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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 2003


Senator GEORGES —by leave-Since this is the last report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts to be placed before this Parliament I wish to put on record some expressions of appreciation. Firstly, I express my appreciation for the work done by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle. The Committee was enhanced by her election to the Committee because she brought to it her long experience as a Minister of the Crown and, with this reference, in particular, her experience as a Minister for Social Security. This experience enabled her to take on the responsibility of chairing the extra reference which was given to the Committee; that is, the supervision of automatic data processing installation in various departments. It was a substantial reference. For that reason we must place on record the effectiveness of the first report of the sub- committee which Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle chaired, which was produced in such a short time and without the availability of permanent staff to support it. In due course the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes), through a minute, will respond to the report and will possibly raise some questions which will be considered further by the Committee.

I served on that sectional committee. My impression is that the Department of Social Security has applied itself-I use the word 'admirably'-to installing this very sophisticated equipment to better serve the public. Although one or two criticisms may have been expressed, the overall impression has been a good one. Although one or two matters may be addressed as to the overall concept, nevertheless we were impressed by the manner in which the Department had applied itself to the installation of the equipment. That brings me to the point that we must thank the Department and its officers for their co-operation in providing for us all the essential details concerning the installation of the equipment which, of course, will be of benefit to other departments which seek to follow the same course.

Because this is the last report of the Committee to this Parliament I place on record my appreciation of the work of a member of the Committee who is retiring from the Parliament-Mr Frank O'Keefe. Mr O'Keefe has served the Committee well and in a way that must be expressed with satisfaction. Committees of this sort have an extremely heavy workload. Only the hardy survive. Frank O'Keefe kept to his task in such a way that the Committee was able to operate. It is always useful to have an anchor person or anchor people who provide the means by which committees and sub-committees are established and can operate. I want to place on record the fact that Frank O'Keefe was of extreme advantage to the Committee.

I have already made some comments about Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle. I add to them the fact that the Committee has been assisted greatly by the membership of Senator Maguire from South Australia. He brings a particular quality to the Committee because he is able to analyse, because of his background and his discipline, a detailed examination of the various references that come before the Committee. We are grateful to him for his participation. I refer also to Senator Watson who has dedicated himself in support of the national interest. Many references that come before the Public Accounts Committee concern themselves with the efficiency of various departments. Senator Watson has always taken the view, as I think the whole Committee takes the view, that Australian industry must receive preference and that it needs to be protected. Any criticism which the Committee might seek to level, in his view and in the view of the rest of the Committee, must always have in mind that Australian industry should not be disadvantaged. We are grateful for that application by Senator Watson.

Vincent Cleary was seconded from the Department of Administrative Services to the Committee for this reference. As Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle indicated, he was invaluable to the Committee. I must put on record the gratitude of the Committee to its secondees. He was one. That sub-committee was without permanent staff. I am pleased to say that the Speaker today announced the appointment of an extra Class 9 and Class 7 to the Committee to support the sectional committee , which I hope Senator Guilfoyle will chair in the future.

Joint Committee of Public Accounts

Joint Committee of Public Accounts

Joint Committee of Public Accounts

Joint Committee of Public Accounts

Joint Committee of Public Accounts

Joint Committee of Public Accounts

I also wish to put on record the work of someone who was not involved with the Committee itself but who is on the staff of Senator Guilfoyle. I refer to Catherine Byrne, who was responsible for drawing together the material in the appendices to the report. This is a valuable document because it brings together a variety of papers which have been available but which have never before been brought together. The papers which form Volume 2 are the appendices to the first report on occupational health and safety aspects of the use of visual display equipment. It is not normal for the Committee to print its appendices. It costs a considerable amount to print a document of this sort, but it was felt necessary that this material should be available because it deals with a critical area. The introduction of these systems has thrown up rather starkly the problems which arise from certain applications of new technology. Catherine Byrne was responsible for the compilation of that valuable document, which indicates the remarkable effort and support the Committee receives from secondees and from others on senators' staffs. I have not mentioned the secretariat. The secretariat expects to do its work in the manner and tradition of the Public Accounts Committee, so I shall mention no names here. However, I wish to give the members of the secretariat full recognition for the work they have done for the Committee.

The enlargement of the Committee will, I hope, enable it to take advantage in the new Parliament of the skills of the new senators and members of the House of Representatives. We will seek to take advantage of their skills to add to the expertise of the Committee. What I have to say may appear to be somewhat self- congratulatory but it must be said for the record. This Committee, like all committees of the Parliament, works in an essentially non-partisan way. There is very little confrontation, if any, on the Public Accounts Committee. The Committee directed itself to examining the Auditor-General's comments on various departments in an endeavour to improve the efficiency of the various departments . I think the example set by the Committee is one that the Committees of both the Senate and the House of Representatives should look to. Perhaps the exchanges that take place in both Houses should be reassessed and they should begin to operate as the sub-committees of the joint committees and other committees do-in a non-controversial, non-partisan and very effective and co- operative way.

Question resolved in the affirmative.