Tuesday 24 June 2008
Estimates Committee B
Support for executive decision making
1.1 Strategic policy and advice –
Office of the Chief Scientist & Strategic Policy
Mr FINCH - In this area of strategic policy and advice we have a healthy increase of over $1 million in this budget and then an increase year to year, but then there is a drop in 2011-12 by some $202 000. I suppose it is not a hiccup; it is just an adjustment; or what is going to happen there?
Mr BARTLETT - The increase in Output 1.1, Strategic policy and advice, reflects the establishment and operation of the Office of the Chief Scientist - I am happy to talk more about that - the additional funding for the public sector health and wellbeing program and a contribution to support the activities of the Council for the Australian Federation. This body is essentially Premiers and Chief Ministers without the Prime Minister. It was set up -
Mr FINCH - The former one or the current one?
Mr BARTLETT - Well, both. Neither of them was welcome there apparently. I have not actually been to one of these meetings yet, but it was set up under the previous Federal Government while the previous flavour of Federal Government was in office. One of the driving forces for it was around the former Government's refusal to create a mandatory renewable energy scheme, carbon trading schemes and those sorts of things that the States thought they could get together on and do something without the Commonwealth. But there is also an ongoing need for it in terms of constructively coming to a shared States' position on the Federal agenda and so on.
Mr FINCH - And moving towards federation, is that part -
Mr BARTLETT - Abolishing States, is that what you are calling for? No.
Mr FINCH - How much money is expended towards that activity?
Mr BARTLETT - I can flesh out the other two, which is the Office of Chief Scientist is $1 million over four years and the health and wellbeing program for the 25 000 public servants is $3.3 million over four years. I am advised that CAF, the Council for the Australian Federation, is around $160 000 a year.
Mr FINCH - That is the increase?
Mr BARTLETT - That is the increase this year. I can tell you a bit about the work that is going on there. The development and implementation of an emissions trading scheme, as I mentioned, that will have impact on Australia's States and Territories. In fact, it has the potential to have a really significant impact on Tasmania, both negative and positive, depending on how the negotiations go for it and therefore this is a high risk bit of national public policy that is emerging for Tasmania. Essentially the risk lies in that Tasmania has been at the forefront of renewable energies. In fact, some 75 per cent of all of Australia's renewable energies come from Tasmania. Therefore, it would be a perverse outcome, in my view, if we were not rewarded under an emissions trading scheme for the investment we have made over decades in renewable energies. But there is some argument by larger States, who want incentives to lessen the impact of coal-fired power stations, to ignore everything that has gone before and just effectively reward through an emissions trading scheme investment in renewable energies from starting the clock now effectively, which would not benefit Tasmania at all because we do not have a massive investment in coal-fired power stations that we could reduce and then gain from it. It is a key bit of public policy that is emerging through COAG and being debated through CAF as well that Tasmania stands to gain or not from.
Mr FINCH - And other areas?
Mr BARTLETT - Other areas include a project investigating the interaction of Commonwealth and State land use in land use planning processes. We have just been through that, and that is related to questions around affordable housing. More work on federalism focussing on what models of best practice federalism would look like as a follow-up to the earlier work of the Twomey and Withers previously commissioned and published by CAF as Federalist Paper 1 about constructive federalism and how federalism should work into the new century. Other research projects will be commissioned during the year by council members from the balance of any research funds remaining, so we effectively make our contribution to a fund - the percentage of we provide, our 2 per cent or whatever the case may be - that funds this work.
Mr FINCH - From your understanding when does CAF meet - when you go to COAG? Will it be around that same time?
Mr BARTLETT - It certainly has been in the past around the same time where CAF has met the day before or the night before COAG. There is a COAG meeting planned for 3 July. That is my next thing to attend to post Estimates. I am not sure whether there is a CAF - yes, there is a CAF also planned for that time.
Mr FINCH - That allocation to COAG -
Mr BARTLETT - To CAF -
Mr FINCH - No, to COAG itself that is in this item too. I believe that there is money allocated to COAG from this item.
Mr BARTLETT - No, just to the Council of Australian Federation, which is COAG minus the Prime Minister effectively. There is money in here within the policy branch of DPAC and many of those people are engaged in, amongst other things, providing policy advice to government. I know they are very busy at the moment when I did my walk-around in the first week or two of meeting people in the department there were massive amounts of flowcharts and papers and whiteboards and things trying to get all the enormous amount of work that goes into COAG distilled down to a form I could understand and deliver at COAG. But there is no specific new money in that; these are generalist policy positions that work on policy across government in a whole range of ways, intergovernmental being one of their areas.
