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ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE PORTFOLIO
Bureau of Meteorology
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ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Department of the Environment and Heritage
Bureau of Meteorology
Senator IAN CAMPBELL
Senator Ian Campbell
Senator MARK BISHOP
Senator Ian Campbell
Senator Ian Campbell
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ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(Senate-Thursday, 26 May 2005)
ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE PORTFOLIO
Australian Antarctic Division
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Tchen)
Senator Ian Campbell
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Tchen)
Senator Ian Campbell
Supervising Scientist Division
Bureau of Meteorology
Senator Ian Campbell
Senator MARK BISHOP
- Australian Antarctic Division
- ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE PORTFOLIO
Content WindowENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 26/05/2005 - ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE PORTFOLIO - Bureau of Meteorology
CHAIR —I now call the Bureau of Meteorology.
Senator Ian Campbell —Labor Party senators have told me they do not have any questions for the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. I would be pleased to send them back to Sydney to help save our iconic sites around Sydney Harbour if they do not need to sit here for the rest of the afternoon.
CHAIR —The Labor Party does not have any questions, as I understand it. I could ask them some questions about their progress, having been around their sites, but if it is going to delay their return to Sydney we will let them go to Sydney.
Senator WEBBER —I want to start our discussion this afternoon by having a chat about the progress of the major upgrade to the radar network and severe weather warning capabilities that were announced in 2003. I understand that the budget announced an allocation of $62 million over five years to replace 15 weather radars and upgrade six to Doppler capacity. Could you give me an outline of where we are at with that.
Dr Love —We have made very good progress with that project. When we commenced we were going to replace 21 of the old radars that we had within the network and put in six new Doppler radars in, four in capital cities and two at the regional locations of Tamworth and Yarrawonga. We were also taking out the old conventional radars and replacing them with modern equivalents at another 15 locations. On 22 April this year—that is, the second year of the project—five standard weather watch radars had been installed and commissioned. Those are at Mt Gambier in South Australia, Learmonth in Western Australia, near Newcastle in New South Wales, Port Hedland in Western Australia and Gladstone in Queensland. We have made good progress with the conventional radars.
The first Doppler radar will be installed at Buckland Park in Adelaide. At the moment the tower has been installed and a very large radar, which looks like an enormous golf ball, is on top of it. The physical radar has not been installed in that yet but we are doing the testing on that installation at the moment. I guess one of the more dramatic tests is to make sure it is watertight. We have had a couple of water trucks spraying water on it to see whether there are any leaks and so forth. The next radar after that will be at Mt Stapleton, south-east of Brisbane. We are still negotiating the Sydney and Melbourne sites. So we are making good progress. We are probably slightly ahead of the timetable that was agreed in the proposal and we are on budget at this stage. That whole project is going well.
Senator WEBBER —How was Adelaide chosen as the first site? How did we arrive at that conclusion?
Dr Love —We had hoped to have the Brisbane site as the first site. In the end it just came down to availability of the site. We had the Mt Stapleton site selected fairly early on but the site approval process dragged out. In fact, the Buckland Park site approval process was much simpler. Ultimately, because we had the order placed and the radar gear arriving and we had to put it somewhere, we proceeded with Buckland Park. One of the things that held us up with Mt Stapleton was that there was an election for the council within whose boundary the site fell. A new council was elected and the whole approval process stepped back six months. Rather than have the whole project stop, we moved ahead with the Adelaide radar.
Senator WEBBER —So there is that site as well as Mt Stapleton, Sydney and Melbourne. Where are the other two?
Dr Love —The other two are at Tamworth and at Yarrawonga. They are plugging gaps in the major communication corridors between Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and where there are substantial populations under the arcs.
Senator WEBBER —How were the sites actually selected? Was it just a matter of plugging those gaps or were there other criteria?
Dr Love —There were quite a number of criteria. A Doppler radar is a little different to a conventional radar. We tend to put the conventional reflectivity radars on the tops of mountains to get a better distant view and cover as much terrain as we can. The Dopplers tend to have a smaller radius of where they provide useful information and often the sites are a little lower. We have tended to put them in the vicinity of airports because that is where we have a lot of exposed infrastructure—aircraft and people travelling on them—and need good severe warning services. But we have also put them overlooking the capital cities. The siting is a little different. We send out our radar engineers to find the best sites and then we start negotiating to see whether we can get access to them. It is an iterative process. Essentially we always wanted to be on Buckland Park and we were successful there. With Mt Stapleton, we always wanted to be there and we were willing to persist until we were successful.
Senator WEBBER —What is special about the Doppler radars? Why did the bureau decide they wanted them rather than conventional ones?
Dr Love —With reflectivity radars, there is a relationship between the amount of energy reflected back to a radar and rainfall rate, so you can deduce how much rain is falling by looking at a reflectivity signal. But a Doppler radar will also tell you at what rate the raindrop is moving relative to the radar, so you can figure out the wind speeds. It is useful for a forecaster to know whether there are very strong downdraughts which may affect aircraft landing or may be destructive and blow roofs off houses. You can see the circular winds of a tornado showing up with a Doppler radar, for example. A Doppler radar gives you a lot more information.
The Doppler capability also lets you very effectively remove ground clutter. Other metallic objects will send a reflectivity signal back to the radar but, because they are not moving, you can remove them from a Doppler radar signal. The Doppler radar has a bunch of advantages. It is a cleaner signal, you can get wind speeds and you can tell a lot more about the weather system you are dealing with if there is a severe thunderstorm. There are substantial advantages. Interpreting those signals is a bit of a learning curve for the forecaster. The American experience is that it takes about two years after you install a radar before the forecasters are really getting the maximum value out of them.
Senator WEBBER —How much does it cost to construct each of the Doppler radar stations?
Dr Minty —It varies from site to site because it depends on how far you have to take the materials, where they come onshore et cetera. The high end costs are around about $4 million for a Doppler radar, fully installed.
Dr Love —The radars in the four big capital cities are from Gematronik, coming from Germany. When they are installed and up and running, it will be $4 million a site, averaged across the four sites. You can have a lower power and smaller Doppler facility probably down to around $1.5 million a site. It is like a big car, a little car—what do you want? The four capital city ones are very good Doppler radars.
Senator WEBBER —Good. I am pleased to hear it. Do we have any idea about what the ongoing maintenance costs and yearly operational costs will be at this stage?
Dr Love —The bureau is the only operator of the large network of weather radars in the country. Essentially we have a set of maintenance technicians in each regional office. We have no plans to increase the number of technicians, so the incremental cost in taking the radars into the network in a maintenance sense is zero. I guess we will have to buy a set of spares. We have spares coming within that $4 million contract price. We do not envisage that it will incrementally change the radar maintenance budgets in a significant way. In fact, I do not believe that there is anything factored into our budgets for at least the next three years to suggest that this is a new major expense we have to meet. I am not sure if that helps. Incrementally, the cost will certainly be low in the first five years because it is new equipment. Where our maintenance costs are high at the moment is with our very old ageing radars that we are trying to get out of the network. They are the expensive ones.
Senator WEBBER —Once you have them up and established, the real cost is essentially capital in nature?
Dr Love —Yes, and electricity. They do consume a fair amount of electricity. We then have to run real-time communications back. When we have them in the capital cities, that is a relatively low cost compared to putting one at Weipa or a remote one up the west coast, which is much more expensive. The communications costs with the capital city radars are not a big factor.
Senator WEBBER —Did the bureau request additional funding from the government to construct and operate the radars and, if you did, did you seek funding for more than six?
Dr Love —Yes. We sought and received funding for the six Dopplers and 15 conventional radars. That was a $62.5 million project over six years. We are in the second year of the program. We sought the funds and we received government support and we are well underway.
Senator WEBBER —So you essentially got what you asked for?
Dr Love —I am sure we did.
Senator WEBBER —I am trying a mount a case for you to get more. We are getting to this.
Dr Love —I have to confess that I was working for the UN overseas when this proposal was accepted by government, so I am not quite sure how the negotiations went.
Senator WEBBER —With the six Doppler radars in place, is the bureau happy with the amount of coverage you are going to get from them?
Dr Love —As I said, as you put in each Doppler radar, there is a learning curve to go up and, certainly for those four capital cities, we have a lot on our plate at the moment. The staff will have to be trained and we will have to get those installations in. We are challenged and we are excited by the project and we think that it is going to have some real spin-offs for the Australian community.
Senator WEBBER —I turn to some of the specifics of what has been going on lately. The minister would be aware of this. I was wondering whether you could take us through the severe weather effects that occurred in Perth and the South West of WA on Monday, 16 May. I am sure by now the minister has worked out where we are going with this.
Dr Love —Maybe I should defer to the minister here. I am a meteorologist but I have not worked through the charts and the event closely. I have read the briefing on it. It was a very active front. There were thunderstorms on that front. Certainly they were picked up and monitored with our conventional radar systems which are in Perth. There were forecasts of severe storm warnings and we know that there were tornados, at least one tornado. There was major damage in the path of that tornado. I guess it was exciting for the locals. It was probably terrifying. For the farming community, the rainfall was probably gratifying.
Senator WEBBER —Indeed it was. I was fortunate enough to be interstate today, so I have done well in avoiding the worst of Perth’s weather lately. The media reports suggested that it was described as a tornado, which makes we wonder why we cannot have a Doppler in Western Australia, particularly as it has also been pointed out that in the five-year period from, say, 1999 to 2004 there were 34 tornados that struck WA. We might like one of those to predict what is coming.
Dr Love —Our current regional director in New South Wales is a long-time Perth forecaster, trained and born and bred in Perth. Barry Hanstrum has published a number of papers on climatology and the occurrence of what he calls cold season tornados in Western Australia. They are a recurring phenomenon and we are well aware of them. Our conventional systems certainly picked them up. I believe we have a pretty good track record, including this last event, of forecasting them. We can always do better, as we know, but what we have is what we have and we are certainly working on the project we have at the moment.
Senator WEBBER —The town of Mandurah, just south of Perth, has had 18 tornados in the last 33 years. How many have there been in Adelaide?
Dr Love —I do not think Adelaide is particularly tornado prone but I cannot tell you the numbers.
Senator WEBBER —But they are getting this special radar that detects tornados.
Dr Love —It is also useful for other things.
Senator WEBBER —Fortunately there are no South Australian committee members here at the moment.
Dr Love —They are multipurpose systems, of course. Flash flooding is there as well. I take your point. I am sure the minister understands the point as well.
Senator WEBBER —I am making a point to him to ask for more money for our home state. Going back to what you said before, Dr Love, can standard radars accurately predict with a degree of certainty the path and activities of a cool air tornado?
Dr Love —Certainly they can monitor the tornado. The signature is not as clear and unambiguous. You have made a pretty good meteorological point. If you looked all across Australia, the community where a US-style tornado warning service would probably be most useful is the South West in Western Australia. Across the US there are essentially 100 Doppler radars like the four we are buying. The entire continental US is covered with Doppler radars.
Senator WEBBER —You are just making me more jealous now.
Dr Love —Under the sweep of each Doppler radar, they have a specialised tornado warning service, if you like. That is a pretty resource intensive service. They have communities that are structured to respond. We do what we can with the resources, and I think we do pretty darn well. If there is the demand for that sort of service, it will require a level of resourcing we do not currently have in my service. I am sure we can do it but it has to be the collective view of the community and the government, and we will be listening hard.
Senator WEBBER —As I say, I am trying to make a case for this: a Doppler radar would be useful in a place like Mandurah? Mandurah is nowhere near Perth airport, going back to what you were saying about the vicinity of airports, but would it be useful in a township like that, given their propensity for having a tornado more frequently than every second year?
Dr Love —The reflectivity radars we run have a coverage of about 250 kilometres in radius, whereas the Dopplers cover a radius of about 100 kilometres. If you are going to use Dopplers as your primary tool for convective weather forecasting, you have to put more in. To cover the South-West of Western Australia would be an interesting exercise and an expensive exercise. We can certainly cost that out. At this stage, the density of population is not at all comparable to what the US has.
Senator WEBBER —But the density of population in Perth is greater than Adelaide.
Dr Love —Sure.
Senator WEBBER —I go back to my parochial point, which I am sure Senator Eggleston agrees with.
CHAIR —I do. They also had pretty bad weather in Bunbury that weekend. I have photographs on my computer of the weather in Bunbury then, and it was extraordinary.
Senator WEBBER —They got picked up by that—
CHAIR —It is a very good point that Senator Webber is making, and I thoroughly endorse it.
Dr Love —Perhaps I should also comment that, while I was working for the UN when these decisions were made, the minister at the time was not from Perth.
CHAIR —I cannot comment about these things. We do understand the point you are making.
Dr Love —That was just an observation.
Senator TCHEN —I thought not knowing what happens next makes life more exciting.
Senator WEBBER —I find there is more than enough excitement in life at the moment. I like a bit of predictability. Before we move on, for my own interest, how do we actually measure the strength of tornadoes and how do we then decide how to categorise them? You referred to it before as a thunderstorm.
Dr Love —Essentially, tornadoes are associated with and caused by very intense thunderstorms. You do not get a tornado without that sort of convective activity. In the US, they are just categorised by wind speed. With a Doppler radar, you can determine the wind speed.
Senator WEBBER —Do they have a scale, like cyclones do? I am more familiar with cyclones. I grew up in Darwin.
Dr Love —Yes. They do have a category scale. Once again, it is a five-point category scale. In the past they have just gone and looked at the damage patterns to infer the wind speed. Looking at the trees that are blown down and the damage to trees, they can calibrate their scale to see whether it is a five, a four, a three, a two or a one. Ours tend to be on the weaker end of the scale compared to the ones they typically experience in the US. We have twos and threes and they have fours and fives. But that is not to say that they do not have the potential to kill people and rip houses to pieces and so forth. It is still an issue.
Senator WEBBER —When the minister comes back, I will ask him to give us a big push to get a Doppler radar in Western Australia. I now turn to the announced funding of $19.8 million over six years to rebuild 12 out of the 50 field offices. Can you outline for me how many are planned to be rebuilt in 2005-06 and each of the forward years?
Dr Love —It is about two in 2005-06. It is about two per year, running forward through the six years. We have 12, at a rate of two a year. and that is roughly what it will be. Willis Island, which we are doing this year, is much more expensive and probably more difficult than most, because it is 250 kilometres off the coast and a little trickier logistically than the rest, but essentially there will be two done per year through the program. Noting your state of origin, Western Australia is the big beneficiary. There are five in Western Australia, out of the 12.
Senator WEBBER —Where are they?
Dr Love —Everywhere. From Fitzroy Crossing up the top down to Albany at the bottom.
Dr Minty —Albany, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Broome, Halls Creek, Esperance and Port Hedland.
Senator WEBBER —That is a fair spread of the state. You might have to add Bunbury to the list after what happened the other weekend. The ABC is certainly having to spend some money down there now. The parliamentary secretary put out a press release on 10 May saying:
The Bureau will combine $14.2 million of existing funding with the additional Budget funding to rebuild these offices.
Was the $14.2 million originally allocated to this or have you had to find that from somewhere else?
Dr Love —The bureau has a substantial asset base and the way accrual accounting works in the Commonwealth is we get a depreciation expense. We have a rolling program of regenerating our asset base. We had a program in place of tackling the obsolete field stations. We said to the government, ‘We have a big spike and we don’t have enough depreciation expense to really do this job properly’. What you see is a supplementation to that depreciation expense, to move 12 stations up the list. We were already looking to do one a year. That is roughly the $14 million, recognising that we had a big expense for Willis Island somewhere in there and we had not necessarily blocked the whole program out. After negotiating with the Department of Finance, we said, ‘We’ll keep our program going’ and they said they would assist us to accelerate the program and particularly get over the big hump with Willis Island at the beginning. What you see is an agreement between the bureau and finance to move the whole program on. We would have been tackling those things anyway but on a much longer time frame without that assistance.
Senator WEBBER —That is good news. What amount does the bureau set aside each year for building maintenance and upgrades generally?
Dr Love —That comes under the civil works program.
Dr Minty —Over the whole of the asset base it is about $3.5 million a year and that is a bit of refurbishment and a bit of maintenance. Repairs and maintenance amount to $1.4 million a year.
Dr Love —The asset replacement program sits at about $45 million a year. I guess it was $42 million last year, but it must rise to about $50 million with the injections. We are looking at somewhere between $40 million and $50 million, but in there is a maintenance component, as Dr Minty says, which is probably in the order of $3 million, once you look at how that is portioned out to refurbish buildings and make sure that everything is kept as well as you can, recognising the age of some of these things, and some are quite old.
Senator WEBBER —When we met in February, we had a discussion about the bureau’s role in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. I am pleased to see that $68.9 million has been allocated over four years to be managed jointly by the bureau, Geoscience Australia and Emergency Management Australia. What is the bureau’s allocation of that money?
Dr Love —It is $40.4 million over four years.
Senator WEBBER —Can you break that down over four years? Is it an even spread?
Dr Love —No, it is not an even spread. Ours accelerates through the period. The biggest numbers are in the last couple of years. That reflects the fact that the bureau will be responsible for putting in some buoys in the ocean that monitor both the seismic activity on the sea floor and the ocean surface. They are very expensive to deploy. The technology is just coming out of the research laboratories into an operational capability right now. We have put that at the back end, recognising that the technology can mature a little more. What we are doing at the front end is making sure that we have good real-time telemetry to a lot of seismographs and tide gauges that are already in place. We are making best use of what is out there now in the short term so that we get maximum protection virtually immediately and then enhance the system in time. That is roughly the spread. Louise has found the numbers for me.
Dr Minty —It is split over two pages in the portfolio budget statements so it is a little difficult to add them up. The spread over the next four years is on page 115. The table at the bottom of page 115 gives the departmental expense and appropriation and the next page gives the equity injection component. You would need to add those together for each year. As Dr Love has said, it goes out to four years. There is an extra note at the bottom which talks about some additional funding for the depreciation component as well. If you look at the table at the bottom of page 115, you can see that it ramps up to the greater amounts in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
Senator WEBBER —Towards the end of the four years it is planned to spend the money on buoys. What else do you plan to spend the money on?
Dr Love —A lot of the tide gauges, including the very crucial one at Cocos Island, we only interrogate every 15 minutes, so we will get continuous real-time telemetry, and we will put a second real-time gauge in there, because it is such a vital site. We will put one at Christmas Island. We were already doing some upgrading to the gauges. Now with real-time telemetry all down the coast, we will get real-time information. We will also have seismometers throughout the Indian Ocean but we go into the Pacific and down the east coast, so we cover both coasts of Australia.
We will bring on essentially 24-hour staff to monitor the seismic data, but we will have them doing other disaster mitigation type work in hydrology as well as flood forecasting and bushfires. We will take an all hazards approach to the upgrade because you cannot just sit around and wait for the next tsunami. You have to use your people as wisely as you can. So we will have 24-hour staffing of the warning centre and we will bring in the seismic data and the tide gauge data in real-time. We will have one research scientist upgrading and migrating essentially the tsunami models out of a non-real-time environment at the National Tidal Centre into a real-time environment that will run in Melbourne on our super computer very quickly, so that when we get notification of a potential seismic disturbance we can very quickly better run the models and make much better assessments as to what we are facing. That is from the bureau end.
Geoscience Australia will also upgrade facilities here in Canberra and we will have mirrored systems with the seismic and ocean data. Emergency Management Australia will be conducting public education campaigns on an all hazards basis to inform the public about what tsunami warnings mean, what they should do and so forth. It is an end to end response to the problem.
Senator WEBBER —Excellent. Will the bureau be running the national warning centre?
Dr Love —The bureau will be running the national warning centre. All the data will be available in Melbourne and 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there will be trained staff monitoring the data that comes in. The warnings will be issued, as are all warnings now, from the regional offices. Our people talk with and deal with the regional offices on an instantaneous and continuous basis. If the warnings have to be issued in Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart or Perth, they will be issued from those offices, because each of those offices has a relationship with the state emergency services, the police and the media—local radio and local television. So that is where it all happens—out of the regional offices in the states.
Senator WEBBER —Will the national warning centre have links to other warning systems in other oceans?
Dr Love —As we discussed when we met in this place a few months ago, there was no coordinated and organised system in the Indian Ocean. That is being addressed now. The fourth partner in the proposal to government was Foreign Affairs and Trade. They have been exceedingly helpful and very effective in bringing Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Mauritius—the players in the Indian Ocean—together. There will be real-time exchange of seismic and tide level data in the basin and there will be an exchange of warnings from those countries capable of generating and preparing warnings. We will also put our data and proved data sets—we are covering the east coast as well—into the Honolulu centre, so they will benefit. We are working with the services in the South Pacific to increase their ability to collect data to respond to warnings. So some of the public education that EMA has money for will be expended in the south-west Pacific, increasing their capability to respond to tsunamis, because there are more in the Pacific than there are in the Indian Ocean. Australia has dealt with the national problem very well. In doing so, we will provide capability back into the Indian Ocean and through the south-west Pacific. So we are being pretty good international citizens through it as well.
Senator WEBBER —Excellent. Will the number of buoys that you are going to deploy to cover our coastline be sufficient?
Dr Love —Yes, the proposal is to put a couple just south of Indonesia, in the trench where things happen; one up towards Vanuatu, in that volcanic area; and one down closer towards New Zealand, in that area around the South Island of New Zealand where the plate is quite unstable and from which tsunamis could be generated. That is essentially a deployment of four. We will purchase six, because you do not fix them up if they break down. You go out there every six months and pop a new one in, take one out, bring it home and fix it up and keep recycling them. So we will be running two off the east coast and two off the west coast, with a spare that is always cycling through the system. That is the proposal. We believe we have adequate funding for that, and we think that will give Australia good coverage and provide the international community with a pretty good data set.
Senator WEBBER —It sounds excellent. Was the bureau represented at the second International Coordination Meeting for the Development of a Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System for the Indian Ocean in Mauritius?
Dr Love —Yes. We had Chris Ryan there, the head of the National Meteorological and Oceanographic Centre, where it will run in Melbourne. I am not sure whether he had somebody with him but we had the head of the operational centre, who has responsibility for all this, at that meeting.
Senator WEBBER —Are you aware of what progress was made at that meeting?
Dr Love —The progress we were looking for at that meeting was essentially to get commitment. The data exchange area between India, Indonesia and Australia is the most critical, because India and Indonesia will potentially have more infrastructure in place than anybody else, because of aid money. We believe we have progressed a long way down the track to signing a trilateral between the three nations to exchange all the necessary data in real-time. We made excellent progress—and progress that would not have been possible a year ago. Because of the tragic tsunami, we have made enormous progress in the exchange of data, which will let us put an effective system in place. We still have to sign that trilateral but I think there is a willingness and a commitment and we are well down the path to doing that. That is not necessarily a formal agenda item of the meeting but that is the agenda item that counts and that was negotiated more in the corridors and offline than in the formal session.
Senator WEBBER —Just to refresh my memory, the allocation of funding is for buoys and tidal gauges providing data to the national warning centre.
Dr Love —Yes, all the data from the tidal gauges and all the seismic data. Once we deploy the buoys, they will provide both wave data and seismic data. We will have meteorological instruments on those buoys as well so we will get wind speed and direction and atmospheric pressure. Those data will all come back in real-time to our national centre in Melbourne. They will also come back in real-time to a centre here in Canberra and there will be mirrored systems between Canberra and Melbourne, so that the geologists here and the meteorologists and oceanographers in Melbourne can all see the same data sets in real-time and share them—and the same modelling outputs. So it is a comprehensive system. We will have the Indonesia data and the Indian data in that and any American data that is available as well. The US is talking closely with us and cooperating as well. So there will be plenty of capability. To triangulate and identify a source, you need as many seismographs around it as you can get, and that is what we will have.
Senator WEBBER —Finally, to wrap it up, Dr Love, will the bureau staff be involved in the establishment of the infrastructure and the rest of the warning systems in other countries? If so, what will their role be?
Dr Love —I doubt that we will be involved in the Indian system. The Indonesian system is a moot point. The Indonesians are overwhelmed with offers from other places. At this stage a lot of their tsunami infrastructure will come from France and Germany. There is potential for the bureau, particularly, to be heavily involved in the communication systems. That is because essentially the Bureau of Meteorology has provided second-hand hardware and software to provide their meteorology service communication capability for quite some time. When it was clear that they could not make the Y2K leap, we came in with some second-hand gear and software and filled the breach for a long time. We have pretty good communication engineers. I suspect that we will play a part in designing their comms system—in fact probably through the World Meteorological Organisation. The World Meteorological Organisation will do that.
Senator WEBBER —Thank you very much for your time.
CHAIR —I thank the bureau. We will call the Director of National Parks and the Parks Australia Division after a short break.
Proceedings suspended from 3.32 pm to 3.36 pm
CHAIR —We welcome National Parks and the Parks Australia Division.
Senator CROSSIN —Mr Cochrane, can you start by giving me a total amount in your budget for both Kakadu and Uluru for this coming year.
Mr Cochrane —In terms of the forecast budgets for 2005-06, we are still working through assembling our broken up budget for each individual park, so I cannot answer that at this particular point. We have forecast budgets, but I cannot give you a precise figure.
Senator CROSSIN —In the written question on notice you provided to me where I asked for a breakdown of the annual infrastructure and maintenance for Kakadu, questions No. 3 and No. 4, you had maintenance as $1.131 million and capital expenditure as $2.5 million. Is that an anticipated estimate basically?
Mr Cochrane —That is correct. I could on notice give you anticipated budgets for next year in somewhat more detail, but I prefer waiting until we have actually finalised them.
Senator CROSSIN —All right. What is the total amount that has been allocated to national parks in the Territory?
Mr Cochrane —It would be comparable to the current year but in the case of Kakadu a little more, as a result of the supplementation we received.
Senator CROSSIN —You do not have the definite figures with you?
Mr Cochrane —I do not but I can provide them to you. I did not come with them.
Senator CROSSIN —Essentially, you are saying to me that the maintenance and capital expenditure will be pretty much the same other than the income that supplements the fee increases. Is that right?
Mr Cochrane —The budget figure for Uluru will be similar to the current year. The global budget for Kakadu for next year will be a bit more, probably a per cent or so. The anticipated capital expenditure for next year will be somewhat in excess of this year. This year has been a slightly tighter year for us. Next year we should be a little more comfortable. I would anticipate that our capital expenditure next year will be somewhat greater than this year.
Senator CROSSIN —Why is that? Is that because you have requested an increase in expenditure?
Mr Cochrane —I have had some supplementation as a result of the Kakadu fees abolition, but this year, in response to our somewhat persistent past budget deficits, we tightened up on capital expenditure and made it a leaner year than it would otherwise have been. I anticipate, given the measures that we have put in place, some of which you asked me about last time, that next year we will be able to free our capital expenditure up a little more.
Senator CROSSIN —Has the Hanson Stanley report been made public?
Mr Cochrane —No, it has not. You asked me about that last time. There were 11 participants in the consortium that funded that report. At least one of them is uncomfortable with its release, partly because, as I understand it, they did not support the eventual findings of that consultancy and found deficiencies in that work..
Senator CROSSIN —In February you said it was not a public report, it was commissioned by a number of parties and you see no reason why I should not get a copy.
Mr Cochrane —From my perspective, as one of the participants, I see no reason why it should not be released, although I think the circumstances around its commissioning nearly two years ago changed significantly with the change to the entry fee issue. There are a number of private sector participants and the other significant contributor was the Northern Territory Tourist Commission. A number of the participants are not uncomfortable with its release but some are quite uncomfortable.
Senator CROSSIN —Is it the view that it is not going to be released until everyone is happy?
Mr Cochrane —That is my view. In fairness to those who have contributed to it, if they do not want it released I am not going to die in a ditch over it, but I respect their views.
Senator CROSSIN —If some participants feel that report is deficient or defective, what is the status of that report?
Mr Cochrane —It is a report by consultants to the consortium that commissioned it. It is a consultants report. It contributed to the formation of views by the participants about the economic issues surrounding Kakadu funding. As I said, some of the participants were unhappy with the conclusions and possibly the quality of the work.
Senator CROSSIN —Was it commissioned by the Kakadu Board of Management?
Mr Cochrane —No, its impetus was from tour operators. Kakadu Tourism, a company that operates in the park, was a major commissioner, as well as the Northern Territory Tourist Commission, as I mentioned. Other participants were Aurora Kakadu, major accommodation providers in the park, and a number of operators—Kakadu Air, APT and AAT. Three Aboriginal associations also contributed to the report. At a somewhat later stage, the Northern Land Council came in as well.
Senator CROSSIN —Has the government actually done any economic modelling in relation to Kakadu National Park, apart from this?
Mr Cochrane —No, not internally.
Senator CROSSIN —Have any consultants other than Hanson Stanley been consigned to do any economic modelling?
Mr Cochrane —No.
Senator CROSSIN —So there has been no assessment done of the relationship between the entrance park fees and what is needed at Kakadu park in terms of its economic viability?
