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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2506

Mr TICKNER —by leave-I believe that my colleagues the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Price) and the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) have dealt with the majority of the contents of the report. However, I would like to highlight a few matters. I believe that, overall, the report proposes a number of significant changes to the management of the Commonwealth's property holdings. Of course, by way of comparison with any private holdings those property holdings are quite massive and involve very substantial amounts of money. Central, I believe, to the recommendations of the Committee is that the Central Property Agency within the Department of Local Government and Administrative Services would retain its strategic control for the purposes set out in our report, with that Agency to have continuing strategic functions. While the Committee welcomes the expertise that the private sector can provide through the Property Advisory Board and the career structure that we hope will be brought about within that Central Property Agency, and despite our support also for delegation to various authorities and departments, we believe that we must never allow the public interest to be neglected. We see the Central Property Agency as being absolutely fundamental for protecting that public interest through the mechanism of ministerial directions and the strategic control mechanisms, which were outlined in the course of the report.

One item that calls for further brief comment concerns the proposed trust account funding arrangements. We believe that there is a need for some entrepreneurial initiatives on the part of the Central Property Agency and some degree of financial independence to allow those entrepreneurial skills to be brought to bear in the public interest. A minor matter, but one which I believe is worthy of comment, concerns recommendation No. 20, requiring all Commonwealth departments and statutory authorities and undertakings to conduct annual reviews of their property holdings, to maintain current assets registers, and to have them publicly available. Furthermore, that after conducting the annual reviews they be required to advise the Central Property Agency of the result of those reviews for strategic purposes.

We do not believe that departments and statutory authorities should be in the business of empire building and of sitting on vast resources of Commonwealth real estate. We believe that the public has a role to play, as policemen of those authorities, and we seek full and frank disclosure as well as prompt and detailed reviews of holdings of real estate by those authorities. In conclusion, I would like to echo the comments made by my colleagues, and I commend the staff for their efforts. May I also commend my colleagues for their diligence and perseverence in pursuing this report to its conclusion. It has probably involved, I think they would agree, more work on the part of Committee members than has been the case with many of the other reports of the Public Accounts Committee. I commend the report to the House.