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Media Release - January 2017

Media Release, 30 January 2017

Nurse Jenny, one of thousands caught up in state extortion of everyday people

  • Jenny, nurse aged 54 was injured in an accident and unable to work, was paid money from Centrelink which was paid back by an insurance company, yet she still received debt collection letters
  • Over 700 people have sent appeals through to fight back against government extortion
  • Civil society groups, unions and GetUp -- the coalition that fought the Abbott Budget -- come together to fight back on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Australians
GetUp have joined in the fight together with key unions and civil society organisations to fight back against the government's extortion of vulnerable people.

Over 700 people have used FraudStop -- the free online tool which allows people to send a Freedom of Information request and appeal their flawed automated debt notices. GetUp will also be targeting Social Services Minister Christian Porter in his own electorate and investigating legal options.

Paul Oosting, GetUp's National Director said Malcolm Turnbull needs to stop stealing money out of the pockets of everyday Australians to cover the chartered flights and polo matches of his ministers.

"As many as 90 per cent of the letters churned out by his automated system are false or fabricated, but the consequences are very real. Children kicked out of their homes. Sick people put into greater distress.

"Australians can't afford this government's incompetent callousness. This system is cruel. It's designed to frustrate people into paying fabricated debts they never owed.

"People are forced to repeatedly wait hours on the phone, just to find out they need to find years old pay slips and employment records the government already has on file. Even the review process itself is corrupted.

"Whistleblowers have wrote to us saying mistakes are not allowed to be fixed by staff. That's why we have launched -- a free online tool. It's already been used by more than 700 Australians to challenge the government's false debt claims.

"If the government wants to save money, it only needs to get politicians snouts out of the trough and make them pay for flights to the football. If it wants to actually raise money, it only needs to get companies like Chevron to pay some tax on the $3 billion in revenue they made each year.

"Instead of harassing pensioners, families and hard working Australians, this Government should be targeting the 679 corporations who paid no tax last year. Where is Chevron's debt notice for the tax they dodged on $3 billion in revenue?

"But why aren't they? Because when they're spending public money on chartered flights and polo matches, they're not sitting next to our teachers, nurses and tradies. They're elbowing with the executives of those same multinational corporations.

"71 thousand GetUp members are standing with the pensioners, families, and people working hard to keep their heads above water being extorted by the government", said Mr Oosting.

One GetUp member told us that a pathway to quickly and simply appeal their false debt is making a huge difference. They told us:

"My friend who was suicidal over a debt threat was beyond pleased when I showed her the GetUp page. She felt relieved that now she had options and could do something about it. I honestly think you saved her life … and I say that without exaggeration."

GetUp will also be an active participant in any Senate Inquiry launched by Labor, Greens, and the Nick Xenophon team when Parliament resumes.

Case study:

Jenny, 54 is a nurse from Revesby Heights with two grandchildren. She severed the tendons in her thumb in an accident at home, and went to the hospital where the laceration was glued.

She was unable to work as a result of the injuries, a situation compounded by being given the wrong treatment, and required five additional surgeries to rectify the mistakes. During part of this time, she received sickness benefits from Centrelink for approximately nine months.

Worried she was going to lose her house, she rang Centrelink to find out whether she could perform casual work in a computer role. Hours worked and monies earned were reported to Centrelink each time.

There was eventually a settlement paid by the hospital's insurance company due to negligence with the original treatment she received.  

Despite being out of work for 15 months, she received no further benefits from Centrelink, but in November, she received a letter for $4,121.44 debt.

She called Centrelink to explain that the money she had received as sick benefit had been repaid to Centrelink by the insurance company as part of winning her negligence case, but there was no record of this on hand and not considered.

Hours into her second call with Centrelink, she was informed that she was able to appeal the decision, but the debt management team give her no explanation for her false debt.

In January, she received letters from Centrelink saying she has no debt, and letters dated the same day from the debt collectors saying her payments are overdue.

For more information call Kirsti Gorringe on 0431 047 358

Media Release, 29 January 2017

GetUp responds to reports President Trump has confirmed the US will resettle people seeking safety from Manus Island and Nauru

Responding to reports that US President Trump has confirmed, on a phone call to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, that he will honour the previous administration's arrangement to resettle people from Manus Island and Nauru in the US, Matthew Phillips, GetUp Human Rights campaign director said:

"It is incumbent on the Prime Minister to clearly outline how the arrangement will provide safety for all the the men, women and children his government currently contains unlawfully in offshore camps."

