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FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET PORTFOLIO
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
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FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Senator CHRIS EVANS
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Murray)
Senator BOB BROWN
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FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(Senate-Monday, 31 October 2005)
Department of the Senate
Senator BOB BROWN
Department of Parliamentary Services
Senator BOB BROWN
Senator CHRIS EVANS
- Department of the Senate
PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET PORTFOLIO
Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Senator BOB BROWN
Senator CHRIS EVANS
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Murray)
Office of National Assessments
Senator CHRIS EVANS
Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
Senator CHRIS EVANS
- Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General
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Content WindowFINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 31/10/2005 - PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET PORTFOLIO - Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
CHAIR —I welcome Senator Hill, the Minister for Defence and Minister representing the Prime Minister, and officers of the department. Dr Morauta, do you have an opening statement to make before we go to questions?
Dr Morauta —I have a procedural comment. I draw to your attention to the fact that Mr Lewis will not be available on national security policy issues—output 3.2—until 5.30 pm. We wrote about that to the committee in advance.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Senator Faulkner has really solved that problem for us today. We have not made hasty progress therefore.
CHAIR —Thank you. That is a good heads up. Senator Hill, do you have an opening statement to make before we go to questions?
Senator Hill —No.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I will ask a couple of questions on the economic and industry policy first.
Dr Morauta —Are we currently in general questions or are we going into the programs now?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I was going to go straight into the programs.
Senator FAULKNER —Before you go into that, I would like to ask two general questions. I gather that the Prime Minister has been hosting a number of functions for SES staff from PM&C and other agencies. I understand that is the case. Can you confirm that?
Dr Morauta —Those of us at the table are immediately aware of Christmas drinks that occur for the senior SES across the service.
Senator FAULKNER —This was not Christmas drinks at all. Do you want me to ask later, when CERHOS is here?
Mr Williams —You are not talking about the ministerial conversations series run by the Public Service Commission, are you?
Senator FAULKNER —What is that?
Mr Williams —It is a program that the Public Service Commission has organised so they are best placed to answer. Ministers speak to groups of public servants on a subscription basis, as I understand it. The Prime Minister undertook the first one in Parliament House in August or September—I could stand corrected there—and there are others in train. You are probably best asking the Public Service Commission about that program, if that is what you are asking about.
Senator FAULKNER —It may be that. My understanding was that the Prime Minister had been hosting a series of these things.
Dr Morauta —We are not clear about the Prime Minister hosting a series of things. We are clear about this seminar series, which is ministers speaking, and he was the first speaker.
Senator FAULKNER —Dr Morauta, I will flag that with you. I might come back to it later. I do not want to take a lot of time; I just want to understand the background of that. If it is a ministerial conversation we can ask about that at a later stage. From what I read in the papers I did not think many of the ministers were actually talking to each other but there we are—ministerial conversations, we will check that out later. What about the approval process for overseas trips of ministers? That is the only other thing I want to ask in general questions. This is done on an annualised basis. I am sure Ms Belcher can help us with this; she is an absolute expert on these sorts of issues.
Ms Belcher —Twice a year the Prime Minister invites ministers to put forward proposals for overseas travel for the following year, with particular emphasis on the following six months.
Senator FAULKNER —It is effectively a bids process, isn’t it?
Ms Belcher —Yes, that is right.
Senator FAULKNER —Where are we up to in that chronology?
Ms Belcher —The Prime Minister has written—I cannot tell you the exact date—and ministers’ proposals have come in in recent weeks. We are at the stage of commencing discussions with the Prime Minister’s office and putting a proposal to the Prime Minister.
Senator FAULKNER —For what period of time is this?
Ms Belcher —That would be for the next 12 months.
Senator FAULKNER —From when to when?
Ms Belcher —It is for a 12-month period commencing from the beginning of next year.
Senator FAULKNER —It is for calendar year 2006?
Ms Belcher —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —The process is that that is sorted through by your division?
Ms Belcher —Yes, with advice from all divisions across PM&C—where the trip is relevant to that division.
Senator FAULKNER —A brief goes to the Prime Minister for approval after that work is completed?
Ms Belcher —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —When would you expect that brief to go to the Prime Minister?
Ms Belcher —I would think within the next few weeks.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I want to ask about the announced COAG review of ports and export infrastructure, and what role PM&C is taking in leading that review.
Mr Glyde —You will be aware that the Prime Minister’s task force was created and was administered outside the department by Dr Brian Fisher. We had a representative on that task force. Are you asking for information in relation to where we are up to in implementing the recommendations?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes, and what your involvement is. Are you the right people to ask? You are responsible for it?
Mr Glyde —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —How long is it likely to take? When is it going to report? What are the terms of reference?
Mr Glyde —The infrastructure task force has reported. It reported to the Prime Minister in July. The issues that were raised by the task force were taken to COAG. They considered the recommendations in two halves. They have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. The first half related to immediate things that could be done, such as hastening the long-term planning undertaken under AusLink, extending AusLink planning et cetera. That has been dealt with by a COAG working group of senior officials. They have made recommendations to COAG members and those members are currently considering those recommendations and how to take that relatively small set of recommendations forward.
There is another part, which relates to the regulation of ports and export related infrastructure. That is being dealt with in another COAG working group, which is reviewing national competition policy. Again, officials are still working on that review. It has not yet gone to COAG. That is expected to be going to the next meeting of COAG early next year. It is work in progress.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So that is more about a new national competition agenda, is it?
Mr Glyde —At the same COAG meeting, COAG members also kicked off a broader look at the next round of competition policy. But there was a specific reference to the infrastructure regulation and that has been taken up within that broader review.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And that will not be finalised until the broader review is finalised?
Mr Glyde —That is the intention. It is all to be finalised together as part of COAG’s look at competition policy.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So the only thing that is likely to come forward in the short term is the AusLink related stuff.
Mr Glyde —Yes. There are six recommendations, two relating to AusLink, one relating to every jurisdiction providing a report to COAG every five years on infrastructure, one relating to the Commonwealth and the states facilitating the establishment of groups to coordinate logistic chains, one relating to reinvigorating the agenda for harmonising road and rail regulations and one about establishing one-stop shops in each jurisdiction for project facilitation and approvals. Those were the immediate actions. On the assumption that COAG members approve those, they are likely to come out ahead of the consideration by COAG early next year of the broader regulatory review.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Have those recommendations been released publicly?
Mr Glyde —Not as yet. They are still subject to agreement by the states.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Will that need a COAG meeting or will that be ticked off over the phone, as it were?
Mr Glyde —It can be ticked off in correspondence. I guess if there is dispute among the COAG members then it might be something that would end up on the COAG agenda, but we are quite hopeful that there will not be any dispute about those six areas.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you have a timeline for the completion of that?
Mr Glyde —We are hoping that it will be completed by the end of the year. We are in the hands of the state premiers.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And they are preoccupied at the moment. So the broader national competition policy is picking up the more general question of regulations for ports et cetera. Is that right?
Mr Glyde —Correct. A consistent national system for regulation of ports and export related infrastructure is the issue that has been referred to that working group.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who is chairing the working group?
Mr Glyde —At the Commonwealth level, it is being chaired by Jenny Goddard, a deputy secretary in PM&C.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Ms Goddard chairs it. Is there a representative from each of the states as well?
Mr Glyde —That is correct. There is a representative from each of the states and territories.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who is doing the secretariat, PM&C?
Mr Glyde —There is a secretariat being created in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet that will undertake all aspects of the NCP review.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Are other agencies from the Commonwealth involved?
Mr Glyde —Other agencies are represented on that secretariat and, in the normal way, departments are involved in the formulation of Commonwealth positions to take to the COAG review meetings.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Have you seconded staff in from Transport or whatever?
Mr Glyde —Yes. I do not recall which particular departments have contributed staff. Certainly Transport, Treasury and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources are included in there as well, and possibly people from the ACCC.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Have they been seconded to work full-time on the project?
Mr Glyde —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What sort of level officers are we talking about?
Mr Glyde —They range from senior executive band 2 down to executive level 1, so they are fairly senior public servants.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Can you take on notice for me the departments that are represented?
Mr Glyde —I am happy to do that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What is the method for consulting with industry and other interested parties?
Mr Glyde —I am not quite sure about that. Perhaps Ms Goddard might be able to help me out on that one.
Ms Goddard —I can clarify those departments that are on the secretariat, if you like.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Okay.
Ms Goddard —PM&C, Treasury, the ACCC, transport or DOTARS, and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources are represented. In terms of consulting with business groups and industry, the BCA and some of the chambers have published papers about what they see as the priorities for a forward competition policy agenda. We have had some discussions with them and we have invited the Business Council of Australia to present to the Commonwealth state working group their views on forward reforms. It is a sort of as-you-go, relatively informal consultation process where we are happy to talk to any groups that want to come and talk to the Commonwealth or state members of the working group.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is there any consultation beyond the business groups sector?
Ms Goddard —They are the main ones. Some of the economic consulting firms and so on have also made their views known. We are happy to talk to any key stakeholders with an interest in the issues under consideration.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What COAG meeting or time are you aiming towards for the competition review?
Ms Goddard —The senior officials, the heads of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Premier’s departments, are to report to members of COAG on the results of that review by the end of December this year.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that the broader review deadline?
Ms Goddard —That is the review of national competition policy.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So that deadline is December as well?
Ms Goddard —That is right.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I think I was told earlier that this was going to COAG next year. What type of time frame for next year are we talking about?
Ms Goddard —I think the Prime Minister indicated at the last COAG meeting that he hoped to have another meeting in February or March of 2006. That has not been settled yet.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Thanks for that.
Dr Morauta —Can I just go back to Senator Faulkner’s question. We can confirm that we have not organised drinks for the Prime Minister with the SES except for the Christmas drinks that I already mentioned. But we have printed off a couple of descriptions, first of all, of the ministerial conversations series and the beginning of the transcript of the Prime Minister’s lunch speech when he was the first guest on that series. I thought they might be of use to you in understanding the issue. I will hand those notes over to you.
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Murray) —Are there any other questions?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes. I want to move on to social policy advice now.
ACTING CHAIR —If there are no other questions on the previous topic, please go ahead.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Can I start with the Welfare to Work issues. I see the government announced quite substantial changes to the package on 21 September and I just wanted to see what PM&C had to say. I think previously you have told us of your involvement in the original package. I just want to understand whether that is an ongoing role or whether you are responsible for the revamp package or the amendments to the package and what process was involved in that.
Mr Innis —Formal responsibility for coordinating the Welfare to Work policy transferred to the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations following the budget. They have been coordinating the further policy work. Our involvement has been limited to the normal PM&C role in all policy development.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So, for instance, you had that work age reform group. Is that selective?
Mr Innis —The work age reform group?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Isn’t that what you call it?
Mr Innis —There is a consultative forum which I think Minister Andrews chairs. PM&C sends a representative, effectively as a listener, to that forum.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So basically you led the budget changes but now DEWR are driving the amendments to the package?
Mr Innis —That is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You are obviously represented on some working group as part of that?
Mr Innis —There are two groups. There is a steering committee which oversights the whole process. That is chaired by the secretary of Employment and Workplace Relations. There is what is called a strategic project management group, which is effectively a working group. That is chaired by the deputy secretary of Employment and Workplace Relations. PM&C is represented on both groups.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Can you tell me how the changes announced on 21 December were developed?
Mr Innis —The changes were developed as part of the consideration of the finer details of the welfare reforms as people were translating the policies announced in the budget into the detailed legislation. There were a range of issues that needed to be resolved. They went forward to cabinet for consideration.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes, I think previously we have learned that the details of the package were worked out between Mr Costello and Mr Howard just prior to the budget but they had not gone to cabinet. These changes went to cabinet, did they?
