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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1255

Senator McLUCAS (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing) (12:41 PM) —In the politest possible way I have to say that I think the amendment misunderstands the intent of the bill. Infrastructure Australia, if it is established, will not be controlling expenditure. Infrastructure Australia will be providing advice—but not only to the Commonwealth government. Infrastructure Australia will provide advice to governments of Australia, probably through COAG, to private investors and to owners of infrastructure about all sorts of issues that have been put in front of it. So it is not simply the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government of the Commonwealth of Australia who will be receiving that advice. To require all advices to go before the parliamentary Public Works Committee will simply make it redundant; it is not required and not needed. What is required is scrutiny when our government makes a decision to use public money, and that is when the normal scrutiny process will kick in.

If Infrastructure Australia advises the government to undertake a particular piece of work and the government puts money toward the construction of that piece of infrastructure, that is the point at which scrutiny should rightly—and will—be applied. So to say that advice should be scrutinised, rather than the use of public moneys, is I think just missing the intent of what Infrastructure Australia is about. Infrastructure Australia may advise that it is more appropriate that a specific project is funded by the private sector, for example. If they make that recommendation, why should that then go before the parliamentary Public Works Committee? Infrastructure Australia will, I am sure, make recommendations about regulatory reform. Why would that advice need to go before the parliamentary Public Works Committee?

Can I say, Senator Milne, that your intention is sound, and I trust that you are trying to provide greater public scrutiny. I agree with the sentiment but the way you are trying to achieve it will not affect that outcome. It is when public money is proposed to be spent that scrutiny should apply, not at the point of receipt of advice.