MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council has welcomed the six-month extension given to the operation of the Mornington Centrelink office, but wants the arrangement to be permanent.
The mayor Cr Sam Hearn said news the Centrelink/Medicare service centre in Main Street would remain open until March next year would “come as a relief to the many local residents who use the service”.
“This is a crucial support for our community and to close it in the middle of a pandemic would have been disastrous,” Cr Hearn said.
“Having that extra six months will ease concerns about the inadequacy of the new agency service that has been set up to replace the centre.”
Dunkley Labor MP Peta Murphy said the federal government’s decision to close the Mornington Centrelink office run by 16 staff and replace it with a single desk staffed for 15 hours a week at the Mornington Post Office was “ludicrous”.
“Before the recession and pandemic, over 800 people visited Mornington services centre every week,” she said.
“The fight to protect Mornington Centrelink and Medicare is far from over. Together we will support each other to get through the current crisis and then refocus to ensure that this community gets the service it deserves.”
Flinders MP Greg Hunt said he was pleased that Services Australia was keeping the service centre open “to support locals through COVID-19”.
“Many Australians are doing it tough right now, and locals on the Mornington Peninsula are no different,” Mr Hunt said.
“I know that so many families are deeply distressed by the return to stage three restrictions and for those that need assistance, the service centre will be there to support them through this pandemic.”
Cr Hearn said the peninsula had suffered one of the heaviest hits to employment in the state due to the coronavirus pandemic, with close to 6000 job losses, a 21 per cent fall in gross regional product (compared with 6.9 per cent for Australia) and an 11 per cent drop in employment opportunities.
“We fear the economic and social impacts of this period will go well beyond March,” he said.
“We will continue to advocate for Services Australia to permanently reinstate the Mornington Centrelink office.”
The Frankston, Rosebud and Hastings service centres remain open.
The Mornington service centre is open 8.30am-4.30pm Monday to Friday.