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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 132


Mr SWAN (Lilley) (16:12): Over the summer recess my office has been flooded with constituents concerned about Medicare and the payment system and also with people who have been issued with debt recovery notices from Centrelink. Time and time again the coalition have tried to tear holes in the social safety net and to smash and remove Medicare, but the Australian public has supported these programs on every occasion, and the Liberal Party have failed in that endeavour, but they are at it again. The coalition are out there now white-anting Medicare and white-anting the social safety net by degrading service levels in Centrelink offices and cluttering up and stopping the payment system in Medicare. They are simply white-anting the safety net to send it on the nose, and then they claim the dysfunctions are the fault of the policy, not the fault of the government that is degrading service levels.

Centrelink and Medicare have a long, proud history of high-quality service provision for the Australian people. Indeed, we celebrated the 33rd anniversary of Medicare just last week. But it now looks a lot different, and if the coalition have their way it will be destroyed and smashed. The dedicated officers are gone. The smiling, local, award-winning staff have gone with huge cuts in DHS. The professional and timely service has gone. Rebates are lower or, in some cases, gone entirely. Service apps, frustrated staff, hours of waiting times at offices and on the phone and errors made due to inadequate staffing are all the reality of Centrelink and the Medicare system today.

The Prime Minister claimed during the campaign that Medicare was safe, but the truth is that, every day since the campaign finished, the government has been pulling it apart step by step. Staff are under strict instructions to push customers to digital claiming at point of service. Then the myGov Express Plus app is servicing all paper claims in the office drop box, yet there are reports that there is a backlog of 266,000 outpatient claims and that the Medicare claims-processing service is crippled by backlogs and delays. My constituents are reporting delays of four to five weeks for app claims that used to take two to three days. The result has been a dramatic increase in waiting periods for patient claims. Before local claims processing stopped, rebates took two to three days; they are currently taking four to six weeks. This Prime Minister might cry crocodile tears about what we said about Medicare in the campaign but, step by step, he is crippling service delivery in Medicare and through Centrelink. In doing so, his party is trying to withdraw Australian support for these valid programs that they know Australians support. They are trying to send these programs down the tube through these terrible service levels.

Similarly, we are getting it in Centrelink. People who do not have debts are getting debt notices. People are being pushed by Centrelink to— (Time expired)