Monday 26 June 2006 - Estimates Committee B (Llewellyn) - Part 2
(Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources)
Service Tasmania shop fronts
Mr FINCH - Given that there is actually a 0.5 per cent reduction in this year’s allocation for the Service Tasmania shop fronts, can I get some idea of the usage volume? Is it devolution that the usage will have increased into the future? Can I get some idea of the numbers who are using Service Tasmania?
Mr LLEWELLYN - The volume and value of transactions for the last two financial years are as follows: in 2004-05 there were 1 263 980 transactions to the value of $237 099 708. Now the next figure has to be qualified: in 2005-06 there were 990 300 transactions to the value of $179.9 million but the 2005-06 figures are for the period 1 July 2005 to 31 March 2006. April May and June are yet to come, so it is missing three months of figures. But I would assume just on the ratio that we will actually exceed the figures of last year probably considerably. Financial transactions to 31 March have increased by 28 175 in comparison to the same period last financial year. In 2004-05 Service Tasmania shops carried out 594 883 non-financial transactions of customer interactions as well.
All in all, in 2006-07 the department has been allocated an additional $221 565 in operational funds to cover increased salary expenditure. The department is the lead agency responsible for the implementation of policy as determined by the Service Tasmania board as well as the day-to-day management of the shops. The Premier however is the minister responsible as the Department of Premier and Cabinet has the responsibility for Service Tasmania for all decisions relating to the establishment of additional outlets and those sort of policy decisions. Service Tasmania provides approximately 480 services on behalf of the State, Commonwealth and local governments. There were 26 shops statewide as at 31 March 2006 and a total of 103.4 full-time equivalents were employed, and obviously we are aiming to improve access to Government services for all Tasmanians through those shop fronts.
Mr FINCH - I am not quite sure whether it was last year or the year before when we talked about the opportunity of having an electronic operation rather than an over-the-counter operation at Service Tasmania. Has there been a variation, an increase in using things electronically?
Mr LLEWELLYN - I do not know. I do not have the statistics on that.
Mr GODFREY - Education is responsible for that.
CHAIR - We will ask in Education.
Mr FINCH - I think it got confused last year, did it not? We were not sure whether it was in the Premier’s department, the Department of Primary Industries and Water or the education department.
CHAIR - We are fortunate that Education is to come yet.
Mr LLEWELLYN - This is just to confuse people.
CHAIR - We know, and we are trying to get red tape fixed out there in the community.
Mr FINCH - We talked about the Launceston premises last year - and we see a fair bit of that because it is right under our building in Henty House. We talked last year about the fact that they might have outgrown those premises in Launceston because we witness queues at various times of the year, realising there were transactions that occurred seasonally that caused those queues. Things were changed to allow for better operations. We put the idea forward that there should be another satellite operation, whether it was at Kings Meadows or Mowbray. I am wondering whether there is a reflection in the number of people using the service that that should occur.
Mr LLEWELLYN - As I mentioned a bit earlier on, it is actually the responsibility of Premier and Cabinet to make that decision.
CHAIR - Can we perhaps expand that - it seems a little illogical that those who are managing the system and the operations of it do not have responsibility for when there is a need - for example, at Launceston which is very busy in the city so perhaps we should have one at Mowbray, Newstead or wherever.
Mr LLEWELLYN - I am sure they do and I am sure that they make their position known and that they would ensure that both the Premier’s department and the board that manages Service Tasmania on behalf of the Government - the internal arrangement that we have for oversighting this, which is again chaired through the Premier’s department - are well aware of those issues. For instance, an area like Kingston has been agitating for some time and now in the future will have a service desk there. Is that the reason why the north supported another one in relation to Launceston? It is not a parochial issue or anything, is it?
CHAIR - Absolutely not.
Mr FINCH - No. I believe there is a petition that has 7 000 signatures from Mowbray requesting the service to go there.
Mr LLEWELLYN - Whereabouts?
Mr FINCH - To Mowbray. I would not suggest to you that parking is an issue at Service Tasmania, mainly because we compete for those car parking places as well, and to me it seems pretty logical with the number of transactions that would occur from people in those northern suburbs that it would be far more convenient for them to have one there. I am just wondering whether Service Tasmania is actually meeting the needs of its customers when those people are inconvenienced by having to travel into the city to conduct business.
Mr LLEWELLYN - It is a fair enough question, and I do not know the answer to it. But I am sure that, if you asked the Premier and he deferred to the secretary of Premier and Cabinet, she would probably be able to give you an answer about how things are going with regard to these issues, what pressures they have had and what reasons there might be for looking at the issue. Kim or Stephen may know a bit more.
