Dole Bludgers

Reporter: Tim Noonan

First, the boardshort bludger that simply refuses to work. Alarmingly, one in six Australians are now living off the dole paid by you, the taxpayer.

Tim Noonan spent one week with the self-confessed surfing bum who has no complaints about the system that supports him.

"I am working; I'm working on me tan! A bad day at the beach beats a good day at work, that's what I always say. Everyday is the ultimate holiday, you know, you can make it like that for yourself" says Justin.

"They don't see it as fraud. They don't see it as illegal. They see it as a privilege" says Ken Gamble.

"The system is failing when someone is deliberately bludging on our country" says Senator John Williams.

"It used to be the John Howard surf team and now it's the Kevin Rudd surf team" adds Justin.

It's a team funded by taxpayers. Riding the welfare wave at Byron Bay, while the rest of us pay their way.

Surfer, Justin Sheridan, is an expert at beating the system. He knows Centrelink backwards and how to scam it and us.

Living an endless summer, he refuses to give up.

At 36, years of subsidised surfing has made it difficult for Justin to ever adjust to full-time work.

"I've tried the 9-5 thing, behind the desk and it isn't me. I'm no dummy. I did the HSC; I went to a Catholic school. I used to go to church and sing, I was an alter boy. I just find that this out here, surfing and living that lifestyle… it's hard to steer away from."

"I thought live now, surf now and then later on clean a caravan park, take on a job that it's mundane and no one really wants to do it and be happy with the fact that you've had a great youth."

Centrelink abuse costs Australian taxpayers billions of dollars every year.

If anyone knows how to catch a cheat, it's private investigator, Ken Gamble. Years undercover as a Centrelink surveillance agent, he's caught hundreds of people ripping off the system.

"We had a team of surveillance people that were going out we were observing specific people that complaints had been made about and we were profiling those people's activities and we were finding fraud in just about every case that was referred to us" says Ken.

Ten years ago, the federal government introduced a job seeker diary to make the unemployed accountable.

The diaries require people to record at least eight job applications and interviews a fortnight. If they don't, they could have their payments reduced or stopped altogether.

Of course what most people do is they go out and they put the applications in and they just lie on the forms" says Ken.

But it's a system full of loopholes.

"We need to put the spotlight on these people and say to them, here is a job, you take it, if you don't there's going to be no more dole." National party senator, John Williams, has had enough.

"We have a situation in Australia now where we are forcing businesses to import their labour. They are bringing in workers from overseas because many Australians refuse to go to work" adds John Williams.

If he has his way, the boardshort bludger won't be around much longer.

"I don't care if it's sweeping the streets, cleaning the rubbish off the side of the road, cleaning the drains out, they must do something before the tax payers or the government gives them a cheque each week" says John Williams.

Justin has worked for the dole twice before to avoid having his payments cut.

"I used to want to go in to work and do all my work in a hurry and then get the hell out of there."

But the lure of the beach was just too strong.

"When you're struggling to get work all the time and you find that you want to go and surf your days away, basically, I just found that it was better not to worry about looking for the work so much and going surfing, doing what I love to do."

"Centrelink is there to care for the genuine Australians who need a hand. Now whether they be aged pensioners, disability pensioners or the genuine unemployed that is Centrelink's job, but not to encourage people to bludge their way through life" says John Williams.

"No one likes to see someone on a total free ride and I wouldn't say that I'm doing it on a total free ride either. I'd have to say I just find it difficult to get jobs and keep them" says Justin. "I wouldn't say I feel guilty, I think it's more like, I feel saddened that people would look at like, that I'm a bludger, because I don't call it bludging. It's a lifestyle choice that mightn't be for everyone but I'm sure if everyone had a little taste of it, they'd want it."

We ask the question "Is Justin living the dream, or ripping us off?"- let's us know your thoughts: tt@7perth.com.au