Michelle Lensink

Attorney-General's Department

A question put forward to the Hon. B.V. FINNIGAN (Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for Gambling) regarding amalgamation of business units within the Attorney-General's Department.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:31): Thank you, Mr President. I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question about amalgamation of business units within the Attorney-General's Department.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In the most recent budget, the amalgamation of a number of business units was announced within the Attorney-General's Department, including OCBA and the Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner, which we are told will amount to a saving for the department of $23.3 million over four years.

I have been contacted by concerned people in industry, and they have voiced specific concerns that this move will result in loss of expertise in certain areas, leading to poorer licensing and policing outcomes. My questions are:

1.What consultation, if any, was conducted with industry prior to the announcement?

2.Given that the budget outlined that savings will occur in this current financial year, when will the process of amalgamation begin?

3.What commitments has the minister provided to industry to ease these concerns?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises) (14:32): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. The restructuring of the Attorney-General's Department was a budget savings initiative, which was put forward in light of our need to respond to the global economic crisis and to bring our budget back on line and to ensure that we had a long-term, sustainable approach to our budget, and that meant taking the hard decisions—and we made many of them—to bring our spending into check. The restructure of the AGD was one of those initiatives, and it went through those budgetary processes, along with other budget savings initiatives that were put forward and considered, and this one was finally adopted.

However, there is good news in this story—it is not all bad news—and I am very pleased to talk about this issue here today. As we know, the Attorney-General's Department is undergoing significant change and reform, and one of the main drivers has been the increase in the size of the department over recent years, through machinery of government changes. To maximise organisational strengths and address current structural limitations, the majority of the department's existing business units are being harmonised within the areas of organisational performance, building communities, and business and consumer services.

Each division, to be headed by a deputy chief executive, will lead the formation of a new divisional operating model. I have been advised that this reform will realise economies of skill and scale and seek to improve the value to the community and also to stakeholders. So, core capabilities will be brought together in centres of expertise and made available across the department to improve services to the community, and we believe that the public will, in fact, benefit by some of these changes.

The Consumer and Business Services division will be formed by the merger of the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs and the Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner. The position of Deputy Chief Executive for Consumer and Business Services has been filled by Mr Paul White, who has commenced in that role. He is an extremely competent and professional man. We have had feedback from the industry with high praise for the way that this gentleman operates—high praise, indeed. I think he is very well regarded in this state by all major industry stakeholders.

A project change team has been established to manage the change program; staff consultation has commenced; and ongoing staff and stakeholder consultation will occur throughout 2011. The roles and functions of the Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner and the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs will continue providing relevant, vital and also contemporary services in line with the community's needs and expectations during the change process and beyond. My understanding is that the harmonisation will result in the aggregation and streamlining of processes and functions common to both organisations.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:36): I have supplementary questions:

1. Has the minister had any representations from industry on this particular issue and, if so, what were they?

2. Does she accept that the amalgamation will, ultimately, lead to a diminution of licensing?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises) (14:36): I thank the honourable member for her questions. In terms of responding to the latter, no is the simple answer—no! I have just outlined the benefits that will be gained from the streamlining of services and the very structured way that we are going about making changes.

In relation to the representations, to the best of my knowledge I do not believe that I have received any delegations or representations in relation to the issues. I may have received correspondence from the HIA, but I will need to double-check that; there may be some correspondence on file. However, I can certainly reassure the honourable member that my office has not been overwhelmed by issues of concern raised by the industry. We have not been overwhelmed and, as I said, to the best of my knowledge I have not received any delegations.

To the best of my knowledge, I believe that I have only seen or am aware of one piece of correspondence. I think the honourable member is scaremongering. It is early days yet. The changes have only just started to be put in place and consultation with staff commenced, so it is early days yet. As I said, my office has not been overwhelmed by concerns or problems raised by the industry, certainly to this point. Obviously, that is something that I will continue to monitor, and I am happy to keep the chamber informed.

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