This is a complaint to the ACMA alleging that the Seven Network misused its broadcasting licenses for the purpose of transmitting propaganda that was intended to vilify a marginalized Socio-Economic group, i.e. welfare recipients. However, as the “Centrelink does not collect…” statement signals, the underlying issues and legal implications extend far beyond the remit of the ACMA.
- This complaint is a test case for the consideration of the Media Convergence Review Panel. Either the current laws are adequate to hold broadcasters accountable for unacceptable conduct or they are inadequate. The ACMA’s decision will provide empirical evidence either way.
- Since a very senior public servant is involved, a parallel complaint will be lodged with the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
- One transmission targeted disability pensions so another complaint will be lodged with the Disability Discrimination Commissioner’s office.
- The core issue is the role played by the Australian media over a period of decades in passively assisting politicians and bureaucrats to conceal a massive humanitarian disaster that affected nearly 4 million marginalized people and may have been responsible for a cumulative death toll that could be 2 to 4 times the 9/11 death toll.
- The trial and conviction of Dr. Jayant Patel in March 2010 may provide the legal precedent needed to have many of these fatalities declared as major crimes, i.e. Unlawful Killings. If that happens, then the role played by the Australian mass media in helping to conceal these deaths will a scandal of far greater proportions than the recent News of the World scandal.
- It is therefore quite clear that this complaint will require input from experts in criminal law and that every step of the investigation may be subjected to extremely close scrutiny by all of the parties who may have a vested interest in this complaint.
The essence of truth is proof.
It may be tempting to write off this complaint as the product of a deranged mind but the inconvenient problem of proof makes this a non-option. I have appended a few documents which I believe are empirical evidence of some of the issues that I am raising in this complaint. Not supplied are the thousands of reports written by community welfare agencies that describe in detail the humanitarian disaster; reports that national media entities, e.g. the Seven Network, appear to have deliberately chosen to ignore.
To: Complaints Officer
PO Box Q500
Queen Victoria Building
Re: 3 counts of “Targeted Socio-Economic Vilification” by the Seven Network.
This a formal complaint against Channel 7 for misusing a broadcast license for the purpose of engaging in Targeted Socio-Economic Vilification, hereafter referred to as TSEV. This activity, more commonly known by the colloquialism “Welfare bashing”, has occurred on at least three occasions that I am aware of on during broadcasts of the Seven Network’s 6.30pm timeslot current affairs program ‘Today-Tonight’. The dates that the alleged “Targeted Socio-Economic Vilification” broadcasts occurred in Adelaide are as follows:
16th May 2011, 2nd June 2011 and 20th July 2011.
It is my belief that these broadcasts were inconsistent with the Broadcast Services Act 1992 Section 3(10)(g) which is intended ‘…to encourage providers of commercial and community broadcasting services to be responsive to the need for a fair and accurate coverage of matters of public interest…’In addition, it is also my belief that these broadcasts were inconsistent with the Commercial Television Code of Practice:
Re: Violation of Article 4.3.1 of the Code of Practice by Today-Tonight on 02-06-11:
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
To say that communication with the Seven Network on this issue has been most unsatisfactory is a gross understatement as the following two statements from a letter dated 18th August 2011 make quite clear.
- “…impartiality is not a requirement for current affairs segments under the Code”.
- “We have discussed your comments with the producers of Today Tonight and logged your letter in Seven’s complaint records”.
It is manifestly evident that the first statement is totally inconsistent with “the need for a fair and accurate coverage of matters of public interest…”. The Seven Network has in essence given a one-finger-salute to both Section 3(10)(g) of the Broadcast Services Act, to myself, and by extension, to the almost two million welfare recipients who were the target of the Network’s TSEV activity.
It is my contention that it is an entirely inappropriate use of a broadcast license to engage in TSEV activity that fosters and maintains social schisms. Welfare recipients have enough problems without being the target of constant TSEV attacks by the nation’s major media entities. Sadly, as the examples in the Appendix clearly highlight, TSEV is a common practice by both the broadcast media and the print media. In the three Today Tonight segments that are central to my complaint, the Seven Network deliberately vilified welfare recipients by both acts of commission and acts of omission. The producers and editors responsible for the compilation of the three TSEV segments used snippets of truth in the same manner that young children use Lego building blocks.
Truths were deliberately misused to shape a deceitful, deceiving viewpoint that was totally inconsistent with the true situation.
- In the May 16th segment, the context of the segment was set by claiming that 800,000 reports of fraud had been received. There was no reference to the fact that in the last financial year, only 100,000 of these reports were on Centrelink’s hotline. In addition there was no mention of critical facts such as the fact that only 3% of these reports proved to of merit. There was no mention of the fact that most calls made on the Centrelink hotline are spurious, often malicious and unfounded.
- There was no mention of the fact that these false calls cause such a problem that Centrelink, the Australian Federal Police and the National Audit Office had set up a task force to work out ways to eliminate the tsunami of false reports so that genuine cases could be identified.
- Having ‘set the scene’ by indicating the Federal Government had allegedly received some 800,000 reports of fraud, the segment then launched into examples of welfare recipients who had been caught out by Centrelink investigators. This was followed up by Centrelink’s general manager, Hank Jongen, spouting a “We will get you mantra”.
- At no time did Mr. Jongen point out that only a very small percentage of the 800,000 alleged reports, i.e. 12% applied to welfare recipients and that only 3% of that number had led to successful fraud investigations.
- In mouthing the “We will get you” mantra, Mr. Jongen conveniently avoided any mention of the fact that Centrelink staff have also been found to be involved in fraudulent activity.
June 2nd 2011 was very much a case of Déjà vu` with yet another TSEV segment that focused upon disability pensioners.
- This time the segment started with a PowerPoint style of presentation that highlighted the build up in the numbers of disability pensioners and then, following the script from the May 16th segment, switched to showing examples of disability pensioners who had been caught out rorting the system.
