Following the announcement of the imminent closure of the South Melbourne Centrelink office in late October, the Greens are alarmed that the Labor government is not only refusing to raise the rate of income support, but also making access to services even harder.
This closure will have a major impact on the many residents in South Melbourne and surrounding areas. In the federal electorate of Macnamara where this closure is taking place, almost 10,000 people are on Jobseeker payments. By closing this office, Services Australia is making it harder for constituents to access the help they need.
Quotes attributable to Senator Janet Rice, Greens spokesperson for government and social services:
“This Labor government continues to give Services Australia a free pass to make people’s lives harder.
“People on Centrelink payments are already doing it tough - and it’s about to go from bad to worse. Not only are income support payments far below the poverty line, but now even accessing those inadequate payments is going to be that much tougher.
“Local South Melbourne resident and retired community worker Kerrie has told me that the closure of the South Melbourne Centrelink office will mainly affect the most vulnerable and marginalised locals: homeless people, disabled people, some older people and others who lack access to digital devices or who simply find them challenging.
“The closure is a decision that places an unnecessary burden on people who are already facing financial hardship. We should be making it easier for them to access the support they need, not harder.
“Punitive income support systems designed by current and previous governments and their agencies exist to punish people in poverty, rather than help them - this situation in South Melbourne is no different.”
Quotes attributable to local resident and retired community worker Kerrie:
“Homeless people flock to the inner-city due to the abundance of services.
“When you’re living in precarious circumstances but still have to report your earnings every fortnight to Centrelink, it can be a lot easier to just present at the local office than to find a working phoneline or public computer.
“As the Jobseeker rate is still abysmal, some people just can’t afford to keep their phone or laptop in credit for the whole fortnight - reporting in person is cheaper than buying a phone recharge voucher.
“Both State and Federal Labor Governments have broken their social contract – shutting down Centrelink offices is the sort of heartless cutback we’d expect from a Liberal government.