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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
25/07/2012

McFARLAND, Mr Blair, Central Australian Youth Link Up Service

RAY, Mr Tristan, Policy Project Manager, Central Australian Youth Link Up Service

[15:32]

CHAIR: We now welcome CAYLUS again: Mr McFarland and Mr Ray. You have been listening to the evidence and I thought it would be useful to have some more discussion with you because of the number of issues that have been raised. If you would like to make a few statements, the senators will then ask a few questions.

Mr McFarland : Yes, a number of things came up, including what Howard Bath was talking about in relation to the VSAP Act. We are practitioners, we helped develop it and we have helped change it over one series of reviews. We use it all the time. Earlier today there were some people in here who are our colleagues from the health department who are also part of the team who use it. So we are in a position to comment on it with a reasonable experience base. It is a fantastic act. Compared to the way it was before that act, we now have a number of mechanisms whereby we can intervene in sniffing. It does not exist in any other state and we think that it would be wise to sort of power it up in other states.

Other states seem to get caught up on the fact that one portion of it, which is about mandatory rehab, has resourcing implications. I think they are to some degree throwing out the baby with the bathwater if they reject the whole act because at this stage there is no capacity to send people to rehab. The act, as Howard Bath outlined, has a number of other features, including that ability to create management areas.

It also gives the police the ability to intervene in sniffing. It gives the ability to send people away for mandated treatment. It gives the police the ability to take petrol or other inhalants from people, and they do not have that ability without that act. So it is a very powerful act.

Howard talked about a review of the act—and that is a good idea. We have been involved in one review of it so far that has resulted in some streamlining of it. So now there is only about a six-week period of time between a referral being made and some sort of definite action happening—for example, where the person is put before a magistrate and it is explored as to whether they need to go into mandatory rehab. There were all sorts of strange delays before we managed to prune them out.

But there is another set of reviews we were taking part in over the last 18 months, which have resulted in another rewrite of the act, which increases the ability to create management areas. It takes it away from remote communities, where it is currently focused, and it can be applied in stores. This is in response to the issue about transference that we have talked about a lot. We have made really good progress on a voluntary basis in Alice Springs with getting retailers to undertake various strategies to reduce supply of other inhalants. That is fine. We have managed to do it with lots of good will and only occasionally having to thrash people in the media.

But this latest amendment to the act does give the NT health minister the ability to take evidence that particular places are a source of glue and they are not being responsible about selling it. The health minister can then require that store to develop a management plan. They have one month to do it and resources to help them do it. After that, the management plan becomes enforceable by the police. It is another layer of teeth that can go into the SAP Act.

CHAIR: What happens if the business does not do it?

Mr McFarland : Then they are subject to fines.

CHAIR: That is the standard fines schedule, like any other fine in the Territory?

Mr McFarland : Yes. And, once again, we try things on a voluntary basis and we make reasonably good progress but occasionally you get to a point where—it would be great if people could be required to have a management plan.

One of the big chains has already agreed with us to have a management plan, and that makes our relationship with them very simple. We can go to them and say, 'You have put this on the shelf and, according to your management plan, this should not be there,' and off it comes. With other places that do not have that, we say, 'This is on the shelf,' and they say, 'We will have to call head office,' and they do not get back to us until the following week. So the response is quite unpredictable and can be quite delayed. That is just something about the VSAP Act I thought I would tell you guys as a practitioner—also, where it is heading; like with this Opal mandating thing, which is heading towards, 'We know it works so let's just finish the job and create the potential for creating enforceable strategies to reduce sniffing.'

Mr Ray : It links to some of the things that the chamber of commerce raised. Those powers of the act were developed partly at the request of retailers who, under a voluntary code, we were asking to make a judgment about what a safe sale was and then refuse sale. Some of the feedback we had from retailers was that some clear rules would be a better arrangement and they would feel more confident about refusing sale if there were a clear system.

In response to the chamber's comments that shops are taking things off the shelves, can I say: that is not the emphasis of that work. The emphasis is to help them sell the product safely. We do everything we can to help the retailers continue to sell the product. That is always our emphasis. Things might be taken off shelves but that means they are relocated to a front counter where they are still available. We make fake products to be on shelves; so there is still a picture of the product there. We do anything we can to manage that product well.

CHAIR: Working with the businesses.

