Total lack of respect for battlers (Image screenshot DigitalNinja on YouTube)

The shaming of veterans and Centrelink victims must stop before there is further injury, writes contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence.

HOUSE OF REPS PUTS GUN HEADS OF VETERANS, CENTRELINK VICTIMS 

THE BUREAUCRATIC SLUT SHAMING of our defence forces veterans and victims of the Centrelink debt debacle must be halted before further injury is caused.

The safety and well-being of Australia's citizens is under serious threat.

Whilst the Turnbull Coalition has ruthlessly put a gun to the heads of our more vulnerable brothers and sisters, a flaccid and disingenuous Opposition has conspired with the Government to pass a bill (on its third reading) that gives bureaucrats the authority to reveal personal intimate details and case histories of those pensioners and recipients of welfare benefits and social security who have publicly criticised the government and its institutions.

This is bipartisan support at its ugliest and political expendiency writ large.

VETERAN AFFAIRS BILL ASSAULT ON FREEDOM OF SPEECH

On Thursday, in what remains a vile and shameless attempt to stifle its critics and in clear breach of government privacy laws and, I venture, national, individual security and intelligence guidelines, the House of Representatives actually voted in favour of yet another assault on freedom of speech, civil liberties and democracy.

The Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Digital Readiness and Other Measures) Bill 2017 is illegal, intimidating, malicious, cruel and unnatural punishment. It allows politicians and bureaucrats to become judge and jury, and executioner.

What is more, the Government does not have to seek approval to release personal data about veterans and other Centrelink recipients.

It is to be the price paid by those who dare to speak truth to power. It cannot stand.

The Bill is nothing more than an attempt by politicians to blackmail critics into submission and silence, and is clearly a threat to warn off anyone even thinking of becoming a whistleblower and seeking refuge within the media to expose political and government incompetence, bullying, corruption, cover-ups and stuff-ups.

DO A-GS SESSIONS AND BRANDIS TAKE INSTRUCTIONS FROM KREMLIN?

Clearly America's Attorney-General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is not the only one taking his instructions from the Kremlin's gremlins and President Vladimir Putin.

Our own Attorney-General George Brandis seems to have ripped out a page from one of Joseph Stalin's books on how to apply eyeliner whilst conducting a Great Terror upon opponents of the State; just one of the many thousands of books, no doubt on George's bespoke bookcase paid for by taxpayers, including veterans, pensioners and other Centrelink recipients.

You can bet your bottom ruble that Brandis signed off on the Bill and is very pleased with himself indeed.

This from a man who remains defiant of the law. Despite the fact that he has been ordered by the Court to hand over his e-diary to his Shadow counterpart, Mark Dreyfus. Brandis is not above the law, he is beneath the law.

BRANDIS WON'T COME CLEAN

It's okay for we of the Great Unwashed to have our personal data revealed to the world – but George won''t come clean on his appointments office diary. Such hypocrisy is the daily swill from our political elite.

DPM, BARNABY JOYCE, BARNEY RUBBLE OR BARNABY RUDGE?

Meanwhile when it comes to the privacy bill, the deputy prime minister doesn't know if he's Barnaby Joyce, Barney Rubble or Barnaby Rudge, a fitting metaphor for what's not going on in the Turnbull cabinet.

The man who is a heartbeat away from the prime ministership, became so befuddled in an interview with teamsters from Channel Ten's The Project, that he told the truth about his thoughts on breaching privacy. It was rather refreshing.

But isn't that Barnaby sitting directly behind Alan Tudge, the Minister for Human Services? He's got a lot on his mind. But this stuff is no joke, Joyce.

DON'T FUDGE THE TUDGE, IT'S NO JOKE JOYCE

About a year ago, Dan Tehan was sworn in as minister for veteran affairs. In this time he has excelled at not excelling. The endless platitudes heaped upon our older and younger veterans at ceremonial parades and commemorations are hollow. 

Tour of duty does not translate to duty of care. We trash and humiliate our veterans, forcing them to relive mental and physical trauma and subject them to endless bureaucratic interrogations and virtually beg for their meagre pensions.

Minister Tehan should be their staunch guardian, instead with supporting the outrageous bill, he is their persecutor.

There are grave concerns that public disclosure to journalists or anyone else by the Government and its institutions could lead to self-harm, alienation and more homeless. We are victimising the victims.

TEHAN AND TUDGE IN CYBER SPACE ON PRIVACY BREACH

It's a worry that Tehan is also the minister assisting prime minister Turnbull for cyber security.

Like Tudge, he is off in cyber space on this one.

Minister Tehan asserts that the legislation for his and Tudge's right to reveal personal details differ. They do. Mostly in name.

Thankfully, Labor MP for Barton, Linda Burney didn't wait for her party to awaken from its torpor. 

