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Tuesday, 12 November 1985
Page: 1994


Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(6.19) —The answer to the first question is that officers of the Department pointed out at the time to Senator Walters that to go through the exercise she mentioned would not be cost effective, even if it would have given her the satisfaction of having a figure in dollars and cents which she could throw around. Secondly, the Department has tightened up, and does so continuously, its procedures to prevent overpayments as much as is feasibly possible in a department that sends out 70 million cheques a year and pay out some $13,000m, I think was the figure last year, in social security benefits. There comes a time when it is no longer cost-effective, particularly in specific instances such as this, which I recall resulted from an industrial dispute, to spend taxpayers' money in that way-just as Senator Walters frequently claims that it is not cost effective to indulge in some of the attempts to find fraud or overservicing payments in the medical profession. It is just not cost effective to do so.

As for the details of what action the Department has taken to tighten up procedures, I do not have the details here, and if I did I would not be publicly declaring them in this Parliament, because the whole basis of the details is aimed at ensuring that people do not get around the systems that we set up. However, I will seek from the Minister for Social Security (Mr Howe) some details of what is happening in the future. I believe that we can trust Senator Walters with those details and I shall see whether I can get them for her, perhaps on a confidential basis.