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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 1873

Senator MICHAEL BAUME(3.27) —I would like to add to some of the remarks made by my colleague and, in particular, to pursue the question of the industrial relations record. Only last month in this chamber Senator Gietzelt made the extraordinary statement that honourable senators should note that, with the exception of the 14-week closure in 1984, the new Parliament House project has a remarkably good industrial record-better in fact than most comparable projects.

Senator Watson —Fifty-two per cent.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Yes, as my friend from Tasmania says, 52 per cent is remarkable-but not remarkably good. Last night in a Senate Estimates committee hearing I asked representatives of the Parliament House Construction Authority whether they could compare their record with other similar bodies. They said that they could not do that because the trade union movement in Canberra has basically tended to use the Parliament House Construction Authority and the new building as a sort of trial horse for many of its activities. So Senator Gietzelt clearly misled the Senate when he said quite wrongly last month, first, that the Authority has a remarkably good industrial record-and that is clearly bunkum, as evidenced by the Authority's annual report-and, secondly, that it is better than most comparable projects, while the organisation itself says that that comparison cannot be made.

Let us proceed on this question of the audit report, a matter raised by Senator Lewis. In addition to the fact that this is an inadequate audit report, it is intriguing that when asked about this last night the representatives of the Parliament House Construction Authority said that the information requested in a letter from the Acting First Assistant Auditor-General, dated 13 February and included in this report, was provided to the Auditor-General one week later. If that took place, I wonder why this Government had the impertinence to present to this chamber an annual report incomplete in terms of its audit. Yet we are told by the authority involved that the information was provided to the Auditor-General, presumably in such a state that it could be dealt with promptly; but by the end of March a document of this order was presented to us, and it has been tabled for debate today, without that additional and vital information. This is obviously another element of the need to refer this question to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.

Of the other matters I want to raise, I am concerned in particular that the Waste Watch Committee has exposed details of extraordinary and disgraceful waste, including some contracts that had trebled in size and involving multi- millions of dollars. We had evidence that 47 major contracts had exceeded their tender price by more than 25 per cent; that is, after adjustments for escalations due to inflation and other acceptable reasons and any increases in scope, 47 contracts exceeded their tender price without any explanation whatsoever either in this incomplete document, this annual report, or in any other material presented to the Senate Estimates committees. This is clearly inadequate. All I did get last night was an admission that the Parliament House Construction Authority had written to an informant-someone with whom I discussed this matter, a former consultant-and in fact asked him whether he had dared to speak to me. This kind of terrorising of people who dare to tell anything or speak at all to their elected representatives is to my mind totally disgraceful. I should say that the man in question told me nothing in respect of the cost control crisis outlined in the McCain report, which is essential to the matter I was discussing. He did not know the contents of that report and he revealed nothing whatsoever to me that could be described as improper. To suggest he did is disgraceful in itself. I have asked the Parliament House Construction Authority to outline where in matters of fact the Waste Watch Committee has been inaccurate in detailing this extraordinary and indefensible waste of government money, and I look forward to its reply.

Question resolved in the affirmative.