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EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
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EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
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EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(SENATE-Thursday, 16 February 1995)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Tierney)
- Program 1--Schools
- Program 2--Higher education
- Program 3--Vocational education and training
- Program 4--Employment
- Program 5--Student, youth and language support
- Program 6: Portfolio administration and advising
- Senator Schacht
Content WindowEMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 16/02/1995 - DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING - Program 4--Employment
Senator BELL --This is a fairly direct question and without a lot of detail but there should be room for the department to address an answer to the accusation that there has been little if any provision of staff to meet the requirements of the case management services and the processes involved. These accusations have been made publicly. There is industrial action pending--
Senator Schacht --Who are these dreadful people who are making accusations against a very efficient department?
Senator BELL --I think the minister is well aware of that. I am interested in the response. There must be a response and I would like to hear what it is.
Senator Schacht --Well, they are wrong. I will ask my departmental officials to expand upon that response.
Mr Halstead --I am not aware of the answer to your specific question but certainly the union and the department have been working to solve the concerns that have been expressed about the deployment of available resources towards these functions.
Senator BELL --To be more specific, the recently passed legislation makes considerable mention of case managers and much more attention being given to individual job compacts and individual attention. What direct action has been taken to ensure that the department is capable of providing that service?
Mr Halstead --As I understand it, the union is not concerned with the case management activity and, indeed, have agreed with us as to the level of case managers that we require to undertake the estimates of client activity throughout 1994-95. We have agreed that we would need about 2,200 case managers during 1994-95 to service the clients that are available.
Senator BELL --It may not be the union's concern, and I am not speaking on behalf of the unions, but the impression given to me by those who would be seen as the recipients of this new service is that it has not arrived. They are anxious that they have heard all about these wonderful things and now they want to see tangible results. What assurances can be given to those people who anticipate being on the receiving end of the new attention?
Mr Halstead --Case management is in its early days, as you would know. A significant number of people have entered case management, and a significant number have got outcomes through the case management system. Clearly it will develop further as clients get used to the system of servicing, as contracted case managers come on-line--and the options are available for the private community, as well as the public sector, for a case manager to provide services--and as the skill profile and the capacity of our respective organisations, both in the private community and in public sector, develops. I would agree that the nature of the service provision and the opportunities that are available as the labour market improves will enhance clients' perceptions of the system.
Mr Campbell --I think it has also got to be noted that the case management system set up in the Working Nation white paper is a four-year program. It was never envisaged that all clients eligible for case management over that four-year period would, according to the criteria that Mr Evans outlined earlier, be case managed during 1994-95. As Mr Halstead said, so far this financial year, some 200,000 people have entered case management with the outcomes that have been outlined.
Senator BELL --Thanks. That clarifies one of the perceptions. The people you refer to as clients, which I prefer to refer to as recipients of a service, have a perception--we will not debate how they gained that perception--that case management is perhaps a little more immediate than what you have correctly described. So we have a confident expression that there will be a departmental capacity to meet the need for case management as it is applied more thoroughly throughout the system.
Mr Campbell --I would not use the words `more thoroughly'. I think that probably has the wrong nuance.
Senator BELL --Yes, and nuances are important here. That is what I was complaining about so you are right to correct me on that.
Mr Campbell --I would answer yes to the thrust of the question--but not to the more thoroughly--in respect of the department and the private case managers who are coming on-stream under the Employment Services Regulatory Authority.
Senator TROETH --Last estimates I put a question on notice, which has been replied to. The department indicated at page 187 of volume 1 headed `additional information received' that there were 1,305 CES officers defined as case managers as at 9 June 1994. However, the department indicated that data was not available on the number of new staff employed by the CES in 1993-94 who were subsequently identified as case managers. Is this data now available?
Mr Campbell --No. With the way that our personnel systems are established it does not enable us to easily extract that data.
Senator TROETH --Why is that?
Mr Campbell --We have a large number of staff. As I understand the way our personnel system is structured, it does not enable us to go in and interrogate very easily, without using a lot of resources to determine whether new staff who came on during a particular year went into a particular function such as case management. We would have to link that with another system where our case managers are recognised with an ID, which is our employment services system. We have two systems, one is our personnel system and one is our job system which is about employment, and they are not related. One has the employment record of individuals coming into the department and the other one has the record of people who are identified as case managers.
Senator TROETH --Are the case managers who have been employed to date employed strictly as case managers or do they have other functions in the department also?
Mr Campbell --It will vary from case to case and from officer to officer. Some of our officers will be employed full-time as case managers and others will from time to time undertake other duties. It is very much in the prerogative of the local manager to determine those arrangements.
Senator TROETH --In your terms of definition of case managers, can I ask how many have been appointed to date, or could I put that on notice?
Mr Campbell --Do you mean how many people do we have who are currently providing case management services within our network?
Senator TROETH --Yes.
Mr Campbell --The figure does vary slightly on a week to week basis as people proceed on leave, et cetera. At the moment the figure is 2,000, give or take ten or fifteen.
Senator TROETH --Senator Bell referred to the industrial action by CES officers over the funding for white paper programs and their role in implementing those programs. How many more case mangers is it anticipated will be appointed?
Mr Campbell --Over the period of the four years that will depend upon our needs for case management. It will depend upon the speed with which the contractor case managers, which I referred to a moment ago in answer to Senator Bell, come on stream. That is commencing now. It is possible that we might increase the number of case managers in the near future to something like 2,200 but we cannot be definite that at a particular date we will need a particular number of case managers because it does depend upon client flow and it does depend upon the speed which a contractor case manager comes into the play.
Senator TROETH --Apart from the provision of case managers, is any extra funding being provided or other action being taken to address the concerns voiced by those CES officers and the CPSU?
Mr Campbell --As Mr Halstead mentioned earlier, there are ongoing discussions between the CPSU and the department. One of the issues that we are looking at is streamlining a number of our processes within the provision of our services and some of our internal processes, particularly regarding the administration of our labour market programs, things such as the number of forms that we might have--those types of issues. We are progressing those with the union.
Senator TROETH --On an ongoing basis?
Mr Campbell --Yes.
