Justin Reads The #notmydebt Centrelink Senate Inquiry Report: Part 2

This series was originally posted to Storify and has been reproduced here after Storify was shut down. Unfortunately a lot of the inline images I originally tweeted have been lost, but you can still get the gist of which paragraphs of the report I’m talking about.

In this episode of Too Long; Justin Read, Justin reads chapter 3 of the #notmydebt Senate inquiry report.

Morning meetings and calls are done, so let’s fire up the Too Long; Justin Reads-a-Tron for some more #notmydebt report. #tljr

You can catch up on Part 1 here.

Part 2 begins with Chapter 3: Communicating with Centrelink #tljr

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”  #tljr

The report highlights the power imbalance between DHS and individuals. #tljr

Incidentally, I spoke to a Minister’s staffer a while back, and they fundamentally did not understand this power imbalance idea. They felt like they were the ones on the receiving end.

How out of touch can you get?

DHS has created a climate of fear. #tljr

Important point: bad comms means people could be assigned a debt they don’t actually owe. #tljr

You’d think the Coalition would be really worried about a government that can make people pay money they don’t owe. #tljr

If the government can do this to poor people, what’s to stop them doing it to people who have more money?

If you’re trying to make money, why not rob rich people?

The process is basically “We guess and send you an invoice unless you jump through our arbitrary hoops.” #tljr

Averaging income over a full year when you *know* that ~50% of people aren’t earning for a full year is clearly stupid. #tljr

This shouldn’t be controversial. It’s basic mathematics. #tljr

Being wrong about this means you’re creating work fixing mistakes. Denying that they’re errors doesn’t make them go away. #tljr

Or other pesky bits of reality, like the Earth being round, the fact that it orbits the sun, or that climate change is real.

When you’re trying to automate stuff to save costs (which is fine, btw) then you’re supposed to make fewer errors. #tljr

For all the “run government like a business” talk, this is something that a for-profit company can’t get away with. #tljr

The OCI people don’t appear to know much about communicating with humans. #tljr

I’m sure OAIC will be looking into the APP 10/13 aspects of this failure to maintain good records. #tljr

DHS tried to shake down dead people. #tljr

The letters are now sent registered post, which should have been done in the first place. #tljr

Or you design in another mechanism to check for accuracy of your first contact. This is so incredibly obvious. #tljr

As @owenhollands points out: many of these people aren’t on benefits any more. The system worked, they got a job! #tljr

And now, 4 or 5 years later some random bit of mail shows up. Over Xmas. Australia goes on holiday for a month at Xmas. #tljr

I mean FFS, this is basic, basic stuff. And they couldn’t figure it out, and didn’t bother talking to anyone who might clue them in. #tljr

This was a *known problem*, but they plowed ahead anyway. #tljr

That’s just incompetence, isn’t it? What else would you call it? #tljr

DHS “underestimated how many people would not clarify and would not engage” #tljr

This robotic, distancing language needs to die. It won’t die of natural causes, so we need to kill it. #tljr

People who talk like this need to be roundly mocked at every opportunity. #tljr

Department Secretary Campbell blames you for not wanting to talk to DHS. #tljr

DHS Blames You For Its Mistakes

Let’s pause for a minute to talk about the breathtaking arrogance on display here. #tljr

It’s *your* shitty system, Ms Campbell. You didn’t ask anyone else for help designing or building it, so it’s all on you. #tljr

And since you’re so concerned with people not talking to you, let’s look at what happens if they try, shall we? #tljr

You don’t answer your phone.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/01/03/centrelink-phone-lines-jammed-people-forced-to-call-hundreds-of_a_21646943/ …  http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/average-centrelink-wait-time-is-fourteen-minutes/8319100 …  http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/06/02/centrelink-phones-busy-42-million-times … #tljr

In fact, the DHS phone system has been broken for *years*.  https://www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/management-smart-centres-centrelink-telephone-services … #tljr

Thousands of companies globally have figured out how to answer the phone. But DHS hasn’t yet. #tljr

That means one of two things: 1. After nearly a decade, DHS can’t work out how to run their phone system. #tljr

or 2. DHS are not fixing the phone system on purpose. #tljr

I think it’s 2, mostly because doing it properly would cost money. And it’s only poor people trying to ring them. #tljr

Ramping up the letters just before Xmas was particularly cruel: #tljr

But this is all a media beatup, according to Secretary Campbell. #tljr

[Ron Howard Voice] It’s not. #tljr

How offensive is this “it’s just your imagination” dismissiveness of real people’s real experiences? #tljr

Ms Campbell then has a whinge that her job is hard. She is paid $731,000 a year. #tljr

I expect better of someone being paid $731,000 a year.

Meanwhile, people with no money are paying debts they don’t actually owe because the government threatened them. #tljr

Vulnerability is a boolean condition, according to DHS. #tljr #nothotdog

You are either vulnerable, or not. There are no shades of grey here.

