21 May 2020

Stuart Robert must come clean about the closure of the Abbotsford Centrelink Centre.

Just weeks after being caught out telling a mistruth when he claimed that imaginary hackers had brought down the myGov website, now he’s talking about imaginary evictions.

Yesterday, he announced the closure of this busy Centrelink office with 24 hours’ notice, saying the landlord had forced them to vacate.

But today, the landlord has contradicted that claim, saying they had agreed in principle to extend the lease on existing terms.

Salta Properties, owned by prominent property developer Sam Tarascio, put out a statement today saying that they were awaiting a response to their lease extension offer, and only learnt of Services Australia’s hasty departure on Twitter.

Salta Properties have also reiterated this morning that an offer remains on the table to extend the lease for at least three months, which the Government, in an astounding and embarrassing backflip, is understood to have accepted.

The Morrison Government must ensure that offer is indeed accepted and do everything they can to secure a long term lease and keep this office open beyond the three-month period.

Shutting down the Abbotsford Centrelink in Melbourne with 24 hours’ notice in the middle of a pandemic showing unprecedented demand for its services was already an astounding decision.

The Government telling people to simply go to South Melbourne Centrelink – over 6kms away and on the other side of the City – will only put more stress on locals, create longer queues and wait-times, and put a further burden on overworked, under-resourced South Melbourne staff.

Both Abbotsford and South Melbourne Centrelinks are located in the vicinity of multiple high-rise public housing estates and were under enough pressure before this bizarre decision.

Questions now must be answered by master of disaster Stuart Robert about his imaginary eviction – what led Minister Robert to claim that Centrelink had been evicted when the landlord says the opposite was the case? Was this just an excuse so the Morrison Government could continue their secret plan to close more Centrelink offices?

Despite record numbers of Australians now relying on social security, the Morrison Government is closing down Centrelink shopfronts around the nation.

The Abbotsford Centrelink in Melbourne was only to be the latest victim of this secret plan - joining Mornington and Newport, Newcastle and Tweed Heads on the list of those closed, merged or put on the chopping block.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert last week told Parliament of “a demand for government social supports not seen in this country since the Great Depression.”

But in the midst of shocking job insecurity Mr Robert now seems to think the answer is shutting up shop.

From Robodebt to the $4.6b ripped from the NDIS we know whenever this Government finds itself without a plan it robs from the vulnerable.

But it must quit this reckless plan to rob communities of their social security hubs, and it must claim clean about how and why it is closing these Centres.