Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
Illustration: Cathy WilcoxCredit:
Government needs to ‘fess up’ to misconduct
The settlement of one of the largest class action lawsuits by Gordon Legal against the federal government’s unlawful automated debt raising scheme, is a sweet victory for the powerless people targeted. But this should not be the end of the story, but rather the beginning. It’s time for the government to ‘‘fess up’’ to its misconduct (‘‘Robo-debt victims seek probe after $1.2b case’’, 17/11).
Indeed, as Labor’s government services spokesman Bill Shorten asserts, the government is ‘‘dreaming’’ if it thinks that the call for a royal commission will die down post the 11th-hour settlement.
Because the Coalition government’s array of ministers who held the Social Services portfolio need to be held accountable for failing to cease an inherently flawed income-averaging debt-raising system that was wholly inhumane.
John Fitzsimmons, Mornington
Not much for all the anxiety and misery
The federal government must pay ‘‘$112 million in compensation, interest and legal costs to up to 430,000 people affected by the robo-debt scheme. That works out to an average of about $260 a person. Having regard to the anxiety and misery wrought by the scheme, it doesn’t seem much. Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills
Government attitude is typical
The federal government’s refusal to accept any liability as part of the settlement on the robo-debt scheme is typical of its attitude to matters of importance to the community. The out-take from this scheme was devastating to so many people, some of whom took their own lives.
Certainly the government has agreed to pay compensation, interest and legal costs to people who were affected. It has also agreed to drop $398 million in alleged extra debts and reiterated its commitment to repay an estimated $721 million taken in through the program. These agreements have still to be approved by the court.
The government says it will not accept any liability – so where does the buck stop? Victims of the unlawful scheme have demanded ministers and top officials face a royal commission grilling over what they knew of the scheme’s failures. If it’s not the government’s fault, whose fault is it?
Brian Morley, Donvale
Royal commission only way to ensure accountability
The Morrison government knows no shame. Despite agreeing to $1.2billion compensation for victims of the robo-debt class-action, Government Services Minister Stuart Robert says income averaging has been a ‘‘standard practice of debt collection … going back to Hawke and Keating’’. What hogwash. The government’s own internal advice was the method was a ‘‘long-standing practice’’, but had been used by Labor only as a ‘‘last resort’’, Centrelink staff instructed to first seek evidence. That changed in 2015, when the Abbott government issued some 20,000 debt notices a week compared to 20,000 a year previously, the onus of proof on welfare recipients to prove their innocence. Australians should be enraged at this discredited life-changing scheme aimed at the most vulnerable. A royal commission is the only way to ensure accountability.
Neil Hudson, East Melbourne
No pretence of responsibility
$1.2 billion of taxpayers’ money down the plughole due to government incompetence. No apology and no accountability for anyone in the Morrison government. Becoming a very familiar line from this mob. I wonder why they bother even pretending they are responsible for anything.
Ross Hudson, Mount Martha
Morally bankrupt government attacks its own
The robo-debt scandal would have to be the greatest attack by a government on its own people in the history of our country. It ranks with the evil treatment of refugees and asylum seekers that is still going on in our name. This is the most morally bankrupt government our country has had the misfortune to elect. We must be rid of them at the earliest opportunity.
Hans Paas, Castlemaine
Support peer support
I agree with the Prime Minister that mental health reform goes beyond the health system. As a man with bipolar affective disorder and several hospitalisations under my belt, I can tell you that often the mental health system only becomes involved when it is too late. Too late for relationships to be saved, and too late for one’s lifestyle to remain intact.
What we need is a community-based preventative system. Specialised mental health community centres would go a long way towards keeping people connected and out of a system that costs taxpayers millions. The peer support model adopted in certain areas of the US has proved effective at doing just this.
I call upon the government to invest in peer support, which apart from saving lives will provide employment for people with mental health difficulties who have managed to get their lives back on track. Together we can support our most vulnerable.
Michael Puck, Maffra
I welcome the state government’s announcement to expand the supply of social housing in Victoria. It is long overdue and ignored by successive governments of both colours. However, in one designated area for development (Dunlop Avenue, Ascot Vale), the government has just completed the demolition of a large number of public houses, despite opposition from the community.
