Stuart Robert reflects on one year of Services Australia

By Shannon Jenkins

May 27, 2020

Department of Education, Skills and Employment minister Stuart Robert (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Government services minister Stuart Robert has marked one year since the government announced its “vision” for Services Australia, which has seen the department-turned-executive agency respond to two crises in the space of six months.

In May 2019, the newly elected Scott Morrison asserted the need for “congestion-busting in bureaucracy” and placed a strong focus on service delivery.

He repeated the argument at an IPAA address in August, stating “people need to be at the centre of APS service delivery”.

“That is the thinking behind Services Australia. This isn’t some fancy re-branding exercise,” he said.

On Tuesday Robert took to LinkedIn to reflect on what Services Australia has achieved since then.

“A year on it is clear Services Australia is delivering in exceptional circumstances and has proven to be an agency postured to respond to unprecedented times,” he wrote.

READ MORE: Kathryn Campbell on DSS’s pandemic response and why she’s proud to be a public servant

During the black summer bushfires, the agency deployed more than 20 mobile support teams into dozens of hard-to-reach communities, and delivered thousands of disaster payments to fire-affected people, Robert noted.

“We also successfully trialled facial verification technology to provide support to those who had lost identity documents,” he said.

During the coronavirus the agency has experienced “unprecedented demand” after thousands of Australians lost their jobs due to business closures and other pandemic-related measures.

Robert argued Services Australia has “made impressive strides in process simplification and digital processing” to adapt to the demand.

“This included enabling people to establish their identity online, providing customer reference numbers via myGov and introducing a simplified online claim form, which people can complete in about 20 minutes, as opposed to the previous average of about 55 minutes,” he wrote.

“Australians can now obtain a CRN and apply for JobSeeker all online through myGov, something successive governments have been trying to deliver for years. Services Australia has delivered this in just four weeks.”

READ MORE: Opinion: COVID-19 is an opportunity to improve service delivery to all Australians

Services Australia has processed as many JobSeeker claims within roughly 50 days as it normally would in two years. Thanks to help from staff from across the Australian Public Service, the agency has granted financial assistance to about 800,000 Australians who have lost their jobs.

“In the face of this unprecedented demand we’ve surged thousands of extra staff redirecting people from within Services Australia, across the Public Service and from service delivery partners—totalling around 12,000 people,” Robert noted.

“As the payment infrastructure of government, Services Australia has successfully delivered more than $5.1 billion in $750 economic support payments into the bank accounts of 6.8 million eligible Australians.”

Other achievements over the last year have included improvements to Medicare services, aged care services, and Services Australia’s digital channels, Robert said.

“In 2019, about 571,000 people accessed myGov every day—during the working week in April it supported an average of 1.7 million logins. That’s a million extra Australians logging in, every day, to myGov,” he said.

“Our busiest day, 25 March, had almost three million people logging into their myGov account, compared to the previous busiest day of 1.8 million logins in July last year during tax peak time. For an authenticated online platform, myGov now has the largest capacity in Australia.”

myGov crashed in March after 95,000 users had attempted to use the site at once. Robert had initially attributed the crash to a cyber attack.

Robert thanked Services Australia staff for their hard work over the past months.

READ MORE: Influx of 95,000 users crashed MyGov, not cyber attack

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