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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2269


Senator PETER RAE(8.52) —I ask honourable senators and the Minister in particular to bear with me. It is my understanding that something of the order of $500,000 is the estimate made in relation to the Auditor-General's Office expenditure on this matter. If the broad figure given by the Minister's calculation-something of the order of $350,000, or perhaps getting towards $400,000-is involved for Australia Post, we are looking at a total figure that is close to $1m for an efficiency audit which was canned.


Senator Grimes —Where do you get your $500,000 from?


Senator PETER RAE —I ask the Minister to bear with me. I have asked him about the amount and he is not in a position to give me a figure one way or another.


Senator Grimes —Hold on a minute. I am trying to answer on behalf of Australia Post. You are asserting that the Auditor-General had a team that was even bigger than that of Australia Post and therefore it cost $500,000. I do not think anyone here imagines that the Auditor-General's team in an internal audit like this is likely to be bigger than that of Australia Post. Still, if it helps your argument, go ahead.


Senator PETER RAE —It is my under- standing-and a study of Mr McQuitty's letter gives this impression-that the Auditor-General's efficiency audit team was larger; it was a considerable team. It was working full time for some four and a half years in relation to this particular efficiency audit. However, even if the amount of $500,000 is not accurate-and that is the estimate given to me-and even if it is the same amount as that expended by Australia Post, we are still looking at a very large amount of money for something that was canned. How does it come about that this sort of thing gets into such a bind? Can we go back a little further in order to get a better understanding of this matter? Can we possibly have access to the letter to which the letter of 4 July was a reply; that is, the letter of 16 May? It is quite obvious that by the time Mr McQuitty came to write the letter of 4 July 1984 he was getting more than a little terse, possibly with some justification. One does not know. I have incorporated the letter of 4 July in Hansard so people can judge for themselves the terms of it, but it seems to me that it is reasonable to pursue this matter to find out how we get to the stage where, after four and a half years and a very substantial amount of expenditure, we end up with an efficiency audit which does not have the inherent efficiency to get published. Apparently it does not have the capacity to be either relevant, timely or appropriate. I will pursue this matter in the other appropriate areas as well but I ask for some clarification of the Australia Post side of it while I have this opportunity.