Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download PDFDownload PDF   View Parlview VideoWatch ParlView Video

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee - 09/02/2016 - Estimates - AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES PORTFOLIO - Grains Research and Development Corporation

Grains Research and Development Corporation

[12:01]

Senator CAMERON: Mr Harvey, what was the objective of GRDC in placing a self-promotion ad in The Australian in January 2016?

Mr Harvey : I understand it was reported in the media that GRDC was running an ad campaign. That is not correct. GRDC has sponsored the global food forum and part of that package of being a sponsor of that very important event was some publicity through The Australian.

Senator CAMERON: So you are going to spend more money? The one I have here—the ad for January—talks about the GRDC growing the future of Australian growers. Do you know the one?

Mr Harvey : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: What has that got to do with the food forum?

Mr Harvey : Our sponsorship was of the forum and forum is a very important forum for discussing issues, creating some momentum and creating some inspiration behind agriculture and the importance of agriculture. The publicity part of that package was some publicity in The Australian. That is valuable to us even though it was provided free as part of the package. But it is valuable to us because it is important that we have a strong brand out there. We are looking for people to partner with. We are particularly looking for people to partner with in the private sector. We need to come across as a professional organisation and an organisation that is good to do business with.

Senator CAMERON: What do you mean by 'need to come across'? You either are one or you are not. What would an ad in the Murdoch press do to promote your professionalism?

Mr Harvey : In the ad you will see that, down the bottom there, there is a link to our webpage. If people are interested in agriculture, grains and innovation—and hopefully that ad captured some of that inspiration—then they do have the option of going to our website and learning more about GRDC.

Senator CAMERON: Forgive me, but I am not inspired. I really do not know what it is about. It just says here—and it is pretty difficult to read—the Grains Research and Development Corporation was founded in 1990, so there is a bit of history there. I think Malcolm Turnbull might have written this. It talks about innovative innovation. It talks about advancing the grains industry at every level and 'to find out more, go to our website'. What is the reach of The Australian into the rural and regional communities? What are their numbers in rural and regional Australia? Did you look at that before you made this ad?

Mr Harvey : For the detail, I will ask my executive manager of communications to respond to that question.

Ms Lord : So in answer to the question, when we look at any sponsorship of conferences, this is part of a broad portfolio of activities we have in reaching a range of stakeholders. We look at what we think the opportunity will provide. So for The Australian I think Roy Morgan would state that the Weekend Australian is around 660,000 in circulation. It is quite significant penetration into regional Australia. But I would have take it on notice if you wanted that research.

Senator CAMERON: Did you do the research before you placed the ad in The Australian?

Ms Lord : Correct—we did, yes.

Senator CAMERON: You are satisfied that the penetration of Murdoch press—The Australian—is sufficient to justify an ad?

Ms Lord : Correct.

Senator CAMERON: Okay. Off the top of your head, what is the circulation of The Australian in rural and regional Australia?

Ms Lord : I would have to take it on notice, but I understand that the circulation for The Australian is, Monday to Friday, around 340,000. I think that is 2014 data. I think the Weekend Australian, as I said, is 660,000. Of that, I would have take it on notice to give you more detail and break it down.

Senator CAMERON: How much did it cost to develop the ad?

Ms Lord : So the ad was part of a brand refresh that the organisation is undertaking. So far, the project to refresh the GRDC brand, which began with board approval into 2014, has cost the organisation $55,000. The development of the ad at this stage, I think, if the figure is correct—and I will have to check it on notice—is $1,400.

Senator CAMERON: So it was $1,400 for the ad. How much was it to place the ad?

Ms Lord : There was no cost to place the ad.

Senator CAMERON: That is because you were sponsoring the food forum?

Ms Lord : Correct.

Senator CAMERON: How much was the sponsorship of the food forum?

Ms Lord : The sponsorship for the global food forum is $70,000.

Senator CAMERON: What do you get for your $70,000?

Ms Lord : So the reason we chose to take this particular sponsorship is because, as my managing director pointed to, we think this will open up conversations with potential new domestic and international partners. This is certainly a conference that is targeted at industry. Certainly, we are hoping to attract attention from the best and brightest in research and science as well to make grains aspirational. So, as to the specifics that we get, obviously we will have a speaking slot, which our chairman will lead. We also have an opportunity to input into the agenda. So we think that in the global food forum, in talking about food security, grains should certainly have a voice at the table. As mentioned, we have the opportunity to profile our brand through some targeted advertising, attendance at the event for industry leaders across the grain sector, discounted tickets for all of our GRDC stakeholders and also the content post-event will be able to be repurposed on the GRDC website. Obviously, we have a number of editorial opportunities that we will pursue with them. So it is quite a big package, of which profiling our brand is a small part. Having a voice and opening up discussions, particularly across sectoral discussions around innovation, we felt was quite important.

