ABC CANBERRA MORNINGS
TUESDAY, 6 JULY 2021
SUBJECT: Closure of Braddon Centrelink.
JONATHON GUL, HOST: You're listening to ABC Canberra Mornings, I'm Jono Gul, thanks so much for your company this morning. Now in this time of Government assistance and benefits being taken up at a rate of knots and playing an incredibly important role in the lives of many Australians, could Canberra be about to lose a vital resource? It seems that the building that houses the Centrelink branch in Braddon is up for lease, raising the question about what will happen to those face to face services. Labor member for Canberra, Alicia Payne, has started a petition to keep the branch open, and she joins us this morning. Alicia Payne. Good morning.
ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Good morning, Jono.
GUL: Thanks so much for joining us this morning. How certain is it, or how certain are you, that the Braddon Centrelink branch will close?
PAYNE: Well, I think it definitely looks like the Government are planning on closing it. I only became aware of this because an ad for that office space popped up on one of my staff members' Facebook feeds, like a Facebook ad. And so I wrote to the Minister and said "what's going on with Braddon Centrelink?" And in her response, she's confirmed that they're considering the future of Braddon Centrelink, and then went on to extolling the virtues of going online or using the phone to do your Centrelink business. So I think it looks pretty clear that that's what they're thinking and I wouldn't trust this Government with Centrelink.
GUL: How would you describe the transparency over this issue?
PAYNE: Well, I think that's appalling. I mean, I think that I would find out or that anyone would find out from an advertisement for the office space, that's clearly the Centrelink office is not good enough. I think, you know, if they're considering, if the lease- so the lease is coming up, and well, first of all, I think they, you know, we absolutely don't want to lose that face to face office, which is the only one sort of in central Canberra and the inner North. There's, the closest ones are Woden or Belconnen, and many people rely on that face to face office. So I think, you know, if the Government is thinking of moving it, it definitely needs to be consultation around how many people were using that, you know, how they value it. I know that since launching my petition I have had many people provide their comments on, you know, the difficulty it would cause them to not have access to that.
GUL: The Minister for Government Services is Linda Reynolds, what has she told you in any correspondence or contact that you've had with her?
PAYNE: Yes, well, so it's just that response to my letter, where she said that she confirmed that the lease is up in February 2022, and that they are considering the future of that office. But as I say, she then went on to say, you know, more and more people are using the phone and online, which of course is true, but there are many people who really rely on the face to face contact. And as people would be aware, many Centrelink processes are incredibly complex, such as applying for the Disability Support Pension or Youth Allowance payments. People can be in very vulnerable situations, like homeless people don't have access to computers or phones to access Centrelink. And importantly, people who might be escaping a domestic violence situation may not be able to use a computer or phone at home and they want to come in to a face to face office.
GUL: You're listening to ABC Radio Canberra, we're hearing from Labor member for Canberra Alicia Payne about the future of the Centrelink branch in Braddon. It seems that the building that houses that Centrelink branch in Braddon is up for lease and the future of that site, the future of that office is now in question. Alicia Payne, what information or dataset do you have that shows the patronage of the Braddon branch in justifying it operating? You touched on it a little bit before, that we need to see some of those figures of how popular or how heavily utilised that Braddon branch is. Have you seen anything, any figures on paper that show just how vital it is?
PAYNE: I actually haven't at this stage, but I'd be keen to seek that information if it's something that Government would make available. I certainly know that during the pandemic, we had people lining up down the street to access it and you know, they've still got signs up outside explaining why you might need to wait outside, so it's definitely- there are still lots of people using it. As I mentioned, it's the only one in the Inner North or in the sort of Civic area. It's- the others are Woden and Belconnen, and with payments so low, such as the JobSeeker payment at, you know, $43.50 a day, the cost of the extra bus fare to get to one of those offices could be too much for people. I know that sounds extreme, but it's very much the reality.
GUL: You mentioned before that you've launched a petition and there's been a decent response from constituents to that petition to keep the Braddon branch of Centrelink open. What was your reasoning behind starting that petition before getting the actual figures of how popular that Centrelink branch is?
PAYNE: Well, I'm responding to the fact that the Government is trying to, probably trying to close this office with no community consultation. So I'm drawing attention to the fact that the Government is trying to take away one of only four face-to-face branches of Centrelink in Canberra, with no consultation, with the audacity to put up an ad for the office space on Facebook without having any community consultation around that.
GUL: Well, it's certainly much of 'watch this space' or 'watch this office space', perhaps is a little bit more accurate when determining the future of the Centrelink branch in Braddon. Labor member for Canberra, Alicia Payne, thank you for making the time this morning and we'll be keeping an eye on the future of that Centrelink branch.
PAYNE: Thanks for having me, Jono. And if listeners want to sign my petition, it's on my website, aliciapayne.com.au.
GUL: Thank you. That's Alicia Payne, she's the Labor member for Canberra. She started a petition to keep the Braddon Centrelink branch open. It seems like the future of that branch is under review.
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