Mr Innis —That is not quite correct. The welfare reforms went to cabinet a number of times in advance of the budget. The final details were settled before the budget announcement by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. Subsequent to the budget announcement, obviously, in the translation to detailed legislation, some issues arose that needed consideration. They went to cabinet.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So DEWR put up a submission to cabinet that was the basis of the 21 September announcement?
Mr Innis —I cannot recall whether it was a formal cabinet submission or a memorandum prepared by the department. I will get that checked for you.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I can certainly ask DEWR as well. What is the difference between a cabinet submission and a memorandum?
Mr Innis —The difference is that a memorandum is prepared by officials for consideration of ministers and a submission is a paper by the minister.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is there any ongoing work for what was the Cabinet Implementation Unit?
Mr Innis —Yes. The implementation of the reforms is obviously going to be an ongoing task. It is a matter of high priority for the government and the Cabinet Implementation Unit will be involved in monitoring the implementation of the reforms as a whole.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that still being run out of PM&C?
Mr Innis —The Cabinet Implementation Unit is part of PM&C. They will be involved in the ongoing monitoring.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You might understand how I am getting a little confused. You just described two committees to me—the steering committee and the other one—and we have the Cabinet Implementation Unit. Can you give me a layman’s understanding of how they all come together, otherwise I might think we have gone bureaucratically mad or something.
Mr Innis —The two committees, if you like, chaired by DEWR are responsible for the development of policy, coordinating the implementation of policy and making sure that all departments are acting properly. The role of the Cabinet Implementation Unit is to monitor the formal implementation plan to make sure that everything is on track as a separate check on progress to make sure that things are going smoothly.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So PM&C is running a watchdog role over it, effectively, or an assessment role?
Mr Innis —You may call it that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —How is the Cabinet Implementation Unit reporting and to whom?
Dr Morauta —We will probably need to go to someone else on the CIU, because the CIU works across all portfolios; it is not restricted to the DEWR portfolio. I will get Mr Hamburger to take questions on the implementation unit.
Mr Hamburger —The Cabinet Implementation Unit monitors a fair number of cabinet decisions, after they have been made, through to the implementation stage. At the moment it is probably tracking about 60 policy initiatives. It reports in a number of ways: directly to the Prime Minister if particular things arise, but regularly every three months to cabinet with a report that shows whether things are on track or are worth looking at more closely.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —In terms of the Welfare to Work package, is that just contained as part of your normal three-monthly reporting? This is a major policy announcement, so is there more detailed work or separate reporting?
Mr Hamburger —Not on that one, no. The 60 include a fair number of fairly large initiatives, and this is one more of them.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I had a different understanding of how that worked. I understand there have been some problems in working through some of the necessary systems changes et cetera to implement a number of these parts of the package. Is the 1 July 2006 implementation date still the agreed date?
Mr Innis —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Are we confident that you are going to reach that date?
Mr Innis —We are.
Senator MOORE —How many people are there in your unit, in the CIU, at the moment?
Mr Hamburger —At the moment it is about 10. It will be within one or two of 10 as of today. There is a good deal of movement—
Senator MOORE —Would that be eight or 12?
Mr Hamburger —It will be one or two off 10.
Senator MOORE —Is it permanently staffed at 10?
Mr Hamburger —No, it takes a fair number of people on secondment. We look particularly for people from delivery agencies. We will have people short term for projects, people on one-year secondments. We are funded for an average staff of 9.8.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I want to ask about the Medicare smart card and what PM&C’s role in that is.
Mr Innis —There was an IDC chaired by the Department of Human Services that was commissioned to provide advice on smart-card technologies and their possible use. PM&C was a member of that IDC and contributed to its work.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that IDC’s work completed?
Mr Innis —The IDC has provided a report to ministers which was the basis of further consideration by the Minister for Human Services.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So is it fair to say that the ball is back in the human services minister’s court?
Mr Innis —Further development of proposals would be led by the Minister for Human Services and the department, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What was PM&C’s role in the IDC?
Mr Innis —We are a member of the IDC.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What were you there to provide?
Mr Innis —We provided advice from the perspective of the Prime Minister and the whole-of-government consideration of how these technologies might be applied in the social policy field.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Has there been any release of the IDC’s recommendations or further consideration of them inside government, or is it just in the hands of Human Services now?
Mr Innis —The IDC report went to the minister, and the minister has brought proposals forward for consideration. There is ongoing work on those proposals.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Has everything gone to cabinet yet?
Mr Innis —Yes. A submission went to cabinet—I do not recall the specific date—but that has triggered some further development work.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is PM&C involved in the further development work?
Mr Innis —The precise arrangements for developing that work are yet to be settled. As I said, it will be led by the Department of Human Services and I imagine that we will be involved, as would be normal—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is there another IDC or a continuation of the IDC as part of that?
Mr Innis —The arrangements are yet to be settled. The Department of Human Services may have more information.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I always have to ask these questions here because when I get to Human Services they will tell me that I should have asked that at PM&C. It made sense to ask it there but I always like to cover my bases. What about the smart technologies and services interdepartmental committee?
Mr Innis —That was the committee that I was referring to.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So that is the formal title, is it?
Mr Innis —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I want to ask some questions about the COAG trials for Indigenous services. Dr Morauta, I just want to check where we are at with the COAG trials. Is that still overseen by the secretary’s group?
Dr Morauta —Yes, they have agreed to continue their leadership role in relation to the trials and the OIPC is responsible for managing the evaluation of the trials.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So we are going to have some evaluation on the fifth or sixth anniversary, are we?
Dr Morauta —I am not sure of the details.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So you do not know how we are going to evaluate the trials?
Dr Morauta —I do not know when.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But there has been some decision taken to finally do some evaluation, has there? I thought they took that decision back in 2003 to do the evaluation.
Dr Morauta —Senator, I do not think that I know the details. My notes say that in October 2003 Commonwealth, state and territory officials endorsed the evaluation framework and that the formative evaluation of COAG trials sites has commenced with evaluations of all sites due to be completed in this calendar year.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So the decision taken in 2003 has now been implemented?
Dr Morauta —I think that there are two types of evaluation envisaged. One is what is called a formative evaluation where you feed back into what is going on so that you can improve things. That is meant to be finished by the end of 2005. That is about improving what we are doing. Then there is a final or comprehensive or summative evaluation which is scheduled for 2007-08.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —For 2007-08?
Dr Morauta —I think that the view must be that that will be the time period in which we can really test these arrangements. However, there are evaluation activities going on at the moment which will feed in to improving the work of the trials as they go forward.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And you describe that as formative?
Dr Morauta —Yes. It is a term that is used in evaluation of land. ‘Formative’ helps things work better, then ‘summative’ is afterwards going back and saying, ‘Did it all work?’
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What role does PM&C play now in the secretaries group and the COAG trials?
Dr Morauta —PM&C continues to support the work of the secretaries group. As I said, the evaluation is managed by OIPC.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Until when are the COAG trials funded?
Dr Morauta —I think I will have to take that on notice. I can get it back to you quite quickly but I do not have it here in my notes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am just wondering whether the out years have contained funding for the continuation of the COAG trials.
Dr Morauta —I am trusting that somebody from the branch is watching this and will ring in with that information quite quickly.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —As I understand it, in a document entitled Shared responsibility, shared future—which was probably the document you were quoting from—in 2003 when they agreed to an evaluation of the COAG trials it was described as an urgent priority. With respect, two years on it does not seem to have carried much urgency.
Dr Morauta —Are you talking about the evaluation?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes.
Dr Morauta —I think it might be worth pursuing details of the evaluation with OIPC.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I certainly will be.
Dr Morauta —The answers I have given you are the broad ones that work. This year will show us how we can improve them as we go along.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you have any details of what form the formative evaluation takes?
Dr Morauta —I do not think I do. Let me just check. No, I am sorry; I do not have details.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you know about a document called Lessons learned to date? It is the only evaluation I seem to be able to find.
Dr Morauta —I am sorry; I do not have details of that here, but we can get you some information on that. Have you a copy of that?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes, I have. I am just checking whether or not I have it legally.
Dr Morauta —I am just thinking that we can get you a copy of something if we have it.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It is about lessons learnt to date from the COAG trials; a report provided to OIPC in April 2005.
Dr Morauta —PM&C may well have that document but I do not have it in front of me. It does sound as if it is something that OIPC are managing.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Have you had any formal assessment of the COAG trial reported to PM&C? Perhaps you could take that on notice.
Dr Morauta —I will take it on notice. It would be better to take it on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I would be interested to know whether you have received the lessons learned document and whether you have received any other assessment. I am also interested in what PM&C has done to provide some accountability for the funds expended on the COAG trials, given that it is five years on.
Dr Morauta —I should be able to get back to you later on that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So you do not know whether the secretaries group has received any other reporting on outcomes.
Dr Morauta —I think that as part of their regular business they will have done, but I do not have details, chapter and verse, for you.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —The secretary chairs the group. Is that right?
Dr Morauta —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is anybody else from the department involved in this process?
Dr Morauta —The department provides a secretariat to the secretaries committee.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I guess I am specifically asking about the COAG trials. Have you any direct involvement in that?
Dr Morauta —I think I need to take that on notice. I do not have the information with me.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Perhaps you could take on notice whether PM&C has any role in the COAG trials—their monitoring, evaluation and coordination—and if so what that involvement is. As I understand it, there is a separate lead agency in each of the trials. I do not think PM&C is one of them.
Dr Morauto —No, I do not think so.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is there a reporting line from those lead agencies back to PM&C?
Dr Morauto —I will take the whole lot on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do we have anyone here who knows anything about the COAG trials?
Dr Morauto —No. We have had quite a change of staff, which is why I am looking such a dodo about it. I will get the information and come back to you later.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am wondering whether I am wasting the time of the committee. Would it be better to wait until we had someone available?
Dr Morauto —I do not think we will get anybody. I will take the questions you have asked and see if I can get back to you today. If there is anything left over we will take it on notice and sort it out for you.
CHAIR —Is this a convenient time to throw the call to Senator Bob Brown for a few minutes?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes, given I am not making much progress on the COAG trials. That is probably wise.
Senator BOB BROWN —These are general questions; I do not know where else they slot. I want to ask about the forestry package in Tasmania—and I flagged this in the run-up to the last election. We now know that part of the $50 million forestry package announced in the Albert Hall in Launceston on the Wednesday before the last election was $4 million, which received the approval of the forestry branch of the CFMEU. It has been stated since then that that money was in the budget. Was that the 2003-04 budget, and where exactly was it in the budget? Who initiated the negotiations for that package?
Mr Glyde —I do not recall the exact timing of the funding for the forest package or when it came in. I do not think it was in the 2003-04 budget. My understanding is that this was a package that was developed following the election—the finalising of the details and the money involved.
Senator BOB BROWN —The Prime Minister on 7 October—and this is from the Daily Telegraph—said:
It’s not a secret, it was publicly disclosed and the money was made available and set aside in the budget.
The $4 million was announced on the day ...
Mr Glyde —That is right. In the overall package that the Prime Minister announced there was a $4 million element which was essentially for retraining and reskilling within the industry. At the time it was a specific element in that overall package for the forestry agreement. The agreement was with the Forests and Forest Products Employment Skills Company, which is a 20-member board which basically represents the business and employee interests of the forest and forest products industry. That was seen as the best vehicle for delivering the reskilling and retraining elements that are part of the overall Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement package.
Senator BOB BROWN —When the Prime Minister said that the $4 million was in the budget and it was not a secret, he was referring to the budget since the election not the budget before the election, and in the run-up to that announcement it was a secret.
