Minister Shorten interview on 5AA Adelaide


HOST: LEON BYNER: And I've got some good news for you about a government website, myGov. It's had what you would call a facelift, and that means that connecting with government services are simpler. Well, that's a good thing. And apparently there's more to come. And here's one of the people who is a great exponent of this and there's busy work underway on this as we speak. Minister for Government Services, Bill Shorten. Bill, good to talk to you.


BYNER: So what's happened with MyGov?

SHORTEN: Well, we're basically giving it a facelift. It's an upgrade and what we're doing is making it easier for people to use. So I think that one of the best ways we can restore people's faith in the system is their interface or their dealings with Services Australia, Centrelink, you know, myGov and if that's a more seamless frictionless process than people perhaps have more confidence generally that the system is working.

BYNER: So this is purely a facelift, it's not a policy change of regulations, reporting, rules changing?

SHORTEN: No, this is about making the system easier to access. So if you like, we're making a bigger door into the house and a clearer door and one which is easier to open.

BYNER: So give us an example. So, say you need to interact with myGov for a whole range of things. What will change, what will you notice?

SHORTEN: Well the first thing you'll notice is the colours have changed. But then, more importantly, what happened in the past, and it's been this way since colonial times, is that the system often expects the citizen to know which department and what and where to - where to look. Whereas most people don't think in terms of government portfolios, they think in terms of their own lifecycle. So now what you can do is if you've got a question about ageing, you can go in and you go to ageing and then it sends you to where you need to go, or if health or disability, or raising kids-

BYNER: It's electronic triage. 

SHORTEN: So rather than you having to know the government program- 

BYNER: That's good, so it's going to be- so, you just have to log in what you want and it will tell you where to go.

SHORTEN: Exactly. That's the- and we're going to keep adding to that. The other thing it has on, when you say your name is Jane, you go on it'll say welcome, Jane, and the first screen you will see will be an inbox. So if you're currently receiving government payments, it's where you can get your messages, then you've got your profile where you can look at what you've chosen to upload into the system and you can manage that. The other box, which you see when it first opens, is payments and claims, so you can track where your claims or applications are at.

BYNER: Now, I've got to ask this question, because there are some in the community who are not particularly computer savvy.

SHORTEN: Oh yeah, that's important to share.

BYNER: What do they do?

SHORTEN: Well, there are a proportion of people who are not comfortable just with the digital system and I put my hand up, I accept I've had to work through how myGov operates and, you know, I've got two, three degrees, so I guess people can be shy of it or unfamiliar. If you don't want to use a digital system, you don't have to. And in fact, because we're doing all this work digitally and many Australians are doing it that way, it means that the resources are not as stretched for people who just want to have a chat on the phone or visit a Services Australia office. But then there's people who are almost outcasts. These are the people, you see them perhaps on your way home in Adelaide of an evening. The people who are homeless there's 116,000 we estimate sleeping rough every night in Australia. I'm now putting resources into Services Australia to do outreach. In other words, for some people, going into a government office is a daunting matter. If you're, you know, in a vulnerable set of circumstances, you're- you may be battling mental illness, you may just be off the grid, so to speak. I'm putting more people in-  I want to embed more people from Services Australia in our front line relief organisations so they can help teach people how to get back into the system.

BYNER: And this starts virtually straight away?

SHORTEN: Yeah I'm piloting that in a number of agencies and we'll be doing that with- in Adelaide homeless agencies soon too. 

BYNER: Alright. 

SHORTEN: So what I want is the government- you shouldn't have to fit in around how the government sets up its structures. Governments should fit in around your life circumstances. People don't want to be bothered by the government, but occasionally you've fallen off the track, you need the safety net or you just got questions. Maybe your parents or grandparents are getting older and you just need to find out information. All we've got to do is not make the process of dealing with government a mystery, but rather pretty straightforward.

BYNER: Bill, you've explained it well and thank you for coming on this morning. We'll definitely keep in touch. That's Bill Shorten, the Federal Minister for Government Services.