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March 2018

Learning from Kyle


Kyle Sandilands is among the best in the world at what he does.

Share this with someone young who's struggling to find their way.

They - and you - might learn a bit about loving what you do. 

And never, ever giving up.


100 years ago today, my grand-uncle SGT Leslie John SMITH, Regt No 119, AIF - killed in action on The Somme. Lest We Forget.

This artwork represents some of the thousands of Allied soldiers killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

I'm watching the sun set 100 years to the day since the first of those horrific years of war on the Somme.

My grand-dad and his brother Les served there together in the 3rd Division, AIF.   Grandma's brother Les was there as a 21 year old engineer.

100 years ago my family well and truly answered the call.

Gerald Patrick Smith left home in late 1911 to go to sea on the Royal Australian Navy's first day of service.

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The King had just approved formation of the RAN and Gerald was one of its first members.


When war broke out, Gerald had already been to England to sail back on the pride of the fleet, HMAS Australia.



Grerard Patrick was one of the first Australians to see action in The Great War.  

He was in the landing party that secured German Rabaul New Guinea.

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The elder Smith boy Leslie John was a famous musician and the manager of Stanley MacKay's Royal Pantomime Company.   He was constantly on tour with glamorous stars throughout Australia and New Zealand.

I reckon he was a lady's man.   Maybe Eydie Stamp does too.  After he'd sailed away to war Eydie tried to find him and didn't want the letter in reply sent home.

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119 Leslie John Smith went straight into action as a machine gunner on The Somme.

That's him on great grandma's Catherine's lap with great grandpa the stern school teacher watching over them.

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My grandpa Percy Leo Smith was a telegraph operator at the Melbourne GPO.

Les, Percy and Gerald were solid Irish Catholic working class boys.

Waltter Geappen was a 3rd generation protestant Australian.  His boys signed up too, as you'd expect of the sons of the Victorian Government Printer and Grand Master of Melbourne's Masonic Lodge.  Here are the Geappen boys with my grandmother Myrene just before the war.

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20 year old blacksmith  Les was always going to be a Sapper!


But Les hadn't attained his majority..

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Les was an Australian Native just like me.



My grandfather Percy Leo Smith was first allocated to the 7th Battalion.   He first served in Cairo Egypt.


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When Les went into action on The Somme, Percy transferred to the 3rd Division to be near him.

In December 1916 Les copped a shocking whack - a gunshot wound penetrating his face and eye.

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This photo was taken a year later, even in the grainy sepia wash you can see the damage.

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Les was a fighter.   After he came out of hospital in London he was sent to the machine gun training school at Grantham as a Sergeant Instructor where he spent the remainder of 1917.

Gerald was by then on HMAS Warrego sailing out of Brindisi, Italy hunting subs and enemy ships in the Mediterranean.  When Les suggested the boys get together over Christmas 1917 Gerald was on to it like a shot!  Somehow he got leave and made his way from Brindisi to London via the Channel - 2,200 kilometres during the war!  Not a bad effort.

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And so the Smith boys were together again for one final Christmas in London, December, 1917.

Their priority mission was to get this photo to send back home to their mum Catherine in Richmond.

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Imagine her excitement going to the letter box in Sherwood Street Richmond with the two girls to see her 3 boys together!

Here's Catherine with the two girls after the war - granddad has written "my best pals" on the top of the photo.

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I hope that Percy, Leo and Gerald had the best of times in London and partied like it was their last Christmas together on earth.   Because it was.

Les had been seriously wounded.   He had a good job in England training machine gunners.  He was part of the war effort.  But his loyalty lay with his mates and brother.

On 10 March 1918 he rejoined the 10th Machine Gun Company on the Somme.  

He didn't know, but allied commanders suspected that the Germans would soon launch a major push from the Hindenburg Line trying to breach the Allies line and thrust through to the sea.

This is Field Marshall Hindenburg and General Ludendorf.

