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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
Program 1-AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY SERVICES
- Committee Name
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
Program 1-AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY SERVICES
- Sub program
- System Id
Table Of ContentsPrevious Fragment Next Fragment
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
(SENATE-Tuesday, 15 May 1990)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
- Program 1-AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY SERVICES
- Program 2-OVERSEAS PROPERTY SERVICES
- Program 3-AUSTRALIAN CONSTRUCTION SERVICES
- Program 4-TRANSPORT AND STORAGE
- Program 6-AUSTRALIAN PROTECTIVE SERVICE
- Program 8-AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING SERVICE
- Program 10-METEOROLOGY
- Program 14-PARLIAMENTARY AND MINISTERIAL SERVICES
- Program 16-ELECTORAL SERVICES
- Division 121-PARLIAMENT HOUSE CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY
- program 20-PURCHASING REFORM
- SENATOR PARER
DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
MR ST JACQUES
- Program 2-HIGHER EDUCATION
- Program 3-SKILLS FORMATION
- Program 4-SPECIAL EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND INCOME SUPPORT
- Program 5-LABOUR MARKET OPERATION
- Program 6-CORPORATE SERVICES AND PORTFOLIO ADVISING
DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ETHNIC AFFAIRS
Program 1-MIGRATION AND VISITOR ENTRY
- Subprogram 1.2-Migration and Resident Status
- Sub-program 2.1-Settlement Services
- Program 2-SETTLEMENT AND ETHNIC AFFAIRS
- Program 5-OFFICE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
- ACTING CHAIRMAN
Content WindowESTIMATES COMMITTEE D - 15/05/1990 - DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES - Program 1-AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY SERVICES
SENATOR TEAGUE -I have one general question. How much is budgeted across the whole Department for commercial newspaper, magazine, radio and television advertising in the Department's 1989-90 budget?
SENATOR BOLKUS -We will endavour to get a quick answer, but we may have to take it on notice.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I am happy for it to be taken on notice and answered in its three or four parts.
SENATOR PARER -It has been drawn to my attention that valuers within the Department of Administrative Services are dissatisfied with the current negotiations for salary increases. I understand that members of the Australian Valuation Office are taking industrial action in support of their claim which will result in the Department being unable, among other things, to charge clients for work undertaken. What action has the Department taken to expedite negotiations and resolve this issue? Should a resolution be established on performance-based pay, what assurance is there that professional valuers below the level of the current Grade 3 valuer will also be remunerated appropriately, and why is the current DAS proposal to award substantial pay increases to valuers Grade 3 and above in line with the ASO7 and 8 pay claim only?
SENATOR BOLKUS -In terms of negotiations with the unions involved, it is very much in the province of the Department of Industrial Relations. Maybe Senator Parer could have another look at his question with that in mind.
SENATOR PARER -My understanding was that with the commercialisation that is going on, even though the Department of Industrial Relations is involved, there is direct involvement of the Department itself which I understood did carry out its own industrial discussions. I was querying whether the dispute is on, whether the bans that I have described are in operation and whether the effect of the dispute is the inability to charge clients for the work done.
MR COLEMAN -There are some bans in place. They were imposed about Thursday of last week. The Department has had discussions with the representatives of the Valuation Office but, at the same time, it was pointed out that we are locked into whatever DIR comes up with under the structural efficiency principles. I am not aware that there is any ban on the charging of clients.
SENATOR PARER -If they are not recording their times and giving you their times, how can you charge the clients?
MR COLEMAN -Much of the work has already been contracted. We do have agreements for payments. The work is going on. At this stage it has not restricted us from sending any accounts to clients. Because the bans were applied on Thursday or so it has not had the effect at this stage of preventing us from sending any accounts to clients.
SENATOR PARER -But it will.
MR COLEMAN -I would assume in the long term it would, yes.
SENATOR PARER -Otherwise I am sure your client would not be confident with the charge he received if you did not have a time sheet.
MR COLEMAN -No. I understand that, whilst it is not being recorded in our management information system-that is, our computer system-the valuers themselves are maintaining the times on their own schedules. But it certainly has not been put into the management information system.
SENATOR PARER -Does this reflect a problem that you have having become commercialised in the last 12 months or so in that basically you have to compete for a lot of the work you are doing with other people, whether from outside or whatever, and you have an inflexibility in your wages system regarding your professional employees?
