Page 2106 - Week 06 - Thursday, 26 June 2008

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This is my first year as a visitor to the estimates committee’s hearings, and I was castigated for just being a visitor a number of times by government and opposition alike. I was certainly made to feel that each question I was allowed to ask was a privilege and I saw a number of opposition members squirming impatiently each time I got the call.

Nonetheless, as a member I have noted that visitors are given ample opportunity to ask questions, and this was normally the case this year, with one notable exception: the day that Mr Stanhope was called back to answer questions about the gas-fired power station and data centre. I think I got one question that was a supplementary, but I noticed that even the opposition members of the estimates committee were not given many opportunities to ask questions that day.

I also want to add that Mr Mulcahy made a comment, I believe, when he was talking about the estimates committee, that I complained to him about Mrs Dunne. I want to correct the record on that one. Certainly, it was noted that Mrs Dunne squirmed when the chair gave me and Mr Mulcahy a question, because of her impatience to ask questions. I was able to identify with that, because I know that when I was a member of the committee I used to sometimes feel that visitors were given more chance to ask questions than I felt was fair. But I do not remember complaining to Mr Mulcahy at all. I do, however, know that we both observed it, and we did comment upon it together. It could be my memory that is at fault, but I do not think it is really in character for me to complain like that. That is the extent of my comments on the executive.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Proposed expenditure—part 1.3—Auditor-General—$2,072,000 (net cost of outputs), totalling $2,072,000.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (5.09): The office of the Auditor-General always operates under major constraints. It has got a tight budget, and there is always the potential for staff to leave for other jobs. It has also had a battle lately to recruit suitable experienced staff—a continual battle—and a battle to retain them.

I note that the auditor sought an increase in her budget for the 2008-09 year of $210,000 to enable her to have the capacity to comply with the new professional standard. This request was supported by the PAC, the public accounts committee. But unfortunately the request was rejected by the Stanhope government, and I think it is a disappointing outcome. What is even more disappointing is that no substantive reason has been given by the Stanhope government for the decision. They said: “Yes, we increased it a couple of years back. She has got lots of money. It should be okay.” We all know that the Auditor-General is very circumspect in her language, but it was quite clear that she was very disappointed by the outcome and it is clear also that the estimates committee is concerned that this rejection could compromise the work program of the auditor. At page 105 of the committee’s report, recommendation 54 states:

The Committee recommends that the Auditor-General’s request for funding to implement the requirements of the new professional auditing standard be granted.

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