"It has been three months since the arrangement was announced and yet, there are still no numbers, no timeframes and no details."

GetUp called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to provide assurances that the plan to evacuate the camps and implement the US arrangement must leave nobody behind on Manus or Nauru.

"The Prime Minister must urgently outline whether people currently detained on Manus Island or Nauru with immediate family living in the Australian community will be reunited with their families to rebuild their lives in safety."

"There must be a clear timeline for the implementation of the deal. After being detained for over 3 years in unsafe and abusive conditions, the Prime Minister must immediately evacuate the camps and offer a clear pathway to safety for nearly 2000 men, women and children, and their families" said Phillips.

For more information, please call Kirsti Gorringe on 0431 047 358

Media Release, 28 January 2017

Turnbull must outline plan to provide safety for all those detained on Manus and Nauru after Trump places future of US resettlement arrangement in question

Trump's Executive Order placing a freeze on the resettlement of people seeking asylum in the US and slashing the total number of resettlement places casts serious doubt over Australia's agreement to move people from offshore detention to the US.

GetUp Human Rights Campaign Director, Matthew Phillips, said:

"On the face of it, President Trump's Executive Order dashes all hopes of a timely implementation of the US resettlement arrangement for the 2000 men, women and children that the Australian Government has unlawfully detained on Manus Island and Nauru for over three years.

"In brokering the agreement, the Turnbull Government acknowledged that the policy of offshore detention is untenable and that it could no longer detain men, women and children indefinitely – and without trial – in abusive conditions.

"Now the onus is on Malcolm Turnbull to immediately outline a plan to provide safety for all those unlawfully imprisoned on Manus Island and Nauru, starting with the urgent evacuation of the camps.

"In recent days, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Prime Minister and his Immigration Minister have been pretending that it's just business as usual regarding the deal.

"They're hoping no one will notice that their attempt to outsource responsibility for the people they're detaining on Manus and Nauru isn't working out. But the responsibility for the lives of the people detained on Manus and Nauru sits firmly in the hands of the Turnbull Government.

"The policy of offshore detention is in utter disarray. The PNG Supreme Court has ruled the Manus detention centre illegal and the government has no company willing to run the camps after October this year. Now that his resettlement arrangement looks more uncertain than ever, Malcolm Turnbull must immediately outline a plan to provide safety for all.

"The evidence that the conditions on Nauru and Manus Island are unsafe and abusive is overwhelming. The government's plan must begin with the urgent evacuation of the camps.

"After three years, the time for political games and deal making must come to an end - the people imprisoned on the islands must be brought to Australia and allowed to rebuild their lives in safety." Said Phillips

For more information please call Adrian Dodd 0401 726 476

Media Release, 26 January 2017

GetUp staff will come to work or attend invasion day actions on Australia Day

GetUp will join with Australia's First People to support the campaign to change the date for Australia Day by releasing a new video and asking staff to come to work in protest.

The progressive campaign organisation will also dedicate the week to sharing social media content about Indigenous issues and join thousands of GetUp members attending Invasion Day actions in support of First People.

Paul Oosting, National Director said GetUp does not feel that a day which marks colonisation, dispossession, frontier wars, stolen generations, stolen wages and the Northern Territory Intervention is one for celebrating and staff  would prefer to work in protest.

"This is not a day to celebrate. Staff will either come to work or join GetUp members at Invasion Day actions being organised and led by local Indigenous people.  

"Rather, it is a time for somber reflection on our dark history. We support moving the day to a more inclusive, less disrespectful day for all people.

"The far, jingoist nationalist right wing will decry this move, as they would prefer to perpetuate a divisive version of Australia. But they do not represent the mainstream of Australia.

"People in Australia love celebrating, but they want to celebrate for the right reasons, not in the name of invasion of Australia's First People.

Carla McGrath, Deputy Chair of GetUp's board and Torres Strait Islander said that Aboriginal people cannot simply "get over it".

"Celebrating a national holiday to coincide with anniversary of colonisation is offensive. It intentionally denies the true history. It ignores the continued pain people are suffering.

