Fake news alert: Mandurah is not the ‘welfare capital’ | OPINION

People living in Mandurah’s 6210 postcode woke to a story running in Perth media on Sunday that announced their part of the world as the “welfare capital” of Western Australia.

“Mandurah is WA’s welfare capital, new figures from the Australian Taxation Office show,” read the first line of the perthnow.com.au story.

Written by a Melbourne journalist, the story also ran on The West Australian’s website and was picked up by Seven News in their Sunday night bulletin.

Unfortunately for the people who live in 6210 the story is just wrong; it’s fake news and here’s why.

The story relies on Australian Taxation Office (ATO) figures for the 2014-15 tax year which were published in April that show the postcode receives the largest total of government payments – $15,541,355.

The problem is that 6210, which stretches from Madora Bay to Wannanup, also had the largest number of people filing tax returns. In other words, there were more taxpayers in the 6210 postcode than anywhere else in WA, a total of 38,102 people.

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Only 2628 of those people received government payments, or just 6.9 per cent.

As far as all of WA goes, that’s not actually too bad. Certainly not in the realm of “welfare capital”.

If you list the number of people for each postcode who receive a government payment as a percentage of the number of taxpayers in each postcode, 6210 comes in at 93 of the 339 postcodes listed.

On this measure, Mandurah is about on par with Warnbro, Two Rocks and Midland (all 6.9 per cent). 

For the record, if there is a “welfare capital”, it’s the 6765 postcode in WA’s North West, which includes the troubled town of Fitzroy Crossing. Almost a quarter of the 806 people who filed tax returns in this postcode received a government payment.

But even that doesn’t tell the full story because according to the ATO a government payment also includes Youth Allowance, Austudy, Abstudy, parenting payments, widow allowance, farm household allowance and payments under the Veterans' Children Education Scheme.

Labelling a city as the state’s “welfare capital” might get a headline, but it won’t win many friends, especially when it turns out that the headline is wrong.