Wednesday, 11 February 2009

I was only following orders

I'm sure the PM spoke some harsh words to Centrelink staff yesterday, but that would have been uncalled for. Yes, it was bloody deplorable that this happened, but the bureaucrats were simply applying the policies of the day.

Bushfire survivors have criticised the Federal Government for demanding families who lost everything produce identification before they receive financial help.

Less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told Parliament grieving families' stress was compounded by their loss of legal identification, journalist and survivor Gary Hughes wrote an open letter to Mr Rudd attacking Centrelink officials' unreasonable demands.

Hughes, who escaped with his wife as flames swallowed their St Andrews home on Saturday, asked Mr Rudd to cut red tape.

"Survivors unable to produce identification were told they needed at the very least a copy of a bank statement to prove who they were," he wrote.

"Come back with a bank statement, they were told, and their applications for emergency relief would be processed.

"Kevin, how are people who most likely have also lost their cars supposed to get ot their bank and back? Catch a bus? Beg a lift on a passing fire truck?

"And if these already deeply traumatised people managed to get to their bank, get a copy of their statement and get back to the relief centre, they were told it would take at least two days to get the money."

The bureaucrats should of course be glad that the poor sods lost their guns in the fires - otherwise, a few Centrelink employees might have been making the journey to the morgue as well. However, I'm sure those same staff have had it drummed into them that if they are caught disobeying Centrelink policies, they'll be sacked. Until told otherwise, they had to hang onto the cash.

I'm also sure that some thieving bastards will drive into these areas from Melbourne, pose as survivors and make off with a handout from Centrelink, the Red Cross and the Salvos. Episodes like this bring out the best in people, and the very worst.

1 comment:

Margo's Maid said...

Good yarn, BOAB. My reading of the 2008 Victorian bushfire inquiry suggests that there was an absence of plain speaking, especially from govt departments desperate not to offend anyone.