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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1563


Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (10:08): On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, I present the committee's report entitled Report 447: EPBC Act, cyber security, mail screening, ABR and Helicopter ProgramReview of Auditor-General reports Nos 32-54 (2013-14), together with executive minutes on reports Nos 417, 422, 443 and 445.

This report details the findings of the committee's examination of five Australian National Audit Office reports. Two key themes from these reports were the importance of agencies taking an appropriate risk-based approach and also, where appropriate, working cooperatively with others to achieve common objectives. Chapter 2 of the report discusses the committee's findings concerning Audit report No. 42 on the screening of international mail. The committee found that Customs and the Department of Agriculture had made progress in response to the Audit Office recommendations.

However, the committee remained concerned about two matters: international best practice for mail screening and the state of cooperative arrangements with other countries regarding identification of illicit firearm shipments. Accordingly, the committee recommended that Customs and the Department of Agriculture undertake a review of methods of screening international mail to ensure Australia conforms to international best practice, with these agencies to then report back to the committee. We also recommended that Customs report back to the committee on the existing state of cooperative arrangements with other countries regarding identification of illicit firearm shipments and what discussions might be underway to strengthen these arrangements.

Chapter 3 of the report discusses the committee's findings concerning Audit Report No. 43, Managing compliance with Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act conditions of approval. The committee found that it will require a sustained effort from the Department of the Environment to ensure ongoing improvements to its EPBC Act compliance framework in the transition to new one-stop-shop arrangements. The committee recommended that the Department of the Environment report back to the committee on its continued progress implementing the Audit Office recommendations and the new one-stop-shop assurance framework. The committee further recommended that the Audit Office consider including, in its schedule of future performance audits, a follow-up audit of the department's management of the compliance framework. The committee also recommended that the department take a leadership role in its governance arrangements for this area by demonstrating effective reporting against appropriate performance measures.

Chapter 4 of the report discusses the committee's findings concerning Audit Report No. 48, Administration of the Australian Business Register. The committee was disappointed to note that, some 14 years after it was established, the Australian Business Register does not yet provide a single entry point for business interactions with government, and that the Australian Taxation Office and its partner agencies have made little real progress towards reducing the registration and reporting requirements of business. While the committee acknowledges that the tax office and its partner agencies are committed to these whole-of-government objectives, we believe that a closer working relationship between these agencies is necessary. The committee therefore recommended that the tax office and its partner agencies work more closely together to reduce entry points to government.

Chapter 5 of the report discusses the committee's findings concerning Audit Report No. 50, Cyber attacks: securing agencies' ICT systems. Over the course of the review, the committee was concerned to note that, of the seven agencies audited, not a single agency was found to be fully compliant with the top four mitigation strategies and related controls in the Australian Signal Directorate's Information Security Manual and none of the agencies was expected to achieve full compliance by the mandated target date of July 2014.

Chapter 6 of the report discusses the committee's findings concerning Audit Report No. 52, Multi-Role helicopter Program. At over $4 billion, the program is to acquire 47 helicopters and their support system for the Australian Defence Force. The committee recognises that much of what is currently causing difficulty in the program is the result of decisions made about 10 years ago. Since that time, Defence has improved its performance in the area of acquisition and sustainment and is taking measures to rectify as best as possible the project's shortfalls. The committee believes there is still much more to be done, and has made a number of recommendations to manage the risks in complex acquisition programs. The committee was also recommended that DMO publish annually figures on Australian industry content in their acquisition and sustainment contracts.

In conclusion, I thank committee members for their deliberation on these significant matters. I also thank departmental representatives who appeared at public hearings for assisting the committee in its important role. I would like to thank the committee secretary, Susan Cardell, the inquiry secretary, Dr Kate Sullivan, and all members of the committee secretariat for their assistance in preparing the report. I commend the report to the House.