Best to examine what Robodebt is before challenging the apologist orthodoxy that has emerged to excuse Labor’s role in its creation.
“The Robodebt scheme, formally Online Compliance Intervention (OCI), was an unlawful method of automated debt assessment and recovery employed by Services Australia as part of its Centrelink payment compliance program.On 29 May 2020, the Morrison Government announced that it would scrap the debt recovery scheme, with 470,000 wrongly-issued debts to be repaid in full. Initially the total sum of the repayments was estimated to be A$721 million, however in November 2020 this figure expanded to A$1.2 billion after the Australian government settled a class action lawsuit before it could go to trial.In June 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated during Question Time that “I would apologise for any hurt or harm in the way that the Government has dealt with that issue and to anyone else who has found themselves in those situations”, however the government has not yet offered a formal apology.” – Robodebt scheme – Wikipedia
The Labor argument / defence – is that the Coalition’s decision to remove human oversight and move to a fully automated system in 2016 caused the resultant hardship and linked deaths
As you can see below, calling it a “rote” defence argument isn’t hyperbole.
It’s a legalistic-type argument, that creates a convenient cut-off point, whereby Labor’s role in Robodebt is excised at the point “machines” take over.
“Before the Eden-Monaro by-election, Labor announced our policy that, should we win government, we’ll have a royal commission into how robodebt came to be so that these mistakes can never be repeated.Even after robodebt, Labor has been required to be the sensible interlocutor on behalf of the Australian people. And with this bill it is Labor – and I acknowledge my own office and the office of the shadow Attorney-General – who have interceded to remove its most dangerous tendencies and have introduced several much-needed legislative safety rails.” – Bill (Defender of the Poors) Shorten – Data Availability and Transparency Bill 2020, Data Availability and Transparency (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020; Second Reading
I’ll even expand the stock Labor argument
“However, from July 2016, the automated system meant that a computer generated and sent debt collection letters requesting further details from recipients. Before the robodebt system began in 2016, there was an average of 20,000 interventions per year; with the introduction of the robodebt system, this number increased to 20,000 interventions per week.
There have been calls to halt the automated system since December 2016, due to the number of errors and misjudgements found within, and by, the system.” – What is robodebt? –Crikey–Hannah Kingston
The LNP were aware of the errors and the hardships they caused – unto suicide – but did nothing. Morrison must take the brunt of the blame for the misery caused tens of thousands of already financially vulnerable people to satisfy his ideological hatred for the “taxnots”.
I believe the gentle reader will concede I’ve given the Labor stance on Robodebt a fair hearing.
Obviously I don’t have a problem with their rote argument as far as the LNP’s role is concerned, it’s the exclusion of any culpability for the Labor party that leaves me cold. We’ll get to that, but first let’s do some of that big picture stuff to contextualise it.
Thanks to Labor, people at an age when employers don’t want to hire them get another two years of being treated like dirt by parasiticJob Service Providersrun byLNP mates.
This means elderly people, often worn out and carrying injuries from repetitive manual labour over decades, are forced to carry on because a Labor government saw an easier saving in their increased hardship, than in taking on the tax-dodging, wage-stealing corporations that exploit workers.
In all fairness, it’s probably a big ask to expect Labor politicians to cause problems for their future employers.
These long-time servants of the Labor Party, buffered by their generous pensions and super payouts, don’t look too beaten down by the hard toil that is the lot of the working class. I must say, it’s surprisingly gracious of capitalist corporations to employ their class enemies.
More of our comrades can be found working in Defence, Liquor & Gambling, etc… here.
Labor forced single parents onto Newstart
You can see why our future Prime Minister is leading the Labor mediocracy, as he staunchly defends the oppression of sole parents.
“Mr Albanese said there was a public debate about whether the dole level was sufficient.
“That’s an issue the government will consider in the context of our budget considerations,” Mr Albanese said.
In 2011 under the Gillard Labor government, changes to the parenting payment placed already vulnerable people into further poverty.
Greens family and community service spokeswoman Rachel Siewert, who requested the analysis (which found a “saving” of $5,000,000,000 over the last 13 years) said, the budget savings had come from those least able to pay.”
“That’s come off the backs of single parents and their children and it’s no wonder we’ve seen a spike in single parents and their children living in poverty,”Senator Siewert said. “Quite frankly it breaks my heart.”
The chief executive of the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children, Terese Edwards said, “The changes had made the poorest families poorer.”
“There was no modelling done regarding the impact, it was all based on belief, ideology and budget savings,” Ms Edwards said. “It just threw women into turmoil, things that were standard – heating in the cold, cooling in the heat, having enough food – basic household utilities became a cost-saving measure for women.”
“It’s a nonsensical horror policy that should be fixed.”
Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said, “the figures don’t count all the ways payments have been cut to single parents.” Ms Goldie said, “it was appalling that one third of single parent families in Australia live in poverty.” – Forcing single parents on to Newstart has saved budget $5b, but increased poverty – The Canberra Times – Sally Whyte
You’ve got to wonder what the cost to society was in terms of mental and physical health, criminal proceedings, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, neglect, suicides and all those other negative issues that are caused by poverty – over the course of 13 years?
A cost that continues to grow and radiate its misery across our entire society today.
As Ms Edwards stated, “There was no modelling done regarding the impact, it was all based on belief, ideology and budget savings”
A Labor party that adds to the burden of poverty? Bereft of considerations of societal well-being and happiness?
“Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has vowed under a Labor government there would be a “strong economy” which would focus on growing productivity.” – Exciting visionary stuff for a conservative political leader in the 1950s, as yet unaware of Climate Change.
Let’s see how Jacinda outlines her vision…
“To (NZ) Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the purpose of government spending is to ensure citizens’ health and life satisfaction, and that – not wealth or economic growth – is the metric by which a country’s progress should be measured. GDP alone, she said, “does not guarantee improvement to our living standards” and nor does it “take into account who benefits and who is left out.”
These were ideas that were around in the late ’80s (when first I heard of them) and Chalmers would be well aware of these now common indicators too. So Jim’s just playing to the media.
“Chalmers is a member of Labor’s right faction. “In Glory Daze, (an ebook I own 🙂 ) he defined Labor as standing for intergenerational mobility, aspiration and the ‘fair go’, while emphasising the importance of sound economic management.” – Another right wing Labor neoliberal. How refreshing.
Labor culled recipients of the Disability Support Pension
“WELFARE-to-work reforms that target disability support, pensioners and the older unemployed will be a centrepiece of Julia Gillard’s first budget, as the Prime Minister tries to honour a pledge to boost productivity and increase workforce participation.”
This massive decline in DSP recipients is due to Labor’s policy changes which made access to the DSP much more difficult. Paving the way for the LNP to make the entire process as nightmarish as possible. You may be beginning to sense where I’m going with all this – as regards robodebt.
“According to the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), if that trend continues, the Federal Government could save $4.8 billion over the next 10 years.
The PBO attributes the decline to the previous Labor government’s overhaul of the eligibility criteria and new Job Capacity Assessment in 2012, which tests whether the person can undertake any work rather than simply reviewing their medical diagnosis.
Kath Sutherland, who broke her neck in a fall in 2016, told the hearing she was placed onto the Newstart payment, now called JobSeeker, while living with a neck brace and learning to speak and eat again. “A neurosurgeon advised me that they don’t normally see my injury in someone who’s still breathing or not already a quadriplegic,” she said.The $660-per-fortnight Newstart payment – below the poverty line – was lower than her $800-per-fortnight rent. She survived the “gruelling and lengthy process” of applying for the DSP by emptying her superannuation.Ms Sutherland said her job network provider regularly made mutual obligation appointments she could not attend.“I was yelled at and threatened to have my payment cancelled. I was complying. I was extremely depressed and under pressure in every area of my life from an injury and illness that permeates every part of my life,” she said.By 2017, after another surgery and a rejected application, she said she wished she “had died in the initial accident”. Ms Sutherland was granted DSP access in 2018 and says life now remains stressful.“I wonder if anyone who thinks that the current rate of support payments [is enough] has ever gotten their furniture from the side of the road? Living in poverty is a constant struggle,” she said.“I am grateful to be alive, but surviving instead of thriving is not a dignified life.” – Disability Support Pension applicants are being forced into poverty, inquiry hear – SBS, Evan Young
Labor extended the racist Intervention and expanded the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) program
“While the Rudd Labor government reinstated the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act and extended compulsory income management to non-Indigenous people, this did not spell the end of discrimination against First Nations people. Citing a 2009 policy submission made by the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory, legal academic,Shelley Bielefeld, argues that the Labor government’s modifications to income management policy amounted to a form of ‘indirect discrimination,’ as First Nations people continued to be over-represented in target categories covered by the scheme.” – The Cashless Debit Card: An exercise in Australia’s ongoing colonisation of First Nations people – Penny Cummins – ANTaR
Labor state they will now end the CDC Indue card (which no real Labor party would have countenanced in the first place – much less expanded) but questions about this election promise have been raised after an ABC article wherein Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney stated, “If there is a decision by the community that they would like to have the cashless management system in place then that’s their decision, but we don’t believe that compulsory income management is appropriate”. – Cashless welfare card in East Kimberley could be wound back if Labor wins election – ABC – Ted O’Connor and Vanessa Mills
This smacks of done deals and ignores Aboriginal people’s right to individual self-determination.
Imagine a whitefella’s reaction if their Council put them on the card?