Ludendorff was planning a surprise offensive to divide the French and British forces on the Western Front. As anticipated, the German army amassed its troops and launched an offensive on 21 March, on a front south of Arras in St Quentin sector.


German reserves advancing through St Quentin.The Germans wanted to capture the strategically important area of Amiens, to divide the Allied armies and to weaken them to the point where a combined counter-attack would be impossible.

Sixty-three German divisions attacked over 60 miles of the front held by 26 British divisions, overwhelming British defences and driving them west. The Germans concentrated on infiltrating strongly in one central area, whereas the British expected that the attack would be spread out, and that the Germans would attempt to outflank them in the Somme woods and valleys. The British 3rd Army and 5th Army were taken by surprise, divided and forced to retreat. German troops then rapidly advanced across the Somme battlefield towards Amiens. In five days, they had recaptured all the land they had lost around the Somme in the previous two years. This was disastrous for the Allies. Not only had they lost all the land which thousands of men had died to capture, but also the Germans were now dangerously close to Amiens, a vital rail junction, which in March lay defenceless.

In the short space of ten days since launching the offensive, German troops were almost at the gates of Amiens. The Allies had to prevent the Germans from passing through Villers-Bretonneux, the main area before Amiens. On 25 March, the 3rd and 4th Australian divisions were on their way, hastily instructed to plug the gap and to assist in stopping the offensive.

On 30 March 1918 my grandfather saw his brother Les shot and killed in action at Dernancourt, The Somme.

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There wasn't much to send home.

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His effects were boxed and placed on the Barunga, formerly the German liner Sumatra which was captured by the Royal Australian Navy in Sydney Harbour at the start of the war.  Gerald Smith was there when she was captured and put into service for Australia.

He was also there on the Mediterranean Sea when a German submarine torpedoed her and sent the ship and his brothers earthly effects to the bottom of the sea. H02017 A01043

I wonder if Catherine knew the little trinkets left to her by her son were on Barunga when she read about her sinking?

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There was no homecoming for the dead in World War One.

Grieving mothers were asked to pay for a copy of the gazette entry recording the headstone details of their dead boys.

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But a mother's love for her son never dies.

When the Australian men came home the official historian Charles Bean's first order of duty was to oversee the creation of an Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Today, new generations of Smiths can see the name of 119 Smith, Leslie John in bronze on the Roll of Honour.

A few years after the war, Catherine Smith received a polite note from the official historian asking for details about Les.

I can imagine her tears as she wrote about the lad who won the Royal South Street Open Violin solo - at the age of 17!  And the memories of treasured letters from his tours of the major provincial centres of Australia and both islands of New Zealand with the pantomime company.

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I'd also lay odds my great grandmother never forgot the Dept of The Somme, France.

Nor should we.

On the centenary of the first of the bloody battles of the Somme.

At the going down of the sun,

And in the morning,

We will remember them.

Lest we forget.

PS - The Hall of Memory in the Australian War Memorial has stained glass windows on 3 sides, each window divided into 5 panels.   The 15 panels represent personal qualities of Australians at war.

As I write these last few words with tears flowing freely I'm particularly moved by one of the qualities we used to value.

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Leslie John, Percy Leo, Leslie Claude, Gerald Patrick and my many other ancestors who fought for the idea of Australia must be looking on and wondering at what we have become.

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Federal Government website explains "If you owe us money, you'll need to pay us back". Unless you're friends with Mathias Corman.

Matthias Corman waived the debts owed by: 

  • Rodney Culleton
  • Barnaby Joyce
  • Scott Ludlam
  • Fiona Nash
  • Malcolm Roberts
  • Larissa Waters

because "it was difficult for (them) to know that they were ineligible" to receive the money they'll now keep.

And that list doesn't include David Feeney who bulltished his way through months of false claims he'd submitted his UK renunciation paperwork, only to resign at the last minute.  There are plenty of indications of a guilty mind in that man's behaviour.  But he's a member of The Club so it's all going to turn out beautifully for David.