Senator TROETH --How many clients are now on the waiting list for case management and how many are being actively assisted?
Mr Halstead --Since case management commenced, in the order of 250,000 have entered case management. At the moment there are 141,000.
Senator TROETH --On the waiting list?
Mr Halstead --No, in case management, and just on 130,000 on the waiting list at the end of January.
Senator TROETH --The earlier figure that you referred to as in case management, are all of those being actively assisted?
Mr Halstead --No. They have entered case management, moved through the case management system over the course of the last seven or eight months and at this point around about 141,000 are in the stock of clients being case managed.
Senator TROETH --Thank you.
Mr Campbell --Obviously, there is a seasonal effect on the number on the waiting list through the December/January period because of the fact that a number of people move on to NSA around that time--there is a twelve-month gap. You need to look at it in the context of the private case managers coming on stream. They will start to have referrals flowing to them within four weeks.
Mr Halstead --Yes, in the next couple of weeks.
Senator TROETH --I have some on vocational education and training that were referred from the last program. How many trainees are currently in employment using Nettforce approved training packages?
Mr Greer --Senator, as at the end of January there were 4,668 trainees recorded as having commenced this financial year under training wage arrangements including ATS traineeships, career start traineeships and the national training wage traineeships.
Senator TROETH --Right.
Mr Greer --They are packages which have all been recognised by Nettforce in that sense.
Senator TROETH --How does that compare with targets or expectations to date?
Mr Greer --Industry advice conveyed through Nettforce is that it seems likely that the government's expectations for traineeship commencements will be exceeded. Advice from industry is that it has identified at least 37,000 traineeship opportunities or new training places under the national training wage arrangements. Nettforce, as was mentioned earlier by my colleagues, is establishing industry training companies to market the new traineeships associated with the national training wage.
The 20 companies that have been approved by Nettforce have developed industry training plans for 25,500 traineeships. Another nine companies are finalising plans for a further 8,000 places and Nettforce has also advised that it expects to finalise at least another 3,500 traineeships in industry sectors not covered by those companies.
Senator TROETH --Right.
Mr Greer --So a total, on industry's advice, of 37,000.
Senator TROETH --Given those figures, do you have any idea how many trainees are expected to be working within the Nettforce approved training packages by December 1995?
Mr Greer --That 37,000 is the 1995 target, so on that advice we would expect--
Senator TROETH --By June or by December?
Mr Greer --I would need to clarify it, but I think that may be a calendar year as distinct from a financial year.
Senator TROETH --Yes, if you could clarify that for me, thank you.
Mr Greer --Yes, certainly.
Senator TAMBLING --My questions are specific to the Northern Territory and come about as a result of some electorate representations and concerns that I have had.
Senator Schacht --Do the questions relate to answers given to questions that have been lodged? Or is this new material?
ACTING CHAIR --We have been fairly free-ranging. Minister, you have been very tolerant.
Senator Schacht --I have been very toler ant.
ACTING CHAIR --I still think we will be finished by one.
Senator Schacht --I hope I am not being made a sucker here, but on that basis, Mr Chairman, my tolerance will continue.
ACTING CHAIR --I quote from your colleague Senator Ray who, on 7 February, said on the question of additional estimates that ministers have been very liberal in their interpretations of questions being asked.
Senator Schacht --Robert Ray said that?
ACTING CHAIR --Robert Ray said that. It is in Hansard.
Senator Schacht --Good God!
Senator TAMBLING --I think in the invitation to nominate topics, it was also indicated that other topics could be nominated, and I certainly did nominate in advance that I would be raising this issue. Could I ask for a general outline of the scope of funding in the Northern Territory under the Office of Labour Market Adjustment programs, the associated ones for skillshare in the Northern Territory?
Senator Schacht --It is basically very good, but I will ask my officers to expand on that.
Mr Greer --In relation to the OLMA element, particularly the OLMA regional component, in 1992-93, $704,000 was expended on regional OLMA projects in OLMA designated localities in the Northern Territory. In 1993-94, $415,000 was expended and in 1994-95, the notional allocation for area northern Australia is $725,000 for the OLMA regional component, of which $615,000 is earmarked for localities within the Northern Territory, given that area northern embraces more than the Northern Territory.
Senator TAMBLING --With regard to skillshare, is that additional funding?
Mr Evans --Funding for skillshares in the Northern Territory comes from within an allocation that is provided to our northern Australian office for training assistance. Some of that assistance would be provided to skillshares in the Northern Territory; some of it would be used for some of the other training programs, such as jobtrain and the special intervention program. I have not got specific details in front of me on the actual funding for skillshares in the Northern Territory.
Senator TAMBLING --If I can return to the OLMA funding: can I ask whether there are any outstanding audits or unsatisfactory acquittals currently in front of the department?
Mr Greer --I understand there are outstanding audits but I do not have the specific details with me. There are several projects awaiting final acquittal.
Senator TAMBLING --Could you take those on notice and let me have a list of any that are unsatisfactory in the eyes of the department or where audits have not been completed or qualified?
Mr Greer --Certainly, Senator.
Senator TAMBLING --Thank you. Would it be departmental practice for any projects with unsatisfactory performance or qualified audits to continue to receive funding?
Mr Reeves --As a matter of principle, we would not wish to put further money into projects that had experienced problems but I suspect that on a case by case basis it would depend on what the situation had been. If, for example, you had had a project hypothetically where the problem was related to a particular individual and that matter had been dealt with, I could well foresee a situation where the department would continue to support an organisation which had fixed the problem and carried on. The department would have taken appropriate steps to resolve whatever that audit or fraud problem might have been.
Senator TAMBLING --Can I ask whether it is departmental policy for all OLMA projects to have significant Aboriginal involvement?
Mr Reeves --It would be our general policy--
Senator Schacht --In the Northern Territory or--
Senator TAMBLING --My comments are totally related to the Northern Territory, yes.
Mr Reeves --It would be our general approach that all OLMA committees, wherever, should be broadly representative of the communities and regions that they represent and should be in a position to deal with the issues and the problems that are germane to those regions. In the Northern Territory, given its Aboriginal population and the employment, education and training problems faced by Aboriginal people, we would expect our OLMA committees to be equipped to deal with those issues. In the case of Aboriginal people, I would interpret that to mean appropriate Aboriginal involvement in developing projects.
