Monday 22 June 2009

Legislative Council

Estimates Committee B (O'Byrne) - Part 1

Mr Dean
Mr Finch
Mr Gaffney
Mr Wing
Mrs Rattray-Wagner (Chair)

Hon. Michelle O'Byrne MP, Minister for Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts; Minister for Tourism; Minister for Sport and Recreation


Ministerial Office

Norm Andrews, Head of Office


Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts

Scott Gadd, Secretary
David Hudson, Deputy Secretary
Brett Noble, Director, Office of the Secretary
Peter Mooney, General Manager, Parks and Wildlife
Pete Smith, Director, Heritage Tasmania
Kane Salter, Acting General Manager, Corporate Services
Lesley Kirby, Director, Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
Katherine Hough, Director, Arts Tasmania
Bill Bleathman, Director Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Warren Jones, General Manager, Environment Division
Steve Gall, Manager, Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania
Stephen Large, CEO, Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority
Stuart Lennox, Manager, Strategy and Sustainable Use, PWS


8.1 Parks and Wildlife Management
Role of Minister & New Department Structures
Mr FINCH - Minister, first of all, can you clarify for me your role now as a minister?  You mentioned the two departments earlier, the DPIPWE and the EDPHA.  Can you just explain to me where you sit in respect of the portfolios that you now hold?  These areas from your old department are going in with other ministers.  So could you clarify the situation, please?

[11.15 a.m.]
Ms O'BYRNE - On 1 July I have to resign my portfolio as the Minister for Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts and the Minister for Tourism.  Then there is a gap, when I decide whether or not I go to Government House ‑

Mr FINCH - And resign?

Ms O'BYRNE - In order to receive my new portfolio titles.  Sport and Recreation stays the same, it's always been a single line item, as a construct of the Government House requirements.  I will be the Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage and I will be the Minister for Tourism and Arts.  That means, just in the same way at the moment I am the Minister for two areas that I share, in the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the Secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism currently reports to me on Sport and Recreation and Tourism.  As of 1 July he will report to me on Sport, Recreation, Tourism and Arts.  In the new DPIPWE department, those areas that I am currently responsible for will still report to me through the secretary, Mr Kim Evans.

Mr FINCH - First of all, why the gap in between resigning and ‑

Ms O'BYRNE - The new department commences on 1 July, so I have to resign my portfolios, I then have to go to Government House to be sworn in on the new names.  That is a legal construct that Government House requires.  I cannot be Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts, because it covers two departments.  So I have to be Environment, Parks and Heritage; Tourism and the Arts; Sport and Recreation; in little gaps.

Mr FINCH - You have nearly got it down pat.  Is this going to be confusing for people who are trying to deal with those departments and get an understanding of where things sit in which departments?  I have found over the years it has been quite confusing to track down the ministers and the bureaucrats and the people responsible for the processes, because there is such confusion with this mixture of different things in different areas.

Ms O'BYRNE - I do not know that the broad collection of people who deal with agencies would notice any difference.  They probably have not had the same confusion you have had. 

When you deal with a department, because of the nature of your role, you want to know who the minister is and you want to know the department's structure.  Most people just want to know, where do I put in my sport and recreation grant, who do I talk to about arts business development assistance, can I ring Parks and Wildlife Service and get some advice on what I need to do to go to Cradle Mountain? 

Most people deal directly with the division's frontline service, so they will not notice any difference at all.  Other than that, you will see on the website there will be a clear matrix that shows the ministerial responsibilities.  Kim Evans is in a position where he will have some statutory roles that report to me and some statutory roles that report to the other minister.  I do not think the other statutory role division is in the new areas.

Mr FINCH - Do the people who work in these departments get a sense of some confusion about who they are actually answering to and who they are working to, if the department is changing all the time?  Just assure me that the people who work in these departments are brought along on the journey and that they are comfortable with the departments which they change to and work in.

Ms O'BYRNE - I am not sure how many departmental changes Mr Mooney has had, but I know that Dr Jones has had six different departments in his lifetime, but at no stage has the Environment division itself ever changed.  It is not an unusual feature of government for departmental structures to change. 

It really was a difficult decision and it is the reason that I went to many of the offices where we employ people and sat down with staff to talk to them about it, so they would understand that this is a budget‑driven realignment of corporate services costs, as opposed to any movement within their individual divisions.

I do not think it has been easy for those people, because it is change and change is never easy.  Having said that, this is not the first time that any of them have ever gone through it.  They are professional, they are hard working and they go through the process appropriately.

Parks and Wildlife Service still exists as the Parks and Wildlife Service; Environment division still exists; Heritage Tasmania still exists; the Heritage Board still exists; all of those things are still there.  So all of the things that people have dealt with day to day are still there.  The change is very much at the bureaucratic level, where the cost savings can be made.  Having said that, it was not an easy decision and as minister it was difficult to be part of that decision.

Mr FINCH - These are general questions, Madam Chair. 

Have you been able to recognise what sort of savings this would bring about by changing the departments all around and absorbing them this way in other areas?

Ms O'BYRNE - I will find the paper I have on that. 

In terms of the staff being kept informed, both Mr Gadd and Mr Evans have been providing transitional bulletins which have been going out to staff to keep them informed on how the changes are progressing.  We are doing that with the other departments as well, and also the Arts transfer to Economic and Tourism, so staff are getting bulletins as things change. 

Having said that, the new department has not commenced yet.  There are a lot of things about where savings might be realised.  Those things are reasonably flexible as the process goes on, because the two secretaries of the newer departments have their previous savings and they need to work with the savings that we bring or do not bring, given the areas we are dealing with, so there is a transition phase.  The Premier has said there would be 25 SES positions cut from government; clearly those things are still being determined, so those sorts of savings still exist.

