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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS
Community stores in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS
Community stores in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS
(House of Representatives-Thursday, 12 March 2009)
Content WindowSTANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS - 12/03/2009 - Community stores in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
CHAIR —I am sure each of you have heard each of this before, but for the record I need to do it. Although the committee does not require you to speak under oath, you should understand that these hearings are formal proceedings of the Commonwealth parliament and that the giving of false and misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of the parliament. Would any or all of you like to make an opening statement? Then we might fire some questions at you.
Ms Curran —We have a short opening statement.
CHAIR —The three of you?
Ms Curran —Yes, all of us. First of all, of course, we would like to acknowledge the Ngunawal and Ngambri peoples, on whose land we meet today. We would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to appear here before the committee. We have provided a formal submission to you. I would like to take this opportunity to run through a couple of the main points that we want to make.
In respect of FaHCSIA’s responsibilities in this area, we have a range of responsibilities relevant to the inquiry. These include the ongoing development of food security policy in Indigenous communities and the licensing of community stores in the Northern Territory as part of the Northern Territory emergency response. These activities may be viewed within the broader context of the Australian government’s and COAG’s commitment to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage with respect to life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, educational attainment and employment outcomes. Improving the affordability and availability of healthy food for Indigenous Australians—that is, improving their food security—is a key part of the response required to close the gap. In particular, increasing the supply and consumption of healthy foods for Indigenous Australians would be expected to reduce the current high levels of preventable diet related chronic disease among Indigenous people. This, of course, is a major contributor to the gap in life expectancy.
Our submission deals with high prices, low incomes and the poor availability of appropriate food. All of these factors combine to reduce food security in remote Indigenous communities. A range of factors have contributed to these problems—market failure through imperfect competition and market power; structural impediments, including the small population of many isolated Indigenous communities; and associated diseconomies of scale. I would also mention regulatory failure and poor store governance and management.
I would now like to briefly summarise each of these elements. Through remoteness and small market size, many Indigenous communities are in effect captive markets. That is, community members are entirely dependent on purchasing goods from their local store and stores may not be subject to competitive market forces. In some instances, this environment has led to so-called price gouging. Stores have been able to provide a poor service and inferior products and charge high prices without a commensurate reduction in demand. Remoteness, small populations and geographic fragmentation also increase store costs, particularly for labour and freight, and contribute to diseconomies of scale. Maintaining financial viability in this environment is typically very difficult, particularly in small communities of less than 200 people and for stores that choose to operate independently of a broader chain. Economies of scale may be improved through the vertical integration of supply, bulk purchasing power and centralised back office processing.
The quality of retail and financial management in community stores has been found to be critical for food availability, quality and price. Poor store management, inadequate investment in infrastructure, high levels of book-up and poor stock control result in high levels of bad debt, pilfering and stock wastage and consequent increases in price. Poor debt management is of particular concern. Licensing assessments undertaken as part of the NTNER indicated that around half of the assessed community stores in the Northern Territory provided book-up before licensing.
Finally, a complex regulatory environment and failure to appropriately enforce compliance with regulatory requirements has contributed to problems with community stores and reduced food security in remote Indigenous communities. This is of particular concern where community stores are covered by state or territory based associations acts with inadequate requirements for corporate governance, particularly with regard to transparency and accountability and relatively low compliance requirements and/or penalties. A range of current Australian government activity is directed towards addressing these problems and improving food security in remote Indigenous communities. These measures, some of which are the responsibility of other portfolios, are outlined in our formal submission. Of particular relevance to the inquiry is the licensing of stores in the Northern Territory as part of the NTNER. To date, licences have been issued to 76 community store operators throughout the Northern Territory. There are strong indications that stores licensing, along with income management, is improving the quality and range of foods purchased in remote Indigenous communities, including the consumption of more fruit and vegetables, dairy foods and meat.
I will conclude by reiterating the difficulties facing small store operators in remote Indigenous communities and the implications this has for food security for Indigenous people in these areas. As I have mentioned, a range of structural impediments, remoteness, fragmentation and small population size make running a viable, profitable and sustainable store a very difficult proposition. Even well-intentioned operators struggle in this environment. When combined with poor or inappropriate governance arrangements, market failure and regulatory breakdown, the risk of poor food security in remote communities escalates. Addressing these problems and improving the range and quality of healthy food is critical for the wellbeing of people within these communities and for advancing the Closing the Gap agenda. We are happy to take questions.
