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Wednesday, 25 May 1983
Page: 773

Senator PRIMMER —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. What surveys have been undertaken in his Department on incorrect payments to social security recipients? In what pension or benefit category have incorrect payments occurred most commonly? It is suggested in recent newspaper articles that fraud, which is usually associated with incorrect payments to the claimant, is most rife amongst the unemployed. Is this the case to his knowledge? If not, where are the problems on overpayments within the Department?

Senator GRIMES —Surveys have been done in the Department of Social Security on overpayments. They are done regularly and they were done before I became Minister. One of the last answers to a question on notice I put down as a shadow Minister came from the previous Minister on this subject. It is interesting to note that overpayments in these surveys, from memory, made up about 4.7 per cent of a very considerable number of payments. It is also interesting to note that the highest percentage of overpayments occurred in the age pension area and the widows and supporting parent's benefits area. In the former case, the percentage was something like 29 per cent, which reflects the difficulty of calculating payments and calculating the income tests in these areas.

In the area of unemployment benefit and special benefits, the overpayments were of a considerably lower percentage-I believe about 4.3 per cent-which may surprise honourable senators. These figures reflect the difficulty in the calculation of payments in the area of age pensions and the relatively greater ease in calculating payments in the unemployment benefit area. It is a general misconception, fostered by some sections of the media and unfortunately by some politicians, that the area of difficulty is the unemployment benefit. The surveys in fact show that is just not true.