I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Consumer Affairs on the subject of the Residential Tenancies Tribunal.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: My office has been contacted by several landlords and residential managers who have expressed concerns with delays in having disputes and applications for bond refunds heard by the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. My understanding is that it is not uncommon for hearings to take some 12 to 16 weeks to be heard from the time of application. It has been suggested to me that staffing levels within the Residential Tenancies Tribunal have been cut or vacancies not filled and the situation has been like this for the last six months. My questions are:
1. Does the minister believe that waiting up to 16 weeks is an acceptable time frame for hearings?
2. What is the current FTE of the Residential Tenancies Tribunal?
3. Is this different from what it was 12 months ago, or is there some other explanation, such as staff illness or vacancies?
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, Minister for Gambling) (14:32): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. As I have said in this place before, if honourable members have specific examples of issues that they would like me to respond to, I am more than happy to do that. If the honourable member has any examples of specific cases that she would like me to follow up and investigate, unless I have details of those cases I am not able to look up the relevant information.
As usual, what we find is the opposition coming into this place with unfounded information, often inaccurate information; they just sound off and make up figures as they go along. That is what we find happens in this place. They just make up information as they go along. Members would be well aware that savings have been made right across all government agencies. The Residential Tenancies Tribunal also shared in some of those savings. I don't carry around FTE numbers for all my agencies in my head—I know that that might surprise you, Mr President, but in fact I don't—but I am happy to look up those details to find those actual numbers.
I can assure members that indeed cuts were made across all our agencies in terms of FTEs. Each agency had to share in that, because of the economic crisis that was incurred internationally and that affected us here in Australia—not so much here in South Australia, I should put on the record; we fared very well in this state when we compare ourselves to other states and also other nations. Nevertheless, we are still feeling the aftermath of that crisis and, as I said, one of our strategies was to make cuts to our public sector numbers. They were shared right across all agencies, and the Residential Tenancies Tribunal would have been affected by that as well. So, in terms of the actual numbers, I am happy to take that on notice and to bring those back to this place.
I can assure members that what we endeavour to do, wherever possible, is to have the most minimal impact on our front-line services as possible. We attempted, wherever we could, to look at administrative services, to look at where services were being shared or duplicated and to improve and streamline back-of-shop-type services. So that is what we attempted to do. We worked very hard to ensure there was a minimal impact on front-line services but, as I said, I am happy to take those detailed questions on notice that and bring back a response.