Mr Cochrane —No, not specifically.
Senator CROSSIN —Where do you go from here? If you have a number of people saying that the report is sufficient and no economic modelling has been done on the park in relation to the decision about entrance fees and visitor numbers, how do you operate in a vacuum, in terms of trying to assess budget allocations for what is needed in parks?
Mr Cochrane —In terms of the value of the consultancy, it was commissioned a couple of years ago. The Prime Minister made a decision about entry fees last year. That has been implemented. We have received supplementation that more than accounts for the loss of income from fees and that has put us in a slightly better position than we were before, with a guaranteed income. While I accept your question is a good one—we should be modelling the economic needs of the park—at the moment it is not something that we have committed to do.
Senator CROSSIN —In February you gave me a breakdown of the money over the next four years —the supplementation for the park fees. Have they varied from the amounts you gave me?
Mr Cochrane —They have varied slightly. The money going to Kakadu has not changed. The breakdown that I gave you of the $4.12 million, $3.8 million, $4 million and $4.4 million is unchanged. Those monies flow to Kakadu.
Senator CROSSIN —So $4.12 million, then the following year it is $3.8 million?
Mr Cochrane —It is $4.12 million, $3.75 million, $4.091 million and $4.432 million.
Senator CROSSIN —So they are the same as the figures you gave me in February?
Mr Cochrane —Yes, those are unchanged.
Senator CROSSIN —Where are the negotiations up to with the Northern Land Council with respect to assessing the amount that will be paid to the traditional owners?
Mr Cochrane —We have had a fair bit of correspondence with them and a number of meetings with them. The offer on the table to the Northern Land Council is that we would replace their share of entry fee revenue by an annual payment of $1 million, paid quarterly. Their income this current financial year, had the fees not been removed, would have been in the order of $840,000. In line with the Prime Minister’s commitment that the traditional owners would be no worse off, the offer has been made of a flat $1 million annual replacement payment.
Senator CROSSIN —That is an increase.
Mr Cochrane —That is an increase. Whilst I am yet to receive a response from the Northern Land Council, we have received an invoice for the first quarter payment of $250,000—and paid it. I am still waiting for formal confirmation that they have taken the money.
Senator CROSSIN —At least part of the money.
Mr Cochrane —Yes, at least part of the money.
Senator CROSSIN —Is that assessment being done in the same way that you put to me in February, through a variety of means?
Mr Cochrane —Sorry, the assessment?
Senator CROSSIN —Are you not assessing the anticipated number of visitors or are you just making a flat offer of $1 million?
Mr Cochrane —We have a made a flat offer of $1 million. We have invested in significantly improved monitoring of visitor movement into the park, through vehicle counts and calibration surveys, which we will be doing quarterly, to ensure we have a rigorous baseline to work on for visitor numbers. The offer to the Northern Land Council is that we will index that annual payment to changes in visitor numbers, but only if the visitor numbers go up. If visitor numbers dropped, they would still be at the previous year’s payment, so there is a degree of insulation there.
Senator CROSSIN —How are you surveying visitor numbers to Kakadu since the park fee was abolished?
Mr Cochrane —Through our vehicle counts and through surveying visitors in those vehicles so we can calibrate the visitor counts.
Senator CROSSIN —Is someone counting each vehicle as it goes over a line somewhere?
Mr Cochrane —It happens automatically. The technology that we have installed can distinguish 12 different types of vehicles, so we can separate buses of different sizes, vehicles with trailers, four-wheel drives, sedans et cetera. We are conducting detailed surveys regularly now to calibrate visitor numbers in those different types of vehicles.
Senator CROSSIN —Do you film cars or something?
Mr Cochrane —No, we are actually stopping them. We have a joint project with Charles Darwin University to stop the cars and survey people.
Senator CROSSIN —How much is that costing?
Mr Cochrane —I could answer that on notice. I do not think it is very much because it is a collaborative project with Charles Darwin University and I think they are using students as part of a student project. Let me give you a detailed answer on that on notice.
Senator CROSSIN —So the stopping of vehicles is done—
Mr Cochrane —We are doing it quarterly. We have done it twice so far—in January and April.
Senator CROSSIN —Do you do it week about? You are not there seven days a week, 24 hours a day, I take it. If I sneak into Kakadu at midnight, will I get counted?
Mr Cochrane —Your vehicle will get counted. They will know whether you are driving a bus or a scooter.
Senator CROSSIN —I will not be coming from Darwin all the way on a scooter, I can tell you that.
Mr Cochrane —I will get you an accurate answer on the methodology as well as on the funding of the surveys.
Senator CROSSIN —I had better come for a drive on Saturday and have a look.
Mr Cochrane —I am not stopping everyone coming into the park all the time. We only need to survey enough to make sure we can confidently apply a calibration factor to each of those vehicle types.
Senator CROSSIN —How do you work out what proportion are Northern Territory visitors?
Mr Cochrane —Through actually stopping people and asking them where they have come from. When the parliamentary secretary put out a press release recently saying that the proportion of visitors to Kakadu has increased to 26 per cent, that was as a result of the two surveys we did in January and April.
Senator CROSSIN —You are saying that the surveys may have only occurred over a six-day period.
Mr Cochrane —My guess is it is probably over a one- or two-week period.
Senator CROSSIN —From there you guesstimate that that is probably what it is like the whole year: is that right?
Mr Cochrane —No, because we do know that the type of visitors and traffic into the park varies fairly significantly between dry and wet seasons, for example. Whilst you might anticipate that there would be more territorians in the wet season—to come fishing, for example—we do have comparable data from the past from a visitor survey we conducted in 2001 which included wet season surveys. In those surveys only six per cent of the people surveyed were territorians. We are fairly confident that there has been an increase in the proportion and numbers of territorians visiting the park.
Senator CROSSIN —My information tells me that you stopped vehicles for only two days in February and April.
Mr Cochrane —You may have better information than I do, but I will give you an accurate answer after talking to the researchers.
Senator CROSSIN —All right. So what we are talking about is two days in February and two days in April—and you are telling me that the number of territorians visiting the park has increased by what percentage?
Mr Cochrane —In the 2000-01 survey it was about six per cent of visitors to the park in the wet season, and in those recent surveys it was 26 per cent.
Senator CROSSIN —Why were the 2000 and 2001 figures used?
Mr Cochrane —Because that was the last time we comprehensively surveyed visitors by stopping them and asking them where they were coming from. We also asked them where they were going. We have quite a detailed understanding of patterns of visitor use as a result of that survey. That was the last time we did that on that scale.
Senator CROSSIN —I have the visitor statistics from the Bowali Visitor Centre for up until the end of March this year. I am not sure whether you have them.
Mr Cochrane —I have them until the end of April.
Senator CROSSIN —I thought you might have brought them. They show a significant drop for the first three months of this year.
Mr Cochrane —Including the April figures, the number in comparison to the January to April equivalent last year has gone down by seven per cent. However, they are almost identical to the figures from January to April the year before and not dissimilar to the January to April figures the year before that as well. The Bowali Visitor Centre counts have remained relatively constant over the last four years.
Senator CROSSIN —Except perhaps for February 2003, there is a significant drop in visitor numbers.
Mr Cochrane —There is. March figures, though, are higher than the 2003 March figures. I hesitate to put too much weight on the Bowali Visitor Centre count because they measure numbers of people passing an infrared beam going into the visitor centre. Whilst it is a surrogate measure for people visiting the park, it does measure people passing a beam counter in the visitor centre. We apply an adjustment factor to it to try to remove the effect of people going past the beam twice or kids running backwards and forwards or people standing in front of the beam.
Senator CROSSIN —Would that be the same method you might use when you stop vehicles for only two days in February and April? Do you count a vehicle twice if they go in and out on the same day? How accurate is the infrared machine at the visitor centre compared to stopping people for four days?
Mr Cochrane —Let me provide an answer to that when I provide you with an answer about the methodology. We have developed this in association with Charles Darwin University. I am confident that the researchers providing advice have worked out a methodology which is more than adequate for the task.
Senator CROSSIN —What was the total number of people who were counted on those two days in February and April?
Mr Cochrane —I cannot tell you the number of people who were counted in the surveys but as a result of those surveys, we worked out that 28,961 visitors entered the park between mid-January and mid-April.
Senator CROSSIN —How many of those are not from the territory?
Mr Cochrane —It would be 74 per cent, I guess—what is left after you take out 26 per cent.
Senator CROSSIN —What was that figure in 2000-01?
Mr Cochrane —Six per cent were territorians so 94 per cent would have been domestic and international visitors.
Senator CROSSIN —So we have had a drop in domestic and international visitors in that period of time in this year?
Mr Cochrane —The proportion of visitors has dropped. That is certainly correct.
Senator CROSSIN —Would it be fair to say that, if the proportion of visitors has dropped, even though there has been an increase in people from the territory visiting the park there has been a decrease in people from interstate and overseas visiting the park?
Mr Cochrane —The proportion of interstate and international visitors has dropped, but until I present you with the absolute numbers I would hesitate to comment on the absolute numbers. Part of the problem is that we have long data series of both entry ticket sales and the Bowali Visitor Centre counts but they do not relate particularly well to each other. That would reflect changes of visitor use in the park—for example, people coming through the park entrance but not going to the visitor centre. I would anticipate that would change with seasons as well. If people come to fish, they do not go to the visitor centre because it is a long way out of their way. Whilst we have long-running data sets, you have to interpret them fairly cautiously.
Senator CROSSIN —How do we know that the abolition of the park fees is going to be successful. We may well see an increase in the number of people in the Territory who visit the park but the proportion of people from interstate and overseas may decline?
Mr Cochrane —The domestic and international visitors coming to the park, I believe, come for a variety of factors and presumably a number of them will make their decisions quite some time in advance. It is very early days at the moment to be able to conclude anything about the impact of the removal of fees. We are now four months down the track. Many people, particularly from overseas, would have made their decisions to travel quite some time ago. I believe the patterns of use of the park will not change or will have been predetermined some time ago. In terms of measuring them, we will continue to regularly survey now, whereas before we did intermittent comprehensive surveys. We will now regularly survey, based on our vehicle counts, so we can try to calibrate those. I would be looking at those regular surveys to give us much better information about how international, domestic and territory-sourced visitors change with time. A lot of that will be a result of factors beyond our control.
Senator CROSSIN —To what extent can you be certain that this is not territorians now using the highway to get to Kakadu, rather than the back road?
Mr Cochrane —We are installing the counters on the back road as well. Those counters are at the south and north entrances at the moment.
Senator CROSSIN —People entering Kakadu via the back road were never counted previously, were they? They would never have paid, basically.
Mr Cochrane —They may not have paid, but we do undertake compliance and enforcement actions to verify whether people have paid fees or not.
Senator CROSSIN —If you are saying to me that perhaps you need to use the figures cautiously and it is a bit too early to tell, why can some people jump in and claim quite proudly that figures for territorians have gone from six per cent to 26 per cent? Is it okay to make a jump and make conclusions about the locals, but you have to be a bit cautious about interstate and overseas people or do we have to just be cautious with the figures at some times and not others? Why do we suddenly put out a press release if local territorian figures increase? I notice there was not a press release saying that the proportion of interstate and overseas visitors decreased at the same time.
Mr Cochrane —How press releases are determined and the content of them is a little outside my control. My concern is to make sure that the information that is provided is accurate and based on the information we collect.
Senator CROSSIN —What is a strategy that Parks Australia might have to reverse the decline in overseas and interstate visitors?
Mr Cochrane —Over the last 12 months we have been collaborating closely with the Northern Territory Tourist Commission. We have jointly funded the development of the shared tourism vision for Kakadu. We have begun to undertake a number of joint projects to explore possibilities for things such as improved product development at Kakadu. The Northern Territory Tourist Commission is very keen and has been working with us on ideas for promoting Kakadu as a destination. I have been placing the major focus on the product development side. We need to encourage both individuals and local Aboriginal associations who wish to develop new products that either open up new areas or new products and services for the tourism industry. There is a huge opportunity there. The scene has been well set through the shared tourism vision that was launched in February.
Senator CROSSIN —Can I just take you to the Kakadu promotion campaign that was launched earlier this year. The Northern Territory government has offered to contribute $500,000 to that campaign. I notice that that $500,000 was not matched in this budget by the Commonwealth.
Mr Cochrane —It has not been matched in the budget. It was not sought in the budget. There is tourism funding for those sorts of things, and we are working with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources to identify ways of matching that money.
Senator CROSSIN —Is your department involved in putting in an application for this funding?
Mr Cochrane —Yes. There are programs which potentially do that.
Senator CROSSIN —Why would you need to do that? Why was there not an automatic allocation of $500,000 through the tourism budget, to match the NT budget to promote Kakadu?
Mr Cochrane —The government, through programs that already exist, makes a considerable amount of money available for tourist promotion and those sorts of things. Therefore, rather than seek additional funds, a decision was made to work through existing programs.
Senator CROSSIN —Who will make an application for that?
Mr Cochrane —We are working with a number of potential players. I would hesitate to detail the discussions and the parties that we are talking to at the moment.
Senator CROSSIN —Are you talking about tourism bodies or the Northern Territory government?
Mr Cochrane —No, not the Northern Territory government, because they are one side of the equation. Either Aboriginal associations or other tourism bodies—industry bodies.
Senator CROSSIN —So the process for that will be that you need to put a grant application in for this money?
Mr Cochrane —Correct.
Senator CROSSIN —Through a grants program?
Mr Cochrane —Correct.
Senator CROSSIN —And if you are not successful?
Mr Cochrane —We will work hard at being successful.
Senator CROSSIN —I am assuming if you do not get all the $500,000, the Northern Territory government will only match what you are given. Is that right?
Mr Cochrane —I cannot speak on their behalf.
Senator CROSSIN —Was there any new funding for Kakadu in the budget other than the $16.4 million over the four years?
Mr Cochrane —No, that was our new supplementation.
Senator CROSSIN —Where is the progress at in trying to identify the supplementary sources of funding for the park, after the four years has elapsed?
Mr Cochrane —It is fair to say that we really have not got that off the ground at the moment. I am still waiting to finalise some of the existing arrangements, such as locking in the Northern Land Council with the replacement payment to traditional owners before we start thinking about three years out. There is a lot to do to address the 70-odd recommendations that the Morse report provided us. The board is slowly working its way through those. There are a number of opportunities that arise as a result of considering the Morse report recommendations, a number of which could significantly contribute to revenue for the park, depending on how our discussions go. In short, we are at a very early stage.
Senator CROSSIN —Finally, as I read through the transcript in February, there were quite a number of questions that you were going to get back to me about. I cannot find whether they have been emailed to me or whether you have responded to them.
Mr Cochrane —I have copies here of all the answers we have provided to all of those questions from No. 69 to No. 76.
Senator CROSSIN —I will have to chase down perhaps why they have not made their way to me.
Mr Cochrane —We can certainly provide more copies of them.
Senator CROSSIN —Nos. 69 to 76, are they?
Mr Cochrane —Yes, from the additional estimates in February. They were the questions about vehicle numbers. We submitted them as required following the estimates.
Senator CROSSIN —Thank you. That is all I have.
CHAIR —Thank you. At this point, we will break for 10 to 15 minutes for tea.
Proceedings suspended from 4.08 pm to 4.28 pm
CHAIR —I formally resume the committee. We are examining the estimates for the Department of Environment and Heritage. Senator Brown has the call.
Senator BROWN —At the outset, because we are looking at Wildlife, amongst other things, I will seek to table this letter from the Prime Minister to the Prime Minister of Japan, the third sentence of which reads:
However, good friends should always feel free to disagree on specific matters, and it is on one such matter that I write to you.
I just wanted to back up that quote which I gave this morning.
Senator Ian Campbell —Do you disagree with that, Senator?
Senator BROWN —No, your officer said I was wrong in referring to the letter.
Senator Ian Campbell —No, you were referring to a different quote. But I am happy for you to table the letter.
Senator BROWN —No, I was referring to that quote, Senator.
CHAIR —Does the committee wish to accept the letter for tabling? Yes.
Senator BROWN —Thank you. The general question is about the check on the funding of environment groups by the tax office.
Senator Ian Campbell —We will do that now, if everyone wants to do GVEHO now, but I am sure other people will have questions. I would be disappointed if they did not.
CHAIR —I think it would be easier if we work down this list.
Senator Ian Campbell —It has been going well.
CHAIR —We will start off with Approvals and Wildlife.
Senator BROWN —Before we get to that, Senator Webber has some general questions?
Senator WEBBER —Yes, I have some general questions of the department, and then we can work our way down the list. Someone has been kind enough to provide me with a copy of the organisational chart of the department dated 21 February. Does that represent the current structure of the department? It is this document here—some of which is very small?
Mr Borthwick —It should be, Senator.
Senator WEBBER —In respect of the chart, can I have an outline of which positions attract performance pay?
Mr Borthwick —We are not required to report on performance pay position by position, and our reports on performance pay are included in the annual report. But they are in aggregate, not position by position.
Senator WEBBER —I know that that information is provided by other departments. I do not want names necessarily. I am just wondering what kinds of position attract performance pay within the department?
Mr Borthwick —All SES officers within the department are eligible for performance pay if their performance so warrants it. But it is not customary, I believe, to name which positions have attracted performance pay.
Senator WEBBER —Could you give me an overall number of positions, then?
Mr Borthwick —I might take that on notice, unless it is in the last annual report.
Dr Anderson —I am head of the Corporate Strategies Division. Could I have the question again? I was a little distracted.
Senator WEBBER —How many positions within the department attract performance pay?
Dr Anderson —There are two categories of staff that are eligible for consideration for performance pay. One is the senior executive level in the department, which has about 35 staff. The majority of those staff would have received some level of performance pay. In addition to that, our executive level staff—directors and assistant directors—who sign an AWA are also eligible for performance pay. Probably 70 per cent of staff in that category would have AWAs, and a proportion of those would have had performance pay. We can provide that figure and we do put that figure in aggregate in the annual report. I do not have it with me at the moment, but we could certainly provide it.
Senator WEBBER —If you could provide that, it would be good. That is probably enough on the performance pay issue, without wanting to get into too much detail. I notice on the agenda that the Australian Greenhouse Office functions have gone to the Industry, Communities and Energy Division and the International, Land and Analysis Division. Is that right and, if so, how does that work?
Mr Borthwick —They were two divisions already operating in the Greenhouse Office. When the Greenhouse Office was absorbed into the department, we essentially kept the names of those two divisions, and they are intact and operate in the department as they did in the previous Greenhouse Office.
Senator WEBBER —So they have not been physically separated?
Mr Borthwick —No, they have not. They work together. They are at the same desks that they were at before being absorbed into the department.
Senator WEBBER —So it is the identity of the office that has disappeared?
Mr Borthwick —No, not even the identity of the office has disappeared. The government thought that it was an important brand name in terms of recognition, so we talk now about the Australian Greenhouse Office within the Department of Environment and Heritage. Those two divisions that operated in the Greenhouse Office before still operate but now in the department.
Senator WEBBER —And all the functions and programs are still as they were, with the same people, as much as there can be continuity?
Mr Borthwick —There have been some minor changes. Some people have moved from the Greenhouse Office into the department and some people have moved from the former department into the Greenhouse Office. But overwhelmingly it remains the same.
Senator WEBBER —Just so I can get this straight, which section of the department deals with those grants for voluntary organisations?
Mr Borthwick —It is Mr Tucker’s division.
Senator WEBBER —He is one of the ones with the very small writing. So it is the Natural Resource Management Programmes Division?
Mr Tucker —That is not correct. I have moved divisions over the last two weeks.
Mr Borthwick —The positions are the same.
Senator WEBBER —Where have you gone, Mr Tucker?
Mr Tucker —It is the Policy Coordination and Environment Protection Division, which was previously under Mr Glyde.
Senator WEBBER —Yes. We will return to that later. Before we get into the specifics, I want to ask a series of questions about the ACT COAG trial and the role of the department. How is the COAG Indigenous coordination trial in the ACT going, from the department’s point of view?
Mr Borthwick —I think it is working very well. I am the Commonwealth secretary oversighting the COAG trial in the ACT. My counterpart is the head of the Chief Minister’s Department, Mike Harris. There is also an Indigenous Working Group that meets regularly, which is led by Ros Brown. We meet as a group about every two months. The COAG trial set up some priority areas for investigation when it was signed. What we have done is mapped both ACT government activity and Commonwealth government activity that is undertaken in those priority areas. One was education, one was cultural identity issues and one, from memory, was getting a type of criminal justice system. Another was looking at the linkages back and forth in terms of drugs and things like that. We have mapped the activities at both levels of government in those areas. We have worked that through with the Indigenous Working Group. Those papers have been passed to Indigenous representatives and, shortly, we are going to hold community consultations to address what that data shows in terms of exploring opportunities for both the Commonwealth and the ACT government to better focus its efforts and concentrate on those priorities identified by the ACT, the Commonwealth and the Indigenous Working Group.
Senator WEBBER —Has the review of all of the existing programs and service delivery been completed?
Mr Borthwick —There has been a mapping of those programs and that material. If it has not been circulated, it is about to be circulated to ACT indigenous people.
—Can you give me some detail of the funds expended under the trial to date?
Mr Borthwick —I would have to take that on notice, but the objective of this COAG trial, and indeed of all the other COAG trials, has not been to increase funding; it has been to see what avenues there have been to get better value from existing funding through better cooperative arrangements between the two levels of government involved, and that is the focus of this exercise. It is really about investigating opportunities for changing priorities to better reflect the needs of the Indigenous community.
—You may also have to take on notice-and perhaps you should—
Mr Borthwick —I can give you a broad idea. The sort of funding that is involved would only be $100,000 or $200,000. It is basically funding the head of the Indigenous Working Group and an assistant to help them undertake the necessary consultations and work in the community so that they are best able to interact with the Commonwealth and the ACT governments. It is really facilitating our engagement with the local Indigenous population. The Commonwealth has provided, I think, all of that funding for that purpose, although the ACT government is funding a proportion of the assistance funding. Those people are based at Canberra university. As I say, they are undertaking a very active role, and that is a very worthwhile role, from our perspective.
Senator WEBBER —I appreciate that you may have to take this on notice as well, but I was also wondering whether there could be a breakdown of the expenditures by activity?
Mr Borthwick —Across the areas?
Senator WEBBER —Yes.
Mr Borthwick —I cannot see why that cannot be provided, because certainly, as I indicated, it is the intention to provide that information to local Indigenous people. I will see what we can provide to you. But I will need to talk to my ACT and Indigenous colleagues. In other words, it is not just Commonwealth data, it is data from others as well.
Senator WEBBER —Yes, I appreciate that; hence the offer for you to take it on notice. That is fine. Can you outline what concrete outcomes have been achieved since the shared responsibility agreement was signed in April last year?
Mr Borthwick —I will take that on notice, otherwise I could miss out on some aspects of that. There has been an investigation of changes to the way the ACT criminal justice system works, which involves, in broad terms, getting Indigenous people involved in sentencing with local magistrates. It is not something that might be interpreted as being imposed by the system; it is embraced by the community. There have also been a number of elders’ camps and workshops undertaken, which is an important aspect in terms of reaffirming the cultural identity. One of the aspects agreed to be pursued in that shared responsibility agreement is the setting up of a community council. That is so that governments can interact with a central group. That is still a major focus that has yet to be achieved, notwithstanding very good relationships with the Indigenous Working Group. The difficulty is that there were a number of different groups and it was hard for both levels of government to interact and for the Indigenous community to speak with a coordinated voice. That was not just an objective to set that up from the two levels of government; that was a desire on behalf of the Indigenous community. But that has not been yet achieved. There are a number of other things but, as I say, I will take that on notice in terms of particular aspects of activity.
The other point that is worth noting in this regard is that the ACT COAG trial is of a substantially different ilk to that of the COAG trials in other jurisdictions, because it is on a whole-of-territory basis. That makes it, in some respects, a harder nut to crack than a COAG trial that is happening in a particular community within a state, because that lends itself to some experimentation and approaches on a local basis which are harder to do on a whole-of-state basis. So what we are exploring—and this is only exploring at this stage—is whether or not the COAG trial should be rolled into a broader bilateral relationship between the Commonwealth and the ACT. In other words, as the Commonwealth is for the most part pressing ahead with bilateral relationships with each state and territory government—the Prime Minister and Northern Territory Chief Minister Martin signed an agreement not long ago—we are seeing if we can transpose the ACT COAG agreement into that broader remit, but without losing the strength at all of the work that has been done in the COAG trial. That is something there have been some preliminary discussions about. I put it at no more than that at this stage.
Senator WEBBER —I was going to ask you what the next steps were for the trial. That sounds like it is one of them. Is there anything else?
Mr Borthwick —We wanted a trial in each jurisdiction, and that is why the ACT got a trial site. But my own view is that it is struggling because it is trying to deal with a whole jurisdiction, and it would be best to look at it from a whole-of-territory Indigenous population and Commonwealth government view rather than kept as a separate trial. But those are discussions we are still having.
Senator WEBBER —Have any interpreter services been used during the trial?
Mr Borthwick —No, not to my knowledge. But if I find out otherwise, I will let you know.
Senator WEBBER —In response to a question on notice from February this year the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination advised that three consultants had been engaged to undertake pilot projects in different regions, focusing on communications methods and materials for communicating with Indigenous communities. Have any of those pilot projects taken place in the ACT as part of the COAG trial?
Mr Borthwick —You will have to ask OIPC. No, I am not aware of that.
Senator WEBBER —Has the department sought any advice or support from consultants on communication with Indigenous people during the trial?
Mr Borthwick —Not that I can recollect. We have discussed amongst ourselves the advantages of employing a facilitator from time to time, and we will probably use a facilitator in that community workshop that I mentioned earlier which is forthcoming. It is really a meeting of the local Indigenous community in which the Commonwealth and the ACT governments will be involved. But it is really to do what facilitators do, to bring out the essence of the discussion, move the discussion along and draw together the threads.
Senator WEBBER —Apart from consideration of that, have any other types of consultancies been funded as part of the trial?
Mr Borthwick —Not for the Commonwealth’s part, but I cannot speak from the ACT government’s perspective on that.
Senator WEBBER —Indeed. Finally in terms of general issues, overall within the department can you give me an outline of whether the department has any special arrangements in place for the employment of people with disabilities, which is a pretty hot topic at the moment, and Indigenous people, such as flexible work practices and specialised recruitment?
Mr Borthwick —We do have a number of arrangements. I might ask Mr Anderson to come back to the table and address those issues.
Dr Anderson —We have a number of strategies and plans in place to deal with recruitment and career development of Indigenous staff and for people with disabilities. We have a workplace disability plan. We have a recruitment strategy for Indigenous people. The bulk of our Indigenous staff are employed in the national parks. I think there are in the order of 80 or 90 there. People do not necessarily identity as being Indigenous or as having a disability, so it is very hard to get complete figures on the number of people in the department that fit into those categories. We have a work force management committee that looks at approaches and strategies for dealing with people in those categories.
Senator WEBBER —In terms of people with disabilities, what specific arrangements do you have in place? Do you know how many people the department employs?
Dr Anderson —As I said, they do not necessarily all identify—
Senator WEBBER —Sorry, I thought we are talking about Indigenous employees.
Dr Anderson —No, both categories. For people that identity with a disability that needs a particular response, we will put strategies in place in terms of access to the building, dedicated car bays, the ergonomic design of furniture et cetera. We just look at those cases on their merits and put an appropriate response in place. Across the work force there would be a very small number that identify in that category—in the order of 10 to 20.
Senator WEBBER —That is it for general questions.
Senator BROWN —I have a question about the Earth Charter. That is the international document that has been approved by UNESCO, backed by UNESCO, the World Conservation Union, 14,000 community groups and a number of Latin American countries. The minister has not been here for half an hour, but maybe Mr Borthwick or somebody else can say what the assessment process for the Earth Charter is by the department and whether in fact it is being assessed.
Mr Borthwick —I might take that on notice, Senator. I was not aware that there is an assessment process. But that might be something that I do not know about.
Senator BROWN —Would you please?
Mr Borthwick —Yes.
CHAIR —We have rung the minister’s office and we have not been able to locate him. I am sure he will be back. He has left his coat here and that is an encouraging sign of his intention to return.
Senator BROWN —At what stage do we get worried?
CHAIR —I am sure he will not be too far away.
Senator TCHEN —Senator Brown, I understand that the normal thinking is that when the minister is not here it actually gives you more leeway.
Senator BROWN —I think that is normal thinking, yes.
Senator BROWN —As we are moving on to Approvals and Wildlife, I would like to ask about the Tasmanian devil. Has a nomination for listing of the Tasmanian devil on the rare and endangered species list been received by the Commonwealth?
Mr Early —I will have to take that on notice, Senator. I am not aware. I could find out and let you know later on.
Senator BROWN —Would you, please?
Mr Early —Yes.
