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Monday, 20 March 2017
Page: 1410

Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (16:53): I rise to take note of the Audit Office report on the Australian Border Force's use of statutory powers. There is a pattern emerging here. We have another scathing report from the Australian National Audit Office into the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. To refresh people's memory, we have had two audits into matters associated with the way the department expends the public funds with which it is entrusted that have revealed a litany of deficiencies in expenditure and deficiencies in internal processes and a failure to comply with government procurement guidelines.

In this, the third scathing report by the ANAO into the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in about the last eight months, we have findings such as this one:

The department’s enterprise risk management framework does not adequately address the risk of officers exercising coercive powers unlawfully or inappropriately.

We have this finding:

The ANAO found instances of potentially unlawful searches and failure to comply with instructions under both the Customs Act and Migration Act …

There is this finding:

The department has not provided adequate instructions and guidance for officers exercising coercive powers.

And we have this supporting finding:

Many of the instructions that are provided to Border Force officers on the department’s intranet are out of date, incomplete, inaccurate and are not accessible to all officers.

I could go on, but in the short time remaining to me today I want to go to the response from the department, which was placed on the record by Secretary Pezzullo during the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee hearings on 27 February this year when I asked him about this scathing report and read to him some of the findings that I have just read out to the Senate. Mr Pezzullo of course attacked the Audit Office. He said:

Again, the analysis … is not necessarily always in keeping with the standards that we would expect to see in an audit report.

He is not defending his department; he is going on the front foot and attacking the Audit Office. He goes on to say about the Audit Office:

Regrettably, it is becoming a bit of a recurring pattern with the Audit Office. We engaged with them very civilly and very professionally about how we can narrow some of these methodological and factual differences, but it seems to be a pattern and that is regrettable …

As I pointed out to Mr Pezzullo a little bit later in the day, I would take the word of the Audit Office, an independent assessor of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, before I took the word of this secretary in the context of a self-assessment that he is conducting into the processes of his own department.

Again, this is the third scathing ANAO report into the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in eight months. It really does call into serious doubt the capacity of Minister Dutton to adequately oversee his department and, importantly, to fulfil his ministerial responsibility to ensure the reasonable and responsible expenditure of public funds. That is something that no minister should ever forget. The money they spend is not their money. They are temporary custodians of it. It is raised through the tax system but it is money that comes from the Australian people. I would not put Mr Dutton in charge of running a chook raffle in a bar. I would not put him in charge of organising a beer in a brewery. He is clearly incapable of the simplest organisational tasks. He has let his department run rogue and he has let his department get away with not only serious financial irregularities but a failure to comply with requirements around the use of force and the statutory powers associated with that. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.