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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
CROSS-PORTFOLIO INDIGENOUS MATTERS
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
- Committee Name
Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
McLucas, Sen Jan
Siewert, Sen Rachel
Peris, Sen Nova
Macdonald, Sen Ian
Scullion, Sen Nigel
Smith, Sen Dean
McKenzie, Sen Bridget
Scullion, Sen Nigel
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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
(Senate-Friday, 27 February 2015)
CROSS-PORTFOLIO INDIGENOUS MATTERS
Indigenous Business Australia
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Senator IAN MACDONALD
- Indigenous Business Australia
- CROSS-PORTFOLIO INDIGENOUS MATTERS
Content WindowFinance and Public Administration Legislation Committee - 27/02/2015 - Estimates - CROSS-PORTFOLIO INDIGENOUS MATTERS - Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
CHAIR: I welcome officers of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to an order of the Senate of 13 May 2009 specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised. Witnesses are specifically reminded that a statement of information or a document is confidential or consists of advice to government is not a statement that meets the requirements of the 2009 order. Instead, witnesses are required to provide some specific indication of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or the document. The committee has set 10 April 2015 as the date by which answers to questions on notice are to be returned. Ms Carroll, do you wish to make an opening statement?
Ms Carroll : No.
CHAIR: We will go to questions and we will deal generally with outcome 2 before moving to the specific program entitlements.
Senator McLUCAS: My first question goes to questions on notice. Answers to questions on notice from our last estimates round were due by 31 December 2014. The answers were provided to the committee on 15 February. That is problematic to the committee. We put questions on notice to receive information in order to prepare for the next round of estimates. That is too late. Can you advise why they were that late?
Ms Carroll : We are aware that the questions were late. It was part of the process of getting them all cleared.
Senator McLUCAS: On what date were the answers provided to the minister's office?
Ms Carroll : They were provided to the office on 19 November 2014.
Senator McLUCAS: Now, let us get to it. Minister, on 19 November they appeared in your office and then it took until 15 February to come to the committee. Can you explain why that took so long?
Senator Scullion: No, I cannot but I am more than happy to take that on notice. I was not aware of that.
Ms Carroll : I can clarify that there were two groups of questions on notice. There was one group that was the general PM&C questions and there were also questions from our portfolio bodies with which we had some internal problems relating to where there was a nil answer or a no answer and that was not picked up properly in the answers so they were later.
Senator McLUCAS: So, 19 November was when the PM&C answers went to the minister's office for clearance?
Ms Carroll : That is right.
Senator McLUCAS: Minister, you were seeking some advice about why that took so long in your office.
Senator Scullion: I glared at someone in the back of the room. I am not sure if that constitutes seeking advice. I have no idea. In fact, I checked yesterday that we were all up to scratch on this. I really appreciate the importance of providing timely advice to the committee. I was not aware that this was the case. I have received two pieces of advice. On one set I have been advised that I cannot say.
Senator McLUCAS: That is—
Senator Scullion: That is how long the process took but I have had advice that it is not going to take that long in the future and I can assure the committee that it will not happen again. I do have a broader understanding but, because it involves other departments, I am not prepared to go there. I will seek a more comprehensive answer to that. I do respect that that is the case. As I said, the questions should not normally take that long. I know, because I have signed off on the questions, that most of them were fairly basic questions which I do not think were particularly complex. I will have to find out myself. As you can see, I am not exactly aware of what the shortcomings were and where the delays were. I deal with my briefs in a very timely way and I am disappointed that that is the case.
Senator McLUCAS: Can you tell me how many were changed or amended in your office?
Senator Scullion: To my knowledge, none. I have not amended or—
Senator McLUCAS: None?
Senator Scullion: None.
Senator McLUCAS: So, you just signed them all?
Senator Scullion: No, I do not just sign anything. I read carefully what the question is and then I have a look at the answer to the questions. Usually I put the helpful gaze over it because in the past it has been a little unhelpful in this particular portfolio. I am trying to be more helpful than we have perhaps been in the past. Sometimes I will say, 'This is a bit unhelpful. Can you assist?', but I cannot recall in recent times having to say that because that is now the convention. I have not sought to change or amend any of the content in any of the questions on notice. Is there any particular one that you think there might have been some mischief in?
Senator McLUCAS: No.
Senator Scullion: I have to say that they are—
Senator McLUCAS: I am just trying to work out why it took three months from 19 November to 15 February to pass a brief through your office.
Senator Scullion: As I previously indicated, at this moment in time I am not able to throw light on that. All I can say is these circumstances will not happen again.
Senator McLUCAS: I certainly hope not.
Senator SIEWERT: I wanted to ask some general questions about where we are up to with the funding round for the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
Ms Carroll : Do you want us to give you a general update?
Senator SIEWERT: Can you give us a general update?
Ms Carroll : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Last time at estimates you were not able to give us even the numbers of applications that you had received, so maybe we can start there so we can get it on record and then you can give us an update of progress.
Ms Carroll : I will give you some general numbers and then my colleagues can add to that. The final number of applications was 2,472. Within those applications there were 4,948 projects. The number of organisations was 2,345. I think at the last estimates the main thing that happened was that we had only just received all the applications and we were starting to have a look at them, which was why we could not give you the specific detail. Obviously since that point we have had an extension in the process. Two things happened. One was that we gave some more time for the consideration of all the applications and, alongside that, we extended all the current service providers; we gave contract extensions through to the middle of this year to 30 June. There was a small number extended through to the end of the calendar year, so anybody whose funding agreement was finishing at the end of December 2014 was extended either for six or 12 months. The reason for that was that as we got into the application process we found that it was very detailed, very complex, and the committee which Mr Eccles chairs gave advice to the minister that we needed some more time to make sure that we had time to properly assess the applications and to ensure we did not make any rushed decisions which led to inadvertent consequences of key service providers not receiving funding.
Senator SIEWERT: Are you on time for the end of March?
Ms Carroll : Definitely. In the next couple of days we will give the minister the brief on all of our final recommendations. As I think we went through last time, the minister is the decision maker for the grants.
Senator SIEWERT: At the last estimates we had a discussion about the process that you would use. I do not think that you had finalised all of that. Could you take us through the process that you have used and also advise if it has been in-house with the department or have you had outside people come in and help as well?
Ms Black : I will start with the process that we use first and then go to the second part of your question. We set up an assessment management office in our national office, which was our staff room there. Their primary job was to get the applications, open them, check them for compliance, register them and oversee the entire assessment process.
We then sent the applications out to assessment panels which were made up of our network and national office staff. We had seven panels operating across the country. Concurrently we had regional requirement teams set up as well. They looked at the applications from a regional lens. They were looking at it in terms of need within a particular region against the current service footprint and the local knowledge that they brought to the organisations, to the applications. That information went to our grant selection committee, which Mr Eccles chairs. They considered all of that information in terms of making final recommendations to the minister.
Senator SIEWERT: So, all of that advice went to the assessment management office?
Ms Black : It went to the grant selection committee. Mr Eccles chairs the governance body over the entire assessment process, which is the grant selection committee.
Senator SIEWERT: Which is different to the assessment management office?
Ms Black : Yes. The assessment management office is a work unit that is physically responsible for the applications.
Senator SIEWERT: Before we go to the second part of my question, what was the basis of the establishment the network of seven panels? Were they based on subject?
Ms Black : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: So, they were based on the program areas?
Ms Black : No. We did not go with program areas in the end. We contemplated that but, because we had one application and people could apply across all program areas, it would not have been a good fit to align it purely programmatically. It was staff who have knowledge of all of our business that were on those assessment panels, both in the national office and from the network.
Senator SIEWERT: When you say network—
Ms Black : I mean our regional network outside of Canberra. When we say 'network' we mean staff that are based outside of Canberra.
Senator SIEWERT: I am just being clear because we have different versions of what a network is. How did you determine that? Did you just determine seven panels because you needed that many to deal with the number of them?
Ms Black : The volume.
Senator SIEWERT: The volume?
Ms Black : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Then they went out to your regions as well?
Ms Black : Yes. Every application was viewed twice, through the assessment panel process and through the regional teams as well.
Senator McLUCAS: You talked about checking for compliance. How many were non-compliant?
Ms Black : In terms of non-compliance, we had quite a large number that were late. The application outlined the timing for the applications but also the size of them and the number of attachments that you could have, so anything that was outside of those two parameters was deemed as non-compliant. We did have quite a large number of non-compliants. We had 1,233 non-compliant applications. We reserved the right in the application kit for the department to look at—
Senator McLUCAS: I am sorry, but I have to interrupt you. So, it is 1,233 out of 2,472 that were non-compliant?
Ms Black : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: That is half.
Mr Eccles : The committee that I chaired made the decision to assess all applications regardless of the compliance.
Ms Black : Our application kit gave the department discretion to seek reasons for lateness, which we did, and we also reserved the right to assess everything. We took it to the grants selection committee and we made the assessment that all applications should be assessed. This is the first time we have done such a round, so we had to be mindful of the fact that providers were still getting used to a competitive process.
Senator McLUCAS: Are you doing a piece of work that learns from that?
Ms Black : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: So we can assist organisations to be more compliant?
Ms Black : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: The only organisation that you would want to knock out is someone who has a reason not to be funded.
Ms Black : Absolutely.
Senator McLUCAS: Insolvent or something like that.
Ms Carroll : Absolutely. Due to that 50 per cent issue we came to a decision very quickly that all of those applications would be assessed and considered. We were very conscious of not penalising any small organisation, especially a small Indigenous organisation, that may not have the same capacity to understand or that had never done this kind of process before.
Ms Black : We had our regional network staff work with applicants before the run closed, in terms of getting their applications in, but that is an area that we might increase in future to provide more intensive help to the organisations.
Senator McLUCAS: Have you done any work around assessing how many potential applications you might have received because people did not send them in as they knew they were going to be non-compliant?
Ms Black : We have not done that.
Mr Eccles : Not that piece of work.
Ms Carroll : As part of the process, as Ms Black said, we have had a regional approach. We are actually making sure as we go along that we look at service gaps, which goes to the issue of whether there is a service gap on the ground, if there is a potential to fill that at some point and how we would go about that.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you for that.
Senator SIEWERT: Did you get outside help with this as well?
Ms Black : In the assessment management office, which is the officer level 1 in national office that is responsible for overseeing the whole process, we have about five contractors in there working with us. They are non-ongoing officers. We used two companies to get a bit of surge capacity in terms of registering the applications. We were expecting quite a large number but the physical process of registering them was quite a big process. We used a company called Mosaic. We had about 12 people in for about four days. We used Ernst & Young for some surge capacity. I think we used between 20 and 25 people for a short period of time to help us register.
Senator SIEWERT: So, all they did was register the applications?
Ms Black : That is all they did. Ernst & Young have a broader role with us but in terms of bringing people in to help us with the applications, that is what we used them for.
Ms Carroll : I can say that it is primarily our staff within Prime Minister and Cabinet that have done all the assessments. I know different departments use different processes. We have not gone out and used a large number of contractors or any of those things. We have actually used all our internal PM&C staff and, as Ms Black said, where we have a small gap we have plugged it, but those panels that she described were primarily all staffed by PM&C staff.
Senator SIEWERT: It is the word 'primarily' that I would like to explore. I just want to clarify that Mosaic's did the registration of the applications in that administrative space.
Ms Black : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Ernst & Young provided surge capacity. When you say 'primarily', were they involved in the assessment process and, if so, how?
Ms Black : We engaged Ernst & Young to help us with a number of things. One was to help us with some logistics in administration around the assessment process, so helping us build the documentation to help the panels of staff assess applications.
Senator SIEWERT: So, secretarial support?
Ms Black : Yes, and guidance for individual staff members who were undertaking the assessment process because we did training with all staff before they assessed the application. We also used EY for some IT support. We built a database for registering our applications, so EY assisted us with that. The last part that we engaged EY for was for probity advice.
Senator SIEWERT: Could you tell me the contract cost for Mosaic and for Ernst & Young?
Ms Black : I can. Mosaic was $65,346.22. We still have an open contract with Ernst & Young so we may not expend the full amount. Our probity advice is on an as-needs basis. The current contract value is $1.5 million but we may not, as I said, use that entire amount.
Senator SIEWERT: I understand what you have just said about probity, but how much have you spent to date?
Ms Black : On probity?
Senator SIEWERT: No, overall.
Ms Black : I might need to take that on notice. My guess would be about $1 million to $1.2 million. I do not want to mislead you so I would prefer to take that on notice.
