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Subprogram 8.4-Surveillance research

SENATOR NEWMAN -I suspect that the answer is the same for both. That is why I mentioned it. They are on pages 217 and 221. There are lower than planned wastage levels. The surveillance research had an excess of $500,000 for technical and support staff and the weapons system research had an extra $260, 000 for the lower than expected staff attrition rates of technical and support staff. I am presuming that this means people are not leaving because times are tough outside. Is that what is happening?

MR ALLISON -Yes, but I do not think it is only that. It is also the fact that many people understand that there are going to be reductions in government, and the DSTO, in particular, is attempting to re-profile itself through increasing professionals and reducing support staff. So many people are remaining in the expectation that they might receive a package.

SENATOR NEWMAN -I see. And are they going to?

MR ALLISON -I cannot answer that at this time.

SENATOR NEWMAN -What is the planning? You are carrying three quarters of a million dollars extra in cost because people did not go as you planned.


SENATOR NEWMAN -What is going to happen in the new financial year?

MR ALLISON -We look for every opportunity to implement voluntary retrenchment on an annual basis. Two years ago we provided voluntary retrenchment packages for about 30 people. Last June we managed to provide them for 166. We are looking now at the possibility of similar action this year but we do not have any figures at the moment as to what we can afford. However, we are providing voluntary retrenchment packages on an opportunity basis.

SENATOR NEWMAN -What are the bases on which they are offered? Is it that they are nearing retirement age or are you just hoping that the people nearing retirement age will retire without a package?

MR ALLISON -We will continue with the process that we had last year, which was that particular areas of the work force are targeted for voluntary retrenchments, and we offer them to people who put their hands up, uniformly across the organisation, but we do select from those areas where we believe the run-down is most required.

SENATOR NEWMAN -With the $500,000, how many people roughly would that represent?

MR ALLISON -From memory, I think that corresponds to around 40 people. The target in that subprogram, I think, was to reduce from approximately 850 to around 700, something of that order-about 150 people. In the end about 110 left, leaving a shortfall of 40. I would say that it was a fairly ambitious estimate of reduction, given that it was an attempt to reduce by 150 in a complement of 850 people. One year ago, there was an expectation that people would leave and it possibly is a reflection of the economic times that that has slowed down. I think that was probably the reason for the error in the estimate.

SENATOR NEWMAN -Does the 260 mean that we are talking about 20 people?

MR ALLISON -In round terms, I would think, yes.

SENATOR NEWMAN -So all up you are looking to shed another 60 one way or another in the coming year, or does next year have its own target in addition to this?

MR ALLISON -What we will do is reassess our position at our annual subprogram review, which will take place in May. We will have a look at what budget guidance gives us, we will have a look at our position with respect to re- profiling. We will assess our resource balance against the priorities and from all of that we will develop a new position on the extent to which we will re- profile in the forthcoming financial year. It is annually reviewed.

SENATOR NEWMAN -Taking into account that you are approximately 60 higher than you had planned to be.

MR ALLISON -Yes, that will have to be taken into account.