Senator BROWN —I note that there has been a nomination of the devil to the Tasmanian authorities and the first process has accepted that nomination for consideration. I raised this morning the matter of the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, which is listed on the rare and endangered species list, and the prospect of the possibility of its extinction in north-east Tasmania rising from 65 per cent to 97 per cent over the next two centuries if logging as proposed by the Howard-Lennon pact goes ahead. What is the department’s assessment of that paper from Forestry Tasmania and the University of Melbourne?
Mr Early —We need to chase up the relevant officer who has that information. He will not be far away.
Senator BROWN —Can we come back to that when he or she arrives?
Mr Early —Yes.
Senator BROWN —Should I wait for that officer before asking about the other species that are listed?
Mr Early —No.
Senator BROWN —There is news today of the start of logging at Wielangta, which is on the mainland of Tasmania, just west of Maria Island. This is an area with a range of Commonwealth-listed endangered species, including the wedge-tailed eagle, the tiger quoll, the swift parrot, the broad-toothed stag beetle and I am sure others. What is the process for your department with respect to a list of species like that, which are rare or threatened with extinction, given my understanding that today bulldozers are moving in and forests are being cut in an area which they frequent? What happens at this stage?
Mr Early —Is that area covered by the RFA, Senator?
CHAIR —It is.
Mr Early —In that case, the exemption in the EPBC Act applies in terms of forestry operations.
Senator BROWN —But does that exempt the Commonwealth from responsibility for these rare and endangered species and their habitat?
Mr Early —The exemption is based on the fact that all those matters have already been assessed as part of the RFA, and that was the basis on which the exemption applies in the legislation. I personally was not involved in that analysis a number of years back. Basically, all those matters of threatened species have been addressed as part of the RFA process.
Senator BROWN —What new information, since the RFA was signed in 1997, about these species in that area of Wielangta, which is particularly species rich, has come to the department’s notice or has the department looked at?
Mr Early —I could not answer in terms of what has come to the department’s notice, Senator. But certainly we, from an EPBC Act point of view, have not looked at those issues, because we are expressly precluded from doing so under the EPBC Act.
Senator BROWN —But you do have a responsibility under the EPBC Act to ensure that species do not get shoved to extinction?
Mr Early —Certainly, but not in respect of RFA forestry operations. That is what the parliament has said. That is what our mandate is.
Senator BROWN —Are you sure? Do you have advice on that matter, that the RFA having been signed, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is no longer to protect biodiversity in the areas that fall under the regional forest agreement?
Mr Early —The advice we have is that the exemptions apply to RFA forestry operations. As I said before, those matters were addressed, as I understand it, during the RFA matter itself. So it is not a matter of not applying the objectives of the act. The act specifically says the objectives have already been met as far as those RFA operations are concerned.
Mr Borthwick —Just to echo what Mr Early has said, I think my understanding is that if the logging operations are consistent with the RFA, then that is exempt from the operations of the EPBC Act. Nevertheless, if there were a particular species or several species that were running into troubles, that would be the sort of issue that we would have discussions on with the relevant state government and we would see what could be done, consistent with the RFA. But taking a view like Mr Early has is strictly correct.
Senator BROWN —Now that logging has begun today in Wielangta, will your department look at the matter—
Mr Borthwick —We are very happy to investigate various matters and see how that impacts on species and to have discussions. But it would have to be discussions outside the context of the RFA. In that regard, we would act in a commonsense way; in other words, we would not be blinded by the legislation. The legislation limits us, but there are other avenues to pursue these issues, with the Tasmanian government or as the case may be. Any information that is available on this we would gratefully receive.
Senator BROWN —I will just take one species, the broad-toothed stag beetle, which is only found in this area and some very close areas. Can you tell the committee what the status of that beetle is, which is federally listed?
Mr Borthwick —We would not have information at hand on a species-by-species basis available today. We would have to take that on notice and see what information we had available in the department.
Senator BROWN —Could you do that, please?
Mr Borthwick —Yes.
Senator BROWN —I return to my question about the status of the wedge-tailed eagle, which is in some ways related to the questioning about Wielangta. You will be aware, Dr O’Connell, that the University of Melbourne and Forestry Tasmania, or experts from those two places, produced a paper many months ago now which said that if logging proceeded as under the regional forest agreement the potential for this magnificent species to go to extinction in north-east Tasmania would rise from 65 per cent to 97 per cent. What is the national government’s reaction to those very troubling statistics, which presumably, if applied to logging occurring elsewhere in Tasmania, spells curtains for the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle if something is not done to intervene?
Dr O'Connell —I have only a media comment on the report you are referring to, which was a report that Forestry Tasmania initiated with Melbourne University looking at potential modelling scenarios for impacts on species. My understanding of the extinction risks that are raised are that 97 per cent was a worst case scenario on the outside, not that it was the figure expected under logging practice. Since that time, of course, and I think based partly on that work, Forestry Tasmania and the Tasmanian government have looked to modify their practices. I think the process that we have just been through is reserving more areas.
Senator BROWN —In north-east Tasmania?
Dr O'Connell —It is reserving more areas in the north east.
Senator BROWN —What was the area of those reserves?
Dr O'Connell —I would have to take on notice in terms of the areas that you are looking at here.
Senator BROWN —Would it be fair to say it is much, much less than one per cent of the area we are talking about?
Dr O'Connell —Of the wedge-tailed eagle habitat? I am not sure. I would have to take that on board.
Senator BROWN —Or of north-east Tasmania, which is generally wedge-tailed eagle habitat?
Dr O'Connell —I think the issue is more the wedge-tailed eagle habitat.
Senator BROWN —Would you take that on notice?
Dr O'Connell —We will take that on notice. And then there are issues relating to the reduction in clear-felling and the reduction in clearing and conversion of forest to plantation.
Senator BROWN —What is the reduction in clear-felling? Could you tell the committee?
Dr O'Connell —As part of the package, Tasmania now intends to reduce the amount of clear-felling of old-growth forests in Tasmania.
Senator BROWN —How?
Dr O'Connell —As I understand it, by patch, if you like, logging an integrated patch approach, except in some areas.
Senator BROWN —That is the clump clear-felling approach?
Dr O'Connell —There are various descriptions of it.
Senator BROWN —Yes. But by the year 2010 at least 20 per cent of clear-felling as it now occurs will be continuing to occur; is that not the case?
Dr O'Connell —Yes, that is my understanding—largely for either safety or the nature of the country that is being logged, such as cable logging, which requires clear-felling.
CHAIR —What is the percentage survival rate for the wedge-tailed eagle under that prescription?
Dr O'Connell —I do not think that that work has been done. I presume that the work has not yet been replicated, if they are intending to replicate it. I think that is a matter for Forestry Tasmania and Melbourne University to see if they replicate their modelling under the new arrangements. As I understand it, the major threats to wedge-tailed eagles are poisoning, shooting and collisions with vehicles, rather than forestry. I think those are their major threats. As I understand it, under the Forest Practices Code, all of the wedge-tailed eagle nests are protected in 10-hectare minimum reserves. I think the recent additions to the reserves have added significant areas in a large part of the wedge-tailed eagle areas, such as the Styx areas and the north-west as well.
Senator BROWN —I was in the Styx a few days ago. There is a wedge-tailed eagle nest protected area there, after a nest was found by the Wilderness Society after the logging authorities had driven a road right through what would have been the exempt area. Will such behaviour continue or is there anything to prevent it under the—
Dr O'Connell —I am not aware of the case that you are talking about so I could not comment on that.
Senator BROWN —It is at Gees Creek Road. Is there in place now a requirement that experts survey each curve for eagle nests before it is approached for a road?
Dr O'Connell —My understanding is that Forestry Tasmania does survey for wedge-tailed eagle nests.
Senator BROWN —In what way?
Dr O'Connell —I understand they do an annual survey of all of their forests that are on their program. I can confirm that for you, if you wish.
Senator BROWN —Is that from the air or on foot?
Dr O'Connell —I do not know. I would have to take that on notice. These are matters for forest practices codes in Tasmania.
Senator BROWN —Yes, but the problem is we have a 97 per cent extinction rate predicted—
Dr O'Connell —No, we do not.
Senator BROWN —That is at the maximum end. What was the minimum end, Dr O’Connell?
Dr O'Connell —This is a modelling, it is not a prediction. I think there is a lot of difference between a modelling exercise and a prediction. This modelling exercise, as I understand it, was used to assist Forestry Tasmania plan to reduce the threats to the wedge-tailed eagles. It is not the same as a prediction of what will occur.
Senator BROWN —You said that 97 per cent was the maximum range of the modelling. What was the minimum range?
Dr O'Connell —I do not know. I will have to take that on notice.
Senator BROWN —You know the maximum but not the minimum?
Dr O'Connell —You were telling me the maximum.
Senator BROWN —I see. What is the prediction?
Dr O'Connell —The prediction for what?
Senator BROWN —The survival chances?
Dr O'Connell —I am not aware of a prediction.
Senator BROWN —So we have got a modelling but not a prediction?
Dr O'Connell —I am not aware of a prediction; that is all.
Senator BROWN —I presume if there was one you would know about it?
Dr O'Connell —I am not sure I would want to presume that.
Senator BROWN —Who in the Commonwealth would know about it, if you do not?
Dr O'Connell —A prediction from Melbourne University is not necessarily something that I would automatically know, I do not think.
Senator BROWN —No, the point here is that we have a prediction from Melbourne University and Forestry Tasmania itself. I am asking you: is there any alternative prediction that disputes it or gives an alternative scenario?
Dr O'Connell —No, I am suggesting I do not think there is a prediction there.
Senator BROWN —We have no predictions but we have a modelling from Forestry Tasmania and from the University of Melbourne. Is there another modelling?
Dr O'Connell —Not that I am aware of.
Senator BROWN —So the only study that you and I are aware of is this one by Forestry Tasmania and the University of Melbourne?
Dr O'Connell —I am not sure that I understand the points that you are trying to make about predictions. As I understand it, the purpose of the exercise was to assist Forestry Tasmania develop methods for reducing the threat to wedge-tailed eagles. It is on that basis that they have undertaken some of the work which we have now put into place in terms of the agreement, the reduction in 1080 poisoning on public forest land or at least a phasing out of 1080 poisoning on forest land, a reduction in clear-felling of old-growth, and the increase in reserves. I think that the actions they have taken are actions in response to in particular this—
Senator BROWN —And they will fix the matter?
Dr O'Connell —They will presumably improve—at least you would expect them to have a beneficial effect on—the habitat and lifecycles of those wedge-tailed eagles.
Senator BROWN —The fact is that you do not know what effect it will be?
Dr O'Connell —To my knowledge, there is not a further modelling of that, but I might be talking out of ignorance.
Senator BROWN —I wanted to ask about the swift parrot, which is also, as I understand it, critically endangered. It was in flocks of many hundreds of thousands at the time of settlement and is down now to hundreds or perhaps a thousand or 2,000 at best. Can you tell the committee what its status is at the moment and what the threats to its survival are?
Mr Early —I would have to take that on notice, Senator. I do not have all of that detail with me. We can provide that information to you. However, I can now answer your previous question. The Tasmanian devil was in fact nominated for listing under the national list in April 2005.
Senator BROWN —What is the process that is being undertaken there, Mr Early?
Mr Early —There is a process whereby the nomination is referred to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, which is an independent expert committee that advises the minister. There will be a public consultation period. There is also a period of peer review. They will then develop their advice, which they will provide to the minister, and the minister will then make a decision as to whether he is satisfied that the nomination meets the criteria.
Senator BROWN —Is the Commonwealth aware of concerns that potent carcinogens that are used in spraying in forestry operations, such as atrazine and simazine, may have some role in this particularly nasty and destructive disease that has overtaken the Tasmanian devil?
Mr Early —I cannot answer questions of that detail, Senator.
Senator Ian Campbell —I think the answer is, yes. You asked whether we are aware of concerns. The answer is yes.
Senator BROWN —What is the response to those, Minister?
Senator Ian Campbell —We are investing millions of dollars into facial tumour tissue disease. I followed your interchange with Dr O’Connell in relation to wedge-tailed eagles. We support species where they are under threat. But the more quality research you have the more likely you are to find out an answer that is likely to deliver benefit for the species and the survival of the species.
Senator BROWN —What are the known problems with atrazine and simazine as far as potential carcinogenic effects are concerned?
Senator Ian Campbell —I beg your pardon?
Senator BROWN —What is the known pathogenicity of these two sprays used in forestry operations in Tasmania as far as wildlife or the potential for cancer production is concerned?
Senator Ian Campbell —I do not know. But you asked whether I am concerned about this. Yes, I am aware of concerns about it. What are we doing about it? We are spending more money on research.
Senator BROWN —Into that?
Senator Ian Campbell —Into causes of facial tumour tissue on Tasmanian devils.
Senator BROWN —Except that the cause is not known. I am asking: is an assessment of the potential impact of these carcinogens which are being used in spraying in Tasmanian forestry operations going to be amongst the potential causes that are being assessed by that expenditure of money?
Senator Ian Campbell —I would expect that the scientists who develop the research programs would look at the most likely links and causes and then put the most effort into those areas with the most likely cause. That is what I would do if I were driving the program and what will be done if I have a say in it, unless someone gives me better advice. I am sure the question that you raise will be one of the questions that one would look at if you were to find that research effort.
Senator BROWN —I wanted to ask about the swamp eyebright, which is one of the rarest plants in Australia. It is found in only a one quarter hectare site south of Southport Lagoon, which according to Tasmanian government experts is threatened by a logging road proposed back in 2001 to log across the Southport Lagoon wildlife sanctuary and to log on the north-east peninsula at Recherche Bay for Gunns Ltd. Can you tell me what studies have been done on that road, having rejected my own application for emergency listing on the National Heritage List, into its potential impact on one of the rarest floral species in Australia?
Senator Ian Campbell —I do know, because I think I have responded to both your question on notice in the parliament and also a letter that you sent to me in some detail on that issue. I am happy to table those responses. The other issue is the emergency listing, which was actually requested by someone other than you in the first instance. I think you then followed it up down the track with another emergency listing. You obviously saw there was some value in repeating a process that had already been done, for whatever reason of your own. The assessment of Recherche Bay for heritage listing is continuing under the normal process outside the emergency process. My recollection of the letter that I wrote to you—I think I wrote you a letter—
Senator BROWN —The question I raised is specifically about the eyebright.
Senator Ian Campbell —I will just work straight off the top of my recollection, because it is quite vivid. I had a look at your photos and at your letter. I looked at the issue quite closely. My understanding is that you—
Senator BROWN —I am asking about the eyebright.
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes, and I am responding about the eyebright. It is found, as you say, in a small area. It is being assessed under the forestry plan, as we understand it. And at the moment you have got—
Senator BROWN —Who is assessing it?
—There is a dirt road that currently allows a lot of four-wheel drives and recreational vehicles in there, which as I understand it kick up dust and threaten this species. I think the argument, as I recall it, is that the sealing of the road and the control of recreational vehicles onto what is private land, I think, will in fact reduce the pressure and likelihood of impact on this unique and endangered species. The control of off-road driving in wildlife sanctuaries and state forests is the responsibility of the relevant Tasmanian government agencies and it is not the responsibility of the Australian government.
ACTING CHAIR —Senator Brown, do you have many more questions on this? I think Senator Bartlett and Senator Wong have a number of questions they want to ask before dinner.
Senator BROWN —I will not be too long. When is the sealing of the road going to occur?
Senator Ian Campbell —The advice I have is that the construction of the forestry access road has been undertaken in accordance with the forest practices plan, including measures to prevent unauthorised access to the sanctuary and is therefore in accordance with the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement.
Senator BROWN —Yes, but you said it was going to be sealed?
Senator Ian Campbell —I do not have information on that before me.
Senator BROWN —So you were not right in saying that?
Senator Ian Campbell —No, I do not know when that road is being completed.
Senator BROWN —No, sealed; you said it would be sealed.
Senator Ian Campbell —I am not sure whether it is sealed. I could be wrong there. It says that an access road is going to be constructed. Whether that means it is sealed or not, obviously, part of what they are doing is to control access by four-wheel drive vehicles, which are the main threat.
Senator BROWN —So you do not know whether it is going to be sealed?
Senator Ian Campbell —No, I do not. I am happy to find out whether that will be sealed. A lot of roads are constructed without being sealed.
Senator BROWN —Yes.
Senator Ian Campbell —But I think you would agree that the limiting of access to recreational four-wheel drive vehicles is a useful management arrangement.
Senator BROWN —A Tasmanian government expert in her report in 2001 said that there was a very great concern that this road would actually lead to an increase in off-road vehicles in the region of this most endangered plant. Is it not true that recent investigations by Tasmanian authorities have shown that the road, which was meant to be constructed so as to prevent off-road vehicles leaving it, had been breached in at least eight places—that is the road that was built in part in 2002 before it was stopped by a court order—and that the proposal to stop the vehicles leaving the road has failed?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think that information is right. There are problems there and the Tasmanian government has to address those problems.
Senator BROWN —You are the minister who is to ensure that this plant is protected and that there is not an increase in the threat to it because of a spin-off from this road through a wildlife reserve. What is the process there, Minister?
Senator Ian Campbell —The Tasmanian minister is responsible for the implementation of his plan or her plan.
Senator BROWN —So we have it here that the government is not responsible for the wedge-tailed eagle, it is not responsible for the eyebright, and we have not heard back on the beetle.
Senator Ian Campbell —One of the bits of information I heard in the reports from Tasmania was that one of the biggest impacts that has occurred at Recherche was through the invasion by hundreds of people with you the day you went and did your protest. That led to the destruction of much vegetation of the peninsula, and people left behind cigarette butts, litter and a whole range of other materials which are alien to the environment. That is something that you should take responsibility for and should apologise to the people of Tasmania for. Do you take responsibility? Have you been back there to clean up?
Senator BROWN —Let me respond to that, because you have not been there.
Senator Ian Campbell —Clean Up Australia Day is a few more months away, but you can clean up every day, mate.
Senator BROWN —I have. I did not leave the road and nor did the other people I was with on that day. That is a totally false claim.
Senator Ian Campbell —They are making it up, are they?
Senator BROWN —You are making it up. It is a totally false of claim. But it is the sort of thing—
Senator Ian Campbell —I have read reports about it. You are talking about reports of four-wheel drives leaving roads. I have read reports that show there has been significant damage done to that area because of you and your mates going down there for a political stunt and leaving behind cigarette butts, litter and bottles.
Senator BROWN —That is the level of response I would expect from you on a serious matter.
Senator Ian Campbell —It is not from me.
Senator BROWN —It is from you. It is coming from you right now, Minister.
Senator Ian Campbell —It is from reports in the Tasmanian paper.
Senator BROWN —It is coming from you right now, and you should stick to the question that I asked you.
ACTING CHAIR —Order!
Senator Ian Campbell —We spent half an hour asking officers questions about wedge-tailed eagles, and Bob did not like the answers. Then he asked some questions about a critically endangered plant at Recherche Bay. Now he wants to sum it all up for the benefit of the media and his supporters and say, ‘I’m not responsible for this; I’m not responsible for that.’ I will ask Senator Brown to take responsibility for his actions as well.
Senator BROWN —And I do. But you do not take responsibility for yours.
Senator WONG —Point of order, Acting Chair.
Senator BROWN —You are being questioned here, Minister—not me.
ACTING CHAIR —I do not think this is going to advance the Senate estimates inquiry much, Senator Brown. Can I suggest that if you do not have any questions—
Senator BROWN —But I do. I am asking questions.
ACTING CHAIR —These are political questions you are asking the minister.
Senator BROWN —No, they are not. They were questions about endangered species.
Senator Ian Campbell —I do not mind political questions. But what we have here, again, is a situation where Senator Brown has turned up—
Senator BROWN —Just a moment, Acting Chair; I object to that. I am asking direct questions about endangered species, which is where we are up to on this particular occasion.
Senator Ian Campbell —Once every decade he comes to an estimates committee because he has run out of other stunts.
Senator BROWN —Acting Chair, I ask you to be fair about your indication on this.
ACTING CHAIR —You have been on this subject for more than half an hour now. There are a number of other senators who have questions that they wish to raise. You have got some answers from the minister that you are not happy about, and I do not think you are going to get anything that will make you happy. Can I suggest that, unless you have some new lines of inquiry that you desperately want to put up, you yield to the other senators.
Senator BROWN —I do want to ask about a road into the Southwest National Park which I am told could occur as early as next week at Cockle Creek. Can the minister inform us about that?
Senator Ian Campbell —Are you talking about Forestry Tasmania activities?
Senator BROWN —I am talking about the proposed tavern and car park facility in the Southwest National Park at Cockle Creek which was approved by your predecessor. I asked what the situation is as far as that proposal is concerned. Can you tell the committee?
Senator Ian Campbell —I have not been given any information recently. Does anyone here have any information?
Mr Early —I would have to take that on notice. We have hundreds of proposals, and I cannot give you the exact details on every one of them.
Senator BROWN —This one is into a World Heritage area.
Mr Early —I still make the point that there are hundreds of referrals and hundreds of approvals.
Senator Ian Campbell —We are happy to get you an update.
Mr Early —I do not have it in my head, I am afraid.
Senator BROWN —I am not doing too well, am I?
ACTING CHAIR —You have got a question on notice. You will get an answer.
Senator IAN CAMPBELL —What senators who come to estimates usually do if they have detailed questions is give the officers the benefit of saying, ‘We have some detailed questions.’ But since Senator Brown only comes along once every five or six years—
Senator WONG —Minister, can we move to some questions please. I appreciate that you have—
Senator Ian Campbell —He pops in and he takes up all the time of diligent senators who have done their homework and done the right thing. You do not encourage people to make political stunts.
Senator WONG —I am making the point that continuing to argue is digging into our time.
Senator Ian Campbell —Go back and trample Recherche Bay again, Bob.
Senator BROWN —I am sorry?
Senator Ian Campbell —Trampling and levelling and putting new tracks through the bush.
Senator BROWN —Acting Chair, I ask him to withdraw that.
ACTING CHAIR —I am sorry; I did not hear what he said.
Senator BROWN —He said that I had been trampling and putting new roads in the bush at Recherche Bay. I would ask him to withdraw that.
ACTING CHAIR —Minister, if you did say that can I ask you to withdraw.
Senator Ian Campbell —You can ask me, but I will not. I am just quoting out of the Mercury newspaper of Thursday, 28 April 2005.
Senator WONG —We will quote that back at you one day when we quote newspapers and you say they should not be believed.
Senator Ian Campbell —It says:
“It has been well and truly trampled to the ground,” Robert Vernon said yesterday.
He said a marker on the beach had probably led people to the site.
He goes on to explain:
... undergrowth had been trampled, cigarette butts dropped and tracks made into the bush.
Senator BROWN —By whom?
Senator Ian Campbell —By the protestors—your mob: Peg Putt, Bob Brown.
Senator BROWN —There he goes. What a disgrace he is.
ACTING CHAIR —The minister was quoting from something.
Senator Ian Campbell —It says ‘Senator Bob Brown, Professor John Mulvaney, Ms Peg Putt’. I was just quoting from Thursday, 28 April in the Mercury. Senator Brown says he did not do it.
ACTING CHAIR —He probably was not there.
Senator Ian Campbell —He was there. He said he did not do it. He treads lightly.
ACTING CHAIR —I think that is not going to help.
Senator WONG —If Minister Campbell wants to make some political points, I am sure there are different circumstances. Can I just clarify something, Mr Borthwick. I do have some questions—I know they are not for this area, but I am not sure where they are—regarding the budget measure for the Commonwealth Environment Research Facility’s marine and tropical sciences research facility, on page 151 of budget paper No. 2. Where will that come up in the department?
Senator Ian Campbell —We had a discussion this morning for about half an hour on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, but we can go back to it.
Senator WONG —It is not that.
Senator Ian Campbell —I am just saying that we had a long discussion about it this morning.
Senator WONG —That is an authority. I am talking about a departmental appropriation, which is at page 151 of budget paper No. 2. Could someone just tell me which part of the department that falls within.
Mr Tucker —Policy Coordination and Environment Protection Division.
Senator WONG —While we are on approvals and wildlife—because I am sure Mr Early does not want to leave without me having asked him some questions—how much funding has been allocated to the biodiversity hot spots program, which I think we might have discussed previously, which was flagged in last year’s budget and announced in August 2004?
Mr Slatyer —This program is administered by my division.
Senator WONG —It is not even you, Mr Early. I am so sorry.
Mr Slatyer —We are happy to deal with it now, if the minister agrees.
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes, please.
Mr Slatyer —Total funding for the program as announced was $36 million.
Senator WONG —And how much of that has already been allocated?
Mr Slatyer —I will just have to do a quick calculation. Altogether there has been $4.5 million allocated in 2003-04, so $7.165 million has been allocated in 2004-05. I could go into the out years if you wish.
Senator WONG —Yes, thank you.
Mr Slatyer —It should be in the document.
Senator WONG —Which page of the PBS is it?
Mr Slatyer —In the PBS at page 49 there are estimates for 2005-06 and 2004-05 about halfway down the list of administered appropriations.
Senator WONG —Within that, how much of the $6.665 million in the 2004-05 actuals in this program was to the South Australian eastern Mount Lofty Ranges?
Mr Slatyer —$1.5 million.
Senator WONG —Was there a tender process for that funding?
Mr Slatyer —No.
Senator WONG —Is there proposed to be a tender process for the remaining $4½ million or $7 million et cetera over the out years?
Mr Slatyer —The guidelines and arrangements for that program are under consideration by the government—that is, the guidelines for managing the rest of the program.
Senator WONG —Do they contemplate a tender process?
Mr Slatyer —That is not for me to say.
Senator WONG —They are still with the government for consideration.
Mr Slatyer —Yes.
Senator WONG —How much has already been allocated?
Mr Slatyer —There has been an allocation of funds for the 2004-05 year.
Senator WONG —Which is the $6.665 million figure?
Mr Slatyer —Yes.
Senator WONG —Organisations have already been told, ‘You’re getting this’?
Mr Slatyer —No, that has been the allocation of resources in the budget for this program.
Senator WONG —But the project at the South Australian eastern Mount Lofty Ranges has already been announced, so people know they are getting it.
Mr Slatyer —Yes.
Senator WONG —Are there any other projects in that category?
Mr Slatyer —The other main project that has been announced is the Daintree conservation initiative, which is being funded from the same $36 million fund that I mentioned earlier.
Senator WONG —Apart from those two, are there any others which have been not just allocated in the budget but announced on the ground?
Mr Slatyer —No.
Senator WONG —There was no tender for the Daintree?
Mr Slatyer —The Daintree component is administered by the Heritage Division.
Senator WONG —When do you anticipate the guidelines for the allocation of these moneys to be determined?
Senator Ian Campbell —Within a few days. It is sitting on my desk. It might be a few weeks.
Senator WONG —Do you contemplate a tender process, Minister?
Senator Ian Campbell —It is highly likely, yes. We are trying to get the very best value for money, keep the admin costs low and make sure we get as much conservation on the ground. That is easy to say. We are trying to design a process which improves that outcome. I have been grappling with it for probably too long, but I am pretty confident we are going to get an outcome, hopefully, fairly shortly.
Senator WONG —Presumably, there are funding criteria that people will have to meet in order to get funding?
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes, and getting the balance right between the acquisition side of it, the management side of it and the administrative cost side of it.
Senator WONG —If a tender process is contemplated for future applications, why was one not undertaken for the Mount Lofty project?
Senator Ian Campbell —We had the discretion to make investments, but we have made some what we would regard as strategic investments, and now we have a large amount of money available in the remainder of the funding for this. My own hope is to build this as a successful program. It will also build on a number of these sorts of programs that some of the state governments are running—the Victorian government is running a very successful bush tender type program. I would like to build this up into the sort of program that, if we can make it a success, I could go back to cabinet with in future years and seek to make a longer term program funded over the long term, a feature of our programs. So I am spending quite a lot of time getting this tender process and the guidelines right.
Senator WONG —You anticipate within the next few weeks?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think that is safe to say. I wish it was quicker than that, but I am juggling a few balls at the moment.
Senator WONG —Is it appropriate that I address questions on the Daintree measures later to the Heritage Division?
Mr Slatyer —Yes.
Senator WONG —Apart from Mount Lofty and Daintree, there is no other actual granting of money under this program?
Mr Slatyer —None that has been announced.
Senator WONG —Have people been advised?
Mr Slatyer —I can only speak for what the government has announced.
Senator WONG —There is a difference between a political announcement and people actually being advised that they are going to get some public moneys. Have there been other proponents advised that they will receive money under this program?
Mr Slatyer —There have been contract arrangements entered into.
Senator WONG —How many?
Mr Slatyer —Two.
Senator WONG —Have those contracts been finalised?
Mr Slatyer —As we understand it one contract has been finalised.
Senator WONG —Who is that with? There is no commercial-in-confidence if it has been finalised; you are just going to be telling me who it is. I am not asking the details of the contract.
