Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Prevention better than cure

The Government’s responsible commitment to preventing welfare overpayments and fraud is paying dividends, with 400,000 less entitlement reviews and 1,700 less payment cancellations or reductions.

Minister for Community Services Larry Anthony said the Government’s message of tougher detection and prevention programs was working.

“People are more aware of their obligations, through programs such as Preparing for Work,” said
Mr Anthony.

“And those who deliberately set out to rip off their fellow Australians know that they will be caught and prosecuted.

“Better targeting of reviews means fewer reviews achieving the best results.”

There were almost 2.3 million entitlement reviews between 1 July 1999 and 30 June 2000, resulting in 254,634 payment cancellations or reductions. As a result, the Government saved almost $17.4 million a week and debts were raised to the value of $293.1 million.

Tip offs from the public resulted in 14,513 payment cancellations or reductions and debts of $29.9 million being raised.

Between 1 July 1999 and 30 June 2000, there were 2,881 convictions for welfare fraud involving $27.1 million in debts.

“It must be remembered that the majority of people who receive welfare payments are honest and entitled to those payments,” said Mr Anthony.

“Unfortunately, a small number of people still seek to cheat their fellow Australians. People who deliberately set out to abuse the system will be caught and prosecuted.

Mr Anthony said the Government has developed a number of new techniques to fight fraud.

“A key measure introduced in 1999-2000 was the Enhanced Investigation Initiative, where private investigators were used to catch welfare cheats,” said Mr Anthony.

“Another measure focussed on undisclosed assets. Through data matching with the Australian Taxation Office, customers not fully disclosing assets affecting their entitlement could be identified.

“These measures are delivering a stronger and more equitable welfare system,” said Mr Anthony.