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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31613

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (10:00 AM) —I move:

That the requested amendment be not made.

The government opposes the requested amendment by the Senate to Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2004-2005. Adoption of this amendment would effectively see the implementation of additional reporting requirements for advertising and communication projects, as per an order passed by the Senate on 29 October 2003 on government advertising. It would also have the effect of implementing the Australian National Audit Office's guidelines, which have not previously been enforced by the government.

One of the main impacts of the requested amendment is that it would prevent agencies from spending money on advertising and public information projects until the minister has presented a statement to the Senate. However, the government notes that the requested amendment does not provide the Senate or another party with the power to veto the project upon the tabling of the ministerial statement. Mr Speaker, it will not come as a surprise to you to know that the government does not believe that a reporting requirement of the sort proposed by the amendment, which has the potential to delay unnecessarily advertising and public information projects, is an appropriate way to enhance transparency of these projects.

As to the question of whether there is any need to strengthen transparency, the government is of the view that a suite of existing whole-of-government transparency mechanisms already provides significant visibility of advertising and public information contracts. In this context, I am referring not only to the Senate order on departmental and agency contracts but also to mandatory reporting requirements for contracts and agency agreements with a value of $2,000 or more, as well as the requirements in relation to annual reports.

Given the existence of these mechanisms, any new mechanisms specifically for advertising and public information projects will result in duplication and impose additional administrative costs on agencies for limited benefit. Moreover, the government does not consider Appropriation Bill (No. 2) to be an appropriate vehicle for the implementation of additional reporting requirements. The government would also like to remind honourable members that it continues to observe the guidelines for Australian government information activities that were implemented by the previous government in 1995.

In conclusion, the government's position on reporting advertising and public information projects remains as outlined in Senator Hill's response to the Senate order on government advertising delivered on 12 February this year. Specifically, the government believes the existing levels of scrutiny and accountability are sufficient and is opposed to the introduction of further reporting requirements. On that basis, I commend the motion to the House.