They wonder why they've lost our respect.

Check out the same government's guidelines when it comes to us.


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Owing money

If you owe us money, you'll need to pay us back.

If you owe us money but don’t get a Centrelink payment, avoid an interest charge. Use Money You Owe to pay in full or set up payment arrangements.

Letting you know

We’ll tell you if you owe us money. We'll send you a letter which will tell you:

  • why you owe the money
  • the amount you owe
  • when you need to pay the amount due, and
  • how you can make the payment

Also, we may call you to talk about your debt and how to pay it. We may send you an SMS or ask you to call us back on one of our Debt Recovery phone numbers. These numbers are genuine and aren't a scam. Learn more about how to identify scams and stay safe.

It’s important to keep us informed of changes to your address while you’re paying back your Centrelink debt. Read more about change of circumstances.

Payment of Centrelink debts

If you get a Centrelink payment

We may reduce your payment to help you pay back your debt. The standard rate is 15% of your income support payment. If you have other income, such as earnings from employment or investments, the repayment rate can be higher. Different rates apply to other payment types.

You may not be able to get an advance payment until you have repaid your debt. Read more about an advance payment.

If you have questions about the amount of money we're withholding from your payment call the Centrelink debt recovery line. If you're Indigenous, call the Indigenous debt recovery line.

Payment rate change

If we agree to a lower rate, it will only be for 3 months. After this time we'll review the rate based on your income and assets.

If your payment rate is going to change, we’ll send you a letter before the new rate starts.

If you no longer get a Centrelink payment

We can ask you to pay off your Centrelink debts at any time, even if you no longer receive an income support payment.

You can use the Money You Owe service to pay your debt in full or to set up a payment arrangement.

To do this, sign in to your Centrelink online account through myGov and select Money You Owe.

There are different ways you can repay your debt, some options are:

Payment method Information
Credit card

You can make a payment using your Visa or Mastercard by using myGov to access the Money You Owe service in your Centrelink online account.

Direct debit To arrange automatic deductions from your bank account, use myGov to access the Money You Owe service in your Centrelink online account.

You can make payments using BPAY by phone or internet banking. You can access this service through your bank.

The Biller code is 21915. Your reference number is on your Account Payable letter or any other letters you get from us that have payment options displayed.

If your bank allows you to make a BPAY payment from your credit card, you can do so. However, your bank may charge you additional fees or interest. You should check this before making a payment.

Australia Post

You can make a payment in person at any Australia Post office or postal outlet using EFTPOS, cash, cheque or money order. Use the barcode on your Account Payable letter or any other letters you get from us that have payment options displayed. You can also get a barcode from your the Money You Owe section of your Centrelink online account or Express Plus Centrelink mobile app.

You may also request a payment card to allow you to make regular payments at any Australia Post office or postal outlet. To arrange for us to issue you a card, call the Centrelink debt line 1800 076 072, or if you're Indigenous, call the Indigenous debt line.

You can also make a payment through Australia Post’s POSTbillpay service. The Billpay Code is 0802. Your reference number is on your Account Payable letter or any other letters you get from us that have payment options displayed.

If you can’t pay online, call Australia Post’s POSTbillpay line on 131 816 to make a payment.

Contact the Centrelink debt recovery line if you can’t pay the owed amount by the due date, and we can talk about payment options. If you're Indigenous, call the Indigenous debt recovery line.

Our debt recovery numbers are:

  • Centrelink debt recovery line - 1800 076 072 or 1800 462 425
  • Indigenous debt recovery line - 1800 138 193

Failure to pay

If you don’t pay your debt by the due date, we may ask the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to send us your tax refund. If we do we’ll send you a Recovery of your Centrelink debt letter.

