The change would mean non publication from 1 July of contract details that represent four per cent by value of total contracts but a much higher percentage in terms of the number of contracts.
What other cutbacks on the publication of information in the name of the deregulation and reduce red tape agenda are in the pipeline remains to be seen.
Austender publication of contract information quarterly is a Department of Finance requirement that rests on policy not legislation. A Senate Order requires reporting of contracts over $100000 including on the extent of use of confidentiality provisions. The Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee has a current reference on this.
Former Finance Minister Penny Wong pointed out in Estimates the lack of consultation with the parliament about the Austender proposal and raised the possibility of changes down in the Senate Order threshold if the Austender level is raised.
The Auditor General and others have been calling for rationalisation and improvement in the systems for years. Poor search capabilities are another issue.
Disclosure obligations for contracts (grants and a range of other information we expect or should expect agencies to make available as a matter of routine) should be incorporated in legislation as a publication requirement - a highly desireable Freedom of Information reform waiting to happen.
The Q&A in Estimates follows.