The Labor party has announced it will fund 40 full-time Department of Human Services jobs in Bendigo - bringing with it a $3 million injuection into the local economy - if wins the federal election.
Labor said the jobs would include local service delivery and call centre roles, after the Liberal government cut and outsourced over 2700 staff from DHS and Centrelink since 2013.
The Liberal Coalition however said it had recently invested in an additional 2750 jobs to improve the customer experience at Centrelink - more than 800 in Victoria - cutting call waiting times on the employment services lines by 11 minutes and busy signals by 42 per cent in recent months.
None of the new jobs were based in the Bendigo area.
Shadow Minister for Human Services, Ed Husic, said in Bendigo on Thursday "this announcement is an investment in better jobs and better service through Centrelink and Medicare".
"We want to make sure that we improve those services but also do it in a way that is a shot in the arm for regional economies," he said.
"The 40 jobs here in Bendigo will provide roughly a $3 million injection into the local economy," he said.
Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said wait times had increased since the job cuts started in 2013.
"We have had countless years of people putting in complaints about waiting times, complaints about processing time," Ms Chesters said. "People in Bendigo and Central Victoria have every right to be upset with what's happened over the last few years. This is an issue that I have been incredibly vocal on."
Mr Husic said the focus on full-time positions would lead to better service for the community.
"I'm not going to make freakish predictions," he said.
"But we are committed to working with the Department of Human Services to see where these jobs are best placed.
"We are hoping to see with that focus, there will be a lift and improvement of service over time."
The Coalition said that 4884 full time positions were cut from the Department of Human Services during Labor's last term in office.
It said that Labor wanted to axe new call-centre staff because they were employed through private contractors and replace them with 1200 new public servants – a net loss of 1550 staff at Centrelink.
Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said under Labor’s plan more than 800 Victorians would be left out of work.
“Labor spokesman Ed Husic is today playing a game of smoke and mirrors with his job promises that will actually result in a significant cut to Centrelink staffing levels if they win office,” Minister Keenan said.
“I recently had the opportunity to meet these workers at our call-centre operations in Mill Park and Dandenong and I can tell Mr Husic that they were hard-working Victorians committed to helping Centrelink customers. Labor must come clean and tell them the truth about whether their jobs are safe.”
The Coalition said that Labor’s opposition to the use of contract call centre staff smacked of hypocrisy given they first introduced the model at the Australian Tax Office in 2008.
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