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Tuesday, 2 May 1989
Page: 1611


Senator SHEIL —In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act, I present the fifty-second general report 1989. I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to this report.

Leave granted.


Senator SHEIL —I thank the Senate. The report I have tabled covers the activities of the twenty-ninth Committee during the period 1 January 1988 to 31 December 1988.

The year 1988 was an extremely busy one for the Committee which met on 69 occasions, tabled 15 reports and recommended the construction of projects estimated to cost just over $1 billion.

The Committee welcomes a number of legislative amendments introduced during the year which altered the Public Works Committee Act (PWC) in the following ways:

to remove ambiguity the definition of the terms `work' and `public work' will now provide that a `work' means an architectural or engineering work and specifically excludes intangible things, movable works and engineering equipment not being integral components of a work;

to ensure that works financed by deferred payment or similar arrangements are referable to the Committee;

to facilitate consideration of new types of projects and delivery systems, types of works can be declared to be works or public works by regulation. Similarly, types of works can be declared not to be works or public works. From the Committee's viewpoint an attractive feature of this amendment is that it provides for consultation with the Committee prior to regulations being made;

the amendments will allow works to be referred to the Committee at an earlier stage than has been possible in the past. This will allow works to be referred where, because of their nature, only limited design work can be completed before Committee consideration is necessary.

The Committee is satisfied that the changes will facilitate its operations and activities and wishes to record its appreciation to the Hon. Stewart West, Minister for Administrative Services, for making officers of his Department of Administrative Services available to brief it on the proposed changes.

There is one matter on which I wish to comment and one which is of considerable concern to the Committee and I refer to the exemption from the PWC Act in August 1988 of the following government business enterprises:

Australian Postal Commission;

AUSSAT Pty Limited;

Overseas Telecommunications Com- mission;

Australian Telecommunications Com- mission.

While the Committee does not deny the right of the Government to make such a decision, it is extremely concerned that there was no opportunity for it to put its case before a decision was made. The Committee made its views known to the then Minister for Transport and Communications, the Hon. Gareth Evans.

It is with some surprise then that I have to inform the Senate that a similar situation may occur should a proposal to exempt the Civil Aviation Authority and the Federal Airports Corporation be approved by Cabinet without any prior discussion with the Committee. This matter which has been before the structural adjustment committee will shortly go before Cabinet, again without any discussion by the Minister with the PWC. This is a matter on which the Committee feels very strongly as it believes that the principle of legislative scrutiny of the executive is being eroded by such actions. I also doubt whether in fact these authorities are eligible for exemption under the terms of the PWC Act and the Committee will be seeking a legal opinion from the Attorney-General's Department on the matter.