Frydenberg declares tax package must be passed 'in its entirety'

The government’s tax relief package is shaping up as the first test of incoming opposition leader Anthony Albanese, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg declaring on Friday it must be supported &ldquo...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Why Boris Johnson would be a mistake to succeed Theresa May

Boris Johnson is one of the leading candidates to succeed Theresa May as prime minster. He has none of the required qualities to make a success of Brexit.Andy Rain/EPALike Avengers: Endgame we all kne...

Ben Wellings, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Monash University - avatar Ben Wellings, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Monash University

Uber drivers' experience highlights the dead-end job prospects facing more Australian workers

Being an Uber driver doesn’t seem like a great job. Conditions aren’t great and the rate of pay, already typically less than the minimum wage, is declining. So why do Uber drivers keep dri...

Peter "PJ" Holtum, Postdoctoral research fellow, The University of Queensland - avatar Peter "PJ" Holtum, Postdoctoral research fellow, The University of Queensland

What caused the fireballs that lit up the sky over Australia?

One of the fireballs (highlighted by the red circle) captured over the Northern Territory.NT Emergency ServicesOver the past few days a pair of spectacular fireballs have graced Australia’s skie...

Jonti Horner, Professor (Astrophysics), University of Southern Queensland - avatar Jonti Horner, Professor (Astrophysics), University of Southern Queensland

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on Morrison's miracle election win - and Labor's leadership search

University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor Geoff Crisp speaks with Michelle Grattan about the week in politics. They discuss the Coalition’s shock victory and the contradicting polls and pre...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

How I discovered the Dalveen Blue Box, a rare eucalypt species with a sweet, fruity smell

Tim Collins classifying a new species of eucalyptus tree, Eucalytus dalveenica, March 2019. University of New England, Author provided (No reuse)Sign up to the Beating Around the Bush newsletter here...

Tim Collins, PhD candidate , University of New England - avatar Tim Collins, PhD candidate , University of New England

As the dust of the election settles, Australia's wildlife still needs a pathway for recovery

The Darling River near Louth NSW, April 2019, in the midst of a drought compounded by upstream irrigation policies.Jaana Dielenberg, Author providedThe environment was a keyconcern in the recent feder...

Rachel Morgain, Knowledge Broker, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University - avatar Rachel Morgain, Knowledge Broker, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University

The long and complicated history of Aboriginal involvement in football

Over the next two weekends, the Australian Football League celebrates the contribution of Indigenous peoples to the history of the game. At the same time, a new documentary will show how one of the mo...

Roy Hay, Honorary Fellow, Deakin University - avatar Roy Hay, Honorary Fellow, Deakin University

Curious Kids: why are there waves?

Nina Maile Gordon/The Conversation, CC BY-NC-NDCurious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au You mig...

Mark Hemer, Senior Research Scientist, Oceans and Atmosphere, CSIRO - avatar Mark Hemer, Senior Research Scientist, Oceans and Atmosphere, CSIRO

Rapid water quality tests better protect beachgoers

Fast tests can help keep people out of the water when it's unsafe, and let them back in sooner once the coast is clear.Paul Fisher, CC BY-NDPlanning a trip to the beach? Along with looking forward to ...

Rachel Noble, Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - avatar Rachel Noble, Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Doping soldiers so they fight better – is it ethical?

A waxwork of Captain America on display at Madame Tussauds in Bangkok, Thailand. Nuamfolio/Shutterstock.comThe military is constantly using technology to build better ships, warplanes, guns and armor...

Maxwell Mehlman, Professor of Biomedical Ethics, Case Western Reserve University - avatar Maxwell Mehlman, Professor of Biomedical Ethics, Case Western Reserve University

Frydenberg declares tax package must be passed 'in its entirety'

The government’s tax relief package is shaping up as the first test of incoming opposition leader Anthony Albanese, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg declaring on Friday it must be supported &ldquo...

The Conversation - avatar The Conversation

Most Used Tips On How To Choose The Best Steak

The steak. Almost a staple in our diets. However, not all steaks are created equal, there are those delicious steaks, and then there are the godly tasting steaks. Knowing the subtle differences can me...

