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Labor keeps vulnerable Australians on hold

Senator for Victoria, Sarah Henderson, is calling on the Albanese Labor Government to explain why Australians are being kept on hold by Services Australia, with new figures obtained by the Opposition revealing that Centrelink call wait items across different demographics have skyrocketed.

The following table compares average speed of answer (the average time it takes for a call waiting in the queue to be answered) figures for different demographics at Services Australia between the two most recent financial years.

Category Average speed of answer for FY 2021-2022 (mins/secs) Average speed of answer for FY 2022 to 31 March 2023 (mins/secs)
Disabilities, Sickness and Carers 20:59 28:32
Employment Services 24:55 29:29
Families and Parenting 24:45 31:24
Older Australians 21:30 28:11

Senator Henderson said Labor must carry out a root and branch review of Services Australia’s operations to determine the reasons for this worrying pattern.

“This new data confirms that call wait times have skyrocketed under Labor. This is amid a cost of living crisis when Australians need government services and payments more than ever for support,” Senator Henderson said.

“The Government demonstrably doesn’t want to listen to our most vulnerable Australians – it would rather put them on hold. Numbers don’t lie and these ones paint a grim picture of an agency that isn’t performing.

“Services Australia is the front door for important programs such as child support payments, welfare payments and Medicare. Government Services Minister, Bill Shorten, needs to put processes in place to ensure customers in regional Victoria are no longer adversely impacted.”

Senator Henderson said the figures follow recent revelations that Services Australia chose not to renew a $343 million contract with welfare agency Serco, with more than 600 call centre staff set to lose their jobs.

“Delivering first class services requires investment in staffing and talent. Services Australia’s woes come as no surprise given decisions like this,” Senator Henderson said.

“Mr Shorten needs to be honest with the public and explain how many of those 600 plus jobs have transitioned into employment within the Australian Public Service, what this has cost and how he plans to address the blow out in call wait times.”

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