Saturday salon 31/12

1. Pauline Hanson + Cory Bernardi = Perfect Storm

Miranda Devine has the goss:

    In a stunning proposal that would send shockwaves through the Coalition, Hanson told me on 2GB radio on Monday that she would even consider ceding control of her party to Bernardi in order to lock in conservative voters disillusioned with the Coalition.

    “I have a lot of respect for Cory, “ she said. “I’d love to work with him or join forces. If Cory wants to take over [One Nation] so be it but at the end of the day it has got to be on the issues that I want to fight for the people.”

    Many of One Nation’s policies, especially its opposition to Islamic extremism, accord with views expressed by Bernardi, who was sacked from the Coalition front bench by Tony Abbott for making politically incorrect comments about same-sex marriage and has remained in exile under Malcolm Turnbull.

    Bernardi has hinted at forming a breakaway party named the Australian Majority, possibly as soon as February. He was unavailable for comment yesterday, but he is unlikely to rebuff Hanson’s offer to solidify conservative support for them both, rather than splitting the vote between them.

2. Homo sapiens not very bright

A short note in the New Scientist.

People in the USA were so terrified by the twin towers going down in September 2001 that they took to the roads, rather than travel by air. The result was an average increase in the road toll by 1,100 pa for the next five years.

3. Abbott criticises pension changes

I can’t find a link, but on ABC radio I heard Tony Abbott questioning the wisdom of reducing the amount of assets old age pensioners can have, other than the family home. He felt that it was not good to penalise people who had saved a bit.

Excuse me, but this was an item in the 2015 budget, when Abbott was king. You can tell what the Fin Review thought of it from the photo of Scott Morrison:

They predicted that some oldies would have to learn to live without $10,000 to $15,000 pa.

I posted about it in Greens sell out on aged pension on June 29, 2015. Abbott was PM until mid-September. Maybe no-one told him what was going on.

Paul Syvret, who is at times a bit Bolshie, had a piece about it in the Courier Mail (pay-walled), which was titled Bit Rich to Lecture Poor. He pointed out that Joe Hockey at one stage was claiming $270 per night from the public purse while staying in a house in Canberra which he and his wife owned.

If you want to know the changes, go here and here.

4. Centrelink’s ‘overpayment recovery program’

Everyone who has been on the dole for part of a year back to 2010. Both my sons have had letters.

My youngest, who is a mathematician, says he thinks the computer program they are using is designed to rip people off. It equalises your income over the year and then claims you were earning more than you were while receiving benefits. They are generating 20,000 “compliance interventions” a week, up from 20,000 a year before the crackdown came into effect in July.They are accessing ATO information and automatically generating 20,000 “compliance interventions” a week, up from 20,000 a year before the crackdown came into effect in July.

There is an article in The Australian. Google

    ‘Sarah Martin: The Turnbull government is ramping up efforts to claw back $4 billion believed to have been ­incorrectly paid to welfare recipients, issuing debt notices worth $4.5 million every day in a bid to rein in the ballooning welfare bill’

and you should get it.

No doubt there is some fraud going on, but unless you have detailed records you’ll probably end up paying, plus a 10% penalty. Senator Doug Cameron said he’d been contacted by heaps of people, including one woman who says she was being wrongfully pinged for $9,000.

Pauline Hansen is using the issue to promote the idea of an Australia card.

5. Giving is good

You don’t hear much about contemporary French intellectuals, but there is a group called Mouvement Anti-Utilitariste dans les Sciences Sociales, or MAUSS, who have dedicated themselves to a systematic attack on the philosophical underpinnings of economic theory.

It has generally been assumed that before the invention of money a market existed, with barter as the medium.

They say that in fact most objects moved back and forth as gifts. There is no evidence, they say for this tenet:

    The universal assumption of free market enthusiasts, then as now, was that what essentially drives human beings is a desire to maximize their pleasures, comforts and material possessions (their “utility”), and that all significant human interactions can thus be analyzed in market terms.

That makes the ‘market’ a cultural construct rather than part of the nature of things.