CHAIR —In a sense, I would like to start where you finish. You outlined a number of difficulties associated with running stores. What is the answer?
Ms Curran —There is no ready answer. I think Professor Altman emphasised in his opening remarks that there is no one size that fits all. In the Northern Territory, which is where our department has most experience, that is clearly evident. We have a range of different models. Each of those models has its attractions.
CHAIR —One of the questions I asked Professor Altman was, in his experience, there are good stores and bad stores. I would like to ask you the same question. I assume that would be your observation as well. Do you discern a defining characteristic or a common characteristic among those stores that are run well?
Ms Curran —Well, I think that there is a range of things. In our submission, we talk about the importance of retail management skills, back office processing and access to economies of scale through purchasing capacity. You get networks of scope and economies of scope through having clusters of stores in regions so that you can maximise delivery. Governance is another particularly important issue and the quality of your managers on the ground and the relationship they have with the community. You can tell when you go into a store whether the managers in that store have a positive relationship with the community or whether it is very much at arm’s length.
CHAIR —In terms of the legal framework under which governance operates, that varies. Do you have any suggestions about what is appropriate legal governance for the registration of these stores? Should there be a common legal framework?
Ms Curran —Well, in the Northern Territory, of course, the companies or entities that operate stores are incorporated either under the CATSIA Act or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations Act or they might be ASIC companies or they might be actually incorporated under Northern Territory legislation. So a variety of legal structures are in place. From our perspective, the more important issue is the regulatory environment, so the corporate entity itself is not so important. I think this was the point that Professor Altman was making. It is more the regulatory environment in which they operate and the compliance activity that sits around that.
CHAIR —The compliance which is required under the act and under which they are incorporated?
Ms Curran —No, not so much the incorporation act. The licensing regime in the Northern Territory has actually operated to, in effect, lift the bar in terms of what is required for a community store in the Northern Territory.
CHAIR —We will get to that in a moment. I do not know whether you were here when he said it, but Professor Altman made some remarks in relation to the Trade Practices Act. Do you see any issues in terms of the operation of the Trade Practices Act with these stores?
Ms Curran —Well, I think the comment that he was making, as I understood it, was that it is very hard for the consumer protection provisions of the Trade Practices Act to reach into very remote areas and that there are two consequences—that consumers may not be aware of their rights; and, secondly, that the operators might take advantage. In that context, he particularly referred to book-up. Mr Aarons can talk at some length on this matter. When we looked at the licensing of the stores in the Northern Territory, a very, very large number of them prior to licensing had extensive book-up practices.
CHAIR —Would you agree with his observations that the consumer protection provisions of the Trade Practices Act are not known enough? There might be some work that could be done in educating people about what those provisions provide?
Ms Curran —Outside the Northern Territory?
CHAIR —Within your sphere of experience?
Ms Curran —I do not know whether Bruce would have a comment on that.
Dr Smith —Just to say that in principle it would be a good idea, but—
CHAIR —But do you see it as an issue, I guess—
Dr Smith —The actual effectiveness of that, given what we know about literacy levels and so forth. It would be a good thing to do and it would be good as far as it went, but I do not know that we would want to make it a major platform.
CHAIR —That has kind of answered it. In terms of the licensing arrangements under the intervention, I wonder if you might talk a bit about that. You have had the benefit of hearing Professor Altman, who was really suggesting that the process of licensing some stores and not others created, I guess, a market distortion. That was not his phrase, but I think that is what he was getting at. I wonder if you might describe the operation of the licensing system and maybe address that issue if you think that is an issue.
Mr Aarons —Yes, certainly. Well, the licensing system derived out of the NTNER Act. It started with some of the consequences from income management. If you are going to suggest that half of people’s income be managed and be spent on certain types of goods—healthy food et cetera—you need to make sure that that is provided, particularly for people in the remote communities. So the licensing regime derived from that. It is actually dealt with in the act. The operation centre mid last year took on the full responsibility for the running of that. There is now in place quite a well-refined process for reviewing licences. A whole lot of stores were licensed and their renewals are now coming up. The process involves a set procedure which we apply to every store. Each store is assessed against assessable matters that are spelt out in the act that goes to the quality and range of food and other products. It goes to the governance and financial arrangements of the stores. Our case managers go out to a store. The store is notified in advance. We try to give about four weeks notice. Case managers go out and work with the store. They go through a number of the assessable matters. They look around the store and check for the goods and the price labelling et cetera. They look at the financial accounts. We ask for the audited accounts. They have to produce the previous audited financial statement. So we get a handle on both the financial structure and financial position of the store and we look at the governance arrangements.
