Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten appears on ABC's Q&A program. Picture: ABC
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten appears on ABC's Q&A program. Picture: ABC

Labor’s Centrelink boost in fight for tight seat

BILL Shorten will supercharge Gladstone's workforce by boosting Centrelink staff by 100 - providing local jobs and helping pensioners and families - as Labor ramps-up its attack for the knife-edge seat of Flynn.

Labor's human services spokesman Ed Husic will unveil the plan in Gladstone today under a wider plan to increase the number of Medicare and Centrelink staff across the country, while injecting millions of dollars of wages into local communities each year.

The full-time and permanent jobs for the Human Services Department come as the Coalition and Labor tussle for the seat of Flynn, which is held by the LNP's Ken O'Dowd by just 1.1 per cent.

Labor's Zac Beers is contesting the seat, which the LNP fears it could lose.

Labor’s human services spokesman Ed Husic will be in Gladstone on Wednesday. File picture
Labor’s human services spokesman Ed Husic will be in Gladstone on Wednesday. File picture

Apart from new jobs, the plan ensures locals, who often have the best knowledge of their communities, will be hired and trained to give advice to those on the pension, Newstart or disability support pension.

Mr Husic, who has been working on the plan for months, told The Courier-Mail Labor would fix Centrelink for communities.

"Medicare and Centrelink services help northern Queensland communities when they need it most," Mr Husic said.

"From medical rebates for the sick, to processing aged care pensions, child care support, disability support pensions and carers' allowance payments - Centrelink and Medicare cover the lot.

"But the harsh reality is Centrelink is in crisis under the Morrison Government.

"All the Coalition has seen with Centrelink is a target for job cuts, 2700 jobs gone or going in the last few years. It's understaffed and under-resourced.

"A Shorten Labor Government is determined to invest in better jobs and better service, especially for north Queensland.

"We want these 100 additional permanent and full time jobs to be on the ground to improve access to Centrelink and help reduce waiting and processing times for residents in northern Queensland."

Zac Beers.
Zac Beers.

Currently, there are 21 Centrelink/Medicare staff in Gladstone, four in Biloela and six in Emerald.

Once trained, the staff in Gladstone could also be in "smart centre roles" that answer inquiries from people from across the country.

The final decision on how the roles will be managed will be determined in consultation with the Department and the community.

It is part of a wider Labor plan to fund 1200 new Centrelink and Medicare jobs throughout Australia.

The bulk of the new workforce will be in Queensland, including 200 in Herbert, 100 in Leichhardt, 50 in Longman and 30 in Petrie.

Across the five electorates there are more than 80,000 recipients of the pension; nearly 65,000 recipients who receive family tax benefit, nearly 29,000 recipients on the disability support pension, almost 23,000 who receive carer allowance and more than 36,000 who receive Newstart.

Labor's plan is in stark contrast with the Coalition, which has been trialling using private call centre workers to determine whether they are quicker and more efficient.

The Coalition has stated there has been an 11 minute reduction in wait times on Centrelink's employment services line and a four-minute improvement on the families line.

Ken O'Dowd.
Ken O'Dowd.