Page 365 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 4 March 2008

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housing, which was important as well. So we are looking at one hour’s discussion for $801 million of budgetary funding. It seemed a bit disproportionate.

The chair referred to the best use of time. It has been said that it is after the event and, yes, you can ask questions on notice and do all those things too. But there is a real reason why we have annual reports and why we have hearings.

That brings to my mind another point. When the health minister appeared, we had 17 officials appear before the committee. I would agree with the chair that that was something of an overkill. Was that the best use of their time? Had we had longer with the health minister, we could have agreed to that number of people attending. The minister does need to have all those officials there in case questions are asked, but in an hour there is obviously only so much you can ask.

Let me go to the question of why we would have annual reports assessed each year. As members would note, page 2 of the report says, at 1.7:

Annual reports are assessed each year by the Institute of Public Administration (ACT Division) against formal criteria which include:

• compliance with formal guidelines and requirements; and

• internationally acknowledged attributes of good quality reporting.

Reports must also demonstrate:

• compliance with government and parliamentary guidelines of mandatory requirements as a minimum standard to be considered for an award.

So I suspect that we do need to continue the process in some way or other. Given that, as the chair said, we are the only jurisdiction, and a unicameral parliament, committees play a very important role in terms of scrutinising annual reports. I agree that we can put many questions on notice, but often that can be a protracted process. It is a way of holding governments to account when the minister and officials are brought before committees in order to get some feedback face to face and hold governments and departments to account.

I thank Grace Concannon, the secretary of our committee, for putting together this report. As I have said before in this place, committee staff are often the unsung heroes. I thank fellow committee members: the chair, Karin MacDonald; and the deputy chair, Mary Porter. I also thank the minister and department officials for coming. But I say, again that, if we are going to do this, we need to make it proportionate to the amount of funding which is allocated in the budget.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (10.39): I would like to make a few comments in support of the perspective that Mrs Burke brought to that discussion. The idea of scrapping annual reports came up a year or so back, I think in the form of a paper from the secretariat. I was opposed to it then, and I am opposed to changing this arrangement now.

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