Oh and all things mental health related is the usual garbage fire. #tljr

The system is too complex, particularly for people without advanced degrees. #tljr

Basically you need a professional adviser to deal with DHS. #tljr

A bunch of people point out that none of this is surprising, and DHS should have known and done better. But they didn’t. #tljr

Again, incompetence, or malice? #tljr

This is abject failure of system design. #tljr

I’m grumpy about all of this because this was all very predictable and should have been done better.

I know I might sound a bit… strident… about all this, but IT systems design is my field, and this shit pisses me off. #tljr

My taxes pay for this, and I demand better of my government. It’s 2017, and they should be better at computers by now. #tljr

Centrelink tried to get a deaf person to use the phone! OMG! #tljr

The agency that administers disability support payments forgot that deaf people exist. #tljr

Why Does Centrelink Exist?

It looks to me like DHS has forgotten its reason for existing. This is a failure of leadership.

DHS simply does not care about the people that are its reason for existing. #tljr

Back on the phone system thing for a moment: Australia is a big, sparsely populated place. Distances matter. #tljr

Getting phone and Internet stuff right is *vital* for Australia in the 21st century. This should not be controversial. #tljr

Centrelink is designed to hurt poor and vulnerable people. That’s what it looks like based on the available evidence.

DHS is a system is designed to be like this on purpose. #tljr

DHS just started taking people’s money in some cases. #tljr

And let’s be clear: this is their money. You’re entitled to these payments by law. It’s not charity. #tljr

You Just Got A 15% Pay Cut

Put yourself in that position. What would that mean?

The people designing this system don’t appear to have any empathy, or sympathy, for the people who have to use it.

Imagine you got a 15% pay cut overnight. What would that mean to you? #tljr

Remember how Ms Campbell was really concerned that people wouldn’t talk to DHS? DHS tries hard not to talk to you. #tljr

DHS hate providing any information to people. They are paranoid control freaks.

I’ve experienced this first hand:  https://www.righttoknow.org.au/user/justin_warren/requests … #tljr

Whoops! Even advanced degrees won’t help you. A CPA couldn’t figure out how the debt numbers worked. #tljr

The OCI system is a half-arsed bodge job. #tljr

OCI is just wall-to-wall upfuckage. It is fractally fucked. #tljr

Chapter 4 looks like it’ll be a doozy. #tljr

Hands up everyone who thinks myGov is really well designed? #tljr

This is something that those of us in the trade call ‘research’ that should be done before you jump straight into coding. #tljr

When you do get around to coding, maybe it should actually, you know, work? Before golive? #tljr

I know uploading files is a new phenomenon. It’s still really tricky to get it to work. OH WAIT NO IT ISN’T. #tljr

DHS want to mail me a CD because they can’t use file upload services, apparently.

I have to mail them a checque first.

DHS Cannot Computer

DHS cannot computer. #tljr

The right response to this sort of feedback from customers is to fix your shitty system. #tljr

Who could have predicted this would be a complete clusterfuck? #tljr

Everyone. The answer is everyone. #tljr

DHS did all this work in-house, and didn’t ask anyone else for help, or to review their work.

They own this. It’s entirely their fault.

DHS has no idea what they’re doing. #tljr

[Yes I’m being really mean. People committed suicide because of this broken system.] #tljr

[Someone being mean to you on the Internet is a mild consequence of what you’ve done.] #tljr

@dmeeze: @jpwarren #tljr summary: Management was deluded/malicious. Development was incompetent/malicious. Operations were incompetent/malicious.

OCI Is Going To Get Bigger!

If OCI expands to other income sources, age pensioners are going to struggle. It’s gonna get worse. #tljr

Guess what DHS is about to do?  https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/welfare-crackdown-could-hit-pensions-ng-b88479832z … #tljr

I’m sure the OCI expansion will go swimmingly. #tljr

DHS can’t be arsed training frontline staff to deal with OCI stuff. Phone and online only. #tljr

Dealing with stressed members of the public is hard. I get it. But it’s your job. #tljr

And if frontline staff aren’t very good at this job, that is *management’s fault*. #tljr

It is management’s job to hire and train people for the tasks required, and to design the overall system. #tljr

Far too often management are not held responsible for this, and line staff are blamed instead. #tljr

OCI is a failure of management. Large chunks of the management chain at DHS need to be fired and replaced with competent managers. #tljr

Yet more evidence that the people doing the work here don’t know what they’re doing. #tljr

And more evidence of the DHS phone system being shit. #tljr

Independent testing has shown DHS figures about the phone system to be deliberately misleading. #tljr

We know it’s crap. They know it’s crap. We know they know it’s crap. By now, they know we know. Just fucking fix it. #tljr

OCI is deliberate. It’s not accidental. DHS did this on purpose. #tljr

Here endeth Chapter 3 of the report. #tljr

Read part 3 of this TL;JR here.

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