Senator TAMBLING --Is it a requirement of the department that Aboriginals be on all committees?
Mr Reeves --The OLMA guidelines do not set fixed representational arrangements for any of our committees in the sense that they do not say there must be two employers, one union, one person from local government. Much of that is left flexibly to our area officers, people on the ground, people who understand that community and the networks and individuals that exist within that community, to put together groups that they feel are capable of doing the job, both from an expertise point of view and a representational point of view.
Senator TAMBLING --Is funding withheld if, in the eyes of the department, insufficient Aboriginal representation is not in existence on the committees or on any of the projects?
Mr Reeves --My understanding, in the specific case of the Northern Territory, is that Parliamentary Secretary Snowdon has made his views quite clear about the need for appropriate Aboriginal representation on those committees and in relation to the sorts of projects that are coming through.
Senator TAMBLING --Are you saying that Mr Snowdon has demanded that there be Aboriginal participation on all projects to receive departmental funding? Is that Mr Snowdon's requirement or is it the department's requirement?
Mr Reeves --As parliamentary secretary to the minister, Mr Snowdon has responsibility for the OLMA program, not just in the Northern Territory but across Australia.
Senator TAMBLING --Could you clarify that? Mr Snowdon has responsibility right across Australia for the OLMA projects?
Mr Reeves --Yes. In the case of the Northern Territory, I understand he has made his views quite clear about what he believes is the appropriateness of Aboriginal participation in that program and in the sorts of initiatives that are developed underneath it.
Senator TAMBLING --Are you avoiding my question about whether the department has the same requirement as Mr Snowdon or is Mr Snowdon singling out particular projects in his own electorate for attention that he has not applied as equitably or as fairly elsewhere in Australia?
Senator Schacht --Senator Tambling, I should explain to you that the Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Snowdon, is responsible for the administration of OLMA, as explained, and therefore is responsible for it, quite rightly, in the Westminster system--he and the government and the department.
Senator TAMBLING --Can I take my question back to saying has Mr Snowdon issued directions in respect of those projects in the Northern Territory, which is his own electorate, on a basis that is any different from those that have applied to other projects around Australia?
Senator Schacht --Let us put it around the other way, Senator Tambling. If you want to put it to us that you have an example, we are very happy to listen to it, but this is just going on and on. If you want to put to us that there is a particular OLMA project where funding was cut off because it did not meet Mr Snowdon's requirements or recommendations or whatever, please give it to us and we will deal with it as expeditiously as possible, but this going on and on and on--
Senator TAMBLING --I was trying to establish a principle, Minister. I will come to two specific instances in a moment but I was trying to establish whether the set of principles was being applied across Australia equitably.
Senator Schacht --I could see you moving that way. Blind Freddie could see what you were doing, and that is fair enough. It has been explained to you that Mr Snowdon, as parliamentary secretary in charge quite properly of the administration of OLMA, apparently quite rightly wants discussion that the Aboriginal communities are appropriately represented, and I would have thought that most people would say that is probably quite a reasonable outcome. But now let us deal with the specifics.
Senator TAMBLING --Can we not deal with the principle first? I think that is most important.
Senator Schacht --We dealt with the principle. It has been outlined to you. Now let us get on with it.
Senator TAMBLING --I have not had an answer as to whether the parliamentary secretary has applied the same standards and requirements that he has enforced in the Northern Territory elsewhere in Australia.
Senator Schacht --I suspect there are some parts of Australia in some regions where OLMA is operating where there is for various reasons no Aboriginal population of any significance, so quite clearly it will be a bit different. I have to say that if it was operating in the eastern suburbs of Adelaide where I live you would probably have some difficulty finding an Aboriginal community to say, `You ought to be part of an OLMA committee.' I suppose historically in Tasmania, with what happened there last century, it may even be a bit more difficult--
Senator TAMBLING --It may apply to a white suburb of Darwin equally too.
Senator Schacht --All right, but give us the examples--
Senator TAMBLING --I still think, Mr Chairman, I am entitled to an answer.
Senator Schacht --You got the answer.
Senator TAMBLING --I did not. I got an evasion.
Senator Schacht --I have said to you that it has been explained to you that yes, Mr Snowdon, as parliamentary secretary, responsible for the administration of OLMA, as in the Northern Territory example, has expressed strongly a view that Aboriginal communities ought to be represented and in view of the structure of the population of the Northern Territory and the percentage of Aboriginal people spread across generally the Northern Territory, not to every crescent or creek and so on, to every square inch, but generally it is a pretty substantial population. He has argued and asked for that to happen. I think that is the policy, so let us get on with the examples where you obviously are going to roll one up to us or a couple up to us where you think there has been some abuse and we will deal with it.
Senator TAMBLING --I would still like an answer to my question about across the borders, about what is the departmental policy?
Senator Schacht --The departmental policy and the government's policy are one and the same because Mr Snowdon is the parliamentary secretary responsible for administering and responsible in parliament for OLMA. I think that is quite clear. I have always accepted, whether you do or not, Senator Tambling, the Westminster system of parliamentary responsibility, ministerial responsibility, that the government policy in the end of course is the department's policy. If we did not have that system we would have to go back and have the fight of cutting off Charles I's head again and so on to make sure that parliament is superior. So I think that is quite clear.
Senator TAMBLING --I still want an answer to the point which you have not addressed about whether the minister or the parliamentary secretary or the department have constant and common administrative requirements in--
Senator Schacht --In the Northern Territory.
Senator TAMBLING --Not just in the Northern Territory--across Australia. I will come to Mr Snowdon and the Northern Territory in a minute but I did ask it in a general sense.
Senator Schacht --Hang on, you asked the questions about the Northern Territory. That was what you zeroed in on and we accepted that as a parameter. I actually interjected a while ago, `Are you talking about the Northern Territory or the whole of Australia?' and you said, `No, the Northern Territory.' So that is what we are dealing with. I think it is not unreasonable for any minister or parliamentary secretary responsible for the program to make some discretionary judgments that circumstances in one state or territory may be a bit different from another.
