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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D - 26/08/1993 - DEPARTMENT OF THE ARTS AND ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES

CHAIRMAN --I welcome the Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services, Senator McMullan, and his officers. Minister, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Senator McMullan --Just this once, I will make a brief opening statement. Those who have been on estimates committees with me before know that is not my usual practice but, for two reasons, I will say something briefly in opening. Firstly, it is the first full round of estimates for which I have been minister for this department so I want to make a couple of general remarks; secondly, as a background I want to make a suggestion about some modifications to the proposed order of examination. I hasten to say that that will not affect those who have come here specifically to deal with cultural development; I am proposing we should start there. There are some different groupings as we proceed through the various tables and, rather than doing things numerically, if we deal with matters in that way, it will save people coming backwards and forwards to the table. I will comment on that in a moment.

I could not make opening remarks about these estimates hearings without starting with the recognition that these estimates provide for the implementation of the very important election commitments in the area of Australian culture. There is a significant increase on previous funding and there are some other initiatives which will add to those election commitments and make this a very important budget for the arts and cultural development.

The other theme that runs through the estimates is the continuation of the process of micro-economic reform within the government through this department providing value for money and competitive services to other government departments and agencies and building on efficiency already realised through the government's commercialisation initiatives. We will see reflected in these papers profits in the businesses within DAS of, in round figures, $18 million last financial year with a projected profit, in round figures, of $34 million this financial year. New senators may not be aware that that should be assessed against a loss of $68 million in the first year of commercialisation in 1987-88. Recognising the nature of the economic circumstances from 1987-88 to 1993-94, that is a significant turnaround.

As always with the department of administrative services, there are some major capital programs. There is additional money to cover the salaries and non-salary cost of staff surplus to the fee earning capacity of the businesses, the staffing adjustment program and some significant revenue increases for the Commonwealth. The statements also reflect the major decisions of the government with regard to restructuring for under-performing businesses. Senators will be aware of what they are from the budget papers--Auslig, Australian Construction Services, Comcar and DAS distribution and a series of reviews which have been announced to maintain that momentum of reform. That is the background against which they should be assessed and against which I would like to make a couple of comments about presentation.

The program structure in the program performance statements has been changed from last year because the cultural development element from the former DASET department is now in this department, so that is reflected and is in program 1. I want to raise some questions about a more appropriate grouping of the government services and business services parts of the statements in a moment.

In talking about changing the sequence I acknowledge that within the cultural development area Senator Patterson has asked us to deal with information on advertising at 2 o'clock this afternoon; we are happy to accommodate that. It seems logical, for internal departmental staffing reasons--if it is appropriate for the committee--that we deal out of sequence with archives and put it at the end of cultural development. That is not a pressing thing but, if convenient for the committee, it will be convenient for us in terms of when the appropriate staff could be at the table in a systematic way. Those are the only changes we have which relate to cultural development. I can either read to you the proposed order of how we might deal with programs 2 and 3 or just give you this document and distribute it. It will be an hour or two before we get to it and people can take objections if they wish at the time; I am quite relaxed either way. Let me state the underlying reason. There has been some regrouping in the department. If we do it in the order proposed here the same executive general manager will be able to be here for the four or five businesses for which that person is responsible instead of one person coming up and going back then the other coming up. That will prove to be a more efficient flow.

CHAIRMAN --I suggest that we just circulate the document; if any members of the committee have any objection, they can let me know and we can then negotiate.

Senator McMullan --Thank you, Mr Chairman. I wish to say one other thing. Looking at this department, almost everything that anybody could wish to raise can come up under one program or another. I want to raise the possibility that instead of the practice which we sometimes have of general questions ranging over the whole department under the running costs heading and then coming back to bits and pieces, I am quite happy to give an assurance that if, for some reason which I cannot imagine, there is an area that someone wishes to pursue that is not possible under all the departments, we will facilitate that in some way.

I do not think anything will come up like that. I believe every issue that people wish to raise is capable of being raised under one heading or another. I do not want to be such a stickler about it, that we spend time talking about process and waste more time than I am trying to save, but I give an assurance that we will facilitate people raising whatever it is they wish to raise that is an estimates matter.

CHAIRMAN --I was going to suggest that those sorts of things could appropriately be done under program 5, Corporate Management.

Senator McMullan --I am in the committee's hands, but I would like to see that if it is possible.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME --On pages 23 and 24 general matters are raised under the heading `New Policy Proposals' which are not effectively dealt with in the specific sections. I have some specific questions relating to the failure to deal with those matters in the specific areas; the only way I could effectively do that is to deal with the matter in a general way. I have no objections, apart from that particular reservation.

