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Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Page: 72

Senator MASON (8:59 PM) —The opposition also supports these amendments. I congratulate Senator Xenophon for his intervention and the government for its amendments. In relation to qualified audits, proposed section 15(c) of the bill provides for new reasons upon which the minister may refuse to authorise or delay a payment to non-government schools. An audit may be ‘expressed to be qualified’. The problem, insofar as non-government schools are concerned, is this: there may have been grounds for an auditor to qualify an audit that do not go to financial viability but instead go to hesitation about a school model or other reasons. For that reason there were great concerns, among those in the non-government school sector, that potentially a minister may be of bad faith, and I am certainly not implying that the current one would be.

Senator Carr interjecting—

Senator MASON —Yes, I’m saying that. We wanted to ensure that there is no way that a qualified audit could be used for grounds other than as to financial viability. With these amendments the Senate will be able to disallow a qualified audit where that audit does not relate to financial viability. In other words, there will be parliamentary oversight of any qualified audit that does not go to financial viability—and the opposition supports that.