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Monday, 4 November 1996
Page: 5004

Senator BOLKUS(4.12 p.m.) —by leave—In moving this motion today, I make it very clear that we are talking about an incident which involves two departments—the Department of Administrative Services and the Attorney-General's Department. The money for this campaign run by the Attorney-General's Department comes from the Medicare levy which was extended and paid for in good faith by Australian taxpayers. That department has had to come back to the Senate to correct one answer, as Senator Hill indicated in respect of DAS. We have had the same situation in respect of the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Board—their chief executive officer had to also correct an answer. On that basis, Senator Hill, I think you would be inclined to change your mind and accept that there has been a correction of evidence here.

We are also talking about answers provided since the last hearing and answers not provided. It is a very critical issue for the Australian government and Australian governments to know when this campaign is going to start. We were given advice some three weeks ago that creative work would be ready by now, that the campaign should be off and running by about the middle of November and that states would be involved in it as well. But in answers to questions in the House of Representatives, Mr Williams, the Attorney-General, could not commit himself to timing; he could not say why he chose the wrong campaign; he could not say why the focus of the campaign was changed; he was not able to table critical documents of A-G's—in fact, he refused to table documents of advice from the Attorney-General's Department in respect of the focus of this campaign.

Senator Hill —The questions don't relate to the commencement of the program.

Senator BOLKUS —A lot of these of issues have arisen because of information provided since and information provided not just in the estimates process but also in the House of Representatives. We have found out in recent days that Mr Williams tried to answer whether OGIA was directed to the Liberal Party or to the Attorney-General's office to find DDB Needham at a critical stage. An issue that remains outstanding is that there are inconsistencies in the Attorney's advice and in information to the parliament and to the broader public.

For instance, we did not get an answer—we are waiting for this—as to whether information had been provided to DDB Needham before other tenderers in terms of the quality of the research. So there are a lot of issues outstanding here. This process will not really be completed unless both committees can get into it again, given the inconsistencies and inadequacies of answers since we last met.

Question resolved in the affirmative.