GOVERNMENT BUSINESSES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE B
Wednesday 2 December 2009
Mrs Rattray-Wagner (Chair)
Hon. Lara Giddings, Deputy Premier, Attorney-General
THE PUBLIC TRUST OFFICE
Mr Duncan Hall, General Manager, Corporate Services
Ms Ann Cunningham, Chairperson, Board of the Public Trustee
Mr Peter Maloney, CEO, Public Trustee
Mr Patrick Tierney, Manager of Financial Operations
Mr Brendan McManus, Corporate Solicitor
LOCATION IN LAUNCESTON
Mr FINCH - I want to explore a little bit the status of the building in Wellington Street where the PT has moved from Wellington Street into the MAIB. Has that building in Wellington Street been sold?
Mr MALONEY - Yes, we sold that four or five years ago.
Mr FINCH - How recently did you move to the MAIB building?
Mr MALONEY - In January this year, so we leased the building back.
Mr FINCH - So with MAIB, do people know where you are now?
Mr MALONEY - Well, I hope so! I think so.
Mr FINCH - Have you been advertising that?
Mr MALONEY - We have our signs. We do not get a lot of people walking past and suddenly saying, 'Oh, I'd better go in'; they know where we are. All our represented persons know where we are. People who need to come in and see us make appointments, so they know where we are. We get very few people walking in off the street suddenly saying, 'Oh, I'd better make a will'. It doesn't operate like that. We have seen no problem with it. It is a much better building than where we were, as you know. Wellington Street was not a good place to have an office, especially when it was an old house.
Ms G CUNNINGHAM - It is also notified on our web site and we do actually get a lot of hits. We monitor the web site quite regularly. There is a lot of information on there.
Mr MALONEY - They have signage up there. As you come down the street, you can see the signage.
STAFFING & SUPERANNUATION
Mr FINCH - Talking about staffing numbers, what has happened with the move to MAIB? Has there been an increase in the seven?
Mr MALONEY - No, it has been exactly the same. That has been stable for more than four years now.
Mr FINCH - Who is the most senior officer in Launceston?
Mr MALONEY - We have a man up there who has been there 41 years.
Ms CUNNINGHAM - He got an award from the Premier on Thursday of last week.
Mr FINCH - As to staff superannuation, we have talked about the defined benefits scheme and that some of the staff are on it and some are not. Has the proportion changed in the last few years?
Mr HALL - Obviously, with the RBF scheme closing in 1999 the numbers in the RBF contributor scheme reduces each year. I think it is down to about 40 per cent of the people now, or even high 30s, whereas two or three years ago it was 50:50 and obviously, going back 10 years ago it would have been 100 per cent in the contributory scheme. It is just because of people retiring who were in the contributory scheme. The numbers are reducing because that contributory scheme was closed 10 years ago.
Mr FINCH - On staff costs, we have previously looked at a high proportion of revenue - 69 per cent - relating to employee costs. Has that figure been reduced?
Mr MALONEY - It is about the same; that has been static. As long as I have been there it has been roughly around that 69-70 per cent, even with the salary increases arising out of the State Service wages agreement. Our revenue is going up but the proportion seems to be the same. In the last few years it has been 70, 69, 70, 70, 68 - that was last year - so it has hovered around the 68 to 70 per cent range for the last five years.
Mr HALL - We have talked previously about information technology so far as PT is concerned, can you inform the committee how we are going with that? Are we up to speed? Have we embraced that moving ahead?
Mr MALONEY - Service industry is interesting because you cannot get away from the fact that it is a personal service. It is not something you can computerise by getting rid of all contact; you cannot do that. Having said that, do we have the schmicko, the greatest computer system of all? No, we have not. Can we afford anything different? No, we cannot because we are talking about lots and lots of money, which we do not have.
Mr HALL - The major system we have is from Ultradata and it is called TACT - a trust accounting system. I think most of the small trust accounting or trust firms in Australia use the same system. The ACT, the Northern Territory and the smaller States are all on the same sort of IT framework. The larger organisations in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia have invested in their own trust systems. They have in-house teams, they have spent the money, they are on different structures. We are in the same situation as most small trust firms with that trust accounting system.
Mr MALONEY - We have established an operational improvements committee, which has some consultants on it, and we meet once a month. With the processing we do we are always looking at opportunities of how we can automate it to reduce the time taken to do things. TACT makes it a bit difficult because you have to add things on to it - it is not the greatest system in the world but it is what it is. We have a new will-writing system that we have just put in - Chameleon - which is very interesting. We are also looking at what we call a 'client-related management system' to get more information about our clients. So we are looking at areas like that, but the actual, fundamental system is what it is.
Ms CUNNINGHAM - It is regularly audited by KPMG.
Mr FINCH - I want to ask about training programs to familiarise staff, particularly with the amendments to the law and entitlements brought about by the amended Wills Act. Were they held? What was the level of staff who were required to attend those programs?
Mr MALONEY - For will writing?
Mr FINCH - Just to the amendments, to the law and entitlements. Did you run staff training programs for that?
Mr MALONEY - For will writing, all the people who take will instructions, - that is in the north, the south and in Burnie - had training in relation to that, and would have been told. We always have - it is up to the Corporate Solicitor to inform his staff and those who take will instructions what all the changes are, so yes, we did that.
PROTECTING ELDER ABUSE
CHAIR - Mr Finch, unfortunately we are not going to be able to proceed but, Minister, before we finish quickly - and I am happy to take this question on notice - the Tasmanian Government is the only government, I believe, that does not have a policy position on protecting elder abuse, which obviously financial abuse would come under. When are you likely to have that?
Ms GIDDINGS - We are developing policy around elder abuse, and in fact the Department of Health and Human Services is now doing that. There was preliminary work done by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and that framework work they have done has now been passed over to the Department of Health and Human Services.
CHAIR - And PT would be involved in that?
Mr MALONEY - Can I just quickly say this: you have hit upon an area of concern for me and the organisation, we see the effects of it. I am always out there beating the drum -
CHAIR - You would be at the end of it.
Mr MALONEY - I am at the end of it, so we are always beating the drum. Whenever I get the opportunity I talk about that issue and get information out there to people around what they can do about it. A lot of this community stuff that we do is designed around telling people, 'If you see these things, you start asking some questions'. A bit of the red flags.