My reaction would be along these lines…
White Riot – The ClashWhite riot, I wanna riot White riot, a riot of my own White riot, I wanna riot White riot, a riot of my own[Verse 1]Black man got a lotta problems But they don’t mind throwin’ a brick White people go to school Where they teach you how to be thick[Pre-Chorus]And everybody’s doin’ Just what they’re told to And nobody wantsTo go to jail
Human rights are not something Labor should be equivocating about, especially when the clear intent of the CDC is racist economic apartheid.
“The Intervention led directly to a three-fold increase in forced child removal in the NT and further drove a massive wave of Indigenous child removal across the country. The Aboriginal children graphically tortured in Don Dale Detention Centre were removed from their families under this policy – this, in my view, is the real legacy of Macklin and Rudd. Both politicians, along with the entire parliamentary Labor Party, voted in June 2007 to accept the Northern Territory Emergency Response Act (NTER), originally introduced by John Howard.
This legislation suspended the Racial Discrimination Act, marking Aboriginal people as second-class citizens and bringing communities under Commonwealth control. Huge amounts of money flowed into the construction of new punitive bureaucracies to micromanage Aboriginal people. Income management, Government Business Managers, invasive police powers: surveillance and control on a scale not experienced since Protection era.” – OPINION: How Kevin Rudd and Jenny Macklin created another stolen generation – Padraic Gibson
It’s hard to believe that a Labor party claiming to be Social Democratic and one that had been in Opposition since 1996, would prioritise increasing poverty and hardship for our most vulnerable citizens when they finally gained power, but the evidence is indisputable.
These were class (and race) attacks in the same vein as Robodebt, mounted by a Labor party whose neoliberal objectives are barely indistinguishable from the LNP.
We have seen how Labor’s policies led to even greater hardship once the LNP gained power because Labor paved the way in targeting and demonising these marginalised groups.
Labor’s attempts to differentiate with the LNP on the treatment of the unemployed and other welfare beneficiaries are clearly marketing superficialities.
‘If people fail to come to an arrangement to settle their debts, the Government has a responsibility to taxpayers to recover that money.’Tanya Plibersek, Media Release, 29 June 2011 ‘The automation of this process will free up resources and result in more people being referred to the tax garnishee process, retrieving more outstanding debt on behalf of taxpayers.’ Bill Shorten, Media Release, 29 June 2011 ‘It is important that the Government explores different means of debt recovery to ensure that those who have received more money than they are entitled to repay their debt.’Chris Bowen, Media Release, 15 June 2010 ‘I think most people would expect that we have a rigorous checking system, and covert surveillance is one of our, as I say, one of the weapons in our armoury. We have data matching, where we check our records against the Tax Office’s records to make sure that is all adds up and there’s not people who are paying tax on a job who are also claiming welfare.’Chris Bowen, Interview with Stuart Bocking, 7 April 2010 ‘We want to make sure that people aren’t receiving welfare to which they’re not entitled to. And no one gets a leave pass on that.’Bill Shorten, doorstop interview, Redcliffe Hospital, 9 May 2019 – Handy guide to Labor’s record on ‘robodebt’
How is Labor’s intimidatory, classist bullshit any different than that we hear from the LNP?
How is it anything but a precursor to Robodebt?
Always a great deal of political mileage in bashing the unemployed.
The Liberal/Labor Duopoly’s “war against dole cheats” stokes that hideous part of the Australian psyche that extolls servitude and gratitude to the exploiter class, while demonising those deliberately kept unemployed and in poverty.
“There is a contradiction between Australian macroeconomic policy—which deliberately maintains unemployment at 5% or higher—and a culture that blames unemployed people for their own unemployment and hardships.”
One law for them…
“One of the first things Labor’s Anthony Albanese did during the first week of this election campaign was to let it be known that Labor was no longer committed to lifting the unemployment benefit at any time up to and including his first budget.
Yet unemployment benefits is where this incoming Labor government looks to make savings?
The same Labor government that gave reclaiming money from companies that were overpaid JobKeeper – a hard pass?
Marles: “Let me be unequivocally clear: Labor will not require any business to repay a single cent of JobKeeper. “Let me repeat that. Labor will not require any business to repay a single cent of JobKeeper.”
So what happened to Labor’s tough guy shtick on people getting unwarranted payments?
‘We want to make sure that people aren’t receiving welfare to which they’re not entitled to. And no one gets a leave pass on that.’Bill Shorten
‘It is important that the Government explores different means of debt recovery to ensure that those who have received more money than they are entitled to repay their debt.’ Chris Bowen
‘If people fail to come to an arrangement to settle their debts, the Government has a responsibility to taxpayers to recover that money.’Tanya Plibersek
So all this tough guy talk about “no one getting a leave pass” and acting to reclaim from “those who received more money than they were entitled to” and how it was “the government’s responsibility to taxpayers to recover that money” was only aimed at reinforcing and endorsing the message from corporate media that the unemployed are undeserving human trash?