Mr FINCH - Okay. Regarding the establishment of the Office of Chief Scientist, I think you said yesterday that that is well under way.
Mr BARTLETT - I would not say well under way; the thinking around it is well under way. We would be advertising and selecting a person to fill this role but I am very happy to talk about what I see for the role. It is a bit like the State Architect position - I kept saying State Archivist yesterday for some reason -
CHAIR - You were more nervous yesterday.
Mr BARTLETT - That's right; I am very relaxed here, Madam Chair. I see, starting from the fundamental position, that science and research is a key part of growing gross State product in this State. It is a key part of our economy. There is an old saying, which I believe to be true, that per capita there are more scientists living in Hobart than any other city in Australia, and across the State science and our research capacity is not only important for the public good in research about climate change, the southern oceans, Antarctica and other areas of expertise that we have in the State, but also it is a significant contributor to our economy. Research dollars attract well-paid scientists which therefore have flow-on effects into the community and it is a significant part of an ongoing vibrant economy in Tasmania as well as a public-good thing to do on a global scale which I think is deeply related to our brand. Of course these scientists are globally connected and provide data and research to global efforts around climate change, oceanography, mining and minerals through the centre at the university, and forestry through research into forestry technologies and innovations. So there is a whole range of capacity in science and I am committed in my time as Premier to grow that capacity in Tasmania so that it in turn grows its impact on our gross State product and economy.
The Office of the Chief Scientist will effectively have two major streams of work that I will want it to engage in. One is advising the Government on how best to grow the science and research capacity in Tasmania for those good reasons I have expanded upon; how best to bring together things like the CSIRO, our cooperative research centres, TIAR and TAFI; the Antarctic Division, the university and all the science capacity we have here, to strategically bring those things together in a plan that, through strategic investments, would allow that to grow in Tasmania, and for projects that come before government - for example, the establishment of a new cooperative research centre based on the institutions we have here - to assess and provide government advice on the science behind that. Is this science important? Do we have the capacity to do that? They are scientific questions that we need advice on.
The Office of the Chief Scientist would be responsible for advising government and bringing together other areas of government such as the innovations, science and technology unit within the Department of Economic Development to advise government on where we should best place our investment to grow scientific endeavour in Tasmania. Another stream of activity for the Office of the Chief Scientist is to advise government on the big scientific questions and to provide advice. For example, the permit for the pulp mill going through the Parliament was raised yesterday, and although I do not anticipate any future activities of that nature -
Mr WING - Good.
Mr BARTLETT - I do anticipate that from time to time we will want independent scientific advice and I have said very clearly that I want the Cabinet to be led and informed by the best data and evidence it has available to it to make informed decisions that affect the future lives of Tasmanians. So where there is a scientific question we need answered I would be able to refer it to the Office of the Chief Scientist who would not necessarily have the knowledge themselves but would certainly have the credibility in the scientific community to put the question and gather the research and inform government of the answer, and indeed the Parliament as well.
Like the Office of the State Architect, I do not see this as a statutory position with an enormous amount of bureaucracy that goes with it but as a chief adviser to government sort of position working with other bodies and instrumentalities to refer to the office particular questions of a scientific nature that would inform debate and decision-making in Tasmanian government and in the Parliament as well.
Mr FINCH - Yes, it is quite a role and a very special person is going to be required to fill it.
Mr BARTLETT - Absolutely.
Mr FINCH - Are you casting your net wide?
Mr BARTLETT - Certainly. We will be advertising and looking widely.
CHAIR - In the north of the State, Premier?
Mr BARTLETT - You could use Mr Dean's argument that the School of Architecture is in the north and therefore the State Architect should be there. You could also make the argument that a large chunk of the CSIRO and the Antarctic Division and the university's research efforts and the cooperative research centres and TAFI and TIAR could also be moved to the north or, alternatively, the Office of the Chief Scientist could be in the south.
Mr BARTLETT - My mind is open on these things.
CHAIR - I apologise for starting that.
Mr BARTLETT - Of course this is $1 million over four years. Some of the set-up costs are front-ended in the first year, so it is not a huge budget, essentially around $250 000 per year. But I would anticipate with a job like this that it might not be a full-time position; it might suit a retired expert in their field - and we have many of them here in Tasmania - who has retired as a former professor of what-have-you and might fill the job for two-and -a-half days a week, cutting some of the salary costs and enabling some of that money to be used on particular consultancies or research work. There are a number of ways we could structure this and we will do it in a way that fits the right person for the job.
Mrs JAMIESON - So it is envisaged that the position will be reviewed in four years' time?
Mr BARTLETT - I would see this as an ongoing position but governments these days as a matter of accounting tend to put in the forward estimates funding for four years and announce them as $1 million rather than $250 000.
