Media release: Fraudsters put on notice as Taskforce Integrity heads to the Sunshine Coast
The Hon Michael Keenan MP
Ted O'Brien MP
Andrew Wallace MP
Welfare cheats on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast are being warned they could face criminal charges as fraud investigators begin targeting the region this month in search of those rorting the system.
Taskforce Integrity is a joint operation run by the Department of Human Services and Australian Federal Police, which operates around Australia in identified non-compliance hotspots.
More than $43 million in debts have been raised in the three years the taskforce has been running, including more than $7 million from operations in Queensland.
As part of its focus on the Sunshine Coast, letters are being sent to around 11,000 welfare recipients in Maroochydore, Caloundra and Kawana Waters, encouraging them to ensure that their eligibility details are up-to-date with the department.
Minister for Human Services Michael Keenan said those who have failed to keep the department informed of any changes should do so immediately, rather than waiting for investigators to discover their mistake.
“This operation is not about penalising people who make genuine errors,” Mr Keenan said.
“Its focus is on enforcing the law and targeting those who deliberately set out to commit welfare fraud.
“Australia has a strong social safety net, but it is vitally important that we protect its integrity to ensure it remains sustainable for those who rely on it.”
Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said the two main things people failed to keep Centrelink informed about were changes to their work arrangements or their relationship status.
“In one case from the Caboolture area, a customer failed to declare they were living in a marriage-like relationship for more than 5 years and was found to owe over $120,000,” Mr Fisher said.
“In another case, a couple who had been living in a marriage-like relationship for approximately 4 years was found to owe approximately $140,000.”
Member for Fairfax Ted O’Brien said the wider community was also being encouraged to assist the taskforce by passing on information about those who are doing the wrong thing.
“Tip-offs are an important source of information for investigators and it is not uncommon for cheats to be caught out as a result of information passed on by their own families or neighbours,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Australians believe in the idea of a fair go for those who rely on our welfare system. But those who fund the system – taxpayers – also deserve a fair go.”