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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6427


Mrs MIRABELLA (12:00 PM) —My apologies, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thought that since the minister directly responsible for this portfolio area had entered the room and there were no other questions from anyone else, and considering the previous minister could not answer the question—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Indi knows that the minister is here representing the Minister for Human Services and she will take questions on that area.


Mrs MIRABELLA —I just thought I would do the minister the courtesy of repeating the questions, just in case she wanted to clarify the issues that her predecessor was unable to answer in any way.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Yes, the minister heard the question. Thank you.


Mr Robert —Madam Deputy Speaker, are we dealing with Human Services or with Family, Housing, Community Services—just as a point of reference for me.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —We are dealing with Human Services.


Mrs MIRABELLA —Maybe the minister can answer questions that are not directly related to her portfolio. The budget figures detail that Centrelink will receive a $111.8 million increase from 2008-09 to a total of $2.971 billion. There is also a projected increase in staff of 950. This increase is largely required to supplement Centrelink call centres so they can handle the increased number of inquiries resulting from the increase in unemployment projected by the government. This increase will be very welcome if people actually have their phone calls answered by Centrelink. Unfortunately, the budget papers show that this increase in the Centrelink budget only lasts for one year, with the budget papers showing a reduction of the Centrelink budget to $2.824 billion in 2010-11. This is $34.7 million less than what it was last year when Centrelink’s systems were so overloaded that people could not get through on the telephone line and experienced distressingly long waiting times. Given that the government’s own unemployment predictions show unemployment will continue to rise for up to two years, does this budget essentially set up Centrelink for failure in a year’s time, or will additional money need to be allocated, adding further to the future budget deficit?