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Tuesday, 8 February 1994
Page: 519


Senator BISHOP (3.10 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Science and Small Business (Senator Schacht) to a question without notice asked by Senator Jones this day, relating to the Australian Customs Service.

I am interested to read from page 29 of the report by the Conroy committee, entitled Review of the Australian Customs Service, where the committee comments upon the Midford report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Customs' response to it. It stated that the committee considered the logic of the proposition that Customs had asserted that it had implemented the Midford recommendations. It states:

. . . that implementation of Midford recommendations has not been completed until cultural change in Customs is seen to be well under way. Evidence before the Committee does not indicate this has occurred. That evidence includes discussions with senior officers and others in Customs on the degree of resistance and hostility the Midford case has engendered in the organisation.

In the Committee's view, Customs' implementation of Midford is far from complete, nor has Customs reported implementation in an accountable and meaningful process.

In the light of this report and the press release put out by Senator Schacht today announcing that Mr Kelly, the then Comptroller-General, has in fact resigned but is to be rewarded with a consultancy to DITARD on APEC issues, earlier in the day I wished to ask Senator Schacht why was he making an announcement about Mr Kelly's appointment to DITARD? How much is Mr Kelly to be paid? Why is this man, who presided over the demise of the Australian Customs Service and is found in this report to be wanting, to be rewarded at taxpayers' expense with an appointment to APEC, an area in which he has no demonstrable expertise? Anyone who has listened to the evidence given by him again and again through estimates will see that there is no such expertise.

  I am disappointed that I did not get the call earlier in question time to ask that question of Senator Schacht. The fact that this appointment has been made and the fact that Senator Schacht was the one chosen to make the announcement certainly does require answering. If I might say, I think that the report that has been brought down is very much in line with the sentiment of the public accounts committee. Read together, both reports will be most useful documents. The work that has been carried out in both cases will mean that perhaps we will finally get a renamed Customs Service with a different structure of personnel—of course, all the existing positions were to be declared vacant. Yet Mr Kelly, who has stood down, in the minister's terms—and quite properly so—is to be rewarded in this way.

  To say that that is going to make a lot of people very angry would be an understatement. The good people who were in the Customs Service and the many people who found the Customs Service wanting in so many ways are going to find the reward of Mr Kelly very hard to stomach. I think we do need to know why the minister is making the announcement of the appointment. How much is Mr Kelly being paid? Why is he being rewarded when he has presided over the demise of the Customs Service? Where is the apparent expertise that he has in this particular area?