Senator CAMERON: Tell me about food forum. Where is this being held?

Ms Lord : So it is held in Melbourne.

Senator BULLOCK: Ms Lord, can you answer a question without the first word being 'so'? It is most annoying.

Ms Lord : I apologise, Senator.

CHAIR: What is the problem?

Senator BULLOCK: Every answer she has given has begun with the word 'so'.

CHAIR: So what?

Senator BULLOCK: So it is bad grammar.

CHAIR: So bloody what, mate? Don't you be a sook there, Senator. Don't take the bait.

Senator Ruston: Senator Bullock, that was a little out of character for somebody who is as nice as you.

Senator CAMERON: So, Ms Lord, can you answer the question.

Ms Lord : Yes.

CHAIR: Before you do, Senator Cameron is on a learning curve here and we are very happy to have him on the committee, because he is learning a little bit about agriculture. I have to declare an interest. I have been a speaker at the forum.

Senator CAMERON: Did you get paid?

CHAIR: No.

Senator WILLIAMS: Chair, is there anything you do not declare an interest in?

Senator CAMERON: Ms Lord, can you now tell us about the food forum.

Ms Lord : Yes, Senator. The food forum is in its fourth year. It is Australia's biggest agribusiness conference. I understand it has about 800 delegates. It attracts the best speakers from across agriculture to debate the future of the industry, particularly around food security. It will be held on 20 April in Melbourne. We assume this year that it will have as high an influence as it has in previous years.

Senator CAMERON: Why would you think you would need to pay Rupert Murdoch and his minions to come and talk about the GRDC? Shouldn't they be paying you?

Ms Lord : I think the reason for looking at sponsorships—we have a very broad range of activities. We have some of our own publications and we obviously participate in different regional press activities. We do a number of active elements—social media—and we have a very broad for portfolio of activity. We are always looking at ways to reach very different audiences. This one in particular, being at such a high level, felt to us like a very good fit. We are looking at ways to do more and more work with international partners or international collaboration. We felt that having a profile at this level was appropriate to meeting those aspirations.

Senator CAMERON: Mr Harvey, you are speaking at the conference, are you?

Mr Harvey : The chairman of GRDC, Richard Clarke, will be participating.

Senator CAMERON: Can you provide details of the sponsorship deal that you have done?

Ms Lord : Yes, we would be happy to provide it on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Wouldn't you think that the Murdoch press would be happy to have the GRDC there to talk about these issues that you have expertise in without snipping you for $70,000 and then saying they are doing you a favour by running an ad in their press and on their radio stations?

Ms Lord : I think that, as I said, when we looked at the sponsorship package, it is not just about having an opportunity to speak at the conference. Obviously, we will take an active role in the agenda and we do believe that the GRDC should have an active voice at the table at this event. But we decided to sponsor this event because we felt that it would allow us to engage with new partners, both domestically and internationally, and it also gives us access to different sectors.

CHAIR: Dick Pratt was the guy who kicked this off, wasn't he? Don't you know? I went to the very first one as guest speaker. And now it is Anthony. This is stuff that appears in the press all of the time. I am not acquainted with it. Here is the ad. Obviously, one or two people think it is a waste of money. One thing, though, is that it appears that your ear of wheat is going in a different direction from what it usually does in GRDC signage. Is there a reason for that?

Senator CAMERON: That is the brand refresh. Don't tell me it is—is that the brand refresh?

Ms Lord : No.

CHAIR: So is that just that it didn't matter at the time? It is back to front to what it usually is.

Ms Lord : We have actually refreshed the look of the logo. But this is a decision—

CHAIR: I have to say that it does not look like a heavy—

Senator CAMERON: So it is the brand refresh.

Ms Lord : I am sorry—if you were asking—

CHAIR: It does not look like it is a very high yielding wheat. It is a pretty low yielding head. Senator Cameron, there are some very useful things that come out of the research by this organisation. I noticed in your magazine—

Senator CAMERON: It is certainly grand for Rupert Murdoch and his organisation.

CHAIR: No, this is not a political bullshit operation, with great respect,

Senator CAMERON: Just because you were one of the speakers—

CHAIR: We are going from Ford wheat—where you got a tonne to the acre and it was six foot high—to wedgetail, which is illustrated in your magazine here. It is an excellent wheat. I declare an interest. I grow it, we graze it and I have won the wheat-growing competition in my part of New South Wales twice with it. It is excellent work that comes out of research. There is no political bullshit in it.

