Minister for Human Services

In 2004 the Prime Minister tasked Joe with setting up Australia’s first Department of Human Services.

This new department was responsible for the delivery of all health and welfare services provided by the Australian Government.

With more than 40,000 employees from agencies including Centrelink, Medicare Australia, the Child Support Agency,Health Services Australia and Australian Hearing, the new portfolio distributed billions of dollars every week to most households across the country.

Joe delivered significant landmark reform by restructuring all the agencies and aligning them with the policy goals set by portfolio ministers.

Service delivery was merged and made more accessible with the rollout of Family Assistance Offices. Millions of pages of complex forms were abolished and landmark reforms in service delivery were implemented.

Through the use of new technology customer service improved significantly. Emergency services for families affected by national disinters were improved and regional outreach was reformed to deliver better services for needy customers.

Joe reformed the delivery of services for Indigenous Australians in remote areas. He established specialist units for African refugees and initiated new hearing tests for older Australians.

Other reforms such as the Access Card were initiated (but sadly not followed through by successors).

Signature successes included major “Welfare to Work’” reforms, a total rebuild and recapitalization of the Child Support Agency, the creation of Medicare Australia out of the Health Insurance Commission and an administrative restructure of Centrelink.