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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5232

Mr BRADBURY (LindsayAssistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation) (17:53): I thank the member for Chifley. That is the second very insightful question he has asked me today.

Ms O'Dwyer: You wrote it!

Mr BRADBURY: I did not write the question for the member for Chifley. The member for Chifley is one of the most tech-savvy members of this place. I would not seek to put words into his mouth—or his iPad—because he is

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop interjecting

Mr BRADBURY: Thank you very much for that insight. I want to acknowledge the member for Chifley as having been a leader in this place when it comes to the embrace of technology, not just in the way a member of parliament can interact with its constituents, and he has a great presence on social media. He has also been a great advocate on the rights of consumers in relation to practices that some of the tech companies have been employing. I want to acknowledge that because he comes to this particular topic with a great deal of credibility—he is not entering the debate at the eleventh hour. I thank him very much for drawing my attention to various provisions that are made at page 290 of budget paper No. 2. The very insightful question does require a comprehensive response. If you will bear with me, Acting Deputy Speaker, I would like to go through this in some detail.

The member for Chifley may be aware that in 2008 the Department of Finance and Deregulation conducted a strategic review of Australian government grant programs, which was a significant thing to occur at that time. The review made a total of 26 recommendations to improve efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and transparency in the administration of grant programs across the Commonwealth. That may not sound like a massive development but in the context of the shambolic system that had been in operation prior to that review, these were significant recommendations that were going to advance, in a very comprehensive way, the way in which we open up the processes of government. We all remember regional rorts and grant programs of that sort which were in place under the previous government, where decisions were being taken without a lot of comprehensive consideration, without proper departmental advice, with ministers signing off applications in their own electorates immediately before the government entered caretaker mode—an absolute litany of transgressions. But they were all permitted, subject to the condemnation of the Auditor-General. The member for Mackellar has no doubt read many of the Auditor-General reports which were scathing of the operations of discretionary grants programs under the previous government.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop interjecting

Mr BRADBURY: The formation of AusGrants, which is what the member alluded to, implements recommendation 12 of the strategic review. Grant programs vary widely in their form, in their scale and in the degree of complexity involved. Members will be interested to note that over 49,000 individual discretionary grants were approved in 2007, not all of them were under the regional awards program, but I am sure a substantial number of them were. That is a large number of discretionary grants. That was under about 250 separate funding programs. Think about it: 49,250 separate funding programs involving a total expenditure of around $4.5 billion. So a substantial amount of money is being expended here and it is only fair and reasonable that that be undertaken in an open and transparent way. On the whole, Commonwealth expenditure on all forms of conditional grants is likely to be between $40 billion and $50 billion annually.

The GrantsLINK system, administered by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, was intended to be a one-stop-shop for community access to information on government grants. However, the system is voluntary and, therefore, does not provide comprehensive information on government grants. That is why we are determined to implement the AusGrant system, which will address a number of these issues by establishing a web based IT system. It will advertise, lodge and report all Australian government grants. It will provide a single point of reference on grants for government agencies and grant applications. The system will leverage off the experience of development and implementation of AusTender. I see that I am running off time. I seek to take further opportunity to answer the member's question— (Time expired)