- Parliamentary Business
- Senators & Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
DEPARTMENT OF PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET
- Committee Name
FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
DEPARTMENT OF PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET
- Sub program
- System Id
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Table Of ContentsPrevious Fragment Next Fragment
FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(SENATE-Friday, 3 February 1995)
- Start of Business
- DEPARTMENT OF PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET
- DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE
Content WindowFINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 03/02/1995 - DEPARTMENT OF PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET
CHAIR --I declare open this public meeting of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee. We are dealing with the supplementary hearings of the 1994-95 additional estimates and certain specified matters of which notice was given at the beginning of the week. The first matter that we are to deal with comes under the portfolio of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. It is program 8--Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission--and two specific items within subprogram B--social and cultural. I welcome the minister, Senator McMullan. Is there anything you wish to say by way of opening remarks?
Senator McMullan --No, Mr Chairman.
CHAIR --Senator Tambling wanted to make a brief reference to unanswered questions.
Senator TAMBLING --Yes. I wish to make some formal points first and then I will proceed through some of the questions that I want to pursue in some detail. I would like to ascertain why there has been a delay in getting the answers to the questions. Given that they were all taken on notice on 17 November, I have received two packs of replies. I have ascertained that one pack of about eight questions was received by the committee on 24 January. They were forwarded but, because of the public holiday domains, we did not receive them until yesterday.
The other pack of answers of about 30 questions was available to the committee first thing this morning. I have only just received them during the morning and, therefore, have not really had the proper time to give them the appraisal I would have liked, having only been able to get to Parliament House myself at 10 o'clock. I find that very disconcerting.
Had I placed those questions on the formal Senate Notice Paper, they would have had to be responded to within 30 days. I understand that all of the answers were received by the committee after the deadline dates. What concerns me even more is that, probably by mistake, attached to the questions was an internal memo between ATSIC and the minister's office in which it is very clear that the action on some of these answers was initiated only on 19 January, endorsed by the CEO on 25 January and endorsed by the minister on 31 January.
In ascertaining what process has gone on here, what concerns me is that, in that memo relating to the draft responses to questions, there is the comment to the minister that this is the third submission. I would like some explanations for the inordinate and inexcusable delays. I would also like to know whether or not the minister or the minister's office has required additional submissions and alterations to the questions previously submitted, given that it has been indicated in this memo that it is the third submission to the minister.
Senator McMullan --I will get Mr Rees to comment in detail because it is an internal matter for ATSIC rather than something on which I can comment. I am assured that ATSIC takes seriously its responsibilities to respond to the committee and has sought to provide all the information. None of it was as a result of any lack of will to cooperate with the committee's inquiry. But I do not want to go into detail; I will leave that to Mr Rees.
CHAIR --I wish to make a brief comment. I find it disappointing that answers did not come in by the deadline, especially given that this committee set the very reasonable deadline of late January, whereas some other committees set their deadlines in December.
Senator McMullan --I was not intending to justify a failure to meet the deadline. Sometimes the parliament does set the Public Service ridiculously tight deadlines, but that was not the point I was seeking to make.
Mr Rees --I apologise at the outset for the delay. I think that the facts Senator Tambling has put forward are essentially right. As you would expect, we initiated action on the answers immediately after appearing before you last time. As I think we made clear at the time, we had to go to other agencies for some of those answers and, in that respect, there has been a legitimate and difficult delay for us. You should have got some of the other answers before you did. The delay is due to a combination of events. We made several submissions to the minister because we wanted to stage the answers in a way that did not make the end package indigestible. We certainly on to the ones we could get on to early in the piece.
The minister did have factual queries and comments about some of those. There is nothing particularly unusual about that. When looking at parliamentary questions and answers, ministers quite often spot things that they feel need to be elaborated, changed or whatever. The end result of that process was that the committee did not get the answers until about 24 January and got the package only yesterday or the day before. That is basically our explanation. We did get on to the ones we could get on to as early as possible, and it is regrettable that you did not get those sooner.
