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Thursday, 13 October 2011
Page: 7329


Senator RYAN (Victoria) (12:27): by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) to (10) on sheet 7163 together:

(1)   Schedule 1, page 4 (after line 11), after item 7, insert:

7A Subsection 16(1)

Omit "(other than a GBE)".

(2)   Schedule 1, items 8, 9 and 10, page 4 (lines 12 to 18), omit the items, substitute:

8 Subsection 16(3)

Repeal the subsection.

(3)   Schedule 1, items 12, 13 and 14, page 4 (line 24) to page 5 (line 1), omit the items, substitute:

12 Subsection 17(1)

Omit "(other than a GBE)".

13 Subsection 17(3)

Repeal the subsection.

(4)   Schedule 1, page 5 (after line 16), after item 18, insert:

18A Subsection 18(4)

Omit "(other than a GBE)" (twice occurring).

(5)   Schedule 1, item 19, page 5 (line 24), omit "(other than a GBE)".

(6)   Schedule 1, item 19, page 5 (line 26), omit "(other than a GBE)".

(7)   Schedule 1, item 19, page 6 (lines 9 to 11), omit subsection 18A(3).

(8)   Schedule 1, item 24, page 10 (line 12), omit "(other than a GBE)".

(9)   Schedule 1, item 24, page 10 (line 14), omit "(other than a GBE)".

(10)   Schedule 1, item 24, page 10 (lines 22 to 24), omit subsection 19A(3).

I will be as brief as possible. These amendments change the government's bill to ensure that the Auditor-General can, on his or her own initiative, undertake an audit of a government business enterprise. This was a recommendation of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit. The problem with the government's bill is that it did not implement that recommendation and still requires that the JCPAA request the Auditor-General to undertake an audit of a government business enterprise. It does allow the Auditor-General to request the JCPAA to make that order, and the problem with that is it still means that an audit of a government business enterprise is actually in the hands of the government itself, whether that be the minister or the government majority on the JCPAA.

The opposition does not see the logic in having the Auditor-General able to undertake audits of a small business or a medium sized business that has indirectly been in receipt of Commonwealth money but not able to undertake an audit of a government business enterprise on its own initiative, despite the fact that that GBE has used taxpayers' funds for capital. That inconsistency will be addressed by these amendments. I urge the committee to adopt these amendments, to at least ensure a level of consistency in the treatment of business enterprises. There is no reason whatever for this to be separate.

I know the Greens have outlined on a number of occasions concerns about the investments of government instrumentalities. I respectfully suggest that, if sunlight is to be brought to those concerns, we need to give the Auditor-General the autonomy to undertake investigations and audits in this area without the government's say-so.