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Tuesday, 28 June 1994
Page: 2108


Senator CAMPBELL (5.12 p.m.) —I will quickly respond to two things. Senator Cooney basically gave an absolutely glowing reference to the commercialisation process in DAS. Clearly, he did not read this morning's papers where there was a report on one of DAS's biggest businesses, the Australian Construction Service, with which Senator Bolkus will be quite familiar. The report said that the ACS was:

. . . inward-looking and plagued with productivity problems . . . a parochial, fear-driven autocracy . . . suffers from factionalism, leadership which is perceived to be weak and aloof, and lack of direction. The staff are punch-drunk.

That is part of DAS's reforms over the last three years.

  Senator Cooney was referring to a report by the Auditor-General which was tabled yesterday. Senator Calvert was referring to a litany of waste, mismanagement and extravagance by this Labor government that has cost Australian taxpayers enormously. In the short time available to me I want to reveal some of the even bigger ticket items. It will not be confetti, as Senator Cooney said; it will be surface-to-air missiles. My staff researched this morning—and this is what I have uncovered in the last three years—that it adds up to nearly $1.5 billion in identifiable waste, almost down to the last decimal point. This is taxpayers' money spent by this government; money taken out of the hands of homeless youth; money taken out of the hands of business people; money taken out of the hands of Australian taxpayers. This money has been flushed down the toilet called the Australian Labor government. It has been flushed down the toilet, never to be seen again. It is just wasted.

  I will spend a couple of minutes identifying some of that waste. We have identified $250 million annually in wasted office space by the federal government. The federal government occupies the equivalent of something like 50 Melbourne Cricket Grounds—something I know you are interested in, Mr Acting Deputy President, after hearing your question at question time today. If we apply private sector office space usage rates, the amount of space that is wasted is the equivalent of 693,000 square metres.

  Senator Bolkus and the Minister for Administrative Services, Mr Walker, will argue over methodology and other ways to determine that figure, but the cold, hard fact is that if the government used space efficiently it could save $250 million a year. I do not say that the government could solve that problem in one year. To make the federal government use office space efficiently would probably take 10 or 15 years of reform. The trouble is that this government has not even taken the first step, as witnessed by what we uncovered with the Casselden Place scandal.

  This building was constructed while Senator Bolkus was the minister. This matter is currently the subject of an Auditor-General's inquiry. Casselden Place did not need to be built. In fact, if it had been knocked over halfway through construction it would have saved the taxpayers—and I am sure the Auditor-General's report will bear this out—around about $300 million. In other words, all the public servants who work in Casselden Place could be put in other buildings in Melbourne. We could have made a park of the site; perhaps a monument to Prime Minister Paul Keating or former Prime Minister Bob Hawke. The Australian taxpayers would have been $300 million better off. We will await the outcome of the inquiry.

  The next piece of waste inefficiency that we uncovered earlier this year concerned the leasing of cars by the Department of Administrative Services vehicle leasing company called Dasfleet to the Transport Workers Union. On the admission of the minister, Mr Walker, the department was providing airconditioned executive style cars—Ford Fairmonts—to trade union officials. I drive a Dasfleet Ford Fairmont myself.

  These cars are provided at a rate of less than $400 a month. They are fully maintained, fully serviced, and replaced after two years. If the cars break down on the side of the road they are replaced. Not many transport workers actually get the cars; it is the bosses of the union who are doing very well while the workers suffer in the recession. These cars are provided at rates that are hundreds of dollars a month less than anyone else would receive; in fact, less than what a transport worker could get for himself. The loss to the taxpayer in lost tax on this deal was $250,000 in 18 months. The losses in the subsidy add up to another $250,000 a year. So we have $500,000 a year involved in this case.

  The only other matter I wish to refer to is Centenary House, which again is the subject of an inquiry. I guess the judicial inquiry will prove beyond any doubt that the taxpayer is paying in the realm of at least $14 million over the next 15 years—that is $1 million a year—too much rent. Regardless of where the money goes—even if it happens to go to the Australian Labor Party—it is more waste.

  I have identified nearly $1.5 billion of waste by this Labor government. What is the effect of that? We are going to hear from Senator Carr shortly. He is a well renowned activist on the Left of the Labor Party who believes fervently in social justice. I will be interested to see how he defends the indefensible.

  I might rely on a couple of quotes from international people. When taxpayers' money is wasted in this way, it is money that firstly has to be taken from people by way of tax. It is a cost to private individuals who may create employment opportunities. It is money that is not available to the government to redistribute to those in need. In 1984, Roger Douglas, a former New Zealand finance minister, said:

A Labor Government in particular finds it hard to face the fact that public sector waste hurts low-income people most of all. It obviously reduces the resources available to them. It also reduces the number of jobs the economy should be able to offer them. To take an extra $1 from the private sector and put it in the public sector costs more than $1—something between $1.20 and $3. Those extra cents are known as `dead weight loss'. Then, unless the money is used in the public sector at least as productively as it would have been in the private sector, its effectiveness is decreased further.

When we take money from the private sector and flush it down the toilet, it is not used effectively at all. My last quotation is from David Stockwood in his book The Triumph of Politics. He talks about his campaign for a seat in the Congress and he states:

My encounters with the workaday citizens of southern Michigan had a profound effect on my quest for ideological truth. More than anything else, I was struck by the dramatic contrast between how hard and with what care, pride and discipline the nation's citizens worked to earn our national income and wealth on the one hand, and the feckless, inconsistent and muddled manner in which it was shunted around the halls of Washington on the other. To be sure, I had long since turned against the pernicious projects of government as an intellectual matter, but now an emotional layer was grafted onto the case.

Waste by this Labor government has cost low income earners in terms of their lifestyle, and everyone else in terms of the taxes they need not be paying to this wasteful and extravagant Labor government.