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Tuesday, 30 August 1994
Page: 610

Senator KEMP (6.40 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

Senator Crowley —Is it now obvious why I moved the adjournment of the previous debate?

Senator KEMP —I thank the minister. I look forward to her response to some comments that I will be making. I rise to speak on the Advance to the Minister for Finance because I have some concerns with the material which has just been laid before the chamber. Madam Acting Deputy President, you will be aware that the Advance to the Minister for Finance is for urgent and unforeseen matters. We have now had the budget down for just on two months. In relation to the area I have a particular interest in and responsibility for, the Department of Administrative Services, there are a number of calls on the Advance to the Minister for Finance related to the removal of the business services trust account in DAS to establish a separate trust account for Comcar.

  As I said, the Advance to the Minister for Finance is meant to be used for urgent and unforeseen matters. It is inconceivable, it seems to me, that the department or the minister did not know at the time of the budget that this action was going to be taken. I assume it was a policy decision made a number of months ago. I would like the minister in the chamber to request an explanation from Mr Walker as to why we have this urgent call on the Advance to the Minister for Finance for a matter which, one would have thought, was a normal administrative matter—a matter which would have been considered in the normal budget process. The decision to establish a Comcar trust account having been made, one would have thought that an appropriate appropriation would have been made. I wonder whether it would be possible for her to seek an explanation from Mr Walker as to why we suddenly find, just two months after the budget, this call being made on the Advance to the Minister for Finance.

  The other matter I wish to raise in relation to this is that part of the advance relates to the payment of redundancies for Comcar drivers. It is well known that Comcar has been undergoing a number of serious problems for quite a number of years. Each of the various ministers for administrative services has found it very difficult to deal with the problems. We have had a number of major twists and turns in the policy for Comcar, of which most senators and members would be aware. The losses in Comcar have been very extensive. I think for last year we had full accounts they were in the order of $18 million. It is quite appropriate that the government seek to address this problem.

  In speaking to Comcar drivers, there is great confusion and uncertainty about their future prospects. Madam Acting Deputy President, you would be aware that promises were made to Comcar drivers before the election. They were told by their union that, if they voted for the coalition, they would lose their jobs. We would have to say that, in the long legion of broken promises by Mr Keating, that was yet another one made. The union is responsible for this. I understand that the union told its members that, if they voted for Labor, their jobs would be secure. We are in the midst, as indeed this Advance to the Minister for Finance shows, of a major retrenchment phase. I point out the poor performance of the union involved and the misleading information it gave to its members.

  Secondly—and this is important, because all of us appreciate the services that Comcar drivers offer us—there is the great uncertainty and, indeed, confusion that many drivers feel about their future prospects as the government seeks to wind down the number of people involved. They constantly, and rightly, point out to us that, whereas drivers are being wound down, there does not seem to be the same sanction against supervisors. It is an issue which I am glad to have had the opportunity to raise in the chamber today. My time is limited and the bell is about to ring, but I ask Senator Crowley to seek from Mr Walker a proper reason why he has called on the Advance to the Minister for Finance. (Time expired)

  Question resolved in the affirmative.