Centrelink lines formed around the block this morning, as the Prime Minister compared the coronavirus crisis to the Great Depression

Great Depression comparisons aren’t made lightly.

As pubs, clubs and a slew of other businesses are forced shut on Monday, long lines emerged at Centrelink.

Newly out-of-work Australians vying to receive the newly renamed – and boosted – JobSeeker allowance have been forced to form long queues as surging demand for support outstrips Centrelink’s processing capacity.

As the country faces a recession, videos of the lines have emerged, affecting areas from Sydney’s Bondi Junction and Melbourne’s Cheltenham all the way up to Townsville.

Online it seems to be a similar story as heightened demand appeared to crash the MyGov website.

Services Australia, the government body in charge of Centrelink and social security, meanwhile issued a statement urging many not to come into centres at all.

“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,” it said.

Those who already receive support and are eligible for additional government support measures, including government payments of $750, will automatically receive it, Services Australia advised.

Those queues undoubtedly also contain newly-unemployed Australians who find themselves in need of government support for the first time. Services Australia similarly asked them to set themselves online or over the phone when they are able.

“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 the 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.”

Speaking in Parliament on the same day, the Prime Minister acknowledged the queues.

“Across Australia, many thousands of Australians will lose their jobs. They are lining up at Centrelink offices as we speak,” Scott Morrison said.

“We will be doing everything we can to protect those most vulnerable to the impacts of this crisis and to preserve the businesses that employ them. There will be more support to come and it will keep coming for as long as this challenge is before this nation.”

With the Australian government expanding its stimulus package to $66 billion over the weekend, Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese called on the Coalition to move quickly.

“If we think we are going to take action next week, we should take that action today. The last thing we want to do is to be looking back on this time in the near future and saying, ‘if only we had done more and done it sooner’,” Albanese said.

With business shut down measures coming into force on Monday, Morrison was clear when laying out the magnitude of the coronavirus crisis, saying his advice was Australians would be living with it for six months at the very least.

“Together, and with the rest of the world, we face this challenge, a once in a hundred-year event, a global health pandemic that has fast become an economic crisis, the likes of which we have not seen since the Great Depression,” Morrison said.

“For many, young and old, 2020 will be the toughest year of our lives.”

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