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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2559


Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (09:42): I rise today to speak about an issue that is literally affecting hundreds of people in my electorate of Hasluck and neighbouring constituencies—that is the waiting times and red-tape at Centrelink. When social security was first introduced in this country, it was designed to help those in urgent need of financial assistance when falling upon hard times. In our modern society it has expanded to encompass an enormous range of social programs and payments, with thousands of staff across the country. Unfortunately, procedures are placed on top of procedures and red tape piles up until certain people trying to access the service find it almost impossible to negotiate.

One young woman from Gosnells spoke to my office yesterday. She spent over an hour on the phone to Centrelink in an aborted attempt just to update her details. Another call was made and, after another 35-minute wait, she was told to wait for a response from a case officer. Three weeks later, she was contacted to say there had been an administration error and she would have to wait another three weeks for a solution—some six weeks. Another constituent from Mannington also expressed a similar complaint that she had spent one hour and twenty minutes on hold before being cut off in attempting to update her personal details. These were calls yesterday morning only.

This is not a criticism of the hard working people at Centrelink in Western Australia and the nation. They are understaffed and overworked. Queuing is often a major issue for people visiting an actual Centrelink office. Lines of people often wind out of the door at offices in my electorate and others across the state.

Another major area of concern is for people with a permanent disability that are required to attend Centrelink each and every year to prove their disability. By the very nature of the word 'permanent', their situation has not changed and, in most cases, it has deteriorated. This is unnecessary red tape that confuses and frustrates some of our most vulnerable citizens. Being out of work or on a disability pension, for example, can be some of the hardest and most emotionally difficult times that a person can experience in their lives. My biggest concern here, though, is the lack of action taken by the Labor government on this issue. It is disappointing that for the entire year of 2011 there was just one statement put out by Centrelink on how to streamline application processes and shorten waiting times. The solution was to visit a website. The people of Hasluck and people across the nation deserve a process which enables better access in a much more timely manner to the resources that have been set aside to help those who are most needy. I would hope at some point the minister will give serious consideration to the reduction of red tape within Centrelink.