The Hon. JAMES SAMIOS: My question without notice is to the Treasurer. On what dates did he first become aware that the National Parks and Wildlife Service was not paying credit card bills? Did the Treasury first warn the National Parks and Wildlife Service in December last year about this problem? Why did he take until yesterday, some six months later, to take action to withdraw the cards from the National Parks and Wildlife Service? Will he give other Government departments and agencies the same period of time as he gave the National Parks and Wildlife Service before confiscating their cards?
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I issued a warning through Treasury to all Government agencies in December. It was via a Treasury circular signed by Ian Neale, Acting Secretary of the Treasury, dated 21 December 2001 and headed "Payment of expenses by credit card". That circular made it quite clear to agencies that they ought pay their credit card bills on time and that they had a responsibility to ensure they did. At about that time I also indicated to agencies that if they failed to do so, I would take their credit cards from them.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: Have you?
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I have taken them from the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: It took you a while, though.
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I became aware of it only recently.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: Was that following a freedom of information [FOI] application?
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: Yes, it was indeed, and I acknowledge that.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: So we have to get Barry O'Farrell to FOI everything to get you to do something?
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: No. This FOI application brought forward a routine check six months after the circular was distributed. We are not completely certain about the accuracy of some of the information we have been provided by the ANZ Banking Group Ltd. Indeed, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has indicated that it is in dispute with the bank and that in fact it has paid its credit card bill on time. If that is the case—and the service will have to establish that—the National Parks and Wildlife Service will be able to use its credit cards, but I say to any Government agency that does not pay its credit card bills on time: "If you do not, we will take your credit cards away from you, even though it is probably more costly for us to have you pay by other means."
It does save money to use credit cards, but I will not allow agencies to fail to pay their bills on time. This Government expects people to pay their taxes on time, and I expect agencies to pay their bills on time. It is not only a matter of credit card bills. If honourable members have information about creditors of government agencies not being paid within a reasonable time, I want to hear about it. I expect all agencies to pay their bills on time.
The Hon. Don Harwin: What a joke!
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: If members opposite have information about any creditors who have not been paid within a reasonable time, they must tell me.