Letters to the editor

Justice: You can get it in the courts, a reader says, but not if you're being dealt with by the welfare system.
Justice: You can get it in the courts, a reader says, but not if you're being dealt with by the welfare system.

No justice in welfare

In the criminal law environment, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard of proof is very high and if the evidence fails to meet this standard of proof, you must be found not guilty. 

If you enter the Australian welfare system though you are presumed to be guilty until you prove your innocence. 

Centrelink has turned the law on its head and criminals have more rights than welfare recipients. Why is this axiomatic and elementary, fundamental tenant of law – which has been in place throughout the English-speaking world since Roman times – been overturned? 

It is because this government regards welfare recipients with utter contempt and has no qualms about pressuring the most vulnerable and least able of our citizens in an attempt to balance the budget. 

It believes it is OK to put thousands of people through the ringer for each person it catches and it is easier to challenge the lower socio-economic groups in society than tackle the fat cats with their army of lawyers, accountants and media resources. 

If you don’t provide proof of your innocence to Centrelink within very tight time frames in a rigid, bureaucratic system they will turn the debt collectors on to you. Why was the presumption of innocence not put in place? The answer is, that if it was the other way around, there would be vastly more injustice done by government. 

We presume innocence on the part of those accused by the government on the premise that the government has vastly more power and resources than any given individual, and should therefore have to provide proof positive that an accusation is true and correct.

Otherwise, the government could accuse anyone of anything and the burden of proof of innocence is on the accused and it is very difficult to prove a negative: that you haven't done something. 

As Lord Gillies said in an 1817 case: “I conceive that this presumption is to be found in every code of law which has reason and religion and humanity for a foundation.”

In other words, the Centrelink approach does not have reason and religion and humanity for its foundation and the campaign should be ceased. They need to find another way to catch welfare cheats. 

Len Shefford Thurgoona

Carbon catastrophe

The Abbott/Turnbull government's decision to rip up the carbon price penalty for companies that pollute our air has been a disaster. Its climate policy failures have led to increased power prices, energy insecurity and more pollution. Privatisation of the electricity sector has amplified federal government policy failures.

New Grattan Institute research finds Victorians are being ripped off by electricity retailers to the tune of $250 million a year. The Andrews government has established a new energy task force in cabinet to secure the Victoria's energy future. The Premier can deliver affordable power supplies and cut pollution by ensuring the new energy task force focuses on climate change and the impact of privatisation. Daniel Andrews has to rein in power companies fleecing householders while trashing our climate.

Leigh Ewbank. Friends of the Earth, Melbourne

Give children some hope

Six-year-old Yousra is the same age as the war in Syria. All she has known is war and when my colleagues met her, she was playing hopscotch among the bombed-out buildings of Aleppo.

War cannot kill the imagination of a child. But it’s depriving millions of children like Yousra of a childhood. This week marks an unfortunate anniversary whereby the people of Syria have now endured an armed conflict that’s lasted longer than World War II. 

All kids deserve a childhood and a chance for a bright future. To help: redcross.org.au.

Peter Walton, director international,

Australian Red Cross