Tuesday 24 June 2008

Mr Dean
Mr Finch
Mr Wing
Mrs Jamieson
Mrs Rattray-Wagner (Chair)
Ms Ritchie 

Hon. David Bartlett, Premier; Minister for Education and Skills; Minister for Workplace Relations

Department of Justice
Lisa Hutton, Secretary
Brian Smith, Deputy Secretary 
Michael Stevens, Deputy Secretary
Peter Fischer, State Planning Adviser
Roy Ormerod, General Manager, Workplace Standards

9.3 industrial relations policy and advocacy services -
Mr FINCH - My naive budgetary mind sees this constant figure of $320 000 which runs right through for industrial relations policy and advocacy services.  My question is:  Why would it run through just at $320 000 each year?

Mr DEAN - It is $322 000 each year.

Mr FINCH - Sorry, $322 000 each year.

Mr SMITH - This output was transferred to Justice a couple of years ago from the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and that is the amount that was officially transferred to us.  But the Department of Justice is in negotiations with Treasury to make sure that this does get indexation.  There is not any indexation included in this, like there is in every other output in our agency.  Hopefully when we see the Budget papers next year there will be an amount in there for indexation, so we are looking at fixing that.

Mr FINCH - What would you expect that to be, 3 per cent or what?

Mr SMITH - Yes, the normal salary indexation of 3.5 per cent and the non-salary indexation of 2 per cent.  So it will go up and our forward Estimates will be changed to fix that.  This is a genuine mistake.

Mr FINCH - This allocation just goes into the service and into a pool of money that is used for these services?

Mr SMITH - For that service for that output, yes.

Mr DEAN - Just on that point, does that mean you are able to run that area on that amount of money so why would you want it indexed at this stage or are you running into the black already?

Mr SMITH - No, funding is sufficient to run the output, but it is normal Government policy for every output to get indexation.

Mr DEAN - Is it necessary for that to occur if you have sufficient money there?  It would seem from the Budget papers here that you do.

Mr BARTLETT - I will answer that.  While we have sufficient money in that output, what will happen over time is that due to the public sector wages agreement that will increase by - when the unions hopefully agree to it - somewhere between 20 and 29 per cent in public sector wages over the course of the life of the agreement.  What will happen is that the money that goes in salaries ends up chewing up more and more of the overall global budget and there is less recurrent dollars in flexible funding that might fund projects, fund inquiries or fund the work that actually is done.  While for some years you could sustain a 3.5 per cent increase in salaries, after a while it would eat up and swallow the whole $322 000.

Mr DEAN - I accept that after a period of time, but it would seem that it is adequate at this time and it is satisfying your needs.  That is what it would appear in the Budget papers.

Mr BARTLETT - But it will not forever.

Mr DEAN - No.

Mr FINCH - It just seemed interesting that it is such a constant.  How many people are involved in policy and advocacy services?  Can be it be worked down into that basis so that you know how many are actually in that service at any given time?

Mr SMITH - There was one who has retired.

Mr BARTLETT - It was one who has now retired.

Mr FINCH - I heard about that earlier.

Mr BARTLETT - So we have a vacancy there.

Mr FINCH - So it is only one person?

Mr BARTLETT - It was up until last Friday.

Mr FINCH - What would $320 000 per year be used for if there is only one person involved in that section?

Mr DEAN - A healthy salary.

Mr BARTLETT - I don't think he earns that much.

Mr FINCH - What would that money be used -

Mr BARTLETT - I will ask the deputy secretary to talk about services.

Mr STEVENS - There is a range of non-salary items such as travel, various subscriptions, a car and a few other things - a whole range of support mechanisms which are not provided directly by that person but which are, if you like, costed to that output that result at the end of the day with advice being provided to the Premier, or the Minister for Industrial Relations as it was then, on a range of private sector awards.  With WorkChoices and the move to Forward with Fairness, a significant amount of work through consultancies and whatever has been done to work out -

Mr BARTLETT - Forward with Fairness is the Federal Government's new 'not WorkChoices'.

Mr STEVENS - But just to point out, if it is of use to the Committee, that WorkChoices basically used the corporations power to cover all private sector employees.  If you could use the word, it was a 'hostile' takeover of awards by the previous Federal Government, and there was an amount of court cases involved in trying to establish the State rights on that, which I have to say were not successful.  With the new Federal Government coming to power, one of the things that they ran with was that they would keep the national private sector system but they would seek to implement it through a cooperative approach with all States and Territories, which is why we have all the meetings now and they would continue to cover all private sector employees who are covered by the corporations power.  But they are also seeking to refer the power to cover those unincorporated either partnerships or sole traders so that the private sector would be covered by the Federal system.  There is a significant amount of money in researching how we actually do that.

Mr FINCH - So how much of that $322 000 would be on the salary for the person involved?

Mr STEVENS - About half, I would say.  I can find out exactly, if you wish, but off the top of my head it is about half.

Mr FINCH - And would it be advertised at that rate?

Mr BARTLETT - It would be true to say that the retirement gives us an opportunity to rethink how the department provides these services.  Essentially, it is providing a service to me of advice on national and local IR issues.  It would be true to say - wouldn't it, deputy secretary? - there is some rethinking going on about whether we need one high level person there or whether it can be taken up in another function within the department and that money distributed elsewhere or whatever the case may be.

Mr STEVENS - That is exactly right, and in essence the final wash-up of the Federal scene will determine the best way that we could deploy our resources.

Mr BARTLETT - But whatever jobs are determined are needed in that would be subject to the normal State service recruitment process.

Mr FINCH - Thanks, Premier.