House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Distinguished Visitors

5:53 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing) Share this | Hansard source

It is not always that I agree with the member of Mayo, but I do agree with him about the Department of Human Services. The department touches the lives of nearly every Australian, one way or another. One of the great strengths of the department, as the member talked mentioned, is the fact that it has great flexibility to deal with all manner of situations—from distribution of family tax benefits, to child support and to crisis management. The member for Mayo raised what the department does, which I will talk about, and I will deal with the charter issue in a minute.

One of the great achievements of the Department of Human Services is its capacity to make about $144.7 billion in payments in a year. The shadow parliamentary secretary, the member for Mayo, talked about the amount that is in this year's budget. In last year's, it is extraordinary for a department to have had the capacity to make $3.2 billion in payments for child support or family tax benefit payments. The parliament takes 56 million calls from people and sends out about 145 million letters every year.

The member for Mayo talked about the achievements and capabilities of the department, and I think he is correct when he talks about those. For example, one of the things that the member for Mayo probably would not be happy about was the capacity of the Department of Human Services to make the clean energy advance payments of over $1.3 billion to more than six million Australian families, pensioners and other recipients. The member for Mayo's side of politics actually voted against those payments and opposed those payments every step of the way, whereas Australians received those payments through the Department of Human Services to assist them with their cost-of-living pressures and to assist them to meet the challenge in participating in our pricing of carbon—a policy which has proved significantly effective in the reduction of carbon pollution in the atmosphere, on the latest figures.

The member for Mayo is correct that the department is using smarter and faster tools in the 21st century. New ways to deal with Australians' online services are particularly important. He actually mentioned that in his question. There are about 3.8 million Australians currently registered for Centrelink online services, and he raised that point in his question and his comments. About 2.7 million are registered for Medicare online services, and there are about 143,000 registered for child support online services, so that is particularly important. I am glad he raised that in his comments, because that is a particularly important point to make.

The department is also using a number of particularly important things—and the member for Mayo raised that in his questions to us—introducing four new Express Plus smartphone applications. They are aimed at students, job seekers, families and seniors, enabling them to complete many of their most common transactions quickly and easily. I thank him for his dorothy dixer, because it was particularly helpful in relation to that. These apps have been well received. There have been over 563,000 downloads and over 11 million transactions already via the apps. This includes a lot of older Australians. One of the things that I have been so pleased about is the way that older Australians have embraced the seniors app, having completed about 11,000 downloads and about 51,000 transactions.

The member raised issues in relation to a charter, and I noticed that he got very excited about that today in a press release he sent off. I think the responsibilities of the Minister of Human Services are very clear. The member for Mayo talked about the department that the minister has responsibilities for and what it actually does. I think most people know, when they deal with the department, about the range of services and are pleased with the range of services that are there. She is getting on with the job of making sure that Australians get access to the kinds of payments that the member for Mayo mentioned—ensuring that Australians get access to those payments they need to meet their cost-of-living pressures.

I think the member for Mayo and the shadow minister should stop playing politics in relation to this and come clean about their plans to take away jobs, like Campbell Newman and the LNP in Queensland. They should come clean. What public servants in the Department of Human Services do they intend to sack if they get onto the treasury bench? Let us not forget that we have somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 jobs in the gun if the shadow parliamentary secretary loses the 'shadow' before his name. (Time expired)


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