The Government has clarified just what the fuck is going with Centrelink as thousands of out-of-work Aussies overwhelmed the system this morning. The official line is that people no longer need to line up outside offices to submit a claim.

In the morning, pretty much everyone claimed that the MyGov website was down, however government services minister Stuart Robert has since clarified that the website’s servers can only handle 55,000 people at once.

While this was an increase from the previous limit of 6,000 simultaneous users as of last week, it has still meant that every person beyond that 55,000 limit hasn’t been able to log in.

“For many thousands of Australians, they’ve never ever in their life sought assistance from government before, so today will be a new experience for them,” Robert said.

“As a consequence we’re seeing long lines at Centrelinks as well as strong demand across all our channels.”

Robert initially attributed the downtime to a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), in which a website’s server is deliberately overloaded with thousands of fake site visits.

However in the afternoon, he admitted that there had been “no evidence of a specific attack today” and that an alarm had been unintentionally triggered by an increase in genuine activity.

Speaking with reporters, Robert wouldn’t give a straight answer as to how long it is taking people to long on, if they can even do so at all.

“I don’t accept your question but I understand the frustration people are experiencing,” he told one reporter.

However, people who can’t access Centrelink today, won’t necessarily miss out. Centrelink will reintroduce an ‘intent to claim’ process, where applicants can register their intent and then follow up and lodge their claim at a later, more convenient date.

For those still having trouble accessing Centrelink, this means that all claims would be backdated to today, regardless of when they are eventually submitted. For those using Centrelink for the first time, this means that they will not have to provide ID in person before their claim is processed.

In the coming weeks, the government plans to strengthen Centrelink to cope with the influx of new clients during the coronavirus pandemic, including by employing 5,000 extra staff for government services.

However for many Centrelink clients around the country, these announcements weren’t enough to quell frustration. In Brisbane, one office had to be evacuated after people had queued for hours.

The new ‘intent to claim’ process will be available from Tuesday.

Image: AAP / Dan Peled