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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3777


Mr HILL (Bruce) (10:31): I rise in complete exasperation on behalf of Mr Johnson, who lives with his wife in Noble Park in my electorate, and the tens of thousands of Australians stuck in similar situations. Mr Johnson is a 68-year-old man suffering from diabetes and other serious health problems, and this month marks the one-year anniversary of Mr Johnson's application for the age pension and a pensioner concession card in May 2017. He has had no income for a year, relying on his limited savings while waiting for his pension claim to be processed. He put up with six months of going around in circles with Centrelink before he approached me in December. He waited on the phone, he answered the same questions and he provided the same stuff over and over again. He was advised in person that all the relevant information had been submitted, yet still today his claim has not been finalised. My office tried to resolve it. We're usually pretty good at these things, yet astoundingly Centrelink called him in March to say that his claim had been rejected in December and that a further review was being instigated. Only then did Centrelink think to mention that, as his wife is still working but is over retirement age, she'd be eligible for a work bonus, and asked why she didn't apply in May 2017. Even more bizarrely, Centrelink then suggested he make a fresh application and begin the process again along with his wife. In April I wrote to the minister, yet I still have no reply, not even an acknowledgement. At this point I honestly have no idea what to do to get his claim processed. Perhaps speaking out in parliament will get some action.

The issue for all Australians is that Mr Johnson's experience of waiting for his age pension claim to be processed is now common. We all see it. Because of massive ongoing cuts to Centrelink and Human Services by your mob over there, there are simply not enough skilled, trained staff left to process work and particularly to sort out the more complex cases. Since being elected, this uncaring government has cut 6,000 staff from DHS. You cut another 1,280 in Tuesday's budget. Last year in a speech I made on the budget I said that the privatisation of Centrelink had started, and you all yelled at me and said, 'You're being silly, exaggerating, making it up!' It turns out I was a prophet. The Liberal government—at least they've finally told the truth and stopped lying—are privatising thousands of jobs through corporations such as Serco and labour hire firms. The numbers are in your budget papers. But it's not just about the loss of skilled workers or the waste of taxpayer money on overheads to labour hire workers, which we've proven; people like Mr Johnson, who have worked hard all their lives, should be treated with some respect and deserve to have their pension claims processed. Unfortunately, under the Liberals it's only going to get worse, because they're hell-bent on taking the human out of Human Services and privatising Centrelink—the P word. In the meantime, while all this goes on, what on earth is it going to take for Mr Johnson to get his pension claim processed? Will Centrelink pay him arrears? Will they compensate him for the excess medical bills that he has incurred for a year while waiting?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Andrews ): I correct the record: debate will continue for a further 60 minutes.