Senator TAMBLING --The committee should take note of that unsatisfactory process. The officer refers to approaching other agencies. On 17 November, I referred in particular to a organisation in the Northern Territory called the Northern Aboriginal Investment Corporation. That body separately sought to see me in my electorate office on 14 December, and it provided me with comprehensive information--in fact, much more information than is now reflected in the answers--on a personal basis. So I am surprised that the information was not passed on to ATSIC and has, in fact, been vetted or considerably reduced in this information provided. However, I will pursue that as another matter.
I think that 11 weeks is an inordinate and totally unacceptable delay for providing the parliament with answers to questions of this nature. I am sorry that some of my questions will be inadequate because they have to be structured from the information coming in. All of my questions relate to item 1.1.
A schedule was provided in one of the answers about the use of ABTA and ATSIC funds for pastoral properties being purchased in the Northern Territory. It showed the various applications made to both ABTA and ATSIC for funding for land management on these various pastoral properties. Whilst ATSIC approval has been given for some of the projects, is it intended that ATSIC approval will be given to any additional items listed in that schedule? The answer given is that ABTA approvals for grant applications are not yet known, so when is it intended they will be known? I asked these questions nearly three months ago and I understood that the ABTA process would have dealt with them well and truly by now.
Mr Eldridge --In relation to the question of when we can expect decisions from the ABTA, I understand that there is a grants meeting on 6 March. It is likely that decisions will flow from that meeting. As to the first part of your question that relates to land acquisitions by ATSIC, I cannot help you there.
Mr Morony --The commission has a land management and land acquisition program. At the beginning of the year, we provide to the states and the Northern Territory an allocation for land management. In the case of the Northern Territory, there has been an allocation. The state manager determines, within the available funds, the direction of those funds in consultation with commissioners and regional councils. My understanding is that there are not sufficient moneys to cover a number of the properties in the Northern Territory. So it is a matter of determining priorities and trying to determine the best use of those moneys with a view to achieving some sort of sustainable outcome for the expenditure of those moneys rather than just having projects that maintain properties for small projects.
Senator TAMBLING --My question was a bit more specific. Given that the applications total $534,000 for the stations listed in the schedule, and that ATSIC approval has been given for $100,000 capital and $120,000 recurrent capital only, will there be more funds this year than the $220,000 that has been listed in the schedule?
Mr Morony --I would need to take that on notice and get back to you as quickly as I can.
Senator TAMBLING --I have asked questions relating to the community of Lajamanu in the Northern Territory and the suspension of its CDEP program. You will recall that my original November question referred to the withdrawal of funding for a range of other programs in that community. The answer that has been given does not allay my fears. In fact, it supports the contention of the community at Lajamanu, where all ATSIC funding for housing, family support, training, the national Aboriginal health strategy and planning has been stripped from the community.
You also say that the Northern Territory office of local government is also expressing concern with regard to management problems. All funding to that community, which must total somewhere between $3 million and $5 million, has been removed from that community by deliberative action. You acknowledge that it is on the basis of management problems. Given those facts, what action has been taken by ATSIC to go into the community and to support and solve those management problems so that in effect it can be allocated funds under these very needy programs? I assure you from my visits to Lajamanu that it is an awful community. It must now be facing inordinate problems, having had all those programs stripped from its funding base.
Mr Morony --I had not anticipated being asked these questions, so I do not have the information. I will have to get back to you, again as quickly as I can.
Mr Rees --In these circumstances--it may apply in this community, but I will certainly check for you again; I looked at it after our last exchange--my impression is that the funding was being channelled through a grant controller. Our normal practice in these communities is not simply to terminate funding but to find an arrangement whereby we can continue funding, preferably through a grant controller or administrator of some kind. But we will get back to you on that and confirm whether the funding has been terminated, as you have suggested in the past, or whether, as I think is the case, some of it is being continued through a grant controller.