Mr McFarland : Only one shop has actually taken something off the shelf and left it off. That was Mad Harry's. Early on, when we were talking to them about inhalants, they said, 'We just cannot be responsible for this level of damage to children,' so they took all of their spray paints off the shelves and stopped selling spray paints, which was a a strong step to take.

Mr Ray : It was their choice.

Mr McFarland : But it was their choice. We actually arranged to buy all of their stock and we got the Mount Theo mob to paint an anti-sniffing mural in the hospital with it, so it was a nice—

CHAIR: It was a great result.

Mr McFarland : But that is the only thing that has ever come off the shelves as a result of our work. The rest of it, as Tristan says, is just a matter of protecting it and protecting them from getting it stolen as well—there are commercial advantages to not having your glues stolen all the time.

Mr Ray : In fact, we are really happy and proud of the work of the retailers in Alice Springs, who are acutely conscious of this stuff because they deal with it day to day. They have 15-year-old staff who are having to face down sniffers. They have done excellent work over many years and we are really happy with that relationship.

Mr McFarland : Part of the process of rewriting the VSAP Act to the stage where it now has cabinet endorsement—although it is now waiting until after the election—was consultations with the retailers about what they thought about this, and they said what Tristan said, which was, 'Well, we're doing it now, voluntarily, but it would be good if we had really good guidelines for this so we could say to somebody, "We can't sell that to you because of this law,''' rather than the nebulous arrangements that exist with voluntary codes of conduct.

Mr Ray : We can also supply our position paper on the VSAP Act. We have got two position papers that we did not submit. We tried to stick just to the act in our submission, so it was only 60 pages!

CHAIR: We would be delighted to receive them.

Mr Ray : We will submit our position paper on the VSAP Act and what we think other states can learn from it, and also our position paper on youth services. Howard Bath made a comment about how only a small percentage of those referred under the act are making it to mandatory treatment, and we think that is a sign of the success of the act, that there is now a system. Very often, just the activation of the system is sufficient. Once someone has sniffed, a health worker comes in and makes an assessment; they visit that person and talk to their family about the issue. Very often that it is enough to budge people off. That response is now systematic and delivered by the government in the Northern Territory and is therefore quite reliable. We are always pushing for improvement, but we are a lot further ahead than we were many years ago.

Mr McFarland : One thing, though, is that the witness from the Chamber of Commerce NT demonstrated the limits of education campaigns—I guess, as an example of the sorts of people that the current strategy of it all being voluntary relies on to make rational decisions about these sorts of things. I think there is something to be learnt from that, because she seemed to be of the opinion that Opal could be sniffed because she had heard it from somebody. It cannot. Even though it has been around for seven years and there were 500 sniffers trying desperately to work out how to sniff it, they never succeeded. We were talking yesterday to a gentleman who said, 'No, it can be sniffed. Anything can be sniffed. You can do things to it.' So education campaigns can only go so far until they hit blind prejudice, which will not be shifted. Something to consider is that there is a limit to how far you can rely on people making rational choices about these very important issues.

Senator SIEWERT: Is there any concerted opposition to the use of low aromatic fuel? We heard the same arguments eight years ago as those today, so I am wondering whether you are aware of any group or organisation or any anything that is actually opposed to the process?

Mr Ray : I do not think so. I think there has been no evidence given to this inquiry that there is any coordinated resistance to the use of Opal. I think it is just a group of individuals who, for quite different reasons, have chosen not to do it, and therefore the choice about whether sniffing continues in nearby locations rests with those individuals.

Mr McFarland : In Katherine, a group of anti-Opal people started a Facebook page, but they only got seven friends!

Senator SIEWERT: It would be a bit lonely!

CHAIR: You actually need 10 to come into the VSAP Act, don't you!

Mr McFarland : Yes, that's right!

CHAIR: So they cannot do it; they have only got seven! What was the background of the anti-Opal group? What was it they wanted?

Mr McFarland : Because there is now talk about getting Opal in Katherine, and there was the inevitable backlash based on the sort of prejudices you have seen—that Opal will hurt cars, that it does not work anyway, that people can mix things with it and make it sniffable or that they will move on to the next thing.

CHAIR: 'It hurts our business.'

Mr McFarland : 'It hurts our business.' All of these things.

Senator SIEWERT: I did not want to prolong the discussion earlier, but if Opal were damaging cars, given that it has been in Alice for seven years with concerted rollout for five years, would you not see piles of cars on the side of the road or somewhere that had been damaged by Opal after that long period of time?

