Centrelink lines go viral

Queues for Centrelink in central Geelong. (Louisa Jones)

By Luke Voogt

Queues at Geelong Centrelinks stretched up to 100m on Monday morning after the federal government announced payments for people impacted by coronavirus.

A queue stretched about 100m at Centrelink’s central Geelong office while in Corio dozens of people lined up for services.

A witness told the Independent some were abiding by new social distancing regulations of 1.5 metres between people.

But others in the central Geelong queue were ignoring the regulations and putting public health at risk, said the witness, who wished not be named.

The queues come despite Services Australia, which operates Centrelink, urging people not visit the centres.

“Please consider the health and safety of our customers and staff,” the agency said in a statement online.

“Do not visit our service centres unless there’s a critical need for you to be there.”

The queues mirrored a rush across Australia to access Centrelink payments after federal government unveiled a second stimulus package of $66 billion on Sunday.

The package included a fortnightly $550 Coronavirus Supplement from April 27 for eligible Australians, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced.

The package comes after federal government ordered non-essential services, including pubs, gyms and restaurants, to close their doors on Monday to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Sole traders and casual workers currently making less than $1,075 a fortnight will be eligible to receive the full supplement.

People on the Jobseeker (formerly Newstart) allowance are also eligible for the payment, while 5 million other Australians could be eligible for two $750 Economic Support Payments.

People already receiving Centrelink payments who were eligible for either supplement would receive them automatically, Services Australia said.

“Please do not call or visit us,” the agency urged those people.

Services Australia encouraged anyone who needed to apply for an income support payment due to losing their job or reduced income to start their application online at my.gov.au.

“If you need to provide proof of identity and you’re in self-isolation or feeling unwell we can do this over the phone – but please defer until later if you can,” the statement said.

“We urge you not to come into our service centres if you’re unwell.”

But on Monday a cyber-attack hit the federal government’s MyGov website, which, combined with increased demand caused the online portal to crash.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said more than 50,000 Australians were trying to access the site when the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack hit.

“There is unprecedented demand for the service right now, but Australians need to be patient. Try logging on later today or even tomorrow,” Mr Robert said.

“MyGov is working, but the best option right now is for people to be patient.”

A similar attack brought down the Census website in 2016.

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