News Company - avatar News Company

Water stays in the pipes longer in shrinking cities – a challenge for public health

How long has that water already been in the system?mike.irwin/Shutterstock.comThe geographic locations where Americans live are shifting in ways that can negatively affect the quality of their drinkin...

Nancy Love, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan - avatar Nancy Love, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan

Campaign promises can seem like so much noise and distraction; this morning’s announcement replaced by another by the afternoon and forgotten before bedtime. But as the “robo-debt” saga showed, such announcements can have devastating consequences if not properly scrutinised, once the election rush has passed.

In December 2015 in the lead up to the mid-2016 election the Coalition announced a “crack-down” on welfare overpayments, to be brought about by matching taxation data with Centrelink records.

In the leadup to the election Scott Morrision, then social security minister, spoke of it as a “more bespoke way of dealing with people’s arrangements”. It would “cut red tape, and ensure that mistakes are minimised”.

It began as a promise

Data matching had long been used, but only to identify possible overpayments. Centrelink staff then verified and properly calculated any such debts, using its powers to compel banks or employers to provide precise fortnightly earnings records if the person hadn’t kept them.

The new scheme “automated” that key stage.

Instead of finding out what a person actually earned each fortnight so their rate of social security could accurately be worked out, it robotically apportioned to each fortnight the annual employment income reported to the tax office. Each fortnight the person receiving benefits was said to have earned form employment one 26th of what they had earned over the year, making it look as if they had been working all year even if they had not.

Debts were asserted and put in the hands of debt collectors unless the person could produce pay-slips or other fortnightly earnings records, often from as far back as 2010. The Centrelink website had only advised people to keep records dating back six months.

Government oversight was weak

The scheme was to begin on July 1, 2016, which as it happens was the day before the election. The election victory was narrow, and for a while uncertain, meaning the bureaucracy was left with more responsibility than usual for making sure it was delivered as promised.

And as events transpired, it proved to be unable to design a scheme that completely met the tests of being lawful (it reversed the onus of proof on the esistance of debts), accurate (the bulk of its assessments were either totally false or grossly inflated ), meeting the integrity standards expected of government (hiding from public scrutiny details about appeals that overturned its decisions), or meeting the pub test of morality.

It frankly beggars belief that standards of government implementation could fall so far and so low.

And Centrelink staff must have known it

It cannot possibly have been unknown within government that it was legally impossible to reverse the onus of proof of establishing a debt. The legislative provision was crystal clear that debts can be raised “if and only if” the law creates it as a debt.

Even the lowest-level employee within Centrelink knew that most people on benefits had several different jobs, of varying durations and hours with erratic and fluctuating earnings and that the law required the person’s rate to be determined every fortnight, not on the basis of some extrapolated “average” over a year.

Hardly anyone could not know that basic maths tells us that an “average” never speaks to its constituent parts unless a person has a single job at an unchanged pay rate.

Read more: What 1,100 Australians told us about the experience of living with debt they can't repay

And every senior bureaucrat ought to have understood their obligation to behave as a “model litigant”, which includes not continuing to raise debts that regularly overturned as illegal on appeal, and not to “hide” those decisions by never once challenging them by appealing to the next level where decisions would become public, or reportedly seek to “settle” a Federal Court challenge to the process rather than have it come to a public hearing.

All of these things were part and parcel of this botched implementation.

Bull-headedly, government continued with it 18 months after it became clear several things were wrong.

Promises have consequences

The economic cost to citizens of a program which effectively uses the might of the state to frighten them into paying up what the Ombudsman’s report found to mainly be non-existent or highly inflated “debts”, is now estimated as A$3.7 billion over the budget estimates.

The cost to the government’s reputation for integrity is incalculable, because the irony is that automation is the way of the future, and competently designed and implemented it can benefit social security clients and the public.

Elections are a time when not only the promises but also the professionalism and integrity of their implementation are on public display. If you don’t take note, you might end up getting something that looks appealing (such as a “crackdown” on welfare fraud) but ends up targeting you in a way that is illegal or immoral. You might even have voted for it.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/danger-election-2016-delivered-us-robodebt-promises-can-have-consequences-117191