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$588 million Centrelink boost for Aussies in need

Australian currency fanned out. Australians line up outside the Centrelink offices.
Aussies in disaster-prone areas will get greater access to Centrelink services thanks to a new funding boost. (Source: Getty)

Aussies in areas highly affected by natural disasters will get greater access to essential Centrelink services under new funding to be announced in tonight's Federal Budget.

Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten said the Labor Albanese Government would provide an additional $588 million in 2022-23, to ensure Services Australia was better equipped to support Australians during emergencies.

“We will be better prepared this coming summer and into the new year,” Shorten said.

“Bitter experience of the last three years of natural disasters shows it is smarter and more economical to pre-position a ready-to-go workforce ahead of disasters, rather than the more expensive, ad hoc reaction of assembling a workforce from scratch after the disaster has occurred.”

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Shorten said as the country faced more climate-related emergencies, many Aussies had been left battling disasters in their own backyard.

“Some of these emergencies, floods and fires, have been back to back – with the previous government sitting on their hands and refusing to act,” he said.

Labor’s plan includes $415.7 million in extra support to Services Australia to support its work in emergency response between July 1, 2022 and January 31, 2023.

The 2,600 additional staff will support Australians with securing payments and support during disasters, including the current floods in south-eastern Australia, as well as the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment and High-Risk Setting Pandemic Payment.

The funding means there will be specialised staff onsite to help with recovery claims for communities that have been most impacted by natural disasters, as well as social workers, and a fleet of mobile service centres.

Services Australia will also receive $60.4 million in 2022-23 to continue an emergency response capability of 850 personnel from February 1, 2023 to June 30, 2023.

The Government is also providing $33.8 million for an additional 600 personnel from February 1, 2023 to June 30, 2023 to support the lifting of debt pauses and pre-and-post checks for payments.

The Labor Government will also provide $78.5m in 2022/23 related to the step-up in technology and digital services costs, to enable digital customer services to all Australians, wherever and whenever they need it.

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