Senator McLUCAS: This will have to happen on notice as well. What is the total cost of undertaking the whole IAS administration process?
Ms Carroll : We will see what we can provide for you on notice.
Ms Black : We did it as business as usual for our staff as a key part of their role but we will take that on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: There is one thing I neglected to ask when I asked about the number of applications. How much was the total that was applied for?
Ms Black : The total is in the order of $14 billion. Can I put a little bit of context around that?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes. I thought that might happen.
Ms Black : We had a number of applications that asked for very large sums of money. I obviously cannot give you the details of those specific applications but we took the five that were the top ones. We had five applications worth $5 billion.
Senator SIEWERT: Five for $5 billion?
Ms Black : Yes. We can break it down much further for you once we have settled the round in terms of giving you a picture of how many people applied for quite large sums of money. I think we need to look at that figure in the context of people who put in very large bids.
Senator SIEWERT: If you take out the $5 billion that is still $9 billion.
Ms Black : That was only five applications.
Mr Eccles : If you go down to the next 10 biggest that will take you do to about $6 billion or $7 billion. There were some high flyers in terms of what they were after.
CHAIR: Dream big.
Mr Eccles : That is exactly right.
Senator SIEWERT: What was the original budget for this process?
Ms Croft : In the application kit we indicated that there was available funding of $2.3 billion for this and future rounds.
Senator SIEWERT: I thought it was $2.4 billion. That is why I asked.
Ms Croft : It is $2.3 billion but it was clear in the application kit that that was for this round and any future rounds and also the other things that are available under the guidelines such as our demand-driven processes.
Senator SIEWERT: Your demand—
Ms Croft : Yes. It was the total available funding, not available funding specifically for this round.
Senator SIEWERT: In DSS yesterday we were talking about the process and they have come back with some of their applications against what was normally allocated as being significantly less. They have gone down from five to two. Is that process happening here? Are you still anticipating allocating that amount of money?
Ms Croft : As I said, the $2.3 billion was the total available funding. It essentially took out any commitments that were existing at the point the round was opened. We were never anticipating offering $2.3 billion through this particular round.
Senator SIEWERT: The total, through that process, is the $2.3 billion still the amount that will be allocated?
Ms Carroll : It has been reduced from the $2.3 billion already because we did the contract extensions for the six months. The funding was available so we would have expected that to occur because of some of those existing service providers. I think it is about $2 billion now. Obviously, through the process with the minister, we will be looking at what is decided out of that $2 billion because we need to leave some available for the demand-driven and for some of the gaps that we just spoke about before. We need to think about how much needs to be put aside.
Senator SIEWERT: I understand that. Do you have a nominal allocation against those two provisions?
Mr Eccles : Not at this stage. That is something that the minister will consider when we put our recommendations forward.
Senator McLUCAS: I do not understand the process. You will make a series of recommendations to the minister that will cost a certain amount of money.
Mr Eccles : Yes, but we are in the process of—
Senator McLUCAS: You do not have a notional figure for that yet?
Mr Eccles : We have not finished that piece of work yet. We are finishing that in the next few days and we will get that to the minister for his consideration, so it is probably not appropriate for us to go into that level of detail about the advice that we will be providing to the minister.
Senator McLUCAS: We would know now what the demand-driven ones will cost?
Mr Eccles : Broadly, yes.
Senator McLUCAS: How much is that?
Ms Croft : We would have to take that on notice.
Senator McLUCAS: Is there a ballpark figure so we can get a feel of what we are talking about?
Ms Carroll : We will see if we can get that for you during the course of today.
Senator McLUCAS: It is just so we know what we are talking about, whether it is half of it or two-thirds of it.
Senator PERIS: This is the first funding round. How many funding rounds do you have in a year?
Ms Carroll : That is yet to be determined. This is obviously the first time that we have done it in this way. Part of what we will be looking at as we go forward, and in talking to the minister in detail and giving some advice on, is what we will do in the future. Out of this round we anticipate that a number of service providers, for example, would get three-year contracts. A number of service providers, for different reasons, might get an initial one-year contract with a possible two-year extension. That might be because, through the course of the process, we have realised that we need to do some work across a group of activities where we want to work with the providers to see that there is quite disparate ways that it is delivered. Do we want some consistency or not? We need to think and work with service providers around that. Having the possibility of a one plus two means that they know that, if everything goes well in the first year and we settle everything, they do not have to apply again for the next period.
One of the things that we have learnt a huge amount about is the variety of what is currently being provided. What people are putting forward exists. A lot of existing service providers have put forward additional ideas of activities that they want to fund, so we will be working with all of that and then working out whether we do targeted rounds in the future, if there will be a big round at some point, but that has not yet been decided.
Senator PERIS: Who determines whether it is a one-year or a three-year contract?
Ms Carroll : That would be part of the advice to the minister.
Senator PERIS: Was the $2.3 billion that is now reduced to $2 billion allocated for a 12-month period?
Ms Croft : It is over the life of the strategy. It is out to June 2018.
Senator PERIS: It is $2.3 billion?
Ms Croft : It is $2.3 billion but now it is about $2 billion.
Senator SIEWERT: So, you may make a decision that you are only going to spend a certain portion of that now?
Ms Croft : Correct.
Senator SIEWERT: Whether it is demand-driven and not necessarily just saving money for demand-driven programs or a gap, you may decide to hold another bit back for another round. Is that what you are saying?
Mr Eccles : That is a possibility but that would be something that the minister would consider. I think it is fair to say there are no immediate plans of that nature.
Senator SIEWERT: I would like to go back to the non-compliant projects. I have had concerns raised with me that there was some confusion around the process, that some organisations, as we have said, did not put applications in but some did and that those that are non-compliant seem to have received extra help to get their applications in and that will give them an unfair advantage.
Ms Black : We certainly did not give organisations extra help. What we did was make a decision to assess anything that arrived in to us, regardless of whether it was late or whether it did not comply with the size limit. I have not had any feedback that organisations have felt that people had more help as such. At the beginning of the process, before we closed, our staff were available to all applicants to assist them to draft their applications. We separated those staff out from the staff involved in the assessment process. We offered that assistance to everybody and, as I said, because we had such a large number of late applications, we did make a decision to assess everything that arrived in.
We had a number of calls from people who were late and wished to submit it late. We said the same to everybody, that the department reserved the right not to accept but we were happy to look at reasons for lateness. As I said, everyone who asked us that question was treated the same.
Senator SIEWERT: I can forward you some emails but the groups that have sent them to me may not be happy with me doing that. You can see how there is a perception in the community that some organisations, in fact, decided not to put something in because they thought they could not get an adequate application in by the deadline. Others went ahead and put them in. I am not saying that you should not have accepted them, so please do not think that. Groups felt very pressured about this process. Some organisations did not put it in because they thought they could not get one in. What they should have done was bung anything in and then they would have got help to actually make it compliant.
Ms Carroll : Yes. That goes partly to one of the reasons that we want to, out of this $2 billion that is available, not have necessarily committed it all because at some point we might want to be going back out to people who have expressed an interest or have a particular area that there is a place that they can apply or put applications forward. We are very conscious of that particular issue. One of the pieces of work where we have used the extra time that we have had has been to have a look at whether we have any current service providers who have not put in an application and then if anyone else has put in an application that covers that same particular thing, whether they knew about it and so on. We are trying to gather as much of that information as possible.
Mr Eccles : That was one of the reasons why the grant round was extended, or the assessment was extended. There was a significant imperative placed by the committee that I chair on continuity of vital services and also on supporting local Indigenous organisations who are often very well placed, sometimes uniquely, to provide the services in those local areas. It was apparent through the assessment process that some existing providers of service did not apply, so we needed to take that extra time because that continuity of on-the-ground services was a fundamental thing we were not prepared to take a risk on.
Senator McLUCAS: It has been published in the media that there are 75 of those organisations that have had to be assisted in this way. Is that number correct?
Mr Eccles : I do not know that number.
Ms Carroll : We are double checking if there have been any more that have come to light since that particular announcement. We just do not have that with us at the moment.
Ms Black : It would depend on what they are currently contracted for as well. It could have been a one-off activity that naturally ceased so they would not have anticipated reapplying as well. We will take that on notice and come back to you on that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Minister, if you did not notice my speech on the Closing the Gap then you would not be the first minister that has not taken any notice of anything that I have said. I would like to again raise the issue of the advice the department gets.
In Queensland we have 13 or 14 Indigenous mayors, mainly from the north, who meet together because they have matters of common interest. They have an enormous amount of experience. In some cases they are elders but they are highly respected by their communities, hence they get themselves elected. They are absolutely accountable every three years to the people they serve. Every bit of money they touch is audited through appropriate Auditor-General channels. They have spoken to me and I have raised this with you before and I mentioned it in my speech. They do, as I do, get distressed that the department takes advice from a lot of very clever and senior people but here is a group on the ground, as I said, with skin in the game and by and large they are a resource which could be so much better used.
I am not asking you to make a decision at the moment and perhaps the secretary might be able to give some thought to this, but is there any way where their expertise and their connection with their communities could be put to use in actually trying to close the gap? I have to say that a lot of them do not think some of the things that have been suggested are worth much, but that is for them to say to you. As a group, it is an enormous resource. I am just wondering if there is any way that they could be engaged.
Senator Scullion: I have met with that group on a number of occasions collectively and more recently earlier this year I spent some time in the Cape. I certainly met with a number of them individually and I agree with your assessment that they are a very valuable tool that perhaps has not been used in the past as effectively as it might otherwise have been. By example, with the PDR, Peninsula Development Road, and all of the opportunities that surround that, they have been the driving force to ensure that certainly the previous Queensland government, and I would hope that that leadership is continued by the current government, from every level, whether it is the supply of water or gravel, labour or contractors or businesses that are Indigenous and enjoy the employment of Indigenous people in those businesses, I think they have been front and centre of that and I congratulate them for it.
I am one of the disciples. I have been convinced that they are a really significant group of people who have not been used as efficiently as we might have in the past, but certainly I intend to ensure any negotiations and discussions about the future and the vision for the Cape and the north of Queensland that they are very much in—as I said, I meet with them all the time and I certainly very much value their input.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you for that. I know you do. I am talking about Queensland. I do not know but I am sure there are similar elected leaders accountable, or audited leaders, in the Northern Territory and Western Australia that are the same but I can only speak about the Queensland ones that I know. Following my speech a couple of them emailed back to me and said, 'I hope someone takes some notice now that it has been mentioned in the parliament', so they clearly do not think that they are being used as well as they could. You might only have them for three years because an election is coming up and if they do not do the right thing by the people they represent they will not be there. That is the glory of it. Perhaps the secretary could keep that in mind when designing and thinking about things, because they are a very useful resource and they have skin in the game, as I say.
The other thing—and perhaps this could be taken on notice—is the Cape York Institute, which I know does a lot of work in the Cape. I am wondering if it is possible to get me a list of what projects, grants and funding operations are currently available with the Cape York Institute? They are a good body.
Ms Carroll : Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am just wondering if it is possible to do that?
Ms Carroll : We can provide that on notice of the current funding that they have. Just on your first point about engagement, certainly we are moving to a regional manager model of which one is based in Cairns and will continue to be and that person I know already engages somewhat with the Cape York mayors.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am sorry, who does that?
Ms Carroll : We have a regional manager in Cairns. We will make sure that there is continued and further engagement.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you very much.
Senator PERIS: Is the total funding available over three years for the Indigenous Advancement Strategy the $2.3 billion?
Ms Croft : The total funding for the Indigenous Advancement Strategy is $4.8 billion but, as we outlined at estimates last time, a portion of that was already committed, so the available funding was $2.3 billion last estimates and $2 billion this estimates.
Senator PERIS: That is over the next three years?
Ms Croft : That is over four years.
Senator PERIS: So, it is $2.3 billion over four years.
Senator McLUCAS: Of which $300 million has already been used.
Senator SIEWERT: Do I understand that you have gone back to the organisations that did not apply?
Ms Carroll : Not yet. We would not do that because of probity during this process. What we will do is go through the process. We have identified them. As Ms Black said, we have also had a look at some of them where they are a one-off type of funding and those sorts of things. We certainly would do that at the end of the process.
Senator SIEWERT: That would potentially come out of the gap?
Ms Carroll : That is right. Potentially, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: How have you interacted with DSS through their granting process in terms of some organisations having funding from both DSS and yourselves and some organisations may or may not have been funded? We do not know that yet. How are you handling that process?
