Government Clampdown On Benefit Fraud Intensifying

  • Peter McCardle
Associate Minister of Social Services, Work and Income (Work and Income)

"There has been a 300 per cent increase in the number of benefit fraud cases referred for prosecution, and that is a sign of how seriously the problem is being taken, " Associate Work and Income Minister Peter McCardle said today.

"That increase was in the last financial year, and this year the figure will rise to more than 500 per cent compared to the numbers two years ago, to 2300.

Last financial year 45,000 cases were identified by the Benefit Fraud Unit of WINZ. Most of these cases were picked up either by data matching or information supplied by the public.

"A minority of cases are prosecuted. But even if there is no prosecution we always seek to get the money back and insist on repayment. Penalties are often added. The penalties range up to 300 per cent, to a maximum of $5000. In deciding whether it is practical to prosecute, WINZ staff assess factors such as the sum involved, and the strength of the evidence that is required by the courts," Mr McCardle said.

"Cases involving more than $2,000 are always considered for prosecution.

"A significant percentage of cases are domestic and involve people living with a wage earner while on a benefit. However these cases are extremely difficult to take through the courts, due to their very nature. Collection of hard evidence is not easy. The core of the case is a relationship which is carried out in private, and the relationship is often denied, though the Unit investigators are confident it exists.

"The government is strong on benefit fraud, and the increasing number being referred for prosecution is a direct result of the sharper focus of the Benefit Crime Unit in the past two years. This, along with data matching, means more than ever we arefinding and prosecuting those who would defraud hard-working taxpayers."