Government Grants Administration Bill 2021

19th May 2022

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (11:44): I thank the member for Balmain for allowing me to proceed before him. The Government Grants Administration Bill 2022 is a significant bill, emanating from the Opposition. I want to make it very clear—and I think it is fair to say I am also speaking on behalf of the member for Sydney and the member for Wagga Wagga, having had a number of conversations with them about this matter—that we three Independents are absolutely supporting the principle behind the bill. It is imperative that action like this occur. I have had discussions with the author of the bill, the Hon. John Graham, and with the member for Heffron, Ron Hoenig. My concern is that the measures that are in the bill should have come before this House a long time ago. The bill should emanate from the Government.

As the chairman of the New South Wales Public Accounts Committee, I am mindful of the important public administration role that is provided by the Audit Office of New South Wales for the Auditor-General. I believe that the Audit Office should be provided with follow-the-dollar provisions. New South Wales is the only State in Australia that does not have that. But as I have said to the member for Heffron and to the Hon. John Graham, it is a provision that should have been provided to the Auditor-General by the Government. The Public Accounts Committee has discussed that matter again this morning. I note the member for Heathcote is a former member of the Public Accounts Committee and is well aware of the Audit Office's desire for that particular provision. I fully support the principle, but I want to see the Government's response to the review of New South Wales grants administration conducted by Peter Achterstraat—whom I consider to be one of the most honourable and capable people in the field of public governance. I have had discussions with the Premier's office about that. I believe the Government should be given time to bring that response and I expect it will happen very soon.

I have said to the member for Heffron that if that does not occur, and it is not addressed in the next sitting, the Independents will, following further discussion with the Opposition, likely support the bill as is. This issue needs to be addressed. Pork-barrelling—or however the issue is described—is not new. It has been around forever; it is not something that is owned by the Coalition. When the Opposition has been in government, it has been part of the course of business as well. We need to fix it now. This is our opportunity. I support the bill in principle, but my support is on hold until I hear the Government's considered position, following the sitting break.

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