Australian Lawyers for Human Rights has launched a scathing attack on the gov and Centrelink over the illegality of Centrelinks robo debt fiasco. In calling on the minister to immediately stop the system, they demand that all moneys incorrectly paid to Centrelink be returned with interest.
Perhaps an even more serious matter is that they say the Robo debt letters are not only illegal but a breach of the human rights of those being extorted by Centrelink, under Australia's obligations to international law. They cite in the press release a number of human rights breaches under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in doing so.
I note that not all of the people getting these robo debt letters are pensioners with nothing. Some have graduated from their schooling and are now professional people. Likely even lawyers and the like. Not the sort of people that would turn up to Centrelink in need of money to eat.
I think "clusterfuck" is starting to sound a bit kind with all this. How could even an inept gov come up with something so outrageously illegal and such a breach of Australian's human rights? It's laughable that they would ever attempt to treat corporate's like this, so why us? Why do they think they can get away with treating the poor illegally when they know it wouldn't fly with the well off?
The whole thing just seems to be an exercise in disrespect, contempt, and derision of the poor and unfortunate. With no regard to the law or our rights. We just shouldn't be treated like this.
BTW a Change.org petition to Turnbull here telling him to stop the robo debts.
This from the ALHR:
The current attacks upon past and present pension payment recipients by Centrelink and the Minister for Social Services are “wrong at so many legal levels that it’s hard to know where to begin,”, ALHR President Benedict Coyne said.Follow the link for the rest.
“At the most basic level, no entity should be issuing legal demands for money unless they are absolutely certain the money is owed and can substantiate this in court. It is for the creditor to prove any debt. It is also up to the creditor to ensure the alleged debtor receives the repayment demand. It is entirely wrong for Centrelink to put alleged debts in the hands of debt recovery agents when the debts are not proved and/or the alleged debtor never received the original claim, or to claim interest or process fees on money that is very probably not owing at all.”
“The whole procedure is quite unethical and a complete abuse of legal process,” he said
“In this case it appears clear from numerous reports that the computer software the Minister is relying on is flawed. Legally, it is for Centrelink as purported creditor to substantiate its calculations, not for individuals as alleged debtors to prove that Centrelink is wrong. But of course Centrelink threatens to cut off recipients if they don’t pay, putting them in a terrifying situation. This could well be described as ‘demanding money with menaces.’”
“It is also clear that Centrelink has made minimal efforts either to check its calculations, despite having the ability to cross check information with Tax Office records, or to track down current addresses of alleged debtors.”
“The situation is even worse in that Centrelink is targeting individuals with minimal resources who may be in particularly vulnerable situations, including asylum seekers and people with disabilities. According to a recent news article, asylum seekers have been reminded in their debt notices that ‘an outstanding debt to the commonwealth can affect future visa grants and/or re-entry into Australia.’ The repercussions, therefore, could be dire.”
Further, Centrelink is refusing to provide any means by which individuals or their solicitors can readily contact a human being at Centrelink to do what Centrelink is [wrongly] demanding, which is to prove that the individuals don’t owe the money being claimed.
This refusal on the part of Centrelink to facilitate normal methods of contact enormously exacerbates the emotional stress of those targetted and again indicates unethical behaviour and an abuse of process.”
“ALHR believes that the behaviour of Centrelink and the Social Services Minister involves numerous breaches of the human rights of those being targeted for alleged debts, contrary to Australia’s international law obligations. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the following rights are being breached: Australian Lawyers for Human Rights