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Friday, 26 November 2010
Page: 2411

Senator FIFIELD (Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (2:32 PM) —I rise to speak on the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill 2010. This is the seventh financial framework legislation amendment bill since 2004. These bills have continued the coalition’s work to promote transparent and accountable government finances for Australian government departments, agencies, Commonwealth authorities and companies, which are predominantly contained in the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997. This bill in particular seeks to update the framework, improve operational efficiency and assist with the operation of interjurisdictional entities.

Firstly, the bill repeals 20 redundant special appropriations including six acts in their entirety. Secondly, the bill seeks to improve the governance framework established by the FMA Act and the CAC Act—that is an acronym that has always troubled me—both of which govern the management and accountability of Commonwealth agencies, authorities and the executive arm of government. The bill will allow ministers to delegate certain functions under the CAC Act to departmental secretaries, relating to the oversight of Commonwealth authorities and Commonwealth companies. It also seeks to allow relevant state and territory ministers to request information about the FMA Act, agencies and Commonwealth authorities operating under the CAC Act.

Thirdly, the bill consolidates the Australian Institute of Criminology with the Criminology Research Council into a single agency while also transferring them from the CAC Act to the FMA Act. It also seeks to transfer the governance of the Australian Law Reform Commission from the CAC Act to the FMA Act and, further, the National Transport Commission will be brought under the CAC, as it currently sits outside existing frameworks other than for its annual reporting.

The coalition broadly supports these amendments, however I draw the house’s attention to page 5.2 of the Department of Finance and Deregulation red book—the incoming government brief publicly released on 1 October—which stated:

Through this Bill—

the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill 2010—

there is also an opportunity for the Government to reconfirm its support for a strong financial framework dealing with Commonwealth resources by expanding the definition of ‘proper use’ to include ‘economical’.  While proper use already includes ‘efficient, effective and ethical’, inclusion of the word ‘economical’ will increase the focus on the level of resources the Commonwealth applies to achieve outcomes.

This was the department’s subtle way of acknowledging this government’s reckless waste and mismanagement across a range of portfolios. Although I am tempted, in light of the hour of the day I will not go exhaustively through every example, which I know will be a source of great relief to those on the other side. This side of the chamber does support the very careful stewardship of taxpayers’ money. It is not what we have seen over the three years of this government. Rather than elucidating that further, I will just indicate that the opposition will not be opposing the bill.