The Australian government has announced that if re-elected on Saturday, it would undertake a program of data matching to crack down on welfare cheats, by cross referencing data given to the Australian Taxation Office with data provided to Centrelink to ensure declared income matches actual income.
Treasurer Scott Morrison released the Coalition's election costings on Tuesday with an improved budget position thanks largely to AU$2.3 billion savings from the AU$688 billion welfare bill over four years.
"These reforms will cut red tape and ensure that mistakes are minimised so that recipients who are doing the right thing are not adversely affected or inconvenienced," Morrison said in a statement. "These measures will also better target fraud in our social welfare system. We will better manage the welfare system to ensure we prevent, detect, and deter fraud and non-compliance.
"No one who genuinely needs social welfare support and who is honestly disclosing their employment income and non-employment income will be worse off under our commitment."
Those with welfare debts will have money automatically deducted from their tax refund.
Labor frontbencher Ed Husic said it had to be an election when the Coalition came out with a crackdown on welfare payments.
"Obviously they have costed it pre the election. They had this sitting in their back pocket," he said.
Husic said some of this sounded so straightforward that many will wonder why data matching wasn't done earlier.
Data matching and analytics is being pushed by the government in an effort to close its budget deficit.
In its December mid-year economic outlook, the government announced it would spend AU$61.9 million over four years to upgrade the Australian Taxation Office's data analytics capability.
The move is slated to raise additional revenue of AU$222 million over the forward estimates.
In April, the government announced that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission would receive AU$127 million over four years to upgrade its data analytics and surveillance capabilities and data management systems.