Leigh Sales fires up at Centrelink

If you've ever had dealings with Centrelink, then chances are you can relate to Leigh Sales right now.
ABC presenter Leigh Sales has fired up at Centrelink on Twitter over call wait times. Source: YouTube.

As pensioners, many of the readers here at Starts at 60 have regular dealings with Centrelink.

Quite often we hear complaints from SAS readers about call wait times, with some spending hours on hold to Centrelink to deal with issue they may have.

It’s an issue that’s quite topical at the moment in the midst of the debt letters scandal.

But if you thought you were the only one having issues with call wait times at Centrelink, you’re not the only one.

Even ABC presenter Leigh Sales has spent time on hold – and she’s taken to Twitter to vent her fury.

On Tuesday she posted on Twitter, asking if Centrelink “ever answer its phone”.

“Does Centrelink ever answer its phone? 2 hours on hold last week fruitlessly, heading in the same direction today,” she wrote.

Yesterday Centrelink responded.

“Hi Leigh, what are you calling about? We’ll try to help you here. Just remember, it’s not safe to share personal info on Twitter,” they replied.

And Sales hit back.

“Thanks for the tip. Please provide a number to phone that will be answered inside 10 minutes.” she replied.

Centrelink responded by saying “call wait times can vary”.

“However, if you can tell us what you’re calling about we may be able to help direct you.” they stated.

And that’s when the ABC presenter really hit back.

“I’ve told you what I want: a phone number that will be answered in fewer than two hours.” she responded.

The Twitter conversation continued, with Centrelink claiming their average answer time is 16 minutes.

It’s created a wave of commentary on Twitter, with dozens of Twitter users responding to Sales and sharing photos of their own call wait times with Centrelink.

If you’ve ever experienced this, then chances are you’ve felt Sales’ frustration.

She clarified on Twitter this morning that she was calling on behalf of somebody with a disability.

“Surprising number of people in my twitter feed sharing stories of appalling waiting times to get through to Centrelink on the phone,” she wrote.

“Ringing on behalf of somebody with a disability who can’t do it themselves. Have given up trying by phone, will visit an office.”

Tell us, have you ever waited for hours on the phone to Centrelink?

What do you think of Leigh Sales response to the issue?


  1. Guy Flavell  

    I regularly ring the 132300 “Older Australians” Centrelink line and the longest wait I’ve
    ever had is 20 minutes. When they refer you on to another person then this can take
    around 5-10 minutes sadly. When you consider the number of OAPs out there ringing with
    inquiries then I don’t really think the Centrelink staff do too badly ?

    • ANN McGovern  

      As an aged person who has worked in the corporate sector all of my working life let me tell you how it used to go.
      You:Ring ring
      Company: good morning,abc company, how may I help you?
      You: I’d like to speak to Mr x please,
      Company: one moment please and I’ll put you through – go ahead.

      It usually took no more than a minute to Speak To The Person. The phone was answered by a REAL PERSON -not a robot. They were polite and helpful.
      Now that wonderful invention the telephone is being made a mockery of. The public in general are being treated with disdain and the unemployment lines are full of people who would love to be paid to answer their phones. How about they stop thinking about investors with unreasonable demands and start thinking about The people who put these so called “public servants” in their jobs -THE PUBLIC!!!

    • Geraldine Dwyer  

      It is MUCH quicker on the older person’s line but frustratingly slow for those on New Start. I think it shows a lack of respect for callers and for young people sends out bad messages about how to deal with the public, how to provide customer service, how to show understanding and compassion and just basic courtesy and good manners.

      • Diana Lutz  

        I have rung the Older persons line twice and both times waited around 30-40 minutes but the staff were very nice. Tried going to an office but they are not helpful and don’t seem to know anything.

    • Emily  

      I waited 59 min 36 seconds yesterday – only to speak to a person whose command of the English language was unintelligible. Are 132 300 calls put through to an overseas Call Centre? Normally I do all Centrelink inquiries online- yesterday I could not access the Online Website.

  2. It is not the fault of Centrelink staff, but it is useless visiting an office. Nobody there
    seems to know anything. They seem to exist only to take photocopies and send them

    • John Walden  

      Ask 3 people and get 3 different answers

    • Janny Wagenaar  

      Yes , I agree . Waiting times are horrendous waste of time. Going into an office can be too. Different staff give different advice. The whole process needs an overhaul. I took to writing down every detail and contact with them , then wrote to the politicians and finally got an apology phone call from Centrelink.
      It’s a very demoralising, frustrating system and especially when you have no other choice but to contact them.

  3. Terry Johnston  

    Most times i have tried its close to two hours. The only time it has ever been short is when i rang to make payment arrangements for a debt. With so many unemployed you would think they could employ a few people to answer a phone

  4. Lin Collins  

    The other week I was on the phone to Centrelink for 3 hours and 30 minutes. They transferred me once so that made it longer. I have now been on the phone a total of three times to get questions answered in the 3-4 weeks for a total of 6 hours and 47 minutes.

