- Parliamentary Business
- Senators & Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATION, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS LEGISLATION
national galley of australia
- Committee Name
ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATION, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS LEGISLATION
national galley of australia
- Sub program
- System Id
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Table Of ContentsDownload PDF
Previous Fragment Next Fragment
ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATION, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS LEGISLATION
(SENATE-Thursday, 25 May 2000)
- Start of Business
- ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS PORTFOLIO
- NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA
- Australian Film Commission
- national galley of australia
- NATIONAL LIBRARY OF AUSTRALIA
- SCREENSOUND AUSTRALIA
- national museum of australia
NATIONAL OFFICE FOR THE INFORMATION ECONOMY
- Output 2.1—Strategic advice, programs and policy to achieve competitive and diverse communications and information technology industries and services
- Senator LUNDY
Content WindowENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATION, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS LEGISLATION - 25/05/2000 - national galley of australia
CHAIR —We welcome the officers of the National Gallery and Dr Kennedy.
—Dr Kennedy, I appreciate that you have given me an answer to my question on notice from earlier this year about the Sensation exhibition that did not take place. I appreciate the fact that you have provided, as requested, a sequence of events over the whole saga and also a copy of the letter from Roberta Entwistle advising you particularly about the shenanigans in the Brooklyn Museum—if I can use a vernacular for that. She also said that the Toyota City Museum should not proceed. You have said that the politics of the exhibition in Brooklyn was controversial and that Mayor Giuliani was using it for political purposes to appeal to the 40 per cent of the New York electorate who were Roman Catholic. In her own letter, Ms Entwistle says:
Interestingly enough, subsequent polls showed that the Catholic electorate felt the Mayor's position contravened The First Amendment by a 2-1 majority. So no votes there but lots of publicity.
I have to say that I thought that that should have been a piece of evidence taken on board to show that, with a bit of spine, such ratbag elements in the community trying to dictate creative artistic policy can be stared down. Did you see that as a relevant piece of advice in Ms Entwistle's letter?
Dr Kennedy —I am not sure I understand your question.
Senator SCHACHT —Ms Entwistle advises you that you should pull out of going ahead with the Sensation exhibition. She does actually, to her credit, point out that, even in New York, Mayor Giuliani was not going to get the political clout that he thought he was. She pointed out that, on a survey done, even the Catholic electorate to which he was appealing supported The First Amendment by a 2-1 majority. I would have thought that most ordinary Australians would have a similar view.
Senator Ellison —Senator Schacht, are you asking Dr Kennedy for—
Senator SCHACHT —I am asking Dr Kennedy whether, when he read the letter from Ms Entwistle, he took into account that advice. This is the first time we have seen the letter. We got it only last week. We appreciate that he has provided it to us. But in the argument about why the Sensation exhibition was cancelled, I actually find that this information about the problems that Mr Giuliani was causing in the electorate of New York actually are heavily qualified in this letter.
Dr Kennedy —I did try to establish the sequence of events leading to the cancellation of Sensation—
Senator SCHACHT —I will come to the sequence of events.
Dr Kennedy —to explain to you why we cancelled it, and that was not mentioned so therefore it was not relevant.
Senator SCHACHT —You do not think it was relevant. That is an interesting comment. She then says in her letter:
Holding the exhibition would in my opinion leave the NGA open to attack from newspapers, publications and right-wing groups. The noise itself would obscure the issues.
Dr Kennedy, which newspapers do you believe would have attacked the holding of the Sensation exhibition if you had gone ahead?
Dr Kennedy —That letter was written by Bobby Entwistle, not by me. They are her views, not mine.
—You do not agree with her then that the newspapers would have attacked you?
Dr Kennedy —Newspapers here in Australia—for putting on Sensation?
Senator SCHACHT —Yes.
Dr Kennedy —There might be very few of her particular bent but I cannot imagine many.
Senator SCHACHT —So that advice was probably not correct. She was probably speaking of what some papers in America might have done. Mainstream magazines might have given you lots of publicity about it. The final thing is: what right-wing groups do you think could have attacked you in Australia for holding Sensation?
Dr Kennedy —Senator, if you take on anything very controversial in contemporary art, the nature of it being at the cutting edge of art practice will offend some people and excite others. I have no idea exactly who might be offended but there is no doubt that some of the works in Sensation would likely have offended some people, yes. But that was not the issue. I have tried to explain at length—and you are quoting a letter back to me written by somebody else—that museum ethics were the only issue at stake here for the National Gallery of Australia and that is why we cancelled. We had information from our own staff in New York as to what was happening in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is now deemed to be, in its handling of Sensation, one of I think the strongest examples of poor practice in exhibition management. That is the issue for us. It has been the only issue.
Senator SCHACHT —Dr Kennedy, at the last hearing I raised this issue and you quoted—that is why I asked for the letter—that Ms Entwistle's advice was to cancel the exhibition. This was used as your major defence, I would say, of why it should be cancelled. Once we got the letter, we found she certainly advised you to cancel it because, firstly, you might be attacked by newspapers, publications and right-wing groups. The issue of what was happening in popular opinion in New York is now heavily qualified; Mayor Giuliani was going to get a publicity headline but he was not going to get the political benefit. That is why I am asking these questions. I do not think this letter is automatically clear cut to give you, as you suggested to us in the previous hearings, the excuse to cancel Sensation.
Dr Kennedy —Senator, your world is politics; mine is arts. That sentence says very, very clearly that all those issues would have obscured the artistic merit of the artists in the show. That was our concern. Our concern was that the works and the producers of those works would have been so obscured by all the brouhaha. That is what she is suggesting. She is the agent for the person who owned the collection, who actually offered it to the gallery, who is now saying to us, `Don't do it because it will obscure the artistic merit of the artists in the exhibition.' That is the issue, and it is the only issue. I have said it again and again. Your world is politics; mine is arts.
Senator SCHACHT —I am sorry that I have a political viewpoint. That is true.
Dr Kennedy —You are quite entitled to that, Senator.
—I am interested in the future of the gallery as a world leading gallery, with its credibility in artistic merit, that it will defend its own decisions on artistic merit. I now turn to the sequence in the documents you provided to us a few days ago. Again you draw it to our attention that on 29 September you wrote to Ministers McGauran and Alston, strongly supporting Sensation and asking if they had any objections to it. In the last part of your reply you again refer to that, saying it was:
... infelicitous, because in seeking the Minister's objections rather than their views, it gave the impression of inviting political interference.
I do not think there is any doubt at all that it gives an impression of inviting political interference. I think you reported that Mr McGauran made no comment to you, did not want to make a comment, but on the record somewhere else Senator Alston did make a comment that he was not in favour of one of the pieces of art in Sensation. I think that is the particular work called `The Holy Virgin Mary' by Chris Ofili.
There is nothing in this sequence of events that has changed my view that that letter was giving the ministers the right to actually object. If they had said no to you, what would you then have done? They did not do that. One made an offhanded comment somewhere else, but if they had written back to you and said, `We do object to the Sensation exhibition,' would you have felt obliged at that stage, before all the Brooklyn hoo-ha arose and Ms Entwistle's letter turned up, to cancel Sensation?
Senator Ellison —Mr Chairman, that is a hypothetical question, in fairness.
Senator SCHACHT —Come on! It is not hypothetical.
Senator Ellison —You said that if something had happened, `what would you have done?'
Senator SCHACHT —If the minister wrote back and if they had written back according to the letter. I did not send the letter.
Senator Ellison —But they did not write back.
Senator SCHACHT —They did not write back, but if the minister—
Senator Ellison —If they had is a hypothetical question.
Senator SCHACHT —There was an invitation for the minister: `Do you object?' If they did object, would you have cancelled the Sensation?
Senator Ellison —Mr Chairman, that is a classic hypothetical question.
CHAIR —Yes, I really do not think you can go into the realms of the unknown, hypothesising what may or may not have happened, Senator Schacht. It is quite unfair to ask that.
Senator SCHACHT —All I can say, Dr Kennedy, is that I think you have led with a glass chin. You have established a precedent. Will you now write to the minister on every occasion when you are holding an exhibition, whatever it may be, no matter how mild? As I said before, if you have a Tom Roberts exhibition, will you write to the minister seeking their views of whether they object to it?
Dr Kennedy —As I informed the committee before, the gallery notifies the department of its exhibition program on an ongoing basis.
Senator SCHACHT —But will you write to the minister seeing if he has an objection
Dr Kennedy —We have provided to the committee a report which says that it was infelicitous. No.
—Does that mean that you have now agreed that you will not write in future to the minister seeking to know whether they have any objections to any future exhibitions at the National Gallery?
Dr Kennedy —The use of the term `objections' was infelicitous and, therefore, I would not do it again, having admitted that.
Senator SCHACHT —Fine, that is excellent. You will as a matter of course inform the department and the minister, quite correctly, that this is your program of exhibitions, which I have no objection to. But that will never be put in a way in which either the department can advise the minister or the minister can then interfere with the creative and artistic judgment of you and your board? Is that correct?
Dr Kennedy —There has been no interference.
Senator SCHACHT —And you will not write to give them the chance of interference, will you?
Dr Kennedy —`No' was the answer, if that is the effect of my wording. However, may I say, as I have said before, that if we all had our time again I think there are many letters in our lives that we would wish to write differently. There may be more than I will write in my life that I feel the same about also.
Senator Ellison —I think that is on all sides, Senator Schacht.
Senator SCHACHT —Of course. Another area I have a concern about is that in the cancellation of Sensation, as Ms Entwistle advised you, in your sequence of events, you talk about the problems the Brooklyn gallery got into and the ethics of how they were handling it. I am still not sure how an ethical problem for the Brooklyn gallery can affect the good standing and ethics and procedures of the National Gallery of Australia.
Dr Kennedy —Senator, I think you have made the point yourself. You said that the National Gallery of Australia is an international gallery. I am absolutely confident that when I go this year to the meeting of international gallery directors, as the National Gallery does, representing Australia, the vast majority of the people present will think it was an eminently sensible position because we are an international gallery and we agree with international museum ethics.
Senator SCHACHT —But just because the Brooklyn gallery made, apparently—and I do not prejudge—a mess of how they handled it and that could have affected their standing, why does that mean that you would have to make a mess of the your own ethics in putting on the exhibition in Australia? I cannot see how if you have good procedures you cannot take a controversial collection, display it, have the debate in the community and create artistic discussion, which is all good, and how that would in any way affect your own ethics and your own standing. I just cannot see the connection.
Dr Kennedy —I am sorry, Senator, I cannot help you there. All I can say is that I can see in the letter from Ms Entwistle that she makes it very clear that the exhibition was now perceived in the international art world as a tainted one—her words.
Senator SCHACHT —She wrote to you on 8 November. Did you have any phone calls or conversations with her before the letter of 8 November where she raised her concern that it might be damaging to hold this exhibition?
—I had a number of conversations with Roberta Entwistle and she forwarded the many articles which were appearing in the New York press. On reception of one of them from her, as noted in the report to you, I was phoned up by the Australian Financial Review and I gave comments in that story which said that if the allegations were true it would be a matter of serious concern. This was a month before the cancellation, thereby indicating that we were thinking about that for considerable time.
Senator SCHACHT —Did Ms Entwistle write the letter on 8 November at the invitation of you or somebody else on the board or at the gallery?
Dr Kennedy —Invitation?
Senator SCHACHT —Did the situation of Sensation, in which you were receiving letters of complaint from people who had never seen it, become such that the best way out of it was to find people like Ms Entwistle who would be willing to put in writing that the exhibition should be cancelled?
Dr Kennedy —As I said in the report that I submitted to you, we wrote to Bobby Entwistle about the concerns raised regarding museum ethics in Brooklyn and asked her if there was any truth in the assertions. She then responded on the same day. She was the agent who actually was promoting the exhibition to us, who then advised us not to take it.
Senator SCHACHT —Mr Kennedy, when I read Ms Entwistle's letter, she does mention the problems at the Brooklyn Museum, which I think I should read for the record, so that people who read this transcript will know what we are both discussing. She says:
I have not been privy to any of the private agreements between the Brooklyn Museum and Charles Saatchi, nor am I personally aware that dealers with artists in the show were solicited to support the exhibition with donations. As you and I know all museums look for exhibitions which will draw the public and generate attention and revenues to support the onerous operating costs of all major museums today.
However, in this case the facts are clouded by the rather naive manner which Arnold Lehman appears to have approached the funding of the exhibition and his handling of the ensuing attacks from the Mayor's office. In reality he is a very sweet and honourable man and it is a terrible shame that he has been caught in this as he had done wonders for Brooklyn.
Certainly it must be seen clearly that Mayor Guiliani's attack was originally precipitated by the political motivation of appealing to that 40 per cent of the New York electorate who are Catholic.
It goes on further:
Whatever the reality of the situation, I called Jan to say that the issues and the validity of the art in the exhibition have now become secondary to the public's perception of the entire exercise as a tainted situation. Holding the exhibition would in my opinion leave the NGA open to attack from newspapers, publications and right-wing groups. The noise itself would obscure the issues.
There is nothing in there that I find convincing that what the Brooklyn gallery had done, or the controversy it was in, was the reason that she says you should cancel. The main reason she says you should cancel is that you could be open to attack from newspapers, publications and right-wing groups. Is that correct or not?
Dr Kennedy —I read that differently, Senator. I would say that it was because of the perception that the exercise had become a tainted situation.
Senator SCHACHT —A tainted situation in America.
—Senator, you are saying, therefore, that America and what its museums do are separate from what international quality museums do in the rest of the world. My contention as a museum professional is that that is not so.
Senator SCHACHT —I have to say Ms Entwistle's letter clearly is responding that you should not go ahead basically because public opinion could be controversial. I would have thought a national art gallery should not be afraid of controversy.
Dr Kennedy —Senator, I want to put on the record that I went after this exhibition myself and I got it. We had it in our program and I fully intended to show it. I lamented and expressed regret in several letters, which have been in the correspondence provided to journalists, that we could not go ahead. I thought this would be a good thing to do for Australia and I went and got the exhibition. What happened in New York stopped me from doing that. I regret that very much and I am very pleased that we have got another exhibition of very high quality of contemporary art in its place opening on 2 June.
Senator SCHACHT —Dr Kennedy, thank you for that. I only hope that this thing was not cancelled because the gallery lost its nerve in Australia because they were afraid that some right-wing groups may attack them. I think if that is the case, that really does affect the national and international standing of the gallery.
Senator Ellison —Mr Chairman, that is not a question.
Senator SCHACHT —It is a question. I will put it to Dr Kennedy.
Senator Ellison —Put it in a direct question.
Senator SCHACHT —All right, I will put it in a direct question.
Senator Ellison —Did the gallery lose its nerve? That is the correct way to put it.
Senator SCHACHT —I will put it to Dr Kennedy. Did you and the board and senior staff and management cancel this because you lost your nerve because you were afraid that the public attacks from right-wing groups would create controversy?
Dr Kennedy —No, Senator. On the contrary, the gallery took a very bold and brave decision.
