06 November 2023

The Albanese Labor Government is putting people back at the centre of government services, with thousands of new jobs created to improve Centrelink and Medicare services.

Over the past decade, the former Liberal government decimated Services Australia’s frontline to make way for malicious, profit making programs like Robodebt, where people were an afterthought.

Labor is making an immediate $228 million funding injection to frontline and service delivery staffing at the agency this financial year.

The 3,000 new recruits will work in smart centres in capital cities and regional centres, including Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour in NSW, Toowoomba and Maryborough in Queensland, and Ballarat and LaTrobe Valley in Victoria. The recruitment has started, with more than 800 people already accepting jobs and starting the onboarding process.

One of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Robodebt outlined that the Government should facilitate “easy and efficient engagement options of online, in person and telephone communication which is sensitive to the particular circumstances of the customer cohort”.

It is only by funding the return of humans to government services, to have a people-centred approach and get away from the robo-systems beloved by the last Liberal government, that we can ensure Robodebt never happens again.

This comes as Services Australia has fewer public servants per capita than at any other time, as a result of the former Liberal government gutting 3,800 staff at the agency.

Quotes attributable to the Minister for the NDIS and Government Services, Bill Shorten:

“I am committed to getting things done and this announcement is an example of what that looks like for all Australians who use government services.

“The Liberals wickedly used the illegal Robodebt scheme to decimate contact channels so people could not connect with Services Australia and make complaints.

“More than 3,800 frontline staff were ripped out of Services Australia, making the agency’s job to help Australians increasingly difficult.

“These 3,000 new staff are the first step in returning people to frontline Services Australia roles after 10 years of Liberal neglect.

“The new staff will be critical to reducing call wait times, speeding up claim payments and giving Australians back some time in their busy lives.

“Services Australia will be bringing on the staff as quickly as possible, with more than 800 Australians already accepting jobs at the agency.

“Like most things the former Liberal government did, they created a mess that we will now clean up.

“This includes the tragic Robodebt disaster and the almost $200 million wasted on the failed Entitlement Calculation Engine, which are both examples of the Liberals’ toxic management.

“The Albanese Labor Government will ensure Robodebt never happens again by bringing human oversight back into government services.

“We are committed to restoring Services Australia’s funding, replenishing its workforce and getting the Agency back on track - and we’re going to get it done sooner rather than later.

“These extra resources are on top of the additional 850 emergency response staff provided for in the current budget to complement base staffing levels. The contingency to manage natural disasters has already been called on for the present Queensland bushfires response.