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My bad: Minister admits mistakes as desperate queues engulf Centrelink

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Long queues are forming outside Centrelink offices across the country again today, despite the Federal Government urging welfare-seekers to go home.

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It is the second day in a row that people have gathered in large numbers outside the offices, as Centrelink struggles to keep up with unprecedented demand from people seeking financial assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The demand for help was so high yesterday it crashed Centrelink’s website.

The Government is estimating at least 1 million people could be made unemployed as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the Australian economy.

There are estimates hundreds of thousands of Australians lost their jobs yesterday in the forced closure of pubs, clubs and indoor entertainment and sporting facilities. Places of worship were also forced to close their doors at midday on Monday.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert conceded he had failed to appreciate the scale of demand that would be placed on Centrelink’s website.

“My bad, not realising the sheer scale of the decision on Sunday night by the national leaders,” he said.

“That literally saw hundreds and hundreds of thousands, maybe a million people, unemployed overnight.”

People are lining up outside Centrelink seeking to access expanded welfare payments, including a $550 fortnightly coronavirus supplement payment.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston urged people to go home and instead contact Centrelink by phone or online.

“No one [should be lining up] unless you don’t have a phone or you don’t have internet access — you can ring up or you can go online,” she told the ABC.

“We’d be seriously encouraging people to do that.

“We actually don’t want people lining up. Social distancing would say we don’t want them in a group. So, if you can at all avoid going to Centrelink today, that would be great.”

About a dozen people stand outside a grey building in Melbourne.

People queue outside a Centrelink office in Melbourne on Tuesday. (Photo: ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)

Minister admits ‘jumping the gun’ on cyberattack claims

A man in a suit and tie.

Stuart Robert conceded he had failed to appreciate the scale of demand that would be placed on Centrelink’s website. (Photo: ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Mr Robert, who is responsible for the MyGov website, initially claimed a distributed denial of service attack led to the system buckling under pressure on Monday.

Two hours later he told Parliament there had been no such attack and the site had simply crashed because of the sheer volume of people trying to access it.

“We investigated it, and I probably should have waited for the investigation before jumping the gun and believing the warnings,” he told 2GB today.

“So, the investigation showed there was no evidence of cyberattack. The warnings just showed the massive influx that came into our systems.”

– ABC / Brett Worthington

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