Clearly Mr Snowdon, who is responsible for OLMA, has made that judgment about the Northern Territory. As he is the local House of Representatives member for all of the Northern Territory, he obviously has some pretty good knowledge of the Northern Territory. He has made that decision. That is being administered and the officer explained, without any equivocation, that that was his view. That has been explained to the officers administering OLMA in the Northern Territory. That is the principle, the policy--whatever you want to call it. We have said that, yes--
Senator TAMBLING --So you are saying that Mr Snowdon can exercise a special discretion, because he is both the parliamentary secretary and the member for the Northern Territory, to do things in his own backyard exactly as he would wish without applying any national form of consistency.
Senator Schacht --Because he is parliamentary secretary, he has been designated by the minister to be responsible for OLMA and he takes that responsibility.
Senator TAMBLING --So he can go into the Northern Territory and do whatever he likes with this scheme in his own electorate?
Senator Schacht --No, he does not do what he likes, because people like you turn up here and ask questions about what he is doing and that is the system. You are trying--obviously I can accept this for political reasons in the Northern Territory--to batter Mr Snowdon over the head that something untoward has been going on or some policy has been perverted.
I have to say that I think it shows considerable discretion and sensitivity that the minister or the parliamentary secretary is able to make an adjustment that the Northern Territory is a bit different from Adelaide or a bit different from Tasmania about the way OLMA should be structured in different regions and different states of Australia. If we did not do that, you would be the first one in here screaming that a Canberra bureaucrat was unnecessarily applying absolute, black-and-white rules right across Australia in the same way. Then you would accuse us of being centralists. You get it either way here--you get damned if you do and you are damned if you do not.
I think I have explained it pretty well and the officer, without equivocation, has explained to you that, yes, Mr Snowdon has indicated, as the parliamentary secretary responsible for OLMA, that he wants particular attention paid to the representation of Aboriginal people in communities in the Northern Territory in OLMA projects. That is the policy.
Senator TAMBLING --Okay, thank you. The government's position is now very clear and Mr Snowdon can do what he likes with his little pet projects.
Senator Schacht --No, he cannot do what he likes because when it gets back to here, people like you will ask questions and there is the normal process of evaluation. What you are trying to do is say that he directs, he hands out the dough, et cetera. I have to say that, as I understand OLMA, members of parliament on all sides are lobbying and pushing to get funding for OLMA projects for their areas. I think you are trying to show that Mr Snowdon has been unnecessarily generous or discriminatory or whatever, so let us get those examples on the table and we will have a look at it.
Senator TAMBLING --Let me turn specifically to Tennant Creek. Is the department aware that the parliamentary secretary, Mr Snowdon, met with the committee then administering OLMA in Tennant Creek on 8 September 1994 and threatened the committee with loss of funding in that community if they did not attend to the issue of Aboriginal participation on that particular occasion?
Mr Reeves --My understanding is that he met with the committee and indicated to them that he believed the committee was unrepresentative in relation to Aboriginal participation on that committee, and asked the committee to consider that issue. I have no doubt that, in that context, he would have indicated that the funding that came through the committee was, in part, dependent on an appropriate structure being in place to look after those funds.
Senator TAMBLING --Had there been any criticism of the conduct of the project up to that particular point, particularly with regard to the administration of the administration grant, the operational costs, the various feasibilities, business plans and projects that had been undertaken by the project up to that point?
Mr Reeves --In the case of Tennant Creek, I am not aware that there were any major concerns with the administration. I did understand that our area office had some concerns about the effectiveness of the operation: not that it was `bad', and so on, but whether it could have been improved. I am not aware specifically in the case of Tennant Creek that there is any suggestion of financial impropriety, or that appropriate procedures had not been followed in terms of the administration of those moneys and the use of those moneys for the purposes for which they have been approved.
Senator TAMBLING --Are you aware that a departmental officer, Mr Rob Cartledge, indicated to the Tennant Creek committee the issues of concern, and, in particular, Aboriginal representation? Did Mr Cartledge take note of the representations of that committee about their overtures previously to involve Aboriginal participation in the committee up to that point in time?
Mr Reeves --I understand that our field officer from the area office, Mr Cartledge, discussed this with the committee, as had a number of people connected with the administration in the department in their dealings with that group, and that, in the original establishment of that group, the issue had been raised.
Senator TAMBLING --Are you aware that the minutes of a meeting record that Mr Snowdon came to Tennant Creek and did what he did because of people like Bronwyn Bishop putting pressure on him in Canberra for real jobs and businesses. Mr Snowdon was not interested in even looking at the results of this committee. It was stated to Mr Cartledge that the committee has achieved real jobs and businesses in conjunction with the Aboriginal organisations and involvement. Have you seen the minutes of meetings of discussions of 22 September and also 26 September 1994?
Mr Reeves --I have not personally seen them, and the way that OLMA is basically administered, I would not expect to see them at a national office level. I do understand, however, that the person who is responsible in national office for oversighting the operations of OLMA in the Northern Territory has met personally with people from the Tennant Creek Council, and so on, and has been involved in looking at some of those issues.
Senator TAMBLING --Is it a fact that Mr Cartledge then wrote, on 13 October 1994, to the committee of BARA, stripping them of their administration of OLMA, and formally dissolving them as of 22 September 1994?
Mr Reeves --I understand that Mr Cartledge met with people in Tennant Creek involved with both the BARA and the OLMA committees. I understand that he dealt specifically in those meetings with some `merging', at the local level, of the activities of OLMA and BARA and the two committees. I understand that he talked specifically with those people about how those operations might be distinguished, from an administrative point of view, without--as is my understanding--suggesting that the two programs need not take cognisance of each other in the region. The outcome of those meetings was, in our terms at any rate, an understanding that there was an agreement that the OLMA committee would fold as a result of those discussions. I assumed that he would have confirmed that in writing.
Senator TAMBLING --It is not what the minutes reflect. Certainly the letter from Mr Cartledge dissolves that committee. Was a new committee then established in Tennant Creek, and how was it subsequently comprised?