Senator CAMERON: Right. So paying the Murdoch conglomerate $70,000 and providing a speaker is good value for money, is it?

Mr Harvey : Correct.

CHAIR: The major sponsor of the food forum as it kicked off was the Pratt Foundation—the Pratt family—which wanted to make a contribution to Australia's agricultural production. Obviously, the one task in the world that does not have a solution is the global food task by 2070. China is going to have to feed half of its population from somewhere else barring a human catastrophe. The greatest challenge facing the world is how to feed itself and $70,000 is bugger all toward that.

Senator CAMERON: Mr Harvey, could you take me to the Primary Industries Research and Development Act and where you have got the authority to expend funds on advertising?

Mr Harvey : As Ms Lord pointed out, we are sponsoring a conference. We are sponsoring the global food forum. Part of that package—

Senator CAMERON: Take me to the act and show me, will you, where you are authorised to expend money on forums.

Mr Harvey : One of the key parts of the act is actually communicating the results of research and communicating with our stakeholders. It is a part of our job that we take extremely seriously. Obviously, the majority of the communication we do is directly to grain growers around Australia. We have a number of premier products like Ground Cover, which a number of you may probably get and read, I hope. We also communicate through the web and other sources to make sure the results of our R&D are taken up. People in the grains industry would have heard me say 1,000 times that it is not—

Senator CAMERON: Mr Harvey, can you just come back—

Mr Harvey : I will get to the point.

Senator CAMERON: to the question. Can you point me to the authorisation within the act for you to expend this type of money?

Mr Harvey : The act very clearly points out that communication and delivery of results from research is a key part of delivering against the act. I can take it on notice and I can underline you the bit in the act that says that communication is important.

Senator CAMERON: So you can underline it and send it in? That would be handy. You are saying that sponsoring a conference—the food forum—is consistent with your obligations under the act?

Mr Harvey : I believe so.

Senator CAMERON: Did you get advice on that before you did it?

Mr Harvey : I would need to take that on notice and check.

Senator CAMERON: Ms Lord, did you get advice?

CHAIR: Can I just ask a question of clarification. In terms of sponsorship of the food forum—

Senator CAMERON: Chair, I was in the middle of asking a question.

CHAIR: Thank you—but, before you started, I started. I want to get this straight. In terms of the sponsorship of the food forum, which they advertise for months ahead in The Australian press, who are the sponsors? Do you have a list of sponsors?

Ms Lord : Yes, there is another sponsor—Visy, which is a research firm as well.

CHAIR: The Pratt family does not put in anymore?

Ms Lord : I am not clear on that—I would have to take that on notice.

CHAIR: Because obviously to sponsor the foundation—you said this was 70 grand or something and that is coming out of your sponsorship. What is your total sponsorship?

Ms Lord : In terms of conferences, we spend around $300,000 a year across the industry.

CHAIR: How much on this one?

Ms Lord : On this particular sponsorship of the food forum?

CHAIR: Yes.

Ms Lord : It is $70,000.

CHAIR: Which includes this ad?

Ms Lord : Correct.

CHAIR: Which would be more than that if you had to pay for it. Putting the conference on would cost many times $70,000. There are all sorts of accommodation and cocktails and the usual stuff. To inform Senator Cameron correctly—and he has obviously had a briefing that I have had, because some people are a bit pissed off with what is happening—we would need to know the total sponsorship and what your piece of that is. I have to say once again: here is your copy of Ground Cover. Are we saying that you really should not print this so that farmers can read about what the difference between a winter early sown wheat is in Western Australia compared to New South Wales? This is rewriting the yield book for wheat. I do not see any politics in it at all. Cockies are busy. They do not have time to be trooping all around the bloody world to cocktail parties. That is the way to do it. When you look over the fence and see, 'Shit, he has sown that a bit early—I wonder what variety that is', that is how it works.

Senator BULLOCK: Chair, we are not questioning the food forum here—we are questioning the GRDC.

CHAIR: I know, but—

Senator CAMERON: Can I get back to my question. Mr Harvey, how many officers or members of the GRDC will be attending this food forum?

Ms Lord : We have not confirmed who will be attending from the GRDC. We have 20 places available. Our intention at this stage is to invite the heads of the grains industry to attend with us to help to drive the discussion and also other key figures in the grains community to participate in this event.

CHAIR: Can I put in a request to have Senator Cameron as guest? I think it would be very instructive, Senator Cameron, and I think you should go.

Senator CAMERON: You have 20 places as part of the sponsorship package.

Ms Lord : Correct.

Senator CAMERON: Does that include functions after the forum? Is there a dinner at the forum? Are you going to do any R&R at the forum? What happens?

