Page 250 - Week 01 - Thursday, 9 December 2004

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Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.

Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 2.30 pm.

Ministerial arrangements

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs): Before the commencement of question time today, for the information of members, my colleague Ted Quinlan, the Deputy Chief Minister and Treasurer, is absent on business of the government. I will be more than happy to take any questions that may be directed to him.

Questions without notice

Health—job cuts

MR SMYTH: My question without notice is to the Minister for Health. Minister, yesterday you confirmed that there would be redundancies in the human resources and finance areas of your department. When did you decide that redundancies were necessary within these areas of your department? How many positions will be axed, and why didn’t you advise the people of Canberra of your decision before the election?

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, this decision was taken subsequent to the election, not prior to it. It was not something that I had under consideration prior to the election, so there wasn’t anything to disclose. To give some background to members, the chief executive of the department, Dr Sherbon, has initiated a review, first, of the finance areas of the department, to be followed by a review of the human resources areas. They will be looked at closely to make sure that they meet best practice in terms of staffing levels and opportunities for greater efficiencies in those areas. Then decisions will be made as to what redundancies are possible and how they will be achieved. There is no definitive number at this stage, but it is an area that is being looked at as part of a standard workplace review—first of all of finance and then of human resources. It is being done in close consultation with the relevant workplace unions.

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Minister, what level of savings is being looked at? When will you advise the staff concerned of your decision about their jobs?

MR CORBELL: As I have just indicated, the department, through Dr Sherbon, is keeping in close consultation with workplace unions. They are being advised of the progress of a workplace review of finance in the first instance, which will be followed by a review of human resources. As I have said, the number of positions is unclear at this stage. Obviously, we believe there is some scope for efficiency in these areas, but the review process itself will determine that. It will help inform that decision, and any communications will be done in accordance with the relevant industrial agreement and in consultation with staff members and their union.

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