Service Victoria Bill 2017
Written on the 1 May 2018
1 May 2018
GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)
I rise this afternoon to make a short contribution to the Service Victoria Bill 2017 that members have been speaking very eloquently to this afternoon in relation to highlighting the issues that are very concerning around this bill.The purpose of this bill is to provide for the delivery of government services to the public by Service Victoria and for other purposes. As the explanatory memorandum states, it provides for the delivery of government services to the public, as I said, by Service Victoria and provides for a regulatory framework for the provision of identity verification functions by the Service Victoria CEO.
As members have reminded me in their contributions, when it comes to setting up an agency that is to be dealing with the ease of IT services, Labor governments have a very strong track record of failure in this area. Mr Rich-Phillips, who has carriage of this bill for the opposition, knows this only too well because when he became minister in 2010 he had to pick up the mess from the former Bracks and Brumby governments and their extraordinary failures in ICT projects. He did a very good job of fixing up the mess that he was left with, might I say. The former Ombudsman, Mr Brouwer, and the former Auditor-General have also highlighted the massive failings in the various projects.It might sound simple, as this government says in a media release spruiking Service Victoria being another step closer to giving the community easier access points to government services, but in actual fact what is being created is another level and layer of bureaucracy where government departments, of which there are many, and government offices of those various departments, of which there are many, throughout the state should be able to handle some of the very basics in relation to Victorians' personal details.
As I was saying, the former Auditor-General and former Ombudsman, when they conducted their inquiry into the failures of the former Labor government prior to the election of the coalition in 2010, studied 10 completed and discontinued projects that had a total budget of $1.3 billion but for which the costs blew out to $2.74 billion. Some of those, as I am reminded from a report that I have looked at, include the LINK database for Victoria Police, the HealthSMART project for the department of health, the Transport Ticketing Authority and Myki. Who on earth can forget the debacle of Myki? We are still living with that. What an extraordinary cost that particular IT project has been. Victorians have had to pay for that. It is a system that is hardly efficient. When you look at other IT ticketing systems around the world, why on earth the government wanted to create its own system and not look at what was working in other parts of the world, such as the Octopus card in Hong Kong and other such IT initiatives for transport ticketing, is beyond me. We are paying the price of that Myki blowout and all the reincarnations that that particular IT system has had.Of course there was RandL the VicRoads registration and licensing system; the client relationship information system, or CRIS, from the Department of Health and Human Services; ultranet from the department of education the list goes on. There was just an extraordinary waste of Victorian taxpayers money on those various IT projects. At the time the Ombudsman was absolutely scathing about the government's ability to handle these IT projects. In fact the former Ombudsman, Mr Brouwer, blamed poor leadership and accountability for the failures, noting that the Department of Treasury and Finance relied too heavily on agencies for project governance.
I think that pretty well sums it up. You had a whole-of-government system wanting to deliver these projects but they had no ability to. I do not think this government has learnt anything from its past failures in relation to an ability to manage projects. This centralisation of service delivery through Service Victoria will diminish the individual agencies' responsibility for service delivery standards and lead to blame shifting between various lines within those agencies that I spoke about and Service Victoria itself.Again I note the comments from other contributors in this debate to say that the structure of Service Victoria is not even resolved as yet. We do not know how much money actually needs to be applied because this whole project was announced in the 201516 budget. I will just repeat that announcement that the government did at that time, and I quote:
Service Victoria will create a new whole-of-government service capability to enhance the delivery of government transactions with citizens, enable the delivery of a more effective customer experience and create new distribution channels for simple, high-volume transactions.At that time it had funding of $96.1 million. However, in Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings it was soon discovered that the project had fallen well behind schedule with a significant amount of funding having to be carried forward in the 201718 year, and we do not know how much money we are in budget day now is outstanding as we speak. I have absolutely no faith in this government's ability to manage services.
Then there are the privacy implications. A primary function of this bill is the requirement for various identity verifications. In the last sitting week, when we were debating the Children Legislation Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2017 and I raised concerns about privacy, how that related to the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and how that information would be shared, there was very little clarification even in the committee stage by the government to assure all of us that information that did not have any relevance to that particular bill, such as political affiliations, union affiliations or sexual preferences, would not be ruled out. Again, despite all the amendments to try and improve that bill, which were defeated by the Greens and the government, there are still some great concerns by various members of the community in relation to what that bill is trying to achieve. I think there are valid concerns around that identity verification, how this bill will then link the various customers with their various identities and how that will actually be used in relation to the sharing of information.
I will not say too much more in relation to this particular bill, but I did want to put on record in relation to those aspects that I think there is very little faith from the community in the government's track record of running ICT projects, as I have outlined. There was an enormous litany of failures by the Bracks and Brumby governments in their inability to do even the most basic of ICT projects and in running billions of dollars over budget. Of course we have seen that with this government in other areas, like the level crossing removals running billions of dollars over budget. Again, it goes to the management of Labor governments. They cannot manage money in terms of managing projects. I do not think there are enough checks and balances in place for Service Victoria to give any heart to the Victorian community that their information will not be misused or shared inappropriately and that they will not have the ability to breach those privacy concerns that I have raised previously.