Mr Slatyer —Until the government is in a position to announce that, we cannot disclose the identity of the parties.
Senator WONG —Has any money been paid under the contract to date?
Mr Slatyer —I will take that on notice.
Senator WONG —You must know that, Mr Slatyer. You do not know if any money has been paid under the finalised contract to date?
Mr Slatyer —I need to take the question on notice.
Senator WONG —Do you have a problem with him telling us whether money has been paid under a contract, Minister?
Senator Ian Campbell —I do not know myself. I know that we have a series of negotiations going on under this program and that they are at various stages of finality. We will announce these successful projects, as we have done in the past, when they are all finalised. We will be very proud of it, and the money that is paid over will all be announced. But one of the things that we are very cautious about doing is having what is a $30-odd million fund out there. People in this business know pretty closely what sort of properties it is targeting. There is a market developing there, and that is a tremendously good thing for Australia. We are having new institutions forming around this program, which is the reason I would like to see it extended and not just be a one-off, as it is at the moment. If I get this right, I hope to convince the cabinet that we can fund this on an ongoing basis. A market forms. I think you would respect, Senator, that when government walks into the market with a big chequebook, all of a sudden you start affecting the market. We are possibly overly cautious about commercial confidentiality at this stage. As soon as it can be announced and released, the details can be handed to you. That is why, I think, Mr Slatyer is doing the entirely appropriate thing by taking it on notice.
Senator WONG —Was there a tender process for this finalised contract, Mr Slatyer?
Senator Ian Campbell —We are not saying it is finalised.
Senator WONG —He gave evidence before that one of them was finalised. I am only asking about the finalised one, because I anticipate that if I ask about the non-finalised one people will talk to me about commercial-in-confidence negotiations. Was there a tender process for the finalised contract?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think the answer—and I am happy to be contradicted here—is that until now the properties that we have been targeting have been bought on a fortuitous basis: they have come up and we have done an assessment and decided that there are really good biodiversity and conservation outcomes available. Sometimes you have to move. We have done that with this program and we have done that with national reserve system purchases and so forth.
Senator WONG —Do I take that as a no?
Senator IAN CAMPBELL —I think the answer is no, that is right. I think I had said that before. We have sought and purchased some properties that have become available. If we do not buy them someone else does and they are potentially lost to this program.
Senator WONG —I presume your guidelines will have addressed issues of probity as well.
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes.
Senator WONG —And you do anticipate some form of tendering process?
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes, I do.
Senator WONG —Mr Early, I have one question on the nuclear dump.
Senator Ian Campbell —What you would ideally do if you had a lot more money is have a fund that was for fortuitous purchases so that you could move quickly and another fund subject to annual tender. Ultimately we will do an evaluation of this, and it may well be that the tender process creates really good biodiversity and the fortuitous purchases do not, or it may be the other way around. We will not really know until we do it.
Senator WONG —Are current guidelines in place for the so-called fortuitous opportunities?
Senator Ian Campbell —My recollection is that we get advice from my biodiversity expert committee. We have been taking advice from that committee on how to best utilise this program to maximise biodiversity to the extent that we are identifying the best places and even the best way of running the program. I am taking their advice.
Senator WONG —Are there guidelines regarding these fortuitous purchases we are talking about, Mr Slatyer?
Mr Slatyer —Not guidelines per se, but, as the minister said, the minister is taking advice from an independent committee.
Senator WONG —But against what does that committee assess any possible expenditure? Are there criteria somewhere?
Mr Slatyer —The Prime Minister in his initial announcement described the broad purposes of the program. The committee which the minister has established is chaired by the chair of the biodiversity assessment committee, Professor Possingham. That group will be looking at the biodiversity values of the areas concerned.
Senator WONG —So this group has provided advice in relation to all three—the two that have been announced and the third contract which has been finalised?
Mr Slatyer —Yes, I believe so.
Senator WONG —But you are not able to point me to any documented guidelines for criteria against which they provide their advice?
Mr Slatyer —No.
Senator WONG —Just what other criteria they apply.
Senator Ian Campbell —This is an expert group of scientists in the main. I think they are virtually all scientists who are experts on biodiversity.
Senator WONG —I am not suggesting that they are not experts, but you have got a public expenditure process. I am asking: would it not be normal to have some clear guidelines or criteria against which a proposed purchase or contract is assessed?
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes, and that is what we are developing. But we have had opportunities come to the Commonwealth over the past year in areas that we thought have been strategic and that have been given very strong support for biodiversity reasons, and we have made a decision. That is entirely within the Prime Minister’s announcement of this policy. We have stuck to that.
Senator WONG —What are the criteria?
Senator Ian Campbell —We will table the Prime Minister’s announcement.
Senator WONG —So the criteria are in the Prime Minister’s press release?
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes, but with the support of this expert panel of some of the best biodiversity experts on the planet.
Senator WONG —There was allocation in the DEST portfolio for more work on a nuclear dump. Mr Early, has the environment department been asked to do any of the bits of that?
Mr Early —No.
Senator WONG —You would have to do an EIS, wouldn’t you?
Mr Early —DEST would do the EIS.
Senator WONG —Sorry, you would have to assess it.
Mr Early —We would do the assessment. We would give advice to the minister about whether to approve it or not.
Senator WONG —So no work your end?
Mr Early —Not at this stage.
Senator WONG —Just remind me how many people worked on the approval process for the EIS for the dump that is now being shelved.
Mr Early —In terms of our department?
Senator WONG —Yes.
Mr Early —It is a bit hard to tell. We have a relatively small mining and industrial section of about half a dozen people. Some of those would have worked on it from time to time, as well as me and maybe Malcolm Forbes, the assistant secretary. I could do an assessment and give you something on notice, but it is a bit hard to tell how many actual person hours it all involved.
Senator WONG —It was not a small project though, was it?
Mr Early —No.
Senator WONG —I would be interested in knowing how many person hours, if you are able to assess that.
Senator Ian Campbell —Just so you understand, that will mean that the people who are doing the assessments for the value of the future of the Australian environment will be taken off that job to put together statistics to answer that question. Are you happy for that to happen?
Senator WONG —If you do not want the question answered, you can say that.
Senator Ian Campbell —I am just saying that—
Senator WONG —Mr Early offered.
Senator Ian Campbell —I know he offered. He is doing the right thing by the committee. He has just said it is a very small section. It means that Mr Early is going to have to task someone with going back over a process that occurred over a year ago and more.
Senator WONG —It was quite a number of years. You kept trying it.
Senator Ian Campbell —It requires resources to answer your question.
Senator WONG —I am sure that Mr Early, as any public servant, as I have seen from the questions on notice answers, is quite capable of writing a response that says—if in this assessment this is the case—that this is too labour intensive an answer to provide.
Senator Ian Campbell —If you respect it if he decides that then I think we have got ourselves a good understanding.
Senator WONG —We have had to cop a few of those over various estimates. I have finished with approvals.
Senator BARTLETT —I have a few questions about what I think are in the Approvals and Wildlife Division. Firstly, has the application that has been afoot for a while to import Asian elephants to Australia, which I asked about back in February, when there was an indication that it would probably take a month or so to get finalised, been finalised now? Has a decision been made on the application?
Mr Early —Not yet.
Senator BARTLETT —I am drawing just on my memory here, but I think there firstly had to be an assessment drawn up within the division and then that advice or recommendation was to be provided to the minister. Has that stage of the process happened?
Senator Ian Campbell —The latest information I have is that it is about to arrive on my desk. It could be here somewhere.
Senator BARTLETT —You can have a read of it over the dinner break and announce it to us afterwards.
Senator Ian Campbell —We put a lot of effort into this and, as I said to you privately, we are looking very closely at it. It is not an easy decision, but I am quite certain that somewhere in my files I will have some very good advice which I will read thoroughly.
Senator BARTLETT —Can I just clarify the process again. The advice is virtually complete and about to be provided, or may have been provided and just not read yet.
Mr Early —That is a fair description.
Senator Ian Campbell —Absolutely accurate.
Senator BARTLETT —Whilst being unclear.
Senator Ian Campbell —No, it is spot-on. It has arrived in my office. It may not have arrived on my desk.
Senator BARTLETT —You are not obliged to follow the advice?
Senator Ian Campbell —My undertakings, publicly and privately, to you are that I will carefully consider it. I think I have seen preliminary information on it. It is quite an enormous volume of work. A lot of energy has gone into it. Quite frankly, I think both sides of the argument, the NGOs and the zoos, have cooperated in a very constructive way. I have enormous respect for both sides of the argument. It is going to be a very hard decision for me to make. I am going to read it very carefully, for good reason. I have had days where I have thought that the arguments of the NGOs have absolutely overwhelming weight and then other days where I think the zoos have made good points. I genuinely have an open mind on this.
Senator BARTLETT —I am waiting with anticipation to read the final document. Is there any time line that you have to make a decision within once you receive it?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think there is a statutory requirement, but I do not think there is much of a penalty if I do not meet it. My undertaking to all parties is that now that the advice has arrived I will try to get to it as quickly as I can, read it thoroughly and make a decision. I do not think it is fair to the elephants, for example, to be stuck in quarantine for a long time. Making a decision is in the interests of all the parties. I want to make sure it is a good decision: it is one I will have to live with, the elephants will have to live with and everyone will have to live with. I will have an opportunity to read it over the next little period, and I will do that.
Senator BARTLETT —Thank you for that. A question on notice—I think to a question from the November pseudoestimates that we had, the on notice estimates or whatever it was called—from Senator Allison was asked about ensuring fishers comply with the EPBC requirement to notify the secretary about interactions with listed species. The department answered that you were negotiating an MOU with AFMA for records of interaction to be provided to the department and had also contracted AFMA to produce and implement a communications strategy by mid-2005. Can you tell me if both the MOU and that communications strategy have been finalised yet?
Mr Early —They have not been finalised in the sense of being signed off by the secretary and the head of AFMA. Basically, they have been agreed, though. The current stage is simply getting legal advice that the MOU meets the statutory requirements of both our legislation and the AFMA legislation. We effectively have the arrangements in place and operating but we need to formalise it with the signatures, which should be in the next little while.
Senator BARTLETT —Once the signatures are provided is that able to be made public?
Mr Early —Yes, that would be a public document.
Senator BARTLETT —I have a question about a property on Norfolk Island that was refused development approval under the EPBC Act last year under the previous minister. Has there been any acquisition of any property, any part of that freehold land by the department or the Commonwealth during the current financial year?
Mr Early —Certainly not by this department. I know that the Department of Transport and Regional Services have been having discussions with the owners but I do not think anything has actually been resolved, so I suggest you ask that department.
Senator BARTLETT —Thank you. The final area I want to ask about is a broad issue flowing from the court decision about Nathan Dam. I know there has been a reassessment of that just recently that triggers the act and will require the process to go to the next stage about what mechanism of assessment will be required. Feel free to tell me if I am wrong in my assumptions, but that is where I understand that specific proposal is at—that is, that the minister has reassessed it and found that it will trigger the act.
Mr Early —The original decision by Dr Kemp was that the Nathan Dam proposal was a controlled action and needed approval under the act. In relation to threatened species, the minister has recently said that migratory species and the World Heritage provisions also have to be addressed. It is now with the Queensland government because, as you know, there is a bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland in relation to assessment. We are waiting on their advice as to whether they wish to provide the assessment report through the bilateral agreement.
Senator BARTLETT —Given that the Queensland government are pretty keen on that proposal—I do not know whether they could technically be called a proponent but they have certainly been boosting the idea—does that raise issues about their independence and their ability to properly assess it? Are you able to have an oversight role on that?
Mr Early —I do not think there is a problem. That is the normal process through which assessment reports are provided under the bilateral agreement. We have very close contact and liaison with Queensland about the assessment processes, but at the end of the day it is our minister who makes the decision and our minister who has to be satisfied about the level of information that is available. I have no doubt that the assessment will be fine, but if there were a problem then the minister has mechanisms to ensure that he has enough information to make a proper decision.
Senator BARTLETT —There is a broader issue I want to go to. I presume the minister’s reassessment of the greater number of issues that are triggered was consequential to the court decision.
Mr Early —That is right.
Senator BARTLETT —Has that court decision led to a broader reassessment of the approach you take on assessing all projects? Have you reconsidered and drawn up new guidelines?
Mr Early —Yes, we have. We have obviously looked very closely at the court decision. We have that advice from the court, and we are interpreting that in terms of all our current work in relation to the EPBC Act.
Senator BARTLETT —Can you be a little more precise about how you are interpreting it? Tell me what you have done in a bit more detail.
Mr Early —Up until the court case we were operating on the basis that we only really considered the direct impacts of proposals. We are now looking specifically at indirect impacts, or second-hand impacts, as required by the courts. We look specifically at any flow-on effects from proposals.
Senator BARTLETT —Have you made any concrete changes, such as changes to documentation?
Mr Early —Yes, we have.
Senator BARTLETT —Are they public documents?
Mr Early —We have our own internal practice notes on how we deal with proposals. They have been changed and have been cleared by the Australian Government Solicitor. So we have changed the way we do business. At some stage we may put out more guidelines, but at the moment that is an internal legal document that we use.
Senator BARTLETT —With regard to clearing that through the Australian Government Solicitor, I am not sure whether this can be established any more firmly or officially but I am trying to get a sense of the department’s approach to the standing in law of the court decision. Obviously you chose not to appeal it, so are you therefore taking an approach of operating as though the court’s finding, in its broader application, has legal validity as an interpretation of the meaning of the law now?
Mr Early —Yes. We are operating fully in accordance with the decision. We are taking it that that is the law, and so that is how we are operating.
Proceedings suspended from 6.00 pm to 7.03 pm
CHAIR —We are now moving to the Heritage Division. Please proceed, Senator Allison.
Senator ALLISON —Can Mr Young advise the committee what the time frame is for considering the emergency listing of heritage alpine grazing in Victoria.
Mr Young —The minister has referred the matter to the department today.
Senator ALLISON —Today?
Mr Young —Today. That means that there is a 10-day turnaround on that emergency listing.
Senator ALLISON —Minister, we are just talking about emergency listing of heritage alpine grazing in Victoria. You have referred it to the department today?
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes. At 1.30 this afternoon. I have 10 days to make a decision.
Senator ALLISON —You have 10 days to make a decision?
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes.
Senator ALLISON —You seem fairly adamant in your comments in the press today that you are in favour of listing. Is that correct?
Senator Ian Campbell —No. I was very adamant about the importance of alpine grazing to the heritage of Australia.
Senator ALLISON —Can you explain why this is the case?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think The Man from Snowy River and the involvement of mountain cattlemen droving cattle up into the alpine region, which has been going on for 170 years, is without any doubt, in my mind, an absolutely intrinsic part of the Australian story and a part of our heritage.
Senator ALLISON —The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act lists a loss of terrestrial climatic habitat caused by anthropomorphic emissions of greenhouse gases. The listing specifically includes alpine habitats in that threat. Does that not suggest that the situation might have changed in the last 100 years with regard to the threats that cattle grazing brings to alpine areas?
Senator Ian Campbell —I have no doubt there have been changes to all parts of Australia over the last 170 years. Does that mean that human activity should be excluded from endless tracts of our country? I think the answer is no. I think that as with the Great Barrier Reef, for example, where we have just expanded the no-go areas from four per cent up to 33½ per cent, this is probably one of the most iconic and well-known parks in the world. We manage it successfully with massive areas of pure conservation zone and other areas where there is multiple use. It is a multiple use park. There is no reason that I have seen to date. But I have given undertakings to John Thwaites and the people of Australia that I will look very carefully at any additional environmental and biodiversity information that comes forward.
Except with very rare exceptions, these parks can be managed successfully to preserve biodiversity and preserve other activities. In this case, it is an incredibly important part of Australia’s heritage. It may well be that within that park there are areas of high conservation value that need to be made totally no-go areas. There may well in fact be waterholes or areas where there are endangered species of plant where it is just entirely inappropriate for any grazing to occur. But I think that sensible modern management can provide a balanced routine.
I said today in the media that you are looking at a stocking rate of one animal per 23 Melbourne cricket grounds. It is an incredibly low stocking rate. The stocking rates can be adjusted depending on the climate. The stocking rates can be adjusted depending on impacts on biodiversity. I have seen nothing so far to suggest that any action is being taken by the Victorian government, for example, to address a whole range of other feral animals in that area. There are enormous numbers of wild bush horses, as Banjo Paterson called them, still roaming through that high country. They have an impact on the biodiversity in the alpine region.
Senator ALLISON —So in 10 days you will expect to have a thorough evaluation of the biodiversity, the situation, for instance, with the bogs in the alpine area and so forth?
Senator Ian Campbell —I would hope that the Victorian government has done a thorough analysis of that. I am deeply concerned at that government. I think even the department that has created that analysis has been providing doctored photographs for media campaigns to try to create political support in Victoria for their action. I hope that the work that is being done by the department is not reflected in the way they have provided doctored photographs for media presentation. I hope that their work is far more robust on the biodiversity and environment conservation side of things. I have 10 days to make a preliminary decision which will have the effect of putting the emergency list in place. I then have another 40 days wherein the Heritage Council have to make a decision on formal listing of the activity.
Senator ALLISON —Sounds to me like you have made up your mind, Minister. But would you consider—
Senator Ian Campbell —I have made up my mind that running cattle up in the alpine regions is an intrinsic vital part of the Australian story. No-one can deny that. It is an incredibly important part of our heritage. I have definitely made my mind up about that. But luckily I have the support in this of the department’s advice when emergency listing was last applied for. The formal advice was that these are important heritage values.
Senator ALLISON —So why couldn’t that intrinsic activity be able to be continued in state forests, many of which are in alpine areas, and on private alpine land?
Senator Ian Campbell —I am sure it will be.
Senator ALLISON —Instead of?
Senator Ian Campbell —This is the country that they have been visiting for 170 years.
Senator ALLISON —Instead of the land which is in the national park.
Senator Ian Campbell —That is what the Victorian government want to happen. They want to stop this activity taking place in the alpine national park. The whole issue is whether this should continue in the alpine national park.
Senator ALLISON —So what sorts of plans will you have for the ecological impact to be managed in terms of water quality, biodiversity and the spread of weeds? What sorts of funds will be provided in the budget to handle that?
Senator Ian Campbell —These are very important questions. We want to ensure, for example, that the Victorians have in their considerations looked at what happens to the enormous volumes of flammable material that will build up in the understorey of the alpine national park region as a result of taking out the use of herbivores to keep that understorey under control. They are all important issues. There are positives and negatives.
Senator ALLISON —But if you stop the state government doing this, presumably that makes the federal government responsible to some extent for ameliorating the effects of grazing in alpine areas.
Senator Ian Campbell —I am sure we will get to that bridge. I do not think we should be prejudging the decisions.
Senator ALLISON —It sounds like you have already, Minister.
Senator Ian Campbell —You think I have prejudged it?
Senator ALLISON —Sounds very much like it.
Senator Ian Campbell —That is because that is what I feel deeply about mountain cattlemen grazing in the alpine national region. I think it is an incredibly important part of Australia’s heritage.
Senator ALLISON —And so you would be prepared to sacrifice the environment, biodiversity, water quality, the bogs and plant life in order to maintain it. Is that correct?
Senator Ian Campbell —The bogs were there when Banjo Paterson wrote his poem and they are still there today.
Senator ALLISON —So can you map the—
Senator Ian Campbell —So is the mimosa scrub. So is the kurrajong. They were all then there and they are all still there now. What we want to make sure—and clearly you were not listening or did not want to listen—is that the heritage of Australia is protected and that is balanced against those important biodiversity and conservation needs. The reality is that those important parts of Australia’s biodiversity and environment are there at the moment and they are there after 170 years of cattle grazing. Your proposition is that if you do not stop it in August this year, the place will get wrecked. Well, 170 years of history proves that you are wrong.
Senator ALLISON —Thanks, Chair.
Senator WEBBER —I have a couple of brief questions on that issue and then we will return to some other heritage issues. I am sorry, but I was a few minutes late so Senator Allison may have covered a bit of this. We are obviously having a discussion about your press release today, Minister. In your press release you refer to the National Heritage Act. What does that act do, or is it meant to be the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act?
Senator Ian Campbell —They do interact, but the heritage act—I think David could probably go into the detail of it—is an act that is to provide very high levels and new levels of protection for Australian heritage. We are going through a process—
Senator WEBBER —So it is that act rather than the biodiversity act that you are using in this instance?
Mr Young —The emergency listing provisions are in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, but the act interacts with something called the Australian Heritage Council Act, which is the body that the government has established to provide independent statutory advice to the minister on standard listings for national heritage.
Senator WEBBER —So it is the biodiversity conservation act that has the emergency provision?
Mr Young —The emergency provisions are under the EPBC Act, yes.
Senator WEBBER —You obviously believe that there is a case for emergency listing. Do you think, Minister, that there is a case for heritage listing of the alpine national park for its national heritage values?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think there is a very strong case for that. The department has been working for some time on looking at a listing—potentially even a World Heritage listing—of the entire Australian alpine region. That crosses across a couple of states, so it is a long process, but it is one that I am very attracted to. It is a unique and remarkable part of Australia that we do need to protect.
Senator WEBBER —Would the department think of using some of the emergency listing provisions to help facilitate that, or are we just going to do that as it is?
Senator Ian Campbell —In a way, what happens is entirely complementary. The emergency listing that has been sought on this occasion by the cattlemen is to list their activity of droving—droving cattle up there at the beginning of the season, grazing them in the alps and bringing them down at the end of the season. It is an activity. It is quite a unique assessment we will have to go through. We have gone through the assessment of the activity before. We now have to do a new assessment because I was not convinced that the activity was under threat at the time. It is now under threat because the Bracks government have made a policy decision and have introduced legislation. So it seems one of the reasons it was not listed last time has now changed. It certainly does not prevent us moving forward with either a heritage listing or a World Heritage listing of the entire alpine region. But that will require consultations with the New South Wales government and the Victorian government.
Senator WONG —Mr Young, has the department written to Mr Ian Maxfield, the chair of the Alpine Grazing Task Force, on this issue?
Mr Borthwick —An officer of the department did write to the chairman about mid last year, yes.
Senator WONG —And isn’t it the case that the view was put in that correspondence that the continuation of grazing was a practice highly inconsistent with sustainable protection and management of the natural heritage values?
Mr Borthwick —Did you say consistent, or did you mean inconsistent?
Senator WONG —Sorry, highly inconsistent.
Mr Borthwick —That was the view that was put in that paper, but that view was undertaken by the officer concerned without authorisation within the department.
Senator WONG —At what level was this correspondence drafted?
Mr Borthwick —It was signed off by a branch head in the department.
Senator WONG —Branch head? Is that assistant secretary level?
Mr Borthwick —Yes.
Senator Ian Campbell —The letter also said that it was written on behalf of the minister, which it was not.
Senator WONG —So you have obviously seen this, Minister?
Senator Ian Campbell —I have, yes. It was a matter of some controversy during the election campaign. I spent two days talking about it during the campaign.
Senator WONG —So you disagreed with it?
Senator Ian Campbell —No. I checked to see whether the letter was on behalf of the minister by having the view of the former minister David Kemp put to me. It was not made on behalf of him and it was not made on behalf of me. So the letter was incorrect. Wherever it refers to the fact that she was writing on behalf of the minister was incorrect.
Senator WONG —Leaving that aside, though—
Senator Ian Campbell —It is a fairly major issue.
Senator WONG —But isn’t it the case—
Senator Ian Campbell —It would have misled the Victorian Labor backbench caucus committee that it was written to. They received something that they thought was from the federal environment minister and it was not. I sent Mr Maxfield a letter to that effect soon thereafter and he still continues to perpetrate that as a misrepresentation of the federal government and the department’s view.
Senator WONG —So you are saying this assistant secretary who took the view that grazing was inconsistent with the management and sustainable protection of the natural heritage values was not reflecting the view of the department?
Mr Borthwick —The question gets to what the department’s view is. I do not want to comment on what the department’s view is on this matter because—
Senator Ian Campbell —You will be giving me advice on it.
Mr Borthwick —we will be giving the minister advice on it. My observations go back to a failure within the department because it alleged that this advice was given on behalf of the minister. There had been no contact between the department or the minister or the then minister’s office. There had furthermore been no consultation outside the branch within the department with any other area of the department. The senior people in the department—the executive—were unaware that that submission went forward. The work was not done in the department. But my comments relate to a failure of process in the department. I do not think it is sensible for me to comment on the contents of that submission one way or another.
Senator WONG —Obviously someone reasonably senior in the department took the view that grazing is inconsistent with the protection of the area.
Mr Borthwick —Yes, they did.
Senator WONG —But it does not appear to accord with what the minister is now saying. Do you take a different view—that grazing is consistent? Is that right?
Senator Ian Campbell —Maybe the advice from the department that comes to me in the next 10 days will say that the Victorians have this totally right and that grazing is entirely inconsistent. If the department advises me that, I will read that advice very carefully. It may well be that my strong view that grazing and taking cattle up the side of those mountains, as has happened every year for the last 170 years, is overwhelmed by those other considerations. It may happen that that is the case.
Senator WONG —Wasn’t your mind reasonably closed on this already by virtue of your own indication you have a very strong view, which you promulgated publicly, that this is a unique heritage under threat and you are going to take emergency listing within 10 days?
Senator Ian Campbell —I have a very strong view about the heritage value of that activity to Australia. But that could be overwhelmed by the evidence if the department comes forward and says, ‘Look, Minister, you have this totally wrong. Grazing is just simply not compatible. The biodiversity conservation goal that we believe is right for Australia in this region can only be achieved by total exclusion of the cattle.’ It would be absolutely wrong for me to ignore such advice if that is the advice. I await the advice.
Senator WONG —So you do not think there is an issue with you coming out and already having said, ‘This legend is part of Australia’s heritage that simply cannot be lost?’ You are saying to me that people should not take from that that your mind is closed? You are quite willing to protect the area if the environmental advice is such that suggests it should be protected by ending the grazing?
Senator Ian Campbell —I need to make a decision based on what could possibly be, and probably will be, competing values. That is quite often what happens in this role. I spoke my mind absolutely in those words. I feel very strongly that the legend of The Man from Snowy River, which has been perpetuated by these generations of mountain cattlemen, is an absolutely intrinsic part of Australia’s heritage.
Senator BROWN —And so are the horses.
Senator Ian Campbell —The wild bush horses are still up there, Bob. The brumbies are still up there—
Senator BROWN —We are talking about cattle.
Senator Ian Campbell —causing the same devastation as they did then. Have you seen a plan to get them out of the alpine national park?
Senator BROWN —We are talking about cattle grazing here.
Senator Ian Campbell —Have you seen a plan to get them out of the alpine national park?
Senator BROWN —I am asking you the question.
Senator Ian Campbell —You are very happy to stop anyone going into a national park unless they are a rabid green. You are happy to stop cattlemen, you are happy to stop cattle but you do not seem to be happy to address the very problem that Banjo Paterson described in his poem.
Senator BROWN —Would you have a problem with the Japanese declaring that whaling is a heritage and cultural pursuit in the South Pacific?
Senator Ian Campbell —Absolutely, yes.
Senator BROWN —You do not see any inconsistency with those two environmentally damaging pursuits, one being heritage the other not being heritage?
Senator Ian Campbell —Do you know what is interesting? The Japanese argue that cattle, sheep and kangaroos are comparable with whales and now you are arguing the same thing. So well done, Bob. You have screwed yourself right around. You have completed a convoluted circle and got yourself in a twist.
Senator WONG —Minister, I do not really want to have to sit tomorrow, but if we continue to have lengthy discussions about these issues, we will. So if it is possible, I am sure everyone would prefer to finish tonight. I just raise that plea. Has any disciplinary action been taken against this officer?
Mr Borthwick —The officer has been spoken to. I think that is between me and the officer concerned.
Senator WONG —I was not going to ask the detail of it.
Mr Borthwick —Not disciplinary action, no.
Senator WONG —So who will be providing the advice to the minister? Will that officer be part of that process or should they be excluded?
Mr Borthwick —No. That officer has been shifted to another division, but that was a decision which was quite separate from this particular episode.
Senator WONG —When was that decision taken?
Mr Borthwick —I think it was earlier this year. It was about two or three months ago.
Senator WONG —Was that decision the subject of discussion with the minister’s office?
Mr Borthwick —No, it was not. In fact, I do not even believe I mentioned it. That is an issue for the internal workings of the department. I re-emphasise it had nothing to do with this particular incident. I regard the officer as a very worthwhile, good officer. It was really done in terms of career advancement and getting a balance of skills across the department.
Senator Ian Campbell —The officer is an extraordinarily good officer who is doing an extraordinarily good job in the role.
Senator WONG —Then you will no doubt listen to her advice—that the practice is highly inconsistent with the sustainable protection and management of its natural heritage values.
Senator Ian Campbell —The advice of the department is in that form, of course.
