In defiance of serious congenital disabilities, Michael worked as a taxi driver. Michael was born with legs ending just below the knees, one arm ending just below his elbow, the other ending in one finger and one pincer-like thumb.
After thirty years’ work, Michael’s arthritis became too painful to continue; he was granted Disability Support Pension and became his father’s carer.
Michael had sailed with his father as a child, and after his dad died, Michael decided to pursue his lifelong dream of sailing up the Queensland coast. He sold his home, informed Centrelink of his plan and set off for USA, where boats were cheaper, expecting to return in a few months.
Transporting his yacht back home proved problematic and Michael spent two years living on the boat in Panama, trying to arrange things.
When Michael’s sister told him he’d received a letter about transferring to Age Pension, he contacted Centrelink, whereupon his payment was cancelled.
Michael returned to have his payment restored, but a debt of $28,000 was raised as Michael had been in Panama, with which there is no ‘international arrangement’. Michael was unaware of this rule. Since returning, Michael had to sell his boat at a substantial loss, leaving him with little cash remaining.
BRQ successfully argued at the SSAT for waiver of $26,000 still outstanding on the basis of special circumstance that Michael did not intend to deceive Centrelink and would have made sure he complied with DSP rules, if had known them, as he couldn’t afford not to.