Albanese Government strengthens protections for Commonwealth frontline workers

The Parliament has today passed the Albanese Labor Government’s legislation to better protect Commonwealth frontline workers from violence and aggression.

Commonwealth frontline workers help the Australian community access essential government services like Centrelink, the Australian Taxation Office, passport offices, airports and the Australian Electoral Commission. They staff service centres and call centres across Australia and are among the first on the scene to assist following emergencies and natural disasters.

The passage of the Criminal Code Amendment (Protecting Commonwealth Frontline Workers) Bill 2024 means that:

  • the penalty for conduct that causes harm to a Commonwealth frontline worker will increase from a maximum of 10 years to 13 years’ imprisonment, and
  • the penalty for conduct that threatens to cause serious harm to a Commonwealth frontline worker will increase from a maximum of 7 years to 9 years’ imprisonment.

Following the stabbing attack on Airport West Services Australia office Joeanne Cassar in May last year, Minister for Government Services and the NDIS Bill Shorten MP commissioned a review into the safety of frontline public service workers which recommended harsher penalties for assaulting Commonwealth workers. This Bill implements recommendation 18 of the Services Australia Security Risk Management Review, conducted by Mr Graham Ashton.

Frontline workers have increasingly been the target of violence or aggression just for doing their jobs. So far in the last twelve months, Services Australia staff have experienced nearly 9,000 face to face customer aggression incidents at service centres, with almost the same number happening the previous year.

The Government has committed to implementing all 44 of the Review’s recommendations, including the introduction of workplace protection orders in Commonwealth workplaces. In addition, the Government committed $46.9 million in 2023-24 and a further $314.1 million in the 2024-25 Budget to enhance safety and security at Services Australia’s service centres for staff and customers.

Attributable to Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten MP

“In light of the dreadful attack on Joeanne Cassar, I promised our Labor Government would increase security and safety for the thousands of people who work at Service Australia, and the millions of Australians who use Services Australia offices.

“The legislation builds on the extensive work done by this Government to ensure all Australians are safe in the workplace. These amendments send a strong message that Commonwealth frontline workers are valued, and that violence and aggression towards them is unacceptable.”

Attributable to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC MP

“The Albanese Government deeply values the work done by all our frontline public servants. Every day they help people to access government services, support and payments.

“Violence and aggression towards those workers will not be tolerated. All Australians, no matter where they work, have the right to a safe, secure and respectful workplace.”