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Audit Committee to scrutinise the Commonwealth Financial Statements

THE Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) has commenced an inquiry into the 2022-23 Commonwealth Financial Statements which are audited each year by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).

This audit provides the Parliament with an independent examination of the Commonwealth’s accounts and identifies financial statement risks, issues with governance arrangements, and problems with any internal control frameworks of Commonwealth entities.

The Chair of the JCPAA, Mr Julian Hill MP, said, “The traditional focus on legislative breaches and more serious findings will continue. There will also be a focus on thematic issues including governance for Artificial Intelligence and emerging technologies, the role of internal audit functions and how equity injections to an entity are treated in the accounts when an investment has elements of social and economic benefits. It is concerning that most of the legislative breaches identified relate to incorrect remuneration payments to executives.”

Areas of likely focus for the committee will include:

  • Lack of governance frameworks for managing the use of emerging technologies including Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation and risks arising.
  • Role of internal audit and whether guidance would be beneficial to enhance the Australian Government’s system of internal control.
  • Weaknesses in consideration of legal matters in the preparation of financial statements.
  • Appropriateness of Finance’s return-on-investment forecast model and guidance on the accounting treatment of equity injections when an investment has elements of social and economic benefits.
  • Information Technology governance.
  • Key areas of financial statements risk and timeliness of financial reporting.
  • 9 Significant and 36 Moderate audit findings identified by the Auditor-General.
  • 14 legislative breaches identified, noting the majority relate to incorrect remuneration payments to executives and/or non-compliance with decisions of the Remuneration Tribunal.

The inquiry will examine Auditor-General Report No. 9 of 2023-24: Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities for the period ended June 30, 2023.

The committee invites submissions to the inquiry addressing the terms of reference to be received by Friday, March 29, 2024. Details of the inquiry – including the terms of reference and public hearings – will be made available on the Committee website.

 

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PJCIS reports on its activities in 2022-23

THE Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has today tabled its Annual Report of Committee Activities 2022-2023.

During the reporting period, the committee undertook numerous legislative and oversight reviews, working across 14 inquiries; and presented nine reports to the Parliament on a range of complex national security matters.

The committee held 50 meetings and briefings, including seven public hearings and three site visits. The committee reviewed 13 terrorist listings under the Criminal Code, continued its annual reviews of the administration and expenditure of intelligence agencies, examined four bills before Parliament, and undertook four statutory reviews of existing legislation.

Chair of the committee, Peter Khalil MP said, "The operations of the PJCIS are central to ensuring appropriate and effective national security laws, and accountability of the national intelligence community. The committee’s oversight ensures that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are best positioned to ensure the safety and security of the Australian public."

The committee thanks all who made contributions to the various inquiries and reviews undertaken over the 2022-2023 financial year.

Further information on the functions and role of the committee, a copy of the annual report and all the reports presented by the committee during the review period, can be obtained from the Committee’s website.

 

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Australia's approach to trade negotiations: interim report published

THE Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth has released its interim report into the Australian Government’s approach to negotiating trade and investment agreements, examining how the process can be strengthened to build on Australia’s success as a trading nation and ensure agreements are of the greatest benefit for all Australians.

Australia’s agreements reduce barriers to international trade and investment for Australian goods and services, playing an important role in creating well-paid and secure jobs, improving our economic resilience, and contributing to economic growth and increased living standards.

Throughout the inquiry to date, the Committee has heard about the immense benefits of Australia’s participation in international trade, as well as the need to consider the potential effect of agreements on a wide range of stakeholders and how the benefits of trade are shared.

Chair of the Committee, Steve Georganas MP, said, “Australia’s approach to negotiating trade and investment agreements has served us well, however the Committee has sought to understand how the approach could be improved to ensure agreements are of greatest benefit to the Australian community.

“It’s evident to the Committee that more transparent consultation processes will allow increased understanding of the impact of trade agreements on stakeholders and that better utilising their insights and expertise can contribute to improved negotiation outcomes for Australia.”