Ms Black : At my level I talk to DSS regularly in terms of their program office. We have shared organisations that are not receiving funding through the round. It is just to see if it lines up with the organisations that they have that are not receiving funding.
Senator SIEWERT: I am having a little bit of trouble hearing you.
Ms Black : I talk to DSS quite regularly about the outcomes of their round and where we are heading in terms of the recommendations in our round at an organisational level. As long as we are not duplicating funding there is nothing to preclude an organisation receiving funding from both of us, of course.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes. I was not implying that.
Ms Black : I am just saying that we have very regular discussions with DSS in terms of their process and our process.
Ms Carroll : We are certainly, going to your point in looking at who did not get funding in their round and who we might be recommending, looking at both of those lists. We have obviously not finished our list yet but we are aware of that and thinking about the consequences of those things, on who they have and have not funded and who we might.
Senator SIEWERT: If an organisation did not get funding through that DSS round, does that influence your decision on whether they get funding from you?
Ms Black : No. Our assessment panels assessed every application on the basis of the selection criteria and the application would be a success on its merits. The DSS funding and the results of that funding round have no implications for that.
Senator SIEWERT: You will be as well aware of this as I am, that some organisations get a number of funding programs and it is the mass of them that helps them to stay viable and to actually deliver the service? In other words, the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. What do you do there?
Ms Carroll : That would come in when we start our negotiation process. We have a decision making process and perhaps we would go out to a particular service provider. We might already know that they have not been successful with some DSS funding and, as part of that process, we would then look at what were the implications for what we were wanting to fund them for and what they thought the implications would be to try to resolve sum of the parts issue, if it was possible, during the negotiation process.
Senator SIEWERT: Yesterday DSS told us about the mapping work that they have done. I use 'mapping' in the loose sense of the word in terms of vulnerability, need and a range of other measures that they use. Did you do the same thing? You touched on this a little bit earlier. I just wanted to explore the degree to which you did that in terms of need and whether you used the same approach that DSS seems to have used.
Ms Black : At the regional level, prior to the round closing, we did a service footprint for every region, including what their needs were, what we currently fund and where the gaps were at the regional level. We undertook that work quite extensively. That work was pivotal in terms of the regional assessment teams looking at the applications. I am not 100 per cent sure of what level DSS drilled into that. I would have to talk to them to understand that, but we certainly undertook it at a regional level quite extensively before we began our assessment process.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the timeline, you have made the announcement of 28 March. Is that when you make the decision?
Ms Carroll : The brief will go to the minister in the next couple of days. It is very close. I understand that the minister would make the decision probably within a week, so the announcements will not be too far away.
Senator SIEWERT: Is that the announcement or will you go out to tell the grant? Can you take us through that process? We have some experience of the DSS process which is as clear as mud, quite frankly, with who has received funding. We still do not have that picture from you. I understand the writing of the contracts and all that sort of thing. Is that the same process you are going to go through? So, we will not have a clear picture for some time about who has received funding and who has not?
Ms Black : It will be clear who has got funding. Once the minister makes his decision and announces we will contact every organisation. We are setting ourselves a 48-hour time limit, but we may slip a few hours from that in contacting every organisation who was successful and our currently funded organisations who may not have been successful in the round. That phone call will obviously set up a time to go out and talk to the successful applicants and start to negotiate their contract. It is the issue, as mentioned before, that people put in quite large bids so they may not get exactly what they asked for in the round.
Senator SIEWERT: You mean those five organisations are not going to get $5 billion?
Ms Black : No. People sometimes put a very large number of projects within their application and we cannot or we will not fund all of them. It is a bit of a nuanced discussion. I think it is a discussion, as Ms Carroll was saying, that we will do at the negotiation stage when we go out and talk to organisations. You are right in terms of the final figure. I guess the final certainty for an organisation would be a little bit down the track, but they will know whether they are successful or unsuccessful.
Ms Carroll : What we are intending is that everyone would get some form of communication immediately, an email or a letter on that day, to say, 'Yes, you've been successful; however, for the actual details of that you will get a phone call', as Ms Black talked about or, 'No, you haven't been successful at this time.' Some of the letters might say, 'But we're really interested in the kind of proposal and we need to come and talk to you about that.' We received a lot of applications that might be able to be funded through the demand-driven process, and we need to understand a bit more about the project.
On the day everyone would get some communication and then we would have a follow-up phone call and so on. A good example of that is an existing service provider might currently provide one activity that we fund. They might have applied for four more. We might be going to continue to fund them for that one activity and maybe one of the others but not the other things, so they will know that they have funding but they will not know on the day that they get the letter what they have been funded for. That will take a few days.
Senator McLUCAS: I have a question on process as well. As we have heard, the minister is the decision maker. Minister, if you do not accept a recommendation, what is the process that you have to go through if you do not accept all of the recommendations from the department?
Ms Carroll : It is the same process that has previously existed.
Senator McLUCAS: So, has to advise the Minister for Finance?
Ms Carroll : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: But no further than that?
Ms Black : I believe that is published.
Senator McLUCAS: That is published?
Ms Black : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: So, any different decision that is made by the minister will be publicly understood?
Ms Black : That is my understanding.
Senator PERIS: With regards to the IAS application is it compulsory or is it a prerequisite for all organisations to come under ORIC?
Ms Carroll : The requirement in the guidelines is that, if they are an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation, for them to apply and come under ORIC. If they are an existing organisation that has ASIC, then they can stay with ASIC.
Ms Black : But it was not a requirement to be appropriated under CATSI to apply. It is only once you receive the funding that then that policy comes into play, but you did not have to be under CATSI to apply under the IAS, which I think is your question.
Senator PERIS: So, if you are an Aboriginal organisation, if you were not under ASIC, if you were just set up, in order to apply if you are an Aboriginal organisation you had to go over to—
Ms Carroll : In order to receive funding.
Senator PERIS: In order to receive funding.
Ms Black : If you were successful for over $500,000 then the requirement to incorporate under CATSI kicks in but you did not have to be incorporated under CATSI to apply.
Senator PERIS: How many exemptions were there from ORIC that were over $500,000?
Mr Eccles : The decisions have not been made about the IAS.
Ms Black : There have been no organisations that applied through the IAS as yet. We have no decisions yet to be able to make a judgment on that.
Senator PERIS: So, we could possibly ask that at the next estimates.
Ms Black : Once we make our recommendations to the minister and the minister makes his decisions then we will be in a position to tell you how many organisations have been affected by that.
Senator McLUCAS: Going back to the reported 75 organisations that did not apply but were providing essential frontline services, you will find that number for me at some point.
Mr Eccles : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: What was the process of putting into place a service into the future? If they are running a women's shelter in a very remote community and they did not apply, could they then make an application outside of the application period?
Mr Eccles : Yes. To be very clear, their funding was continued. Everyone's funding was continued and, as a matter of priority, as soon as we have finished this process our regional staff will get in touch to try to ascertain the reasons why they did not apply and whether or not the need is still there. There is the capacity for targeted investment to ensure continuity of services, so we will look at them in that context outside the grant round.
Senator McLUCAS: So, they do not have to apply at all?
Ms Black : The grant round is one avenue for funding under the IAS. You can still apply for demand-driven services. There may be an ad hoc need that arises in the community. The grant round is one mechanism by which we will fund under the IAS.
Mr Eccles : But there are other options for funding these organisations in future.
Ms Carroll : One of the issues is the issue that was raised by Senator Siewert, which is the equity issue. We are being a little bit cautious here because obviously if people have inadvertently not applied for funding and it has left a big gap there are mechanisms that we can put in place to make sure we maintain that service provision, even by directly going with that particular provider, but also we do not want it to seem like everyone else had to apply for the round and if you just stayed outside—
Senator McLUCAS: That is the problem.
Ms Carroll : That is right. We are going to have a very close look at those ones and, clearly, those decisions are yet to be made. There has to be an analysis piece first.
Senator McLUCAS: That is the whole question in the community now. We went through a competitive funding round and that word 'competitive' is very big, according to a lot of people who have been part of this process.
CHAIR: With that, it is now time for a break, so we will suspend and resume at 1.30.
Senator SIEWERT: Is it possible to come back earlier?
CHAIR: I am happy to do that for you, to assist. We will resume at quarter past one for those who can attend.
Proceedings suspended from 12:46 to 13:16
CHAIR: We will resume the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee additional estimates for 2014-15. We will continue with the PM&C portfolio, Indigenous Advancement Strategy, Program 2.1—Jobs, land and economy.
Senator PERIS: Can I have the latest jobs figures on the RJCP?
Ms Williams : As at 31 December 2014 there have been 3,236 seven-week job outcomes; 3,138 13-week outcomes; and 1,515 26-week outcomes. That is across the entire program since its inception.
Senator PERIS: What do you mean when you say seven-week outcomes, 13-week outcomes and 26-week outcomes—what do you mean by that?
Ms Williams : That is the number of job seekers who have reached the seven-week mark, the 13-week mark or the 26-week mark in a job.
Senator PERIS: Is that a cumulative total? It started with 3,236 and then those ones were dropping off after?
Ms Williams : Yes. A number of job seekers would drop off after the seven-week mark and the 13-week mark, for example.
Senator PERIS: Is there any reason why?
Ms Williams : There are a range of reasons why a job seeker might drop off. As we talked about at the last Senate estimates it may be that they simply do not make it to that or it may be that they are in short-term or seasonal work.
Senator PERIS: In the MYEFO the reform of the RJCP shows that a net saving of $7.4 million from the PM&C after a redirection of the $25.3 million from PM&C to other departments. How has this saving been achieved?
Mr Bulman : The savings are more about a realigning across the different agencies. For example, some of the funding was other departmental costs for CDEP wages, so it is all balancing out overall across government. In fact, over forward estimates there will be an additional $94.9 million added into the program.
Senator PERIS: Added into it, so not as a savings measure?
Ms Williams : There have been no savings taken from the RJCP program within the budget.
Mr Bulman : No.
Senator PERIS: When you talk about the redirection, what is the purpose of the $1 million redirection of funds to Human Services; the $16.8 million redirection of funds to Social Services and the $200,000 redirection of funds to the Department of Employment?
Mr Bulman : Human Services funds were for some of the activities that they undertake, such as the testing of job seekers. Social Services have an element in the program where they pay an approved program of work supplements, so some job seekers are entitled to additional income support supplements depending on the type of activities that they undertake. So there are costs associated with that. Did you ask about the Department of Employment as well?
Senator PERIS: Yes.
Mr Bulman : They have a role in job seeker compliance, policy and helping to train service providers in the compliance role that they undertake.
Senator PERIS: So they are administrative?
Mr Bulman : In some cases. In some other cases, such as DSS and Human Services it is about income support payments or the services that Human Services would provide around income support, such as Centrelink.
Senator PERIS: The Indigenous Employment Program, which ceased last year on 1 July, at the start of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, what has happened to those in IEP projects and were they given notice of the program's cessation?
Ms Williams : The program has not ceased. All of the old IEP functions and contracts have simply rolled into the IAS, so with respect to everybody who had a current contract that contract was honoured.
Mr Eccles : And we are still writing new contracts to do the exact same sort of business. It is just a different label of the funding source, if you like, so that program is still ongoing and continuing.
Senator PERIS: The department notes that you have got 6,335 employment numbers who have commenced under the IAS. How were these achieved and through what program providers?
Ms Williams : The employment or job numbers that we have there relate primarily to some of those odd-jobs programs that have been rolled into the IAS. So they will be things such as, under the old IAP, funding for perhaps cadetships or school based traineeships. We also have a series of wage subsidies that we provide to assist job seekers into work, so it is those range of programs that would contribute to those outcomes.
Senator PERIS: You have just spoken about the school-based traineeships. Is it the Youth Corps placements? Do you have a breakdown of those numbers?
Ms Williams : The Youth Corps is part of the RJCP program. We may not have those numbers on us—
Mr Bulman : We do not have the Youth Corps breakdown.
Ms Williams : Perhaps we could take that on notice?
Senator PERIS: Okay. In the explanatory document around the Youth Corps it says that people will be prioritised for intermediate labour market projects of employment. Can you explain what an 'intermediate labour market project' actually is?
Ms Williams : In the context of Youth Corps?
