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Tuesday, 24 February 1987
Page: 513

Senator MACKLIN(4.26) —The Joint Committee of Public Accounts is a very important committee of the Parliament. I would like also to join with Senator Watson, and others I am sure, in commending the work that Senator Georges has done over the years on that Committee. It is a committee which in my own State-along with other committees which maintain the accountability of the Executive to Parliament-is obviously missed. The Committee has been very important. If one wanders around the corridors here and looks at the various photographs of committees, it is fairly obvious that the Public Accounts Committee has always been considered to be one of the prestigious committees of the Parliament. That is with very good reason as it is the prime committee to try to keep tabs on the purse. Of course, it is the power of the purse which has provided Parliament with its effective power over the years. Whether that power has been used or abused in Australia's parliamentary history, I do not want to enter into at the moment.

I raise another item in terms of the nominee whom the Government has put forward for the Public Accounts Committee. We had raised with the Government and the Opposition, although we have had no word back, that we wished to present a nominee to that Committee. The last time we raised this matter with the Government, the response we had was that the next time there was a vacancy we would be considered. The vacancy occurred and we therefore wrote to both the Opposition and the Government on this matter. However, no response was received, yet this motion has been brought forward.

Senator Gareth Evans —To whom did you write?

Senator MACKLIN —I wrote to the Whips in the initial phase, in terms of the discussion that went on. We got no response and we were unaware that the nomination would be made today. No word was provided to us that that would be the case. Given the importance of this Committee, the Australian Democrats support the way in which the various nominees to the Committee are normally accepted without demur. It is a reasonable tradition that the discussions take place outside the chamber, so that committees are not in any way polarised and do not become part of the political debate. The Australian Democrats totally support that objective and we would have hoped that this matter would have been dealt with in that way. I leave it at that. It would be useful if the Government could adjourn this matter for some time so that we may be able to have those discussions and the matter can be settled outside the chamber in the normal way, then a motion brought forward. I had no idea that this motion was coming on, hence I was unable to find out how our request had been dealt with by the Government and Opposition parties.