David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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This article argues that the cohabitation rule in Australian social security law is uncertain and has, as a consequence, given rise to an oppressive administrative regime. It tracks the indeterminate nature of the rule as a constant feature throughout its history and argues that this imprecision remains within its current formulation in the Social Security Act 1991 (Cth). Drawing upon basic ideas about the functionality of rules, it is suggested that the administration of an undefined rule should be attended by resistance and challenge. However, the social security regime and the cohabitation rule appear to have been accepted by the community. This acceptance is explained as being the result of the oppressiveness of the current administration. Drawing upon analysis of Administrative Appeals Tribunal decisions and interviews conducted with Centrelink clients, this article argues that the cohabitation rule unfairly targets vulnerable clients, is implemented through the use of invasive surveillance and provides opportunities for intimidation by Centrelink officers.
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