Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation

Media release: Coalition delivers on promise to improve customer service at Centrelink

30 October 2018

The Hon Michael Keenan MP

Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation
  • Centrelink staff numbers boosted by addition of an extra 2750 jobs.
  • First of these new workers are already starting to answer customer calls.
  • Tens of millions of extra calls to be answered each year.

Queenslanders can expect to see a steady improvement in customer service at Centrelink, with 2750 additional call centre workers promised by the Coalition Government now starting to come on-board.

At least 800 of the new jobs are based in Brisbane and about half of those positions have already been filled. The remaining positions will be based in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth where recruitment is also well underway.

Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said all of the new staff should be on deck by early next year and he was confident those who rely on Centrelink would notice a big difference.

“Centrelink answers about 1 million calls a week and most calls are answered within our target range of under 16 minutes,” Mr Keenan said.

“But we know there are times, especially during peak periods, that getting through on the phone can be difficult. That is why we are investing in these extra staff to ensure that we meet community expectations and provide a better all-round experience.”

The new workers are being engaged through partnership arrangements with Australian-based call centre operators who are leaders in their field.

Labor introduced this outsourcing model at the Australian Tax Office in 2008, which continues to work extremely well.

The decision to expand this business model to Centrelink also follows a highly successful pilot program launched in October last year, which saw an additional 250 staff engaged through Serco.

Those staff have answered more than 3.2 million calls in the past 12 months. Busy signals have also been cut by 40 per cent.

“The reality is that customers don’t really care who is answering their call, as long as it is answered quickly by someone who is well trained and capable of resolving their issue for them,” Mr Keenan said.

An independent review of the Serco pilot found that the workers performed as well, or better than full-time public servants did across a range of measures.

They answered more calls each day, had less down time between calls, were cost effective and ranked equally for customer satisfaction.

“This dispels many of the myths perpetuated by Labor that outsourcing leads to higher costs and reduced standards of service,” Mr Keenan said.

“Labor has vowed to scrap the use of contract staff if it wins Government and will instead hire 1200 public servants to replace them.

“That will result in a net reduction of more than 1500 jobs in my Department alone.

“Clearly all Labor cares about is keeping its bosses in the union movement happy at the expense of ordinary Australians workers who often take on contract work because of the flexibility it affords them. This is especially true for those who need casual and part-time work like young mums and students.”

Labor also cut more than 4800 jobs from the Department of Human Services during their last three years in office. Minister Keenan said it was clear Labor could not be trusted to deliver better outcomes for Centrelink customers.

“Unlike Labor, the Coalition is committed to delivering the best possible services to the Australian people, where and when they need them,” Mr Keenan said.

Page last updated: 30 October 2018