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Government treats Senate Estimates with contempt.

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Senator the Hon Nick Minchin Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

The Government’s proposed Parliamentary Sittings for 2009 demonstrates the Rudd Government’s contempt for the Senate Estimates Committee process.

The proposed Sittings have scheduled the Senate’s Supplementary Budget Estimates for the week of 19 October 2009, Shadow Minister Senator Nick Minchin said today.

“The scheduling repeats the contempt for the Estimates process that we have seen in this week’s Estimates”, Senator Minchin added.

“Scheduling Senate Estimates before 31 October means that the Senate Estimates Committees are unlikely to have available to them the Annual Reports of Government Departments which are not required to be tabled until 31 October.

“One of the primary purposes of the Supplementary Budget Estimates is to enable Senators to examine the Annual Reports of Government Departments. This is a vital role performed by Senators, and ensures the full accountability of Government Departments to the Parliament.

“When I raised this issue with Senator Stephen Conroy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate during the Estimates Committee examination of his Department on Monday 20 October, he assured me and other Senators that he recognised the problem with the timing; that Senators should have available to them the Annual Reports of Departments at Estimates and that he would endeavour to ensure that the matter would be rectified for 2009.

“Now the 2009 Parliamentary Sittings Schedule reveals that the Rudd Government will continue to deny Senate Estimates Committees the certainty of the provision of Departmental Annual Reports.

“This is an unacceptable contempt of the Senate, and is in stark contrast to the practice of the Howard Government, which typically held Estimates in November.

“Either the Government must change the scheduling of Supplementary Budget Estimates for 2009, or guarantee that all Departments’ Annual Reports will be tabled prior to the 19 October commencement of the 2009 Supplementary Estimates”, Senator Minchin concluded.