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We could be funding terrorism through childcare benefits

How could, in presenter Leigh Sales’ words, “Australian taxpayers [be] one of the biggest funders of IS”? Unbelievably, it could be through our childcare system.

On Monday, August 15, the ABC’s 7.30 revealed that two men are being questioned and another two have been charged with fraud over an alleged $27 million childcare scam, with possible links to terrorism funding.

Since 2012, providers of family daycare within a childcare network run by Lakemba-based brothers Mohammad and Ibrahim Omar have purportedly falsified documents to claim Commonwealth Government rebates.

One such provider, 22-year-old Ali Assaad, was supposedly in Malaysia whilst he was thought to be running his Moorebank family daycare centre. Police contend he has garnered more than $152,000 in childcare subsidies over the past financial year. He was arrested prior to his planned trip to Saudi Arabia.

Although the potential link to terrorism is novel, childcare rorts are nothing new. Nesha O’Neil Hutchinson, chief executive of Early Childhood Alliance NSW, told the ABC “…it’s been known for a number of years that there is the opportunity to defraud the early-childhood education funding system.”

O’Neil Hutchinson’s assertion is supported by examples from just last year. For instance, Federal Police busted a $15.8 million childcare fraud ring in Melbourne in December. And even parents are not above committing fraud: the practice of ‘child swapping’ was outlawed in October after it was found that 11,000 parents, who were also family daycare operators, received subsidies for their own children by placing them in the care of fellow family daycare workers.

The key difference is that in those cases, the embezzled funds were found. In the current alleged con, the purportedly stolen funds remain outstanding – perhaps in terrorists’ hands.

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