JOEL FITZGIBBON, CONSTITUENCY STATEMENT, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, TUESDAY 22 NOVEMBER.
I rise to give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves: the elderly, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and families who are dealing with the loss of an elderly parent—people who cannot secure any assistance or advice from our Centrelink offices. I have had constituents in my office literally crying—in tears—because of the way they have been treated by Centrelink. They have been unable to get the assistance they need. They have stories of near empty Centrelink offices with not a staff member to be seen, stories about waiting for hours on hold on the phone for advice and stories about being expected to go online to interact with Centrelink—usually, of course, with no success. The funding cuts imposed on Centrelink are now a disgrace. The system is in crisis, and everything I say about Centrelink applies equally to Medicare services. But I also speak for Centrelink staff: those professional public servants who, of course, are overworked because of the cuts but who also inevitably wear the brunt of the anger of people who cannot get the service and advice they require. I have been told by a whistleblower that Centrelink staff are basically being told by management to tell people to get lost and they are not there to help them. This is the sort of culture that is being developed in Centrelink by this government. They think people are all unemployed and not worthy of assistance. They are wrong. They need to reverse these cuts and restore some of these services.