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Tuesday, 25 June 1996
Page: 2154

Senator MICHAEL BAUME(6.57 p.m.) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I want to note some of the incidental costs of elections. I notice the Department of Administrative Services requires an extra $5.576 million to cover larger redundancy costs and so on relating to former staff of ministers, office holders and back bench parliamentarians—positions which have been terminated as a result of the election. These payments so far exceed $6 million. I know that the staff would have been concerned about the loss of their jobs. It seems obviously appropriate that there should be proper payment to them for the loss of their jobs. It is one of those hidden costs of a change in government that comes to light in these documents.

I also want to mention another item. The Department of Veterans' Affairs requires a further $1.36 million for the veterans' children education scheme to meet some payments due to the increase in student numbers at both the secondary and tertiary level of education. This requirement was unforeseen at the time of the additional estimates. I know it must be very difficult to establish what these total costs are going to be, but I must say that $1.36 million on top of an appropriation of $6.5 million is a fairly large percentage error. I wonder on what basis these mistakes are being made, if you can call them mistakes. Obviously, the payments have to be made. I certainly would not complain about those payments.

One final thing is that on Friday, 21 April this year, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, ASIS, took out a series of injunctions against the Sydney Morning Herald and radio station 2UE. The injunctions were proceeded with but the Commonwealth government is liable to some costs as it has accepted a final settlement involving the payment of $100,000 to John Fairfax Pty Ltd. The ASIS component of this cost is $33,333.34. The account is currently to hand. Unrelated compensation and legal payments of $78,504 and $7,679 have already been paid from the Advance to the Minister for Finance as the final charge.

This matter clearly indicates that there is a cost to these ventures, and the taxpayer has to pay it. I imagine that John Fairfax is quite happy to be receiving $100,000 in settlement of this matter. I know that John Fairfax, who employed me at one stage in my life, could have thought of some very good ways of spending that kind of money.

This is just another example of legal action taking a very large amount of government money. Multi-millions of dollars seem to be going out from various departments in either legal settlements or compensations. It is a matter of concern that the Commonwealth government appears to be one of the major providers of funding to the legal profession in Australia.

Question resolved in the affirmative.