Senator SCHACHT —What—to get it or to cancel it?
Dr Kennedy —To cancel it. I advocated that to them at considerable personal cost, as somebody who had actually gone and got the exhibition and wanted to put it on and then had to can it and take very considerable abuse and criticism since for doing what I believed was in the best interests of the National Gallery of Australia, as an international gallery.
Senator SCHACHT —I think you are right, that there has been some collateral damage to the National Gallery's standing because of the cancellation of this Sensation exhibition.
Dr Kennedy —I think that damage, Senator, if it is damage, is only in certain people's minds in Australia. Internationally, this is viewed as absolutely the right decision.
Senator SCHACHT —I think, even within Australia, I would say that is of concern to me. I do not want to go on much longer on this, Mr Chairman, but there are a couple of other issues I just want to compare. Dr Kennedy, at the fifth paragraph, halfway down the second page of your answer, you state:
At their meeting—
and that was at a meeting on 27 October 1999—
the Council was informed of Ren Pryor's report of the extent to which Mr Saatchi was in control of the layout and installation of the exhibition in Brooklyn. There were serious logistical and transport issues concerned with the show in general and with certain works in particular due to the excessive weight of a shark tank, customs issues with carcasses of animals, and the need to secure quantities of formaldehyde, cut flowers, insect grubs and refrigeration equipment. The show also required one and a half times more exhibition space than is available in the Gallery's temporary exhibition wing. It was agreed, following advice from colleagues in Brooklyn, that the contract with the Saatchi organisation would have to be very detailed and specific in order to avoid serious cost over-runs as occurred in Brooklyn.
Dr Kennedy when you first sought and agreed to take Sensation, were you aware that the issues outlined, which sound a bit esoteric to us mere lay people, about weight of shark tanks, formaldehyde quantities, et cetera, would have to be taken into account if you wanted to put this Sensation exhibition on?
Dr Kennedy —Not in that detail. But it is always anticipated that a major exhibition of contemporary art—as, indeed, with the Inside Out new Chinese art exhibition being put up at the moment—will have very serious logistical difficulties. This exhibition we are about to put up is taking up one and a half times the space.
Senator SCHACHT —So you would have been able to put it on?
Dr Kennedy —We would have done it. This is a statement of fact: it says that there were serious logistical issues, it outlined what they were and it said that to avoid serious cost over-runs as occurred in Brooklyn—very considerable ones—we would have to have a detailed contract.
Senator SCHACHT —But at the meeting on 27 October these were issues that you thought, with the good management of the gallery, would be able to be logically dealt with, as you always have to deal with complicated issues when putting on a major exhibition?
Dr Kennedy —And my recollection of the meeting is that I informed the council of that. We have taken on difficult exhibitions before.
Senator SCHACHT —You mentioned Customs issues. Had the gallery actually talked to Customs or to Quarantine about carcasses of animals, et cetera?
Dr Kennedy —I believe so, yes, and we had found that we were going to be able to overcome them. Some of the works of art required natural materials which could be found in Australia—for example, a wonderful street cart of cut flowers which required that the flowers had to be replaced very regularly, obviously, and another where grubs and flies were an essay on the life and death cycle.
Senator SCHACHT —We could supply plenty of flies in Australia!.
Dr Kennedy —We did indeed find that we did not have to import those, Senator.
Senator SCHACHT —Thank you for that. Dr Kennedy, we will have to agree to disagree on some aspects of this, but I thank you for the time you have taken to provide the sequence of events and, also, the letter from Ms Entwistle. But, while you are talking about quarantine, there is one other issue about the present Chinese exhibition you are putting on that is actually replacing Sensation. What is the name of that exhibition?
Dr Kennedy —It is called Inside Out.
—Is this the exhibition where in the very recent past exhibits have been received from China?
Dr Kennedy —I am not aware of what you are talking about.
Senator SCHACHT —I may have the wrong exhibition. Did the gallery receive in the recent past material from China for an exhibit packed in earth in boxes?
Dr Kennedy —I have no knowledge of that personally. I am not sure what you are talking about. This exhibition did not come from China; it came from America.
Senator SCHACHT —Has there been, or will there be, an exhibition in the gallery that actually got—in any way—exhibits from China?
Dr Kennedy —We are at present mounting an exhibition of works of art which is an exhibition organised by the Asia Society in New York. It is called Inside Out because it represents artists from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and emigres from China. I am not sure what you are referring to.
Senator SCHACHT —The exhibit, rock crystals, that was to be displayed came from China and was packed in earth as part of the way the rock crystals were protected in the box. When the box was opened and the rock quartz was removed, was the dirt that it was packed in checked before it was disposed of by Australian quarantine officers?
Dr Kennedy —You are asking specific information that I do not have. I will have to take that on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —Would you take on notice that the unpacking was done in an area immediately outside the gallery in the car park where the dirt was dumped and then subsequently hosed down into the normal drainage system without the approval or knowledge of Australian quarantine officers.
Dr Kennedy —I will take the question on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —Again, could you take on notice a question about the discussions you have had and arrangements you have got with quarantine officers about the unpacking of any items coming in from anywhere in the world to be displayed? How do you dispose of the packaging material—whether it is dirt, cloth, paper, and so on—and how do you ensure that even in the woodwork of boxes, et cetera, there are no bugs? All of us coming back into Australia appreciate quarantine, and any wood brought back into Australia has to be declared to make sure it does not have worms or bugs in it. Is there a procedure established in the gallery with the quarantine service to be absolutely certain we do not accidentally breach our quarantine arrangements?
Dr Kennedy —Can I take that on notice? We have very established routines and I am not aware of what you are talking about. We will take that on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —Do you have a dedicated secure area that meets the quarantine regulations where you can unpack in a secure way so that bugs or soil or other possibly contaminated material could not get into the general environment?
Dr Kennedy —We have a highly professional staff which over many years has established routines to establish such a place.
Senator SCHACHT —That is what I want to know. I know you have staff—I am not asking that.
—Such a place is established.
Senator SCHACHT —Has it been approved by the quarantine department as being secure enough so that there could not be an accidental breach of quarantine where the things I have described could get into the general Australian environment?
Dr Kennedy —I will take that on notice as well.
Senator SCHACHT —Thank you.
Senator LUNDY —I have a number of questions relating to both the PBS and other issues. First of all, with respect to output 1.3 `collection maintenance', in the quality statement of the gallery it says that 95 per cent of the collection is held in conditions consistent with NGA standards. Can you explain why it is not 100 per cent?
Mr Froud —In establishing the performance criteria, we thought it would be important to provide for contingencies that might arise. It certainly is our expectation that we will achieve 100 per cent with respect to acceptable environmental conditions, but there are occasions when, say, mechanical breakdowns or things of that kind could come into play. We thought it was unrealistic to specify that our target is 100 per cent; but rather to demonstrate, by saying 95 per cent, that we are basically expecting it to be a complete achievement.
Senator LUNDY —Do you have a way in which you can quantify that expectation or analyse the environmental conditions?
Mr Froud —Yes. Within our conservation department, one of our staff members looks at and monitors environmental conditions not only in public display areas but also in storage areas. We monitor, in particular, temperature and relative humidity, amongst other conditions. That is done with thermohydrographs, which actually record performance on an ongoing basis. The machine is sitting on the floor and making that graph, and that is reviewed on an ongoing basis. So we are able to refer to that scientific data to confirm that the parameters that we have established have been met.
Senator LUNDY —Was that done over the last 12 months?
Mr Froud —Yes, it has been done for four—
Senator LUNDY —I know these are sorts of projections for the next financial year, but what was the percentage?
Mr Froud —We would be happy to provide that information on notice. I do not have it with me at the moment. I would be surprised if it were not above the 95 per cent performance criterion established.
Senator LUNDY —I presumed that the quality assurance would be able to be accurately measured and was curious as to why you would put 95 per cent there rather than 100 per cent. On 24 February 2000 Comcare Australia completed an occupational health and safety investigation report into the cooling towers and the airconditioning system at the National Gallery. There were two recommendations arising from that report: one, `review airconditioning maintenance procedures to ensure that the intervals between cleaning cycles are appropriate', and, two, `conduct a review of all sick leave, including those when no reason is given to confirm that there are no clusters within work groups that may be attributable to the work environment'. What has the gallery done to act on those recommendations?
—The gallery has acted on both recommendations. We have reviewed our maintenance procedures. Whilst we have found them to be acceptable and within an acceptable regime, nonetheless we have increased the frequency of cleaning. So the interval between cleaning has been reduced. On the second recommendation, we have reviewed leave records over the last 18 months to two years and have identified absences where they were able to be established from the information available. Under the regime that now applies for the disclosure of medical information in our normal leave arrangements, if somebody is ill for a day or two they may or may not opt to provide specific information regarding the absence. Even if it is accompanied by a medical certificate, it is up to a medical practitioner to determine what specific detail is included. Where able, we have gathered information, and that has demonstrated that there have not been any abnormal instances of illness and certainly no clusters within particular work groups, which was a particular issue that was identified in the report from Comcare for us to consider. We have undertaken to monitor that situation on an ongoing basis.
Senator LUNDY —My understanding is that the union representing a number of your employees—the CPSU—has requested an independent survey of employees in relation to occupational health and safety matters. Have you acceded to that request?
Mr Froud —I am not familiar with that request. The Comcare review was an independent assessment of the airconditioning system. This further point is about occupational health and safety issues more broadly than just the airconditioning system. Did I understand that correctly?
Senator LUNDY —I did see a newspaper article. I have it here somewhere, if you do not mind waiting.
Mr Froud —We have provided to the CPSU a copy of the Comcare report.
Senator LUNDY —I am referring to a Sydney Morning Herald article, dated 24 May, which says:
On April 17, the union faxed the letter to council members and management following a meeting with more than 50 staff. The letter raised concerns "about the reputation of the NGA and the health of many NGA staff" ...
Mr Froud —That letter that is being referred to in that newspaper article was an open letter from the CPSU to the gallery council and to the management raising a number of issues in connection with the welfare of staff. It was not referring to the air quality issues, but, rather, it actually specified issues to do with workload and—
Senator LUNDY —Could you provide the committee with a copy of that letter?
Mr Froud —Yes.
Senator LUNDY —Have you formally responded to the CPSU?
Mr Froud —We have written to the CPSU to indicate that we are engaged in discussions with staff and intend to discuss the issue with the CPSU at the next meeting of our consultative committee, which has been scheduled for Thursday of next week, 1 June. We will also then be discussing the issues with the gallery council, which is scheduled to meet next on 20 June. Given that the letter was in fact an open letter to the council as well as the management, that is a matter that will require discussion by the council, and the response should come from both the council and the management.
—Yes. Going back to my earlier point, my understanding was that there had been requests from gallery employees that not Comcare but, rather, an alternative independent report into occupational health and safety be conducted.
Mr Froud —If I could just explain what our regime is, and this has previously been provided to the union, so I think the union is now satisfied—that is certainly my understanding—on this issue of any issues to do with the airconditioning system. We have an independent check of the—
Senator SCHACHT —Did the union put that in writing to you, that they are satisfied with the airconditioning?
Mr Froud —No, they have not. We have provided to them the Comcare report dated 24 February. That was sent on 4 May. We have indicated there that we intend discussing that report at the next meeting of the occupational health and safety—
Senator LUNDY —When is the next meeting of the occupational health and safety committee?
Mr Froud —I do not have a specific date but it is expected to be within the next couple of weeks.
Senator LUNDY —It was dated 24 February but when did you actually receive the Comcare report?
Mr Froud —The Comcare report was attached to a letter that was dated 18 April. So a letter dated 18 April was sent to the gallery from Comcare, the review of those procedures was undertaken and the review of the leave situation was undertaken, and we have responded to Comcare.
Senator LUNDY —You have mentioned that. Has the occupational health and safety committee met at the National Gallery since you have received this report?
Mr Froud —It has met, and wants a briefing at the next committee meeting.
Senator SCHACHT —Does Mr Rees want to come to the table? It might be easier to stop turning around to him all the time, Mr Froud, and we can get Mr Rees on the record too. We all have our five—or 15—minutes of fame.
Senator LUNDY —I am just trying to clarify this: when did that occupational health and safety committee meet?
Mr Rees —I do not have the date of the last meeting with me, but I think it was within the last three weeks.
Senator LUNDY —So it would have been after 18 April?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator LUNDY —Was the Comcare report provided to the committee?
Mr Rees —I have provided a copy of the Comcare report to all members of the OH&S committee.
Senator LUNDY —At that meeting?
—Prior to that meeting, and at the same time we provided it to the union for information.
Senator LUNDY —You are saying that it is due to be discussed at the next occupational health and safety committee meeting?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator LUNDY —Why wasn't it discussed at the first one?
Mr Rees —At that stage we had not formulated our response to Comcare on the two recommendations.
Senator LUNDY —Do you keep minutes of the occupational health and safety committees?
Mr Rees —Yes, we do. It simply reflects that I was not able to be in attendance at the last meeting, so they had asked for a briefing from me at the next meeting.
Senator LUNDY —So they did not receive a briefing on the report at that meeting?
Mr Rees —No, they got a copy of the report—which we have spares of here—but that simply states that the system is fine. I do not think it raised their reading of the—
Senator LUNDY —It actually does not say the system is fine. There are two quite strong recommendations. So I am very curious, firstly, as to why a briefing was not provided to that occupational health and safety committee in the first instance. It is a timing thing, sure, but it is now over a month later.
Senator SCHACHT —You said you were not able to attend, Mr Rees.
Senator LUNDY —Why not?
Senator SCHACHT —If you were not able to attend, who else attended on behalf of management?
Mr Rees —The manager of services and security.
Senator SCHACHT —Who is that?
Mr Rees —That is Mr Mark Nash.
Senator SCHACHT —Who else from management?
Mr Rees —That was Helen Gee, who is the personnel officer. I think they were the only two management reps.
Senator SCHACHT —Did Mr Nash or Ms Gee have detailed discussions and knowledge of the issues that staff had been complaining about, in the operation of the airconditioning system?
Mr Rees —Yes, they do. They are well documented through gallery consultative committee meetings.
Senator SCHACHT —But are they themselves particularly responsible for the operation of the airconditioning system?
—No. That is within my department.
Senator SCHACHT —There was no-one from your department at the meeting of the occupational health and safety group, and you are the department responsible for running the airconditioning system.
Mr Rees —No, Mr Nash is within my department.
Senator SCHACHT —He is in your department?
Mr Rees —But he is not on the building side.
Senator SCHACHT —That is what I was getting at. So no-one was present from management who has a detailed knowledge of the operation of the airconditioning system and was responsible for running it.
Mr Rees —No. Mr Garry Cox, who is head of buildings and who is also the union representative on the committee, was present at that meeting. But he was not a management representative, which was—
Senator SCHACHT —I am just going to get this straight. Mr Cox was there as a union rep, but he is also responsible for the management. He has got a senior management role in running the airconditioning system—
Mr Rees —Yes, he does.
