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Friday, 26 May 1989
Page: 2829

Senator TATE (Minister for Justice)(11.13) —Senator Short raised a very good point regarding performance indicators in relation to the provision of services and the fulfilment of the hopes of programs provided for Aboriginal people throughout Australia. Indeed, as Senator Short and other honourable senators would be aware, the development of such indicators for any social welfare program is indeed a very difficult task. I do not think it would be fair to characterise the Department's attitude to the development of such indicators and their monitoring as casual if that means that there is a certain uninterested and lackadaisical attitude to the matter. It is a difficult one. Nevertheless, the prodding, perhaps, by persons and committees such as the Estimates committees galvanised the Department to analyse further the problems in the area. A working party was convened in mid-1988. That working party's deliberations have led to the production of a program budgeting manual, which I believe was forwarded to the Committee in the last couple of days and which is certainly available from the Committee's secretariat. That manual will come into operation on 1 July 1989.

Training programs are being undertaken throughout Australia to ensure that regional offices are aware of the requirements of that program budgeting manual. I believe that this is an important part of defining the objectives of the program and ensuring that the administration of the projects achieve the aims and goals that are so important. I will not ask for the manual to be incorporated in Hansard. Nevertheless, it is available from the secretariat. I congratulate those people under Mr Bill Gray who were responsible for putting together this performance indicators manual.

The work of the Senate Estimates Committee will be further enhanced by the development of this performance indicators approach. Perhaps it can now get on with the real task, which I know is certainly at the forefront of Senator Aulich's mind when he asks questions at Estimates committees, of seeing that the services that are delivered to Aboriginal people really achieve their objectives.

The only other matter that I would like to comment on is the question of unacquitted grants. The latest advice available shows that as at 19 May 1989 the Department had a total of 1,290 unacquitted grants. The distribution by State was New South Wales, 310; Victoria-Tasmania, 65; Queensland, 406; South Australia, 102; Western Australia, 322; and the Northern Territory, 90. I believe that the Department is conscious of the need to maintain rigorous action in that regard. I think a directors conference was held in February of this year in relation to those matters. There is a weekly monitoring of the matter by the Department. State and regional offices have been told that even in an era of tight resources they are to devote priority resources to the question of unacquitted grants. This is, as I say, despite the constraints at field level. I think that sufficiently answers the matters raised in relation to the Department.