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Friday, 31 May 1996
Page: 1550


Senator MARGETTS(2.06 p.m.) —I also have some questions that I would like incorporated in Hansard . I seek leave to have my remaining questions incorporated in Hansard .

Leave granted.

The questions read as follows

Supply Bills—Committee Stage

Detail of the Bill

General

1   We request details of Commonwealth employees who have left employment for whatever reason, and have not subsequently been replaced. Please break this down by:

a)   Department;

b)   Program;

c)   General function;

d)   Numbers of staff departed.

2   We request details of Commonwealth programs that have had funds frozen, or whose function, scope or accessibility have been reduced. Please break this down by:

a)   Department;

b)   Program;

c)   Degree of reduction.

3   We request details of Commonwealth contract-workers and consultants who have ceased working for the Commonwealth for whatever reason, and have not subsequently been replaced. Please break this down by:

a)   Department;

b)   Program;

c)   General function;

d)   Numbers of contract staff departed.

4   We request details of Commonwealth contracts for services that have been terminated without replacement for whatever reason.

Please break this down by:

a)   Department;

b)   Program;

c)   General function.

DEETYA pp 36-38

1   I note that the total appropriation for DEETYA is 3.6% above the 5/12th proportion I'm using for reference. This is good, I'm glad the funds are there for various programs. I note that for Division 220, the Administrative section, the appropriation is 3.2% above my reference proportion. Within that Division, in the breakdown on page 37, Section 2, Schools, seems lower than most, 4% below the reference propor tion. Why was that? Have you figured out how to give children a better education while spending less money? Would you care to share this?

2   I understand that there have been 1885 people about 12% of the staff, who have left employment in DEETYA without being replaced since Government has taken office. That is a rather large number. Is that number approximately correct?

With such a large number of staff who have left, why do the appropriations indicate "business as usual"? Wouldn't that number of staff departures have an impact on running costs? Wouldn't it have an impact on programs that could be offered?

Have the departures of staff been evenly spread, or are they concentrated in some Divisions? Where have most of the departures occurred?

3   Have there been any freezing of funds to programs that target training or education to Native Australians? Will all these programs go ahead during the next few months, or does the appropriations here include cuts to those areas? Are staff levels being maintained in these areas?

4   Has any funding been less available to education programs designed for non-English speaking students, or those for whom English is a second language? Will all these programs go ahead during the next few months, or does the appropriations here include cuts to those areas? Are staff levels being maintained in these areas?

5   I note that under Division 220, on page 37, in Section 5—Labour Market and Training Assistance, there has been an increase in the proportional amount of 3.1%. Does this mean that all the training programs under this scheme are being offered, and will continue to be offered at the same rate as last year, for at least the next 5 months?

I am particularly interested in the LEAP and REAP programs, will they be continuing at roughly the same level of activity?

6   I understand that instructions have been given that SkillShare Project funding is being reduced by 30% between July and September, the period of this appropriation. Is this correct? If so, where does the decrease in funding associated with such a cut appear?

Since Government has itself noted that SkillShare is one of the most cost-effective LMPs, does it expect a marked reduction of unemployment? What does it believe the financial impact of the cuts will be? What is the expected impact in terms of reduction of unemployed people gaining training through SkillShare?

7   The Wanneroo Accommodation and Support Services inform me that they have been denied funding until after the August budget. How many other contractors through the Employment Education and Training Support Services programs will find themselves without funding for over a month? Is there any intention to provide a bridging contract to allow such services to continue to operate until budget time, or is this an effective termination of the program? If the latter, where is that reflected in the appropriations in this bill?

8   On page 37 I note that funding for running costs of the National Board of Employment, Education and Training, Division 222, has been cut by 12% from the proportion that would have been expected, and seems to have been available in other Divisions. Please outline the reasons for this cut-back, and what it will mean in terms of staffing and reduction or delays in program implementation.

DEST—pp 39-41

1.   On page 40, under Division 260, I notice that while the whole Division gets almost exactly the proportion of funds that would be expected if all programs continue to be funded at current levels, the running costs under Section 1 are 7% below that proportion. Why is that? Do any of these reductions reflect any decreased funding or staffing to the Commonwealth EPA? Do they reflect cuts to the Bureau of Meteorology?

2   I also notice that Section 4, Local Government Programs, seems to be 48% below the proportion which would indicate that funding is being maintained. That's a large decrease. Why are Local Government services being cut in this way? What programs are going to be cut or implemented at a reduced level? What are the staffing implications in this appropriation? How many staff in this area have currently left employment without being replaced, and what portion of total staff in the Local Government area of DEST do they represent?

3   The Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Division 263, seems to be getting 10% less than proportionally expected. Why is that? Isn't it odd, given the strength of Government election commitments to conservation, that this area should be cut? What programs will not be implemented or implemented at a reduced level?

