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Centrelink office to remain after government reverses decision

When news of the closure emerged on Wednesday, the federal Opposition and Greens, along with welfare groups and unions, savaged the decision to close the office.

The federal MP for Melbourne, Greens leader Adam Bandt, said the lease extension was a “big win” and called on the government to commit to a long-term arrangement for the office to remain.

Billionaire developer Sam Tarascio.

Billionaire developer Sam Tarascio.Credit:Mal Fairclough

On Thursday morning, Salta Properties, the landlord of the government office, said it was “shocked” to read on Twitter about plans to shut the site.

The property group, led by billionaire Sam Tarascio, claimed it offered to extend the lease on the building at the existing rate and was still awaiting a reply from Services Australia.

“Services Australia, on behalf of Centrelink, had previously informed Salta Properties that it wanted to extend the lease and Salta had agreed to an extension,” the landlord said in a statement.

Services Australia said Salta had indicated on May 12 that it would not extend the lease beyond Friday and said it only received an offer for a three-month lease extension on Thursday morning.

Clients would have had to have gone to the office in South Melbourne instead.

Clients would have had to have gone to the office in South Melbourne instead. Credit:Jason South

“Today, May 21, 2020, Services Australia received an offer via text message to allow an extension to the lease for three months. We await a written legal offer,” a statement from the agency said.

“Services Australia will announce any changes to the services in due course.”

Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert said on Wednesday that Medicare and Centrelink services would be consolidated at the South Melbourne service centre, which is six kilometres away from the Abbotsford site.


The Morrison government’s initial decision to shut the office was heavily criticised by Labor’s government services spokesman Bill Shorten, who claimed Mr Robert concocted an “imaginary eviction” in a plan to close welfare offices.

“Stuart Robert should come clean about the [government’s] secret plan to shut down Centrelinks, instead of telling stories,” he said on Twitter.

Yarra City Council, which takes in the suburb of Abbotsford, was expected to pass a motion at a meeting on Thursday night offering space in a building on Bridge Road, Richmond, to house a Centrelink office.

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