In the case of stores that are managed by Outback Stores, there is actually a corporate licence that Outback Stores hold. So if a store is being managed by Outback Stores, some of the same things are still checked off when they come under the corporate licence. It is different if they are privately owned or owned by the community and run by the community.
Ms Curran —And ALPA has a corporate licence.
Mr Aarons —And ALPA has a separate corporate licence. You touched on this issue with Professor Altman. There are two kind of ALPA stores. There are stores that are directly owned by ALPA and there are stores that are managed by ALPA, where they have a management agreement with the community committee or whoever it is that owns the store.
Mr TURNOUR —I think Ms Curran and Professor Altman touched on the relationship between the store and the community. In terms of the licensing or the policy, are the cultural considerations in the delivery of these services part of the licensing? Is it considered part of policy recommendations in relation to stores? Would any of you like to comment on that?
Ms Curran —The specific cultural aspects are not taken into account in terms of licensing because that is very much about the quality and range of food in the stores and standards of governance and that there are appropriate retail and financial accountability arrangements in place. My point was more that the success of a store in a community depends on the relationship that the store manager has with the community. So a store that enjoys a good turnover is generally one that obviously the community is supporting.
Mr TURNOUR —Is that because of their understanding of the cultural operations within that community?
Ms Curran —It has to be a factor, yes.
Mr TURNOUR —I understand the need for the other things. Are these issues in relation to the cultural aspects something that could be considered in terms of policy and licensing in the same way that we can ask people who want to run another service in a community to demonstrate how they will operate within a particular environment or framework?
Ms Curran —I think the successful store operators in the Northern Territory do that as part of their good business management model. They will have a range of different ways of trying to support the community. They obviously want to employ local staff. Requiring something in a licence condition is not necessarily a way to actually grow that capacity. But that is something I think you need to have on the ground in terms of the way the service is delivered.
Mr TURNOUR —I have a further thought. I have to go in a minute. There are obviously a number of community based stores that are operating with CDEP support at the moment, from the advice we got in the earlier evidence today.
Ms Curran —Yes. We would not have those details. Both ALPA and Outback Stores pay their staff market wages. It is a commercial business.
Mr TURNOUR —But in terms of the CDEP reforms that are coming and the impacts on food security, which you have identified as one of your key areas of policy advice and development, have you done any work or are you doing any work on the potential impacts of the CDEP reforms on stores in these Indigenous communities?
Ms Curran —Well, the main impact, we believe, would be on the larger stores. They will have some capacity to pay market wages. I am not familiar with the situation in Maningrida.
Mr TURNOUR —So effectively you are saying you are not doing any work in the area of CDEP reforms and the potential impacts they may have on stores that are currently operating and using CDEP labour as part of that and, therefore, the changes that the reforms might have on those stores and food security in communities?
Ms Curran —The CDEP reforms have not been a specific consideration in respect of either the development of food security policy or the context of the licensing regime.
Mr TURNOUR —Do you recognise that the CDEP reforms will have impacts on community stores that may be utilising CDEP labour at the moment?
Ms Curran —I am not familiar enough with the specifics of the stores nationally in terms of the operation. As a general operating principle, I think this is a commercial business that is being run and that obviously, as Professor Altman outlined, there will be scope for those stores that are supported by CDEP labour to convert to market wage positions. There is a range of other employment reforms that are happening at the same time, including in the Indigenous employment program. There is the STEP program. With the new universal employment services, there will be a much stronger focus on remote Australia. With those reforms, we would anticipate that there will be a better delivery of employment and training opportunities in remote Australia, which has not happened in the past. CDEP was the principal vehicle through which that was delivered.
Mr TURNOUR —I understand that. I am not trying to be difficult, but I am very aware that the CDEP reforms are going to have impacts on a whole range of different areas, be it is from schooling to health delivery to stores. As an area working on policy, I am just wanting to get—
Ms Curran —As Professor Altman said, though, a lot of the employees in community stores unfortunately are not local Indigenous people. The store managers are frequently brought in from outside. You are from Queensland?
Mr TURNOUR —I am the member for Leichhardt, and I have Cape York and the Torres Strait.
Ms Curran —So I believe IBIS pays market wages.
