Labour tried it again yesterday and here's what happened.
Benefits—Savings 6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Associate Minister for Social Development: How much has the Government saved as a result of its benefit fraud initiative?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister for Social Development): Since benefit fraud reform initiatives began 2 years ago we have saved the taxpayer over $60 million in future benefit payments. Only a small minority of beneficiaries take money they are not entitled to, but those who do cost tens of millions of dollars each year. These changes make it difficult to defraud the welfare system and hold people accountable for their actions.
Hon Judith Collins: How is the Government encouraging beneficiaries to comply with the welfare system?
Hon JO GOODHEW: Over the past 2½ years around 9,500 benefits have been cancelled after fraud was discovered. We expect to see fewer cases of benefit fraud as our case officers continue working closely with clients to ensure they declare their income and any changes to their relationship status. We have also identified 3,000 clients who have previously committed fraud. By managing these clients more closely, we can help to ensure that they do not reoffend.
Poto Williams: Will she be advocating on behalf of taxpayers that her Government place more of a proportionate focus on recovering the $1.2 billion per annum of money lost through tax evasion, compared with the slightly lesser amount of $20 million to $40 million per annum of benefit overpayments connected with prosecuted benefit fraud, or is white-collar crime just more acceptable to her Government?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Jo Goodhew, in as far as there is ministerial responsibility.
Hon JO GOODHEW: I thank the member for her question and the opportunity to correct her misassumptions. Last Budget this Government actually provided an extra $132 million to Inland Revenue to bolster its tax compliance activities, and, boy, has that been good value for money. Targeting the hidden economy, tax avoidance initiatives returned nearly $50 million—$5.51 for every dollar spent. Targeting property speculators returned $52 million, a return of $7.88 for every $1 invested. I thank the member for the opportunity to show her how wrong she is.
It is disappointing though that the debate never progresses to which party is more immoral. The one taking too much money from the pot or the one trying to minimise what he puts in?
(Note Poto Williams stepping in for Carmel Sepuloni who is effectively shut out of the benefit fraud debate. Will Poto pick up the portfolio permanently? On second thoughts, to be fair, John Banks rose to the office of Police Minister).