Senator Hill —Sorry, what was the question? I did not hear the last part.
Senator BOB BROWN —I am saying that from what Mr Glyde is saying the $4 million, which the Prime Minister said was not a secret because it was set aside in the budget, was in fact not in the budget preceding the election and it was not announced at the time of the election.
Mr Glyde —What might have been implied or was referred to was the fact that there would have been negotiations in finalising the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement and the bundle of money that went with it. I think what the Prime Minister was saying when he announced the agreement was that that $4 million was always part of the budget for the particular agreement. As you have pointed out, the timing of that was after the budget preceding the election, so it would have been dealt with, as often is the case, outside the formal budget context. It was a new decision the government had taken once it had come to agreement with the Tasmanian government about all aspects of the package, and that is quite normal.
Senator BOB BROWN —So it was a secret at the time that the $50 million package was announced.
Mr Glyde —To the extent that all elements of the package—and I forget the total amount of the package, but it is in the order of $90 million or $100 million; I will have to take the exact size of the package on notice—would have been developed and negotiated in confidence with the Tasmanian government and others and then announced on that day. It was no more or less secret than any other element of the package.
Senator BOB BROWN —Yes, there was no specific announcement. The public did not know that $4 million had been set aside for this purpose at the time of the election, did they?
Mr Glyde —I would have to go back—
Senator Hill —That might be a hard question to ask the official.
Mr Glyde —Yes.
Senator Hill —The official knows what he knows, but—
Mr Glyde —Prior to the election campaign there was an announcement that there would be a package—there would be an agreement—
Senator BOB BROWN —Yes, but not a $4 million allocation which was going to the 20-person skills company you referred to—FAFPESC—and ESC, which is an advisory board for the timber industry and which has both union and employer representatives but is quite heavily represented by the forestry branch of the CFMEU and chaired by the forestry division national secretary of that union, Trevor Smith. The union’s assistant national secretary, Mr Michael O’Connor, is also a director and prime lobbyist for its interests. Where has that money actually gone?
Mr Glyde —The money is being administered by the Department of Education, Science and Training as it is a skills and training initiative. So it has the money, and I think it is currently in negotiations with the board that you mentioned. Just for completeness, of the 20-member board eight members are representatives of the forestry division of the CFMEU, 11 members represent business enterprises and industry associations, and one member represents the vocational education and training sector. So it is a combination of union and industry-business interests.
Senator BOB BROWN —Is that work going to be subcontracted?
Mr Glyde —I do not know. That would probably be a question best asked of the Department of Education, Science and Training. I do not know the specifics of how they are planning to administer the $4 million, but my understanding is that it will be through the Forest and Forest Products Employment Skills Company.
Senator BOB BROWN —What strictures are put on that allocation?
Mr Glyde —I am not aware.
Senator Hill —It has been negotiated by the other department.
Senator BOB BROWN —No, the Prime Minister made the announcement and so would know if there were any conditions. Were there any conditions at the time of the Prime Minister’s announcement?
Senator Hill —You are arguing that the specific aspect was not announced.
Mr Glyde —That is right. All that the Prime Minister announced was in the statement that has an element within it that talks about retraining and reskilling. That was the announcement. It is often the case in these matters that further planning and decision making have to go on, and that is being done by the Department of Education, Science and Training, which has specific responsibility for delivering this element of the package.
Senator BOB BROWN —Did the union approach the government or did the government approach the union to establish this package?
Mr Glyde —I am afraid I do not know that.
Senator BOB BROWN —Can you find out?
Mr Glyde —I can undertake to try.
Senator BOB BROWN —Would you?
Mr Glyde —Yes.
Senator BOB BROWN —Do you know when negotiations on the package began?
Mr Glyde —No, I do not.
Senator BOB BROWN —Could you find out?
Mr Glyde —Do you mean negotiations between the union movement and—
Senator BOB BROWN —Anybody associated with the package.
Senator Hill —I think you can ask the official if PM&C were involved in negotiations and at which time did PM&C’s involvement commence, but I do not think you can ask the official to go beyond the task of the relevant government department.
Senator BOB BROWN —I do ask you that: at what time did the negotiations commence and with whom and who instigated those negotiations?
Senator Hill —As far as the department is concerned you can ask that, but if you want to ask the Prime Minister you should ask me and I will refer it to him.
Senator BOB BROWN —Would you do that?
Senator Hill —Yes, I will do that.
Senator BOB BROWN —So I will get both arms of this—the department’s involvement and the Prime Minister’s involvement.
Mr Glyde —Yes.
Senator BOB BROWN —Minister, would you ask the Prime Minister when he first spoke to Mr O’Connor or Mr Smith from the union about this $4 million or any part of the package that was consequently announced in the week before the election?
Senator Hill —I will refer that to the Prime Minister.
Senator BOB BROWN —Would you also ask the Prime Minister what role the National Association of Forest Industries, NAFI, took in developing the package or when it held discussions with the Prime Minister or the department and when that role began?
Senator Hill —I will refer that as well. There may be some difficulty in defining the commencement date of these processes because, as I recall it, there has been quite a long period of discussion through the relevant minister on a whole-of-government basis in relation to this particular issue, but I will refer your question.
Senator BOB BROWN —Just regarding the Prime Minister and PM&C, would you discover what talks were held with NAFI or with the union, the forestry division, and its representatives in the 12 months leading up to the election and when those talks were held?
Senator Hill —Yes, the department can be asked whether it was involved in discussions with NAFI or the union in the 12 months before the election which related to the commitment that was ultimately made by the Prime Minister during the election.
Senator BOB BROWN —Is that the overall $90 million or so commitment?
Senator Hill —Yes.
Senator BOB BROWN —Could you establish when the $4 million component for this training purpose was agreed?
Senator Hill —You have asked questions of the Prime Minister in relation to the $4 million training commitment, and I said I would refer those questions to the Prime Minister. If you are asking the official whether PM&C was involved in that particular aspect, obviously it has been subsequently involved if it has passed the administrative responsibility to another department. If you are asking about the pre-election period, that is a reasonable question. If the official has information on that he can provide it now or do some research.
Mr Glyde —I am afraid I am not in a position to provide it now—I was not in the department at the time—but I am happy to take it on notice and come back to you.
Senator MILNE —On the same matter, what was the date on which either Mr Maclean or Mr O’Connor from the CFMEU was informed that the $4 million had been confirmed as part of the package? Did Prime Minister and Cabinet inform them? If so, on what date?
Mr Glyde —I will have to take that on notice.
Senator MILNE —Certainly. It was in the context of the information that is being sought.
Mr Glyde —Yes, we can do that. To the extent that we would have information on that, we can provide it.
Senator MILNE —The same question is directed to the Prime Minister. If it was not Prime Minister and Cabinet that informed them, when did someone from the Prime Minister’s office inform them?
Senator Hill —I will refer that to the Prime Minister.
Senator BOB BROWN —I have asked questions on notice about meetings with other groups before the election. I will put these questions to you to see if you can get an answer for the committee. In the last period of government, on what occasions did the Prime Minister and/or the department have meetings with representatives of the Family First Party?
Mr Glyde —In relation to the forest package?
Senator BOB BROWN —No, in relation to anything. Also, where did the meetings take place and with whom?
Senator Hill —Of the department or the Prime Minister?
Senator BOB BROWN —Both.
Senator Hill —You can certainly ask whether the department was involved with a particular party or in providing advice to the Prime Minister or whatever. In relation to the Prime Minister’s contact as a politician during the election with any other political interests, I think that would be a question beyond the scope of this committee.
Senator BOB BROWN —No, it is not. I am asking a question about meetings between the Prime Minister and the Family First Party—that is, did they meet and when did they meet.
Senator Hill —During the election?
Senator BOB BROWN —In the last period of government.
Senator Hill —I would think that the Prime Minister would respectfully suggest to you that that is not a matter within the legitimate interests of this committee. It seems an extraordinary question to be asking.
Senator BOB BROWN —You might do so, but I think it is very legitimate. It is absolutely important to transparency in our democracy. There may be security reasons for secret meetings, but, when it comes to political matters and to matters determining the running of the country, the Prime Minister is absolutely accountable to this committee and the people of Australia.
Senator Hill —I think the distinguishing aspect is in what you have just said—that is, distinguishing between political matters and administrative matters. Meetings that the Prime Minister may have had during an election campaign with other politicians or political parties certainly do not seem to me to come within the purview of this committee.
Senator BOB BROWN —They do to me. I ask you to put that question to the Prime Minister.
Senator Hill —I put to the Prime Minister what I think are legitimate questions, but I do not think it is appropriate for me to put questions that I think are illegitimate.
Senator BOB BROWN —So you are refusing to put that question?
Senator Hill —Yes. I do not think that is an appropriate question.
Senator BOB BROWN —What an extraordinary block that is
Senator Hill —I would expect you to say that.
Senator BOB BROWN —I did not expect even you would come up with a refusal to produce information which is important to the electorate.
Senator Hill —It is not a matter about public administration.
Senator BOB BROWN —It is absolutely a matter about public administration. It is about keeping politics transparent and honest.
Senator Hill —I cannot see any way in which you can justify that.
Senator BOB BROWN —‘Cover-up’ is the alternative.
Senator Hill —Senator Faulkner usually alleges cover-up.
Senator BOB BROWN —I have a great deal of respect for Senator Faulkner. My second question is a follow-up to questions which I put to the Prime Minister in times past but which have not been answered. They relate to representatives of the Exclusive Brethren sect. Has the Prime Minister met with representatives of that particular religious group during his period in office? If so, when and what was the nature of that meeting?
Senator Hill —The question is fine if it is put outside of an election context.
Senator BOB BROWN —I am putting it in any context.
Senator Hill —If you are putting it in terms of his public responsibility as Prime Minister, then that may be okay. Perhaps Senator Bob Brown, for my benefit, might clarify whether he is speaking of the election period or of a period subsequent to that.
Senator BOB BROWN —My question was about the whole of the Prime Minister’s time in office. That is a very easy thing to check on. If I were asking about the archbishop of one of the faiths in Sydney, you would have no trouble.
Senator Hill —Yes, I would if it were during the election, because I do not think that is an aspect of interest to this committee. If it is beyond the election—
Senator BOB BROWN —It is very pertinent. However, I am not qualifying it. I am just asking the question. Can you bring it up to today’s date? Has the Prime Minister had a meeting with representatives of the Exclusive Brethren? If so, when and for what purpose?
Senator Hill —I am happy to refer that to the Prime Minister, with the caveat that the question refers to meetings outside of the election context.
Senator BOB BROWN —You seem to be shepherding the Prime Minister already. I do not want any caveat on the question. I want the question asked without caveats or restrictions. It is a simple question and it should be able to be asked about any lobbyists. I am sure if it were about the Wilderness Society or the Australian Conservation Foundation you would have no trouble in getting answers to the question.
Senator Hill —I will put the question to the Prime Minister in the terms that I have just outlined.
Senator BOB BROWN —That is a cover-up.
CHAIR —Senator Bob Brown, the minister has given his answer.
Senator MILNE —I want to ask a more specific question. Has the Prime Minister had any meetings with the Exclusive Brethren with regard to the funding of education trusts and/or private schools and specifically with regard to any exemptions to the current requirements for federal government funding for private schools?
Senator Hill —With the qualification that I have added, that is covered by the question that was put by Senator Bob Brown.
Senator BOB BROWN —Can you put the question taking into account Senator Milne’s question?
Senator Hill —Yes, with my qualification.
Senator MILNE —My question is specifically in relation to the funding of private schools.
Proceedings suspended from 3.58 pm to 4.16 pm
CHAIR —I call the committee to order. Dr Morauta, you have some further information for the committee.