Senator SCHACHT —which many of the staff have expressed some concern about, which led to the Comcare investigation.
Mr Rees —I do not know where the `many of the staff' come from. We are aware that one or two people have a view, but I do not think it is a majority view.
Senator SCHACHT —Why was the Comcare investigation brought about then?
Mr Rees —Comcare had received some anonymous allegations from somebody.
Senator SCHACHT —That is what I am saying. There were concerns from staff. They received anonymous complaints.
Mr Rees —From one person.
Senator SCHACHT —They felt about it strongly enough that they should go under their obligation to investigate it.
Senator LUNDY —Are the National Gallery management aware of their duty of care responsibilities under occupational health and safety legislation?
Mr Froud —Yes, they are.
Senator LUNDY —And your staff and management have been briefed on those responsibilities?
Mr Froud —Yes, I believe so.
Senator LUNDY —I am just checking.
Senator SCHACHT —Mr Cox represents the union and has been elected as a job delegate, I presume?
Senator SCHACHT —And he also has a senior management role in running the airconditioning system?
Mr Rees —Yes. I think it is probably worth noting that the report that was tabled says:
4.19 Based on evidence available I am unable to conclude that any illnesses are directly attributable to the NGA building at Parkes ACT.
4.20 ...the qualifications of the particular employees and contractors were appropriate for tasks and level of maintenance undertaken.
Mr Froud —And also:
4.16 ...providing maintenance is conducted according to the regimes established, the air conditioning plant does not represent a risk to health and safety.
Those findings were included in that report.
Senator LUNDY —I am aware of the findings. Can I raise a few issues about the report just prior to those recommendations coming including on page 9 of the report. Paragraph e states:
Approximately four years ago, before the NGA took over the maintenance of the air conditioning, it was noticed that there were no inspection plates on the air supply side of heating coils in the air ducts. In addition, the NGA had noted reduced airflows in some areas.
Are there now inspection plates on the air supply side of heating coils in the air ducts?
Mr Rees —There are in a number of places.
Senator LUNDY —Are there on all of them?
Mr Rees —I do not know what `all' means. You cannot see every part of the airconditioning system from the current number.
Senator LUNDY —You can sit there and cite the recommendations. There is a lot of data that relates specifically to these issues contained within this report that I am interested in canvassing with you. I am not prepared to accept glib recital of the recommendations of this report as somehow constituting evidence that there is not a problem. The situation is that a complaint has been made and a report has been established but we certainly are concerned that there is a high degree of dissatisfaction remaining at the National Gallery about the situation so I am interested in exploring it further.
Before we go back to that, I note within this report that the investigator was required to take the photographs supplied that depict—I cannot see what they depict in this—allegedly a deteriorated state of the airconditioning units or some part of the airconditioning units to the AFP, a forensic scientist or something.
Mr Rees —Yes, that is what the report says.
Senator LUNDY —The report states:
On 14 March 2000, I visited the Australian Federal Police, Forensic Sciences at Weston, ACT and spoke with Mr Craig Petterd, Forensic Scientist, Criminalistics Team. I handed the photographs to Mr Petterd and requested that he examine them. Mr Petterd provided me with a report dated 28 March.
That is not what I would consider, having spent many years working in occupational health and safety areas, normal process in terms of a standard occupational health and safety investigation. Did the gallery request this investigator to take these photographs to a forensic criminologist?
Mr Rees —No, I think what we were saying is that we were not sure of the date that the photographs were taken because that would have been relevant to our response. If the photographs were several years old then—
Senator LUNDY —So it was on your request?
Mr Rees —We asked the investigator to establish and verify that the photographs were not copies or—
Senator LUNDY —Did you make that request in writing?
Mr Rees —No, when the investigator turned up for his first inspection he raised with us that he was in possession of photographs. We asked to have a look at those photographs. He did not have them. He subsequently brought them back at another inspection. We looked at them and we said that we were not aware of when or where these photographs were taken. We were aware that quite some time ago photographs had been taken at other times of reports and we really wanted to establish whether the photographs were genuine and whether they were taken on the dates or whether they may have been photographs of photographs with the date inserted at a later date.
Senator LUNDY —Basically the photographs had dates on them, didn't they?
Mr Rees —Some did and some did not. The way in which they had lines through them I guess gave us reason to doubt whether they were—
Senator LUNDY —So you thought they were fakes?
Mr Rees —No, we just could not relate them to a particular location. We were not sure whether they were cut out of something else that might have given us—
Senator LUNDY —You thought they were fakes?
Mr Rees —No, I think we just wanted to—
Senator LUNDY —Hang on. You have asked this investigator to take it to—
Mr Rees —No, we wanted to confirm that they were original.
Senator LUNDY —a forensic criminologist.
Mr Rees —No, we did not ask. That was their decision.
Senator LUNDY —Did you think they were fakes?
Mr Rees —No, we did not.
Senator LUNDY —Then why did you ask the investigator to take it to a forensic criminologist?
Mr Rees —We did not ask him. That was his decision. We just said that we were not sure when the photographs were taken and that was his course of action to verify that they were not copies of other ones. We just wanted to know when they were taken.
Senator LUNDY —So you did not accept those photographs as being genuine in the first instance?
Senator Ellison —That is not what he said, Senator Lundy.
—It is semantics, Minister, and I do not think there is much you can contribute at this point.
Senator Ellison —Do not twist the evidence. The official has given evidence that he did not ask for it to be taken, the other person did. That is the clear evidence and you should base your questions on that.
Senator LUNDY —Did the investigator inform you of his intention to check the photographs and how?
Mr Rees —I think he probably told us that he would be taking them to a forensic scientist.
Senator SCHACHT —Did he inform the person who provided him with the photographs that he was taking them to a forensic expert?
Mr Rees —We have no idea who was the informant.
Senator SCHACHT —No, I know that.
Mr Rees —We do not know whether he informed them. We do not know whether the informant has a copy of this report.
Senator SCHACHT —I notice in 4.8, on page 8, that the report provided by the AFP forensic scientist basically says:
At least two different rolls of negatives were used to produce the prints;
There is nothing untoward about that.
The type of paper used to print the photographs is not suitable for digital prints, indicating that the prints were produced from traditional emulsion negatives.
There is nothing wrong with that. Finally, it says:
There was no evidence that any of the prints is a photograph of a photograph.
It seems to me, from that evidence, that the forensic expert proved that the photographs were bona fide. Do you accept that?
Mr Rees —Yes, I do. As I said, some had dates and some did not. We just wanted to establish which ones were the ones that were recent.
Senator SCHACHT —Have you ever, to your knowledge, in any other of your Comcare investigations sought to have evidence checked by a forensic expert from the Federal Police?
Mr Rees —We did not seek to have this evidence checked.
Senator SCHACHT —But have you heard of it happening?
Mr Rees —You would have to ask the Comcare people.
Senator SCHACHT —I appreciate that. But you have never heard of it, to your knowledge?
Mr Rees —No.
Senator LUNDY —Further on that matter, you are saying that you did not formally request that that activity take place. What is the process of costs and charges in association with this investigation by Comcare of the gallery?
Mr Rees —We have not received any invoices, nor were we advised that there would be any costs.
—It is part of the standard service that they provide?
Mr Rees —It is part of the service. The investigation was launched at their initiative and the direction it took was within their control.
Senator LUNDY —Were you billed or charged any additional costs in relation to the AFP forensic services that were provided?
Mr Rees —No, we were not.
Senator LUNDY —Are you aware that any additional cost was incurred by Comcare?
Mr Rees —I have no idea.
Senator LUNDY —In terms of the precedent set by this particular exercise, why did you feel it was necessary to challenge the validity, or question the validity, of the photographs of the first instance?
Senator Ellison —You cannot ask that question because that was not the evidence. He did not say that. You will have to rephrase your question, through you, Mr Chairman. He did not say he was questioning the authenticity of the photographs.
Senator LUNDY —He actually did because he said that there were some that did not have dates on them—
Senator Ellison —The dates were what he was after; it was not a question of whether they were genuine.
Senator LUNDY —and had lines through them, and they wanted to get them checked.
Senator Ellison —I believe the evidence of Mr Rees has been that they accept that the photos are bona fide, as asked by Senator Schacht. Their only query was the dates of the photographs, which would be very important in any investigation of this sort. As for criminal forensic scientists, other people made that decision, not Mr Rees.
CHAIR —Would you like to rephrase your question?
Mr Rees —Can I offer that what we were looking for was the photographs of the airconditioning system being taken over many years as a record of maintenance and a record of need and condition. If you are looking at an investigation of something that is reported to exist in, say, December 1999 and you have photographs that have dates on them that say 24 December 1999 and if they are a photograph of a photograph taken in 1988, then they are not relevant. That was really the direction—are they actual photographs taken on that day?—because we could not recognise what they were taken of or where they were taken. That was really the inquiry. It was not to say that they were faked and that they had created them. It was really to establish the validity of the date that had been given to us as being as at December 1999.
Senator LUNDY —And that was found to be the case.
Mr Rees —Yes, in the case of some of them.
Senator LUNDY —What was going on in the gallery at that time?
—We have a regular program of maintenance. Some of the photographs that you see there seem to have the appearance of foaming material being removed from the cooling coils. That is a regular part of program maintenance. You can only take those photographs during the maintenance period because those coils are normally covered by drift eliminators, which is similar to being able to take a photograph of the front of your radiator at the time that your grill is on. It was in the course of the scheduled cleaning process that they were taken and it is a normal reaction when you clean the system.
Senator SCHACHT —If you wanted to take a photograph on behalf of management to check things out for your own record, you would do that when that maintenance cycle was at that point.
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —How often would that be?
Mr Rees —I do not know how often we take them. It is not every cleaning cycle.
Senator SCHACHT —Is there a cleaning cycle once every month or every two months? Could I just say that, as far as the Comcare thing is concerned, if you had doubts about the photos, you could have sent somebody appropriate up to take photographs within a month in a cleaning cycle to double check.
Mr Rees —The plant and equipment receive attention on a daily basis.
Senator SCHACHT —But you said you can only take photos—
Mr Rees —You can only take one of the photos there—
Senator SCHACHT —When the cycle is at a particular point of cleanliness.
Mr Rees —When the cleaning process is under way, particular cleaning—
Senator SCHACHT —Is that about once a month?
Mr Rees —Yes, it varies from a piece of plant to a piece of plant.
Senator SCHACHT —The management could take photographs of any section of the airconditioning system from the towers outside to the drifters, humidifiers and all those other devices, including the ducting, at some stage within a reasonable period of a month or so.
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator LUNDY —Do the dates of the photos correspond with the service and maintenance of cleaning taking place?
Mr Rees —We believe so. We believe some of the photographs do. It would have been round about then—whether it was the exact date or within a week of that, we would have been in a cleaning cycle.
Senator TCHEN —Mr Rees, is this to do with an airconditioning cooling tower in the National Gallery?
Mr Rees —No, the cooling towers are quite separate. The cooling towers are external to the gallery. They perform a different function.
Senator TCHEN —This airconditioning tower is what you are being questioned about.
Mr Rees —No. I believe we are being questioned about the humidifier and the air handling plant, which are inside the gallery. There are seven of those plants as distinct from the cooling tower, which is outside the gallery.
Senator TCHEN —Is this equipment checked regularly?
Mr Rees —All our equipment is well maintained and checked regularly, as the Comcare report indicates.
—Are they checked regularly?
Mr Rees —We have a telephone link to a chemical company that checks the cooling tower water and monitors that water for levels of chemical treatment. It has four alarm points. If any of those alarm points turn up, they are reported immediately. The computer, through the land link, identifies the problem. If it is not an electronic fault, it is checked and the treatment pattern is adjusted if required.
Senator TCHEN —Have you found any problem with the equipment?
Mr Rees —No.
Senator TCHEN —Has there been any report of any problem with the equipment?
Mr Rees —No, no current problems. We did have problems previously. We have changed systems within the last few years.
Senator TCHEN —If there is no problem with the equipment, Mr Chairman—
Senator SCHACHT —Just a moment, you said that you had a problem in the past and that you had changed systems.
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —When did you have the problem in the past, and what did you change?
Mr Rees —We just upgraded technology. We have a new system that we put in place last year as part of our regular—
Senator SCHACHT —When you say `system', you did not replace the ducting, you did not replace—
Mr Rees —No, we replaced the computer detection and monitoring system.
Senator SCHACHT —The computer detection system?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —You did not replace any part of the operating airconditioning system as such, that puts the air through and maintains the humidity?
Mr Rees —We change the filters on a regular basis and we service and clean the filters on a regular basis, but the system operates very much—
Senator SCHACHT —You clean the filters—I will come back to that later. I am sorry, Senator, I interrupted, but I just wanted to get that clear.
Senator TCHEN —My concern is that, if there has been equipment failure or evidence that there are problems in the system, then there may be a case to answer here. I was wondering, in the line of questioning, whether, in fact there has ever been any established report on the problem with the airconditioning system.
Senator LUNDY —We are actually directly referencing that through the Comcare report.
Senator TCHEN —In that case, listening to Senator Schacht's and Senator Lundy's questions, I was wondering, Mr Rees, whether you believe, as a responsible officer of the Commonwealth, that you have a duty to establish the bona fide of any evidence provided to you related to some complaints.
Mr Rees —Yes, I do.
—There is the question of a photograph and so on. But when those were checked did you, at any stage, have any question about the personal integrity of Mr Cody?
Mr Rees —I am sorry—
Senator TCHEN —What was the reason you did not accept the photograph that Senator Lundy was asking about? Was it because you have some question about Mr Cody's integrity?
Mr Rees —I am sorry, I am not sure who Mr Cody is.
Senator TCHEN —I am sorry. Was it a Mr Cody who provided the photograph?
Senator LUNDY —No, Mr Peter Maguire was the one who conducted the occupational health and safety investigation.
Senator TCHEN —Were you doing that because there was a duty of care and that you needed to check on it, or because you think that this gentleman was providing false evidence?
Mr Rees —No, we did not know who was providing the evidence, and we still do not. I have no question about the Comcare employee at all, and he is the investigating officer. I simply asked the question because I wanted to know when the photographs were taken, because that related to how we would answer the question about our cleaning cycles and when we were cleaning.
Senator TCHEN —Mr Chairman, I wanted to raise that point because I thought that, with the way the questioning was going, doubts might develop in the mind of anyone listening to the evidence. It might be thought that the two senators were actually suggesting that the person who provided the evidence was of doubtful integrity. I want to put it on record that in fact Mr Rees had no doubt about that.
CHAIR —Thank you, Senator.
Senator LUNDY —Can I just say that it is nice when the minister leaps in and says that you are trying to reinterpret evidence and make a statement. Can I just say that your reinterpretation of what is going on here is not actually contributing in a positive way.
