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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2266


Senator PETER BAUME(8.40) —The Minister for Education (Senator Ryan), who represents the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, has given us a chronological account of what happened in relation to the agency arrangement; that is, the arrangement whereby officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs countersign cheques and help with the financial management of the National Aboriginal Conference. I think that is an approximate account of what the agency arrangement involved. This is not a question that goes to the agency arrangement; this is a question that goes to DAA officers obtaining information for the Parliament. As Minnie Bannister might have said, they could have tried using the modern electronic telephone. They could have tried calling the NAC and saying: 'We have questions to answer to the Parliament. Will you assist us?' When the Estimates Committee D did that we got co-operation immediately. I suspect the DAA, worried by the breakdown of its agency arrangement did not actually go to the NAC to get the answers for the Parliament, and the written answers which we received on notice were misleading and unhelpful. Had we not gone back directly to the NAC-I pay tribute to the Chairman of the Committee-we would still have no information at all. It was readily available. All one had to do was ask for it. Perhaps officials will put it down to an error of judgment, but DAA failed to obtain for the Parliament on notice answers which the Estimates Committee wanted, and those answers were available had they been asked for.