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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1222


Senator MICHAEL BAUME(4.55) —This paper which has been tabled on updating the budget for the new Parliament House answers one question; that is, what the latest official cost is. Of course, we had an indication of that anyway last November when the Forward Estimates came out. Those who had the capacity to add up could in fact add the Forward Estimates to the past Budget estimates and come out with roughly that figure, which is, in fact, the figure that the Waste Watch Committee revealed in January of this year.

But more significant are the important questions that this statement does not answer and which have not been adequately answered by this Government. Where is the annual report of the New Parliament House Construction Authority for the year that ended on June 30 1986? Where is that report and when are we going to get it? It is ludicrous that we are now in March of 1987 and have not seen a report for a year that ended almost nine months ago. What has the Government or the Authority got to hide? It is an appalling practice to take so long to report. Also, where is the Auditor-General's report on the figures relating to that annual report, and where is the Auditor-General's report on what I understand was an efficiency audit into the Authority? This is a major project involving an extraordinary amount of government money-a totally indefensible amount of taxpayers' money. It involves $1,000m, because this figure of $982m, of course, is calculated in August 1986 prices, and, adding at least $50m so far on to that for the consequences of inflation, we are well over $1,000m, despite the penny-pinching and nonsensical `savings' that are at present being imposed on this building, as I have said, as a direct consequence of some extraordinary mismanagement and misdirection by this Government of the Authority over changes, over what it wanted and over a lack of coherent priorities because of the fast track process that was imposed upon the Authority in order to get the building finished in the bicentennial year.

We have had an admission from the Parliament House Construction Authority that the fast track process probably added $100m to the cost of this project. So the area of disagreement, I suppose, between the Waste Watch Committee and the Parliament House Construction Authority about how much money was wasted may not be as large as it appears. Of course, the Waste Watch Committee did dramatise these incredible instances of contracts running far over their agreed prices. We got an answer from the Parliament House Construction Authority saying that 46 major contracts-in excess of $100,000-have exceeded the original contract price by more than 25 per cent for reasons other than escalation; in other words, for reasons other than inflation or normal cost rises and other than extensions of the scope of the contracts. Honourable senators will see that where we have that kind of cost escalation we need some darned good reasons. We do not have the benefit of an annual report yet from this organisation to explain what these reasons were and why such contract overruns occurred. For example, one small plumbing contract was for, I think, $1.6m; it has now blown out to something like $6m and, when I last heard, it had not yet been completed. Let us deal very briefly with one nonsensical comment in the Minister's statement. The Minister said:

Honourable senators should note that with the exception of the 14-week closure in 1984, the new Parliament House project has a remarkably good industrial record.

That is bunkum. The peaceful financial year of 1984-85 saw an average of more than one working day in every three lost to a combination of strikes and what was claimed to be bad weather. In other words, this was an industrial joke. Eighty days were lost in 1984-85 out of 228 working days that were available. We do not have later figures because we do not have an annual report. I suggest to the Government that if it wants to be seen as fair dinkum about this matter, it should do something to get the Construction Authority off its tail, to produce that annual report, resolve whatever problems it has with the Auditor-General, which may well be holding it up, and advise the Parliament of what is really going on up on the hill.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bjelke-Petersen) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.