In an utterly cooked development, Centrelink is demanding a Tasmanian woman repay welfare payments after it decided to retroactively recognise her 2016 wedding after marriage equality was legalised in the country.

Centrelink has sent requests and invoices to the unnamed woman demanding she repay $6,600, after she declared that she got married in 2016. Centrelink decided to recognise the marriage and declare she was ineligible to receive family payments even though the wedding occurred overseas and was not legal in Australia at the time.

The woman’s partner is not an Australian citizen or resident and lives overseas, and the couple does not share finances. The Tasmanian woman was claiming family tax benefits on the basis that she previously did not satisfy requirements to be classified as a de facto partnership. And yet, after she declared her 2016 overseas marriage after the legislation was passed, not only has Centrelink decided to retroactively recognise that marriage, but also nullify its own ruling that she did not satisfy the requirements of de facto status.

Tasmanian state Labor candidate Ella Haddad spoke to ABC Radio Hobart after the case was brought to her attention, and said that Centrelink’s decision was “a real kick in the teeth,” and noted that the decision potentially opens up a real can of worms for other same-sex couples who got married overseas prior to marriage equality passing Australian parliament.

Centrelink’s rule on what constitutes a de facto relationship includes any couple living together on a genuine domestic basis, and has traditionally included people in same-sex relationships. However owing to the Tasmanian woman’s marital, living, and financial status, it reportedly did not apply to her until she reported her marriage.

Rodney Croome, spokesperson for Tasmanians United for Marriage Equality, slammed Centrelink’s ruling and stated that fairer rules needed to be established for people declaring an overseas marriage.

This woman has done nothing wrong and is being penalised because of the failure of the Federal Government to recognise her marriage when it occurred. I urge Centrelink to develop fairer policies on recognising overseas same-sex marriages so this doesn’t happen again.

For what it’s worth the Department of Human Services has been at *absolute pains* to stress that they have “recognised same-sex relationships in the same way as different sex relationships since 2009,” and “as such, we are not taking any action to review same-sex relationships (either married or de facto) since the passage of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms)Bill 2017” which doesn’t do much – if at all – to explain this individual case to be quite honest. Regardless, the Department assures PEDESTRIAN.TV that they are “working with the individual to address their concerns.

It is, we cannot stress this enough, a pretty bloody crook decision.

Source: ABC Radio Hobart
Image: Getty Images / Matt King