The Meeting Place

Centrelink's diabolical unanswered call rate

There’s good news and bad news from Centrelink. The good news is that unanswered calls have dropped; the bad news is that in the past year they still numbered nearly 48 million. Needless to say the agency failed – again – to meet customer satisfaction targets and complaints increased rather than dropped.

You may be pleased to know that Human Services Department secretary Renée Leon has acknowledged she does not consider the latest numbers as “mission accomplished”, Fairfax Media reports. “I don't know that we're going to solve it this year, but I hope that we will continue to drive it down,” she said. This is despite the Government approving the employment of 1500 extra labour hire staff in August.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said: “We thought it was high when we were getting to 22 million, and that was [in] 2014-15, so we've still got a significant way to go. It's good to see it's come down, but sorry if I'm not popping any party poppers yet.”

Complaints about Centrelink hit 237,000 last year, an increase of 68,000, with most relating to long waits and lack of updates on claims.

Human Services spokesman Hank Jongen told Fairfax that the number of complaints to the ombudsman should be viewed in perspective as the volume of the department's interactions with the public reached hundreds of thousands each day.

In YourLifeChoices’ 2018 Retirement Matters survey, which attracted 5932 responses, we asked for your evaluation of Centrelink. Respondents were very measured but the overwhelming number of written responses decried the efficiency of the system.

Typical responses were:
“I have been told that I am getting a pension, I have been waiting over five months. I find them hard to deal with.”

“(They) take far too long to answer phones, don't give enough information.”

“It’s always difficult to talk to anyone on the phone etc and when I go into an office, the wait is ages again and then you only get a number in a queue. (And) I get conflicting information from everyone I talk to.”

“Mainly very long waiting times, both in office and phone, due to understaffing.”




Centrelink introduce efficiencies to speedup or make proccessing paperwork quicker, is to Reduce Staffing so that These so called Efficiences amount to nothing.

Just More Frustration for Public and Staff.

It could and should be a much easier to Deal With as a so called Onestop Shop.

Very Sad.


With Bill Shorten's big spending commitments, promising $millions more in foreign aid, to health and education and to the UN for global warming and the probability of people smuggling being reactivated, the aged are not going to do any better and likely worse when Labor become the federal government.

I don't have any particular preference where political parties are concerned, but Shorten and his left over cabinet from the Rudd and Gillard governments are a worry.

You say that you don't have any political preferences... it certainly sounds quite the opposite.  You seemed to have missed the point that Centrelink is answerable to the government of the day which is the LNP.  This is happening on their watch not some future supposed situation that may or may not pan out!!!!


No I don't have any allegiance to a political party.   However you have run your colours up the mast attacking the messenger as you are.

Both sides of the Parliament have displayed a reluctance to improve aged care despite worrying reports from the Australian National Audit Office over the decades and both sides treat their own retired employees (public servants) shabbily. 

The point worth making ATM (as I have done) is that with the big spending promises of Shorten and his cabinet of leftovers from the Rudd and Gillard governments (who are still driven by the same old idealism of those governments), it is most unlikely that the lot of the aged will improve.

I was kind enough not to mention Shorten's plans to impose more taxes on the aged who are trying to fend for themselves. 

One could argue that the Liberal Governments penchant for buying votes does not lead us to think that they will spend less.  They just choose to use our money  in other ways to tyhe opposition.

Thing is, people don't realise that they are just giving them back money that has been taken from them in the first place.

All governments spend our money, we just have to decide if they are spending it on what is important to us.  In my view, spending it to lessen the stress on those who are already under pressure is nor a waste of money.  The government is there to serve the people if it can't meet that obligation, it does not deserve to be in government.

The fact is there are two main tribes of voters in this country, one is Left or Socialist the other is Right or Capitalist.  Anybody who believes one or the other has all the answeres is naive to say the least.  What we need to be afraid of is the Looney Left and the Rabid Right, those who will disregard the opinions of the other because of tribal rhetoric and not the facts.

ex PS,

If some habitually vote Holden or Ford and do not examine what their local choices have to offer, that is a damned silly thing to do. 

