MPs claim Centrelink is ignoring polygamy by paying benefits to Muslim families with multiple wives.
Conservative Senator Cory Bernardi and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott have called for an investigation – saying it is political correctness “gone mad”.
According to News Corp, officials told Mr Abbott’s former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, that it would cost more to pay a sole parent pension to subsequent wives as opposed to paying benefits for marriages or de facto relationships.
Credlin wrote in her Sunday Telegraph column that by paying benefits this way the Government may be saving the taxpayer money but it was effectively turning a “blind eye” to polygamy.
“The answer I got back was to fix it could cost more. To be honest there was frustration about how difficult overall rorting in this area was to remedy,” Ms Credlin told News Corp.
“It’s not the role of government to police people’s bedrooms unless they are breaking the law but nor can it, through policy or indifference, sanction polygamous marriages.
“By making welfare payments to multiple wives, we were accepting as a principle in welfare policy something that is fundamentally wrong — both at law and in our culture. Government should not be turning a blind eye,” she added.
However, the Department of Social Services said welfare eligibility is determined by an individual’s circumstances and there are no additional payments for having multiple partners.
“Being in more than one member-of-a-couple relationship has no bearing on that assessment – if you are in a member-of-a-couple relationship then you will be assessed at the partnered rate,” a Department of Human Services spokesperson told Mamamia.
“Customers with multiple partners are assessed exactly the same as any other person, under Australian law.”
“The department does not hold data based on polygamous relationships or religion,” they added.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government did not recognise multiple marriages.
“The proposition that somehow the government is authorising polygamy, that is just completely ridiculous,” he told Sky News.
He said welfare payments are assessed on an “individual basis” and the claim of turning a “blind eye” to polygamy by paying these benefits was false.
Islamic marriages are religious unions that are not registered.