20 thoughts on “Saturday salon 31/12”

  1. Here’s an article from The Guardian on the Centrelink scam, giving real world experience.

    The ATO have no data on what people were earning on particular dates, so they simply don’t have relevant information.

    It’s a scam, where you are held guilty unless you can prove your innocence. Defending yourself could be enormously time-consuming if you don’t have records neatly in a file.

  2. Brian,
    I think Centrelink will eventually buckle on this debt recovery scam, the outcry is going to be so immense. Question is, how long will that take. We might have to wait for Parliament to come back.

  3. Gift giving trade moved a lot of stuff around Australia in pre invasion times including practical things like spear shafts and symbolic things like pearl shells. Part of the aim was cement obligations and to help maintain peace. In many cultures gift givers wanted to appear generous and powerful so diving a hard bargain was not considered smart.

  4. We would actually save money by paying all the oldies the full pension in return for eliminating the superannuation tax benefits.
    Has the added attraction of encouraging those who are now on part pensions to take some part time work, pick fruit or set up a micro business.
    NOTE: I don’t get the pension and have long since finished paying into super so this change would help the Davidson’s.

  5. Paul Burns

    You may be correct about needing Parliament. If Brian’s son has correctly diagnosed the error, there will be egg all over several faces. Meanwhile, unnecessary scares for some pensioners.

    If someone’s doing casual work, income is bound to be “lumpy” and total income for the year, divided by 52, is likely to be wrong as a weekly wage for ALL of the calendar weeks.

    Get a mathematician or statistician in there to advise you, Centrelink!!!

    As I understand it, the pensioner is required to tell Centrelink if their income is higher in a particular week.

    A pensioner is NOT required to have a steady, unvarying income from part-time or casual work! Overtime can vary from week to week, too.

    Good points, JohnD, about encouraging fruit picking or micro-business.

    BTW, our minor experience with the “myGov” website in the last two years has been unsatisfactory. It’s poor.
    By contrast, the staff in our local office are helpful and mostly well-informed.

  6. I’m less than hopeful about something being done about the scam. I’m not sure Doug Cameron has enough heft within the ALP to get them stirred, and there is so much derogatory talk about dole bludgers.

    John, there was a recent article by Gigi Foster about Universal basic Income. Her bottom line:

    My advice for Australia? Watch the policy experiments in Europe keenly. But don’t assume for one minute that universal basic income is a magic bullet. Compared to our current system, it is expensive, inefficient, and potentially regressive.

  7. Brian

    Former ALP Senate leader would have been all over this like a rash in a Senate Committee. Forensic and brutal, but necessary.
    Thank you Lionel Murphy; for all your faults, the strengthening of Senate committees is a legacy we all can benefit from.

    Back to a topic covered here late last year,
    From Fairfax online:

    Bakers Delight workers, some on $8 an hour, are being kept on an outdated contract from the unpopular WorkChoices era that drastically reduces weekend penalty rates.

    Fairfax Media has obtained payslips and store rosters from Bakers Delight revealing its staff – often teenagers – are routinely being paid vastly less than the minimum award rates for working weekend shifts in bakeries across Victoria.

    Agreement dates from 2006 (ahem, Workchoices). Thanks go out to Mr Howard, Mr Rudd, Ms Gillard, Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull, for introducing (and the others for maintaining) exploitative “agreements” which underpay casuals, teenagers, workers on weekends, 457 visa workers, etc.

    May the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, grow, flourish, and have some wins!

  8. Yesterday my wife was in Woolies near the checkout, when the floor manager came along and told the workers that they were going to be paid two and a half times normal rate!

    A good new year present for the workers.

    On the Centrelink pay recovery scam, there was a segment on NewsRadio about it. It seems the problem is as outlined above. They take what you’ve earned for the year, divide by 52 and assume that’s what you were getting while on Centrelink. To call it an algorithm is just humbug. Anyone who can multiply and divide can see it’s wrong.

    Victorian legal Aid has taken up the case.