Dr Morauta —Yes. I would just like to go back to some of the questions we got on Indigenous matters and were not able to answer. There was a pool of money which was specific to the trials but that has now finished. That was called the flexible funding pool and that reported through DIMIA to the minister there. But now the trials are all funded by money that is coming from the programs that are represented in the trials and the accountability for those funds continues to lie with the originating portfolio and its minister.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So there is no separate budget allocation?
Dr Morauta —Not at the moment, no. They are now all drawn from the line agency budgets. I think we talked about monitoring and evaluation. PM&C does not have a formal role in the trials except insofar as the secretaries group strongly supports their continuation—we provide advice to them and act as a secretariat to them. We are not on an IDC or any other group that, if you like, runs the trials. The coordination point is DIMIA, and monitoring and evaluation all lies with them .
We are not quite sure of the document you have got, Senator, and maybe we should draw a veil over that. There are some documents on an OIPC web site but they do not carry the name of the one you are talking about. There is something called ‘Shared responsibility, shared future’ on their web site. We are not quite sure of the document you have got there.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —One of them you gave me in answer to a question. ‘Shared responsibility, shared future’ is from the Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce.
Dr Morauta —Yes. That is on the web site.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes, that is the first one I referred you to. The second one is called ‘Lessons learned to date from the COAG trials’ and it was provided from the Health and Ageing portfolio in answer to question E05-162, on Indigenous health. It was in answer to a question by Senator Moore about lessons learned from the COAG trials. So it was provided to me from government—and not only provided to me by government but provided officially by government.
Dr Morauta —Yes, officially by a government department. I am sorry, in PM&C we are not completely sure which document that is. There were, for example, reports to COAG at around that time and it may be that that was part of that process. We are not sure.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you know why you are strongly supporting the trials?
Dr Morauta —Because in PM&C—and this is something our Secretary has taken a lot of interest in—we are looking for new ways of delivering services to communities that in the past we have not done very well at delivering services to. It is not a question of whether we have found the absolute and final answer, but it is that we should continue to press on to explore new ways of delivering services, trying to cut through some of the difficulties that have faced services in the past for such communities.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It just strikes me as rather odd that five years on, without any formal assessment, you are still strongly supporting something but you do not know whether it works or not.
Dr Morauta —I think the kind of support I indicated is for the broad framework of it. I am not across the details.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It may well be worth supporting; I do not know. I am just trying to work out how you know, given that there has not been any formal assessment on it. Anyway, you have taken on notice the question about formal assessments. Maybe we can all be convinced when we see those answers. It was my intention to do output 4.4 next.
CHAIR —Output 4.4—that would be delightful. Senator Faulkner, do you have questions that predate that?
Senator FAULKNER —I do not have questions that predate that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That was on the understanding that we were coming back to output 3 later on.
CHAIR —Yes, we are coming back to output 3 at a later hour.
Dr Morauta —Can I check whether we need to keep people from output 1 or 2 here any longer.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —No, I do not think so; not from my point of view. We have output 4 and then output 3. We were going to do the government communications issues. We thought that was under 4.4. Is that right, Dr Morauta?
Dr Morauta —Yes, we can do that now.
Senator FAULKNER —We will move onto output 4 and then come back to output 3 when the other officials have arrived.
CHAIR —So have we finished with output groups 1 and 2?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am just wondering whether the policy side of the IR issue is covered by somebody in output 1.
Dr Morauta —No. The policy side of that would not be covered by output group 1.
Senator FAULKNER —Can you just hold anyone who is involved in that as well. Everyone else can go.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Basically, we are looking to do output 4.4 and talk about the IR advertising campaign. We do not want to lose any officers who might formally be part of output 1 but are central to the next issue.
Dr Morauta —I am sure everybody has got that.
CHAIR —Senator Evans, you may now ask questions on output 4.4.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I just want to start by getting a sense of how authorisation for these campaigns work. I know that some of the other senators are better versed in this than I am, but can you give me some sort of an idea of how the system works for the authorisation of major government advertising campaigns.
Mr Williams —Generally there is an approach from a department or a minister to the MCGC and/or the Government Communications Unit indicating that a campaign was in prospect. When the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications is considering a campaign, the minister becomes a member of the committee for the consideration of that campaign.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So who are the permanent members of the committee?
Mr Williams —It is chaired by Senator Abetz, the Special Minister of State. The members are Mr Petro Georgiou, Mr Tony Smith, Mr Andrew Robb, Mrs Sussan Ley and Mr Tony Knight. They are the permanent members and, as I said, for the purposes of this campaign it would include Mr Andrews.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So, apart from Senator Abetz and the representative from the Prime Minister’s office, the others are backbenchers effectively?
Mr Williams —Mrs Ley is a parliamentary secretary.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes. So they meet and determine applications from ministers and the minister sits in on the one relevant to his or her portfolio? Is that right?
Mr Williams —Generally speaking, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —How often do they meet? Is it just on a needs basis?
Mr Williams —It is on a needs basis. The annual report indicated how many meetings were held in the past year. I think it was in the order of 30-something meetings.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —At the moment I am just trying to understand the process. So they meet and then they make a recommendation. Do they have the authority to authorise it or is it a recommendation to cabinet?
Mr Williams —They basically take decisions on various elements of campaigns and approve a campaign going to air ultimately.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Does that include the budget?
Mr Williams —The budget is worked out generally by the department wishing to bring a campaign forward so there is funding for the campaign.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So are you saying to me that the budget is actually determined by the department? If they have the money to pay for it, the MCGC just ticks off on it if it approves the campaign?
Mr Williams —It can be an iterative process. Once the scope and nature of the campaign is developed there may be a view from the committee recommending the department consider whether they need more resources and, if they do, a recommendation to the minister may be required.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who would have to fund those resources? If the committee said, ‘We think you need to do more,’ would that still have to come out of departmental funds?
Mr Williams —The moneys spent are departmental funds, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Can you tell me when the decision was taken to fund a campaign on the industrial relations legislation?
Mr Williams —I will have to take that on notice. I do not know if I can tell you the specific date a decision was taken to fund that campaign.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Don’t you report the meetings in the annual report?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But you cannot tell me when the meeting occurred?
Mr Williams —I can take on notice—I do not have it here with me—when the campaign came to the committee for consideration.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that different from the question I asked?
Mr Williams —Are you talking about the final funding or the funding that—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I do not know whether there are two sets of funding; I have not asked you that yet. If you want to tell me something that will clarify that, I am happy to hear it.
Mr Williams —Subject to taking the question on notice, I can tell you when the campaign came to the committee. I will have to take the issue of the funding on notice.
Senator FAULKNER —So when did the campaign come to the committee?
Mr Taylor —It would have been in June this year.
Senator FAULKNER —Can you be any more specific, Mr Taylor? Can we narrow it down to one of the 30 days?
Mr Taylor —I cannot with the records I have here. I do know that the committee considered on 23 June, but I believe it was sometime before that. It might have been a week or so before that.
Senator FAULKNER —What did the committee consider on 23 June?
Mr Taylor —They considered the selection of a research company and a public relations company, and that was it.
Senator FAULKNER —So on 23 June they considered the selection of a research company and a public relations company, but that is considerably down the track, isn’t it?
Mr Taylor —It is, and that is why I hesitated. They would have met prior to that, but I do not have a record of that with me here, but I will get it before we finish today.
Senator FAULKNER —Let us look at some of the processes. What about the agency selection process?
Mr Taylor —The advertising agency—13 July.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Right. So we know, in relation to the industrial relations campaign, there was a meeting prior to 23 July—
Mr Taylor —23 June.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —23 June. We will call that ‘the early June meeting’ until we can get a better date. There was a 23 June meeting where the selection of the research company and the selection of the public relations company were resolved or considered—
Mr Williams —If I can just correct that evidence, the lists of consultants, trying to take the research element and the public relations element, were considered by the committee and those selections followed some time after that.
Senator FAULKNER —Did they receive a pitch at that meeting?
Mr Williams —The research company was appointed on 20 July. That process is done by officials; it is not done by the committee. The public relations company was selected on 13 July.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —At the meeting of the committee?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So that was a decision by the committee for the public relations company but the decision of the research company was made by public servants, is that right?
Mr Williams —I did not quite catch that question.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Sorry. As I understand your evidence now, the research company was selected on 30 July by a public service—
Mr Williams —It was selected on 20 July.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Sorry, 20 July.
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And that was a process run by public servants?
Mr Williams —Yes, from Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Government Communications Unit.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Then the public relations company was determined on 13 July, but it was determined by the MCGC?
Mr Williams —That is correct. That is in line with normal processes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So, when you say that on 23 June they considered lists of companies, is this a pre-existing list of those who were selected to bid for such work?
Mr Williams —What happens is the department wishing to undertake the campaign develops a brief, which is, in a sense, a request for tender process. That brief and a list of consultants, which has been developed using the Government Communications Unit’s list of registered consultants, is put together in consultation with the department wishing to undertake the campaign, and they will essentially look at the experience of those consultants. So a list is drawn up and is typically four or five companies. That list and the brief then go to the committee for consideration and approval.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that true of the selection of the research company and the public relations company?
Mr Williams —It is, yes. The difference is that the selection of the research company is done by officials and the selection of the public relations company is done on the recommendation of the committee.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But the actual shortlisting of potential companies to do the work is done by staff of the MCGC in consultation with the department, is that correct?
Mr Williams —I will leave the research one to one side, because that is done by officials. In the public relations selection process the companies are approved to receive the brief. Officials from the department, in this case DEWR and PM&C, meet and shortlist—generally down to two, and in this case it was down to two—companies, which in turn come and present to the committee. That is the standard approach.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Are you saying that the short list for the public relations company was only two or that it was narrowed down to two?
Mr Williams —The short list was narrowed to two.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —How many were originally on the short list?
Mr Williams —Four.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So PM&C and the department took four companies who were considered appropriate from your standing providers list?
Mr Williams —From the register of consultants.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You had four. You then sent the brief to those four?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —They then bid?
Mr Williams —They put in responses.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What form did the responses take?
Mr Williams —They had to respond to the brief.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But what sort of details were involved?
Mr Williams —They basically set out how they would meet the requirements of the brief, who would be working on the campaign and the budget.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And that was then narrowed to two by DEWR officials and PM&C officials?
Mr Williams —That is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —When was that done?
Mr Williams —I would have to take that on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Obviously it was before 30 July.
Mr Williams —It was before 13 July—possibly a week or 10 days out from that meeting. But I could stand to be corrected there.
Senator FAULKNER —At that same meeting did agencies pitch too?
Mr Williams —Advertising agencies?
Senator FAULKNER —Yes.
Mr Williams —No.
Senator FAULKNER —What happened on 13 July?
Mr Williams —On 13 July the public relations consultant was selected.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Did they pitch to the committee, though, or were their documents just provided?
Mr Williams —No, they pitched.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So they came in and spoke to their submissions?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —Didn’t you tell us a little earlier that the MCGC also dealt with the agency on 13 July?
Mr Taylor —No, they dealt with the list of advertising agencies.
Mr Williams —They approved the list.
Senator FAULKNER —How many were on that list?
Mr Williams —There were four agencies on that list.
Senator FAULKNER —What happened? Can you run through the process with the advertising agency?
Mr Williams —Again there was a short-listing done by officials. Two agencies presented to the committee and a selection was made on 9 August.
Senator FAULKNER —So a research company, a public relations company and an advertising company have been engaged?
Mr Williams —Correct.
Senator FAULKNER —Three separate companies?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —In relation to this particular campaign, have any other consultants or companies been contracted or engaged?
Mr Williams —No.
