Rachelle Miller reveals Liberal Party’s ‘dole bludger’ media strategy
The scheme used the tax office’s annual income data and averaged it over 26 fortnights, assuming income was the same across each, and put the onus on welfare recipients to prove they didn’t owe the government money.
The coalition settled a class action lawsuit over the scheme for $1.8 billion in 2020.
Miller told the commission that her initial reaction to the pilot hearing in late 2016 was positive. “I took one look at it and thought, ‘There’s a good story here,'” Miller said, adding it complements the coalition’s story of saving money.
However, she said it started to generate a lot of negative publicity, especially from the “left” media camp, but wasn’t too worried, as “it wasn’t unusual for the left media to ‘social attack’ us”.
She said while Tudge was concerned about the publicity, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office was pleased as the program was well received by voters in marginal seats, including western Sydney.
Former Liberal staffer Rachelle Miller at a door-stop interview in December 2021. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
In November 2020, Miller told the ABC’s Four Corners that she had an affair with Tudge while he was her boss.
Tudge was ousted from the front bench in December 2021 after Miller publicly claimed he was emotionally abusive and on one occasion physically abusive while the pair traveled together for work.
Tudge denies the allegations and has been subjected to two inquiries. The first, carried out by legal firm Sparke Helmore, was commissioned by the Morrison government but did not find sufficient evidence to substantiate allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
‘You’d think that working in human services, social services, the first person you’d think of would be the recipient, but that hasn’t been the case throughout the coalition government’
The second inquiry, by Vivienne Thom, a former inspector general of intelligence, found Tudge had not breached ministerial standards, but Miller did not take part in that inquiry.
Last year, the Commonwealth reached an agreement with Miller, represented by Gordon Legal, to pay her $650,000 for loss of earning capacity, medical expenses and costs, but did not admit liability for her claims of disability discrimination, sex discrimination and an unsafe workplace not.
Miller told the inquiry that no thought was given to the people receiving the debt notices, sometimes worth tens of thousands of dollars.
“There was a clear lack of empathy,” she said, adding “it was the culture of the place”.
“You would think that working in human services, social services, the first person you would think of is the recipient, but that hasn’t been the case throughout the Coalition government,” she said.
Tudge will appear before the commission on Wednesday 1 February and former social services minister Christian Porter will appear on Thursday 2 February.
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