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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 116

Mr SWAN —My question is to the Minister for Aged Care. Is the minister aware of the finding in the Commonwealth Ombudsman's report that over two-thirds of people attempting to contact Centrelink by phone, including pensioners, are unable to get through to a human being? Minister, do you support the announcement by the Minister for Community Services that will effectively mean computers at a kiosk replace people in the provision of advice to pensioners? Will the minister take up with him the difficulties retirees have in accessing Centrelink services and the fact that many pensioners would prefer to talk to a skilled and dedicated Centrelink staff member rather than a computer at a kiosk?

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Aged Care) —First and foremost, I would remind the honourable member that the relevant minister is a she, not a he. Indeed, Senator Jocelyn Newman, who has responsibility in this area, is known to be a compassionate and skilled politician and a minister who has put a lot of work and effort into this area. The decision that she has made is one that is supported by the whole of government, of which I am part.