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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE C
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, SPORT AND TERRITORIES
Subprogram 1.4--Australian Nature Conservation Agency
- Committee Name
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE C
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, SPORT AND TERRITORIES
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Senator MICHAEL BAUME
- Sub program
Subprogram 1.4--Australian Nature Conservation Agency
- System Id
Table Of ContentsPrevious Fragment Next Fragment
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE C
(SENATE-Tuesday, 22 February 1994)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, SPORT AND TERRITORIES
Senator IAN MACDONALD
- Subprogram 1.4--Australian Nature Conservation Agency
- Subprogram 1.1--Environment strategies
- Subprogram 1.3--Australian Heritage Commission
- Subprogram 1.4--Australian Nature Conservation Agency
- Subprogram 1.5--Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
- Program 5--Territories
Content WindowESTIMATES COMMITTEE C - 22/02/1994 - DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, SPORT AND TERRITORIES - Program 1--Environment - Subprogram 1.4--Australian Nature Conservation Agency
Senator CALVERT --Is there someone here who can tell us something about landcare grants?
Mr Hamilton --Components of the landcare program are jointly administered by this department and the Department of Primary Industries and Energy. There are two elements of the landcare program that are administered by the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, which is part of this portfolio.
Senator CALVERT --Is it correct that you have assessment groups in each state to assess landcare projects?
Mr Hill --Yes.
Senator CALVERT --In 1992-93, did the minister accept all of those recommendations?
Mr Hill --To my knowledge, yes.
Senator CALVERT --None of them were knocked back?
Mr Hill --I would have to check that, because my memory may be faulty here and I would rather be definite about that. I do not have the information with me.
Senator CALVERT --I was led to believe that at least two in Victoria and three in Western Australia were approved by the assessment panel, but the minister refused them and granted the money to other areas in a more favourable nature.
Mr Hamilton --That is not an unusual practice in any ministry. With any department that I have been associated with, ministers have the right, and they exercise the right, to make the decisions. That is what they are paid for. They often take departmental advice and, from time to time, they do not.
Senator CALVERT --In 1993, were all the grants that were assessed and recommended approved by the minister?
Mr Hill --Again, I would have to check to be sure that I give you the right answer, but my memory is--
Senator CALVERT --Will you take that on notice and get those answers, thanks.
Mr Hill --You want it for 1992-93 and again for 1993-94.
Senator CALVERT --Yes.
Senator TAMBLING --Madam Chair, on the guidelines that have just been distributed, the page 2 that I have has the date not carefully marked. I have asked the clerk to ascertain for me what it was and I have been informed that it was July 1993. What were the guidelines prior to that, and were they strictly adhered to in the year 1992-93?
Mr Hamilton --We will take that on notice along with the information about the recommendations for that year.
Senator TAMBLING --Surely someone can ascertain for me whether there was any significant change in the guidelines--
Mr Hamilton --Yes, that is what we will find out for you.
Senator TAMBLING --But surely it would be known to a senior officer now as to whether there had been any significant change to the guidelines that we have just been presented with as against those of the previous financial year.
Dr Turner --To my knowledge, the guidelines were last amended in September 1992 and that amendment was not any radical change to the criteria. Those guidelines have been in operation since September 1992. That date just refers to when that particular version of the document was produced, to my knowledge.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --You said the guidelines were changed in 1992.
Dr Turner --Yes.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --How were they changed?
Dr Turner --I would have to produce two bits of paper to show you the previous and the following guidelines, but they were not radical variations. My recollection is that there was some reordering of the criteria.
Senator Richardson --I do not think there is anything very unusual about that. If you have ongoing assessments of programs you sometimes change the guidelines if you see a need. I do not think you can get suspicious over everything, especially not a person like you, Senator Crichton-Browne.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Senator Richardson, where you are involved we would not even think of it.
Senator TAMBLING --What was a global figure for the grants to voluntary conservation organisations in the year 1992-93?
Dr Turner --It is approximately $1.4 million.
Mr Buckingham --In 1992-93 the figure was $1.532 million.
Senator CHAMARETTE --You gave me an answer, Mr Buckingham, about keeping documentation of the recommendations that are made to the minister on grants such as the voluntary conservation organisations and also the Landcare organisations, if I heard that correctly. Are you requested by the minister to present that in any particular form, that is, by electorates or regions?
Mr Buckingham --Firstly, I did not comment on the landcare program; that was commented on by another officer. Secondly, the format of the advice to the minister is in the form of a submission to the minister assessing the applications received against the guidelines and criteria governing the program.
Senator CHAMARETTE --So they never allocated according to electorates?
Mr Buckingham --There has been no reference to electorate breakdown in--
Mr Hamilton --I mention that the program in question is a program of fundings to organisations that are largely national or state based.
Senator CALVERT --Not in the case of Landcare grants.
Mr Hamilton --No, I was talking about the grants to voluntary conservation organisations--they are state or national--
Senator CALVERT --Senator Chamarette was talking about both, I think.
Senator CHAMARETTE --Yes, could I have--
Senator Richardson --Mr Buckingham made it clear he was not talking about Landcare.
Mr Hamilton --He is not responsible for Landcare grants.
Senator CHAMARETTE --I ask the same question regarding the Landcare allocations.
Mr Hill --I am sorry, I was at the back. Could I have your question again.
Senator CHAMARETTE --I asked whether the documentation regarding the department's recommendations on Landcare grants are assembled and sent to the minister and classified according to electorates or any other system.
Mr Hill --We get the recommendations from the state assessment panel for our components of the national landcare program. We forward those to the minister with our recommendations with regard to funding and the decisions are made on that basis.
Senator CHAMARETTE --How many grants would you be considering overall in making your recommendations; that is, the total number of applications and the number about which you would make recommendations?
Mr Hill --I do not think I can answer that directly because we do not get all the applications direct because they go through a state assessment panel process. We then receive the advice from those state assessment panels. I am afraid I cannot give you the numbers off the top of my head, so can I take that on notice and get that information for you?
Senator CHAMARETTE --Certainly, thank you.
Senator TAMBLING --Could that be in respect of the 1992-93 financial year and the current financial year, and also the quantum of the grants?
Mr Hill --You say `the quantum'. Do you want the total amount that is handed out?
Senator TAMBLING --I think Senator Chamarette has asked for the number of approved applications. I am looking also for the detail of the total amount paid under each of those programs. And also, did the minister vary any of the recommendations?
Mr Hill --Yes, I think that is the same question that Senator Calvert has asked.
Senator CALVERT --Could you tell me how the money is administered? After the grant is approved, you pay out the money; does it come directly from the minister's office and does it go directly to the applicant, or does it go to the state assessment panel, or does it go to the local member whoever it may be?
Mr Hill --It goes in a variety of ways. It does not go back through the state assessment panel. Some go direct from us, some go through the minister's office, some go through the local members.
Senator CALVERT --Did the minister ever instruct you to send cheques in particular Labor party electorates to the local members?
Mr Hill --I am not sure about that specifically, but again I can check for you.
Senator TAMBLING --You mentioned a moment ago that some of the disbursement was made through local members; could you provide full details of all distributions made through members or senators in both financial years?
Mr Hill --I will get that information for you. I do not have it with me at the moment.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --How do you arrive at the judgments as to how it is disbursed?
Mr Hill --Normally, we would send stuff out, but if the minister's office wants it done in a particular way we would have a look at that and follow whatever the instructions were.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --So what you are saying is that, all being equal, it would be sent by the department to the recipient, save for when the minister says, `Give it to the local member'?
Mr Hill --Or from the minister's office, one or the other, either of them, yes.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --So if it ever goes through the local member it would be as a result of an instruction from the minister's office?
Mr Hill --I would imagine so, sir, yes.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --So the obvious extension of that is that any grants which are identified as being presented by the local member are as a result of instructions from the minister? It is really only a repetition of what you said.
Mr Hill --Yes.
Senator Richardson --That is logical. I cannot see anything wrong with it, so I do not see why you should be particularly worried about.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Senator Richardson, when I am asking questions in the Senate I want to make sure that you do not say, `But, you did not ask'.
Senator Richardson --I would never say that!
Senator HILL --I am a visitor to the committee.
Senator Richardson --There are a few around tonight!
Senator HILL --If you would permit me, I understood that my colleague Senator Crichton-Browne had raised the subject of whiteboards and there was a matter that I wanted to ask.
CHAIRMAN --Yes. As you may or may not have been aware at the time, I did suggest that perhaps discussion of whiteboards was not necessarily in line with our consideration of automation, but I allowed Senator Crichton-Browne to pursue his questions. I suppose, Senator Hill, as you are a visitor I would ask you to keep your questions relatively brief because it is very easy for us to have an extremely wide-ranging debate on whiteboards and other matters if we do not keep strictly to the supplementary estimates.
Senator HILL --I understand. I only wanted to refer to one particular whiteboard, Madam Chairman, under corporate services.
CHAIRMAN --Only if you are referring to automation.
Senator HILL --That is one of the things I wanted to know. I understand that this department provided Minister Kelly with her whiteboard. Is that correct?
Mr Hamilton --We provide equipment to the minister and to the parliamentary secretaries' offices that are over and above the standard issue, that is correct.
Senator HILL --That did not answer the question. Did you provide Minister Kelly with a whiteboard?
Mr Hamilton --I imagine we had, but we certainly did not within this year and within these supplementary estimates.
Senator HILL --Are you telling me you do not know whether you provided her with a whiteboard?
Mr Hamilton --It is the sort of thing we would have provided.
Senator HILL --Do you know or do you not know?
Mr Hamilton --I do not know.
Senator HILL --Is there someone here that knows whether the department provided Mrs Kelly with a whiteboard?
Mr Hamilton --Mr Anderson believes that we probably did but we would have to check.
Senator HILL --How do you know Mr Anderson believes that?
Mr Hamilton --He just told me.
Senator HILL --So you probably did but you do not know?
Mr Hamilton --That is correct. We can find out.
Senator HILL --What form of whiteboard would you probably have supplied?
Mr Hamilton --A simple whiteboard.
Senator HILL --I gather that some of these whiteboards have methods of record keeping. They can be linked to computers and so forth.
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator HILL --Is that the form of whiteboard that you would have provided to Mrs Kelly?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator HILL --How do you know that?
Mr Hamilton --Because I know.
Senator HILL --How do you know? You were not even sure whether you provided her with one.
Mr Hamilton --Because I have seen the whiteboard, I know what it is like.
Senator HILL --You have seen the one that has been provided to Mrs Kelly?
Mr Hamilton --Yes, I have. It is in her office. I am in her office most days.
Senator HILL --Then you know that--
Mr Hamilton --I know she has it. I do not know whether the Department of Administrative Services or my department paid for it.
CHAIRMAN --Senator Hill, can I just intervene here? As I understand it, whiteboards are around this building and I really cannot see the purpose of your line of questioning--
Senator HILL --You know that--
CHAIRMAN --as it relates to the supplementary estimates. In terms of your particular goal in asking the question I can see your purpose, but we are dealing with supplementary estimates to do with office automation. I think we are being very tolerant of you as a visitor and if you can phrase your question relating to automation then I will be quite happy to accept it. But when we are going down this track of whether or not there are whiteboards in particular offices when it is a standard piece of equipment around this building and indeed around the Public Service and the private sector generally, I have to say with respect that you are wasting a great deal of this committee's time.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Madam Chairman, I am not a visitor, I am part of the committee. I am more than anxious to hear the answers to Senator Hill's questions. I think they are very relevant to the question of automation and what sort of money the department is allocating for automation. I want to know how you convey your information through the system and whether this sort of money is required for automation if it is all going to be done on whiteboards that do not have recordings. So I for one, as a member of the committee, would be more than happy to allow some tolerance to Senator Hill.
Senator HILL --Can I try to explain?
Senator HILL --The officer would no doubt be aware that a question was asked in the Senate as to whether the Department of Administrative Services provided the whiteboard to Minister Kelly and that the answer was no. We were told it was the wrong department, we should go back and explore it with this particular department. That is why we ask it now.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --And that answer did not prompt Mr Hamilton to inquire?
Senator HILL --Apparently not because, with respect, although he was evasive a moment ago he now says he has seen the whiteboard and he presumes it was provided by his department. It is just incredible that he does not know that. The thing I was more interested in was to find out the nature of the whiteboard which raises this automation argument. What we are talking about is $30 million being dispersed by notes on this board. I gather that there are now whiteboards within the Public Service that have a mechanism that records the notes that are written thereon.
If that is being utilised by Minister Kelly then she may well argue that that is a way in which she can keep a permanent record. I was wanting to find out the nature of the whiteboard that is provided to her by the department by which she apparently disperses such large sums of public money and whether the board was in a form which allowed a permanent record to be kept.
Mr Hamilton --I think I have already indicated that no, it is not, it is a simple whiteboard on which you write and there is no capacity to print out in hard copy the information or transfer it directly into a computer.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --When you say a simple whiteboard, what is its dimensions?
Mr Hamilton --I do not know.
Senator HILL --But you see it every day.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Since you see it every day could you guess the size or perhaps relate it to a panel on the wall somewhere?
Mr Hamilton --It is a fairly large whiteboard.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --That does not help me at all. Can you make a guess at the dimensions?
Mr Hamilton --I could not make a guess, but it is a large whiteboard which takes up a large part of an office wall.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Let us start with this wall. It is as big as the whole wall?
Mr Hamilton --It is smaller than the whole wall, senator.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Half the wall?
Mr Hamilton --Smaller than that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --A quarter of the wall?
Mr Hamilton --A portion of the wall.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --We are going to be here a long time. A quarter of the wall, you said?
Mr Hamilton --A quarter of which wall, senator?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --See this indented piece here?
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Are you wanting to be deliberately difficult, or is this your normal style?
Mr Hamilton --No! I am just trying to find out. I do not know the dimensions of the whiteboard. It is a fairly large whiteboard. It would, I imagine, if this would help you, be--if you imagine those two vertical--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You are not trying to be helpful; there is no doubt about that.
Mr Hamilton --If I can--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --If it is a whiteboard you said--
Mr Hamilton --Senator, I am trying to answer your question. If you imagine those two white panels there, tilted on their side, it would be about that size.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So these two panels here, tilted on their side?
Mr Hamilton --Exactly.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What would that be: about four metres by two metres?
Mr Hamilton --I will leave you to work that out.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do you know, as part of your program for automation, the cost of those sorts of whiteboards? There would not be a lot of them around, would there?
Mr Hamilton --I would not have a clue about the cost of them. I could find out. I have already said I would try and find out for sure whether we purchased it; in which case, I can obviously provide you with the information on how much it cost. But it would have been some years ago.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Mr Hamilton, you are Secretary of the department?
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Are you trying to tell the committee that, with all the publicity about this whiteboard, that you have not in the last couple of weeks bothered to inquire about the dimensions of it, the cost, and who provided it? You are telling that to the committee, obviously.