Senator FAULKNER —It is just the three?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Can you run through the successful tenderers for us?
Mr Williams —Certainly. The research company was Colmar Brunton Social Research, the public relations company was Jackson Wells Morris and the advertising agency was Dewey Horton.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —They are sounding more like lawyers all the time!
Senator FAULKNER —They all have form.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I know that.
Senator FAULKNER —What is the period of engagement for Colmar Brunton?
Mr Williams —In terms of the detailed contractual arrangements between Colmar Brunton, Jackson Wells Morris and Dewey Horton, those contracts are held by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations. They would have that detail. We do not have that detail.
Senator FAULKNER —You do not have it?
Mr Williams —No.
Mr Taylor —We do not have contractual details here. They are held by DEWR.
Senator FAULKNER —Do you have details of the budget?
Mr Williams —I can give you details of the media budget.
Senator FAULKNER —I know you do not hold the contracts. They are in the home department—we all know that through bitter experience. But from time to time you have been able to provide information about the relevant budgets in these broad areas. That is what I am asking for.
Mr Taylor —We are able to provide details of the indicative budget, which was provided to us when they first approach us.
Senator FAULKNER —That would be a start. It would be helpful if you can do that.
Mr Williams —The indicative budget is $44.3 million.
Senator FAULKNER —Does that cover research, public relations and advertising or just advertising?
Mr Williams —Research, public relations and advertising—and the media spend.
Senator FAULKNER —And the media spend.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —At what date was that approved? At which meeting?
Mr Williams —I would have to take that on notice. I do not know that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You do not know when the committee decided to spend $44 million?
Mr Williams —The committee does not approve the budget. That is approved by government. It will make recommendations, but the committee does not have a role in approving budgets.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I asked you that question before, and that was not my take on what you said. I may have misunderstood you. I asked whether that had to go to cabinet or a higher authority and you said no.
Mr Williams —I would like to read my Hansard evidence.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am not trying to verbal you; I am not saying you were wrong. I am saying that I may have misunderstood. My sense of it, though, was that the department and this committee were the end of the process. You said that the there was an iterative process regarding the final budget between the two. You are telling me that this has to get approval somewhere else. Does it?
Mr Williams —The budget would have to be approved by government.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What does that mean? This committee is a government committee.
Mr Williams —It has no executive authority to approve budgets.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So when you say ‘government’ do you mean cabinet or do you mean a minister?
Mr Williams —It can mean a minister. It can mean cabinet. It depends on the nature of the campaign.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who approved this budget?
Mr Williams —The minister was comfortable with the budget.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Which minister?
Mr Williams —Minister Andrews.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So you are saying to me that Minister Andrews is the one who approved the budget?
Mr Williams —The budget for the campaign will be part of the additional estimates process, so it would go through the additional estimates process.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I do not think that answers my question. You said it was a decision of government. Who in government signed off on the budget? Who was the responsible authority inside government?
Mr Williams —In that case, it would have been the minister taking a view that it was an amount of money appropriate for the campaign. That would go through normal budgetary processes, but the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance and Administration would also have been involved.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So I take it the answer to the question is the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance and Administration. Is that the answer to my question?
Mr Williams —On the basis of a recommendation by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations arrived at a figure of $44.3 million through the processes of the committee and that was then authorised by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance and Administration. Is that a fair description of what occurred?
Mr Williams —I believe that is the case, but I would like to check it to be absolutely correct in my evidence to the committee.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —All right. Perhaps you could get back to us later this afternoon as to whether that is correct. We will work on the basis that the committee and the minister arrived at a budget and then that was signed off by somebody, probably the Prime Minister or the Minister for Finance and Administration, higher up the chain. Was there only one sign off or were two or more different budgets approved?
Mr Williams —The $44.3 million is the current approved budget.
Senator FAULKNER —When were you given that figure?
Mr Williams —I would have to take that on notice. I do not have the date of that figure.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Are we talking before the selection process or after?
Mr Williams —After the selection process.
Senator FAULKNER —The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for the media buy, isn’t it?
Mr Williams —The media plan is developed on the basis of a specification from the department. It is considered by the ministerial committee, and the committee takes a view on the media budget.
Senator FAULKNER —Regarding information you have at your fingertips, are you able to disaggregate the $44.3 million, which is the budget so far, into three areas—research, PR and advertising?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And media buy.
Mr Williams —I can give you the media buy. The media buy on the final plan was $36.8 million, but I should qualify that by saying the amount that will actually be spent will be $4 million or $5 million less than that.
Senator FAULKNER —So the plan was $36.8 million but the final buy will be $4 million or $5 million less than that. Is that what you are saying?
Mr Williams —I believe so, because of efficiencies in buying and the effectiveness of the placement agency.
Senator FAULKNER —Are there any future placements?
Mr Williams —The campaign finished on the weekend.
Senator FAULKNER —So it is over?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —Well, this stage of it is over.
Mr Williams —The phase that we have just done is over.
Senator FAULKNER —Is there one phase, two phases or more phases? It has been a two-phase campaign, hasn’t it?
Mr Williams —I cannot answer that.
Senator FAULKNER —You should be able to, because it has all happened. Are you aware of two phases? Haven’t there been two major tranches of advertising in this campaign?
Mr Williams —There have been two elements of advertising to date. There was an on-campaign advertising spend of about $2.9 million, which from memory was done in July, and there was this amount of money for the campaign that finished on the weekend.
Senator FAULKNER —Are you saying that the July expenditure is not included in the $44.3 million budget?
Mr Williams —It is included.
Mr Taylor —It is not included in the $36.8 million figure.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But it was part of the global budget for the campaign?
Mr Williams —It was.
Senator FAULKNER —So it is $36.8 million plus $2.9 million, which is the July figure.
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator Hill —Less, we think, about $5 million or $6 million.
Mr Williams —You are in a better position to know what the campaign has cost at the end of the campaign than at the start of the campaign.
Senator FAULKNER —It is the end of the campaign.
Mr Williams —I know. That is what I am saying. The advice we have from our placement agency is that it will not be costing $36.8 million—it will be costing in the order of $5 million less than that.
Senator FAULKNER —Let us go back to the July $2.9 million and get that disaggregated. Can you disaggregate that in terms of the placements?
Mr Williams —I do not know that we have that here, but it was essentially newspaper and a smaller amount of radio.
Senator FAULKNER —There was no television, was there?
Mr Williams —No.
Senator FAULKNER —There was newspaper plus radio, but you cannot do any better than that?
Mr Williams —I do not have that material here for the $2.9 million disaggregation.
Senator FAULKNER —My understanding is that the vast majority of that was newspapers. Is that right?
Mr Williams —I think that is correct.
Senator FAULKNER —You ought to know that.
Mr Williams —I will take it on notice. As I have said, I do not have the disaggregation here but my recollection is that the majority of it was on the press.
Senator FAULKNER —You have the disaggregation of the $36.8 million of the second tranche.
Mr Williams —I do.
Senator FAULKNER —What are the precise dates of the July tranche? You said you do not have the disaggregation but can we be clear on the dates of that campaign, please?
Mr Williams —We will have it back in the office but we do not have it here. I will ask my colleague to search his papers.
Mr Taylor —We do not have it here. For the July tranche we have that $2.9 million figure. I am happy to make a call and get that confirmed.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Can you explain, given that the last of the advertising agencies was not selected until 9 August, how you organised the July campaign?
Mr Williams —It was placed as non-campaign advertising. We used our non-campaign placement agency to produce the ad.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who did you use for that?
Mr Williams —HMA Blaze, which is a company contracted to the Commonwealth for a period of four years to place non-campaign advertising. They have the capability to produce advertisements for both radio and newspaper.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —They did the production and placement?
Mr Williams —They did, for what we would call the non-campaign advertising.
Senator FAULKNER —Let us go to this $36.8 million and work our way through it. Mr Williams, do you have a document that might assist us a little? Sometimes you have; sometimes you have not. Sometimes you have been able to anticipate that questions will be asked about these matters and you have been able to assist us. I wonder whether you have anticipated on this occasion and have a document that might be able to be tabled so we can work to that.
Mr Williams —I did anticipate in line with previous undertakings and I have a document I can table, but it is not a document that would relate specifically to the questions you are about to ask me. I believe I can answer your questions fairly quickly on this aggregation.
Senator FAULKNER —I appreciate that, and I also appreciate the fact that you have anticipated that some questions might be asked so the document—
Senator Hill —We anticipated the wrong questions.
Mr Williams —I have anticipated the wrong questions.
Senator FAULKNER —It is better than anticipating nothing at all. Senator Hill, I would not be talking about anticipation if I were you, given what I read about you in the newspaper. I am anticipating a big career change for you. The document may or may not be of use but given that you have gone to the trouble of getting it developed for us we will have it.
Senator Hill —I do not think you can just—
Senator FAULKNER —If you could provide that document that would be good.
Senator Hill —You can only have what you ask for.
Senator FAULKNER —I am asking for the document that Mr Williams has prepared that will not answer our questions. Is that clear?
Senator Hill —You cannot ask for whatever you think might help you to be tabled.
Senator FAULKNER —I am asking for the document that Mr Williams has anticipated we might ask for but will not answer our questions. That is the document we are looking for. We would appreciate him tabling it even if it is as entirely useless as he suggests.
Senator Hill —That is a very odd question.
Dr Morauta —This is not a document that answers questions about the workplace relations campaign. We will have to leave that aside.
Senator FAULKNER —This is a document that goes to the broad picture in relation to government advertising?
Dr Morauta —That is correct.
Senator FAULKNER —That is the only document that you have?
Dr Morauta —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —You want to hold onto that until later in the evening, do you? That is fine. Play hard to get—that is okay. We will go through it in some detail.
Dr Morauta —Were you to ask a question about the broad campaign activity now, Senator, we could of course give you this now.
Senator FAULKNER —Whatever, Dr Morauta. But I understand—
Senator Hill —But you have to ask the right question.
Senator FAULKNER —We have adopted a procedure which has saved time, I think Mr Williams would agree, in terms of the broad picture of advertising. So I appreciate the preparation of the document and I accept the general point that Mr Williams makes that it probably is not going to help us hugely with the IR campaign except for the total figure.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But the answer to the question s to whether you have anticipated that we might ask for a breakdown of the IR expenditure is that you have not anticipated that?
Dr Morauta —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —He has; he is going to do that.
Mr Williams —I can give you a breakdown of the $36.8 million.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But you do not have it in documentary form?
Mr Williams —It is part of a larger document that I have not brought up prepared to be tabled.
Senator FAULKNER —He is not going to table that folder in front of him, apparently.
Mr Williams —I am not tabling the folder, Senator.
Senator FAULKNER —Mr Williams, why don’t you work through the figures.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It doesn’t have the dates anyway, apparently.
Senator FAULKNER —Mr Williams, can we cut to the chase: can you, for the benefit of the committee, break down that element of the campaign which is the $36.8 million on the second tranche placements?
Mr Williams —Okay. The television advertising was $21.4 million; newspapers, $8.7 million; radio, $3.7 million; and what I would categories as ‘other’—I have not disaggregated it but it covers advertising in non-English-speaking background newspapers, Indigenous newspapers, radio for the print handicapped and some internet advertising—$2.5 million.
Senator FAULKNER —Can you tell us what time period this covers?
Mr Williams —The campaign commenced on 9 October and it ended on 30 October.
Senator FAULKNER —And what is the total figure for that? I am sure you have added it up for us.
Mr Williams —$36.8 million. I hope it adds up to that, Senator.
Senator FAULKNER —I hope it does too. That is saturation advertising, isn’t it, Mr Williams? Could you explain why we are having this pregnant pause, Mr Taylor or Mr Williams?