    There was a separate interview with Linda Birnie, who was very clear. It’s a systemic error, and Centrelink should cease forthwith until it is sorted.

    Part of the problem is that they give you very little time to prove your innocence, then they send in the debt collectors. Thugs to suck blood from the vulnerable masses.

  9. Labor calls for Centrelink’s crude and inaccurate automated debt recovery system to be scrapped

    Mr Tudge said that Australians who rort Centrelink payments were at risk of prison time.

    “We’ll find you, we’ll track you down and you will have to repay those debts and you may end up in prison,” he told Channel Nine.

    Centrelink debt notices based on ‘idiotic’ faith in big data, IT expert says

    Legal Aid Victoria, the Australian privacy foundation, the Australian council for social service, and independent Andrew Wilkie have all raised serious concerns, urging the human services minister, Alan Tudge, to intervene.


    The Australian Privacy Foundation described the system as a “clusterfuck”, that wrongly assumed the initial data matching was accurate and then abandoned procedural fairness.

    “There’s so much that can go wrong here that it’s astounding,” the foundation’s chair, Kat Lane, said. “And falsely accusing people of things, and sending them letters, and particularly some of our most disadvantaged people … you’d want to make sure you got it absolutely right before doing that.”

    She also expressed privacy concerns.

  10. Senator Faulkner was the bloke I meant.

    Thanks for all the extra detail, Brian.

    Any “formula” can be given the fancy name “algorithm”. Of course, “algorithm” usually implies a strict procedure that’s been tested and passed all attempts to trip it up….

    e.g. I offer you this algorithm to convert from feet (F) to inches (I):

    I = 12*F

    where the asterisk denotes multiplication.
    This algorithm is exact, precise, non-statistical, robust, and states the bleeding obvious.

    I’ll send my invoice for this algorithmic consulting work, shortly.

    Ambi Algorithmic Consulting Services
    (CEO, PR and Managing Director)
    PO Box 123456
    Al Khworeizmi
    Cayman Islands

  11. It still makes me laugh that no matter how much Government stuffs up, some folk still favour more power to it as a remedy.

  12. It still makes me laugh that no matter how much private enterprise stuffs up, some folk still favour less regulation of it as a remedy.

  13. zoot,
    How is the so called ” Centrelink Scam ” a stuff up by private enterprise ?

    “If your government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is big enough to take away everything you have.”

    A long dead US President.

  14. How is the so called ” Centrelink Scam ” a stuff up by private enterprise ?

    Who said it was?

  15. Oh sorry, forgot this bit:

    Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country

    A long dead US president.

  16. On how private enterprise can stuff you over, you should have watched the Four Corners repeat tonight on The Panama Papers – Secrets of the Super Rich, stories here and here.

    About the law firm, Mossack Fonseca, Panama and the British Virgin Islands, population about 28,000 and hosting offices of 500,000 companies.

    GDP per capita around $43,000.

    Do you think Trump has the balls to take them on? do you think he would try?

    We heard that we’ve sold a fair chunk of our electricity networks to CKI Holdings of Hong Kong, who pay not one cent of tax. We should confiscate the thing!

  17. If we are to be honest with ourselves, Governments, not private enterprise set tax rates, codes and laws. The failure is on Governments.
    If you get lot’s of leaks under your new kitchen sink you blame the plumber that installed it, not your wife for washing up the dishes.

    If anyone has broken these laws then I hope they get prosecuted to that Max but so far I’m not aware of any convictions. Maybe the only prosecutions that are made will be against the thieves of the files, or do we give them a pass ?

    We should also note that many people that are IN Governments are named.

  18. Ahh, IBM by the looks.
    The same geniuses behind the QLD payroll catastrophe and the Census f**kup.
    I wonder their ” political contributions “.
    I wouldn’t let IBM adjust my TV antenna with their track record!

  19. Well spotted, Jumpy:

    The contract will enable the Government to realign hardware, software and services to critical areas of need.

    This will ultimately achieve savings for the taxpayer while delivering better outcomes for Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support recipients


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