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Wednesday, 2 April 1980
Page: 1415

Senator McLAREN (South Australia) - I desire to say a few words on this motion as I was the person who gave notice of motion on 22 November last year for Senator Walsh who was absent from the chamber on that day due to some unforeseen circumstances. I think that Senator Chipp has put the whole question in a nutshell. The Government is trying to run away from a responsibility which it has to the electors of this country, to the taxpayers, and to the Parliament. The Auditor-General's supplementary report on accounts for the year ended 30 June 1979, at page 23, item 12, under the heading 'Australian Dairy Corporation', states:

Asia Dairy Industries (HK) Limited-

Apparently this is the Auditor-General making this report-

Paragraph 3.3.9 of my Report dated 17 September 1979 made reference to an inspection and audit of the accounts and records of Asia Dairy Industries (HK) Limited which was carried out following a request by the Minister for Primary Industry under section 63p of the Audit Act 1 90 1 . The company, which is registered in Hong Kong, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australian Dairy Corporation and is subject to audit by a Hong Kong firm of chartered accountants.

As mentioned in my previous Report, representations on a number of matters were made to the Chairman of the company on 24 July 1979 and a report was furnished to the Minister on 3 August 1979.

So the Minister has had that report on which we are now moving to have tabled in this Parliament since 3 August last year. That is quite a long time. The Auditor-General goes on to say:

The principal matters arising from the audit inspection included: whether certain company operations which are not related to the disposal of surplus Australian dairy products are within the powers and responsibilities of the Australian Dairy Corporation under the Dairy Produce Act 1924; deficiencies in management control by the Corporation over the company; lack of proper definition of powers, authorities and delegations; inadequate documentation of determinations and approvals for rates of salaries, allowances, bonuses and other staff benefits and conditions of service; lack of competent approval for, and deficiencies in accounting for, overseas travelling expenses; inadequate documentation in regard to the basis for delineation and allocation of certain costs; and deficiencies in financial and administrative systems and internal checks and controls.

A reply to the Audit representations did not include all specific information and comments requested, resulting in a further reference to the Chairman on 19 September 1979. The attention of the Minister has also been drawn to the need for particular actions considered necessary.

We were told in the Parliament last Thursday and again as late as Question Time today that the Government is still investigating the report from the Auditor-General which it has had in its hands since November of last year. Nearly five months have gone by since that report was given to the Government. But we can go back further than that. These discrepancies were drawn to the attention of the Goverment by the AuditorGeneral on 3 August last year. As Senator McClelland has pointed out, the AuditorGeneral is an officer of this Parliament. By the vote that was taken tonight we have found that the Government does not want the AuditorGeneral 's report tabled in this Parliament so that we, the responsible, elected members of this place, will be able to ascertain what his report stated. I read out all of the discrepancies pointed out in the Auditor-General 's supplementary report which was tabled in the Parliament on 13 November. What sort of an institution are we elected to if the Government, by its actions tonight, by its actions previous to tonight, by its responses to a series of questions and by its response to the notice of" motion I gave on 22 November, is not going to give the Parliament the information which we desire? I think it is a matter for which we must show very grave concern.

I can remember that not so many years ago the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, used to stand in this place, criticise the Whitlam Government and say that it was a government of corruption, deceit and all the other awful things he could lay his tongue to. I am going to throw those challenges back to Senator Carrick tonight. If the Government is not prepared to vote for this motion and to see that the report is tabled we can truthfully say that we now have a Government in Parliament in Canberra that is, in fact, proving to the peoplenot just by allegations being made but by absolute proof- that it is a government of corruption, deceit and cover-up. The Government is not prepared to table that report in the Parliament in the way that we are asking it to, that is, in a proper and legitimate manner. What does the Government have to hide? Why is it so afraid to table a report on a matter which it asked the AuditorGeneral to look into? The Auditor-General has given the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) his findings. Every time Senator Scott is asked a question he says that the Government is still making inquiries. It is not good enough to give an answer in that way. As time is getting on, I will give the Government another opportunity to change its mind after listening to what I have said. In the interests of the taxpayers of this country I again move:

That the question be now put.

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