- At no time during this segment was any mention made of the fact that a disability pension is a constitutional right that is contained in paragraph 51 (xxiii)(a) of the Australian Constitution, i.e. the Federal Government has a constitutional obligation to pay a welfare benefit to people who are unable to work due to disabilities.
July 20th 2011 was once again a case of misusing statistics to vilify welfare recipients. One of the persons interviewed was the Human Services Minister, Tanya Slibersek.
- In a very brief sound bite that was clearly cut to remove any qualifying remarks that Ms Slibersek may have made, viewers saw and heard her state that a 100,000 calls had been received on the Centrelink fraud reporting hotline.
- Once again viewers were being fed an irrelevant statistic, i.e. 100,000 calls on the fraud hotline, whilst the far more relevant statistic. i.e. the 3% of prosecutions was deliberately omitted from the broadcast.
- It is important to note that Ms Slibersek’s remark that 100,000 calls had been received on the fraud hotline totally contradicted the 800,000 fraud report figure used in the May 16th 2011 segment.
I believe that an impartial examination of the three segments will confirm that that they form a trinity of segments that were deliberately intended to vilify and defame welfare recipients. The deliberate omission of facts that would have provided “a fair and accurate coverage of matters of public interest” is a matter of grave concern.
Part 2: Lies by Omission – Not acting in the Public Interest.
The statement “…impartiality is not a requirement for current affairs segments under the Code” may be true or it may be false. If it is true, then it suggests that the Code of practice is a toothless tiger, a PR exercise to con the public into believing the myth that commercial television networks are impartial. Its use by the Seven Network is empirical evidence that the network operators apparently believe that they are not required to be impartial and do not have to provide the public with “a fair and accurate coverage of matters of public interest”. This raises the question as to whether or not there is any other empirical evidence that the Seven Network has deliberately failed to act in the public interest by concealing matters that should be in the public domain.
The two following statements are found on page 2 of the 2011 Media Convergence Framework Framing Paper:
- A free and diverse media and communications industry is a fundamental and important part of Australian society. It is our major source of personal communications, information, news, and entertainment. It also allows a public discussion to take place and provides critical examination of the actions of governments, corporations and individuals.
- There may be a need for rules that ensure consumers know exactly what they are buying from service providers, or we may need to ensure that there is a diversity of voices, views and information.
The first statement acknowledges that the broadcast media plays a major role in providing the national community with news and information that is required for the “critical examination of the actions of governments, corporations and individuals”. The second statement acknowledges that we live in an imperfect world and that the media may require rules and regulations in order to ensure that “there is a diversity of voices, views and information”. Based upon community input, the idea that Australians should have access to a diversity of voices, views and information was deemed by the members of the Media Convergence Review Panel to be of such importance that it was listed as Principle 1 in the Framing Paper.
Principle 2 of the Framing Paper, found on page 13, expressed the view that whilst the communications and media market should be innovative and competitive, there was need to ensure that outcomes “were in the best interests of the public”. I have already made the point that TSEV activity and the misuse of a broadcast license for the purposes of defaming a social group are unacceptable outcomes. It is also my viewpoint that engaging in this activity by deliberating withholding information, i.e. Lying by Omission is a totally undesirable and unacceptable ‘outcome’ that is most definitely not in the best interests of the Australian public
I respectfully put it to the ACMA that there is empirical evidence that the Seven Network has deliberately engaged in defamatory TSEV activity through the process known as Lying by Omission.
The following information which deals with public interest issues that are of extreme gravity and sensitivity were made available to the Seven Network. However, socio-economic prejudice and vested interest bias appears to have resulted in the network withholding this information from the public.
May 18th 2010: “Centrelink does not collect ‘Post Breaching Terminal Outcome Statistics’ and is therefore unable to assist with your request for this information”. (Correspondence from Assistant Secretary Neil Skill.)
- Neil Skill is a senior Centrelink official who in the above comment revealed why neither the former DSS or Centrelink management had never ever reported Breaching triggered fatalities, i.e. they never bother to ‘collect’ the statistics!
- Note: In the appended material is a copy of Assistant Secretary Skill’s letter.
- With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks being remembered world wide, it is important to note that this deliberately concealed accumulating Breaching policy triggered death toll may be significantly larger than the 9/11 death toll, i.e. over a period of more than a quarter of a century the death toll may have been 2 – 4 times the 9/11 death toll.
- For some reason, the Seven Network decided that it was not worth reporting the concealment of this appalling death toll by federal politicians an public servants.
- A scanned copy of Neil Skill’s letter was emailed to Frank Pangalo, one of the Seven Network’s Today-Tonight producers, shortly after I received this letter and realized its significance.
- I received an email request from Mr. Pangalo requesting more information. However, once this was provided, there was no further contact by Mr. Pangalo.
2. February 2010: Tony Abbott suggested that Peter Garrett should be charged with “Industrial Manslaughter” for allegedly concealing the accidental deaths of four ceiling insulation installers who were killed whilst employed installing ceiling insulation that was funded by the Federal Government’s Home improvement (Ceiling Insulation) Program.
- The Seven Network reporting of Mr. Abbott’s “Industrial Manslaughter” comments was fair comment. However, whilst Tony Abbott was on the public record for suggesting that Peter Garrett be charged with “Industrial Manslaughter” for concealing the deaths of four ceiling insulation installers, it is not a matter of public record that Mr. Abbott may also have concealed a far greater number of Breaching triggered fatalities that occurred whilst he was the Employment Minister in John Howard’s government.
- Seven network officials had been aware since August 2004 that Tony Abbott had not reported Breaching triggered fatalities but for reasons unknown they failed to act in the public interest and inform the public of this disturbing fact.
