House debates

Monday, 20 August 2018

Constituency Statements

Whitlam Electorate: Centrelink

10:30 am

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

The Turnbull government's management of Centrelink is an absolute debacle. There have been staff cuts, wait times are up and processing of claims are being delayed. Last year, the Turnbull government cut more than 1,180 staff. Call times increased; busy signals skyrocketed. In this year's budget, another 1,280 staff cuts are planned. That is almost 2½ thousand staff cuts in two years. In addition to this, the government closed the Warrawong Centrelink office servicing my electorate. Only a government that is absolutely clueless about poverty would cut a Centrelink office that is servicing one of the poorest areas in New South Wales.

Across the country, older Australians, university students and people seeking parenting leave are being forced to wait as long as 10 months before receiving payments, leaving many feeling desperate, stressed and in need. There are constituents in my electorate who, despite being advised their applications 'will be processed within weeks', are waiting months and months and months. Take Jenny Sampson. Jenny is an aged-care worker in her mid-60s. Jenny applied for the age pension in March and provided Centrelink with all of the documents. Centrelink told her that her application would take only a few weeks. Instead, Jenny waited nearly six months. Each time she contacted Centrelink, she was advised that it was being looked at and it would be processed within a few weeks. Jenny got in contact with my office, and we managed to work our way through the muck, but people shouldn't have to wait the length of time for the pension that Jenny did after having worked their entire lives. We're told that the age pension processing claim average is now 49 days. That is almost two weeks up from last year.

It is not just the age pension; it's paid parental leave as well. Kirstie Williams and her partner submitted an application for paid parental leave eight months ago. Let's bear in mind that this is a payment attempting to help people with the cost burden of the early months of their child's life. The child was born in May. Again, they waited and waited and waited. They were told only this week that they are going to get their payment. They were running the risk that their child was going to reach their first birthday before receiving this necessary payment.

Mitchell Gibson, who is in his first year studying media and communications at UOW, is another example of a young man seeking to do the right thing to further his career. He has been waiting and waiting and waiting. He applied in February; it wasn't processed until July this year. These delays are unacceptable.