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Libraries - Budget Provision
MR BERRY: Mrs Carnell, again you have the chance to respond to - - -
Ms Follett: Try not to swear.
MR BERRY: No, it is all right.
MR SPEAKER: Order! Mr Berry has the floor, officially, too, this time.
MR BERRY: I will read this very slowly so that you get the gist of the question. We are in pursuit of an answer here, not a mouthful. How do you propose to remove $1.1m from the $7m library budget, which is about a 16 per cent reduction? Given your commitment that managers will not be making political decisions, which service cuts will be political?
MRS CARNELL: We have directed that library hours will not be reduced. Our approach in this budget has been that managers will manage, as they always should have. In the library area there is a cut, as I said this morning on radio, in salary outlays for libraries. We have been told, and we know, that by better usage of staff - - -
Mr Berry: Staff are the people who unlock the doors, you know.
MRS CARNELL: Staff are the major cost in the ACT public service right across the board. We will be requiring better usage of staff in every area - not just libraries, but right across the board - simply because we will not continue to spend money that we do not have, unlike you mob. In the library area we will be bringing in new efficiencies, things such as the introduction of an electronic client checkout system that will allow library users to process their own library borrowings. That will cut staff requirements. There will be a review of current staffing arrangements, particularly in central overhead areas. Vacant positions are not being filled and temporary staff are being replaced by excess officers. That is exactly the sort of thing that you should have been doing. You should have been ensuring that current staff were used better. If you had done that you would not have ended up with such a horrible financial situation. You would not have ended up in a situation where the Consolidated Fund hit zero earlier this year.
MR BERRY: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Will you therefore give an unequivocal commitment that no library will close? Will you also give an unequivocal commitment that library hours and services will not be cut?
Mrs Carnell: Forever?
MR BERRY: Just for the term of your Government; in your three-year budget will do. Will you give an unequivocal commitment that no library will close? Will you give an unequivocal commitment that library hours and services will not be cut?
MRS CARNELL: We have given a direction that library hours and services will not be cut. In fact, what we are talking about is increasing library services by better electronic link-up, by better use of information technology.