Almost three and a half thousand Novocastrians have signed a petition against the planned closure of Newcastle Centrelink offices.
Federal Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon, who established the petition, spoke on behalf of signatories in a speech about Centrelink in the House of Representatives.
Ms Claydon said the Morrison Government plans to close both the Newcastle CBD and Mayfield Centrelink offices.
“Not content with capping staff and slashing resources, the Morrison government recently turned its attention to shutting down Centrelink’s physical presence in communities—the very offices that people go to when they need help,” Ms Claydon said.
“The first I heard was when the minister wrote to me to tell me that the government will be closing the Mayfield and King Street Centrelink offices to replace them with a single office in a yet to be determined location. He talked coldly of ‘consolidation’ – which of course we all know is Liberal code for cuts, cuts and more cuts.”
Ms Claydon said she was overwhelmed by the response to her campaign against the closures.
“It has been quite incredible, actually. I have received dozens and dozens of calls, letters and emails of solidarity. People wrote to me about how much they relied on Centrelink’s frontline services. They shared their personal stories about what those offices meant to them and their families, and they sent me copies of the letters that they had sent to the minister urging him to axe this stupid plan.
“If I was heartened by the letters of support, I was completely overwhelmed by the support for my community petition. Today, I’d like to formally record in the Australian parliament that 3,458 Novocastrians signed this petition which called on the government to axe this terrible plan and leave Newcastle’s Centrelink offices alone,” Ms Claydon told the House.
Ms Claydon said she had recently learned that the Newcastle closure was part of a bigger plan.
“Initially, we thought it was just the one office. Then we learned of another and another and another. It quickly became clear that they weren’t isolated decisions. No, they were part of a devious, coordinated plan to shrink Centrelink’s frontline footprint by stealth.
“Of course, the Morrison government wasn’t honest with the public about these plans, which will leave jobseekers—needy and vulnerable Australians—out in the cold.”
Ms Claydon thanked everyone who had participated in the Newcastle campaign against shutting down local Centrelnk offices.
“I’d like to sincerely thank each and every person who took the time to write, to call, to email or to drop in to my office to register their dissent,” Ms Claydon said.
“On this matter, there can be no doubt: Newcastle loudly, proudly and unequivocally said ‘no’ to these closures.”
Ms Claydon said Centrelink has always been there for Australians when they have been at their lowest ebb.
“When people face bereavement or disability they look to Centrelink for support. When they take on caring duties or get sick they rely on Centrelink to get them through.
“Indeed, it’s Centrelink that millions of Australians have turned to in recent months as COVID-19 restrictions threatened or destroyed an unthinkable number of jobs and businesses.”