Centrelink offices across Queensland have been busy lately, accepting applications for $1,000 payments for disaster relief following the floods. While most applications for relief will be genuine, it’s hard not to conclude there will be a significant number of rorters or undeserving claimants, given the low eligibility requirements (e.g. power off for 48 hours), which mean that many people claiming the $1,000 will be over-compensated for any financial losses they actually incurred. This money would be better spent on the truly deserving, such as those battlers in Grantham, North Ipswich and Goodna who have lost everything.
Evidence of rorting has begun to emerge, as highlighted by the Cairns Post (Flood relief money ‘drunk away at pub’):
NEW claims of Far Northerners cashing in on flood relief payments have surfaced, amid calls for cheats to be prosecuted.
In the latest report, a dozen families allegedly bragged about their windfall at the local pub.
Before Australia experiences its next natural disaster, our Governments, State and Federal, need to reform our inequitable disaster relief arrangements. There is currently too much money available through Centrelink and too little available for more suitable mechanisms, such as the Premier’s flood relief fund, which appears to be better directed at cases of genuine hardship than Centrelink’s efforts. The small size of the Premier’s fund relative to the scale of the disaster is evident from comments by former Treasurer David Hamill (reported in Bligh eyes $100,000 cut-off for relief recipients):
Earlier, former treasurer David Hamill, who chairs the committee overseeing the disaster relief fund, said that while the $145 million collection was still growing, it wouldn’t go close to covering a possible $4 billion of uninsured damage.
Many people in the community recognise the inequity of our current relief arrangements. For example, I have heard the encouraging story that residents of one Paddington Street, close to Suncorp Stadium, will donate the bulk of their Commonwealth relief payments to the Premier’s fund. While these residents are genuinely eligible for the payments, having lost their power for several days, they recognise that $1,000 is greatly in excess of the value of the spoiled goods in their fridges and freezers. Their donations will only go so far, however, and it would be much better for the Commonwealth to be more discriminating with our money, and to direct it to cases of genuine hardship.