Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 8 February 1994
Page: 509

Senator McGAURAN —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Finance. In light of the comments by the Commonwealth Auditor-General, Mr Taylor, that he fears the government is intent on using legal avenues to thwart the necessary role of the audit office in scrutinising government operations, can the minister give the Senate a categorical assurance that, firstly, Mr Taylor's position as Commonwealth Auditor-General has the total confidence and support of the government and, secondly, that the government will cease henceforth in all cases from using legal advice and related tactics to circumvent the Auditor-General's open access to all documentation held by government departments?

Senator COOK —This is a trivial question because it asks the government to re-affirm one of the quite important posts of independence in the whole constellation of government effort, and that is the office of the auditor. One does respect his independence and statutory responsibility to report openly and fairly.

  The question then goes on to play a political game and say that all relevant documents should be made available to the auditor. It is my experience and understanding that that is the case of government departments. But the most celebrated case, which this question does not refer to, which is subject to some controversy, and which was the subject of a series of questions in this chamber yesterday, concerns sporting grants. The issue between the auditor and the minister at that time, where the minister sought legal advice, was where the auditor sought, as I understand it, documentations held privately by the minister which were not departmental documentations.

  I am not sure of the outcome of that legal advice, but it seems to me it does not go to the answer of the question. One ought to identify this issue, even though it was not the subject of the direct question, because a blurring of this particular line of demarcation is tantamount to trying to mount yet another smear in the case of the sports grants affair.