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Huge Centrelink Lines, MyGov Down As More Eligible For Unemployment Payments

Long lines are queuing outside Centrelink offices nationwide, with the MyGov website crashing under demand as laid-off workers apply for emergency welfare.

Government services minister Stuart Robert earlier claimed Australia's MyGov website was the target of a cyber attack which -- combined with what he said  was 55,000 people trying to log on -- led to the website lagging earlier on Monday, but he later admitted that was incorrect.

"The site didn't crash. More than 55,000 Australians were trying to access at the same time, as well as the issue we had with the denial of service attack," he said in a press conference just after 1pm.

Robert said "we don't attribute in terms of where [the attack came] from", but called it a "significant" incident.

But during Question Time in the House of Representatives, around 2.50pm, Robert admitted that there was "no evidence of a specific attack today", and that instead, a significant level of demand "triggered a [direct denial of service] alarm."

On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Jobseeker welfare payment would temporarily double to $1100 a fortnight,  and workers who lost their jobs would be able to quickly access it thanks to waiving of the normal waiting period and the assets test.

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On Monday, with a host of businesses set to close their doors for the foreseeable future -- including pubs, clubs, gyms and cinemas -- huge numbers of Aussies queued outside Centrelink offices, hoping to apply for the new boosted payments.

Across the country, lines snaked around city blocks, with many standing close to one another, seemingly in breach of the 1.5 metre social distancing recommendations.

Greens leader Adam Bandt called for a"Depression-like response" to the economic downturn hitting Australia, calling out the lines and MyGov's issues.

Labor's shadow ministers for government services and social services, Bill Shorten and Linda Burney respectively, said "Government Services Minister Stuart Robert must do better. He must ensure Centrelink services - online and in person - are working now when Australians need them most."

10 daily contacted the Department of Social Services, and government services minister Stuart Robert, for comment and clarification as to whether people need to apply in person. Before his press conference, Robert said people currently receiving Centrelink did not have to do anything to start receiving the upgraded payments, and urged new applicants to start their process online.

"You do not need to do anything to receive the Economic Support Payment or Coronvirus Supplement. These will be paid automatically to you if you are on an eligible payment. Please do not call or visit Centrelink unless you have urgent business," he tweeted.

"There is unprecedented demand for the service right now, but Australians need to be patient. Try logging on later today or even tomorrow. We are working on expanding capacity for [MyGov] , but the best option right now is for people to be patient."

In a statement, Services Australia urged people to apply online, and said other parts of the process could be done over the phone.

"Please consider the health and safety of our customers and staff and do not visit our service centres unless there’s a critical need for you to be there," the department said.

"If you don’t currently get an income support payment and you need help because you’ve lost your job or had your income reduced, please start your claim online. 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. We urge you not to come into our service centres if you’re unwell."

More information can be found here. Services Australia  urged people to follow its Facebook page for further updates and info.

The Australian Unemployed Workers Union has called on Ruston's office to clarify whether people could apply online, saying the queues posed a safety risk.

Infections diseases expert Bill Bowtell also raised health fears, saying some pictures showed "zero physical distancing".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the queues in a speech to parliament on Monday morning.

"Across Australia today many thousands of Australians will lose their jobs. They are lining up at Centrelink offices as we speak. Something unimaginable at this scale only weeks ago," he said.

"They have lost their jobs, and we know many more will. This is the biggest economic shock our nation has faced in generations."

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Elsewhere, the MyGov government services website has crashed as people deal with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

"There is unprecedented demand for the service right now, but Australians need to be patient. Try logging on later today or even tomorrow," Government Services Minister Stuart Robert told AAP on Monday.

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

More to come.

With AAP.