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Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Budget Compliance Measures to Save Tax Payers over $400 million

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today announced five key measures in the 2004–05 Budget which are estimated to save taxpayers more than $400 million net over the next four years.

Senator Patterson said the measures included expanding the data-matching between Centrelink and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations’ Job Placement records, which is estimated to save almost $60 million over four years. This measure builds on the success of an earlier measure.

“This will result in an extra 25,000 reviews a year being conducted to identify Centrelink customers who do not declare earnings after they have started work, particularly those in part-time or casual jobs,” she said.

“While the Government has introduced Working Credit, which allows Centrelink customers to keep more of their income support payments when they have some work, it is important that people remember to report any earned income to Centrelink.”

Senator Patterson said the Australian Government as part of its compliance measures would allocate an extra $53.5 million over five years to help Centrelink to undertake further assessments of the income and assets held by customers in trusts and private companies.

“It is only fair that customers who control significant income and assets in private trusts and companies should use those resources to support themselves before calling on the community for income support,” she said.

“These measures are part of the Howard Government’s continuing efforts to ensure that people in similar circumstances are treated the same.”

The measures are:

  • Parenting Payment (Single) Relationship Status Reviews – estimated savings of $4.1 million over four years. Centrelink will conduct 20,000 face-to-face interviews each year for customers who have advised of a change of address. Six per cent or 1,200 of the people interviewed each year are expected to have their payment cancelled or reduced;
  • ‘Keeping The System Fair’; a national multi-media educational campaign – estimated four-year savings of $214.9 million. The campaign should result in around 100,000 Centrelink customers voluntarily reporting changes to their circumstances that could affect their income support payments;
  • Compliance Reviews – Improved Service Profiling – saving $96.5 million over four years. Centrelink will undertake an extra 147,000 reviews each year to make sure people receiving Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Newstart Allowance, Austudy, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment are receiving their correct payments;
  • Extension of Data-Matching Measures to Improve Control of Incorrect Payment and Fraud – saving over $100 million over four years. The two elements of the measure include data matching reviews of customer Rent Assistance information, and Centrelink’s data matching with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations’ Job Placement records; and
  • Assessment of Income and Assets Held in Trusts and Private Companies – provides an additional $53.5 million over five years for Centrelink to review the income and assets held by customers who have trusts or private companies. This additional funding to Centrelink will provide further support for a 2000–01 Budget initiative that was introduced to address the use of trusts and private companies as a mechanism to access income support payments. It will provide Centrelink with increased capacity to assess the higher than expected number of customers who have trusts or private companies.

Senator Patterson said that while all these measures would result in significant savings over the next four years, they also indicate the Australian Government’s determination to protect the integrity of our Social Security system.

“Importantly, the package includes a balance between detection – the total estimated additional reviews conducted each year as a result of this package is 292,000 – and prevention through education,” she said.

“We have more than four million people receiving a payment through Centrelink and we have an obligation to them and taxpayers to make sure that only those who genuinely need help get it.”