MR COLEMAN -As I said earlier, Senator, we are part and parcel of the Australian Public Service and are subject to structural efficiency principles and discussions continuing with DIR and the PSU.
SENATOR PARER -Does it represent to you an inflexibility that makes it difficult for you to operate in the competitive market situation into which you are now moving?
SENATOR BOLKUS -That goes very much to the heart of Government policy in this area. The premise of Senator Parer's question was that we are talking about a more competitive organisation. The Government's wages policy as it affects the public sector is pretty well known and I refer Senator Parer to that.
SENATOR PARER -I am not really referring to the policy area. I am asking whether the policy under which you operate provides a difficulty for the Department in this competitive market.
MR COLEMAN -I do not really believe that it is a difficulty.
SENATOR PARER -So there are no problems?
MR COLEMAN -No, I am not suggesting that. I am saying that the issue of salaries for valuers has been going on for some time. Twelve to 18 months ago we lost a lot of valuers from the AVO who went outside, mainly to private employment. At that time, of course, the property market was booming and there was certainly a demand for valuers. In recent times we have not lost anywhere near the numbers that we lost at that time. Certainly, the wastage, if you like, has slowed down. I believe that we will be able to compete. As I say, the issue is an ongoing one. I think it will be resolved in the fairly near future.
SENATOR TAMBLING -What is the current policy with regard to the sale of government homes in Darwin?
MR TAYLOR -I am not aware of any specific government policy in relation to the sale of government housing in the Northern Territory. The Department is certainly looking to better articulate to our staff the criteria for eligibility for government housing. At the same time we are looking to rationalise our holding of government houses not only in the Northern Territory but in all States. With regard to Government decisions in relation to allowing departments to retain proceeds from the sale of houses for use in running costs, primarily we would be looking to use those proceeds for updating other housing stock, to improve the quality of other houses or to buy new houses. When I say that we are looking to rationalise our holding, we are looking to reduce the number of houses that we have.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Has the overall review that was approved by Minister West on 1 November 1988, which outlined a number of important provisions with regard to the provision of staff housing in the Northern Territory, been acceded to? What progress has been made on each of the six recommendations that were made and approved by Minister West in that minute of 1 November 1988?
MR TAYLOR -I cannot recall that specific minute, but I can tell you that only in the last few weeks we have finalised a review of our policy on departmental housing to the extent that we are now looking to discuss that policy with the unions. Following on from agreement on that policy, we would then be looking to go into this process of rationalising our holding, to both reduce the numbers and improve the overall quality of housing.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Why has it taken 18 months to reach this stage from the quite extensive minute that was put to the Minister on 1 November 1988?
MR TAYLOR -I cannot answer that.
SENATOR TAMBLING -I would have thought that the delay in processing these provision of staff housing issues, the identification of surplus stocks to be sold, the marketing and revenue arrangements, would have been matters of some urgency and priority as they would affect a number of Budget issues.
MR TAYLOR -There have been some difficulties tied up with restructuring of the Department. The restructuring has resulted in the creation of a better structure in all States, but particularly the Northern Territory in this area, which will allow us to proceed with this rationalisation. That is probably the main contributing delay. Certainly, we do regard it as very important. Over the next few months we will move very quickly to look at what houses we have.
SENATOR TAMBLING -How many houses have been lying idle or vacant during the period of the review?
MR TAYLOR -I would have to take that on notice.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Can you privide that information to the Committee?
MR TAYLOR -We will try to.
SENATOR TAMBLING -What has been the order of costs for the repairs and maintenance of those vacant houses? What houses have had to be reinstated or repaired more than once during the period that they have been either idle or vacant?
MR TAYLOR -I can only naswer in a general sense in that the rent derived from housing is ploughed back into repairs and maintenance on housing, but I cannot be specific about individual houses and the number of times they have been repaired.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Are you aware that there have been considerable problems with a number of vacant properties in Darwin that have required considerable maintenance?
MR TAYLOR -No. not specifically.
SENATOR TAMBLING -What are the special arrangements that you enter into with other client departments, other Commonwealth departments, for the disposal of housing that may be surplus to the requirements of individual departments?
MR TAYLOR -All of my comments so far have related to houses occupied by staff of the Department of Administrative Services.Mr Divett is able to comment on service wide issues related to housing.