Mr Williams —Well, I have answered your question, Senator.
Senator FAULKNER —I asked another one.
Mr Williams —I missed that, I am sorry.
Senator FAULKNER —I asked: would you describe this as saturation advertising?
Mr Williams —I would describe it as a large campaign.
Senator FAULKNER —I know it is a large campaign, but I was asking: would you describe it as saturation advertising? Isn’t there a principle in advertising that you throw so much money at it that after you get to a certain point you basically begin to throw good money after bad?
Mr Williams —I would go back to my earlier answer: it was a large campaign.
Senator FAULKNER —Have you seen any larger campaigns in your time as a government official? That sort of expenditure on placements over less than a three-week period?
Mr Williams —I would take that on notice.
Senator FAULKNER —Surely you can tell us. None come to mind? I do not think they come to mind because I do not think there have been any.
Mr Williams —I think it is probably best if I take that on notice.
Senator FAULKNER —I happen to think it is best if you just try and give me an answer. It is unprecedented, isn’t it?
Senator Hill —You are asking him a question based on his recollection, and if he is unsure of that then he should not answer, he should check his records.
Senator FAULKNER —Let us go into some of the detail of this. You have more than just the figure of $8.74 million. These are four-page spreads, aren’t they? This is advertising that involves a series of placements of four consecutive, prominently placed inserts in major national newspapers. That is right, isn’t it?
Mr Williams —There were four-page advertisements and two-page advertisements.
Senator FAULKNER —What has been the placement pattern?
Mr Williams —The earlier ads were four-page placements and the latter ads in the campaign were two-page placements.
Senator FAULKNER —There was some foul-up in the authorisation for the four-page advertisements, wasn’t there?
Mr Williams —There was a technical breach of the Electoral Act.
Senator FAULKNER —Who was responsible for that?
Mr Williams —The responsibility for placing the advertising, I guess, rests with the Government Communications Unit to ensure that the authorisations are correct. In this case, the four-page advertisement had the word ‘advertisement’ on each of the four pages. It was thought sufficient to have ‘authorised by’ only on the last page, given that it would have been clear to the reasonable reader whom the advertisement was from. We had the coat of arms on the front page and on the back page. The Government Communications Unit was of the view that the authorisation requirements had been met. We were subsequently advised that our view was incorrect. On getting that advice, the correct authorisations were placed on the four-page advertisements and the two-page advertisements.
Senator FAULKNER —So we are spending $36.8 million in three weeks and we could not even get the authorisations right? That is pretty hopeless, isn’t it?
Senator Hill —I think an explanation has been given that the coat of arms was on the front page and the authorisation was on the fourth page. There were four consecutive pages. They obviously all related to the one information package. It sounds like a pretty reasonable explanation to me.
Senator FAULKNER —I would have thought, Mr Williams, that you would be disappointed that the authorisations were not correct.
Mr Williams —I was disappointed.
Senator FAULKNER —Unlike Senator Hill. Fair enough—I am pleased that you are honest enough to say that, unlike Senator Hill, who does not give a damn about it.
Mr Williams —We placed them in good faith on behalf of the government. It was unfortunate that a technical breach had been committed.
Senator FAULKNER —It seems to me that, when you are spending $36 million in three weeks—and, if my maths is correct, that is $12 million a week or $1.7 million a day—you would expect somebody in the department to actually get the authorisations organised, given that so much public money is being flushed down the toilet. That is a minimum requirement.
Senator Hill —That is a very colourful way of putting it. The official has said that he accepts that a technical breach of the act occurred.
Senator FAULKNER —So you now accept that too, do you, Senator Hill?
Senator Hill —I have not checked the law.
Senator FAULKNER —No, you would not have.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I think you will find that there was an AEC finding to that effect, Minister.
Mr Williams —That is correct. The AEC found that there had been a technical breach.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It is not a question of debate; it is a finding by the AEC.
Senator FAULKNER —Which major Australian newspapers ran the four-page insert? Do you have a list of them available for us?
Mr Williams —I do not have a list, but my understanding, subject to detailed checking, is that all of the metropolitan newspapers that were used in the campaign carried both the four-page and the two-page advertisements.
Senator FAULKNER —How often did the four-page advertisements run in those papers?
Mr Williams —I would have to take that on notice, but I think it was of the order of three or four times for the four-page ad and a couple of times for the two-page ad. I qualify my answer by saying that I would like to check that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Are they the only two versions of the newspaper ad? Some of these papers are pretty small. Some of them would not have been able to fit the four-page version. Were there smaller versions?
Mr Williams —I may stand corrected, but my understanding is that there was a four-page one and a two-page one.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Some of the Indigenous papers go to only about four pages.
Senator FAULKNER —That means that in the major metropolitan daily newspapers we are looking at about 20 pages of advertising in this campaign for the duration of the three weeks. Is that right?
Mr Williams —On the basis that my assumption is correct, yes.
Senator FAULKNER —You head the Government Communications Unit. If your assumptions are not correct, we are really struggling.
Mr Williams —I have already said that I will have that checked, but I did confirm that I thought it was ‘of the order of’. So your assumption of 20 pages is possibly close to the mark.
Senator FAULKNER —What were the instructions to your media placement people in relation to television reach and frequency?
Mr Williams —The media placement agency developed a media plan to carry the advertising over the period, recognising that quite a number of executions were to go to air, and the media plan was developed on that basis.
Senator FAULKNER —Who was the media placement agency?
Mr Williams —Universal McCann, who are contracted.
Senator FAULKNER —So it is your normal contracted agency?
Mr Williams —The normal contracted agency, yes.
Senator FAULKNER —Is it true that your media placement agency advised the GCU that there was no point in throwing good money after bad on this advertising, that it had reached saturation point? Did you receive that advice from your media placement agency?
Mr Williams —I did not.
Mr Taylor —We did not receive that advice at all.
Senator FAULKNER —Where do you get professional advice about those sorts of matters, such as when you reach the point where literally you can keep throwing money at things but it does not help? Is anyone capable of providing that sort of professional advice to government or do you just spend, as you have here, tens of millions of dollars on this sort of advertising?
Mr Williams —You get advice from your media planning and placement company.
Senator MURRAY —Who make money from placements.
Mr Williams —That is correct.
Senator MURRAY —That is hardly an incentive to stop.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Perhaps we should go back a step. The committee sat down at some stage on a date we have not yet found out—you are going to check that for me—and recommended it we think but we are not sure to the Prime Minister or the minister for finance, and you are going to check that for me. The meeting recommended to someone in government that we spend $44.3 million of taxpayers’ money. What objectives were set that warranted that budget? How did you come to that figure? Were there TARPs? Was there a reach and frequency objective?
Mr Williams —There would have been a reach and frequency outcome from that plan, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Can you tell me what that was?
Mr Williams —I do not have that material with me but I can take it on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I have not been highly involved in this before, but I find it strange that when we are asking questions which you clearly anticipated about the expenditure of $44.3 million—and the Special Minister of State informed us in the parliament that he could not help us but that we would be able to get the information from the estimates process, so this is the place to ask you—you cannot tell me the date the meeting approved the budget, you cannot tell me which minister signed off on it and now you cannot tell me what the objectives of the campaign were. I am a little underwhelmed.
Mr Williams —I can say that the approval for the media plan was prior to the campaign launching.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am glad to know that you approved it before you started spending the money—that is very reassuring. Even I did not think that the opposite had occurred. The question is: what were the objectives that led you to recommend $44.3 million of government expenditure? Surely we can know, through your records, what you were seeking to achieve from the expenditure of this money.
Mr Williams —I agree that there was a reach and frequency target for the campaign but I do not have that material here with me.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Have you someone in your office who could find out for us?
Mr Williams —I am assuming there are people down in the office watching this broadcast.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Perhaps we can return to it in a little while. It is not unreasonable for the parliament, the estimates committee and the public to know what the objective of the campaign was, so I would like to know what the agreed objectives were and what the reach and frequency objectives were—and also whether you think you reached them with that buy. Have you had feedback from the agency as to what reach was obtained?
Mr Williams —We will get a post-campaign report. I do not know that we have that yet.
Senator FAULKNER —You have been undertaking this role a very long time, Mr Williams. At least, I must say it seems to me that you have been a long time on the other side of that table—it probably seems like a long time to you. In how many campaigns that you have had involvement with or responsibility for has there been any sort of broad scale internet advertising?
Mr Williams —Depending on the nature of the campaign, the internet is used. One campaign with quite heavy use of the internet is on Defence Force recruiting, because the target audience is quite computer literate and it is an effective means of delivering a message to that demographic.
Senator FAULKNER —I have always considered, as you know, Defence Force recruiting to be a very different type of campaign and one which does not raise partisan concerns. It is very different in nature. What other broad scale internet advertising campaigns have we had?
Mr Williams —Generally speaking, the internet is used when we have a campaign with a target which is a wide cross-section of the community.
Senator FAULKNER —Which internet sites have been inflicted with this particular advertising? Are you able to tell us that?
Mr Williams —I would have to take that on notice.
Senator FAULKNER —Who determined which internet sites would be used?
Mr Williams —The media planning and placement agency recommends internet sites appropriate for the target audience for the campaign.
Senator FAULKNER —You said that their $2.5 million was spent in an ‘other’ category, and you described what that was.
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —NESB, Indigenous, internet. Are you able to disaggregate that further and tell us how much, for example, was spent on internet campaigning?
Mr Williams —I can take that on notice. We should be able to get that advice.
Senator FAULKNER —But at this stage you do not know?
Mr Williams —I do not know right at this moment.
Senator FAULKNER —And you are unable to say to me whether or not it is unprecedented for this nature of campaigning? You know the distinction between Defence Force recruiting and these sorts of highly partisan political advertising. It is very different in nature to Defence Force recruiting, as we all know.
Mr Williams —All I can say is that in my experience the internet is used where deemed appropriate for particular campaigns but particularly where you have a young audience or you are looking at a very wide audience.
Senator FAULKNER —In terms of the $44.3 million figure, are the costs relating to the call centres coming out of that figure?
Mr Williams —No, they are not.
Senator FAULKNER —So that is additional?
Mr Williams —That is part of an ongoing process in the department.
Senator FAULKNER —So it does not include any of the call centres?
Mr Williams —It does not include the call centres.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What about the published material—booklets et cetera? Is that again a departmental cost?
Mr Williams —That is a departmental cost, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you have any detail on the costs of those measures? Were they authorised as part of this campaign?
Mr Williams —The printing and distribution costs have been estimated at about $2.6 million for the 16-page booklet.
Senator FAULKNER —It is $2.6 million?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And that is not part of the $44.3 million?
Senator FAULKNER —Is that not part of the $44 million?
Mr Williams —It is not part of the advertising campaign, no.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So that is for printing and distribution of the booklet?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What about the call centres?
Mr Williams —The estimate for the call centres is $8.1 million but those call centres are running for a longer period than the advertising.
Senator FAULKNER —So that is on top of the $44.32 million?
Mr Williams —It is separate from the advertising campaign.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What was the point of your qualification that the call centres go beyond the campaign?
Mr Williams —I am just saying that they related to the campaign. The campaign is finished.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But the call centres are going on for a while?
Mr Williams —The call centres will go on to respond to questions.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —How long will the call centres—
Senator FAULKNER —We are up to $55 million now, aren’t we?
Mr Williams —You would have to ask the department.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Apart from the printing and distribution of booklets and the call centres, are there any additional associated costs for the campaign?
Mr Williams —Not to my knowledge.
Senator FAULKNER —So the $44.3 million campaign is now a $55 million campaign?
Mr Williams —No, it is not. The advertising campaign is $44.3 million.