Mr Bulman : The current Youth Corps Program under Remote Jobs was established to target people who leave secondary school and to give them some intensive support for a few years to ensure that they get into employment. As we establish new intermediate labour markets under the reforms to RJCP, youth will be prioritised. So if they leave, say, secondary school, we will give them opportunities to participate in good-quality activities in new enterprises that we may be developing in remote Australia or in posted placements in existing organisations to give them that real-work experience as they come out of secondary school to help them into work.
Ms Williams : I think that recognises that people coming out of school are probably going to be fairly work ready in many circumstances and so that would be an appropriate place for them to start.
Senator PERIS: Who is the local cultural authority, who will it comprise, and what are its roles and functions in terms of getting a kid from school into these cadetships or traineeships where you talk about the work experience?
Ms Williams : I guess in the context of the Remote Jobs and Communities Program and the reforms that the government is looking at in that space, the government has committed, I guess, to engaging in communities and engaging people with cultural authority in the way in which the reforms are rolled out across the community.
Senator PERIS: And how many current service providers are there for the RJCP?
Ms Williams : There are 54 at present across 60 regions.
Senator PERIS: Are we able to get that broken down into jurisdictions?
Mr Bulman : Yes.
Ms Williams : Of course, we are happy to.
Senator SIEWERT: Can we go on to the new Work for the Dole activities and how that is proposed to roll out?
Mr Eccles : I might start and just talk about the high-level architecture and ask Ms Williams to go into a little bit more detail. There are several themes or streams, if you like, that will comprise the new approach to Work for the Dole or the new approach to RJCP. One is the participation requirement and we can go into that in a little bit more detail, but it is important that that not be seen in isolation from other parts of it. There will be a strong focus on the pathways for individuals, which will include training in literacy and numeracy, drivers licences. There will be funding for intermediate labour markets. It is to support local enterprises so that the prospects of people being in some form of participation, leading to an actual job is highlighted and strengthened. Another key component of it is the incentives that we are providing for employers to employ people from that group of people is also a fundamental plank of this new approach.
The participation requirement, as you are aware, is 25 hours per week. We are in the process of some consultations around what would be in scope in participation, but it is the intention of the government that this be a very sensible and flexible approach and that people engage in activities that are of benefit to the community—getting your kid to school, volunteering at the creche and looking after your family members if they are not well. The discussion that we are having with communities and providers is looking at that approach, at what might constitute an activity, if you like. So it is early days and we are talking and we are consulting.
Senator SIEWERT: This process comes in at the beginning of July, doesn't it?
Mr Eccles : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Is there a formal process of consultation? Is there a committee?
Mr Eccles : We have done consultation at many levels. The minister has written to the providers. They are one part of it but, obviously, not the only part of it. We expect to have a workshop bringing all providers in for a discussion about this. We have obviously also spoken to the Indigenous Advisory Council. There has been ongoing discussion through our regional network and our regional staff not only with communities but also with local providers. The minister and officials have been out and about for quite some time. A key part of all discussions when any of us go and visit any communities is: what do you want to see as part of the new RJCP? 'These are our objectives. How can we work together? What do you want in scope?' So there is that level of discussion. I know Ms Williams has convened a group of critical friends, who are providers, just to make sure that the implementation plan under development stands the best chance of success. It is a multilayered consultation process that has been going for quite some time.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. This applies to 18- to 49-year-old job seekers, so people on Newstart and youth allowance?
Ms Williams : Yes, that is correct.
Senator SIEWERT: And it is 25 hours a week for how many weeks a year?
Mr Eccles : These are the things that are subject to discussion. Again, we are talking with communities and we are talking with a range of people about what the appropriate times are. There will be, obviously, cultural leave and there could well be a stand-down period, much like we have at Christmas. These are the matters that are being thought about.
Senator SIEWERT: Or holidays, like other people.
Mr Eccles : These are matters that are being ironed out.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. Where is it going to apply?
Mr Eccles : In the RJCP regions, which is essentially for remote Australia.
Senator SIEWERT: Just to Aboriginal people.
Mr Eccles : No.
Senator SIEWERT: Anyone who lives in a region is going to be—
Mr Eccles : Yes, absolutely.
Senator Scullion: In an RJCP footprint rather than region. It is a specifically defined area.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, I understood that, the 60—
Senator McLUCAS: Which are Aboriginal communities.
Senator Scullion: No, there are a number of RJCP areas that are certainly not only Aboriginal communities.
Senator McLUCAS: Which ones are they?
Senator Scullion: I would need to get some advice on that, but I know that—
Mr Bulman : It is quite a large area—it is 76 per cent of the geographical space of Australia. We have areas like Cocos Island where there is no Indigenous population. We have town centres and remote communities. It is certainly not just discrete Aboriginal communities or Torres Strait Islander communities. It is a lot broader than that.
Senator McLUCAS: Are you are going to give that list to us—to provide some clarity?
Mr Bulman : Absolutely, and it is published online, but we will provide it on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. In terms of the provisions of support for literacy, numeracy, driver's licences—who is going to provide that?
Mr Eccles : Local providers.
Senator SIEWERT: Local providers are going to provide literacy and numeracy?
Mr Eccles : No, they are going to coordinate the access, and this is one of the discussions—we have our network out there also doing, for want of a better term, an audit about the possibilities for activities in a particular community, what the community wants to see done. Generally speaking, numeracy, literacy, things like driver's licences and access to instruction would be a core part of many of the needs and many of the regions. We would be expecting our RJCP providers to be facilitating access to that training.
Senator SIEWERT: The current providers are going to be the people implementing this.
Mr Eccles : As a starting point, they will be offered that opportunity.
Senator SIEWERT: You will go to them first. Is that what you mean?
Mr Eccles : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: You will not assess whether they are appropriate people to be doing that?
Mr Eccles : One of the challenges we have at the moment is clarity of expectations of RJCP providers, because of the old contracts they are under. The new contracts they will be under will have a much clearer set of objectives and a much clearer outline of what our expectations are. We will give the current providers an opportunity to transition to the new world.
Senator Scullion: Senator there is also another obvious cut off in that some providers may have an RTA status and others just will not. So the notion of those two questions around driver's licences, which is fundamentally about training—literacy and numeracy, which is more about education involves some of the same skills—I do not have a cut off of how many of the RJCP providers are RTAs but that would be the obvious one. They would be a facilitator or link-up—those people who are in their footprint, who want accelerated literacy and numeracy, want to get a driver's licence or who have been identified. We have already interviewed every person in that footprint to see if they have a driver's licence, what their aspirations are and what things they would like to do—
Senator SIEWERT: You have or you will?
Senator Scullion: We have already—everyone in that footprint. What needs to be happening now and into the future is ensuring that we can put those people with educators—and clearly the educators in many of these places have to come to town. For the first time they have the critical mass of saying, 'We have organised 10 people to go and get their driver's licence done.' That could be facilitated through the RJCP. They would not be running the course but organising the course and getting the deliverer to come there. It is sort of a hub for delivery. They are not necessarily and one would not assume that they will be delivering it—they are responsible for delivering it, so somebody maintains the reasonability to do it. But they might not do it themselves.
Senator SIEWERT: And they will obviously be provided with extra funding in order to do that.
Senator Scullion: We need to ensure, Senator—as you are always reminding me—that this does not become separate funding, that people lean on my department to say 'It's an Aboriginal person, therefore it's somehow different from training any other Australian.' There are some separate parts where we do need to fill a gap, and we appreciate that, but we need to ensure that mainstream pull their weight.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. In terms of the activities, will there be a list of approved activities and those that are not?
Senator SCULLION: No, because to have a list of activities would put a cap or a limit on what people can do.
Senator SIEWERT: Will you have ones that are not—let us say, ones that are excluded?
Mr Eccles : I do not think we will.
Senator SCULLION: It is not anticipated at this stage.
Mr Eccles : We will have guidelines. This is again part of the discussion we are having with communities about what is appropriate in their particular circumstances. So I think there will be guidelines for the sorts of things that we would encourage or recognise, but it could not be an exhaustive list, because we cannot predict—we do not want it to be exclusive or exhaustive.
Senator SCULLION: I can imagine it being a more flexible approach than it has been in the past. In talking about 'by exclusion', the obvious ones of staying at home like a coach potato with the channel clicker is probably not amongst them, because this is about moving people from a dangerous and vulnerable place to a more positive place and ensuring that they are connected with the sort of skill set and the sort of environment that allows them to move into work when it becomes available. The fundamental difference between RJCP and a JSA area is simply that an economy exists by and large in one and to a much lesser degree in the other, and that is why there is the difference in the policy approach.
Senator SIEWERT: What provisions are you putting in place to stop enterprises or businesses just going: 'Okay, I can get a cheap source of labour for 25 hours per week for people that are basically stuck on Newstart'—which is an inadequate payment—'I'm just going to run my business that way'.
Senator SCULLION: Because they will not work for the business. They will always be responsible to us through RJCP, which was the fundamental difference. So we need to be alert to the sins of the past, Senator. I know you are aware of them and I know what you are alluding to, and the biggest sinners were often the Commonwealth and the state and territory jurisdictions. By and large we fixed that under the previous government that I was a part of, and we are very alert to ensuring that this is not necessarily free labour. We also need to be alert to the fact that we need to engage with businesses where we can. We need to ensure that people are encouraged to actually be part of, not an artificial work environment—whilst there is value to that—but to actually participate.
We do need to find a balance in that, and I would imagine these things as a transitioning process. It has to be transparent. We have to understand from all sides about when particular transitions turn over so it is actually a job now and the new employer has some responsibilities. There have been some failures in the past in that area but we are very alive to it.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I have a few more questions here, and I do realise that we are going to be tight for time. In terms of the evaluation process, are you putting that in from the word go, in terms of the usefulness and effectiveness of the program?
Ms Williams : Certainly, Senator. That is part of the design process that we are working through now, but the intention is that the evaluation will be built in now, early, and that it will be very rigorous.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. Will you be able to table that—how soon will those documents be available? Presumably, if this is starting in July, which is the not-too-distant future, are you able to take on notice to table those to this committee?
Mr Eccles : When they are complete, yes, absolutely.
Senator SIEWERT: How many people are in scope?
Mr Eccles : About 37,000—is that right?
Mr Bulman : It is 37,000 in the RJCP footprint at the moment.
Senator SIEWERT: What proportion of those are Aboriginal people?
Mr Bulman : I do not have a breakdown of 'Aboriginal', but I do have a breakdown of Indigenous—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander—which is around 83 percent of our caseload.
Senator SIEWERT: What is the cost for administration for this?
Mr Eccles : What do you mean by—
Senator SIEWERT: To run it.
Mr Eccles : From the department's point of view, or including the providers?
Senator SIEWERT: Can I have both providers and for the department?
Mr Eccles : I think we would need to take on board the departmental costs. It is a team in Ms Williams area but it is also our network. That is going to be an estimate only, because all of our network staff are going to be involved in some way in working with communities, and it might be one-third or half of their day some days, and other times full days. So why don't we give you a bit of an estimate of the departmental approach we are taking to resource it—if not a dollar amount—and we can provide you with some numbers about the amount of money that has been appropriated for this.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you, that would be appreciated.
CHAIR: Outcome 2.1, Senator McLucas?
Senator McLUCAS: Yes. I expect it is 2.1. It goes to Bloodwood Tree Association. It was an organisation that applied for funds—it is an Aboriginal hostel in Port Hedland. Can the department confirm that an email was sent to Bloodwood Tree on 24 December, requesting an application for an extension of funding for a period of six months, to 30 June? This is one of these ones that I think missed out and are recognised as providing essential services.
Senator SCULLION: Is this an AHL establishment?
Senator McLUCAS: I think there is an AHL component—
Senator SCULLION: Yes, that is why.
Senator McLUCAS: I do not know, but I do not think it is totally AHL funded.
Senator SCULLION: That is the issue; it is not now.
Ms Edwards : We have that information for you but it will just take us a moment so you might want to ask another question or bear with us for a minute to find the right thing.
Senator McLUCAS: The second part of the question then is: can the department confirm that the application from Bloodwood Tree was received on 16 January?
Mr Matthews : There was an application received from Bloodwood Tree, and they were advised—I think, yesterday or the day before—that that application was successful for funding until 30 June 2015.
Senator McLUCAS: Yesterday?
Mr Matthews : Yes—yesterday or the day before—it was very recent.
Senator McLUCAS: And what triggered that?
Mr Matthews : Nothing triggered it. It would have been that that was the assessment process; it went up and went through the process. The decision was made and the organisation was advised.
