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Thursday, 28 November 1985
Page: 2523

Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance)(10.53) —The Government will not accept this amendment, although we accept the inevitability of its being carried, given what has already been said. It is, however, more serious than the previous superfluous amendment, because it does entail quite substantial bureaucratic resources in order to discharge its requirements. I found it particularly ironic that during the second reading debate Senator Vigor referred to-I do not claim that this is verbatim; I could not write it down quickly enough, but it covers the essence of what he said-1,600 bureaucrats scribbling away doing nothing of any consequence or any use. Something like 1,600 or perhaps a few more bureaucrats scribbling away doing nothing of any consequence or of any use would be the outcome of the amendment which Senator Vigor is proposing.

Proposed new sub-section (6) of his amendment refers to the requirement of each department to report each year; in fact, this is already covered by guidelines laid down by the previous Government and spelt out by Senator Sir John Carrick in the Hansard of Estimates Committee B on 11 November 1982. The amendment goes on to refer to a requirement that all departments include revenue and expenditure arising from trading activities or cost recovery activities. I must say that I am not aware of any trading activities as distinct from cost recovery activities in which any department engages. The amendment goes on to require departments to report on the implementation and operation of industrial democracy plans. That is already covered in existing legislation. It goes on further to require departments to report the number of officers in each classification employed by them during the year reported on. I am advised that there are something like 3,000 classifications in total in the Public Service in a somewhat aggregated form. They are already reported in various ways in the bureaucracy. But to require by legislation every department to report on the numbers of officers in each classification, and there can be as many as 3,000 different classifications, is an impossible requirement.

I wish that Senator Collard were listening to this or, indeed, any other honourable senator in the Liberal Party who is interested in it. I accept that the Opposition does not have any malevolent intent in supporting this amendment. It is just a particularly silly amendment which I am sure if the Opposition had had time to think about, it would not be supporting.

I was saying that one of the provisions of this amendment requires each Commonwealth department to report in an annual report on the number of officers in each classification employed in that department. There are around 3,000 classifications in total in the Australian Public Service. The amendment also requires the number of persons engaged by the secretary to a department as consultants during the year to be reported on. Presumably, the presumption underlying that proposal is that every consultant engaged within the Commonwealth bureaucracy is an individual; in fact, frequently consultants engaged by the bureaucracy are firms. To comply literally with the requirements of that amendment would require each department which engages a consultant such as Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co., or what ever you like, presumably to ascertain from that firm the total number of its employees so that they could all be reported as consultants engaged directly or indirectly by the department concerned, and so on.

I could go on and on, but given that the Opposition has already committed itself to supporting this silly amendment, which, I repeat, will probably require a couple of battalions of bureaucrats being occupied in scribbling away, reporting figures, analysing and classifying for no particular purpose and for no real benefit to the public or anyone else, when the broad requirements for a department to report have already been laid down by the previous Government and have been continued by this Government-when those conditions have already been met-it really is very silly and, I even venture to suggest at this late hour of the night, quite irresponsible for the Opposition mindlessly to support such a silly amendment. We will be calling a division on it.