Senator FAULKNER —It is $44.3 million for the advertising campaign, plus $8.1 million for the call centres, plus $2.6 million for the booklet. I think my maths is right: that is $55 million.
Mr Williams —I would say to you again that it is $44.3 million for the advertising campaign.
Senator FAULKNER —Plus the other elements equals $55 million. Why do you say to us, Mr Williams, that you think that this particular campaign is suited to the internet?
Mr Williams —It had a wide target audience, and part of that target audience would be receptive to taking information via the internet.
Senator FAULKNER —How do you know that?
Mr Williams —Again, on advice from our master media planning and placement agency.
Senator MURRAY —What about research on the effect of the whole campaign? Has that been conducted? Is there a cost attached to that?
Mr Williams —As I understand it, there has been tracking research carried out by the department.
Senator MURRAY —Is that extra to the advertising budget?
Mr Williams —That is included.
Senator MURRAY —It is included in that figure?
Mr Williams —Yes, as far as I am aware.
Senator MURRAY —If the campaign has ended now, is there going to be research to assess its effects and will that research be included in this budgetary figure?
Mr Williams —Again, this is a question best answered by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations. My understanding is that the research costs associated with the campaign are included in the $44.3 million, and that would include tracking and evaluation research.
Senator MURRAY —And they would be capable of being disaggregated as a separate cost item?
Mr Williams —The research?
Senator MURRAY —Yes.
Mr Williams —There is a contract between DEWR and Colmar Brunton.
Senator MURRAY —It is a different contractor, isn’t it?
Mr Williams —It is Colmar Brunton who would be doing the research.
Senator MILNE —I want to address the issue of government communications in relation to whether anyone in the department had any role in the television advertising campaign that was developed by Family First at the last election. Just to refresh your memory, the Prime Minister met with Peter Harris of Family First, and at that meeting a $1 million advertising campaign was discussed. Was anyone from the department present at that meeting or did the department have any role in developing the polling and the research for the advertising or the placing of any of that campaign? There was also a print media campaign, this time from the Exclusive Brethren. Again, were any people from the department present at those meetings? Did the department have any role in the research, polling, design or placement of the ads in either case?
Mr Williams —For those parts of the department for which I am responsible the answer is no. We deal with communications, so the answer is no.
Senator FAULKNER —Can we go back to the appointment of the public relations company? Who was on the shortlist?
Mr Williams —We do not generally disclose the names of unsuccessful tenderers.
Senator FAULKNER —You may not generally do it but you have done it before.
Mr Williams —Not to my knowledge.
Senator Hill —My recollection is that it has been resisted on previous occasions.
Senator FAULKNER —It may have been resisted on some occasions but it has certainly been provided on others.
Senator Hill —You need the agreement of the unsuccessful tenderers.
Senator FAULKNER —How much are you paying this outfit, Jackson Wells Morris?
Mr Williams —That question is best directed to the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations because they hold the contract with Jackson Wells Morris. I have an indicative figure; I do not know whether it is correct.
Senator FAULKNER —Just provide us with the indicative figure. I accept that at the end of the day the contract is drawn with DEWR. I understand that. That is why I tend to deal with indicative figures here.
Senator Hill —If the department—
Senator FAULKNER —Do you want to block that, Senator Hill?
Senator Hill —I think you were given wise counsel as to the correct way to progress the matter. If the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations have negotiated the price it may be significantly below the indicative figure. It depends how good they were at the negotiation.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I just point out that we have been dealing with indicative figures throughout this conversation. That was true of the media buy as well.
Senator Hill —That is different from a service contract of this type, I would think.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It is an indicative figure approved by the government section responsible and present at the estimates committee as part of PM&C.
Senator Hill —As I understand it, Mr Williams’s section assists in the selection process but the department conducts the negotiations. The relevant department then contracts the service. It seems to me that questions, as they might be appropriate in relation to that contract of service, should be to that department.
Senator FAULKNER —We are just asking for the indicative figure, which Mr Williams has at his fingertips on a paper in front of him.
Senator Hill —My argument is that the indicative figure might be misleading. I do not know that that would be particularly helpful to this committee.
Senator FAULKNER —I think that it would be helpful.
Senator Hill —You might think it is but I do not want information to be put down that gives a misleading outcome.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Surely, after spending $55 million of taxpayers’ money on a political campaign, any chance of embarrassment has long been determined, Minister. If you are not embarrassed about the waste of $55 million of taxpayers’ money I do not know why you would be embarrassed about whether it was a million or two—
Senator Hill —That is your political spin. The government’s position is that this is a complex and important matter and proper public information should be provided. The complaint here today seems to have been the criticism of information being provided in detail.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Not by us, by you.
Senator Hill —No, you are criticising the fact that so much detail was provided. If you think that there is merit in that political argument go for it, but the government’s position is that the public has a right to know this information. It is very important and it is a very important reform in terms of Australia’s industrial relations law—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It really is time that you took that job over—
Senator Hill —and the government makes a judgment to provide this information.
Senator FAULKNER —I really do not know what you are talking about.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You have completely lost me, Minister. I was not complaining about the detail. I would like to see the detail of legislation but I have not been able to see it.
Senator Hill —You have been complaining about the fact that there have been four pages of information.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I have been complaining about the cost of it.
Senator FAULKNER —And I am complaining about the absolute waste of taxpayers’ money on the most partisan, blatant and despicable advertising campaign in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia. That is what I am complaining about.
Senator Hill —But that is your political spin.
Senator FAULKNER —It happens to be a fact.
Senator Hill —That is the line that you are seeking to sell.
Senator FAULKNER —It is a fact. Mr Grahame Morris, the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff, is a principal of Jackson Wells Morris, isn’t he, Mr Williams?
Mr Williams —He is not, Senator.
Senator FAULKNER —He has no involvement with them?
Mr Williams —He has left the firm, as far as I am aware.
Senator FAULKNER —What about Dewey Horton? Is that the Mr Horton who does the advertising for the Liberal Party campaign account?
Mr Williams —One of the principals of the firm is a Mr Ted Horton, and I am not sure what other activities he does.
Senator FAULKNER —Senator Hill can tell us that. He is well apprised of these things and very well informed. You would know him pretty well, wouldn’t you?
Senator Hill —No, I do not know him well.
Senator FAULKNER —Who are hma Blaze? Where do they fit into all this, Mr Williams?
Mr Williams —They are the non-campaign placement agency appointed to a four-year contract back in 2002 to place non-campaign advertising for government departments and agencies.
Senator FAULKNER —Have they got a government-wide contract?
Mr Williams —Yes. Basically, the contract is with the two master placement agencies. We have one agency that places campaign advertising—Universal McCann—and we have another agency that places non-campaign advertising, and that is hma Blaze. The contracts are in the nature of a standing offer. Under the FMA Act departments and agencies are required to place their non-campaign advertising through hma Blaze and campaign advertising through Universal McCann. They place them at rates and fees determined in that standing offer arrangement which goes for a number of years.
Senator FAULKNER —So in relation to this campaign was hma Blaze involved in placements in the original tranche?
Mr Williams —They were. I can update committee on the original tranche. Radio was $685,000 and television was $2.25 million, which totals, I hope, $2.936 million.
Senator MURRAY —Who drew up the—
Mr Williams —I am sorry—press. I will state that again as I may have misled the committee. Radio was $685,000 and press was $2.25 million.
Senator FAULKNER —You assured us before that there was no television.
Mr Williams —There was no television. I am assuring you again. It was a slip of the tongue.
Senator MURRAY —If I may intercede, who drew up the advertisement? Was it the communications unit, the department or the contractors?
Mr Williams —In a sense, hma Blaze assembled the advertisement with input from the department.
Senator MURRAY —Did hma Blaze see the draft legislation? How do they know that what is in the ad matches the legislation?
Mr Williams —In a sense, that is not their responsibility.
Senator MURRAY —Do you know whether it matches the legislation?
Mr Williams —The clearance process for the content of the advertisement says that it is the responsibility of the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
Senator MURRAY —Are you confirming to the committee that the content of those advertisements will exactly match the legislation that is going to come before us?
Mr Williams —I cannot confirm that, except to say that the content of the advertisement is provided by the department—
Senator Hill —Who is responsible for the legislation.
Senator MURRAY —So if it does not match the legislation it could be misleading and deceptive, wouldn’t you agree?
Mr Williams —I just have to go back to my original premise that the content is cleared by the department.
Senator Hill —It would not make any sense for it to be misleading and deceptive. The department provides the information base upon which the advertising people design the communication piece.
Senator MURRAY —Minister, I would be absolutely amazed if the initial advertisements that came out exactly matched the final legislation passed by the Senate. I would be absolutely amazed. You should not, as a government, be advertising prior to legislation passing the Senate. It is immoral.
Senator Hill —You would be less amazed if it matched the booklet that was produced. It is part of the information program the government developed, partly through a booklet and partly through these advertisements—
Senator MURRAY —It is just immoral.
Senator FAULKNER —Of course it is. You are right about that.
Senator Hill —and including a call centre process.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You had not even finished drafting the legislation.
Senator Hill —That is not unusual. You have exposure drafts; there are all sorts of techniques to communicate with the public during the process of production of legislation.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —There have been no exposure drafts.
Senator Hill —Not in this instance. I am just giving you another example of—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That would be providing proper information that does not suit your—
CHAIR —Let the minister answer.
Senator Hill —In this instance the information was provided in principle whilst the detail of the drafting was progressing. It was provided in principle at that time because there was a public expectation for that information. Others might think that the public should not have been informed by the government, and that is a line that could be run—it is being run here today.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —The traditional way is for you to introduce legislation and allow enough time for people to look at it and consider it and then for the parliament to debate it and pass legislation that the parliament determines is appropriate. Then one advertises the results of that legislative process to the community.
CHAIR —I think you are debating that rather than asking questions.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —We certainly are, and it is very enjoyable too.
Senator Hill —You could argue that the legislative processes in relation to the new antiterror laws is somewhat unusual. It is not extraordinary for—
Senator FAULKNER —Of course it is unusual. You have blocked any Senate committee examination on that at all. That is just typical of your government.
Senator Hill —A major policy reform such as this—
Senator FAULKNER —There has been no committee examination in the Senate at all. Of course it is unusual; it is unprecedented.
Senator Hill —No, it is not unprecedented.
Senator FAULKNER —That is exactly what you would expect from an outfit like the one that you are soon to be removed from.
Senator Hill —It is not unprecedented.
Senator FAULKNER —There is a common theme anyway—it is arrogance.
CHAIR —How about some questions? That would be an improvement.
Senator Hill —It is hard to understand how providing an information base to the community is arrogance.
Senator FAULKNER —Is Mr Mark Pearson involved in this campaign anywhere? I am just wondering if any of the usual suspects are involved.
Mr Williams —He is working as a contractor to Dewey Horton on this campaign.
Senator FAULKNER —You are kidding—on this campaign?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —So you do not know how much he is contracted for?
Mr Williams —That is an arrangement between Dewey Horton and Brandmark, Mr Pearson’s company.
Senator FAULKNER —So all the usual suspects on the GST campaign are right back here in this campaign. So we do not know how much taxpayer’s money he is getting?
Mr Williams —I do not....
Senator FAULKNER —Mark Pearson and Ted Horton—the same mob that do the Liberal Party’s campaign—have their hands out for this industrial relations advertising. What a disgrace.
Senator Hill —We have been through today the process under which the relevant agencies were selected. The fact that the Labor Party does not like the choice is interesting in itself, but the process seems to be consistent with the process that has been adopted in the past—a process that was largely adopted from the previous government’s methodology.
