ESTIMATES COMMITTEE B
Monday 18 June 2007
Mrs Smith (Chair)
Hon. David Llewellyn , Minister for Primary Industries; Minister for Police and Emergency Management; Minister for Energy
Department of Primary Industries and Water
Kim Evans , Secretary
Michele Moseley , Deputy Secretary
Robert Cockerell , General Manager (Corporate Services)
Alex Schaap , General Manager (Biosecurity)
Wes Ford , General Manager (Primary Industries)
John Whittington , General Manager (Resource Management & Conservation)
Stephen Godfrey , General Manager (Information & Land Services)
Alan Harradine , General Manager (Water Resources)
Mauri Costa , Manager (Budget Services)
John Diggle , Director (Inland Fisheries Service)
1.3 Service Tasmania –
Mr FINCH - First of all, I want to explore a figure that is in the summary of financial information. It is output group 1. It is table 11.3. There is a reduction of 7.8 per cent in Service Tasmania's expenses by output. I would like to find out what is behind that reduction of 7.8 per cent for Service Tasmania?
Mr LLEWELLYN - It went from $10.464 million in the 2006-07 Budget to $9.651 million in the 2007-08 Budget. I do not actually have a note on that, but I am sure Mr Godfrey will be able to tell you that.
Mr GODFREY - The decrease in that appropriation relates to the funds that were provided in last year's Budget to establish the new shop at Kingston. So there is $500 000 worth of capital money that was allowed to establish that shop and also there was an overestimation in the 2006-07 Estimates for the Service Tasmania shops allocation. What happens is that the budget papers are produced prior to the Service Tasmania board allocating the budgets, so it is done on estimates. This just reflects back to what was given to us as a budgetary impact. There is no actual reduction in the amount of money, if you like, for the service other than $500 000 for the Kingston shop, which was a one-off, and this adjustment where the estimates were overestimated last year.
Mr FINCH - Was that targeted for anything in particular at the Kingston shop - equipment?
Mr GODFREY - No, it is new.
Mr FINCH - Was it to equipment?
Mr GODFREY - No, it was to establish the new shop.
Mr FINCH - What was the cost of the Kingston shop? This is only $500 000.
Mr LLEWELLYN - As part of the 2006 election commitment, we announced on 3 March 2006 that a new service shop at Kingston would be established. This announcement was part of the broader Building Better Infrastructure Plan for the municipality of Kingborough. It was relevant to Tasmanian Together Standard 8.4, ensuring government service providers are responsible to the community. The budget allocation for construction was $500,000. The shop site selected was at the Channel Court Shopping Centre, leased through the Behrakis Group. The construction tender was awarded to De Jong & Sons. Construction commenced on 16 April 2007 and was completed on 18 May 2007. So it has effectively been completed.
Mr FINCH - So $500,000 was allocated. Will there be any need for further allocations of funds to that construction? Or did it come in under budget or at budget?
Mr LLEWELLYN - Apparently so.
Mr FINCH - Are there any further plans for other shopfronts for Service Tasmania?
Mr LLEWELLYN - That is not the ambit of this particular committee. We do have an intergovernmental board that looks at this. That board is positioned with the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. You would need to ask the Premier that question. Personally I am not aware of any other shop, but possible the Premier has some other things in mind, and he might tell you something different.
CHAIR - Do you believe it is time, given the size of Tasmania and the number of shops, that the management of this program should be brought under one minister rather than it continuing to be under two departments? They are now scattered all over Tasmania. As you quite rightly point out, this committee cannot ask about new shops because that is not within your portfolio.
Mr LLEWELLYN - The reason there is a board within Premier and Cabinet is so that ability of the people of Tasmania can be assessed under the Tasmania Together guideline - of accessibility and so on - to be able to make the judgment that the community can access all of these other issues.
It may not be through Service Tasmania in some cases. Other access might be in the minds of the people on the board. In general, we are adequately served around Tasmania through Service Tasmania outlets. But there will always be some changes in that regard, and that is an issue for the other group to determine.
CHAIR - In other words, you do not want the portfolio. Thank you.
Mr LLEWELLYN - We were happy with operating Service Tasmania. We probably have more use of Service Tasmania, although motor registration and those sorts of issues are probably fairly high on the agenda.
CHAIR - The 'no cheques acceptance for motor registrations in the mail' is not yours, either?
Mr EVANS - It is also worth pointing out that Service Tasmania is more than just the shops. It is also the IDR and internet. We do not manage those parts of the Service Tasmania responsibilities. They are managed through the Department of Education.
CHAIR - Do you consider you have the capacity to manage them if the Premier decided tomorrow to transfer the entire responsibility to you?
Mr LLEWELLYN - If he transferred the money and resources with it, we would be happy to do that.
Mr DEAN - Do you provide information to the Premier on the amount of work that is coming in to Service Tasmania and the areas that should probably be considered for future developments? In particular, I would go back to the Mowbray area. Do you do that or is that wholly and solely a matter for the Premier?