It’s very clear retrieving undeserved funds is not a priority unless directed at the unemployed or working poor.
“There were, Albanese told Radio National Breakfast, at least 875,000 people who had received a wage subsidy through JobKeeper that was higher than their pre-pandemic income. Tapering these payments meant the government had finally “woken up to the waste in this scheme”
“Weren’t the beneficiaries of these “excess payments” Labor’s traditional constituents: the young, the part-time and low-income workers? Didn’t they need the money? This precariat were also ideal candidates to drive a macroeconomic stimulus – so cash-poor they would spend money rather than save it, and spend it on purchasing necessities.” – The disappearing man – The Monthly – Richard Cooke
Imagine a Labor Leader so bloody miserable he’d begrudge low-income workers a subsidy to their wages and so bloody pissweak he’d gift the “top end of town” $38,000,000,000 they were not entitled to.
This is of course, on top of the Liberal/Labor Duopoly’s budget-stretching $206,600,000,000 in tax cuts to the Rich.
To be fair, I believe there was some contention amongst the Labor ranks prior to voting with their Liberal comrades for tax cuts, until someone pointed out they’d do very well from the tax cuts too.
“Between 2024-25 and 2031-32, the tax cuts are now estimated to cost the budget $206.6 billion, a blowout of $22.4 billion in a year. Greens leader Adam Bandt said,“This is a recipe for austerity and Labor and Liberal’s tax cuts for the wealthy mean cuts to services for everyone else.” “For what Liberal and Labor are prepared to hand over to the wealthy, we could get dental and mental health into Medicare, build 1 million affordable homes and wipe student debt.” “The Greens will fight the Liberal and Labor push to dismantle Australia’s progressive tax system and replace it with a ‘flat tax’ nightmare.” The cost of government debt, now at $886 billion, continues to escalate.” – ‘Recipe for austerity’: Cost of stage three tax cuts blows out by $22 billion in a year – Sydney Morning Herald – Shane Wright
Robodebt – Burning down the house
As I stated earlier, the whole Labor Robodebt rote defence is a legalistic-type argument – so let’s treat it that way. The courts love analogical argumentation.
So let’s see Robodebt as a house full of Poors.
Shorten, Plibersek and Bowen are outside the house busily stacking firewood against its walls. The Corporate media baying for blood in the background.
“We want the money you bludgers have been overpaid due to our fuckups!”, shouts Shorten.
“It’s our responsibility to the taxpayers to get that money!”, yells Plibersek.
“You’ve more money than you’re entitled too!”, shouts Bowen, struggling with two jerrycans. One marked “covert surveillance” and the other “data matching”.
“Let’s automate this”, says Shorten. “Free up resources and result in more people being referred to the tax garnishee process, retrieving more outstanding debt on behalf of taxpayers.”
“Good idea”, say his cohorts in unison.
You know the rest…
The LNP got into power and in 2016 they struck the match (removed human oversight) and set the house afire. People started to die.
Trapped in the house by poverty due to the ideological machinations of two closely aligned neoliberal parties.
Rachel Siewert (former Greens Senator) – doing the work (as always) we expect from a Labor government…
Asher spells out Shorten’s failings in ignoring Robodebt, then claiming credit for solving a “problem” he was culpable in creating.
The inadequacy of the “class action” – no accountability – no meaningful compensation – is best demonstrated by how a similar incident involving the Dutch government fared. A Dutch government that resigned over the issue.
“Beyond transparency, safeguards and accountability are especially important when algorithms are given enormous power over people’s livelihoods, but as of now little of that exists in the Netherlands. And, in the meantime, smart algorithms and automated systemscontinue to take over a larger and larger shareof administrative procedures.
Labor supporters spouting their rote argument of “no human oversight” to excuse the Labor party’s neglect of the unemployed and other vulnerable people – Before, During and After the Robodebt tragedy, need to understand this neglect remains inexcusable and incompatible with true Labor values.
That finishes off the “analogical argumentation” – Labor have no excuses for their abetting and ignoring Robodebt.
Can’t help thinking that “class action” did the LNP more good than its supposed beneficiaries either.
Your neoliberal party is propped up by toxic Fossil Fuel and warmongeringDefence corporations.(Political sources said the defence companies were cautious and were likely making the bulk of their political party contributions through third-party consultancies.)
You can gush about Albanese and his growing up in poverty all you want, but actions speak louder than words.
“During that period he claimed more than $21,020 in travel allowance including $17,169 in Canberra which he used as a staging post to run missions into Queensland and Tasmania despite border controls requiring Sydneysiders to quarantine.