After my article in yesterday’s Crikey on the Howard government’s penchant
for chasing small-time welfare fraud while the big whales in the tax fraud arena
stay afloat, Senator Joe Ludwig, the Shadow Minister for Justice and
Customs, released some interesting figures that back up my point.

In response to questions raised by Senator Ludwig at a Senate Estimates
hearing in February regarding the total cost of reported fraud across
government, the Attorney-General has advised that the AFP had
investigated or had referred for investigation 376 cases from the ATO
totalling $42,552,008 in the cost of fraud. Conversely, Centrelink had
26,118 cases for a lower reported cost of fraud $41,910, 587. This is a
huge disparity and clearly shows the Howard government has got it
wrong. Senator Ludwig says there are not enough Federal agents to
combat major tax fraud. I think he is right. Tuesday night’s Budget
delivered just 23 new Federal Police officers.

Analysis of the 2004/05 AFP Annual
Report reveals that of the 4770 AFP staff:

  • 258 are stationed in overseas
    posts

  • At least a further 147 are on
    peacekeeping duties overseas

  • 1,205 are Protective Service
    Officers providing guarding, not investigative services

  • 26 are on secondment to other
    agencies

  • 1,291 are unsworn
  • 608 are on ACT local policing
    duties

  • 20 are on local policing
    duties in other Australian Territories

That means there are as few as 1215
operational police actively investigating domestic Federal crime. Many of those 1215 officers would be
concentrating on terrorism – which is a good thing – but there simply are not
enough police left to adequately investigate other areas like organised crime,
illicit drug distribution, fraud against the Commonwealth, money laundering and
environmental crime.

In further news, the brother of Damien
Bugg QC, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, has been appointed
the new President of the Law Council Of Australia. Congratulations to Tim Bugg on his appointment. Let’s
hope he brings a bit more excitement and meaningful results in his new role than
his brother has as CDPP. The Law Council of Australia advises governments,
courts and other federal agencies on ways in which the law and the justice
system can be improved for the benefit of the community. Perhaps he can lobby
the government for a fairer distribution of resources to combat tax fraud. Hey,
we don’t want to start any family feuds here!

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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