The pickings are slim from a search for “youth” and “indigenous art gallery” in the 256,441 word draft transcripts of the Parliamentary Estimates last week.
That’s when ministers and senior public servants have to front up so that they can be asked questions by Members of Parliament – usually Independents or from the Opposition.
Of course that doesn’t mean they will necessarily provide full and frank answers: Passing the buck, babbling generalities and taking questions on notice are frequently resorted to.
Of these two most prominent issues in Alice Springs, the Indigenous art gallery, didn’t get a mention at all on Wednesday and Thursday, and only a brief one on Tuesday.
It was raised by Independent MLA for Araluen Robyn Lambley who – inexplicably – didn’t ask the 65,000 thousand dollar question: Is the NT Government going to pursue the gallery project, with its promised $50m as part-funding, only if it is built on ANZAC Oval?
That is what MLA for Braitling Dale Wakefield has firmly indicated. She has announced that she is going to sort this thing out despite her actual portfolio – Families – requiring her intensive attention, as the Q&A about the town’s second issue made very clear.
Ms Lambley, when asked to comment after the hearing, says Arts Minister Lauren Moss will be before Estimates tomorrow and “will be asked questions on the art gallery”.
Last week Treasurer Nicole Manison agreed to answer questions about it although “I do not have carriage of that”.
Ms Lambley asked why there is only “$50m on the table for a project that looks like costing more than $150m” and the project is due to start “in 18 months or two years’ time”?
MANISON: There has been a great deal of planning work around it. There has been a great deal of community debate and discussion around it … there has to be work to talk to philanthropic type organisations as well … I do not have the answers. I think the questions would be best placed to the Minister for Tourism and Culture, who is driving that project and process. She will be able to talk to you about their plans and how they will deliver that project.
It appears Ms Manison hasn’t heard of Ms Wakefield’s take-over, but then neither had Chief Minister Michael Gunner until Ms Wakefield announced it in the media.
LAMBLEY: It would be the responsibility [of the Minister for Tourism and Culture] to approach philanthropic organisations?
MANISON: They are managing the project delivery.
LAMBLEY: And the funding?
MANISON: Yes. We will work closely with them on the delivery of the infrastructure. We are not at that point yet, so there is still a lot of project planning. I think you know too well about the community debate about the location and the delivery of the cultural centre. There is more debate happening — the Department of Tourism and Culture is project managing this at this stage. When it comes to the design and delivery of the infrastructure that is where DIPL [the Department of Infrastructure, Planing and Logistics] will be involved.
LAMBLEY: What comes first — the successful procurement, getting the funding, then the design? Or will you design it and then get the funding? There is the possibility you will not get as much additional funding from the philanthropic organisations as you would like.
MANISON: There is a very real possibility here. The Department of Tourism and Culture may say this is what we think we can get, or that it is just the $50m contribution from government. Then we would sit down as an agency with DIPL and see what can be delivered.
Questioning on youth issues was far more extensive but Darwin-weighted, not surprisingly as many questions came from Deputy Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro, MLA for the Top End seat of Spillett, and one of the two Members making up the Opposition.
“Can you please explain how schools are now working with youth engagement police officers,” Ms Lambley asked Mr Gunner. The issue of bringing back school based constables was recently raised by Tabby Fudge of the NT Council of Government School Organisations (COGSO).
GUNNER: In 2016, under the previous government, there was a change to youth engagement police officers and how they work with schools. Essentially, mainly in the Darwin and Palmerston areas.
Police Commissioner Reece KERSHAW: We will coalesce part of our Youth Division, our Youth Diversion Officers and our Youth Engagement police and our Community Engagement police into one division, supported by our judicial operation section, because they are the ones who work out who is diverted [from the court process] and so on.
FINOCCHIARO: So are school based constables part of this new strategy or could they be part of it?
KERSHAW: They are. The youth engagement police are school based. That model we are looking at is a cluster model … because we cannot be in every single school. We have finite resources and we are prioritising those schools.
GUNNER: We have involved Education and COGSO into the conversation. There is advice we have around schools and school needs … as the commissioner mentioned, there is also a whole [number] of youth that do not present through the schools that we want to make sure we are working with. They are often the ones that are more likely to present as problems for us later on.
FINOCCHIARO: Are youth in bail accommodation being fitted with electronic monitoring bracelets or is this one for Territory Families?
GUNNER: That is one for Territory Families.
FINOCCHIARO: With the eight bracelets that were issued, where were they issued, so Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine? There was talk of trial sites at the beginning of this policy.
GUNNER: Alice Springs and Palmerston.
KERSHAW: Yes, Alice Springs and Palmerston — definitely Alice Springs and Darwin.
GUNNER: We do not have the breakdown, we can take it on notice.
