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Monday, April 05, 2010

What do you do if you're a bureaucrat attempting to win reelection?

You tick all the boxes.

You know, "population"...

Today's is welfare fraud. This morning's press release from Chris Bowen (below) is sickening.

And it promulgates a newish euphemism - "optical surveillance"

Expect more. Expect worse.


5 April 2010

The Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen MP, today announced the Government is enhancing its optical surveillance processes as part of a crackdown on fraudulent welfare claims.

DSP claimants who falsely claim to have a medical condition which prevents them from working and who have been observed undertaking physical activity that contradicts this will soon be required to have further medical assessment by an independent medical practitioner.

“The Government has asked Centrelink to enhance its use of covert optical surveillance of DSP customers suspected of welfare fraud to ensure that people misrepresenting their medical circumstances can no longer rip off the Australian taxpayer,” Mr Bowen said.

“This action is about ensuring the integrity of Australia’s welfare system and the Disability Support Pension payment.

“Those who genuinely need access to the DSP should be able to do this without the odium of those deliberately seeking to abuse the payment.”

During the 2008-09 financial year, Centrelink completed 1,570 investigations into suspected welfare fraud where surveillance was used during the investigation.

This resulted in debts of $21,369,095 being identified for recovery action and estimated annual savings of $5,623,618 as a result of reductions to ongoing customer payments.

Meanwhile, the Child Support Agency (CSA) is also ramping up its use of optical surveillance to ensure parents meet their obligations.

“Increasing optical surveillance will enhance the CSA’s investigative capabilities and add significant value to its range of collection and litigation options,” Mr Bowen said.

“Parents who don’t do the right thing will be caught and will have to face the consequences, including being referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions or relevant state police service for prosecution action in some cases.”

In July 2008, the CSA established a 12-month trial to use covert optical surveillance to support investigations into a limited number of serious cases.

Following an evaluation of this trial in June 2009, the Government decided that covert optical surveillance would permanently form part of the CSA’s toolkit for investigating serious cases of child support non compliance and fraud.

“This should serve as a warning to people who seek to evade their obligations that they will face the prospect of prison time and court fines, as well as having to repay their debt,” Mr Bowen said.

Media Contact – Laura Stevens 0432 833 769


Centrelink: State-by-state breakdown of optical surveillance cases 2008-09

State or Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia

Centrelink: Optical surveillance case studies


On 3 April 1995, Mr X lodged a claim for Disability Support Pension under a false name. At the time of making the claim Mr X produced false documentation and identification to Centrelink, formerly the Department of Social Security. This resulted in Mr X receiving Disability Support Pension payments that he was not entitled to. The Australian Federal Police executed a search warrant on Mr X’s residence in June 2007 and evidence was seized to support the allegation. A brief of evidence was referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP). The CDPP charged Mr X with three counts under section 29D of the Crimes Act 1914 and three counts under section 134.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995. The total charge amount was $147,861.11. Mr X was sentenced in the Southport Magistrates Court on 24 October 2008 to 36 months in prison with a no parole period of 10 months. Upon release Mr X was placed on a good behaviour bond for the remaining 26 months with a self surety of $500.


Surveillance was used to assist in gathering sufficient evidence to prove that a 62-year-old Victorian woman had, for over 11 years, been living as a member of a couple. During this period the woman had intentionally misrepresented her circumstances to Centrelink as single in order to obtain the maximum single rate of Disability Support Pension, receiving over $80,000 in payments to which she was not entitled. As a result of this investigation, she was convicted in February 2010 of two offences and sentenced to two concurrent periods of imprisonment of 18 and 15 months, to be released after six months upon entering into recognisance to be of good behaviour for two years and ordered to make reparation of the amount overpaid.


Surveillance was used to assist in gathering sufficient evidence to prove that an 81-year-old woman had, for almost 20 years, been in receipt of dual Age Pension payments, receiving almost $200,000 in payments to which she was not entitled. As a result of this investigation, she was convicted in January 2010 and sentenced to two concurrent periods of imprisonment of two years and 18 months to be released after six months upon entering into recognisance orders to be of good behaviour for the balance of the sentences.

Related Posts

. Tuesday column: The Access Card is a complete mess, buried but still belching up toxic smoke.

. Saturday Forum: How on earth did the Medicare card nearly morph into a universal national ID card?