Tuesday 23 June 2009
Estimates Committee B (David Bartlett)
Output group 6
6.1 Community Development - policy advice and ongoing community development -
Mr FINCH - Premier, on page 10.6 of volume 2 of budget paper 2 it has a paragraph about the output group restructure and consolidation of this area. Can I have an explanation of that consolidation of this output group, please?
Mr BARTLETT - I will hand over to Marguerite Scott, the director of the Community Development division in a moment, but simplistically, in previous budgets the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, disabilities, Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Children and Young Persons and so on were listed as separate output groups and now they are collapsed into one, essentially reflecting a strategic move to bring these units together. It's something that I've been keen on and I'll give you a simple reason why, in my mind, anyway. Each of these groups has an administrative overhead and a chunk of money to deliver in services, programs, grants and what-have-you in the delivery of their policy. Having seven little groups, each with administrative overheads and a relatively small pool of funds to deliver services, isn't as efficient and effective as reducing your overall administrative overheads, giving you more flexibility and a larger pool of funds to deliver services with where needed, giving flexibility around different priorities in any given year, for example.
Mr FINCH - Has this brought offices and officers together?
Ms SCOTT - To some extent. When the division was created in 2006 it was spread over seven locations with a staff of about 60. The local government division has moved back out of it since then. We are trying to move now towards having one location in Hobart; that would be 144 Macquarie Street which is where a large percentage of the groups are now. But really I think one of the reason the division is trying to do things differently is because we also have small groups of policy officers and they have been assigned (or inside?? 1:05:48) teams of, in some cases, only three or four units because the units are very small, so we've been working together in looking at how we might do things collaboratively. Across the division we provide support to three ministerial councils, a whole myriad of grant programs, we provide resources to two foundations - the Early Years Foundation and the Jim Bacon Foundation - and we provide resources to two NGOs. So there's a whole myriad of things that we do that we could actually do better together and it would give our policy officers the capacity to work collaboratively on some of these things.
We have been working as a staffing group over the last six months trying to work out where we can do that. For example, in the area of grants, we think we can do that better, because only four of the units historically were given money for grants and some of the grant pools are very tiny, like in Multicultural Tasmania where they give out $900 grants, but if you apply to Women Tasmania you would get much bigger grants. So we are trying to look at how we might do that more equitably, and in a different space, because we were creative a long time before the Social Inclusion Unit, for example, and a lot of the work we do isn't necessarily dictated by whether or not a person is disadvantaged. In the Disability Bureau, yes, in the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, yes, but not always, so we're trying to look at how we can do a lot of those things a lot better and get a better result.
Mr FINCH - Thanks. The appropriation estimates, like everything else, progress downwards over the next few years and then in year four you move to $6.210 million, slightly less than this present year but approximately the same. Is this premature optimism or is there something else there?
Mr BARTLETT - I would expect that is just some allocation for growth due to wage policy or something like that, a small increase like that.
CHAIR - The recession's over.
Ms SCOTT - I don't particularly want to guess. I know every two years, for example, we have a huge difference in terms of what we roll out for the Seniors Card, so we have a quiet year and I'm not sure whether it's that. I don't know, I'm sorry.
CHAIR - Can we take that on notice that somebody will get back to us?
Mr FINCH - Just some explanation of why that is back up again and what that reflects - apart from your salary raise, Ms Scott.
Mr FINCH - I want to get onto the subject of assistive technology. Our Joint Standing Committee on Community Development found the provision of assistive technology for people with disabilities in disarray, underfunded and in need of major reform. I want an outline of what steps the State Government is taking regarding the recommendations of the committee.
Mr BARTLETT - I am very happy for Marguerite to talk about the Disability Bureau but that output you are seeking to examine there is actually under DHHS. The Disability Bureau has a different job which Marguerite will talk about.
Ms SCOTT - Certainly that topic went onto the agenda for the Premier's Disability Advisory Council and I think it preceded your role as premier, Premier. There are two councils; one is the Premier's Disability Advisory Council and there is also a ministerial council and the agenda was merged across exclusively to Health. From my own experience all I can say is that I have heard the Minister for Health at those meetings report on reforms she has made in that area and all I can say to you is that around that table there are quite a lot of feisty advocates for disabilities and they seemed quite happy with the reforms.
Mr FINCH - Yes. That doesn't come to your department, though, to discuss that and make recommendations or an assessment of what has occurred in respect of community development?
Ms SCOTT - Only that obviously around that table of the Premier's advisory council there are a number of people who could put the matter back on the agenda if they wanted to and they haven't chosen to. If they did our role would be to work to brief the Premier and we would go back to the Department of Health to ask what was happening and then brief the Premier on the basis of that and also include the views that we were hearing from his advisory council. That would be our role.
Mr FINCH - Thanks for your guidance as to the pathway.