  5. OliviaMitchell  

    Last week I was on hold for nearly 50mins being put through to the “right area” no less than 3 times whilst trying to talk with someone in the disability area. Not only are call wait times excessive failure to document conversations on system to help each time client calls.

    • john pisac  

      there is no use ringing them if you wont someone from disability area all they will tell you if you can lift a book from the chair and put it on the table you are fit for work and they dont excepd your doctors opinions thats what happened to me and there is nothen you can do as all apealls ara same untill you get to 4 one after that you can go to federal court and all this takes many months maybe years

  6. David  

    Its impossible to get through at any time of day. What used to be a simple phone call now takes most of the day. We are definitely going backwards at an alarming rate

  7. Suzanne  

    If you do manage to get into an office you’ll probably be directed to a phone to use anyway!

    • Jean Cook  

      That is exactly what happened to me when i was was caring for my Brother. Tried to phone centerlink … had to wait too long..had to get a relo to care for my brother so i could visit the office only to be told they weren’t there to help fill out the form i had to ring??? Back i go and ring ..wait for ever .. finally get someone to help on the phone.. so have to take it back to the office…means have to get another carer for my brother.. Went to the desk..same woman..she tells me to go to the other desk where an officer will help me with the form…. CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS..and i am not disabled or elderly so what hope do others have…

  8. Kate  

    I happen to be under 60 but am a person with a disability. I try to not dela with Centrelink where I can because I have often had to wait for over one hour to speak to someone. And yes, going into an office is useless, not necessarily due to wait times; indeed, they can be long, but I don’t mind waiting if I’ve gone to the effort to actually go in and see someone. What I do mind is being told different things by different attendants when I get there! It’s pretty important to get a straight and consistent answer when you want to do the right thing and abide by Centrelink’s rules, yet a variety of their own employees can’t answer your question. What’s more, I do have elderly relatives, some who have great physical difficulty in holding a phone. How can Centrelink expect people with physical difficulties to hang on for that long, let alone follow their policies and deal with their impatient staff, who are probably pressured to deal with such call volumes and sort everyone into some pigeon hole. There’s also the unfair assumption that most people will have internet access or a computer. Those who only have a mobile phone, also don’t have the credit to wait that long. It’s absolutely appalling. How long has the country and our government known that we were heading towards an increasingly top-heavy population from the 90’s onwards and what planning has been done- apart from changes in the management of superannuation?? Good on Leigh for bringing standing up and helping to direct some attention to the issue.

    • Judith Jefferys  

      Just FYI, if you do have elderly relatives who have trouble holding a phone, then a speaker phone should be installed. Then the phone does not have to be held and you talk by speaker.
      You can sit and knit all day but having to hold phone for ages is no longer necessary.

  9. Susanne  

    Register for phone access and they do call you back

    • Leanne  

      Apparently they don’t do that anymore

      • Bob  

        You are correct Leanne. Centerlink no longer have the ‘call back’ option that was axed in 2016

    • Ria Young  

      Tried that once, told I would be called back in the next 2 days. So, housebound for 2 days with no guarantee I would actually get a call back on landline? No way.

    • Lesley Lennox  

      I had a period when I had to contact Centrelink. Every time I rang I was told to leave my number as the wait times were excessive and they would get back to me. They never did. I was trying to register for a Medicare number so I could claim over the internet. Took three days and I am still not sure if I have a number. Another time trying to get onto their website(for about a month) and was told the website was inactive. It’s not good enough. We pay taxes to fund these departments and they should be accessible. If they don’t have enough staff, hire more.

  10. Linda  

    In my dealings with Centrelink phone line the recorded voice estimates the queue wait time but that is reliant on how complex previous calls are. However you do have the option of leaving your number and getting a call back.

    • Sandra  

      Not any more

      • Irene Bannister  

        Definitely not for some time now. Also I sent rental details of new address but then received letter to say my $24 fortnightly rent assist on my age pension has been cancelled. Resent new form (register) it but another call weeks later to c link was told didn’t receive it arrrgghh 3 calls cost me nearly 4 hours on mobile.

    • Allison  

      I tried that…but they never called back…so I had to ring in again…so frustrating….another hour wait !!

  11. John  

    Lots of people seemed very supportive and happy when the Federal Government axed thousands of ‘fat cat’ public servants jobs… until they actually need a public service that is. Unless the government gets serious about providing a public service which is properly funded and staffed, a stops the 2% ‘efficiency dividend’ (read: cumulative budget cut) year on year, then our quality of life is going to continue to suffer.

  12. Rosemary Lynch  

    Simple, really. They need more staff, and our Govt. has cut and cut and cut over decades. So talk to the LNP politicians.

    • ANN McGovern  

      I’m sorry Rosemary but if you think you can talk to a politician from ANY party and actually get a result then you are seriously deluded. They will listen to you and make promises till they are voted in – then forget it. Do you really think they have no idea about this problem?

    • Mark  

      Not just LNP. I used to work for Centrelink and savage cuts introduced in Rudd/Gillard reign.

    • Bruce Cool  

      Trying to ring Medicare is just as bad. Wednesday afternoon there was a recorded message saying they couldn’t take my call right now, ring back another time. The call was then abruptly terminated.

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