The interim report makes five recommendations focussed on strengthening Australia’s approach by improving transparency, accountability, and oversight in the negotiation of trade and investment agreements. These include:

  • Establishing a tripartite trade advisory committee to achieve a better balance between transparency and confidentiality in negotiations, enabling in-depth and informed feedback to government.
  • Codifying the practice of publishing information outlining negotiation aims and objectives for all future trade and investment agreement negotiations.
  • Providing transparency and information to stakeholders and the public about negotiations equivalent to the information provided by the other party.
  • Regular briefings to parliamentary committees on the status and progress of trade and investment agreements.
  • Undertaking independent periodic reviews of agreements to ensure that they are operating as intended and achieving the expected benefits.

In the final report, the Committee will cover the remaining inquiry Terms of Reference.

So far during the inquiry, the Committee has held six public hearings in Canberra and Melbourne, in addition to receiving 54 written submissions from businesses, unions, industry associations, government agencies, community groups and individuals. The Committee will hear more evidence before the inquiry concludes.

The Committee has thanked people who have taken part in the inquiry by providing written submissions and giving evidence at public hearings. The Committee said it was looking forward to engaging further with stakeholders as it continues the inquiry and will provide a final report in due course.

The interim report can be found on the Committee’s ​inquiry webpage.

 

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Governor Bullock to make first appearance before House Economics Committee

THE House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics will hold its biannual public hearing with the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Michelle Bullock, on Friday, February 9.

This will be Ms Bullock’s first appearance before the committee, with additional Bank representatives also appearing.

Committee Chair, Daniel Mulino MP, said, "The RBA’s decision at its latest meeting this week saw another pause in interest rate rises — no doubt welcome news for many Australians, including mortgage holders."

Inflation fell to 4.1 percent in the year to December, its lowest level in two years.

"The ABS has shown that our cost-of-living polices across energy bills, rents and childcare are helping, but inflation is still too high," Dr Mulino said.

"The committee takes its scrutiny of the RBA seriously and will continue to examine the bank’s approach to tackling high inflation. The committee is interested to hear how the RBA will factor in future data and evolving risks as it continues to support a return to the target inflation rate."

Public hearing details

Date: Friday, 9 February 2024Time: 9.30am – 12.30pm (AEDT)Location: Committee Room 2R1, Parliament House, Canberra

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.

 

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Joint Statement on the implementation of recommendations from the Set the Standard report

TODAY, on the second anniversary of the adoption of the Set the Standard report, we acknowledge that an unacceptably high rate of people, particularly women, in Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces have experienced bullying, sexual harassment, or actual or attempted sexual assault at work.

This misconduct is unacceptable, and we acknowledge the grave impact it had or continues to have on previous and current staff.

For two years, the Parliamentary Leadership Taskforce has led the implementation of the Set the Standard reforms. The Parliament thanks the Taskforce for their continuous work and leadership.

Today, we recommit the Parliament to positive change, and acknowledge achievements to date, including:

  • Establishing the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service as a statutory body, offering independent and confidential support to everyone in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces.
  • Reforms to modernise the Members of Parliament Act to ensure employees are protected from discrimination, as well as refreshed professional development and improved management practices.
  • Undertaking reviews to further enhance inclusivity and dignity of access of Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces.
  • Endorsing clear and consistent Codes of Conduct with consultations on the proposed Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission expected to commence shortly.
  • Supporting the health and wellbeing of parliamentarians and staff with enhanced wellbeing services.
  • Improving work health and safety, with a new framework to manage shared risks.
  • Additional professional development opportunities to support leaders at all levels, particularly induction programs and training on safe and respectful workplaces.

While significant progress has been made, the journey towards truly respectful and inclusive Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces is ongoing.

Cultural change will only come with the goodwill of parliamentarians. We must remain committed to building a workplace reflecting the nation’s values and expectations, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of everyone who works in, and supports the Parliament of Australia.

 

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