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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 6 Hansard (23 May) . . Page.. 1747 ..

MR WHITECROSS (Leader of the Opposition) (6.36): Mr Speaker, I am not sure that Mrs Carnell did not just argue against herself then. On the one hand, she suggested that the Auditor-General already could do all the things that Ms Tucker wanted the Auditor-General to do, and then she said that it would be inappropriate to saddle him with all these extra functions. I am not sure which of those two statements is true.

Mrs Carnell: No, "to place a requirement". I said that to place a requirement on the Auditor-General is the problem.

MR WHITECROSS: If the implication of placing a requirement is that, while the Auditor-General could do it, you do not expect the Auditor-General to do it, I still think you are arguing against yourself.

Mr Speaker, although I was not taken with that part of Mrs Carnell's argument, I think that the second part of her argument was a bit more persuasive. The Commissioner for the Environment is better placed to assess issues of relative environmental costs and benefits of operations of the Government, having regard to the principles of ecologically sustainable development. If further development is needed of the role of the Commissioner for the Environment, I would have thought that that was the most appropriate way to go.

The Auditor-General certainly does have the responsibility to look at whether money is being spent to achieve the nominated outcomes, and whether the money has been effectively spent to achieve those outcomes, and, to that extent, Mrs Carnell did have a point in relation to that. We should not be looking for a way of once again trying to turn the Auditor-General into something else. We should be developing new institutions which address some of the other issues in our set of concerns.

If we have a concern about social costs or about environmental costs, we ought to be developing institutions similar to the Auditor-General which will enable us to address and report on those costs. At a national level, Mr Speaker, there are lots of examples - like the Human Rights Commission - of institutions which do address some of these issues and report to government, and some of these bodies play a watchdog role on governments in relation to them. Who can deny the significant role that someone like Mr Burdekin has played in relation to highlighting social issues, things falling through the net, things not being fully addressed by government in the way that he felt that they should be, and areas where governments need to pick up their game? In the same way, we could seek a more active role for the Commissioner for the Environment in relation to some of the principles that are laid down here, if the view is that the Commissioner for the Environment is not playing as significant a role as we think he should. I do not think that we advance the cause of these issues by asking the Auditor-General to do it.

I think, once again, Mr Speaker, that we ought to have some regard for this issue that the Greens have raised. I acknowledge and respect the motivation of the Greens in raising it, because I think it is an issue on which we should have more active consideration; but I do not think that we will achieve that by putting that role on the Auditor-General.

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