Senator MARK BISHOP —I want to shift the discussion to another part of the world—to some of the matters arising out of Gallipoli this year. For the record, Mr Borthwick, could we have an explanation of the law with respect to the nomination of overseas heritage sites to be listed.
Mr Borthwick —I will leave it to Mr Young to start off with that.
Senator MARK BISHOP —This is in the context of Gallipoli.
Mr Young —The opportunity exists under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for any member of the public to nominate a place either in Australia or overseas for consideration by the minister for addition to the National Heritage List. There is a difference, though, between nominations made for places in Australia and places overseas. That difference exists because essentially overseas nominations are matters of intergovernmental relations. Therefore, the statutory time frames in which government needs to consider an overseas nomination are not fixed.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Not fixed?
Mr Young —Not fixed. In particular, the minister, when he receives a nomination, may choose when to refer that matter to the Australian Heritage Council. The reason for that is in general terms to give the government an opportunity to consult and have a discussion with the foreign country in which the nomination is made. Once the nomination process is in train, it is basically a similar process to that for a domestic nomination. A decision can be made to place the overseas nomination on the list with the agreement of that overseas country.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Which list is that?
Mr Young —On the National Heritage List, I am sorry. So the government must secure the overseas country’s agreement prior to making that decision. The final difference between the overseas nominations and domestic ones is that the penalty provisions of the EPBC Act do not apply except for Australian citizens in that overseas place—that is, we have no extraterritorial jurisdiction to protect a place in an overseas country except if an Australian citizen or permanent resident causes damage to that place. We can then take action under our own domestic law.
Senator MARK BISHOP —In a legal sense, does the EPBC Act have extraterritorial application?
Mr Young —To the extent that it regulates the actions of Australian citizens and residents whilst overseas, yes. But beyond that, no.
Senator MARK BISHOP —So only if an Australian citizen or permanent resident does happen to violate a heritage listed site overseas does the extraterritorial application come into being?
Mr Young —Correct.
Senator MARK BISHOP —The rest of the process is really a matter of the nomination, the listing, the consultation, the time, the time processes involved and the final consent from the foreign government and a listing by the Australian government. They are all domestic processes under a domestic act?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Do you recall that the Prime Minister said on 18 December 2003 in respect of committing to Gallipoli that it was ‘the first nomination for inclusion on the National Heritage List’?
Mr Young —I am aware that the Prime Minister made that statement.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Can you give me now the chronology of action to implement that decision or directive of the Prime Minister? What has occurred since that time?
Mr Young —What has occurred?
Senator MARK BISHOP —Yes.
Mr Young —Basically in general terms the government has been in discussions with the Turkish government to canvass its views regarding that nomination and, in particular, what it might mean for Turkish sovereignty. Those discussions continued right up until the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Turkey. It has been agreed that the discussions will continue after that visit.
Senator MARK BISHOP —We might just go back and get the time sequence correct for the record. When did the discussions commence after the Prime Minister’s first public statement?
Mr Young —I think it is probably important to indicate that discussions commenced prior to the Prime Minister’s statement.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Perhaps you might take me through the discussions, to the extent that you can, prior to, with the times involved, the people involved, the locations involved, the Prime Minister’s statement and subsequent similar activity.
Mr Borthwick —I think we would prefer to take on notice that sort of detail. It is very detailed information. I do not think we would have that information readily available. As Mr Young indicated, there might have been some discussions going back to 2002. But there have been ongoing discussions at various levels. Exactly what we should release and what transpired over that period of time I think we would need to have a very good look at. It will not be all within our department’s auspices. A lot of these discussions would have been undertaken by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. For the most part, those discussions would not have been undertaken directly by officers of this department. So I think it best to take the question on notice and discuss it with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Prime Minister’s department and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the War Graves Commission because those parties would have been involved to one extent or another.
Senator MARK BISHOP —That is fine. I would have expected that you would have started doing that detailed work for the Senate inquiry for 16 or 18 June, whenever it is going to be done, to give us an overview of the government’s activity. It would be a very detailed listing of the government’s activity, being such a prominent matter.
Mr Borthwick —But that will be well beyond the remit of our department. I think your question opens up a whole raft of issues which are beyond the question just of the national heritage listing. That is very pertinent, of course, but it does open up some broader issues.
Senator MARK BISHOP —It does open up a range of issues, Mr Borthwick; I do not quarrel with you there. As far as this department is concerned, the key point is the listing under the domestic act and the Prime Minister’s involvement from very early days demonstrating his interest in that and his involvement recently within the last month in discussions with the Prime Minister of Turkey and the series of public statements he has made. So to the extent that your department has been involved in those prior discussions, I accept that we did not advise you tonight that we were going to be asking these questions, so you may not have the exact detailed chronology. But perhaps in that context, then, an overview of the discussions that have been held to which the department has knowledge because it has been involved might be the way through that issue.
Mr Borthwick —Yes. But we will have to talk to other departments because there have been ongoing discussions through our embassy in Turkey. We will have to go and check the chronology of events.
Senator MARK BISHOP —So is Mr Young able to offer any advice this evening, or are you directing him not to?
Senator Ian Campbell —We are saying it would be better, in terms of providing information, to take it on notice. You have already alluded to another committee process. I presume if multiple departments are going to be there, it might be more appropriate. I have obviously followed it since I have been the minister. A lot of the information about this issue is diplomatic traffic controlled by Foreign Affairs. The PM has had an interest, Foreign Affairs have had an interest and our department has had an interest. I am sure there would be one other department.
Senator MARK BISHOP —But a lot of that discussion that has been in the public arena of late does not relate to matters that are at all the responsibility of this department.
Senator Ian Campbell —No. We can be as idealistic as we want to be about getting the progress on a listing like this, but unless we got the diplomatic channels working properly and the support of the Prime Minister, in the process we are almost the last stop. When all that is sorted out, they say, ‘Okay, let’s go ahead and do it.’ We then send David over there.
Senator MARK BISHOP —That is an interesting comment. I accept that—
Senator Ian Campbell —It is a complicated thing.
Senator MARK BISHOP —I accept that Air Vice Marshal Beck, for instance, through the Office of War Graves, is heavily involved in a lot of the negotiations to do with work at Anzac Cove. His office is charged with that responsibility. But this department has the heritage perspective.
Mr Borthwick —But this matter is not easily disentangled. For example, Mr Young was over in Turkey only a few weeks ago just prior to the Prime Minister’s visit. But that delegation was led by a deputy secretary in the Prime Minister’s department. It involved Veterans’ Affairs and Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as our own department. So you cannot easily compartmentalise the heritage issue from all the other issues that we have been discussing with Turkey.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Let me ask you this question, Mr Borthwick: which, if any, is the lead department on this issue? Is it PM&C, Foreign Affairs, yourselves or Vets?
Mr Borthwick —PM&C of late has had the lead role. There was extensive questioning of PM&C only a day or two ago when they were before the estimates committee.
Senator MARK BISHOP —I did that questioning of PM&C at estimates involving Mr Metcalfe. You say PM&C is of late the lead department.
Mr Borthwick —They are the lead department because the issue cuts across the responsibility of a number of arms of government. When we are dealing with a foreign country—as was explained by Mr Metcalfe—with whom we have an extraordinarily good and fruitful relationship, it is customary for PM&C in those circumstances to make sure there is a whole-of-government position and that all the various arms of government are working towards the one objective. So all I am saying is that in terms of the possible national heritage listing, it involved more than our department. I want to make sure that we have a proper integrated sequence of events.
Mr Young —I think it might be safe to say that there is a big difference between the way Mr Beck has worked and the way we have worked. We have worked with the channel of the ambassador in Turkey as our key person. So it is absolutely not our role to answer all those questions because those things have been dealt with by other departments.
Senator MARK BISHOP —But it is your job to answer questions about the processes of the heritage listing because that processes are vested in your department. In the final analysis, it would be the minister at the table who would make the final decision. The act vests that power with him.
Mr Borthwick —They are, but as Mr Young explained, that is subject to the agreement of Turkey. I think we just need to be very careful in terms of our relationships with Turkey that we have a look at exactly what transpired and take it under advice. I am very being very careful here because these things do need to be handled with some sensitivity.
Senator MARK BISHOP —So you are telling me that you will take the questions on notice?
Mr Borthwick —On notice.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Could you provide to this committee prior to the date of that Senate committee hearing a chronology of the events both prior to and after the Prime Minister’s announcement on 18 December concerning the heritage listing. You are telling me that now necessarily involves a range of other departments that have to be consulted with. Is that question clear, Mr Young?
Mr Young —It is very clear, thanks, Senator.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Could you also in that answer advise us who was involved in the negotiations and the time and place of those negotiations and which officers were involved as well. Could you also tell us which departmental officials and on how many occasions they have visited Turkey to process the negotiations or the consultation in that time period as well across all of the relevant agencies. Could we have that a day or two prior to the committee hearing. Otherwise we will just have to go through it for hours on end at the committee hearing. Whilst we were in Gallipoli this year or shortly thereafter, our Prime Minister met with the Prime Minister of Turkey, not the President of Turkey, on this issue. Immediately prior to that or shortly afterwards, the Prime Minister of Turkey made a public statement to the effect that the Turkish government did not consent to the site being listed as a heritage site. Are you familiar with that, Mr Young and Mr Borthwick?
Mr Borthwick —I have not seen exactly what the Turkish Prime Minister said, but I think your characterisations are broadly right, yes.
Senator MARK BISHOP —I think that is right. Do we know why the Prime Minister of Turkey made that decision?
Mr Borthwick —I cannot really comment on that.
Senator Ian Campbell —I do not think the environment secretary should be asked to psychoanalyse the thinking of the Prime Minister of Turkey. Quite obviously—
Senator MARK BISHOP —I am asking for the public reasons. I am not asking him to go into his private mind. The Prime Minister of Turkey made—
Senator Ian Campbell —I see. He made a statement of reasons why.
Senator MARK BISHOP —The Prime Minister held a press conference, as I recall.
Senator Ian Campbell —He explained his reasons. That is a fair question. We should get a transcript of that press conference and then just have it tabled.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Mr Borthwick would be familiar with it.
Mr Borthwick —Clearly in our discussions with Turkey there has been an exchange as to what their views were. I have not seen the Turkish Prime Minister’s statement. I take it from what you have said the statement largely speaks for itself. But I am quite happy to track that down.
Senator MARK BISHOP —But you would be familiar with the Prime Minister of Turkey’s reasons. Your act requires your department to engage in certain processes. You might contract that out to our ambassador or to DFAT. The obligations upon you and your officials require the consent of the foreign government for the site to be listed under our act. The Prime Minister of the foreign government has made a decision. Our government has been informed. It is in the press. You would know, and you would have to know and you should know, the reasons for the decision of the government of Turkey.
Mr Borthwick —But the publicly announced reasons of the Turkish government are on the record. They are not for us to interpret.
Senator MARK BISHOP —I am not asking you to interpret them. I am asking you to outline them.
Mr Borthwick —It is not for me to outline.
Senator MARK BISHOP —It is for you to outline, with due respect.
Mr Borthwick —No, it is not.
Senator MARK BISHOP —It is your act. The obligation is upon you to seek the consent of the Turkish government.
Senator Ian Campbell —This is a matter that has been dealt with between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of Turkey. The advice that is being sought now is of a nature to do with international relations.
Senator MARK BISHOP —With due respect, it is not. I am seeking advice on the activities—
Senator Ian Campbell —What we can do, Mr Chairman, is get the statement of the Prime Minister of Turkey, if it will help the senator—we will try and track down a copy of it—and have it tabled for the committee. That answers the question.
Senator MARK BISHOP —No, it does not. I am asking Mr Borthwick about the activities of his department under the enabling act which he administers. Mr Young advised us early in the proceedings that listing a foreign site under our domestic act, which I established, requires the consent of a foreign government. The consent of the foreign government in question has been denied. I am asking the secretary of the department to give us the reasons. It is your act, your department. You are officials.
Senator Ian Campbell —The senator has said that the reasons have been set out by the Prime Minister of Turkey in a statement. There may in fact be a transcript of that statement. The answer to the question would be contained in the statement.
Senator MARK BISHOP —You are evading your responsibilities.
CHAIR —I do not think so, Senator Bishop. He has made it fairly clear what the position is.
Senator MARK BISHOP —With due respect—
Senator Ian Campbell —The Labor Party made it clear they want to beef this up as far as they can for their own populist short-term political gain. We expect this game to be played. But it does not advance the cause. It does not advance the estimates process.
Senator WONG —Get them to rave in the car park.
Senator Ian Campbell —As I have said, if the senator wants an answer to the question, we will happily, as a service to the committee, I suspect, ring Foreign Affairs and see if a transcript exists and have it tabled here.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Have you been advised of the reasons, Mr Borthwick?
CHAIR —The minister has offered a means of discovering the reason.
Senator MARK BISHOP —I have a different question.
Senator WONG —It is a different question.
CHAIR —The minister has offered a reason so why don’t we go down that pathway.
Senator MARK BISHOP —And I have asked a different question. I will ask the questions. I have asked a different question.
Senator Ian Campbell —We are now doing what is called sawing sawdust. I think Senator Wong has given us good advice earlier. Rather than going on and playing cheap politics and having these long-winded things, I think Senator Wong is absolutely correct: we should move to questions.
Senator WONG —I am pleased to hear you are going to take that advice, Minister.
Senator Ian Campbell —Rightly.
Senator WONG —I think Senator Bishop was asking a question.
Senator MARK BISHOP —I am asking a different question. I am asking—
CHAIR —He is asking the same question in a different way, essentially.
Senator MARK BISHOP —I am asking the secretary of the department whether he has been informed of the decision of the Prime Minister of Turkey.
Senator Ian Campbell —The answer is yes to that.
Senator MARK BISHOP —And what are the reasons?
Senator Ian Campbell —The reasons are contained, as you have seen, in the Prime Minister’s statement. I have said I will try really hard to get you a copy.
Senator MARK BISHOP —And Mr Borthwick knows the reasons now. He has received a brief from DFAT and our ambassador in Turkey and the Prime Minister’s department. Everyone knows the answers and I am asking what the answers are.
Senator Ian Campbell —Those of us who care about Australia-Turkey relations and those of us who care about this process know intimately the views of the Turkish government on this. We have enormous respect for them. We have enormous respect for achieving a good outcome for both nations in this process.
Senator MARK BISHOP —What are the reasons?
Senator Ian Campbell —What we do not have respect for is people who beat it up for their own personal aggrandisement and their own personal cheap, petty political point scoring. That is what this is. I suggest we move to questions where we can actually do something constructive for this country.
Senator MARK BISHOP —We could do something constructive now if the secretary of the department would answer the questions.
Senator Ian Campbell —We have answered the question three times.
Senator MARK BISHOP —You have not answered it.
Senator Ian Campbell —We have answered the question three times. You know the answer. You are just playing games now. You are going down the same path that you did as one of the worst opposition spokesmen on veterans’ affairs in the history of the country.
Senator WONG —Come on.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Has the department received advice—
Senator Ian Campbell —I am not going to sit here and cop this political tirade. If you want to play politics, I will play it straight back again.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Has the department received advice—
Senator Ian Campbell —Senator Wong is quite happy to have one of her comrades playing politics, but when the minister, who is also a politician, says, ‘Well, two can play at that game’, she gets a bit upset.
Senator WONG —I think it is an inappropriate thing to be commenting on someone’s competence and performance—
Senator Ian Campbell —I will decide how I respond.
Senator WONG —that is all.
CHAIR —The minister has put a reasonable proposition to solve the problem.
Senator Ian Campbell —He does not want to problem solve. He wants to beat it up for as long as he can.
CHAIR —So why don’t we accept that.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Okay. Let us move on, then. The Prime Minister has announced a new project to investigate the heritage and environmental issues following the meeting with the Prime Minister of Turkey. What are the terms of reference of that project?
Mr Young —There are two main components, the first of which was to investigate the historical significance of areas surrounding the Anzac Cove area itself and the roadworks. The second is to look more broadly at the historical significance of what is called the Anzac area as a whole. The terms of reference for those studies have not been developed as yet. As Mr Borthwick has referred to earlier, many parts of government are involved. In both those studies, the lead agency is the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Senator MARK BISHOP —DVA is the lead agency? I did not quite understand you, Mr Young, I am sorry.
Mr Young —In taking forward those two particular studies.
Senator MARK BISHOP —The DVA will be the lead agency?
Mr Young —They are the lead agency.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Through the Office of War Graves or through the department itself?
Mr Young —I think you would have to ask the Department of Veterans’ Affairs that. I do not know the details.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Has the membership of that committee been determined yet?
Mr Young —Not for those particular projects, no. There is an interdepartmental committee led by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which is looking at those.
Senator MARK BISHOP —So who is on the IDC?
Mr Young —A range of senior officials from—
Senator MARK BISHOP —No, which departments?
Mr Young —I do not have a list here. Again, it is a question you probably ought to direct to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Is your department on it?
Mr Young —Yes.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Is DVA on it?
Mr Young —Yes, I think so.
Senator MARK BISHOP —And PM&C is on it?
Mr Young —They chair it. I do not have the list of the committee members.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Have you seen the list of the committee members?
Mr Young —No. I think I have received an invitation to attend two meetings of that committee.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Did you attend those two meetings?
Mr Young —I was sitting here this afternoon for the second of those meetings so it was an apology.
Senator MARK BISHOP —The first meeting?
Mr Young —The first meeting I attended, yes.
Senator MARK BISHOP —And which other departments attended the first meeting?
Mr Young —There were a significant number of organisations around the table. I do not know off the top of my head all of the people or organisations.
Senator MARK BISHOP —The ones you do know. You knew some of the people in the room, did you?
Mr Young —Yes, I did know some of the people.
Senator MARK BISHOP —And were you introduced to the other—
Senator Ian Campbell —This is being run out of PM&C.
Mr Borthwick —This is a project that is run by another department. It is not for us to answer these questions.
Senator Ian Campbell —You should put a question on notice to the relevant department that is leading the IDC and say, ‘Dear Minister, please provide me with a list of the other departments on the IDC.’
Senator MARK BISHOP —I asked Mr Young whether he attended a meeting on behalf of his own department, and he said yes.
Senator Ian Campbell —Good.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Then I asked him who—
Senator Ian Campbell —Who else was in the room.
Senator MARK BISHOP —That is right. Who else is on the IDC.
Senator Ian Campbell —And he said he cannot answer because he does not have a list. If you want a list, put the question down at the appropriate committee.
Senator MARK BISHOP —How long will the committee meet for?
Mr Young —Again, it is a question you should direct to Prime Minister and Cabinet. I do not know the answer to that question.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Is the committee charged with pursuing heritage listing now that the government of Turkey has made its decision?
Mr Young —I think the committee is charged with looking at ways in which appropriate recognition of Anzac Cove can be achieved with the mutual consent of both governments.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Which may or may not involve heritage listing per se?
Mr Young —It may or may not; that is correct.
Senator MARK BISHOP —And the lead agency, you say, is PM&C?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator MARK BISHOP —I thought you said earlier that DVA were going to have a critical role in pursuing this now. I asked you whether it was DVA or the Office of War Graves and you did not know.
Mr Young —You asked a question about some particular studies. I referred to two studies which are to investigate the historical significance of two parts of the Anzac area in Turkey. Those two studies are to be led by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Understood. Thank you for clarifying that point. Does the IDC that has been established have a wider brief than those two issues charged to DVA?
Mr Young —Yes.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Does it have terms of reference?
Mr Young —Its broad mandate is to address the issues that came out from the meeting of the two prime ministers earlier this year.
Senator MARK BISHOP —And you described that a couple of minutes ago as finding ways acceptable to both governments of advancing the issue, which may or may not involve particular listing under your act?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator MARK BISHOP —If there is not to be any heritage listing, does your department have any basis under either the EPBC Act or the Australian Heritage Act for involvement?
Mr Young —Involvement in what?
Senator MARK BISHOP —In the process going forward, the broad terms of reference. The Prime Minister of Turkey has denied heritage listing to the site. Your agency is charged with heritage functions. If it is not to be a heritage listing under the act, what is the legitimacy of the continuing involvement of Environment and Conservation?
Senator Ian Campbell —My recollection of the Prime Minister’s statement was that the two governments had agreed on a forward process. That does involve a range of activities in which this department has expertise.
Senator MARK BISHOP —That is fine. That is news to me. I thought that the role of the department was down the road of heritage and heritage listing. You are now saying that the department has another role. I am really asking what that other role is.
Senator Ian Campbell —Heritage listing is one of the functions of the department. We have a body of experts in the department who are expert on heritage issues. They are not all there to go around looking to list things. Sometimes people come to us and say, ‘We’re interested in doing something about this heritage. How can you help us?’ St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth is an example. We had heritage people look at the plans by the Catholic Church in Perth, who sought assistance, and I and Senator Ellison delivered it to them two Fridays ago. We would have people in the Heritage Division of this department that would make assessments about the merits, for example, of St Mary’s Church and give the government advice on that sort of thing. I do not think we have any plans to list that particular cathedral.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Thank you. Thank you, Chair.
Senator WONG —Can you tell me what the current status of the National Heritage List is? How many sites have been nominated for full listing and how many sites have been nominated for emergency listing? How many sites have been accepted, how many have been rejected and how many are still being considered? Do you have to take it on notice or do you have that information here?
Mr Young —No, I probably do not need to take it on notice. There have been 84 nominations to the National Heritage List. There are eight places currently—
Senator WONG —Sorry, I missed the first one.
Mr Young —There have been 84 nominations to the list. There are eight places on the list. I am sorry, but could you repeat some of the other parts of your question, please.
Senator WONG —How many have been nominated for full listing?
Mr Young —Eighty-four.
Senator WONG —How many nominated for emergency listing?
Mr Young —I believe the answer is 26 as of this afternoon.
Senator WONG —That includes the alpine issue? That was nominated this afternoon. Is that right?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —Are they cumulative figures—84 and 26—or is the 26 included in the 84?
Mr Young —No, they are separate.
Senator WONG —Separate?
Mr Young —The 84 is the nominations for standard listing and 26 is the number for—
Senator WONG —And currently eight have been accepted. Is that right?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —How many have been rejected?
Mr Young —Five.
Senator WONG —So this is five out of the 110? I am trying to work it out.
Mr Young —Sorry, five out of the 84.
Senator WONG —What about of the emergencies?
Mr Young —Let me check my figures. Twenty-three have been rejected.
Senator WONG —Of the 26?
Mr Young —I am sorry, 25 have been rejected of the 26.
Senator WONG —Twenty-five?
Mr Young —I will start again. There have been 26, including the one today. Twenty-four have been rejected. One has been listed and one is pending.
Senator WONG —And the pending one is the one we spent some time on earlier?
Senator Ian Campbell —No.
Senator WONG —No?
Mr Young —Yes.
Senator WONG —On notice, could you give us a list—
Senator Ian Campbell —Was Kurnell the one that did?
Mr Young —Kurnell was the one that did.
Senator Ian Campbell —There has been a heritage listing of a part of it since. That is right. That is my recollection.
Senator WONG —The one emergency listing?
Senator Ian Campbell —It is Kurnell Peninsula, which we listed. Then we subsequently formally heritage listed a portion of the peninsula.
Senator WONG —Mr Young, on notice, I wonder if you could provide the actual places that comprise the various figures you have just given me—the 84, the 26 et cetera.
Mr Young —Under the legislation we are allowed to provide you the list of places that are nominated that have been referred by the minister to the council. I guess the answer to the question is most of them. But the act does not allow us to disclose nominations until they have reached a certain point in the process.
Senator WONG —Is there a prohibition on disclosure in the act or just an indication of when it is publicly available? Obviously an estimates hearings is a slightly different process to publication.
Mr Young —No. There is a prohibition. The information cannot be made available until the minister has determined that the nomination has been accepted.
Senator WONG —So you cannot give us a list of the 84 nominations?
Mr Young —I am not sure that you will get all 84, but you will get the overwhelming majority of them.
Senator WONG —If you could do that, I would appreciate that.
Senator Ian Campbell —You might get one or two, I suspect.
Senator WONG —And if you can indicate the basis of why others are not provided as well in the answer, I would appreciate that. Of those, how many sites were nominated more than 12 months ago? Of those which have not been placed on the list—let us exclude the eight, if we can do that—how many of the nominations were nominated more than 12 months ago?
Mr Young —I will have to take that one on notice.
Senator WONG —You do not have—
Mr Young —I do not carry that calculation in my head. I can get it for you.
Senator WONG —Why is that information not on the public record?
Mr Young —Any nominations for which the Heritage Council has requested an extension to the assessment period—and the statutory assessment period is 12 months—are published on the department’s web site.
Senator WONG —When you do your list, can you give us the dates of the nominations as well?
Mr Young —Okay.
Senator WONG —Senator Bishop may have asked this, and I do not wish to re-canvass the Anzac Cove discussion, but is the nomination of Anzac Cove on the heritage web site?
Mr Young —No, it is not.
Senator WONG —Why is that?
Mr Young —I indicated to you that, until the minister formally initiates the nomination process, the process does not proceed. That gives the government a chance to negotiate with a foreign government. Until those negotiations have concluded, it does not proceed. Once it has agreed to proceed, then it goes on the web site.
Senator WONG —Remind me how many World Heritage sites we have.
Mr Young —Sixteen.
Senator WONG —How many of them are on the list?
Mr Young —How many World Heritage sites are on the National Heritage List? One.
Senator WONG —Which one is that?
Mr Young —The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne.
Senator WONG —So where are the other 15?
Mr Young —They are not on the National Heritage List.
Senator WONG —I seem to recall this debate in the Senate. Senator Brown can probably remind me. Wasn’t there a six-month grace period to allow the transfer of some of these World Heritage sites on to the National Heritage List?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —When was that bill passed?
Mr Young —It took effect on 1 January 2004.
Senator WONG —So we are a fair way down the track. Why is it the case that only one out of 16 have been placed on the National Heritage List?
Mr Young —Because the provisions of the act to transfer them from the World Heritage list on to the National Heritage List were not enacted.
Senator WONG —Were not enacted?
Mr Young —Were not enacted.
Senator WONG —Were not passed into legislation?
Mr Young —The provisions in the act were not acted upon.
Senator WONG —Thank you. They were enacted but they were not acted on. Why weren’t they acted upon?
Mr Young —Because at the time the advice the department had was that World Heritage properties could be placed on the National Heritage List at any time.
Senator WONG —So the department’s legal advice was wrong?
Mr Young —Correct.
Senator WONG —When did you discover this?
Mr Young —I do not know the exact date, but it was earlier this year.
Senator WONG —Which was after the six-month period had passed, in any event?
Mr Young —Substantially past that date.
Senator WONG —My recollection of the debate may be hazy, but I seem to recall it being a subject of discussion in the Senate that the six-month grace period would enable efficient listing of the World Heritage areas.
Mr Young —I was not party to those debates. I was not with the department at that time.
Senator WONG —Are you telling me that the department did not understand what the legal position was and delayed for over a year before they worked out from their legal advice that they had to go through the whole process of listing again?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —When was that legal advice sought that said, ‘Oops, you have made a mistake?’
Mr Young —As I have said, earlier this year. I do not have the precise date in front of me.
Senator WONG —Do you have it, Mr Borthwick?
Mr Borthwick —No. I do not know the date of that. Mr Young might be able to provide a clarification. I think it was known about that six-month provision. But I think our understanding was that it did not have the consequence in terms of transferring World Heritage properties to the national list after that six-month period. That is not that the six months was not operative but that it did not have any consequences in terms of us transferring—
Senator WONG —There are two issues, aren’t there, Mr Borthwick?
Mr Borthwick —Let me just finish the point. So there was clearly a misunderstanding in the department as to the act’s meaning. That, quite frankly, is a problem. I am not trying to dodge that. It should have been done. Our understanding of the legislation is that the legislation was not what we thought it was. But in terms of the priorities of getting things on the National Heritage List, the direction that the department and the council have been taking is to give priority to those things that were nominated by the public—the 84 nominations. That is where the effort was being put. The World Heritage properties already have a very high level of protection by dint of the fact that they are World Heritage properties. The emphasis was putting on those things that, one, came from the public and, two, did not have that level of protection. So there was a misunderstanding in the department of the legal provisions at the time, and that is unfortunate.
Senator WONG —Aren’t there two issues? The first is that the parliament set out a time frame for the transfer of World Heritage listed areas on to the National Heritage List, which the department appears to have ignored?
Mr Borthwick —No, it has not ignored it.
Senator WONG —Well, you did not do it in the six months.
Mr Borthwick —No, because our understanding of the legislation was that we could do it beyond that six-month period. The intention was to focus on those areas which did not have the protection of the World Heritage areas.
Senator WONG —I heard that part of your answer. But my point is that there are two issues. One is you were given six months and you did not comply with it.
Mr Borthwick —No, no, no.
Senator WONG —Let me finish the question. The second is that you acted on a misunderstanding, which is a very understated way to put it, of what the legal position is.
