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Wednesday, 18 September 1996
Page: 4617

Mr HATTON(7.39 p.m.) —I rise to speak in this adjournment debate tonight on the connection between the National Commission of Audit: report to the Commonwealth government and the implications of taking this National Commission of Audit approach, which directly interlinks with the philosophies of the coalition, for the future of the Commonwealth government of Australia. I will compare that with what we have had in the last 13 years under Labor and look at the future direction of the country as this philosophy is put into place.

A key recommendation in the report of the National Commission of Audit was that the Commonwealth should hand over areas of responsibility to the states in so far as it is possible, therefore diminishing the Commonwealth's role. The argument was to stop the overlapping of services. Page 4 of the document says:

Where programs are transferred to the States and funded by way of untied financial assistance grants:

-   the Commonwealth should seek the States' agreement to provide appropriate data for the collection and publication of national aggregate statistics on program output and outcome.

So the Commonwealth's role is simply to be a repository for the data collected by the states so that it can have an overview of the programs that are put back to it.

The states are given these programs at a discount. The next recommendation says:

-   the funds transferred should be at a level of no more than 90 per cent of their total value reflecting the scope for rationalisation and savings by the States in reduced administration.

So the states would get Commonwealth government programs at only 90 per cent of the total dollar value of what it used to run the programs. For that 10 per cent cut for the extra work, the extra responsibility and the extra administration—simply because of the argument that the overlap is done away with—the states are given less and they are asked to do a great deal more.

The third key recommendation was this:

-   any national policy bodies that are retained should limit their activity to joint work on national coordination and strategic directions and the development of standards, benchmarks and performance measures. They should not be involved in service delivery or approval of projects.

This last recommendation of the National Commission of Audit underlines the coalition's approach to what the Commonwealth government of Australia should be involved in. Not only should they hand over their current powers and their programs at a discount to the states but their sole role should be as data collectors and as people who provide development standards, benchmarks and performance measures. They should not provide any services and they should get out of the game completely.

There is an implication here. Historically, the Commonwealth has undertaken program and service delivery in a range of areas to supplement the states, which have been incapable of providing adequate service provision to the people in their constituencies. It has cooperated with the states and with the local government to provide things that could otherwise not be done.

There probably is no better example of an innovative program passed through this House than the building better cities program, initiated by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe. This program enabled local, state and federal governments to cooperate effectively in things that they could not have done on their own. In South Australia major projects have been put together and are now very successful. Most programs have been carried out by a Liberal government in cooperation with the federal government, and they could never have been done with the resources available to the state of South Australia.

Likewise, the Australian Technology Park at Redfern, Sydney, could never have been established without the cooperation of the New South Wales government in providing the land and the $11 million of building better cities funds for the basic infrastructure for the technology park, which is of world standard. As it is more fully established in the coming years—and it should be supported by further Commonwealth funding—it will the leading technology park in the world.