Senator TCHEN —I was wondering—
Senator LUNDY —I will make very clear what the imputation was: the imputation in questioning Mr Rees about those photographs was that the National Gallery management were not prepared to accept that evidence on face value and asked that those photographs be validated. In that case, yes, indeed, the fact that this investigation report has taken place implies that there was an unresolved complaint by the gallery that was addressed only when an independent investigation was made. Yet I am certainly aware of the history of complaints being made specifically about the issues that were covered in the investigation report. So, please understand there is a bit of history here and that we do not need your interpretation of how we are conducting our questioning. I would like to proceed, Chair.
CHAIR —Senator Tchen had the floor, in fact.
—I was just saying that the way these questions are being asked seems to me could suggest that in fact there may be other prudential reasons for Mr Rees and other managers of the gallery to have the evidence established. My problem is that this seemed to me to be a non-existent problem, because evidence suggests that in fact there is no problem with the system. Yet they persist in asking questions about why certain evidence has been questioned and have put the limelight on the person who provided evidence. If that person is not giving evidence at the moment then he needs to be protected as well.
Senator LUNDY —I am sure he will now feel protected, thanks to your timely intervention.
CHAIR —This might be an opportune time to break for morning tea.
Proceedings suspended from 11.00 a.m. to 11.18 a.m.
Senator LUNDY —The report of the investigation conducted by Comcare made two recommendations. With regard to the first recommendation, what has changed in terms of your maintenance procedures for the airconditioning since the receipt of this report?
Mr Froud —Just one issue, and that was the frequency. They made an issue about the frequency of the cleaning cycles, and so we are doing them more frequently.
Senator LUNDY —How frequently were you doing them before, and how frequently are you doing them now?
Mr Froud —Maybe we should take that on notice.
Senator LUNDY —It is central to this, so I would like to get at least an idea whether it was on a monthly basis, a six-monthly basis or what. You are facilities manager, aren't you, Mr Rees?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Dr Kennedy —Senator, could I take that back, saying that we would like to take that on notice just about the cycle. What we are really talking about here, if I could just state it, is an allegation by an anonymous informant, which has been fully investigated by the competent independent authority, which has shown that our airconditioning system is safe and does not represent a risk to health and safety. It makes recommendations that we review our existing procedures and that we conduct a review of all sick leave. We are doing that, and there is no issue here. That has been proved.
Senator LUNDY —That is your opinion, Dr Kennedy, I am asking a question—
Dr Kennedy —That has been proved.
Senator LUNDY —Please do not interrupt me when I am asking a question. I am still waiting on an answer.
Dr Kennedy —We would like to take that on notice, Senator.
Senator LUNDY —Can you tell me how often you are now cleaning the airconditioning units as a result of this review?
Mr Froud —We will take it on notice.
Senator LUNDY —No, I would like an answer. I do not accept that you do not know. Are you telling me, Mr Rees, that you do not know?
CHAIR —They said that they do not know.
Senator LUNDY —No, they have not said they do not know. They are saying they will take it on notice.
—He said they would take it on notice to give you an accurate answer.
Senator LUNDY —Are you telling me you do not know accurately the answer to that question?
Dr Kennedy —Given the very particular question you are raising, Senator, we would like to give you a specific answer. We would like to take it on notice.
Senator LUNDY —I am asking you if you do not know. What is the reason you are taking this on notice?
Dr Kennedy —Because we would like to be absolutely specific. We do not know exactly.
Senator LUNDY —I am sorry, but that is just not good enough.
Senator Ellison —Time and dates? Was it 3.30 in the afternoon or 4.30 in the morning?
Senator LUNDY —No, I did not ask for time and dates. I asked what the interval was, given that that was asked to be reviewed. We have already heard evidence this morning that it was reviewed and the intervals were, in fact, changed. So here is your chance to say how you actually responded to this review.
Senator Ellison —It is time and dates.
Senator LUNDY —And they are the questions I would like answered.
Dr Kennedy —We can give you a full report on how we responded to the review. Mr Rees has already given evidence that we have a continuous link to checks to four systems with alarm bells if anything happens. That is continuous—all the time—and there are other systems in place which are weekly, two-weekly, four-weekly. It is a complicated question and we would like to take it on notice.
Senator LUNDY —I will try and make it easy for you. Have you decreased the amount of time between maintaining the airconditioning as a result of this review?
Mr Rees —There are many parts of the plant and equipment. The cleaning cycles in winter and summer can vary depending on what is happening and how hard the system is working. So you would clean the filters based on inspections and roll them and change them. You would treat the water based on testing with dip tests and other chemical analyses. You would clean the drip eliminators and the coils depending on the amount of dirt or build-up there might be there. So it varies from time to time.
At the moment I think we have moved to a one-monthly cleaning of the coils and next month we may look at it and determine that we will not do it again then. The increasing of the servicing of them is both by inspection and by treatment. So it really does vary from plant to plant and season to season, from piece of equipment to piece of equipment. So there is no easy answer to it except that we are conscious that we are inspecting them regularly and we are doing the maintenance as required. But on the whole that would represent an increase in frequency of the treatment.
Senator LUNDY —An increase in frequency but a decrease in time between them.
Mr Rees —A decrease in the times between treatments, as an average.
Senator LUNDY —Okay. And the methodology you just described about maintenance: is that on inspection rather than scheduled maintenance and cleaning?
—No. There is some stuff every day; some stuff once a week; some stuff once a month; and some stuff is in response to the conditions and the environment and time.
Senator LUNDY —So you are really working to a bit of a plan on how you—
Mr Rees —Yes. I think the report documents that we do have proper maintenance inspections in place. We have some service which is regularly conducted once a month by external contractors, and we have some stuff that is done internally when it is within our competence. So it just varies from piece to piece of equipment.
Senator LUNDY —Given that this investigation report asks you to `review air-conditioning maintenance procedures to ensure that the intervals between cleaning cycles are appropriate'—and you changed and decreased the length of time between the cleaning cycles—do you accept that that indicates that there was room for improvement?
Dr Kennedy —No, Senator. What we accept is the conclusion of the independent report which says that the `maintenance is conducted according to the regimes established'; that there is no risk to health and safety—
Senator LUNDY —No. I am referring to the recommendations, Dr Kennedy. It recommends that you review it. You did, and you increased the number of cleaning cycles.
Dr Kennedy —As I said, Mr Rees has given his evidence, but the specific nature of that review is of any changes which occurred to make a satisfactory system even more satisfactory. We would like to take on notice to provide you with the reassurance—
Senator LUNDY —That is what I am asking you. There was room for improvement?
Dr Kennedy —There is always room for improvement in everything.
Senator LUNDY —Right. Thank you. That is what I was looking for. Of course there is always room for improvement.
Dr Kennedy —Indeed. And as a public authority and as a business which is actually operating with the public visiting all the time, we do take our public obligations very seriously. Any allegation of this sort led to the full cooperation of the staff even if it was an investigation which was conducted—when we were told over the phone that the inspectors were already in our building we were that concerned about something like this—
Senator LUNDY —That is within the law, is it not?
Dr Kennedy —And we have got a clean bill of health.
Senator LUNDY —Did you have a problem with that?
Dr Kennedy —Pardon?
Senator LUNDY —Did you have a problem with the fact that the inspectors were inspecting your plant?
Dr Kennedy —I have no problem at all because we are so obliged—
Senator LUNDY —They have a right of entry, don't they?
Dr Kennedy —Yes, indeed, and we cooperated with them absolutely fully because we are concerned that any allegation might be made which would affect the running of the National Gallery of Australia. The allegation has been fully investigated and been found to be not so.
—I am challenging that because we have a recommendation that you have acted on and something has changed. So you can sit there and say that everything is fine all you like. The evidence heard here this morning is that there was room for improvement and you did the right thing by improving the maintenance cycles. That is a good thing; it is not a bad thing. It is actually appropriate behaviour following a recommendation of that nature. So do not get too defensive about that. What I came here to establish was whether or not you had acted on the recommendations, and you have.
Dr Kennedy —Senator, I understood your question to be what we had actually done to constitute a review and the response was that we would like to take that on notice to provide you with the precise detail of what we actually did, to make it even more satisfactory than it has been deemed to be.
Senator LUNDY —I accept your offer to take that on notice and I look forward to all of the information in specificity.
Senator SCHACHT —I return to page 6 of the Comcare report by Mr Peter Maguire, who says:
On 1 March 2000, I visited the NGA with Mr Broadbent and spoke with Mr Phil Rees, Head of Planning and Facilities, Mr Garry Cox, Manager, Facilities and Services and Mr Tava Sitauti, Environment Control Officer. At that time I provided Mr Rees with my request for information, inspected the areas identified as Air Handling Units (AHU) 2 and 7 and took five photographs of the equipment in AHU 2. Mr Rees provided me with a copy of correspondence between the NGA and Mr Scott Thompson of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), including a schedule of Services for Air Conditioning Units, inspection and maintenance reports.
I profess complete naivety or lack of knowledge about how Comcare conducts its business and inspections, but how many air handling units are there in the airconditioning system at the National Gallery?
Mr Rees —There are seven.
Senator SCHACHT —And he inspected units 1 and 7. Do you have any knowledge why he did not inspect the other ones?
Mr Rees —You would have to ask Mr Maguire.
Senator SCHACHT —He ain't at the estimates! It seems to me—again, I profess complete ignorance of any knowledge of airconditioning systems—that the air handling units 1 to 7 provide air throughout the whole of the gallery. Why would you inspect only two out of the seven and not the whole seven to ensure that, as the air from those units circulates through the whole of the gallery, that might not be germane to having some concerns about their condition?
Mr Rees —You could speculate that there were two reasons for that. Maybe Mr Maguire had been briefed to look specifically at those two air handling units by the informant. Another could well be that he felt, having looked at the maintenance strategies on those two, that he was satisfied we were maintaining the others. There could be a number of reasons.
Senator SCHACHT —That is a big ask, is it not, that if you looked at two, therefore, that means automatically the other five must be okay? If you are doing an independent investigation, I would have thought it axiomatic that you would look at the whole seven.
Dr Kennedy —We do not wish to question the competence of the expert who, as is noted in the report—
—I am just asking a naive question.
Dr Kennedy —Indeed, and we will certainly refer that on notice to the expert who, as is noted in the report, has received Australia Day honours for his expertise.
Senator SCHACHT —One always has to be a devil's advocate in these hearings and sometimes it has to be a rather unpleasant experience being a devil's advocate. Sometimes it is a pleasant experience being a devil's advocate, it all depends on whether you are a masochist or a sadist I suppose. It does seem to me that, if you asked someone at an independent inquiry about the airconditioning system or any system and why you would only inspect part of it and not all of it, that would be a reasonable question that a naive person from outside the Senate or an estimates committee would ask. Wouldn't they say it was not unreasonable to ask why they missed the other five?
Dr Kennedy —I do not think that it said that they missed the other five. What we have to take into consideration—
Senator SCHACHT —He said, `I inspected the areas identified as air handling units 2 and 7.' Mr Rees, did you recommend to Mr Maguire that they were the two that he inspect?
Mr Rees —No, we were totally at his direction. I think you could also look at 4.2—
Senator SCHACHT —On what page?
Mr Rees —It says the system consists of nine air handling units, or AHUs—
Senator SCHACHT —It is nine, not seven.
Mr Rees —I believed it was seven; I had not heard of the other two.
Senator SCHACHT —The two went missing?
Mr Rees —I am not sure. My best understanding was that there were seven of them.
Senator SCHACHT —But we now agree that there are nine, not seven.
Mr Rees —I am not sure. My understanding is—
Senator SCHACHT —They are a physical feature of the National Gallery. Do we know whether there are nine or seven air handling units?
Dr Kennedy —The understanding of our head of the facility is that there are seven. We will take your question on notice and ask the independent expert why he examined two of the systems and not all of the others. My own assumption in the matter would be that, because of the complete and ongoing records that are kept of all of our systems, these being available to independent inspection, the complaints had been made about particular areas and those particular areas were investigated. We will make inquiries and take that on notice if you will allow us to.
Senator SCHACHT —I was going to draw to your attention, Mr Rees, but you beat me to it, that 4.2 did say that there were nine AHUs, four of which had active humidifier systems. It says:
Humidification is required to protect the NGA Collection due to the large fluctuation in humidity that occurs in the ACT...
So if he says there are nine, do you think that is correct now? Were you or any of your management staff present when he was inspecting 2 and 7?
Mr Rees —We were because we were required to be there.
—Did either of your staff suggest, `Listen mate, we don't know whether there are seven or nine here, but at least you should have a look at the rest'?
Mr Rees —I can tell you that Mr Broadbent, who was the independent expert engaged by Comcare, was fully familiar with the operation of all aspects of the plant and equipment at the National Gallery.
Senator SCHACHT —He was present?
Mr Rees —He has had an ongoing association—
Senator SCHACHT —He knew that there were nine, not seven? Or was he not sure?
Mr Rees —He knew the extent of the airconditioning systems.
Dr Kennedy —It sounds like the experts who conducted the report indeed had expertise, and the nomenclature of these units may be at issue here. We have four cold active humidifiers. I am at a loss like you, I am sure, to know what the difference between an active humidifier and the nine AHUs is. We would like to take it on notice and come back to you.
Senator SCHACHT —In view of the anonymous complaint that forced the inspection, and in view of the fact that there do seem to be some suggestions around the place about staff concern about the airconditioning, it seems to me that the Comcare person may have been a bit remiss at least in not inspecting whatever you call them—the whole system. Clearly, he did not.
Senator Ellison —Mr Chairman, that is really a question for Comcare, in all fairness. The officials cannot comment on Comcare's—
Senator SCHACHT —Yes, but I just want to make—
CHAIR —I think that is a matter for Comcare.
Senator SCHACHT —Dr Kennedy said he would refer this to the Comcare person. The Comcare person can read my remarks in Hansard and he has the full opportunity to respond that I am barking up the wrong tree, I have got it completely wrong or whatever. He is not going to misunderstand what I am coming at here, that there was clearly, in my view, not a complete inspection of the airconditioning system in view of the complaints from one person, anonymously, and general comment within the art gallery from other staff who were complaining through their union rep about their health being affected, which they believe the airconditioning system may have contributed to. That is what I find a bit hard to work out.
Senator LUNDY —Is the opportunity available to the National Gallery to request Comcare to conduct an investigation of all the airconditioning units?
Mr Froud —I am not sure whether there is an ability to do that, but we could certainly investigate that.
Dr Kennedy —The report, you will note, refers to two reports which were conducted in recent times—full reports in October 1995 and in mid-1999—on page 7. These were full reports on the heating and airconditioning plant which were connected with our refurbishment and with the ongoing replacement of plant and machinery at the gallery. It is open to us at any time, though at very considerable expense—and we are always very mindful of that expense—to conduct investigations.
Senator LUNDY —Were those two reports dated 1995 and 1999 made available to the occupational health and safety committee at the gallery?
—They were made available to Comcare, Mr Rees says. These sorts of reports tend to be several inches of paper and usually pretty obtuse, only for experts. But in this particular case, where an allegation had been made by an anonymous informant, the report that was produced by Comcare was made available to the committee, as reported.
