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Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, delivered the following statement to the Federal Parliament. Please see above video for full statement.

“Australians need a social safety net that works for them. But, according to a group of residents at Vaucluse Gardens in Hobart, older Australians are increasingly being left behind by a safety net that is, quite frankly, not fit for purpose.

“Indeed residents tell me how face-to-face services at Centrelink offices are diminishing, with the loss of a dedicated senior’s counter forcing people to call or go online to access services. Moreover Centrelink’s phone systems are constantly overwhelmed by calls, with many reporting being stuck on hold for two, three or even four hours before being hung up on.

“And even if they get through, phone services don’t often work well for older Australians, especially those with a hearing loss. Add to this the fact that many seniors struggle to access and use digital services, and you can see why the drive away from face-to-face services is causing such anxiety.

“What’s more, the increasing prevalence of scams have people wary of digital correspondence, and the aftermath of Robodebt has people terrified of incurring debts. Putting the onus on vulnerable Australians to contact Centrelink in ways they aren’t comfortable with is not only inconvenient, it’s discriminatory.

“Constituents contact my office weekly to report difficulties with Centrelink. Yes Services Australia’s staff do great work under difficult circumstances. But as a system it is, quite simply, not up to the job right now.”