Man lied for welfare payments: court

AN ARARAT shearer who lied to Centrelink to receive more than $16,000 in false payments was placed on a good behaviour bond yesterday.

Gregory Spencer, 59, appeared in Ballarat Magistrates Court, charged with obtaining financial advantage from a Commonwealth entity.

The court heard that between June 2008 and August 2010, Spencer made 41 false welfare claims by not properly declaring his income.

Crown prosecutor Hal Tilemann said Spencer had earned about $54,000 over about two years while working casually as a shearer.

However he told Centrelink he had only earned about $13,000.

“It was done over a long period and there have been no payments made to repay the money as yet,” Mr Tilemann said.

“We seek that it be repaid in full.”

Defence lawyer Shelley Buchecker said her client had no prior dishonesty crimes and that Spencer was in shame over the offending.

He pleaded guilty to the charge.

Ms Buchecker said Spencer had been on Centrelink payments since 1996 and, given his unpredictable working hours as a casual shearer, he found it difficult to keep track of his income.

He has worked for the company for 13 years.

“The income was somewhat unpredictable. He never knew his funds from one week to the next,” Ms Buchecker said.

In sentencing, Magistrate Peter Couzens said he understood how there could be difficulties in keeping precise details of income when working on a casual basis.

However Mr Couzens said there was a major discrepancy between Spencer’s reported income and his actual income.

“You must be as accurate as you can be in the future,” Mr Couzens said.

Spencer was convicted, placed on a two-year good behaviour bond and ordered to repay a sum of $16,443.23.