"No one would ask people to simply "get over" the ANZACS. But we ignore the wars of dispossession which caused so much pain, pain that continues, pain that is ignored, to Indigenous people.

Mr Oosting said that Australia only started celebrating Australia Day consistently in all states and territories in 1994.

"The celebrating of Australia Day is actually very new. There's no grand tradition here of celebrating when white people arrived in boats.

"Australians need to come to terms with their history, address and acknowledge the wrongs and injustices of the past, before we can be proud of all that we have achieved," Said Oosting.

For more information call Kirsti Gorringe on 0431 047 358

Media Release, 25 January 2017

Government doesn't care that broken Centrelink system is breaking people

GetUp has called on Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge to immediately suspend the broken system which is destroying people's lives, as the system readies to begin targeting families and pensioners.  

GetUp Economic Fairness spokesperson Mark Connelly said under Section 6A of the Social Security Act, decisions made by the automated debt threat system are taken to be made by the Secretary of the Department, and legal options are being explored to hold him accountable.

"The Minister and the Department are legally responsible for sending out debt threats based on duplicated income or income falsey averaged out across the year from ATO data.

"This morning estimates that 20% of the debt letters are false has risen to a massive 90%. With an error-rate that high the system is a total failure, and it must be stopped.

"The Minister is yet to respond to the claims within an explosive Centrelink whistleblower which outlined that the recklessness of the errors, directives to staff not to correct them, and  who will be held accountable.

"Minister Porter is hiding behind a statement from the Department which makes major admissions related to whistleblower claims, but fails to end the trauma this program is causing everyday people.

"The government is making people produce years of payslips, payslips Centrelink already has. The government is denying centrelink staff the ability to even check Centrelink's own records before issuing false debts and taking people's money.

"The Department admits to sending error ridden debt-threat letters based on duplicated income, but refuses to do anything about it. This is outrageous.

"This is a Kafka-esq abuse of power. Income support is meant to help people, but this cruel and inept government is using it as a club to push down people who are just keeping their head above water. And pensioners and families are next in their sights.

"Centrelink is supposed to be about a 'fair go' for everyday Australians. But it's being used as weapon to attack everyday people.

"This Government's stuffed up the census, stuffed up the NBN, and now they're letting faulty computer programs decide the fate of Australian families," Said Connelly.

For more information call Kirsti Gorringe on 0431 047 358

Media Release, 20 January 2017

Poll: Australians blame privatisation and not renewables for soaring energy bills

New polling today released by GetUp reveals that 58% of Australians blame privatisation and lack of competition for increasing energy prices while only 17.7%  think that renewables were to blame.

Miriam Lyons, Environmental Justice Campaigns Director for GetUp said the poll shows that Australians understand our energy system better than the Turnbull Government, and aren't buying the fossil fuel lobby's lies.

"We were promised that by sprinkling the magic fairy dust of the free market over our power supply, ordinary Australians would get the benefits of competition and low prices. Instead we've seen the opposite.

"The electricity industry is screwing over Australian households from pretty much every direction. A handful of generators with too much market power are gaming the system and artificially driving up prices on the supply side.

"The big three - AGL, Origin, and Energy Australia are getting away with daylight robbery, charging more in mark-ups than it costs to generate the electricity and two to three times as much as the ACT's regulated retailer charges.

"Instead of tackling the gas cartel for its dodgy behaviour, we're seeing a big push from the gas lobby and Minister Frydenberg to overturn farmers' hard-won battles against coal-seam gas companies to protect their land and water.

"Letting gas companies frack wherever they like won't do anything to break the power of the gas cartel. We should be putting the big gas companies on their toes by increasing the competition from renewable suppliers.

"This polling shows that the fossil fuel lobby's campaign to smear renewables isn't convincing most Australians. But the reality-based community have our work cut out for us over the next few years, as the big power companies fight harder than ever to protect their multi-billion dollar free ride at the expense of everyone else.

"1.6 million households know that renewables have been helping them save money, as well as doing their bit for the environment - it's now common sense that the whole country could go the same way.

"Renewables are mainstream, they're here to stay, and the hard-right of the Liberal party should be aware that they don't have public backing when they repeat the power companies' spin," said Lyons.

For more information call Kirsti Gorringe on 0431 047 358