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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 8 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 3325..


Mr Seselja interjecting—

MADAM ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Mr Seselja, please be quiet.

Ms Gallagher interjecting—

MADAM ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Ms Gallagher, please be quiet. Mr Smyth, you do have the floor.

MR SMYTH: So we had a process in 2004 where the man who is currently the commonwealth Auditor-General participated and brought to that process an immense amount of experience. We did not have, in my belief, similar experience on this panel at this time. I will not talk about what may or may not have been discussed, but anybody approaching any chair of a committee that is making a decision leads to all of us being put in the position where it can be contended that something was awry.

This process did take much longer than I think most people would have expected. I have to say the fundamental concern that I have is that all of this led to extraordinary pressure being put on members of the public accounts committee. I feel very strongly about this.

I have a good record in this place over the last 10 years in support of the Auditor-General. When you have a unicameral house, as we do, positions like the Auditor-General take on even more importance and over the last 10 years I have argued very strongly for additional resources for the Auditor-General. They are in various reports. They are in various debates. They are here in recommendations in estimates reports. Most of it has fallen on deaf ears. We see that, as costs rise, the number of reports that the audit office is able to do diminishes.

You have all heard me say previously that the desirable outcome is to get to a balance where 50 per cent of the work is financial and 50 per cent is the performance audits. Currently it is 70 per cent financial and 30 per cent performance audits. In a time of budget difficulty, it is quite clear from around the country and from around the world that there is a standard that says for every dollar you invest in the audit office you get about a tenfold return either through improved services or savings. This is why the Auditor-General's office is so important and this is why it is important that we get this right. It is why I feel very strongly about this. I will be bringing forward legislation, as I have said. I have defended the audit office for a very long time and will continue to do so. But what I cannot defend is the government's process.

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts has a formal role in the appointment process of the ACT's Auditor-General and the Chief Minister cannot independently appoint a candidate. Despite this, I first became aware that the government had a preferred candidate for this position through a media report on 31 May, generated by a media release from the Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, announcing the proposed appointment of the candidate. The night the proposed appointment became public, the nominee approached the committee chair at a public function. The chair was most concerned about this approach and immediately informed, as was right, all the


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