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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1265

Mr SLIPPER(3.57) —During the last week the Brisbane Telegraph, in an edi- torial, supported the idea of a `dob in a dole cheat' campaign to help in the fight against social security abuse. The paper threw its weight behind my suggestion that we should look closely at implementing a program along similar lines to the highly successful anti-drug phone-in campaign, Operation Noah. People should now realise that the Federal Government unemployment review teams have uncovered fraud or overpayment in one in every four cases examined. Surely, the Government does not need any further proof that there exists a very clear need for this type of program.

In January I stated that I believed that millions of dollars could be saved through such a move. I stand by these comments. The 1,000 payments that have so far been cancelled by the review teams as a result of their investigations have saved the Australian community $34m. This money can now be redirected towards areas of real need. Judging from the backing I have received since first making the suggestion, I am sure that the public would welcome and support the concept. Typical of the response to my suggestion is that of a woman known only as Mrs X. After contacting my office this week she indicated that she would be prepared to name a considerable number of people who were abusing the system if such a scheme were implemented. This lady is only one of a growing number of Australians who are fed up with people abusing the system. The Brisbane Telegraph editorial commented:

It is a sign of the change in public outlook that, far from attracting criticism . . . the telephone tale-telling plan has met with widespread support.

Mr Tim Fischer —A brilliant Blunt-Slipper idea.

Mr SLIPPER —I thank the honourable member. The editorial continued:

The reaction indicates that there is widespread disenchantment with the amount of tax raised revenue spent on social security pay-outs.

I believe that the Government should look immediately at implementing a program along the lines of the Operation Noah exercise. People would be encouraged to report instances of fraud directly to a special hot line number, where trained departmental officers could then investigate on the basis of the information received.

The fact is that Labor has failed to adequately come to terms with this rapidly escalating problem. Last year the Department of Social Security paid its 2.8 million clients more than $15 billion. The estimate of fraud and overpayment has been more than $1 billion per annum. Since Labor came to power, it has been estimated, at least $2 billion in fraud and overpayment has gone to social security cheats. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. It is in the best interests of all taxpayers for the welfare dollar to be spent on those genuinely in need. The problem is that far too much money goes to the greedy and not to the needy. As the newspaper editorial said:

The public know that high expenditure on welfare means high taxes. They will welcome a move which can help to cut the number of beneficiaries.

I believe that the proposal which I outlined in January and which has received such widespread support from Australians in all walks of life is an efficient, cost-effective method of dealing with an ever-increasing problem. This country is broke. One only has to look at the way in which this Government is spending infinitely more than it is raising and, at what we now owe the world-more than $100 billion-to see that this country is now virtually a Third World country.

Many people who have noted my earlier calls for this Operation Noah style phone-in program to be implemented have already contacted my office to convey their support. I have publicised this idea and people are supporting it, but as yet there has not been any positive reaction from the Government. I pledge to this Parliament that I will continue my efforts to have the Federal Labor Government recognise the need to implement a `dob in a dole cheat' campaign to ensure that the problem, which is ever-increasing, is improved and that this country is not paying out money which it cannot afford to people who are not entitled to it.