Senator TAMBLING --That is not indicated in your answer. Your answer reads that on 20 April 1994 the particular regional council decided not to fund the applications on the grounds that the Lajamanu community council had not demonstrated a capacity to adequately administer the funds. I have alerted you to the fact of the double whammy in the removal of the funds. Certainly the community has told me that all its funding has been ripped off it by the regional council. It has left it without a grants controller or anyone else administering those funds. So a community of about 800 people is totally left without any program support in what appears to be a very vindictive move. You certainly did not reflect those comments in your written answer.
I now proceed to the answers to questions received today. I am sorry I have not had time to give them the attention I would have liked, given their importance as they relate to very significant issues. With regard to the questions I asked that relate to the Northern Aboriginal Investment Corporation Pty Ltd, as I mentioned earlier I received a briefing from the general manager of that organisation on 14 December in Darwin. When Mr Brennan appeared before me, he gave me a brief which outlined quite a large number of interrelated companies, corporations and trusts that are part of the network of that organisation.
CHAIR --Does this properly fall under the heading relating to land rights?
Senator TAMBLING --Yes; it is where I asked such questions last time. It relates to land heritage and environment.
CHAIR --I thought it might have come under something else.
Senator TAMBLING --I was certainly intending to raise these as issues and, as I said, I got these answers only today.
CHAIR --I am not disputing that issue; I am querying whether this falls within the matter for which notice was given.
Senator TAMBLING --This organisation receives a substantial amount of its funding. It also comes from the ABTA, which is a derivative of the Northern Territory land rights act and in turn comes under this particular program heading.
CHAIR --Mr Rees, from the commission's point of view are you happy that it falls within this area of the subprogram?
Mr Rees --Yes.
Senator TAMBLING --I asked questions relating to the structure of the audits of this particular company. The answers that have been given to me by Mr Brennan in Darwin do not reflect the network and the corporate structures of the company, including various other boards. One of the answers lists only one board as opposed to the five or six indicated in the answers given to me by Mr Brennan--although I subsequently discovered the answers had incorrect information anyway. What I am really seeking to ascertain is: has ATSIC given any other grants to this particular network of companies for issues and program support? I understand that funds could be flowing to this group for events such as sporting events and promoting major sporting companies and it could be controlling funds on behalf of ATSIC almost as a trustee. Can I have some indication of what this group of companies and entities administers funds for ATSIC on behalf of or for?
Mr Eldridge --Firstly, we are aware of the meeting that you had in December. We were provided with a copy of the same package of information that you received from the manager of NAIC. We had that available to us in preparing the response to your question. Clearly, we took into account the fact that you had that information. The question you now ask is a considerable extension on the original question. It extends beyond NAIC into other organisations and possible ATSIC funding relationships with them. I would have to take the question on notice.
Senator TAMBLING --Given all of these are interrelated groups, I am interested in what funds they are receiving from ATSIC and on what behalf. If I can be very specific in relation to one--I appreciate you would have to take it on notice--what funding did they administer for an interim indigenous business council in the Northern Territory? What trustee capacities did they administer on that behalf and what others funds have they administered on trust for ATSIC? I have concerns about those particular areas.
There were a number of questions asked relating to the rentals of the Northern Land Council's offices in Darwin, which again are linked to that same group of companies and structures. In reviewing that information and the information that was given here with regard to mortgages and various financing of the MLC building, have ATSIC officers formed any opinion as to whether those arrangements are conventional, appropriate or have any abnormal financing that you would not normally have approved of? I notice there is a mortgage given over the building for other funds which extends the liability very considerably. That is alluded to in one of your answers.
Mr Eldridge --No, we have not formed an opinion, but I am advised that those arrangements were investigated by the Auditor-General as part of his inquiry. I cannot take the answer beyond that at this point.
