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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2227

Senator CAMPBELL (3.47 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the further answer given by the Minister for Industry, Technology and Regional Development (Senator Cook), to a question without notice asked by Senator Campbell on 23 March 1994, relating to an inquiry into the rental of premises by the Australian National Audit Office.

The question I asked fundamentally related to the inquiry into the Centenary House affair, where the Australian Labor Party is receiving grossly inflated rent and rent reviews from the Auditor-General. That unfair deal is costing the Auditor-General resources that could be applied to inquiries into the government's activities.

  The Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Gareth Evans, promised that the Auditor-General's resources would be reviewed in the light of that inquiry. I think it was an undertaking given to Senator Harradine and to the Australian Democrats as part of the so-called accountability package.

  I want to put it on the record that I am extremely concerned at the lack of progress of this inquiry. It is very important because the resources and independence of the Auditor-General are the only two things that were offered to Senator Harradine and to the Democrats to ensure that there was no sports rorts inquiry. I will make sure week by week and day by day that those accountability measures are implemented. Originally the inquiry into Centenary House was to report to the parliament by 11 April. Shortly after, when the terms of reference were announced a couple of weeks ago, the inquiry was blown out to 16 May. We were informed today that the inquiry will now report on 28 May—well past the budget process. I would hope that it is a matter of severe concern to all honourable senators, particularly to Senator Harradine and the Democrats, that the resources of the Auditor-General are now blown out at least until June. At the rate of blow-out in the report of the Centenary House inquiry, it could be well past that date by the time we get back to the parliament in the budget sittings.

  I implore the Senate, particularly Senator Harradine and the Democrats, to keep a close eye on the delivery of the so-called accountability package—the revised Audit Act—and particularly the resourcing of the Auditor-General, because since the statement made by Senator Evans on 3 March there has been no action on either of those aspects. The only action that has been taken is to ensure that we register our interests, which Senator Harradine knows very well is but a minor part of any form of accountability package and does not enhance the accountability of those on the other side of the chamber who were caught with a smoking gun in relation to political corruption in the sports rorts affair.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.