Wednesday 30 June 2010

Legislative Council


(Department of Premier and Cabinet)


Output group 6

Community development 

6.1 Community development –


Mr FINCH - Just a couple of Budget things that you mentioned there, which were very good initiatives; mainly the $100 000 for the Migrant Resource Centre.  I was very concerned some time ago about Harmony Day, which I thought played a fantastic role in the northern community in getting that synergy between our population as we know it now and those who are newcomers to the community.


This was an opportunity for us to embrace the cultures and the cultural pursuits of newcomers and to mix and mingle with the local community, but it faltered in some ways because the local committee did not receive adequate funding.  I am wondering whether Harmony Day and the promotion of that might be a focus of this Migrant Resource Centre and an opportunity to inculcate and introduce those newcomers into our communities.


Mr McKIM - As I indicated in overview I have delegated authority in some of these areas to the Secretary to Cabinet and those authorities have been tabled in the Lower House.  It had been my intention to ask Ms O'Connor to replace me at the table to deal with these issues.

 CHAIR - Would she like to join you at the table?


Mr McKIM - It had been my intention to ask Ms O'Connor to replace me because I have delegated authority in these areas.  I understand there may be some advice that the committee has in relation to this.  I am not sure how we ought to proceed because it had been my intention to allow Ms O'Connor to answer those questions.


CHAIR - The committee is more than happy to have Ms O'Connor join you at the table and you delegate any answering that you might require to Ms O'Connor.


Mr McKIM - The issue is that I have already delegated authority to Ms O'Connor to act in these areas.  Those delegations have been drafted by the Solicitor-General, they have been tabled in the lower House and Ms O'Connor has been asked questions directly in the lower House without any matters being raised in relation to those.  It had been my intention to ask her to replace me at the table.


CHAIR - Thank you, Minister,


Mr WING - You do not need to leave though.


Mr McKIM - I am not going to leave the room.


Mr WING - You would not even need to leave the table.   You could both be at the table.


CHAIR - Obviously there has been a discussion with the President of the Legislative Council, so I believe that it would be in the interests of the committee to suspend and I will seek some further advice and a ruling by the President.


Mr McKIM - If there is a ruling by the President or by the committee then we will of course comply with that.



The committee suspended from 2.13 p.m. to 2.22 p.m.



CHAIR - Minister, you would like to make a statement.


Mr McKIM - Yes.  I have visited the President with you and she has indicated to me that she believes I should remain at the table when Ms O'Connor comes to the table, which I understand the committee is okay with her doing.


There are a couple of points, just to be clear.  I have indicated to the President that I would be grateful if she would provide a written ruling on this matter, and she has agreed to do that.  In the interests of allowing the committee to continue I am not going to insist on that written ruling being provided before we continue, but the President has given a commitment that that will be provided and tabled later today. 


Secondly, I would like to formally request that the advice from your Clerk, on which the President presumably is relying, be tabled in this committee.


CHAIR - I can inform the committee and the minister that the President has denied that request because it is an internal memorandum and so that is not available. 


I will invite the minister to continue on with Community Development, line item 6.1.


Mr McKIM - The question is before me that Mr Finch asked.  This is a question in the area that Ms O'Connor has responsibility for, so with the committee's permission I would invite her to come to the table.


CHAIR - We would welcome Ms O'Connor to the table.


Mr McKIM - Rather than every question being referred to me and then me referring it to Ms O'Connor, it might be possible - as I am happy to sit here at the table, and if people wish to ask me questions I am happy to answer as minister - if there is a mechanism whereby we could avoid me being the conduit for every question and every answer, that would be desirable.


CHAIR - We understand that and we certainly appreciate that in the interests of allowing this to roll on fairly smoothly, but if it is related to policy, then, Minister, it will come through you.


Mr FINCH - Through you, Minister - I would like to ask Ms O'Connor about the extra $100 000 for migrant resources and this focus that I am looking for with Harmony Day.  I am wondering if you could give us some idea of what the extra is going to include for migrant resources, what they do currently with the money that they get and what shape the future will take with this extra money for migrant resources?


Ms O'CONNOR - The first thing I would like to do is acknowledge what a fantastic event Harmony Day is.  You would be aware, Mr Finch, that it is federally funded.  There were some issues last year with the Harmony Day celebrations because the Federal funding had lagged, which led to a delay, as I understand it, in some of the celebrations.  I did write to the federal minister about that funding issue and then it was resolved.


We will be in  a conversation with the Migrant Resource Centre about how it spends its $100 000 allocation.  The MRC's job is to not only promote but to make sure that our community embraces cultural diversity in Tasmania.  You will be aware that there is a north and south MRC.  About 57 per cent of the funds will go to the southern MRC, and 43 per cent to the north.


I would have thought that Harmony Day celebrations would be a perfect event for the MRC to become involved in and possibly allocate some its funding to.


Mr FINCH - That is a decision for the Migrant Resource Centre.


Ms O'CONNOR - Clearly we will be working with them.  What we are doing is, in a sense, buying policy outcomes within the community from MRC.  It is in recognition of the outstanding work that they currently do, with our new arrivals but also in the broader community, towards embracing cultural diversity in Tasmania.  You would be aware that we have many new arrivals from many different countries coming in and there are serious challenges for some of those new communities.


For example, in our African communities I understand there is 98 per cent youth unemployment.  Clearly racism is an issue in Tasmanian society and that is to our enduring shame.  It is important that we fund, equip; skill up organisations like the MRC and also the Multicultural Council of Tasmania to make sure that we have got the policy settings right here so we can properly harness the capacity of our new arrivals who we are privileged to have here.


Mr FINCH - Just remind me again, that response you had federally in respect of funding for Harmony Day?


Ms O'CONNOR - I am dredging my memory but ultimately the funding did come through; there was a delay in it.  I would be happy to get some firmer advice on that.  It was before I was the secretary to cabinet.  I was the member for Denison at the time with shadow portfolio responsibility for multicultural affairs.