The amalgamation efficiencies for 2009-10 are $2 150 000 and for 2010-11 are $4 300 000.  These figures have been provided by Treasury, in terms of where they see the savings being made.  As I understand it, they drew most of that understanding from the creation of the department and the costs around creating it.  There may be further efficiencies that come through the services. 

There are some good realignments with the changes as well.  We have been criticised by members of neither major political party, and no Independent, for some time for the fact that Parks and Wildlife Service and the conservation branch of DPIWE were separated from the conservation and resource management branch.  Because there are synergies in the work they do, they might often be in the same area looking at different aspects of the same problem.  They will now be, whilst reporting to different ministers, in an area that allows, one would hope, greater integration and enable them to have those conversations as well.  So there are neat fits with it all.

I think moving Arts into Economic Development does push us more to the broader conversation about arts; that arts is not something nice that we do off the edge of our desk; arts is in fact an economic driver and a cultural economic driver for Tasmania.  There are synergies that mean we can cast that way.  Having said that, it has been a process for all of us.


Mr FINCH - Do you have a breakdown in respect of what you will save on salaries with the loss of people?  Is that reflected in the figures you are talking about?

Ms O'BYRNE - We are not able to give you a defined amount yet, because there are two levels of it.  One is that clearly you do not need two human resources sections, you do not need two IT sections.  Having said that, it might not necessarily be people in DEPHA who leave; it might be that there are people in other areas of other departments who say they are interested in the voluntary redundancy and they want to go, and we might transfer someone through.  There is a lot of flexibility, and it probably will not be until this time next year that we will be able to sit down and work out the final outcome of where people go, because that is an ongoing process. 

When I get to the tourism section this afternoon, I can illustrate how that process has worked in one defined area, because it is an area where a decision was made prior to the Budget announcements about an area.  I can take people through what that process has meant, because I know the outcome of that one, almost.  But in this one it is very much a movable feast.

For instance, while we are talking about saving jobs across the State, if we can save money and protect a job, we will always look at opportunities to do that.  It means you might see a change in where jobs are.  In the Parks section, for instance, we will have more frontline parks' rangers and managers positions on the ground this year than we did last year.  Where jobs might go, if they were a front‑line person going, we would only be able to do that if we had someone who was able to fill, because when we talk about frontline services, Parks have those as well and we want to maintain those.  So there is a lot of movement and flexibility as to how that might play out.  That does not mean we have not had people in Parks and Wildlife Service put their hand up, because some people have, but it is early days yet.

Mr FINCH - Can we talk now about Parks specifically, in respect of the numbers you have in the service and how that is likely to change with the offer that has been made about no redundancies and natural attrition?

Ms O'BYRNE - And vacancy management as well.  I can give you what the figures are now.  Clearly, because it is a voluntary program across government, there will be flexibilities around where they go.  It might be that we see more in one area than another.  What we have to determine is, if someone puts their hand up, is it a targeted redundancy, whether we can afford for that person and their skill base to go; and, if we think they can go, whether we can backfill their position from somewhere else in the department.  We are working through that all the time.

CHAIR - Minister, there has been some discussion about selected redundancies and there has been a reference to target redundancies.  Can you explain to the committee what is the difference?

Ms O'BYRNE - What we do not have is, 'We are definitely going to sack these people, and here they are.'  That is a non-voluntary scheme, that is a compulsory redundancy scheme.

Mr FINCH - The private enterprise approach.

Ms O'BYRNE - We will have people saying, 'Okay, this is something I am prepared to consider, I am interested in taking this option.'  I advise people ‑ and I am happy to point it out here, because I did it when I went to the divisions after the DEPHA decision ‑ that they should always seek personal financial advice before making that decision, because sometimes redundancy sounds nice but you need to understand what it means to you.  So I counsel everyone to get private financial advice.


Mr FINCH - Amongst those groovy figures, do you have any references back in time?  Could you or Mr Mooney give me some sort of view in respect of how we have been progressing over, say, the last five years in respect of Parks?

Ms O'BYRNE - Can I just say, this is not a Dorothy, because I have the groovy page I was looking for.  For the Parks and Wildlife Service, paid FTEs ‑ this is the full amount ‑ at 20 April 2005 we had 252.66; at 31 May 2006 we had 276.02; at 2 May 2007 we had 274.21; at 14 May 2008 we had 278.55, and as at 29 April 2009 we had 271.11. 

For the rangers and parks and reserves manager positions, in 2008 we had 71 positions, 59 of which were substantively occupied, 12 were vacant, but two had acting placements.  In 2009 we had 76 positions, so an additional five positions; 68 of them are substantively occupied and we have eight vacant positions, one of which has an acting occupant.

Mr FINCH - Those figures are inside the ones you gave me first?

Ms O'BYRNE - Yes, this is a breakdown.  When people think of Parks, they do not generally think of the broad spectrum of services that Parks provide.  They are the rangers and reserves managers, so they are the people you would meet at Mt William, for instance. 

So we have had an increase in frontline services in Parks.  Having said that, you could have 20 times the amount of staff and it would be wonderful.  It would always be great to have more people for Parks.  I do not think anyone disputes that.

Mr WING - Up to 20 times.

Ms O'BYRNE - Probably more!  It would be wonderful if we were in the sort of world that could do that.  This is one of the reasons I think there are a lot of opportunities for partnerships with community organisations and communities themselves to take a broader engagement.  We have volunteer track workers in Wildcare.  They have volunteer track workers and track walkers who are passionate about the particular park or area.  They are not ours, but we work with them and support them where we can, and they are a great resource for the tourist or local who wants to walk on the track.