Transcripts

Triple J - Hack - with Tom Tilley

26-April-2016

Topics: Faster processing of student claims, border protection

E&OE…

TOM TILLEY:

So this sounds like a complete debacle – is that how you’d describe it?

MINISTER TUDGE:

We’ve had over 250,000 claims for payments just this calendar year alone, which is an unprecedented number of claims. There has been a backlog that we’re working through very rapidly.

In fact we’ve put on four times as many staff now, and so within two weeks the entire backlog will be done.

TOM TILLEY:

Four times as many staff from which point?

MINISTER TUDGE:

We have about 750 staff processing claims right now. And this means anybody who’s still waiting, within two weeks’ time we’ll have dealt with that backlog.

TOM TILLEY:

You’re going to clear the entire backlog within two weeks?

MINISTER TUDGE:

There’s about 32,000 claims on hand now, we’ve been very rapidly working through them over the last few weeks to try to get on top of this backlog and we’ve been successful with that. And as I said, in a couple of weeks’ time we’re confident we’ll be on top of it.

TOM TILLEY:

You just said there that a few weeks ago you started to get on top of this backlog – why did you let it come all the way out to April, this problem?

MINISTER TUDGE:

I don’t think that’s fair Tom, we’ve had an unprecedented number of claims this year, in part I think because there’s just more students studying at university.

TOM TILLEY:

Sure but lots of them would come in January, February – we’re in April now.

MINISTER TUDGE:

That’s exactly right, the peak tends to come at the start of the year as you know.  We’ve had over 250,000 already, we’ve put on more staff and we’re getting on top of it…

TOM TILLEY:

Are those people permanent staff, cos we just heard about the job cuts, since 2011 5000 have been cut from the Department of Human Services, so these extra staff that you’re needing to process these claims – are you going to keep them on?

MINISTER TUDGE:

There’s additional staff which are put on for the peak period, and then some of those staff might be placed on different areas which have different peak periods, so at the end of the financial year you tend to have a peak with your family tax payments for example.

TOM TILLEY:

Ok, do you regret those cuts to staff members in this Department?

MINISTER TUDGE:

Some of the reductions in staff members related to when we were digitising things, so that you no longer had to have manual processing but rather you could do things electronically…

TOM TILLEY:

Well the digital programs aren’t working that well by the sounds of it.

MINISTER TUDGE:

That’s exactly what we’re working on at the moment actually Tom, with the student processing. At the moment about 40 per cent of claims get rejected, most of which do so because people don’t know what their parental income is.

Now from next year, we’re working on the system right now so that from next year, when you apply online the data will automatically populate from the tax office and from your university, so you’ve got much greater confidence about getting your claim in, getting it processed quickly and getting the payments if you are indeed entitled to it.

TOM TILLEY:

On the text line – Ryan says the Government has made it pretty clear they don’t value education.  Someone else says this whole issue can be avoided by not slashing the public service.

Alan Tudge, before we go I want to ask you a question on another big story that’s broken this afternoon from Papua New Guinea, their Supreme Court has ruled that our detention centre on Manus Island is operating illegally.  The court’s ordered the PNG and Australian Governments immediately take steps to end the detention of asylum seekers in PNG, so what are you going to do?  Will you shut down the Manus Island detention centre?

MINISTER TUDGE:

We’ve only just heard about this in the last couple of hours since it’s been handed down.  The Immigration Minister’s going to be looking into this and will respond in due course. 

But our absolute fundamental position will remain that people who arrive illegally by boat won’t be coming to the mainland Australia. We do that for very sound reasons, so that we’re not luring people to their deaths, which we know occurred under the previous regime.

TOM TILLEY:

But you’ve relied on these other countries to help process the people who do arrive by boat, and it seems like their courts don’t want them to do it anymore.

MINISTER TUDGE:

Well as I said, we’re digesting that court decision at the moment. Our aim of course is to process the last remaining people in the detention centres as quickly as possible and hopefully have no one in detention because they’ve been processed and the boats have stopped.

Incidentally that’s where we were at the end of the Howard Government and of course when the border protection regime got unravelled by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.  The boats started coming, we had 10,000 people in detention and we’re dealing with all of those claims and hopefully we’ll soon be back at zero again.

 
(ENDS)

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