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LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 29/05/2000 - ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S

CHAIR —Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I declare open this public meeting of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee. On 30 November 1999, the Senate referred to the committee the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year ending 30 June 2001 for the Attorney-General's and Immigration and Multicultural Affairs portfolios. The committee will examine the proposed expenditure for these portfolios this week and is required to report to the Senate by Thursday, 22 June 2000. Answers to questions taken on notice and additional information should be received by the committee no later than Friday, 21 July 2000. The provisional dates for supplementary hearings are 29 November to 1 December.

The committee will consider the portfolios in the order in which they appear on the circulated agenda, with one or two minor changes which I will alert you to at the conclusion of these remarks, beginning after any general questions with the interstate agencies. The committee has authorised the recording and rebroadcasting of its proceedings in accordance with the rules contained in the Order of the Senate dated 23 August 1990.

I have been requested to remind committee members that the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee is continuing to monitor the format and contents of the portfolio budget statements. If you have any comments you wish to make about these documents, please place them on the public record during these estimates committee hearings or direct them at a later stage to that committee. I have also been requested to remind everyone present that mobile phones should be turned off whilst in the hearing room.

I welcome Mr Robert Cornall, the secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, and officers of the department and associated agencies. I would request that officers, when they are called upon to answer a question for the first time, state their full name and the capacity in which they appear. Please speak clearly and directly into the microphones, which will assist the Hansard reporters recording the proceedings. Officers will not be required to answer questions relating to policy or the advice they have given in the formulation of policy.

In relation to the order of the agenda, we have made one minor amendment to this morning's proceedings. The Federal Court of Australia will appear before the Family Court of Australia. We have scheduled suspensions of the hearings from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. for dinner each day, and, subject to the constraints of the community proceedings, we will hold to that plan as far as possible. We will commence with questions in the general area. Mr Cornall, is there any opening statement you wish to make?

Mr Cornall —Thank you, Madam Chair. There are only two matters I wish to mention as preliminary matters. The first is that, in response to the questions which were asked at supplementary estimates earlier this month, we have, I think, provided responses to all questions but question 32. It is my hope that we will be able to provide an answer to question 32 later today or in the morning. The second matter I wish to mention is that since we last met it has been my pleasure to appoint Mr Ian Govey as General Manager, Legal Services of the department and Mr Ian Carnell as General Manager, Justice Services.

CHAIR —I welcome both Mr Govey and Mr Carnell, in their new incarnations, to this estimates committee hearing. In beginning with general questions, I would remind committee members that the officers who are listed on our agenda as members of the departmental executive are the officers who are here to answer general questions. If we have questions that relate to more specific areas, then it would be appreciated if they could be held until the relevant point.

Senator BOLKUS —We will be putting most of the general questions, if not within their output, then within output 1.1 after we have finished all the agencies. That might facilitate processes this morning. I will start, however, with a very small number of general questions. First of all, there is a budget measure on page 51 indicating that $2 million will be spent on Commonwealth involvement in native title litigation. Can you tell us what that is proposed to be spent on?

Mr Cornall —It is proposed to be spent on legal costs associated with native title matters. The details of that expenditure can be provided by Ms Horner later today or tomorrow, if that is convenient.

Senator BOLKUS —Under which output would you suggest?

Mr Cornall —Under output 1.1.

Senator BOLKUS —So all questions about litigation, numbers of cases and so on, you suggest go to 1.1?

Mr Cornall —Yes, Senator.

Senator BOLKUS —That makes `general' pretty easy. We can move to the AAT if you like, Madam Chair, unless someone else has got some general questions.

CHAIR —Any other general questions? I understand the presence of the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre was specifically requested by Senator Cooney and no-one else here. On that basis, as I understand Senator Cooney is flying into Canberra this morning and last week there were significant problems with morning travel as well, we might move to the AAT and come back to AUSTRAC when Senator Cooney joins us. Senator Bolkus, do you wish to proceed with questions to the AAT? I would ask Ms Ransome to come to the table.

[9.28 a.m.]