Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport portfolio
Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport
This chapter contains the key issues discussed during the 2011-12 additional
estimates hearings for the Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport
portfolio. A number of agencies provided evidence at the same time during these
hearings, and as such this chapter reflects that arrangement. A complete list
of all the topics discussed, and relevant Hansard page numbers, can be
found at Appendix 5.
The committee heard evidence from the department on Tuesday 14 February 2012.
The hearing was conducted in the following order:
- Corporate Services
- Regional Development
- Services to Territories
- Australia Council
- Office for the Arts; Screen Australia; National Film and Sound
Archive; National Gallery of Australia; National Library of Australia; National
Museum of Australia (appeared concurrently)
- Office for Sport; Australian Sports Commission (appeared
The committee began its proceedings with the Department of Regional
Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport (DRALGAS) with an opening statement
by the Secretary, Ms Glenys Beauchamp. Ms Beauchamp provided information
relating to the creation of the department, and its main policies and programs.
Ms Beauchamp informed the committee that DRALGAS was created on
14 December 2011, and that its key functions are:
...the provision of community infrastructure and services in
regional and local government areas and financial support to local government;
maintaining good governance in the Australian territories and providing
essential services for the non-self governing territories; providing
opportunities for participation and access to Australia’s arts and culture; to
promote excellence and provide support for cultural heritage; and providing
opportunities for community participation in sport and recreation; and to promote
excellence in high-performance athletes.
The committee sought further information on how the department was
planning to meet the efficiency dividend. Ms Beauchamp informed the committee
that the machinery of government changes that created the department may
actually assist in meeting the efficiency dividend, as DRALGAS has a number of
locations across Australia, and it may now be possible to co-locate the sport,
arts and regional functions to save on accommodation.
The committee questioned DRALGAS on a range of programs and grants that it
administers in regional Australia and local government areas. In particular, the
committee sought further information on the Community Infrastructure Grants
program. Officers detailed the assessment process, the amount of funding
allocated to each approved application, and provided an update as to the status
of each project.
The committee asked similar questions in relation to the Regional
Development Australia Fund, and sought information on the progress of the 292
requests for feedback that the department had received from participants of the
first round of applicants for the fund.
The committee sought further information on the North Queensland
Irrigated Agriculture Strategy, a study that will be conducted by the CSIRO. Officers
informed the committee that it is a joint initiative, with funding from both
the Commonwealth and Queensland governments. The strategy will work with
farmers and regional communities to look at viability and farm practices around
irrigated agriculture on the Flinders and Gilbert rivers.
Officers explained that while it will build on work done previously
through the Sustainable Water Futures program, the CSIRO will be implementing
technology that has the ability to look into catchments and water modelling at
a level of detail that has not been possible before. This will allow the CSIRO
to look at surface water opportunities, as well as storage opportunities.
The committee sought further information on the Australia Council's
notice for review process, and its fair notice provisions. Officers told the
committee that the fair notice provisions generally provide a 12-month notice
period, from when bodies are told they are put 'on notice', to when they are
notified that their funding will be discontinued. Officers also told the
committee that in some cases, it is possible to be put on notice for multiple
years, before a decision is made to discontinue funds.
The committee discussed the register of peers, and the processes
involved in applying to join the register. Officers explained that any
individual can apply to join the register of peers, but whether or not that
individual is selected to peer review work is a decision for the board.
The committee sought further information on the review of the Australia
Council. Officers informed the committee that the outcomes of the review will
be reflected in the National Cultural Policy, which has received 450
submissions, and has held significant consultation with the sector.
Officers also told the committee that while the review of the Australia Council
will not be made public while the National Cultural Policy is in development,
it will be a decision for the minister whether the review is released once the
National Cultural Policy has been completed.
The National Gallery of Australia, National Film and Sound Archive, National
Library of Australia and National Museum of Australia were each asked what
actions had been put in place to meet the 1.5 per cent efficiency dividend:
- The National Gallery of Australia told the committee that it
postponed several exhibitions, reduced the number of touring exhibitions by a
small amount and have not filled the 17 positions made vacant in 2011.
- The National Film and Sound Archive told the committee that it is
reducing costs on travel, and is looking into the use of mobile phones and ICT
services to find efficiencies.
- The National Library of Australia told the committee that it has
reduced the level of retrospective cataloguing, increased the charges for inter-library
loans and reduced the level of support for some internal help desk services.
- The National Museum of Australia told the committee that in
2011-12 it undertook a round of voluntary redundancies, reduced the temporary
exhibition program, and the smaller exhibitions have been reduced from tweleve
The committee also discussed a further $7.5 million of funding
allocated to the Football Federation of Australia announced in the Portfolio
Additional Estimates Statements. Officers informed the committee that the
funding was already accounted for and is not additional funding.
The committee sought further information on what input the Office for
Sport had in the recently announced $15 million upgrade to Bellerive Oval
in Tasmania. Officers explained that the Office for Sport provided background
information on the plans for the redevelopment of the oval to the Department of
the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and that the funding was made as a separate
process from Regional Development Australia.
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