Bill Shorten slams government over Centrelink closures (9News)
Nine News can tonight reveal a worrying new trend affecting the millions of Australians who use Centrelink.
As the organisation expands its reach online, more Centrelink offices around the country are closing their doors.
Branches in Newcastle, Newport and Mornington in Victoria are also shutting up shop. The Tweeds Head site in New South Wales is on the move.
"We have a responsibility to the taxpayer. Leasing offices is expensive,' Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen told 9News.
The justification for closures is not good enough for some.
"You don't just want to be shunted off to automated phone queue. You don't just want to go to another website. You need to be able to talk to real people," Shadow Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said.
In Mornington, Mayor Sam Hearn is furious. He says 35,000 people in the area could be worse off when the local branch closes at the end of the next month. Mr Hearn is now urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene.
"Prime Minister, we call on the Federal Government to make a commitment to ensure the Mornington Centrelink service remains open," he wrote in a letter to Mr Morrison.
However, it won't with a so-called agency staffed by one person replacing it.
"An agency means that we will providing a more limited range of services." Mr Jongen said.
More than 66,000 people use centres across the country every day.
But in that same time more than half a million logins are made on Centrelink's MYGOV app.
In its annual report, Services Australia - which oversees Centrelink - says it's aiming to: "maximise the benefits of digital capabilities while reducing the costs of administering payments."
"This is not about reducing our services overall. This is about consolidating into more appropriate locations," Mr Jongen said.
Labor wouldn't say whether it would re-open sites but accuses the government of closing them down to save money
"This government's more interested in band aiding a dodgy budget surplus and it's going to do it by shafting everyday Centrelink users," Mr Shorten said.
The government denies that but can't rule out closing more sites as more leases come up for renewal. It insists it isn't about saving money but because more people are going online.
"Foot traffic has reduced by up to 46 per cent over the past five years," Mr Jongen said.