AUSTRALIANS who owe money to the federal government will be banned from leaving the country until they repay the funds in a move to claw back $800 million in debt.
Travel bans have been issued over the past decade to parents who did not make child support payments and in June were extended to former welfare recipients who have refused to repay the finance.
According to The Saturday Telegraph, up to 150,000 Australians will be banned from travelling overseas if they fail or refuse to enter in to a payment plan.
Human Services Minister Michael Keenan says 20 orders have been issued, with his department looking to ramp up efforts to recoup the funds owed by people who no longer receive welfare.
The travel ban will be used to try and crack down on people who cheat the welfare system.Source:istock
“If you received a payment you were not entitled to, you have an obligation to repay the money you owe and we will use every tool at our disposal to ensure it is recovered,” Mr Keenan said in a statement on Saturday.
He insists people currently receiving welfare or making repayments will not be targeted by the measure, but former recipients who refuse to pay back their debt would also be charged interest.
The rate of repayment will be measured against an individual’s circumstances and those in hardship can defer their returns, Mr Keenan said.
“We’ve tried every possible way to get them to repay that money, or to start to repay that money, to enter into a plan to repay that money, but they’ve completely ignored us,” Mr Keenan said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) and Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett.Source:AAP
“This is the tool that we use, essentially, as a last resort.”
According to the ABC, Mr Keenan has issued more than 20 travel bans so far.
“So if you go to the airport, and you owe us, say, a couple of thousand dollars, or tens of thousands of dollars, then we don’t believe that you should be able to go on an overseas holiday, for example, if you owe us money because you’ve got overpayments from the welfare system,” Mr Keenan said.
“We will stop you from doing that, and that use has already saved us significant sums of money.”
The first ban was placed on a person who was travelling for business from NSW to an undisclosed overseas location. The person had a debt of around $10,000, according to the ABC.
Another case was in Victorian, where a person with a $60,000 debt tried to travel overseas. Since being hit with the ban, they have started paying back the debt.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he doesn’t want Australia’s stronger economy to be compromised by bludgers who won’t pay back their debt. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett.Source:AAP
In an interview with The Saturday Telegraph, the Prime Minister said he doesn’t want Australia’s strong economy to be compromised by bludgers who won’t pay back their debt.
“If you’ve got welfare debts but you can afford to get on a plane and go overseas, well — no,” Mr Morrison said.
“If you’ve got longstanding tax debts and you’ve been warned and warned and warned and warned and warned, and you’re thumbing your nose at everyone else paying tax and you’re saying, ‘Tough for you. I’m going to get on a plane’, well, you’re actually insulting your fellow Australians who pay for the welfare system.”
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