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Tuesday, 7 December 1993
Page: 4021

Senator WOODLEY (4.17 p.m.) —I draw the attention of the Senate particularly to appendix U of the annual report of the Industry Commission, which talks about the activities of the inquiry and the reports of the commission. It states:

The Commission's inquiry program embraces a wide range of industry and reform issues. This appendix documents the progress of inquiries.

The report also mentions some inquiries which are listed for the future. I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to one of them, which is the projected inquiry into charities and related bodies.

  I asked a question of Senator Schacht in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Technology and Regional Development (Mr Griffiths) some time ago about the matter. I received an answer which at the time was not satisfactory but which nevertheless enabled me to continue some research into this issue and to note the concern of many church welfare related bodies about this inquiry.

  The Democrats believe that there ought to be a wide-ranging inquiry of which the Industry Commission inquiry could be a part. Our concern is that this inquiry by the Industry Commission would be too narrow to get at the questions which need to be asked. We are waiting for the terms of reference for the inquiry to be released. Although they were supposed to have been made available a week ago, we have still not been able to get our hands on them.

  It seems to us that issues such as accounting and audit standards, law reform and a more complete list of church, welfare and not-for-profit sector organisations would be a very useful area of inquiry for the Senate. Our problem is that we believe that an inquiry by the Industry Commission would have too narrow a focus—a focus on economic and efficiency issues—and that this framework would not get at the areas in the whole charity and welfare sector which we believe need to be addressed. I place on the record our appreciation for the work of the commission but also our apprehension that the commission will not be able to ascertain the kinds of questions which we would want to ask of this sector.

  It may be that one would have to ask whether the Industry Commission is the appropriate body to be asking questions of the church and welfare sector. We suggested to the government that a Senate select committee or a joint select committee would be the more appropriate body to ask these questions. We commend this report to the Senate.