Senator LUNDY —No, my question was: were these other two reports made available to the occupational health and safety committee?
Dr Kennedy —We would have to take that on notice, Senator; we do not know right now.
Senator LUNDY —Okay. Can you inform the committee whether or not either of those reports contained recommendations?
Dr Kennedy —I cannot right now, but I would imagine all reports contain recommendations when they are commissioned for that purpose.
Senator LUNDY —Mr Rees, you are facilities manager. You would, I am sure, be familiar with at least the Bligh Voller Nield building audit on mechanical plant operation and maintenance conducted by Steensen Varming Pty Ltd. Were there any recommendations attached to that report?
Mr Rees —Yes, there were a series of recommendations attached to that report which we are looking at in the context of the refurbishment of the gallery, a project which has currently been commissioned. We have met with Steensen Varming as late as Monday about the changes that were necessary and they are doing a detailed scope. The initial building audit was a very preliminary look at the gallery in order to give an overview of what was required and we are now in that part of the project which will be advancing the detailed studies and commissioning necessary works. It is recognised the system is 20 years old.
Senator LUNDY —Sure, I appreciate that.
Mr Rees —Many of the recommendations in the earlier report, which was prepared by Honeywell and the Joint House Department, have been implemented. Many of the recommendations related to energy efficiency measures and many related to replacement of certain plant and equipment, much of which has been competed, with new boilers and chillers and other systems.
Dr Kennedy —It may be helpful to refer to page 11, where it is stated that Mr Broadbent indeed inspected these two plants. It says that:
Assuming all plants are in a similar condition, it is difficult to imagine that these plants could result in adverse occupational health effects since the elimination of certain mixtures in 1991.
Mr Maguire then goes further to say that:
In the course of visits to the National Gallery, I inspected other plant and viewed maintenance records that indicate the other plant is maintained in a similar manner—
Senator LUNDY —Coming back to the Bligh Voller—
Dr Kennedy —He concluded that:
... providing maintenance is conducted ... the air conditioning plant does not represent a risk...
Senator LUNDY —Excuse me, Dr Kennedy.
Senator Ellison —I think the witness should finish that sentence that was interrupted.
CHAIR —I think so, yes. You must let the witnesses complete what they want to say.
—I am sorry, I thought he was just quoting aspects of the report. I can read.
Dr Kennedy —For the record, Senator, I was stating that in the report—
Senator Ellison —Could I ask, Mr Chairman, that that sentence—
Senator SCHACHT —What quote were you reading, Dr Kennedy? I just want to know which one it was.
Senator Ellison —It is page 11, 4.16. That last sentence should be read into the record in its entirety in view of the fact it was interrupted. We have allowed people who pose questions to the officials to read into the record various excerpts from letters.
Senator SCHACHT —Mr Chairman, I have read that. Dr Kennedy has finished reading the quote, haven't you?
Senator Ellison —No, he has not.
CHAIR —I do not think he has.
Senator SCHACHT —Sorry.
Dr Kennedy —The independent Comcare investigator, Mr Maguire, who prepared the report concluded:
I have therefore concluded that providing maintenance is conducted according to the regimes established, the air conditioning plant does not represent a risk to health and safety.
Senator SCHACHT —Dr Kennedy, you read that out to protect your case, to show that everything is okay. I also read it, and what I am saying is that there is a deficiency in this report. He says, `Assuming all plants are in a similar condition to AHP 2 and AHP 7.' He says `assuming' but he did not inspect. If he had inspected the whole nine—and we think there are nine—you then would have been on a much stronger basis. He assumes.
Senator LUNDY —Does he assume liability if it is in fact not?
Senator SCHACHT —Yes. And then he says that `the other plant is maintained in a similar manner'. Mr Rees, what is the other plant that he is talking about? Is it the door? Is it the canteen? Is it the toilet? What is the other plant he is talking about?
Dr Kennedy —Senator, my understanding from this report is that it is Mr Broadbent who concluded the assumption that all plants are in a similar condition. It is Mr Maguire who wrote the report and concluded that in the course of visits to the gallery inspecting other plant—that is to say, the entirety of the airconditioning plant—`the airconditioning plant', and he refers to the plant in total, `does not represent a risk to health and safety'. There are two separate issues.
Senator SCHACHT —Dr Kennedy, 4.15 of the report, quotes Mr Broadbent. He said:
Assuming all plants are in a similar condition to AHP 2 and AHP 7, it is difficult to imagine that these plants could result in adverse occupational health effects since the elimination of the isothiazolone mixture in 1991.
I am just saying that I find it hard to accept that everything is hunky-dory when at least two-thirds of the AHPs were not inspected?
—Mr Chairman, could I just point out that, when Senator Schacht posed his question, he said the report said that only two units, AHP 2 and AHP 7, had been inspected. Of course, that was Mr Broadbent, who is quite separate to Mr Maguire. Mr Maguire is the author of the report. Mr Maguire merely cites Mr Broadbent. Whether he cites him with approval or not is another question, but he simply cites what Broadbent did. Mr Maguire then goes on to say what he did—that is, Maguire, the author of the report. He said that he visited the National Gallery and inspected other plant, which is a direct—
Senator SCHACHT —What is the other plant? You cannot tell me.
CHAIR —I do not think you have given the staff an opportunity to answer that question.
Senator Ellison —I think we will just clear up that issue. There is no question that this report does not say that the author only looked at AHP 2 and AHP 7. It was Broadbent who did that. Then we move on to the second part of Senator Schacht's question—that is, what is `other plant'? In the context of this report it would be the airconditioning, but Dr Kennedy is about to answer that question and should now be given that opportunity.
CHAIR —Thank you, Minister.
Senator SCHACHT —Let us have it here, Dr Kennedy. The minister has put you right in it. I am waiting for it.
Senator Ellison —No, he has not.
Dr Kennedy —My understanding of `other plant' in the context of the report is that `other plant' refers to the airconditioning plant, because the whole report is about airconditioning plant. We will take on notice exactly what Mr Maguire did and what `other plant' is, and we can provide you with that information.
Senator Ellison —Correct.
CHAIR —Thank you. That settles that question.
Senator LUNDY —With respect to the report and the assumption alluded to by Mr Broadbent, which was taken at face value by Mr Maguire as being the situation, he accepted that assumption on behalf of Mr Broadbent and drew conclusions in his recommendations and conclusions in this report, the investigation report, based on those assumptions of Mr Broadbent, which he has chosen to publish. The question I ask you is whether or not the conclusions of this report, based on those assumptions, are enough to satisfy you that you have fulfilled your duty of care under your statutory obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, because you have said that you do not believe there is an occupational health and safety problem in relation to the airconditioning at the National Gallery?
Dr Kennedy —The competent authorities have made that statement for us by fully investigating it. We are not experts in the matter. We do, however, have professionals in the area who work in the building. They have an ongoing maintenance program, which we will continue to improve in the public interest. That is part of our refurbishment scheme also, to continue to develop and expand and improve our facilities.
Senator LUNDY —I will come back to that.
Dr Kennedy —This will be ongoing. It has been, and we have built in and factored in this expensive replacement and continuous maintenance program over the few years over what is now a generational problem in the building. Overall, the whole building is now 20 years old, and we have been on ongoing replacement. This report is confirmation that what we have been doing is satisfactory and does not represent risk to health and safety in the public interest, and we will continue to improve.
—Based on this report, do you believe you have satisfied your obligations and duty of care requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act?
Dr Kennedy —I would never feel complacent to say that any single report makes me satisfied on this particular issue. We have an ongoing and continuous process of maintenance, and this highlights the necessity to continue to review to make satisfactory systems even more satisfactory. There are continuously, in this very large building and in many buildings, difficulties and challenges in airconditioning such large spaces. In public ones, where you invite the public in, it is a matter of public duty and care. Yes, Senator, I am very conscious of that.
Senator LUNDY —On the basis of this report, did you request at any point in time a complete investigation of all of the airconditioning units, given that this report does make a series of assumptions?
Dr Kennedy —No, I did not do that.
Senator LUNDY —Why not?
Dr Kennedy —Because, having discussed the matter with the professionals in the area, they have stated with competent evidence that that is not essential; that it has been amply covered by the independent experts who have a duty—Comcare, in particular—to make sure that that is so.
Senator LUNDY —Yes, but you have the ultimate responsibility under the duty of care. They are a service provider to assist you in establishing—
Dr Kennedy —Taking the spirit of your question, which is motivated, I am sure, by concern for public health, the National Gallery of Australia will, in the light of this report and of your questions, continue to review, as recommended in the report, what it is actually doing to make sure that our plant is to the highest levels. If that includes having to examine all plant and that is the advice, then that is what we will do. That is a very expensive process, and the management of a system continuously requires due care. Indeed, Mr Broadbent has referred, for example, to periodic attention being normal and addressed on an as-needs basis for certain things. Other things require full examination. When a complaint is made, which is a serious complaint, even by an anonymous informant, that spurs into action very seriously and immediately a full examination of that area. That has happened. The continuous examination of the full plant will be ongoing.
Senator LUNDY —Dr Kennedy, what is your process for acting on complaints that you receive in relation to occupational health and safety matters at the Gallery?
Dr Kennedy —To have them investigated by the competent parties within the Gallery.
Senator LUNDY —What is your process for initiating that action? Which officer is responsible; do you call in Comcare straight away?
Dr Kennedy —No. The competent officer in the Gallery gets the material relevant to that person. In this particular case, the competent officer is Mr Rees, who will have the people who look after our system and know it very well indeed who are also cited in the report—Mr Sitauti and Mr Cox—conduct investigations. They know the system very well. They have lived with it for a long time and have worked in the Gallery for a long time.
Senator LUNDY —Going back to 4.4(b), this reference to the Bligh Voller Nield building audit, can you supply that full report, including the recommendations, to the committee?
Senator LUNDY —Can you tell me if there are any recommendations to either that report or to the 1995 report that have not been acted on completely or finalised at this point?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator LUNDY —There are some?
Mr Rees —Yes, but they relate to issues that can be addressed only by a full analysis of the problem and a comprehensive program of works worth $1 million plus. They are not overnight issues.
Senator LUNDY —Do any of those outstanding problems relate to the airconditioning system or the water-cooling towers?
Mr Rees —Reading from the precis, it seems that there is insufficient fresh air supplied to public galleries, that smoke exhausts and shaft pressurisation seem to require some co-compliance, that service tunnel exhausts are inadequate, that water overspray is causing some rotting fabric and that airborne gases can be eliminated by installing carbon filters. That is what the report will reveal, and those issues require strategic planning and comprehensive programming.
Senator LUNDY —So you are still addressing those?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator LUNDY —Tell me if I am wrong, but it seems that the photographic evidence supplied and the problems that you have just outlined indicate that there is actually some relationship between the issues in this complaint and the activities that have been raised in the report that the gallery is still acting on?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator LUNDY —And I think that, Dr Kennedy, makes it very clear that not only are you aware of those issues but you are acting on them, and that this Comcare investigation has identified an ongoing presence of the problems that you are trying to address.
Dr Kennedy —I do not accept that, Senator.
Senator LUNDY —Read the Hansard. Is there a resource problem in acting on those recommendations? What is your building services budget looking like last year and this year, and is that constraining your ability to act on the recommendations from the 1999 report?
Dr Kennedy —As you know, since my time here I have made it a priority to try to address the issues concerning the building which are generational lifecycle issues—effectively a generation; 20 to 25 years—requiring the continuous renewal of very expensive plant and machinery. We have had boiler replacement which we notified to this committee two years ago. We have ongoing major plant which requires us to budget for significant sums to address this issue. Most of the very large plant issues can only be addressed in an overall refurbishment requiring very significant sums.
The ongoing maintenance is something that we take very seriously. The existence of reports which have been done with frequency to generate interest in taking the National Gallery to its proper functioning capacity as a building—in other words, to get the public funds necessary—has actually acted as a spur to notify us about areas where we would need to improve and to schedule the maintenance of them and to budget for that. We have been doing that very carefully. It consistently requires review and, yes, we are very aware that airconditioning plant continually needs to be renewed. In this particular case, and what I think has prompted the discussion this morning, an allegation was made by an anonymous informant which has been fully investigated by the competent authorities and found not to be so, and we have been given a clean bill of health. That is completely separate from the ongoing maintenance.
Senator LUNDY —I just have to place my view on the record. I do not think two strong recommendations and subsequent action by you responding to recommendations is a clean bill of health. As I said, the fact that you have acted on the recommendations is commendable. What I am intrigued with now is that there was a previous set of recommendations in existence, from a previous building audit, that relates directly to the airconditioning units and the issues that are raised in this investigation report. We will get a copy of that; we will have a look at that and we will go through that as well. But what I am asking now is: is there a budget constraint in terms of your building maintenance that has led to some delay in acting on those recommendations to solve some of these problems?
Mr Kennedy —There are lifecycle issues to do with particular plant and machinery where—
Senator LUNDY —What does that mean? What is a lifecycle issue?
Mr Kennedy —It means effectively that if a machine, let us say, has 10 years life capacity, one can replace it in year seven, eight, nine or 10. What we have had to do is to organise our affairs so that all our machinery is maintained and renewed at the appropriate cycle.
Senator LUNDY —Are they due to be replaced now?
Dr Kennedy —The airconditioning plant?
Senator LUNDY —Yes.
Dr Kennedy —As part of the overall works there will be attention given to it.
Mr Rees —There are aspects of the airconditioning plant that require—
Senator LUNDY —That should be replaced?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator LUNDY —In terms of those aspects that need to be replaced, has there been a specified date for that replacement or a specific recommendation as to the immediacy or time frame in which those aspects should be replaced?
Dr Kennedy —We will examine the precise recommendations to answer that question. If I can put an analogy: in the sense of computer technology, there are lifecycle recommendations—
Senator LUNDY —I am glad you have picked something I can relate to.
Dr Kennedy —by manufacturers which would require renewal, and I am sure that that also applies to airconditioning plant and machinery, which is a decision about budget. But you have got to make sure that your old plant which is working satisfactorily is actually recycled.
Senator LUNDY —We will know more when we see the specificity of those recommendations.
Dr Kennedy —Thank you, Senator.
—I am aware, as you are—and I am sure the minister is as well—that there have been budget constraints across just about every agency under this government. I am concerned that those budget constraints have meant that you, in your position at the National Gallery, have not been able to adequately resource the maintenance of the airconditioning system and that that has resulted in an occupational health and safety risk, certainly to your employees and perhaps to the public. That is really what I am asking you. Tell me straight up: have you had a reduction in your building services and maintenance budget over the last four years?
Dr Kennedy —No, if anything, we have examined the position carefully as part of the overall examination of the building to make sure that we put further injection in there, and that is why we put the boilers ahead—
Senator LUNDY —Are you spending more or less?
Dr Kennedy —More.
Senator LUNDY —Can you show me how you have been spending more over the last four years on building services and maintenance?