Mr Reeves --My understanding is that there has been little progress in re-establishing that committee in Tennant Creek since that time.
Senator TAMBLING --So there has been no result, subsequent to September last year when this committee was dissolved by your department and stripped of all its functions? It was performing very well in the business community of Alice Springs for the benefit of unemployed people and the business community. Are you telling me that, subsequently, there has been nothing happening, or that there are no results that can be measured?
Mr Reeves --There is not yet a committee on the ground. I understand, as I indicated before, that there have been meetings between the department, the Tennant Creek Town Council and a number of other interests in the Tennant Creek region in order to re-establish a group there. We hope to have something in place in the next month or so. There is, to date, no formal OLMA committee in Tennant Creek.
Senator TAMBLING --So, because the parliamentary secretary decides that there is insufficient Aboriginal participation on a committee that is operating successfully and well within a community, without criticism, it is stripped of its powers, it is dissolved, and the unemployed people of Tennant Creek are left without the normal mechanisms that your department would provide.
Mr Reeves --There has been no operating committee during that period.
Senator TAMBLING --I think that stands as an indictment on the department. If I can now turn to a second instance--
Senator Schacht --That is a very uncalled for remark against the department. As I said at the beginning, and as the officer has explained, Mr Snowdon clearly indicated a policy that he wanted Aboriginal communities preferably represented on OLMA committees. I would have thought that most people across Australia who had any knowledge of the Aboriginal population of the Northern Territory would think that was not an unreasonable request. Nothing that you have raised here indicates to me that that policy is wrong.
Senator TAMBLING --Minister, I did not comment on the policy; I commented on the consequences and the results for unemployed people in the town of Tennant Creek and the business community.
Senator Schacht --You made a number of assertions on information which I am in no position to assert is wrong or right, because I do not have the knowledge; and neither, in detail, does the department represented here. Nevertheless, we will go on to the next one, which I presume will have another name, but the same accusations will be made.
Senator TAMBLING --With regard to the Palmerston Town Council and the Palmerston Development Board, what is the extent of support that has been given through OLMA in that particular community. For anyone who does not know it, it is a satellite city of Darwin, primarily operating for the benefit of a majority white population with a small scattering of Aboriginal people in the environs.
Mr Reeves --I understand that we have had an allocation into that Palmerston region of about $112,000 that was made in June 1993. That was for six projects there, which included a grant for an economic facilitator and a number of other projects that the committee in Palmerston had wanted to run in that place.
Senator TAMBLING --Is there any suggestion of unsatisfactory performance, or of qualified or inadequate audits with respect to any of those projects?
Mr Reeves --I understand that there is a problem relating to the grant for the economic facilitator, in the sense that the OLMA contribution to the running of that position--some $50,000--was insufficient to cover the total cost, and that other sources of funds which were intended to complement the OLMA moneys were not, in the end, available to the committee. So they used part of other OLMA fund moneys made available for other projects to cover that shortfall. That has been a source of discussions and problems between the committee and the department.
Senator TAMBLING --Has it basically been sorted out?
Mr Reeves --My understanding is that that has been sorted out.
Senator TAMBLING --So the department has no continuing major area of criticism or concern in that respect?
Mr Reeves --In relation, I understand, to that specific grant.
Senator TAMBLING --Given that Palmerston has a quite significant unemployment statistic of about 2,000 unemployed out of a population of 12,000 people, why is it now intended not to continue funding OLMA in that community?
Mr Reeves --My understanding is that that is not the case. In fact, some $85,000 have been made available for the Palmerston region in the 1994-95 funding year. Those funds are available to the total Palmerston region, and applications from organisations in that region are being accepted by the department for funds for projects that come within the OLMA remit.
Senator TAMBLING --Is it normal for OLMA or DEET staff to be involved in the discussions with these various boards? For example, do you have membership on the Palmerston Development Board?
Mr Reeves --Yes. My understanding is that we had membership on the Palmerston Development Board. On a national basis, it would be very patchy between states and regions in a number of places. Some of our officers are members--normally ex officio maybe, rather than formal members--of regional development organisations and boards of various kinds.
Senator TAMBLING --Are you aware of any other proposals to continue support for the Palmerston economic and employment development strategy or the Palmerston Development Board? Is it going to be an ongoing project that you will support?
Mr Reeves --I am unaware at the moment of what mix of projects we are looking to pick up in the Palmerston region at this time. No doubt one of those, or part of the packet of proposals that will be considered, will be support in all or part of things that come within that strategy that was developed.
Senator TAMBLING --Are you aware of any proposals to develop alternative strategies for Palmerston, divorced from either the Palmerston town council or the Palmerston Development Board?
Mr Reeves --I understand that there are discussions and so on, if you like, proceeding to look at how we would approach that decision making in Palmerston. Whether that would totally exclude the town council or the Palmerston mayor or any other individual concerned with that, I am not specifically aware at this point of how far northern Australia has gone down that path.
Senator TAMBLING --Are you aware that Mr Snowdon has been involved in this project at all?
Mr Reeves --My understanding is that he met with a number of people in conjunction with Palmerston, and I would expect that he has met, specifically, with the town council.
Senator TAMBLING --But you are not aware of any changes, as a result of those representations, to support the projects?
Mr Reeves --Not to date.
Senator TAMBLING --How deliberative, in seeking to determine the outcome or the actual scope of work, should DEET officers be or are they with these particular projects?
Mr Reeves --We have tried--as a matter of principle, and it is enunciated in our guidelines--to pass as much responsibility for decision making, certainly in a priority setting sense, to committees under the program rather than having those decisions made by the department. The department has final approval on all projects from a financial administrative perspective, but I think one of the characteristics of the program is that the responsibility falls to those committees to put together strategies that suit their region and suit the employment, education and training circumstances of that region, and to make decisions between projects as to what they see as important for that community.
