by Rebecca Merrett

Labor blasts Turnbull govt over online services issues

Jan 14, 2016

Spruiking innovation in government is not the same as acting on it, says shadow minister for human services, Senator Doug Cameron.

Cameron has attacked Malcolm Turnbull’s government for a lack of interest in issues affecting access to myGov, Centrelink, Medicare and Department of Human Services (DHS) online services.

“It is the height of irony that the Turnbull government is spending so much telling us how they’re innovative at the same time as you can’t access MyGov because the system is down,” Cameron said in a statement.

“The minister responsible has no interest in these issues. He just wants to be seen to be acting tough.”

Cameron said that the Turnbull government can spend $28 million on advertising an innovative government, but won’t recognise these issues in myGov and human services websites.

“The government says it will be spending up to $1 billion on the welfare infrastructure payment transformation program, but they won’t release details of how that transformation will proceed. They won’t tell us how much, if anything, will be used to strengthen Australia’s long term IT capabilities,” Cameron added.

On New Year’s Day, there was an IT glitch with Centrelink that informed 70,000 people they owed the government up to $800. A September 2015 report on Centrelink services by the Commonwealth Ombudsman showed that issues in using online services had not improved since April 2014.

Cameron also highlighted claims by the public servant’s union that outages at the Department of Human Services and Bureau of Meteorology were due to cuts to critical IT infrastructure.

The 2015-16 Budget allocates $60.5 million over four years to start a Welfare Payment infrastructure transformation to replace the current ageing system.

“Work will begin immediately to mobilise the project team so that we can go to the market early in the new financial year,’’ the then Minister for Human Services, Marise Payne, said around the time the budget was announced in May last year.

“The project will be carried out in multiple tranches, with customers beginning to see benefits of the upgrade at the end of next year.”

The Coalition also announced in the budget a $95.4 million Digital Transformation Office to expand the use of myGov to deliver online government services and a single identity portal. The Office is made up of developers, designers, researchers and content specialists.

In August 2015, Turnbull announced he will recruit 20 professionals to work at the DTO and sought expressions of interest from “anyone with the passion and skills to deliver public services online that are simpler and easier to use”.

“The DTO has been established to unwind complexity and deliver services that are simpler and faster for the customer,” he said in a statement.