australian Federal Police to investigate (even ACT) deaths caused by welfare recipients being defrauded of legitimate entitlements. In November 2005, the Senate’s Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee misused parliamentary privilege powers and classified several of these documents as confidential.
Point #7 At no time over the last 7 years has Channel 7 made a serious effort to respond to the content of these and other documents, including yet suppression order from another Senate committee. The best that I have is an email acknowledgement from Frank Pangallo a couple of years ago. Where is the Fairness to welfare recipients in that? (Given that SA has a Felony Murder Law that put a young man, 20 year old Josiah Finch in jail for Life, i.e. 25 years, for allegedly concealing just one unlawful death, I cannot help wondering what is an appropriate penalty for any TV station executive producers who may have decided that commercial considerations were far more important than exposing as many as 12,000 breaching triggered deaths.)
Point #8 A former Job Club manager and Job Network employee, I documented various ways in which the system had persecuted welfare recipients and T-T ignored them. WHY? For almost 7 years I have been saying that the Howard Government was the worst rorter of welfare funding, perhaps to the tune of 10 BILLION DOLLARS. No one in the former Howard Government has ever sued me over these statements, perhaps because the death toll caused by this activity is an official state secret. A secret that the T-T producer(s) are clearly and unfairly not interested in drawing to the attention of the general public! As the late Professor Julius Sumner-Miller used to say, “Why is this so”?
Point #9 On 28 April 2011, acting on written advise from Brendan O’Connor, I filed a complain with SAPOL re the misuse of federal legislation and the death toll caused by that activity during the period 1986-2009. On 9th May 2011, I visited Channel’s 7 broadcast centre at about 1.30p.m. and tried to hand over to T-T a copy of my letter to SAPOL, plus other certified documents. The guard at the ‘reception’ desk refused to accept the material but retained a card with my contact details. I was informed that I would be contacted later that day but it never happened. It is therefore clearly evident that T-T is more concerned with unfairly just promoting Centrelink’s viewpoint than it is with presenting a fair and balanced view, i.e. alleged fraudulent activity by both Centrelink management and CSO’s, which would expose many other illegal activities that have occurred over a period of 25 years.
Point #10 STAPLED to this letter is a certified copy of a letter that was emailed to T-T last year. Check out the second paragraph which explains precisely why not one of Centrelink’s annual reports contain any reference to Breaching triggered fatalities or indeed, any other adverse consequences of Breaching such as Survivor Sex, Homelessness or why thousands of families on the northern families the 2003 winter with no power. It was grossly unfair and partisan of T-T, and completely inconsistent with the Code of Practice or Broadcast Licensing Conditions, too continue to ignore the fatalities caused by harsh welfare legislation. Breaching legislation may be ancient history but there is no statute of limitations on Felony Murder so deaths that occurred in FY 2000-01 can still be investigated. Fairness to families of those who died requires that the families of those who died be made aware of why these fatalities have never ever been mentioned in DSS or Centrelink annual reports. You should give very serious considerations to the PR implications in the unfair, deliberate concealment of that fact for nearly a year by those responsible for producing Today-Tonight’s recent welfare bashing segment!
Point #11 The case of Dr. Patel: Queen vs Dr Jayant Patel. Queensland Supreme Court, 2010. I raise this case because it is so well known and underscores why the failure of T-T to address the issue of unlawful breaching activity may have been a contributing factor in the death toll. It is a proven fact that Queensland politicians and bureaucrats concealed Dr. Patel’s deadly handiwork and as a direct consequence, the death toll rose until the public finally became of the humanitarian disaster that was occurring at the Bundaberg Base Hospital. I believe that it is fair to say that if T-T had raised the issue of the AFP’s refusal to investigate these deaths way back in July 2004, a considerable number of lives may have been saved. Just how unfair was the concealment of this annually increasing death toll by Today-Tonight producers?
Point #12 The unfair and biased misuse of executive producer authority comes with a potentially serious price. Queensland may not have a Felony Murder statute but SA sure does and, as mentioned previously, in February 2006, Josiah Finch was convicted for allegedly concealing the details of just ONE unlawful killing. He was sentenced to life (25 years) with a massive 14 year non-parole period. What therefore is an appropriate penalty for the politicians, welfare bureaucrats, senior Federal Police officers and TV station executives, who collectively have concealed the Breaching Triggered Fatalities, especially the FY 2000-01 Breaching Quota triggered fatalities, and thus contributed to the rise in the deaths caused by this activity? Remember, blame for some of the Patel fatalities was officially apportioned to some of the politicians and bureaucrats who kept silent. Is what T-T producers did, any different?
Point #13 Check out any DSS or Centrelink annual report and one simple fact quickly becomes very obvious; neither the DSS nor Centrelink has ever revealed these dreadful fatalities. Therefore it is only possible for concerned members of the public, such as myself to draw up Probability Tables based upon the very limited data available from 25 years of Breaching/Compliance Failure Penalties being imposed for alleged Breach of Contract or Compliance Failure. Appeals – up to 86% success rate with Centrelink admitting in APRIL 2011 that a staggering 43% of 2,000 appeals were recently upheld! 1. At-risk Approximately 4 million Aussie battlers. (A heck of a lot of YOUR viewers) 2. Extremely Vulnerable: Approximately 800,000. 3. Dire Vulnerability” Approximately 80,000 4. Extreme, Dire Vulnerability Approximately 8,000 My best estimate from the very limited data that is available is that the Breaching Triggered Death Toll falls in the range 5,000 to 12,000. FY 2000-01 Estimated Breaching Quota fatalities, or to use the Howard Government’s term in June 2000, Performance Indicator Measures, may have resulted in 350 to 700 fatalities. We have had a Senate inquiry into the accidental death of Matthew Fuller and three other ceiling insulation installers; however, when it comes to Breaching triggered fatalities, the stock responses from Senate committees is to either classify the deaths as “confidential” or to toss out these submissions by classifying them as “irrelevant” even if they are highly pertinent to the inquiry. In the included booklet, An Absence of Justice” is a Senate letter re submission 287 to the Anti-Terrorism Bill #2 Inquiry. Check out the official status of this submission on the Senate website and you will discover that it is “Not yet available. In the light of last week’s segment, is it fair that Today-Tonight-has ignored this Senate committee’s secrecy for over 5 years?
