Minister Shorten Interview on Sunrise with Matt Shirvington


SUBJECTS: 3000 new Services Australia staff announced; Melbourne Cup

MATT SHIRVINGTON, HOST: Centrelink call centres will soon be boosted with an extra 3000 staff to speed up claims and call wait times. Government Services Minister Bill Shorten joins me now. Good morning to you. Well, people can spend hours frustratingly on hold at Centrelink. How will these extra jobs help?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: There has been a problem that since about 2015 the number of frontline Centrelink staff have has been declining, so we've decided to try and turn that around. We're putting on board 3000 people, which is a massive number, but we want to start reducing payments. About 20% of all phone calls are actually people ringing up saying, where's my money. So, hopefully if we can really blitz the backlog of payments then that'll decrease pressure on the phones and everyone else will get through on their issues.

SHIRVINGTON: So, these are all jobs for Australians, Minister?

SHORTEN: Absolutely. All around Australia as well. So, it's quite exciting actually. There's jobs in the regions and Queensland, West Australia, South Australia, Tassie. So, yeah, they're all jobs here and there'll be ongoing jobs at Centrelink. We're not using contractors or labour hire, so when people are appointed they have a reasonable expectation provided okay. This will be an ongoing permanent job, which is good.

SHIRVINGTON: So, 800 staff have already been hired. When will we start to see the claims being processed quicker?

SHORTEN: Well, not tomorrow, but soon. It takes a while to onboard. I think that's the jargon that the HR professionals use. But just teaching them about the various bits of legislation and the rules I mean our payment system in Australia is more complicated than the Tokyo underground, I think. So, you've got to train someone up. But I'm optimistic that towards the end of the year, beginning of next year, as we ramp up people and the people we train find out how to do it, then we'll hit it. I mean, it's taken years to get us down to this level. It's not going to fix overnight. But 3000 people is getting stuff done.

SHIRVINGTON: Yeah. Talking to real people, that's what Aussies want, just really quickly. Big day in your electorate with the cup in Flemington. Have you got a tip for us?

SHORTEN: Well, like all free advice, it's worth what you pay. You know, I think the Caulfield Cup winner without a fight is pretty good. And I also like, know Chris Waller's a good trainer, so horse three, horse six.

SHIRVINGTON: Hey, you know your stuff, Mr. Shorten. Appreciate it, thanks for your time.

SHORTEN: Good you guys.