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Reducing welfare fraud: An Australian case study

Abstract

This article evaluates the factors behind changes in welfare fraud referrals and convictions in Australia from 2009–2010 to 2012–2013. Official numbers of cases referred to the public prosecutor and those proven fell by approximately 75 per cent across the 3-year period. As a rate per customer, referrals fell 82 per cent. The evidence indicates that initially this was less a case of successful planned crime prevention than an effect of changes in institutional policy and practice. It appears that a major shift in enforcement practices was adopted by Centrelink and the public prosecutor, in part as a result of a legal case reducing customer liability for non-reporting of changes in their circumstances. Centrelink also adopted a new two-pronged strategy: focusing investigations and prosecutions on more serious cases, while also initiating an ‘early contact’ system to communicate more effectively with customers about their reporting obligations to prevent error and debt. The article reports on a number of other aspects of welfare fraud in Australia, including gender and sentencing.

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Cases

  1. DPP (Cth) v Poniatowska. (2011) HCA 43 (26 October).

  2. DPP (Cth) v Keating. (2013) HCA 20 (8 May).

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Correspondence to Tim Prenzler.

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Prenzler, T. Reducing welfare fraud: An Australian case study. Secur J 30, 569–584 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/sj.2014.36

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Keywords

  • welfare fraud
  • crime prevention
  • fraud prevention
  • early intervention