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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3346

Question No. 380


Senator Richardson asked the Minister representing the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 22 September 1983:

(1) Will the Minister for Finance outline the major administrative problems faced by the States and the Territories in implementing the wage freeze legislation, in view of the statement tabled by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the Senate on 23 August 1983 in which he announced that payments to the States for expenditure on employment generation and maintenance schemes under the Special Employment-related Programs Act 1982 had been temporarily suspended due to administrative difficulties. (See Hansard, 23 August 1983, page 24.)

(2) Have these administrative difficulties been overcome.

(3) Have payments to the States and the Territories, as provided for in the Act , been resumed; if so, (a) how much has been appropriated by each State and each Territory under the Special Employment-related Programs Act 1982; and (b) how much has actually been expended by the various State and Territory governments on job creation programs.

(4) Have there been any significant moves by the States or Territories to utilise the funds appropriated by them for the purpose of initiating employment generation and maintenance schemes since the Minister's original statement; if so, have there been any visible benefits to the community which can directly be attributed to the implementation of this scheme.

(5) Is there any plan to have the operations of the Act reviewed; if so, at what stage are those plans at.


Senator Walsh —The Minister for Finance has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The States have advised that the administrative problems they have encountered in implementing the general employment component of the wage pause program included the following:

there were few structures which could be used to administer the program when it was commenced in February;

application forms and procedures to consider applications or assistance had to be devised;

prospective project sponsors had to be advised of the program and given time to make applications; and

project sponsors whose project proposal had been approved required time to develop project operations.

All major new expenditure programs encounter similar administrative problems. Even after making allowance for these factors, the rate of expenditure by all States in the first half of this calendar year was lower than that anticipated and hence the cause of considerable concern on the part of the Commonwealth.

(2) In general, a high level of project approval has now been attained; at the end of October 1983, 85 per cent of the funds nationally available for the program had been committed to approved projects.

However, delays in projects commencing once they have received approval are still in the order of two to three months.

(3) Payments to two States, Queensland and Tasmania, were resumed in November. Regular monthly payments have continued to be made to the Northern T erritory. For obvious reasons no advances are made to the Australian Capital Territory and funds are provided as required.

The following table sets out the current position:

GENERAL EMPLOYMENT COMPONENT OF WAGE PAUSE PROGRAM

State/

Commitments Payments Territory

Total (percentage made as at expenditure

provision of total 7 November as at end

available provision) 1983 October 1983

$m $m $m New South Wales 69.9 98.5 35.0 18.9 Victoria 52.7 61.1 26.3 3.5 Queensland 31.9 100.0 21.4 16.3 Western Australia 17.6 76.2 8.8 1.1 South Australia 17.5 82.1 8.8 4.1 Tasmania 5.7 97.0 3.2 2.5 Australian Capital Territory 3.0 99.7 1.3 1.3 Northern Territory 1.7 98.2 1.5 1.2

(4) As noted in the answer to (2), State and Territory governments have committed significant funds under the program. According to the latest information available to the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations 16,064 jobs had been approved in respect of 2,258 project approvals by 31 August 1983. Not all approved jobs have actually yet commenced. The number of placements made by the Commonwealth Employment Service to project positions to 31 August totals 7,034 people.

While the creation of jobs is the major benefit of the program, projects which satisfy its guidelines will provide facilities and services that result in a worthwhile and long-term contribution to community needs, have a high Australian materials content and provide skills training.

(5) Payments under the Special Employment-related Programs Act can only be made in respect of employment created before 30 June 1984, after which time the appropriation lapses. In view of this, there seems little point in reviewing the Act at this stage. Clearly though the suspension of payments by the Commonwealth has encouraged the States to review their operational procedures and project implementation. It should also be noted that the experience gained through the wage pause program has been reflected in the design and operation of the Community Employment Program, this Government's employment creation initiative.