KERSHAW: Five in Darwin and three in Alice Springs.
FINOCCHIARO: Thank you.
At Thursday’s hearing Ms Finocchiaro asked Health Minister Natasha Fyles: What will happen to the funds raised through the [alcohol] minimum floor price?”
FYLES: It aims to get rid of that really cheap wine that we see for sale, the $4 and $5 products. The minimum floor price will go to retailers, but it is important to note that we are shifting to a risk based licensing model, so they will see an increase of licensing fees. Currently a licence is $200 … our risk based model is not designed to recoup all costs, but it is designed to acknowledge the profit that is made and the impact of alcohol on community. We are still working through that detail. We are finalising the categories of licences and then the fees.
FINOCCHIARO: Have additional resources been provided to victims of crime to fund participation in victim conferencing, and how many conferences have been convened last financial year?
FYLES: The victim conferencing falls within Territory Families, so they will be able to provide you with specific figures for youth justice. We have created two new positions for Victims of Crime NT, one in Darwin and one in Alice Springs. The focus of these positions will be providing ongoing support of victims of crime, particularly in the youth justice conferencing process. The Alice Springs position will have the capacity to provide some core victim services in Central Australia.
FINOCCHIARO: How is government measuring Key Performance Indicators for victim conferencing?
FYLES: [Ask] Territory Families.
FINOCCHIARO: Does your department have the stats on how many victims are choosing to participate as opposed to declining the opportunity?
FYLES: Of victim conferencing?
FYLES: Territory Families would provide you perhaps with some specifics … we are collecting overall stats but it is too early, I am advised, to provide that in relation to victims.
Ms Wakefield has declined to answer similar questions put to her by the Alice Springs News Online. She will be appearing at the Estimates on Wednesday from 8am till 3pm.
FINOCCHIARO: What is the total amount budgeted for alternative bail accommodation? So that is youth justice.
FYLES: Youth justice [questions] would be for the Minister for Territory Families.
Children’s Commissioner Colleen Gwynne told the Estimates hearing that her role is “primarily as an independent, reviewing child protection and youth justice systems, which includes monitoring and auditing of those systems after the new positions come on board.”
Former CLP Chief Minister and MLA for Blain, Terry Mills asked Ms Gwynne: “You refer to your role as being monitoring and auditing systems, which I assume means you are able to stand outside and gain an objective view of the system.
“When you consider a young girl in Tennant Creek with 52 notifications surrounding attempts to protect her, I start to wonder about how many man hours have been involved in this exercise concerning that family.
“What is the cost associated with the attempt to deliver care to that particular girl?
“Is that the sort of role you would take from your objective position of monitoring and auditing the system to see how much is actually spent because government speaks about investment, but the return is really a critical element when government talks about evidence based approaches?”
GWYNNE: So your question is, would we go into that sort of detail in our monitoring?
GWYNNE: Probably not … the reason why monitoring and auditing is so important is that you hope to get in front of the game. That particular initiative report showed some significant gaps in our system, there is no doubt about that, and I do not think anyone in this room disagrees with that. The reason why monitoring is so important, and we will have the capacity to undertake that in the future, is that it enables you to look at the systemic gaps in all the systems before there is something like this occurring.
MILLS: The assumption then is that the objective view that you are required to take as the Commissioner, is not really to question the system but just to monitor the system. Consequently no one receives any sanction as a result of the failure to provide care in using the case of the girl in Tennant Creek.
GWYNNE: My role is to present the evidence, so in terms of sanctions I think that is more a matter for the departments … I do not think it is my role to determine sanctions in relation to that.
MILLS: But recommend sanctions?
GWYNNE: To recommend sanctions. If you found that person or persons had failed to undertake their role in compliance with legislation, we will highlight where their deficiencies are, but I do not think it is my role to determine what happens from there.
MILLS: I understand that. I am talking about the role of monitoring and auditing surely would go, not just to the observation of the machinery in play but whether that has actually resulted in delivery of care. I can understand that that body of reporting would then require a political decision or a message to be sent that this has not occurred. The child has not been protected. I understand what you say.
LAMBLEY: One of the original roles of the Children’s Commissioner, when it was established, was to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Little Children are Sacred Report. Will that be one of your roles with the new Royal Commission Report. Will you be monitoring the implementation of all those recommendations?
GWYNNE: No, it is not a role of my office. I think there will be a separate office that will monitor how those recommendations are rolled out.
LAMBLEY: Is that something that you will be overseeing and taking command of?
FYLES: It will be a question for Minister for Territory Families. I know there were substantial changes made. I am not sure if it was when you were the Minister, Member for Araluen.
LAMBLEY: I am just asking the Independent Children’s Commissioner, whether or not her office will be monitoring the implementation of those recommendations.
GWYNNE: No, that is not a function.