Parliamentary Oversight

The Government, with Labor’s cooperation, has rolled out unprecedented support to help Australians through the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This massive spending deserves close scrutiny by the Parliament.

The Parliament has appointed a Senate Select Committee led by Katy Gallagher, the Shadow Finance Minister, to hold hearings around aspects of the Government’s economic response to COVID-19.

The Parliament has an obligation to scrutinise and provide oversight of the Government’s response to ensure Australians are being protected during this crisis.

There is no reason why the Parliament should not sit through this crisis. In the absence of the Government’s support for regular sittings, a Senate Select Committee is the best mechanism to enable this scrutiny as the response phase transitions into recovery over coming months and years.

This pandemic has created unprecedented health, economic and social challenges for our nation and this inquiry will be able to consider all of these issues in detail.

You can track the progress of the inquiry and access hearing transcripts at:

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/COVID-19/COVID19/Public_Hearings  

Labor also welcomes advice from the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) that work will commence on an audit program of the Government’s response to COVID-19, and that the Auditor-General has decided to conduct regular assurance reviews of the unprecedented $40 billion Advance provided by the Parliament to the Finance Minister.

This will provide the Parliament and the Australian people with greater transparency and assurance on management of the response that the Government had proposed.

Regular assurance reviews of the Advance to the Finance Minister will be tabled on a monthly basis. This is an important independent transparency check to monitor what the Finance Minister is doing with an enormous sum of taxpayer funds during this crisis.

With the budget not being held until October 2020 it is critically important that the Government provide an economic update to the Australian people when the Parliament returns in May.

While we acknowledge and accept the difficulties of handing down a full Budget in the current circumstances, Labor has been calling on the Government to bring forward updated figures on the Budget position and economic forecasts in lieu of a full Budget.

A timely and comprehensive economic and budget update is critical to inform decision-making and to give Australians the best chance of a successful recovery.