CHAIR: That have been Opalled!

Senator SIEWERT: That have been Opalled!

Mr Ray : We do see piles of damaged cars on the road all the time, but it is not Opal that is the cause. BP recently said 107 million tanks of it have been sold, without one substantiated case of car damage.

Mr McFarland : But you can see how widespread that belief is in the community. But we are not all superscientific in what we believe. People believe in yetis and flying saucers.

Mr Ray : So to us it goes to show that we have now had five years of Opal use and we have had this amazing result on the ground, but we cannot continue to premise it all on the voluntary participation of businesses. The chamber have just represented the views of some of the businesses they have a lot to do with. We are a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and they do not represent us.

CHAIR: Did you get a survey question?

Mr Ray : No, we did not. There are many businesses that deliberately use Opal in Alice Springs in support.

Senator SIEWERT: The council does.

Mr Ray : The council does. All of the Aboriginal organisations do, and the tourism bodies do. Hertz do. So that is one particular set of interests that they have represented, but that is who it all hinges on under the current arrangements. That is who gets to make the call about whether this public health measure continues. Even in Alice Springs, which you would have to say is probably the most crucial point in the Central Australian Opal rollout, you can see how shaky it is.

Mr McFarland : Here of all places, if you had a rational look at what is going on, you would say Opal is the most fantastic success, but we are not dealing with rational people, I guess.

Senator SMITH: I was interested to hear the evidence from the Caltex franchise earlier, and I was interested in the level of consultation, discussion and exchange of information with the Central Australian Petrol Sniffing Strategy Unit—or lack thereof. I am just wondering if you have any ideas about how that interaction could be improved. We have not yet heard from the Commonwealth. I will be interested in exploring with them what is the level of consultation and whether it meets regularly or in a formal way with key stakeholders, because the early observation is that that might be a key element that is falling down. You would know that better than I do, but what suggestions do you have about how better to improve that sort of interaction, coordination and feedback?

Mr McFarland : One thing is that I think the gentleman from Caltex said that it was the petrol sniffing unit. I think that he has probably been interacting with the Department of Health and Ageing rather than the petrol sniffing strategy unit, because it is the people from the Department of Health and Ageing who are doing that Opal rollout. So I would not necessarily think that he is talking about the petrol sniffing strategy unit. I think he has grouped it in his mind, but it is actually this quite distinct Health and Ageing person.

Senator SMITH: That is a valuable point. Given that it is clearly demonstrated that Opal is such an important part of the petrol sniffing strategy, why wouldn't those issues be captured by the petrol sniffing strategy unit?

Mr Ray : I think they are, and they work closely in collaboration. In fact, the previous job of the person who heads the petrol sniffing strategy unit here was doing the face-to-face work with retailers, trying to spread it so that they would coordinate. In our experience, these days it really runs quite well. There were a few notes that I had arising from his comments. One was that, when he was talking about the establishment costs of Opal, what he was actually talking about was establishing new supply points and outlets, not replacing existing unleaded. So what he was talking about was the commercial cost, such as up at the Tanami, of setting up a new shop altogether, which I would not think should necessarily be covered by a government subsidy to establish a new business, whereas we fully support replacing existing supply. We would like Opal everywhere—I am not trying to talk down their good work in doing that—but replacing existing supply of standard unleaded is an absolute priority. If, as he suggested, the transport subsidy were not meeting the real cost of doing that then we would argue that that should be reviewed and amended.

It should be at no cost to the retailer or to the supplier. Otherwise, it will not work. It did sound as though in Tennant Creek at least he had been able to negotiate a happy balance and had had a transport subsidy which met the real cost of getting their supply there off. I hope that continues. Perhaps that is something you could ask the department, about how they calculate that cost and whether they have any plans to review it.

Mr McFarland : I do not think the subsidy has changed since the very beginning. In the very beginning, the Opal roll-out zone was quite small and in the middle. Subsequent to that other far-flung zones have been put into it and I do not think the subsidy has been re-negotiated at any point. So I think Tristan's point is a really good one: to capture that new zone you have to have a closer look at the true costs of meeting Opal around.

Mr Ray : Another point is that he seemed to accept that at one point that there was not Opal in Alpurrurulam and that is wrong. He was talking about establishing a new supply point, a competing outlet in Alpurrurulam. The shire have a bowser there which has sold Opal for many years. So there has been Opal in Alpurrurulam for many years, yet sniffing has continued because nearby outlets refuse to sell Opal fuel.