CHAIRMAN --So you are happy to do that under program 5?

Senator MICHAEL BAUME --No, pages 23 and 24 could only effectively be dealt with at the beginning.

Senator McMullan --I am not sure I follow Senator Baume's point, but I am sure I will when he asks the question. If there is only one matter, we will deal with it then if you are happy, Mr Chairman.

CHAIRMAN --I suspect that each of the matters does come under a program.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME --No, that is the problem.

CHAIRMAN --All right. Well, you may point that out at the beginning, as long as we do not get stuck on it.

Senator McMullan --I could make a procedural point about how we could do it, but it would probably be quicker to just accommodate Senator Baume's point and capitulate quickly rather than slowly.

Senator PARER --I would like to give notice that I intend to move, not at this stage but as soon as I speak to it, that this estimates committee be adjourned until next Thursday. I have very good reasons for doing that. I do not say this to in any way stop expedition of the estimates, which we all wish to do, nor is it an adverse comment on either the department or its officers.

We have had very limited time to look at the massive documents provided for Estimates Committee D. That is why I said earlier that it is no reflection on the department or its officers. When I look back--I got the figures from the Table Office--in previous years, between the bringing down of the budget and the estimates hearings, we had 20 days in 1992, 14 days in 1991, 20 days in 1990 and 41 days in 1989. I suppose I would not object if we had been able to get the information the day after the budget, but I would challenge anybody to be able to properly analyse the information given to us in the time available.

I will quote a few examples. All the annual reports are in draft form and do not contain figures. In the past they have been mainly in draft form and so you could say, `Go back and look at the figures that are in the program performance statements and fill them in yourselves', but, frankly, we did not have time. The unaudited financial statements for the commercial operations of DAAS--I think there are eight of those--were only received yesterday and with no notes whatsoever to those statements. I would challenge the leading firm of accountants in Australia to be able to do a proper analysis of proper financial statements on that basis.

The Auditor-General's report was only received on Tuesday, 24 August, which provided insufficient time to properly evaluate that report. It is a very significant report. I might point out that the Auditor-General, in his covering letter in reference to his report, reinforces the view that I am taking when he said that the timing leaves very little time for members of committees to absorb its contents.

One of the major roles of the Senate is the scrutiny of the past performance of government and its forward estimates. I would maintain that we are not being given the opportunity to do that at this stage.

It may be argued, and I accept this, that we were advised on 25 June by the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Faulkner) of the proposed schedule of estimates sittings and no objections were given to that. At that time the date given was 2 September, which is today week. I repeat that probably we would have been able to handle this situation if we had had the information four, five or six days ago, but frankly we have not had it.

Perhaps I should not generalise when I say this but, in the main, it is generally accepted that government members on estimates committees do not take them as seriously as opposition members do and they should. That is a fact of life. It is my concern is that the public scrutiny of the government's actions, which are so vital for the Senate, has been very severely diminished. Mr Chairman, I would like to move that we adjourn.

CHAIRMAN --Can I just interrupt: I think that if we are to consider such a motion we need to do that in a private meeting of the committee. I am happy to adjourn for us to do that. I would point out that the timing is a particularly unusual situation which is not of the government's doing. It flows from the fact that the parliament is hosting an international conference and that this has caused the rearrangement of estimates committee hearings. I think there was a proposal that we sit on 2 September and then 9 September, but because of the necessity for this once in 30 years IPU conference, another day had to be found and this was the day. It is a very unusual thing. I do not think it is a question of the government's doing. It is a matter of finding the time to do it.

Senator PARER --Can I just respond to you, Mr Chairman? I understand the IPU and the reasoning behind that. But it seems to me that, irrespective of whatever function might be held in this place, we as senators have a responsibility to carry out our duties and to do a proper scrutiny of the past 12 months and also the forward estimates for the following 12 months. I believe that the information given to us at this stage is both insufficient and came at too late a stage for us to be able to do that job properly. Whatever else might be happening, I do not think that that should occur in respect of the proper role of senators in the parliament.

CHAIRMAN --I appreciate that point. However, I understand that the parliamentary departments made it clear that they needed every committee room in this place from 8 September onwards. The original proposal of using 8 and 9 September for estimates hearings had to go by the board. That is unfortunate. Do you have any remarks to make on this matter, Minister?

