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Thursday, 20 June 1996
Page: 1889


Senator MARGETTS —by leave—I remind the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Short) that the two weeks was not our request; it was an offer by the government. They made a promise during the debate that they would provide to the Senate—not just to us—answers to questions on their own bill in two weeks. That time expired nearly a week ago.

We have not been asking questions about what was the previous government's program, what it is that the current government is planning to do in the future and what is it that causes you to do deep research into a program. We asked: what are the decisions that this government has made already? If it takes three weeks for this government to work out the decisions they are making now, I really wonder what is going on here.

Honourable senators will realise that during the debate, apart from when we had questions about the Department of the Senate, there was one adviser in the chair. I wonder whether that is what the current government is providing to answer the questions. Maybe it has one person trying to find all the answers from the various areas.

The reason for, and the importance of, asking these questions and for needing the answers is that, at the end of next week, a number of groups in the community and a number of departments and programs will have lost their funding. They cannot get any information at all from the government about their future. The only information that is coming through is `Wait till the budget'.

If you are in an office with staff who need to pay, out of their salaries, their bills and rent I think you would have reason to be worried about the timing. It is not good enough for the government to say, `Wait around until we are ready to tell you,' or `Wait around until 20 August to find out what is going to happen to you after 30 June.'

Therefore, we will certainly look with interest at what is provided today. Senator Short has said that they will be endeavouring to get the remainder of questions to us by Monday. I will certainly be keeping them to that. It really is not good enough. There was only one staff member available during this debate on the supply bill and there is no estimates process in which to ask what the basis of it all is. This kind of outcome is simply not good enough.