Thousands of Novocastrians have expressed their opposition to the planned closure of two Centrelink offices in the city.
Federal MP Sharon Claydon established a petition against the expected closure of offices in the Newcastle CBD and Mayfield, which has collected almost 3,500 signatures.
Ms Claydon spoke in parliament last week about the closures in a bid to bring an end to the plan.
“The first I heard [of this] was when the Minister [Stuart Robert] wrote to me to tell me that the government will be closing the Mayfield and King Street Centrelink offices to replace them with a single office in a yet-to-be-determined location,” she said during her speech.
“He talked coldly of ‘consolidation’ – which, of course, we all know is Liberal code for cuts, cuts and more cuts.
“I have received dozens and dozens of calls, letters and emails of solidarity.”
Ms Claydon added that 3,458 locals have signed the petition to call on the government to “axe this terrible plan”.
According to Ms Claydon the closure of these Newcastle offices is part of a bigger plan.
“Initially, we thought it was just the one office,” she said.
“Then we learned of another and another and another. It quickly became clear that they weren’t isolated decisions.
“No, they were part of a devious, coordinated plan to shrink Centrelink’s frontline footprint by stealth.”
A spokesperson from Services Australia said that it had approached the market for new premises in Newcastle to consolidate five tenancies into a single building in the Newcastle Business District.
“The proposed consolidation includes a continuation of face-to-face services delivered to Newcastle residents, providing Medicare and Centrelink services in the same location,” the spokesperson said.
“Further details about the approach to market and proposed timeline are commercial-in-confidence and cannot be released at this time.
“The agency will inform the community in a number of ways before these changes happen, including local advertising and engaging with community stakeholders including local and state government representatives.
“Nearby businesses and medical providers will be contacted about the changes.”
It added that before any services are brought together Services Australia assesses many factors, including the benefit and convenience to the community.
When asked why the offices were closing, the spokesperson said: “As leases come up for renewal, we take the opportunity to review our servicing options to ensure we continue to meet the changing needs of the community”.