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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18510

Mr ABBOTT (Leader of the House) (9:07 AM) —Mr Speaker, I rise to support the motion you have put before the House, which I think is necessary, important and timely. Given that the first proposal to amalgamate these parliamentary departments was made back in 1910, one might even think the resolution you have put before us is long overdue. Your resolution simply puts into practice the recommendations of the Parliamentary Service Commissioner, Mr Andrew Podger. It is a very sensible, moderate and reasonable recommendation that Mr Podger has made and it is right that you should move the way you have done. I believe that, after a settling in period for the new department, the resolution envisages that the Department of the House of Representatives and the Department of the Senate might at some point transfer administrative functions to the new joint department.

This not about reducing services; it is about streamlining bureaucracy and delivering services in a more effective way to members of parliament. As I said, this was first proposed back in 1910 and it is only right and fitting that we should finally be doing something about it. I note that back in 1910 the Darwin to Alice Springs railway line was first proposed. This government is finally building it. Under this government, appropriate amalgamations of parliamentary departments will be done as well.

I note that the first person to propose the sort of rationalisation that is now before the House was none other than Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, so what is being proposed today is in fact a good Labor thing to do as well as a good Liberal thing to do. Mr Speaker, I note that over the years numerous distinguished members of this House have supported the kinds of amalgamations and rationalisation you have put before us today. The member for Chifley, for instance, has strongly supported these kinds of measures. Some years ago he talked about:

... the ludicrous position that five permanent heads are running this Parliament House at a time when private enterprise and the Government, if not the Opposition, recognise that we must have a leaner, trimmer, more efficient Public Service and when a lot has been done to the Senior Executive Service in the Public Service and freedoms have been granted to government business enterprises.

So the member for Chifley certainly would strongly support what is being proposed.

The member for Watson, a former Speaker, has been a long-time campaigner for rationalisations and amalgamations of parliamentary departments. He said in the past:

I found a number of duplications that occurred there to be bizarre, to say the least; to be antiquated, to be unkind. I found it disgraceful that in the 1980s we were still sticking to these tired old formulas.

If that was true in the 1980s it is even more bizarre that it should still be true as we move into the new century. So, Mr Speaker, it is timely, necessary and important that the House adopt the motion you have put before us.

I suspect that members opposite might choose to remind the government that when we were in opposition we were not as enthusiastic about these measures as perhaps we should have been. I suppose we could hardly complain if the opposition were to point out that we were Johnnies-come-lately on this but I prefer to think of us as being engaged in the process of the getting of wisdom, Mr Speaker, and I very much support the motion you have put to the House.