'Cheaters, bludgers, leaners': O'Dowd's Centrelink vision
LNP MEMBER for Flynn Ken O'Dowd has told parliament that Centrelink should "rein in" the "rorting and the waste" that was embedded during Labor's years of Government.
Mr O'Dowd said one way of making the welfare provider more efficient is by using the benefits of the digital age.
He said for the 56 million phone calls and 21 million face to face visits the new technology would reduce the average waiting time from "11 days to virtually instant".
"(Centrelink) would become more accountable and more efficient to those vulnerable people who need our services, while rorting and the waste so often attributed to those on the other side will be reined in," he said.
The topic was brought up by the Australian Labor Party member for Barton, Linda Burney, who said the government's mismanagement of Centrelink was hurting Australians.
"Despite the way those opposite talk about it, Centrelink is not just the agency that deals with cheaters, bludgers and leaners," she said.
"It is agency responsible for looking after our welfare safety net."
She quoted a story very similar to one in The Observer, where Centrelink rejected James Stewart's pension after he suffered four heart attacks.
"Yesterday the Prime Minister was questioned by the member for Bruce, who is in the House, about one constituent receiving the disability support pension who was asked to go through an onerous and expensive review process," Ms Burney said.
"That constituent's disability was so self-evidently debilitation that his specialist wrote to Centrelink managers noting that the review was a total waste of time, and the minister knows this because the minister intervened.
"It was traumatic for the constituent and for his family and, as the minister knows, it was totally unnecessary.
"This is not just a one-off story; it is the story of thousands. Do not look at the floor, those on the opposite side.
"You know these stories in each of your electorates."
She pointed out statistics from late last year showing that of 5000 people taken off the disability support pension only 70 were subsequently able to go back into the workforce.
Mr O'Dowd was one of the members to defend the Government's management of Centrelink.
"For too long, government services have not kept pace," he said.
"There is a $1.9 billion in fraud and overpayments. This is $1.9 billion that we will never receive back.
"Under Labor, waiting times went from three minutes out to 11 minutes; they ballooned out under your control."