The government has promised an end to interminable Centrelink phone queues and hang-ups.
Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said his department has undergone a turbulent year, as the "robodebt" scandal reached boiling point and Centrelink was swamped by unprecedented numbers of unemployed Australians.
“It has not been an ordinary 12 months and it has been an extraordinary six months,” Robert said.
“Were there mistakes? Yes – plenty of them – but we only made them once and when we failed, we failed fast and tried again.”
But he promised an end to one major frustration: long phone calls and unanswered calls.
According to AAP, in the 11 months to the end of May more than 26.7 million callers to Centrelink received an occupied signal. And in the month of May, there were 1.1 million unanswered calls.
Over the last decade, the department call blocked or hung up on a staggering 30 million social services and welfare calls each year.
In his speech to the National Press Club, Robert said a technology upgrade will mean there will be no more call blocking.
“More than 150,000 calls that were once blocked every day, now down to zero,” he said.
On top of that, he said the average wait time has now fallen to below five minutes from more than 21 minutes.
“Historically there has been a stigma around government services. People associate government services with Centrelink queues, or long wait times on the phone. As a result, people cringe when they need to engage with government,” he said.
“Unlike a bank or a business, when Australians face an unsatisfying government experience, they aren't able to shop around, they aren't able to look for a different service provider, but they will always share their negative experiences.”
He said his goal is for accessing government services to be as easy as accessing online banking, shopping or booking a holiday.