News Parliament

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - CENTRELINK

I want to say at the outset that I have got a lot of respect for the member for Barton, a colleague from the bearpit in New South Wales. But I have to say that I am very disappointed that she has brought such a specious and spurious MPI to this House today—especially today, of all days, when we saw that appalling video of union thuggery and the standover tactics on the Commonwealth Games village site up in Queensland. What we really wanted to hear from the other side today is what they are going to do about it. After all, they are the political arm of the union movement. What we want to know is what they are going to do to help clean it up. But we have heard nothing from them, and that made today—

Mr Fletcher: We have heard nothing, just the sound of silence.

Mr GEE: Yes, the sound of silence. That is because most of them on that side of the House are wholly owned subsidiaries of the union movement. Most of them have come up through the union movement. The member for Paterson did not. She was a radio star, I think—one of the few stars on that side of the universe. What are they going to do about the thuggery and the standover tactics? 'I've got your number. I know where you live.' It is absolutely appalling, and that is really what we wanted to hear about today. Obviously, they have got some very strong feelings now. Was the man in the video a preselector? I do not know. Is that why you are upset? I think it is. He is on your preselection panel.

Mr Fletcher: I think he controls about 30 votes. I think you've put your finger on it.

Mr GEE: I think that is right, and I think Dyson Heydon got it right when he referred to a rogues gallery of sorts—of 'louts, thugs, bullies, thieves, perjurers, those who threaten violence, errant fiduciaries and organisers of boycotts'. It is just appalling, and that is what we wanted to hear about today.

To listen to some of those members on the other side, they want to go back to the past—to the glory days, the salad days, of Centrelink under Labor. I am not sure that we should go there. If are going to go there, first we would want to know what happened to the $1.9 billion that went missing in fraud and overpayments in the last three years of the Labor government. We are trying to get that money back. We are trying to clean up the mess that they made. A good start would be for them to tell us where that $1.9 billion is. What happened to it? Why didn't those opposite come to the House today and fess up about the $1.9 billion? It is absolutely extraordinary. Then of course there are the 1,100 staff—

Ms Butler interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Griffith!

Mr GEE: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. They are worried about their preselections, on that side of the House. There were 1,100 staff cut under Labor. They were all telephony staff, yet Labor complain here about telephone waiting times. They are the ones who cut 1,100 staff from Centrelink. It is absolutely extraordinary.

If you go through the performance of Centrelink, you will see there is a great story to tell. Every year, the Department of Human Services handles 56 million phone calls and 21 million face-to-face visits. It met over 86 per cent of its performance measures to the community in 2015-16. It is not perfect, granted. It still has a little bit of work to do, but 86 per cent is pretty good, in my book. As at 2 October this year, the average time taken to answer Centrelink phone lines was 11.4 minutes. That is well below the department's key performance indicator of 16 minutes, despite the 1,100 staff cuts that were imposed by Labor—appalling.

Despite the mess that those on the other side of the House made, great strides are being made in service delivery. You just have to look at the myGov initiative to see that. You can log in to the departmental website using a PIN. It is all there for you. Dealing with the Department of Human Services is being revolutionised under the hardworking Minister for Human Services. I acknowledge the great work he has done. He is moving the department into the modern age. The myGov initiative allows everyone to access the site 24 hours a day. Millions are starting to use it. There are 10 million Australian now with a myGov account, which is a fantastic achievement. I salute the government for its work in this field.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Coulton ): The debate is now concluded.