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Subprogram 2.6-Housing and rental accommodation

SENATOR TAMBLING -I refer to page 81 where the notes of the performance criteria refer to the:

allocation of the funds to the States/Territory from the Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement, Aboriginal Rental Housing Program, which is administered by the Department of Health, Housing and Community Services.

Of the $57m appropriated to this vote, what is the distribution between the respective States and the Territory, and what is the consultation process with the Ministers or departments of housing in each respective State and the Northern Territory?

MR GOGGIN -If you would like a breakdown of the funding between the States in detail I can provide that later. The percentages were determined for this financial year at a board meeting by our board of commissioners on the basis of trying to achieve equitable distribution of funds based on historic knowledge of need and funding histories.

The process of then putting that money against priorities at the State level was, again as a result of a board decision, put into the hands of a committee at the State and Territory level which was comprised of chairpersons of regional councils, the zone commissioners and the ATSIC State manager. Their task was to weigh up the competing priorities between the regions, take account of the existing State programs-such as the Commonwealth-State housing agreement rental program, of which each State has a significant program-and a range of ongoing commitments, and then come up with a State and Territory program.

SENATOR TAMBLING -Has the Commission ever considered involving in that consultation process and committee structure representatives of either the Government or the State housing departments or housing commissions in each State?

MR GOGGIN -The process for this year was put in place with the realisation that this is the first full year that we have regional councils in place. A strategy was developed late in the planning process and we did not have the luxury of a normal lead-up time to the budget process because the regional councils were not in place early enough in the last financial year.

The arrangements that were put in place for this year probably will not reflect the future arrangements. It is certainly intended that, as far as possible, in future years all agencies will be involved in a planning process whereby you are not just looking at the current year's program but you are trying to develop at least a three-year rolling program. At that State level the various committees will be looking to the other funding agencies-State, in particular-to ensure that there is no duplication, that it is a coordinated effort and that everyone is trying to address to the best of their abilities the priorities within that State and Territory.

SENATOR TAMBLING -Do you anticipate that the committees will be expanded to include State representatives on those committees?

MR GOGGIN -I could not answer that at this stage. That would be a matter for the board to determine. Certainly, in the process of developing regional plans at the regional council level, part of the expectation is that the original plan will set the direction in which that council wants to go-the priorities. At that level the council will need to involve the State agencies, local government and so on, so that they are sitting around the table together and planning together how their funds can be applied to their competing priorities .

SENATOR TAMBLING -Given the initiatives and the criteria that the Prime Minister is setting in the context of the November Premiers Conference for new arrangements between the Federal Government and the State governments, is the Commission participating in the process of putting forward advice with regard to the coordination of functions in any formal way for advice that will be tendered to the Premiers Conference in November?

DR SHERGOLD -One of the reasons why Mr Goggin has had to be a little vague in his predictions for the future is that, to a considerable extent, the future for the way in which we deliver community housing and infrastructure is very much tied up in the new federalism process that the Senator is alluding to. ATSIC is very much involved in that process.

The Senator is probably aware that one of the functional reviews which was set up following last November's Premiers Conference was on achieving greater coordination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and services. Since last January there has been an official meeting between the Commonwealth , State, Territory and local government representatives, chaired by ATSIC. On 30 August, there was a meeting of the AAAC-that is, the Aboriginal affairs Ministers forum-and an agreement was reached between the Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers for Aboriginal affairs and local government representatives on a position to be put forward to their respective governments to prepare for the November heads of government conference.

SENATOR TAMBLING -Why is there no reference to that process in the program performance statements?

DR SHERGOLD -To some extent it is a matter of timing. As I say, the agreement reached by Aboriginal affairs Ministers was only arrived at on 30 August.

SENATOR TAMBLING -But the process of the committee structure has been going on for some considerable time, and you would have anticipated that it would have gone on at least until the November Premiers Conference, would you not?

DR SHERGOLD -I think it would have been inappropriate, as officials, to predict what decision the Ministers were going to come to on 30 August.

SENATOR TAMBLING -However, a number of the other departments have referred to the fact that the process is going on in their performance documents. I will leave it there.