Townsville Bulletin

Labor to create 200 Department of Human Services jobs in Townsville if elected

By Clare Armstrong, Townsville Bulletin

TWO hundred new permanent full time public service jobs would be created in Townsville under a Federal Labor plan to combat the region’s high unemployment rate.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten will visit Townsville on the ‘Bill Bus’ today where he is expected to announce Labor’s plan to base 200 new Department of Human Services (DHS) jobs in the city if elected to Government.

The local service delivery and call centre positions would inject an estimated $14.4 million into the Townsville economy every year.

About 10,400 people are currently in Townsville’s jobs queue as the unemployment rate hit 8.8 per cent in November 2018, significantly higher than the Queensland average of 6.2 per cent.

Mr Shorten said the new jobs would “further cement Townsville as a national hub for Commonwealth Government service delivery and administration”.

“Regional centres like Townsville have been ignored when it comes to decentralising Government service delivery,” he said.

Mr Shorten said the jobs would improve access to Medicare and Centrelink, and reduce waiting and processing times for the 15,000 pensioners and 2,700 young people on youth allowance in Townsville.

“Medicare and Centrelink services help the Townsville community when they need it the most — when people are sick, processing aged care pensions, child care support, disability support pensions and carers allowance payments,” he said.

“Income support is complex and that’s why it is important there are properly trained and permanent staff who are familiar with the personal circumstances facing income support recipients.”

Mr Shorten said the Federal Government’s reduction and outsourcing of staff from DHS and Centrelink had left the system in “crisis”.

“These cuts have coincided with increased Centrelink phone wait times, and income support recipients being pushed to the edge of poverty waiting months for their payments,” he said.

Herbert MP Cathy O’Toole said Labor’s proposal would return “secure, quality jobs” to Townsville.

“Ensuring quality jobs for locals … will (also) significantly decrease the growing waiting periods that residents are experiencing when dealing with Centrelink,” she said.

“Every day my office is contacted by residents who are struggling with the lengthy waiting periods.

“Waiting times have increased and it’s simply just not good enough.”

Ms Colgan, 26, said she had been applying for “multiple jobs every day” but found it “tough” to get call backs.

“I have mainly been working in retail and customer service in the past and currently I am volunteering for a local charity because it has been difficult to find a full time job,” she said.

Ms Colgan said she would be eager to apply for any new jobs with the Department of Human Services that might be created under a Labor Federal Government.

“Working at DHS would mean full time stable employment, which is definitely something needed for the city,” she said.

“Personally, this would be a great opportunity for me.”