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Monday, 22 November 1993
Page: 3343

Senator TIERNEY (4.50 p.m.) —I rise to support the motion for the suspension of standing orders moved by Senator Hill and to urge this chamber to recall Estimates Committee E to consider, in particular, the very serious matters that have been raised in the Auditor-General's report. What we have before us is yet another case of how this government rorted its way to an election victory. It is hard to find people who admit that they voted for the Labor Party. One of the reasons is the rorts that were going on; one relates to the electoral system, which we are uncovering in a committee at the moment; another is the outrageous lies that the government told in lying its way to the election; and here we have an example of blatant pork-barrelling right around the Commonwealth.

  The government has actually given a new meaning to the term `triennial grants'. It granted $29.5 million to this program just before the election. Guess what happened in this budget? It disappeared totally. People were saying what a great program it was earlier on. If it was such a great program, why has it disappeared? I predict that it will come back in 1995—in time for the next election.

  What happened before this election was that in November all the grant applications were due and in February—surprise, surprise—they were all allocated. Labor seats received 73 per cent of the grants. Marginal Labor seats received double that received by the coalition seats. Labor marginals received $326,000; coalition marginals received $163,000. If anyone wanted to investigate this, there is some factor operating there. Why is it biased one way and not the other?

  Let us look at an example. Logan City is an example of how this bias worked in a particular way to favour Labor in the election. An amount of $96,000 was given to the Logan City workers, rugby and sporting club. One might ask: what is wrong with that? At the time the grant was made the so-called club did not have a playing field and did not even have a team, yet it got $96,000. I was listening to Mrs Kelly today in the other chamber. In response to a question from Dr Hewson, she said, in terms of the guidelines, that it must be for the upgrading of existing facilities. If one does not have a playing field to start with, one has a massive upgrade to do. This is an example of blatant pork-barrelling by this government before the election.

  If we look at what the Australian National Audit Office said in relation to this sort of blatant pork-barrelling, we see that it brings out some areas of very serious concern, which Senator Loosley was trying to sweep under the carpet. Indeed, in the other chamber Mrs Kelly spent most of her time going through the objectives of the program and the procedures that were followed. The Australian National Audit Office said:

the procedures for processing applications were poor. Details on applications were not checked and necessary documentation was not followed up where it was missing

. . . . . . . . .

projects were not monitored systematically to ensure completion or achievement of program objectives

. . . the program open to fraud and the program fraud control plan was out of date,

there is poor performance information.

The Auditor-General then went on to outline his very serious doubts—doubts which I believe this government should take particular note of and that is why we want Estimates Committee E recalled. The ANAO noted:

. . . some anomalies in the approval of grants . . . by the Minister but was unable to resolve them because the reasons for decisions were not accurately documented. For the same reason claims that decisions on the allocation of grants were politically motivated could not be put to rest.

That is interesting wording. That is bureaucratese for the fact that this has been—

Senator Collins —You hardly asked a question about it. A couple of questions on estimates and those were on the republic and David Hill.

Senator TIERNEY —If we had had this information, we would have asked a lot of questions at that time. We did not have it. We have it now and we have had a look at it. It raises very serious doubts, so let us ask some questions about it. It is interesting to note that the Auditor-General also said:

The role of the Minister's staff in the selection of grants appears significant.

We should recall Estimates Committee E to consider these matters. (Time expired)