Thursday, 8 October 2020
Services Australia Governance Amendment Bill 2020; Second Reading
I say no to the Prime Minister and to his appalling plan to deprive Newcastle of these Centrelink offices. I say no to his minister, who thinks it is a good idea to deprive Novocastrians of critical frontline services that have been so essential in getting us through this pandemic. I say no to reducing any of our frontline services and no to shutting down our local offices. I'm very pleased that the minister on duty tonight made that intervention, so that I had an opportunity to speak directly to the Prime Minister, who appears to be pretty tone-deaf about these sorts of issues. I hope the Prime Minister is listening very carefully today: the message from Newcastle is loud, clear and unequivocal, and I hope you understand.
It may well be that this government is starting to see the error of its ways after seeing the disastrous impacts of its ongoing campaign to hollow out public services. Indeed, we've already seen them postpone some of their plans to shut down offices—Abbotsford Centrelink in Melbourne, for example. But it's not enough. The government need to put an end now to the entire shameful plot that they have been hatching. They shouldn't allow this to be swept under the rug. I will not allow this issue to be swept under the rug, ready to be revived when no-one's looking. Maybe the Prime Minister thinks he can put that kind of shoofty over Newcastle. Well, I've got news for this government: we will be watching you very closely.
This plan must be abandoned once and for all. We are heading into the deepest recession we have seen in almost a century, and Australians need to know that Centrelink will be there for them when they need it. It is the Morrison government that has created this mess and it is the Morrison government that now needs to fix it. The government has an opportunity now to remedy the terrible, terrible situation in which it is placing so many Australians. It is diabolical for a government that relied on a professional public service to get millions of Australians through this pandemic to even contemplate paying back that loyalty, that service to our communities, by shutting the doors on those workplaces, saying, 'We don't need all these Centrelink offices.' At what point does this government stop and reflect on the serious implications of its diabolical plans—the implications for the millions of Australians who rely on Centrelink for professional advice and guidance and to receive timely payments? That is the whole purpose of a social security safety net.
Over a long period of time, Australian men and women fought very hard to ensure that this country had a protective social security safety net. It was indeed the blood and sweat of working men and women in this nation that struck the social accord that afforded the decent safety nets put in place in this country, whether it was income support through Centrelink or universal health care in the form of Medicare—hard-won victories. Of course, these offices that the government is intending to close down are also Medicare offices in many of our cities, country towns and regions. So it shows the complete disregard and disrespect that this government has for two of the most fundamental doctrines in this nation—that is, a universal healthcare system and a social security safety net. (Time expired)