Ms Lord : The conference itself is a full day, so it is quite an intensive program for attendees. There will be a dinner the evening prior, which The Australian is organising, but purely for panellists and spokespeople so they can acquaint themselves before they speak.

Senator CAMERON: Where is the dinner?

Ms Lord : I am not clear at this stage where the dinner is, but I can take it on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Who will fund the travel for the 20 places?

Ms Lord : Generally speaking, if we invite guests to attend—if we invited leaders of state farming organisations—we would expect them to fund their own travel.

Senator CAMERON: You expect them to or they will?

Ms Lord : In the past they have funded their own travel. We certainly have not offered to fund any travel for this event. We think it is at the level where people would be interested enough to attend to warrant their own travel costs.

Senator CAMERON: Is there radio advertising associated with this sponsorship as well?

Ms Lord : No.

Senator CAMERON: Have you done radio advertising recently?

Ms Lord : We do do radio advertising. We actually have a number of different radio programs. We have our own Ground Cover radio program, which we have been running for a number of years.

Senator CAMERON: On what radio station?

Ms Lord : Across a number of radio stations throughout the rural—

Senator CAMERON: Rural and regional stations?

Ms Lord : Correct.

Senator CAMERON: Not metropolitan?

Ms Lord : No, we do not. Particularly through Fairfax media—we do use some of theirs. Also, on ABC Radio we have a number of programs that we run across the country and we do pay for sponsorship for those as well.

Senator CAMERON: You pay sponsorship to the ABC?

Ms Lord : We provide the production costs for producing radio programs.

Senator CAMERON: I think that is a bit different from paid sponsorship, isn't it?

Ms Lord : I will clarify—we pay for the production cost.

Senator CAMERON: What about metropolitan radio advertising?

Ms Lord : From time to time we will do different syndicated radio programs. For a comprehensive list, I would have to take it notice, because obviously—

Senator CAMERON: Can you take it on notice, because I am not sure that—I have been told that you have been advertising in the Sydney metropolitan area.

Ms Lord : Not to my knowledge, but I will take it on notice. The only thing I could think of at this stage to inform you is potentially our regional updates—in some areas where we might expect 600 growers to turn up to a regional update, we may have broadened that out to meet metropolitan radio. But I am not sure at this stage. I will take it on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Mr Harvey, overall cash receipts for grain, oilseed and pulses was in decline. What are the contributing factors for this?

Mr Harvey : Really a lot of it is seasonal. Prices have been reasonably static and have probably fallen away a little bit. But, as you remember, we had a very good start to the season last year across Australia. Obviously, it varies enormously—

CHAIR: And a very dry finish.

Mr Harvey : Correct—we had a very dry finish and we also had a number of events. We had a number of fires, for example, in Western Australia and South Australia. But the dry finish did take the edge off the crop.

Senator CAMERON: Is it only seasonal or is some of that climatic—climate change issues?

Mr Harvey : We get enormous variability from year to year in the grains industry. We typically plant about 20 million hectares and we can harvest anything between 20 million and 40 million tonnes. That is completely down to the season, how much rain falls and when it falls.

Senator CAMERON: Can you give me some details about the take-up of the extension of research and development by farmers?

Mr Harvey : I can. Probably the best—to do it succinctly, every year we survey growers. We survey 1,200 growers across Australia—

CHAIR: Like Bernard Hart.

Mr Harvey : Correct.

CHAIR: I declare an interest.

Mr Harvey : One of the things we ask growers is whether they have adopted the outcomes of research in the last five years. At our last survey—in 2015, I think—the number was about 70 per cent. Over 70 per cent of growers said they had adopted something new as a consequence of research.

Senator CAMERON: Is that an increase year on year or is that an average or what?

Mr Harvey : The way we measure the actual increase year on year is total factor productivity. In the grains industry, total factor productivity over the last 36 years has been 1.5 per cent.

Senator CAMERON: But total factor productivity is completely different from research and development. Total factor productivity is how you improve your productive performance. That could be research and development, but it could be a number of other factors.

CHAIR: It is part of the package.

Mr Harvey : Correct. This is an interesting question. There has been some analysis of total factor productivity and some work done in Western Australia suggests that 68 per cent of that improvement in total factor productivity can be accounted to technical changes on farm as a consequence of R&D.

CHAIR: Very much so.

Senator CAMERON: How many full-time staff do you have?

Mr Harvey : We have 79 positions.

Senator CAMERON: In your annual report on page 93—did you say 79—

Mr Harvey : Positions.

Senator CAMERON: Is that full-time equivalent?

Mr Harvey : No, I do not think they are. That is positions.