Senator TAMBLING --Are you saying that you do not know whether ATSIC officers have any concerns in that regard?
Mr Eldridge --That is what I am saying. But I can have the arrangement investigated in more detail. The preparation of this response was, in the first instance, hindered, if you like, by the need to obtain information from the Northern Territory, which takes time. Because of the difficulties associated with getting the information together, the target, if you like, of the responses is the precise question that is asked. We can extend our examination of the situation, form a view on the propriety or otherwise of the ownership arrangements of the building and come back to you, if you wish.
Senator TAMBLING --My reason also alludes to some of the other answers given later with regard to the general administrative requirements of both land councils to seek top up funding for their formal requirements. So there is a budgetary flow through to the requirements that delegates of the minister in ATSIC have to approve. Therefore, this arrangement with regard to the corporate financing of rentals could impact on that other budget very considerably. That is the reason for trying to draw the link between the two of those, if you could look at that.
I note that you also refer in a number of the answers to the Auditor-General's ongoing special efficiency audit of the Northern Land Council. After 17 November I received a response from the Auditor-General. He obviously heard the questioning on 17 November and he responded directly to Senator Coates on 7 December advising that the National Audit Office was confirming its ongoing audit. So he at least responded quickly and promptly. Given that ongoing audit, what discussion has gone on since with officers of ATSIC with regard to that efficiency audit? Are you in a position to advise of any conclusions or special follow-up that is required?
Mr Stacey --We met once with officers in the Australian National Audit Office to discuss their follow-up audit which is currently being carried out. We understand that they are in the process of drafting a report, but we have not seen that yet. To the best of my knowledge, we did not have any specific discussions about this particular issue that you are raising now.
Senator TAMBLING --Why not, given that I alluded to it on 17 November?
Mr Stacey --We are not in a position to tell the Auditor-General or his staff about what matters they should be investigating. They have sought an interview with us to discuss issues that they believe are relevant to their current audit.
Senator TAMBLING --So you have not been consulted in any detail with regard to the aspects of that follow-up audit in the normal process the Auditor-General would extend? Is he extending those courtesies only to the Northern Land Council with regard to the normal exit discussions, et cetera, on the audits? Are you being excluded from those discussions?
Mr Stacey --We have had one meeting with ANAO staff to discuss their preliminary findings from their audit but we have not had any further discussions. As far as excluding anybody from the process, it is entirely a matter for the Auditor-General.
Senator TAMBLING --My original question was: had you expressed any opinion with regard to those preliminary findings--that is the word you now use--and what points of qualification, clarification or concern did ATSIC express as part of that process?
Mr Stacey --Are we talking generally about these arrangements in relation to ownership? The Auditor-General's report raised, from memory, something like 45 recommendations.
Senator TAMBLING --Fifty-five.
Mr Stacey --Fifty-five recommendations.
Senator TAMBLING --I am interested to find out whether ATSIC has expressed, as part of the process of the follow-up audit, any continuing criticisms, reservations, qualifications or support for action taken, or is it purely a matter between Northern Land Council officers and the National Audit Office?
Mr Eldridge --The answer, it seems, is that we have not. It is probably worth exploring a little where ATSIC sits in relation to the land councils and what role we would play in relation to audits of the land council by the ANAO. There would be no expectation on our part nor on the land council's part, I would expect, if ATSIC were involved in those exit discussions. It is a matter between the ANAO and the auditee. We clearly have an interest because we have a role in advising the minister on the operations of the land councils, and it is in that context that we would subsequently follow up any remaining issues following the audit. We would do that at some point, but it is only in that context. It is not in the context of ATSIC having, if you like, a `priertorial' role in relation to the land councils. It does not.
