Today, in partnership with a network of non-profits the union for Services Australia workers, the Community and Public Sector Union is releasing a shared statement on building a better ServicesAustralia and calls on all political candidates and parties to commit to the framework ahead of the election.

Services Australia workers do an incredible job delivering support for our community in the most difficult circumstances, such as cyclones, floods, bushfires or the pandemic. Of course, at some stage in our lives all of us will rely on Services Australia, through Centrelink, Medicare, or Child Support workers.

But Services Australia could and should be better. Under the Morrison Government, insecure work at Services Australia has increased every year, with now over 30% of workers in some form of insecure employment. The fact is that privatised workers are often paid less than public servants, while the labour-hire firms that employ them cash in eye-watering contracts.

What the Morrison Government’s privatisation of Services Australia jobs means is less training and less security for workers, higher turnover, more time spent fixing mistakes for permanent staff, more errors, and real delays for the community.

The shared statement details commonsense changes to make our social security system robust, fair and equitable. It is supported by the AustralianCouncil of Social Service, St Vincent de Paul, Anglicare, Per Capita, Father Bob Maguire, Reverend Bill Crews, the Wayside Chapel, Fair Go for Pensioners, Homelessness NSW, People with Disability Australia, and the ACTU.

It calls all political parties and candidates to:

  • Commit to developing a respectful and compassionate social security system, including by implementing the Raise the Rates recommendations.
  • Increase resources for phone and face to face services and make access easier.
  • Remove breach powers from private JobActive providers and return them to Services Australia.
  • Redesign the debt recovery process so that it is fair and humane, allowing staff to exercise discretion, and reinstate the statute of limitations for debt recovery.
  • Abolish the cashless debit card and income quarantining methods.
  • Increase staffing numbers for the Indigenous Services business line.
  • Hire more social workers so they can fulfil their case management role supporting vulnerable members of the community, not just process claims.
  • Rebuild in-house capacity and expertise of Services Australia by converting insecure workers to secure APS jobs, with proper training, where they can build up experience.

It’s time to stop the privatisation of Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support and ensure a strong and publicly funded social security system that is accessible to all.

Alistair Waters, CPSU National President said, “This statement lays out what we must do if we want a better Services Australia. If we want an agency that delivers a social security system that all Australians can rely on and that treats everyone with dignity, compassion, and respect.

“The way a government runs agencies like Services Australia has the capacity to ruin lives, just like we saw from the Robodebt program, and the deliberate damage inflicted on community members.

When the scheme was first announced, CPSU members working in debt recovery questioned its legality, only to be told by senior management and the Minister to 'get back to work.'

“Right this minute, Services Australia workers are striving to get over 130,000 Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments to Australians in need as quickly as possible. They know they provide an essential service that every Australian relies on. Instead of the government cutting secure jobs, let’s build a better Services Australia and a better social security system.”