Senator CAMERON: Can you break that down then into full-time equivalents?

Mr Harvey : I would need to take that on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Thank you. Page 93 of your annual report states that GRDC has recently focused on engaging and recruiting highly experienced staff nationally. Can you give me some details of that recruitment drive? Has it been successful?

Mr Harvey : Yes, it has been successful. We have had of the order of 21 positions in GRDC that we have advertised. The fact that we have now gone to a hub and spoke model actually gives us quite a bit of flexibility, so it actually increases the pool we have available to get candidates from. We have now been through three rounds of recruitment. We have assessed over 1,200 applicants.

CHAIR: If it would assist Senator Cameron and the committee, can you give us just a rough cut of the proportion of wheat varieties that would have a PBR attached to them—in other words, Monsanto and whoever.

Mr Harvey : Virtually all wheat varieties in Australia now have PBR. Whether they have Monsanto or not, they are PBR. That is what drives the endpoint royalty system.

CHAIR: So there is more to it than GRDC. Obviously, gene patenting and all the rest of it—we will not go into that. It is a very complex issue. But it would be fair to say that in my lifetime—and I am 300—the average crop has at least doubled.

Mr Harvey : The data suggests that, in the last 20 years, yields have doubled. In the last 17 years water use efficiency has also doubled. If you look at the number of kilograms of grain per millimetre of rainfall, because we are a dry land predominantly, that has doubled in the last 17 years.

CHAIR: Part of that is research, like the Hart brothers and others. We do not plough paddocks anymore. We are out there spraying now as we speak to conserve moisture. The game has completely changed and that is due to research.

Mr Harvey : Again, we surveyed growers a couple of years ago and said: 'If you were farming with the practices you had 20 years ago, what would it be like?' Unanimously they said they would be out of business.

Senator CAMERON: I understand that you have conducted a number of exercises and training sessions with your staff; is that correct?

Mr Harvey : We have a professional development program that we operate, yes.

Senator CAMERON: So there is a professional development program. Have you undertaken other exercises, as distinct from the professional development program, or are they all with the development program?

Mr Harvey : It is largely all wrapped up with the professional development program.

Senator CAMERON: What types of exercises are you undertaking?

Mr Harvey : With some of the changes that have occurred in GRDC, we have put a strong emphasis on bringing in the people that have the skills to be able to do the job. Obviously you need a technical base, but our staff employ, on a day-in and day-out basis, communication skills, facilitation skills, negotiation skills and leadership skills. So we have done quite a bit over the last 12 months in building—particularly at our general manager level—the skills that are required for our business.

Senator CAMERON: Can you give me a flavour of what is being done?

Mr Harvey : I can probably give it to you on notice, if you want the detail. One of the things that we are pushing very hard is that we have a truly value based organisation. So we have done quite a lot of work at looking at the organisational values and how that actually translates into the sorts of behaviours we want within the organisation to entrench and ensure that our customers get a good experience that is consistent with those values.

Senator CAMERON: So what kinds of programs are you undertaking to deal with these values and behaviours?

Mr Harvey : We have used some professionals to help us with those programs.

Senator CAMERON: Who are they?

Mr Harvey : I need to take on notice the actual name of the company.

Senator CAMERON: What are the names of the programs that are being delivered?

Mr Harvey : Again, I will need to take that on notice—

Senator CAMERON: You've got to be kidding me!

Mr Harvey : In the case of the stuff that we have done, it largely is not off-the-shelf packages that have names; it has been programs that we have negotiated with a consultant to meet our specific needs.

Senator CAMERON: So if you do not know, who does on your staff here?

Mr Harvey : As I explained, we are not buying named products off the shelf to do the training; we are negotiating with our consultants the programs that we believe we need, and then we put those programs in place.

Senator CAMERON: Okay. So give me a flavour—you said values and behaviours. What are these?—one-day, two-day programs? What are they?

Mr Harvey : Typically one-day programs, but not just one-off. So over a period of six months there might be a couple.

Senator CAMERON: Have you undertaken any of them personally?

Mr Harvey : Correct.

Senator CAMERON: Yes or no?

Mr Harvey : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: How many have you undertaken?

Mr Harvey : We had one last week.

Senator CAMERON: How many have you undertaken?

Mr Harvey : I would prefer to take that on notice. It is probably—maybe—two or three at the most during the year, during the last 12 months. But I need to check that.

Senator CAMERON: So you don't know how many of these programs you have done in the last 12 months?

Mr Harvey : I don't have it at the top of my head. I can look it up, and I can take it on notice.

Senator CAMERON: They must have been really memorable if you can't remember how many you've done.

Senator WILLIAMS: He has answered the question.

