The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which represents members in Services Australia, has welcomed the recommendations from a review into security at Services Australia, while calling for staffing to be urgently increased.

The Security Risk Management Review, led by former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner, Graham Ashton was announced in May, following a serious assault on a Centrelink staff member at the Airport West Service Centre in Melbourne.

CPSU members and their representatives participated in the review, detailing their experiences with the agency’s security and safety mechanisms, their concerns about the shortcomings of security arrangements, and their expert advice on measures to keep them safe at work.

Today, the review report was released, with 44 recommendations designed to improve security at Services Australia offices, including:

  • 278 additional security guards, including 2 security guards to be stationed at high risk offices
  • Changes to office layouts and improved security features including physical barriers
  • Better engagement with law enforcement and other security services
  • Increased staff training on customer aggression
  • Tougher penalties for repeat offenders, and
  • Stronger legislation to address violence and aggression to public sector workers.

CPSU members and representatives now look forward to continuing to contribute to the implementation of the review recommendations.

For these recommendations to have a meaningful impact, workers must be genuinely consulted on their implementation. Previously CPSU member concerns about the reduction in the number of security guards were ignored by Services Australia management.

The CPSU says that while the recommendations are welcome progress, staffing levels at Services Australia must be urgently increased to reduce backlogs and wait times and address underlying customer frustration.

The former Coalition Government cut around 3,000 staff from Services Australia during their time in office. Staffing was further cut by 1,800 in the most recent Albanese Labor budget as additional staffing to handle COVID programs was wound back.

  • Centrelink call wait times have increased by almost 50 per cent in the last year, and
  • The number of customers receiving congestion messages when calling Services Australia phone lines has grown by millions over recent months.

Quotes attributable to CPSU National Secretary, Melissa Donnelly:

“CPSU members welcome the release of the review into security at their workplaces and the commitment of additional funding to implement the review’s 44 recommendations.

“Members participated in the review, providing detailed and, at times, harrowing examples of incidents they have faced at work as well as expert advice on what needs to change to make their workplaces and customers safer.

“We are glad to see Services Australia workers’ security at work given the serious attention it deserves. These recommendations will clearly improve the safety of workers and customers.

“The recommendations of the review must be implemented in full and in consultation with staff and their union representatives.

“We now want to work with the Government to address the crisis in understaffing in Services Australia.

“Staffing levels in Services Australia have been going backwards for years and are well below where they need to be to deliver the services the community relies on.

Media Contact: Liz Bower 0408 405 121