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Friday, 31 May 1996
Page: 1547

Senator KERNOT (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(2.00 p.m.) —I have listened with great interest to the debate so far, and just a couple of points need to be made. The obvious point which has been made is that this is happening because we have moved the budget back from May to August. We are being asked to approve an amount which constitutes five-twelfths of the budget without any other form of accountability process. That is why the Greens (WA) have been making the points they have this morning, which I have listened to.

When the Hawke government won government, when there was a change of government previously in March, it put an estimates process in place in May. That has not happened this time, despite your offer of a charter of budget honesty and all the rest of it. It is an important matter of process that we are being asked to sign off on. We are being asked to pass these important supply bills in good faith—that is, what you say you are going to do—and in the absence of certain information. That is a big ask. So while those up in the press gallery are talking about the hostile Senate I hope they take into consideration the kind of cooperation and goodwill that exists in taking things on face value here.

Senator Schacht —They probably forgot about the five-twelfths.

Senator KERNOT —It is a big amount. We are getting similar inquiries, letters from community groups who are again uncertain of their funding and asking whether we can enlighten them. We cannot enlighten them because ministers are not telling us any more than they are telling these groups either. For a lot of them their funding runs out at the end of June and they are very trying times. They want to know if they have a future to continue to do the work they have been doing. They are entitled to know that before the end of June.

Just so everybody understands, we are being asked to approve five-twelfths of a budget without an estimates process. As I say, after 13 years of waiting for government I had an expectation they would have planned for the transition and part of that plan would have involved some kind of estimates process. So when we are looking at the management of the program this needs to be well and truly noted.