Monday 22 JuneĀ  2009

Estimates Committee B (O'Byrne) - Part 2

4.1 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

[2.30 p.m.]
Ms O'BYRNE - Right. Thank you. Can I welcome to the table Bill Bleathman from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, who has always got an exciting story to tell, and Katherine Hough, the Director of Arts Tasmania.

Mr FINCH - There is steady decline here again over four years, as we speak, from $7.45 million down to $6.8 million.  Again, we see the explanation there that it is the impact of the Government's budget management strategy.

Ms O'BYRNE - Including amalgamation. Would you like to take that as read for the day?

Mr FINCH - Including what?

Ms O'BYRNE - Including the amalgamation, so it is yes.

Mr FINCH - Yes. Okay. I am going to just ask about where we are with the redevelopment of TMAG. First of all, what is that restriction of the budget going to mean to staffing at TMAG? How many do we have there now?

Ms O'BYRNE - At TMAG or across Arts Tasmania?


Mr BLEATHMAN - There are 72 FTEs, and that is from the Consolidated Fund.

Mr FINCH - Seventy-two?

Mr BLEATHMAN - Seventy-two.

Mr FINCH - You have now?

Mr BLEATHMAN - Yes, from that Consolidated Fund.

Mr FINCH - Okay. And the projections going forward? Are you committed to provide any people to the 800 -

Ms O'BYRNE - We do have vacancy control management in place as well. I think there are two vacancies that we have not filled.

Mr BLEATHMAN - There are three, Minister, that we have not filled.

Ms O'BYRNE - Three positions that we have not refilled at the moment. We do have the voluntary redundancy package. I imagine that we will get some interest.

Mr BLEATHMAN - There are seven.

Ms O'BYRNE - We have had some interest from staff there already.

Mr FINCH - So how will that impact on the services provided by TMAG?

Ms O'BYRNE - Theoretically, everyone who puts their hands up could go, but we have said that we will maintain the front-line positions. So if we allow someone to go and their position is determined to be front-line, we will have to get someone else from the agency into that position.

Mr FINCH - It is all hypothetical I know, but with some of these departments, like TMAG and other agencies, are you getting a sense of morale being conducive -

Ms O'BYRNE - I think there -

Mr FINCH - What sort of a feeling are you getting back from your department heads?

Ms O'BYRNE - I think uncertainty is difficult for everyone when there is a question about these sorts of areas. But I think that across the agencies we have striven very hard to ensure that as much information is out there. The sort of security that people can be provided can really be only done with information. We are in uncertain times. We live in an uncertain global economic position and our state economic position reflects that. But as soon as we have certainty and we are able to give people clarification, we are doing so. But it would be wrong to say that no-one is in the least bit nervous. I am sure that there are people who are thinking very seriously about their future and what it means for them and their family and their work life. But we need to go through this process.

Mr FINCH - So you can assure us, Minister, that communication is strong back down through to the troops on the ground?

Ms O'BYRNE - Every single person gets a copy of a transition update that is coming from the Secretary - so both departments. So every time we have something we are getting it out and we are getting it directed to everyone's e-mail, so it is not just sent to division heads to disseminate around to their staff. Everyone is getting that direct contact. As I think you might have mentioned before - you asked whether or not -

Mr FINCH - If It is a good question it was probably me.

Ms O'BYRNE - It was a very good question as to whether or not we put about what the financial decisions might mean if they put their hand up and we are providing that. So anyone who has asked for further information or further support has been given that.

Mr FINCH - Okay.

Ms O'BYRNE - It is a difficult time, but we working through it as best we can.

Mr GADD - And all managers, when asked, make themselves available on an individual basis, and, indeed, my door will remain open to every single staff member over the next month or two. If they have specific issues, they can come and talk to me and I will do my best to deal with them on an individual basis. I do not envisage any forced measures at this stage. It has all been voluntary and we have been able to manage. It is not easy to keep morale up but communication is key.

The other thing is that it is not just DEPHA staff who are going to wear the pain; the pain is spread across-the-board. In relation to the amalgamation, the other two departments are also contributing. I am trying to give the message to staff that I think we can achieve this through voluntary and other vacancy measures without forcing anyone to do anything, that we will keep them in the loop as best we can and that we will deal with them as an individual if that is what is required. I think they are holding in there, but there is no doubt that change brings uncertainty and it does have an impact on morale. There is no doubt about that.

Ms O'BYRNE - But this is not something exclusive to public employment at the moment.  I think most people in private industry have the same levels of concern about what the economic situation might hold for them.

CHAIR - It was announced only this morning that 20 jobs in Smithton have been lost, Minister.

Ms O'BYRNE - There is an impact on whole towns. You represent small towns. You understand that.

Mr DEAN - As I understand the position - and you might clarify this for me - it does not necessarily mean that there are going to be 800 redundancies in the Public Service. As I understand it, it means that you could well achieve the equivalent amount of funds by other strategies that you implement within your department.

