House debates

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Constituency Statements

Shortland Electorate: Centrelink

9:58 am

Photo of Jill HallJill Hall (Shortland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My office has been inundated with complaints from elderly people about Centrelink. There are three Centrelink offices within the Shortland electorate—one on the Central Coast and two in the Lake Macquarie part of the electorate. In fact, the Belmont Centrelink office is just behind my electorate office. People have been walking down from the Centrelink office to my office to lodge complaints that Centrelink will no longer accept their documents and no longer provide appointments. This has also been the case with the Charlestown Centrelink office. This has been a great concern, because it is an elderly electorate. Anyone needing to supply documents to Centrelink must either post the documents to an address in Canberra or open an account with Centrelink and scan the documents in and send them to that account.

As I stated, there are so many elderly people in Shortland electorate, and they are finding this really challenging. They are finding it very difficult not to be able to have face-to-face service at Centrelink. It is also raising concern within the community that maybe the government has a hidden agenda, and that hidden agenda is the closure of the Belmont Centrelink office. It is a combined Centrelink and Medicare office. When the Howard government came to power, one of their first acts was to close the Belmont Medicare office. One of our first acts that we did when we came to power in government in 2007 was plan to reopen that Medicare office in Belmont. Not only did we reopen the Medicare office but we put in a Centrelink office, which has provided an excellent venue for older people within the electorate.

This is really worrying. Charlestown Centrelink office is also unable to accept lodgements. It raises issues around whether or not this government has a plan to close both those Centrelink offices in Shortland electorate. If the officers are doing no face-to-face work with their clients, with those elderly pensioners that come in, what is the purpose of having that office? Wouldn't it be better for them to rationalise their services, close the Centrelink offices and get everything done by post? This is unacceptable. I will stand up and I will fight for these Centrelink offices to maintain these services until such time as this government gives me an undertaking that there will be no change. (Time expired)

10:01 am

Photo of Michelle LandryMichelle Landry (Capricornia, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In the past month, I have travelled about 4,500 kilometres to meet people in my electorate of Capricornia. This included a recent trip inland to Clermont, Moranbah, Dysart and the Middlemount areas in the agricultural and coalfields region. I flew out to inspect Adani's Carmichael mine site, about 185 kilometres west of Clermont, which will become Queensland's largest coalmine. The company is spending $200 million on developing the mine, plus contributing almost as much again in a rail corridor to take coal to the coast for exporting. I want to reassure the region that in my meetings with Adani I continue to press the need for local people to be employed during both construction and production stages of the mine. I made it clear that I do not want to see all the jobs farmed out to people in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Cairns, as has occurred with other Queensland coal projects,.

I met with landholders in the Clermont area about the issue of a coal rail corridor that will run 300 kilometres to Abbot Point, to where the coal will be shipped out by sea. These farmers are not against progress, but fear the height of the rail line on the flat flood plain will cause inundation. I have been assured by the company that there will be more negotiations and better communication and planning with landholders in the coming months.

While visiting Clermont, I had the pleasure of being a special guest at a community afternoon tea hosted by the Clermont branch of the Country Women's Association. The event at Clermont's historic CWA hall offered the chance for rural and town women to discuss issues concerning the community. It was also a chance to share a cuppa and a delicious afternoon tea, for which the CWA is famous. This insightful discussion shed light on many issues affecting people in the bush, including access to health care, aged care and accommodation, and employment in the mining sector. I would like to thank some of the women who engaged in a roundtable discussion, including Elaine Grubb, Denise Campbell, Sandra Strohfeldt, Barbara Nicholson, Margaret Henn, Anne Anderson and Jenny Wilby. I thank the ladies at Clermont CWA for their amazing cooking and hospitality.

Clermont is a great community about five hours drive west of Rockhampton. While there, I took the time to visit local legend Dorrie Appleton. Mrs Appleton recently turned 90, and has been running her local gift shop, Gum Tips, for the past 50 years. I posted a photo of us on my Facebook site, and the reaction proved that Dorrie is a superstar out that way. The Facebook post attracted over 13,000 views and dozens of comments. It is people like Mrs Appleton that have helped to make our rural and regional towns what they are. I also visited Clermont's Monash Lodge for aged residents and met up with 90-year-old Charlie Oats and his wife Margaret, 88. They have been married for 68 years. Charlie is a World War II veteran and donated his war memorabilia collection to— (Time expired)