Mr Hamilton --I have told the committee that I do not know its precise dimensions, and that I do not know whether we provided it some years ago, although I rather imagine we did; that is what I have told the committee. I know what the nature of the whiteboard is. It is a simple whiteboard, without the printing facility.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --And nobody has asked you for an assessment of that, in the last couple of weeks?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Have the press contacted you, perhaps?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --They have not?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator Richardson --Had they, he would not be under obligation to answer.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Of course not. But I would have thought that that would have been the first thing the Secretary of the department would have familiarised himself with. Did you guess that it might have been raised at these committee hearings as part of your automation budget?
Mr Hamilton --The cost of the whiteboard and whether we purchased it some years ago did not strike me as a matter of any great significance.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You have come from another department to this department recently, have you, Mr Hamilton?
Mr Hamilton --I have.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Are these four by two whiteboards fairly normal in ministerial offices?
Mr Hamilton --I do not know. I cannot recall whether my previous ministers had them. They are certainly common around the Public Service.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is it a portable board, is it?
Mr Hamilton --Portable?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It moves; or is it stuck on the wall, or what?
Mr Hamilton --It is stuck on the wall.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Mr Hamilton, what is the difference between what you call an ordinary whiteboard or a simple whiteboard and other types of whiteboards?
Mr Hamilton --It does not have the print capacity, as I have said several times.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It does not have what?
Mr Hamilton --The print capacity, as I have said several times.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --What is the virtue of the minister having a simple whiteboard as distinct from the more sophisticated type?
Mr Hamilton --It costs less. It can be stuck on the wall and does not take up room in the office. They, I guess, would be the main things.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --It costs less. Do you think that was a consideration when the minister ordered the whiteboard?
Mr Hamilton --I really cannot say: it was some years ago.
Senator HILL --Did you know that the minister used the whiteboard to do her assessments of relative merit of applicants?
Mr Hamilton --I knew that the whiteboard was frequently used in the office. It was a matter of general knowledge around the department that the whiteboard was used for many purposes within the office.
Senator HILL --Did you know it was used for that particular purpose?
Mr Hamilton --Not until recently, no.
Senator HILL --You did not know at the time she was using it for that particular purpose?
Mr Hamilton --I was not in the department at that time.
Senator HILL --Do you know if other officers were aware that it was being used for that purpose?
Mr Hamilton --I do not know.
Senator HILL --The issue I am raising is that it would have been a useful contribution if the department had provided her with a whiteboard with a print capacity, would it not?
Mr Hamilton --Possibly, it may have been useful. But that was not, as far as I know, asked for and it certainly has not been provided.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --When you say it is possible that it may have been, is there some doubt about that?
Mr Hamilton --It depends what it is used for and whether they would have, in fact, used it to print out.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Do you think in the normal scheme of things it would have been useful to have had the records which are now subject to some debate in the public arena recorded?
Mr Hamilton --I think the minister has indicated that--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I am not asking her; I am asking you.
Mr Hamilton --I agree with the minister that it would have been better if there had been a record. She has said that herself.
Senator HILL --So the department could have provided her with equipment by which she could have kept that record, bearing in mind her preference for doing these calculations on a whiteboard, but the department did not do so.
Mr Hamilton --If it had been asked for, we no doubt could have provided it.
Senator HILL --But it was not offered either, apparently. Is that the case?
Mr Hamilton --I do not know; I was not here at the time.
Senator HILL --You have not asked your predecessors as to whether it was offered?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator Richardson --In my experience, departments do not normally offer to give ministers equipment: you usually have to beg, plead and drag it out of them. So the fact that they did not offer would not be described by me as unusual; it would be described by me as absolutely typical.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Senator Richardson, I assume that a good officer, seeing the minister doing calculations on a whiteboard of this nature, would say to themselves; `The best advice I can give to the minister is to ensure that some record is kept, otherwise they might end up in trouble'.
Senator Richardson --As I am scribbling on notepads and things, I do not find them rushing to my aid. It may have been the case with Minister Kelly, but I do not know; usually, departments are always trying to save a dollar here and there on their admin budgets, and they do not run around offering to buy you new equipment. You usually have to chase it.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --One thing we do know--with respect--is that you do not use a whiteboard. You are much too smart for that, whatever the standards of your records.
Senator TAMBLING --Were any officers of the department present at any time when the minister was deliberating and using the whiteboard?
Mr Hamilton --I am not aware of that, because the departmental officers were not involved with the process of decision making; they were simply involved in putting the schedules together and providing information on request from the office.
Senator TAMBLING --You have not answered my question. Were any staff of the department present at any time when the minister deliberated and used the whiteboard?
Mr Hamilton --I thought I did answer, but I will repeat it: not as far as I am aware.
Senator TAMBLING --Can you ascertain if any members of your staff were present at any time? Did they observe any of the calculations being made, or any of the discussions? Did any of them take notes at that particular point in time?
Mr Hamilton --I certainly know that no notes were taken by any members of the department, but I will check whether any were present at any of those occasions.
CHAIRMAN --Senator Tambling, it is never easy finding what is relevant to the area of the estimates, or the supplementary estimates--
Senator TAMBLING --The staff resources are totally relevant.
CHAIRMAN --It really is coming under automation, and I think we are drawing some pretty long bows. We do have to keep in mind the supplementary estimates. Is there anything further that you wish to ask at this stage, Senator Tambling?
Senator TAMBLING --Not on this topic, but on another topic I do.
Senator Richardson --Can I just interpose for a moment, Madam Chair? We have an answer to a question previously asked about grants, and perhaps we could allow Mr Buckingham to read that into the record, and then we can proceed.
CHAIRMAN --Thank you.
Senator Richardson --You were all concerned to get it quickly, so it is here.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Obviously it does not matter.
Mr Buckingham --The question was whether the minister accepted the departmental recommendations in respect of the 1992-93 grants program to the conservation organisations. The answer is that all the recommendations except one were accepted. The one that was not accepted was a minor variation in the recommendation, an adjustment that actually saw the grant of the previous year being maintained rather than being reduced by a small amount. That was in respect of decisions taken in December 1992. There was a supplementary round of decisions following the Prime Minister's environment statement, when an extra $100,000 was allocated to this program. The departmental recommendations were, again, accepted by the minister and were the subject of the allocations following those decisions of April 1993.
CHAIRMAN --We are still on the overview: are there any other questions?
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --I have a technical question on the overview. The explanation of non-program specific variations is outlined in general terms at the beginning, but also in specific terms in the back papers, broken up by each element. Where would you rather we discussed these not-allocated-to-program items? Would you rather they were dealt with at explanations of non-program-specific variations on page 11, or on pages 24 and 25, where they are broken up into different segments?
CHAIRMAN --Probably in the separate segments might be more straightforward, Senator. You might have questions of a general nature and then have to deal with something more specific.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --The problem I have is that, if we do not deal with it now, there are some elements of the program which are not listed on pages 24 to 25 but to which the general thing applies. It might be useful if we approached it now.
CHAIRMAN --All right, proceed.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --In that case, and if people have finished with other matters, I want to raise the general question that the government has agreed to fully supplement the two per cent service wide salary increase effective on 17 December 1992 at a cost of $1.46 million, and $1.24 million is required in Appropriation Bill (No. 3). In relation to this remaining $219,000 which is offset from savings in departmental running costs, what are these savings? Are they in one big lump or are they across a broad range? Can they be identified readily for the committee?
Mr Hamilton --They can, indeed. They were on the previous page, page 10.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --No. As I read the previous page, page 10, the $219,000--
Mr Hamilton --They are offset by the figures with a minus sign in front of them in that table on page 10. So the net effect is a saving of $190,000.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Yes, that tells me which program. That is not the question I asked.
Mr Hamilton --There is some explanation underneath as to where the savings came from: for example, $5,000 in relation to the Antarctic expeditions, which is explained there and Mr Moncur answered a question on that earlier; $822,000 on office automation, which we have been talking about for much of the afternoon; and $88,000 on the cultural development function, which I answered earlier.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --But I am having trouble relating those specifically to $219,000. If we are saving $5,000 on Antarctic, $910,000 on corporate services, coordination and public affairs, what does that add up to?
Mr Hamilton --The figures are in that table above. Adding those together and then taking off the additional expenditure in the environment program and the non-program specific of $296,000 and $219,000 gives you that total of a net saving of $190,000 on one bill and $127,000 on the other bill.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --So none of the savings emerges in any way from any changes in staff levels across departmental activities. There are no staff changes whatsoever?
Mr Hamilton --Staff levels?
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Yes.
Mr Hamilton --I do not believe any of those are attributable to changes in staff levels.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --So--
Mr Hamilton --No, that is correct.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --So the total change relates to no changes in the staff levels. I have read the report of the House of Representatives inquiry and I understood the department had put on an additional employee to check on the capacity or the potential for graft in the sports facilities program.
Mr Hamilton --That did not require an additional appropriation. It could be met within the overall departmental appropriation.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --So where people are transferred from one element to another, within the department and perhaps under different heads, we would not see any of those changes of resources here.
Mr Hamilton --Unless it was a net addition to the portfolio, that is correct.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --I see. In the situation where an additional staff person has been put on--this anti-fraud person--it was by the department, was it, or was it in the minister's office?
Mr Hamilton --No, we put additional staff into the program in the department, that is correct.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --So we would not become aware of the fact that that would presumably increase the costs of that element of the department's activities? The reason I raise that is because, in the past in this committee, we have specifically asked, `What is the cost for the department of implementing this program?'. I was wondering whether the cost has dramatically changed as a result of different staffing arrangements from the time when I think I was told it took 2.2 ASLs or something.
Mr Hamilton --The staffing costs administering that program, an extra person was put on the program last year, I believe, and there is another person being put on this year in relation to its evaluation. That has increased the salary costs for the program but we can absorb that within our overall salary budget, so we did not need to seek additional appropriations.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --When I was asking questions about this on 9 September 1991, questions I might say the media showed a total lack of interest in, I was told the resources that had been used to run this program amounted to 2.2 ASL over the full year. Could you tell us what it is now?
Mr Hamilton --Over the recent period it has been about three and it will be about four going into the next year.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --I was told then it was $78,000 in salaries. What would it be now?
Mr Hamilton --I would have to take the exact figure on notice. It would be more than that, however.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Thank you. In those days there were something like 2,000 applications. That is about the same number, is it, of the latest?
Mr Hamilton --There are no applications. There has been no funding round since late 1992. The staff are now engaged in the process of paying out the grants, acquitting the grants, carrying out the evaluation of the program, those sorts of things, so it is a different sort of situation.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --I see. But the grants that are now being acquitted, can you remind me how many grants and out of how many applications? It was 600 or so out of 2,000-odd applications, was it not?
Mr Hamilton --Yes, something like that. I will give you the exact figures. In round 4 we have a total of 724 grants, though, of course, there are still some grants that are not fully paid out from round 3, where there were 338 grants.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --That was out of a couple of thousand-odd applications.
Mr Hamilton --Round 3 there were 1,830 applications scheduled and round 4 there were 2,860 applications scheduled.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Thank you.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What was the figure in round 4?
Mr Hamilton --Two thousand eight hundred and sixty applications were scheduled--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --The successful ones.
Mr Hamilton --There were 724 successful grants.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --So really we have a problem here in this committee, have we not, establishing what is the cost of administering a program like this. While we can see what the department's administrative costs are, we do not know the costs of the staff involved in actually making allocations in the minister's office.
Mr Hamilton --No, the salaries of those staff do not show up against the department's appropriations.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --And because the staff is employed by a different department and we do not know exactly how many of those staff are employed and over what period in allocating the money--
Senator Richardson --That is information not known about any minister's staff, not simply Minister Kelly's--
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Yes, I accept that.
Senator Richardson --It would be the same of my staff or anybody else's. We do not keep a record of how many hours, as an example, how many days, how many months anyone works on a particular project. Of course, as time goes by you move your staff onto projects that are of some urgency that require more. But no-one checks.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --I acknowledge that and it underlines the point I am trying to make, which is that because of the specific nature of this operation where it is allocated in the minister's office, a Senate committee inquiry like this has no capacity to establish the real cost of administering the program. We have no capacity to do so and we have just established that. The costs we know in terms of administration only relate to the departmental costs. You have said that you do not know anyway. The fact is there are no other programs, Minister, where the allocation of the funding is done by the minister and her staff on a whiteboard in her office. We do not have the capacity in this committee to examine the criteria, the method by which the expenditure is determined, which breaks every basic rule of responsible government.
Senator Richardson --But your question was about determining the cost of the administration program. Whether it is a matter of the allocation being decided in the office or, as with a million programs, it is a matter of assessing what comes in, making recommendations and all the rest of it, that is all the cost that you could add to any program, because everything that a minister gets, virtually--and I suppose there are exceptions--comes through his or her staff. That staff puts in work in assessing whatever it is that they are bringing to their minister. So you can make the same point about any program in government. You could never know what the cost of the minister's staff was, and in every program there must be some cost--there has to be.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Minister, this is a program which is not administered by the department and the allocation is not even based on the department's recommendations, as we have seen, because the determinations made bore little relationship to the categories of need or whatever it was that the department sorted these things out into. We have found out what the cost of sorting these applications into a hierarchy of need was. We have no idea of the cost of actually doing what is done in every other instance in government by the department--that is, determining what in the department's view should be the expenditure of funds.
Mr Hamilton --I might just comment on one observation. The department, of course, does administer the program and the time of departmental staff overwhelmingly is spent on the post-decision work; in other words, the work of advising applicants of whether they were successful or not, acquitting grants, checking invoices et cetera. The time involved in putting the schedules together, though intensive at that particular time, was only a small fraction of the cost of administering the program.
The minister did indicate that she had a member of staff who was principally responsible for the program and that at times when applications were being assessed, three or four other members of staff were involved. As Senator Richardson indicated, that is the normal practice in ministers' offices. Time sheets are not kept of ministerial staff's application to a particular function, as against another function. So any calculation of the actual cost of the minister's staffers in this program would be purely notional.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Thank you. But I stress to you once again, this is a unique program. It is the only one that involves $30 million allocated by the minister's staff and the minister rather than on departmental recommendation. You have intrigued me because you have just said that very little effort and time went into the departmental submissions on this.
Mr Hamilton --Compared to the other work the department does, I said it took comparatively little time. It was intensive at the time, but if you look over the course of three or four years it would only be a small proportion of our time that was spent on doing that. I did not indicate what quantum of time.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Would this relative lack of time indicate a good reason why the minister appeared to largely ignore your classifications in making the determinations about who should get the grants?
