Centrelink pays $360m for floods

MORE than 300,000 Queenslanders have applied for Federal Government flood assistance since December, with $360 million worth of payments given out.

Centrelink said figures on the amount of people who claimed the payments – of $1000 for adults and $400 for children – were only available on a state level with no Ipswich breakdown.

While going to people who had their homes flooded or were injured in the recent flooding disaster, there has been controversy over eligibility for the payment.

People who lost power for 48 hours but suffered no flooding to their houses are able to claim the money. On Monday, Treasurer Wayne Swan said those who claimed the payment through the loss of power criteria when they weren’t flooded were “low-lifes”.

Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen said most people were honest and entitled to their payments, but his department would crack down on those who fraudulently claim.

“Centrelink has access to a broad range of information which enables it to confirm the identity of people receiving payments,” Mr Jongen said.

“Centrelink is working closely with power companies to confirm where the power supply was interrupted during the recent floods.”

Mr Jongen said if anyone had information about possible fraudulent claims, they could phone Centrelink’s fraud line on 13 15 24 or go online.

Meanwhile, Premier Anna Bligh admitted there had been a “bit of confusion” about the Federal Government’s flood levy.

“I think many Australians felt they already had made a generous donation,” Ms Bligh said, adding those donations were going directly to families and individuals.

The levy money, which will apply to taxable income more than $50,000, would help make the state fully operational again.

“That is in the national interest, every Australian will benefit,” Ms Bligh said. “I would hope that Australians look at what’s happening here and adopt a generous spirit.”

She said the state had a well-established record of managing disaster recovery, but the government was legislating extra levels of scrutiny to ensure billions were spent properly.

“We’re not leaving anything to chance and Australians will be able to see where every dollar goes.”

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