Senator TAMBLING --I have to dispute that with you. Surely it does inasmuch as the CEO of ATSIC enjoys the minister's delegation to approve the budget of the land councils, including the top-up funding. Therefore, in order for your CEO to exercise that delegation appropriately and properly, she should rely on your advice with regard to that area that arose from the original audit and is now part of the process arising to the follow-up and subsequent audit. I would have anticipated that, therefore, ATSIC officers, in giving advice to the CEO and the minister, would have needed to take a very deliberative and involved issue with this particular audit, given the seriousness of it and the consequences in the budget context. In some of these answers I think you refer to very large sums of money--many millions of dollars--that are being exercised for the top-up funding required by the CEO to approve or to sign off on.
Mr Eldridge --Certainly there is very much a budget scrutiny role in that process of advising the CEO as delegate and the minister. But, in terms of our involvement in the audit itself and the interaction between the NLC and the Auditor-General, I am suggesting that, no, we do not have a part in that. We do, however, have a very strong interest in what flows from that audit and in action taken in the follow-up to the recommendations of the audit.
Senator TAMBLING --Did you provide any advice to either the minister or the CEO with regard to the particular delegations that have been exercised for the 1994-95 financial appropriations, which you have answered in one of the detailed questions? For example, you have topped up the Northern Land Council from its $6.04 million normal grant with an additional $2.5 million under subsection 64(7) and with an additional $3.5 million under subsection 64(3). What advice did you provide to the CEO to enable her to exercise that delegation to approve those grants?
Mr Eldridge --I am advised that it is the minister himself who approves the budget of the land councils, not a delegate. But certainly we would have provided advice to the minister in that process.
Senator TAMBLING --Can a copy of that advice be given to this committee?
Senator McMullan --Not necessarily.
Senator TAMBLING --Can I seek it?
Senator McMullan --We will refer it to the minister, but you would understand that normally that is not the sort of thing that is provided.
Senator TAMBLING --There is an ongoing saga with regard to these additional required top-up funds. They are allocated as administrative grants to the land councils then denied to the ABTA general fund to be made available for community grants to Aboriginal organisations. That is my primary concern for my constituency: many Aboriginal people are concerned about the extent of this administrative requirement which then denies them access to grant funds. Given the seriousness that the Auditor-General put on the table with his December 1993 report, many people in the community are demanding exposure of the process that is now being undertaken to alleviate it, because there has been no substantial reduction in this top-up money.
Senator McMullan --I will refer the question to the minister.
Senator TAMBLING --Mr Chairman, I have a number of concerns with regard to the answers given for the ABTA--the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account--but I have not had the appropriate opportunity to study those in detail. I will obviously have to pursue them at the next round of Senate estimates committees.
CHAIR --That completes the questions under item 1.1. Senator Lees gave notice of questions under item 2, health and community development. It was not clear whether she was definitely going to ask any questions today, and she has not appeared. So if there are no further questions under that heading, that completes our examination of program 8, ATSIC, within the Prime Minister's portfolio. We will now adjourn and will resume at 1.30 p.m. with program 2 of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, followed by the specific items that were listed under the Finance portfolio.
Sitting suspended from 12.07 to 1.40 p.m.
CHAIR --The first item in this session of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is program 2--Government services. We will look at subprogram 2.1.2--Republic Advisory Committee.
Senator KEMP --Minister, can we have an update on the government response to the Turnbull committee report. What other action is in train by the government on this particular issue?
Mr Blick --The government has not formally responded, as I think I mentioned the last time we were here. The committee did not make any recommendations as such and the government is still considering its position in relation to the report.
Senator KEMP --Is it possible for you to tell the committee whether the government will respond to the committee and the time frame?
Mr Blick --I don't think I can really say that. The government is obviously considering the issues surrounding the question of the republic. Whether there would be anything in the nature of a formal response is a matter yet to be decided.
Senator KEMP --So we may or may not have a formal response to the Turnbull report?
Senator McMullan --Yes.
Senator KEMP --I appreciate a very succinct answer, minister. Could you describe what other action the government has in train on this particular issue? Is any other planning afoot?
Mr Blick --In relation to the republic?
