News National Federal government pursues $905 million in welfare debts

Federal government pursues $905 million in welfare debts

Welfare debts
The federal government is chasing almost 170,000 Australians with unpaid welfare debts totalling more than $900 million. Photo: AAP
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Almost 170,000 Australians with outstanding welfare debts racked up through false claims are being warned to sign repayment plans or face interest charges.

The federal government is pursuing the former welfare recipients in an effort to recoup more than $900 million.

“All those being contacted no longer receive a benefit, but previously received payments they were not entitled to and have made no effort – in some cases for over a decade – to repay what they owe,” Human Services Minister Michael Keenan said on Friday.

“Some cases involve serious criminality including one person who deliberately defrauded $800,000 from the Commonwealth and is still refusing to enter into a repayment plan.”

People have been given 28 days to commit to a repayment plan or face being slugged interest charge, which currently sits at 8.77 per cent.

“As none are currently receiving welfare, the government believes most are now working and have the means to start paying back what they owe,” Mr Keenan said.

“For those who refuse to take action, interest charges are only the beginning. My department will also look at other measures such as garnishing wages and tax refunds, or referring matters to external collection agents.”