18 October 2021


SUBJECTS: Braddon Centrelink closure.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: You might remember that we've actually spoken about this issue a couple of times with Alicia Payne, the Labor member for Canberra, that the federal government had, well, there was evidence that it looked like they were going to close the Centrelink office in Braddon. Alicia's on the line. Alicia some bad news.


ALICIA PAYNE, LABOR MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Yeah, good morning, Stephen. And thank you for covering this because it's a really important issue for our community. And yes, on Friday, I got a letter from Minister Reynolds confirming that they are going to close the Braddon Centrelink in December. So not far away at all, and also that they won't be replacing it with a new service centre anywhere in central Canberra.


CENATIEMPO: So just remind us, you almost stumbled across this by accident, didn't you?


PAYNE: Yeah, absolutely. So a Facebook ad popped up on one of my staff’s feed, advertising the office space. And we said "Well, isn't that the Braddon Centrelink" and so we wrote to the minister and asked what was going on and they confirmed they were reconsidering its future. But didn't confirm whether they were closing it or whether they might be looking at replacing it at a different location. Because this is of course, the only Centrelink in my electorate of Canberra. The closest will be Belconnen, Gungahlin or Woden. So there'll be nothing for the central business district or the inner north or inner south.


CENATIEMPO: Have they given you any indication of what the rationale is here? I mean, obviously, rents in Braddon are prohibitive these days and that, I guess, is one consideration. But the problem with Centrelink these days is it's not just Centrelink, there are so many other functions that happen a Centrelink office these days.


PAYNE: Exactly right. So it's access to face-to-face help with Medicare as well. And well, the rationale they've given is just that people are using online services. And while that's true, there are many people who need to access a face-to-face service. And there are actually many things that Centerlink itself requires you to go into an office and to resolve something. So it's quite unreasonable to ask vulnerable people to make that journey, which will be a genuine challenge for many people, including those trying to get by on $43 a day on the disgracefully low job seeker payment.


CENATIEMPO: So what are the options here now? You've obviously had a petition going for a while, you've got over 1000 signatures on that. Is there a possibility of reversing this decision? I mean, obviously, they've got to find another site. First, is there somewhere other than Braddon in your electorate that you think is a suitable position for this?


PAYNE: Well, I think if they had committed to putting another one somewhere in central Canberra, close by to Braddon that would be, perhaps, okay. But they have ruled that out. So at this stage are saying there won't be another one, anywhere around that area, in the inner north or the inner south. So I would encourage people to go to my website and keep signing the petition. I'm going to keep gathering signatures to show the government just how important this is. But I'd also encourage people to write to Minister Reynolds directly or to write Zed Seselja, our representative from the Government in the ACT.


CENATIEMPO: Well, I'll reach out to Zed myself, and I might even try and reach out to the minister's office, although every time we've tried to contact Minister Reynolds office for any reason, we never seem to get a response. But, you know, I mean I understand governments trying to save money wherever they can, but this it's just seems extraordinary, particularly given that they're directing people to Gungahlin, which is almost the other side of the earth when you come from Braddon.


PAYNE: Well, it is far enough away to be a genuine challenge for people, I think. The people that need to get to Centrelink, it might be elderly people, people in vulnerable situations, people on very low incomes, people with quite burdensome mutual obligation requirements. And homeless people even do need to access that service and it could be just about impossible. And, of course, people can face losing their payments if they don't meet requirements. And applying for many of these payments is so complicated for people and that's why they need to go and speak to someone and it will be very difficult.


CENATIEMPO: Absolutely. Alicia, good on you for fighting for this. We'll try and help where we can, appreciate your time this morning.


PAYNE: Thank you very much, Stephen.


CENATIEMPO: That's Alicia Payne, Labor member for Canberra. If you do frequent the Braddon Centrelink office, we'd love to hear from you.