Dr Kennedy —And, furthermore, we have lobbied very consistently over a long period of time, right throughout the decade in fact, and we are happy to report that now, finally, we are in a position to redevelop our building, to enhance it and to properly maintain it. We expect to have funds to do that over the coming three years.
Senator LUNDY —Were any funds allocated for that in this year's budget?
Dr Kennedy —Yes. As per previous questions at sessions, the building enhancement project requires a budget, an outline, right throughout the period, and we have been progressing with that and funding it accordingly.
Senator LUNDY —How much did you get this year in the budget for building enhancement?
Dr Kennedy —We have made the point before that we get a line budget, and it is up to us to manage our affairs and to make sure that we are appropriately managing this part of it.
Senator SCHACHT —How much are you going to spend? You get a one line allocation in the PBS document. I am trying to find the line that says that, out of that one line budget you have allocated 2c, $2 million, $20 million or whatever it is, for maintenance, building enhancement, replacement, et cetera and hopefully there is a line somewhere to overcome some of the deficiencies in the airconditioning system.
Dr Kennedy —We will get the precise figure for you now, Senator.
Senator LUNDY —You just said that it is your discretion how you divide up your budget. I want to clarify, Dr Kennedy: it is your choice as to what proportion of your allocation goes towards building services and maintenance, equipment replacement and building enhancement. You make those choices. Is that the case?
Senator SCHACHT —Approved by the board, of course.
Dr Kennedy —We have moved to a whole of government system whereby we are not to come back on an annual basis looking to refurbish our building but to plan properly to repair and conduct our building appropriately.
—And you have been aware, obviously, since at least mid-1999 as a result of this report, that there is a program of upgrading of airconditioning and other plant.
Dr Kennedy —Yes, but consistent with all the reports that we prepared on the entire building, which are being addressed in the building enhancement project.
Senator LUNDY —Sorry, I know I am covering old ground; I am trying to get to a point. What priority have you placed on acting on those recommendations from the 1999 report, as far as the board and management go, given that I know there has been expenditure on other building enhancement initiatives?
Dr Kennedy —What priority have we put on what exactly?
Senator LUNDY —On the activities recommended in the 1999 report to address the problems that Mr Rees mentioned.
Dr Kennedy —They are an integral part of the overall scheme, which is a $20 million scheme. The first priority we have, in a set of five priorities for that scheme, is the urgent works. The council took the decision, and the finance and audit committee had recommended, that the issues that obviously affected public safety to do with staff and visitors to the gallery should be attended to first.
Senator LUNDY —That is the highest priority?
Dr Kennedy —It is the highest priority.
Senator LUNDY —What is the second highest priority?
Dr Kennedy —To put a new front door on the gallery.
Senator LUNDY —I want to clarify that you will spend money resolving the public safety and occupational health and safety issues before you will spend money on the glamorous stuff. I should rephrase that: I know the front door is a necessity, but will you spend money on the health and safety stuff before you spend it on aesthetics?
Dr Kennedy —As you know, as in many countries public buildings like the National Gallery of Australia have in the past been excluded from code compliance that would apply to other buildings in the private sector, and thus there are a lot of code compliance issues in the gallery which we are seeking to amend. Very comprehensive reports have been prepared on what we actually need to do on issues related to fire and safety within the building, on water within the building, on movement of people within the building and on air quality within the building. All those are an integral part of the examinations that we have been doing, which will be treated to the utmost that we can within the budget allowed in the coming years.
Senator SCHACHT —Dr Kennedy, on page 301 there is a line which says, `Operating activities, purchase of property, plant and equipment for year ended'—do I have the final line?
Mr Froud —Yes, you have.
Senator SCHACHT —Two million dollars for actual in the year just ended.
Mr Froud —Correct.
Senator SCHACHT —You have $8.5 million budget estimate for the coming year.
Mr Froud —Correct.
Senator SCHACHT —For the following out years, $8 million, $3.4 million, $1.5 million.
Senator SCHACHT —Of the $2 million that is spent to the end of this year, how much was actually spent on capital and equipment on the airconditioning system?
Mr Froud —We would not know that particular figure as we sit at the table today. That figure of $2,089,000 does represent capital expenditure on property, plant and equipment. We will find out the proportion that relates to the airconditioning.
Senator SCHACHT —Of the $8.5 million, which is a hefty increase—congratulations, almost as much as the purchase of works of art I notice, Dr Kennedy—how much do you expect to spend on renovating and upgrading the airconditioning as a result of these reports?
Mr Froud —Again, we would have to take that on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —Can you give me some idea? Is it $1 million or is it $5 million of that $8.5 million?
Mr Froud —It would be more than $1 million.
Senator SCHACHT —And what are you actually going to spend that on in the airconditioners? Is it your humidifiers, your AHUs or your ducting plant room?
Mr Froud —That is currently being investigated.
Senator SCHACHT —By whom? Who is doing the work? Are you doing the report internally on where you are going to spend the money?
Mr Froud —No. External consultants, Steensen Varming, were identified earlier as being the providers of information to the gallery in a building audit in 1999. They are also now providing advice to us on what specific upgrade initiatives are required. When we have that, that will form part of the work that will be undertaken in the $8.5 million.
Senator SCHACHT —And you will be able to provide on notice to the committee where they recommend you spend the capital in upgrading the building, including the airconditioning, and also for the following year—another $8 million—the following year $3.4 million, and the year after that $1.5 million?
Mr Froud —Indeed.
Senator SCHACHT —Since 1995 and the Honeywell report, how much have you spent on capital equipment in modifying the airconditioning system? Have you spent any money on the capital side?
Mr Froud —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —Can you give me a rough idea? Have you spent half a million, $2 million, in the last four years?
Mr Froud —We upgraded boilers some years ago and chillers some years ago. Those were amounts of hundreds of thousands of dollars in each of those years.
Senator SCHACHT —So you will take on notice what you actually spent on chillers, boilers and other parts of the airconditioning system?
Mr Froud —Yes. In terms of those capital investments—
Senator SCHACHT —This is before your time, Dr Kennedy. So you can see this is an issue for the gallery per se, not for existing management. It is the history I am interested in.
—Thank you for that, Senator. In fact, these two issues of the boilers and the chillers were indeed in my time and required a very specific decision in my first year when, as you know, we had a $2 million debt on the new wing, we lost money on our exhibitions and we had to cut staff in order to do the contractual obligations to replace the boilers.
Senator SCHACHT —As I understand it, the installation of the airconditioning system when the gallery was built was about one-third of the cost of the total project—$12 million for the airconditioning in the building. From institutional memory, is that roughly right?
Dr Kennedy —We would have to take that on notice. We have no idea.
Senator SCHACHT —Obviously, in all the planning for protecting the collection, the operation of the airconditioning system— irrespective of the public issue—and humidity levels are absolutely essential.
Dr Kennedy —We are probably a very unusual building in this city in that we have a guaranteed rate of temperature and humidity.
Senator SCHACHT —I know all that. So the airconditioning system is absolutely essential not only for public health but for the collection?
Dr Kennedy —Absolutely.
Senator SCHACHT —I therefore want to ask you: who is responsible on a daily basis for making sure that the airconditioning is working?
Mr Froud —Whilst Mr Rees's department is responsible, Mr Tava Sitauti leads a team of people who inspect the airconditioning plant and elements of it on a daily basis.
Senator SCHACHT —So, if there is something wrong with the humidity levels dropping or going up, they are responsible for immediately identifying it, taking appropriate action, et cetera?
Mr Froud —Perhaps I should clarify that. Mr Sitauti and his team are looking at the operational aspects of the plant. We independently have an officer in our conservation department who also monitors the environment. So at the end of the line they are also independently checking.
Senator SCHACHT —And if they find something is going wrong they report to whom? If they say there is a problem do they ring Mr Sitauti?
Mr Froud —Initially, I would imagine that the person who has identified the problem would talk to Mr Sitauti. Depending upon the level of the issue, it may then be referred to a more senior person in the organisation.
Senator SCHACHT —You say Mr Sitauti and his team. How many people are on his team?
Mr Froud —There are two electricians, a trades assistant and consultants.
Senator SCHACHT —Excluding the consultants, the people on the job-
Mr Froud —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —The consultants are not there all the time.
Mr Rees —`Contractors' is the word.
Senator SCHACHT —Are there contractors there all the time?
—They are there for the periodic maintenance that they are required to do.
Senator SCHACHT —But they are not there eight or 10 hours a day inside the building watching it? The contractors are brought in and all they have to do is a particular job. They might be there three weeks out of six or suddenly six out of six, but then they might be there only one week out of five. Is that right?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —I am only interested in those who are full time sitting in the building looking after the airconditioning. Mr Sitauti is head of that. He is the one who, on a day-to-day basis, runs the airconditioning system. He has a team of two electricians.
Mr Froud —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —And one trades person.
Mr Froud —One trades assistant.
Mr Rees —And access to a fitter.
Senator SCHACHT —Is the fitter in the building?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —But the fitter is not directly responsible to Mr Sitauti.
Mr Rees —For HVAC he is.
Senator SCHACHT —I see. In view of the fact that this is an extremely complex and sensitive airconditioning system, by the very nature of what it has to do, what qualifications has Mr Sitauti got in terms of high volume airconditioning?
Mr Rees —He was assessed by the Comcare person as appropriate, and Mr Broadbent.
Senator SCHACHT —As appropriate?
Dr Kennedy —The qualifications of the individuals were examined by the Comcare inspector, who concluded that the qualifications were appropriate for the tasks and the level of maintenance undertaken.
Senator SCHACHT —When Mr Sitauti was appointed by the management to the job of looking after the airconditioner, what qualifications did he have then to be in charge of what could be a $10 million or $12 million airconditioning system that is absolutely essential to the running of the gallery, the preservation of the collection and the health of the staff and the public?
Mr Froud —Mr Sitauti was engaged some years ago as the head in that area. He previously worked in the gallery for some years as an electrician, particularly providing electrical service to the airconditioning area. So, whilst he has formal qualifications as an electrician, he has a certificate—
Senator SCHACHT —You are telling me he picked it up on the job.
Dr Kennedy —No. In the report—
—No, I want to get this clear. As I understand it—and I may be wrong—people who are experts in airconditioning can get a qualification at a TAFE or some area and get a certificate to show they have been through some process of examination and have a qualification to look at an airconditioner. If my airconditioner at home breaks down, I would like to know that the person I ask to come in and fix it has a certificate, or a qualification, or a training background to know what he is doing, so that if something goes wrong I know what they can deal with. What are Mr Sitauti's qualifications? What were his qualifications and skill in airconditioning, particularly your airconditioning system, before he was appointed to the position of running it?
Dr Kennedy —If I could just add something before Mr Rees answers your questions specifically. In the report prepared by the Comcare investigator, because the informant had allegations about qualifications of the people concerned, the Comcare investigator said that he was provided with evidence of the technical qualifications of the people concerned, courses they had attended and work experience that they had, and he concluded that they had qualifications appropriate for the task and levels of maintenance undertaken. Mr Rees can answer the question on the specific qualifications.
Senator SCHACHT —So you can provide me that on notice with the qualifications and the courses that Mr Sitauti has taken.
Mr Rees —We can.
Senator SCHACHT —The two electricians who are in his unit running the airconditioning, how long have they been in the gallery?
Mr Rees —I think there is a need to understand that different people have different responsibilities for different aspects of the airconditioning system. We have mentioned that the cell is supported by contractors. The specialist maintenance of the control systems that control temperature and humidity are under a contract with Honeywell. The boiler maintenance is under contract to ACT Boilers. The chemical dosing and checking of the water is under contract to Maxwell Chemicals. The cleaning is undertaken by companies that specialise in all that equipment. Tava does not have the ability to service the boiler or the chillers and he does not do that nor does he control the operation of other aspects.
Senator SCHACHT —But he is responsible for the cleaning and maintenance on a daily basis of the system, is he not?
Mr Rees —That is correct.
Senator SCHACHT —I would have thought you could show me his qualifications.
Mr Rees —He has a management role in running the budget.
Senator SCHACHT —With the cleaning of the coils, which are mentioned I think in the report from Comcare, who cleans the coils? Are they the consultants or contractors you bring in?
Mr Rees —Yes, we bring in contractors for the most part. They come in with high-pressure hoses and treat it and handle the equipment.
Senator SCHACHT —Before I come back to that, I am interested that you say that. The two electricians are only there on a day-to-day basis making sure that the switchboards and the electronics are operating. If something goes wrong they are required to fix it or get someone in to help them fix it.
Mr Rees —Or they are checking the building management system making sure the units are operating.
—Are they both fully qualified electricians? Have they got an electricians' certificate or a trades certificate?
Mr Rees —I believe they have the qualifications appropriate to—
Senator SCHACHT —No. I want to ask a simple question. Do they have—
Mr Rees —I guess we will provide you with a copy of the certificates that they have.
Senator SCHACHT —A trades assistant, what is that person's job?
Mr Rees —Clean, replace filters, check for leaks, vacuum up any spilt water and undertake some labouring duties.
Senator SCHACHT —Did that person have any qualifications before they were appointed to that job to help look after this sensitive airconditioning system?
Mr Rees —I think they had sufficient training in trying to take the tasks—
Senator SCHACHT —They had sufficient training before—
Mr Rees —There are no formal qualifications required, in my understanding, for the particular tasks that this person performs.
Senator SCHACHT —Is this person required to do any of the monthly cyclical cleaning or hosing down the coils?
Mr Rees —Possibly from time to time but not as the main role.
Senator SCHACHT —Could you find out how often that person does it compared with the contractor whom you paid to do it? You have said that the contractor comes in and hoses down the coils. If the contractor is paid to do that why is the trade assistant also doing it?
Dr Kennedy —We will take that on notice for clarification.
Senator SCHACHT —I hope you do. Does the trades assistant have to do anything such as putting the chemicals—I think it is peroxide or something—in the water to clear out the bugs in the humidifiers or whatever they are called. I hope I have got the right title.
Mr Rees —Yes, from time to time.
Senator SCHACHT —They are required to do that?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —What training has the trades assistant had in handling chemicals that may be by any definition marginally injurious to people if not handled properly?
Mr Rees —I think all the chemicals that we use are supported by material data sheets which say—
Senator SCHACHT —Are supported by what?
Mr Rees —Material data sheets which talk about what is within the compounds, how you handle them, what apparatus you may need to use to supplement your breathing, to wear gloves and to wear glasses when appropriate. All of those instructions usually accompany the product.
Senator SCHACHT —He is supposed to read that and then say, okay because he has read it he is now competent to handle it. Is there any testing of the fact that he has read it and remembered what he or she is supposed to do?
—I think that probably the observation of the supervisor would determine—
Senator SCHACHT —That is Mr—
Mr Rees —Mr Tava Sitauti.
Senator SCHACHT —That is under his supervision. His job is to check the skill level of the trades assistant. Is that right?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —This trades assistant seems to be doing a range of things—handling chemicals and hosing down coils—which the contractor has the job of doing. He seems to have a pretty broad-ranging skill level. What is his salary? I do not want to overdo your budget, but he might be able to put in for an increase here.
