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Australian Press Council ruling on welfare fraud report in The Advertiser

Thursday, 5 September 2013
Author: The Advertiser

The following adjudication has been issued by the Australian Press Council.

The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article "Welfare fraud costs us $78m" in The Advertiser and the adelaidenow website on 18 January 2013. The words "Single-parent women most likely to cheat" appeared above the headline. The first sentence said "South Australian welfare recipients have ripped off nearly $80 million from Centrelink in the past financial year and most of the fraudsters are women".

After the article appeared, the Federal Department of Human Services (which had supplied some data for it) told the publication that fraud-related debt in South Australia in the past year had been about $2.5 million, not $78 million. The article was then removed from the website and a "clarification" was published in the newspaper on the following day.

Margaret Moir complained that the $78 million figure in the original article was "grossly inaccurate". She said the subsequent clarification lacked prominence, especially given the prominence of the original article, the seriousness of the inaccuracy, and the linkage made with sole-parent women.

The publication acknowledged the mistakes but pointed to its action to correct them. It said page 2, where the clarification appeared, is one of the most read pages and is more prominent than page 5, where the original article appeared.

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