Friday, March 16, 2018

my complaint to Centrelink

My Customer Reference Number: (provided)

When I visited the Centrelink Office in Alice Springs I was told that I had to submit my Age Pension Claim online.

I went ahead and did that. I found the computer user interface to be not user friendly. In particular when documents were uploaded they disappeared from view so they couldn’t be checked. When multipage documents were uploaded I was informed they were being merged into one document but there was no way to for me to view the final product of the merging. At other times I was informed that the system wasn’t working.

(1) In my opinion you need to improve the user friendliness of your online sofware.

Recently, after a very long wait I’ve received a letter from Centrelink reference (provided) dated 12th March 2018 requesting my bank account balance on 10 January 2018. The letter was signed by (provided) MANAGER

If I don’t meet this request by 25th March I am informed that my “claim for Age Pension may be rejected”

This is strange because I have already provided Centrelink with my bank account balance in my Age Pension application.

(2) Why don’t you accept the bank account balance that I have already provided to you?
(3) My application was submitted on 22-1-2018 online so why do you want my bank balance on a different date (10-1-2018)?

My bank account balance is split into 3 sections (Streamline, Netbank Saver, GoalSaver). I phoned the Bank and they have told me they don’t issue statements for particular days.

(4) How do you expect me to provide details for my bank account balance on a particular day when the bank does not issue them?

When I uploaded my application I received a response saying it would take you 6 weeks to process. Your nominated date was 12th March. You then sent me an automated mail every 4 or 5 days saying that my claim was “progressing”. But there was zero evidence that anyone was working on my claim during that 6 week period. I believe my claim was straightforward and could be processed in less than an hour.

(5) Why have you taken so long to process my claim?
(6) Why did you state that the claim was progressing when it is clear that no progress was made for 6 weeks?
(7) Why do you threaten to not provide me with an Age Pension if I don’t meet your demands within 2 weeks and yet you take more than 6 weeks to process my form. That is not equitable fair dealing.

The current letter says I can “download forms to be completed by going to and searching the name of the form”. But the letter doesn’t say which name to search for! I visit the URL suggested and do a search for “bank account” and I can’t find a form on that site to provide my bank account balance.

(8) Since you want me to fill out a form why don’t you provide me with the name of the form or attach the form to the letter you sent me?

The letter says “please call us on 132 300” if I have any questions.

I called that number and a computer voice spoke to me requesting information which I did my best to provide. The computer then put me on hold and played a violin concerto for the next 30 minutes from 16:30 to 17:00 on Friday 16th March. After 30 minutes waiting I give up and hung up the phone.

(9) Do you think it is reasonable to keep people waiting for more than 30 minutes on a number which you provide for questions?

All my dealings with Centrelink have been digital.

(10) I would like to offer you the opportunity to interact with me face to face. I would happily open any Bank Account or Super Account I hold and show you the details. I believe this would be a far more friendly and time efficient way to resolve any doubts you may have about the veracity of my claim.

William Kerr

update 17th March:
(1) When I arrived in Alice Springs I received a form letter from Senator Nigel Scullion where he offered to assist me with matters of federal responsibility (including) Centrelink. His letter went on to say
If you feel that you are getting the "run around" ... give me a call
So I sent Nigel Scullion an email and attached a copy of my Complaint about Centrelink.

I then received an automated rely which included:
Responses to portfolio related correspondence typically take between 4 – 6 weeks and we endeavour to respond to constituents at the earliest opportunity but certainly within 6 weeks also.

Not all correspondence receives a response...
(2) I'm rereading David Graeber's 2006 essay "Beyond Power/Knowledge an exploration of the relation of power, ignorance and stupidity"

This essay is not, however, primarily about bureaucracy—or even about the reasons for its neglect in anthropology and related disciplines. It is really about violence. What I would like to argue is that situations created by violence—particularly structural violence, by which I mean forms of pervasive social inequality that are ultimately backed up by the threat of physical harm—invariably tend to create the kinds of willful blindness we normally associate with bureaucratic procedures. To put it crudely: it is not so much that bureaucratic procedures are inherently stupid, or even that they tend to produce behavior that they themselves define as stupid, but rather, that are invariably ways of managing social situations that are already stupid because they are founded on structural violence. I think this approach allows potential insights into matters that are, in fact, both interesting and important ...
This is a wide ranging essay which covers bureaucracy and violence from an anthropological perspective, with references to Weber, Foucault, Marx, Kafka and others. Well worth reading.

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