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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 1752

Senator SHEIL —I refer the Minister for Finances to the release yesterday of the Forward Estimates of Budget outlays and to his accompanying statement. Why was it necessary for the Department of Finance to conduct its own analysis of administrative costs and staff growth rather than rely on estimates from functional departments? How realistic are the Forward Estimates as they apply to future staff levels, given that the accepted growth of 0.3 per cent is less than one-sixth of that proposed by the departments?

Senator WALSH —There is nothing unusual about that. I believe that the Forward Estimates last year contained the same sort of information. I have been aware of this for as long as we have been in government. I would expect that something similar happened even under previous governments. Departments put in a bid for what they regard as a staff entitlement, much the same as a money bid, and the Department of Finance at a Public Service level is charged with the responsibility of protecting the general public interest, I suppose, rather than the sectional departmental interest. Almost invariably, even after some prolonged discussions or negotiations, there is not bilateral agreement as to precisely the number of staff that should be required. In those circumstances the question is settled in the first instance by me or by the Expenditure Review Committee or by Cabinet should the other Minister concerned decide to take it there.