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Monday, 22 November 1993
Page: 3385

Senator PANIZZA (10.00 p.m.) —I thought Senator Chamarette might have been present so as to have another chance to explain why we demand more accountability of ATSIC than any other organisation. I am not talking about the degree of accountability. I invite her to come into the chamber and do so.

  I have often compared ATSIC regional councils with local government. Local government budgets are made up of contributions from taxpayers, the federal government and state governments. This money is spent on such areas as roads. Every year local government is subject to a mandatory audit.

Senator Collins —That is right.

Senator PANIZZA —I know that the minister said that, but it is also mandatory to make acquittals. I do not think the minister said anything about acquittals. This was one of the main matters that I was looking at in my inquiry.

  The minister—in this case, Senator Collins—mentioned the alleged benefits of having greater accountability. I presume that most people on the weekend heard, as I did, that Senator Richardson is going to undertake a tour of the isolated Aboriginal communities to find out why their health situation is not improving.

Senator Collins —He is the health minister.

Senator PANIZZA —He is the health minister. I totally agree with what he is going to do. He should find out why their standard of health has not risen. His actions confirm my fears that the money is not going where it is finally supposed to be going. That is why we are looking for accountability.

  I admire and encourage Senator Richardson's travelling around those communities to find out why the health of Aborigines is not improving; in other words, why the money that is going out in the name of health is not hitting the target. This is probably the only statement that Senator Richardson has made in this place this year that I have agreed with. If he needs a map of where to go in Western Australia, I will provide it for him.

  To me, as the minister said, the alleged benefit is money going to the right place and where it is supposed to be going—not being creamed off by what I call the Aboriginal industry; and `Aboriginal industry' is not Aboriginal people by any stroke of the imagination. But too much is being creamed off in that way.

  I support my colleague Senator Troeth and the opposition's amendments. Organisations such as local government have to be audited every year. Local government has to be audited in respect of not only the money it receives from state governments but also what is raised from ratepayers.

Senator Collins —So do the Aboriginal organisations.

Senator PANIZZA —I know. But the minister was questioning whether this is necessary. I say to the minister that these amendments are very much in line with even what the government thinks.

Senator Collins —Local government bodies don't have to have two audits.

Senator PANIZZA —No. They have one plus acquittals. There is no mention of acquittals in this bill. I certainly support my colleague Senator Troeth in this matter. I wonder whether the minister has ever thought along the lines that the ATSIC regional councils should be compared to local government. They are both regional governments. He should think about it.