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Welfare recipients sacrificed for "efficiency dividend"

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Senator Andrew Bartlett

Social Security Spokesperson, Australian Democrats


4 November, 1998



Welfare Recipients sacrificed for “efficiency dividend”


Australia’s 4.5 million welfare recipients would be the big losers from any large -scale staff redundancies at the nation’s welfare delivery agency, Centrelink , the Australian Democrats today warned.


Centrelink is reportedly looking to shed around 5,000 staff positions by July next year.


Democrats’ Social Security Spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said Centrelink was already struggling to provide an adequate level of service.


“Any further reduction in staffing levels will be disastrous for the many people who rely on Centrelink as their sole source of income”, Senator Bartlett said.


“Reports earlier in the year indicated that up to 90 per cent of phone calls to Centrelink were not being answered.”


“The system is already under great pressure and the people copping it are those at the end of the line - that is, our age and disability pensioners, our young families and the unemployed.


Senator Bartlett also expressed reservations about any further use of technology in the delivery of welfare payments - rumored to be announced by Centrelink on Monday.


“We have an extremely complicated social security system and many people rely on human contact to assist them in dealing with that complexity. Young people, migrants, those with literacy or intellectual difficulties and many age pensioners are already falling foul of Centrelink’s hoops and hurdles - these proposals will only exacerbate that.”


“Unemployed people are already suffering under the failed Job Network and now the agency meant to coordinate their job search is at risk. The Government needs to do more than simply mouth platitudes about getting people back to work.”


“Between now and next July major policy changes will be implemented in our welfare system. There’s changes to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, to payments to Carers, to Rent Assistance and to the rules applying to the unemployed.”


“On top of those are the major changes associated with the Government’s tax package - changes with significant ramifications for families and pensioners in particular.”


“Centrelink is already making an enormous number of payments which are later found to be incorrect. Staff are being forced to work under very trying conditions and welfare recipients are, in some cases, missing out on payments they are entitled to.”


“Centrelink is already teetering on the edge - these changes might be just enough to push it over. The Government should be placing more resources into the system not pulling them out.”


To arrange comment: Senator Andrew Bartlett on (07) 3252 7101 or 0418 743 789