Mr FINCH - I recall from a conversation yesterday that the office is going to be established at the university. Has that decision been made yet?
Mr BARTLETT - As to where the office is physically I do not know; I have not done much thinking about that, but I would see this person being supported by DPAC in terms of HR and paying the bills and providing an office and computers and all that sort of thing, so none of this money would be used for those corporate services but would be used in the Office of the Chief Scientist. I would imagine we would find an office for this person somewhere within our own buildings. Whether that is in Launceston or Hobart, who can tell?
Mr FINCH - I read that the Public Sector Health and Wellbeing Program which is part of this area was highlighting the public sector as a work opportunity. Is that for people who are in the public sector just to reinforce their attitudes towards their jobs or is it for people maybe aspiring to work in the public sector?
Mr BARTLETT - There are two main themes to what I see coming out of this program. I want a highly productive, efficient and effective public sector. I know myself that when I go for a 45-minute bike ride at lunch I operate much better for the rest of the day and am healthier, sleeping better and exercising more. There is a beautiful quote from Roy Fagan, a former Attorney-General of Tasmania, in a letter to his son about staying fit because that is when you make the best decisions, and I think that is true. Being fit and healthy is a key part of being a productive, efficient and effective work force. I know that the secretary is out looking for a bike so he can come out riding with me at lunchtime and advise me out on the bike track at all available opportunities.
Mrs JAMIESON - I can see you both out there with your headsets and iPods and things.
Mr BARTLETT - So that is one aspect of the program. The other aspect is that I do believe in a time of skills shortages and with the labour market effectively becoming more choosy about the careers young people go into that we want the best and brightest choosing a public sector career because I believe the public service is an honourable profession that we need the very best and brightest people in if we are going to create the best public policy. So part of this is to be an employer of choice and to be leading other employers in the State into aspects where we can improve the outlook for all workers and employees, and we are leading by example within our won house, if you like.
Mr FINCH - Do you have a focus on providing gymnasium facilities such as we have established here in Parliament House?
Mr BARTLETT - Which I trust we are all members of around the table, are we?
Mr FINCH - It has been a boon, particularly for northern members and the staff here at Parliament House. Is that aspect on the radar or has it been considered?
Mr BARTLETT - Let me tell you about the program itself and give you some detail. It is not so much about creating gyms and so on but there is money for capital in here, for example, and one of the things I know is a real deterrent to people running or riding to work is the availability of showers and change-rooms at the office when they get there, so I would see an investment from government to ensure that those things are happening. Generally we are well provided for in government buildings for those things but they can always be improved.
The program is based on the Get Moving at Work program which stemmed from the Premier's Physical Activity Council that Royce Fairbrother chairs. The program will support all Tasmanian government agencies to implement evidence-based health and wellbeing programs for their staff that provide access to a voluntary online employee survey; individual face-to-face health and wellbeing checks for employees and supported follow-up; interventions for individuals of higher risk based on their initial assessments; web-based and hard copy information about intervention resources for employees; and resources and funding to address the impact of organisational factors on workplace health and wellbeing. The funds provided in the first year would include up to two staff to get the program up and running, an online web survey; web-based information plus other resources; and capital investment for workplace change, which relates to the showers and stuff I was talking about. It is a three-year program and we will also provide $25 000 in 2009-10 to assess the program and inform us of how we might do better in the subsequent years. I think a lot of this stuff comes down to leadership and leading by example. That is why I want the State Public Service to lead by example as an employer of choice. I also think it is incumbent on me and other leaders - secretaries, deputy secretaries -
CHAIR - Chiefs of staff?
Mr BARTLETT - Chiefs of staff - who have just walked into the room - media advisers and assorted other directors. That is why I was absolutely thrilled that I managed to get a snapshot on the front page of one of the newspapers recently of riding my bike, because of the message that sends about having a healthy workplace, engaging in a good work life balance - I am not saying that I actually achieve these things all the time in any way, shape or form - and getting the right access to exercise and so on. It is good for climate change; it is good for health and wellbeing; it is good for productivity; it is good for the demographic change elements that we are facing; it is good for the stresses and strains on our health services -
Mr FINCH - And good decision-making?
Mr BARTLETT - And it implies good decision-making. All over this is good public policy, in my view.
Mr DEAN - It is good for getting more bikeways.
Mr BARTLETT - That is right. There is $4 million also allocated in this Budget for cycleways, and of course I am hoping to ramp that up to $8 million by working with local government dollar for dollar on creating city cycleways. As I have outlined in the House of Assembly, if we can take some 90-odd cars off the roads each year we will have achieved the equivalent of investing in $20 million worth of solar energy in terms of reducing our emissions. I think we can do that with the right cycleway infrastructure, and that of course is related to this. As a keen cyclist, I probably should have declared an interest but I think it is in the interests of all Tasmanians that we invest in that sort of infrastructure.
