Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

638 welfare cheats convicted in Victoria

Almost 640 Victorians were convicted of welfare fraud last financial year in a government campaign to stop people cheating the social security system Senator Kay Patterson, Minister for Family and Community Services, announced today.

Senator Patterson said Centrelink figures show Victoria has one of the most successful welfare fraud conviction rates in Australia, with 99.4% of the 642 cases appearing in court resulting in a conviction, involving debts worth more than $7 million.

“In the most severe cases, people convicted of welfare fraud have been sentenced to up to 30 months in jail,” she said.

“Many of these cases involve Centrelink customers cheating taxpayers of more than $100,000 or claiming payments in multiple identities.

“Centrelink only refers the most serious cases of fraud for prosecution, in line with the Commonwealth’s Prosecution Policy.

“These cases generally involve people who have intentionally deceived Centrelink in order to receive payments to which they were not entitled.

“Victorians made up more than 23 per cent of the 2829 people convicted of welfare fraud in Australia.

“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring the social security system is available to Australians when they need it and that they all receive what they are entitled to.

“In the 2002-03 financial year the Howard Government saved taxpayers $2.3 billion, or $44 million per week, from compliance and review activity.

“While the Government is keen to catch people who seek to cheat the system it also supports proper management of taxpayer funds to ensure people do not get overpaid in the first instance.

“In the Budget I secured funding for a national awareness campaign entitled “Keeping the System Fair” which will assist Australians in understanding their full entitlements and obligations.

“The campaign is designed to encourage Centrelink customers to voluntarily report changes in their circumstances that may affect their payment.

“The Keeping the System Fair campaign is expected to result in net savings to taxpayers of $214.9 million over the next four years,” Senator Patterson said.