I thank the member for Bradfield for introducing this motion today. It is good—surprising but good—to have the party of robodebt talk about the importance of Services Australia! The reason I say it is surprising is that it is very clear from the royal commission findings on robodebt that those opposite had absolutely no respect for the work of Services Australia.

If you read the royal commission’s report, it is very clear that those opposite during their nine years in government put Services Australia in a terrible position, where it was in fact responsible for implementing an illegal program that targeted the poorest of the poor and sent people into spirals of depression. In some cases, it even contributed to people taking their own lives.

If you read the royal commission report, it is clear that at times people in Services Australia—those working with people on the frontline—tried to raise the alarm about those opposite’s cruel, illegal robodebt program. And they were ignored by the Liberal and National Parties when they were in government. I do say that it is surprising to have this motion brought forward by those opposite, given their track record, but perhaps it means that they do finally see that there is a benefit in resourcing Services Australia, in making sure that it is there to support everyone in our community and in it being supported as it should be.

Certainly, in contrast to the failures of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison years, this government has been getting on with putting people back at the centre of government services—as it should be. In fewer than two years, our government has created thousands of new jobs to improve Centrelink and Medicare services. We are trying to ensure that, wherever people are accessing Services Australia, whether this is face to face, digital or over the phone, the people who are interacting with the agency through Centrelink, be it for child support, Medicare or other government services, are getting the support they need.

There is still work to be done. Services Australia is managing significant pressure, and, again, a lot of that is a legacy of how we saw the agency and government services for people who needed them most treated by those opposite during their nine years in government. To help address a number of these issues, in November last year, the Minister for Government Services announced a significant frontline staffing boost to Services Australia of 3,000 new recruits, 500 new staff into Medicare and 2,500 into Centrelink.

The contrast is to those opposite, who during their time in government cut 3,800 staff, leaving fewer frontline people to do the work. The cohort of recruits our government is putting in is aimed at providing additional support as soon as possible to reduce call wait times and speed up claims processing.

We do know that those opposite have never seen a government service they liked. As I’ve outlined, over their nearly decade in office, they decimated Services Australia, making way for malicious, profit-making programs like robodebt, in which people were absolutely an afterthought. As I said, during their time in office, those opposite gutted 3,800 staff from Services Australia, so fewer people were on the frontline doing the work that we needed. Despite the significant investment that our government is making in recruiting 3,000 new staff to Services Australia, we do acknowledge that there is more to be done and that it takes time to build up from that decade of inaction and damage.

In that decade, we saw programs like robodebt. In my electorate of Jagajaga, there were as many as 1,862 people affected by robodebt. That’s in one electorate. Think about the impact across the country. Read about the impact, through the royal commission, that that had on people’s lives, on how government was run and on how Services Australia in particular was run.

I highlight it shows that those opposite had absolutely no regard for this agency during their time in office. They had absolutely no regard for the very important face-to-face work that it does with people who need support and who are waiting for their aged pension. There was absolutely no regard from those opposite to the incredible stress that the illegal robodebt scheme put on so many of those people during those opposite’s time in office.

I’ll come back to where I started: it is good to hear the importance of Services Australia acknowledged from those opposite. It would have been better if they had acknowledged it during their time in government, but we can only hope for better from them in the future.

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