- It is a matter of public record that Tony Abbott supported the doubling the Breaching Penalty from 13 weeks with no ‘Dole’ to 26 weeks with no Dole. It is also a matter of public record that during the parliamentary debate on the doubling of the Breaching penalty, Tony Abbott did not inform Federal Parliament of the unreported death toll caused by Breaching activity.
- Seven Network officials were aware of the double standards implicit in Tony Abbott’s criticism of Peter Garrett but opted not to make this information known to the station’s viewers.
- During the 2010 election campaign, the Seven Network broadcast Liberal Party election adverts that criticized both Peter Garrett and the ALP for the handling of the Home improvement (Ceiling Insulation) Program. It is therefore highly probable that network officials put vested interest commercial considerations ahead of public interest ‘need to know’ issues.
- If it was wrong for Peter Garrett to allegedly conceal the deaths of four ceiling insulators, then surely, in the run up to the 2010 election it was a major issue of public interest for voters to know that Tony Abbott had also concealed an unknown number of (Breaching triggered) fatalities that had occurred whilst he was the nation’s Employment Minister?
3. November 2005: The Senate’s Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee (LEG-CON) conducted a three- day ‘public consultation’ hearing in Canberra to accept public feedback on the legislation contained in the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill #2 legislation. By restricting the national consultation process to just one venue, it was necessary for all but the most affluent members of the public to write submissions for consideration by the LEG-CON committee. This process effectively ensured that the Howard Government could control and minimize public opposition to the legislation.
- Submission 287 to the LEG-CON inquiry is titled “Who are the real terrorists?” I know this because I am the author of that document.
- A check of the LEG-CON committee’s website will reveal that Submission 287 is officially listed as “Not yet available”.
- However, as the certified copy of LEG-Con’s official response makes quite clear, Submission 287 is (secretly) classified as ‘confident’. This secret confidential classification is backed up by a ‘don’t copy- don’t distribute’ suppression order.
- Seven network officials have been aware of this secret confidential classification since shortly after I received this undated document in early December 2005. Despite grave expressions of concern about the provisions contained in this legislation and public anger over the token public inquiry that the Howard Government had set up, Seven Network apparently did not think that the secret confidential classification of Submission 287 was an issue of national public interest.
- Submission 287 was, and still is, highly sensitive because this 40 page submission focussed upon the decision of the July 7th 2004 decision of the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, not to investigate either the Trish Draper “Travelgate” scandal or “Quotagate” Breaching triggered fatalities.
In order to provide critical background information, it is necessary at this point to skip back in time to June 27th 2000 before resuming the timeline in 2004. In doing so, I remind ACMA officials that this information was known by the Seven Network officials and it needs to be carefully assessed when evaluating this complaint.
- On the 27th June 2000 an ALP MP, Cheryl Kernot, issued a press release that exposed very specific details of Breaching Performance Indicator targets that the Howard Government was imposing upon Centrelink.
- The Howard Government responded by denying that it was enforcing these Performance Indicator targets. However, Centrelink’s FY 2000-01 annual revealed that a mind boggling 346,078 Breaches had been imposed welfare recipients.
- This rate of Breaching represented an average of approximately 3 Breaches per minute for the entire Centrelink working year, i.e. approximately 180 Breaches issued every hour of every working day of every working week for the entire financial year!
- It probably represents a world record for the number of Breach of Contract disputes in one year that involved a national government in any country since Breach of Contract was first recognized as a legal dispute.
- Following standard operating procedure, the Australian media ignored the massive humanitarian disaster caused by this blatant misuse of lawful authority.
- However, the community welfare sector could not ignore this politically driven humanitarian disaster for the very simple reason that community welfare agencies where totally overwhelmed by the demand for assistance that this outrageous level of Breaching activity triggered. In some instances, community welfare agencies were only able to meet 3% of demand.
- In an attempt to slow down this Breaching quota driven humanitarian disaster, community welfare agencies joined forces with the Commonwealth Public Service Union and jointly funded the Independent Pearce Inquiry which took both public submissions and ‘in-camera’ confidential submissions from Centrelink staff.
- Some of the Centrelink staff who testified ‘in-camera’ reported that they had been forced to meet breaching quotas, i.e. Performance Indicator Targets, imposed by Centrelink management.
- During an ABC Late-Line interview in August 2002, the Chair of the Independent Review, Professor Denis Pearce, and the Welfare Minister, Amanda Vanstone, argued of the implementation of Breaching quotas. Senator Vanstone was most adamant that the Howard Government was not enforcing any Breaching Quotas.
- A lawyer and a former Federal Attorney-General, Senator Vanstone was technically correct in denying that the Howard Government had been enforcing Breaching Quotas for, at least technically, there was no such thing as Breaching Quotas.
- However, it Centrelink staff who testified at the Pearce Inquiry had used the correct term, i.e. Performance Indicator Targets, then Senator Vanstone would have either have had to tell the truth or else lie on national television program. Because of the incorrect terminology used, Senator Vanstone was able to extract the Howard Government from an extremely sensitive situation without having to make untrue statements.
At this point I now return to the timeline in late May 2004.
4. May 2004. A former employee of Trish Draper, the Federal MP representing the Adelaide electorate of Makin, provided the Seven Network with a document that revealed that Ms. Draper has falsely claimed an international travel allowance for a person who was not her defacto spouse when travelling overseas in 2000.
Ms Draper attempted to prevent the voters in her electorate from discovering what she had done by obtaining a blanket media suppression order that prevented all sections of the SA media from revealing the details of her overseas trip.
- Channel 7 successfully challenged this suppression order and broadcast a Today-Tonight segment that revealed numerous details surrounding Ms Draper’s alleged overseas fact-finding tour that had been funded by tax payers.
- Ms Draper had apparently left her real defacto spouse at home to look after her four children whilst she took her ‘new’ defacto spouse overseas at taxpayer expense.
- There is no public record that John Howard upheld his Oath of Office which requires him to uphold the laws of our nation.
