Entertainment TV Q&A: Brandis blames Centrelink debacle on Labor

Q&A: Brandis blames Centrelink debacle on Labor

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Attorney-General George Brandis used the welfare debacle to blame the Labor Party Photo: ABC
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Attorney-General George Brandis has blamed Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek and the Labor Party for discrepancies related to the Centrelink debt saga, after being confronted by a tearful pensioner dependent on welfare to support her family.

On Monday night’s Q&A, Mr Brandis turned the blame to the opposition for the initial welfare issues, after Fred, one of 90,000 disability pensioners, told him she had only $1.26 to her name when she received a debt notice.

“The introduction of automation so there’s an automatically generated letter if the data matches show a discrepancy isn’t all that long ago, it was introduced in 2011 when you, Tanya, were the Minister for Human Services,” he said.

“So the system that is being attacked by Bill Shorten and by Tanya – you are talking about the system – a system introduced by you when you were Minister for Human Services and Bill Shorten.”

“I didn’t stuff it up the way you have stuffed it up, George,” Ms Plibersek sharply responded.

“Honestly, stop speaking nonsense.”

The two politicians sniped and battled throughout the episode, and Mr Brandis wouldn’t let up on the welfare debacle.

He made note of questioner Fred, a mother of three who is having her pension reviewed.

Fred was brought to tears during Mr Brandis’ discussion of the integrity measures when he cited a comment by current Australian ambassador to the US, former Treasurer Joe Hockey, who called average Australians “leaners” in 2014.

He also referred back to Ms Plibersek’s earlier comments that “you’ll be waiting on the phone for a while” to work out the debt dilemma. 

“Tony, I can’t let Tanya escape with the point she just made because it is not an honest point,” he said.

Watch part of the welfare debate below:

“When a discrepancy emerges and a letter is issued, then the person to whom the letter is issued – and the letter is only issued where there is a discrepancy between the data they have lodged with Centrelink and the data against which it is matched – can have a conversation with Centrelink in order to sort out the problem.”

Host Tony Jones directed the debate to questioner Fred.

“The idea that you can just ring Centrelink and have a chat to them, how long did you wait on the phone the last time you called on Centrelink?” Mr Jones asked her.

Fred, who was a primary school teacher for 28 years before her disability, told the audience she was on the phone for 90 minutes every day for two weeks until she finally got a response.

If US pulls out of refugee deal, what next?

The strength of Australia’s deal with US President Donald Trump and the United States to send over 1200 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru was brought into question on Monday.

But if the US deal falls through, should they come to Australia?

According to Roy Morgan Research CEO Michelle Levine, the Australian public is divided about what should be done with offshore refugees.

“The key finding is this divides the population 50-50,”  Ms Levine said by way of summarising a recent poll. “Fifty per cent of people say, ‘Yep, bring them to Australia’, and 50 per cent say ‘no’.”

However, the 50 per cent against bringing refugees onto mainland Australia weren’t against it for border security purposes. Rather, their concerns focused more on housing and where they will go, Ms Levine said.

Ms Plibersek, the shadow minister for education, said the asylum seekers had been there too long, but she would not agree that they should be brought to Australia.

“No, we need to find a third country resettlement as quickly as possible,” she said.

Meanwhile, Attorney-General Brandis, who said every single person on Manus Island was put there by the Rudd government, added that asylum seekers who come to Australia are committing a crime.

“They commit offences against our migration laws,” he said.

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