If you aren’t repaying your debt over time or if we haven’t agreed to extend the payment time, we may also:

  • add an interest charge to your debt
  • refer your debt to an external collection agency
  • reduce your income support payments to help pay the amount owing
  • recover the amount from your wages, other income and assets, including money you may hold in a bank account
  • refer your case to our solicitors for legal action
  • issue a Departure Prohibition Order to stop you from travelling overseas.

Interest rates and charges

The rate of interest we apply to your debt is consistent with the current rate applied by the ATO to tax debts. You can read more about interest charge rates on the ATO website.

We won’t charge you interest if you:

  • are currently getting a Centrelink payment
  • have entered into an acceptable payment arrangement, and
  • continue to honour that payment arrangement

Departure Prohibition Orders

We may issue a Departure Prohibition Order if you aren't repaying your debt. It will stop you from leaving Australia until you pay your debt in full or enter an acceptable payment arrangement.

We don’t need a court order to stop you from leaving Australia.

External collection agencies

Dun and Bradstreet, the Probe Group and the Australian Receivables Limited (ARL) are the external collection agents we use to follow up outstanding Centrelink debts. A collection agent may send you an SMS, phone you or send you a letter. If you get a letter from any of our collection agents, it’s important you contact them immediately to discuss your payment options.

While your account is with one of our collection agents:

  • their privacy and security protects your personal information, and
  • your credit rating won’t change.

If you have a complaint about the service you get from a collection agent, you can give us feedback. Read more about complaints and feedback.

Recovering debt for other Australian and New Zealand government departments

We may deduct money from your Centrelink payment to recover money you owe to other Australian Government departments, including the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

We also recover some overpayments on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand. We’ll let you know if we’re going to recover any of these overpayments from your income support payment.

Bankruptcy and debt agreements

If you can’t make payments, consider entering into a debt agreement as a way of managing your debt and avoiding bankruptcy. A debt agreement is a legally binding agreement between you and us. If a debt agreement is unable to resolve the debt, you may still enter into bankruptcy.

Entering into bankruptcy or a debt agreement doesn't eliminate all debts, but we won't recover some debts for the duration of your bankruptcy or agreement.

You must take steps to begin the debt agreement process and tell all your creditors. Read more about how to begin the process of a debt agreement on the Australian Financial Security Authority website.

An administrator will contact us with details of your case. We'll review your outstanding debts, take the appropriate action and advise you in writing of the outcome.

6 MPs ruled ineligible by High Court will pay back nothing, debts waived - Mathias Corman releases statement just before Good Friday

There aren't many situations where people who've been overpaid get their debts waived.

Centrelink doesn't do it.

Try keeping a Family Tax Benefit overpayment.

But nothing is too good for pollies looking after pollies under the Old Mates Act.

And the decision gets announced just before the one day there's no newspapers, Good Friday.


Waiving Debts of Parliamentarians Ruled Ineligible

Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia

29 March 2018

Following decisions by the High Court last year regarding the ineligibility of some Parliamentarians, relevant departments undertook a process to determine appropriate action regarding each debt pursuant to requirements in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. 

Part of that process, involving the Department of Finance, the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority and the Department of the House of Representatives and the Department of the Senate, included the creation of a departmental advisory committee of senior public officials to advise the associated debts.

The departmental advisory committee determined that all Parliamentarians performed their duties in good faith for a proper purpose and that it was difficult for individuals at the time of nomination to know that they were ineligible for nomination.

As such, the departmental advisory committee recommended waiving debts consistent with the principles and intent of the ‘Requests for discretionary financial assistance under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2014’.

Based on the recommendation of the committee, I have agreed to waive the debts of the following individuals:

  • Rodney Culleton
  • Barnaby Joyce
  • Scott Ludlam
  • Fiona Nash
  • Malcolm Roberts
  • Larissa Waters

These debts include salaries, superannuation and electorate allowances, as well as non-salary expenses, such as, staff expenses, office expenses and travel expenses.

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is currently reviewing matters relating to Section 44 of the Constitution. The Government will consider the recommendations of the Committee when they are finalised.


Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Perth