WOMEN are routinely crossing into Australia from PNG to fall pregnant, claim the baby bonus and establish citizenship rights, locals in Torres Strait said.
Torres Strait mayors have claimed the northern border has an “open door policy” where federal departments turn a blind eye to “overstayers”.
They said droves of Western province residents had claimed false Torres Strait Island heritage, giving them access to the financial perks of being an Australian citizen.
With a Queensland Senate inquiry under way into matters affecting the remote northern islands, speculation has come that DNA testing could be employed on people without proper identification as a new measure to stamp out welfare rorting.
Torres Strait island regional council mayor Fred Gela said it was not hard for PNG residents to gain an Australian identity.
“All I can say is, broadly speaking, there are a lot of things happening in terms of utilising different strategies for (achieving) a pathway into the Torres Strait and accessing the benefits that we often take for granted,” the Cairns Post newspaper reported him as saying last week.
“All that needs to be done is for one ID form to be filled out and a councillor to sign it and they can claim to be Torres Strait Islanders.
“I’ve been presented with a lot of ID forms, which I have just not signed.”
A spokesperson for Leichhardt MP Jim Turnour said they were not aware of the scams and Cook MP Jason O’Brien said he doubted it would be possible for PNG women to defraud the system.
A spokeswoman for Centrelink, the department that administers the baby bonus scheme, said the holder of particular temporary visas – either a partner provisional, interdependency or temporary protection visas, were eligible to claim the lump sum payment, distributed in instalments.
Cr Gela said the federal government was disadvantaging Australians and residents of the Western province by not ensuring the millions of dollars given to the PNG Government in aid were spent in the places that needed it most, like the Western province.
“We really feel for these people because, at the end of the day, it is human nature to do what they are doing,” he said.