Mr TURNOUR —Yes, they do. There is no doubt about that. IBIS and, I am pretty sure, most of the stores in my electorate do. But this is an inquiry looking across the country. I suppose the point I am trying to get to is whether government departments are recognising the social and other impacts that may be coming through the CDEP reforms and whether we are properly taking them into consideration. I know that this is another area, but clearly this is an inquiry into stores. Clearly, we have had evidence that CDEP has an impact on that. We need to be clear about the policy impacts of that across the community and whether there will be transitional arrangements and all of these sorts of things for stores or whether that is something we should be considering.
Ms Curran —Perhaps we could take it on notice to do an assessment for you of the extent of CDEP employment in stores as far as we can gauge. In the Northern Territory I do not believe it is large. I think, as you have confirmed, in Queensland it is not an issue. In South Australia and Western Australia, I do not know, I am sorry.
Mr TURNOUR —I would appreciate that. I think it would be useful information to get. Thank you.
Mrs VALE —Thank you for coming today. Professor Altman spoke of the downsides of the cash card or the BasicsCard. Has there been any movement at all or any mind within the department to make sure that the balance of that card is available to the consumer?
Ms Curran —The BasicsCard is actually not administered by FaHCSIA. It is administered by the Department of Human Services, so it might be best to direct that question to DHS.
Mrs VALE —I am told we are going to have them next week so that will be the number one question. On page 4 of your submission, you mention that the food purchased from the stores now is about 90 to 95 per cent of the food consumed by the Indigenous population in remote areas. Do you have any view on the decline of local horticultural produce or bush food? Does it have an opportunity to come into these remote stores? Is there anything that you feel could be done to encourage local horticultural produce?
Dr Smith —There have been projects from time to time trying to do that. I think they have largely been unsuccessful. That goes to a number of the issues that I think we are familiar with in remote communities to do with governance and sustaining effort on these kinds of activities. Again, it is something that in particular circumstances could be a very useful thing to do, but it is not really something that I think we would be looking at as an overall policy solution to addressing the problems that we are focused on with food security. Is that fair?
Ms Curran —I think another point we would make is that people go on country and they hunt or gather. It is not necessarily for commercial use. So the fact that it is not available in the store does not mean that people are not actually taking advantage of the dietary variety available by hunting and gathering.
CHAIR —But what did that statistic mean, then? I read it as meaning that 95 per cent of what people consume is coming from the store so that only 5 per cent would be what you have described. Is that right?
Ms Curran —That is right.
Mrs VALE —So it would be gathered bush food instead of anything that is locally produced in your market garden, for example?
Ms Curran —Yes.
Mr Aarons —There have been several initiatives, I think, to grow food on the community. I do not know that there has ever been any study of the effectiveness of that or not. There have also been a couple more general initiatives driven by Indigenous people to try and set up a horticultural business. I think there was one in central Australia that Tracker Tilmouth was talking about. Again, I am not aware of the success or otherwise of that and where it has got to.
Mrs VALE —Do you think it would be a worthwhile project for some of the new employment training initiatives that are in the pipeline to try to encourage local market gardens within these remote communities?
Ms Curran —I think it is being given consideration. It will obviously depend on the area and the size of the community. There would be a range of things that would be taken into account. But I believe it is being given consideration.
Mrs VALE —Good.
CHAIR —That statistic came out of a survey, I think, that you had done.
Ms Curran —This was out of a report of the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory in 1999—an inquiry into food process. But we do surveys. We had a survey on our website. It was the GBM survey.
CHAIR —I was thinking of the market basket surveys that have been conducted.
Ms Curran —That is a Northern Territory government survey.
CHAIR —So you cannot give us information on that? No. So the surveys that you just referred to?
Ms Curran —Well, we do post licensing surveys of the stores in the NT.
CHAIR —And what sort of information do you gather?
Ms Curran —It is a range of things. I think we included it in our submission. We could direct you to the website. We look at the impact of income management, how store operators actually assess that, what happened to turnover as a result of the stores licensing and the changes in shopping patterns, particularly looking at the consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Mrs VALE —Will that be a continuing focus, an ongoing survey?
Ms Curran —Yes. We do the follow-up 12 weeks after the stores are first licensed. We are just in the process of planning the next stage.
CHAIR —Has it been one survey?
Ms Curran —It was a second report on 41 stores. Now that we have the next tranche licensed, we will be doing a third survey.
Dr Smith —It is the combination of the effect of stores licensing but also income management. It is those two things.
