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Links

A.C.O.S.S. - The Australian Council of Social Services.

Welfare Rights S.A. - People who can help you in person.

Social Security Act - The Law Centrelink has to follow.

  News and Tips




Appeal, Appeal, Appeal
Beat the Phone Queue
FOI. The Start not the End
Gay Couples Get Paid More
Get Payments and earn money on Blind Pension
Re- Apply for that Partner Allowance

Appeal, Appeal, Appeal - There are more places to appeal than you dream. A Centrelink staff member has made an unfavourable decision about your payments. Where to now?

Well firstly, if you had done your homework and told your story well, we wouldn't be here now, but your first step is to go through the decision again with the Original Decision Maker (ODM), and tell them anything they don't know, or have not taken into account which should effect their decision. Be assertive. Still didn't get what you want? Make an asshole out of yourself, be aggressive. At this point many Centrelink staff just give in, many because it's just too hard, others because they don't know what they are doing. But if they didn't (and if your behaviour didn't already make them go running for one) it's time to ask for....

The supervisor. The supervisor, team leader or manager is usually busy doing other things, and sometimes will give you what you want because you are taking up their time and disturbing the office and other customers. But sometimes a hard-ass supervisor will back up a hard-ass ODM. If so, it's on to the next step...

The Authorised Review Officer (ARO) is a Centrelink staff member who will take a fresh look at your case, going over it with a fine tooth comb to make sure everything has been done correctly. Often, things aren't correct, and they find in your favour. But sometimes, you may have to go further, to.....

The Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) is an independent body who will review your case. If you haven't won yet, this is pretty much a waste of time, right? Wrong. I've seen these guys hand down some decisions Centrelink thought were pretty wacky (but SSAT wouldn't have made them unless they thought Centrelink's decision was wacky in the first place). So it's still worth trying these guys, and up to here it's all been free, so what have you got to lose? If the SSAT agreed with Centrelink you can still go to....

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) is like a court, so I recommend getting someone to represent you if you get to this step. The AAT will review the legality of the decision. Sometimes your case might set a legal precedent. Not many battlers make it to this step. They give up (so Centrelink wins, right?) But if you still think you are right, there's one more place you can go...

The Federal Court can review decisions under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act or AD(JR). Personally, I don't know anyone who went this high, but hte mechanism is there and some use it.

You don't have to just follow this whole chain one step at a time. There are other things you can do while all this is going on. You can contact your local MP or Senator, the Minister for Family and Community Services, or the Prime Minister. They make the laws after all. And don't forget their opposite numbers like the Leader of the Opposition, or his Shadow Ministers. You can also contact the Ombudsman. None of this is a magic wand, but will give your case a slightly higher profile, because important community figures are turning up the heat and want to know what's going on.


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Beat the Phone Queue- A woman interviewed on the Seven network current affairs program 'Today Tonight' during the week ending 25/8/00 said she beats the long wait when she calls Centrelink. She claims she dials zero as soon as she gets the recorded message. We didn't have any luck with this method, but it's worth a try. Computer controlled answering systems with programmable menu options just put you through to an operator as a default when an unprogrammed option is selected. So just punch any old number. What have you got to lose?


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FOI. The Start not the End - Many people use the Freedom of Information (FOI)Act provisions when they have exhausted all appeal avenues. Maybe you have an overpayment you appealed against, and lost, now you want to know who 'dobbed you in'. Don't waste your time. Your unkown accuser has a right to privacy too, and Centrelink won't tell you who they are.

Other people use FOI in the middle of an appeal to find out: how a decision was made, calculations, etc so they can argue against them. This is better, but in both these cases people have missed an important opportunity.

USE FOI BEFORE YOU EVEN CLAIM. That's right, you heard correct.

Would you take a test without doing some study first? No? Then why would you answer even one question on a Centrelink form without knowing why it's being asked? Study up first, then you have a better idea how to answer. Where to study? Well besides the Social Security Act and Guide (follow the link on this Website), you can use FOI to get access to staff instructions and job aids that Centrelink staff use to help them make decisions. KNOW WHAT THEY KNOW BEFORE THEY KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT YOU! It sure beats saying the wrong thing and not getting paid.


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Gay Couples Get Paid More - Section 4(2)(i) of The Social Security Act defines a 'member of a couple' as someone who 'has a relationship with a person of the opposite sex'. So same sex couples get treated as single people. 2 single people get paid more than 2 married people. A same sex partner's income and assets are not taken into account when determining a rate of payment. So overall, gay couples certainly do get paid more. Isn't this discriminatory to non-gay people? Of course. Isn't it insulting to gay people not to have their relationships recognised? Of course. What if All opposite sex couples told Centrelink they were gay, just to get a higher rate of payment? Well making a false statement is fraud, but this one could be quite difficult to prove, as many people who are gay conceal this fact from family, friends and the wider community.


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Get Payments and Earn Money on Blind Pension - Section 95(1) of the Social Security Act states that 'A person is qualified for a Disability Support Pension if the person is permanently blind'. Disability Support Pension - Permanent Blindness (DSB) is not income tested or assets tested, so a person in receipt of DSB can earn as much as they like and have as much assets as they like, and their pension is not effected. But the to get this payment you have to be permanently blind not totally blind. Blindness is defined as: having a visual acuity of 6/60 or less under the Snellen Test. So if you have very poor eyesight you may qualify.


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Re-Apply for that Partner Allowance - Newly Arrived Resident Waiting Period legislation for Partner Allowance was repealed from 30 March 2000. Until it is reinstated, those people who have been refused Partner Allowance because they have been in Australia for less than 2 years, but are otherwise qualified for payment, can claim and get paid.

When the provision IS reinstated people who claim now will continue to get paid.

SO CLAIM NOW, IT IS UNKNOWN HOW LONG THIS WILL LAST, AND CENTRELINK WILL PROBABLY NOT CONTACT YOU TO TELL YOU ABOUT THIS!
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