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Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Computers identify $millions

The Minister for Community Services, Mr Larry Anthony, tabled a report in Parliament today showing that over $232.5 million owed to Centrelink, was identified by computer data-matching programs during the previous financial year.
Mr Anthony said the results were in part due to the Government’s decision to extend the data-matching program between Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

“This joint venture between Centrelink and the ATO has uncovered around $81 million worth of welfare debt by identifying social security recipients who have not declared additional income to Centrelink,” Mr Anthony said.

“These figures highlight that the Government’s action on Social Security debt is achieving results and that we are significantly reducing the cost of fraud and overpayment to taxpayers.”

Mr Anthony highlighted a number of findings from the report. During the 1998/99 financial year:

  • there were 3,011 convictions of welfare fraud which resulted in $30.3 million in welfare debt;
  • Centrelink compliance activities have resulted in savings to the Australian taxpayer of around $20.9 million each week;
  • 256,376 payments were either cancelled or reduced as a result of Centrelink compliance activities resulting in over $279.7 million in welfare debt.

Mr Anthony said over the past four years it had been necessary to crack down on welfare fraud but the Government was now keen to focus attention on debt prevention.

“Prevention is better than cure and Centrelink has introduced Debt Prevention Officers across the country, to help find ways to stop welfare fraud before it happens.”

“During the past financial year, Centrelink Debt Prevention Officers have carried out more than 380,000 individual contacts with Centrelink customers to help prevent them from falling into the welfare debt trap.”

“This Government takes seriously its duty to ensure the integrity of the social security system. Not only do we have a duty to the Australian taxpayer but we also have a duty to the vast majority of Centrelink customers who are honest and have a genuine entitlement to social security payments.”