Turnbull Govt needs to fix the real problems with Centrelink

The Turnbull Government has once again announced it will crack down on people using our social security system but is failing to deal with the real problems with Centrelink.

Human Services Minister Michael Keenan said today that the Turnbull Government is ‘committed to cracking down on welfare fraud more than ever before’ after reports that the Department of Human Services overpaid $2.84 billion last year.

CPSU National President Alistair Waters said ‘The problems in DHS are largely of the Government’s own making – poor quality IT systems and cutting 5000 permanent jobs means huge waiting times for call centres and 55 million phone calls going unanswered each year.’

‘Because so many of the errors and overpayments are the result of staff cuts and system problems, the priority for the Turnbull Government must be to increase staff numbers and fast track IT upgrades, to improve service standards and reduce mistakes. Most people want to do the right thing, and Government should be making it easier to do that.’

‘It should be quick and easy to use the system and comply with the rules, but frankly the Turnbull Government has made it very hard for people to use Centrelink. And the robo-debt program generated tens of thousands of false debts for people who had done nothing wrong – it’s not surprising that this has shaken the public’s trust in the system.’

‘DHS does incredibly important work and when it comes to detecting overpayments and raising debts, people have a right to expect speed and accuracy. But the Turnbull Government is letting us all down – and causing huge stress to DHS staff – by continuing its program of outsourcing and staff cuts.’

‘The robo-debt disaster shows that it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the Centrelink system – that’s why it’s so important to have enough staff, backed up by good IT systems. Robo-debt shows us what the real problem is here – the Turnbull Government is relying on systems that don’t work and then cutting staff in the mistaken belief that broken computers can do the work of trained public servants. So how can Australians have trust and confidence in the social security system?’

The Turnbull Government should learn from the robo-debt debacle and invest properly in world-class IT systems, with enough permanent staff to oversee them. They should reverse the cuts to permanent staff, stop outsourcing work to companies like Serco, and provide DHS with enough resources to provide the kind of service that Australians need.

Media contact: Susie Byers 0408 813 983