Mr McFarland : Another place he mentioned where he was in negotiation was Bonya, which does not have a petrol bowser. It is a really small community with 50 people in it. It has a little part-time shop and no petrol b owser. The people there get sniffable petrol from the station next door.

Senator SIEWERT: That is why they wanted something there.

Mr McFarland : Yes. There was a sniffing outbreak recently in Bonya and we recently used some of that very handy Attorney-General's money to put in a fairly immediate response by having a youth program there. It is finishing up this week—a school holiday program. The shop manager/CEO was in negotiation with Caltex to see whether they could get some sort of storage facility there so they could again to sell Opal petrol to the people in the community.

Senator SIEWERT: That does not deal with the sniffable supply coming from the station, does it?

Mr McFarland : It does not. That is right.

Senator SIEWERT: You can fill up your vehicles there but if people are looking for sniffable fuel they will go next door. So the issue of access to sniffable fuel would still have to be resolved, would it not?

Mr McFarland : Yes. I have a feeling it resolved because the shop did not have $150,000. They looked into it but I have a feeling they could not afford that sort of capital outlay on the turnover they get.

Senator SIEWERT: The cheaper option would be to get to the station to convert. Is there a reason why they will not?

Mr McFarland : I do not know that they have been approached. Bonya has very occasional sniffing outbreaks. I have never approached them and I do not think we have. You would have to ask Health and Ageing whether they have approached them.

Mr Ray : We tend to focus our efforts on where we are hearing lots of sniffing happens and push for the cut-off of that supply. There has not been enough at Bonya to make that a priority.

Mr McFarland : To go back to the subsidy issue, this is another thing about the Opal zones. If things are in the zone, there is some scope for negotiation about getting Opal and paying well. Because Tennant Creek is in the Opal zone it was possible for them to negotiate to get the extra subsidy to get it there, but way out in Punmu it is not in the Opal zone, so I think it will languish. That is another limitation on the zone idea. Zones worked in the early days because we have to have a defined area. We started it because we said, 'Let's work out how much sniffing costs in this zone,' when we were trying to make the argument that it made good economic sense to do the subsidies, but now the zone seems, if anything, to be an impediment—are you in the zone, are you out of zone? And the zone does not have any implications for getting youth services. So it seems it is an idea that had its time but now communities should be allowed to join the scheme and the zone could be expanded accordingly.

Mr Ray : You asked about the ways DoHA could improve its relationship. I think it is worth noting that for the whole of Australia there are two people in DoHA whose job it is to negotiate with retailers.

Those individuals never say to us that they are hard done by, but to me it always seems like that that is very few people, given the size of the issue.

Senator SMITH: Where are they located, out of interest?

Mr Ray : One in Queensland, in Brisbane—

Mr McFarland : I think the other one is in Canberra.

Mr Ray : One moves between Canberra and—it is very remote work anyway, so in a sense that means that if you get the right person then where you are located does not matter so much. Given the nature of that, I wonder whether to some degree what has happened in Central Australia is that the ball has been dropped and that their efforts have been focused on the rollout in new regions, understandably. But when I look, and we realise that Kings Canyon has dropped off and Yulara is no longer locking premium, you have to ask whether the ball has been dropped in central Australia, because things have quietened down.

CHAIR: We checked with Yulara today and they said that they are locking premium.

Mr Ray : Great!

CHAIR: As a result of the evidence, we checked. The secretariat had spoken with them before today's hearing and clarified it. The report back we had from the area was that they are locking up premium.

Senator SMITH: That demonstrates what I think has been one of the constant themes, which is the lack of an accurate understanding around those 10, 12 or 15 outlets. I accept that it is a bit like chasing cats: you might achieve a success here, and then all of a sudden, for a whole range of reasons, someone else has escaped the net. It would be very interesting to hear from DoHA about what is an accurate statements and assessment of the position around those outlets.

Mr McFarland : I think the cat analogy is a very good one. I think that is why having it as a mandated thing means that the cat is in a little cage and cannot run away.

Senator SMITH: It has a cage, that's right.

Mr McFarland : A nice big cage.

Senator SMITH: We have heard a little bit of evidence today with regard to the situation in Western Australia, and about Warburton in particular. Do you have any comments and observations about that?

