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Wednesday, 20 October 1999
Page: 11998

Mr CHARLES (4:37 PM) —On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit I present the following committee report entitled Report 371—Aviation security; costing of services; planning of aged care—Review of Auditor-General's reports 1998-99—First half .

Ordered that the report be printed.

Mr CHARLES —by leave—Report 371 informs the parliament of the committee's examination of the Auditor-General's reports on aviation security, the costing of services, and the planning of aged care services. The committee held a public hearing in May this year to discuss these issues with the relevant Commonwealth agencies. I will briefly discuss each issue in turn.

The audit report on aviation security noted that the department had established a regulatory regime which ensured Australia's compliance with international standards. However, the report also identified areas where Australia's aviation security regime could be strengthened. The JCPAA focused on risk management practices and auditing and compliance procedures. It is vital that security procedures address the danger presented by criminal behaviour at airports. Currently, the focus is on politically motivated violence, but criminal activity is actually more of a prob lem. Our report recommends that security arrangements be reviewed by relevant Commonwealth agencies so as to maximise the effectiveness of police forces and airport authorities in combating crime.

The committee also examined Audit Report No. 19, into the planning of aged care. The quality and availability of aged care services is a very important issue for many Australian families. It is critical that the Commonwealth plan effectively to provide these services where they will be most needed. This is why the JCPAA has recommended that the input of local communities be harnessed when planning is undertaken. Local communities, particularly local councils, are uniquely qualified to advise the Commonwealth of their future needs in this area. Currently, state offices of the Department of Health and Aged Care can choose whether to consult local communities. The JCPAA believes that this approach is inadequate. We have recommended that local council input become an integral component of the planning process.

Audit Report No. 21 reviewed the costing of services in Commonwealth agencies. With the adoption of accrual budgeting and the increasingly contestable environment in which agencies operate, it is vital that Commonwealth services are costed appropriately. The audit report found that there was scope for substantial improvement. Indeed, committee members are concerned that costing systems are not sophisticated enough for the new public sector environment.

The JCPAA has recommended that the Department of Finance and Administration actively facilitate the development of appropriate costing methodologies. We support the contention that each agency should prepare a methodology that is suitable for its business needs. However, in the interests of both quality and consistency, we also encourage the Department of Finance and Administration to provide a suitable level of assistance.

I conclude by thanking on behalf of the committee those people who contributed their time and expertise to the committee's review hearings. I am also indebted to my colleagues on the committee who have dedicated much time and effort to reviewing these Auditor- General's reports. As well, I would like to thank the members of the secretariat who were involved in the inquiry: Dr Margot Kerley, the committee secretary; Ms Rose Verspaandonk; Ms Maureen Chan; Ms Tiana Gray; and Ms Maria Pappas. I commend the report to the House.