Senator TAMBLING --Have you seen the minutes of a meeting of the Palmerston Development Board dated 30 November 1994? In those minutes a member of the board, a union organiser, Mr Ronnie Richardson, expressed his great disappointment with the reception given to the executive committee prior to the meeting with the NT OLMA on 21 November 1994, and advised that it commenced with an extremely disrespectful greeting. Further on in those same minutes Ronnie Richardson quoted, without prejudice, a statement made by Rob Cartledge--a DEET officer, I might point out--in response to a comment made by Steve Bennett, the town clerk, at the meeting. Mr Cartledge is stated to have said, `You have made trouble for me. I am going to make as much trouble for you as I can.' Have you seen those minutes, and would you be concerned at such a statement being officially recorded?
Mr Reeves --No, I have not seen the minutes. Yes, I think we would be concerned with anybody making that sort of comment, because it does not bode well for a good relationship between the department and the community group concerned.
Senator Schacht --I do not know whether Mr Cartledge accepts that he actually said those words that are attributed to him. I do not know whether you have got a copy of the minutes.
Senator TAMBLING --I have got a copy of the minutes certified as a true copy. Mr Cartledge is a member of that committee and there would have been subsequent meetings.
Senator Schacht --Whether he was at the next meeting when the minutes were signed, I do not know. I just know--as you well know Senator Tambling as someone who has had experience in politics--minute writers, like returning officers, always have an opportunity to do a few things from time to time and unless they are properly checked and authorised, minutes in particular have a propensity to reflect the views of the minute taker and may not necessarily reflect the full ambience of the discussion and so on.
It is there to be taken at face value but, as I say, until Mr Cartledge is given some chance to either say yes or no to those remarks, I think we have got to take it on that basis. As the officer said, if they are true, it is not something that we would deem a suitable thing to say at a meeting like that because it does not create the goodwill that the department would like to have.
Senator TAMBLING --Thank you, I take your comments. Given that the Palmerston Development Board has identified a gain of some 500 jobs within the next six to 12 months for its continuing programs, will the department be continuing--
Senator Schacht --All the programs or general programs?
Senator TAMBLING --They are the programs for which OLMA support has been sought. Is it the intent of the department to continue to support the Palmerston Development Board and the Palmerston Town Council?
Mr Reeves --I am unaware as to where our discussions and so on on those projects are at this point in time because those considerations would occur with our office in Darwin and with possibly some involvement with people down here, but essentially the running on that would be with the Darwin office. We could find that out and provide you with details of where those consultations are and those deliberations are if you wish.
Senator TAMBLING --I certainly would. Given the 17 per cent unemployment rate in that community, I think it is most important that those projects continue, given their level of success. Are you aware of any other OLMA or skillshare sponsored projects in the Northern Territory where there have been abrupt changes to the funding patterns in this financial year?
Mr Reeves --I am not, no.
Senator TAMBLING --Could you take the question on notice. I would be interested to know whether there have been any significant changes to funding patterns that have been initiated either by the department or by the Parliamentary Secretary.
Mr Reeves --There will certainly be a lot of OLMA committees whose original, if you like, project plans for the financial year have changed and where they have reassessed in a lot of circumstances the priorities that they set last May and have changed the mix of projects they have got. It is not my understanding that any region has lost or gained significant funds out of those deliberations across the country, but we will certainly check it.
Mr Campbell --We will come back to you with the question of skillshare, but it may well be that some people have confused the figures with regard to skillshare funding. Up until and including 1994, skillshares were funded on a calendar-year basis. The government decided to bring them onto a financial-year basis so they are consistent with all other programs we fund so that a skillshare is funded on a financial year consistent with all other labour market program providers.
So what happened at the end of 1994 is that skillshares were re-contracted for a six-month period to bring them into a financial-year arrangement. So in that sense, at the beginning of 1995, most of the skillshares, if not all, got approximately 50 per cent of their previous year's funding, but that was only for a six-month period.
Senator TAMBLING --With regard to projects of this nature in the community, is it the department's normal practice to brief the federal member responsible for the electorate and/or senators with regard to these projects?
Mr Campbell --Both.
Senator TAMBLING --Any of these sorts of employment related ones?
Mr Campbell --Perhaps I will talk on the program generally and then Mr Reeves can talk about OLMA. Most of the projects which the department provides under the jobskills, jobtrain and skillshare programs are advertised and go through a complete selection process--tendering and selection. How they are then announced will vary from case to case. Jobskills projects are often announced with representation from right across the spectrum--local government and local community leaders. Jobtrain courses are usually not announced because they are just the purchase of a course from a particular provider or from a TAFE, et cetera.
With regard to skillshare, as I said, we go through an annual funding round. Sometimes, particularly if there has been an extension of a skillshare or a new service funded, there will be some form of announcement which I cannot be prescriptive about. However, in the main, skillshares are continually funded from year to year. There might be a slight variation in the level of funding because of the services they are going to provide. So in most cases I would not expect any publicity about the renewal of funding arrangements for skillshares.
Senator TAMBLING --Is there any consultation or communication with the senator or member concerned?
Mr Campbell --Again, that will vary. Do you mean on the announcement or on the decision?
Senator TAMBLING --Both.
Mr Campbell --On the decision, Senator, that is subject to the question of tendering. The officers in the local area who are taking decisions on who to fund will take into account a number of considerations particularly the success or otherwise of that organisation providing whatever service they have provided in the past--in other words, the outcomes that that organisation provides. I cannot be prescriptive as to what will happen on every individual case about the involvement of local members either at the Commonwealth level or the state level.
Senator TAMBLING --For example, in the 1993-94 financial year, I received a very comprehensive briefing from your regional office of all the programs and the implications and the breakdown. It was a very good document. I did not receive that at the last budget period and I am wondering whether it was a departmental decision not to provide it. Similarly, I have not been invited to or involved in any function of this department in the Northern Territory for about 2 1/2 or three years--probably about the same time that Mr Snowdon has been the parliamentary secretary. I am seeking to ascertain whether there is some reason why I am being avoided by the department?
Mr Campbell --Not as far as I am aware, Senator.
Senator TAMBLING --Yes. I should mention that, to the credit of the regional director when she was appointed, I was successful in seeking an introductory appointment with Miss Tscharos. I did seek another appointment last month but our diaries could not coincide and I intend to pursue that. But I would think that, as a matter of course, those sorts of things would happen.