Mr McFarland : Just that if this whole process had happened when you guys originally suggested that it should happen there would be three years less brain damage and problems for that community. Clearly, the negotiations were never going to succeed with that person; that person was never going to come on-board voluntary. It took a tremendous shift to get safety for the children of Warburton. That is my observation.

Senator SIEWERT: In terms of Warburton, you can mandate this, and Laverton is doing it now, but you still have the issue of Kalgoorlie, which is running it in. So you either mandate it there or you could, if I understand the process of the Volatile Substance Abuse Prevention Act, complement the mandating process with an act like that, which would enable a management plan, which would then give the capacity to control petrol going in to a community.

Mr Ray : That is a reasonable step for that situation versus mandating in Kalgoorlie. If for some reason mandating in Kalgoorlie was not doable than a management area would be a reasonable step.

Senator SIEWERT: The two could complement each other.

Mr Ray : Yes. They would reinforce each other, but that said it depends on the police enforcement. We are quite aware that—it is probably a bit different—Lake Nash has a management area and a police station and lots of sniffing.

Senator SIEWERT: Point taken.

Mr Ray : It is not a complete fix-it, but equally the components are there to fix that up, with the right people looking over their shoulders of the police—and I am sure there would be people in Warburton who would do that.

CHAIR: Are you aware of any technical advances in terms of looking at extensions of the skills that produced Opal to looking at what is happening with premium level? We have heard evidence from a number of people saying that there are vehicles that recommend and in some cases demand that you use a premium blend and, while ever that is there, there is going to be another option.

We have got diesel, we have got premium, and we have got Opal and other low-aroma fuels. So we will be talking to BP, because they were the ones who developed Opal—to international acclaim; it was not just a good thing but also very profitable for BP and a highly valuable component of their stock. But I am worried, because we know that the premium option is there. With all the research you do in the area, are you aware of any science research looking at a premium blend that has the same lack of aromatic poison?

Mr McFarland : I helped them do the Opal rollout in Kakadu, so I was up with BP technicians, travelling around with them, and they think it is a bit of a Holy Grail: trying to get enough bang out of petrol without it being inhalable. They can do it with low-octane fuel but at this stage they think they just cannot do it with premium, with the proviso that, if they spent enough money, they might be able to do it—but not at the moment. I guess they also have to look at the commercial end of things, such as how much of it they would sell and would it really be worth their while.

Mr Ray : I think another factor there is that, to date, there have not been substantial issues with sniffing premium because, largely, people who sniff petrol are not buying it—they are stealing it; and because, largely, the cars that are around them are cars that use standard unleaded. But, as forecast, there is that discussion about there being less use of standard unleaded down the track. We have not yet seen any evidence of that and, as mentioned, we tend to focus our efforts on where the sniffing is now. Should that start to rear its head—and it sounds like it will, down the track—accepting that there may never be an Opal premium and we have this window of time where all the cars around that generation are standard unleaded cars, to us that is all the more reason we cannot spend five years—or 30 years, as someone mentioned yesterday—or even two negotiating this. We need to do this in a hurry and grab this window of opportunity, and we think mandating legislation is going to give us the best chance of grabbing the window.

CHAIR: Is there anything you would like to add that we have not extracted from you?

Mr Ray : Just one: when the Chamber of Commerce NT witness made the point about testing the mileage that you get out of different fuels, she was comparing different fuels. One was a high-octane fuel and one was a standard unleaded fuel, so you would expect there to be a variation in the mileage that you get.

CHAIR: And a variation in the cost.

Mr Ray : And a variation in cost, yes.

Mr McFarland : The only other thing, just to reiterate what Tristan said, is that Opal is a window. There will be a point when it is quite possible that standard unleaded will not be around, and maybe by then we will have morphed into a society that only uses diesel cars. But it does not look like it is going that way; it looks more like—

CHAIR: Can you sniff diesel?

Mr McFarland : No, you cannot.

CHAIR: Well, I guess you can sniff anything, and in our previous inquiry we did talk about the fact that you could sniff Opal and tell yourself you were actually getting the high. People can sniff anything; that is just a reality. So you could sniff diesel, but it would not give you the impact?

Mr McFarland : That is correct. At this stage, there is premium everywhere in town, and a lot of people are using premium in their cars instead of Opal because they are frightened of Opal. So, once in a while, somebody sniffs premium. There is that gentleman the Titjikala people talked about who is a crazy sniffer. When he is walking around, he has got his hands on premium, but he is just about the only one who sniffs petrol in town at this stage, despite there being lots of premium around. It is sort of an issue that is not there, so we are not chasing it.

