Tip-offs from the public about welfare cheats have helped the Government identify more than $100 million worth of fraudulent claims since the Coalition came to office in 2013. The willingness of Australians to report those doing the wrong thing demonstrates the high-level of community support for the Turnbull Government’s ongoing efforts to crack down on fraud in order to maintain the viability of our welfare system.
In the last five years alone, half a million Australians have contacted the Department of Human Services to dob-in a suspected fraudster, resulting in hundreds being prosecuted and thousands having to repay debts to the Commonwealth.
Those tip-offs are an important source of information that can assist the Department with its existing investigations, or alert it to new cases of fraud. So far this financial year, the Department has received nearly 80,000 tip-offs, or about 2000 a week, resulting in more than $18 million in debts being raised.
Australia has a generous social safety net that helps people who genuinely need it. But if someone receives a benefit they are not entitled to, the Government has a responsibility to recover these amounts. Since 2013, more than 400 tip-off cases have been referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. About 70 of these were from this financial year.
In one case, a Queensland resident who used multiple identities to fraudulently obtain welfare benefits was ordered to repay over $160,000 after being convicted of fraud by the courts. In Tasmania, a person was jailed after being found to have falsely claimed $150,000 in single parent benefits when they were actually married.
Unlike Bill Shorten and Labor which halved compliance efforts while they were in power, this Government is serious about protecting the welfare system. A range of recent compliance efforts have resulted in more than $1.5 billion in overpayments being identified which now have to be paid back.
Every tip-off is taken seriously, and I thank those members of the community who are helping to ensure that our welfare system remains strong. People are able to provide tip-offs in a number of ways, including telephone, online, email, letters, and via direct contact at a Department of Human Services’ Service Centre.