Senator McLUCAS: So, Mr Matthews, the fact that a journalist contacted the minister's office recently was in no way part of the decision-making process.
Ms Edwards : Senator, the decision-making process in relation to that organisation was part of a cluster of organisations, and it took time to work through each of them. So the particular representations in relation to that organisation did not affect the timing, no.
Senator McLUCAS: So what other organisations were advised of their funding yesterday at three o'clock?
Ms Edwards : There was a range of organisations who had previously been funded by AHL and were considered in the same batch. Those that had sort interim funding were advised yesterday or the day before.
Mr Matthews : Yes, and I think that some will be going through the process of being advised that the network will be—for those that were successful— is going through the process of contacting those organisations. I am just not 100 percent sure whether all of them, successful or not, have been advised of that process. I would probably just want to take it on notice just to confirm. I would not want to name them now in case there are some discussions going on at this stage.
Senator McLUCAS: Is this particular case one of the IAS application processes?
Mr Matthews : No, it is separate from the IAS process.
Senator McLUCAS: So this is Aboriginal Hostels Limited funding only?
Ms Edwards : This was organisations which were previously funded by AHL; that funding is no longer current. Many of them have applied for funding under the IAS and will be considered in the course of that process that you have just been discussing. But what we are talking about now is an interim process, whereby some of them required some funding up until 30 June in order to have their application assessed or so on, and so we have done a process in relation to those specifically for interim funding, and those are the decisions that have been made today, or very recently.
Ms Carroll : I think the key for this is that any long term funding—so AHL stopped funding these organisations, the long-term funding—a number of the organisations have applied through the IAS process, and that process is ongoing. It sits inside that; however, for a number of them their funding had finished and there was a gap in service provision, so they applied to us to fill that gap until 30 June. So that is the funding that has been approved—it is that gap funding—while it is being considered for any longer term consideration through the IAS process.
Senator McLUCAS: There are two areas I want to question now. The first one is that the application for funding as requested was provided on 16 January, so between 24 December and 16 January, somebody did an application. There are a couple of other things that usually happen at that time of year, so we put a lot of pressure on an organisation to do that. Between 16 January and yesterday, that organisation had no contract from PM&C.
Mr Matthews : The application would need to go through the process, so it would be part of the normal thing, as it goes into the assessment and process of taking a decision, that we would not necessarily have extensive interaction with an applicant during that process; it would be assessed, and then there would be advice provided, and they would be heading towards a decision.
Ms Edwards : It might be worth noting, when you said they were requested for an application, we would characterise it more in that we are aware that their funding from another organisation was to cease. We made an approach to say to them that there is an opportunity to ask us for this interim—we stepped in to give an opportunity. It was a novel for us; we were not funding them in this way before, and so we wanted to make contact with people and let them know there was that possibility without indicating the outcome, and we progressed it.
Mr Matthews : It would have been likely that they would have contacted us, and they would have been given advice about how to go through the process.
Senator Scullion: When we became aware that this organisation had made a decision to effectively defund this organisation—this is a separate and independent organisation. There is nothing we can do. We felt, consistent with everything we have said, that the service needs to be maintained. This process is simply about ensuring that the service is provided—forget about the organisation—until such time as we can come up with a longer-term sustainable solution.
Senator McLUCAS: I will get to the AHL question in a moment; it is a process question at the moment. Are you aware that Bloodwood Tree was about to close?
Mr Matthews : We would have been aware that there was pressure on the organisations, because we would know the way the extension funding from AHL placed some the financial pressure—I think there were a few organisations that, in terms of the original discussions, would have flagged there was pressure. I would assume they would have been aware that there was financial pressure on the organisation.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you, Mr Matthews. Minister, you knew that they were about to close?
Senator Scullion: No, we were aware that AHL were making some decisions about a broad suite of properties across Australia—
Senator McLUCAS: I will get to that, but this particular one, you were aware of this—
Senator Scullion: Only in the context of this as one of the suite of properties that was under consideration by the board. That is the extent of my knowledge; certainly not specifically about a particular date for this property.
Senator McLUCAS: Let us go to the changed practice from AHL, because this is news to me—I did not realise that they had changed their policy. AHL funds almost every Indigenous refuge, I thought, across the country.
Ms Edwards : AHL previously had a specific additional program to its ordinary hostel business, which they called the Corporate and Community Partnerships Program that provided relatively small amounts of money to various organisations. It is that program which they made a decision to no longer support, so that program ceased. There was some interim funding provided; we talked to them about some other providers, and they no longer provide that form of funding to anyone. So we have been looking at whether and which of those organisations would be considered under IAS, and the decision will be made in due course.
Senator McLUCAS: I know I should be asking AHL the question, but do you know what the basis of that decision was?
Ms Edwards : No, I do not.
Senator McLUCAS: Can I get a list on notice of all of the organisations that were previously funded under the Corporate and Community Partnerships Program?
Ms Carroll : We will ask AHL for that.
Senator Scullion: We will make sure they know, but it would be useful if the committee could direct that question to AHL, because we may not have the same processes of compulsion for the answer that you may have.
Senator McLUCAS: Do they not do what you ask them, Minister?
Senator Scullion: They are an independent body.
Senator McLUCAS: I realise that. We will get a list of all of those organisations that are in the same boat as Bloodwood Tree, then we will go from there.
Ms Edwards : We will give you a list of the organisations who have approached us for interim funding, and who have been provided it. Not all of them may be in the same boat because we may not be aware of them, as the Minister says, or they may not have sought funding, but we will certainly provide you with the decisions that have been made, as soon as we have ascertained they have all been informed.
Senator McLUCAS: Are we talking about two separate lists, Ms Edwards?
Ms Edwards : There will be two lists.
Ms Carroll : There will be one from AHL, and one from the ones we have had contact with.
Ms Edwards : They may have a greater similarity, but we cannot be sure.
Senator McLUCAS: And where is this money that you are providing to Bloodwood Tree from?
Ms Edwards : It is out of the 2.3 of the IAS which is the Safety and Wellbeing program.
Senator McLUCAS: And is that part of a demand-driven decision?
Mr Matthews : Yes, part of a demand-driven process.
Senator McLUCAS: And when are they only going to be funding until?
Ms Edwards : The decision was to fund them currently until 30 June and then their future funding will be considered in the same way as the applications part of the IAS grants round.
Senator SCULLION: I know you are going to be asking questions about AHL more generally. The only additional I would put to Ms Edwards's comment was that I am very disturbed that an independent authority which we fund would seek to unilaterally move out of a whole range of things assuming that we will pick them up at the other end. In this six months, we are going to have some conversations with the AHL board about the consequences of these decisions. We need to have a conversation around that so we are not just saying, yes, if AHL just wants to walk away from things, the Commonwealth is suddenly going to pick up the bill forever because that is not the way the system works.
There is going to have to be some conversations with AHL because we did not get a signal that this was to happen. I am concerned and I will be having a conversation with the board in that regard. I am just contextualising that, at the end of six months, it does not mean automatically. I think we are going to have some conversations about these properties and what their intentions are because the AHL sometimes provide the hostel but sometimes state and territory or Commonwealth funding provide for the AOD processes within that. It is fairly complex and, frankly, I am not across those details. But we would have to be across those and have a proper conversation about the sustainability of the service with AHL.
Senator McLUCAS: Ms Edwards, what happened on 24 December? You did not invite them to apply. I just want some clarification of that.
Mr Matthews : I do not know. I assume contact would have been probably through our network staff. We would need to get the exact details, but I assume there probably would have been contact with Bloodwood. They may have contacted the department. It may have been through staff going out on the ground talking to them that there was a problem. They probably would have known about the IAS round or they would have been informed about the IAS process and then there would have been some contact. They probably would have provided some further information about how to go through the demand process.
Ms Edwards : So the context around this, Senator, is that we were aware of these organisations. They were not ones with whom we had existing contracts so they were not counted as extensions or so on. But we were worried about them and wanted to make sure they were not missing out on an opportunity at least to save any interim funding. So we sort of made contact with them or kept note of them and made sure that everyone was aware, mostly so there would not be anybody who fell through the cracks for this interim period. It was an informal process of really just checking that people were not disadvantaged.
Senator McLUCAS: So how many organisations are in this batch that AHL previously funded?
Ms Edwards : They fall into two categories. There is a category of organisations that provide alcohol and other drugs services that we already fund. If we put those ones to one side, because we had an existing relationship with them and we have dealt with them in a slightly different way, there were fourteen—
Mr Matthews : There are about fourteen. As far as we understand there are about 29 overall—around about that number—and I think fourteen in the ones that we would not have had a prior relationship for. We are aware of fifteen because we already know they run substance abuse facilities that we will provide that funding to and then there is another batch that run other types of services.
Senator McLUCAS: If I think of hostels in my town like Kuiyam Hostel in Cairns. It is essentially accommodation for people who are coming in from outlying areas. Is it that sort of service or is it more a refuge?
Mr Matthews : They vary quite a lot. Some are about AOD, or other drug treatment type facilities, and then there are some that are short-term visiting. There are a few that are possibly student hostel type things and other ones that are [indistinct] medical relations.
Ms Edwards : We have summarised in our notes that they range from accommodation for homeless, educational, transitional, medium or long stay—
Mr Matthews : There are a range of different services.
Senator McLUCAS: I am advised that they lodged an IAS application for funding for the hostel from 1 January 2015, so it was an IAS application that they lodged.
Ms Edwards : There is an existing IAS application, which is being dealt with in due course in the ordinary process but, as you know, the decisions on those were extended, to be made in March. It was that interim period—they were not caught up in a contract extension because they were not in an existing contract deed with PM&C. That is why we were concerned about the position of these particular organisations.
Senator McLUCAS: It is a very complex system.
CHAIR: Before we continue, it is nearly two o'clock. Is the committee mindful to continue with outcome 2, or would you like to move on to the Health issues?
Senator SIEWERT: I have got a little bit more.
CHAIR: You want to continue with outcome 2?
Senator SIEWERT: I do have a specific Health question, but I do not want to leave this place until I have asked it.
CHAIR: That is fine. I am just being mindful of the time. Let us try and ask the questions succinctly and get through them as quickly as we possibly can. Do you want to move on to 2.2, Children and schooling?
Senator SIEWERT: I have got a couple of clarification questions that should not take long on the jobs issue.
CHAIR: Senator Siewert.
Senator SIEWERT: With respect to the host organisations that would be involved in the Work for the Dole program, have you worked out criteria for that or is that still in the scoping that you are doing?
Ms Williams : That is still part of the scoping process. We are working through that at the moment.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the transition process, is it envisaged that there will be a transition of the 37,000 into the process, or is it going to happen all at once?
Ms Williams : We are very mindful of the need to have a deliberative transition process. We are doing quite a bit of work over the next four months up until 1 July to start to move job seekers into more structured activities so that it is not such a hard start for them when we start on 1 July. In addition to that, the changes are going to transition over a 12-month period, so from 1 July this year to 1 July next year and gradually ramp up, so it is not going to be a pull-the-switch hard start on 1 July. Essentially, we have broadly an 18-month transition period.
Senator SIEWERT: When you say 'transition,' will it be in groups or do you mean transitioning for an individual who will start and ramp up to the 25 hours?
Ms Williams : Essentially, it will be both. We will move the regions very slowly so that their cohorts increase but also we will move an individual slowly, depending on their needs.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. In terms of the funding that was originally allocated to the RJCP process, is that retained?
Ms Williams : Yes, absolutely.
Senator SIEWERT: The funding for this new program is on top of that?
Ms Williams : That is right.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.
Senator McLUCAS: On Work for the Dole, what sort of work are the job seekers going to do?
Ms Williams : We are still working through, as both the minister and Mr Eccles said, what the activities will look like. The intent is that they will be as work-like as possible and they will give people the ability to actually build those sorts of pre-employment skills that they might need to get a real job. There will be a range of things, as Mr Eccles was saying. They are likely to be reasonably flexible and cover a raft of things including, for example, related to school attendance and the usual sort of Work for the Dole projects, as well as other things you might do in terms of aged care and those sorts of things as well.
Senator Scullion: A project might look something like it does in Mimili, in the APY Lands. As part of a trial to do this, the RJCP in preparation for this has made the primary school at Mimili look like an oasis. There is not a rock to pick up and peg at each other; it is all turf and lawn, immaculate and beautiful and painted. That was all done as a project under which we had a whole range of skill sets with the irrigation skill set. There was a whole bunch of stuff about plumbing. There were some landscaping skill sets as well as some building skill sets that went into a project that was, again, a positive activity for the community that the community selected. Within an activity individuals want, we will be putting together into a community project.
