If you don’t recognise the face of Labor’s Page candidate Patrick Deegan, you soon will. He’s out and about around the electorate today, tackling the government over issues including long waits for Centrelink clients, patchy mobile reception and an inadequate NBN rollout.
He’s already been on the beat , in Lismore with shadow minister for regional services, Stephen Jones to condemn what the pair described as ‘Centrelink’s staffing crisis’.
In the face of planned cuts to Centrelink staff, they called on the sitting Page MP, the Nationals’ Kevin Hogan, to guarantee no jobs would be lost at the Lismore office.
Mr Jones said figures show that Centrelink’s average call wait times for older Australians ‘have blown out to 23 minutes and processing times for the age pension have increased to 49 days’.
‘Yet at the same time, Page MP Kevin Hogan is sitting by while more jobs are being cut from Centrelink offices like this one in Lismore. This is a disgrace.”
‘Despite these waiting times, in this year’s budget, the Turnbull government announced it would cut 1,280 jobs from Centrelink, and it has outsourced a further 1,250 jobs to labour hire,’ he said.
27,000 on pension
Mr Deegan said there are ‘more than 27,000 people in this electorate on the age pension – one of the highest in the country’.
‘Older Australians who have worked all their lives are being made to wait, on average, for two months just to have their age pensions approved. This an insult to them,’ Mr Deegan said.
‘That’s why I’m calling on Mr Hogan to give a guarantee there won’t be any job cuts to the Lismore Centrelink,’ Mr Deegan said.
‘Centrelink centres help people when they need it the most – processing aged care pensions, child care support, disability support pensions and carers allowance payments.
‘Centrelink is a vital regional service and staff here do their best under pretty difficult conditions – but this Government’s cuts and neglect mean locals aren’t getting the service they deserve.
‘It is important that Centrelink has permanent, full-time staff who are properly equipped to manage the complex issues facing income support recipients.
‘Instead of wasting time on the distraction of decentralisation of government departments, Mr Hogan, would be better off focusing on the real issues affecting locals like guaranteeing existing Centrelink jobs in Lismore,’ Mr Deegan said.
NBN and mobile blackspots
Later today the pair will be talking to Casino residents about their patchy mobile phone service outside the Casino post office.
And this evening, Mr Jones and Mr Deegan will host a forum at Lismore Workers Club, which they say will ‘highlight how under Malcolm Turnbull’s “multi-technology mix” some households are getting a great NBN, others are getting a dud, and others are still waiting for anything at all’.