- Fierce debate over Ms Draper’s raged for several days in the Federal Parliament. Both in parliament and in the electorate of Makin, John Howard repeatedly expressed is confidence in Ms. Draper as he struggled to control this PR disaster.
- In Parliament, the Administrative Services Minister, Eric Abetz, tabled a letter outlining travel rules that appeared to indicate that Ms. Draper had not violated parliamentary travel allowance rules. However, the letter was misleading for the rules tabled applied to travel within Australia and did not apply to overseas travel.
- Since John Howard had failed to report the Trish Draper “Travelgate” scandal to the Federal Police, I contacted AFP Commissioner Keelty’s office and obtained from one of his office staff, a post box address that would enable me to refer the “Travelgate” scandal directly to Commissioner Keelty. In my letter to Commissioner Keelty I requested that the AFP investigate a number of extremely sensitive and controversial issues:
- Did Ms Draper defraud the Commonwealth by obtaining a (travel allowance) benefit by deception?
- Was John Howard an Accessory after the Fact to the crime of defrauding the Commonwealth by obtaining a (travel allowance) benefit by deception?
- Did John Howard his use of his status and prestige as the nation’s Prime Minister to voice support for Ms Draper in an effort to persuade authorities not to investigate Ms Draper in order to avoid being investigated for failing to report Ms Draper’s false travel claim?
- Did Senator Abetz’s letter also constitute an attempt to obstruct justice by persuading authorities that there were no legal grounds for a criminal investigation of Ms Draper’s actions.
- Implicit in my request for an investigation was the question as to whether or not the combined actions of John Howard and some of his ministers constituted a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
In for a penny, in for a pound! Having made the above requests for an investigation into the “Travelgate” scandal, I then expanded on my original request with further requests to investigate “Quotagate”. This request contained two key points of extreme gravity and sensitivity:
Did the Breaching quota activity first reported by Cheryl Kernot and confirmed by Centrelink staff who testified at the Independent Pearce Inquiry constitute Malfeasance, i.e. was breaching legislation misused by the Howard government to deliberately defraud welfare recipients if legitimate welfare entitlements?
- Would any fatalities resulting from this activity be considered unlawful? At the time I was unaware that South Australia had a criminal law statute known as “Felony Murder”. Unaware of this statute, I specifically asked Commissioner Keelty if Breaching Quota triggered fatalities could be classified as what is referred to in some US states as either Felony Murder or Second Degree Murder.
Despite requesting to be contacted by the AFP to discuss the merits of my complaint, the AFP did not discuss my complaint with me. After a delay of five weeks, I received a letter of response from Federal Agent Louise Denley that was dated July 7th 2004. The AFP had declined to act on my complaint for a number of bizarre reasons that included:
1. An inferred lack of resources and an implied heavy case load.
- 2. The “gravity/sensitivity” of the issue.
- 3. The AFP did not accept complaints from the public as it used government “protocols”!
Needless to say, one of the first things that I did was to post off a copy of this response to the Today-Tonight team at Channel 7’s Adelaide site. In addition, I also provided a copy to the 7.30 Report team based at the ABC’s Collinswood facility. Neither current affairs team responded to the revelation that the AFP was not interested in investigating the Travelgate scandal or Breaching quota triggered fatalities. Clearly, welfare recipients must rank very low on the social ladder if current affairs teams are not interested in fatalities that may have been caused by the misuse of federal legislative powers.
The one positive response that I did receive came from an unexpected quarter and had an unexpected outcome that may be of interest to the ACMA, especially in the wake of the News of the World scandal.
I hand delivered a copy of Federal Agent Louise Denley’s letter to the newly appointed and apparently very inexperienced editor of a News Corporation urban newspaper, the News Review Messenger. I personally briefed the newly appointed editor on the background to the complaint that I had lodged with Commissioner Keelty.
- Whilst nothing was printed in the local News Review Messenger, the editor had written a small article about the AFP’s refusal to investigate the Travelgate scandal. It had been published in another Messenger newspaper, The Leader, which was freely and widely distributed (40,000 copies) in the electorate of Makin.
- I first became aware of this when the editor contacted me to seek permission to pass on my contact details to someone who wished to contact me after reading of my actions in The Leader. I gave the editor permission to pass on my details to this person and that is when things ‘went pear-shaped’.
- During a phone conversation with this person, he advised me to “watch my back and keep a close eye on my family”. The words were no sooner out of his mouth than there was a loud click as the phone was disconnected.
- Upon reconnecting we debated as to whose phone was being monitored; his or mine? I soon found out for on virtually every phone call made on my house phone there was the same loud click and the calls would be disconnected.
- I found this deliberate phone hacking to be extremely intimidating and after several weeks, in a phone conversation with a family member, I declared that I was dropping the whole issue.
- From that point on the phone hacking ceased until it resumed in January 2006 after I started protesting at the secret confidential classification of Submission 287 by the LEG-CON committee.
- However, I did go back to the News Review office with the intention of briefing the editor on this phone hacking intimidation. Surprise! Surprise! The editor was no longer the editor and no one at the office knew where she was.
- In 2006, I spat the dummy on the latest bout of phone hacking and reported it to Commissioner Keelty. However, as no action was taken in regard to this report, I assumed that this hacking was being done by the AFP.
- In the wake of the News of the World phone hacking scandal, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps I was mistaken in assuming that the AFP was behind the phone hacking. It could just as easily have been someone close to John Howard who had the resources and expertise required to “look after a close mate”.
5. Federal Agent Denley’s classsified ‘confidential’ letter.
The excuses used in Federal Agent Denley’s letter do not stand up to close scrutiny.
Case load: in FY 2005-06, the AFP ‘out-posted’ ten police officers to assist in investigating the usually anonymous and mainly false allegations of rorting by welfare recipients that Centrelink received on its fraud reporting hot-line. Clearly, investigating a tsunami of false claims of welfare rorting was of far more importance than investigating federal MPs who may have rorted the public purse by obtaining a benefit by deception.
