Scott Morrison flags welfare crackdown, finding $2.3 billion in extra budget savings to keep it in the black

Treasurer Scott Morrison speaks to media representatives about the 2016 Budget Release at National Press Club on May 4, 2016 in Canberra, Australia. The Turnbull Goverment’s first budget has delivered tax cuts for small and medium businesses, income tax cuts people earning over $80,000 a year,new measures to help young Australians into jobs and cutbacks to superannuation concessions for the wealthy.

Treasurer Scott Morrison released the Coalition’s final election costings today saying he’d found an extra $2.3 billion in additional savings since the May 3 federal budget, to claim the budget bottom line will be $1.1 billion better off over four years as a result.

Coalition election promises during the eight-week campaign add $1.2 billion in costs to the budget.

“We have saved more in this campaign than we have spent,” Morrison said.

But the savings are coming from a welfare crackdown, with the treasurer planning to target outstanding debts as well as enlisting technology to find fraud and non-compliance.

“They are practical measures to improve the administrative and integrity efficiency of the social welfare system,” he said.

Under proposed changes, welfare recipients will face more frequent and stringent reporting requirements to strengthen the system, alongside increased auditing for undeclared income.

Income data matching is predicted to deliver $661 million in savings, with a further $527 million expected from “enhancing non-employment income data matching”. Increased disclosure of assets and investments by welfare recipients is predicted to save a further $527 million.

“We know the majority of those who receive those benefits and need those benefits try and do the right thing, but it is a complex system to try and engage with,” Morrison said.

“And the measures we announced today go to assisting people that are in receipt of welfare payments to better be able to comply with the requirements of that system”.

The treasurer said the changes have been flagged with the sector and given a “strong endorsement”.

“We want a targeted approach to managing people,” Morrison said.

“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.”

The treasurer claimed Labor offered no savings in its election promises, just “spend and spend and spend”.

In response to Morrison’s announcement, the ALP’s shadow treasurer Chris Bowen and finance spokesman Tony Burke claimed the Coalition’s costings were based on “zombie” savings that would not pass Parliament to create “an accounting trick” to “prop-up their budget bottom line”.

“The government is offering the worst of all worlds in these figures. They have continued deficits with no structural reform,” Burke said.

Bowen said the treasurer was “living in a different universe” if he thought “people will all of a sudden think that it’s fair for unemployed people to wait four weeks for payment so that they can eat”.

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