Interview on 3AW with Ross Stevenson and John Burns
Topics: Dodgy family day care providers
Presenter: Minister, it says there are dozens of dodgy day care providers being shut down after being caught rorting taxpayers’ money by making up records and pretending to care for non-existent children. I guess we assume that that story is true; that process on the docks used to be called ghosting.
Simon Birmingham: Well look, we do have, sadly, a circumstance where there are always people who seek to rip off the taxpayer at the Centrelink [indistinct], there’s been a change of government now, there was really no actual compliance regime that really worked properly in relation to the child care sector. The Federal Government spends billions of dollars a year helping Australian families to meet the cost of childcare and that’s really important for many people to be able to get out and participate in the workforce. But sadly, there were insufficient numbers of checks, insufficient suspensions and the like. We’ve taken it from a few hundred checks a year to several thousand checks on premises a year. We’re now regularly suspending or banning services that are doing the wrong thing. And sadly, in many of those cases, they are services who are seeking to claim funds for kids who just either don’t exist or were never there for care in the first place.
Presenter: But that’s a criminal offence, Minister. Instead of doing administrative duties like you’re telling us, why don’t you just give this matter to the police? These people are committing theft.
Simon Birmingham: And there are people in jail and there are people facing charges as well. We absolutely follow through wherever the evidence trail is strong enough to make sure that we don’t just have suspensions or cancellations, but throw the book at people and, indeed, there are a number of individuals serving time as a result of ripping off the taxpayer for child care benefits. And it’s got to be a really clear message to anybody out there who thinks they can get away with this sort of stuff that eventually you will be caught and you will be punished.
Presenter: How do you catch them? Do you just catch them by sort of doing the old department of weights and measures, do you? You go round to see whether Marmaduke actually exists or not.
Simon Birmingham: Well, increasingly technology plays a big role in allowing us to data match claims that are made with, whether in fact, those parents are making claims for themselves against the services and really, we’re investing more in that type of technology that allows us to identify potentially dodgy claims. This year, from 2 July, we’ve got a new child care system coming in place that better targets support to the families who need it most, who work the longest hours, that earn the least amount of money. But along with that will be a new computer system that we think will make it even harder for people to be able to get away with ripping the taxpayer off.
Presenter: Good on you, Minister.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, guys.