Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Petition: Huon Valley Centrelink Services
I stand here today on behalf of constituents of mine in the Huon Valley. The Huon Valley, of course, was affected very badly by bushfires earlier this year, but they've also been fighting another fight, and that's to save their Centrelink services. Sadly, since the Liberal federal government came to office, more than 500 federal public servants have been ripped out of Tasmania, and the Huon Valley Centrelink office is the next target. The Huon Valley Centrelink office, we understand, is going to be co-located with a Service Tasmania office. We know that, when this happened at Kingston, services and privacy became a really serious issue, and everybody that I have spoken to in the Kingston community says the service that they're getting from the co-located office is not the same as it was when it was a full, proper Centrelink office. So the residents of the Huon Valley are rightly quite concerned.
We had a bit of an issue last year, or earlier this year, when they reduced the number of staff at that Centrelink office from three to two. It got to the ludicrous situation where, because of security concerns—because staff are often there on their own—they had to hire a security guard, and so they had to get back a third staff member via a security firm. Then they realised how ludicrous this was and they put back another staff member, or relocated another staff member down there.
The government have a really serious problem with the Huon Valley Centrelink office. Over the many years that they've been in office, they've been slowly degrading the services of the Huon Valley Centrelink office. They've been slowly reducing the number of staff and are trying to reduce it even further. Locals are fed up. They're tired. They had to go through the bushfires earlier this year. They need Centrelink services in Huonville. There's no public transport in and out of Huonville. It's a small town about 45 minutes south of Hobart. There is no way for locals to access Centrelink services other than to drive themselves into Hobart. It is not good enough for this government to go round pretending it's the friend of those living in regional Australia and then to cut and remove their services.
One of the local Liberal senators, Senator Eric Abetz, has been involved in this and has been spoken to. Senator Abetz said, 'It's our job to prudently review the number of public servants.' They've cut over 500 federal public servants from Tasmania since they came to office! I and my constituents say, 'Enough is enough.' This cannot go on. The residents in the Huon Valley want to maintain their Centrelink services in a standalone Centrelink office that's properly staffed and can deal with local concerns and local constituents. It needs to have local staff who know and understand the local community. It is not good enough to have drive-in drive-out people coming from Hobart on a regular basis to serve the local community. I seek leave to table a petition about the services. It is not an approved petition.