MR DIVETT -In July 1988 the control, management, acquisition and disposal of staff housing was devolved to all departments. Since that time, in the Northern Territory, as with everywhere else, we simply deal in housing with client departments if they invite us to do so. In the Northern Territory we have looked after all the housing needs of some departments. The great majority have taken it on themselves. In terms of special arrangements, it is a client relationship and we charge them a fee-for-service for whatever service they want, whether it is acquisition, disposal, recommendations on rationalisation, or whatever.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Within the last 12 months have you given any special advice to the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs in Darwin with regard to the rationalisation of its residential properties?
MR DIVETT -No. We have spoken to departmental staff. We put a proposal to them on the rationalisation of its properties but they did not use this organisation to rationalise the properties.
SENATOR TAMBLING -You are probably aware that there has been considerable media controversy in the last month or two with regard to the disposal of a number of Immigration-owned housing and the change to some rather expensive executive housing. Did you seek to be involved in those proposals?
MR DIVETT -I am aware of those. We submitted a proposal for a more extensive rationalisation than that, but we have had no involvement.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Have you been consulted by Australian Federal Police with regard to either the disposal or acquisition of any of those properties by the Department of the Immigration?
MR DIVETT -I am aware of a Federal Police investigation which is going on. I cannot confirm or deny whether any of my officers in Darwin have been spoken to yet on that matter. They would have very little so say in that they had no involvement. They did not even do valuations on the properties.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Are you aware of any officers of your Department having discussions with the media concerning the policy and procedures for the acquisition of properties by the Department of Immigration?
MR DIVETT -Not specifically, no.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Could you inquire and advise whether there have been such discussions, and whether, there has been any reporting?
MR DIVETT -Yes.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Would you be involved in any way with regard to the valuation of properties by other departments?
MR DIVETT -Only if they came to the officers in the valuation part of this Department.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Are you aware whether the Department of Immigration or your Department has sought to be involved in the valuations of Immigration's Darwin properties.
MR DIVETT -The answer is the same as for the property group. They put forward a proposal on the valuation of a series of properties-the ones you are talking about-but were not involved subsequently in the process. The proposal was not accepted.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Is the reason for the rejection of your proposal that your figure was too dear?
MR DIVETT -I do not know the end price that DILGEA paid for the service. We can only suppose from the media reports.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Do you believe that you would have been competitive in providing the services required by the Department of Immigration.
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think that particular question has already been answered. We do not know the answer as to why we did not get the tender. What we believe, what we can guess, what we suppose and whatever is just hypothetical drift-net fishing.
CHAIRMAN -I guess that if you did, there would be something wrong. I think, strictly speaking that there are no items of additional expenditure in this area.
SENATOR TAMBLING -I have just one other question relating to the original issue that I talked about: the disposal. You mentioned that you were commenting only with regard to housing for officers of the Department. Was that the extent of the review approved by Minister West on 1 November 1988?
MR DIVETT -Yes.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Are you aware that a number of officers of the Department have retired in the interim period and have been denied access to purchase of property which has been lying idle in the community.
MR TAYLOR -Officers that had occupied housing?
SENATOR TAMBLING -Yes.
MR DIVETT -I am aware of a couple of instances where the decision was taken that the state of the housing and location of the housing made it important to retain it for continuing program needs. A decision was taken to refuse the opportunity to purchase. Generally, we are now looking, wherever possible, to facilitate the sale of houses to tenants.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Are you aware that where officers left the Department, the houses were left idle for some considerable time and at reasonably high cost to the Department were not immediately occupied by other people who might have needed to use them?
MR DIVETT -No, I am not aware of that.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Perhaps you could investigate it.
SENATOR PARER -It appears that the cost of government rental of privately owned commercial accommodation in Canberra increased dramatically in recent years. I understand from 1988 to 1989, prior to ACT self-government, the cost of government-rented commercial accommodation in Canberra increased by 20 per cent from approximately $85m to $102m per year. I have two questions regarding this matter. Is that statement correct, and is market rental charged on all these premises?
MR HOY -The 20 per cent increase is generally correct. I am not aware of the figures you mention.