Senator CAMERON: So how many of your staff have undertaken them?

Mr Harvey : I need to take that on notice.

Senator CAMERON: What has been the cost of these programs?

Mr Harvey : I need to take that on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Is there anyone here who can give me any advice on that? Have you got a chief? Somebody must be able to. You just can't take everything on notice because you don't want to answer.

Mr Harvey : Just to be clear, my executive manager, corporate services, who is in charge of this area, is currently on compassionate leave and was not available to come along today. That is the sort of material that she would normally have at her fingertips.

Senator CAMERON: Well, didn't you think somebody else could bring that information today?

Mr Harvey : Danny is acting in that role, but I am not sure that she has that here.

Senator CAMERON: Do you have it, Danny?—Ms Jakubowski, I am sorry.

Ms Jakubowski : No, Senator.

Mr Harvey : Senator, we can take it on notice.

Senator CAMERON: So what analysis was undertaken to determine what staff would attend these exercises, or programs?

Mr Harvey : In terms of who should attend, that was discussed with the consultants in terms of what we were trying to achieve.

Senator CAMERON: I am sure the consultants would have said: 'Don't send anybody, and I won't get a quid.'

Mr Harvey : The discussion with the consultants was that the general manager level of the organisation was a critical level in the organisation where we needed to build those skills, and that is what we focused on.

Senator CAMERON: So it is skills. What are the skills? You were talking about values and behaviours.

Mr Harvey : Again, as I mentioned earlier, communication skills, facilitation skills, negotiation skills and leadership skills are the sorts of skills that we have focused on in that training over the last 12 months.

Senator CAMERON: Okay. So how do you assess the delivery of these programs?

Mr Harvey : At the moment, the assessment is anecdotal, and it is very much assessed and picked up in things like our survey panel; so in our survey of our stakeholders. Our goal is to provide an excellent service. We survey our stakeholders, and the results of things like training get picked up in those surveys.

Senator CAMERON: Can you give me any idea of how many different types of programs have been undertaken?

Mr Harvey : I will need to take that on notice.

Senator BULLOCK: Chair, can I ask a quick question?

CHAIR: Senator Cameron?

Senator CAMERON: Sure. I hope you do better than me.

CHAIR: I think it would be interesting for people to go out to a research farm or to Hart Bros Seeds at Junee or somewhere and see the commitment and passion that, backed up by research, goes into the actual paddock. You will not believe the improvement in performance. You can fool around with politics and theory and cocktail parties and crap as much as you like, but it is what actually goes into the ground and what comes out of the sky that makes all the difference.

Senator CAMERON: I think it is a bit rich for you to be talking about some of these things, given your performance over the years, quite frankly.

CHAIR: Doing what?

Senator CAMERON: You know fine what I am talking about.

CHAIR: No, I do not know.

Senator CAMERON: So do not lecture me about that aspect.

CHAIR: I am not lecturing you.

Senator BULLOCK: We have had some great reports this morning about improvements in cotton and doubling productivity in grains, which is just dandy, but that is not the thrust of some of the things that I think Senator Cameron may have been referring to. I know you have been giving answers to the extent of your immediate knowledge, and you are relying on somebody who is not here so you have to take some on notice. But the answers that you have been giving go to the development of skills through your professional development program. Were other exercises undertaken by the GRDC that had more of a focus on morale building amongst the staff?

Mr Harvey : In terms of morale, the GRDC does have a social club and we run a number of events during the year which are specifically designed to bring our staff into close contact with our stakeholders, and particularly with our panel members. We have some activities during the year where we specifically celebrate our successes.

Senator BULLOCK: I am going to hazard a guess here that it may have been those exercises and activities and social clubs and interaction that Senator Cameron may have been driving at. So I am going to ask—you may not have these figures at your fingertips—that, when you combine those sorts of exercises together, what does that cost the GRDC?

Mr Harvey : Again, I will need to take that on notice.

Senator BULLOCK: I thought you might.

Senator CAMERON: Can you describe how these team building excursions work?

Mr Harvey : The most recent one we had was with the senior leadership group. The goal was to look at the organisation and at the values of the organisation and at what, as a senior leadership group, we needed to do in terms of our behaviours to ensure that we get that culture flowing right through the whole organisation.

Senator CAMERON: In your annual report you talk about doing team building excursions. Where do you go to? What do you do?

Mr Harvey : They are held in various places. The majority of them are held in Canberra. The senior leadership group, though, does go away from Canberra—a couple of times a year, this last 12 months.

Senator CAMERON: Is this with the panel members as well?

