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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7477

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:20): The motion before the House gives us the opportunity to update the House on where we are at with fraud and compliance activities in relation to this important program. Unfortunately, when we read the motion before the House, we see that it is all about the political interest. It has absolutely nothing to do with the public interest. If those who brought the motion to this House were truly interested in prosecution rather than publicity, if they were interested in an outcome rather than a headline, then they would have chosen a different course of action.

The government is actively pursuing businesses that have not complied with the terms and conditions of the Home Insulation Program. We are currently holding over 20,000 claims, with a value of approximately $24½ million. Of these, around 6,500 claims were submitted by businesses that are under investigation for fraud. Compliance reviews for Home Insulation Program installers draw on a range of information. Some of those sources of information were alluded to by the member for Bradfield earlier today as he spoke to his motion. They include roof inspection reports, desktop audits, complaints from households and information from third parties.

The government has committed to work with the police and other law enforcement agencies across all jurisdictions to deal with cases of serious noncompliance and fraud. In March 2011, following detailed investigations by the department, the Federal Police simultaneously executed 35 search warrants across three states—New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria—and 25 businesses and individuals who were suspected of having acted fraudulently under the Home Insulation Program were targeted.

Also in March 2011, under its debt recovery program, the department issued a number of letters of demand to businesses registered under the Home Insulation Program as well as to those who received assistance under the Insulation Industry Assistance Package and who were later found to have been ineligible for such assistance. Businesses that are sent letters of demand will previously have received a non-compliance notification and were provided with an opportunity to demonstrate compliance with HIP requirements, except where correspondence was issued in relation to 'voluntary repayments' or where businesses were advised of an administrative error on the part of the department. Businesses are generally given 14 days from the date of the non-compliance notification to provide evidence to the department in relation to the installations listed in the letter.

The department has arrangements in place in relation to fraud and investigations as well. The Federal Police has provided an outposted agent to the department to assist with the review of cases. Any matters subsequently referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation are assessed individually according to the AFP's internal guidelines. The government is acting on allegations of fraudulent activity received from external sources such as members of the public, emergency service organisations and others. Major matters are referred to the AFP. To date the department has referred several matters. As the associated investigations are ongoing, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further on these cases in this place. As I have already said, we on this side of the House are more interested in prosecution of cases of fraud than in making a hullabaloo in this place for nothing other than a politically motivated headline. We will continue to prosecute the investigation in a fraud investigation process and take these matters through the court. It is our intention to ensure that, where funds have been claimed by those who are ineligible for those funds, or where fraud has occurred, we will pursue those matters vigorously to ensure that no taxpayers' money is expended when those who have received that money are not entitled to it. I recommend that the House reject this motion.