Government spending "outrageous" $430,000 to investigate Centrelink call waits

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 21: A Medicare and Centrelink office sign is seen at Bondi Junction on March 21, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. Federal public sector workers are expected to strike around Australia over a long-running pay dispute. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Australia’s unions have today spat at the Government in horror that they are spending $430,000 on a US consulting firm, to evaluate what the issue is with call wait times for Centrelink an tell them how to improve it.  Unions have said it is an “absolutely outrageous” waste and aired their frustration, saying the money should just be spent on more Centrelink call centre staff. 

Centrelink is coming under exhaustive pressure, with data showing that 55 million calls to the hotline were thwarted with a busy tone in the last financial year 2016/17.  This is nearly double the quantity of busy signals received in the prior year.  And many here know the unfortunate wait times that plague the call lines, an enormous frustration to welfare seekers.  Call centre wait times are reported at up to 16 minutes on average.  

Nadine Flood, National Secretary of the CPSU is reported saying “the money was being wasted and the government would learn nothing it did not already know,” by The Guardian.  “This is an absolutely outrageous amount to spend for this American consultant to tell us what any Centrelink call centre worker or customer already knows,” Flood said. “[DHS] desperately needs more permanent staff to provide the service standards that Australians need and deserve.

The review has been awarded to Brad Cleveland Company LLC, a US-based consultancy firm and is said to be for $430,000.  But the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says it is largely due to job cuts. 

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Opposition Human services minister, Linda Burney, called for increased staffing levels instead of spending on consultants in The Guardian.

“Turnbull cut 1,200 jobs from Centrelink at last year’s budget, and unanswered calls doubled to 55m,” Burney said. “Centrelink needs permanent, full-time staff, who are qualified and familiar with the often complex issues facing Australians who require income support.”

 

Have you found yourself on the line waiting to talk to Centrelink for 16 minutes or more?  Do you think spending $430,000 on an international consultant is the right move?