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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2664


Senator LEWIS(3.11) —I move-

That the Senate take note of the paper.

Firstly, let me say that I praise the layout of the 1985-86 annual report of the Department of Territories. It is a new layout and it is a great improvement. The report has in it a set of statistics which provides a lot of excellent information and the Department is to be commended for the general way in which it has gone about setting out this report. I do say about the statistics that I am sorry that, while much information is provided, in fact there is no clear identification of the total number of employees in each branch nor of the number employed as day labour. There are some areas where some minor criticisms may be made and that is one area I was concerned about, but all in all I think it is a great improvement.

Secondly, let me say that I am interested to note that the consultants, Peat Marwick Mitchell and Co., have apparently been involved in the preparation of a corporate strategic plan for the Department. This report is only to 30 June 1986 and I have an idea that much of that strategic plan has already been implemented. We will look forward to seeing the results of that. I commend the development of management programs which, as I understand them, enable managers to be now responsible for program performance, program funds and staff resources. I do think it is a pity that these references in this report have not been expanded and that I am unable to understand the language used which is not the jargon used by various people in business management. Nevertheless, we do look forward to reports as to these so-called improvements in the management of the Department.

I might very quickly criticise some of the waste and duplication which seem to me to occur in the welfare services. In particular I refer to the health area and to the handling of the dispute with salaried doctors, the current waiting time for elective surgery and the shortage of nursing home beds. The Government, as mentioned in this report, has adopted the policy, which we adopted when I first took responsibility for this portfolio, of giving the one Minister responsibility for all related activities in the Australian Capital Territory, and I commend it for that.

On the other hand, I would like to condemn Minister Blewett for his continued interference in Australian Capital Territory health matters. I raise, for example, the issue of the inordinate length of time to consider the John James Memorial Hospital's request for a 60-bed extension. This does not involve any Federal capital or recurrent funding, yet that hospital has not been able to get this request dealt with.

I have been concerned about the public in-fighting between the Department of Territories and the National Capital Development Commission and I hope they have now resolved their differences. I also mention the very long delays which people who are trying to register their motor vehicles in the Australian Capital Territory have to put up with. I think it is quite ridiculous and some simple solution to that problem could be found apart from the construction of an new station. I would like to make other criticisms about that area but I am running out of time. There are still some shortcomings in the report which naturally tends to gloss over the problems and fails to address the very real problems facing Christmas Island at the present moment.