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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 644

Senator CAMPBELL (3.39 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Gareth Evans), to a question without notice asked by Senator Campbell this day, relating to the funding of the Australian National Audit Office.

When I first asked the Leader of the Government the question in relation to the resourcing of the Australian National Audit Office, he did not even know the answer. This is a man who came into this chamber on 3 March wanting to buy off the votes of those senators sitting on the cross-benches to stop a Senate select committee inquiry into one of the most disgraceful uses of Commonwealth taxpayers' money to buy votes at the last election—specifically, the sports rorts affair.

  During the Fremantle by-election in particular this government was prepared to do and say anything to ensure that the Senate did not appoint a select committee to properly investigate the sports rorts affair. So Senator Evans came in here and announced what he called an accountability package. I said on that day that that package would unravel within a few weeks, and that is exactly what has happened.

  I was not at all surprised but I was most angry last night when I opened the budget papers, turned to the Department of Finance and saw that, under the Auditor-General's estimates for this forthcoming financial year, the in globo cut was $10 million. Senator Evans is the man who came in here and said, `I make this statement with these specific commitments in order to put beyond any doubt the government's willingness to act in all of these ways that I have stated to improve the quality of administration and accountability in this country.'

  Last year, the Australian National Audit Office estimates were $53.945 million. This government in the estimates has slashed $10 million off that. In the federal budget $10 million can be seen as only a small part of the budget, but in the budget of the Australian National Audit Office it is 18.8 per cent of its annual estimates.

  After question time Senator Evans came into this chamber to add some additional information to the non-answer he gave me during question time itself. He said that there was a whole range of year on year fiddles and so forth, carryovers and changes due to the restructuring of the audit office that made my figure seem wrong. On page 15 of the program performance statements, it is all explained under the Australian National Audit Office. I will not go into the detail because I do not have the time available to me today. It is suffice to quote from the very bottom of page 15 as follows:

The ANAO believes that the financial audit business unit will face difficulties in completing the 1993-94 and 1994-95 financial statement audit programs with the funds that will be provided.

In other words, specific representation in the program performance statement, the government's own budget papers, that the Auditor-General will not be able to complete what he has on his plate at the moment because of a funding shortfall.

  I believe that Senator Evans has misled the Senate in saying that the effective funding base of the Auditor-General has not been affected by this $10 million slashing. Once I saw the budget papers last night I sought to do a close analysis of the year on year funding base available to the Australian National Audit Office, taking into account the carryover of administrative and salary costs that Senator Evans referred to and the estimated cost of voluntary redundancies. Taking those figures into account—$1.958 million for administrative and salary expenses and $5.9 million for the voluntary redundancies—the base funding available to the Auditor-General last financial year was $44.38 million and the base funding available this year is $36.68 million.

  So, taking into account Senator Evans's figures, taking all of those as read, the real effect for the base funding available to the Auditor-General to audit many of this crooked government's deals is a funding cut of $9 million—in excess of 15 per cent. That is after this minister came into this place and promised all senators that the government would get dinkum about accountability. A great start! Six or seven weeks after he makes that statement he comes in here and slashes funding for the Auditor-General by between 15 per cent and 18 per cent, depending on how one looks at the figures.

  The reality is that this government is also, through the Australian Labor Party, stealing money from Australian taxpayers through the Centenary House deal—something which will now be investigated by a judicial inquiry, again, some seven months after that inquiry was announced. It is a disgrace. (Time expired)