Hopefully the loss of this housing has been deducted from the stated number of new homes to be built, and that those tenants who lost their homes in Ascot Vale will be given first priority.
Denise Chadwick, Soldiers Hill
Rail proof needed
As a retired transport planning engineer, I was surprised at Daniel Andrews’ latest announcement that work will start on the Cheltenham to Box Hill section of the proposed circumferential rail project next year. There has been no public consultation on this project, no environmental and social impact assessment and no business case (it’s our money … we need proof that the project is worthwhile).
Other projects such as the airport rail link and an east-west tunnel between Fishermans Bend and Clifton Hill would provide much needed capacity to ensure the existing rail network is well placed to serve us into the future. Yes, the circumferential rail project may be worthwhile in the long term but it needs to be proved first.
Bob Evans, Glen Iris
Station too far away
I like the idea of the Suburban Rail Loop, that when built will connect all the spokes of the current rail network. I understand that compulsory acquisitions will have to occur to make way for the new stations. However, I am perplexed at the location of the Monash University station. Why is it being built so far from the centre of the university complex? Surely there is enough car park space close to Wellington Road that could be utilised for the station and so provide better access to the university campus.
Anthony Batten, Mitcham
Not all can wear a mask
Like many in Melbourne I’ve been aching to have a break in the country. I’ve finally arrived and yet as someone with a medical condition which prevents me from wearing a mask for long periods of time, I can tell the locals are silently freaking out. It wouldn’t surprise me that they think I’m probably a conspiracy theorist, desperate to shake off the shackles of an authoritarian government and ditch my mask in defiance. Instead, I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb and I’m on edge just waiting to be reminded about mandatory mask wearing.
Before you assume the worst, have a think about those of us who can’t wear one and what that might feel like. Trust me that I know the rules and please have some compassion.
Cecilia Godwin, Berwick
The cult of Trump
Is Trump a cult? There is all the merch – the clothes, caps, flags, banners etc. There is the hero worship. Posters of Trump as superman; Trump with an assault weapon. There is the blind faith – this man can do no wrong. There is the belief in every word, every tweet. There are the rallies where informative truth is supplanted by buffoonery and entertainment. There is the mythology of dominance and success; of exercising power for popular purpose.
Is it any wonder that his base refuses to believe he lost and he continues to weaponise their faith to undermine those who oppose him – and in this case those who have defeated him. Democracy may not be a lost cause but truth and reason have a serious job ahead of them.
Tony Newport, Hillwood, Tas.
The Proud Boys on the streets of Washington DC for Donald Trump are neo-Nazis who resemble Hitler’s stormtroopers active across German cities in the 1930s. He should direct them and similar groups to disperse in the context of Joe Biden’s election win. In the absence of this Scott Morrison and other allies should demand this of him for peace and security in the US and globally.
Tony Delaney, Warrnambool
Policy at the margin
AGL announced this week that it will build a new 1000 MWh battery in South Australia, almost eight times larger than the original Big Battery that has been operating successfully at Hornsdale since 2017. At the time, Scott Morrison compared the Hornsdale battery to the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, stating ‘‘it is so at the margin it barely is worthy of a mention’’.
Mr Morrison could not be more wrong. His government seems determined to make a further huge error in propping up the gas industry.
Andrew Rothfield, Northcote
Keep it simple
LNP strategy for fund-raising while in government. Step 1. Buy land at an inflated price from LNP supporters. Step 2. Encourage said supporters to donate money to the LNP re-election fund. Step 3. Tough it out saying ‘‘nothing to see here’’. Quite simple really.
Michael Brinkman, Ventnor
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe (‘‘We need risk-takers, says RBA’’, 17/11) wants businesses and consumers to take more risks to help us get out of our recession. I seem to remember the banking royal commission was castigating banks and superannuation institutions for taking too many risks in search of increasing profits to the detriment of consumers. Looks like we are going to reboard the risk and debt train that was put in a siding after that royal commission.