Senator McLUCAS: Okay so what does the department have to do to facilitate the legal arrangements that allow for people to undertake those types of activities? Going into a school means that the school has to give approval. What role does the department have to do that? If you are going to go to a council and do some work with a local council, do you have a role there or do you devolve that role?
Senator SCULLION: We actually devolve. Thus far had been a bit higher up. I have been the person for example in Papunya which we are now negotiating to do the very similar thing with Papunya school. I spoke to the minister and sought the advice to say we are seeking approval of the Department of Education to work with them to have this outcome as a project. It is then obviously devolved. The headmaster has certain responsibilities. When the kids are there, we actually have to have working with kids cards. You know, there are a lot of blockages. So all of those are identified by the various departments prior to it being put in place.
Senator McLUCAS: So you are saying that you are doing that, Minister?
Senator SCULLION: For the Commonwealth to step on state and territory property, the permission process has to happen and it has to happen at ministerial level. So to expedite that, I speak to the minister involved and it seems to happen a lot easier after that point.
Mr Bulman : Just further to that and as part of our program guidelines, we outline what service providers have to do, like the minister's example of getting working with children cards or accessing property et cetera. So our program guidelines give advice to providers and what they have to do on that front.
Senator McLUCAS: But essentially it is the role of the program manager to facilitate those sorts of activities. Under CDEP, the council was usually the CDEP provider and so that facilitated the ease of being able to do that. This is now a much more complex way of doing business.
Mr Bulman : In some of our regions the local Aboriginal shire council is still our RJCP provider.
Senator McLUCAS: Less so now though, Mr Bulman.
Mr Bulman : Over 60 percent are local Aboriginal organisations or shire councils are our service providers so that assists in some element. But the program guidelines will give guidance. If you are not in that situation you do have to negotiate access placement, working with children cards, health and safety.
Senator McLUCAS: The RJCP provider has an oncost to manage those things. The wages will be paid one way but there is a an allocation of money that they will have to have.
Ms Williams : They will basically be provided with the funds to do all of the pieces of work that they need to do to get a person into an activity and also to get a person into a job.
Senator McLUCAS: But will the host provider be paid anything to facilitate people working in their organisation?
Ms Williams : We are still working through the details on that but it is our expectation that that is how it will work, yes.
Senator McLUCAS: There will be some funds?
Ms Williams : That is correct, yes.
Senator McLUCAS: When will you know the answers to those questions?
Ms Williams : The program will be commencing from 1 July, so in advance of that we will have all of those details settled including the program guidelines.
Senator McLUCAS: And will they be on the website then? Will they be published?
Ms Williams : I believe they will be.
Mr Bulman : Yes, they will be published.
Ms Williams : And if they are not, we are happy to table them.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you.
CHAIR: Will we move on? Okay, we will go to Outcome 2.2 Children and Schooling.
Senator PERIS: Has there been an increase in the vacancies for the School Attendance Officer positions? Can you give me what the current vacancies are now?
Mr Fordham : At the moment there are 111 supervisors in place, 430 school attendance officers and 65 people in the pipeline. The numbers of vacancies is around 90 to 100 people. But, like a lot of the aspects of the program, we are moulding it to suit different circumstances so the numbers of vacancies at any point in time are a bit fluid. In some cases we are saying to people who are doing good work and enjoying the work that they are working some longer hours. In fact they are taking up a vacancy or taking up some of the hours of those people.
Senator Scullion: Probably this biggest challenge we face at the moment is the period of time under which working-with-children certification can be completed by the state and territory jurisdictions. We are often in conversations—I am not sure we really get any better at that. So there are people waiting, ready to be recruited, but the process, the red tape in getting them through. If you had a bit of a punch up when you were 17, when you are 32, it is still taken into consideration. So these things are very difficult to get through and it is very frustrating. But that certainly is our biggest challenge.
Mr Fordham : That is largely the 65 in the pipeline.
Senator PERIS: Is there an evaluation that has taken place?
Mr James : Yes, we are currently undertaking an evaluation. The main initial focus of that is on the actual quantitative data—on the actual attendance data. What we are doing there is: we are comparing trends in the Remote School Attendance Strategy schools with other schools in remote areas to see if the improvements we are seeing in the Remote School Attendance Strategy schools are unique to those schools or whether they are part, for example, of a broader trend. We have also engaged a consultant to look at some of the information that we have been gathering through the strategy. Each week providers send back a qualitative report that talks about the sort of things that are affecting attendance in that school, and in the case of the NT government, we get similar information from the schools themselves.
We have engaged a consultant to look at that material to see if we can see any general patterns. We obviously look at that every week, but we want to get someone to stand back, do a coding frame around it, and see what that actually tells us. But the main focus at this stage is that work and the quantitative work—and that quantitative work will be using something called a 'difference-in-difference regression analysis', which basically is just a fancy way of saying that we will be looking at whether the change in the Remote School Attendance Strategy schools is different to other schools, controlling for other factors.
Senator PERIS: In that evaluation that you were just talking about, will student-to-teacher ratios be included in that evaluation so we can assess the impact of the increasing student number at schools?
Mr James : That will be something that we can look at as well. The impact would be one of the things you look at—when there are extra students attending the school, what impact that has—so that will be part of it, yes. We will be working closely with all the jurisdictions on the evaluation as well, and that will be some of the input, of course, that we would be seeking from them.
Senator PERIS: But is it currently in that evaluation? I know last year, when this was rolled out, there were significant teacher cuts in the Northern Territory and there were complaints that there were so many kids and not enough—
Mr James : That would be one of the factors we would be looking at, yes—we would be looking at that sort of thing.
Senator PERIS: Are you able to provide the latest RSAS attendance figures?
Mr James : I can give you some figures. Consistent with last time, I have a printout that I can give you. Basically what I have got is average attendance rate data for the Queensland government and NT government schools—so I have got that to give you. In addition to that, for December last year, attendance data was published for all schools in Australia—as noted before, but it was split by Indigenous/non-Indigenous status—but that includes semester 1 data for all of the RSAS schools, so you can look at that data—
Senator PERIS: For last year?
Mr James : Yes; you can look at that as well for semester 1, but I have term 3 data here.
Senator Scullion: Can I say that the only reason that we have only those two is that that is the nature of the contracts. We would rather they were all available, but at this stage they are not. So the other states and territories are not necessarily happy for us to provide that, and in time—this is an evolving relationship of trust—and both Queensland and the Territory were in that space, and they are in this space now.
Senator SIEWERT: How is it that you still have not reached an agreement with WA?
Senator Scullion: As I understand, that is correct. Not in terms of the provision of the data—that has improved significantly—but in terms of the release of the data, I do not think that has been the case.
Mr Fordham : That is right—it is only the release of the data for WA.
Senator Scullion: The release of the data is the only issue here.
Mr James : As I said though, the semester 1 data for 2014—including for those WA schools—is available on MySchool.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay.
Senator PERIS: The next question I had, I think you just answered it. So you are confirming that twice a year data will be published from semester one and semester two?
Mr James : That commences this year; that is right. What will happen this year is that for all schools in Australia, subject to the privacy provisions around the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, there will be two data points published: semester one, which is consistent now; but there will also be a term three release for all schools in Australia.
Senator PERIS: Okay.
Mr James : We are not sure exactly when that will be released this year; it will be towards the end of the year.
Senator McLUCAS: Sorry, Mr James, as an old school teacher what is 'term three'?
Mr James : Well, there are basically four terms in a year.
Ms Hefren-Webb : First term of the second semester, so the third quarter.
Mr James : There are two semesters and four terms.
Senator McLUCAS: But they do not use that language in Queensland but it is all right. I get you.
Ms Carroll : These changes came about from the COAG agreement about releasing the information, getting twice a year attendance data, and also breaking it down by indigeneity. We also should, I think it is this year, get proportion of children that have attended 80 per cent of the time.
Mr James : Ninety or more per cent of the time. And that will be published this year as well for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and for each school—subject to the privacy provisions.
Senator PERIS: At one of the previous estimates, it was asked about a base-level of attendance in respect to measuring progress against a 90 per cent attendance benchmark. The department indicated it would get the base level once the December data was received; do you have that?
Mr James : In December, the attendance data for 2014 was published for all schools in Australia, including the split for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. So yes, that data was published in December on MySchool.
Senator PERIS: Okay. I think I asked the minister a question once before about providing funding for transportation. A lot of communities raised a concern about wanting kids to get to school but they were borrowing buses. Where are we at with that? Can you give a figure of how much or what you have done in terms of providing that?
Senator Scullion: There is a process in place.
Mr Fordham : I would have to take that on notice as to the exact figures that we have spent on buses. But we set aside a figure of about $2 million for those logistics type activities. So it was buses, vehicles, support for those RSAS teams on the ground, office space and all of the other bits and pieces. We are quite happy to break that down and table that for you.
Senator PERIS: How many schools is the RSAS being rolled out in? What is the breakdown between the Northern Territory and Queensland?
Mr Fordham : There are 73 schools. There are twelve in Queensland.
Mr James : There are 30 Northern Territory government schools and there are 11 Queensland government schools. I just happen to have the government schools written down. There are some catholic schools in both those as well.
Mr Fordham : There are four catholic schools in the Northern Territory, one in Queensland, 35 government and 11 government.
Senator PERIS: That is all. I have finished with the schools.
Senator SIEWERT: I missed if you told us the figure on what the turnover rate of truancy officers is. Does that make sense? It is not a very good way of putting it, but the number of people that are coming in and then leaving?
Mr Fordham : We do not have that information. There is a turnover rate. Obviously there are quite large numbers of people spread across those various schools and communities. We could provide you with that information but it would be quite a detailed spreadsheet of information. We would need to pick a point in time as to what you are wanting. But just to revise, there are 115 supervisors, 430 student attendance officers, 65 in the pipeline, and about 90 to 100 vacant. So that gives you a flavour for the scope of it.
Senator SIEWERT: That is why I was asking if you had some more detail on that. So has there ever been a time when you have had all of them filled?
Mr Fordham : No.
Ms Carroll : And the reason for that is that what we have had is a number of our school attendance officers and supervisors actually move on to other jobs. In particular the Department of Human Services has picked up some of our staff. A lot of the schools pick up the staff over time. I understand what you mean by turnover rate. I think the difficulty for us is working out what they have gone on to. But we can have a look at what might be possible.
Senator McLUCAS: Question No. 54, Mr Fordham, you completed it for me and I thank you for that. That was the breakdown by state of the number of SASs and SAOs. I wonder if you could update that to current figures—the figures that you have given Senator Peris—but also if you could identify the number of people in the pipeline that you identified by state as well?
Mr Fordham : Sure.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you. With the turnover, is there an average length of service or some easy figure that you know—I do not want you to go to work—that you are not collecting already?
Ms Hefren-Webb : It is worth saying the program has only been operational since term 1, 2014, so we are in a fairly early stage of the program that has been rolled out in two phases and the recruitment has taken place over that time. It is a bit early to measure a turnover rate and to have it be indicative of where we might get to, because often when you are starting a program there are issues recruiting enough trained people. There have been delays, as Mr Fordham and the minister said, in relation to people receiving the appropriate cheques, so a position might sit vacant for three months because of reasons outside the control of the employer which are not an indication of people being dissatisfied with the work. There is an element where people take that work—
Senator McLUCAS: I am not trying to extrapolate that turnover equals dissatisfaction—it often does, but I am not extrapolating that today. If there is a measure of length of employment, I think that would be helpful.
Ms Carroll : We will have a look at that, at what is possible.
Senator McLUCAS: It is clearly a point of discussion that there is a lot of turnover in these jobs, so let us find out what it is.
CHAIR: As we are concluded with that, we will go into section 2.3, Safety and wellbeing. Senator Siewert.
Senator SIEWERT: I am going to ask this question here, because we might not get to where I should ask it. The $10 million for Central Australia for dialysis; has there been an estimate since—
Senator Scullion: The famous $10 million.
CHAIR: Is this your Health question, Senator Siewert?
Senator SIEWERT: It certainly is a Health question.
CHAIR: That is the one you wanted to ask.
Senator Scullion: We will find someone, but I am very alert, as you would be aware to this particular $10 million block. I think someone is going to be able to throw some light on where it is up to at the moment.