Mr Hamilton --There are two assumptions there. I am not saying that there was any relationship between the time spent and the attentions which the minister paid to the classifications. I was simply making the point about the time spent on classifying, as against the time spent on administering the program. As my submission to the House of Representatives committee showed, the proportion of successful grants was directly related to the category. In other words, proportionally more category 1s were given than category 2s, and proportionally more category 2s than category 3s were successful. So I do not think you could say that there was no relationship.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Sorry. There are proportionally more category whats?
Mr Hamilton --Proportionally more category 1 applications were approved than category 2 applications were approved than category 3 applications were approved.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --I was under the clear impression that some that appeared to have very little merit, according to your categorisation, succeeded over those that you had categorised as being far more worth while.
Mr Hamilton --The way the Auditor-General's report was written you might well draw that conclusion, but the way I have explained it shows that that conclusion is not valid.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --In evidence given on 9 September 1991, Mr Blunn said that the applications were looked at on their merits. I presume he was referring to the department there because obviously he would not know how the minister looked at them and I do not think Mr Blunn would have considered political criteria to be necessarily within that category of `on their merits'. What does `on their merits' really mean in terms of the departmental categorising?
Mr Hamilton --The departmental categorisation is based on the information in the written applications. The officers of my department assessed whether they met the selection criteria. This meant whether they had other funding sources if it was to be a grant over $50,000, whether it was to be a grant for improving community access to sporting, recreation or cultural matters, and whether the proposal was put together in a way that led the officers of the department to believe it had a chance of succeeding.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --The performance information that guides the department in preparing its normal program performance statements said in 1991-92:
. Increases in community access to sport and recreation opportunities through the provision of new or upgraded facilities, particularly for residents in new suburban areas and inner urban areas, youth and communities in rural areas and areas with high unemployment or a large migrant population.
. Increases in the number of programs offered by community facilities targeted at recreationally disadvantaged groups.
. Reduction of the numbers of communities with a high priority facility need.
Is your measurement of that performance done by the department itself or by the minister who actually allocated the funding?
Mr Hamilton --We had an evaluation of the first two years which went to precisely that point, did it increase that participation and access, and we are at the beginnings of an evaluation of the last two funding rounds to see whether the grants given in the last few years of the program have achieved what the objectives of the program are, as they are set out in the program performance statements.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Are you employing an outside consultant to do this as you did two years ago?
Mr Hamilton --A decision has not been made. The steering committee has only just commenced to meet so a decision has not been made though it is likely that we will.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Concerning the assessment of the performance of the program so far, is that a public document which is readily available?
Mr Hamilton --Yes, it has been made public several times.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Thank you. I saw one.
Mr Hamilton --Yes, there has only been the one up until now and I have just talked about the early stages of developing the second one.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --I see. Was that done by some consultants called Grey?
Mr Hamilton --That is right.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Did we ever find out how much that cost by the way?
Mr Hamilton --I know that that information was given about how much it cost. I can readily provide it again.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --I will go away and look at it. Concerning the criticism by the Auditor-General that political considerations may have been an element, is that a fair summing up of--
Mr Hamilton --I think he said that the information available to him did not enable him to reach a conclusion on that matter.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --How can a performance assessment be made if the criteria on which the funds were granted is no longer available to the people assessing whether the criteria had been met? In other words, the reasons for the decisions have been rubbed off the whiteboard and I am wondering how you can assess whether a program has been successful or not?
Mr Hamilton --We were assessing how the program was successful. The criteria for assessing the program were those matters about access to community facilities, particularly among the groups that you read out. That can be assessed objectively by looking at the facilities, seeing what access there is to them, and looking across Australia at whether access has been increased.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Will your examination of success involve comparing those areas where a grant was received with those areas that did not receive anything? In other words, regarding the areas that suffered from not being selected, are they to be contrasted on the basis of, `Well, maybe this area needed it more'?
In other words, the criteria for the program appear to me, from what you have said, to be simply related to `this has improved the facilities in this area, therefore it has been successful', without any assessment of whether another area needed it more. That is why I am wondering about your assessment procedure.
Mr Hamilton --This is not a program where we have the amount of money to provide facilities across every region of Australia. So, yes, one will assume that there may be varying impacts across Australia. The previous evaluation did not go into assessing whether one region might have been more deserving. I do not think that will be the focus of this one either. It will be more a focus on whether it actually led to an increase in facilities and greater sport and fitness, et cetera, among the community.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --So there will be no assessment about whether or not an area which had unsuccessful grants could have benefited more or may have benefited more or would have benefited more had the grant gone there, even though it was a safe Labor seat, instead of going to a marginal Labor safe? That is not going to be part of the assessment?
Mr Hamilton --Not particularly taking your example, but I do not think that will be the focus of the evaluation. I might say that it is not just a matter of whether applications were successful or unsuccessful. There are many areas, of course, where there were no applications; and the comparison would not be made with whether there was an application or not, but the objective question of where the facilities are now on the ground.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Forgive me, but it would seem to me that, if one was trying to assess the success of handing out $30 million, one would surely want to be trying to assess whether in fact it had been spent in the best possible way to the benefit of the taxpayers of Australia or the people of Australia that it was aimed at. It does not seem to me that your assessment is going to do that at all. It is simply going to say, `We have thrown money in this direction. Two more people are attending whatever sport or facility it was; therefore, it has been a success'. In one of your previous assessments we discovered that in 14 per cent of the grants there had been no change in the participation--I just cannot put my hands on the exact figures--and in a couple of instances there had been a drop. If one is spending lots of money, should one not be establishing whether or not it is being allocated in a way which is to the greatest advantage of the people who are supposed to be receiving it? You are using staff resources, or you are employing a consultant at public expense, to establish, you say, whether or not this is a successful program, without determining whether the money has been allocated in the best possible way.
Senator Richardson --Could I just make a comment on that. One of the difficulties in heading in the direction that you seem to be suggesting would be, as an example, that it would discriminate against country areas. In a lot of the areas where you have got declining populations what you are doing is giving those declining populations facilities. The chances of more people participating are slim and may be nil. In fact, it may be certain that over time you will not have great numbers, but you will be providing facilities to people in disadvantaged areas who are a long way from being able to get to other facilities. It is difficult to find a criterion by which you judge that. It is not always going to be the case that every grant can increase participation, even though you might like it to. If you decide to do that, you will inevitably discriminate against some areas--certainly some rural areas, but some urban ones as well.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --I take your point that it is a difficult task, but what concerns me is that we have been told in these meetings about the program guidelines, and I quote from the outlook as outlined in the 1991-92 performance statements:
Program guidelines and selection criteria to be reviewed to take account of any changes in facility needs and population groups, thereby continuing to give attention to the needs of access and equity target groups.
I have assumed that to mean that that is a departmental task rather than for ministerial guidance--that program guidelines and selection criteria are done by the department. Or is it the minister?
Mr Hamilton --No. The selection criteria and program guidelines were developed by the department and approved by the minister and, in just the way that Mr Buckingham indicated with the grants to voluntary conservation organisations, those criteria would be amended from time to time. We would review them and see whether they needed to be amended in the light of experience and make recommendations to the minister.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --To what extent have the program guidelines and selection criteria been changed as a result of reviews over the last three years?
Mr Hamilton --There have been alterations. I can provide you with the details but they largely went to two things: clarifying some of the wording in it where it was ambiguous; and adding specific matters--such as employment, child care, access for people with disabilities and some of those disadvantaged groups were made more explicit in later versions of the guidelines.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --So this would take account of any changes in facility needs and population groups thereby continuing to give attention to the needs of access and equity target groups?
Mr Hamilton --That was the intention of some of those revisions, yes.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Is there any indication as a result of those guidelines that there has been a change in the trends of grants? Can you see a reflection of those guidelines changing in anyway the direction of the grants?
Mr Hamilton --I think the guidelines will change more for clarification and to emphasise some of those features which were always inherent in it. I do not think there would be any major changes in the direction of grants. The only major change, of course, was the explicit addition of the cultural element in rounds three and four. We had very few cultural grants before when it was simply titled the community recreation sporting facilities program. Even though cultural matters could be handled under the recreation element, we added the word `cultural' to it to make it clear that they were available. As a result of that, I think there were proportionately rather more cultural grants made.
Senator TAMBLING --On the same issue that Senator Baume was pursuing, can I ask, with regard to the appointment of the evaluation and the team that will obviously undertake it, will the assessors all be public servants or will any be recruited at arms length from the Public Service?
Mr Hamilton --There will be a steering committee of departmental and Department of Finance officers but there may well be an independent person tasked to carry out the detailed surveying and evaluation work.
Senator TAMBLING --Has any assessment been done yet of how many will comprise the team and what their qualifications will be necessarily?
Mr Hamilton --No, we have not called tenders. The threshold decisions have not been made yet. We are discussing the arrangements with the Department of Finance.
Senator TAMBLING --What sort of financial allocation have you made or allocated for this review process?
Mr Hamilton --I think something in the order of $100,000 or $140,000.
Senator TAMBLING --So, that would imply that the major staffing component will
be met from internal resources rather than from any external recruitment.
Mr Hamilton --No, that provides money for a consultancy if that is needed.
Senator TAMBLING --You will be able to handle that within that $140,000 or in that range?
Mr Hamilton --Yes, that is right.
Senator TAMBLING --Will Mrs Kelly have any right of veto over the appointment of any person to that panel?
Mr Hamilton --It is a departmental matter as to how that is organised. I would not expect, in the normal course of events, that Mrs Kelly would be involved in those decisions.
Senator TAMBLING --Has Mrs Kelly expressed any views with regard to the evaluation process and has she issued any instructions either with regard to recruitment of personnel or to the terms of reference and the issues to be pursued?
Mr Hamilton --No. The only matter which Mrs Kelly has gone to is the allocation of funds to provide for the evaluation. She has approved that allocation that I mentioned.
Senator TAMBLING --Has she had any say whatsoever in the setting of the terms of reference either in expanding or restricting those terms of reference?
Mr Hamilton --At this stage, it has not gone to her. I would imagine that it probably would. That sort of thing would go to the minister. It has not yet because, as I said, we are still discussing that with the Department of Finance.
Senator TAMBLING --Could you make available to this committee the proposed draft terms of reference as they stand at the moment before they go to Mrs Kelly?
Mr Hamilton --I would have to see whether the minister is prepared to do that. I think that is really more a matter for the--
Senator Richardson --If I was the minister, I would say no. The minister is at least entitled to see it before you do, Senator Tambling.
Senator TAMBLING --I would like to also be assured that she does not make any variation to those terms of reference that are against the spirit of what this evaluation is seeking to do.
Senator Richardson --I do not think that anyone, certainly not Mr Hamilton nor I, can guarantee that the minister will not change anything. The minister has got to make her judgments. That is her job. Obviously, in the glare of publicity, one would imagine that it would be difficult to radically depart from whatever the department puts up to her.
Senator TAMBLING --It is just that Mr Hamilton has already alluded to the fact that there are obviously draft terms of reference already established, and I would therefore have thought that they could quite properly be made available now so that we can ensure that the minister does not nobble the committee.
Senator Richardson --We disagree, and they will not be provided until the minister has had an opportunity to discuss it.
Senator TAMBLING --I would like to see both the draft and the final document.
Senator Richardson --We will discuss that with the minister. I imagine she will not have an objection to that, but she will certainly be seeing the draft before you do.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --I have a couple of questions about the handling of the grants after the event by the department. The people in the department who administer them receive a list of successful grants by state, do they?
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Not by electorate?
Mr Hamilton --We only received the grants by state. There was a separate list maintained in the office by electorate.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --But that list by electorate was never handed, formally or informally, to the department?
Mr Hamilton --No. We did not have it until it was made available to the House of Representatives committee a little while ago.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Was there any priority order that you had, in terms of allocating the funds, as to which group should get it first? I recognise that with a small staff--you had 2.2 or 3 ASL overall--you would obviously not be able to deal with every grant as it came out. Was there a hierarchy of grants?
Mr Hamilton --Are you talking about the actual subsequent application for the handing over of money?
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --Yes.
Mr Hamilton --No, there was no hierarchy at all. Money would be handed over once the successful community group could provide evidence that they had incurred the expenditure, and that would happen on presentation of the proof of expenditure having been incurred.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME --In your state-wide allocation lists there was no indication of what was the electorate or anything?
Mr Hamilton --No. It was a simple list of successful grants by state.
Senator TAMBLING --Were all of the remittances for those grants made by post? Were the cheques made to the different groups through the mail?
Mr Hamilton --They are not made up-front normally, other than in very small cases. They are usually paid out on the sighting of particular evidence of expenditure. So there might be a cheque sent through the post for $7,200 and then three months later another cheque for $10,500, et cetera.
Senator TAMBLING --With regard to the landcare grants and the conservation groups, it was earlier indicated that a number of those were actually handed over by the local member. Are you in a position to indicate whether the cheques for any of these grants whatsoever were handed over by members of the House of Representatives or senators?
Mr Hamilton --I do not think Mr Hill said that several were. He was simply admitting the possibility that some might have been. I am not aware of any having been. It would not be an unusual matter in a grants program. The difference in this case, with this program, is that money was not handed out up-front. There was no, as it were, launching occasion to hand out money. It was more a matter that the grant would be decided by the minister and announced by the minister and some time later--it could be a long time later--cheques would start flowing once expenditure was incurred.
Senator TAMBLING --Can you ascertain for me whether any of those cheques were handed over by members, either personally or by mail through a member's or senator's office?
Mr Hamilton --It would be an extremely laborious task because we do not keep that information in a single place. We have a file for each grant, and we would have to go through each of the hundreds of grants. That sort of task is, quite frankly, a bit beyond us. I have no knowledge of any such handing over.
Senator TAMBLING --I do not want to set the department on a administratively costly task, but could you establish from the line managers whether or not any of the remittances were made through members of parliament?
Mr Hamilton --I will ask the line managers whether they know of that in that program and, if they do, I will let you know.
Mr Buckingham --I would like to comment on the conservation organisation grant program. The question actually joined the landcare and conservation organisation grant programs together again. In respect of the conservation organisation program, the round of grants for 1993-94 has been paid by the department direct to the applicants.
Senator TAMBLING --And for 1992-93?
Mr Buckingham --In previous years the pattern has been that some grants have been paid by local members.
Senator TAMBLING --In the year 1992-93, which was an election year, what proportion were paid by the local members?
Mr Buckingham --I cannot answer that question for the reasons that the secretary has just indicated.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --What caused the change?
Mr Buckingham --The situation is that the matter of the method of payment was discussed with the minister's office and, against the background of that discussion, it was decided that for this financial year the administration of the program would be done by the department.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Do you mean the department had discussions with the minister's office?
Mr Buckingham --That is correct.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --When did that take place?
Mr Buckingham --Before the payments were made.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --What was the cause of that discussion?
Mr Buckingham --Basically, the pattern had been in previous years that some grants, as I said, were made by local members, other grants were made by the department. We wanted to establish whether that pattern should continue, whether it should vary, and the advice was that all grants this financial year should be made by the department.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --But previously there had been a mixture, we have been told. What stimulated the meeting with the minister's office this year?
Mr Buckingham --It was basically a question of establishing whether the practice of previous years was going to be maintained.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Do you understand the question I am asking?
Mr Buckingham --I do.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Why did you not have the meeting last year?
Mr Buckingham --The question is asked each year in respect of that particular program and the answer this year was to do it this particular way.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Right, so what you are saying is that you go to the minister each year and say, `It is business as usual, are you going to pass them out to the electorate through your local member or are we going to change the system?'. That is the standard question, is it?
Mr Buckingham --The question that was being asked was whether the way in which the program had been previously operated would continue in respect of the manner in which the grants would be paid.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --That was an ordinary annual standard question?
Mr Buckingham --It is not an unusual question.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --To ask each year?
Mr Buckingham --It is not an unusual question to establish whether the existing administrative arrangements should be varied.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --It seems remarkable to me.
Senator TAMBLING --Would you be able to establish for me a similar question that I put earlier, from your line managers, about what proportion of the grants in 1992-93 were made by the various distribution facilities?
Mr Buckingham --I believe that would actually be quite a difficult question to answer because it is a matter of going to each individual grant and establishing precisely what the modalities in previous years might have been.
Senator TAMBLING --But surely the line managers would be of a mind to know in each state or each region what they authorised and which ones were made by members of parliament and which ones were done by post?
Senator Richardson --These are busy people, they are not going to remember from years back that kind of detail. If there is any record that is easily obtainable, the department will get it for you. But to expect people to remember that sort of thing is virtually impossible. I certainly would not remember. As a minister, I can tell you that I have definitely on a number of occasions had grants handed out by local members. I can recall having been criticised by some of my colleagues because some of them were your mates.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Just while you are talking about your experiences, you took a question in the Senate and you were going to look into how you allocated the funds. Have you done that yet? Is the answer in writing in the Senate?
Senator Richardson --It is indeed.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Okay, then I will not bother asking you here. Mr Dempster is the Executive Director of the Office of Sport and Recreation. What level is he in the Public Service? What is his category in the Public Service?
Mr Hamilton --He is a band 2 SES officer.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is he in charge of this particular program?
Mr Hamilton --Among other things, yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Would he be the one that would give any departmental recommendations to the minister?
Mr Hamilton --At the time there was a more junior officer under Mr Dempster, or under his predecessor, at the next level down, and that officer would possibly give them or perhaps the person in Mr Dempster's position would. It depends on the issue. But it would be an SES officer, whether band 1 or band 2.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --In relation to these sports grants, the recommendations from the department to the minister's office would have been transferred through Mr Dempster's or his predecessor's--
Mr Hamilton --Or his predecessor, yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --The next down person, immediately.
Mr Hamilton --Yes, possibly with Mr Dempster or his predecessor signing off on it as well.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Would they actually then take part in the discussions with the minister's staff?
Mr Hamilton --Which discussions are you talking about?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --The recommendations from the department in relation to sports grants?
Mr Hamilton --In relation to particular projects there were no recommendations.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So there were no recommendations from your department at all?
Mr Hamilton --In relation to particular projects, I think that is widely known. In relation to the overall operation of the program, yes, of course, there were many such recommendations.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Was Mr Dempster or his predecessor ever consulted by the minister's staff in relation to various projects?
Mr Hamilton --On particular projects, the communication seeking further information would tend to go to more junior officers who would be more intimately connected with the assessments of individual projects when they did the scheduling.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Mr Dempster or his predecessor were never actually involved in discussions and recommendations with the minister's personal staff in these matters?
Mr Hamilton --The way it operated was that the schedules were sent over and if the minister, or the members of staff of the minister's office, wanted further details on particular applications they would ring up a more junior officer in the area who would provide them with that information.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --How long has Mr Dempster been there?
Mr Hamilton --He has been associated with the program for many years, but not continuously.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What do you mean by that?
Mr Hamilton --He has been in the sport and recreation area of the Commonwealth for 20 or so years but not throughout the period.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Would he see the material that went into the minister's office?
Mr Hamilton --The schedules that went over?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Yes.
Mr Hamilton --I would imagine the last one he may have seen, but the individual material that went over in relation to providing a hard copy of an application, or a letter of support that the minister's office might have called for, no, that would not have gone anywhere near an SES officer. That would have been routinely transmitted by a more junior officer to the minister's staff.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --In allocating your staff, was any provision made for departmental staff to assist Mrs Kelly's office in assessing the grants?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --And never has been, even when Senator Richardson was the minister?
Mr Hamilton --No. As I said, the departmental officers were available to provide additional information from the departmental files, and that was called on from time to time, but they were not involved in assessing the grants beyond what was needed to put them in categories in the rounds where that was done.
Senator TAMBLING --With regard to the schedules that you have referred to, were those schedules tabled to the House of Representatives committee?
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I understand there was a floppy disk containing some information on applications, and that is part of your automation system, I guess.
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Was that floppy disk given to the Auditor-General's department?
Mr Hamilton --It was certainly available; whether he availed himself of the floppy disk or used the print-outs, I do not know.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is it available to us if we need it?
Mr Hamilton --If you wish. There were two sorts of information committed to computer floppy disk. One was the actual schedules of applications and then there was the schedule of successful grants that the minister's office created and sent to the department. If you are talking about the former, we have those and they can be made available in either floppy disk or hard form as they were made to the House of Representatives committee.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --In your automation system, is there provision in your communication systems to keep records of any communications between your department and individual members and senators?
Mr Hamilton --With or without automation, you can keep a note or you might not keep a note of a conversation--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What I really mean is: do you normally do that? Is that the standard practice? If you get a submission or if a member or senator phones with a query or a support submission, do you keep a note of that?
Mr Hamilton --If the member or senator writes, the written communication goes on the file, of course. If a member or senator phoned a departmental officer or, more likely, staff of the member or senator phoned, there may be a note made of that conversation if it was thought significant, there may not; it depends. If it was purely routine information, it may not have been recorded on file.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do you normally get a lot of contact from individual members and senators pushing their local group's barrow--not written, verbal?
Mr Hamilton --The department did not receive a lot of oral communications.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You did receive some?
Mr Hamilton --I am not aware of any but I could not deny there were any.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Can you check that for me?
Mr Hamilton --I doubt whether I could check that, for the same reasons as before. They might or might not be recorded; people may or may not be able to remember.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Can you check whether they have been recorded?
Mr Hamilton --They would be recorded on the individual file and it would take a long while to check through all of them to see whether there was any note of a conversation with any member or senator.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is that the only place they would be recorded?
Mr Hamilton --Yes, if at all. I am not saying there were any such communications. There were certainly written communications. Phone calls from members and senators may have taken place from time to time but they would not have been frequent.
Senator TAMBLING --Is it not standard practice that when a member of parliament contacts the department on an issue such as this the matter is reported to the minister's office?
Mr Hamilton --It depends. If it were simply, for example, that a member had already given us a letter of support for the grant and his office had lost the file copy and the member said, `I would like to get a copy of that back', it might have simply been provided and that somewhat trivial detail not recorded.
Senator TAMBLING --But if a member or senator was making representations that were not part of the ongoing routine process, surely that matter would have been reported to the minister's office and there would have been a copy kept of that report?
Mr Hamilton --Absolutely. All the formal communications from members and senators, whether they came directly or indirectly to the department, were recorded in the schedules and sent to the minister. I am simply saying that there may have been incidental conversations that there is no record of relating to administrative detail. But if a member or a senator made a representation to the minister or to the department and that was done in writing, it would have been put on the file. If it was done orally and it came nowhere near the department, we would not know about it. I think it is rather unlikely that it would be made orally to the department. If it was a formal representation to the department, it would have been in writing.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --But if it were a verbal, would there have been a note kept of it?
Mr Hamilton --Any member or senator who communicated with the department about arguing the case for a grant, I would be highly surprised if there was not in the department a record of that fact.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Mr Hamilton, over the break would you do a quick talk around your senior people and find out for us whether you did receive submissions from members and senators and, if that were the case, whether notes were made?
Mr Hamilton --If we received other than written communications?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Yes.
Mr Hamilton --Yes, we certainly received written communications.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Of course.
Senator WEST --I was interested to know whether basically the written communications and letters of support came only from members of the House of Representatives and senators or whether in fact state members of parliament might have got into the act of supporting these submissions too.
Mr Hamilton --There were state members of parliament, members of local government and other community leaders--there were letters of support from a whole range of people.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I sought to recruit Graeme Campbell in the federal seat of Kalgoorlie, but by the time I got there the cupboard was bare.
Senator Richardson --It is the story of your life.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --That is right.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8.10 p.m.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I wonder whether I might ask Mr Hamilton a simple question. What did you learn over the dinner break in respect of the size of the whiteboard that my colleague politely asked you to check out?
Mr Hamilton --My colleagues expressed astonishment at my total lack of visual acuity. Although I have not put a tape measure to it, I think the whiteboard is probably more along the lines of 1 1/2 by 2 1/2 metres.
Senator Richardson --To be fair, you did qualify your estimation.
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I am not making any judgment about his assessment, Senator Richardson.
Senator Richardson --I am not sure how well he can count but he obviously cannot judge the size of things too well. Then again, when they send them to secretary school, they do not make them pass that test. It is not a capital offence.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Senator Richardson, can we move on to a couple of capital offences?
Senator Richardson --I am sure we are going to.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --They are not trifling matters. Senator Richardson, my understanding is that your press statement of 24 August 1988 said that the program was administered by your department. Could you tell me when the program switched from the department to the inner sanctum of the minister's office?
Senator Richardson --I think I would still say it was administered by the department. It was always administered by the department. This is my memory, Senator Crichton-Browne. Actually, I want to preface any answer I give on what happened five years ago, or in this case six years ago, by saying that this is my memory and I would have to check.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Yes. I am not trying to be clever.
Senator Richardson --Also, I just want you to understand that it is very hard to remember details. I do not remember the press release to which you refer but, if we are talking about its being administered by the department, then I think it was administered by the department because I made the decisions as to which community group would get what grant, how much and for what reason, but the program was always administered by the department and I think it still is administered by the department. So my office had a role, or had the role--I am not trying to be clever with words--in determining who was to get what. That having been determined, the program was always administered by the department.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Administration meaning doing everything except making the decision that counted?
Senator Richardson --Yes. We decided who was to get what but then those decisions and their aftermath were administered by the department.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What criteria did you use, Minister?
Senator Richardson --I tabled them today. The criteria and the guidelines were tabled today. I think I tabled also a sample of the application forms which were inspected.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Can you paraphrase that?
Senator Richardson --I cannot paraphrase it but--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Was it just need?
Senator Richardson --I have got it here. It was tabled today. I am quite happy to table it here as well.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --No, no--
Senator Richardson --You do not want me to read it out--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Certainly not.
Senator Richardson --Those are the pages, but we tabled today the guidelines and selection criteria and that is what--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Minister, in your day did anyone ever at the end of it sort of total it up and say that so much has gone to marginal Labor seats so much to marginal Liberal seats? Did you ever think of that? I guess you would not have--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Of course not.
Senator Richardson --Heaven perish the thought. Actually, in truth, no. I will just check the exact date of that but from my memory, and I will check it with my staff when I give this answer, we did not prepare a list of electors, or certainly never in terms of marginal this or marginal that, but we did prepare, as I understand it, a list of electorates. I am not sure that I ever saw it because I know that I signed letters to MPs on both sides of the House about what grants had been approved in their electorates.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Did you ever write on your application forms `marginal Labor', as the current minister has apparently done?
Senator Richardson --I do not believe so, no.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --No assessment was ever done of how they just happen to fall.
Senator Richardson --I am saying to you, Senator, that we did obviously, although I do not recall seeing any list--certainly not in terms of marginals or anything but I do not recall seeing any list. But I think they went out in June 1989--I am getting a nod here, June of 1989--so at that point we must have prepared a list, because I did sign letters to MPs saying, `These are the grants in your electorate'. I know I signed those letters. So, while I do not recall seeing a list, I certainly signed those letters.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Senator Richardson, is there any significant difference--this is probably something you have also not thought about--in the trend pattern between Labor marginal seats in your day and now?
Senator Richardson --Labor marginal seats. You may not believe this but I have never sought to make a comparison, and certainly when I administered the scheme I never worried about what was marginal and what was not. I note that there was a question asked of me and I cannot recall now who, Senator Crichton-Browne; it would not have been you but it was somebody in the opposition asking the question about this in terms of even including marginal National Party and Liberal seats. I could not quite understand why they were being included in any list but certainly--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --That is who you do not give the money to, that is why.
Senator Richardson --But I did--that is the whole point.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --That is why I asked is there any change.
Senator Richardson --There were grants given to electorates like--I remember this because Senator Campbell referred me back to it the other day and I went and had a look. There were electorates like Kennedy, which were not held then--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Were not held then by?
Senator Richardson --By Labor. Kennedy was only held by Labor, from memory, from 1990 to 1993.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --That is right.
Senator Richardson --Rob Hulls held it. I do not believe we held it for many years before that and we certainly do not hold it today. So there were grants in that electorate, and there were some in Dawson, I think, which one of your current colleagues, Mr Braithwaite--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I recommended a few.
Senator Richardson --So there were some grants in Dawson too. So certainly there were grants to marginal seats of both persuasions, as they say, but I can honestly say to you I never totalled up ever to this day what the totals were in marginal seats of either side.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You mention Rob Hulls, which is an interesting thing. Nice fellow, actually--
Senator Richardson --Great fellow.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --He has gone down the world a bit working for--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I do not dare say we are sorry to have lost him.
Senator WEST --He is the future leader of the government in Victoria.
Senator Richardson --Yes, he does work for John Brumby.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I thought you said that Rob Hulls was going to be the future leader.
Senator WEST --He might do that too.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --His former constituents will be sad to hear that all his good work and commitment to the north-west has gone to Melbourne. But someone reported to me that this time round--Mr Hamilton may be able to confirm or deny this--Mr Hulls was actually brokering the grants in his electorate, ringing the different clubs and saying, `Will you take so much and I will split a bit on to someone else'. Do you know anything about that?
Senator Richardson --I have no knowledge of that whatsoever.
Mr Hamilton --Neither do I.
Senator Richardson --I am sorry, I thought you were asking me.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I was asking Mr Hamilton. Unfortunately none of Mrs Kelly's staff are here for that question to be put to them. Did that sort of thing happen at all, Mr Hamilton?
Mr Hamilton --You mean MPs and former MPs--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Where members were brokering the sports grants?