- “gravity/sensitivity”: this ambiguous phrase could imply that my complaint was of such “gravity/sensitivity” that the AFP was afraid to investigate it. This is not as silly as it sounds for Commissioner Keelty had contradicted John Howard’s claim that Iraq was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. For being so truthful, John Howard’s response was to so publically humiliate Commissioner Keelty that for several days Commissioner Keelty reportedly gave serious consideration to resigning.
- “gravity/sensitivity” could also refer to Breaching quota triggered deaths being of such insignificance that
these fatalities were just not of sufficient significance to justify a Federal Police investigation. There are three reasons why this viewpoint has merit.
- First of all, Channel Seven’s response to the Denley Letter was to ignore it as did both News Corporation and Fairfax newspapers.
- Secondly, the ALP totally ignored this response; perhaps because they had voted for Breaching laws?
- Thirdly, in March 2006, the Coalition dominated EWRE Committee which was responsible for railroading the ill-fated Work Choices legislation through Federal Parliament (literally) wrote off Breaching triggered fatalities as “irrelevant”.
- “Government Protocols”: The Liberal Party leadership is currently stretching this excuse to breaking point.
- In addition to using “Government Protocols” as an excuse to refuse to investigate federal MPs who may have broken the law in the 2004 Travelgate scandal, in September 2009 the AFP used the same excuse when refusing to investigate a report by the Auditor-General that 144 federal MPs may have engaged in the organized rorting of some $4.64 Million from the “Entitlements Fund”. (The Perksgate Scandal.)
- At the current time, Senator Mary Jo Fisher is on trial in South Australia for allegedly engaging in shop-lifting and an alleged assault on a security officer who tried to prevent her from fleeing the scene of the alleged crime.
- It is important to note that for the SA Police, the only “protocol” needed to investigate Senator Fisher’s activities were reports by members of the public that she may have committed a crime.
- A Government MP, Craig Thomson, was recently the focus of investigations by both the Victorian and NSW police after a ‘member of the public’ who just happen to be Opposition MP with a massive vested interest in having a Gillard Government MP prosecuted for alleged fraud filed a complaint about Mr. Thomson.
- Again, there were no “government protocols” that the NSW and Victorian Police had to comply with. As was the case with Senator Fisher, these two police forces conducted investigations based upon reports from a “member of the public” that a crime had been committed.
- Acting on the basis that “If first you don’t succeed, try, try again” the Opposition’s “member of the public” is now making fresh allegations, a game that two can play as this complaint demonstrates.
- At approximately 6:15 pm this evening Tony Abbott was reported on the Seven Network news making the statement that “These matters need to be referred to the police”.
- When it was a case of Tony Abbott and Senator Vanstone being investigated to determine if their actions in regard to Breaching Triggered fatalities may have been unlawful, Tony Abbott was apparently quite content to go along with the “government protocols’” option.
The Seven Network has demonstrated a ready willingness to engage in TSEV activity but the network has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of concern that welfare recipients can be investigated on the basis of anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations whilst even when there is empirical evidence that federal MPs may have violated federal laws, the AFP resorts to using “government protocols” as an excuse for not investigating. Clearly, two totally incompatible systems of Justice are in play but the network is unconcerned; an attitude that is totally inconsistent with providing news that enables governments, corporations and individuals accountable for their actions.
The Seven Network’s lack of concern for why Submission 287 is secretly classified as confidential is a major issue of national concern. There is a reasonable possibility that the Howard Government and the AFP leadership may have done a “dirty deal”, i.e. no investigation of Travelgate and Quotagate in exchange for the draconian legislation contained in the Anti-Terrorism Bill #2 legislation. This would mean that the legislation is the proceeds of a crime and is therefore unlawful. The logical extension of that is that anyone convicted under either this legislation or State enabling legislation has been wrongly convicted and is entitled to both their freedom and compensation.
Truth is often stranger than fiction and whilst the above comment may seem to be over-the-top, the empirical evidence is that the AFP refused to investigate Travelgate, Quotagate and Perksgate by citing “government protocols” which have no standing in our nation’s criminal laws. Paragraph 5 of the Constitution also makes it quite clear that everyone is accountable before the Law which means that the criminal justice process that applies to welfare recipients is also the criminal justice process that applies to federal MPs. It appears that whilst the police in Victoria, NSW and South Australia understand the basic principle of Equality before the Law, the AFP and the Seven Network do not.
It is important to note that in the broadcast on 20th July 2011, the Seven Network claimed that welfare recipients owed Centrelink some $3 Billion in overpayments and rorted allowances. What the network chose to withhold was the fact that overpayments are frequently made due to Centrelink errors. Whilst Centrelink’s published annual error rates of 3 to 3.5% may sound exceedingly small, with 6.8 million clients, this represents more than 200,000 errors every year, another critical fact that the Seven Network chose to omit from this segment.
A far more significant fact that the Seven Network omitted to mention is the Six Week Rule; legislation that the network cannot deny knowledge of for it is mentioned in some of the appended correspondence. Under the 6 Week Rule which is found in Paragraph 1,237A of the Social Security Act, Centrelink has just 6 weeks in which to identify systemic overpayment errors. After that point in time, Centrelink is required by Act of Parliament to waive repayments:
In effect, the Seven Network broadcast may have been actively assisting Centrelink to defraud welfare recipients by convincing them that overpayments resulting from errors made by Centrelink years ago have to be repaid.
- I am firmly of the opinion that using a broadcaster’s license to deliberately deceive impoverished, marginalized people into making repayments that, by Act of Parliament, do not have to be repaid, is a totally reprehensible and thoroughly despicable misuse of that licensing privilege!
