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Albanese Government protecting Commonwealth frontline workers

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services
The Hon Bill Shorten MP

Cabinet Secretary
The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP

Joint media release

The Albanese Government is working to better protect frontline workers from violence and aggression.

Legislation introduced today will ensure stronger protections for the Commonwealth frontline workers who help Australians access essential government services.

This includes the workers at Centrelink, the Australian Taxation Office, passport offices, airports and the Australian Electoral Commission. They staff service centres and call centres across Australia.

Following the stabbing attack on Airport West Services Australia office Joeanne Cassar in May last year, Minister for Government Services and the NDIS Bill Shorten MP commissioned a review into the safety of frontline public service workers which recommended harsher penalties for assaulting Commonwealth workers.

Frontline workers are increasingly the target of violence or aggression while doing their jobs. So far this financial year, Services Australia staff have experienced nearly 9,000 face to face customer aggression incidents at service centres, with almost the same number happening last year.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Protecting Commonwealth Frontline Workers) Bill 2024 will:

  • increase the penalty for conduct that causes harm to a Commonwealth frontline worker from a maximum of 10 years to 13 years’ imprisonment, and
  • increase the penalty for conduct that threatens to cause serious harm to a Commonwealth frontline worker from a maximum of 7 years to 9 years’ imprisonment.

This Bill implements recommendation 18 of the Services Australia Security Risk Management Review, conducted by Mr Graham Ashton.

The Government has committed to implementing all 44 of the Review’s recommendations, including the introduction of workplace protection orders in Commonwealth workplaces. In addition, the Government committed $46.9 million in 2023-24 to enhance safety and security at Services Australia’s service centres for staff and customers.

Attributable to Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten MP

“In light of the dreadful attack on Joeanne Cassar, I promised our Labor Government would increase security and safety for the thousands of people who work at Service Australia, and the millions of Australians who use Services Australia offices.

“I have been in touch with Joeanne and wanted her to know we haven’t forgotten her, and that we’re making good on our promise. Her life was changed as a result of the attack on her, but she knows her pain has helped others.

“I want to say to the approximately 30,000 Service Australia staff, you do a great job and we want you to be as safe at work as we can make it.”

Attributable to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC MP

“The Albanese Government deeply values the work done by all our public servants on the frontline. Every day they help people in so many ways to access government services, support and payments.

“Violence and aggression towards those workers will not be tolerated. All Australians, no matter where they work, have the right to a safe, secure and respectful workplace.”