Senate debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023


Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee; Report

3:40 pm

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I want to make a few short observations in relation to the report of the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee on its examination of annual reports, tabled on behalf of Senator Pratt.

In the previous parliament, I served on that committee, and there is an important point in relation to annual reports which are prepared by government agencies and government departments. First, they should be prepared within time. There were three reports that were prepared only after the expiration of the quite reasonable amount of time which is given to government agencies to report. To be frank, that is not good enough. There should be close examination of the agencies that failed to produce their public annual reports within the time which is provided for them and an examination as to the reasons why.

The second point is that those annual reports should be released and made available in good time before budget estimates. If we, as senators in this place, are to do our job as we should be doing it, in terms of holding the executive to account, those annual reports are invaluable information so we know what questions to ask. We should have time to read the annual reports and absorb the information, as opposed to getting them perhaps one day before estimates starts or even after estimates. It is not good enough for annual reports to be prepared either out of time or to not be released in good time before the estimates process. It's certainly something which I will be focusing on over this term of parliament and beyond, if I have the opportunity, because I don't think it's good enough.

I come from the private sector. You release your annual report before the shareholders' meeting, not after, so that shareholders can ask questions. The same thing should apply—even more so!—in the public sector so that we, as senators, have the opportunity to ask questions that need to be asked and, indeed, the questions which we have a duty to ask on behalf of the many stakeholders in the Australian community.

Question agreed to.


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