Mr Rees —He has had increases over time as his skill level has increased.
Senator SCHACHT —He should, too. You mention that he has been provided with protective gloves and coats for handling. What is done to check that he is actually using them?
Mr Rees —He has a duty of care, as an employee, to follow that.
Senator SCHACHT —He has a duty of care to follow that?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —Mr Sitauti has a duty of care to make sure he follows it?
Mr Rees —Yes, by way of observation. He does not accompany him everywhere.
Senator SCHACHT —So Mr Sitauti is watching, from time to time, the trades assistant when he is dumping the peroxide chemicals into the water and spraying down the coil, when a lot of material might be coming out. I think they are called moulds, and there was some mention around the place of slime, et cetera, that might have bugs in it. So Mr Sitauti is overviewing and ensuring that the trades assistant is handling this properly and is not putting his own health at risk?
Mr Rees —He is making sure that the person has the skills to understand what he is required to do and that he understands what OH&S precautions he needs to take. I would not say that he accompanies him at every moment and every day. People make their own choices, too.
Senator SCHACHT —It is not about making their own choices. If he gets it wrong and is injured, Comcare is up for the injury, is it not? I just cannot quite get the picture of how some of these people were employed and how they ended up being in charge of, by my information, a facility called the airconditioner that was worth $12 million when it was put in, when there have been complaints by staff that the airconditioning system may be affecting their health and, of course, that it may affect the public. The airconditioner is absolutely germane to the success of the gallery's operation but you have, by my count, no more than four people and two, Mr Sitauti and his trades assistant. The electricians have got other jobs.
Mr Rees —And so have the others, too. It is probably about three ASL equivalents allocated to the task.
—That is for a thing that was one-third of the cost of the gallery. You have a whole range of contractors coming in to do specific things, but between when they are there Mr Sitauti and the trades assistants are basically running the airconditioner.
Dr Kennedy —The competent authority here has actually confirmed that the people involved have the relevant experience and qualifications to conduct the tasks. You mention complaints by staff. I am not sure what they are.
Senator SCHACHT —I want you to tell me, on notice, when they got their qualifications and when they were appointed. I am not sure that Mr Sitauti had the qualifications to handle a significant public investment, which is the airconditioning system. I may be wrong, but I am giving you the opportunity to take on notice—
Senator Ellison —Senator Schacht is not sure about the qualifications but the independent expert was and he said they were qualified to do it. I do not think we really need to take it any further. The questions have been taken on notice and the detail that Senator Schacht wants will be obtained. Nothing could be fairer than that.
CHAIR —Yes, that is a reasonable point.
Senator SCHACHT —You never know from the nuances of the answers coming through. I hope the answers can assuage my doubt. I find it a bit odd that there are only two people and I question the qualifications, particularly of the trades assistant, and how he got the job and ended up doing a range of activity that the contractor should be doing.
Senator Ellison —Again, Mr Chairman, that is a statement by Senator Schacht, who is a well-known airconditioning expert.
Senator SCHACHT —It is based on the evidence so far given.
Senator Ellison —These questions have been taken on notice. There is really nothing further that can be elicited by way of detail at this point. You do have an expert in the area—a recognised expert—saying the qualifications of the people involved—
Senator SCHACHT —Is that Mr Broadbent you are quoting?
Senator Ellison —No, Mr Maguire.
Senator SCHACHT —Mr Maguire is an expert in airconditioning.
Senator Ellison —He is a Comcare investigator who has expertise in this area.
Senator SCHACHT —He called on Mr Broadbent to help. Had Mr Broadbent done any previous contractual work for the art gallery?
Mr Rees —He has association with the gallery, but I am not sure in what capacity, whether it was as an employee of the gallery—
Senator SCHACHT —I would like you to find out.
Mr Rees —I do know that he has been in the gallery before.
Senator SCHACHT —As a contractor?
Mr Rees —I am not sure in what capacity.
—If he has had some previous association of employment with the gallery, how can he be employed as an independent consultant to Comcare when there is now some doubt that he may have had previous employment which I do not think was disclosed in this report.
Dr Kennedy —The answer is that we do not know the answer to your question, whether exactly he had any—
Senator SCHACHT —In due governance, Dr Kennedy, to you and the senior management, when you are having an independent report done, one of the first questions I thought you might have asked is whether any of the people doing it have a previous association in any way with the gallery.
Dr Kennedy —We will have to take that on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —What is the position of Mr Cox in the organisation?
Mr Rees —He is manager of building operations.
Senator SCHACHT —Who Mr Sitauti reports to.
Mr Rees —Yes. And Mr Cox reports to me.
Senator SCHACHT —So the question of running the daily basis of the airconditioner is two legs down from you, Mr Rees. Mr Rees, you report to Mr Froud?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —And Mr Froud reports to Dr Kennedy. Fine. It is a pyramid structure; I understand that. For the record, has Mr Maguire had any previous work with the gallery in any form?
Dr Kennedy —We cannot answer that question. We will have to take it on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —And are you absolutely certain that, to use the legal phrase, it was an absolutely Chinese wall in issues of interest separating Mr Maguire doing this, Mr Broadbent and the staff of the gallery?
Dr Kennedy —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —You are absolutely certain of that?
Dr Kennedy —What I am trying to say to you is that we will find out for your information exactly whether Mr Broadbent or Mr Maguire has ever been involved with the National Gallery of Australia over its 20-year history.
Senator SCHACHT —And if they have ever had contact with the staff et cetera. Thank you very much.
Senator LUNDY —What authority does the Comcare investigator have to assess trade qualifications?
Dr Kennedy —We would have to go and ask Comcare about that.
Senator LUNDY —I will be interested in that. The title `trades assistant' under the metalworkers award implies that they are assisting a tradesperson. Are they assisting a tradesperson associated with the trade of the work they are actually conducting?
Dr Kennedy —We will take that on notice. We cannot answer specifically.
Senator LUNDY —Can I suggest to you that the answer is no, because the trades assistant was described as doing boilermaker type trades assisting work, but in fact—
—That cannot be accepted, because there is no evidence to indicate that. The question has been asked of the witness. To then go on and answer the question for the witness is entirely inappropriate, Mr Chairman.
Senator LUNDY —Your lack of knowledge in this area, Senator Ellison—
Senator Ellison —What is happening here is that the witness is asked a question and they say, `Yes, we will take it on notice,' and then the person who put the question, Senator Lundy, says, `I will tell you what the answer is. Here is what it is,' by way of backdoor evidence. If there is something there from a staff member who is making a complaint, there should be something tabled so the gallery can comment.
CHAIR —If the officials say they will take something on notice, that should be respected and that should be the end of it. Information will be provided on notice in detail. There is no point in pursuing it further.
Senator LUNDY —However, if there was previous evidence given of knowledge in that area, it is actually not appropriate for the committee to accept the taking of a question on notice if it is in fact being used as a device to not answer the question at this hearing. I am not saying that is happening in this case, but I am raising the fact that there have been some circumstances this morning where questions have been taken on notice where we have already heard evidence. I am tracking over ground I have already heard to make a point. I will finish my line of questioning and you will see what I mean. My understanding is that Mr Sitauti holds an electrical trade certificate.
Mr Froud —He definitely holds one of those.
Senator LUNDY —But that is not the trade certificate associated with the maintenance of airconditioning plant.
Mr Froud —He has other qualifications as well, that we have undertaken to provide.
Senator LUNDY —But he does not have a boilermaker's trade certificate?
CHAIR —The officials have said that they will answer these questions on notice, in detail.
Senator LUNDY —I know. I am just asking if he has a boilermaker's trade certificate.
Mr Froud —No, and that is why we engage a specialist boilermaker to do that particular role.
Senator LUNDY —I have just established that there is a TA working not to a boilermaker tradesperson.
Senator SCHACHT —Dr Kennedy, I understand that Ms Gee, who is head of personnel, is here at the hearing. As head of personnel would she be able to provide now the details of the qualifications of the various staff I have asked for?
CHAIR —Dr Kennedy said he would take these questions on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —I know, but I understand that the head of personnel is here.
Dr Kennedy —No is the answer, Senator.
—Would she, as head of personnel, be able to give an indication of what training is taking place inside the National Gallery on dealing with the maintenance and good care of the airconditioning system?
Dr Kennedy —The specific training would be a matter for Mr Rees's area to propose as part of their budgets.
Senator SCHACHT —So that is Mr Rees. Okay. I just thought I would ask.
Dr Kennedy —You would not need the personnel officer to say—
Senator SCHACHT —I am just trying to save time.
Senator LUNDY —Given that this Comcare report was initiated through an anonymous complaint to Comcare directly: prior to this date of incident, 24 February, had any complaints been received by the gallery management about issues covered in this report?
Mr Rees —Yes.
Senator LUNDY —Can you tell me how many complaints, and over what period of time?
Mr Rees —It is probably fair to say that over the history of the gallery there would be times when it is too hot, too cold, there are smells, there are issues about whether the humidity is holding. So I could not, I think, ever answer that in the broad.
Senator LUNDY —Okay, but there was an awareness of problems?
Mr Rees —The matter was actively being considered by the gallery consultative committee. And I had provided ongoing information over, perhaps, the last six months to the union and to members of the gallery consultative committee, and feedback to the OH&S committee, of what the natures of the problems were and what investigations we had initiated and carried out, what maintenance was being done and what the qualifications were. So it does have a long history. It has been active and been acted upon ever since it was first raised. But there may well be a case that some people may never be satisfied.
Senator LUNDY —I just wanted to establish that, because Dr Kennedy did say earlier that he was not taking it for granted that there had been employee complaints. As you probably have gathered, we are actually pursuing some of those concerns generally, but I note—on the record—that Dr Kennedy made a statement that he was not aware of what we were really getting at with respect to employee complaints.
Dr Kennedy —Senator, if I could clarify it, because I would not wish to—
Senator LUNDY —Yes, I think you had better.
—I would not wish to mislead the committee, Senator. In the context of the comments that were being made by Senator Schacht, when he talked about `staff complaints', we were aware of a particular complaint made by an anonymous informant which had caused this report. I thought that he was talking about general staff complaints in the context of this report. Of course, as Mr Rees says, ongoing from time to time, me included, people say, `Look, the heating in this part of the building is a little bit cool,' or `It's a bit too hot.' That happens throughout the whole year, and the complete plant system is monitored and carefully managed. It happens in our meeting rooms—if that is what is meant by `complaints', it is ongoing feedback on the quality of the system.
Senator LUNDY —Thank you for that clarification. The point Mr Rees just made clear was that there had in fact been complaints and that there was a whole history and process of dealing with those issues. Okay. Thank you for clarifying that. What action had the gallery taken, in terms of involving any independent investigators to actually address those complaints?
Mr Rees —We have had CSIRO conduct some tests of water. I have not got the precise dates. We had had another company engaged to analyse dust in the library. We had materials, or the water, tested in one of the air handling plants in December. There is an ongoing history. We have also had some very good studies undertaken in cooperation with a museum that was looking at our standards, and we have got special trays gathering and analysing chemicals that come out of the other end of the airconditioning system, basically indicating a pure environment. So there is a long history; there are monthly checks of water quality—all of that.
Senator LUNDY —Okay. And I note some of those reports are referenced in the Comcare report.
Mr Rees —Yes. That is right.
Senator LUNDY —Can you provide to the committee copies of those reports including recommendations and any response in writing either to the Occupational Health and Safety Committee or to the council of your actions following those reports and the receipt of those recommendations?
Senator Ellison —Mr Chairman, would that be a good place to break for lunch? We did say 12.30 p.m.
Senator SCHACHT —If you go another 10 minutes, 15 minutes—
Senator Ellison —I have to leave now, I am afraid. We did at the outset say 12.30 p.m.
CHAIR —We did say 12.30 p.m. It is probably better if we have got a minister here I should think.
Senator Ellison —Perhaps questions on notice could be tabled and the gallery could take them up.
Senator SCHACHT —If you want to break for 12.30 p.m. and come back for 1.30 p.m. I would have to have the gallery come back at 1.30 p.m. There are a number of questions but it will not take much longer.
CHAIR —All right.
Senator SCHACHT —I am happy to adjourn now. I am happy to stay, but if the minister has to go—
Proceedings suspended from 12.31 p.m. to 1.37 p.m.
CHAIR —We will resume. Senator Herron is now here to replace Senator Ellison.
—Before lunch, I asked a question about qualifications. I have had a phone call from somebody who was hearing of what we were doing. They said that they thought the appropriate qualification at the Canberra Institute of Technology would be a certificate in refrigeration and airconditioning. Do you know if any of these staff have that qualification?
Dr Kennedy —We would have to take that on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —Is the person holding the trade assistant position required to do any electrical work in switchboards without being accompanied by an electrician? Has that ever occurred?
Mr Froud —I would not imagine so.
Senator SCHACHT —Would you check on that—that he is not required under pressure of shortage of staff or some emergency or whatever the reason to perform a work role related to electrical work that clearly would be defined as to be performed only by a qualified electrician?
Mr Froud —Yes.
Senator SCHACHT —We have talked about the operation of the airconditioning system. We have talked about humidifiers and the AHUs, et cetera. There are filters in the main ducts that take the air into and out of the humidifiers for recirculation and even air from outside. Are those filters required to be replaced every so often?
Mr Rees —There is a number of different types of filters and they perform different functions. There are primary filters, secondary filters and other filters after that in some places. They are inspected and the judgment is made as to when they need to be replaced. Again, it depends on the location of filters, the air quality that is going through, whether there is enough suction, and whether they seem to be blocked or free. So I think it is just horses for courses.
Senator SCHACHT —Is there anything in a manual that would say after a maximum period of time they should be replaced or removed and cleaned?
Mr Rees —I am sure they work to making judgments. Again, a car air filter that has been driven over dirt roads is different from a car filter that has been driven over tar roads.
Senator SCHACHT —I know, but this is a filter in a national capital.
Mr Rees —Same function.
Senator SCHACHT —Same function? It has not been driven over a dirt road but it is cleaning the air coming in that might have dust in it coming from outside and also there is the recirculation of the air that goes around. Please take that on notice and respond to me about what is the standard time for replacement. Also, please tell me if the person responsible for monitoring does have a subjective latitude in making a judgment on when the filters can be replaced and whether that person is under pressure to save expenditure by delaying the replacement or the cleaning of the filters.
Mr Rees —I can certainly assure you he is under no pressure in terms of funding. There are adequate funds for the maintenance of those systems.
Senator SCHACHT —Who is not under pressure?
Mr Rees —It would be that the system is not under pressure not to be serviced adequately because of funds. There is no suggestion of that.
Senator SCHACHT —Who is the person? I see, it is Mr Sitauti. Is he given a definite maximum budget for maintenance of the airconditioning each year?
—He is given a budget which, in the last year that I am aware of, aligned with the budget he requested, so there were no cuts to his budget.
