'We have been taken for fools': Pauline Hanson accuses Centrelink of condoning polygamy with multiple spousal benefits

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has hit back at Centrelink for allegedly paying multiple spousal benefits to polygamous Muslim families.

The Senator said Australian taxpayers' money was being used to to condone polygamy for Islamic families with two or three wives.

Pauline Hanson accused Centrelink of condoning polygamy by paying benefits to Muslim men with multiple wives. Picture: 7 News

“If we keep ­appeasing these groups they will want more and more”, she told The Australian.

“They will keep going on and abusing us, our generosity and our culture.”

Hanson called mainstream party leaders "gutless" in failing to speak up, and accused them of dodging the issue to maintain votes from the Islamic community.

“We have been taken for fools," she said.

“Second marriages are not ­acknowledged in this country or their children, and they should not be funded at all.”

Her comments came after Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed on Sky News on Sunday that Centrelink did pay spousal benefits to multiple partners of Muslim men, but rejected the suggestion that it meant government acceptance of polygamy.

Senator Cormann argued that paying spousal benefits to polygamous families would save costs of dishing out for single pensions.

“The question is, do you get the higher rate because you are single, or do you get the lower rate because you are part of a ­relationship?” he said.

Centrelink is under pressure to investigate polygamous relationships, common in Muslim communities, to prevent multiple wives claiming spousal benefits. Photo: File/AP

Polygamy is illegal in Australia, but there are no laws stopping consenting adults from living together in a relationship.

Polyamory is an accepted part of many cultures in Australia, including parts of the Aboriginal and Muslim communities.

The welfare agency reportedly refuses to collect data on domestic relationships, which are considered marriages under Islamic law, despite more than one wife claiming benefits in the same marriage.

MPs are lobbying for Centrelink to investigate the claims and put an end to “political correctness” in favour of stamping out unlawful relationships funded by taxpayers.

Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin told the Sunday Telegraph the issue was ordered to be rectified in the former PM’s final days of office, but it was shelved due to the costs involved and difficulty of policing.

She said an overhaul would mean women currently claiming spousal pensions might otherwise be eligible to claim the single parent pension, at a higher cost to taxpayers.

“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.”

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News Corp columnist Angela Mollard agreed with Ms Credlin on Weekend Sunrise, in saying investigating the relationships will only cost taxpayers more money with sole parenting pensions outweighing the funds allocated to spousal benefits.

She argued most Muslims were not polygamists – saying the quota was just five per cent worldwide in countries that allow the relationship.

An overhaul could come at a higher cost, where women currently claiming spousal pensions might otherwise be eligible to claim single parent pension. Photo: AAP

Outspoken columnist Prue MacSween echoed the push to revamp benefits, telling the Weekend Sunrise hosts that Centrelink was enabling law-breakers to "rort the system".

"{Centrelink is] then saying 'well even though it’s illegal we know [polygamists] are rorting the system'.

"'We are going to still allow it to happen because we are too bloody lazy or inept to accept that these people are thumbing their nose at [the taxpayer] and rorting the system’,” she told the program on Sunday.

"We had [Social Services Minister] Christian Porter, the minister saying that he had the big data and he was going to do testing and we were going to clean the system up.

"When are they going to start with this lot who won’t even stand up in court to observe our laws who just think we’re a bunch of mugs, which we are, because we allow them to rort the system?"

Earlier this year, Mr Porter said he was “annoyed” by the dramatically high cost of welfare benefits, estimated at $160 billion a year, and was working to reform the scheme.

News break – December 12

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