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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 5

Ms GRIERSON (12:46 PM) —I rise to commend report No. 404 of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit to the House. As the chair, the member for Paterson, has said, the report covers 11 audit reports. The Australian National Audit Office has reviewed those reports, in its role as watchdog for the people of Australia, to make the government, its agencies and departments accountable. In these 11 reports, an issue we see over and over again is the inadequate design and administration of projects. Financial management, not in accordance with the rules and laws of this parliament, is another area that keeps coming up in those reports. The use of data to inform processes and outcomes is a further deficiency. These reports cover some very important roles of government and challenges for government departments and agencies. The report on the management of intellectual property is an interesting one. It says intellectual property is an asset to this country and therefore a value must be placed on it and it must be managed.

With regard to the report on the administration of major programs in the Australian Greenhouse Office, we recommend that there be milestones and payments directly linked to those programs to demonstrate that we are getting a benefit from those programs. Similarly, with the report on the Australian dairy industry adjustment package, this is another program in which we are not sure what is happening in the dairy industry. We would like to know, in the new economic environment in the dairy industry, if adjustment is happening. There really is a need for key performance indicators and for the impact of that funding on the industry to be demonstrated to us.

With regard to the report on the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court, there is certainly a challenge for that new court system to work cooperatively. We find that some areas are being coordinated very well, but we recommended a very simple measure such as a toll-free number for clients. We would like to see in all registries the best practice that we see in some registries. We would like to see more attention being given to disadvantaged and mentally ill clients. We would like to see more feedback being collected on community based organisations’ handling of such things as primary dispute resolutions.

In the case of the federal airport lease report, it is very clear that some lease obligations are not being met. If we are talking seriously about infrastructure in this country, it is important to know that the major developments that airports are obliged to deliver are delivered in a timely way and that, where extensions are granted by the Department of Transport and Regional Services, we are given some explanation for that. So we have recommended that DOTARS report to us annually on the exercising of those leases.

With regard to the report on Centrelink and its management of customer debt, I guess the message is that if it could only get it right with a satisfactory error rate we would see better outcomes and better client satisfaction. We also noted a reliance on credit cards. That does not seem particularly sensible when dealing with debt recovery. We have also recommended better prevention strategies and identification of risk, and the management of that for clients.

With regard to the Defence report, the management of the SDSS upgrade is a textbook case of how not to do it. It is one project that has cost too much, has been poorly managed and in which outcomes are still to be achieved. It is a program that has led the committee to decide that we will continue our involvement with the Department of Defence. Given the inability of the Australian National Audit Office to form an opinion on the 2003-04 accounts, we made a decision that we would meet six-monthly with Defence and that they would report to us against the milestones they have set in their 14 remedial plans. That will continue for the next two years. As a result of those audit reports, we also recommended that the new upgrade JP2077 would have strict oversight and that we would also want to see DMO reporting to us regularly on that project.

The report on the financial management of special appropriations particularly distressed the chair. Both he and the committee agreed performance bonuses should only be paid to CFOs when they get it right. To see that some of our key financial departments are not abiding by the law is a serious concern.

With regard to the report on container examination, I am very pleased to see that Customs have restructured their security services and personnel but, as mentioned, there are still improvements to be made. I commend the report and thank the secretariat for their excellent assistance to the JCPAA.

The ACTING SPEAKER —The time allotted for statements on this report has expired. Does the member for Paterson wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?