Mr Hamilton --I am not sure whether that word is accurate or not. Members were often engaged in talking to community groups about the merits of the grants. As the minister has indicated on a couple of occasions, members would give their views to her or her office staff about the respective merits. I am aware of one case where the local member assisted with two competing grants to bring them together and come up with a single grant which was then approved.
Senator Richardson --I can only speak for my time spent administering the scheme. I would not presume to speak for Mrs Kelly. No member was in a position to broker. Many may have tried but that is in the nature of politics. That does not mean that when they come and make requests they all get accepted. It has never been suggested to me until tonight that Mr Hulls would have done such a thing and I cannot imagine him so doing. But a number of grants in his electorate were successful when I administered the scheme and that is not hard to believe. You know the electorate, Senator MacDonald. It is remote. Many of the areas are low income areas and need a lot of help and I am very happy to have been in a position to provide it.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Mr Hamilton, how do you know that happened? You said you knew that a couple of members were--
Mr Hamilton --Because the member concerned had some conversations with my department about the grants.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Have you got some note of that, some record?
Mr Hamilton --The officers concerned recall that this particular member did speak to them about the respective grants and what the state of the applications were and the possibility that they might come together.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --And there would have been a note made of that conversation?
Mr Hamilton --I do not believe there was a note but there is a recollection of that conversation.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It did not involve you personally?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --But you know about it?
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --How did you come to know about that?
Mr Hamilton --Because one of the officers mentioned to me that there had been in the past that conversation with the relevant local member.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I do not want you to identify him but can you identify the member? Are you aware of who it was?
Mr Hamilton --I am aware of who it was, yes. It was a coalition member.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --And this is in recent times?
Mr Hamilton --It was in one of the earlier funding rounds.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What date would you put on that?
Mr Hamilton --I am not aware of the date. It was a coalition member from Victoria.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I am sure it would be a coalition member otherwise you would not have mentioned it.
Senator Richardson --I do not think that is fair. Mr Hamilton has mentioned it because that is one he recalls.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do you recall any others?
Mr Hamilton --That is the only one that has been mentioned to me. I asked members of my staff had there been contact with MPs following the conversations earlier this evening. They said MPs would occasionally ring up to find out the stage of consideration of the grants, whether the application that they had supported had been received, or whether the minister had yet made a decision. On one or two occasions they would say, `Look it is a very good application you know' in which case the officer would say, `I am not making the decisions. If you want to lobby on behalf of it then obviously you ought to talk to the minister's office'.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So as far as the officers that you have been able to see tonight are aware, the only recollection they have of that ever happening was of one coalition member doing it.
Mr Hamilton --Yes, where it went to that point about saying, `Well, we have got this grant here and you have got that grant there, maybe I could talk to them and we could find out a way of having a single grant that the minister could look at'.
Senator Richardson --Which sounds sensible.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Very sensible but I am surprised that there is only one parliamentarian in the whole of the parliament that has done that.
Mr Hamilton --I did not say that.
Senator Richardson --I am sure there were more in my time but that does not mean that neither I nor the then secretary of the department, nor this secretary, would be aware of that.
Mr Hamilton --That is right. I was simply saying that a particular officer I spoke to was aware of that one and gave it as an example.
Senator Richardson --Can I just make a point, mainly to Senator Crichton-Browne, to clarify an earlier answer. I have received a note from a staff member and I would not wish to, or seek to, mislead. I did not sign letters to each individual member of parliament, I signed a form letter which went onto members of parliament.
While I might not, therefore, have seen a list per electorate, I am still saying one must have been prepared because this form letter contained--had added to it--details per electorate. I thought I had signed one to each individual. I had not. It was a form across the lot.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Can Senator Crichton-Browne come back to you on that later. I am interested in pursuing things with Mr Hamilton a fraction longer. What you are trying to say to me, and wanting me to believe, Mr Hamilton, is that, of all of the members in the federal parliament, there is only one that your staff can recall who made that submission to you--who spoke about a competing interest in his electorate?
Mr Hamilton --To a relatively junior departmental officer, as against, quite possibly, several who might have talked to the minister's office. That is the only one that the officers I talked to could remember.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --One in the whole parliament. Is that what you are asking me to believe?
Senator Richardson --That is quite reasonable. I do not find any difficulty believing that at all.
Mr Hamilton --That is what the officer could recall. I asked the officer concerned--
Senator Richardson --I am not aware of one and I was the minister who had it.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It just so happens that Mr Hamilton is aware of one and, before the lunch break, we did not know any of those sorts of things. So you have made some inquiries--
Senator Richardson --You had not asked any of those sorts of questions.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Yes, we had.
Senator Richardson --No, you had not.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --We had asked if there had been submissions made to you.
Senator Richardson --You had not.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Now you have inquired, as a result of that earlier inquiry by me during the dinner break, and you have spoken to one officer who can remember one occasion where a coalition member has spoken to your staff.
Mr Hamilton --No. You have to be more precise. I did not say that. What I said was that there would have been a number of contacts going to questions of fact: where the applications were; whether the minister had made decisions. The officer concerned could recollect occasions where there was contact with others who might have said, `What a great application X, Y and Z is' and this officer referred the member, if they wanted to make those sorts of representations, to the office and in one case they could recall that rather more involved discussion about whether those two groups could be brought together.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Over the dinner break, have you have been able to ascertain whether any members of parliament spoke to your office, to the department, in support of submissions, verbally?
Mr Hamilton --I have just said that, I think.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Well, you were not clear before the dinner break.
Mr Hamilton --I have said that just about 10 seconds ago. Several MPs did talk in those terms and were referred to the minister's office.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --They spoke to the department and were then referred to the minister's office. Is that what you are saying?
Mr Hamilton --To say, `If you want to talk further about the merits of the grant, we suggest you talk to the minister's office'.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Okay, and is there a notation of that?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It just happens that the officers that you have been able to speak to over the dinner break can recall some events of that happening. There are no notations on the files.
Mr Hamilton --That is correct. That is their recollection.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So, you have made some inquiries during the dinner break. Before the dinner break, you were saying that, if there were those sorts of things, you assumed that there would have been notes made and put on the files and that they would be on the individual files. Now you are saying that you have made some inquiries over the dinner break and you have found that there have been no notes made, but anyone who made that inquiry was referred straight to the minister's office?
Mr Hamilton --That is the understanding of the officer concerned, yes.
Senator Richardson --But there would be many letters--
Mr Hamilton --I am only talking now about phone inquiries. Of course, there are many letters, as I earlier indicated.
Senator Richardson --There are many pieces of correspondence from members of parliament in all those files, all over the place.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Of course, they would be on the file minister. We appreciate that.
Mr Hamilton --The point the officer made to me, and it is absolutely correct, was that we were not making the decisions. We were not making the recommendations. Therefore, a member of parliament making, as it were, a lobbying approach to a member of the department was wasting his time and it was referred on. It was not a part of the department's responsibility, so a note was not made on the file.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --There was in Senator Richardson's day, of course. The department made those decisions.
Mr Hamilton --No. I explained precisely what happened: the minister made the decisions. The department put forward schedules.
Senator Richardson --It was explained quite clearly.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I will have a look at those later, thank you. We do not want to waste the time. So there are no notations of any submissions made to you which you then referred on to the minister?
Mr Hamilton --Of oral submissions, that is correct. They were not oral submissions. They were simply an MP saying, `Look, it is a good project. I hope it gets good consideration', or whatever, and that sort of information was not recorded on the file, to the recollection of the officer concerned.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Mr Hamilton, what sort of relationship did your department have with the Auditor-General? I understand that he described your department as a sensitive auditee. Would you acknowledge that that is right?
Mr Hamilton --That was an in camera hearing. I have seen a report in the Canberra Times, and based on that I am not quite sure of the context.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --How would you describe your department's relationship with the Auditor-General?
Mr Hamilton --Professional.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Open and cooperative?
Mr Hamilton --I believe we are cooperative, yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --And quite open about everything?
Mr Hamilton --If the Auditor-General asks us questions about our operations, we provide the information. Our files are always open to the Auditor-General.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I gather from the Auditor-General's comment that he thought that you were a bit like you were when answering us earlier on this afternoon--anything but cooperative.
Senator Richardson --I do not recall any time this afternoon where Mr Hamilton was uncooperative.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I seem to recall Senator Hill made the comment that we certainly were not getting cooperation. We had to go through the whole--
Senator Richardson --I recall your theatrics, I do not recall Mr Hamilton being uncooperative at all.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --So you know where my vote is cast, Senator Richardson, you are quite wrong. Mr Hamilton was doing anything but answer direct simple questions that somebody of a much lower grade would have been able to answer if they cared to.
Senator Richardson --I am not surprised that you would make that comment, but I repeat, Senator Crichton-Browne, for the record, at no stage was Mr Hamilton uncooperative.
Mr Hamilton --I think I explained before you were present, Senator Crichton-Browne, the peculiar disability I have that made it somewhat difficult for me to answer that question precisely, but I have since answered it precisely.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --It was not one particular question, Mr Hamilton.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I was a fraction late coming in: what are the measurements?
Senator Richardson --One and a half by 2 1/2 metres.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You want to keep your present job then, do you not? One and a half by 2 1/2 metres.
CHAIRMAN --Senator MacDonald and Senator Crichton-Browne, I would just ask you if you could give us some indication when we can move on, because I think you will agree that we are being extremely tolerant in terms of the questions you are asking. I presume, we are still in the overview under the heading of--what was the heading?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Office automation.
Senator Richardson --The acquisition program in the department, actually.
CHAIRMAN --We have moved on from office automation and we are in--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --When did that happen?
Senator Richardson --About three hours ago or something.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I do not think we did.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --While we were at dinner.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --While we were at dinner, all right.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I think half an hour will probably do it.
CHAIRMAN --I think it was when Senator Baume took us on to--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Senator Baume took you on, accepting that we had finished with that, but as I indicated to you, I thought I would be about an hour, perhaps going for half an hour's time, and I still think I am on track.
Senator Richardson --May I ask a question, Madam Chair, before Senator Macdonald continues. I note a senior officer of Human Services and Health just entered the room. I note that prior to the dinner break you suggested that the representatives of Human Services and Health would not be required before nine.
CHAIRMAN --That is right.
Senator Richardson --I think it safe to say on the basis of what Senator Crichton-Browne said that we may be getting towards the end of this particular discussion at nine. We then have still got the rest of this portfolio to go, do we not? Are there any other parts of the portfolio which are likely to engender lengthy discussion?
CHAIRMAN --I consulted with everyone at the table and they did indicate that we should be through by nine, as Senator Macdonald said.
Senator Richardson --All right.
CHAIRMAN --Depending, obviously, on questions and answers, but roughly 9 o'clock.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I suggested that program 6 and the explanation on non-program specific variations be finished by nine and I, and Senator Calvert and others, have some sort of specific environmental questions, but they will not take long as I understand it. To continue, did the department keep records of applications sent to the minister's office direct?
Mr Hamilton --They were all eventually sent on to the department, and we would have records of them. If they were sent from the applicant to the minister, the minister's staff would then send it on to the department and then a record would be kept.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Before any decision was made?
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So they all came to you before they went back to the minister for a decision?
Mr Hamilton --Yes. You will recall there were some late applications that came in after the scheduling was done, but nevertheless they came to the department in due course before the decisions were made.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --There was a suggestion, I understand, in the House inquiry from Ms Dal Bon that there was a need for greater documentation on the applications passed on to the minister. Do you recall that?
Mr Hamilton --Yes, I do.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Was Ms Dal Bon right in suggesting that there was not sufficient documentation?
Mr Hamilton --I will just refresh my memory of the context of her remark.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I think it is on page 104.
Mr Hamilton --Yes, I recall the point. Could you repeat the question?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Her suggestion was that there should have been greater documentation. Do you agree that there was a need for greater documentation and, if so, what?
Mr Hamilton --In terms of the information put by the department to the minister, yes, I do agree and the minister has said she agrees.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --That suggestion was made during the course of these applications, I understand. Why was it not followed at the time, if you all agree?
Mr Hamilton --I was not there to agree. But having looked over it, with the benefit of hindsight--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --If the minister agrees, why did she not ask for more documentation?
Mr Hamilton --She found at the time that it was adequate. I think she now accepts that, given that that information meant that they had to go through applications themselves, we could have more conveniently summarised more of the details of the applications in the original schedules. I think that is true; we could have.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So she thought that there was not enough documentation, but she did not ask for it at the time. She has asked for it subsequently?
Mr Hamilton --No, I am simply saying that in response to the Auditor-General's report the minister has accepted the criticism that there could have been greater documentation. At the time she found it adequate.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --When was Ms Dal Bon's recommendation made?
Mr Hamilton --Ms Dal Bon did not make a recommendation about the adequacy of documentation to the minister. This was an internal departmental paper discussing the program within the department.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --It was a very interesting document in the department and it never affected the minister.
Mr Hamilton --Only one matter in it went to the minister which the minister agreed.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --She says that she did not read it. She says:
I do not see internal minutes.
Mr Hamilton --No, as a result of the document there was discussion in the department and Ms Dal Bon created a further document which was a recommendation to the minister to implement one of the matters that was in the document you refer to. That was the matter of a delegating authority to make variations to projects.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --She says there was not such a recommendation. She says:
To me this was an internal minute, you know, within my department. Look, you have been out of government too long . . .
Et cetera, et cetera.
Mr Hamilton --That is exactly true, that is what I am saying. There was only one matter in that minute which was subsequently turned into a further paper which went to the minister and that was in relation to project variations. The other matters related to departmental administration and they were implemented departmentally.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --So it was an academic discussion in the department and it never did get to the minister, so she claims, for reasons which are not apparent to me.
Senator Richardson --I am sorry, I could not hear that.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I was just soliloquising. I was saying it was an internal document of academic interest to the departmental officers, but the only person who really needed to know was the minister and she was the only person who did not see it.
Senator Richardson --I am glad you shared that with me.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --In 1988 you issued a press release that it was administered by the department--
Senator Richardson --We have been through that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Have you?
Senator Richardson --I will go through it again if you like.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Yes please, quickly.
Senator Richardson --I said to Senator Crichton-Browne when he asked that question that it is still the case that the program is administered by the department. The department did not make the decision as to whom should get the grant, but did then, and still does, administer the program. They are still responsible for paying out the money and making sure that the invoice that has been received is proper and that the money should be paid. They have always administered the program and still do.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is the system that is in operation going to continue or have changes been implemented?
Senator Richardson --What system?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Where the minister makes all of the decisions, not just the final decisions.
Mr Hamilton --There are no more funding rounds under the program. The program is now in a process of paying out the money in relation to projects already approved.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is it finished forever?
Mr Hamilton --I cannot speak for what future governments might wish to do, but the current program is winding down.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What period does the program cover?