Mr Borthwick —That is right.
Senator WONG —Can you provide me with an indication of when the legal advice was sought?
Mr Young —When, did you say, Senator?
Senator WONG —I am sorry?
Mr Young —Did you say when?
Senator WONG —Yes. When was the legal advice sought?
Mr Young —Earlier this year.
Senator WONG —On notice, can you find the date for me, please.
Mr Young —Certainly.
Senator WONG —By whom? Was that by Mr Borthwick or by your section?
Mr Young —That was by my division.
Senator WONG —And what precipitated that?
Mr Young —I think the desire to start to populate the National Heritage List with the World Heritage places.
Senator WONG —So you sought advice a year and a bit after the act was passed. Is that right?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —Was it December 2003 when the list was launched?
Mr Young —The new act came into effect on 1 January 2004.
Senator WONG —So you think you sought advice some time earlier this year?
Mr Young —Yes.
Senator WONG —Was that the first advice you had sought about moving World Heritage areas onto the National Heritage List?
Mr Young —The first legal advice, yes.
Senator WONG —Had you done anything on moving the World Heritage areas prior to seeking that advice, Mr Young?
Mr Young —Not that I am aware of.
Senator WONG —So what is the consequence of this? Again, I am sure my recollection of the debate might be wrong, but my recollection was that the six-month process was because that would mean that the formal investigation assessment process that the act requires would not be required in relation to the World Heritage areas. Is that not correct?
Mr Young —There are two answers to the question. One is that in a statutory protection sense there are no consequences for the protection of the World Heritage areas at all. They are afforded the same and full protection of the law without national heritage listing as they would be with it. In terms of the desire to get the places on to the list, as the law currently stands, we have to go through the process of standard nomination and assessment.
Senator Ian Campbell —They are well within the law.
Senator WONG —Which is a far more laborious task than would have been if you had done it in the first six months?
Mr Young —Correct.
Senator WONG —Are you seeking, or have you been provided with, additional resources by government to do that?
Senator Ian Campbell —We can amend the law. That is the other thing.
Senator WONG —Fix up the mistake by amending the law?
Senator Ian Campbell —Absolutely, yes. That is a very simple thing to do.
Senator WONG —So roll it up to the Senate and say, ‘Oops, we forgot to do it. Could you please give us more time, a year and a half later?’
Senator Ian Campbell —I remember my only conversation with Paul Keating was when he sat next to me on a plane and said, ‘Those bloody Senate committees.’ I think he said something worse than ‘bloody’. I said, ‘Well, if you have your legislation in those Senate committees, they fix up a lot of mistakes and save you a lot of trouble coming back and fixing all your legislation.’
Senator WONG —I hope you remember that.
Senator Ian Campbell —Governments do make mistakes. Senate committees in those days used to sit for one day on a Friday and return the legislation within a day.
Senator WONG —When the minister has finished his Senate processes lecture, I will proceed with the next question.
Senator Ian Campbell —You should have a look at how many laws come back for fixing up in the Senate. It is not an unusual thing to do.
Senator WONG —Yes, I recall the ASIO legislation.
Senator Ian Campbell —The department, quite properly, gave precedence to properties that had no heritage protection.
Senator WONG —Don’t get aggressive. Your department has not acted for over 12 months on listing World Heritage areas. It only sought legal advice this year. I appreciate they have other things to do but it is a pretty big miss.
Senator Ian Campbell —No, it is not.
Senator WONG —This is in a situation where I really think you should be charging—
Senator Ian Campbell —The department has put its energies into listing new properties that have been nominated by members of the Australian community and that have no heritage protection at the moment. If I were asked this a year ago and was told, ‘Here, Minister, are the choices we’ve got with the resources of the Heritage Division of your department. You can either put effort into listing 84 new sites that have no heritage protection or spend six months transferring World Heritage listed properties that have full protection’, only an idiot would suggest to them that they would spend six months doing that when they have time to do this. They have the judgment absolutely right.
Senator WONG —When you are finished, I think the point is that they have now caused themselves work. Leave that to one side.
Senator Ian Campbell —No. They are going to write a bill that will be about a page long and it will go into the Senate. Hopefully, sensible people will vote for it. But I am sure one person will make it a big debate and say, ‘Oh, everyone stuffed up. The department is a disgrace and the government is in chaos.’ We will have a big debate when it takes a one-line amendment. But in the meantime they have been doing terrific work listing heritage properties nominated by the people of Australia.
Senator WONG —Eight.
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes.
Senator WONG —Eight out of 110.
Senator Ian Campbell —Eight very important—
Senator WONG —Eight out of 110.
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes. They have a very diligent process.
Senator WONG —What are you doing about ensuring the rate of listing—
Senator Ian Campbell —Let us just list the whole lot. Let us not have a diligent process. Let us just list the whole lot. Let us give them a tick.
Senator WONG —I am for diligent process—
Senator Ian Campbell —Wake up.
Senator WONG —but do not sit here and say your heritage legislation has created some fantastic outcome. Not only have you missed the World Heritage areas for over a year but you have eight out of 110.
Senator Ian Campbell —They are World Heritage listed, Senator.
CHAIR —They are listed.
Senator Ian Campbell —They have the highest level of protection of any piece of Australia available. Instead of looking at new properties and listing those 84 properties, you are saying to go and list something that is already listed. Well, your priorities are absolutely stupid.
Senator WONG —I think they should have done it in the first six months—
Senator Ian Campbell —Well, your priorities—
Senator WONG —which is what the Senate decided—
Senator Ian Campbell —are absolutely stupid.
Senator WONG —and what your government put up as legislation. That is all. But moving on—
Senator Ian Campbell —The department has done the right thing. We will seek to amend the legislation and there will be no consequential problem.
Senator WONG —Are you going to keep talking all night?
Senator Ian Campbell —I presume so. It is marvellous. I am planning it.
Senator WONG —So the full process of investigation that you discuss, Mr Young, presumably given how many have actually been listed and how many are nominated, is reasonably labour intensive?
Mr Young —It requires us to do a thorough assessment. If you will just hear me for a second, internationally, countries such as the United States typically list between 10 and 20 places per year. The reason for that is that national lists include necessarily the most important places in those countries.
Senator WONG —Absolutely.
Mr Young —In addition, the assessment processes that this legislation has set out for us do require us to look very closely at the nomination that is made and then take into consideration all of the consequences that might occur from listing, including, of course, consulting with a wide range of interested parties.
Senator WONG —Thank you, Mr Young. Have you sought or been provided with any additional resources in order to get through the significant backlog that appears to exist in relation to heritage listing?
Mr Young —My understanding is when the legislation was announced there was a package of funding called the Distinctively Australian funding which was provided explicitly for that purpose.
Senator WONG —So there has been no addition to that?
Mr Young —No addition to that.
Senator WONG —When was the minister advised of this legal problem?
Mr Young —When it became known to us earlier this year.
Senator WONG —Was the status of the World Heritage areas the subject of any advice to the minister in the past year?
Mr Young —Can you clarify what you mean by status.
Senator WONG —I mean in terms of the National Heritage List.
Mr Young —Sorry, but I am not clear on the question.
Senator WONG —Was the fact that the World Heritage areas were not on the National Heritage List the subject of advice to the minister prior to the legal advice being provided?
Senator Ian Campbell —I was aware of what was on the register two days before I became minister. The first function I had as minister was to launch the first two listings. I had a thorough brief on the whole process.
Senator WONG —So you were aware at that point that the World Heritage areas were not on the list?
Senator Ian Campbell —The first one I listed was a World Heritage area. It is called the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne.
Senator WONG —It is the one you have done.
Senator Ian Campbell —I correct the record. The first ones I listed were the stampede and the Aboriginal traps down at Budj Bim. We listed the Exhibition Building on Australia Day.
Senator WONG —Thank you for that. Have drafting instructions been issued in relation to the amendment that the minister talks about?
Mr Young —No.
Senator WONG —I am sorry?
Mr Young —No, they have not.
Senator WONG —Mr Young, I think you said you have eight so far listed out of the 84. Would you anticipate on your current resource level that the rate of listing will increase, or do you anticipate that it will remain about the same?
Mr Young —The rate of listing is dependent on, I guess, two things. One is the rate at which they are assessed. The second one is the number of nominations received.
Senator WONG —The rate of determination, I should say.
Mr Young —The rate of decisions on nominations?
Senator WONG —Decisions.
Mr Young —A significant number of the 84 nominations were in the first six months after the legislation was passed. They are now reaching their statutory deadline. There is certainly a peak in workload at the moment to process those assessments. But we are making good progress through them.
Senator WONG —How many staff in your area are working on this issue, Mr Young?
Mr Young —There are around 90 staff in the division.
Senator WONG —How many work on national heritage listings? All of them?
Mr Young —No.
Senator WONG —Well, what proportion?
Mr Young —Probably about 50 per cent work on the EPBC amendments.
Senator WONG —Are you aware of criticisms by the head of the National Trust, Professor Mulvaney, who described the National Heritage List as abysmal, saying that the credibility of the government’s heritage system is in question thanks to the grinding halt in protecting places of significance?
Mr Young —I am aware of his comments.
Senator WONG —Do you agree with him?
Mr Young —No.
Senator WONG —I remember Senator Bishop mentioned St Mary’s Cathedral. Did he actually ask any questions about that?
Senator Ian Campbell —No. I raised that.
Senator WONG —Did the government seek the advice of the Australian Heritage Council on the funding of $5 million for St Mary’s Cathedral and the church of St Mary’s Star of the Sea?
Mr Young —No.
Senator WONG —Why is that the case?
Mr Young —That is something you would have to ask the government.
Senator WONG —Is there a publicly available document which sets out criteria against which this funding was assessed?
Mr Young —I just wish to clarify. You asked a question in respect of the Australian Heritage Council. I think you asked whether the advice of the Heritage Council was sought.
Senator WONG —Correct.
Mr Young —My answer was no. The reason for that is that it is not within their statutory remit to consider such things.
Senator WONG —Can I go to my next question, then, or do you want me to repeat it?
Mr Young —If you would, please.
Senator WONG —Were there criteria or was there a government strategy document for heritage against which this funding decision was made?
Mr Young —There may have been. I am not aware of them.
Senator WONG —You are not aware of it?
Mr Borthwick —There has been a history of the government funding restorative work in cathedrals prior to the budget announcement that there would be $5 million involved.
Senator WONG —I am sorry. I was distracted, Mr Borthwick.
Mr Borthwick —My recollection is that there has been a history of the government providing grants for the restoration of cathedrals prior to the $5 million—I think it was $5 million—being announced in the budget context. This is not a new activity for the Commonwealth government.
Senator WONG —There was $5.6 million in the 2005-06 budget for Australian Heritage Council functions. What are these functions and what is that funding for?
Mr Young —Basically, it is to enable the Heritage Council to carry out assessments of nominations under the EPBC Act.
Senator WONG —Who has control of the funds?
Mr Young —The department does.
Senator WONG —Is there any formal agreement between the council and the department for the provision of the services you describe?
Mr Young —No.
Senator WONG —Why is that?
Mr Young —Because it is outlined in the legislation what the role of the council is. It is also outlined in the legislation what the role of the department is. If the department carries out its functions, that enables the council to carry out its functions. If we provide the research and analysis on nominated places to the council, they are then able to make their assessments.
Senator WONG —So who actually undertakes the work? Is it the AHC, or is that done by DEH officers?
Mr Young —DEH officers carry out the research and the analysis. The council considers that and makes decisions and seeks further advice if necessary.
Senator WONG —Is the $5.6 million also taken up, therefore, with the time your staff spend doing work to support the AHC and to provide them with that research?
Mr Young —Correct. Yes, it is.
Senator WONG —So it is basically paying yourselves?
Mr Young —Significant amounts of it support the staff, who in turn support the council.
Senator WONG —What proportion of the $5.6 million is for DEH staff?
Mr Young —I would have to take that one on notice. I do not have that off the top of my head.
Senator WONG —Is it the case that the core heritage funding decreases from $24½ million to $22.9 million in the 2005-06 budget?
Mr Young —There is a reduction. I believe the reduction is from $23.417 million to $22.210 million. I may be incorrect on that.
Senator WONG —I have here core heritage funding. I am not sure what that means in my brief. Which page of the PBS are we on?
Mr Young —Page 44. Output 1.4 is the conservation of natural, indigenous and historic heritage. Sorry, it is $22.912 million to $22.210 million.
Senator WONG —What is the basis for the reduction? Is that the efficiency dividend?
Mr Young —It is a composite. But the main cause of the decline is the end of the Cultural Heritage Projects Program, which is a lapsed program in 2002-03, for which there have been some ongoing liabilities which have been fulfilled.
Senator WONG —I have nothing more on Heritage.
CHAIR —Thank you. I believe we do not have anything for Corporate Strategies Division. Our plan now is to go to Policy Coordination and Environment Protection.
Senator Ian Campbell —Can I just make a late statistical change to the answer given by David Young in relation to the number of listings. We should add two to it which David was not aware of when he gave the answer.
Senator WONG —So it is 10?
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes, 10.
CHAIR —Do you wish to name them?
Senator Ian Campbell —No. We will be announcing them shortly, but they have been formally listed.
CHAIR —We will go to the Policy Coordination and Environment Protection Division and then come back through Industries, Community and Energy; International Land and Analysis; Land, Water and Coasts; Marine; and the Natural Resource Management Programs division.
Senator WONG —I will seek some advice over the break to see if we will require all of those.
CHAIR —We will call Policy Coordination and Environment Protection.
Senator BROWN —I have some questions on Recherche Bay. The Australian heritage advisers were to report and the minister was going to perhaps consider this on 2 June. Is the heritage listing for the Recherche Bay forest in southern Tasmania on track?
Senator Ian Campbell —The national heritage listing of it?
Senator BROWN —That is right.
Mr Young —What is the question?
Senator BROWN —The Australian Heritage Council was going to report to the minister by 2 June. Has that report on the heritage values of the north-east peninsula of Recherche Bay arrived? If not, is it going to arrive by 2 June? Will a determination be made then?
Mr Young —The Australian Heritage Council is extremely aware of its statutory deadline.
Senator BROWN —I am too. Are they going to produce a document by then?
Mr Young —The council is very aware of the statutory deadline.
Senator BROWN —Will they meet the statutory deadline? Have they indicated that they will meet it?
Mr Young —We are confident that that will happen.
Senator BROWN —And what happens when that advice comes to you? When will it be made public?
Mr Young —That is a matter for the minister.
Senator BROWN —I want to ask one question about land clearing in New South Wales. If I get it out of the way, it will expedite things later in the proceedings.
CHAIR —We do come back to International Land and Analysis Division. Is that where that should be? There is Land, Water and Coasts.
Senator WONG —I have one question on that.
CHAIR —We actually circle back to that if you can just wait. We are going down to the bottom and then coming back.
Senator BROWN —I think it is going to be a long wait.
CHAIR —It is the decision of the committee to do that. That was our plan. We are now proposing to go down to Policy Coordination and Environment Protection and then come back down the list. Other people have questions in that area. We now have Policy Coordination and Environment Protection. Who is leading there?
Senator WONG —I have a set of questions about the measures set out in the budget relating to the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility. As I understand it, the actual facility will not commence until 2006-07. Is that right?
Mr Tucker —The budget papers have a transition year next year with it coming fully into effect the year after.
Senator WONG —What is the transition, the $4.8 million for 2005-06? What is that supposed to fund?
Mr Tucker —There is more material in some of the budget documents and the Environment budget overview. Essentially, $3 million of that $4.8 million is to fund a transition year with the two CRCs—the reef one and the rainforest one—to move the research on to a new basis as determined by the government. Early in the day you might recall that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority had some funding for it.
Senator WONG —I think I was in the Human Services estimates then, Mr Tucker.
Mr Tucker —The transitional arrangement is to make sure that the CRC can keep good quality staff to move over to the new arrangements. We are in the full year to begin moving the research program within the lines of the new program as announced by the government. That will allow them to complete projects that they had begun under their current guise. So that is the majority of the money. The remaining funds are for the department to administer the program to establish the guidelines and to get it up and running and fully functioning.
Senator WONG —So I do understand that the $4.8 million in large part will be to retain the staff from the two CRCs?
Mr Tucker —That certainly is one of its objectives. The other one is to move to some of the research programs that we expect under the new guidance of the policy.
Senator WONG —Is it the case that all the staff currently at the CRCs would be retained under that funding, or is it proposed to make some people redundant?
Mr Tucker —I do not think that is actually a matter for us. It is actually a matter for the people running the CRCs.
Senator WONG —It is your funding.
Mr Tucker —It is our funding and it will go to do some work. I imagine they have staff turnover all the time and they will make some decisions on who they believe to be the most appropriate people to conduct the work.
Senator WONG —I am not asking about an assessment of staff capability. I am asking about the funding measure. Does the funding measure provide for the maintenance of all the staff in the two CRCs for the period 2005-06?
Mr Tucker —Sorry, I misunderstood your question. Our understanding—and we have been in regular discussions with the CRCs—is that that brings their funding level commensurate to what they have to date. Therefore, in theory, yes, they could retain the staffing levels they have there.
Senator WONG —But, obviously, yes, the staffing decision is ultimately for them but not as a result of funding. That is what you are saying?
Mr Tucker —That is my understanding, yes.
Senator Ian Campbell —We are very keen to make sure there is a seamless transition to the new institution. That is what it is there for.
Senator WONG —And the reason for that would be if you did not have the $4.8 million, presumably there would be a hiatus in the funding for the two with staff?
Senator Ian Campbell —We would lose people. They would go off and find other jobs in other parts of the world. They are highly respected scientists and we want them to keep doing work on our Great Barrier Reef and other parts of our environment.
Senator WEBBER —I want to clarify something with the Chair before I embark on another topic. What time are we proposing to have a break?
CHAIR —We are thinking of having a break at 9 o’clock.
Senator WEBBER —We will start with this, then. Thank you for that. It will come as no great surprise to you that I want to have a bit of a chat about the grants to voluntary environment and heritage organisations. Could someone advise me what the key recommendations of the 2003 review of the grants program were?
Mr Keeffe —That review had a range of recommendations that particularly covered the need to recognise the importance, as I recall it, of administrative funding for conservation and heritage organisations; the desirability of focusing more clearly on on-ground practical works to benefit the environment; and contextualising the process by which environment and heritage organisations receive funding from new sources, such as Envirofund and various NHT programs. That is it in general terms. It recommended changes to smooth the administration of the program.
Senator WEBBER —Was that review ever released?
Mr Keeffe —No. It was not released by the previous minister.
Senator WEBBER —And that was the minister’s decision?
Mr Keeffe —Yes.
Senator WEBBER —Were those recommendations from the review used to shape the 2005 restructuring of the program?
Mr Keeffe —In part. But they were also used in 2003-04. The information was used in shaping the 2004-05 year.
Senator WEBBER —As I understand it, the former minister, Dr Kemp, wrote to a 2004 grant recipient:
The … program has proved expensive to administer and I decided that eligible environment groups would now be funded at three grant amounts depending on the size of the organisation and the geographic area covered.
If that is the case, will the program now be available for up to 100 organisations, increasing the administrative costs and taking the opposite approach to what Dr Kemp outlined? What is the story?
Mr Keeffe —The program changed considerably from—
Senator WEBBER —From Dr Kemp to the current minister?
Mr Keeffe —Yes.
Senator Ian Campbell —I think it is fair to say that one of the number of recommendations we picked up from the review that had been done was to make funding available on a three-year cycle. That will ensure that the administrative load for smaller organisations, who often really struggle, will be much lower. So it will be a good outcome from the department. We will have less admin. It will be good for continuity for those organisations who have been living from year to year in the past.
Senator WEBBER —In making these changes, was advice sought from the department as well as having a look at the recommendations from that review?
Mr Keeffe —Yes.
Senator Ian Campbell —Says the department. Which department did you go to?
Mr Keeffe —Yours, minister.
Senator WEBBER —And that advice was accepted by the minister, or did the department think that there was another way of doing this?
Senator Ian Campbell —There are many ways of doing it. Ultimately, the department and I came to a view.
Senator WEBBER —Why did it take so long to announce—
Senator Ian Campbell —It might be worth putting on the record if Mr Keeffe has it, but the applications we have received are a reflection of the decision I made. I think we have nearly doubled the number of applications, which I think is tremendous.
Mr Keeffe —There have been 164 applications received to date compared to some 101 that received funding previously. Ninety per cent of those are from smaller community organisations, the majority of them new applicants. So it is a very different program.
Senator WEBBER —That is probably what is causing some of the agitation.
Senator Ian Campbell —The trouble is you only hear about agitation with these things. Only a small number of groups have agitated. But there are many, many other organisations that are incredibly pleased with the decision. Unfortunately, with the way the world works in our game, you do not tend to get a story in the paper when someone rings up and says, ‘Wow, this is terrific. We really like it. Congratulations to Senator Campbell.’
Senator WEBBER —Why did it take so long to announce the 2004-05 funding?
Mr Keeffe —They have not been announced yet.
Senator WEBBER —Why not?
Mr Keeffe —The process of assessment against the new criteria has not been completed. We hope to put advice very shortly to the minister. We refuse to make—
Senator WEBBER —When is ‘very shortly’? We are fast getting to 2005-06.
Mr Keeffe —We are quite—
Senator WEBBER —We are very fast getting to it, I can tell you.
Mr Keeffe —I accept the fact that there have been delays in developing the new guidelines. The extent of the changes to make it multiyear and make capital funds available and focusing on the ground allowing smaller groups in has taken time to work through.
Senator WEBBER —So what is going to happen to currently funded groups that budgeted for 2004-05 funding?
Mr Keeffe —Decisions to budget on 2004-05 funding before receiving a grant would not have been a sensible course of corporate planning for them. There has never been a guarantee explicitly in the guidelines. It says that it is not recurrent funding. That was confirmed in a letter from the previous minister in November 2003, if I recall.
Senator WEBBER —So for organisations that may have thought they had a reasonable prospect of being funded—it is nearly the end of that year anyway—it is too bad, so sad?
Mr Keeffe —It is not too bad, so sad. I would not characterise our attitude as that. I do recognise, and the department recognises, the importance of this untied administrative funding to organisations. We would rather have been able to process the grants earlier and gotten them out in February, as is normally the practice. But the changes required us to do a lot of work in order to get it right. It is not good.
Senator Ian Campbell —We have been trying to get it right for three years, though. It is definitely going to be that problems are caused right at the moment. But the good thing is that many of these organisations will be successful in getting three-year funding for the first time so they will not have to go through this ever again.
Senator WEBBER —Is it envisaged once we have embarked on this three-year process that we are going to have to review it again?
Mr Keeffe —No.
Senator WEBBER —So organisations may get three years of funding and then have to wait almost another year?
Mr Keeffe —When an organisation gets three years of funding, the program is changed to make that recurrent for a triennium.
Senator WEBBER —But at the end of that three years, is it envisaged that we are then going to go through another review process?
Mr Keeffe —We have not planned a review process that far ahead, no.
Senator Ian Campbell —What I will do as the minister is look at how successfully this has worked. We have put a lot of energy into trying to get this to be a much-improved program. I will look at how successful it is. We will look at it once we have announced the grants for this year, which have not come to me yet. But we will process them quickly. We recognise that people need that certainty. I will make my own evaluations with the support of the department. That does not mean another whole-blown review, but I am prepared to challenge what has occurred and have it challenged. A number of times I have preconceptions about things which have proved wrong in practice. I am not averse to changing my mind if I get it wrong.
Senator WEBBER —When these organisations are finally notified, is that actually therefore going to be funding for 2005-06, or are they going to be given their 2004-05 funding and have to spend it in a month?
Mr Keeffe —They will be given their 2004-05 funding and they can use it against the same costs or invoices that they would have used it for anyway.
Senator WEBBER —And that will be the first year of their funding. So then in July they will get more?
Mr Keeffe —Not necessarily July.
Senator WEBBER —Or whenever. So they will get a year’s funding backdated yet they have not been able to do anything because they are dependent on this money.
Mr Keeffe —For those organisations successful in getting multiyear funding, the processing of that will be relatively straightforward. They will get their second annual instalment, if you like, in, we hope, September. They will be able to get on to a triennial, strategic, more secure footing overall.
Senator WEBBER —Is there going to be any flexibility—they will get their 2004-05 funding, but there will only be about a month of 2004-05 left—in terms of how they account for that? They will not have been able to conduct many activities. They will not have known they were going to get the funding.
Mr Keeffe —This is correct. The department will look at each case on a specific basis. Where we can be flexible and assist, we will certainly try to do so.
Mr Tucker —It is not unusual for money to be paid in one financial year for activities in another. We have programs such as Envirofund, which is a small community grants program. We have a round out. At the moment, successful applicants have been notified. They are coming forward now with their agreements to receive their funding this year. They have 18 months to spend that money. So not unusual for it to work this way.
Senator Ian Campbell —This is the first time this three-year type funding has happened. Of course, it has been lost in the political wash of the larger Conservation Council being very upset with the outcome for them. The good thing is that some of these smaller groups can now hire someone for the first time, or they can buy computer equipment. They can buy equipment for the first time. They can now get their own computer or get a photocopying machine, pay for an Internet connection and communicate with all their members. There is a lot of upside in this for organisations. But the good thing is that they will have this certainty for three years. They might be able to put on a part-time person to do the communication with their group and be able to say to that person, ‘We have three years of funding’, so you can have really good outcomes.
Senator WONG —Did you explain why the decision was made to exclude advocacy and government liaison and raising community awareness?
Mr Keeffe —In terms of the guidelines, we have always sought to focus on on-ground activities. I would have to look back into previous years to find how we worded that. In this year—
Senator WONG —Previously, the administrative funds were able to be used for community activities and projects about protecting the environment and heritage; raising community awareness and understanding; being effective advocates and expressing the community’s environment and heritage concerns; and liaising with governments and industry bodies on environmental issues. Those activities have been excluded.
Mr Keeffe —We focus on actual support for on-the-ground work to provide the administrative component of that. But costs that cannot be funded are salaries for campaign staff, consultants or staff employed to undertake project work, fundraising expenses, donations to other organisations and political advocacy expenses. That does not mean that organisations cannot carry out advocacy work. It means that this competitive program is not for those purposes.
Senator WONG —What is political advocacy as opposed to advocacy?
Mr Keeffe —This relates to other programs also, but in general terms organisations, in raising awareness and educating the community about issues of concern, have received funding and support for that. They have used GVEHO funds for that without any problem. But it is particularly to avoid the use of taxpayers’ funds for political party purposes in particular.
Senator Ian Campbell —So you would say, ‘Let’s advocate to save the building’, but you could not advocate to say, ‘Vote for the Liberals because they are going to save the building.’
Senator WONG —As I understand it, the current definition of on-the-ground environment protection does not include being advocates and expressing the community’s concerns. What you are doing, Minister, is cutting the funding to organisations who have been critical of your environment policies. That is what you are doing.
Senator Ian Campbell —That is just a cliche. That is a slogan. It is not what we are doing at all. We will be funding a lot of organisations that are critical of this government.
Senator WONG —I note there are quite a number of organisations which have very large cuts as a result of the policy change. The Conservation Council has—
Senator Ian Campbell —Name one organisation that has been cut.
Senator WONG —That will not get the same funding level?
Senator Ian Campbell —Virtually none of them have had the same funding level.
Senator WONG —Including the state conservation councils?
Senator Ian Campbell —They are the main groups that are the losers in this policy. There is no doubt about it.
Senator WONG —Why are you targeting peak conservation groups?
Senator Ian Campbell —Ask me some questions about the winners. Do you want me to go through all the groups that are getting funding?
Senator WONG —I am sure you can do that through your press releases, and you will. But why are you targeting peak conservation councils?
Senator Ian Campbell —I am not targeting them. I am actually trying to make sure we get value for money out of this program.
Senator WONG —You do not think they provide value for money?
Senator Ian Campbell —No. Otherwise I would have kept the program as it was.
Senator WONG —What do you say—
Senator Ian Campbell —I think we can get a lot better value. It has to be about getting benefit for the Australian environment.
Senator WONG —What do the conservation councils do that you do not like?
Senator Ian Campbell —I work with them. They do a lot of good things. The Conservation Council gets $80,000 a year. You could give $8,000 a year to 10 other organisations or $4,000 to 20 other organisations.
Senator WONG —They are a peak organisation.
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes. Environment Victoria said, ‘This is a tiny part of our funding and it makes no difference to us.’ These are multimillion-dollar operations. Some of them are.
Senator WONG —I am not sure that the Conservation Council in South Australia would agree.
Senator Ian Campbell —The Conservation Council in South Australia comply with the goals. I think they do on-the-ground work. But if I were a betting man, I would bet money on the fact that they would probably get some money.
Senator WONG —So what are the examples of environmental groups engaging in party political activities, Minister, to which you refer?
