House debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Questions without Notice

Minister for Human Services

2:27 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Human Services. I refer to the principle of cabinet solidarity outlined in the Cabinet Handbook, which applies to all ministers. Does the minister retain enough confidence in the Prime Minister, his government and its policies to remain as a minister?

Photo of Michael KeenanMichael Keenan (Stirling, Liberal Party, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation) Share this | | Hansard source

I welcome the new shadow minister to the portfolio. And the answer, of course, is yes. It gives me an opportunity to go through the achievements that we're actually doing within my portfolio of human services.

Because we're managing the budget well, because we're managing the economy well and because we've created one million jobs, that means there are fewer people in the welfare system. That saves billions of dollars over the budgetary cycle. That's allowed us to employ an extra 2,750 people within my department so that when you call Centrelink you can actually get someone answering the phone within a reasonable time, who can answer your question—a knowledgeable person who knows what they're doing, who can deal with your query in the way that the Australian people want and with the service that they expect.

I will continue to make sure that we're delivering for the Australian people within this portfolio. The Department of Human Services runs the largest call centre in the Southern Hemisphere. We take one million calls a week. When the Howard government left office, the average call waiting time when somebody called in was 90 seconds—a minute and half. When these guys left office in 2013, it was 12½ minutes! And that happened because they ripped 4,800 people out of the Department of Human Services. Those 5,000 people meant that when people called Centrelink they couldn't get the service they needed.

These guys like to pretend that they care about the welfare system. They like to pretend they care about Australians who are on the welfare system. But we're the ones who are making sure they can get a job, and we're the ones who are making sure that they can get the support they need when they need it.