Alan Inchley, Frankston
Elizabeth Knight’s op-ed (‘‘Corporate Australia has not grown a spine, it’s just risk averse’’, 16/11) reminds me of a 2012 legal case where the Iowa State Supreme Court ruled that a dentist was within his legal rights to fire his dental assistant due to his attraction to her and his desire to preserve his marriage.
Likewise, given that company boards are mainly composed of heterosexual males, will we now see board risk committees recommending that new executive assistants hired preferably be male in order to reduce their risk profile?
Walter Lee, Ashfield, NSW
I can’t understand how in a free market economy such as ours where ‘‘the market decides’’ there is trouble getting people to pick fruit and vegies. The shortage of workers is meant to drive up wages attracting people to that job. Anyone who has done that type of work knows it’s hard and the wages aren’t all that attractive. So theoretically wages should increase but for some reason this doesn’t happen. And now the supply of cheap overseas labour is gone we have a problem. Perhaps an apple is worth more than we think but someone is keeping the prices down. The economy would get an inflationary boost the Reserve Bank is looking for and people would get a decent wage. And the farmers would get their fruit picked.
Garry Bruce, Greta West
The spread of COVID-19 in South Australia is another reminder of how insidious this virus is. It’s too easy for a worker in a quarantine-hotel to become infected, then transmit the virus to others. The only way to stop new cases emerging from returning travellers is to refuse entry to Australia for all travellers. For obvious reasons, this is not a practical solution.
The federal government is charged with Australia’s border security, yet it has abrogated its responsibilities and subcontracted quarantine to the states and territories to manage. The coronavirus will be with us for years. The federal government must act now to build fit-for-purpose facilities and take full responsibility for the management of quarantine for returning travellers. The safety of our nation is far too important for the government’s laissez-faire attitude to continue.
Sue Bennett, Sunbury
Death and danger
As a veteran of two wars, I can say when a person has returned from war they do not understand the world they return to and the world does not understand them. Many feel like refugees in their own country. Many have seen horrific sights and heard the screams of the wounded and dying that give them anxiety, bad dreams and post-traumatic stress disorder that they never get over. Those who don’t sign up, thereby leaving the death and danger to others, can only ponder the lucky life they have.
War means many parents never get to see their children again, or the loss of partners and loved ones. Yes, in action bad things and unnecessary killing do occur even to those on the same side, yet I feel the soldier, sailor and airman trained to kill and obey orders are not to blame; it is the government that sends them.
Bruce Hambour, North Haven, SA
AND ANOTHER THING …
$112 million is equivalent to tens of thousands of Cartier watches – anyone lost their job yet?
Malcolm I. Fraser, Oakleigh South
Of course robo-debt did no harm, robo-debt did no harm, robo-debt did no harm …
Ralph Tabor, Pakenham
The real question about robo-debt is ‘‘what pack of incompetents thought it was a good idea in the first place?’’.
PJ (Peter) Bear, Mitcham
Robo-debt went well, didn’t it! What’s the government’s next bright idea?
Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick
Robo-debt scheme? Sports rorts? Land for an airport at millions more than value? Questionable deals for water rights? And who says, they’re good with money?
Peter Hourigan, Brunswick West
Victoria nil v other states 25 – time to change the key to the other side of our border gates.
Roger Makin, Olinda
We will know COVID-19 is beaten, when sport returns to the back page.
George Reed, Wheelers Hill
In recognition of our success with COVID-19 and the boost to public housing, appropriate new number plates: Victoria the safe haven.
Edward Combes, Wheelers Hill
What will be the sage megaphone critiques of Michael O’Brien and Tim Smith on who should take responsibility and be sacked within the South Australian Liberal Party for the COVID-19 outbreak there?
Paul Miller, Box Hill South
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump plays golf while America gets infected.
David Francis, Ocean Grove
Scotty from marketing has his flag badge and now his matching flag mask. What next? Perhaps a Goodies-style flag waistcoat.
John Bye, Elwood
Even a face mask can be reduced to marketing.
Richard Opat, Elsternwick
The Age’s editor, Gay Alcorn, writes an exclusive newsletter for subscribers on the week’s most important stories and issues. Sign up here to receive it every Friday.
Most Viewed in National
Source: Read Full Article