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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9731


Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (11:17): This bill is an important bill for Australian taxpayers in the delivery of value for money and efficiency. Every dollar that is collected should have an audit trail attached to it. We are talking neither about thousands of dollars nor millions of dollars spent. We are talking about billions of dollars that are being spent on an annual basis at a Commonwealth level without an audit trail in place. That should be of great concern to all members in this chamber, and the avenue to deal with that as the independent arm of the parliament should be the Auditor-General's Act and by association the processes of the Auditor-General.

The previous Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit report, report 419, with unanimous support made some very good recommendations, that are now being turned into legislation, effectively under the principle of following the money trail. Every taxpayers' dollar is allowed to be followed in some form by the Auditor-General to make sure we as taxpayers and we as a parliament on behalf of taxpayers can follow that money trail and make sure there is value for money and efficiency delivered. This is not a secret deal that is being done, as I heard from a previous speaker. This has all been done very publicly and in a very open process. In fact, if you look at all the bills going through this place at the moment, this bill is taking longer than any other private member's bill or government bill in what is a very public process. With regard to amendments from the government and the opposition, both have been delivered to the parliament this morning so no pot can call any kettle blacker than any other. Both amendments, in the appropriate parliamentary way I might say, have been put on the table this morning. There are no surprises; there is no conspiracy theory. This will be debated quite openly and I welcome that debate.

As well, on a comment that was made that this is an inappropriate place for discussion on this important bill, as all members who have been in this place for a long time would, or should, know, there was an opportunity for any member of parliament not to allow leave when the issues were referred to the Main Committee. These were referred from the House and with full support, with no member seeking leave for it to be denied. That opportunity was given to members. To then stand in this chamber, in the Main Committee, and say that there is some sort of conspiracy going on, that amendments and tricks are being used in the Main Committee to try to hurry this through, is erroneous; it is false and once again an example of a smear being of more value in debate, apparently, than the substance of the policy itself.

The one point I take away from this morning is about the amendments from the coalition with regard to contractors. On the point that the previous speaker made about her concerns, and the story about the building and the trade unions all potentially being a stitch-up, trade unions can be a contractor as well. So this potentially can be an opportunity for following the money trail. As to whether the unions were diddling taxpayers' money in some form—I do not know the truth or otherwise but the allegation was made—this is a meal ticket to try to get to the truth and the substance of whether that is right or wrong and who is, or is not, to blame.

In a sweet irony that we are seeing this morning, the coalition amendment is arguably knocking out the opportunity for the coalition itself to find the truth of whether taxpayers' money was being misused, or otherwise, by the trade union movement in the building of Parliament House or in any other form. It is disappointing that the opportunity to follow the money trail, whether it is in the public or the private sector, is being knocked out. The work schedule of the Auditor-General and the public interest test involved in the work of the Auditor-General will not allow every small business to be chased. These are billions of dollars that are being put at stake here; I hope you reconsider. (Time expired)