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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 995

(Question No. 618)


Senator Messner asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice , on 15 December 1983:

(1) Has the Public Service Board given approval to the appointment of officers to government departments of authorities; if so, (a) how many have been approved for each department or authority; and (b) when was approval sought and given for each department or authority.

(2) What is the total number of new officers anticipated to be needed for the proposed assets test program.


Senator Button —The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Individual departments appoint base grade staff, acting under delegation from the Public Service Board.

(2) A number of new base grade staff were appointed in 1983-84 by departments in preparation for the introduction of the then proposed assets test on pensions . Once trained, new staff were to replace more experienced base grade staff in a chain of staffing movements intended to release appropriately graded and experienced staff to do assets testing work.

It is not possible, however, to distinguish precisely between new base grade staff recruited to enable the then proposed assets testing to proceed and other new base grade staff who would have been recruited in any event.

The best estimates of the number of new base grade staff appointed by departments up to the end of February 1984 to enable the introduction of assets testing to proceed are:

Number of

appointees

Department of Social Security 1,252 Department of Veterans' Affairs 140

On 23 February 1984 the Prime Minister announced that the Government had decided to establish a broadly-based panel of relevant community representatives to advise on amendments to the proposed assets test legislation.

A majority of the staff who had been recruited to the Departments of Social Security and Veterans' Affairs up to February 1984 were able to be deployed to perform immediate and useful work within those departments.

The honourable senator may also be interested to note that a number of base grade staff, considered excess to the immediate requirements of the Department of Social Security pending Government decisions on the assets testing legislation, were temporarily redeployed to other agencies.

Most of the staff redeployment went to the Australian Taxation Office, where a staffing requirement existed to meet the Government's objectives of greater effort in the priority areas of tax collection and pursuit of tax avoidance which were neglected by the previous Government.

The following table shows the total number of staff redeployed and the gaining agencies.

Staff

redeployed

Australian Taxation Office 220 Housing and Construction 73 Communications 23 Australian Electoral Commission 1 Employment and Industrial Relations 28

345

Following the Government's consideration of the report of the panel reviewing the assets test legislation, it has introduced revised legislation. The revised assets test will require considerably fewer staff than the earlier version. For 1984-85, which includes the 'start up' period, agreement has been given to the following staff levels in relation to assets testing:

Staff

years

Department of Social Security 717 Department of Veterans' Affairs 205

It is expected that the on-going allocations for 1985-86 will be significantly lower than those for 1984-85.