Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

New Ads: Supporting the System that Supports You

Australia has one of the best social security systems in the world. It is there to help people through difficult times and to improve the quality of life for all Australians. However, to keep the system working properly, we need the help of all its participants.

The Howard Government will today begin an educational campaign to ensure that income support recipients accurately report their personal and financial circumstances to Centrelink.

The national campaign will be backed by national television, radio and newspaper advertising. It will raise Centrelink customers’ awareness about their reporting responsibilities and will help make sure that customers get paid their correct entitlement.

Our research shows us that customers on Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment (single) run a particular risk of not providing the right information. The advertisements are therefore designed to target these three main groups of customers.

Most Centrelink customers do the right thing but there are some who simply forget to tell Centrelink about changes in their circumstances. The campaign will remind customers that they must provide Centrelink with their correct details. For example, information on changes to earnings, rent, address, bank account details and living arrangements are all are critical to ensuring correct payment.

We don’t want to penalise the vulnerable or victimise people who have made an honest mistake. But Australia cannot afford to pay people more than their entitlement.

Unfortunately, there is also a small number of people who deliberately cheat the system. The message to them is crystal clear – you will get caught, you will have to pay the money back and you may get prosecuted. The hotline number in the advertisments will give the public the chance to dob-in people who are ripping off the system. The hotline number is 13 62 80.

Similar campaigns overseas have been successful at raising the level of compliance and ensuring a fairer system for everyone involved.