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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 9130

Government Services

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (14:37): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Human Services, Senator Payne. Does the government acknowledge that there are major systemic problems with the myGov website? Does the department monitor and have data on how often the site is down and/or not effectively available to users?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:37): I thank Senator Siewert for her question. I think when you have over eight million Australians with a myGov account, using their myGov account regularly to conduct their business with government—complete their tax returns, lodge their Medicare claims, register for the electronic health record and a number of other services—from over 10 member services that are available through myGov then that is actually a very good example of how the Australian government uses technology to help customers connect with the services that they need. Of course there are occasionally issues for customers with the use of this particular service, as there are with almost every online service I can think of in fact. I understand that there was recent media in relation to a maternity leave payments issue in particular between Centrelink and myGov itself. The Department of Human Services has certainly contacted the customer in the last couple of days to discuss that particular issue, and I am advised that that claim has since been processed—if that is the matter to which Senator Siewert is referring—and the customer is once again able to access her myGov account.

When customers are frustrated by these sorts of experiences, the department is asked to pursue an investigation and solution for the customers as a priority. That was the case previously and I am sure it continues to be the case. The government will, through human services, include a detailed analysis is of the customer contact logs in this particular case, or in similar instances if there are issues for other customers, and an assessment of when, for example, a complaint was received, how it was handled and those sorts of processes. I believe that the department has in fact initiated contact with the customer as well to fully understand her experience. (Time expired)

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (14:40): Mr President, I rise to ask a supplementary question. How many people have been denied access to payments as per the recent experience of the client that Senator Payne was just referring to? And how many complaints has human services had about the myGov website?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:40): As you might appreciate, Senator Siewert, I do not have those specific numbers with me in the chamber today but I will take both of those questions on notice for you and return to you with that information.

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (14:40): Mr President, I rise to ask a final supplementary question. Given the problems that are apparent with the myGov website, will the government delay implementing the harsher compliance measures until it has fixed the issues given that its own systems are the cause of many cases of noncompliance?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:41): I note Senator Siewert's views and comments in relation to the site but I did indicate earlier in my remarks that the Commonwealth currently has over eight million myGov account users, which is an indication of the level of take-up, which is, in fact, significant given we have 7.3 million Centrelink customers in total to indicate the level of use, if I may. On the busiest day of the tax return lodgement period this year, which was 6 July, just as an indication, the myGov digital service successfully handled a very significant number of transactions. There were 623,646 logins to the myGov site that day, an increase of 140 per cent.

Senator Siewert: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. There are 11 seconds left and although the figures are really useful, it is not answering the question I asked. I actually asked: will the government delay implementation of those measures until the system is fixed?

The PRESIDENT: Minister, I remind you of the question.

Senator PAYNE: The point I was trying to make to Senator Siewert was that, given the very high level of use and the relatively low level of issues, there will not be any change to the government's policy in that regard.