Senator SCHACHT —So there were no cuts—
Mr Rees —to what he requested.
Senator SCHACHT —In the last three years has he come in on budget or under budget?
Mr Rees —I do not have that information.
Senator SCHACHT —Take that on notice for me, thank you. Has there been any problem with the gyprock partitioning walls within the main area where the humidifiers are, or the major plant, inside the building so that they deteriorated substantially and had to be replaced because of water?
Mr Rees —I am aware of one instance of that.
Senator SCHACHT —When they were replaced, was there evidence of mould or other materials—to use the vernacular, slime—in any part of this area as a result?
Mr Rees —I know they were damp.
Senator SCHACHT —When they were removed, did anyone do any testing to make sure that the mould or the slime or the dampness was not in any way hazardous to the system and to the air being circulated?
Mr Rees —No, I am not aware that we did any testing.
Senator SCHACHT —Wherever you may find mould or other similar material on the fans in the cooling system and in the ducts et cetera, do you regularly take samples of it and get it tested?
Mr Rees —We have recently had water tested, calcite tested and organisms within the water tested but I do not believe that we have had any mould tested. I think the Comcare report established there was no mould.
Mr Froud —I do not believe there has been any mould.
Senator SCHACHT —There has not been any mould?
Mr Froud —No.
Senator SCHACHT —Tested—or do you say there has been no mould, full-stop?
Dr Kennedy —What exactly are we talking about here—a particular instance?
Senator SCHACHT —No. First of all, Mr Rees, you said that when the gyprock came down it was obvious there was dampness. Do you accept that there was actually mould anywhere in that area where the gyprock had to be replaced?
Mr Rees —I did not see any. I was aware that some people had an opinion that there was mould, but after the event.
Senator SCHACHT —So there was a difference of opinion among the staff with you that this may have been mould that may be a problem, but you said it was just dampness?
Mr Rees —No, I am saying we did not test any mould.
—So with all your contractors to keep the system running, have any of them requested that there should be tests done on anything that looks like mould anywhere in the airconditioning system?
Mr Rees —I would have to take that on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —Has any staff member, present or past, requested testing be done on anything that looks like mould over the last, say, three years?
Mr Rees —I would have to take that on notice.
Senator LUNDY —Are you a member of the occupational health and safety committee?
Mr Rees —Yes, I am.
Senator LUNDY —Surely you should know whether anyone had been requesting testing or whether there had been a problem.
Senator Herron —Could I ask whether the same criterion applies to the occupational health and safety of this building?
Senator LUNDY —Minister, that is irrelevant. We are asking the witness a question. Don't interrupt!
Senator Herron —I think it is relevant.
Senator LUNDY —Well, I don't.
Senator Herron —We are in the airconditioning here now.
Senator LUNDY —Chair, I ask you to rule the minister out as irrelevant. Can you answer the question, please?
Senator Herron —Nothing is irrelevant here. It is all on the record, Senator.
Senator SCHACHT —We will go with you down to the Joint House Committee when they meet and you, as a medical person, can sit with us while we ask the same questions to the President of the Senate. We are actually dealing with the National Gallery here.
Senator Herron —Okay.
Senator SCHACHT —So you are saying, Mr Rees, that you have never accepted that mould has been found inside the system in the last, say, three to five years?
Mr Rees —I have been at the gallery for only three years. There is a range of views about dampness. I am not aware of having commissioned any investigation of mould.
Senator SCHACHT —Anyway, you have taken it on notice. At the meetings of the occupational health and safety committee, no-one from the union or the staff reps expressed concern that they were aware that they thought mould may be present in the system?
Mr Rees —Not that I am aware of in the last couple of years.
Senator SCHACHT —Could you double-check that with the minutes of those committees?
Mr Rees —I will.
Senator SCHACHT —Do any of the photographs in the consultant's report which we discussed earlier—in the report we have here, they are indecipherable as photos, for obvious reasons—profess to show mould in the system?
—I do not believe so. I think they were attributed to calcite and sludge build-up. I do not think the investigators found them to have mould.
Senator SCHACHT —With the evidence of sludge in those photos, have you ever had a request that sludge be tested to see whether there was a bacterial problem?
Mr Rees —Yes, we did test the water in the humidifier tanks.
Senator SCHACHT —Is water sludge or sludge water?
Mr Rees —I guess sludge is part of that whole process. Whatever is circling through the system will go through the drift eliminators then fall back into the trough. So they would mix.
Senator SCHACHT —Pardon the pun, but I am out of my depth here working out the difference between water and sludge. Water flows; sludge creeps across the floor.
Mr Rees —But water flows over the sludge. So you would expect the water to be picking up—
Senator SCHACHT —You are saying that the sludge is only underneath where the water is. You will not find sludge seeping out across the floor somewhere, dripping down as condensation inside a duct of the airconditioning system.
Mr Rees —I do not believe so, and I do not believe that the investigation carried out discovered that either.
Senator SCHACHT —We know they investigated only two areas. So there are seven still missing from that investigation. It is true, Dr Kennedy. You should not shake your head and ask me not to respond.
Dr Kennedy —You made a statement there.
Senator SCHACHT —Mr Maguire inspected only two of the nine AHUs.
Dr Kennedy —No, it says that Mr Broadbent did that, but that he inspected other plant. We have been through that this morning, and we are going to find what other plant he actually inspected.
Senator SCHACHT —He says in the goddamn report—pardon my exasperation—that he inspected units seven and two.
Dr Kennedy —No, Mr Broadbent says that he inspected two units. Mr Maguire said that he inspected other plant and viewed the maintenance records that indicated that the other plant was safe.
Senator SCHACHT —On page six—and this is the first person—it says:
I visited the NGA with Mr Broadbent and spoke with Mr Phil Rees, Head of Planning and Facilities, Mr Garry Cox, Manager, Facilities and Services and Mr Tava Sitauti, Environment Control Officer. At that time I provided Mr Rees with my request for information, inspected the areas identified as Air Handling Units (AHU) 2 and 7 ...
He has written that in the first person. I presume that is Mr Maguire.
Dr Kennedy —Yes. I think the clarification is that, on page 6, the statement that he inspected with Mr Broadbent, air handling units two and seven, refers to a particular visit on 1 March. Whereas at 4.16 on page 11 he refers to other visits to the National Gallery where he inspected other plant.
Senator SCHACHT —Yes, it says:
In the course of visits to the NGA I inspected other plant and viewed maintenance records.
So we hope that, on that occasion—we do not know yet whether it is true—he inspected the other seven AHU units. And you will find that out from him?
Dr Kennedy —As we said this morning, we will take it on notice and provide the information as to what other plant he inspected.
Senator LUNDY —I would just draw your attention to pages 10 and 11. In relation to the inspection that was conducted with both Mr Broadbent and Mr Maguire it says on page 11a:
(a) the equipment was generally clean with some evidence of staining on coils but no evidence of slime and some scale on spray heads. (b) Within the plant rooms of AHU2 water was lying on the floors which in some cases covered the floors to several millimetres. (c) Water clarity within the tanks was extremely good and although there was some slight evidence of slime on the submerged surfaces of the tank under the coils of AHU2 there was no evidence of that at AHU7 and (d) A hand hole covering the ducting downstream of AHU2 fan unit was removed and although the vicinity was dark there did not appear to be any evidence of mould or slime on the inside of the ducting and the surfaces were clean to touch. This is consistent with the use of hydrogen peroxide which is very effective at oxidising any mould that may begin to form.
I think that clarifies the issue of who did what inspection and the fact that slime was present, just for the record.
Dr Kennedy —At 4.16 Mr Maguire also said that he did so too, and we will check exactly what he did.
Senator SCHACHT —We will look forward to the answer. I have never seen the airconditioning system and probably do not want to either—it is not my job, I am not an expert—but are the ducts that go out from the humidifiers, et cetera around the building to take the air around big enough for a trained person in airconditioning, et cetera to be able to crawl, or kneel or get into those ducts and inspect them?
Mr Rees —I think they vary in size. There are some parts of the plant that you can get into, which I think were the inspection areas that Mr Broadbent was referring to. It then goes into a smaller one and by the time they reach the outer regions they are smaller again. Many of them cannot be crawled through and would not support the weight. Some have inspection points.
Senator SCHACHT —There are inspection points. I presume that means you remove a grille or you remove a panel—
Mr Rees —Remove a panel.
Senator SCHACHT —By using a torch you could look a few metres in either direction?
Mr Rees —Yes. You would expect to see the greatest evidence of deposits in the immediate vicinity of the air handling plant. I think the conclusion was that they inspected what would likely be the worst points, which are the closest points to the—
Senator SCHACHT —How often does the staff inspect those inspection points of the smaller ducts?
Mr Rees —I would have to take that on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —Also can you take on notice: is there a manual that says that, every month or every three months, they should be removed, looked inside, checked?
Mr Rees —I will take that on notice.
—Do people actually walk or crawl inside the bigger ones where it is safe for staff?
Mr Rees —It may depend on the size of the person who is doing the inspection.
Senator SCHACHT —I appreciate all of that, and I do not in any way want to infer that people should be a variation of chimney sweeps from the 19th century.
Mr Rees —But it is not possible to walk the entire length of the duct, and it is not possible to visually inspect there.
Senator SCHACHT —Right. But the AHU are big enough to walk into?
Mr Rees —The initial part of them. They are big enough to take a panel off and put your head well in, which Mr Broadbent did with a torch.
Senator SCHACHT —Mr Rees, I have been given an extract of a memorandum, handed to a former employee, a Mr Brian Cropp, on 18 February. It talks about whether he should be employed on some basis by the gallery in continuing employment. I am not interested in those arguments about his employment record. I want to raise with you a paragraph towards the bottom. It is signed on the second page by Phil Rees, Head of Planning and Facilities. It says, `I have a concern that, due to events of recent weeks in relation to the HVAC systems, Brian's ability to work effectively as a member of the HVAC team has been compromised and is irreconcilable. He has said to me that he believes our HVAC system is, in effect, in a very poor condition, and I believe his belief would render it unwise to involve him in HVAC maintenance.' Was that the main reason he was not employed?
Mr Froud —I wonder whether we should be discussing particular details regarding an individual in this hearing.
Senator SCHACHT —I have been assured that Mr Cropp has no problem with me having the extract of the memorandum that was given to him on 18 February in relation to that particular part, because it is germane to the issues we are raising about the condition of the airconditioning system.
Dr Kennedy —While I understand that you may have discussed the matter with Mr Cropp and you may feel that we are to discuss the matter now, I would like to seek the view of the chairman as to whether or not we can do that because there are privacy issues even if Mr Cropp says to you that he does not wish to exercise them.
CHAIR —Senator Schacht, I think you have to respect what is being said: that the director does not want you to discuss this detail about a particular employee. You should direct your questions to the director or the minister. For one thing, I do not think you can jeopardise the privacy of an individual employee at a hearing like this without the consent of the employee. The staff of the National Gallery have raised an objection to this, and I think it is a reasonable objection, so I think we should not pursue that matter at this point.
Senator SCHACHT —Mr Chair, Mr Cropp assured me that he has no objection. He told me that—
CHAIR —You may say that, but do you have a document that says: I authorise Senator Shacht to ask these questions in estimates?
Senator SCHACHT —But I will go to the next point. I accept that; I am always very reasonable.
—Do you have an authorisation document? If you do not, you really cannot pursue this.
Senator SCHACHT —I would not have raised it. I would never compromise an individual's privacy if I were not 100 per cent certain. People on all sides of politics have been raising such things in estimates in all the 13 years I have been at estimates, and this is the place to do it. If the gallery are concerned about the privacy of Mr Cropp or anyone else, I would ask them to take it on notice, and they may choose to respond.
CHAIR —I think that is a better option.
Senator SCHACHT —Okay. I am happy to do that. There are a couple of very brief issues I want to mention. Dr Kennedy, on the day the Turner exhibition opened, were staff involved with the airconditioning system concerned in one form or other about the efficiency or quality of its operation, due to take place when a large number of people would be in the gallery?
Dr Kennedy —Did you say the Turner exhibition, Senator?
Senator SCHACHT —Yes.
Dr Kennedy —It was before my time at the gallery. It was a long time ago so let us just take that on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —Take that on notice.
Dr Kennedy —It was several years ago?
Senator SCHACHT —Yes.
Dr Kennedy —Right. We would have to take that on notice.
Senator SCHACHT —Take it on notice. I apologise. You are right.
Senator LUNDY —You still should be able to answer questions.
Senator SCHACHT —Anyway, take that on notice. I want to now turn to the Chihuly exhibition where a number of the objects were stolen. During the preparation for that exhibition, did anyone on staff advise or make the point that the exhibition outside would not be secure and that, therefore, there should be a security fence prepared to stop people from doing what they did?
Dr Kennedy —Senator, I discussed the matter with Chihuly and representatives of the Chihuly organisation. The gallery had concerns about the sculpture garden being an open garden that is not fenced. We did discuss with Chihuly installers and Dale Chihuly's right-hand man, Parkes Anderson, whether or not we would just put the red glass spears in the pond. It was their view that for aesthetic purposes the red spears should also be outside the pond on the banks. With the advice of our manager for security, we did secure the services of Chubb to do greater walk-throughs throughout the night and in non daytime hours and increased security visits by our own staff throughout the day. But, as you know, 10 of the 117 red spears were removed and pieces of glass corresponding to those spears were found in the Brindabellas by the police though people who did that were not apprehended. Dale Chihuly, fully understanding that in his spirit of great generosity and openness and trust, which is a mark of his work, stated to me on the telephone that, given that he was well aware that he had insisted that it should be looking beautiful for aesthetic purposes, he would not be making any claim against the gallery and that really I was not to worry.
Senator SCHACHT —So the gallery has not had to call on its insurance company?
—Not at all.
Senator SCHACHT —Not at all for the loss?
Dr Kennedy —No.
Senator SCHACHT —Dr Kennedy, with all the discussion we have had today, are you completely confident that the airconditioning system is operating effectively and there are no employee or public safety issues still to be addressed?
Dr Kennedy —I think the benefit of these hearings is to have the strong critique and examination in questioning of matters related to the public interest which the representatives will hold. You have raised issues of great technical specificity. I think that the appropriate response is to say that we are satisfied so far that the views of the independent experts have confirmed that our system is safe. Legitimate areas of further inspection have been raised by you and Senator Lundy. We will be following those through in the interest of the staff and the public who use our building.
Senator SCHACHT —Fine, we will leave it there and look forward to the answers coming back. We will obviously discuss this at further hearings later in the year. You are aware of the deadline, Mr Chairman. Is it a month from now?
CHAIR —The deadline is 30 June.
Senator SCHACHT —I would appreciate receiving the answers by then. I have one last question. Can you provide us with a breakdown of how much in the last three years the gallery has spent on legal expenses each year?
Dr Kennedy —Yes.
CHAIR —Senator Lundy, do you have any further questions.
Senator LUNDY —No. I have no further questions.
CHAIR —I thank the National Gallery of Australia for appearing.