Mr Hamilton --Successful applicants have got until May 1995 to put in final claims for expenditure, so we expect the final payments to be made--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do these happen once every term of a government? In the past have there been one set of--
Senator Richardson --No, this is varied. When I had the scheme, I think I gave out $13 million over two years. This time it was $30 million in one hit, or was it over a couple of years?
Mr Hamilton --It was $30 million for the fourth round.
Senator Richardson --So it has varied.
Mr Hamilton --But the approvals are made in a funding round and there have been four funding rounds over the life of the program. They are then paid out over the ensuing two or three years.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What will happen to those grants that have been allocated, but not taken up by May 1995? What will happen to anything that is left over?
Mr Hamilton --That will be a decision for the government of the time, whether they wish to simply return that to consolidated revenue, or reallocate it, or whatever. That would be a matter for government decision after May 1995, if there is any money left over.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I think there have been a few well documented cases where there was no way that the money could be spent. Does the acquittal of those moneys have to be determined by May 1995?
Mr Hamilton --They have to provide evidence of expenditure by May 1995. That is the current arrangement, yes. They have all been advised of that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Did the department assess the categories or was that done in Mrs Kelly's office?
Mr Hamilton --Do you mean allocate applications to categories?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Into categories, yes.
Mr Hamilton --For the rounds that was done in, it was done in the department.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --How did you make those assessments?
Mr Hamilton --I did answer that before dinner, but I will go to it again. We looked at the applications to see whether they met the basic eligibility criteria. We checked the financial provisions of the application--for example, all applications that were for a grant of more than $50,000 had to provide evidence of matched funding. We looked at the nature of the organisation as set out and made an assessment as to whether it was likely to be able to manage that sort of operation. We looked at it broadly against the criteria and made an assessment that, if it seemed to fully meet the criteria on the written application, it should be category 1; if it had some deficiencies, it was category 2; and if it had some significant deficiencies, but was nevertheless eligible, it was category 3. Of course, we also had some ineligible ones, which were not categorised and not sent to the minister.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Did the minister on all occasions accept your categorisation?
Mr Hamilton --She used the categorisation as a starting point for making the final decisions. There was no changing of categories in that sense. The categories were an aid to her decision.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Did she discuss those with the department after they were recommended?
Mr Hamilton --The office would sometimes ask the department, `Why did you put this one in category 3? It looks fine to us'. That sort of conversation would from time to time happen, yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Are you aware of any specific instances?
Mr Hamilton --I could not name any specific instances but I am advised that it was particularly around the financial issue. If you recall, I mentioned that, if it was over $50,000, they had to provide evidence of matching funding. Officers tended to take a fairly bureaucratic hard line on that. For example, for a grant of $55,000 with no matching funding, they might say category 3, whereas the minister's office might say, `Why did you put it in category 3, just $55,000? Was there any other problem you saw?'. The conversation might be: `No. It was just that issue'. `We think that could be worked on. They might be able to reduce the application or they might be able to find another $5,000'. So they would just check what the basis was for putting it in category 3, largely around that financial issue, as I said.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --These inquiries from the minister's office were always verbal, were they?
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Was any note ever made by the department about--
Mr Hamilton --Not so far as I am aware, no.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Are you able to check that for us?
Mr Hamilton --I have checked and that is the recollection of the officers, that they tended to be just phone conversations and there were no notes made of those conversations.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Was there any documentation of any discussions, suggestions or recommendations coming back from the minister's office to your department? Was there ever any note kept of those--
Mr Hamilton --Of the processes between the schedules going over before we were advised of the minister's decision?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Yes. Were any inquiries made by the minister's office or was any clarification sought?
Mr Hamilton --Certainly. Often those financial discussions led to our being asked to ask the applicant to put in a further submission reducing the bid so that it would be eligible, and there would be a record of that sort of development. So, yes, there would be those sorts of developments.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Did the whole file go across to the minister's office, everything that you had?
Mr Hamilton --No; just the schedule that we made--the schedule by state, by category.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is that a public document?
Mr Hamilton --Yes. It has been tabled.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is that all the minister had to work on?
Mr Hamilton --That is all we sent to the minister's office up-front. They would frequently ask for the original application where they wanted to either refresh their memory if they had seen it on the way in or just see the details of the application.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So the minister would ask for the file to be sent across?
Mr Hamilton --Not normally the file; just the application.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You say `not normally'. On some occasions did the whole file go across?
Mr Hamilton --I do not know whether the whole file ever would have gone. That would not have been normal practice. It probably was just the application.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Were you or was any member of your department aware of the application that had `marginal Labor' written on it? Did you or any member of your staff see that at some time?
Mr Hamilton --Not until it became a matter of some notoriety late last year.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --That was written on the application form, was it?
Mr Hamilton --No. There was a schedule. It was an extract from the schedule.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So it was part of the schedule?
Mr Hamilton --No; it was an extract, a photocopy of the relevant page or pages of the schedule with those words added to it, based on a Parliamentary Library classification, I understand.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You would not have got the schedule back, I take it. That would stay in the minister's office.
Mr Hamilton --The original schedule that went over? We probably did eventually get it back, but what they tended to work from was the floppy disk that went over, and in both ministers' cases it was worked off a computer.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is that the floppy disk that the Auditor-General had access to?
Mr Hamilton --Yes, the one I referred to earlier in the afternoon.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --The schedules went over. They would have come back to you after the grants had been announced, would they?
Mr Hamilton --What came back to us at the time was a shorter schedule, created by the minister's office, of the successful applications for us to do the formal paperwork on.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Mr Hamilton, from your experience, since you have been in the department, is this the way the system has always worked with this program?
Mr Hamilton --There have not been any funding rounds since I have been in the department, so I am going entirely on what I see from looking at the files and talking to the officers.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --From talking to some of those officers who have been there for a long time--for example, Mr Dempster--is that the way it has always worked, to the same sort of system?
Mr Hamilton --Senator Richardson indicated the way it worked while he was minister--the same idea of putting together schedules and putting those to the minister's office from which they would make decisions. This program has always worked that way.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So as far as you are concerned, as head of the department, what was done on this last occasion is the type of system that has always occurred?
Mr Hamilton --It is certainly almost identical to what happened in the third round. There were some slight refinements made as the program went on, but in essence it was identical to the third round, and development of what had happened before; it was broadly consistent with it.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --And from what Senator Richardson says, that same sort of system applied in his day?
Mr Hamilton --Yes. There were some changes of procedure but the broad approach of the department receiving the applications, making up schedules, putting them to the minister, happened throughout the program. The categorisation into categories 1, 2 and 3 was only done for the third and fourth rounds. That was the fundamental change.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --This is obviously hearsay evidence but would Mr Dempster--I would ask him if he were at the table--have had any anticipation that he might have been more closely involved in the final determination of the successful applicants?
Mr Hamilton --I am sorry; I do not know what you are alluding to.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Would Mr Dempster have expected that he might have been more closely involved in the allocation of the grants?
Mr Hamilton --No. It was understood in the department, whether it is Mr Dempster, Ms Dal Bon or all the other officers who from time to time have been involved, that the decisions were made in the minister's officer and the department was not involved in making those decisions.
There would be no expectation that it was going to be done any differently in any of those rounds.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Did Mr Dempster have a sort of hands-on role when the applications were coming in? Did people contact him and seek advice from him, seek a bit of support from him, in his position as executive director of that office?
Mr Hamilton --During the times he was a division head with responsibility for, among other things, that office, he had a management responsibility for the office. He was not involved in a hands-on sense with the detail of individual applications. That was not what you would expect an SES officer to be doing.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So he would not have been getting submissions or getting approaches from people?
Mr Hamilton --I would not imagine so, no. There may have been individuals who had approached him knowing that he was the senior officer, but it would not have been a routine matter.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Would it have been part of his role to say, `This is the type of application that we are looking for; this is the sort of thing we are trying to promote; this is what the whole thing is all about'?
Mr Hamilton --Senior officers may make that comment if asked to comment on whether a particular application is likely to reach the criteria. I do not know whether Graham Dempster or any other of the senior officers did make those comments, but it would be a perfectly natural thing to do if they had. But one thing I should say about that is that they would be making no commitment to funding. They would simply be talking about the sorts of projects that would be eligible for funding. They would be under no illusion; the minister was making the decision.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do you know how the program first came into being? Was it originally a recommendation of the department saying, `We want to advance sport for underprivileged in regional Australia, or whatever, and we will make this approach to the government to implement this program'?
Senator Richardson --From memory, if I could help Senator Macdonald, I believe that there was a commitment in the 1987 campaign that we would have a scheme similar to the one that I administered and that Mrs Kelly administered. I think, even prior to that, John Brown had a national facilities program. He had been the one who was particularly anxious, I think, to change or increase the emphasis of that into a community facilities program. So we made a commitment--I think it was in 1987--and I think I got funds for it in the 1988-89 budget. I will check that it was 1988-89 budget, because I think we might have had a crack at it in the 1987-88 budget and got rolled; then we came back for another go and it got up. So I think it was the 1988-89 budget, and it was in response to a commitment we had made in the election.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do you remember what the commitment was? It would have been a two- or three-line commitment. Was it to advance sporting activities in particular parts or particular socioeconomic groups or particular sports or with a view to the Olympics or what?
Senator Richardson --I cannot remember the words; it was too long ago. I just know that we knew there was a crying need for sports facilities programs and, indeed, when I was successful in getting the government to commit itself, even though it was only $13 million over two years, there was $200 million worth of applications for that $13 million. I think one thing that neither side of politics can deny is that we were trying to service what was a crying need in the community.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Pity it did not stay that way, Senator Richardson. Pity it did not stay that way; it became a crying need for the government in the end.
Senator Richardson --That is a partisan view and I cannot subscribe to that.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --A partisan but an objective view.
Senator Richardson --We had a crying need which we sought to meet. And when the scheme began, as I said, I think the exact figure is $198 million submitted for $13 million that I had to give out, and so anyone of us could have drawn up a different list and not had the same grant on it, and yet come up with a list of grants that would have satisfied the criteria and would, indeed, have been worthy of having been granted. It is just that you did not have enough money to go around.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Bearing in mind the criteria, was the department ever advised of why certain grants were made so that they could explain to the non-successful applicants the reason why? I know, going back a long way, when a group I was involved in missed out, we did try to find out from the department just what was wrong with our application; why it did not succeed.
Senator Richardson --I can only speak for when I was there. Mr Hamilton can perhaps answer for a later time.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I was sort of after--
Senator Richardson --You are only asking about later times, are you?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Yes, just perhaps now.
Senator Richardson --All right, I will shut up then.
Mr Hamilton --In relation to those applications that were ineligible, that in our judgement simply did not meet the criteria, they did not go forward to the minister and we advised those applicants that they were not eligible. In relation to all those that were eligible, it is the same point Senator Richardson was making earlier. They were all eligible; they were all possible projects. The explanation that we gave to the unsuccessful applicants was, `Despite having met the criteria, there were a huge number of applications, we had limited money and I am afraid you have missed out'. That was the explanation.
Senator Richardson --I do not want to interrupt too much, but the point was that there was nothing wrong with a whole host of applications that did not receive funding. They were very good applications and we all wished we could fund them.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It would have been very difficult for the department to say to people, `Well, look I am sorry, you had a great application, but bad luck you missed out'.
Senator Richardson --We say it all the time. If you look through in the portfolio I am in now, we had an argument today in the Senate, as you are all aware, about breast cancer research grants. The truth is, of course, that there are an enormous number of research grants that do not get ticked; that get knocked back. That happens. It does not mean there is anything wrong with them.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Surely the department must have been able to tell people, `I am sorry, mate, you missed out'. Was there not some criteria, some sensible comment you could make on why some people got it and some people did not?
Senator Richardson --Again, I am going to answer for Mr Hamilton if you like. I can recall quite a number of my colleagues being very angry with me for not funding some grants and my answer to them would have been the same as the department's answer to anyone who inquired of them, `Look, there was nothing wrong with the grant. It was fine. The application was terrific. Your people demonstrated a need and we were very impressed, and if we had a lot more money to give out you would have been funded'. But we did not.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Sure.
Senator Richardson --And they and a lot of other worthy grants missed out. That happened all the time.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Sure.
Senator Richardson --You can ask this question 20 times, but you are going to come up with the same answer from me and I am sure from Mr Hamilton. There is no other thing you can say to them because there was nothing wrong with the application.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I was asking Mr Hamilton. You said he could answer if he wanted to.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Can I just ask one question, Senator? Did you ever increase a grant beyond the request level?
Senator Richardson --I do not think so.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Did you ever do a Greensborough Bowling Club act? Did you get in the car feeling rosy in the morning, and by the time you got there you had whacked another $40,000 on?
Senator Richardson --I know the answer here, do not worry; I read the brief. There is no problem in terms of an increase with the Greensborough bowling club. As I understand it, there was an application submitted from the Greensborough bowling club which was unclear about the amount which they were asking for. I think Mrs Kelly's office got the department to refer that back to the bowling club. They clarified the amount at $64,000 and not being $4,000, and so that went back to the minister and that was finally approved.
Mr Hamilton --The increase the minister made in the case you are talking about was within the original grant, was within the original application. The earlier intention was to fund a smaller amount.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Sorry?
Mr Hamilton --The eventual grant the minister agreed to was within the amount that they had asked for. Her earlier intention had been to give them a smaller amount.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --How much did they ask for?
Mr Hamilton --I thought it was, I am not sure whether it was 60 or 100 and it went up from 60 to 100 or 40 to 60. It was one of those figures; I cannot recall exactly.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --My limited knowledge is that she approved 60 and then wrote a cheque out for 100.
Mr Hamilton --Well, wrote a cheque out is not quite right. The cheques were not--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --It is a shorthand way of solving your problems, not knowing.
Senator Richardson --As I understand it, there was some confusion about the original amount asked for and that was clarified with the organisation concerned.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Madam Chairman, can I indicate to you that I am on my last five minutes, but I just want to complete this point with Mr Hamilton. How did you explain to non-successful applicants why they did not receive it? What was the departmental response?
Senator Richardson --We have answered this already and I cannot see that Mr Hamilton can add anything to the answer that he has already given to this direct question.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --A minute ago you said you would give your answer and Mr Hamilton could answer--
Senator Richardson --I did, and he gave an answer as well. You read the Hansard--he did. He cannot add to it; I cannot add to it; you have got the answer and that is the end of the story.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So you could not explain to anyone why some people had missed out, why others had got it?
Senator Richardson --That is not what either of us said. You can refer back to the Hansard. What we both said--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I do not want to refer, I want to ask you now.
Senator Richardson --We both said in very similar terms, very similar, that there did not have to be anything wrong with the application for it to be refused, because there were a lot of problems in terms of the amount of money we had to allocate. So very often it was not a case of saying to them, `You have mucked up your application', it was simply a matter of saying to them, `Very good application, demonstrated the need; we are really sorry we do not have the money'. In some areas, obviously, some did not fit guidelines, some would have been outside them, and they would have been informed accordingly.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --But the very good ones that fitted, when they said to you, `Yes, but the bowling club over the road got it, why did we not get it?', what was the departmental answer to those people?
