Wednesday, 9 February 2022
Australian Public Service; Order for the Production of Documents
(1) That there be laid on the table by the Minister for Finance, by no later than the last day of each financial quarter:
(a) details of all requests by government agencies for tenders for consultancy services in the previous quarter;
(b) details of all consultancy contracts entered into by government agencies in the previous quarter with:
(i) Ernst & Young,
(vi) Boston Consulting Group,
(vii) Accenture, and
(viii) any other consultancy organisation in relation to contracts valued at more than $50,000,
including the purpose, scope, value, commencement and expected completion dates for each contract; and
(c) any final report or written advice prepared by consultancy firms listed in paragraph 1(b) received by a government agency in the previous quarter.
(2) If the Senate is not sitting when the documents are ready for presentation, the documents are to be presented to the President under standing order 166.
(3) This order is of continuing effect.
Labor is deeply troubled by the explosion in the use of external labour under the Morrison government, including consultants. Driven by the government's arbitrary and damaging staffing cap, this expenditure is not only wasteful but it also undermines the capability of the Australian Public Service. We are also deeply concerned by the Morrison government's approach to transparency, including in procurement and its engagement of external labour. That is why we have already announced plans to improve the disclosure of contracts on AusTender along with reforms to better track spending and contract extensions. While we appreciate the intent behind this motion, Labor has a number of concerns, including the scope of the private commercial information being sought, the failure to address PII and the identification of private firms in a continuing order of the Senate. We will not be supporting the motion.
The motion would represent an unreasonable diversion of resources requiring reconfiguration of data that's already published on a more regular basis on AusTender. It incorrectly assumes that the main consultancy firms are identical for all portfolios. The transparency.gov.au website already publishes data on the largest consultancy contracts for all agencies, with top-ranked suppliers differing for many agencies. The last limb of the motion seeks documents that are usually protected by a diverse range of legitimate public interest immunities. It would be an unreasonable diversion of resources to perform immunity reviews, consultations and redactions on every such report when it's open to the Senate to seek only those documents of interest. This diversion of resources will subtract from frontline public services.