Shadow minister of human services and the first Aboriginal woman to serve in the House of Representatives, she knows a thing or two about discrimination and was having none of Tudge's sludge.

LINDA BURNEY ASKS AFP TO INVESTIGATE MINISTER ALAN TUDGE

On March 2, Burney wrote to Commissioner Andrew Colvin of the Australian Federal Police asking him to investigate whether Alan Tudge, the Minister for Human Services has broken the law. 

Here is part of her letter:

Possible Contravention of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 and Crimes Act 1914

I refer for investigation and possible prosecution conduct by persons over recent weeks that may involve the unauthorised use of protected information of a number of social security recipients, in breach of section 204 of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (the Act). In particular, it appears that the staff in the Office of the Minister for Human Services or the Minister himself, have released without authorisation to journalists private personal information of certain people who are recipients of social security.

I have attached to this letter recent newspaper articles detailing the conduct in question.

In statements by the Minister yesterday and by the Department in Senate Estimates hearings today, it has been suggested that this release was permitted because of the provisions of section 202 of the Act. No suggestion has been made that section 208 of the Act, which permits the Secretary of the Department to authorise release of personal information in some circumstances, was relied on. A number of legal experts have publicly stated that reliance on section 202 is not available and is contrary to a proper reading of the Act and decades of established departmental practice...

Here is the full text of the letter.

Both the above Act and the Veterans bill are unworthy of representing Australia on the Statutes and need to be redrafted.

The very person who should be protecting veterans, Minister for Veteran Affairs Dan Tehan, is in fact placing them in harm's way, both mentally and phsyically.

The same can be said of Centrelink recipients.

SINGLE MUM WRITES IN FAIRFAX ABOUT CENTRELINK "TERRORISING" HER

On February 6, single parent, feminist economist and writer Andie Fox wrote a powerful and compelling no-holds-barred article for Fairfax Media accusing Centrelink of "terrorising" her over sexually transmitted debt from her ex-partner.

Ms Fox's plight ignited a media firestorm, and incurred the wrath of ministers Tehan and Tudge.

On February 26, Fairfax Media published what was clearly a simpering, crawly puff piece designed to appease Centrelink and Minister Tudge, in particular, under the heading 'Centrelink is an easy target for complaints but there are two sides to every story'.

FAIRFAX JOURNALIST WRITES APOLOGIA ABOUT CENTRELINK

Writing in the Canberra Times, journalist Paul Malone, who has worked for the Government in the past, disgorged what he'd been fed by the Minister's minder(s).

Here's some of the Fairfax apologia:

In her detailed article Ms Fox complained that her problem arose from the fact that she was chased by Centrelink for a debt actually owed by her former de facto partner.

She then detailed the run-around she got trying to resolve the matter.

She says she soon found out that even asking the simplest question about the debt threw her into "a vortex of humiliating and frustrating bureaucratic procedures."

But Centrelink has a different story.

The agency says Ms Fox's debt is a Family Tax Benefit (FTB) debt for the 2011-12 financial year which arose after she received more FTB than she was entitled to because she under-estimated her family income for that year.

The original debt was raised because she and her ex-partner did not lodge a tax return or confirm their income information for 2011-12.

Centrelink says that after Ms Fox notified the department that she had separated from her partner, the debt due to her partner's non-lodgement was cancelled...

I cannot fathom Malone's role in colluding with the minister to reveal personal details and intimate details of Ms Fox's sexual relationship and partner, for that is part of it.

It is untenable and intolerable payback on behalf of the Government.

SAME DAY IN HER 'BLUE MILK' BLOG FOX RESPONDS TO MALONE

The same day as Malone's article appeared, in her blog Blue Milk, Andie Fox wrote of the impact of Malone's article and how she found it disturbing.

Ms Fox is at liberty to reveal her own personal data; to tell her story.

The mighty machine of government and bureaucracy can withstand her criticism. It's called freedom of speech.

The minister has every right to defend his department and correct any errors in protocol and due process without resorting to such personal bureaucratic cyber and data stalking and slut shaming, for that it what it is.

What if in the release of private information about veterans and others in Ms Fox's position, the government provoked domestic violence and other forms of payback, by alerting former partners and/or business associates of changed circumstances and new relationships.

FOX WARNS JOURNALISTS TO TREAD CAREFULLY

Indeed, in her blog, whilst discussing the tax return aspect, Fox pointed out that

'I will not be sharing those details, but I will note that the extreme sensitivity of factors considered by Centrelink for pardoning late returns includes such things as serious domestic violence and so, I would urge journalists to tread very carefully in this space.'

This should be bleeding obvious to all and sundry.

This morning in the Canberra Times, Paul Malone has written another article defending his snow job on Centrelink and his part in revealing personal details about Ms Fox.

Yeah, right.

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