Mrs JAMIESON - So we expect to see a reduction in government cars?
Mr BARTLETT - I would be very happy to see a reduction -
Mrs JAMIESON - In numbers, I mean.
Mr BARTLETT - I would prefer to see government cars parked in the car park and people riding home at night and running to work.
CHAIR - It is going to be difficult for some.
Mr BARTLETT - It is always difficult. We have to do these things at our own pace. I run to work in the morning because it is a 30-minute run from my place to here.
Mr WING - So it is down hill?
Mr BARTLETT - It is down hill, thank you for pointing that out, Mr Wing. It is all down hill and it takes 30 minutes. When I say 'run', it is more of a Cliff Young sort of shuffle than a run.
Mr WING - It is more difficult having the use of cycles to the maximum extent in hilly conditions, such as some parts of Hobart, Launceston and Burnie.
Mr BARTLETT - Certainly, but I have looked at the Launceston council's strategic bike plan. I would encourage Greater Launceston to get involved in what the Greater Hobart councils have done.
Mr DEAN - I am on the committee and we are doing it.
Mr BARTLETT - Terrific. I will have the money for you ready to roll when you have finished the work.
Mr DEAN - Thank you. I will make a note of that. It is on the Hansard.
Mr BARTLETT - I refer to the five councils of Greater Hobart from Brighton to Kingborough have developed an intercity cycle plan. The plan is a fantastic one. It is available online. It talks about bike lanes in particular strategic places and links up the bikeways that are already in existence with more arterial routes out into the suburbs and so on. I have committed to going dollar for dollar with them on what will be a fantastic asset and make Greater Hobart - and I have committed the same for Greater Launceston and the same for the two north-west coast cities - far more cycle friendly places than they have ever been before.
Mr WING - So with the bike lanes on the city streets, are they on the outside of the cars or between the cars and the footpath?
Mr BARTLETT - These are elements for local government to determine in general. They need to do the planning for this sort of work. I am prepared to fund the work when it happens. My personal feeling as a cyclist is that they need to be not just a narrow strip that is somewhere between the parked cars and the raging traffic; and they need to be safe. One of the reasons I run to work and do not ride to work is that I have to negotiate Macquarie Street and Davey Street. You are taking your life in your hands as a cyclist when you do that.
Mr WING - I mentioned yesterday that I saw in Budapest in Hungary a few weeks ago cycle tracks between the kerb and parked cars rather than on the outside of the parked cars.
Mr BARTLETT - That would be a much better way of going, in my view.
Mr WING - Much safer. So I mention that for consideration.
Mr BARTLETT - Again if you talk about Hobart with Macquarie Street and Davey Street which we all know are the complete bottlenecks between the south and the north. They affect every single traffic movement through the city. I would like to take up a whole lane with a bike lane, frankly, and I would have to review what the Greater Hobart Council plan actually is on those two roads. But if you provided the right infrastructure there, you would have less cars trying to use those roads. I think we should make provision in favour of clean, energy efficient, healthy ways of travelling.
Mr FINCH - Take a leaf out of the book of Ho Chi Minh City where most of the population is on bikes. You were talking about leadership before, and the example was the former Prime Minister. He must have done wonders for people's psyche in respect of thinking that walking is a good thing to do.
Mr BARTLETT - Absolutely. He was out there all the time.
Mr FINCH - He got terrific publicity for it too.
Mr BARTLETT - Yes. I do not particularly want the same press pack following my Cliff Young shuffle to work in the morning. I wear my cap and my dark glasses so that no-one recognises me.
Mr WING - You look much more athletic than he did.
Mr BARTLETT - I am not sure actually.
Mr FINCH - Just a final question in respect of what you have been saying, Premier: That survey that you are going to conduct amongst the public sector, what are you aiming to achieve and what will be the thrust of the questions?
Mr BARTLETT - I do not know that detail, to be honest, but I am happy to share that detail as it builds when we have appointed a position and people will start working on that sort of detail. I would be able to provide you with the Premier's Physical Activity Council Get Moving Program which it will be based on and would have many of the materials in there as well. It would obviously be private and confidential; it would be voluntary; and in my view it would be based around the individual about what it is that you need to improve about your lifestyle, or life and work environment that can improve your health and wellbeing outcomes.
Mr FINCH - Okay, and you are prepared to act on the advice that might come through from the public sector?
Mr BARTLETT - Sure.
Mr FINCH - Thank you.