Point #14 If my estimate of up to 12,000 Breaching triggered deaths is accurate, the Queensland Flood levy may be small change compared to the levy needed to pay for Breaching Triggered Fatalities. Since voters are unlikely to accept such a levy, it follows that non-voters, i.e. industry and commerce will have to pick up the compensation bill. Since Channel 7 is a commercial entity, it is understandable why Channel 7 may not wish to present an impartial, even handed and fair report on the complex issue of welfare rorting by a former federal government, Centrelink staff and contracted agencies, e.g. some of the Job Network Mark One agencies who misused Breaching as a tool to defraud the Commonwealth. There was ‘collateral damage’ to defrauded welfare recipients of legitimate welfare entitlements? Centrelink management stopped the rorting with a ‘quasi-secret’ ban on Breaching but never called in the cops to investigate this fraud because it would have destroyed the Job Network (and the Howard Government Consequently, welfare recipients who had been fraudulently Breached were not given either Restitution or Compensation for having been wrongly Breached by rorting Job Network agencies. Where is the fairness in failing to report this alleged fraud for seven years?
Point#15 I repeatedly questioned the constitutional validity of the now defunct Breaching legislation. Where is the fairness in deliberately ignoring that question? Is the current Compliance Penalties legislation unconstitutional? I strongly recommend that that Channel 7’s legal advisors do what should have been done in 2004; check out Paragraph 75 of the Constitution so that that they can assist you to make an informed decision on this constitutional question. If they indicate that that these pieces of legislation may be unconstitutional, how do you justify the years of silence?
Point #16 At the conclusion of the segment, Hank Jongen said that it is “…not IF rorters will be caught, rather WHEN…” because Centrelink has the resources to find rorters. Surely, fairness requires that the rorters within Centrelink who built their careers on the misuse of breaching legislation, the concealment of the Breaching triggered fatalities or the hundreds of millions of dollars “recovered” by deliberately concealing the 6 Week Rule, should receive a similar warning? Mr. Jongen may be proud of the3, 500 prosecutions achieved last year but I am now using the accumulated documents in my possession to try to reduce that figure to about 10 prosecution per year. God willing, that will mainly of Centrelink’s own rorters! Channel 7 may continue to unfairly sit on the issues surrounding welfare recipients being ripped off by Centrelink but I am not!
Check out the following videos: Centrelink Prosecutions: Bunging a spanner in the works. (Equality before the Law.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oncpVb6anAg&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL
Are Centrelink Penalties Unconstitutional?( A bottom-up view of Paragraph 75 of the Australian Constitution that challenges Parliament’s “lets by-pass it” approach to welfare legislation.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH3TEMiSNgM
Centrelink and the 6 Week Rule. (Has Parliament ‘lost’ the 6 Week Rule?) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCBonJY5Z-k&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL
Murder by Legislation: The Canberra Killers Club. (“An Absence of Justice”.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0WEN5ix0Fc
Centrelink’s Secret Breaching Triggered Death Toll. (Some senate classified documents are displayed and read, but not copied or distributed, in this video.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QSdj5gXsx8
Billabong Ghosts (How almost 4 million Aussie Battlers were deliberately thrown in the ‘Billabong’.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuTmc2nA8Kc
Coming soon: How Centrelink Secretly Stopped the Great Australian Job Network Agency Rort Rush. Name and Shame – Prominent People Who Turned a Blind Eye to the Breaching fatalities?
When it comes to Name and Shame, where will Frank Pangallo and the T-T team be?
Of all the media agencies in Australia, Today-Tonight had the most information on the refusal of the Australian Federal Police to investigate Travelgate, Perksgate and the Quotagate fatalities. The team was, and for a short time may still be, the most informed current affairs team in the nation when it comes to this injustice.
Therefore it is appropriate that Frank and team feature highly on the Shame list if they continue to take (no) action. It is important to realize that the primary function of the Name and Shame list is not actually to ‘shame’ those who decided to turn a blind eye to the plight of Aussie Battlers who were shafted by the system.
The real purpose is to ensure that when Tort lawyers and state prosecutors are finally confronted with this humanitarian disaster, they will know just who to subpoena. Should I choose to oppose Channel 7’s broadcast license being renewed, the name and shame list will be just a tiny bit more evidence to indicate that Channel 7 was prepared to put commercial considerations ahead of codes of practice, civic duty and plain of fashioned fair play.
For confirmation of my claims, check out your computer archives for emails from: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Your document files should also contain copies of documents that are now classified as “confidential”. In short Channel 7 has no reasonable excuse, other than commercial considerations such as the millions of dollars paid out by the Coalition since July 2004 for election-advertising, which would justify the brazenly unfair and biased welfare bashing Today-Tonight segment that was broadcast on Monday 16th May to Adelaide viewers.
DISPUTE RESOLUTION: How about Fairness, i.e. the RIGHT OF REPLY? “Ignore him and he’ll go away”. That approach cost Dr. Harisun her job as a DECS Director. Targeting ADS7’s license is just one more way of getting these classified issues into the public domain where they belong. I suggest that you make an appointment to discuss my options.
Yours truly, Ronald Medlicott. GDA, Dip T, Cert FLM. (Christian welfare justice activist.)