6. The Great Australian Job Network Rort Rush. Prior to the launch of the launch of the Job Network on May 1st 1998, ABC 7.30 Report presenter Kerry O’Brien warned Senator Vanstone that the proposed Job Network was highly vulnerable to rorting by Job Network agencies. Although Senator Vanstone promised to look into the matter, the simple reality was that her Public Service staff had an appalling lack of expertise in dealing with the cut-throat private sector employment placement market where the business of business is making a profit and too many operators put profit before ethics, rules, regulations and federal laws.
Just 4 months after the launch of the Job Network, rorting had driven it to the edge of bankruptcy. The Employment Minister had to go cap in hand to Peter Costello and ask for a $140 Million injection in funding to keep the Job Network afloat.
- Two months after receiving this top-up, the Job Network was again in financial trouble. It was evident that drastic action was required if the Job Network was to avoid financial ruin; an outcome that could easily bring down the Howard Government.
- Just when the Howard Government needed a ‘hero’ to save the day, a ‘hero’ stepped up to the plate and saved the day. Centrelink management!
- Centrelink slammed the door on FLEX 3 rorting by immediately implementing a quasi-secret moratorium on Breaching that shut off the FLEX 3 funding loophole that some agencies had exploited for every dollar that they could extract out of the scheme.
- I say “quasi-secret” because at the time I was a FLEX 1 Job Network recruitment consultant and some of my FLEX 3 peers openly discussed this moratorium.
- Agencies involved in this rorting were not given new contracts. As a consequent, some defunded FLEX 3 recruitment consultants probably cried all the way to the bank where they had stashed the millions of dollars thrown away by the Howard Government’s inept implementation of the Job Network’s FLEX 3 Intensive Assistance FLEX 3 scheme.
- The Centrelink solution had the additional advantage that welfare recipients who had been breached by corrupt FLEX 3 recruitment consultants were not informed of this fraud and therefore was neither paid restitution nor given compensation for the hardship and suffering caused by this fraudulent activity.
- Knowing of this previous fraud and ignoring it, I am absolutely incensed that the Seven Network would dare to engage in TSEV activity and that it would conceal the 6 Week Rule from Centrelink’s latest crop of victims.
- When did Today-Tonight run a segment exposing this systemic fraud? Answer :– Never!
In an email sent to me by one of Bob Brown’s staff, I was asked if I believed that legislation was needed to ensure that, in the wake of the News of the World scandal, that only fit and proper persons should be able to hold a media license? My answer to that question is this document. In addition to making a copy available to Senator Brown, I may request that he monitor and seek feedback on how the ACMA deals with the issues raised in order to ensure that the entire process is transparent and in accordance with Due Process.
7. I would make the point that the issue of undisclosed death toll triggered by Breaching activity was known to the Seven Network as far back as August 2004 but for reasons never explained, the Seven Network has never ever reported this lethal activity in any of its current affairs or news segments.
If the secret death toll caused by Breaching activity had been exposed, it is highly likely that the July 2009 measures set in place by the Rudd Government which were aimed at bringing a halt to the humanitarian disaster caused by Breaching legislation would have been place almost 5 years earlier.
- In July 2010, the West Australian Government paid $4.2Million in compensation for the unintentional death of an indigenous person who was in police custody. This raises the Public Interest question as to what is an acceptable level of payment for easily preventable deaths that were initially perceived as ‘an acceptable consequence’ but later morphed to being classified as “irrelevant” and are currently classified as “confidential”?
- The number of fatalities quickly became a major issue of political and legal sensitivity for both politicians and the public servants who enforced the Breaching penalties.
- Seven Network officials have been aware since at least August 2004 that neither the DSS nor Centrelink administrators have ever reported Breaching triggered fatalities. Since early 2006, Seven Network officials have concealed the fact that these deaths are the subject of a secret Senate ‘confidential’ classification and a ‘don’t copy, don’t distribute’ suppression order.
8. Why would the Seven Network ignore breaching fatalities?
That is a critical question to which a definitive answer is not possible until such time as network officials have to answer that question in a formal hearing. However, there is a body of circumstantial evidence that provides a logical answer to that question.
Recently, when Wayne Swan spat the dummy and complained about media bias, he was spot on. However, he did not seem to appreciate that he may be one of the primary reasons for that bias.
- Opponents of the proposed Carbon Tax have claimed in television adverts that this tax will cost $70 Billion. Taking that much out of the coffers of corporate Australia would drastically reduce the amount of discretionary funding that would be available for advertising budgets. The ‘downstream’ impact to the commercial advertising industry and commercial media entities would be catastrophic. The media thus has clear and compelling financial reasons to adopt a strong stance that opposes the Carbon Tax.
- Compensation to the millions of victims of the humanitarian disaster caused by Breaching activity could be staggering with a figure of $200 Billion+ in compensation costs being a starting point rather than a final figure.
- Voter outrage over the $6 Billion Queensland disaster levy indicates that voters would respond most negatively to footing the compensation bill for a politically driven humanitarian disaster which would leave parliament with no alternative option but hike up corporate taxes to pay the compensation bill.
- Voter outrage against the major parties could also leave the nation with a politically unstable parliament that is even more fragmented than the current parliament. Such political instability is most definitely not in the interest corporate Australia.
- Social prejudice against welfare recipientsmeans that some people would find the idea that compensation payments could turn some welfare dependent families into multi-millionaires as being a totally unthinkable scenario. However, the $4.2 Million paid in compensation to the family of a West Australian tribal elder who died due to negligence whilst in custody means that this a very realistic scenario to contemplate.
- The $760,000 compensation payment to Bruce Trevorrow, the indigenous person who fought and won the landmark ’Stolen Generation’ case in the SA Supreme Court is another empirical example of the potential scale of compensation that could be paid to some of the almost 4 million victims of Breaching activity.
- The sheer scale of this politically driven humanitarian disaster means that the looming bill for compensation is going to be staggeringly high and the ‘downstream’ implications for tertiary industries such as the advertising industry and commercial broadcasting corporations are potentially disasterous.
