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Alex Hodges


I worked for the department of Social Services/Security from 1972 to 1997. At that time, people took pride in their work, there was camaraderie, help from others and sometime it took years to learn all the admin, assessor tasks and legislation, to do our jobs well. We generally specialised in one field, but slowly this began to change with staff cuts, and multi-skilling . Pressure and stress became the order of the day. After a bout of bone cancer, after which I had to fight to get part-time/half time work, I was still effectively doing a fulltime job, half time. When there was an agenda coming where corporate uniforms and a corporate-style name change was in the winds, I took a separation package because everything I had loved about helping people in my job, was going to disappear. This is when call centres started to rear their ugly heads.
Now to my horror, I have found out that the Centrelink call centre has been outsourced to that ghastly international corporate leech on the taxpayers' purse, Serco ?! So now people know why they are kept waiting for hours on a phoneline, to try and get help with their pension and benefit problems, eventually talking to an outsourced contract worker who probably has little idea about payments systems and legislation ?! What a disgrace ! This is not progress. It is an uncaring implementation of Mr J Hockey's appalling utterance that "The Age of Entitlement is over" ? I might remind those in power that the age pension is not a privilege, it is a right under our Constitution ?
So why is the public service being undermined with mass sackings or positions being made redundant and not replaced ? Is it because Australia is now part of Asia, and is in fact the only country in Australasia with a welfare safety net ? Why are we being dragged down to third world Asian levels, when they should be dragging themselves up and treating their people with dignity and respect.?? A welfare safety net is essential in a decent , compassionate , democratic society ? Since 2011, numbers of public servants have fallen by about 15% !? This is a disgrace, considering the increasing population and the fact that the public service used to be a great employer of many graduates. What is the government worried about, having to pay superannuation when public servants retire ? The MP's meanwhile are on a "gravy train" with no sign of their numbers being reduced ?!
We now find that there are at least 20000 contractors or labour hire staff in the APS. No job security for those people and contracts now appear to be the order of the day. What a way to silence dissent too !
No wonder the NDIS is in such a mess, with employment gaps being filled by a "mish-mash" of contractors and labour hire workers. How can people with little or rushed training, do a professional job ? They can't, and so our standards are dragged down a bit more. Frustrated desperate people who are having massive problems with the NDIS, are turning to talkback radio hosts for help ! How have we got to this ? Some NDIS so-called expert contractors are getting paid huge salaries while those who need the care, are left in limbo struggling to get any help.
Since I left the Public Service, it has been politicised with employees being reduced and those who are left, with huge workloads, on contracts. In my opinion, this is a disgrace, and no wonder the employees who are left, are so stressed. I am hugely thankful that I could leave when I did, and follow a different path in life ie: tourism accommodation !
It is my view that my former work place now known as "Centrelink", is fixated on raising money from people that have been inadvertently overpaid, and is doing everything possible to frustrate people who have lodged claims for monetary help ?!. No one should be waiting months for a payment ! No one who attends an office for help, should be pointed to a computer ! Elderly people like to talk to someone and many are computer illiterate. No one should be waiting hours to speak to someone on the phone or just have the line go dead. This is outrageous and would never have happened when I worked there. We had more pride in our work and a duty of care to the needy !
I am horrified at what is happening to our once wonderful public service. My father who pointed me in the direction of the public service after I graduated, would be turning in his grave !
Shame on all those elected representatives that are aiding and abetting the destruction of everything that was good about Australia, including the Public Service.