Centrelink snitches raise $40m

There isn’t much Australians dislike more than being ripped off, especially when it comes to people nicking our hard-earned tax dollars for their own benefit.

This is apparent by the fact that in 2016-17, nearly $40 million in Centrelink debt has been raised through the Government’s Report Fraud program.

Last year, the Department of Human Services received 108,798 tip-offs of welfare fraud. That’s a 10 per cent increase in reports received over the past four years.

Only 118 of those cases were referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Some may question the efficacy of such a program, and wonder how much it is used as a platform for making trouble for annoying neighbours or anyone who doesn’t quite ‘fit’ in the community.

Still, the Government proudly proclaims that it’s doing all it can to recoup wrongful payments, claiming that prosecutions save taxpayers around $1.4 million a fortnight.

It would interesting to see how much it costs to ‘recoup’ that $1.4 million per fortnight.

Reports are received through a system of phone, email, online forms and direct contact with a Centrelink officer. It may also be fair to assume that, if Centrelink actually answered phone calls, there could be a much higher number of tip-offs in the system.

The Government seems intent on taking debt recovery to the next level. The robo-debt program has been a debacle (at best), so now our esteemed leaders are turning to the people to do their job for them, asking them to turn on those doing it toughest. Sure, there are welfare frauds out there, and they should be brought down. But the figures prove how few are taking us for a ride.

So, why not focus on the tax-evading transgressors that we do know about.

You know, those high rollers evading tax at an astronomical rate? How about the multinationals, the local and foreign property investors abusing negative gearing, those taking advantage of a generous superannuation system (those who can afford it) and big business that somehow manages to evade tax each year to the tune of hundreds of millions?

“Nothing annoys the taxpayer more than others ripping them off,” said Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge.

Well, Alan, what about our own politicians who are constantly abusing parliamentary privilege, blowing taxpayer funds on football grand finals, helicopter rides, limousines and other publicly funded travel? Not to mention the food, alcohol and entertainment for political party parties and the resulting bills that can run into the tens of thousands …

That’s kind of annoying, too.

But Mr Tudge and his money-managing cronies seem happy to “turn a blind eye to fraud” when it comes to his colleagues in government using taxpayer money however they see fit.

“Taxpayers are happy to support those who are down on their luck but they expect integrity in the system,” said Mr Tudge.

That integrity, Alan, extends to those in power who are boasting about getting other people to do their work for them. It extends to those who are managing our taxpayer funds.

So, how about throwing your line into the deep water and snagging some of those big fish instead of chasing the small fry?

Do you think it’s right for the Government to turn the people against each other? Is the Report Fraud program the answer to the failed robo-debt recovery scheme? Are you happy with how your taxes are being spent by our politicians?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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