Senator McMullan --The main remark I would have made is that which you made, which is that another week to provide all the information et cetera would probably have suited us too, but it does not suit the parliament. The parliament told us that they wanted us to finish early; we did not tell the parliament that we wanted to finish early. It is actually the other way around. We are trying to be accommodating. I suppose I have to say that we do not expect much justice, but we do not like getting a clip around the ear for doing something that we have done to accommodate other people rather than of our own volition. Whatever decision the committee makes we will live with.

CHAIRMAN --Senator Parer is seeking an adjournment of the committee for a brief private meeting.

Short adjournment

CHAIRMAN --I report that the question was not supported by the committee. Before we go to program 1.1, I call on the two pages that Senator Baume wished to refer to.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME --This matter emerges not only from pages 23 and 24, but also from the minister's introductory statement. Firstly, I guess I should congratulate the minister on his maiden appearance in his role before this committee; my only regret is that our positions are not reversed. The minister said that there had been a considerable increase in funding for the arts. My concern is that these documents do not indicate where it is or the level of that increase. That is why I have asked that this matter be treated here; because it involves a whole series of sections which, when looked at separately, do not relate to any of the various increases outlined. For example, in the budget papers, funding for arts and cultural heritage is listed as having increased from $336 million to $346.2 million. That is an increase of $10.2 million, or three per cent.

In Senator McMullan's press release relating to the budget it was said that funding for arts and culture--there is no table--had increased by an unstated amount to $331 million. This was in line with Distinctly Australian. Distinctly Australian had talked about an additional $17.8 million, but that appears to be spread over some years. The program performance statement says that funding for cultural development increased from $305.67 million to $343.15 million. That is an increase of $37.48 million, or 12.5 per cent.

In the Australian Senator McMullan is quoted as saying, `We have delivered a 12 per cent increase in arts funding'. I might say that the estimate in the program performance statement, which has risen from $305 million to $343 million, includes things such as Australian archives, which are not normally included in descriptions of that order, which is up $1.8 million to $34.2 million; information and advertising is up about half a million dollars to $3.29 million; and the National Science and Technology Centre is down $426,000 to $4.23 million. Overall, these sorts of non-arts, non-cultural areas accounted for an increase of $1.91 million to $41.8 million or about a four per cent rise. I suppose if you take that off the program performance statement you get an increase to around about $302 million.

Basically, all I want to know is: what is the right figure? What is the spending on the arts this year? And where is it? Then that leads to pages 23 and 24 of the program performance statement where we have a whole list of items, many of which are not dealt with in the particular sections relating to the appropriations. They are not under programs, and where they are under programs they appear to be different from the figures listed in the minister's press release relating to the budget.

For example, we will start with the first item on page 23: `enhancing the role of the Australian Youth Orchestra for four years at a cost of $0.5 million a year'. The minister's press release stated a cost of $600,000. That appears to be because the funding of $600,000 goes to a different body and, apparently, $500,000 of that goes to the Australian Youth Orchestra. Whatever it is, there are different figures and we will deal with them. That is one of the few examples that is mentioned in this section.

I cannot relate any of these items and figures--a whole series of them--to sections. `Improved access to the Distributed National Heritage Collection for four years at a cost of $0.5 million' is not listed in the section relating to national heritage. `Establishment of Festival of Arts, at a cost of $0.5 million' is not listed in the section relating to cultural development. `Improvement of Children's Media, at a cost of $1.0 million' is not readily identifiable anywhere. `Expansion of Industry Development Schemes, at a cost of $2.5 million' in each of the years up to 1997 appears to be a compendium item. I do not know where it is in the estimates.

I presume that `Film Script Development and Producer Support Program at a cost of $0.5 million' is under the Australian Film Commission section, but I am not certain because it is not clearly identified. I cannot see `National Touring of Visual Arts, Crafts and Heritage Exhibitions, at a cost of $1.0 million' specifically identified in the subsections. Where is the `establishment of Foundation for Australian Cultural Development, at a cost of $0.5 million' identified? Where is the `Commonwealth Cultural Policy Statement, at a cost of $0.125 million' mentioned? Who is preparing it? What section is it under? As I understand it, it is not revealed, with amounts and so on, where I would expect it to be revealed, which is in the cultural development office.

Is `protection and return of Significant Cultural Property to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, at a cost of $0.048 million' in the Australia Council section, or is it out of the department? Under which section is `establishment of a Cultural Heritage Protection Program (Rock Art), at a cost of $0.5 million'? In which program is `Education and Monitoring Program concerning taxation incentives, at a cost of $0.148 million' identified? I know what section the `funding of $3 million in 1993-94 for detailed design and documentation of the Yarramundi site development project' comes under, but I do not know what section the `$0.3 million . . . to explore in detail avenues for private sector funding of the project' is under.