Senator SIEWERT: My first question is: there is a rumour going around on the ground in Alice Springs that the money is going to go back to Treasury. Can you confirm, again, that that is not going to happen?
Senator Scullion: That rumour has been around for a few years.
Senator SIEWERT: I know, but it is a renewed rumour. Can you confirm again that it will not be going back to Treasury?
Ms Edwards : My colleagues from Health are here. I think they will have a story to tell you about some progress on this issue.
Dr Southern : Sorry, you might have to repeat the question.
CHAIR: I would not like to think we are jumping into the Health portfolio wholly. I am just allowing this because you are so persistent, Senator Siewert.
Senator SIEWERT: I would like confirmed, because there are renewed rumours on the ground in Central Australia, that the $10 million is going back to Treasury and it will not be spent.
Dr Southern : In the, I think, additional estimates budget update, it indicated that the $10 million was to be transferred to the Department of the Treasury. However, the money is still available for the renal project, so it is an issue of how the money is delivered for the renal project, not that the money has disappeared.
Senator SIEWERT: Cast iron: this money is still being spent on dialysis-related issues and is not disappearing? Right?
CHAIR: Can we go back to the program?
Senator SIEWERT: There was an update on progress. Ms Edwards said that I might be happy to hear some of the progress that is being made.
CHAIR: Can we do it in the Health portfolio? I am happy to go to the Health portfolio if the other senators agree, and we can spend the remainder of the time on that because I know there is a bit to cover. Would you like to agree, Senator McLucas and Senator Peris? Senator Smith has got questions in 2.4.
Senator SMITH : I have got about three minutes worth of questions in 2.3 and 2.4.
CHAIR: I am going to try to wrap up this next—
Senator SIEWERT: This is Safety and wellbeing, and it does sort of fall into safety and wellbeing.
CHAIR: Let us go to outcome 2.3, Safety and Wellbeing.
Senator PERIS: Minister, as you would probably very well know, the police crime statistics have confirmed that 2013 and 2014 were the most violent years in the history of the Northern Territory, with 65 per cent of assaults being alcohol-related domestic violence. Earlier this week Rosie Batty talked about the link between alcohol and family violence, and all the research shows that the amount of alcohol violence is linked to the number of alcohol outlets—and the Northern Territory has both the highest rate of alcohol outlets and the highest rates of violence. The previous Labor government in Canberra had bought back several alcohol licences in the Northern Territory; however, the current Northern Territory government has said that they are looking at increasing the number of licences and increasing the hours that they operate. Are you concerned by this and would your government consider a buyback scheme to reduce alcohol violence?
Senator Scullion: First of all I agree with the sentiment that there is a very close connection between alcohol and violence particularly in environments like the Northern Territory. As you would be aware, there are some significant changes in the environment in places like Alice Springs since those statistics came around. We have had significant reductions—and I have had quoted to me in the last few days a reduction of 70 per cent in reportable incidences of alcohol-related violence in places like Alice Springs, and this is down to the process of having a police officer outside all of the takeaways. That has had a significant impact. I am not sure of the buybacks you are speaking of but if they were the buybacks that I think you are talking about—you can perhaps provide further information—we actually purchased I think through the ILC two liquor outlets and by my best recollection they were purchased on behalf of Lhere Artepe through the ILC.
Ms Edwards : I have not brought the material in relation to that buyback scheme with me this time as it was some time ago but there was a program several years ago-either in the initial days of the emergency response or shortly thereafter—where we bought back a couple of licences under an amount set aside. There were negotiations for a third which did not proceed. That program happened then in relation to particularly targeted licences and the money was expended and those licences as I recall were purchased and surrendered but we have not been doing business like that now for several years.
Senator Scullion: I think one of them was Piggly Wiggly's—anyway it does not matter where they were but there were others bought subsequently where we made an assumption that the liquor licence would disappear because the ILC had purchased it. That was an understanding I think of the board at the time. That did not happen for different reasons but I think we should be continuing to look at any options to reduce supply. I am not sure how acute the connectivity is between the number of outlets and violence—certainly you could not fall over without hitting your head on an outlet in Alice Springs years ago. Certainly we are more than happy to take perhaps part of that advice on notice because I am not sure which particular element you are referring to unless you have some more information around the question.
Ms Edwards : Just to clarify, the minister is talking about a particular liquor licence but I think he was meaning to refer to the ABA funding rather than the ILC.
Senator Scullion: Yes, sorry, it was the ABA funding and the board had made some assumptions that on purchase the licences would go. I cannot really recall the details but they did not end up going because of some technical transactional thing—they remained with the store.
Senator PERIS: Thank you.
Senator Scullion: We do not have any views immediately to start another fund to start buying licences in the Northern Territory, that is not on our radar at the moment.
Senator PERIS: Okay.
CHAIR: Minister and colleagues, it would facilitate things if we could keep our questions and answers brief. I know you want to provide an abundance of information, but we are limited for time.
Senator PERIS: The minister could possibly give a very short yes or no answer to this question. Last week I visited the Alice Springs Women's Shelter crisis accommodation, and I just want to read out a couple of statistics. In 2014, 413 children and 561 women provided with a 24/7 crisis response service. The women and children were from 86 towns and five communities across five states, with the majority being from Alice Springs. There were 7,026 bed nights provided, with an average length stay of 5.9 days. This equals 1,265 accommodation stays in the shelter. As the Alice Springs Women's Shelter accepts referrals directly, 3,111 risk assessments were completed, averaging almost 10 referrals a day. The service was not able to support 1,700 individual women and children on 2,336 occasions, which averages to almost seven people being turned away a day. Thirty per cent of children who stayed in that shelter last year were under two, and 30 per cent of the women accommodated were between 20 and 34. In the discussions that I had with the lady who runs the shelter, the chief executive officer, she actually did mention the fact that police officers outside bottle shops had seen a reduction. But, as we all know, the police outside the bottle shops have been deemed discriminatory and the community certainly has made it clear. Predominantly, 90 per cent of the people that go through the shelter are Aboriginal women. As of 30 June this year this service is without funding. I know that this does not fit in your portfolio,—it is DSS—but as the Minister for Indigenous Affairs—and we are talking about violence, women and alcohol—I am asking: what is your commitment towards this?
CHAIR: Can I just make this point: You have just acknowledged, Senator Peris, that this does not fall within the minister's portfolio. We are pushed for time and there is an inquiry into domestic violence by the references committee, which is going to Darwin in a couple of weeks time. You will understand why I think that the question is not in order. It does not fit within the minister's portfolio, by your own admission.
Senator PERIS: Well, not really. It is the only domestic violence shelter which caters predominantly for Aboriginal women.
Senator Scullion: Thank you for bringing it to my attention, Senator. I am more than happy to have a side discussion with you. I am not sure of the details, but it would obviously be a good service to maintain.
Senator PERIS: Okay, thank you.
Ms Carroll : Can I just quickly add—and we can give further details on notice—that this service actually might be funded through the Stronger Futures funding rather than through the DSS funding for which there was some additional funds provided to keep the service maintained.
Ms Edwards : This is the same funding we discussed last time, Senator Peris. There was a sliding scale of money under the Stronger Futures agreement, which were agreed in 2011. There has been a reduction in funding, but we have actually provided additional funding at $1.3 million this year to cover up some of that drop, and then a further $6 million to the Northern Territory for domestic violence. So we share an enthusiasm to make sure that women's shelters are up and running and effective, and it is one of our ongoing discussions with the Northern Territory. We have had a great injection of funds in the area and will certainly take away and investigate concerns with Alice Springs. It is on my list of one of the ones that we support the funding of, so we will take it away, and we can provide more information on notice.
Senator PERIS: I just wanted to put it on record because of the anxiety levels of staff who are not sure about the funding.
Ms Edwards : They had different sources of funding, but certainly it is one of ours that we at least contribute to, and we can provide more information on notice.
Senator McLUCAS: Is that tied up with that hostel funding as well?
Ms Edwards : No.
Senator SMITH: In regard to the Safety and Wellbeing Programme, how many applications were received under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy specifically for that stream?
Ms Carroll : We would have to take that on notice because a number of providers will have applied across a range of streams, but we could take that away and see what is possible.
Senator SMITH: So, in the same way that the evidence was provided at the beginning: the number of projects that have been applied for; the number of organisations that represents.
Ms Edwards : Can I just add that people might have applied for activities which would be viewed as falling under the Safety and Wellbeing Program, but we would not have assessed them as particularly for that stream, because that stream is now encompassed in the whole. It would be able to tell you what providers it used to provide—social and emotional wellbeing activities are again funded—but we will not be able to tell you which ones applied for social and emotional wellbeing, because there is no such category under the new program structure.
Senator SMITH : Right. I want to get a sense, starting from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, of how many projects were put forward in the scope of the safety and wellbeing—
Ms Edwards : To provide the activities that used to be provided under the social—yes.
Senator SMITH : Yes; the number of projects that have been applied for, and what that represents in terms of organisations as well. What is the scope of the Safety and Wellbeing Program, and does it include protective behaviours?
Ms Edwards : You might have to explain to me exactly what you mean by 'protective behaviours'?
Senator SMITH : 'Protective behaviours' is the term that has been used with me from various stakeholders who engage in, unfortunately, having to teach young Indigenous people how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.
Ms Edwards : That is an activity which could be included within the scope of the Safety and Wellbeing Program.
Senator SMITH : I would like to know how many projects were applied for in regard to protective behaviour initiatives.
Ms Carroll : We will take that on notice. Broadly, the kinds of things that fit within 2.3, Safety and wellbeing, are, for example, the family violence legal services; alcohol and other drug services; a range of what you would consider a safety or a wellbeing frame. Before, we have given broad categories, but we can have a look at what has been provided before.
Senator SMITH : That would be good, because there is nothing safe about a young Indigenous person who has to live with the prospect of sexual abuse in their community. At my first estimates—I came to the Senate in May 2012—in the main committee room we talked briefly about protective behaviours. I was given a variety of commitments that it would be pursued, that it would be looked at. Almost three years later, I am not satisfied that we are doing enough to protect young Indigenous children from sexual abuse. It is unpleasant, but I am going to be very, very clear about this—I am no longer talking about adults abusing children. The existence of pornography now means that young people are abusing young people. That is not my evidence; that is everywhere to be seen now—ABC news reports, anecdotal evidence—and I am not convinced that enough is being done. I have heard it from officials before, 'Yes, there are some programs being done.' Unfortunately, puppet programs are not cutting it anymore.
Senator Scullion: Are you aware of any particular programs through your committee work that you could bring to our attention?
Senator SMITH : Absolutely. It is the Safer for Kids program, which I spoke to officials about in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which I have spoken to officials about in your own office, Minister, and it is challenging because, unfortunately, the expert is not Indigenous. I am not convinced that the only people that can educate Indigenous people, and Indigenous young people, are Indigenous. I am just not convinced about that, and I think that point is being increasingly contested. Because of the lack of time, I will be paying very close attention to the outcomes of that Indigenous Advancement Strategy as it relates to that Safety and Wellbeing Program, and what is being done about protective behaviours. If it is not being done, that is okay, because we can focus on it quickly once those decisions have been taken, but for going on three years, I am not satisfied.
Senator Scullion: We will certainly be taking that on board.
Senator SIEWERT: Are you able to table the Kimberley Youth Services Network report that was done? Can we get a copy of the report?
Ms Carroll : If we have it. We will let you know before the end of the session.
CHAIR: We will now move onto health issues.
Senator Scullion: Mr Chairman, I have an answer for Senator Siewert's question this morning. She asked if we were able to provide some letters, and I have them now. We have checked with the ILC and they said it was okay to pass them up. Just for clarity, this letter goes as far as all the correspondence with me that I can have. I understand that in the last 24 hours or so, maybe 48 hours or so, there has been a response to the finance minister—that is not included in that and it is not available to me at this time. So I can just pass up those matters that I said I would get.
Senator McLUCAS: We spoke at last estimates about the $67.3 million that was being cut from the 2014-15 budget but I do not think we have canvassed the $40.7 million that was cut from the 2013-14 budget—can we get some detail of what that was please.
Dr Southern : I understand that the save came out of an underspend that year.
Senator McLUCAS: A general underspend or was it in particular programs that you can point us to?
Dr Southern : I do not have those details with me but I can certainly take that on notice for you.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you for your answer to my question number 1191 which disaggregated the $37.3 million into the Strong Fathers, Strong Families program, the Chronic Disease Self-Management Initiative and primary health care funding for the 2014-15 budget. Can you tell me what each of those programs was worth.