Senator Richardson --I think that Mr Hamilton and I have already given that answer three times, if you count my second attempt. You do not seem to like the answer, but I cannot help that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You are talking about people saying their applications were not correct. When people said to the department, `Look, there is an application from the bowling club across the road exactly the same'--no, in the next door town, not across the road; they would be in the same electorate if they were across the road--`and our application is exactly the same. You must be able to explain to me why they got it and we did not'. What was the departmental answer when that question was put?
Senator Richardson --In most instances the departmental answer, I am sure, would have been to refer it to the minister, because as the body that did not make the grant, and that is the position that we have acknowledged, I do not think they would have been in a position to answer. Certainly when I was minister, I am sure that those inquiries would have been referred to my office and we would have answered it in the terms that I have already outlined several times.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Just assuming that that happened, what would the minister say? How could she say that there were two almost identical applications in different towns, one was approved and the other was not--
Senator Richardson --I said it frequently. I had no difficulty saying it and I am sure that Mrs Kelly would have had no more difficulty than I did. It is not something you like to say; saying no in this business is one of the hardest things. But you have got to say, `There is a finite amount of money, we cannot fund everything. We have funded as many as we could, we did the best we could. Next time in the budget we will try and get some more and see if we can look after the rest'. That is all you can ever say.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I accept all that, Minister, but when you were asked why was the very similar application in this electorate given it and in that electorate not, what did you say?
Senator Richardson --This is the whole crux of this argument, Senator Macdonald. I am glad we finally got to it. I made the point earlier that when you are faced with limited funds and a great number of applications that would meet all the guidelines and criteria that you have set down to gain access to those funds, you cannot say yes to them all. It is not possible, so you have to make what are inevitably subjective judgments. You have probably seen my answer today about the way, when I had the job--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Well, I have not.
Senator Richardson --My staff and I handled it. You have no doubt read the transcripts of Mrs Kelly's appearances before the committees and the answers to so many questions that she has been asked in the House about how she handled it. But inevitably you come up with the subjective view where you say, `Well, weighing up all the factors that were in the applications, looking at them, listening to the representations we had, we thought this one was better than that one, but we acknowledge you may well have found the other way', because we would have liked to have funded them both.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Minister, how do you account for that just by coincidence when that happened, the great bulk of them went into seats where Labor members were struggling to hold their electorates?
Senator Richardson --I do not think there is any way--I have not bothered--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Just take the Auditor-General's recommendation on that--
Senator Richardson --Just a minute, I will answer the question and you can ask a supplementary, if you like, but I will answer the one you first asked. I have not done a summary, but I will bet that the majority of the grants are not in Labor margins. Some will have been, most will not have been; I bet that now. If you want to do a sum, I will be very happy to do it.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --That is not the impression of the Auditor-General.
Senator Richardson --No, it is not the impression that you have conveyed, either. But if you want to add them up--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Forget about you and me. I am talking about an independent Auditor-General.
Senator Richardson --But the grants would have been spread across a whole range of areas and I have no doubt whatsoever that Labor electorates will have got more. But I would submit to you--
Senator WEST --More Labor than Liberal.
Senator Richardson --As I am sure you would know if you live in the area that I live in. I live in Killara--I live in David Connolly's seat actually--which is one of the safest Liberal seats, if the not the safest, in Australia. We do not need a lot in Killara, we do pretty well. If I saw Mrs Kelly giving a stream of grants to the Killara tennis club or whatever I would be pretty upset, because I know that when I go to Sydney's western suburbs and look at conditions there they are vastly different. Those electorates are far more deserving than the electorates of Mackellar and Warringah and Bradfield and Berowra--all of the seats on the north shore of Sydney. It is natural that any program which is looking at need will be giving a grant to Penrith and Mount Druitt long before it gives it to Killara and Gordon, and that is how it should be.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So with two identical applications--one in a wealthy electorate and one in a poor electorate--your assessment is that the poor electorate gets it?
Senator Richardson --My assessment would certainly have been that, if the access to the services is greater in one place than it is in the other, do not give the grant over there, and we would always have tried to observe that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --And so identical applications--
Senator Richardson --They are not identical.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Very, very similar--
Senator Richardson --By definition, they are not identical.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Very, very similar.
Senator Richardson --If you live in Mount Druitt and I live in Killara--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Hang on. If there are very, very similar applications in two different towns, the grant ends up--by the Auditor-General's allegation, not mine--in the ALP marginal seat, and that is just coincidence?
Senator Richardson --No, I have not said that it is coincidence. I do not read the Auditor-General's report that way, by the way--that is your interpretation of it.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It is a pretty widely held interpretation.
Senator Richardson --Given the way you have been fanning it that is hardly surprising.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --These came out from the Auditor-General without much kick along from me.
Senator Richardson --And you have had a blow-out on it for months.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Without much kick along from me.
Senator Richardson --You and your friends have been trying--every day have you been trying. But I can only repeat to you that when I look at the suburb in which I live and those around it and then the suburbs in western Sydney, I know where I would want the grants to go, and they would not be going where I live.
Senator TAMBLING --I have a question for Mr Hamilton. Have either you or the department received any written advice, opinion or correspondence from the Department of Finance with regard to this program?
Mr Hamilton --Yes, we have.
Senator TAMBLING --Can that advice, opinion or correspondence be tabled to this committee?
Mr Hamilton --Focusing on which particular matter? In the budget context, if there is--
Senator TAMBLING --Anything that relates to this particular program from the Department of Finance.
Mr Hamilton --I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to be tabling cabinet-in-confidence material and comments they make during the budget process, but in relation to the administration of the program I am happy to do that if they are happy. The documents are theirs, after all.
Senator TAMBLING --So the only documents that would be withheld would be cabinet-in-confidence in the context of the making of the program parameter type decisions, not with regard to the administration of this fund?
Mr Hamilton --As I said, as far as I am concerned, but I would obviously have to seek the agreement of the Department of Finance about the release of its documents.
Senator TAMBLING --Thank you.
Senator Richardson --I want to come back and admit error.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --So you did give them to marginal Labor seats.
Senator Richardson --I wish to admit error. I was confused. When the question was asked originally about these grants that were changed--I think Senator Crichton-Browne asked that but the two senators have been asking so many I am not quite certain--I think I got mixed up between the bowling club--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It is late and you are tired and you want to go home.
Senator Richardson --That is certainly true. I think I got mixed up between the bowling club in Victoria and the football club in Western Australia.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Which football club was it?
Senator Richardson --East Fremantle I have got written down here. That is my note. Does that ring a bell with you?
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Is that a Labor seat?
Senator Richardson --There is nothing wrong with that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It was a pretty marginal one too as things turned out.
Senator Richardson --Fremantle, as I recall, is very safe and is about to be won in a romp by Carmen Lawrence, but--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --You do not know what you are getting. Wait until she gets here, if she gets here.
Senator Richardson --I am prepared to put my money on when we conclude. That was the case where the application was unclear. The department went back to them, got the correct amount and therefore there was no increase. It was simply a case of clarifying the original application form. That is a question that I will be answering at the end of question time tomorrow because Senator Knowles asked it yesterday.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Have you got a brief on the Greensborough bowling club?
Mr Hamilton --That was the one where they made the original application for $100,000. The minister's initial intention was to provide $60,000 but then she increased that to the $100,000 originally sought.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --When did she increase it from $60,000 to $100,000?
Senator Richardson --I may have one from question time today. We just want to look for it and if I do, I will--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Is it the Greensborough one?
Senator Richardson --Yes. We are trying to look for it. Just hang on for a minute and we will see what we can do.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Can I take you up on something? You offered a bet but--
Senator Richardson --Excuse me--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Could I remind you that in the year 1989-90, 76 per cent--this is in Queensland--of all grants went to Labor seats. You will argue that they are the deprived seats but the poorest seats in Australia are held by the National-Liberal Party. We all know that.
Senator Richardson --I do not think that. I do not think they think that.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Those of us--
Senator Richardson --I think they would be appalled if you said that to them.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --In the year 1989-90 you allocated 76 per cent to the five marginal Labor seats in the south east of the state plus the two seats the ALP hoped to win in North Queensland--Dawson and Kennedy.
Senator Richardson --I have seen those figures and of course that is one of the great jokes. I notice that you say in a very loud voice the five marginal seats in south east Queensland and then say, sotto voce of course, and the two marginal coalition seats in the north.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --That you hoped to win!
Senator Richardson --I think it is a bit rich if you are trying to say that it is crook if we give grants to marginal seats on our side and it is also crook if we give grants to marginal seats on your side. I find that very difficult to reconcile.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Let us put it this way, Senator Richardson. We do not get any votes for any money you give to marginal seats we hold.
Senator Richardson --I find that very difficult to reconcile. That means that Mr Braithwaite and others could paint themselves as so effective that even in opposition they had managed to persuade me of the correctness of the cause of community groups in their electorate.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --And even I do not believe that, Senator Richardson, naive as I am.
Senator Richardson --You may not but you cannot try to include seats that you hold in a list of seats that we hold.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Why not?
Senator Richardson --Those figures are meaningless.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Of course they are not.
Senator Richardson --They are utterly meaningless.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --That is absolutely untrue. You know that if you parade into these marginal seats and demonstrate your care, compassion, love and affection for the voters at Dawson, you are expecting a reward.
Senator Richardson --Senator, I do not parade.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Maybe you stomp or however you do it.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Madam Chairman, I have a question for the department. The explanation you gave was that for similar applications, one received it and one did not. What did the department tell them? Refer to the minister.
Mr Hamilton --As I said before, we gave a written explanation, if they were eligible. We gave an explanation that there more applications than there was money available. If they had sought specific reasons as to their own application, we would have referred them to the minister's office.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --And are you aware of whether the minister ever responded to those?
Mr Hamilton --I am not aware of that. They may have done, but I am not aware of it.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Was it part of your department's obligations or duties to follow that through and determine that?
Mr Hamilton --I am sorry. To determine what?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --To determine that an answer was given to the inquirer from the minister.
Mr Hamilton --Well, if they formally wrote to us and asked that, then yes, it would have been. But if they had rung up and said that, we would say, `We cannot answer that'.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Okay; but if they wrote to you and asked, you would have then followed it through to make sure the minister's office gave a reply.
Mr Hamilton --Yes. We would have. We always do that to all correspondence. But I am not saying that there was any such correspondence. I am not aware of it.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Can you give me a list of those that you did refer to the minister's office and then checked to make sure the minister did reply?
Mr Hamilton --I do not think I could easily do that, because--once again--that would be on individual applications files, and we may not readily be able to find whether there was such correspondence.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It would be fairly simple to find on the files, surely. There were 800 who got them, and 1,200 missed out. Was that the ratio?
Senator Richardson --That is a couple of thousand files. There is an awful lot of work in checking 2,000 files for this, is there not?
Mr Hamilton --I shall ask the officers concerned if they have any recollection of correspondence from unsuccessful applicants with whom there was that sort of exchange of correspondence, and provide that to the committee, if we can locate an example for you.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --And you will let us know what you followed up from the minister's office and what the minister told them?
Mr Hamilton --If there are examples of that, yes. I might mention that I indicated that, from time to time, the department would seek revised applications, because they would come in over the funding limit and they were going to come in with a new one. In fact, that was not done from the department. That was usually done at the instigation of the minister's office. The evidence that I gave earlier is correct.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --How did you find out about it?
Mr Hamilton --Because the fresh application would come in, or the minister's office might tell us that we were going to get a new application from the Woop Woop Bowling Club, which they would be sending in to us.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Were notes made of those exchanges between the minister's office and your department?
Mr Hamilton --No, because normally it would just be when we received it. That is what we are interested in: getting the revised application. That would then go on file.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Why, in Kaye Dal Bon's note of 15 June, would she say:
For your info. we have done all we can to convince the minister's office to respond to the ANAO's request but we are not sure they will respond sensibly.?
What perception drove those words?
Mr Hamilton --I think the department was seeking to be involved in helping draft the response to the Auditor-General, and the office was not involving Ms Dal Bon. In fact, they were involving me and I annotated the note, in effect saying--I cannot quote the exact words--`It is okay, I have been talking about it with them and a response is under way which I have seen'.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I cannot hear much of what is being said because of the entertainment that is going on outside. What is not clear to me is why is it put that the department has done all it can to convince the minister's office to respond sensibly, but that they are not sure they are going to. What experience caused that observation?
Mr Hamilton --Because the departmental officer concerned talked to the minister's office. They did not get a response; they did not get a copy of the draft letter. They were concerned that perhaps they were sending a letter that might not be accurate, and they just alerted Mr Dempster and me to that fact. I said, `It is okay. A response has been drafted. I have seen it. I think it is fine. It is all in hand'.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --But she does not say, `We are not going to get a response', or that it might be inappropriate or untimely. It says `sensibly'. A reasonable man's interpretation of that is that the minister's office was not being sensible.
Mr Hamilton --They feared that they might not give a sensible response. That fear was proved--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Why, with respect, would a capable officer draw that conclusion?
Mr Hamilton --Because the office was not telling the officer what was in the response, and I think the officer thought, `What are they doing? Are they going to draft a response that might be clever rather than contain the appropriate information?'.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --With respect, Mr Hamilton, you do not automatically assume, because you do not know what the response is or because you have not been privy to it, that it is not going to be sensible, do you? Can I put, with respect, that it was clearly because of an experience that Kaye Dal Bon had had with the minister's officer, or anticipated as a result of previous experience, that she made the judgment that there was going to be a proposition that was not sensible.
Mr Hamilton --Whatever her views, the fact is that they did give a response that was appropriate.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Have you asked her why she wrote that note? Why did she imagine they were not going to be sensible? It does not say timely, inappropriate or lacking in information, but simply not sensible. In the political context which we now understand, clearly she was saying they were going to stuff it up.
Mr Hamilton --She feared that they might give a response that was not sensible. It might not have accurate information. It might have glossed over something that should have been explained. It would not have been sensible and measured.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Not too clever by half?
Mr Hamilton --I do not know. That is a possible thing. But the fact is that it was not.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --But she is one of your officers. You must have sat down and said, `This is an interesting observation to make in a memo. What experience have you had that drove you to that observation?'.
Mr Hamilton --I satisfied myself that the response was appropriate and I advised her of that.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Have you asked her why she put those words down?
Mr Hamilton --Not those precise words. I certainly asked why she was concerned, and she told me it was because she was not able to find out what the response was going to be. She just feared that they might do a response that was not accurate.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Mr Hamilton, with respect, as the head of the department, if you get advice from your officers that the minister's office is unlikely to be sensible, do you not believe that you have an obligation to ensure they are sensible, even if it is by way of your quaint advice?