CHAIRMAN --I suspect you have made the point that you wanted to make without us having to take more time about it. Senator McMullan, do you have a general answer at this stage or do you need Senator Baume to elucidate all his individual questions?

Senator MICHAEL BAUME --There are just a couple more, for completeness, so that you will have the full list. I did not see the cost listed for the development of a new national document and information service at the National Library at a cost of $0.15 million. I presume it is identifiable under the National Library heading. In the appropriations I did not see the amount for the National Portrait Gallery to be established at old Parliament House and managed by the National Library and the National Museum of Australia with additional funding of $0.865 million; nor did I see the further $0.543 million to build a tourist shop.

My simple point is that if we have appropriations relating to specific areas it would be nice to have the figures available so that we could see whether in fact there were increases, or whether some of the spending was at the expense of other spending within the section. Because it is not identified anywhere, we do not know where it is and whether it is at the expense of normal programs. That is why I cannot tell what the actual increase in arts spending is, and that is why I would be very grateful if the minister could identify the actual increases, where they are and against which programs.

Senator McMullan --I thank Senator Baume for that careful reiteration of the government's arts initiatives in the budget. I hope those who thought that in some way I might not have been outlining them accurately will accept the fact that, given that he has outlined the same ones, they are all real. It is true that there are circumstances in which my press statement reflects the nature of particular initiatives in somewhat different terms from those in the budget, but all are entirely consistent. There is only one apparent contradiction there.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME --There is one error, if I can interrupt, regarding the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestras and the State Orchestra of Victoria. Your press statement says $6.324 million; the actual figure is $5.745 million. According to these figures, the additional amount is included and not in addition to.

Senator McMullan --I am not sure that is right. We will worry about that subsequently. The general point is that every new proposal is explicitly referred to twice in these papers--as far as I can tell, running my eye over it quickly. The resource summary on page 43, which gives the overview from which Senator Baume was extracting his overall numbers, indicates the total level of resources for this area. If he is saying that the Australian Archives and the information and advertising subprogram are not traditionally included in the arts budget, I think that is right. I think that whether the archives should be is arguable, but I am not seeking to include it. It is simply there because that is the departmental structure within which it occurs.

I do not agree with Senator Baume about the National Science and Technology Centre, which I do regard as a cultural institution, and which regards itself as such, but that is also not relevant to his central point. If you deduct them, the measured increase can be seen as even more than that figure which I gave, but I am not trying to make that political point.

What I am saying is that I think everything is here and capable of being reviewed. In the main, the questioning about them arises within the part of the government which is to fund them, which is the Cultural Development Office. There are some obvious and specific examples that that is not the case. The money for the National Museum is carefully hidden under the National Museum heading. The money for the National Library is carefully hidden under the National Library heading.

Senator Baume is correct--and I am sorry if this was not made as explicit as all the others--that the money for the film script development and producer support program is under the Film Commission heading. I have not gone back to check the wording, but if it is not clear that that is who gets that money--and I thought it was--I apologise, because it should be and that is what it is. I do not think there are any more areas in which the matter of where questions about them should be pursued is other than clear. Given that the Cultural Development Office will be the first thing we deal with, I suppose we might as well start dealing with some of the issues now.

The only particular matter I wish to refer to is the question of the $500,000 or $600,000 for the Australian Youth Orchestra. This year the Australian Youth Orchestra will get $600,000, which is an increase of $500,000. Last year it had $100,000 which came to it through the Australia Council. This year that $100,000 has been taken from the Australia Council, added to the new $500,000, and the AYO will get $600,000. That explains the apparent difference. They are entirely consistent: one is showing the increase and one is showing the total. So that is my only response. I am happy to respond to a particular question about any of those new proposals.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Mr Chairman, does that mean that the minister is not going to give a list of actual increases, or is he saying that the actual increases are clearly there, and that any areas where they involve reductions in other programs to accommodate these are evident?

Senator McMullan --I think so. Other than, for example, that which I have said with regard to the AYO and $500,000 which has been transferred from the Australia Council for the Australian cultural development foundation, I am not aware of any reductions to accommodate these initiatives which need to be reflected. I am not inviting a question about everything, but as we go through, if people wish to ask a question about whether there are any offsets in any particular area, I am happy to respond.