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Has government misled parliament over appropriation bill?



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Senator «Tim Short Shadow M inister for Finance and Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on Commonwealth/State Relations

HAS GOVERNMENT MISLED PARLIAMENT OVER APPROPRIATION BILL?

Evidence given to the recent Estimates Committee hearings on the Additional Appropriations suggests that the Government may have misled the Parliament last month when, in an unprecedented action, it rushed Appropriation Bill No. 5 through both Houses.

The Bill sought appropriation of $204 million to meet payments under 3 particular Government programs - labour market,

residential care for the elderly, and child care fee relief.

These 3 programs were already included in the normal additional Appropriation Bills currently before the Parliament.

The Government claimed, however, that these Bills would not be passed in tiine for existing contractual commitments to be met, and that thex special Appropriation Bill No. 5 was necessary therefore to meet those contracts.

The Government spokesperson handling Appropriation Bill No. 5 in the Senate, Senator McMullan, claimed on no less than 5 occasions during the debate in the Senate on 30 March that contractual commitments were the underlying reason for the Government's unprecedented action.

He repeated these claims on numerous occasions during the hearings of Senate Estimates Committee B on 2 April, saying this was the advice he had received from the Department of Finance. In this, he was supported by officials from the Department.

When asked to produce evidence and details of the existence of these contracts, however, the officials were unable to do so.

The Estimates Committee has given the Government until the end of this week to provide the evidence to substantiate Senator McMullan's assertions in the Parliament.

It is very important that this supporting evidence be provided. Failure to be able to produce this evidence would mean that there has been a major misleading of the Parliament by the Government.

The Opposition has already severely criticised the Government for its gross incompetence^in being forced to introduce Appropriation Bill No. 5 in the first place.

The seriousness of the issue will be greatly compounded if it is found that there are no contractual commitments requiring the action the Government has taken.

J COMMONWEALTH | I PARLIAMENTARY UBFLM 1 tvilCAH ί

Appropriation Bill No. 5 is a blight on the efficient and proper administration of public monies. Its very existence is a damning indictment of the Government's incompetence.

To add to incompetence, the charge of deliberately misleading the Parliament would confirm the view of increasing numbers of Australians that this Government is unfit to govern.

20 April 1992

For information - 052/632134