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Wednesday, 15 May 1985
Page: 1982

Senator MESSNER —My question is directed to the Minister for Community Services. What new steps will be taken to achieve the Government's estimated $25m savings on social security administration costs by cracking down on fraud and overpayment? What estimate has been made of the extra cost of enforcement involved? Is that $25m a net figure?

Senator GRIMES —Many changes have been made to the social security system in the last two years in order to cut down the amount of fraud. Further changes will be introduced by the present Minister for Social Security to the Department to ensure that the problem of fraud, which varies from State to State and benefit to benefit, is attacked without affecting, as has happened so often in the past, the innocent recipient of pensions or benefits who so often has been caught up in efforts such as the blitzes on post code areas, et cetera, to try to cut down on fraud.

Senator Chipp —Would you consider an ID card?

Senator GRIMES —I think there has been plenty of publicity about the possibility of an ID card. Of course, all governments have considered that in the past. I only make the point and express the personal view-and I am certainly not putting it forward as government policy-that if such a system should be introduced, I think there should be an ID card for everyone and not just social security recipients. I also remind the honourable senator, though, that one of the biggest complaints in the United States of America and Canada, which have had ID cards for many years, is the problem of social security fraud. Therefore, those countries do not seem to have been very successful in this respect.

To take up Senator Messner's point, the $25m saving outlined in the statement made by Mr Keating and Senator Walsh last night is the estimated saving from new mechanisms which are to be introduced in the Department by the Minister. I do not have before me the exact details of those savings. I certainly do not think we would be able to give the honourable senator all the details, nor do I think he would consider it would be wise to do so. I can remember once in the past giving such details in confidence to the Opposition spokesman because one does not want to publicise the methods used and therefore assist those who would take part in fraud.

Senator Messner —It wasn't me.

Senator GRIMES —I think it was the honourable senator, actually. Anyhow, I will certainly approach the Minister. I will get the exact details, I hope this afternoon, of the other matters that Senator Messner raised. I will give him as much of the details as I can after Question Time.