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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 1981

Senator COATES —I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the activities of the special social security review teams and also to some of the reporting of this matter, especially in the Hobart Mercury of Monday this week, where an article appeared headed: `Dole blitz: one in four claimants is a cheat'. Will the Minister advise the Senate of the results of the relevant Budget decisions on this matter and, in particular, make it clear that such headlines are false and misleading and that the review teams have been dealing with quite carefully targeted groups of beneficiaries?

Senator TATE —I have seen various articles on this matter, including the article in the Monday edition of the Hobart Mercury which was headed: `Dole blitz: one in four claimants is a cheat'. That heading completely misrepresents the findings of the review teams which have been sent out to various targeted areas and groups where recipients of unemployment benefit have been assessed. I will explain how the basic misrepresentation of this heading can be assessed by reference to the results of those reviews. It is also fair to put the activities of the review teams in context. This is one of a number of measures which have been taken by the social security administration, including, for example, compulsory continuous registration with the Commonwealth Employment Service, personal lodgment of unemployment benefit forms, entitlement checks, interviews for supporting parents and interviews for long term jobless.

The impact of all these measures was sought, when the Budget was written, to be able to bring about a lowering of the average number of people on unemployment benefit by about 10,000. We now expect the average number of people on unemployment benefit to fall by about 25,000 in 1986-87, amounting to a full year's saving of $100m. As I say, that is a result of the various measures which have been undertaken.

Of those measures the activity by the review teams, as suggested by Senator Coates in his question, is such that the results of the reviews cannot be extrapolated to the entire population of unemployment beneficiaries. The review teams undertake a process which is selective and which concentrates on targeting not only high risk areas in a geographical sense but certain individuals in those areas. Out of approximately 583,000 Australians on unemployment benefit, the teams have targeted 7,354 people, 1,821 of whom have had their benefit cancelled, 179 of whom have had their benefit reduced and 363 of whom have had their benefit increased. It is clear that the results of the activities of the teams are nevertheless satisfactory insofar as they have revealed in the targeted areas and populations of unemployment beneficiaries some need to cancel benefits. For that reason the number of teams will increase from five to 15.

Of course, the best thing one can do to reduce the number on unemployment benefit is to increase the number of jobs which are available to help individuals, families and households to sustain themselves without assistance from the taxpayer. In that respect the policies of the Labor Government since it came into office have achieved spectacular success-a growth in total jobs of 759,000. That success rate, in creating jobs for Australians, is, as I say, the best way in which we can tackle the problem of unemployment in this country.