Disability pension, starvation, Centrelink and the Australian justice

Do disabled people have rights in Australia?

This is our true story. This may happen to anyone who becomes unable to work in Australia.
All facts are confirmed on documents.

I (Sophie Scott) have serious physical impairment. This impairment is confirmed by X-rays, MRI and reports of medical specialists. I lodged a claim for a disability support pension, supported by several medical opinions, on that physical impairment at Centrelink in January 1993. Centrelink officers sent me for a medical examination by a Government doctor, that is by a Commonwealth Medical Officer. Although the Commonwealth Medical Officer noticed some of my physical conditions, she failed to investigate them and failed to give impairment on them. My other physical conditions, also presented to that Commonwealth Medical Officer, were not even noticed by her and she also failed to give impairment on them. Centrelink was informed by that Commonwealth Medical Officer that she was unable to give a medical opinion without me being examined by a psychiatrist [for malingering]. Centrelink officers, who had no medical qualifications and who had no power to reject impairment, noticed the other medical opinions confirming my physical impairment, but rejected that impairment and rejected my claim for a disability support pension. At that time Centrelink officers informed each other that the Commonwealth Medical Officer had not given a medical opinion. Those Centrelink officers deceived us, in their written decisions, that my physical impairment had been rejected by the Commonwealth Medical Officer. I informed Centrelink that I had no money to survive, that I was preparing the appeal against the rejection of my disability support pension claim, and I made a claim for a special benefit. Centrelink decided that I must first claim a disability support pension again and be examined by a psychiatrist chosen by Centrelink [the second claim for a disability support pension was giving Centrelink officers legal power to request an examination by a psychiatrist]. I had already given Centrelink the medical opinion that I had no psychiatric problems, I was continuously challenging at Centrelink the request for the second disability support pension claim and I was asking for special benefit and time to prepare an appeal. I am a medical practitioner and I observed that Centrelink had already attached the label of a psychiatric disease to a person claiming a disability support pension on the genuine physical impairment.

Centrelink knew that we had no money for food and for rent, and Centrelink decided to use force. Centrelink starved me and my husband, who also is an invalid, for 2 months. Centrelink was informed by us, there is a written note, about the severe consequences from no recognization of my physical impairment. We begged Centrelink officers for time, for special benefit and therefore for money for food and rent, to no avail. I appealed the request for the second disability support pension claim and appealed the no grant of the special benefit. The first decision was unsuccessful. The second decision was different: Centrelink officer concluded that the applied force had not worked and the special benefit was granted. However, the payment of the special benefit, after the grant, still was not made expeditiously. We claim that Centrelink failed to prevent our ill treatment. We suffered the horrible hunger pain. We had to survive on potatoes and milk because we both had only $48 per week for food from my husband's part pension. We suffered the severe mental pain and anguish. We were dying of hunger, but no recognization of my physical impairment [heart defect] would have led to death as well. We were forced to look for food in rubbish bins, we were unable to pay rent and were almost evicted. Our health deteriorated permanently. I lost at that time 12 kg of my body weight, my husband lost 10 kg of his body weight. Centrelink was continuously wrongly refusing to acknowledge the existence of my physical impairment for 4 years. Centrelink granted a disability support pension to me on that physical impairment in 1996 after fights in 2 appellate tribunals. Centrelink admitted, in a document, that my serious physical impairment was apparent and sufficient for the grant of a disability support pension.

We asked the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Australian Courts for the consideration of the above stated actions/ failures. The Commission stopped investigating our complaint. The Federal Court of Australia ( Bromberg J ) decided that the case was vexatious and devoid of any reasonable cause of action. We exhausted all avenues of appeal in Australia. We were not given a reasonable redress. We claim that Australia breached Art.7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which protects against the lack of medical care, against torture, the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and agaist the failure to prevent torture and such treatment, and we claim that Australia breached Art.26 of that Covenant, which protects against no grant of a pension or a benefit to an entitled person. Australia ratified the ICCPR and signed the Optional Protocol. We are asking you for help. Please, break the silence and help the most vulnerable people in Australia!

The breaches of Covenants in the Soviet Union were condemned by the world and by Australia . See also: "Russia's Political Hospitals The Abuse of Psychiatry in the Soviet Union" by S. Bloch and P. Reddaway, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1977, at page 154 (quote): "Dr Felix Yaroshevsky, an emigre Soviet psychiatrist now in Canada, told us of the procedure whereby a person persevering stubbornly in having some matter attended to by a government department, e.g. seeking housing, a pension, may find himself trundled off to a mental hospital at the instigation of that department."

AHRC: Level 3, 175 Pitt St., Sydney NSW 2000, Australia; Registry of the Federal Court of Australia and of the High Court of Australia: 305 William St., Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia; Court decisions may be obtained from www.fedcourt.gov.au and www.hcourt.gov.au .

Yours faithfully,

Ralph Scott and Sophie Scott

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