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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2863

Mr Martin Ferguson asked the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, upon notice, on 22 March 2004:

(1) In respect of the Bendoc Rural Transaction Centre (RTC), what was the amount of the original grant and did it provide for the employment of people to assist with the running of the centre.

(2) Is Mr Leo Dobes employed by his department; if so, in what capacity.

(3) Did a departmental officer correspond with anyone concerning the Bendoc RTC; if so, what was the written advice that monies allocated for employment had been used in minor variations in establishing the Bendoc RTC and that the Government grant for wages for two years had been used on variations, thereby suggesting that the RTC would have to be run on a voluntary basis.

(4) What were the amounts and nature of the minor variations and did they represent up to 34% of the $91,560 grant for the RTC.

(5) What is the distance from the Bendoc RTC to the nearest RTC.

(6) Is the town of Delegate regarded as the service town for Bendoc as Bendoc has no school, shops, bank, hospital or petrol garage.

(7) Does the Bendoc RTC meet the Australian standard for access for the disabled; if not, why not.

(8) What services are permitted at the Bendoc RTC and what services were to be provided in line with the submission for the grant to establish the Bendoc RTC.

Mr Anderson (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The original grant for the Bendoc Rural Transaction Centre (RTC) was $91,560 (including GST). This grant included $31,200 ($15,600 per year for two years) for employment of staff in the RTC.

(2) Dr Leo Dobes is employed in the Department of Transport and Regional Services as the Assistant Secretary, Regional Analysis and Performance Branch.

(3) The Bendoc RTC Implementation Committee requested in January 2003 that the RTC funds allocated to salaries be used for increased and unanticipated construction costs. These costs included extra earthworks and drainage because a spring was discovered on the site; relocation of the toilet system; installation of a ramp for disabled access and installation of a security system. The Department wrote to the Implementation Committee in January 2003 and advised that this variation was approved. The approval acknowledged that as a result of the variation the RTC would be operated by volunteers.

(4) There were two variations: in May 2002 provision of additional $4,752 (approximately 5 per cent increase) for increased construction costs; and January 2003 to change the allocation of $31,200 (approximately 32% variation) in the original grant from salaries to construction.

(5) The distance from Bendoc RTC in Victoria to the nearest other RTC at Delegate in NSW is approximately 14 kilometres.

(6) I understand that Bendoc residents usually travel to Delegate for some services including shopping and financial services. However, for other services, including Victorian Government services and consultations with professionals such as accountants, Bendoc residents usually travel approximately 100 kilometres to Orbost.

(7) I am advised that the ramp for disabled access at Bendoc RTC does meet the Australian Standard AS 1428.1 in relation to the width and gradient of the ramp. A Certificate of Occupancy was issued, as the building complies with the Building Code of Australia Volume One.

However, I understand that some minor anomalies exist between the Building Code of Australia and AS 1428.1 in relation to provisions for disabled access. A recent inspection of the Bendoc RTC by the East Gippsland Shire Council Building Surveyor has confirmed that the building does comply with the Australian Building Code, and identified some minor modifications which would ensure substantial compliance with AS 1428.1.

The applicant advises that in line with the suggested modifications, a second handrail has been installed as well as other disabled modifications including the installation of a Braille sign on the toilet door and a lever handle on the inside of the toilet. My Department is currently seeking a follow up report from the Council Surveyor to confirm that the RTC now meets all necessary codes and standards.

(8) As a community driven programme each community determines which services to include for their RTC through a process of community consultation. Negotiations are then undertaken with the organisations providing these services to reach agreement about the services to be delivered through the RTC.

The application for RTC Project Assistance for Bendoc proposed the following services (subject to the agreement of the service providers):

Visiting solicitor and accountant (however, the RTC has been unable to attract these visiting services to date);

Centrelink information (however, Centrelink declined to provide this service due to low customer numbers);

East Gippsland Shire Council outreach service;

Public access computers and Internet, including on-line access to government information, e-mail retrieval for tourists;

Adult community education programme and University of the Third Age;

Library access through book orders;

Far East Gippsland Health and Support Service;

Photocopying, faxing and printing; and

Tourist information.

The services currently provided at Bendoc RTC include:

Public access computers and Internet;

East Gippsland Shire Council outreach service;

Office for rental by visiting consultants - currently used for consultations by visiting health service;

Meeting room for local organisations (eg Rural Volunteer Fire Brigade), also used by the Orbost-based Multi-Purpose (health) Service;

Adult, Community and Further Education (Victorian Government) - coordination, meetings and training courses;

Adult education courses in computing, and Internet use;

Neighbourhood House activities and coordinator;

Supervision of `Work for the Dole' trainee through East Gippsland TAFE college;

Photocopying and fax facilities; and

Coordination of community work activities by people undertaking community service orders through Victorian Department of Correctional Services.