Mr EVANS - The only point I was going to make is that, because Service Tasmania is a whole of government service provider and all Government services are being delivered, it does make logical sense that it is run through the Premier’s department because he can represent all of government. Our job is simply to be the deliverer of services over the counter. Having said that, we do collect detailed statistics and we report to the whole of government board on the operations. There is very good communication between us as the operators and the Premier’s department and board as the decision makers about what services are delivered and where they are located. In terms of the actual pressures in Launceston, I would have to defer that to Stephen. I do not know whether we have that information here today or whether we will need to take that on notice.
Mr GODFREY - There is no doubt that the Launceston shop is a busy shop. It is one of the busiest shops out of the whole network of 26 shops that are operating. As previously mentioned in discussions and at this Estimate Committee last year, the configuration of the Launceston shop where it currently is limiting in the way in which we can do it. That is just simply due to the design of the building. We have put in place a number of changes to the way in which the services are delivered. We have put in some more counters and hopefully better queuing services into that area and so forth. We are continuing to look at means by which we can improve that service delivery and hopefully take on board the issues of the queuing that occurs from time to time and also the volume of transactions that go through that shop. Service Tasmania has made some briefings on that and a number of other issues but, as Kim and the minister both say, that is actually a matter for Premier and Cabinet and the Premier.
CHAIR - So if I am to interpret you correctly, you have to manage it on the site you are given within those confines; you cannot pick up and move if you find a better site; you can only refer it to the Premier’s department and say, ‘We have these issues. We believe it would be strategic to move to point A, B or C.’
Mr GODFREY - The issue is that when we first opened the Service Tasmania shop in Launceston we did look for an alternative site other than Henty House and we were unable to find one in the city CBD. With any move from that shop to another location there are dollars involved in re-establishing that shop in terms of fitouts etc, and it is quite expensive. That all becomes a budget issue. Budgets are provided from the Service Tasmania Trust Account in DPAC, and they will have to find that money to give to us to do that. So the decision in terms of that is in Premier and Cabinet.
Mr DEAN - On that same point, is it possible - and you may have figures there - to give a breakdown on the number of transactions and the number of staff say in the Hobart office, the Burnie office, the Devonport office and the Launceston City Square office? I think they are the four bigger offices. There might be another one.
Mr GODFREY - You have the biggest ones.
Mr DEAN - Can you give me a breakdown on those offices?
Mr GODFREY - I can provide that to you. The only thing I would qualify is the fact that you cannot fit any more stations in Launceston. It is not only the numbers of staff that are available but the maximum number of staff that the counters will take in the configuration we have. We have tried to reconfigure that. I can provide that information.
Mr DEAN - I just want to get this clear because of the ongoing complaints made to Launceston City Council. You believe that it would be better for the operations to have another outlet, either in the northern suburbs or at Kings Meadows or somewhere else to take some of the pressure off the Launceston office - do you believe that to be the position with your staffing levels?
Mr GODFREY - With all due respect, it is not appropriate for me to comment on that.
Mr EVANS - We can just get information.
Mr GODFREY - I can tell you roughly that the Launceston shop does about 2 per cent more transactions than other shops.
Mr FINCH - Did you say that you do 2 per cent more transactions in Launceston?
Mr GODFREY - It is roughly 2 per cent.
Mr FINCH - What is the difference in manpower?
Mr GODFREY - It is complicated in terms of the number of staff we have on the counters because the Hobart shop can take more people on the front counter, which means that you can have more stations than what Launceston can. But it also gets down to the complexity of the transactions that you do do.
Mr LLEWELLYN - I think it is probably best if we get you the information.
Mr GODFREY - I will get you the information.
Mr FINCH - Fine. That is great.
Mrs JAMIESON - Is it not possible then to have say smaller operations in smaller areas, like some of the outer suburbs, that do not offer all the services of Service Tasmania but just offer some of the very basic ones?
Mr LLEWELLYN - I think it probably would be cost ineffective if we were to do that.
Mrs JAMIESON - I am just thinking with transport costs going up like they are and suburban people not able to -
Mr EVANS - I think that is inconsistent with the basic philosophy of Service Tasmania. The idea behind Service Tasmania is that you can go into any shop and get the same service. We do that through small rural shops already. There are no efficiencies to be gained in delivering fewer services.
Mrs JAMIESON - In the suburbs.