Senator Schacht --If you are suggesting that somehow or other Mr Snowdon may be involved and you are not getting information--and that is the implication--you should take these matters up with Mr Snowdon. You both travel from the Northern Territory to federal parliament. You have got plenty of time to sit together on a plane and discuss these matters. I am sure you will be able to work this out one-to-one, Senator, and we will all have a much quicker time in estimates.
Senator TAMBLING --Thank you.
Senator Schacht --I do not think the rivalry in the Northern Territory should be taking up the time here.
Senator TROETH --Right. In November, Senator Tierney asked a series of questions regarding the job compact. I refer to the answers which the department provided on page 191 to page 195 of additional information. On page 191, the department stated that it was intended to have at least 60 area consultative committees established and running by the end of the year. Has this been done?
Mr Greer --Senator, of 60 area consultative committees, 50 chairpersons for 58 of those committees have, in fact, been appointed. Twenty-nine of those committees are fully comprised and have held meetings and another 14 of those numbers will be fully formed during February and they will have their first meeting then.
Senator TROETH --Right. So approximately half of the 60 are now fully established and the 29--
Mr Greer --Certainly, half of the 60 are fully established and operating. Another 14 are expected to be fully established and to have had their first meeting by the end of this month.
Senator TROETH --And is there any time frame for the remaining 16?
Mr Greer --We would expect all of them to have been completely formed by probably, I think, 23 or 24 March, when we are convening a national conference of ACC chairpersons. We will have interim reports in on all of those committees.
Senator TROETH --Right. This may be a question more for the minister. Given the timing of the announcement of the jobs compact in Working Nation, Minister, why do you think the jobs compact was months late in getting up and running?
Senator Schacht --I will ask the officers to give the detail of that, but I think that the very size of the project that the government outlined in Working Nation--the job compact, the number of case managers to be appointed, the numbers of people to be dealt with in going into case management and the whole range of the program--means that it is really one of the biggest, if not the biggest such project ever taken on by the federal government in the history of federation. I just think you have got to be somewhat reasonable when taking on such a gigantic program, which is over $4 billion of extra expenditure over four years, or a total expenditure of $10 billion over the four years. You are dealing with a program or programs the like of which this country has never seen before. So I think that the department and the government have done very well to get as well advanced. We had the figures earlier, for example, of the number of people who have gone into case management, the number of case managers appointed. Of course we would all like it to be done quicker. We would have all liked it to be up and running the day after Working Nation was announced, but I think the outcome is a considerable achievement. It took the Snowy Mountains scheme 30 years to have been completed. This is not quite the same as that.
Senator TROETH --That was moving mountains. No, it is not a good analogy.
Senator Schacht --Everyone talks about the Snowy Mountains scheme as a long-term scheme. This is a four-year scheme that is going to end up employing a lot more people and give jobs to more people than any other national scheme this country has ever seen, and I just think people have got to keep, in a sense, that bigger picture. Any individual cases and areas of where performance is not as fast as we would like, we accept the criticism as a government and as a department, but I think the evidence given here today indicates the magnitude of the task that DEET took on, and some of the innovative programs, for example, private sector being involved, employing private sector case managers as well as out of the CES itself. These are all new programs established in ESRA and so on. These are quite new and unique programs in Australian public life, and I would give certainly more than the benefit of the doubt that the department and the government have done a pretty good job.
Mr Campbell --If I could add to that, Minister--
Senator Schacht --Do not use the Snowy Mountains scheme. Apparently that is going to get you into strife.
Mr Campbell --It was never stated that all the elements of the white paper would come into effect at the beginning of July. The white paper came down in the first week of May. From 4 July quite a large number of elements took effect, and a number of elements have been coming on stream since then. Probably the final one is the private sector case management, which was dependent upon the passage of legislation which passed the parliament in the last sitting days before Christmas.
Senator BELL --Do not remind us.
Senator TROETH --Senator Bell and I are well aware of that. I accept the answer. Thank you for that. The department has indicated that there was no data available on the number of unsubsidised trainees, and I think this relates to the same page numbers as I gave before, discussing arrangements with a collection of data with state training authorities. What has been the result of these discussions, and is that data now available? I said pages 191 to 195, I think.
Mr Greer --Unfortunately we do not have an update on that. Could I take that on notice, please?
Senator TROETH --Yes. I would particularly like to know the scope and the result of those discussions with state training authorities and any data emanating from those.
Mr Greer --Certainly.
Senator TROETH --Again, in response to several questions seeking data on post-placement outcomes--particularly in reference to people assisted under the employment incentive scheme; contracted placements; and work experience for people with disabilities--the department was unable to provide data for the number of commencements still in employment. Why is that so? Does the department feel that that is a satisfactory state of affairs?
Mr Campbell --So that there is no confusion, can you give me the page number in the book where you are referring to those questions?
Senator TROETH --No, perhaps I could give you that later. I did think it was the previous reference, 191 to 195: Employment incentive scheme, contracted placements and work experience for people with disabilities.
Mr Campbell --I am trying to recall the question that was asked at the last Senate estimates. I think the question was asked about some time past, and it said: what is the PPM, and how many of those people are still in employment?
Senator TROETH --Yes.
Mr Campbell --The answer to that is, if I recall the question correctly, that the way our post-program monitoring system works is that, three months after the completion of the subsidy period, we contact all recipients of all programs--except those in jobstart, where we only contact 50 per cent because of the very large number--and we ask them what they are currently doing. That then comes out into the post-program monitoring arrangement, which says they are either in further unsubsidised employment; that they are in further education training funded by DEET; or that they are not funded by DEET. We gave you those figures for the various programs.
I think, from memory, the question then went on to say: in respect of people where the subsidy might have finished two or three years ago, are they still in employment? We cannot track that, because those people have left our system and they have a job. Some of them may well now be back into our system, but we do not track them generally. What the answer is saying is that, three years down the track, we cannot say what has happened to that individual. It is not a question of updating: we do not have that tracking of individuals.
Senator TROETH --Does the outcome for jobstart called `unsubsidised employment' include those who have been kept on for three months beyond their term in order for a $500 bonus to be payable?
