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Monday, 22 November 1993
Page: 3340

Senator KNOWLES (4.37 p.m.) —I find the contribution by the Minister for Science and Small Business (Senator Schacht) nothing short of continual appalling nonsense. To think that he can stand in this place and pretend that some inquiry down in the House of Representatives where the Labor Party has the numbers—he consistently refused to answer my interjections on that—where, because the government does not want the scrutiny—

Senator Schacht —We have the numbers on the estimates committee.

Senator KNOWLES —I know you do, Senator Schacht, the clot. What I am saying is that Senator Schacht is trying desperately to hide the situation from the scrutiny that the estimates committees can do best. He knows only too well what Minister Kelly has done in this exercise. In his contribution today he has not been able to defend her in one instance. He says, `Oh, but we lost some of those seats'. That did not stop the government pork-barrelling those seats at the same time. Let me just give the Senate an example of some of the pork-barrelling that went on in my state of Western Australia. The government pork-barrelled Canning, $198,250; Brand, $164,720; Fremantle, $260,500; Perth, $120,000; Swan, $265,000; and Stirling, $270,000.

Senator Schacht —And we still lost.

Senator KNOWLES —Labor still lost it, but the government gave it its best shot by pork-barrelling it. Let us look at the electorate of Moore; it got $60,000, and yet the government pork-barrelled Stirling $270,000. That is just absolute nonsense.

  Minister Kelly has failed to administer her department; she has failed to administer the guidelines; she has failed in every department. The blatant pork-barrelling into these Labor marginal seats is just unforgivable. At no stage under repeated questioning last week in the House of Representatives, again today, and in a further debate today, has she even been able to produce the documents. What is more sinful is that the Auditor-General went in there to try to find the documents and could not find them.

  The background against which these decisions were made had to be documented somewhere. Has this minister, in this chamber, stood up here and explained why there are no documents? No. Has Minister Kelly in the other place explained why there are no documents? One might ask: has she shred the documents? Has she got rid of them? If not, where are they? If they are still in existence, why will she not produce them?

Senator Schacht —Ah.

Senator KNOWLES —There is no point in Senator Schacht just sitting over there and going `Ah' like some contorted fool; he has to somehow say where those documents are.

  Minister Kelly is unable to answer any of the questions; she is unable to answer any of the questions that have been put to her by the Auditor-General as to what the decision-making process was. The simple point is that the report also stated that there was insufficient consultation; that the projects were not monitored systematically; that certain administrative procedures left the program open to fraud; that the program fraud control was out of date; and that there was poor performance information. This is the report of the independent Auditor-General on this incompetent minister who cannot for some reason find the documentation on which these decisions were made.

  If this government wants to continue this absolute and utter misuse of taxpayers' funds, it is about time it put itself forward again for the scrutiny of estimates E, got off its tail and found these documents, or got Mrs Kelly to resign. This is not the first time Mrs Kelly has been proven to be incompetent, it certainly will not be the last, but what is she hiding from the parliament on this occasion? If the Liberal Party had not brought this to light when Senator Baume, as the then shadow minister in this area, asked the Auditor-General to find out the basis on which these decisions were made, nothing of this would have come out. Yet here we have again this Labor Party trying to defend the indefensible. Let us face it, it has used taxpayers' money to try to win its way back into government.