It does encourage the cult of personality and the presidential style of election we endure and it does pay the political parties for putting up the career politicians, the 'yes' men/women who polish seats while soaking up their entitlements and are not earning their pay.  

Internal democracy (intra-democracy) is absent in practical terms in the federal political parties and that is a major roadblock to improvement.

Reducing the power of the Executive (of the government) should also be considered.

LJ, we as voters need to become a little bit selfish, we need to understand what we want and define which political party is going to come closest to meeting our needs.

I gravitate towards a socialist type of structure, but that does not mean that I will not or have not shown my displeasure by voting against a socialist government.

No political party has all the answers, but it is up to us to pick one that mirrors our own social or political beliefs the closest.

a government agency has lost its humanity.  it will use all the means to prove that it is an inefficient service unable to meet even minimal best practise of call centres in real businesses.  the ethos is deplorable as the leaders who minister to the weak and helpless outdo king john and the sherrif of naughty ham in denying those who have no bread while they feast on cake and fill the troughs with subsidies to their poor little rich friends.

Disgusting !!!!  The news in today's papers is that they are sacking existing employees and transferring over to labour hire companies under the belief that they will be more efficient.  Also the majority of these people will be answering calls from an overseas locality. 

Now given that other countries are not subject to our privacy legislation it is clear that our personal and financial data will be in the hands of anyone that wants to sell it off to others.  There is no way that legally this government can police what happens in another legislative locality... simply put they are not subject to our laws. Look at how they cannot even manage their own government data and the number of times it has been hacked and that is here in Australia.  

And that does not even address to cultural differences or the lack of understanding of the geograpical vastness of this country especially when these people deal with people in the bush.  More efficient just another way of saying "cheaper" and "out of sight and out of mind"!!!!  

Basically the LNP does not care about people on Centrelink benefits of any kind.  The sooner that they can farm it out the better and that will add to their coffers that they can then distribute in lower taxes to the big end of town.

If what you say is true and Centrelink calls will in the future be handled overseas, this could lead to massive fraud and identity theft.  Centrelink records contain the most complex and private records of Australians.

This effort at cost savings needs to be prevented.


The simple answer is more staff, both telephone and face to face. I started dealing with Centrelink for an age pension when the local office had a large number of desks and each one with someone sitting behind it. The same office is still there with very few desks and not all of them with a person sitting at it. Governments of all persuasions and levels seem to think that the public gets excited when there is a saving in the costs of the Public Service when the truth is that we couldn't care less. The Public Service is an easy target for governments in that natural attrition will reduce the numbers so that government can trumpet about the savings thay have made.

It is a fact of life that the Public Service is generally a loss making section of government, always was, always should be. Bean counters have tried to convince governments that every section of the Public Service should be a profit making centre and as the only real cost is salaries, the obvious solution is to shed staff. I have sympathy for those who are left to run Centrelink, especially those in the front line, as the service has decreased at the same time as the numbers asking for Centrelink assistance is increasing. If we need to wait for service, there is no point in abusing those to whom we finally speak as they are most likely doing the best that they can with a high workload. The answer is with the decision makers, politicians, who make the rules not the person tasked with making a broken system work.

Old Man,

It is relevent too that the lower level positions that used to service many public queries do not exist, or do not exist in anywhere the same numbers, as before.  All departments reflect that change.  It is called classification creep.

We have discussed this problem of Centrelink umpteen times before.  Everyone just writes the same stuff over and over again.

Centerlink is a perennial problem.  It doesn't change.  It won't change, no matter who wins government.  

Einstein supposely once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.

It has never been more aptly illustrated than on YLC.

We just repeat the same tired old stuff over and over again, and expect something to change.

And yes, I realise that some of you have nothing else to do with your lives, and YLC is the be all and end all for you.  How sad.

