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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1531

Mr OAKESHOTT (11:16 AM) —I present the Auditor-General Amendment Bill 2011 and the explanatory memorandum. Value for money and efficiency come from accountability and transparency in the decision-making chain. I would hope that is a given that all members of parliament would agree with. I would hope that keeping an eye on taxpayers’ dollars through to final program delivery is an important part of our brief. It would therefore surprise many, as it surprised me when I first found out about it, that the Auditor-General is limited in jurisdiction in doing this exact job on behalf of the parliament and, by extension, on behalf of the 22 million Australians, many of whom are hardworking taxpayers. This bill tries to address this problem and would allow the Auditor-General to follow the money trail.

This bill is based on recommendations from the Joint Standing Committee of Public Accounts and Audit Committee report No. 419 and allows for expanded jurisdiction for the Auditor-General. This bill expands the ability of the Auditor-General to follow the money trail from the point of receipt to the point of delivery and will improve accountability and efficiency in the use of taxpayers’ dollars.

Currently the Auditor-General is limited in jurisdiction in the following three areas. Firstly, he is limited in auditing government business enterprises—NBN Co., for example, one of the main talking points in the community at the moment and one of the main areas of expenditure for government over the forward estimates. Secondly, he is limited with respect to money allocated to states and territories through national partnership agreements and other means, such as natural disaster payments or Building the Education Revolution payments. The Auditor-General is limited in jurisdiction in following the money trail and making sure that value for money and efficiency are being delivered. Thirdly, the Auditor-General is limited in auditing moneys received by contractors. A recent and more controversial example is the Home Insulation Program. Again, the Auditor-General is unable to really drill down on the questions of value for money and efficiency.

There are no retrospective elements in the bill, and each clause in the bill performs the role of expanding the jurisdiction of the Auditor-General under the Auditor-General Act 1997. I believe it to be an important reform. Indeed, I believe it to be an essential reform—one that I was certainly surprised was a handbrake on the Auditor-General with regard to his ability to audit the money trail and therefore to provide frank advice on those questions of value for money and efficiency for all of us to consider and reflect upon.

I urge the parliament to accept and support this bill, and I hope we will also get more value for money and efficiency in all our government programs delivered through this place.

Bill read a first time.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—In accordance with standing order 41(c), the second reading will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.