CHAIR —You may have included it in the submission, so I apologise if you have, but we would be really interested in that information.
Ms Curran —Sure.
Dr Smith —Sure.
CHAIR —I imagine that a store or any retail outlet would want to become licensed. Obviously there is an advantage in becoming licensed. The first question is: is it the dynamic that there is a demand of retail outlets wanting to become licensed and, in a sense, you are knocking some back and accepting others?
Mr Aarons —Very rarely are we knocking them back. We prefer to work with the stores to get up to speed. There was a case where there was an ideological statement of a community store that they did not do individual management. They then subsequently said that, notwithstanding that, they would like to have a licence. We have just been through a whole process with that. I did want to comment before. You asked me about what Professor Altman said about the market distortions. We try to bend over backwards to be utterly fair.
There is a third element that I should have mentioned in the licensing of stores, and that is the capacity to manage income for managed funds and participate in that regime. I guess there are two things we are looking for with stores. There is the security of the clients’ funds. This is money that belongs to those individual people and it would be remiss of us in our licensing process if we did not have regard that in any given store those funds are going to be secure, well-managed and safe. That is why financial practices and the position of the store and the governance arrangements et cetera are important. The outtake from that is that we would prefer to have every store licensed. But if a store is not licensed, the only distortion is that they then cannot have access to those income managed funds. Of course—and this does happen, I believe—if they were not licensed, the customers could still spend their non-income managed funds there.
CHAIR —Obviously that would have an impact. In a sense, it would seem that the policy objective is to try to encourage purchasing from some stores which meet a set of criteria. Is it working? Do the surveys that you have undertaken indicate whether that is working?
Ms Curran —I think it is early days. Certainly the surveys are showing that there is an increasing consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. There is increased consumption of dairy products and things of that type. There has also been other work done outside government looking at the impact of income management more generally. That is making similar points—that it has actually had a very positive impact in terms of changes in diet. Whilst it is not showing up yet in health outcomes, anecdotal evidence suggests that children are healthier.
CHAIR —Has there been any research done of those retail outlets that are not licensed and whether there has been a drop in money spent there?
Ms Curran —Not that I am aware. But we do that—
CHAIR —Presumably a pub is not going to be licensed. Part of the idea here, presumably, is that one hopes more money is being spent buying fresh, healthy food from a licensed outlet than in the pub. Has anyone done any surveys on the pub to see whether it is working at that end as well?
Mr Aarons —Just remember that it is only in the prescribed areas under the NTNER Act that we are doing stores licensing, so most pubs would not be in the area.
CHAIR —Presumably some outlets would not be capable of being licensed because of what they sell.
Ms Curran —The NTNER legislation had a number of components. Another was alcohol bans. It is probably not a good comparison with alcohol bans. Some of these communities are small.
CHAIR —You are talking about one store?
Ms Curran —Yes. That is right.
Mr Aarons —They had to stop selling alcohol and so on as part of the act if they are on a prescribed area.
CHAIR —Finally, I just want to talk a bit more about Outback Stores and ALPA. Firstly, forgive my ignorance in relation to ALPA. Outback Stores is established through IBA. What is ALPA? Who owns ALPA?
Mr Aarons —My understanding is that it was an initiative maybe originally coming out of the churches. But it relates to Arnhem Land.
CHAIR —So it is completely private in that sense? There is no government agency which has a stake in that?
Mr Aarons —That is correct.
CHAIR —Would you like to make any comment about the success of Outback Stores and ALPA and how you see those initiatives working?
Ms Curran —ALPA has been around for a number of years. I think it operates currently 11 stores in Arnhem Land. I hope you have the opportunity to go and have a look. I have only been to one of the ALPA stores, but it is a very professionally run organisation and has an excellent range of fruit and vegetables and obviously is meeting the needs of the local community in Arnhem Land.
Outback Stores has been in operation only a little over two years. It started from scratch. I think it is also going to make a very significant improvement to food security in the Northern Territory and elsewhere in Australia. The focus since the Northern Territory emergency response has been in the NT. I will have to check the exact numbers of Outback Stores. Because Outback Stores receives some funding from the NTNER, it has also picked up a number of non-viable stores. That is an important difference between ALPA and Outback Stores. Outback Stores is operating in communities that otherwise would not have had a store. I hope that you have the opportunity to talk to Outback Stores. They have grown very, very rapidly. Their business model is about managing the store within the community so that the community has a governance arrangement. Outback Stores takes a management fee. They go in on the invitation generally of the community. We talk about cultural appropriateness. They like to work on a model where they are invited in.
