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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2503

Mr WHITE —I present the 210th report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts. I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.

Mr WHITE —The 210th report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts contains the Department of Finance minute on the Committee's earlier report (No. 199) on financial statements for Commonwealth undertakings. The Department of Finance minute is the formal mechanism used by the Government for responding to the Committee's recommendations. The Committee's 199th report, a discussion paper on the form and standard of financial statements for Commonwealth undertakings, was tabled in Parliament on 28 October 1982. The 199th report contrasted public sector and private sector reporting and canvassed contemporary views of financial reporting by public sector bodies. In evaluating the private sector the Committee was concerned only with its relevance to the public sector; it made no judgments on the adequacy of the process or standards for the private sector itself.

Public Accounts Committee

The report covers a wide range of accounting and financial reporting issues dealing both with practical steps which may be implemented in the short term to improve the quality of financial statements and with the direction research in Government accounting should take in the longer term. The Committee is generally satisfied with the Department of Finance response to report No. 199 and is pleased to note continuing widespread discussion and critical analysis of the issues surrounding the development and content of accounting standards for the public sector.

A major step in implementing the Committee's findings was taken on 16 May 1983 when the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins) issued guidelines which are intended to be adopted by Commonwealth undertakings which have their financial statements approved by the Minister for Finance. Earlier, in November 1982, guidelines were issues for annual reports of Departments and authorities. While the Committee welcomes the issuing of guidelines it wishes to stress that such guidelines are only the initial step in the process of improving published financial information on Commonwealth undertakings.

The following three recent developments are of interest to the Committee:

1. The announcement on 1 September 1983 by the Ministerial Council on Companies and Securities that an Accounting Standards Review Board will be established and operate from 1 January 1984.

2. The announcement during September 1983 by the Australian accounting profession that it has established a Public Sector Accounting Standards Board; and

3. The recommendation of the New South Wales Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee that a New South Wales Annual Reports Act be introduced to specify the reporting and accounting requirements for New South Wales Statutory Authorities.

The Committee commends the initiative of the Australian accounting profession establishing the Public Sector Accounting Standards Board and expresses the hope that the Board's responsibility and powers of enforcement are in accordance with the theme of the 199th report's recommendations. The Committee will be monitoring the activities of the Public Sector Accounting Standards Board and the Accounting Standards Board in so far as they relate to Commonwealth administration. The Committee wishes to be accorded observer status at all meetings of the Public Sector Accounting Standards Board.

As previously stated, the Committee is generally satisfied with the responses to its 199th report given that it is a discussion paper. The Committee is concerned that those responses in the Finance Minute calling for further research not go unnoticed and that appropriate resources be made available for the undertaking of such research. The Committee requests that the Minister for Finance report to the Committee, on or before 31 October 1984, on the progress made in researching those matters noted in his Department's response. I commend the report to honourable members.