Get out and smell the roses, enjoy the sunshine, the birds singing, and have a cup of tea or coffee.  Old people have an undeserved reputation for whinging and whining.  Don't keep perpetuating this.

Now let's find something new to talk about.

Thankyou, johninmelb, (your comment) succinctly put.

Went out, smelt the roses, got hayfever. Enjoyed the sunshine got sunburn, heard the birds singing and they were all out of tune!

Thanks for nuttin'

join the club MICHA,   achoo,   it really is hayfever weather,  

If the service and wait times are so bad, people need to be complaining formally to their local Federal representatives.  Nothing will ever change if we don't speak up and make our politicians aware of the shortcomings of the system.  I've been told at times "that's just the way it is nowadays." We should not be accepting this.

I've complained to my MP.  He is not interested.  He quotes the standard text all politicians use.  I am sure everyone else here who has complained got the same replies - just worded slightly different depending on whether you have a blue or red MP.

Best place to complain is at the ballot box.  It is the only complaint that will be taken seriously.

ex PS,

That disempowers and disenfranchises the electorate between elections. You put the MP in the hands of noisy activists.

However it is also untrue that MPs disregard polite, reasonable complaints and suggestions.

The reverse is true more often than not, with MPs pleading for the large rump of ordinary public to make their views known between elections and often.  I have never found a MP who didn't listen, and they are due some respect and patience in the process.

Yes they listen, but they are powerless to act, as has been demonstrated time and again, most politicians will always vote alomg party lines.  If they don't they find themselves disendorsed.

There is a difference between disregarding and being powerless to act.  One politician can seldom make a difference but a political organisation, faced with voter backlash will always take notice.  Voters are generally ignored untill an election period is in the wings, it is then a mad race by politicians to build infrastructure or vprovide tax cuts.  It must be a coincidence that money is mostley spent in marginal electorates during a voting phase.


I bet some number cruncher worked out that a certain amount of people die naturaly in the first six months of retirement, so think of all the money they saved.

I dont know why anyone is worrying about centerlink going off shore and getting your details,   they have them allready,    i have had to contact my provider ORIGIN  a few times,     get answered by someone here,  then,   to fix whatever it is you ring about,   'ILL TRANDFER YOU'     yes,  you get transfered overseas,    they have everything there,  name address,   d,o,b,     phone no,     EVERYONE has your details,   what to do about it,   short of becoming a hermit,    and have no need of a pension, or any essential service,     i dont know,    telstra is another one,   NOTHING is sacred,     

Centrelink senior management seem hellbent on forcing the public to conduct al of their business online and long waits on the phone and in Centrelink offices are some of the nudges to bring the public into line. 

However, it is quite unreasonable to expect that all of the public have the necessary familiarity with IT and the up-to-date computer and Net access to do that. 

-Of course with the upwards job classification drift of Centrelink and other federal public agencies, almost all federal public servants regard themselves as 'managers' and communicating with individual 'clients'(sic) is quite below them.



Overall, bad results again 48 Million calls unanswered (twice our population!), and complaints about Centrelink hit 237,000 last year, an increase of 68,000!!! And their solution is to hand over the work from hard-working Australians to external Labour hire companies with overseas staff??? Make more Australians unemployed, hence more work for Centrelink?

Long overdue action - sack Hank Jongen who has been around giving excuses for many, many years.

Also, implement Universal Pension at Age 65 and Residency of 15 years - will greatly reduce the need for Centrelink services and also massively reduce costs.

Here is a thought, how about public servants actually doing an honest days work and not off on sick leave , stress leave, long weekend leave or flexi time or any other excuse for time off.

Having spent nearly equal amounts of time in Private Enterprise and the Public service, I have failed to see any major difference in the work habits between the two.

Flexi time is simply the system whereby overtime is taken as time off rather than penalty pay rates.  Most would prefer the extra pay, unfortunatley that is seldom an option.