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Monday, 24 November 2008
Page: 19

Senator RONALDSON (2:36 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. Senator Evans, I refer you to a document entitled First 100 days: achievements of the Rudd government, dated February 2000, which carries the Australian government Coat of Arms, so I will presume that that is a government authorised document. I also refer you to the equally highly political 74-page glossy document published by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet entitled One year progress report, which also carries the Commonwealth Coat of Arms. Can you confirm that this was produced solely by the Prime Minister’s own department, or were there other departments involved in the compilation and production? Alternatively, was ALP head office similarly involved?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —I thank the senator for the question. I think he is right to draw attention to a very important document which outlines for the Australian public the government’s achievements and progress in meeting its election commitments throughout its first year of government. I think that, generally, people have acknowledged that we have made very good progress in meeting those commitments and implementing the agenda which we took to the people. I think this sort of document is important as an accountability measure in that it is a report of the government’s activities, the government’s achievements and the progress the government has made with its reform agenda. It was, I think, coordinated through the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, but I will check on the exact details that Senator Ronaldson raised. I do not have a brief as to the ins and outs of it other than that I know that ministers and departments were invited to provide information for the compiling of the document. Obviously it was quite difficult to fit all the achievements into a single document, but I think it is important that governments are accountable. This government has brought new accountability standards to government, and I think it is important that we report to the Australian community on progress made in policy areas.

I saw another document which purported to analyse the year. It was a pretty unimpressive piece of work. I noticed when I looked through the document that a range of commitments by the opposition seemed to have disappeared. I think this is an important document. I urge people to consider it. (Time expired)

Senator RONALDSON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I ask the minister: how many hard copies were produced? Was this publication, or elements of it, focus group tested? If so, how much did that research cost the taxpayer?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —I am not able to help the senator with the detail of the questions he asked. It has been confirmed by a number of ministers that both PMO and PM&C were involved in the compilation of the document. It is not a political document. It is a document that seeks to report to the Australian people and to be widely available. I suspect that if it is not up on the internet it will be, to provide access for people to look at the record of the government. As I said, I think it is an important accountability measure. Unlike the previous government, we do not spend millions of taxpayers’ dollars advertising ourselves. What we have is a modest production, a record of the progress of the government in the first year, that I think is an important piece of accountability to the Australian public. (Time expired)

Senator RONALDSON —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister, you said that the document titled One year progress report referred to accountability and to the government’s achievements. I will read the foreword to the First 100 days. It says:

As Prime Minister, I am accountable to all Australians for the performance of the Government.

That’s why I am releasing a report card that outlines the Government’s achievements during its first 100 days in office.

Given that this document is about accountability and is apparently political, and you say that the most recently released document is also about accountability and is not a political document, I ask: why was it good enough for the Labor Party to have to pay for the first document, First 100 days, and why isn’t the Prime Minister now requiring the Australian Labor Party to pay for this document, which is similar in tone, comment and commentary?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —I hope that other people followed that question a bit more closely than I did, because it did not seem to make any sense at all. All I can say is that—

Senator Conroy —It’s that second supplementary—

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes. If this is what a second supplementary does in terms of putting pressure on ministers, I think we had better go back to the old system. As I explained, this document is a one-year progress report of the new government for the Australian public. It is a perfectly appropriate thing to provide. As I said, it is about us providing accountability for our actions. In terms of some complicated argument about a document put out after 100 days, I really cannot help the senator. I think this is a modest but important document that stands as a record and a report to the Australian public. It is a very important and, I think, appropriate thing to do.