Questions Without Notice - Department of Human Services Online Service Delivery

Wednesday, 04 December 2013

Senator BOYCE (Queensland) (15:02): My question is to the Minister for Human Services, Senator Payne. I refer the minister to the government's provision of online services. Can the minister please explain how the government is improving access to online service delivery on the Redcliffe Peninsula in Queensland?

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (15:02): I would like to thank Senator Boyce for the question, particularly about the Redcliffe Peninsula. I know that, as she is a Queenslander senator, she has a particular interest in that area. I am very pleased to say that last week I had the opportunity to officially open a new first for the Department of Human Services, the new Margate Human Services service centre, with the newly elected member for Petrie, Luke Howarth. That centre will enable us to give the residents of the Redcliffe Peninsula unparalleled access to a great suite of digital products. As customers enter a new centre like Margate, we will ensure that they will have their own control over their interactions with the department, whether it is online options, phone self-service, the use of mobile app technology or being part of the myGov system. In fact, the range of apps from across the department have been downloaded more than 1.3 million times. At Margate, we actually have an app bar for the use of residents and constituents.

As of September, the self-service process accounted for just over 22 per cent of Centrelink's workload, which is an increase of over five per cent on the period in the year before. There is absolutely no doubt that customers are enthusiastically embracing our online services, and of course the Redcliffe constituents also have access to myGov. This is just the first of many digital offices yet to come, as we are able to update and open new offices across the country. They will provide better services for all Australians.

I think the most interesting of my observations on the day was when I was watching some of the older constituents in Mr Howarth's electorate being guided through the process of using the apps and the selfservice screens and hearing them say, 'It's just like going to an ATM; I can do this,' and watching them make the most of the digital technology that the department has to offer.

Senator BOYCE (Queensland) (15:04): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Could the minister explain whether customers will still have access to personalised service and face-to-face interviews at Margate, which of course is on the peninsula at Redcliffe?

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (15:05): This is an important question because there are customers who still find that personal support and face-to-face consultation with staff is more appropriate and more helpful for them. In the Margate service centre, although digital services certainly make life easier for a growing number of customers, we know that there will be some who have business that cannot necessarily be done online, even with the guidance of the staff there. In those instances, face-to-face interviews will remain a very important part of our service delivery at Margate, and there is also a significant facility at Deception Bay. So customers who come from the Redcliffe Peninsula to the Margate service centre who have complex needs or difficult personal problems and would like to engage with an officer, will be able to do that quite readily at the service centre.

Senator BOYCE (Queensland) (15:06): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. With online services rapidly becoming a critical part of people's daily lives, can the minister explain how the government is improving access to information, services and payments from a number of agencies within the Human Services portfolio through the myGov service?

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (15:06): I thank Senator Boyce for her second supplementary question, because the myGov service is providing a range of very valuable opportunities for Australians to engage online using a single, secure online account with one username and one password. It enables people to receive their mail from not just Centrelink but Medicare, child-support, veterans' affairs, health and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, electronically and efficiently. We are continuing to work with other departments and organisations to enable us to pursue further opportunities to expand the myGov service.

What the service means for Australians who are time poor—so many families are these days—is that they can update their contact information; they can submit documents through a smartphone, an iPad or a similar device; they can lodge Medicare claims; and they can read their mail—all with a digital device—whenever and wherever it is most convenient for them. I am sure that right across the chamber we have senators with the appropriate device on their— (Time expired)


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