- From a purely commercial perspective, for Seven Network managers and all other commercial news media entities, making an issue of Breaching triggered fatalities is totally inconsistent with both Due Diligence obligations and the economic reality that “The business of business is making a profit”.
9. Some quick comments on the Seven Network’s letter dated 16 June 2011.
Point #1. Lets put the text in context – the key issue in the May 16th segment was the problem of alleged Welfare Fraud. The figure of 800,000 reports of fraud may be true but it was totally irrelevant to the key issue as only 3,500 prosecutions for welfare fraud, i.e. only 0.4375% of the mentioned 800,000 reports were valid welfare fraud reports. In addition, at no point during the segment did the Seven Network make the point that over 96.% of these 800,000 were false, spurious and frequently maliciously motivated acts of revenge that were deliberately intended to cause people distress, inconvenience and grief. By omitting this key piece of information the Seven network was Lying by Omission. On its website the Seven network brags about the depth of experience of its Today-Tonight team and it is therefore highly unlikely that this omission was due to an error of professional oversight. The network also Lied by Omission by failing to report that so many fraud reports are false that the Federal Police, the Australian National Audit Office and Centrelink had to set up a taskforce to try and determine how to identify the tiny percentage of welfare fraud reports that are valid enough to justify being investigated.
Point #2. The 800,000 was an ‘annual figure’. It may have been, but as Tanya Slibersek confirmed in the July 20th segment, it was not an annual figure that applied to Centrelink, for its hotline only received about 100,000 of these calls! The precise number, soon to be published in Centrelink’s annual report, will confirm that the 800,000 fraud reports figure was extremely erroneous and misleading and I therefore contend that’s its use was deceptively inappropriate in the context of a segment supposedly targeting Welfare Fraud rather than national crime reports.
Point #3. It is common practice for advertisers to use a ‘representative sample of one’ but in the real world that is not valid. How many of the Today-Tonight viewers are former qualified and experienced SkillShare trainers, job club managers and Job Network recruitment consultants with two Senate ‘don’t copy, don’t distribute’ suppression orders? I have specialized skill and insider knowledge that makes my awareness of the wider background issues rather unique, so using me as a representative of one is a statistically invalid statement. I suggest that the segment relied on the ignorance and/or prejudices of viewers for the specific purpose of fostering and/or reinforcing prejudicial attitudes towards welfare recipients, a goal that I believe is totally inconsistent with the corporate responsibilities of a broadcast license holder.
Point #5. “…Seven is not obliged by the Code to provide a response to this aspect of your complaint”. I think Seven needs to because, as mentioned previously, by deliberately omitting any mention of the 6 Week Rule, the Seven Network may have been actively aiding and abetting the commission of a crime. Since the Seven Network is unlikely to employ totally incompetent legal advisors, I suggest that the truth behind that statement is that once I pointed the 6 Week Rule, Seven’s legal advisors became aware that the network had unintentionally become an active partner in an ongoing, long-term rip-off by some Centrelink staff.
Point #9. If Seven was truly impartial, broadcasting Centrelink’s views would have been counter-balanced by in-depth reports on issues such as Breaching fatalities and the fact that Tony Abbott has never reported the breaching fatalities that were recorded in Centrelink’s database in FY200-01.
At the very least, Seven should have taken Centrelink to task for having failed to “collect” and report Breaching fatalities statistics. The failure to report these issues is totally inconsistent with fair and balanced reporting principles and the obligation to ensure that the network was acting in the public interest. Had Seven acted in the public interest in 2004, it is quite possible that the lives of some welfare recipients could have been saved!
Point #3 and 4 of the response to my letter dated 4 June 2011. I do not dispute the fact that the report was not intended to vilify individuals for it is my contention that the report was intended to collectively vilify the one million welfare recipients who receive a disability pension. Using the well understood principle of Tainting by Association, the segment was intended to be an act of Targeted Socio-Economic Vilification with the social group targeted being the Aussie Battlers who receive a disability support pension. Socio-Economic Vilification propaganda relies upon the use of stereotyping, i.e. these people rort, they are disability pensioners, so all disability pensioners are rorters. This form of prejudicial propaganda was a process that was developed to a fine art during the Cold War, i.e. “Reds under the bed”. The aim of such propaganda is always to influence large masses of people to adopt the skewed and biased viewpoints of those who promote the propaganda. These days we usually call this process ‘Advertising’.
Point #5 of the response to my letter dated 4 June 2011. “Seven does not believe…” As a media broadcaster, Seven is a commercial propagandist organisation that makes a profit from the commercial broadcasting of propaganda, i.e. Advertisements. I have no problem with that but when it comes to current affairs segments, I believe that both the Code of Practice and Section 3(10)(g) of the Broadcast Services Act require Fairness, Accuracy and Balance. The fact that the Federal Government has a constitutional obligation to provide a disability pension, an unemployment benefit, or any other benefit to people who meet the extremely strict criteria required by welfare legislation is a key fact that was essential to provide a balanced and impartial response to the emotion charged, dramatized PowerPoint style of reporting that dramatically revealed how the numbers of people who receive a disability pension had built up over the years. This professionally prepared style of presentation was deliberately intended to catch the viewers attention. However, by deliberately omitting critical background details as to How and Why this build up in numbers had occurred, Seven was deliberately trying to prejudice viewers against disability pensioners.
Readers of this document need to keep in mind that the Seven Network had known about Performance Indicator Targets for 11 years, the Pearce Inquiry Report for 9 years and had also known about breaching fatalities for 7 years but had never made an issue of these facts in almost 16,000 Today-Tonight segments. When it came to the issue of Fraud in the Welfare System, the Seven Network exclusively focussed upon fraud by welfare recipients whilst deliberately ignoring the issue of welfare recipients being defrauded by organizations and individuals in the welfare support systems. Even Centrelink’s own annual reports make token references to the problem of in-house fraud although the annual numbers of in-house frauds detected are not specified. This is a major difference between Centrelink’s reports and the recent Today-Tonight reports. As Pauline Hanson once so aptly put it, “Explain please”.
