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Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Strengthening the Integrity of Australia’s Welfare System

New compliance measures in the Budget will provide estimated net savings of $275 million over the next four years by identifying incorrect welfare payments and recovering debts.

The Howard Government has consistently worked towards increasing compliance with social security laws. These measures build on the proven success of our previous efforts, and extend our capacity to detect and prevent incorrect welfare payments.

Funding for research will identify new and innovative ways of detecting welfare fraud. We will be trialing data-matching with other countries to identify foreign pensions that have not been declared to Centrelink.

Further joint efforts with other government agencies will also assist us to improve our detection of incorrect payments and address compliance issues related to the cash economy.

Our existing data-matching program for Rent Assistance will also be strengthened by increasing the number reviews of Rent Assistance payments each year.

The records of Youth Allowance recipients will also be linked to the records of their parents and siblings who are pension or other social security benefit recipients. This will ensure that information about parent’s income will automatically be transferred to the Youth Allowance record.

Processes for updating customer records will be improved through the new Centrelink Customer Account. The Customer Account will draw customer information together into a user friendly format so that all relevant Centrelink information about a customer can be seen at one spot.

The Customer Account will be implemented from 1 July 2003. It will substantially improve the service that Centrelink is able to offer its customers and reduce unnecessary duplication. It will mean that customers will not have to repeat information already provided to Centrelink. This will help customers to ensure that the information Centrelink has is correct, meaning that more customers will receive the correct payment.

After the Customer Account is fully implemented it will provide net savings to the Government through increased administrative efficiency within Centrelink.

Additional legislative changes will strengthen the current provisions dealing with nominee arrangements. We will ensure that nominees and advocates are fully aware of their duties and obligations to inform Centrelink about any change in the circumstances of the customer for whom they are acting.

The measures contained in this package will ensure the protection of the most vulnerable members of the community by stopping those who have no entitlement to welfare from rorting Australia’s social security system.

The Howard Government will continue to maintain our generous social security system, and continue to provide effective support for people during their times of need.

More information on FaCS Budget measures