Senate Secrets #9: “Harry”; A real-life case study of Centrelink’s 6 Week Rule scam.

“Centrelink does not collect ‘Post Breaching Terminal Outcome Statistics’ and is therefore unable to assist with your request for this information.”

And the other information that Centrelink does not reveal is that if they overpay you due to THEIR error, you DO NOT have to repay them. This scam may have been in place for 20 years and means that welfare recipients may have been conned into paying literally billions of dollars that did not have to be repaid.

If you have received a letter from Centrelink demanding repayment of overpayments (A Letter of Demand), then you need to read this blog VERY carefully, especially the email from Senator Siewert, which pulls the plug on some of the lies used to coerce welfare recipients into paying back money that does not have to be repaid!

A REAL-LIFE CASE STUDY – HARRY.

The name “Harry” is an alias to protect the real victim, but the facts including the email to Senator Siewert and her emailed response are genuine. They are set out below:

NOTE: I list my email to Senator Rachel Siewert as Grave Digger Document#26 because it is not being reported in Parliament. Senator Siewert’s response is therefore Grave Digger Document #27 for the same reason.

Grave Digger Document#26 – An email to Senator Siewert.

23rd August 2012 – “Harry”:- A case study in systemic fraud.

 “Harry” is an alias that I am using as the victim does not wish to be identified at this stage because he is genuinely concerned that by protesting, he will be deliberately targeted by Centrelink.

 BACKGROUND DETAILS.

 An aged pension who received both a Centrelink pension and a small pension from the British government, a couple of years ago Harry received a letter advising him that his British Government pension would be increased.

  1. 1.     In accordance with his obligations, Harry took this letter to his local Centrelink office and showed it to the customer service officer (CSO) who interviewed him. 
  2. 2.     The CSO entered this information in the Centrelink customer database and Harry’s pension payment from Centrelink was altered to reflect the information provided in the British Government’s letter of notification.
  3. 3.     Fast forward a year and Harry gets a letter of notification from Centrelink advising him that he has been overpaid and that his pension will be reduced by $75 per fortnight until such time as the (alleged) debt has been repaid.
  4. 4.     The letter of notification made no mention of the 6 Week Rule found in paragraph 1,237A of the act and when Harry tentatively raised this rule with a CSO during an interview to discuss this letter, the CSO immediately called in a supervisor who informed Harry that he would have to legally challenge Centrelink’s claim and that in the meantime Centrelink would make ‘strenuous efforts’ to recover the debt!

 What clearly happened is that Centrelink made a mistake and then attempted to recover the over-payments by ignoring the 6 Week Rule and when Harry raised his legal rights in this matter, he was deliberately intimidated and bullied into backing down.

 As you are fully aware, the misuse of lawful authority for unlawful purposes is Malfeasance. Unfortunately, the malfeasance did not end there. Recognizing that harry was unable to cope with a $75 reduction in his pension, the Centrelink staff ‘agreed to allow’ Harry to repay the debt at $20 per fortnight.

  1. 1.     What they did not tell Harry was that it was the policy of the Gillard Government to recover over-payments by reducing payments by 15% and that the ’agreed’  $20 per fortnight repayment would be for a brief period only.
  2. 2.     Harry has since received several letter from Centrelink demanding that he agree to repayments of  $75 per fortnight.
  3. 3.     It just so happens that Harry is a member of my extended family and knowing of social justice activities he asked me for my advice.

 My advice was to email him a copy of the information that you had provided me with, i.e. the 6 Week Rule as set out paragraph 1,237A of the act. Having provided me with that information, I am sure that you will find Centrelink’s response to be ‘interesting’ and that you will understand why I am now seeking further clarification of that information.

 Harry carefully evaluated the information that you had provided to me and then wrote to Centrelink outlining his views on the matter. Yesterday Harry spoke with me at length about Centrelink’s response which I would like you to consider very carefully and then provide me with an informed response that I can pass on to Harry.

 According to the Centrelink official who phoned Harry in response to his letter:

 1.     Paragraph 1,237A is not statute law;

  1. 2.     The rules are constantly changing;
  2. 3.     The situation regarding (the rights of welfare recipients who have received over-payments) “is grey” , confusing and unclear;
  3. 4.     Since Harry’s error was caused by “an overseas payment” it is not covered by the 6 Week Rule because of some of the above mentioned “changes”.
  4. 5.     Harry was the ‘advised’ that Centrelink may have made “other errors” with his repayments; the implication be that if he continued to press his rights under the 6 Week Rule then Centrelink would review

 Correct me if I am wrong but it seems to me that the excuses/reasons offered by the Centrelink official for not waiving the over-payments made by Centrelink are:

 (a)  Spurious;

(b) Facecious;

(c)  Deliberately misleading;

(d) The implied threat to ‘review’ previous pension payments was a deliberate, malfeasant act of intimidation that was intended to actively discourage Harry from pursuing his legal rights, i.e. it was yet another case of misusing lawful authority for the express purpose of intimidating Harry into making repayments that lawfully he was not required to make.