I think you have a range of views in your submissions about Outback Stores. My impression—and I have not read the submissions closely—is that those communities that had Outback Stores reacted very, very favourably to them. Of those communities that did not have Outback Stores, I think there was a lot of rumour and innuendo about the Outback Stores model.
Mr Aarons —And fears about losing control and losing money et cetera. I could say a little more about ALPA, if you like. The Arnhem Land Progress Association was established in 1972. It is an Aboriginal owned benevolent organisation; that is what it describes itself as. It provides benefits to its members from the operation of community retail stores. They have five member stores in Arnhem Land. They have also got a consultancy service—Australian Retail Consultants—which manage another eight community stores across the Top End. They distribute dividends to communities. With the dividends from a particular store, the store committee decides what is done with them for cultural, ceremonial or sports days or whatever. In other words, there is an organisation which has these skills and capacities to manage and run and, in some cases, help establish stores, I guess. At the same time, there is community control.
Mrs VALE —Is it also an element of staff training through ALPA and Outback Stores?
Mr Aarons —There is.
Mrs VALE —So they actually do train staff.
Mr Aarons —In fact, it says here that ALPA is a registered training organisation.
Mrs VALE —There is that particular component.
Dr Smith —And Outback Stores’ policy is to employ and train Indigenous people in all stores, where possible.
Mrs VALE —I think that is important to note.
Ms Curran —You would need to check this with Outback Stores, but I think they are just about to employ their first Aboriginal store manager.
CHAIR —Would the surveys you have done include some ALPA stores, some Outback Stores and some that are not either?
Ms Curran —Absolutely.
CHAIR —Does it show any difference in terms of outcomes across perhaps those three groups, if you can bundle everyone else as one group?
Ms Curran —I cannot commit and say that I am able to give you that level of disaggregation. What we are doing is a telephone survey. It takes about 45 minutes. We are asking a standard set of questions of each of the operators.
CHAIR —I suppose you are saying that you are not sure whether you have done the exercise of disaggregating internally. I wonder whether you do get a difference in outcomes according to those stores. It might be a way of assessing how the model is going, I guess.
Ms Curran —Well, I think you would need to look at the results with some caution because the size of the store will have an impact. The length of time on which the management has been there will also have an impact. Its position in relation to a supply chain will also have an impact. So comparisons of that type, I think, are reasonably fraught.
CHAIR —It would seem to me that what ALPA and Outback Stores is trying to do—I say this thinking that this may well be a positive thing—is provide some level of consistency or something common across the stores that it operates. That is what it is attempting to do. It would be surprising, would it not, if you then did not get some across-the-board difference amongst Outback Stores? Sure, there are going to be some Outback Stores which are different from others, but some commonality is being applied to all of them. That is what Outback Stores is doing. So you would expect there to be some difference in outcome across the basket of Outback Stores.
Ms Curran —The survey is maybe not going to the issues that you are interested in. What we are trying to assess is the impact of income management 12 weeks after the introduction of income management. How did the store managers find it? Was it easy? Did we give correct assistance? Was it for long enough? We are trying to assess the impact of the administrative burden on the stores as a result of income management. At 12 weeks we are making another assessment about what has happened to the range and quality of goods in the store and what is also happening to turnover.
CHAIR —Meeting those objectives would all be relevant and interesting in terms of the extent to which Outback Stores meets those criteria. How it is going on turnover, what quality of food it has and how it is dealing with administrative burdens are the kinds of issues, I would have thought, that Outback Stores are designed to deal with, are they not?
Mr Aarons —And Outback Stores, in its submission, touches on some of those points. ALPA, by the way, does its own research, so you probably should ask them.
CHAIR —I appreciate that.
Mr Aarons —I think they would probably be able to answer a lot of those questions.
CHAIR —Thank you very much. Again, as I said to the last witnesses, I feel like we could go for another hour. We might ask you some further questions through the secretariat if there is other information we need provided. But we really appreciate your coming.
Dr Smith —We are very happy to provide information that is required.
Ms Curran —I want to confirm that we do not disaggregate the data.
CHAIR —Thank you for that. Thank you all for your attendance.
Resolved (on motion by Mrs Vale):
That this committee authorises publication, including publication on the parliamentary database, of the transcript of the evidence given before it at public hearing this day.
Committee adjourned at 1.56 pm