House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Distinguished Visitors

6:18 pm

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

I note that the coalition did not ask one question about the Department of Human services. They fixated on one document; not a question at all that relates to the department that deals with probably more Australians each and every day than any other department. It goes to show how little they think of Australian families, individuals, pensioners and seniors.

I thank the member for her question. The department is spending about $16.2 million over two years to develop a business case for an upgrade or replacement of the income security integration system known as ISIS. She raised that issue in relation to improving capacity to support current and changing needs of Australians. That is important because the ISIS upgrade or replacement is crucial to supporting the social welfare system we have in this country. You have to have a decent system in place; otherwise those payments that I referred to earlier in my answers cannot be made. ISIS is a major IT system for Centrelink programs. The business case will inform a future decision about upgrading or replacing the system, and it is important that we do that. I will be brief in relation to this issue, because I know another member needs to speak quickly about another issue. We put enormous trust in this department, and Australians do as well. We need to enhance the capacity and capabilities of this department, because this is crucial. We need to have those systems in place so that Australians can have confidence that those payments will get into their accounts.

The member also asked questions in relation to older technologies. One of the things that are important is the need for a call centre. I mentioned before the number of phone calls that go to the department. It is enormous—tens and tens of millions, as I said before. So we are providing $30 million to help the department reduce the call waiting times, which of course has been a problem in the past. None of us like to wait on the phone, and we are trying to reduce the waiting times that people sometimes experience. There is funding of $10 million in the 2012-13 budget and $20 million in the 2013-14 budget, and that will allow the department to put in additional call centre staff.

I mentioned before the number of calls that take place: 44 million Centrelink-related calls in 2011-12—about 160,000 calls a day. So those public servants who answer those phone calls are important. It is sad to see that those opposite want to sack public servants—the kind of people that will answer those phone calls from Australians across the country. It is sad to see that those opposite cannot even bring themselves to ask one question, and it is interesting to note that the shadow minister did not ask a question of me at all tonight.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Debate adjourned.


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