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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 1936

(Question No. 1341)

Senator Michael Baume asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 22 August 1986:

(1) What are the gross and net savings (after taking into account costs of servicing the Illawarra region from Sydney) involved in closing the Wollongong office of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, as announced in the Budget, in 1986-87 and in a full year.

(2) Is this office ``cost efficient'' according to the Department's criteria and would it have run at a ``profit'' in 1986-87 if costs and charges for its services to the public were applied against its expenses.

(3) How many permanent and temporary staff positions will be cut as a result of its closure and what will these savings be.

(4) How long is the lease on the Department's present office Wollongong and what is its annual costs, and will that lease be terminated and at what cost.

(5) How much space has been allocated for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the proposed $17m Commonwealth office building in Wollongong, construction of which appears to have been deferred in the Budget, and how will this space now be occupied if the building proceeds.

(6) What is the average delay time in dealing with immigration enquiries in the Sydney office compared to the Wollongong office of the department.

(7) What is the ratio of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Department personnel in the Wollongong office to the migrant population of the Illawarra region and what are the similar ratios for Newcastle and the Sydney office (related to the remainder of New South Wales).

(8) What is the ratio of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Department personnel on the same basis to new arrivals into each of these 3 regions in 1985.

(9) What is the ratio of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Department personnel on the same basis to-(a) counter enquiries; and (b) telephone enquiries in each of these 3 regions.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) and (3) The Wollongong Office of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (DIEA) is to remain open with reduced staffing and functions.

The average staffing level has been reduced to 3.5 from that achieved in 1985-86 of 10.8. The number of positions in the office establishment has been reduced from 16 in 1985-86, of which 10 were filled, to 3 following the recent decision. Savings which will result are estimated at:

Nil in 1986-87 and $258,000 in a full year.

These figures relate to savings in respect of salary, salary-related and administrative costs arising from the reduction in staffing numbers. The figures now take account of redeployment/redundancy costs, which, until decisions had been made by individual staff members affected, could not be precisely determined.

(2) It is not feasible to set charges for service at a level which would recoup the direct costs of most activities, much less the full cost. The departmental assessment of unit production costs for Wollongong Area office indicates that they do not compare favourable with the same costs for larger offices.

(4) The lease terminates on 14 August 1988. The annual rental costs is $30,300. The future of the lease is being reviewed.

(5) Based on the previous DIEA staff numbers in Wollongong, space allocated for the Department in the proposed new Commonwealth Office building was 398 square metres. Following the decision to retain a smaller DIEA presence in Wollongong the space has been reduced. The balance of the space formerly allocated for the Department will cater for the current and future increased needs of other Commonwealth Departments and agencies.

(6) Reliable statistics concerning the time taken to deal with enquiries are available on a state by state basis only.

(7) The ratio of DIEA staff to migrant population (defined as those people, permanently resident in Australia, who were born overseas) in New South Wales in 1:2356. New South Wales is serviced by the Sydney Regional Office, the ACT Regional Office, and the Newcastle, Wollongong and Parramatta Area Offices.

It is not possible to identify accurately catchment areas serviced by individual regional or area offices. In the event that such a ratio could be calculated any conclusions to be drawn from it would be immaterial. It does not take into account such critical factors as length of time the migrant has been in Australia; whether the migrant is of an English speaking background; which migration category they fall into ie refugee or Business Migration Program. Such a ratio would also fail to acknowledge funds provided to external bodies (such as to Migrant Resource Centres) to service migrants' needs and resources required to service needs of non-residents.

(8) Reliable information on location of new arrivals within States and Territories is not available.

(9) Reliable statistics on counter enquiries are not available before 1986/87. Current statistics are produced on a state by state basis only. The Department does not collect statistics on the number of telephone enquiries received by regional or area offices.