Senator Ian Campbell —I have not referred to any of them. We are just saying we want this money to go to organisations that are doing on-the-ground work. There are lots of organisations around Australia, when you get out and roam around this beautiful wide land of ours, that have so much work to be done. One of the constant themes is ‘We cannot get money to run the effort. We cannot find someone to send out the notices to the monthly meeting of the ornithological society’ or ‘We cannot find someone to help do this coast care group.’ This is to help them. It is an incredibly legitimate device to help them with those sorts of expenses. They say, ‘We have an old computer. We need a new one. It takes too long to download off the Internet.’ For the first time in Australian history, you have a fund that will actually pay for that.
Senator WONG —What are the examples of multimillion-dollar conservation councils to which you refer?
Senator Ian Campbell —Let us run through the Conservation Council of South Australia. That is a very good idea.
Senator WONG —Minister, I just asked you a question.
Senator Ian Campbell —I was just going back to the one about the Conservation Council of South Australia.
Senator WONG —I have just asked you a question. What are the examples of multimillion-dollar conservation councils to which you refer?
Senator Ian Campbell —Environment Victoria is certainly one.
Senator WONG —Multimillion. Who else?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think they are over $1 million. The Wilderness Society is one. The Conservation Council of South Australia has received—
Senator WONG —If you would like to table it. I have not asked this question. I would quite like to move on.
Senator Ian Campbell —The Conservation Council of South Australia received grants from the South Australian department of $63,000, another one for $15,000 for a conference, another one for—
Senator WONG —Minister, I am really happy for you to table this if you want.
Senator Ian Campbell —Another one for bush birds of $100,000.
Senator WONG —If you are able to let me finish these questions, we can all have a break and I will finish this section.
Senator Ian Campbell —I will just give you a global figure. I am happy to table this because it will inform the debate. There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants in one year, many of them from the Commonwealth for a range of different programs, to that one organisation. The grant program you refer to would be a tiny percentage of the money that they get from the state and federal government. It looks to me that they get far more money from the federal government than the state government. They would have received around $80,000 in GVEHO. They receive hundreds of thousands through a whole range of other Commonwealth programs. So a very small percentage is that particular program. If you like, I will table that list of all the grants to the Conservation Council of South Australia. It does terrific work.
Senator WONG —Shall we break now? I will not finish before 9.00 on this issue.
CHAIR —If that is your wish, we will take a break.
Proceedings suspended from 8.59 pm to 9.19 pm
Senator WONG —Mr Keeffe, there is a provision in the guidelines we have been discussing whereby higher amounts of funding can be provided in circumstances of demonstrated need. Is that right?
Mr Keeffe —Yes.
Senator WONG —What are the circumstances of demonstrated need? What sorts of circumstances are we talking about?
Mr Keeffe —It is up to applicants to make a case in their application about matters that they consider to be exceptional circumstances and demonstrate a need. It would be considered from the standpoint of what they provide as reasons to make exception to the general approach outline, which would otherwise have an expectation of a $10,000 per annum maximum grant.
Senator WONG —So there are no criteria as to what demonstrated need would involve?
Mr Keeffe —It will be dependent on the content of the application and the arguments they make.
Senator WONG —I appreciate that there are no criteria associated with the words ‘demonstrated need’.
Mr Keeffe —We have not defined that any further down.
Senator WONG —Is it also the case that the guidelines indicate that they are only matters which the minister may take into account and that he may consider other priorities as he determines?
Mr Keeffe —The advice we put up to the minister will only be considering these particular issues and the applications made according to the guidelines. I cannot say what else the minister may consider when he makes his decision.
Senator WONG —I appreciate that. But can you tell me whether it is the case that the guidelines say themselves:
Grants will be decided by the Minister and may take into account any or all of the following issues …
other priorities as determined by the Minister.
Mr Keeffe —That is correct, as I recall it.
Senator WONG —In other words, the minister has an unfettered discretion to consider any other priorities that are not set out in the guidelines?
Mr Keeffe —My expectations are that the minister, should he take other considerations into account, would do so at the time of making a decision. We do not know what they would be. That would be provided in the description of the decision.
Senator WONG —But it is open under the terms of the guidelines for the minister to take into account matters entirely outside the guidelines?
Mr Keeffe —No. I would need to take advice on this and the detail. My understanding is that, in order to ensure fairness in the consideration of applications, the minister would have to take all the matters under consideration, which is what we provide advice on, according to the guidelines. Whether he takes another issue into consideration is unknown.
Senator WONG —I am having trouble matching the evidence you are giving with the terms used in the guidelines. As I understand it, it is stated that the minister may take into account these guidelines or other priorities as determined by the minister.
Mr Keeffe —I cannot find that in my copy of the guidelines.
Senator WONG —Can you provide me with a copy of the guidelines, because I have excerpts here?
Senator Ian Campbell —Did you want it now?
Senator WONG —Yes, please. I can promise not to look at the notations, if you want.
Mr Keeffe —I have the same problems that you are having. I do not have a clean copy, which I am sure you would like to have. I have one that is tagged.
Senator Ian Campbell —I scribbled on his.
Senator WONG —I can undertake to ignore the minister’s scribble.
Mr Keeffe —I do not think we are able to supply you with a clean copy right at this moment, but we could get one up to you or table it or get it to you tomorrow.
Senator WONG —The point is I would like to actually ask you questions from it so I can point you to the bit that I am talking about. I am happy to hand it back. I just want it for the purposes of the discussion. It is page 10 of the document.
Mr Keeffe —You have the only copy in the room.
Senator WONG —Somebody has very kindly sent me a link. I will see if it works.
Senator Ian Campbell —Go to our web site.
Senator WONG —Maybe Senator Webber might want to start something else while I try and find this. This is the only copy in the room. Is that right?
Mr Keeffe —That is correct. We are getting another copy run up. I apologise for my lack of foresight.
Senator WONG —That is fine. Perhaps I can ask this: minister, was the decision to change the guidelines a decision by yourself or was it a matter that went to cabinet?
Senator Ian Campbell —No, by me. I take full responsibility.
Senator WONG —Was there any external advice or consultation with other parties external to government regarding the decision to change the guidelines?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think it was just a process that I initiated with the department. I had to get approval from the Minister for Finance to get to this three-year, multiple year grant, and that is just not sort of a tick and a flick. I regarded that as quite a breakthrough for the conservation groups.
Senator WONG —I am sure they would agree with you. I appreciate that is your opinion.
Senator Ian Campbell —The need for it really did come from my time, relatively short as it is, in the portfolio moving around the country a hell of a lot and meeting a lot of these smaller groups who are really struggling.
Senator WONG —Page 10?
Mr Keeffe —Yes, I have that now. Thank you, Senator, for your patience.
Senator WONG —That is fine.
Senator Ian Campbell —To answer the question about other consultations, I did informally. They probably did not know what they were talking about, but I did talk to lots of small conservation groups around Australia over the months before the election and after the election. I spoke to people like that. You are saying I did not consult with other people, but I did.
Senator WONG —What about the peak organisations, the larger environmental organisations?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think they all lobbied me to get on with the decision and give them their money. They lobbied me for three-year funding.
Senator WONG —The paragraph begins:
Grants will be decided by the Minister and may take into account any or all of the following issues …
other priorities as determined by the Minister.
I do understand from that that the guidelines are optional in the sense that the minister can make a funding decision determined on priorities which are not set out in the guidelines.
Mr Keeffe —The advice that the department supplies to the minister will consider all of the issues. As above, it says:
Eligible applications will be ranked and prioritised by examining each of those.
We will provide advice on those. Once we have gotten through the eligibility criteria, we will be looking at those other issues of an even spread of funds—state, territory, regional, maximum benefit per Australia’s natural environment and historic heritage. Should the minister determine that there are other priorities—and that is what the guidelines say, as they said last year—
Senator WONG —And the determination of those priorities would not be the subject of advice from the department? Is that what you are saying?
Senator Ian Campbell —They could give me advice on it.
Mr Keeffe —The minister could indicate to us some other priorities that he wanted considered in the applications, perhaps.
Senator WONG —Do the guidelines leave it open for the minister to determine an application without reference to the guidelines on the base of these other priorities?
Mr Keeffe —Not on my reading of the guidelines.
Senator WONG —Is that your understanding, Minister?
Senator Ian Campbell —Could you repeat the question. I was just reading.
Senator WONG —Does that discretionary aspect of the guidelines there indicate it is open for you to determine an application for a grant on matters other than those in the guidelines?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think what it does, on my reading of it—and I have not focused on it before this—is that it would give me flexibility should other priorities emerge during the process. I am only hypothesising here. It may be that amongst 100 plus applications a theme emerges. Let us say because Australia is drought affected, you might just find that the arid parts of Australia, which are getting bigger at the moment, might become some sort of priority over and above some of the others. I do not have anything specifically in mind. I think it is to allow us some flexibility should circumstances move. I think Mr Keeffe has said that is a standard clause copied from previous guidelines.
Mr Keeffe —That is right.
Senator Ian Campbell —But I will be accountable for this. All of the organisations that get grants will be announced. You will be able to assess whether you thought I met the guidelines and whether it is clear that I have focused on some other priority. You will be able to—
Senator WONG —You will let us know.
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes. You will be able to judge my decision-making against those priorities.
Senator WONG —Thank you, Mr Keeffe.
CHAIR —We will go now to Industry, Communities and Energy Division, including the Australian Greenhouse Office.
Senator WONG —Mr Bamsey and Dr Wright, we could not let an estimates go by without talking to you. The decision was announced last year to bring you into the department. I may have discussed this at the last estimates. Was this decision the subject of advice either from the AGO or from the department?
Mr Bamsey —I can speak only for the AGO at the time. It was not the subject of any advice.
Senator WONG —No advice was sought from you about your abolition?
Mr Bamsey —No.
Senator WONG —What about from the department?
Senator Ian Campbell —The senator said abolition. The only person who thinks the AGO is abolished is one of your environment spokespeople in the Labor Party. It has not been abolished. It has not even been moved. It has stayed in exactly the same place. It is an administrative arrangement.
Senator WONG —I am sorry, but I cannot actually see the AGO anywhere in the chart that has been handed up.
Senator Ian Campbell —If you want to go to the AGO, we will get you an invitation to have morning tea with Mr Bamsey tomorrow at the AGO, which is in exactly the same place as it was this time last year.
Senator WONG —This is the Industry, Communities and Energy Division? The Australian Greenhouse Office is an independent office. Do you exist anymore?
Mr Bamsey —As the secretary explained earlier, we still retain the identity of the AGO within the department. So you see before you representatives of the two divisions that constitute the AGO.
Senator WONG —Mr Borthwick, was advice sought from the department prior to the decision in October 2004—the minister wants me to use a different term—to cease the AGO’s existence as an independent office and bring it into the department?
Mr Borthwick —No. The matter was announced by the Prime Minister as part of administrative arrangements. It was post the election. It is a normal process for the Prime Minister and the government of the day to change the administrative arrangements orders to reflect their priorities.
Senator WONG —I am aware of that. The question was whether advice was sought from the department on this issue.
Mr Borthwick —Dr Shergold had discussions with secretaries and sought their input. I offered him my views.
Senator WONG —What were they?
Mr Borthwick —That is between me and Dr Shergold.
Senator WONG —So the advice was the discussion between you and Dr Shergold?
Mr Borthwick —I gave him advice as to what I thought was best. But the decision is one of the Prime Minister.
Senator Ian Campbell —That would be the normal process—
Mr Borthwick —That is the normal process.
Senator Ian Campbell —of a new government coming in. You do administrative arrangements orders. There are generally rearrangements at that time.
Senator WONG —Page 152 of Budget Paper No. 2 reports $2 million in administrative expenses. Are you able to tell me what that will comprise.
Mr Bamsey —We are in the process of figuring those amounts into our business plans for next year. I am not aware at this stage that we have completed that. But I would ask Dr Wright and Mr Carruthers, if they have any further information, to let you know it.
Dr Wright —The efficiencies on page 152 of Budget Paper No. 2 are general efficiencies through the integration with the department which relate to both corporate support and other synergies between programs. As Mr Bamsey says, we are factoring those into our business plans, but really they are across-the-board efficiencies. So that quantum will be prorated across our programs.
Senator WONG —In other words, you have to go and find these savings?
Dr Wright —As I said, they are general efficiencies through the integration of corporate support.
Senator WONG —Just remind me—before the AGO was abolished, how many staff were there?
Senator Ian Campbell —The AGO has not been abolished.
Mr Bamsey —To be sure of the accurate figure as at 22 October, we would have to check. My recollection is that at that time the number of active staff was something like 165 or thereabouts. But we would have to check, to be precise. It is best to check.
Senator WONG —Is 165 around the mark?
Mr Bamsey —The number of staff on the spot on that day may have been about 164 or 165. The question of how many staff we had for the previous financial year in full-time equivalents would probably have been higher. I think it would probably have been about 175. But there is not much difference.
Senator WONG —So you will take that on notice?
Mr Bamsey —Yes.
Senator WONG —And as a result or consequent upon the restructure which was announced, were there any staff who no longer continued to be employed by DEH?
Mr Borthwick —The answer is no.
Senator WONG —So all the 165 from the AGO were then employed into the DEH?
Mr Borthwick —There have been no staff reductions as a consequence of the AGO joining the department.
Senator WONG —Or consequent upon?
Mr Borthwick —Consequent upon, no.
Senator WONG —So all 165 or 175 AGO staff are now employed by the department?
Dr Wright —That is correct.
Senator WONG —And where are they employed, again? Are they all in your division, Dr Wright?
Dr Wright —They are in the two divisions—mine and Mr Carruthers’s division. These are the divisions that constituted the Australian Greenhouse Office prior to its absorption within the department. So very little has changed.
Senator WONG —So International Land Analysis Division and Industry, Communities and Energy?
Dr Wright —That is correct.
Senator WONG —And how many in your division, Dr Wright?
Dr Wright —About 108.
Senator WONG —And yours, Mr Carruthers?
Mr Carruthers —About 64, I think.
Senator WONG —What I am not clear about is whether the AGO also reported to the industry minister.
Mr Bamsey —Yes, that is correct.
Senator WONG —Prior to the election but no longer?
Dr Wright —That is correct.
Senator WONG —Just to this minister?
Dr Wright —Yes.
Mr Bamsey —We will check. I think I am correct in saying that there are more staff now working in the AGO than there were on 22 October because our staffing has increased to enable us to implement the provisions that related to greenhouse within the energy white paper.
Senator WONG —Just in terms of—
Mr Borthwick —I want to add to that. There have been some changes in the organisation between the department and the AGO to better fit functions. So some staff that were in the AGO now work in other parts of the department. Some people who were in the department or functions are now in the AGO. That is a separate point from the point that Mr Bamsey has made about how many people are in the AGO. But departmental organisations are not static. We have also used the opportunity to get better functional fits across the department.
Senator WONG —In terms of the functions that were previously undertaken by the AGO, I am not clear, Dr Wright, what your division actually does.
Dr Wright —Sorry, could you repeat the question.
Senator WONG —What does your division do?
Dr Wright —My division is responsible for domestic policy and programs for greenhouse across the industry sector, energy and communities. So most of the domestic programs reside in my division, whereas Mr Carruthers covers science, international, measurement.
Mr Carruthers —Rural and regional Australia.
Senator WONG —So are there any functions the AGO used to undertake or any programs which are no longer being undertaken by those two divisions?
Dr Wright —As Mr Borthwick said, there have been some minor changes. The team that has worked on synthetic gases and ozone is integrated with another division now. Equally, the teams that are responsible for sustainability and triple bottom line reporting have come down to my division. But they are small changes.
Mr Carruthers —And the communications staff from the AGO administratively were placed with the communications staff of the department. But physically they are still located with the Australian Greenhouse Office. So at a practical working level there is no operational change.
Senator WONG —What are the implications of not reporting to the industry minister?
Dr Wright —I think that is probably a question better placed to the secretary and the minister. However, a number of the programs that were announced in the energy white paper are as a decision of government still jointly the responsibility of both ministers.
Mr Bamsey —We continue to work very closely with the industry department. It is my opinion that that has not substantially changed.
Senator WONG —I did not think public servants were supposed to have opinions, Mr Bamsey.
Mr Bamsey —It is my professional opinion that that has not substantially changed since the change in status of the AGO. We have a working relationship with that department that is very close and satisfactory.
Senator WONG —A budget measure on page 155 concerns the Photovoltaic Rebate Program extension. I think the $5.7 million is to be met from existing resources for the GGAP.
Dr Wright —That is correct.
Senator WONG —Does that mean there is nothing left in GGAP? What is the status of that?
Dr Wright —Most of non-committed GGAP funding—some $130.3 million—was used to offset the new suite of greenhouse programs in the last budget.
Senator WONG —Yes. I remember.
Dr Wright —A quantum of up to $20 million was provided for round three of GGAP, which was in the process at the time. The remaining funds were fully committed.
Senator WONG —So what does that mean? Does that mean the $5.7 million makes it fully committed?
Dr Wright —The $5.7 million can be offset because of the reduction in the scale of one particular GGAP round one project.
Senator WONG —Funds which you thought were committed which ended up not being paid?
Dr Wright —That is correct.
Senator WONG —So after the two lots of $5.7 million over the next two financial years, there will be no more funds available from reprioritising or reallocating GGAP programs?
Dr Wright —That is also subject to the finalisation of GGAP round three, for which we are currently in final stage negotiations with the proponents which the minister has signed off as best meeting the criteria.
Senator WONG —What is the intention over the forward estimates after the next two years of funding?
Dr Wright —The intention for GGAP?
Senator WONG —Sorry, for the PVRP.
Dr Wright —PVRP has been extended as a bridge to the Solar Cities program. We are currently in the process of ramping that program up. What happens in two years time would really be a decision for the government of that time.
Senator WONG —But the intention is that program would end and it would be taken up through Solar Cities?
Dr Wright —One of the intentions of Solar Cities—it is a broad based program—is to facilitate the uptake of PV in Australia by reducing market barriers so that the industry can commercially stand on its own two feet. We would anticipate, subject to that program being successful, that the need for a program like PVRP will be considerably less. But we will not know until that time.
Senator WONG —I am not sure if I understand the answer. At this stage there is no additional funding beyond 2006-07 for PVRP?
Dr Wright —The funding is as in Budget Paper No. 2, yes.
Senator WONG —And thereafter, the Solar Cities program will take over, possibly?
Dr Wright —It is a different type of program. But one component of the program is pitched at supporting the solar industry in Australia, as is PVRP as a program.
Senator WONG —You mentioned Solar Cities. Have we got the tender process for that under way? I remember when we had the energy white paper discussions we had a long discussion about the tender process.
Dr Wright —We are out in the market for expressions of interest. If you would like the documentation, I brought a set with me.
Senator WONG —Aren’t you wonderful.
Dr Wright —The expression of interest process closes on 8 July.
Senator WONG —That is 8 July?
Dr Wright —There are 10 copies.
Senator WONG —Go to the top of the class. So when were these sent out?
Dr Wright —In April.
Senator WONG —Have any funding decisions been already made under this program?
Dr Wright —No funding decisions associated with consortia for the trials, but, yes, funding decisions associated with the process of going to market—so probity advisers, consultancy, those sorts of things, legal advice.
Senator WONG —Has there been any funding allocated or decision on funding for Adelaide as a trial site for this program?
Dr Wright —No. What you have with you is the statement of challenges and opportunities and the program guidelines. What is happening is that two parallel competitive processes will be run. There will be a within-Adelaide process because of the announcement to fast-track Adelaide and a process for the remainder of Australia. So the same set of guidelines will apply to both processes.
Senator WONG —Does that mean South Australia is guaranteed?
Dr Wright —It has its own process but it is still a competitive process.
Senator WONG —You are not going to compete against Victoria, are you?
Dr Wright —No. But there are a number of interested parties within Adelaide. They will be competing against the same guidelines as the rest of Australia.
Senator Ian Campbell —So everyone in the rest of Australia will have the same guidelines as Adelaide. If they all want to compete in Adelaide, they will have the same set of rules.
Senator WONG —But Adelaide—
Dr Wright —Adelaide is one process and there is another.
Senator WONG —So Adelaide will get a result?
Senator Ian Campbell —Yes.
Senator WONG —Will get funding, whoever it may be, with your dual process?
Dr Wright —Provided it meets the guidelines, yes.
Senator WONG —Provided they meet the guidelines. We have had quite a number of discussions over too many estimates, Dr Wright, about GGAP. Was $130 million of the $400 million in 2004-05 allocated to other programs? Is that right?
Dr Wright —That is correct. It was $130.3 million.
Senator WONG —Did you give me a document on the last occasion which showed me where the $130 million went?
Dr Wright —I cannot recall.
Senator WONG —If you did, could I have it again.
Dr Wright —We can get you a copy.
Senator WONG —Thank you. Was there an analysis of the greenhouse outcomes or gains from any of the GGAP programs?
Dr Wright —Each of the projects under GGAP has an assessment in order to meet the criteria under the guidelines of how much abatement will come from that project. The program is targeted at abatement in the 2008 to 2012 period. A proportion of the program funding is retained in order to monitor the outcome of all those projects in that period to assess the amount of abatement that is actually delivered.
Senator WONG —So has it actually delivered any abatement to date?
Dr Wright —There is one project—the refrigerant project—which has already been completed and delivered the required amount of abatement, yes.
Senator WONG —That is the only one?
Dr Wright —That is the only one. But our expectations are not that there would be significant abatement prior to 2008 because that is the target window for the program.
Senator WONG —What was the abatement on the refrigerant?
Dr Wright —If you can bear with me, I will try and find that for you. I might need to take that on notice because the figure I have on my table is for the total project. It is 84,000 tonnes from September 2001 to April 2004.
Senator WONG —What was the cost of that project to government?
Dr Wright —There are two components to that project. We have confirmation that it is $280,000.
Senator WONG —It was $280,000?
Dr Wright —That is correct.
Senator WEBBER —Can we turn to the issue of greenhouse emissions and projections. I am a lot newer to this than Senator Wong so you may have to take me back over some of it. Perhaps we could start. Could you advise me on what action the Commonwealth government, as opposed to state governments, is taking to cut greenhouse emissions so it will avoid an increase by 2020?
Mr Bamsey —The government has a comprehensive program that has been operating for a long time in its major components from 1997. The most recent announced in the budget and the energy white paper last year was a comprehensive strategy with total funding of about $1.8 billion committed across a number of different parts of the economy. Probably the best way to give you a picture of that is to provide you—I do not have it on the spot—with some of the summary publications we have available that describe in detail the various measures that the government has taken over that period.
Senator WEBBER —Are there any particular measures that stand out? I would appreciate that, Mr Bamsey.
Mr Bamsey —Certainly. We have just been discussing one of the major measures the government took, which was the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program. Another important measure, in a sense, another flagship measure, has been Greenhouse Challenge, which has now been relaunched quite recently as Greenhouse Challenge Plus. That is a program involving about 800 organisations, most of them companies across Australia. I am searching through my papers for the list of measures from last year. Dr Wright has assisted me in this. I will run quickly through them. Another important and successful program was the mandatory renewable energy target. There were a number of programs to support renewable energy in other ways.
I will move to the measures that Mr Carruthers is now responsible for. There is the development of a world-leading carbon accounting system; and the production, just announced by the minister on Monday, of our new inventory but of an electronic information system, which is interactive. I believe Mr Carruthers will confirm that it is also a world-first. We have a number of international initiatives underlining the government’s determination to provide leadership in finding an effective global response to climate change. We have some measures which encourage local greenhouse action. If I can put it this way, Australia is the world champion in the program Cities for Climate Protection. There are many measures.
Senator WEBBER —It has been put to me that, even with measures like that, emissions will actually increase by 23 per cent by 2020 and that we are not actually doing enough. So is there anything else we should be doing or is there anything else we are going to do?
Mr Bamsey —The government has committed itself to meet a target of constraining Australian emissions to 108 per cent of 1990 levels through the period 2008 to 2012.
Mr Carruthers —In the energy white paper there were a whole series of major measures announced by the government in June 2004 for essentially agendas which are focusing on technology change for the longer term, particularly in the energy sector. At this stage, the emission savings over the long term that might come from those programs are not factored into the emissions projections. We are waiting to see how those programs shape in terms of their detail. As we have heard, Solar Cities is at the going-to-market stage. It is only at the point where we have concrete ventures in cities around Australia that we can start to get numerics on the emissions savings that will result.
Mr Bamsey —The government’s objective in this most recent iteration of its climate change strategy last year is to constrain Australian emissions while maintaining a dynamic and growing economy, to reduce Australia’s greenhouse signature while maintaining a dynamic and growing economy.
Senator WEBBER —How dependent is our current achievement of Kyoto protocol targets by 2012 on land clearing controls introduced by the New South Wales and Queensland governments?
Mr Carruthers —Of all the greenhouse measures that have been introduced in Australia to date that are delivering emission savings over the emissions target period of 2008 to 2012—they are a mix of Commonwealth only measures, they are a mix of joint measures between the Commonwealth, states and territories, and there are some measures which are state and territory only—the total effect of those measures over the emissions target period will be annual savings each year of 94 million tonnes. Compare that to, for example, the transport sector. It would be equivalent to taking all vehicles off Australian roads, to give that some physical sense. The contribution of the Queensland and New South Wales legislation enacted in the last year or so, in that 94 million tonnes total, is 24 million tonnes.
Senator WEBBER —So it is a significant contribution?
Mr Carruthers —It is significant.
Senator WEBBER —We might have struggled to get there if they had not taken that initiative.
Mr Carruthers —The government all along has taken the view that we need a comprehensive approach across all sectors from business, the community, the Commonwealth and the states. This represents an important mix. Remember that land clearing emissions constituted in excess of 20 per cent of the 1990 emissions baseline. So unless we were to achieve significant savings out of the land clearing sector, we would have mightily struggled to reach the target.
Senator WEBBER —Has the department actually considered possible situations where—
Senator Ian Campbell —Could I just add that we at the Commonwealth level regarded what both those governments have done in relation to land clearing as incredibly important. In New South Wales I think we have provided around $45 million—I think a lot of it is adjustment packages and so forth—to help achieve that land clearing success in New South Wales. We also offered $75 million to Queensland, which was rejected in the end for a range of reasons. But we support that. We are supporting significant reductions in Tasmania and obviously working in a range of other ways. So the Commonwealth does work in partnership with the states on these issues.
I am currently looking at taxation measures—I have not had a win on this yet, but I am hoping—for example, to create incentives for planting, for example, oil mallees for carbon sequestration. Currently there are—I guess you would call them incentives—tax treatments for planting plantations, as you would have seen in the south-west of Western Australia if you want to grow blue gums and chop them down in 20 years. The proposition I will be putting forward, hopefully successfully—I may not win this one, but I am going to try—is to offer a similar tax regime to people who want to plant trees to leave them in the ground for 100 years to sequester carbon. So we are working cooperatively with the states on many of these measures.
Senator WEBBER —Pleased to hear it. Has the department considered any possible situations where Australia may not meet its Kyoto targets?
Mr Bamsey —The government is committed to meeting that target. Our projections show that we are on track to meet it.
Senator WEBBER —So we have not in any way given any consideration to the fact that we may not get there?
Mr Carruthers —The government is receiving regular advice from the Australian Greenhouse Office as to how we are situated. Every year a comprehensive national greenhouse gas inventory is produced of the emissions trends from 1990 to the present. As the minister has already mentioned, the national greenhouse gas inventory for 2003 was released just this week. Similarly, the government receives a comprehensive set of projections of future emissions levels based on the underlying trends and the performance of the measures. All of this is published each year.
Senator WEBBER —Perhaps we can look at it another way. If those annual reviews and projections come in at a level that was not expected by the government—if it was, say, a bit lower or what have you—does that in any way cause you to re-jig what you are doing and think of new initiatives?
Mr Carruthers —For example, in the press release made by the minister earlier this week, he has made it very clear that to reach the target will require a continuing strong effort and hard work by all levels of government, business and the community. Clearly, the minister has his close eye on these matters.
Senator WONG —With regard to the Productivity Commission inquiry into energy efficiency, was there involvement by the department in the drafting of the terms of reference?
Dr Wright —The terms of reference were circulated by the Treasury department. There was input from relevant agencies. But they are the Treasurer’s terms of reference.
Senator WONG —So they were the Treasurer’s. So the AGO did not have an involvement in drafting them?
Dr Wright —We commented on the terms of reference that were circulated basically to all the agencies who had been involved in the energy task force.
Senator WONG —As a result of your comments, were there any alterations to the terms of reference?
Dr Wright —Not to my knowledge. We were comfortable with the terms of reference that were circulated to us.
Senator WONG —You would not describe those terms of reference as being quite narrow?
Dr Wright —The terms of reference have an economic flavour to them. I am not an economist and not well-placed to comment on the narrowness or otherwise of them.
Senator WONG —Did they enable the commission to examine the full range of options to improve energy efficiency?
