SUBJECTS: Centrelink Delays, MyGov crashing and Coronavirus

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Bill Shorten thanks very much for your time. The minister says that they increased capacity tenfold online. It was hard to see just how big the demand will increase is that fair enough, the government putting on extra workers now?

BILL SHORTEN MP: Well I think it's good that government's putting on extra workers now. My thoughts are with the over 1 million Australians who've unexpectedly found themselves having to look for support. Yesterday the online platform just collapsed, and then we had the government sort of come out and blame mysterious strange forces, denial of service. This morning he popped his head up and said “my bad”, like a teenager, you know, taking responsibility for not doing the dishes the night before. The government's got to get serious about this, the government's got to get serious. I've been dealing all of yesterday and today with frustrated Australians who are told that they can get a customer registration number off Centrelink by phone, and they can't or if they can the lucky person who's able to do that is rarer than the white whale. The government's got to get serious about looking after people, who through no fault of their own are now caught up in, you know, queues not seen since the depression.

CONNELL: Obviously it's very hard to get through at the moment online or on the phone but the information we're getting from the Minister's office this morning is that you can get that CRN. Of course for people that are unaware if you haven't been registered before with Centrelink and you're trying to get help you need to register with them and get that CRN. So it can be obtained now without going in person so they are changing and relaxing the laws in proving IDs.

SHORTEN: Tom Listen, I know that Australians hate to see politics at a time like this. But that doesn't mean that, therefore, we've got to bow down and worship everything that the government's saying. Most Australians cannot get through to Centrelink, cannot get their customer registration number. That's why the queues are so long. If Mr Roberts minders say that you're able to get through online, they should go down and talk to the tens of thousands of people in queues outside of Centrelink. Listen at the end of the day, people don't want to hear the blame game they just want it fixed. The government's just got to fix this. One idea is to have a special hotline, just for coronavirus. And then, there's a lot of other people who still use Centrelink for everything else and they use the other numbers. And, you know, I'm not Minister Roberts, but if I was him I would put as many people as it takes as many people as it takes to answer the phone calls, to start getting out the money the government promised people to help them through the next weeks and months. If I was the government, I would do whatever it takes. People want to hear answers, they don't want to hear you know propaganda.

CONNELL: You said yesterday, he should join the queues in Centrelink after he backtracked over the initial claim. There was a denial service attack - so web attack -on the MyGov website and that's why it went down, and that wasn't the case. He says this morning there were alarms tripped off within the system that indicated that, and he jumped the gun. So essentially saying he wasn't lying here. Do you take him at face value?

SHORTEN: Listen, I think your colleague Andrew Clennell has nailed it earlier today on Sky. Andrew Clennell said it is not enough for a minister to say my bad. This bloke is paid nearly 400 k, this is his day job. Just apologise. And when I say you should join the queue I think that more politicians need to talk to the people trying to get the support before they start telling people everything's rosy. It's not. Listen we get that this is, you know, a giant surge. But at some point incompetence can't be just the sort of shoulder shrugging reaction. Let's just get on and fix it. One a hotline, two put as many people as it takes, as many as it takes. There's a lot of people at home who aren't working. Why not get some of them the chance to earn some money and be the people on the phones, helping you know direct the traffic? This is the time now for big thinking, not all little thinking, big thinking.

CONNELL: The government is putting thousands more of those people in those jobs.

SHORTEN: But put tens of thousands. Do more, that’s all, do more.

CONNELL: You’re saying put more on alright. Well we will continue to get updates from the Minister because certainly the queues are telling the story right now. The other story they're telling Bill Shorten is something that is not the government’s fault undeniably that the coronavirus is putting possibly could be more than a million people out of work ultimately. This is a tragedy playing out isn't it? This is heartbreaking to watch these people in these queues and this could just be the first wave of employees, becoming former employees.

SHORTEN: This is terrible. It is nothing short of terrible. I think all members of Parliament; Liberal, National or Labor, we're getting inundated by people. I live in an electorate near the airport, so you've got the aviation, the Virgin workers, airline workers who are concerned. We've got people I've got you know the Royal Melbourne show is held in my electorate.So I've got all the show ride people, the traveling show people their business has disappeared in Australia for six months. This is diabolical, you know, and people just want to see us working together. That's why Labor whilst we think that yesterday's package could have been a bit better. We weren't going to say no - we wanted to work with the government on it. One I think really big emerging problem is this is a public health emergency first, then it's an economic disaster. And one big problem I'm getting inundated with are cries for help from scared people, is disability. Disability carers, are an essential service just like aged care, just like the hospital system. Tom there's not enough personal protective equipment face masks, gloves and the like for the disability workforce. And so I've got disability workers all over Australia I had a lady just ring me from Canberra this morning. She's got a mum who's been in hospital for pneumonia the mum’s in her late 70s, she's out of hospital now and she's a disability worker. Now, she hasn't got the right equipment to do infection control. But the people she goes and sees if she doesn't go and see them we're not sure who will go and see these disabled people to help look after them. But she's got to weigh up does she look after her own mum and not risk exposure, or does she go and help the people with disabilities. Her and her supervisors and right across Australia, there's not enough protective equipment for disability workers to do the infection control that's needed. We're putting people in a very difficult position. Disability workers are essential services in the current Corona crisis.

CONNELL: Yeah, they certainly are looking concerned within aged care as well, the government unfortunately saying yesterday even a shipment of masks has been diverted on the way to Australia so unfortunately in part a global problem as well.

SHORTEN: Well, that is terrible isn't it.

CONNELL: Bill Shorten we’ll have to leave it there.

SHORTEN: Good on you, Tom.