Senator KEMP --Yes.
Mr Blick --I cannot really give any details of anything at this point.
Senator KEMP --Details? Or is there nothing being done?
Mr Blick --I cannot really say that there is nothing being done because obviously there is contemplation all the time of approaches that might be appropriate. As I think I mentioned before, there is a cabinet committee which the Prime Minister set up and which has had before it at various times different proposals and has contemplated various options, but in terms of what I might call public action, at this stage there is nothing more I can say.
Senator KEMP --When did that committee last meet? The last information we had was that it had not met. Senator Evans was fairly dismissive, from memory.
Mr Blick --I do not recall that. The committee met last year. There have not been any meetings so far this year.
Senator KEMP --I do not think we will advance that too much. Are you the official I should be asking about the McIntyre report?
Mr Blick --Yes.
Senator KEMP --What is now in train following the tabling of that report?
Mr Blick --The report recommended that there be a three-month period for comments. That three months expires in March. At this stage, the announced intention of the government is to wait for those comments and then consider what needs to be done after that.
Senator KEMP --These are comments that have been invited from the public?
Mr Blick --From the public and from states. As I say, the intention is to wait and see what is in those comments.
Senator KEMP --And then what? Convene a working party with the states to see what can be done in relation to Civic's program?
Mr Blick --That is one of the options.
Senator KEMP --That is only a recommendation. Nothing has been decided on it?
Mr Blick --As I say, we are really waiting to see what is in the comments.
Senator KEMP --I think that covers those two issues.
CHAIR --We turn now to program 2, subprogram 2.1--Official Establishments.
Senator KEMP --Can I get an update on current staffing arrangements at the Lodge?
Dr Edwards --We can have extra material put forward from Malcolm Hazell, who is acting head of the Cabinet Office at the moment. At the moment the current staffing position is 6.5, if you can imagine that. Do you want more detail?
Senator KEMP --Yes. Could you tell me what duties each of those has?
Mr Hazell --At this point in time, as Dr Edwards mentioned, we have 6.5 people currently on the establishment. The overall establishment comprises two chefs, a senior housekeeper, four housekeepers and 1.5 child carers, which we discussed last time.
Senator KEMP --Two chefs, one senior housekeeper--
Mr Hazell --Four housekeepers and 1.5 child carers, one is part-time. Currently, there are two vacant positions at the Lodge--a chef and a senior housekeeper.
Senator KEMP --Have there been any further changes in the personnel of the Lodge since the committee was last advised?
Mr Hazell --Yes. In January this year, the senior housekeeper and a chef resigned.
Senator KEMP --What were the reasons for that?
Mr Hazell --I am not aware of the reasons.
Senator KEMP --How long had the chef been there?
Mr Hazell --The chef joined the staff on 6 December 1993.
Senator KEMP --He did not last too long. So when did he resign?
Mr Hazell --On 5 January 1995.
Senator KEMP --So he was there for four weeks.
Senator McMullan --Plus a year.
Senator KEMP --Sorry. I beg your pardon. You are quite right. The housekeeper--
Mr Hazell --The senior housekeeper joined the staff in October 1994.
Senator KEMP --And when did she re-sign?
Mr Hazell --On 2 January.
Senator KEMP --Minister, is there anyone at the table who could advise us of the reasons why they resigned?
Senator McMullan --Not unless they prepare reasons in writing.
Mrs Leahy --People resign for personal reasons.
Senator McMullan --I have no idea and we cannot tell what was in their mind. If they have given some reason we could provide it, but they have not.
Senator KEMP --They resigned of their own accord. They were not asked to resign. Is that right?
Mr Hazell --Yes.
Senator KEMP --I think some figures were given at the last hearings. Have you got the number of staff that have left?
Mr Hazell --We provided you with some supplementary information for the period. During 1993-94, two chefs and three housekeepers commenced employment. Apart from the two housekeepers and the cook who left the Lodge in October 1993, two housekeepers and a chef resigned during that period.