Mr Campbell --The $500 bonus that you mention for jobstart has only come into effect for commencements from 4 July this year.
Senator TROETH --This year?
Mr Campbell --Yes, for 1994-95. Therefore, there will be no payments of the $500 bonus yet, because we are not yet nine months into it. Therefore, with all the PPMs which we provided to you in response to those earlier questions, the question of the bonus does not arise.
Senator TROETH --On page 195 of that same section, why were there only 51 people on the national training wage on 23 November 1994, and how do you explain the slow uptake of places?
Mr Greer --The traineeships under the national training wage were able to commence in federal awards following the handing down by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission on 5 September. Progressive implementation of provisions to mirror the national training wage award in state industrial arrangements has since followed. There have been some delays in some states: notably South Australia, where the government has intervened in an agreement between employers and unions to implement mirror training wage arrangements.
But the Queensland state awards were only amended to enable national training wage trainees to commence under state provisions on 13 October 1994. In Victoria, a statutory instrument equivalent to the federal award received royal assent on 13 December. New South Wales has proceeded on an award by award basis, with several major awards covering clerical, retail and the public sector having already been varied. In Western Australia and in Tasmania, negotiations on provisions and mechanisms for the national training wage are well advanced. So whilst we had the federal award provisions in September, there have been some difficulties in mirroring those arrangements at the state level.
Senator TROETH --On a state by state basis.
Mr Greer --But that is progressively being put in place, and as I say, with the exception perhaps of South Australia where arrangements have stalled, we would think that mirror provisions will be in all states and territories in the foreseeable future. The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has considered applications to declare the national training wage award a common rule in the ACT and the Northern Territory.
Senator TROETH --Right.
Senator Schacht --We would appreciate it, Senator, if you and some of your Liberal colleagues can give a bit of a hurry up to the South Australian state government, because otherwise South Australia is not going to get as much from this as it should, as early as it should. I think you may have more influence with them than I will!
Senator TROETH --It remains to be seen, Minister.
Senator BELL --I hesitate to give the minister another chance to tell us how wonderful the white paper is and that its implementation is proceeding as planned. But to return to an answer given to Senator Troeth about Nettforce and the approved training packages, she asked how many trainees are expected to be working within Nettforce. I understood the answer to be 37,000 in calendar year 1995.
That answer was consistent with the concerns I had expressed at the beginning of this section. I only want to reiterate them to give perhaps the officers, rather than the minister, the chance to reiterate their assurances that the provisions of the white paper are in fact on track, and that any impression the community has about the overwhelming size of the project, which the minister has described for us, is not being ignored by those who are responsible for its implementation. We have had a couple of goes--
Senator Schacht --I have already--
Senator BELL --Yes, you have said that, but the numbers are pretty overwhelming on some occasions and we are looking for the actual action.
Senator Schacht --Mr Campbell may have a go at this. But I mean, what do you expect us to say?
Senator BELL --I expect a more impressive list of what has actually been done, rather than what is going to happen.
Senator Schacht --I can understand that. Obviously, everyone would always like to do it quicker and better. But in the nature of the program and, as Mr Campbell has already said, most of the things are coming on stream in accordance with the program over four years, legislation being carried, and so on. I think the fact that over 250,000 clients have entered case management since the program started is not a bad figure.
Senator BELL --Yes.
Senator Schacht --Now, you might say, `How many have got a job?' And it is less than that number, of course.
Senator BELL --No, that is not the thrust of it.
Senator Schacht --Anyway, I will let Mr Campbell have a go, to further emphasise my remarks that the program was proceeding very well.
Mr Campbell --I can only go back to what I said earlier. In the seven months since the commencement of this financial year--the white paper was brought down at the end of last financial year and commenced at the beginning of July--we have taken you through the number of clients that have entered case management. We have taken you through the outcomes. My colleagues have outlined the process by which we have a national training wage and the processes are very well advanced, if not completed, in most states for the introduction of training wages to the state jurisdictions. There have been very extensive discussions and agreements with state authorities on the administration of the national training wage.
The Employment Service Legislation has been passed. The Employment Services Regulatory Authority is up and running. They have accredited some 600 to 700 potential contractor case managers. They have, I understand, gone to tender and they are close to contracting for private case managers. The department is, as Mr Greer outlined, very close to having all 60 area consultative committees up and running.
The white paper announced a new program called the new work opportunities program, which was to have 11,000 or 12,000 commencements this year and some 30,000 next year. We have already signed between 80 and 90 contracts under the new work opportunities program and people are now flowing onto those. We are very well advanced in the enhancements to our own computer systems. I think what underlies some of the concerns that might have been expressed here is that people expected that all of this could be put in place in one day, when obviously ourselves and the community, the industrial sector all have quite a bit of work to put some of the finetuning into place.
Senator Schacht --If you design a program administratively, that means that it is all a piece of legislation, it is all bureaucratically designed and run out of Canberra, so you say `1 July' and that is it. Then you go down to the grassroots and nothing is happening because the design does not meet the realities of how you have to deliver the programs. As I said before, the Working Nation statement in this area has got a number of new innovative programs involving the community, involving individual case management, the training wage and so on. Wearing the hat of minister for small business, I have done nearly 400 small businesses in one form or another in the last 23 months, and I have done a couple of hundred since July of last year.
The word is getting out and people are understanding what is available. If it is a communication, you have got to explain it to people, and much of it is a one-to-one explanation for them to understand what is available through Working Nation. Once you explain to them what is available, they then get very interested. When you say to somebody that there is a training subsidy available for up to nine months that may pay 80 per cent of the training wage as a subsidy, there is an audible gasp. People did not realise that that was available, and they are very interested in going and getting access.
The other thing I have to say is that out in the business community, at all levels, there is a very genuine understanding that they have to play their part in being involved in looking at the issue of dealing with long-term unemployment, because they do not want a society, like anybody else, that has long-term unemployment at a high level which creates social dislocation. But it takes a while to get the stuff out, and communication is so important for it. But I think, on balance, in view of the innovation that is involved in these programs, we have come a hell of a long way in eight months.