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CHAIRMAN --I declare open this public meeting of the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee. On 15 May 1997 the committee was charged by the Senate to examine and report on the estimates for 1997-98 in respect of the portfolios of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Finance and the Parliament. The committee has to report to the Senate on 19 June this year. The committee will fix a date for the submission of written answers to questions taken on notice.

The hearing today will commence with the Parliament and be followed by the Office of the Governor-General in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. We will try to avoid sitting any later than 11 p.m. Annual reports of departments and agencies are available for consideration by the legislation committee during the course of the estimate hearings. Senators will have the opportunity under each subprogram to raise questions concerning both the departmental or agency annual report for 1995-96 and the portfolio budget statements for 1997-98.

I remind colleagues that this committee has also been asked by the Senate to inquire into, and report on, the format of the portfolio budget statements. As we go through the documents, you may wish to put on the Hansard record your thoughts on the PBS, whether they are clear and helpful or whether they are confusing and hard to follow. I propose to proceed by calling on programs as they appear in the portfolio budget statements.

[10.03 a.m.]