Senator KEMP --Excluding the two housekeepers, which has been a continuing issue, two chefs and three housekeepers have left. That was on the information you gave me. Is that right?
Mr Hazell --That is the information we gave you.
Senator KEMP --Since you gave us that information, another chef and another housekeeper has left.
Mr Hazell --A senior housekeeper.
Senator KEMP --When did the original two housekeepers leave?
Mr Hazell --October 1993.
Senator KEMP --Nine people have left since October 1993. In other words, there has been a staff turnover of well over 100 per cent at the Lodge. Is that regarded as satisfactory?
Dr Edwards --I think we have to check that that is in fact the case, 100 per cent.
Mr Hazell --That is over a couple of financial years.
Senator KEMP --Since October 1993, which is 15 months. So as far as I can see from the figures you have given me, nine people have left the lodge. They have a staffing establishment of--
Mr Hazell --8.5.
Senator KEMP --And nine people have left. That would clearly be an unsatisfactory position. Is that regarded as unsatisfactory by the department?
Mr Hazell --As my colleague said last time, we basically think that the staffing situation at the Lodge is quite stable. From time to time people come and go. I do not think that there is anything more that I can add.
Senator KEMP --Since you have told me that it was stable we have lost a chef and a senior housekeeper.
Mr Hazell --There are inevitable movements in staff.
Senator KEMP --Nine staff, out of a staffing establishment of 8.5, have left. There has been a 100 per cent plus staff turnover at the Lodge in 12 to 15 months. Presumably most people would regard that as an unsatisfactory situation.
Dr Edwards --It is hard to be know what a relevant comparison is. It is not an industry where you find a high degree of stability of staff. Hospitality is an industry where you expect a fair degree of turnover at any rate.
Senator KEMP --I think under Mr Hawke there was a stable regime at the Lodge. I am not aware that under previous prime ministers that we have had this constant coming and going. I point out to you that there does appear to be a problem. It must be very unsatisfactory for Mr and Mrs Keating to have constant changes in staff at the Lodge. Have they expressed any concerns to you about the constant changes?
Dr Edwards --I am not aware of any concern.
Senator KEMP --Do we assume that Mr and Mrs Keating are perfectly happy with this massive staff turnover?
Senator McMullan --They have probably got important things to worry about.
Senator KEMP --They probably have, but I am still wondering about the position at the Lodge. Apart from the two housekeepers, have all these people resigned? Have there been any further retrenchments?
Mr Hazell --No.
Senator KEMP --What is the situation at other official residences?
Mr Hazell --There has been no change in the establishment at Kirribilli House.
Senator KEMP --Have the same people stayed there?
Mr Hazell --Yes, to the best of my recollection.
Senator KEMP --So they are more stable there?
Mr Hazell --Yes.
Senator KEMP --It is obvious that the department and minister is unwilling to explain to us why we have this massive turnover. I put it on the record that if the department can provide any further information on this matter it would be greatly appreciated.
Dr Edwards --As mentioned before, the difficulty is that you cannot really, on each occasion, interrogate staff as to the reasons they are leaving. Sometimes it may be one or two reasons not simply one. It is an industry where you would expect a fair degree of turnover. There are a lot of casual staff who come and go for reasons that have nothing to do with the job. We could look into it, but I do not expect that we can provide a lot of information on reasons.
Senator KEMP --Who manages all the staff? Is that the job of the senior housekeeper?
Mr Hazell --You will recall at the last hearing we said that the management is basically undertaken from within the department. The senior housekeeper assists with the liaison of staff.
Senator KEMP --Who is the manager of the department?
Mr Hazell --It is one of the staff in the Cabinet Office.
Senator KEMP --Is that manager worried about the situation?
Mr Hazell There is very active day to day liaison. I think it is true to say that we are coping with the situation quite well.
CHAIR --If there are no further questions, that concludes that item.