Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Natasha Out Of Touch With Centrelink New Technology

Perhaps in a rush to get out to a Christmas party lunch, the Leader of the Democrats, Senator Stott Despoja, hasn’t taken the time to check her facts and think through the issues on Centrelink’s decision to trial a new type of service in rural and regional South Australia.

Her ‘outrage’ and ‘condemnation’ also seems to have blinded her to the fact that Centrelink has one of the most sophisticated communication networks in Australia.

Senator Stott Despoja claims that Centrelink is withdrawing ‘specialist services from rural and regional South Australians’.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Centrelink has a very advanced video conferencing system that links Centrelink offices around Australia in an efficient but ‘face to face’ manner. It allows both staff and clients to interact and exchange information, while at the same time saving both money and travel time.

Currently more than 25 per cent of the Financial Information Services Officers time is spent travelling. Video conferencing will eliminate the need for so much travel, enabling Financial Information Service officers to spend more time with their customers.

Financial Information Service officers will continue to visit the district, for those customers who prefer face-to-face contact.

These measures will provide a better level of service.

Centrelink’s commitment to service for rural and remote customers can be further demonstrated by the opening last year of the Rural Call Centre in Port Augusta. The staff in the Rural Call Centre understand the needs of rural people. The opening also created an extra 50 jobs in rural South Australia.

Centrelink has established over 23 Centrelink Agents or Access Points in South Australia, providing Centrelink services to these remote regions. The number of Complex Assessment Officers has also been increased from four to twelve. These officers support Centrelink staff in dealing with customers’ complex financial and business arrangments.

Centrelink provides a great service and the Government is committed to helping rural and regional Australia through the best use of resources and technology available.