Mr LLEWELLYN - We provide statistics on the amount of traffic.
Mr DEAN - That is right. That is what I am getting at
Mr LLEWELLYN - We report back to the board about the number of people accessing the facilities and so on and they make the judgments about those other issues.
Mr DEAN - Does the statistical data that you provide to the Premier support the establishment of a facility at Mowbray?
Mr LLEWELLYN - I am not sure.
Mr GODFREY - We provide statistics back to the board on the transactions that come out of every shop in Tasmania. We have the capacity to break down those statistics into postcode areas where people may come from based on the bill. We do not specifically collect statistics on workloads, such as for the Launceston shop that 50 per cent come from here or 60 per cent come from over there. We do not do that, unless we are asked to provide that. We just provide the statistics based on the shops.
Mr DEAN - If you were asked to provide the statistical data, you can provide that?
Mr GODFREY - We can provide that.
Mr DEAN - I was going to ask you to provide that information to this committee.
Mr LLEWELLYN - If that can be provided simply, which it probably can from the databases, we will provide it to the committee.
Mr DEAN - Thank you.
Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - As to the performance information table on 11.14, you said that your department has no real role in what is actually provided, but are there any plans to expand the services?
Mr LLEWELLYN - Expand the services?
Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - It says 'government services provided to local communities 500'. So that is the services that are offered at the Service Tasmania shops; is my understanding correct? Is there any talk amongst departments about some other service that can be provided?
Mr LLEWELLYN - Yes.
Mr GODFREY - The target of 500 is the target in the Tasmania Together benchmark standards relating to shops. We are in ongoing discussions with agencies about the types of services delivered through Service Tasmania across the three channels. There is no doubt that Service Tasmania shops in some areas have reached capacity, and so we are looking at what we call channel shift. In other words, we are trying to get the services away from the counter and into the electronics or the telephone. We are not enforcing that, but we are consistently dealing with agencies through DPAC and looking at alternative modes of delivering services and putting new services into Service Tasmania. That figure of 500 relates to the Service Tasmania shops and not just Service Tasmania, across the three channels. I would have to say that we have more than 500.
Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - More than 500 services?
Mr GODFREY - Yes.
Mr LLEWELLYN - That makes it complicated.
Mrs JAMIESON - What about growing areas, such as Port Sorell, where there are transport difficulties with people getting to Latrobe/Devonport?
CHAIR - Wrong committee. You will need to go to the Premier's committee. We have just had that discussion.
Mr FINCH - Under performance information there is a reference to Service Tasmania shop capacity to deliver services. Does this mean that there is no further spare capacity? Can you just explain that phrase for me?
Mr GODFREY - The easiest way to explain that is that in some shop localities where we cannot be co-located or we are located, the physical limitations of the areas that we are in will restrict how much more we can put into those shops. In some instances we are getting to the stage where the physical layout of those shops just will not take any more additional services, or in some of them we cannot physically put another person into those shops. So if those services get too high, then we have some issues that we have to address. I am not suggesting that we will not take on these services. I am just saying there are some restrictions. That is why we are trying to get the straightforward transactions out of the shops and on to electronics.
Mr LLEWELLYN - For instance, the Service Tasmania shops operate out of the council office at George Town. It varies in different spots around the State. That underlines the issue. If the need arose, you could do something about that arrangement by having a standalone service in a different shop somewhere else, but it may not be as effective as having it in the council. Those are the sorts of judgments that have to be made.
Mr FINCH - It is an interesting conundrum, because Service Tasmania is a government success story.
Mr LLEWELLYN - Yes.
Mr FINCH - It is like a movable feast; and have to evolve with it. Obviously, you need to slow down the activity of the shops that are at capacity. I would like to find out something about the popularity of online services. Are we able to take the pressure off the shopfronts by increasing the education and encouraging people to use the online services more?
Mr LLEWELLYN - It would and does. That is what Mr Godfrey was talking about, trying to move some of the services or transactions online and, therefore, reducing the face-to-face. But you still have to provide the face-to-face in many respects.
Mr FINCH - The issue of not accepting cheques by mail was highlighted recently. This makes it difficult for people working nine to five to actually pay by cheque. This seems to result in some confusion over the cheques that were payable to Transport Tasmania. What was the confusion that occurred there about the cheques with Service Tasmania and their being posted to Transport Tasmania? How did that circumstance unfold?
Mr LLEWELLYN - The capacity of Service Tasmania to accept payments by cheque. Cheques are an acceptable form of payment at all Service Tasmania shops, as are money orders, cash, credit card and debit card payments. In an effort to reduce payment processing costs and to encourage the use of electronic channels being telephone and internet - this is what we were talking about a moment ago for bill payments - customers of some government agencies are being discouraged from sending cheque payments direct to agencies through the mail and this method of payment is no longer actively advertised on some invoices. However, although some of the mail cheque payments that have been received have recently been returned to customers by DR, this practice has now ceased