4 October 2023

Federal MP calls out 'unacceptable' Riverina wait times for vital government services

| Jarryd Rowley
Start the conversation
government benefits signs

Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack has accused the Labor Government of ignoring concerns over extended wait times for services and payments from Centrelink and Medicare in the Riverina. Photo: File.

Member for Riverina Michael McCormack has demanded the Federal Government address increased wait times when accessing services and payments from Medicare and Centrelink in the Riverina.

Mr McCormack said the Albanese Government had continuously ignored the excessive delays and consistent complaints from local residents.

“Over the past few months, my office has received many calls and emails complaining about excessive wait times and sometimes even the impossibility for constituents to get into contact with Services Australia,” Mr McCormack said.

READ ALSO The REAL Project: Mater Dei Catholic College students partner with seniors to tackle community challenges

“Services Australia is an organisation every single Australian will have to interact with at some point in their life, often during their most challenging times.

“It is simply unacceptable that Australians cannot access this vital service, particularly during this cost-of-living crisis.”

Mr McCormack said that in June, the Coalition asked Government Services Minister Bill Shorten how long Australians were waiting to receive government payments, to which Mr Shorten responded: “Services Australia does not collate or record data by electorate.”

Michael McCormack addressing media

Michael McCormack said the Coalition asked Government Services Minister Bill Shorten for payment records for the Riverina, to which Mr Shorten said they weren’t recorded. Photo: Supplied.

The Coalition has said it has since obtained Questions in Writing from the Labor Party during the Morrison government era that reveal that Services Australia does record electorate-level data, which was provided to Mr Shorten during that term.

Mr McCormack said the move to block the release of the Medicare and Centrelink data didn’t pass the pub test and he had since raised concerns over call wait times and difficulties for constituents to access the essential service.

“I’ve received a letter from the Albanese Government acknowledging the issue of excessive wait times. However, all I’ve been offered is excuses and no solutions,” he said.

“Good government focuses on improving services and fixing problems when they become aware of them.

“This simply isn’t happening in the Albanese Labor Government. It’s no secret that Services Australia’s staffing is being cut while our population surges.

READ ALSO Griffith singer-turned-psychotherapist to launch online course on understanding trauma

“It just doesn’t make sense. How can Labor think it’s a good idea to cut our services while demand increases?”

Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy Paul Fletcher said Mr Shorten was a serial offender when it came to trying to avoid accountability.

“Under Mr Shorten, every question ever asked of him during Senate Estimates has been answered past the due date,” Mr Fletcher said.

“In May this year, the Speaker had to formally write to the Minister because formal Questions in Writing were left unanswered for more than 60 days.”

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.