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Estimates: what we learned

WHAT started as a frustrating week ended the same way, with the State Government tiptoeing  around questions that it didn’t want to answer, providing little solace or information to public sector workers.
Your union listened to a number of committees during the week to hear direct from ministers what was happening in their agencies, Members’ workplaces. However, answers to even the most pointed questions were ignored or deflected, especially when it came to cuts and reductions in capacity and services.
Here are a few things we did learn from estimates:

Primary Industries: Jeremy Rockliff

  • Minister Jeremy Rockliff refused to answer a question on what is and isn’t a frontline role in his agency but spent spend 10 minutes talking about bumble bees.
  • When asked about morale being at rock bottom in Biosecurity Tasmania, Mr Rockliff categorically refuted this and said according to the people he talks to Biosecurity staff are happy with everything that is going on.

Education: Jeremy Rockliff

  • Minister Rockliff couldn’t provide detail on the FTE reduction this year compared to last for IT support, Guaranteeing Futures or Learning Services, or other areas of education.
    When talking about Education, Minister Rockliff said “We haven’t sacked anyone”.
  • Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff still can’t say which Online Access Centres will close or merge or be absorbed into schools, 12 months after flagging it as a cost saving measure. No further information, despite 12 months of work.
  • Minister confirms that the actual work of the My Education program, which used to be done by Pathway Planners, is now and will continue to be done by teachers and principals. Mr Rockliff said My Education was “fully embraced by TCCI and industry”.

Human Services – Jacquie Petrusma

  • 3000 Housing Tasmania properties contained asbestos (almost one in four) – $90m to remove
  • Public Housing waiting lists are up by more than 40%.
  • Ms Petrusma couldn’t outline how much of the DHHS savings would come from her portfolios and refused to say what the Human Service cuts were.

Health – Michael Ferguson

  • Mr Ferguson blamed “capacity and staffing constraints” for elective surgery waiting lists, which were 42% longer last December than the previous year. 
  • DHHS effectively had met its target of 224 fewer FTEs in 2014-15

State Growth – Matthew Groom

  • The Minister refused to narrow down where FTE reductions in this agency had come from.
  • When asked about morale in this Agency, Mr Groom said “we recognise that what the Department of State Growth had to deal with in savings through the course of this last year was a very difficult thing”.

Attorney General – Vanessa Goodwin

  • Attorney General Vanessa Goodwin refused to say what was and wasn’t a front line public sector job but read aloud a five page response to a Dorothy dixer from one of her colleagues.

Environment, Parks and Heritage – Matthew Groom

  • The Minister was stumped, when it was pointed out that there were 48 vacant Parks and Wildlife Service positions.
  • Mr Groom also admitted that he’d like more money for Parks.

Resources – Paul Harriss

  • The Resources Minister said it wasn’t appropriate to answer questions about Forestry Tasmania until GBE scrutiny time in December.
  • Mr Harriss said Tasmania “must not abandon its traditional industries”. The Minster told estimates that Forestry Tasmania was conducting proper negotiations with employees, and no one had been sacked.

Infrastructure: Rene Hidding

  • Mr Hidding said “In terms of human resources – the heavy lifting has been done.  I am enormously impressed with the leadership of the Secretary”.
  • In regards to the Transport Systems Group, the estimates committee was told that a final decision had not been made in terms of outsourcing.  However, Deputy Secretary Swain said “we need to have a look at external contracting”.

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