Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Taxi rank raid on welfare cheats

Centrelink has cancelled, suspended or reduced the welfare payments of 25 people following a swoop on taxi drivers completed in Brisbane this morning.

The two-day joint operation, involving Centrelink, the Department of Immigration and Muliticultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) and Queensland Transport, will result in savings of at least $180,000 a year after catching Centrelink customers for failing to declare incomes. Another 71 cases are still being followed up.

Queensland Transport established vehicle interception sites in the taxi feeder area at the Brisbane Domestic Airport on Friday evening and this morning. A total of 438 drivers were asked to provide identification before being questioned by Queensland Transport and DIMIA officers. The information gathered was made available to Centrelink under current information sharing procedures.

At no stage was the public delayed or inconvenienced by the successful operation.

In the past the cash economy operations have focused heavily on primary industries such as fruit and vegetable picking. This investigation into the taxi industry is a further expansion of field activity into other areas of the cash economy.

There are strong links between the employment of unlawful non-citizens, tax evasion, welfare fraud and cash economy industries. It is therefore vital that the cooperation continues between DIMA, the Australian Tax Office, the law enforcement agencies and Centrelink.

There is no doubt that most of Centrelink’s 6.4 million customers are honest and treat the system with integrity. However, with such a broad and generous welfare system in Australia, it is crucial that we have a vigilant compliance system.