Ms O'BYRNE - I would not anticipate that that means that there would not be any redundancies.

Mr DEAN - So in fact there might only be a need for 500 redundancies. Am I reading that right?

Ms O'BYRNE - It is 800 jobs or the equivalent -

Mr DEAN - Or the equivalent money.

Ms O'BYRNE - So everyone is looking at where savings can be made. If you are in an agency for which staff numbers are what you need to maintain, then you will look at other savings.

Mr DEAN - So you may not have to have any redundancies in your area at all.

Ms O'BYRNE - I think it would be unlikely.  In theory, that is correct. It is possible.

Mr GADD - We used to experience a turnover for the whole department of around 40 a year through natural attrition. So if we do not fill those positions then there is a minimum of 40 a year that we can save straight away.

Mr DEAN - And somebody has not lost their job.

Mr GADD - That is correct. We may have to potentially backfill and identify other positions that we will not fill, but you are right. It does not necessarily mean that all those jobs will go. Ultimately we have to make those savings.

Ms O'BYRNE - TMAG is subject to the same requirements to reduce its travel and advertising budget by two per cent along those lines.

Mr FINCH - I was getting to the services of TMAG and what is available to the public. Is there any assessment at this stage of perhaps a reduction in the operations of TMAG?

Ms O'BYRNE - We have had some minor projects that have probably concluded over the time, so they are factored into this. There has been a suggestion about closing hours. I understand that the board is discussing that. I remain unconvinced at this stage, but I understand that there is a lot of data to say that there are certain hours in which not many people come in. So I am prepared to look at it on the recommendation by the board, but I am not utterly signed up to that. But they are the sorts of things that have to be considered - we might open a bit later on a weekend or close a bit earlier on a certain day, if we can establish a pattern that there is not much usage at that time. But I am waiting for the board to provide formal recommendations around that. It is about looking at everything. If that saves a certain number of jobs and the visitor experience when they arrive is better, we have to measure those things up against each other.

Mr FINCH - I asked earlier about the redevelopment at TMAG. Can we get a report on where we are with that?

Ms O'BYRNE - I will ask Mr Bleathman to take you through that.

Mr BLEATHMAN - The government committed $30 million in this coming budget of which $18 million is for next year. What we will do with that is get a concept plan from architects for the entire redevelopment of $181 million total budget and detailed design and drawings for the first $39 million worth of works. We advertised for architects to do that in May. We had 17 architectural firms from all around the world respond. We have short-listed them down to six and we interviewed the six of those on 6 and 7 July with a view to them starting late July to do that concept plan, which will be finished in January next year.

The pleasing thing for us is that as well as international companies there are partnerships with local Tasmanian architectural firms. So it has been a good exercise from that perspective. We are looking at bringing forward other heritage works on the site to actually deal with the first stage. In the first stage we will do everything that we need to do to.

The easiest way to orientate people is to say, 'From where the dinosaur is in the entry, that building down to the Dunn Place car park.' We will swing the entry point to the museum around from Macquarie Street, where it is now, to the courtyard gates as you go through off to the Dunn Place car park. As well as that we will making the Bond Store a major exhibition space on the four floors, covering over the courtyard with some sort of ceiling and pulling down the existing entry building and doing another building that gives you the opportunity then to go underneath for that underground experience that we were talking about as part of the master plan. But it is going very well and the level of interest from architects has been fantastic.

Mr FINCH - So the entrance is going to come around to the Dunn Street car park -

Mr BLEATHMAN - Yes, off the Dunn Place car park.

Mr FINCH - Will there be parking there for people who come to the museum?

Mr BLEATHMAN - There will be parking for disabled people and for buses on the Dunn Place car park, but the Dunn Place car park will become a major archeological interpretation zone. It will have a 200- seat lecture theatre underneath it and a major exhibition space on top of it - not within the first $30 million but the next stage. But car parking around the cove is increasing within the next year and a half by some 300-odd spaces. So within two blocks of the museum there will be much more capacity for people to park, but not outside the front door.

Mr FINCH - That is how we like it in Tasmania. Locals have got to be catered for.

Ms O'BYRNE - Two blocks until you get the park outside.

Mr FINCH - That sounds exciting.

Ms O'BYRNE - Can I just put out that we have had some very successful exhibitions this year as well which have really developed the relationship of the museum with the local community. There has been the Mike Parr one, which was a little bit more challenging for some people than others, as well as Anne Ferran's and Ross Bolleter's.  Somebody might like to ask Bill how many people came to see the Patricia Piccinini exhibition.

Mr FINCH - How many people came to -


Mr BLEATHMAN - It is funny you should ask.  I do not have the figures with me, unfortunately, but 114 000. It was the biggest attendance.

Ms O'BYRNE - Which is huge.

Mr BLEATHMAN - It is the biggest art exhibition they have ever had.

Ms O'BYRNE - So it has been a successful year.