4   On page 41, in Division 265 covering the Bureau of Meteorology, I notice there is a proportional cut of about 5% in the appropriations. Why is this?

I may have mentioned before that I understand 200 people, or roughly 13% of staff, have already left the Bureau. Is that right? Are there any people that are leaving from remote weather stations? If so, since many are one-person operations for collection of weather data, does this mean those data stations are being closed down? How will this affect the ability of the Bureau to monitor or predict weather? If the staff are from larger urban stations, such as those at airports or those that correlate and process data, how will this affect things like weather services to air transport, or basic weather prediction?

5   On page 42, Division 270, I notice that the National Capital Planning funding is going down to 20% below what would be proportionally expected. Can you explain that?

DFAT—p 50

1   In Division 317, Section 5, Emergency and Refugee Programs, I notice that the funding is about 9% below the proportion that would indicate the area is being funded at normal levels. Why is this? What cut-backs are being planned in this area in the prebudget period?

Health & Family Services—pp 53-54

1   I notice that the whole portfolio area of Health is getting an increase of about 14% over what would be proportionally expected, which is great. But I also understand that about 580 people have already left the area, retired or been retrenched, without being replaced. Why won't the departure of this large number of staff, about 8% of the total for the Department, have an impact on delivery of services, or if there is a predicted impact, what will that be?

2.   I also notice that under Australian Hearing Services Authority, Division 344, on page 54, there is an apparent decrease in funding of about 1.5%. That's not much, but I'm interested in why this is occurring, given that the funding to the overall Department seems to be good?

I'm also interested, because I understand that there have been quite a few staff who have left the National Acoustic Laboratory, the agency that makes and fits hearing aids for pensioners. Can you tell me how many people have already left, or have indicated they will leave, the NAL? Is funding for the NAL continuing as usual? What will be the impact of changes to the NAL or the Hearing Services Authority?

Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs—pp 55-56

1   The appropriation for this Department seems to have been cut of some 11% below what would have been expected. Why is that?

2   On page 56, under Administrative, Division 360, Section 4 Adult Migrant English Programs, it seems that there is actually a little more money than would be expected, about 2.8% above the 5/12th proportion. Does this mean that all these programs continue being fully implemented for the next half year?

Dept of Industrial Relations—pp 57- 58

1   I note that in Division 365 Administrative, Section 2—Other Services there is a massive decline of about 70% below what would be expected as a proportion of last year's budget. Why is this?

2   I note some apparent anomalies. For example, the funding for the Trade Union Training Authority, Division 367, seems to show a slight increase of 7% above what would be expected as a proportion of last year. Yet the Government has announced plans to cut all funding to this program. So, is this appropriation an indication that Government is committed to continuing the funding of TUTA, and the implementation of programs under it, until the budget is passed?

3   While TUTA funding seems to be maintained, in spite of announcements that it will be cut, the funding for the Affirmative Action Agency, Division 366, declines by 20% from what would be expected. Why is that? What changes will we see to Affirmative Action programs or staffing levels as a consequence?

4   I notice that Division 371, Comcare is set to be cut from $5,600,000 to $1,000, a cut of over 99% of its budget. What will you do to ensure that workers will continue to be looked after?

I also understand that 100 people, or 38% of the staff, of Worksafe Australia have left employment without replacement. Where is this reflected in the appropriations? Is it really the intention of the Government to cut programs designed to ensure a basic level of industrial safety? What are the expected outcomes in terms of increase in industrial accidents, and how is this expected to impact other departments, such as health, disability benefits, or unemployment?

SUPPLY 2

Note:   Supply 2 is capital works, which are expected to be lumpy. There is a lot less scope for examining this area on a part-year basis.

DEETYA—p 19

1   In Division 830, the Capital works for DEETYA, I notice that the appropriation is for 24% of the 1995-96 full-year appropriation. Can you give me some details as to what this is for, and why it is seemingly low for a period that is about 42% of the year?

DEST—p 20

1   Under Division 849, the payments made to or for states through DEST, we see that the amounts for Section 1, the Australian Heritage Commission, are only 38% of last year's appropriation. Is this an indication that you are reducing funding, or will the funding be available later in the year? Can you explain this appropriation?

2.   Under the same division, in Section 6 which covers the Daintree Rescue Package, I note that the amount appropriated for 42% of the year is only 29% of last year's appropriations. Now I understand that these are capital expenditures, but I'd like some reassurance that the Daintree program will be fully funded. I'd also like some indication of the timing of these expenditures.

3   I'm also slightly concerned that the ACT payment is only 22% of the last full-year budget. Can you tell me what the expectation is for full-year expenditures, and what the particular appropriations here will cover?

Bills agreed to.

Bills reported without amendments or requests; report adopted.