CHAIR: Which is interesting in itself, isn't it?

Mr McFarland : Yes, it is. It is really fascinating.

Mr Ray : Because the cars that are around the kids who sniff, in their town camps and around their homes, are not cars that use premium.

Mr McFarland : It is all about opportunity. I guess that just emphasises again that we have this window and we should try to capitalise on it. The second paper we will table is about youth programs, how wonderful they are, how they should be funded and how every kid should have access to one, rather than geography being people's destiny, where if you live in this town you get one but if you live in that town you do not.

Senator SIEWERT: Will that also reinforce all the different programs to us so that we are reminded of the different areas that you can access funding from? Even though I have asked about them at estimates and have been told many times, it still gets confusing when you are talking to people about which program they are actually accessing funds from.

Mr Ray : We can do a little bit on where the various sources of youth services funding are—

Senator MOORE: Then we would know every grant to write for.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be really useful.

Mr Ray : We try to be!

Mr McFarland : But there often are not any. This is one of the issues. There is not a program that will just provide youth services funding in remote communities. What we have is out-of-school hours and vacation care, which is a school based thing. DEEWR used to sort of turn a bit of a blind eye to it being used for non-school kids, but they are getting much more—

Senator SIEWERT: We heard.

Mr McFarland : That used to be the only funding for youth programs. NT sport and rec put in bits of money but it was insufficient to run a program that needs $28,000 per community. They were the two sources that existed before the intervention came in, and over time the intervention started turning more and more of its funding into youth programs. They had the Youth Alcohol Diversion Measure and youth and communities—and now youth and communities is going on. That is the only source of ongoing youth programs money. The AGs only came into existence because they had to spend money for petrol sniffing and one AG person in town was creative enough to say, 'Give it to CAYLUS as a brokerage and we will spend it on diversionary activities'.

Senator SIEWERT: And it finishes in June.

Mr McFarland : It finishes in June, and they have very much been hosing down any expectation that we will get any more, because it does not have very clear connections to crime.

Mr Ray : We think it does, but—

Senator SMITH: You would think a good use of government funding would be to support positive behaviours, not just negative ones. When we talk about funding for youth programs, what are the composite elements and costs that are attached to that? I am assuming that wages is a key and significant component. What are the other components—if you were to do a rough estimation: 80 per cent was this and 20 per cent was this?

Mr McFarland : Probably 80 per cent wages, 10 per cent operationals and 10 per cent travel because of the remote communities.

Mr Ray : You also have substantial capital costs. When you are delivering in remote communities you need to house workers. That often means building a house if there is not one there already. We have had some success in getting royalties money in the NT and slowly we have now built six houses for youth workers that we own but we let other agencies put their staff in because of tenure difficulties.

Senator SIEWERT: Is that ABA money?

Mr Ray : Yes. You also have to establish sites to run programs in—youth centres or drop-in centres—and you need a space to run programs in. But the very first thing you need is staff, so that is where we tend to start. If you do not have people you do not have anything.

CHAIR: There are a few BER halls at schools.

Mr Ray : That is true.

CHAIR: One of the core things that those halls are supposed to be used for is community activity.

Mr Ray : It is often complex to establish access to NT government facilities.

CHAIR: If there are problems with that we need to know, because when the BER process was being developed the idea with those BER halls was that they were going to be there for community. It would seem to me that the kind of work that you are talking about, youth programs outside school hours, would be something that should be on the table. If there are issues with that, we would like to hear about them.

Mr Ray : Yes.

Senator SMITH: Your comment is pointing to the fact that some facilities may not be fully utilised because they cannot be accessed during certain times of the day or certain times of the week.

Mr McFarland : That is correct.

Senator SMITH: It sounds like quite a simple thing to—

Mr McFarland : You would think so, wouldn't you. We have had very little success in getting access to NT department of education resources on any level. Even where you have quite supportive principals on the ground—

CHAIR: They have to get approval from the office.

Mr McFarland : And they cannot, so it seems as if further up in the education department they are quite risk averse and so they do not go down that track.

CHAIR: Mr McFarland and Mr Ray, thank you very much. We deeply appreciate your information. If there is anything you think the committee needs to know, as always, just let us know. Thank you.

Committee adjourned at 16:09