Bills Digest 105 1996-97 Audit (Transitional and Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 1996


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History

Audit (Transitional and Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 1996

Date Introduced: 12 December 1997


House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Finance
Commencement: For the most part, on the same day as the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1996, ie a date to be set by proclamation. However, Schedule 3 is to come into effect on a variety of dates. For example, specific amendments to the Air Services Act 1995, the Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment Act 1995 and the Transport Legislation Amendment Act 1995 will be deemed to have come into effect on the dates that those Acts received the Royal Assent.

Purpose

The Audit (Transitional and Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 1996 (the Transitional Provisions Bill) forms part of a package of four Bills and associated measures designed to modernise controls on Commonwealth finances and over businesses owned or operated by the Commonwealth.

The other Bills in the package are:

  • Auditor-General Bill 1996 (the Auditor-General Bill);
  • the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Bill 1996 (the CAC Bill); and
  • the Financial Management and Accountability Bill 1996 (the FMA Bill).

The Transitional Provisions Bill:

  • formally repeals the Audit Act 1901 (the Audit Act);
  • proposes consequential changes to enabling legislation affecting Commonwealth Authorities so as to link those bodies to arrangements to be created by the CAC Bill;
  • provides for the transfer, as appropriations, of balances from the Audit Act's existing Fund accounting structure to the new structure to be established by the FMA Bill;
  • provides for the Auditor-General in office at 30 June 1997 to serve the remainder of their 10 year term; and
  • amends the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951 to enlarge the powers and functions of the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts (JCPA).

Background

The Bill provides much of the legislative machinery for repealing the Audit Act 1901 and for replacing it with a new legislative and administrative regime.

Substantive measures given effect to by this Bill are discussed under the relevant parts of the Bills Digests for the Auditor-General Bill, the FMA Bill and the CAC Bill.(For example, the enhanced role for the proposed Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit is discussed in the accompanying Digest for the Auditor-General Bill.)

Readers are further advised that the present Bill departs significantly from the Audit (Transitional and Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 1995 which formed part of the 1994 Audit package which was not enacted.The most significant changes from the earlier Bill are the proposed amendments to the powers and functions of the JCPA, the increased number of Acts presently linked to the Audit Act which are affected, and changes to Acts which already incorporate references to the replacement legislation (refer Schedule 3).

A further change (as reflected in the Explanatory Memorandum and the Minister's Second Reading Speech) is that the effect of section 70D of the Audit Act 1901, which deals with the disclosure of audit and financial reporting requirements applying to security and intelligence agencies, is now only to 'continue for the time being (until regulations under replacement legislation come into effective operation ()'.(1)

Main Provisions

Schedule 1 provides for the repeal of the Audit Act.

Schedule 2 amends a range of Acts establishing Commonwealth Authorities and Commonwealth Companies.A list of the Acts being amended appears in the 'Contents Pages' to the Bill.(In total 139 Acts are to be amended by Schedule 2.)The majority of amendments made under this Schedule serve to distinguish between Commonwealth bodies covered by the FMA Bill (i.e. those that remain Budget dependent) and entities under the CAC Bill (ie those which 'own' their funds).A few randomly chosen examples illustrate the nature of the proposed amendments:

  1. The Air Services Act 1995 is amended by inserting an explanatory note at the end of subsection 7(2) to make it plain that the provisions of the CAC Bill apply to Airservices Australia.
  2. The Albury-Wodonga Development Act 1973 is amended by inserting a new section 9A stating that the Albury-Wodonga Corporation is not a Commonwealth authority for the purposes of the CAC Bill.
  3. The Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 is amended by deleting the reference in paragraph (h) of Schedule 2 of that Act to 'section 32 or 36A of the Audit Act 1901' and substituting a reference to clause 27 of the FMA Bill.The proposed amendment refers to the power of the Minister for Finance to issue drawing rights against any of the Commonwealth Funds, e.g. the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).

Other amendments made by Schedule 2 include changes to the Acts Interpretation Act 1901to repeal paragraph 17(k) which defines the Consolidated Revenue Fund to be the 'Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Commonwealth', and replace it with a series of new definitions encompassing the 'Consolidated Revenue Fund', the 'Loan Fund' and what is to be called the 'Reserved Money Fund'.The latter two funds are defined respectively under clauses 19 and 20 of the FMA Bill and the CRF is defined by reference to section 81 of the Constitution.

Amendments proposed under Schedule 3 are to update references in some Acts which had previously been amended in anticipation of the passage of the 1994 Audit Bills.

Clause 4 of Schedule 4 provides for the transfer from the old Funds to the new Funds.For example, subclause 4(3) provides for the transfer of money in the old Trust Fund to components of the Reserved Money Fund and Commercial Activities Fund that are to established under determinations made under subclauses 20(2) and 21(2) of the FMA Bill.

Clause 5 of Schedule 4 provides for the continuation in office of the 'current' Auditor-General for a period which when combined with their pre-existing service must not exceed of 10 years.The term of the current Auditor-General, P J Barrett, who was appointed on 2 May 1995, will therefore finish in May 2005 if he does not leave office before then.

Clause 6 of Schedule 4 deals with the arrangements for the Independent Auditor, who is the parliament's auditor of the Australian National Audit Office.The Independent Auditor is to be appointed for a period of 3-5 years (refer also to Schedule 2 to the Auditor-General Bill).Clause 6 also provides that the Independent Auditor is to be able to serve out their current appointment.

Clause 7 deals with so called 'exempt' accounts.Under 70D of the Audit Act, a Minister may preclude the Auditor-General from disclosing any or all of the detailed accounts of a declared body coming within the Minister's portfolio.Such exemptions have been made in respect of security and intelligence agencies.The present restrictions on the disclosure of such exempt information are to remain in force until replaced by regulations made under the new legislation.These particular controls will be in addition to restrictions enacted under Clause 37 of the Auditor-General Bill.That Bill provides that the Auditor-General may not include certain information in a public report where he or she has concluded that the disclosure of the information would be contrary to the national interest or the Attorney-General has issued a certificate to the same effect.

Endnotes

  1. Explanatory Memorandum: 1.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Bob Bennett
17 February 1997
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1323-9031
Commonwealth of Australia 1996

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1997.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: UPDATED



Back to top


Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print