 (NOTE: Centrelink records these telephone conversations and so it is empirical evidence of criminal activity. However, if requested to provide this recording, I would expect Centrelink officials to claim that this specific conversation was not recorded!)

 Prompt Clarification Is Requested:

 (a)  Is paragraph 1,237A merely a Centrelink administrative guideline or is it actually statute law?

(b) If it is statute law, what is the precise name of the current statute law and what date did it come into force?

(c)  If it is statute law, is the text of paragraph 1,237A in your email (see below) still current or has it been amended since you emailed this information to me?

(d) Is the claim that errors made by Centrelink that are solely due to income from overseas sources is exempt from the 6 Week rule TRUE or FALSE?

 It seems to me that any error by Centrelink that stems from any income accurately reported to Centrelink by a welfare recipient, regardless of its source, (local or overseas) is covered by the 6 Week Rule and therefore the information given to Harry is therefore deliberately misleading.

Grave Digger Document#27SENATOR SIEWERT’S EMAILED RESPONSE IS SET OUT BELOW AND IT INCLUDES TYHE CURRENT COPY OF THE 6 WEEK RULE AND A URL HYPERLINK TO THE LEGISLATION:

Dear Ronald,

Thank you for your email. I have outlined a response below as I understand it to your emails regarding Section 1237A of the Social Security Act 1991.

 a)Is paragraph 1,237A merely a Centrelink administrative guideline or is it actually statute law?

Section 1237A is part of the Social Security Act 1991.

The full text of the act can be downloaded here: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2012C00556/Download

Section 1237A can be found in volume 3, page 604.

b)If it is Statute law, what is the precise name of the current statute law and what date did it come into force?

Society Security Act 1991. The most current version of the Act started on the 27 May 2012.

All previous superseded versions of the act can be found here:

http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Series/C2004A04121

 c)If it is Statute law, is the text of paragraph 1,237A (sent in your email) still current or has it been amended since you emailed this information to me?

The text of section 1237A has not altered since my last email to you:

I have included the current text for your information:

1237A Waiver of debt arising from error

Administrative error

(1) Subject to subsection (1A), the Secretary must waive the right to recover the proportion of a debt that is attributable solely to an administrative error made by the Commonwealth if the debtor received in good faith the payment or payments that gave rise to that proportion of the debt.

Note: Subsection (1) does not allow waiver of a part of a debt that was caused partly by administrative error and partly by one or more other factors (such as error by the debtor).

(1A) Subsection (1) only applies if:

(a) the debt is not raised within a period of 6 weeks from the first payment that caused the debt; or

(b) if the debt arose because a person has complied with a notification obligation, the debt is not raised within a period of 6 weeks from the end of the notification period;

whichever is the later.

Underestimating value of property

(2) If:

(a) a debt arose because the debtor or the debtor‘s partner underestimated the value of particular property of the debtor or partner; and

(b) the estimate was made in good faith; and

(c) the value of the property was not able to be easily determined when the estimate was made;

the Secretary must waive the right to recover the proportion of the debt attributable to the underestimate.

Proportion of a debt

(3) For the purposes of this section, a proportion of a debt may be 100% of the debt.

Text of section 1237A can be found here:

http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2012C00556/Download

d)Is the claim that errors made by Centrelink, that are solely due to income form overseas sources are exempt from the 6 week rule true or false?

My office has spoken to Centrelink about the rule in relation to overseas sources of income and they have said very clearly that if a payment is made under the Social Security Act (as for example pensions are, other payments such as parenting etc may be under the family law act) there can be no discrimination. Therefore whether the additional monetary sources come from within Australian or from overseas, 1237A still applies.

In addition, for your information you can find guidelines on interpreting Australian Social Security Law (in relation to waiver of debt arising from error) here: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2012C00556/Download

I hope this adequately addresses your questions.

Yours Sincerely,

Rachel Siewert

Australian Greens’ Senator for WA

DO NOT BE CONNED BY CENTRELINK IF YOU RECEIVE A DEMAND FOR OVERPAYMENTS THAT WERE 100% CENTRELINK’S FAULT.

  1. Copy and paste both my email and Senator Siewert’s response into a letter and tell Centrelink “I intend to fight this”.
  2. Why say that?
  3. Because one person that I recently provided with a a copy of the 6 Week Rule gave it Centrelink and they backed down because what thay were trying to is a con job.
  4. Fight and they have to uphold the law or risk a criminal investigation.

So, if you are 100% in the right, stand up for your legal rights.

On-line survey: I am conducting a survey to see what people know about the 6 Week Rule and post breaching fatalities and ask that you spend a minute or so completing this short survey which you can link to by holding down the Ctrl key when clinking the mouse button on the following hyper-link.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5GNTSMW

Thankyou for reading this blog. If you want to pass it it on to friends the short form hyperlink to email to them is:   http://wp.me/p1n8TZ-5E

Ron Medlicott (Christian advocate of welfare justice.)

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2 Responses to Senate Secrets #9: “Harry”; A real-life case study of Centrelink’s 6 Week Rule scam.

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