SENATOR PARER -Would you just verify the actual rental. This question may not be relevant to the Department although I think you may be handling it. A large office development of approximately 30,000 square metres is being constructed at Tuggeranong town centre for the Department of Social Security. Two other major departments, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Employment, Education and Training, are contemplating construction of two similarly large office developments near the Parliamentary Triangle. What measures are being undertaken to contain the cost of government-rented accommodation? I make this query, which you may like to clarify for me, because with the change it appears that you may be acting as agents for those departments and it is their budgets that are involved.
MR DIVETT -The Social Security one at Tuggeranong is a government-approved project. It is nearly half built. That is a private sector development, and the Commonwealth is committed now to leasing that development from the developer when it is completed. The other two developments you spoke of have no government approval or government support at this stage. It is not clear that were they to proceed, in what form they would do so, so I cannot comment too much on the matter.
SENATOR PARER -So there are no approvals from government for those projects.
MR DIVETT -No.
SENATOR PARER -In regard to the Tuggeranong development, I noticed in the estimates that there is an amount of $565,000 provided to make payments for claims under the contract for industrial disputes beyond the builder's control . Could you give me the total figure that might have been incurred because of industrial disputation on this building and what will be the total cost of the Tuggeranong office park development.
MR DIVETT -The figure for additional cost through industrial claims is $232, 890. The total cost of the Tuggeranong office park development is not a capital cost. The Commonwealth is leasing the building from the developer. All the lease costs are fixed for the first 10 years.
SENATOR PARER -If you are just leasing it from a private developer, why are you up for the costs of the industrial disputation beyond the builder's control.
MR DIVETT -Primarily, because the Commonwealth has some prospect of ownership at the end and in the tender arrangements that came in and the ones chosen by government, the developer is taking responsibility for all on-site costs associated with any industrial claims.
SENATOR PARER -So it is a cost-plus arrangement with the rental based on that provision.
MR DIVETT -In very limited areas cost-plus, but any additional costs are met up-front. The rental stream is fixed for the first 10 years after that.
SENATOR PARER -Just explain to me again why, with a private development, you would have to pay the cost of delays caused by industrial disputation.
MR DIVETT -That was the basis of the tender proposal from the individual private developer. It is a complex deal in this case with some potential for the Commonwealth to own the asset at the end.
SENATOR PARER -Would the Commonwealth have to pay any other additional costs other than for delays caused by industrial disputation? If so, what are they?
MR DIVETT -There are a limited number. I would have to verify all of the details.
SENATOR PARER -Could you just advise me of that. I have a series of questions in respect of Gowrie Hostel and you might be able to answer them one after another. When were tenders called for the sale of the Gowrie Hostel? When did those tenders close? How many tenders were received? Has a successful tendered been chosen? If so, when were the sale documents drawn up, and how far has the sale procedure progressed?
MR HOY -We did not go to tender for the disposal of Gowrie Hostel. When the Government decided to sell a lease over Gowrie, we appointed a selling agent. The agent was to hold a public auction on 2 May this year. Because of legal action instigated by the ACT Government, that auction was deferred.
SENATOR PARER -It has just been deferred pending legal action, has it?
MR HOY -Yes.
SENATOR PARER -I have a question that I wish to place on notice relating to the Russell Hill Incinerator.
CHAIRMAN -Is it the wish of the Committee that the question be incorporated? There being no objection, it is so ordered.<INC.DOC>
The question read as follows:
What role does DAS have in the management of the Russell Hill Incinerator.
What is the cost of running and maintaining the Incinerator.
Which departments use the incinerator for disposal of their classified waste.
Is it only classified waste which is disposed of by the incinerator.
How much does DAS charge these departments per ``classified waste bag'' or per tonne for the disposal of classified waste.
What does it cost per ``classified waste bag'' or per tonne to destroy classified waste, in the incinerator.
How did DAS acquire the custom of the departments who use the incinerator (ie was it won at tender). To which departments did it submit tenders.
How many tonnes of waste are disposed of each year, in the incinerator.
What type of products are disposed of using the incinerator, eg paper, plastics (microfiche), or other.
What recycling capacity, if any, does the incinerator incorporate.
Is there a filter on the incinerator.
Is there any monitoring of the emissions from the incinerator. If so, what is the nature of this monitoring, and what findings has it produced in relation to the level of pollution produced by the incinerator.
Are there any plans to upgrade, replace or supplement the incinerator with other disposal facilities in the ACT.
If so, what are the details of these plans, and what recycling facilities will they incorporate.</INC.DOC>