Mr Harvey : It depends. We have a national panel, which is the panel chairs—three panel chairs, growers from each of the three regions—and the exec; that is called the GRDC national panel. It does meet from time to time and its main role is to manage the portfolio and the national portfolio, which are our longer term investments.

Senator CAMERON: Come back to what I have asked you about these excursions. What do you do? What are the team building things that you do on these excursions?

Mr Harvey : In the last 12 months, most of which is post the last annual report, we have been very much focused on making sure that we have the right investment process and the right balance of investments in the portfolio.

Senator CAMERON: You could do that without taking an excursion, couldn't you? Why do you need an excursion to do that basic work?

Mr Harvey : Those meetings have largely been in Canberra.

Senator CAMERON: 'Largely'. What meetings have not been in Canberra?

Mr Harvey : I would need to take that on notice.

Senator CAMERON: So you cannot tell me where you have taken your panels and your senior staff; you need to take that on notice. You have got to be kidding me.

Mr Harvey : It is not at the front of my head.

Senator CAMERON: Were you there?

Mr Harvey : Absolutely.

CHAIR: Can I ask—

Senator CAMERON: No; wait a minute. You were there, Mr Harvey. Have you forgotten what you did?

CHAIR: Did you take—

Senator CAMERON: Wait a minute, Chair; come on. I am in the middle of questioning here and it is unfair for you to do this. I am asking the question, Mr Harvey. Have you forgotten what these excursions were about—the ones that you were on?

Mr Harvey : The last two that we have been on: one was recently down to Bowral with the senior leadership group and one was to the Snowy Mountains—that was last May—with the senior leadership group.

Senator CAMERON: Okay, Bowral and the Snowy Mountains. Why couldn't you tell me that without saying that you would take it on notice?

Mr Harvey : Because I needed my colleague to prompt me about the locations.

Senator CAMERON: So you forgot that you had been to wonderful Bowral and the fantastic Snowy Mountains. What were these excursions about, if you cannot even remember them?

Mr Harvey : I have given you an overview of what those discussions were about.

Senator CAMERON: No; the excursions. What did you do when you were in Bowral?

Mr Harvey : We spent one day doing professional development, which I have already described, which is about making sure that the senior leadership is providing the right leadership to the organisation. That is very important. The second day of that meeting was looking at our priorities for the next three and six months—the things that actually needed to be dealt with. It was a planning and review meeting.

Senator CAMERON: So you went to Bowral to do what you could do in any office.

Mr Harvey : There is an argument that some people put about that. The reality is that our executive is extremely busy. My experience with having those meetings in Canberra, where you want people to actually think a bit more strategically than they do in their day-to-day business, is that getting them away from the distractions is a much more effective use of their time.

Senator CAMERON: What else did you do other than what you have outlined? Did you do any trips there? Did you go out for meals? What did you do?

Mr Harvey : No; they were the two activities that we did.

Senator CAMERON: So you went to Bowral. Where did you go in Bowral?

Mr Harvey : Sutton Forest was where we went.

Senator CAMERON: Did you go to a hotel there?

Mr Harvey : Correct.

Senator CAMERON: So you spent the whole two days locked in this hotel doing all this work.

Mr Harvey : Correct.

CHAIR: You didn't run into the metal workers union while you were there, did you?

Senator CAMERON: Can you provide the costs of this; who was there? I want receipts for meals—itemised accounts on meals and the like.

Mr Harvey : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: I want you to provide receipts for all expenditure on this little trip to Bowral, that you could not even remember. The Snowy Mountains: what did you do there?

Mr Harvey : A very similar meeting. The majority of the meeting was planning out the next three- and six-month period of the year, so looking at the priorities, looking at who was doing what and allocating tasks.

Senator CAMERON: So you remember it now, do you? What else? Can you provide the same for the Snowy Mountains? I want details. Where did you stay in the Snowy Mountains?

Mr Harvey : We stayed in a hotel in the Snowy Mountains.

Senator CAMERON: Do you know the name of the hotel?

Mr Harvey : I can find it out for you, if you want to know.

Senator CAMERON: Okay. So we need to know the hotel, and all expenditure. We want receipts for the expenditure. We want to know what was expended on meals, and we want itemised accounts for meals. So I want the overall costs of both these excursions.

Mr Harvey : I will need to take that on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Okay—and those itemised issues that I have asked you for.

Mr Harvey : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: What has been the outcome of these?

Mr Harvey : The outcome is better team work of the senior leadership group. It is also a very clear plan of the activities and the important things that we need to get done over the next period. We also spent part of the meeting reviewing the previous quarter to see what lessons we can learn from that period.

Senator CAMERON: So were both these excursions organised by external groups?

Mr Harvey : No.