Mr Hamilton --I did precisely that. I spoke to the minister's office and said, `You are doing a response. I would like to see it. I think we need to be careful that you respond accurately. Could I see it?'. They sent it to me. I looked at it. I discussed it with them. They sent a response that was sensible.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --So you were careful to ensure that they were sensible. My question is: why did Ms Dal Bon think they would not be sensible? It is not a trick question. Everybody else in this room understands what I am asking.
Mr Hamilton --I have given you the answer. I cannot go beyond that answer.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Well, I am sorry; you have not satisfied me--
Mr Hamilton --I am sorry, Senator.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Irrelevant as that might be.
Senator Richardson --It is not irrelevant. He has done his best.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I do not believe he has, Senator Richardson. He is using a set of words which is intended to deny a full answer.
Senator Richardson --I do not think he has. I would have to say, from my experience of some years as a minister, you cannot say that there is never a moment of tension between officers in the department and members of your staff.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --And I think that was what was happening on this occasion.
Senator Richardson --They do from time to time occur.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Yes, I accept that. I think that was a premise which began this.
Senator Richardson --So sometimes they can occur and either your staff or a person in the department can react to a conversation and note something accordingly. That does not mean the end of the world. I think the main responsibility then for a proper officer, serving particularly in a senior position like secretary, is to make sure that the fear which his junior officer has had is not realised. I think what Mr Hamilton said was that he checked and it was not realised.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --As it turns out, matters appear, as best you determine, to have been put right. My question is: what drove Ms Dal Bon to assume that they were not going to be sensible? In other words, what was it that made her think they would get off the track or they were heading for trouble? Clearly the red light was flashing somewhere.
Mr Hamilton --Just a point of clarification, it was not Ms Dal Bon; it was Mr Dempster. He was annotating a note from--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --He is more senior than Ms Dal Bon, is he not?
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --He would be a better judge.
Mr Hamilton --He simply said he was not sure that they would respond sensibly. He had no way of knowing. They were moments of some tension, as Senator Richardson has hypothesised.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --What caused the tension?
Mr Hamilton --The pressure of having to respond to the Auditor-General's report. It would be surprising if everyone was entirely relaxed about that matter. We treated it seriously and appropriately.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Mr Hamilton, you had the Auditor-General issuing a report which was uncomfortable for the minister and for the department. That is followed by an annotation on a memo saying that they are not certain the minister's office is going to act sensibly. Would a reasonable person assume that there was going to be a response to that report which was going to be mighty unhelpful both to the minister and to the department? Is that a reasonable assumption to make?
Mr Hamilton --No. If I may make an interpretation of that, and it is the interpretation I made at the time, I think the officer concerned, because they did not see the response, had a fear that the minister might have been tempted to make a somewhat smart response rather than a flat response. I looked at that point and also at the accuracy of the response, and I satisfied myself that it was an appropriate response to make.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --That is right. We are getting a bit warmer, are we not? A smart response instead of a flat response, the smart response being an inappropriate response--
Mr Hamilton --But the fact is that there was no such response.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Perhaps a response that might get her into further trouble in the parliament.
Mr Hamilton --There was no such response.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I asked: what caused your office to imagine that the minister may not act sensibly? Are you now saying that it was because the minister's office was likely to give you a smart answer.
Mr Hamilton --Likely is your word. The word that the officer used--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --The concern was that there would be a smart answer.
Mr Hamilton --The officer used the words, `We are not sure that they will respond sensibly'.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --That is right. You have interpreted that to mean that the minister's office might give you smart answer.
Mr Hamilton --Yes, but it did not.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --You have managed to fix that at the pass.
Mr Hamilton --I am not saying that the answer was not smart. It was an accurate answer, whatever else it was.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --You might be one of the few people in this parliament who can laugh about these things.
Senator Richardson --No, I just did. He has got a mate.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --You laugh for different reasons.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What was Ms Dal Bon's position?
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --It was not Ms Dal Bon; it was a more senior officer, Mr Dempster.
Senator Richardson --I now have the answer on Greensborough for you, if you want it now.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Thanks.
Senator Richardson --Members of the Greensborough Bowling Club have for years been forced to travel well out of their own area to pursue their sport because there is no facility in their area. There are over 400,000 registered lawn bowlers in Australia. It is one of our biggest participation sports and for many it is their only form of recreational activity. As many of the participants are senior citizens, for whom travelling great distances can be prohibitive, the minister was obviously concerned. From the club's application, Mrs Kelly could see that there was a strong case and she initially awarded them a grant of $60,000.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --What day was that?
Senator Richardson --I do not know. A few days after making this decision, Mrs Kelly visited the club with the local member, Mr Staples. Being a very good local member, Mr Staples--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Is that in the brief, Senator Richardson, or is that your interpretation?
Senator Richardson --I am doing my very best to read the brief and doing it reasonably well, I reckon. Being a very good local member, Mr Staples reinforced the need these people had. He made it clear that the one green that could have been funded with this $60,000 grant would have made the whole complex less viable. When Mrs Kelly arrived and saw first-hand the lack of facilities, and after she discussed the project with the shire council and the bowlers, she decided that their original request for $100,000 was justified. This can be confirmed by the then shire president, Mr Ian Wallis, who sent Mrs Kelly a statement confirming the day's events. Mrs Kelly therefore decided to increase the grant and, contrary to Mr Costello's claim, this did not require any rejigging of grants.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Just so I am clear about this--you know how slow I am with these things--the decision was made at the bowling club, was it?
Senator Richardson --Yes, I think this brief makes it clear that it was made after the inspection.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --She was able to make a judgment on that visitation and that brief inspection, or however long it was, that the grant should be almost doubled?
Senator Richardson --She made a judgment that the grant should be increased on the basis of the representations made to her by the members of the club, the local member and the shire president. So the decision was not made in the car: the decision was made after a lengthy inspection.
Senator HILL --Of the green.
Senator Richardson --I do not think there was a green upon which to walk.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --That seems to be true of most applications.
Senator Richardson --That is the idea--to build a facility. That is what the scheme is there for.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --And sometimes you have even got to find the members.
Senator Richardson --No. The members find you, otherwise there would not be an application.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I want to refer you to Ms Dal Bon's note where she makes the observation that:
You will appreciate that the basic modus operandi of the program has been in place for some time with variations at the margin over time. When I queried certain aspects of existing administrative practice shortly after joining the Branch I was advised that they had been `sanctioned on high' and that `we have always done things this way'.
Perhaps Mr Hamilton can tell me who `on high' is. Is it true, Senator Richardson, that nothing changed in terms of your modus operandi and that of Mrs Kelly? I ask that on the basis of the further observation, that is:
Initially I went along with this--
this is Mrs Dal Bon--
albeit with some disquiet, but now feel the need for some reassurance, especially as I have discovered that written authority allegedly underpinning existing practices is either non-existent or not as sound as it might be.
Senator Richardson --I do not know the date of that remark, but I do not think Kaye Dal Bon was in that section when I was minister.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --It was October 1992. But she was reflecting on previous--
Senator Richardson --She was not there when I was minister. I am not certain of every step that Mrs Kelly took in terms of the way she administered the program, but I know that, if you were keen enough to go through the record, you would be able to determine what she did. But I put on record what I did, and it will be up to you to judge whether it was the same, similar or different to what she did.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Whatever it was, this lady judged--
Senator Richardson --Excuse me.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Sorry.
Senator Richardson --But certainly one thing that did not change in either case was that the decisions were made in the minister's office. I certainly own up to that.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Quarantined from bureaucratic scrutiny?
Senator Richardson --No. I do not accept that. If you read the statement that I tabled in the Senate today, I include the kind of scrutiny that it got.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Do you know to whom she is referring when she says that that practice, that nefarious or precarious practice, was sanctioned `on high'?
Senator Richardson --Was she saying `nefarious'?
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --No. I did.
Senator Richardson --Oh, you did. Quite frankly, Senator Crichton-Browne, while I like you very much, I am not really interested in your view as to whether it is nefarious or not. You are asking me about her view. What did she say?
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Senator Richardson, I read it out to you.
Senator Richardson --Well, read it again.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --If it helps you.
Senator Richardson --Help me out.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --She wrote:
You will appreciate that the basic modus operandi of the program has been in place for some time with variations at the margin over time.
In other words, nothing changed between your time and Kelly's time. To continue:
When I queried certain aspects of existing administrative practice, shortly after joining the Branch I was advised that they had been `sanctioned on high' and that `we have always done things this way'.
She says that she went along with the matter, `albeit with some disquiet', but now she needs some reassurance, to quote her:
. . . especially as I have discovered that written authority allegedly underpinning existing practices is either non-existent or not as sound as it might be.
Precarious, at the least.
Senator Richardson --I cannot swear to what she was referring. I can only say that I make it clear in the statement that I tabled today that there were changes, even in guidelines, between the first round and the second and I think there have been changes since. I think Mr Hamilton--
Mr Hamilton --That is right, yes.
Senator Richardson --Referred to--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Mr Hamilton told us that the guidelines have only been changed in places.
Senator Richardson --I am not trying to duck the question. I think it is pretty clear from what Kaye Dal Bon is saying in that note that she is not happy with the fact that the decisions are made in the minister's office. That seems to me to be the import of what she says, and that is an opinion to which she is entitled.
Mr Hamilton --There were five specific matters that she referred to--
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Who `sanctioned on high'?
Senator Richardson --When I was the minister, I was the `on high'. So I assume the `on high' is Mrs Kelly, but I do not know.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I am sorry. I do not think she was referring to you when she says `sanctioned on high' and that `we have always done things this way'.
Mr Hamilton --She was referring to the fact that Mrs Kelly wanted it done that way as her predecessor, Senator Richardson, wanted it done that way.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --`Sanctioned on high' and `we have always done things this way'.
Mr Hamilton --Might I explain. There were several specific matters Ms Dal Bon went on to mention and I have mentioned earlier in this testimony. One particular one, which went particularly to the problem about not having clear written authority for performing things in certain ways, was the question of whether the minister had ever formally delegated his or her powers to the department to vary projects within an approved limit. She believed that we had been doing that as a matter of practice but without adequate written authority. She went and got that authority. The other matters go to things that happened in the department, like she wanted to be sure that ineligible projects were not scheduled inadvertently. As I mentioned earlier, she was concerned about the level of information we put in the project schedules.
She wanted to make sure that it was okay to sight invoices or whether we had to sight receipts. We checked that with the Department of Finance and they indicated that it was perfectly appropriate to sight invoices. She wanted to make sure that there was a way of verifying that the project had been completed and the fitness for occupancy certificates were required as a result of that.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --She also expressed some concern, did she not, about the level of information being provided to the minister's office.
Mr Hamilton --I just said that, yes.
CHAIRMAN --Could I have an absolute guarantee of how much time is still required?
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Out of deference to your generous spirit, which you have demonstrated thus far, I shall not ask any further questions, except to observe that Senator Richardson challenged the argument that the majority of funding was going to marginal seats. I take it that we both read the same Auditor-General's report. It observes that the average grant to a Labor held seat was $257,000 and to a coalition seat, $141,000. The average grant to a marginal Labor held seat was $326,000 and to a marginal coalition seat $163,000. Figure 8 across the page shows the distribution across states. Senator Richardson, even your fertile imagination and the bending of statistics to prove your point cannot escape the real fact and that is that there was an absolute rort on to distribute the funding for the benefit of marginal Labor seats.
Senator Richardson --I think the first point to make is the difference between the value of the grants and the numbers of the grants.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --The numbers are irrelevant.
Senator Richardson --The numbers are not irrelevant. I never thought that the numbers were irrelevant. In fact, if they were, I would not be here. I think it is a distinction that is worth making.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --If it helps your argument, Senator Richardson, I am sure it is. But it does not change the truth.
Senator Richardson --The truth is self-evident.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --Yes, it is. Labor party marginal seats got double the amount of the Liberal party.
Senator Richardson --A truth from which I do not seek to run. What you were saying earlier on, Senator Crichton-Browne, was that marginal Labor seats got most of the grants. They did not. That is the point that I am making and I repeat it.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE --I am sorry.
Senator Richardson --You were trying to say that, in terms of the value of the grants, Labor marginal seats got most of it. I am saying they did not. I am saying, if you add them up across the program, they did not. I have not done this, so I could be proven to be wrong here. So you go and add them up.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --That did not help Mrs Kelly at the time.
Senator Richardson --I will shout you lunch, if you are right. But you are not, so you can shout me one.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I just want to ask a very technical question.
CHAIRMAN --You want lunch too, Senator Macdonald?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What was Mrs Dal Bon's position when she was writing these recommendations.
Mr Hamilton --She was the assistant secretary in charge of the sport and recreation branch.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --How long had she been in that position?
Mr Hamilton --I think about one year.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Where had she come from to that position?
Mr Hamilton --From the Museum of Australia.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is she still in that position?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What is her position now?
Mr Hamilton --She is in the Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --When did that change occur?
Mr Hamilton --August/September last year.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --How did that occur?
Mr Hamilton --It was part of the major departmental restructuring that I implemented on coming to the portfolio. There was movement of senior staff in many directions and she was included in that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do senior people like that request those sorts of moves?
Mr Hamilton --They do from time to time.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Did she?
Mr Hamilton --No. She did not fight it either, I should say.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Who was her superior at the time she was making these--
Mr Hamilton --Mr Dempster.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Did Mr Dempster recommend that she be removed from the position as assistant secretary?
Mr Hamilton --Certainly not. She was not removed from her position. There was a transfer as part of the many movements of staff around the department.
Senator Richardson --She was not removed. There were lots of people moved around. It is not a matter of removing people. It is not uncommon for the service to make sure that it moves people around to give them wider experience, to keep them, if you like, progressing in terms of their administrative experience. I think it is good administration.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Mr Hamilton, what was your reason for moving Ms Dal Bon?
Mr Hamilton --If I may say, if there is any thought that this was somehow connected to this, I assure you absolutely that there was no connection. My reason was basically that I did not believe that the sport and recreation function as a whole in the department carried sufficient to require both to have a band 2 and a band 1 officer responsible for it. So I decided to make use of the band 1 position elsewhere in the department and thus Kaye Dal Bon moved to another position.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --And she has moved to the same category of assistant secretary?
Mr Hamilton --Yes. Absolutely.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --In the environment protection area?
Mr Hamilton --Exactly. It was a transfer at the same level.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is that a bigger branch than the sport and recreation branch?
Mr Hamilton --Considerably.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Much bigger? Can you give me an idea--bigger budget, bigger numbers?
Mr Hamilton --It has 40 or 50 staff. About a quarter of the Environment Protection Agency would be in that branch.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --As opposed to sport and recreation?
Mr Hamilton --It has 18 or something like that.