Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Catching welfare cheats saves $20.2 million per week

By catching welfare cheats, the Government is saving taxpayers over $20.2 million a week according to the Compliance Report 2000-01, released today.

Centrelink uses a range of compliance tools to catch those people who want to rip off the system including data-matching, investigative teams, tip-off hotlines and occasionally surveillance.

Between 1 July 2000 and 30 June 2001, Centrelink conducted 2.5 million entitlement reviews, resulting in nearly 250,000 payment cancellations or reductions. As a result, savings of over $20.2 million a week were identified and debts were raised to the value of $320.6 million for recovery action.

Especially pleasing was the 31 per cent increase in reviews from tip-offs provided by the public about alleged fraud. Centrelink conducted 72,156 tip-off reviews resulting in 16,913 payment cancellations or reductions and debts of $33.2 million being raised. With nearly a one in four strike rate, these tip-offs from the public have become an extremely valuable source of information.

The report also highlights the work being done by the Inter-agency Cash Economy Field Investigation Teams which identify Centrelink customers working in cash economy industries. Throughout the year, a number of successful joint operations have taken place with the police, the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to detect fraudulent activity.

While the vast majority of people who receive welfare payments are honest and entitled to those payments, unfortunately, there are a small number of people who still seek to cheat their fellow Australians.

Australia is a generous country with a generous welfare system but taxpayers expect welfare to go to the needy and not the greedy.

This report sends out a clear message to those people who are thinking about cheating: if you cheat, you will get caught.

To report a suspected fraud to Centrelink, call 13 7230, or by visit Centrelink’s website at