The incoming minister for government services, Mr Bill Shorten, has vowed to improve the government’s much maligned myGov portal.
Used by millions of Australians, myGov is the online access point for services provided by Centrelink, Medicare and the Australian Tax Office. But it has been heavily criticised by users and staff alike, and even by one of its original designers.
As reported by YourLifeChoices last month, myGov architect Glenn Archer laments the lack of progress made by the agency in the years since he was involved in its development.
Last month, then Opposition leader now Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promised to make the portal a priority if elected. “Millions of Australians interact with myGov every day and rely on it to provide essential services,” he said then. “It’s not up to scratch, and Australians deserve better. That’s why we will review myGov, and make improvements where necessary.”
That moment has now arrived and Mr Shorten, from whom Mr Albanese took over the Labor leadership after the party’s 2019 election defeat, has the task of making myGov more user friendly.
Mr Shorten describes the current system as a “digital workhouse”, a reference to the Victorian Workhouse system, an institution that was intended to provide work and shelter for poverty-stricken people who had no means to support themselves. It became known for its terrible conditions, forced child labour, long hours, malnutrition, beatings and neglect.
“I think that we’ve used, in some cases, digital technology to create two classes of Australians,” Mr Shorten said. We haven’t privatised the service. We just privatise your time. You spend hours on it. I’m amazed there’s not more rage out there.”
Mr Shorten cited his own recent experience with the system, when downloading his vaccination certificate as “a little perplexing”.
“Listen, I’ve got three degrees, I found it a little perplexing,” he said. “Maybe my 12-year-old could have done it better.”
The news of a myGov review has been warmly received by many. Writing for youth news site pedestrian.tv, Sweeney Preston wrote, “Folks, it’s finally happening. The new Australian federal government will be auditing the worst website in the history of planet earth – myGov.”
Government services is not Mr Shorten’s only portfolio in Mr Albanese’s cabinet. He will also be the first dedicated minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Having helped to establish the NDIS under the Julia Gillard government in 2013, Mr Shorten has promised to “repair” what he sees as damage done under successive Coalition governments.
Taking to Twitter last week, Mr Shorten said, “For 10 years people with disability have been subjected to a never-ending fear campaign from the Coalition government. Labor will repair the NDIS and restore trust in the scheme for participants and their families.”
As well as dealing with myGov and the NDIS, Mr Shorten will also be prioritising the establishment of a royal commission into the failed ‘robo-debt’ scheme – a commitment he made in April ahead of the May federal election.
With two portfolios under his direction, loud calls from several quarters to ‘fix’ the NDIS and myGov, and a royal commission to initiate, Mr Shorten will have his work cut out for him from the start.
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