Dr Wright —Productivity Commission inquiries always have scope to go beyond the terms of reference to explore other issues that they see relevant.
Senator WONG —But the terms themselves did not extend to the full range of options to improve energy efficiency?
Dr Wright —I am sorry, but I do not have the terms of reference with me.
Senator WONG —You do not have them with you?
Dr Wright —I do not have them with me.
Senator WONG —Do you recall if they actually acknowledged and dealt with the environmental benefits of efficiency?
Dr Wright —I would need to have the terms of reference in front of me.
Senator WONG —Have you been asked to provide any advice in relation to the commission’s report?
Dr Wright —The commission does not have a report as yet. It has a draft report which the department will be providing comment on. The final report is due out on 31 August.
Senator WONG —So have you been asked to provide advice on the draft report, Dr Wright?
Dr Wright —The department is preparing a submission and AGO is providing input to comments on the draft report, which is normal practice.
Senator WONG —Are you involved in that, Dr Wright?
Dr Wright —Yes.
Senator WONG —Did the commission examine the public benefit of the imposition of the mandatory energy efficiency standards?
Dr Wright —It is quite a detailed report. If you have a specific comment, we could take it on notice. It is a substantial report. There are many conclusions drawn and comments made by the Productivity Commission.
Senator WONG —I presume the funding for the Productivity Commission would come out of Treasury portfolios. The energy white paper talked about an examination of the full range of options to improve energy efficiency. Is the government proposing to conduct such an inquiry?
Dr Wright —The government, through the energy white paper, has put forward a range of initiatives on energy efficiency. They are currently being implemented. They were agreed by the Ministerial Council on Energy in December last year for stage one. When that is complete, stage two of the national framework on energy efficiency will be looked at.
Senator WONG —What does that mean?
Dr Wright —Could you repeat your question.
Senator WONG —What does that mean?
Dr Wright —It means that there is a broad range of actions on energy efficiency being undertaken as a result of the energy white paper. Many of them are done in conjunction with the states and territories.
Senator WONG —Has the AGO or the department done any analysis of the benefit of energy efficiency standards proposed by the Building Code of Australia for commercial buildings?
Dr Wright —All standards, whether they are minimum energy performance standards or building code standards, are subject to a full risk analysis and cost-benefit analysis before being accepted.
Senator WONG —These are proposed standards, as I understand them. Is that correct?
Dr Wright —That is correct. All proposed standards are subject to a full analysis.
Senator WONG —Does that mean the AGO is going to analyse them and provide some information to the minister or elsewhere?
Dr Wright —With the building codes standards, the analyses are facilitated through the Australian Building Codes Board.
Senator WONG —Has any advice been sought from the divisions which now comprise the AGO?
Dr Wright —We provide input through our work with the Australian Building Codes Board. We are responsible for that part of the program, which is a joint program with the states.
Senator WONG —Is it the case that the standards would deliver significant CO2 abatement?
Dr Wright —Energy efficiency is the most cost effective form of abatement. There is a lot of documentation and literature to that effect.
Senator WONG —Is that recognised in the Productivity Commission’s draft report?
Dr Wright —As we discussed earlier, the report is still only a draft and we will wait to see the final report.
Senator WONG —I hope you will put your views through your minister on that issue. Thank you very much, Dr Wright, Mr Bamsey and Mr Carruthers.
CHAIR —We now go to land, water and coasts.
Senator WONG —Mr Borthwick, I think I might have neglected to ask a question of the heritage division. Was I advised when I came in that the Daintree—
Mr Borthwick —Yes.
Senator WONG —Is that this division or heritage?
Mr Borthwick —No. Heritage division covers the Daintree.
Senator WONG —Apologies for that. I was so taken by the legal advice issue. What is the allocation of funding for the Daintree, which, as I understand it, has come out of the biodiversity hot spots program but is administered through you? I do not quite understand how this issue is in heritage.
Mr Young —The reason it is in heritage is that the Daintree initiative is basically funding to the World Heritage area, and the Heritage Division handles all the Commonwealth relationships with state managed World Heritage areas.
Senator WONG —Is this funding allocated out of the biodiversity hot spots program but administered through you?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —How much funding?
Mr Young —It is $6 million.
Senator WONG —Over what period of time?
Mr Young —Three years.
Senator WONG —Is that $2 million a year or $6 million a year?
Mr Young —In 2004-05 it is $1.665 million; in 2005-06, it is $2.65 million; and in 2006-07, it is $1.685 million.
Senator WONG —Is there any specific funding under that for the buyback of properties?
Mr Young —The funding is split into two components: $1 million for a cassowary recovery program; and a $5 million program which will involve purchase of land for adding to the protected area network, a revolving land fund, conservation covenanting and land stewardship programs.
Senator WONG —I am sorry; purchasing of land—this is the $5 million—revolving land fund?
Mr Young —A revolving land fund, conservation covenanting and land stewardship.
Senator WONG —The other $1 million was for a recovery program, I think you said.
Mr Young —For the cassowary; it is a bird.
Senator WONG —Can we go to the $5 million?
Mr Young —Yes.
Senator WONG —Is that broken down over the three years that you are talking about, or can you break that down?
Mr Young —Yes, it would be. I would have to take that on notice separately.
Senator WONG —Is there allocation between those four activities or four purposes?
Mr Young —There are broad allocations for those purposes, but the intent is to provide flexibility. As has been discussed previously, land acquisition opportunities come up at different times and the objective is to gain the best biodiversity outcome. There will be some flexibility between those areas.
Senator WONG —Please could you provide those allocations on notice.
Mr Young —Yes.
Senator WONG —What guidelines or criteria have been developed in relation to that $5 million?
Mr Young —There is a very extensive agreement in place between the department and the Australian Rainforest Foundation. This initiative is part of a wider partnership with the Queensland government and the Douglas Shire Council. So it is three tiers of government where each part of government has a contribution to this program. The funding to the Australian Rainforest Foundation is covered by a very comprehensive agreement for their part of the project.
Senator WONG —What is their part of the project? Does that relate to the $5 million?
Mr Young —Yes. The total initiative is intended to be $15 million—$5 million from the Commonwealth, $5 million from the Queensland government and $5 million from the Douglas shire.
Senator WONG —Does the agreement set out the criteria or the guidelines under which funding will be allocated?
Mr Young —Yes. The main mechanism is that the Wet Tropics Management Authority will provide advice on strategic priorities for acquisition of land and for the revolving fund, and those acquisitions will need to be consistent with that plan.
Senator WONG —Have they developed those?
Mr Young —It is being developed at the moment.
Senator WONG —And they have to be signed off by—was it federal government, state government and the council? Were they the three tiers?
Mr Young —No. With the plan from the Wet Tropics Management Authority, the Wet Tropics Management Authority is a body established under both Queensland law and Commonwealth law, so it is effectively a Queensland-Commonwealth body. They will produce the plan, which will guide the investment.
Senator WONG —Can we just go back? Remind me who is providing the funding—$5 million from the Commonwealth. How much from the state?
Mr Young —It is $5 million.
Senator WONG —The third is?
Mr Young —The Douglas shire.
Senator WONG —The Wet Tropics Management Authority is developing the strategic priorities for the allocation of the funding?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —And all three tiers of government have to sign off on that?
Mr Young —I would have to take that on notice. Certainly the Queensland government and the Commonwealth government, but I am not sure whether Douglas shire has to formally sign off; probably not.
Senator WONG —Are these strategic priorities the criteria under which the funding—any funding requests or applications would be assessed?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —And they are not finalised yet?
Mr Young —No.
Senator WONG —When do you anticipate that will happen?
Mr Young —I understand there is a working draft which is being used to guide the thinking at the moment. I will have to take that on notice, but again it is something the Wet Tropics Management Authority is conducting on behalf of the Queensland and Commonwealth governments.
Senator WONG —Then who makes the decision on funding applications or tenders?
Mr Young —All land acquisition approvals will need to be approved by the Commonwealth government for the $5 million of Commonwealth funds.
Senator WONG —Presumably the state look after theirs?
Mr Young —Yes, that is correct.
Senator WONG —And the Commonwealth government’s assessment will be in accordance with the strategic priorities that the Wet Tropics Management Authority have developed?
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —You mention the Rainforest Foundation. Where do they fit in?
Mr Young —The Australian Rainforest Foundation was established by the Wet Tropics Management Authority. It is a not-for-profit organisation and it is administering the $5 million Commonwealth contribution to this initiative.
Senator WONG —When was that decision made?
Mr Young —Agreements were signed with the Australian Rainforest Foundation on 18 February for the $1 million cassowary project and on 8 April for the $5 million for the buyback and revolving fund.
Senator WONG —This year, presumably.
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —Was any tender process associated with that decision?
Mr Young —No.
Senator WONG —By whom was that decision made?
Mr Young —That was signed off by the minister.
Senator WONG —On what basis was it determined that this would not go to tender and would just be allocated to this organisation?
Mr Young —It is a partnership between the Queensland government, the Commonwealth government and the shire, and the Commonwealth contribution was to be delivered through the Australian Rainforest Foundation.
Senator WONG —Why was the decision made to distribute it through the Australian Rainforest Foundation.
Mr Young —That is perhaps a question for the minister.
Senator WONG —Who is the Australian Rainforest Foundation? You say they are a not-for-profit organisation established by the wet tropics management board.
Mr Young —That is correct.
Senator WONG —Who are they?
Senator Ian Campbell —We could table a list of their board members.
Mr Young —Yes, if you want the constitution and the objectives we can get that for you.
Senator WONG —On whose initiative was the decision to give them $5 million? Did they come and see government and say, ‘We want to do this’ or did government say, ‘We want to administer it through you’? How did that work?
Mr Young —It is my understanding that the whole idea, the joint initiative between the three tiers of government and the involvement of the Australian Rainforest Foundation, was developed up by the parties and put to the Commonwealth government.
Senator WONG —By whom?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think it was an agreement between the state, the federal government and the local council that decided that this would be the appropriate way to do it, find an appropriate body that could represent the interests of all three.
Senator WONG —The state and local council funds are administered through the foundation as well?
Mr Young —No.
Senator WONG —It is only the Commonwealth?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think originally it was going to be and then there were some local political disagreements. That is my recollection.
Senator WONG —I think my question still stands: prior to the decision was it a request by the foundation to be the administrator of the funds or did the Commonwealth simply make a decision to seek the foundation’s assistance for the administration of the funds?
Mr Young —I think the minister indicated that the original proposal came up from the three tiers of government. Subsequently it is only the Commonwealth funding that has gone to the Australian Rainforest Foundation.
Senator WONG —When was the proposal from the three tiers of government that the foundation administer funds received?
Senator Ian Campbell —I think it was earlier. I think it was before I became minister and by the time I had become minister there had been stress in the relationship and I tried to basically find a way forward that got the results on the ground for the environment and I think everyone is happy now.
Senator WONG —Is the answer to the question that the foundation approached government prior to the minister becoming the minister for the environment?
Senator Ian Campbell —I am happy to correct this and I will take it on notice, but my recollection is that the process had commenced through a consensus that this would be a good body for all of the parties, which I think included the relevant local council, the state government and us, to invest in the Daintree rescue package, I think it was called. Subsequently, due to what I could only call disagreements, and perhaps a little bit of local politics as well, the local and the state decided they wanted to do it themselves. Through a period of a few months we tried to create a compromise and a consensus and, as I understand it, the local council, the federal government and the state government are all happy with the outcome. This organisation had been engaged for some time in developing packages and developing investment plans and I think they have some developed expertise in delivering this.
Senator WONG —But the Queensland government and the local council have chosen not to utilise their services?
Senator Ian Campbell —In the end they did, yes.
Senator WONG —I think you were going to provide me with some information—
Senator Ian Campbell —If there is any discrepancy in what I have said and what happened I will give you a supplementary answer.
Senator WONG —I think you said you were going to provide on notice some information about the personnel and the constitution of the foundation, and also the question as to when the request for funding for the foundation was first made and when the decision was made to allocate funding. Do I understand this, and this is probably more a question for you, Mr Slatyer, under the biodiversity hotspots program we have two allocations of funding, the Mount Lofty ranges and the Daintree? Is that right?
Mr Slatyer —Yes.
Senator WONG —They are the only two finalised funding packages?
Mr Slatyer —Announced, yes.
Senator WONG —Yes, we have finalised that others are not announced that you do not want to tell me about. Is that right?
Mr Slatyer —As I said before, those two initiatives have been finalised and announced.
Senator WONG —Just remind me, one other has been finalised but not yet announced; is that right?
Mr Slatyer —I think I said there were two other initiatives that were yet to be announced.
Senator WONG —Yes. I think you actually told me that one of them was finalised. Is that right? I am not asking what it is.
Senator Ian Campbell —It is not finalised until it is announced, from my perspective.
Mr Slatyer —Yes.
Senator WONG —Contract negotiations were final—is that right?
Mr Slatyer —Yes.
Senator WONG —In relation to the two that have been announced, there was no tender process for those was there?
Mr Slatyer —Mr Young has described the Daintree arrangements, and in relation to Mount Lofty, as I said before, there were not.
Senator ABETZ —And there was no tender process in relation to either of the two contracts we have been discussing?
Mr Slatyer —Yes, there were no tender processes.
Senator WONG —There is always trouble when there is a double negative isn’t there?
Senator WEBBER —Turning now to the issue of water, how much money has the federal government allocated to on-the-ground projects under the National Water Initiative?
Mr Slatyer —The National Water Initiative funding is administered by the Prime Minister’s department, except for $200 million which is administered by our department through the Natural Resource Management Programs Division, which is yet to appear. That is for the communities fund program.
Senator WEBBER —So, even though you are land, water and coasts, you do not do water?
Mr Slatyer —We do water policy and we administer a range of national programs funded from the National Heritage Trust.
Senator WONG —Just not the big money.
Senator WEBBER —Just not the big money.
Mr Borthwick —I will clarify that: all the policy development work for that $200 million fund was primarily carried out in Mr Slatyer’s division. But our Natural Resource Management Programs Division—
Senator WEBBER —Then administers or implements the policy that Mr Slatyer has developed.
Mr Borthwick —Yes, they administer the NHT, the NAP et cetera, and they are very good at processing all of that and dealing with community groups. It was felt to be more efficient, rather than reinventing the wheel in Mr Slatyer’s division, to have a division doing it which was very experienced in the operational aspects of program delivery.
Senator WONG —What is the proportion of funding that is for you to allocate under the National Water Initiative, Mr Slatyer?
Mr Slatyer —The Department of the Environment and Heritage has $200 million allocated—
Senator WONG —But it is the other division?
Mr Slatyer —It is the other division. We can assist you if you are interested in the origins of that program, but questions about the current administration of the program should be directed to that division.
Senator WONG —Have you been asked to provide any advice in relation to any allocation of funds under the Australian water fund?
Mr Slatyer —The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet should answer questions about that program generally, but this department is involved in inter-departmental discussions with that department on arrangements for the programs that they administer.
Senator WONG —So you have been asked to provide advice in relation to the allocation of funds under the National Water Initiative?
Mr Slatyer —In, I think, a fairly routine matter of practice for the department’s involved in water—the three main departments—ourselves, DAFF and PM&C. The Prime Minister’s department has consulted us about arrangements for the Australian water fund programs. I should clarify that the formal administrative responsibility for those programs is with the National Water Commission, as opposed to the Prime Minister’s department. In the Prime Minister’s department the responsible minister is the same, being the Prime Minister.
Senator WONG —Ms Pearce, which bit are you? I do not think you are on my bit of paper—natural resource management?
Ms Pearce —That is right.
Senator WEBBER —Excellent; so you can answer my questions about this?
Ms Pearce —Specifically about the community water grants, yes.
Senator WEBBER —The $200 million?
Ms Pearce —Yes.
Senator WEBBER —Tell me about the $200 million.
Ms Pearce —What would you like to know about the $200 million?
Senator WEBBER —How much has been spent and what on?
Ms Pearce —At the moment we have had approved about $1 million worth of expenditure for this financial year. We are in the process of developing the guidelines, application forms and other aspects of the program in order to open the first call of applications in the near future.
Senator WEBBER —The near future is?
Senator Ian Campbell —Very near.
Ms Pearce —Very near.
Senator WEBBER —Excellent.
Senator WONG —Is this another two-day one, Minister?
Senator Ian Campbell —No; within a week, I think it is fair to say. It depends on my schedule, which is a moving feast, but very soon. This is the launch of the next—yes.
Senator WEBBER —The $200 million—is this an annual amount of money you are going to have to give to community organisations?
Ms Pearce —Yes, it is spread over five years.
Senator WEBBER —Evenly spread?
Ms Pearce —Approximately evenly spread from next financial year. Would you like me to give you the—
Senator WEBBER —Yes, absolutely.
Senator WONG —Is it in the PBS?
Ms Pearce —I do not think—
Senator WONG —I do not think it is disaggregated.
Ms Pearce —It is in the PBS, but it is spread across administration and departmental funds. We are looking in total at $6.3 million this financial year, rising to $53.9 million, $54.9 million, $54.9 million and $30 million—that is in 2008-09.
Senator WONG —So $6.3 million is for the current financial year.
Ms Pearce —That is correct.
Senator WONG —Of which you have allocated $1 million.
Ms Pearce —That is right.
Senator WONG —So you will rephase.
Ms Pearce —No.
Senator WONG —You will not?
Ms Pearce —No. Part of that is departmental funding for the set-up of the program.
Senator WONG —So what proportion of the $250 million is administered appropriation—the proportion of departmental funding? How much will go to people and how much is for you to do your jobs?
Ms Pearce —Some $176.881 million is expected to go to people, to grants.
Senator WONG —So it is about $25.4 million; is that right?
Ms Pearce —It is $23.1 million or thereabouts.
Senator WEBBER —What is it envisaged that these grants will be for?
Ms Pearce —The objectives of the community water grants initiative are to promote a culture of wise water use through community engagement and awareness about saving and conserving water, encourage best practice measures and demonstrate water wise solutions adapted to local needs and problems, and provide the support and means for community groups to undertake on-ground projects under three areas of activity: water saving/efficiency, water reuse and recycling, and surface and groundwater health.
Senator WEBBER —Who will determine which community groups get the money?
Ms Pearce —Ultimately the minister is the decision maker—and Minister Macdonald.
Senator WEBBER —Are we going to have the same kerfuffle about the guidelines as we have had with the other programs, or will they be quite precise in terms of what you can get funding for?
Mr Tucker —Perhaps I can add to that. Prior to moving here, I have recently been running the division that Ms Pearce is acting in now.
Senator WEBBER —That is why I got confused on my chart earlier today.
Mr Tucker —So I have some of the history.
Senator WEBBER —I accused you of being in a different section.
Mr Tucker —Yes. The guidelines are currently under development, but the $1 million that Ms Pearce talked about are for demonstration projects at the moment. That is funding 27 demonstration projects, which have been publicly announced. We have used that process to help us refine what we think the guidelines might need to be for the fuller program and Ms Pearce’s people are in the process of finalising those for the minister’s consideration—and for the consideration, I should add, of Minister Macdonald as well; it is a co-administered program between the two ministers.
Senator WONG —I assume the Mackay wastewater recycling project is PM&C?
Mr Tucker —I believe so. I think that is a large—
Senator Ian Campbell —If it is over $50,000.
Senator WONG —It is $29 million—just a little bit over! That is not allocated out of this department, is it?
Senator Ian Campbell —No.
Senator WONG —What about the Murray River?
Senator Ian Campbell —Which bit of it?
Senator WONG —The bit you visited; all of it is important.
Mr Slatyer —There is a separate agreement arising from the same COAG meeting that adopted the National Water Initiative and separate funding allocations to DAFF for a range of Murray River activities.
Senator WONG —Do you administer any funds towards delivering additional environmental flows to the Murray?
Mr Slatyer —We do not directly administer those funds but, as members of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, we are involved in decision making.
Senator WONG —So who has money—DAFF?
Mr Slatyer —The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Senator WONG —I have a brief question about Ramsar. Is that you, Mr Slatyer?
Mr Slatyer —Yes.
Senator WONG —How many referrals have been received under the EPBC Act in relation to Ramsar listed wetlands?
Mr Slatyer —I will have to take that on notice.
Senator WONG —Is that something Mr Early can help me with?
Mr Slatyer —Just bear with us.
Senator WONG —While that is being searched for, can you tell me whether you have officers specifically identified for work on Ramsar?
Mr Slatyer —Yes, we have.
Senator WONG —How many? Are they all in your division?
Mr Slatyer —It is very hard to get down to the detailed duties of individual staff members, many of whom do a bit of Ramsar work and other things too. But I would say there would probably be three or four staff members who are dedicated primarily to Ramsar related work in my division.
Senator WONG —Have we had any luck in searching?
Mr Early —There have been 296 referrals where Ramsar has been looked at as a possible controlling provision. That does not mean, of course, that there have been 296 controlled actions because of Ramsar, but that is what has been looked at.
Senator WONG —In the last?
Mr Early —That is from 2000 to I think the end of 2004. It is the first four years.
Senator WONG —I go back to the Murray River. You are on the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council—sorry, not the ministerial council: the commission.
Mr Slatyer —The minister is on the council.
Senator WONG —You are on the commission, aren’t you, Mr Slatyer?
Mr Borthwick —The secretary is a commissioner and deputy secretary O’Connell is a deputy commissioner.
Senator WONG —Was there a report presented in March last year which suggested that, if a business as usual approach was taken, you would actually see a prudential reduction in river flows of around 2,000 gigalitres after 20 years?
Mr Slatyer —I am not sure which report that would be. Could you be more specific?
Senator WONG —My briefing note says March 2004.
Mr Slatyer —The commission receives regular briefings on flow scenarios for the system.
Senator WONG —What is the government doing to address the risks associated with a business as usual approach? The concern is, as I understand it, that unless we do something significant we will actually be going the wrong way in terms of environmental flows down the river. What action is being taken through the commission, from your perspective?
Mr Slatyer —The primary initiative has been the $500 million intergovernmental agreement to find water savings in a range of ways to service the needs of some specified environmental outcomes down the river.
Senator WONG —What additional environmental flows have resulted from the initiatives so far?
Mr Slatyer —As of today, the first of those investments is yet to be made.
Senator WONG —None?
Senator Ian Campbell —No, but I think we should go through the process. We actually have an investment process. At the last meeting, I think, which was held six or eight weeks ago, we listed the first series of investments. There were about eight or 10 investments totalling some hundreds of millions of dollars, which now allow governments to invest in all of these projects, which will in fact achieve that.
Mr Slatyer —Decisions have been made on which projects to invest in and negotiations are in train with the states on those projects.
Senator Ian Campbell —Could we run through those projects for the record? It is a very impressive—
Senator WONG —If you want to table it, Minister, that is fine.
Senator Ian Campbell —I think we will table it. The bottom line and the takeout really is that, if the report was written back in 2004, it is certainly not business as usual. Business is happening on the Murray, and I think it is very impressive.
Senator WONG —You do not disagree with Mr Slatyer’s evidence that no additional environmental flows are currently being enjoyed by the river, or people dependent on it, as a result of government policy?
Senator Ian Campbell —Right now?
Senator WONG —Yes.
Senator Ian Campbell —No, but the people who take a close interest know the process it is going through. You are looking at hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of work which will deliver enormous amounts of additional flow for the environment. These are massive projects.
Senator WONG —Can we have a very short set of questions to the marine division—was that formerly the Oceans Office?
Mr Borthwick —It involves the Oceans Office but it also involves a couple of other branches as well.
Senator WEBBER —Mr Cresswell, were you previously Oceans Office?
Mr Cresswell —I was previously in the wildlife division.
Senator WEBBER —What happened to the Oceans Office? Are you the Oceans Office now?
Mr Cresswell —The question I was asked was about where I was previously.
Senator WONG —Mr Oxley, you are Marine Conservation Branch?
Mr Oxley —That is correct.
Senator WEBBER —Mr Cresswell, you are obviously the person to talk to about this. As I understand it, the National Oceans Office is now part of the Marine Division of the department. Is that correct?
Mr Creswell —That is correct.
Senator WEBBER —We will not get into another fight about abolitions. Was any advice sought from the department about the proposed shift of the National Oceans Office into the department?
Mr Borthwick —As I indicated to the AGO, Dr Shergold sought my advice on possible administrative arrangement orders. I do not want to indicate the nature of my advice to him.
Senator WEBBER —I understand that. But that was all part of the one discussion?
Mr Creswell —Yes.
Senator WEBBER —So it all happened at the one time.
Senator Ian Campbell —You can still visit the National Oceans Office in Hobart. It is still in Hobart; it has not shifted. There is a big sign on the front.
Senator WEBBER —I am pleased to hear that Hobart has not shifted at all; otherwise, I would really worry.
Senator Ian Campbell —Nor has the office.
Senator WEBBER —With the shifting of the office into the department, has there been any impact on staff numbers, budgets or outputs in terms of oceans policy
Mr Creswell —No.
Senator WEBBER —Is it business as usual? Is this a bit like the Greenhouse Office, where it is all the same people with all the same desks and chairs but you are just part of the department now?
Senator Ian Campbell —Both of the offices are doing better work than ever.
Senator WONG —Do you have the same staff complement as you did before?
Mr Creswell —Yes, we do.
Senator WONG —So there were no staff changes as a result?
Mr Creswell —No.
Senator WONG —And the reporting arrangements?
Mr Creswell —We report to the head of the Marine Division and through that to Conall O’Connell.
Senator WEBBER —What were the previous reporting arrangements? Was it direct to the minister?
Mr Creswell —The previous National Oceans Office, as the executive agency, reported through to a board of management and through that to a ministerial board.
Senator WEBBER —Through the National Oceans Office it would be fair to say that Australia was seen as a world leader in oceans policy, wouldn’t it?
Mr Creswell —Yes, and it still is.
Senator WEBBER —So what initiatives are we taking currently?
Senator Ian Campbell —That is a good quote, Senator Webber—I’ll use that.
Senator WEBBER —Who says I’m not generous!
Senator WONG —We like the Oceans Office.
Mr Creswell —We are continuing with regional marine planning, which is about planning how we utilise the marine environment in an ecologically sustainable way. We are continuing with the broader remit of oceans policy. We now share that across several of the branches within the Marine Division, to make sure that marine protected areas and regional marine planning are done in concert.
Senator WEBBER —So they are the two main focuses?
Mr Creswell —We also have a major science program under the National Oceans Office, so we continue work in exploration. We have a cruise underway at this very moment in the Arafura Sea, which is discovering new species that have never been found in Australian waters before.
Senator WONG —Can I ask a question about administrative expenses. You might have been here earlier for the questioning of the AGO, where there has been a $2 million reduction as a result of savings in administrative expenses due to their integration into the department. Was there any such savings measure in relation to your integration?
Mr Borthwick —No, there were no savings taken from the National Oceans Office as a result of their integration into the department. But funding for the National Oceans Office actually lapsed at the end of this financial year and the government has decided to fund them afresh to the tune of about $9½ million.
Senator WONG —How does that compare with the previous level of funding?
Mr Creswell —It is the same.
Mr Borthwick —It is the same.
Senator WONG —So why did the AGO get a $2 million cut on integration—not that I am at all suggesting that the Oceans Office should have a cut!
Mr Creswell —Thank you.
Senator WONG —I am more asking why the AGO had to have a $2 million cut.
Mr Borthwick —The Oceans Office was a relatively small agency, and so it was felt that it was not worthwhile in terms of the additional administrative efficiencies, because it was still located down in Hobart et cetera. In terms of the AGO, it was thought that there was scope for efficiencies—for example, by bringing corporate services and the like together. So that was a decision that the government took.
Senator WONG —So you were spared.
Mr Cresswell —There are minor administrative changes relating to who pays the bills, but it is all the same money paying for the same phone bills or whatever.
Senator WEBBER —Can you tell me about these new creatures you have discovered up in the Arafura Sea?
Mr Cresswell —We can certainly provide you with some information. We have some scientists on board who are providing information direct to us. It is a cruise that is done with three partners: Geoscience Australia—
Senator WEBBER —I will be talking to them next week.
Mr Cresswell —They would love to tell you about it, because they want more cruises. CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and the National Oceans Office, DEH. We are funding a certain number of days. Geoscience Australia is interested in hydrocarbon seeps for potential resource possibilities, and we are interested in new creatures in the deep. Previously some of the cruises have found things like new coral reefs up in the Gulf of Carpentaria, which we did not know were there. So very exciting marine science is being undertaken.
Senator WEBBER —Can you get me some information on that?
Mr Cresswell —I certainly will.
Senator WEBBER —Geoscience Australia might not be as well-informed as you are about creatures of the deep.
CHAIR —That concludes the examination of the Environment and Heritage portfolio. I thank the minister and officers for their attendance. I thank the committee secretariat. I remind the minister and departmental officers that the deadline for answers to questions on notice is Friday, 5 August.
Committee adjourned at 10.57 pm