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Thursday, 27 March 2003
Page: 10352


Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (11:29 AM) —I will be brief. I think this is an important report—I should not sound surprised, because many reports are important. But this is a significant report that should not simply pass by with a few nodding comments. It is unfortunate, in my view, that many times very significant work is done by the Senate, often cooperatively across party lines, and it is not given the recognition or attention it deserves.

I was a substitute member on this committee inquiry. Unfortunately, a few other things happened towards the end of last year that meant I did not have as much time as I would have liked to focus on it, but I have been following the progress of the inquiry and the content of the report. I join with other senators in commending it not just to the Senate but to the public, and to those who are interested in these important issues.

There is an old Army saying: `Your rifle was made by the company that put in the lowest bid.' It is not a reassuring thought when your life might depend on your rifle that those sorts of factors can be overdominant in decisions about the quality of equipment. I think this report in some ways suggests that things were made by the company that put in the highest bid and that sometimes they still did not make them very well in the past. Those sorts of issues do need to be acknowledged. There is a long history in Defence of failed and troubled projects, leading to considerable waste of public money.

The committee highlighted that improvements are under way and that we need to have a better examination of those sorts of things. The committee acknowledged the noticeable improvements and progress on major projects, as reported to government. But, from the Democrats point of view, there is still poor visibility for parliaments and for the public. We do need more accountability, such as through an annual report on acquisition projects by the Auditor-General.

There are issues to do with the broader operations of Defence acquisitions and Defence materiel that were examined in detail. I do hope the government takes those issues on board and examines them. In the interests of time, and because we are so cooperative towards the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, I will pull my remarks short there. But in no way should that be viewed as a reflection on the importance of this report. For that reason, if there are no other speakers, I think this matter should stay on the Notice Paper. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted.