Tuesday 24 June 2008
Estimates Committee B (Bartlett)
2.5 Representation in Canberra –
Mr FINCH - I have just noticed that there is a diminution of funding in this area.
Mr BARTLETT - Yes, there is.
Mr FINCH - The office in Canberra was established when I first came to the Parliament -
Mr BARTLETT - It was 1998.
Mr FINCH - It was before my time, then. I remember, however, that at my first budget Estimates this was a topic for discussion. I couldn't help but think at the time that it was entirely appropriate and it was a good thing we had an office there. Why wouldn't we now, at a time when we have a Federal Labor government and a State Labor government, have an even stronger representation in Canberra, particularly when we are trying to build up our regional bodies, such as Cradle Coast and NTD, to ensure that we observe those grants and the funds that might be there in Canberra, or to instigate some sort of programs that might benefit us here in Tasmania?
Mr BARTLETT - That was essentially the reason the office was set up in the first place. It was set up at a time when there were different flavours of government. I have asked the department to review the operations of this office, given that we have a changed set of circumstances in inter-governmental relations at the moment. I have a view that ministers and members of parliament have responsibility to build good relationships in Canberra, and it is my opinion that having an office there can, in some ways, have perverse outcomes. I am not saying that has been the case, but it could lead to people saying, 'Well, I don't have to deal with my relationships up there because someone else does that for me.' I am not saying that is necessarily the case, but it could be so. The contract of the director of that office runs out in September. We have extended that officer's contract for one year, but I have asked the department to get an independent review done of the operation in the second half of this year and that will determine its future.
Mr FINCH - Okay. I would have thought that it was important for us to have an office there. I have never accessed the office -
Mr BARTLETT - When we get an independent review and have a look at what it has been doing, what it has achieved and so on, then we will have a clearer picture of what we need to do about it in the future.
Mr FINCH - I would have thought it would be an important agency for NTD and Cradle Coast to keep that good -
Mr BARTLETT - But my question is whether they are utilising it. Is the Canberra office doing the right thing by bodies such as those? Those are the sorts of things we need to understand.