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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7417


Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (21:24): I certainly appreciate the opportunity of speaking and wrapping up the debate this evening on the Auditor-General Amendment Bill 2011. This bill has been before the House for the last month or so. It was introduced, as has been correctly mentioned by others, on the back of the Joint Public Accounts and Audit Committee report 419—work done primarily by the previous Public Accounts and Audit Committee, chaired by Sharon Grierson. This bill takes the unanimous recommendations from that 42nd Parliament committee and is hopefully turning it into a real outcome.

It is somewhat surprising, therefore, as we go from a committee process where agree­ment has been reached by all parties and into the legislative process, that we see amendments to this legislation coming from both sides. Whilst I certainly accept many of the amendments coming through from government relating to drafting issues, there is one government amendment that does deserve a mention. That amendment is the one making changes to arrangements for GBEs and trying to put in place a process involving approval by the Joint Public Accounts and Audit Committee before allowing the Auditor-General to do an audit of those semi-statutory bodies. That is not my preference. It was not the preference of report 419 or of the unanimous committee recommendation. However, I guess you have to make some compromises to negotiate legislation through the parliament and that is one that I, reluctantly, will have to make to see passage of this legislation.

In regard to opposition amendments, to try to remove the Auditor-General's contact with private contractors is, in my view, a step too far. To some degree, I have to say, it is patronising to business to imply that business people will only do business with govern­ment if they are not open to audit. What is really being said by that carries, I think, an implication that is unfair to business people and businesses generally within Australia. The only requirement and the only regulation you would have if you were doing business with government is that you would be open to audit. If you are doing the right thing with taxpayers' money, you have absolutely no problems. Several speakers in this debate, including the previous one, have suggested that the complaints about the BER are examples of government waste. For the opposition to then be willing to oppose this bill is oxymoronic. The very point of this bill is to allow the Auditor-General to investigate waste within programs such as the BER, as was mentioned by the previous speaker. You cannot have it both ways. If you do want to follow the money trail and if you do want to demonstrate that there is waste in govern­ment and if you do want to hold government to account and if you do want transparency, here is your moment. This is the bill. To say that the BER is a waste, to say pink batts are a waste and to say home insulation is a waste—let us concur, let us do something about it, let us be positive and let us introduce legislation that allows an Auditor-General to investigate the truth or otherwise, to distinguish the fact from the fiction, to drill down, to hold some people to account and to get better public policy outcomes with taxpayers' money.

With regard to the point about private contractors, we are not necessarily talking only about small businesses. I think about DMO and the $9 billion of taxpayers' money that goes into DMO every year. There are close to billion-dollar companies, such as Raytheon, operating in Australia with no audit or oversight of where that taxpayers' money is going or of their obligations to the public purse. So to cry poor that this is about small business—it is not. This is about following the money trail to make sure we get full value for money. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms S Bird ): The time allotted for the debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.