Dr Southern : Yes, I think we can. Perhaps in the interests of time we could take that on notice as well, unless you had questions that you wanted to follow up?
Senator McLUCAS: I want to go to the Strong Fathers, Strong Families program. They call it a descriptive analysis rather than an evaluation, which reads quite well, so I am wondering why the decision to cut that particular program was made.
Dr Southern : It was a decision of government and as part of the budget.
Senator McLUCAS: Minister, did you have visibility of that when these big cuts were being made to Indigenous health?
Senator Scullion: There were some cuts made to Indigenous health but as always in these conversations people fail to talk about the $115 million reinvestment as an offset. But, no, I did not have any particular visibility over health at that time. My portfolio was my portfolio and the budget papers—unfortunately in a sense of confusion—provided them all in the one place and yet they came from separate portfolios. So, no, I did not have any oversight over the health issues in the budget.
Senator McLUCAS: Has there been any consideration of reinstating that program either in the department or the government?
Senator Scullion: We would not be considering someone's program in this portfolio, but perhaps Health may be able to shed some light on that.
Dr Southern : I am not aware of any further consideration of that program.
Ms Jolly : It was a relatively small program—it had 13 sites that it was active in. One of the things that we are looking at, I guess, 'future'—in terms of system capacity—is really having a look at how we can implement initiatives that operate across the country and operate in a little bit more of a systematic way, rather than tiny sites in various locations. So, for example, the rollout of maternal and child health program is something that we are expanding and extending in a way that it will be available throughout the country, and that has a parenting element to that. I think there is a bit of a shift to try to do some more of that systematic approach.
Senator McLUCAS: So we are moving away from place based responses. Is that what you are saying?
Ms Jolly : No, Senator, I guess what I am saying, in terms of reflection on the budget, is that some of the reinvestment that came out of those saves was to implement programs that are going to operate across the country. The example of that is the maternal and child health program where we are increasing sites from 85 to 136, so we would see much more national coverage on a focus of the 0-3 and the early parenting years.
Senator McLUCAS: But this was particularly focused on men and their relationship with their families.
Ms Jolly : I think the new measures that we are rolling out will focus on families. It may not have a specific focus on men, but certainly it has a general focus on families.
Senator McLUCAS: This did finish in June last year, so it is almost like a redundant question. What sort of consultation was had with those sites prior to them being closed? I have just read the 'evaluation' and it reads pretty well. I am somewhat astonished that 'we had to find the savings so we just cut that one because it was expiring anyway'—well, that is what it looks like. Sorry, Dr Southern, you were not there.
Dr Southern : I will only be able to claim that for a little while longer, Senator.
Ms Jolly : We can get you some more information on how some of the newer measures are looking at fathers. One of the important jobs that I am looking at at the moment is the implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan. One of the discussions that we are having with the National Health Leadership Forum is around the role of fathers as part of parenting. So, it is certainly something that we are looking at, but I cannot give you a direct response to that particular program.
Senator McLUCAS: The Chronic Disease Self-Management initiative also ceased in 2014. Indigenous people have the highest levels of chronic disease and the highest need for management, so why was it decided that that program be closed?
Ms Jolly : I think that was part of the same set of decisions—a budget decision—that was a matter for government.
Senator McLUCAS: Can you give me an explanation? You do not have the disaggregation of that money there with you, do you? That is okay, you can take that on notice. What did that program do? How did it roll out?
Ms Jolly : That program had funded the development of a tool that Flinders University had developed, I guess, to train health professionals in teaching people to have that chronic disease self-management.
Senator McLUCAS: I think we talked about that before. The primary health service delivery was also identified in that question on notice, what was that to do?
Ms Jolly : Senator, the Indigenous health program has a growth component within it, and that component of the funding was not yet allocated to the priority areas. So, it did not have a specific area; it was not yet allocated.
Senator McLUCAS: Okay. In relation to all those savings, have they gone to the Medical Research Future Fund?
Dr Southern : Senator, I believe so. The net save was in the order of $121 million, and those funds were directed to the Medical Research Future Fund.
Senator McLUCAS: Minister, how can you defend that?
Senator Scullion: Well, if it lay directly within my portfolio, I could respond. We were left with fewer choices than we would have desired in perfect circumstances by the previous government, and I do not want to go down that political road. We had some very difficult choices to make. I can tell you that, all of us to a man and a woman in government, would prefer not to be making the difficult choices we now have to make.
Senator McLUCAS: This is not going to fix the budget. This money is being taken out of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and put into some fund, which has not been established yet, to fund medical research that might give us a result in 50 years time. All laudable, that is fine, but we are sitting here taking that amount of money from chronic disease management. We are taking it away from helping fathers develop their relationship with their children to doing research about cancer. Good thing to do. But that is a long way away. We are talking about the here and now.
Senator Scullion: There was a time, Senator, when we could have afforded to do both of them—that is the point that I am making. I do not think it is useful, particularly in this set of portfolios, to go down this political diatribe, and I am really not interested in swimming downwards.
Senator McLUCAS: In relation to smoking $30 million was cut from the Tackling Smoking and Healthy Lifestyle Program. From the recruitment freeze—we have talked about this at estimates before—what saving is going to be made from this program in 2015-16?
Dr Southern : Senator, the decision on further funding for this program is still one that is before government.
Senator McLUCAS: Okay, so no decisions have been made about the rollout and the style of the program? Basically, where we were up to was we had saved by not recruiting anyone else.
Dr Southern : Correct.
Senator McLUCAS: But, for anything further from the end of this financial year, those decisions are not yet made.
Dr Southern : That is correct. You will be aware that there was a review of the program, which was undertaken by the University of Canberra, and the recommendations in that report are currently being considered by government.
Senator McLUCAS: Was that published?
Dr Southern : It has not been published as yet, no.
Senator McLUCAS: Do you expect it to be?
Dr Southern : Again, that will be a decision for the minister to make once she has had a chance to consider and respond to the recommendations.
Senator McLUCAS: Is that Minister Ley or Minister Nash?
Dr Southern : Minister Nash is considering this particular report.
Senator McLUCAS: Lucky the health department is here.
Senator McKENZIE: Senator McLucas, are you the shadow minister for this area?
Senator McLUCAS: I am the shadow minister for mental health and the shadow minister for housing and homelessness—and its relevance is?
Senator McKENZIE: Oh, I was just wondering. Thank you.
CHAIR: Can we continue, Senator McLucas.
Senator McLUCAS: You usually ask questions that way.
CHAIR: Senator McLucas.
Senator McLUCAS: So, the government is considering the report. Will that decision, Dr Southern, be made in a budget context? Is it part of the budget deliberations?
Dr Southern : No. There is money in the forward estimates. It is something that is in front of government to consider within money that is already allocated.
Senator McLUCAS: Okay, I understand. Can I now go to the Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Service, please? It ceased services at the end of 2014, which is my advice, is that correct?
Dr Southern : Yes, for the Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Service, yes.
Senator McLUCAS: Why was that funding cut?
Ms Jolly : In 2010 there was $5 million injected into eye health services to expand the services that were available, over a four-year period. That had two elements to its funding. One was about the delivery of eye services; the other was the funding of a planning mechanism, which is called IRIS, which is what you are referring to. It is often referred to as a service; it was actually a planning mechanism for the planning of the delivery of services. At the end of that four-year period, the planning for eye health services was moved into the Rural Health Outreach Fund. It has state based planning arrangements, and the service component for eye health has also moved into the Rural Health Outreach Fund. The planning for services continues, but the mechanism that went through the platform IRIS has ceased.
Senator McLUCAS: My brief tells me that there was actually service delivery as well, that it funded 12,800 consultations and 2,100 surgical procedures. Is that not accurate?
Ms Jolly : Those services have moved into the Rural Health Outreach Fund.
Senator McLUCAS: In the Rural Health Outreach Fund, is there a mechanism then to track? It is a big area, so how do we make sure that this cohort of people continue to get their services?
Ms Jolly : Under the Rural Health Outreach Fund we get information by area of activity, so we do have information on eye health services. That continues to be tracked.
Senator McLUCAS: But I am going further than just services. I want to know if the clients are still being delivered services. This was a specific program focused on Indigenous Australians' eye health, and if it gets lumped into a rural program—I am not saying that is a bad thing to do—I just want to make sure that this cohort of patients continue to get this service. Is that going to happen?
Dr Southern : My understanding is that there is funding of $11.6 million over four years from 2014-15 through to 2017-18 for the visiting optometrist service, which delivers access to optometry services for Indigenous Australians in regional, rural and remote Australia.
Senator McLUCAS: Maybe you can take this on notice. I think you understand the question I am asking.
Ms Jolly : Yes.
Dr Southern : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: If there are subsets of that program that we can be assured are continuing to be delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, then I think the question will have been answered. Thank you.
Senator SIEWERT: I want to keep going on the dialysis in Central Australia. Is there any progress?
Dr Southern : I think at the last hearing of this committee there was some discussion about consultations that were going on with the Northern Territory government about a proposal that was coming forward. My understanding is that there were certainly discussions at officer level between the Commonwealth Department of Health and our Northern Territory colleagues about a proposal at that time, but it never came forward to us as a formal proposal in that time period, around the time of the last estimates. However, in the last week we received a formal proposal from the Northern Territory government, which we are currently considering.
Senator SIEWERT: Can I ask what the proposal is for?
Dr Southern : That is something that we are still negotiating with the Northern Territory government. The focus of the thinking that the Northern Territory government has brought to the table around this has been in relation to the refurbishment of existing accommodation and housing for the purpose of providing housing support to patients and their families. It is that kind of proposal that we are dealing with at the moment.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you, and how soon do you think you could process the proposal and turn it around?
Dr Southern : We literally have received it in the last couple of days, although we have been having ongoing conversations with our colleagues in the Northern Territory. The Department of Health will be going to Darwin next week to have further conversations now that we have the formal proposal in front of us. Certainly we are moving on it as quickly as we can, but there are a few things to work through yet.
Senator PERIS: In December, the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee was axed as part of the MYEFO that was released. NIDAC was in existence for 10 years, which held members from a range of Indigenous health-policy fields. Were there any problems identified with NIDAC before it was axed?
Dr Southern : I would have to take that on notice, in relation to that decision. What I can say is that the new committee that has been established has Indigenous issues as one of its focuses and, indeed, there is a specialist who has been appointed to the committee, whose name I am going to struggle to remember—the Australian national alcohol and drug advisory committee, ANACAD?
Senator PERIS: Not the Australian National Advisory Council on Drug and Alcohol?
Dr Southern : That is the one, yes.
Senator PERIS: They have got Indigenous disadvantage as a key indicator.
Dr Southern : Correct.
Senator PERIS: Before the NIDAC, it was Indigenous-specific; it had a whole range of professionals on that board. Are you saying now that they only have one on this board?
Dr Southern : There has been an adviser, specifically appointed to the board, to bring expertise on these issues, but the ANACAD has the capacity to bring other experts along on particular issues, as necessary. It has the capacity to do that and draw on other expertise.
Senator PERIS: Do you know the name of that adviser?
Dr Southern : It is in my briefing here, somewhere. Is it Professor Wilkes?
Senator Scullion: We might take that on notice.
Dr Southern : We will take that on notice.
Senator PERIS: Was the cutting of NIDAC simply a budget-saving measure?
Dr Southern : There was a broader look at the arrangements for providing advice to government on drug-and-alcohol issues. The government's framework has changed more broadly, and the committee you are talking about was part of that broader consideration of the government's ability to draw on advice on those issues.
Senator PERIS: Do you know how much specifically the committee had for that committee?
Dr Southern : I will take it on notice. I do not know, off the top of my head, and I doubt that my briefing has that today.
CHAIR: Dr Southern, firstly I apologise. I failed to introduce you and read my script to you, because you appeared somewhat earlier, in accommodation of Senator Siewert. So thank you for that, and for your evidence today.
I would also like to make the point that although she is not with us, the deputy chair of this committee, Senator Lundy, has concluded her final estimates appearances this week. On behalf of the committee—and I will have an opportunity in the chamber—I want to acknowledge her contribution to the parliament and thank her for that. She has been a very cooperative deputy chair, in the most, I would say—
Senator McLUCAS: One hundred per cent!
CHAIR: A hundred per cent, there we are. With that, I will say thank you, Minister, for your attendance today, officers of the department, thank you senators, and thank you Hansard and committee secretary.
Committee adjourned at 14:59