Such one-sided reporting is most definitely biased and unfair reporting and therefore the Seven Network needs to held be held fully accountable for this partisan approach to the issue of Fraud in the Welfare System. There are always at least two sides to any issue and for at least the last 7 years, the Seven Network has opted to tell only one side of the story. To therefore suggest that the network is not biased and has not violated its obligations to be fair and balanced in its reporting of news and current affairs segment is pure humbug!
I tend to be a long winded and pedantic writer but the reality is that the issues raised in this document are extremely complex and serious for they affect almost 4 million victims of Breaching plus another two million welfare recipients. In addition, Performance Indicator Triggered Fatalities may, like many of Dr. Jayant Patel’s 87 alleged fatalities, eventually be reclassified as Unlawful Killings. If that occurs, then the Seven Network management may find themselves in far more serious strife than the editors and management of the News of the World.
In South Australia, the concealment of unlawful Killings is a major crime with no Statute of Limitations, i.e. Felony Murder.
Whilst the AFP may have twice refused to investigate these fatalities, the head of SA’s major crime investigation section, Superintendent Grant Moyle, is much more open-minded. When I am ready to file a formal complaint and identify victims (not possible without the informed and willing consent of families) then it will be a case for Superintendent Moyle to deal with. That may mean that Employment Ministers and Welfare Ministers and senior bureaucrats, past and present, could become the focal point for our nation’s largest case of Unlawful Killings.
The files in my computer records, now in backed up in secure off-site storage, mean that such an investigation will inevitably focus upon the role that media played in keeping the Breaching fatalities under wraps and out of the public domain. How well do the actions of the Seven Network and other national media entities fit in with the following statement?
A free and diverse media and communications industry is a fundamental and important part of Australian society. It is our major source of personal communications, information, news, and entertainment. It also allows a public discussion to take place and provides critical examination of the actions of governments, corporations and individuals.
Did the Seven Network allow a critical examination of the previous humanitarian impact of Tony Abbott’s Breaching practices, e.g. 346,078 Breaches issued in just one financial year.?
- Was Tony Abbott called to explain why he had never reported the fatalities triggered by the enforcement of Performance Indicator Targets and why were his “Industrial Manslaughter” comments allowed to go unchallenged by Today-Tonight once Frank Pangalo received a copy of Neil Skill’s letter?
These are but a few of the questions that need to be answered. The Seven Network’s legal team has opted to ignore my requests for negotiation so that the issues did not require “escalation”. It is my hope the ACMA official(s) who reviews this document will ultimately fully appreciate just what “escalation” means and respond appropriately.
For me, “escalation” means that much of the content of this document will be used to form Part 2 of my submission to the Media Convergence Review Panel. Hank Jongen is a Public Servant which means that I can also file a complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman. As a disability pensioner, I can file yet another complaint with the Disability Discrimination Commissioner. If all else fails, I can sue Seven, Hank Jongen and Centrelink for Defamation. TSEV activity is also an issue for scrutiny by the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commision. In the meantime I shall continue to use the Internet to educate 6.8 million welfare recipients. Based on recent feedback, hundreds are now beginning to understand the issues. As the recent riots in Britain emphasize, the way communications technology now works, tomorrow that could suddenly be hundreds of thousands who understand.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the attempted extinction of our nation’s indigenous people was partly justified with the false claim that they were ‘sub-human’ and therefore needed to be eradicated to preserve the purity of the human race. That viewpoint was ideology based propaganda, very similar the current Targeted Socio-Economic Vilification of welfare recipients by the national media. As a social minority group, we are not dole bludging rorters who deserve to be vilified for being unemployed or under-employed.
We are simply people just like you; our unique difference is simply that due to circumstances beyond our control, we have encountered financial adversity.
Assistant Secretary Neil Skill’s Letter.
Why Neil Skill was so candid with his “Centrelink does not collect…” statement is a mystery. Perhaps it was due to the wall of official secrecy surrounding Breaching triggered fatalities which may have prevented him from discovering that these fatalities were a secret? This may have been the case because he was unaware that both the AFP and the Ombudsman’s Office had declined to investigate these fatalities in 2003-04.
One thing is certain; Neil Skill’s letter certainly had an impact with Tony Abbott.
On 17th September 2010, Tony Abbott was interviewed on the ABC’s AM program. During the interview he made yet another call for a judicial inquiry into the Roofgate disaster. My response was to email a copy of Neil Skill’s letter to Mr. Abbott’s office pointing out that such an inquiry would open the door to a broadening of the inquiry to look into the unreported Breaching triggered fatalities. Since that time Mr. Abbott appears to have decided that an inquiry into Roofgate is no longer necessary for he no longer makes calls for a judicial inquiry.
As a welfare recipient, I have legal and civil rights which are constantly under challenge. When both a major national broadcaster and public servants join forces to present a one sided view of the issue of rorting in the national welfare system, it is a gross violation of Natural Justice and the principle of a Fair go.. Such activities must be challenged and confronted in the strongest possible manner and in as many ways as possible. A strong letter of protest about this activity was made to the Prime Minister. Her response came via the Attorney-General’s office and it is manifestly obvious that this office was unaware of the Seven Network’s response, i.e. the “…impartiality is not a requirement for current affairs segments under the Code” try on.
The official response from both the Seven Network and the Federal Government has cleared the way for my “If all else fails” option, i.e. jointly and severally suing both the Federal Government and the Seven Network for Defamation. That is most definitely an option of last resort and it is my hope that this and several parallel complaints to other agencies will ensure that Targeted Socio-Economic Vilification, like racial or religious vilification, becomes an unlawful act.