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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 558 ..


Report on Conference of Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committees

MR QUINLAN (11.02): Mr Speaker, I present Public Accounts Committee Report No. 16 of the Standing Committee for the Chief Minister's Portfolio, entitled "Report on the 1999 Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committees 5th Biennial Conference", together with a copy of extracts of the minutes of proceedings. I move:

That the report be noted.

Mr Speaker, the Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committees, ACPAC, meets every two years in conference and is attended by public accounts committees of the States, Territories and the Commonwealth. This particular conference was attended by representatives from Papua New Guinea. There was the usual representation from New Zealand. Public accounts committees from various Canadian provinces have attended the last two conferences, and there is every sign that they will be present at future conferences. Mr Speaker, ACPAC has developed a truly international focus.

This conference coincided with the annual meeting of Commonwealth, State and Territory Auditors-General, and the conference benefited from their participation. I have to say that it really did. Auditors-General or their deputies were also present from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada itself and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba. I need hardly say that the conference dealt with a wide range of matters. I guess we could say that, if it is going to be a public accounts committee, it would be a boring couple of days that one might spend. But, genuinely, I have to observe that the conference did canvass matters of particular interest and of particular relevance today.

It brought home to me - it being my first of these conferences - the significance that is placed upon public accounts committees in other jurisdictions. We have the misfortune of being a rather small parliament. Everybody in this parliament has quite a number of hats to wear. We are either Ministers for a number of areas or shadow Ministers for a number of areas. The lone backbencher over there, Mr Hird, is on innumerable committees; and he is a great contributor, I might say, to government policy through his dissenting remarks from time to time.

I really have to say that it did bring home to me the importance of PACs and their role in maintaining government accountability, due to the fact that they are built on a bipartisan basis. Generally, it is the case that the chair of a PAC is a member of the Government, as opposed to how we operate here just by virtue of our numbers, but I think we have that little bit of an advantage, in terms of an edge, with a non-government member as chair of the PAC.

I very much commend this particular report. I have to report that there was discussion about formalising the international nature of this conference, with effectively what might turn out to be a Pacific Rim or regional-plus-Canada body to commence with. I did say earlier that the Assistant Auditor-General from the United Kingdom had also attended.

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