Media Release: Fiona Phillips tours Nowra’s new Services Australia facility as 500,000 claims slashed from backlog

Media Release: Fiona Phillips tours Nowra’s new Services Australia facility as 500,000 claims slashed from backlog Main Image

01 May 2024

Federal Member for Gilmore Fiona Philips and her electoral office staff took a tour of Nowra’s new Services Australia service centre which is now open in the old Spotlight building in Berry Street.

The community can now access government services from the contemporary new service centre which replaces the previous office on Lawrence Avenue.

Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen said customers attending the new Nowra Service Centre would experience an improved service delivery approach, tailored for their individual circumstances.

“Residents can continue to access booked appointments for Centrelink services, access digital coaching for help using digital services and provide real time feedback on their experience,” Mr Jongen said.

The centre is open Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm.

Mrs Phillips was impressed with the fit out of the prominent building which houses around 50 Services Australia staff on the top floor.

“It looks really great and is fitted out with meeting rooms, private hubs for seniors and training areas,” she added.

The centre opening comes as the Albanese Government on Friday announced a major breakthrough with half a million Services Australia claims processed for Australians in just 10 weeks. 

According to Minister for Government Services, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP, the Coalition slashed about 6,000 staff and implemented Robodebt, which destroyed lives and saw Services Australia gutted. As a result, Australians were also punished with slow processing times and phone delays. 

Critical government payments, including the Disability Support Pension, Parent Payments, Carers Allowance and the Age Pension, were regularly delayed by weeks, and in some instances more than a month, under the Coalition.

To fix this problem, Minister Shorten said Labor hired more than 3,000 new permanent staff to process critical Medicare and Centrelink claims.

This has seen a backlog of 500,000 Centrelink and Medicare claims radically slashed in just 10 weeks, meaning more financial supports are getting to Australians dealing with cost-of-living pressures.

Recruited in a record 10 weeks, all the new staff were onboard by mid-January and finished training in early April. During training this year, when experienced staff were offline and over 4.85 million new claims came in, the backlog peaked at 1.35 million. This was more than twice normal levels.

The backlog is on track to be back to normal levels by the middle of this year. 

“We absolutely acknowledge the frustration of people waiting for payments, but for the first time in a long time we are headed in the right direction,” Minister Shorten said.

“Reducing the outstanding claims will help to bring down call wait times, as fewer people will be on the phone to check what’s happening with their claims.”