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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2212

Senator ROBERT RAY(11.22) —I move:

That the Committee, having considered the report of Estimates Committee A, recommends that the Senate again re-affirm the principle, first adopted by the Senate following consideration of the report by Estimates Committee B in 1971, and re-affirmed in 1974:

That whilst it may be argued that statutory authorities are not accountable through the responsible Minister of State to Parliament for day-to-day operations, they may be called to account by Parliament itself at any time and that there are no areas of expenditure of public funds where these corporations have a discretion to withhold details or explanations from Parliament or its Committees unless the Parliament has expressly provided otherwise.

The background of this particular motion is explained in the report. Estimates Committee A met on 4 May to consider the estimates of the Department of Communications. The particular reference here is to the appropriations for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It was felt by members of the Committee, following the examination of the ABC and realising a day later that earlier that day the ABC was announcing a massive restructuring, that that information should at least have been indicated to the Estimates Committee or at least the Committee should have been told that an announcement was being made. That was not done and hence Estimates Committee A had to reconvene last night and examine officers of the ABC about why a full explanation had not been given to the previous Estimates Committee meeting.

To some extent those problems were solved last night. Explanations were given. To an extent, apologies were given to the Estimates Committee. But we have decided to reiterate to all those statutory authorities that they are accountable to Parliament, and certainly to the Estimates Committee, for any money expended.

Question resolved in the affirmative.