Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:52): Thank you Deputy Speaker. This is an opportunity for Members to talk about issues of concern to constituents in their electorates.

Well let me tell you, the constituents in my electorate are very, very angry today. Just over a week ago, the Member for Whitlam and I were informed by Centrelink management that they were shutting the office in Warrawong – an office in amongst some of the most disadvantaged suburbs in the State with elderly people who need assistance, with unemployed who need assistance, young mums with toddlers and babies who need to be able to put forms in for child care payments and so forth.

And the Government has taken this decision against the best interests of all those people, they have the opportunity to overturn that decision and we are calling on them to intervene urgently.

We were told that office would shut by the end of July. We don’t have a lot of time and we need the Minister to give urgent attention to this matter,

Deputy Speaker just to indicate how angry people are, the Member for Whitlam and I have started a petition in order to bring this to the Government’s attention and let me share the words of some of our locals with the local media and on my Facebook page about this:

Mr George Bartolo, who is the Senior Vice Chairman of Multicultural Community Council of the Illawarra, he said going elsewhere, including online, wasn’t a simple task – well don’t we know that George! That’s absolutely true!

And the closure was a “huge loss”. The migrants that came here in the 50s, there were just about no services whatsoever. Now they’re elderly and now we’ve put them behind the eight-ball again to access services,” he said.

Alice Scott – Alice from Berkeley was amongst those who campaigned against the closures under John Howard that we are now fighting again under a conservative Government.

She said “It’s about the elderly non-English speaking migrants; they came here, they’ve worked all their life, most of the husbands have passed on but the women are still out there, they don’t drive – how are they going to get to Wollongong?”

She stressed the lack of parking near Centrelink in Wollongong which was a barrier, as was the cost involved in catching public transport into Wollongong from Warrawong.  

Craig on my Facebook page said most of you who know me are aware of my political views but this decision is one I can't agree with. A place like Warrawong requires this office to support the obvious need. Expecting the patrons to travel to Wollongong is not realistic or in anyone's interests.

Kristen says this is an area where so many people need this facility. It would be an act of bastardry to take it away. What else would one expect from a Coalition Government that has such a high disregard and contempt for any one in need

Rissa Anne says there are so many older immigrants around here that would struggle without a Centrelink here if they had issues with their pension and even myself if I have to go to Wollongong or Shellharbour.

Mr Deputy Speaker this is the wrong decision. In the interest of these people the Government and the Minister need to intervene now to overturn it.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.