Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 2848 ..
MS TUCKER (11.21): I will be supporting this amendment. I have to pick up a few points that Mr Humphries made before. I thought that he would understand our position on this issue, because we have spoken about it at length in the Assembly before. But I will repeat, although he is not here, for his benefit, why we have general concerns about using contracts in the public service. We have made it quite clear that there is a danger that job security concerns could undermine the capacity to offer fearless advice in long-term planning. We have made the statement that this legislation, in its current form, is about privatising and further politicising the bureaucracy and setting up a culture of efficiency rules in the higher echelons of public sector management.
We obviously have concerns about the Senior Executive Service. I did state before that it may be appropriate to put some people on contracts. There does not seem to be any real evaluation of where a contract is appropriate and where it is not. We have also highlighted, over and over again, that these contracts are based on an evaluation of performance that we do not necessarily have great confidence in. How do we measure performance? We must acknowledge that performance itself is a subjective assessment. We are concerned that governments, on the whole, are moving towards a narrower definition of performance, based on efficiency and outputs.
We have to get our performance indicators right. It has not happened so far. We were very concerned at the poor quality of performance indicators right through the estimates process. We are not confident at all that this Government is going to be putting together contracts that are going to reflect the common good, the social good and the environmental good of our community. We do not see any integration in the indicators for the economy, social policy and environment across programs. We have concerns right across the board about how this Government is so-called managing. We want to see these contracts, if they are going to occur - and I will be speaking to that later - open, so that at least we have some chance of making an assessment and critique of how effective they are going to be for the good of our community.
The contracts change the basis of accountability from public accountability to accountability for contract specifications. The focus on performance indicators represents a narrow understanding of performance evaluation. We will be supporting this amendment.
MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (11.24): Very briefly, I wish to clarify one other point that Ms Follett raised, and that was the point of part-time employment. There is no problem in this legislation in having a contract that is for 10 hours, 20 hours or 30 hours. There is no requirement for that contract to be for full-time employment. I am not too confident that the part-time provisions of the previous Act were used very often at all.
MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (11.24): What we have had from Mrs Carnell is an obfuscation of the issue of who is doing what in other public services. I would like to repeat that the Commonwealth has not moved to all compulsory contracts for its SES. Contract provisions are available, as they are in the ACT; but there is no compulsion about contract employment. Queensland has not moved to all contract employment. In South Australia, new senior executives will be on contract; existing senior executives retain their existing conditions. Their legislation is prospective; not retrospective, as we are seeing put forward by the Government here.