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Public Sector Response Times

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (14:34): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Treasurer, representing the Premier, questions regarding the public sector.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: The Department of the Premier and Cabinet Circular 43 states that the public sector agencies are required to provide a substantive response to correspondence within four weeks. This is on the condition that the correspondence has been addressed to a minister or agency senior executive and that it is reasonable to expect the information, a decision or a policy position from the government. However, this time frame does not apply if the correspondence is between government agencies. My questions to the Premier are:

1. Can the Premier advise if this policy applies to correspondence from members of parliament?

2. Why does this policy not apply for correspondence between government agencies?

3. What is the expected time frame that correspondence between government agencies should receive a response?

4. What is the policy time frame for responses to members of parliament?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (14:35): I am happy to take the honourable member's question on notice and bring back an expeditious reply, in line with the new requirements in this chamber. I would make a brief comment, however. I think the honourable member does raise a very interesting question. One of the bodies of work which does not have as high a priority as, obviously, preparing the September budget but which we are having a look at is the considerable number of Treasurer's Instructions, DPC circulars, commissioner's determinations and premier's directions, and a variety of other directives which govern the operations of government departments and agencies.

Frankly, in my view it is ripe for some reform and some consolidation in terms of what should be good practice and good governance. The member has just referred to one particular aspect, and I make no comment about that. The point I make is that I think these determinations, decisions, circulars and instructions have grown like Topsy over many decades, and no-one at any stage has actually sat down and had a good hard look at them: which ones are still useful and appurtenant; which ones have outgrown their usefulness; which ones ought to be reformed, reviewed or updated; and which ones, frankly, might need to be discarded in the modern day environment.

That is a body of work I have commenced. I have advised my ministerial colleagues of the current arrangements that apply but that at some stage in the future I believe we should have a look at this process. We have started some work on the Treasurer's Instructions already, but in relation to the other areas they will be the subject of further discussion and review. I would invite the honourable member, who is an assiduous reader of some of these, and indeed any others, if they have views in relation to the usefulness or otherwise of some of the current determinations, decisions, circulars and instructions, I would be pleased to receive them.


Answer to Question

5 September 2018

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I am advised:

1. Yes, this includes correspondence from Members of Parliament.

2. Public Sector employees are expected to be responsive and act in support of service excellence, in accordance with the Public Sector Code of Ethics. This offers more flexibility in how agencies deal with each other.

3. There is currently no specific timeframe within which agencies must respond to correspondence from other government agencies and is managed on a case by case basis.

4. Responses to correspondence from Members of Parliament would need to be provided within the four-week timeframe in accordance with this Circular.