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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 2372


Mr SIMPKINS (10:51 AM) —I welcome this opportunity to comment on the Auditor-General Amendment Bill 2011. I want to say at the outset that this government’s ability to waste and mismanage taxpayers’ money—and in just three short years—has become the stuff of legend. There has been example after example of waste. The BER and the home insulation debacle are just two classic examples, and they are becoming all too frequent. There are other potential examples looming of course, such as the government’s determination to proceed with its NBN despite the absence of accountability and a proper business case.

We can now add to the list the Prime Minister’s carbon tax, which she claims is vitally important although she cannot tell us—or will not tell us—what the rate of it will be. It is a tax which the Prime Minister and some of her colleagues say is designed to modify behaviour by increasing the prices of many things used routinely by Australian households, such as food, electricity and petrol, yet at the same time the Prime Minister claims families and businesses will be compensated for rising prices. So you try to modify behaviour and then compensate so you do not have to modify behaviour; I just do not understand the logic there.

The proposed carbon tax is nothing but window dressing designed to make the Prime Minister appear to be doing something and to curry favour with her Greens allies—the green coalition she has. It will do nothing other than create a giant money-go-round. At this rate, the only green jobs this government is likely to create will be in the bowels of the Treasury, administering this ill-conceived carbon tax. ‘Trust me’ is the message, but there is no basis on which to do that from the Prime Minister.

The people of Australia have seen what happens to those who place trust in this Prime Minister. They may be stabbed in the back, as in the case of the now Minister for Foreign Affairs, or they may find themselves burdened by a new tax, despite the assurances they had from the ‘real Julia’ that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. They may find that the tax summit they were promised in writing would take place in the first half of the year has been delayed until at least October. They may find themselves wondering what happened to the much vaunted processing centre in East Timor for illegal boat arrivals—a solution the Prime Minister promised over eight months ago—


Mrs D’Ath —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The member does not seem to be speaking to the bill before this House at all. I ask that the member be brought to the bill.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—The member for Petrie makes a point of order. It is a little unusual in private members’ business to make that point, but I will make sure that the member for Cowan continues and speaks to the bill before the parliament.


Mr SIMPKINS —I certainly am speaking to it and will continue to do so, because this is a bill about the accuracy and the accountability of government, which remains a major problem for this government.

Whilst the coalition applaud the spirit of the bill put forward by the member for Lyne, our concern is what it will actually do to stop the waste. As we know, the Prime Minister talked about letting the sun shine in but, in this case, it is only after the fact. Surely, our first duty as parliamentarians is to make sure that the waste is prevented in the first place. The member seeks to widen the powers of the Auditor-General, but this will not prevent the waste occurring at the outset. That is what the problem is. It may be a cliche but maybe this is trying to lock the door after the horse has bolted.

In this case, some classic risk-management principles are required. As has been said, this is a case of ‘we can assess what the waste has been after it has occurred’. The coalition will not support this bill until it has this sort of extra information and extra requirements such as an office of due diligence. This office would properly assess government programs to make sure that waste abuse and mismanagement were not part of a program. It is a classic and very real risk-management proposal that would end up stopping such waste. Without such a front-end assessment to address program failures before they happen, we cannot possibly support this bill.