Frustration at the Rudd Government’s apparent contempt for accountability has prompted Senator Simon Birmingham to ask what more can be done to ensure Senate Estimates questions are answered in a more timely manner.
Senator Birmingham has written to the Chair of the Senate’s Procedures Committee, Senator Alan Ferguson, to ask that the committee consider what measures or powers might be available.
“For the most recent round of Estimates in February, statistics circulated by the Clerk of the Senate at the end of last week showed that out of 2730 questions taken on notice, a deeply unsatisfactory 1024 remained outstanding more than two months after they were asked,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“This is despite the various Senate committees having set deadlines of late March or early April for the return of all answers.
“Of particular concern is the number of departments and agencies where, despite having had two months to produce an answer, none had been forthcoming. These include:
  • Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government (198)
  • Department of Climate Change (94)
  • Veterans’ Affairs (51)
  • Foreign Affairs and Trade (44)
  • AusAid (29)
“There are also examples of answers remaining unanswered through multiple rounds of Estimates, while in other cases responses are provided just days or hours before the relevant matters are again examined through the next round of Estimates.
“This comprehensive failure to answer questions in a timely manner, if at all, makes a mockery of Rudd Labor’s promises at the last election about increasing government accountability.
“The Rudd Government is using every tactic possible to avoid proper scrutiny, making the task of effectively holding it to account almost impossible for the opposition and minor parties.
“Strong Senate committee and estimates processes are often the most effective scrutiny governments face. The Senate cannot afford to allow the Rudd Government to undermine the worth of these institutions through its arrogance and contemptibility.”