Senator CAMERON: Did you have any speakers come along?

Mr Harvey : In Bowral, the first day was a professional development day. We had a professional come in and facilitate that day.

Senator CAMERON: Who was that?

Mr Harvey : It was Lisa Stephens.

Senator CAMERON: What is her company?

Mr Harvey : I would need to take that on notice.

Senator CAMERON: What is her expertise?

Mr Harvey : Her expertise is in leadership development and HR.

Senator CAMERON: How much did you spend on that?

Mr Harvey : I would need to take that on notice.

Senator CAMERON: So there have only been two. There have only been Bowral and the Snowy Mountains—is that right—in the last 12 months?

Mr Harvey : And there would have been some in Canberra.

Senator CAMERON: What about the year before—and I hesitate, if you cannot even remember last year's brilliant events—what were you doing the year before?

CHAIR: Just pausing there, I would not be too distressed that you cannot remember because I seem to remember at the royal commission people were asked whether they used their union credit card to visit a brothel et cetera and they could not remember. There you go.

Senator EDWARDS: Chair!

CHAIR: It is true; it is absolutely true. How ridiculous is this. How much did you pay for a glass of wine? What a strange charge. Craig Thomson is the rule book.

Senator STERLE: Chair, with the greatest respect—

CHAIR: With the exception of the Transport Workers Union—

Senator CAMERON: After that little outburst—

Senator STERLE: Chair, can I ask questions about grains research and productivity and all those things that these people are doing?

Senator CAMERON: Why don't you go and get Shaun the sheep in as well?

Senator EDWARDS: You can call me names. When you have run out of any kind of intelligent comment, you call me Shaun the sheep. I will come over and pat your fleece in a minute and see how yours compares with mine.

CHAIR: Order! This is the difficulty with having people in this place who have had no experience at all in the real world.

Senator STERLE: Chair, with the greatest respect—

CHAIR: It does not just apply to your side; it applies to both sides—and this hearing is a bloody insult to wheat growers.

Senator STERLE: Chair, with the greatest respect, there is a set of questions that Senator Cameron wants to pursue—

CHAIR: Yes, I know.

Senator STERLE: And in the—

CHAIR: Joel, are you listening out there? I wonder whether Joel would like to go to the food forum along with Senator Cameron to learn something about agriculture.

Senator STERLE: I have persistently engaged with you and ministers too who have no idea, so it does not help.

CHAIR: Let's get on with it.

Senator CAMERON: Can you provide, Mr Harvey, details of all your executive excursions and details of all the costs I have outlined on that? Apart from the executives, what about your staff; have they been doing any of these excursions?

Mr Harvey : Not to my knowledge.

Senator CAMERON: So this is elite training for the staff of the executive, is it?

Mr Harvey : They are your words, not mine.

Senator CAMERON: I am asking the question.

Mr Harvey : They are training for the senior leadership to make sure that we have the right leadership in the organisation to achieve our function.

Senator CAMERON: A couple of times a year you head off to Bowral or the Snowy Mountains. What about your staff; what training are they undertaking as to the values and behaviours as well?

Mr Harvey : As I have said, we have focused very much this year on our general managers and getting their skills up to speed. We also have a program where, if people do have specific training needs as part of their professional development and part of their performance management plans, they put together a training plan and they negotiate with their consultants the specific training that is required for their role but also for their professional development.

Senator CAMERON: Can you also provide me with details of the Canberra based excursions that you have undertaken?

Mr Harvey : Yes.

CHAIR: Could I seek some guidance, Senator Cameron?

Senator CAMERON: Yes.

CHAIR: We are due to go to lunch.

Senator CAMERON: I will ask a question and I am going; right?

CHAIR: Okay.

Senator CAMERON: Can you also provide current statistics on Australia's total food productivity for the greens industry?

Mr Harvey : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: That is it for me.

Senator Ruston: Chair, for the record, could I also note about the global food forum, on which Senator Cameron has been questioning the witnesses quite extensively, one of the speakers is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Penny Wong.

CHAIR: There you go.

Senator CAMERON: We are certainly getting some value there then.

CHAIR: Senator Cameron, are we done?

Senator CAMERON: Yes, thanks.

CHAIR: Thank you. You can go home now.

Mr Harvey : Chair, can I clarify one of my answers please—actually correct one of my answers?

CHAIR: Yes.

Mr Harvey : Senator Cameron asked me about growers that have identified themselves as directly benefiting from R&D. The actual number in the survey last year was 83 per cent of growers who identified that they had directly benefited from R&D in the last five years.

CHAIR: Thank you. We will be back at 1.50.

Proceedings suspended from 12:50 to 13 : 52