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Marise Payne hits out at 'alarmist exaggerations' over Department of Human Services' job losses

Date

Noel Towell

Warnings of 20,000 public service job losses after a sell-off of Medicare payment functions are “alarmist exaggerations”, according to the Minister for Human Services.

Minister Marise Payne says it is entirely appropriate the government should test the market for interest in taking over Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and some Veterans Affairs benefits.

Last week the Health Department called for expressions of interest from private players interested in taking over the payment of $29 billion each year in health and pharmaceutical benefits currently managed by the giant Department of Human Services.

Public sector unions immediately warned the move might see up to 20,000 public servants lose their jobs.

The minister has written to The Canberra Times complaining of the paper’s coverage of the move alleging the reports were “exaggerated and careless”.

Ms Payne is unhappy her office was not contacted for comment, despite the report carrying comments from Health Minister Peter Dutton.

The Human Services Minister said much of DHS’s IT infrastructure was ageing and needed to be replaced and the private sector might be able to supply cheaper solutions.

“This government is committed to reducing red tape and simplifying the system for health care providers and patients,” Ms Payne wrote.

“However, suggestions that these preliminary inquiries are akin to ‘selling off’ the Department of Human Services or that 20,000 jobs may be lost as a result are alarmist exaggerations.”

14 comments so far

  • No-one, I repeat, no-one, in private enterprise can do the job that DHS does for the same cost. It will inevitably cost an order of several times more to obtain a self-evidently lesser service, that will be fraught with "issues" and leave the customer (that's us, the taxpaying citizens) a lot worse off and with no-one responsible. This happens EVERY time the government of the day decides to outsource IT functions. There is NO successful model that anyone in government can point to, whereas EVERY outsourcing attempt tried has resulted in escalated costs and reduced services.
    So, where's the business case? Where's the successful implementation to demonstrate that this approach will work? All I see is this government beating up on the PS, while handing lucrative contracts to their scurvy mates.

    Commenter
    Truthy
    Date and time
    August 12, 2014, 10:24AM
    • Absolutely. Happens time and time again. Outsourcing doesn't work because a profit layer has to be built in. And the public are left to pay exorbitant rates for inferior services.

      Commenter
      Red
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 10:55AM
    • What about a for profit company having access to our medical records? Who will they sell that info too?

      Commenter
      Franky
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 11:34AM
  • Or the government can pay to upgrade the IT systems...
    Or are they planning to use that the IT infrastructure is old and failing as an excuse to privatise the public service

    Commenter
    Jess
    Location
    here
    Date and time
    August 12, 2014, 10:43AM
    • Is anyone else surprised that a dud Senator like Marise Payne has a ministry at all?

      It really shows the dearth of talent in the Abbott Government when a nil-achievement leftie liberal like her is given a portfolio.

      Commenter
      Rooibos Tea
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 11:20AM
      • It's well known in IT circles that there are really only 2 companies capable of taking on large scale IT contracting in this country and their past assocations with other govt departments has led to the same things - massive under resourcing, cost blow outs and delivery years after initial agreed timelines, and even then only partial delivery of the IT architecture. In the past this has led to everything being taken back inhouse so that the basic services really can be delivered so that disgruntled citizens stop 'harrasing' politicians with their complaints. I suppose this givernment will want its chance to repeat the mistakes of the past just like every other recent government has.

        Commenter
        Jolly Roger
        Date and time
        August 12, 2014, 11:57AM
        • It amazes me that Marise Payne takes the costings of her DHS bureaucracy at face value, without investigating their 'spend' in the past. Or, let's ignore facts, and she's using that old, failing IT infrastructure line as "Jess" says as an excuse to fund another $Billion "bucket" to use for god knows what reason - look at other stories and budget cuts - like the $7 co-payment into a "Medical Research Fund". See a theme? In Jan-October 2012, Dept Veterans Affairs and Medicare were taken back in-house from a large outsourcer. An entire data centre at Deakin was moved to Hume in a commercial data centre. It was moved 'live' so new infrastructure was purchased for Hume to receive the systems. At the same time, DHS 'refreshed' not just Medicare's infrastructure, but a host of other infrastructure for Centrelink (think Medicare and double it, maybe triple it). Check the public purchasing records. Sure, they need to overhaul their database systems, their applications, and some infrastructure. But to say their 'aging infrastructure' is most of their problem less than two years later? Pure B/S. Either fed from within by her Departmental Managers and taken at face value, or pure fantasizing by the Minister - it must be Magic Mushroom season in Canberra again. I smell a Senate Estimates Committee coming on.

          Commenter
          Corporal Clanger
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          August 12, 2014, 9:24PM
          • Firstly, there was no new IT systems. It was a patch up, blu tack and gaffer tape job by the Medicare Mafia who are now running DHS, straight into the ground.

            There are so many systems you have to open and cut across to and back again just to do a simple task.

            The systems is creaking and often fails or is so slow as to be unreliable and frustrating for staff to use.

            It would have been far better to slowly design a NEW, fully functional IT system, capable of running ALL the various users, Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support, CRS, was fully ready, then introduce it and only then integrate the various units to make the DHS. not slap it together without any real thought and say get on with it. Which is what happened.

            This is just another example of the Rudd/Gillard stuff up, in this case a classic by Tanya Plibersek.

            Commenter
            Herbert
            Date and time
            August 13, 2014, 10:10PM
        • What next? Are the IPA and their cronies going to collect tax too? Hasn't ICAC shown us that big industry are crooks? And it won't be cheaper - that has consistently been shown to be an LNP lie.

          Commenter
          Arbee
          Date and time
          August 13, 2014, 8:15AM
          • Payne is not the first useless Minister for Human Services. Remember current Treasurer Hockey also filled the role (allegedly) previously. The current mess that DHS is in is all part of the empire building undertaken by the Centrelink Cronies – when The Child Support Agency, Medicare etc. were all co-opted under the Super Department banner of DHS.

            Centrelink could not do Centrelink well and then proceeded to impose their inefficiencies on the other agencies and the slide downwards began. Centrelink's waste of money is legendary – money wasted on promoting themselves to their own staff rather than investing and developing badly needed infrastructure. Also it's the Public Servants who hand out contracts to their scurvy mates, time and time again – usually to ex-public servants who have decided to become "consultants".

            Commenter
            Sir Laughalot
            Date and time
            August 13, 2014, 9:33AM

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