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Tuesday, 22 May 2001
Page: 26772


Mr Kerr asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 March 2001:

(1) Further to the answer to question No. 1283 (Hansard, 27 February 2001, page 21301) in which he said information is not available against the categories of dates specified in the answer, what information is available to the Government regarding (a) full time, (b) part time and (c) casual staff employed by the Commonwealth in (i) Tasmania and (ii) the electoral division of Denison and for what dates is it available.

(2) Why was the specific information sought by me not available.

(3) What is the best information available to the Government regarding the categories of employment for those closest to those sought by me.

(4) Why did it take approximately 11 months for him to respond to my question with a reply to the effect that the information would not be provided.


Mr Howard (Prime Minister) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

I am advised by my department as follows:

(1) The honourable member has asked for information in relation to `Commonwealth employment'. In addition to encompassing people employed under the Public Service Act 1999 (the Public Service Act) in the Australian Public Service (the APS), the description `Commonwealth employment' also extends to ongoing and non-ongoing employment in non-APS entities in the form of Government Business Enterprises such as Telstra and Australia Post and to elements which have left the APS but which have continued within the Commonwealth such as Health Services Australia and Australian Hearing Services.

Details of all employment by the Commonwealth Government are not held centrally. The Public Service and Merit Protection Commission (PSMPC) collects data on APS employment, but it does not collect data on employment in these non-APS Commonwealth entities, nor does it collect data on casual employment. In relation to APS employment in Tasmania, between 1995/96 and 1998/99 the PSMPC collected data on the number of persons being paid from Tasmanian pay centres. In 1999/2000, the collection method changed to the number of persons physically located in Tasmania. This data is publicly available in the PSMPC's Statistical Bulletin for each of the financial years. The PSMPC does not collect data specifically relating to APS employment in the electoral division of Denison.

(2) The specific information sought by the honourable member could only have been obtained by survey of Commonwealth departments and agencies that might employ staff in Tasmania. I was not prepared to authorise the diversion of resources that would have been required to conduct such a survey.

(3) In his Question on Notice No.1283, the honourable member asked for information current as at 2 March 1996 and March 2000. APS employment data collected by the PSMPC on the bases described above is available for a range of dates up to June 2000, but 31 March 1996 and 30 June 2000 are the dates closest to the those sought by the honourable member. As at 31 March 1996, the number of on-going APS employees whose pay centre was located in Tasmania was 2,769, which was 2.1 per cent of on-going APS employees at that time. As at 30 June 2000, the number of APS employees physically located in Tasmania was 1721, representing 1.7 percent of on-going APS employees. It is important to note that the difference between the two sets of figures does not necessarily reflect a decline in absolute numbers in Commonwealth employment but rather a change in the statistical methodology. Additionally, and as indicated previously, staff at Health Services Australia and Australian Hearing Services are no longer APS employees although they have remained in Commonwealth employment.

(4) Consideration was given and discussions were held on ways to compile the data sought by the honourable member leading to a conclusion that the expense and effort involved could not be justified.