Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon has given an impassioned speech accusing the Federal Government of running a ‘policy of negligence’ on Centrelink, after experiencing a spike in requests from distressed Novocastrians looking for help.
“Each and every day my staff take calls from desperate constituents trying to do their very best to navigate a system that seems rigged to demoralise and delay,” Ms Claydon said.
“Calls are going unanswered, applications are not getting processed and people are waiting for payments for month, after month, after month,” Ms Claydon said.
Ms Claydon conveyed the experience of one of her constituents from Georgetown to the Federal Parliament.
“A 72-year-old woman from Georgetown applied for the age pension back in April. Three months later, she contacted my office at her absolute wit's end,” Ms Claydon said.
“While I was able to escalate the case—and it was eventually resolved this month, in August—it shouldn't have to come to this. People shouldn’t be reduced to having to contact their Federal Member of Parliament to access basic citizenship entitlements.”
Ms Claydon accused the Turnbull Government of “deliberate and systematic slashing and gutting of staff and resources.”
“Some say this is evidence of the government's neglect. I would suggest that we're looking at the mark of something far more malignant: a cynical and punitive campaign of a government hell-bent on punishing people who find themselves out of work, caring for somebody with a disability, collecting family payments or simply ageing and wanting to secure a pension,” Ms Claydon said.
“How else would you explain the Liberals – who have cut about 2,500 permanent jobs from Centrelink in the past two years alone – doubling down in the face of this chronic and worsening underperformance by slashing a further 1,200 Centrelink jobs in the most recent budget?”
“This is not how we should treat any Australian, let alone vulnerable people facing personal and financial challenges.”
The full Parliamentary speech transcript is available at http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query%3DId%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2F12f3483a-5487-4ac4-977e-6dbfbe7c98b7%2F0218%22