Senator FAULKNER —You are shovelling $55 million of taxpayer’s money down the drain on this advertising, and a lot of it appears to be going into the hands of Liberal Party mates, as far as I am concerned.
Senator Hill —Providing public information is not, in the view of the government, shovelling money down the drain.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It is a committee made up of former officials of the Liberal Party handing taxpayer’s money over to friends of the Liberal Party. Petro Georgiou and Andrew Robb are meeting and determining who will get the contract.
Senator FAULKNER —This group was called ‘the team’. Remember that? Everybody remembers them. The team are back. They are back with a vengeance, this time with $55 million to spend.
Senator Hill —Petro Georgiou and Andrew Robb are members of parliament and have considerable experience in this regard.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —They have experience. Some people would call it form.
Senator Hill —Everyone has experience.
Senator FAULKNER —I call it payola. That is what I call it.
Senator Hill —The fact that you utilise experience would seem to me to be sensible, not something to be condemned.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It would be sensible if it were not the same circle of mates getting paid with taxpayer’s money all the time.
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Murray) —Senator Evans, I am obliged to ask you to phrase your remarks as questions.
Senator FAULKNER —So the team are back in operation, are they?
Senator Hill —What I heard today was that it was actually the department that developed the shortlist.
Senator FAULKNER —You heard that, did you? You woke up and heard that?
Senator Hill —Yes. Didn’t you hear that?
Senator FAULKNER —The same mob involved in the GST advertising. The same mob involved in the Liberal Party campaign advertising. So, Mr Williams, the team are back in business, are they?
Senator Hill —That is not an appropriate question.
Mr Williams —I do not know what you mean by ‘the team’—
Senator FAULKNER —I think you do know what I mean by ‘the team’.
Mr Williams —but I will say that the advertising agencies that did the tax campaign were not the agencies that did this campaign. I can give some more information on matters I took on notice earlier. The four-page advertisements appeared in the national and metropolitan newspapers three times, in regional newspapers twice, and in suburban and rural newspapers once. The two-page advertisements ran three times in the national newspapers—that is, the Australian and the Financial Review—twice in the metropolitan newspapers and once in the regional, suburban and rural newspapers. So my earlier assumptions about the number of pages were not correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It was only 18, not 20, of the national papers.
Mr Williams —That is correct. The communication aim for the campaign was:
... to inform and educate the Australian public, specifically all working age Australians and business owners, of the proposed major reforms as to how Australia’s workplace relations system operates.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —How it currently operates?
Mr Williams —I will read that again; it is not well worded. It says:
The communication aim is to inform and educate the Australian public, specifically all working age Australians and business owners, of the proposed major reforms ...
I will have to check with the officers; it is not making sense.
Senator FAULKNER —No, please read what is there.
Mr Williams —I will. It is an email from my people in the building and they just say:
... inform and educate the Australian public, specifically all working age Australians and business owners, of the proposed major reforms to how Australia’s workplace relations system operates.
So, clearly, there is—
Dr Morauta —It is a rather ungrammatical objective or it has got a mistake in it.
Mr Williams —Ungrammatical, yes. I will just need to clarify that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So we spent $55 million but we do not know why?
Mr Williams —To inform—
Senator FAULKNER —We cannot put a verb in a sentence but we are happy to spend $55 million and make sure that a few Liberal Party mates, like Mr Pearson and Mr Ted Horton, are getting a good clip off it as well.
Dr Morauta —We will take it away and check it again.
Mr Williams —I will take it away and check it.
Senator Hill —It is the problem of trying to be helpful at short notice.
CHAIR —Mr Williams, have you finished reading that?
Mr Williams —Yes, I have.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That was in response to a question I asked. Obviously we have not been able to get the literal objectives sorted, and you will come back to us for a second go on that. But I was more interested in what that meant in relation to the objectives of the media buy and the campaign in terms of reach, TARPS, frequency et cetera.
Mr Williams —I am attempting to get that material. I do not have it at the moment. My staff are watching—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Maybe when you come back with a better worded objective we can have that as well.
Mr Williams —It is not the objective, it is the ‘how’ that is the problem.
Senator FAULKNER —But you can confirm to us that the advertising contract here is held by Dewey Horton, of which Mr Ted Horton is a principal, and they have engaged Mr Mark Pearson, and Mr Mark Pearson and Mr Ted Horton, famous as ‘the team’ in the Liberal Party—
Senator Hill —No, you cannot ask him that. He has said that he does not—
Senator FAULKNER —Don’t interrupted, Senator Hill. Let’s get the truth out here.
Senator Hill —You are making a political statement.
Senator FAULKNER —I am not. I am asking the official to confirm—
Senator Hill —The official has already said he is unfamiliar with your expression ‘the team’.
Senator FAULKNER —You are not unfamiliar with it, so let me ask you. You can confirm that these two individuals comprise the team in Liberal Party advertising campaigns in any number of federal election campaigns over recent years. You can also confirm that the public relations company is Jackson Wells Morris, where Mr Grahame Morris, I understand, is a shareholder of that company—Mr Grahame Morris who was formally the chief of staff of the Prime Minister. So it is the same mob again getting a huge slice of $55 million of taxpayers’ money on this contemptible advertising promoting a Liberal Party policy and not in the public interest.
CHAIR —Is that a question?
Senator FAULKNER —No.
Senator Hill —That is a political speech. What I can confirm is that there was proper process for selection of these agencies to pursue a public information campaign that the government was committed to. The government made the decision that this important policy reform required the provision of public information through the media. That was done in the form of radio advertisements, newspaper placements and television advertisements. A selection process in accordance with the usual procedures, which we inherited from the previous Labor government, was carried out and, as a result, particular agencies were selected.
CHAIR —Thank you, Minister.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Mr Williams, can I go back to a line of questioning which we jumped over when we were not able to identify the date of the meeting which approved the $44.3 million of expenditure. Can you advise me whether that was the original amount approved or whether there was a lesser amount and then a further allocation agreed?
Mr Williams —A very early figure we have from the department was $34 million. But those figures, as I have previously said to the committee, are very early estimates.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —The first approach you had from the department contained a proposal for a $34 million campaign?
Mr Williams —It indicated a budget of around $34 million, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Was that a media budget, or the budget including booklets et cetera?
Mr Williams —According to my notes here, that had a media spend of around $32 million.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So it was mainly media.
Mr Williams —Yes. I stress that those numbers are early numbers.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So then there was a process between the MCGC and the department which worked it up to $44.3 million?
Mr Williams —That is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I would like to ask you specifically again the question, which I did not quite get the answer to: was the campaign originally approved on a lesser expenditure?
Mr Williams —As I say, at those hearings, Senator, the campaign is not approved until, in a sense, it is approved to go to air. Typically, that happens very late in the piece.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I have had four goes now, Mr Williams. You have provided me with answers to questions I have not asked, but you have not provided me with an answer to the question I have asked. Was the campaign originally approved with a lesser spend than that which was finally agreed to?
Mr Williams —To follow on from my previous answer, no, because there is only one approved campaign—the campaign that goes to air and that is associated with the budget that is approved.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is not true at all, it seems to me. You could have a meeting and approve a lesser budget, but some time later a project could go to air with a higher expenditure.
Mr Williams —At the time the campaign is—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am asking you: was a lower amount approved or recommended previously? You seem at pains to avoid answering that question.
Mr Williams —I am not trying to be difficult, Senator. I am saying that the process of developing a campaign involves looking at the elements of the campaign and ultimately taking a view as to what is needed for the campaign to run effectively. What is agreed to have the campaign run effectively is the approved budget.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes, that is one process. But what is the answer to the question? Did this process originally approve a lesser budget?
Mr Williams —I am having difficulty answering this question but I will do my best. DEWR would have come to us and said, ‘The campaign is of the order of $34 million and these are the elements that we see it as being made up of.’ That would have started the process running. As the elements of the campaign are refined the budget is refined. It may well be in some campaigns that the original bid is the final budget. In some cases, it may be less than the final budget. In other cases, the final budget may be less than the original budget; in other cases, it may be higher. But there is no approved final budget until the campaign has been approved.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —This seems to be an abstract discussion. I am conscious of the fact that I am not allowed to ask you hypotheticals, so I will home in on this campaign. Is it true that the department originally came to you with a bid for about $34 million worth of expenditure?
Mr Williams —They came with an indication of a budget of $34 million, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is it true that, as a result of discussions between the department and the MCGC, that budget was increased to $44.3 million?
Mr Williams —There would clearly have been discussions in the MCGC about the nature of the campaign. There may have been discussions outside the MCGC. But, ultimately, the MCGC will take a view on what might be an appropriate amount to spend on a campaign to achieve its objectives, and funding is sought if it is more than the department may have come to the table with originally. If it is less then there is agreement to spend that amount. If it is exactly the same amount then that will be the amount spent. But that decision is taken during the process of the evolution of the campaign.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes.
Mr Williams —What I am trying to say is that it is not unusual for campaigns to come to the MCGC with an opening budget and leave the process with an approved campaign with an amount that is different.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I think you have put that on the record three or four times, Mr Williams. I am happy to concede that to you but, because I do not want to ask you hypotheticals—because I am not allowed to—I am asking you about the process that occurred in this particular campaign. You seem unable or unwilling to answer the question as to how we got from $34 million to $44.3 million. What discussions took place? Who made the decision to increase the budget from that originally bid for by the department to the higher figure? How did that occur—not hypothetically; in the instance of this IR campaign?
Mr Williams —Discussions on the nature of the campaign occurred at a number of committee meetings. Ultimately, a view was determined that an appropriate spend on media would be of the order of what was agreed—$36.8 million. The cost associated with making the commercials and testing them and the cost associated with the public relations element were also part of the overall makeup of the $44.3 million. But it is obvious that the major element of the $44.3 million is the $36.8 million in media spend. As it has turned out, it would seem that that $36.8 million is now going to be some four or five million dollars less.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I appreciate all that, but I am trying to nail down what occurred on this occasion. Where were discussions held other than at the committee meetings of the MCGC? Who else was involved in the process?
Senator Hill —I think the official could only talk about the process that he was involved in. He said a moment ago that there may have been other sources of input.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I assumed that was because he knew there were other sources of input.
Dr Morauta —Sorry, but aren’t these consultants coming back to the MCGC with advice during this process?
Mr Williams —They come back with media plans which are examined by the committee and views are taken. There were a number of media plans produced for this campaign but, ultimately, the committee was persuaded by the one that was finally approved. That generates the bulk of the $44.3 million.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Was the Prime Minister consulted?
Mr Williams —I can only talk about the deliberations that took place in the committee meetings.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am asking you: to your knowledge was the Prime Minister consulted?
Mr Williams —To my knowledge?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —yes.
Mr Williams —I do not know.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Was the matter discussed or referred to cabinet?
Mr Williams —I do not know.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You clearly implied that there were other discussions beyond those occurring—
Mr Williams —I said that there may have been other discussions.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Implicit in that, there may have been. I am trying to find out whether there were.
Senator Hill —I think the official can talk about the process that he administers, which he has done. He has talked about the fact that different consultants would provide different advice, which was taken into account. But he also said that there may have been other advices. That is beyond his administrative function. It may be that the department separately sought advice. I would not think that that would be—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Minister, was this matter considered by cabinet?
Senator Hill —Was what matter? Certainly the detail of an advertising campaign is not a matter for cabinet consideration.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Did cabinet consider the budget for the advertising campaign?
Senator Hill —I would need to refresh my memory on that. I do not recall cabinet making any decision on a budget.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Just a decision to conduct the campaign?
Senator Hill —Cabinet has obviously been considering these reforms for a long period of time and cabinet would certainly support the need to properly and effectively inform the public. I do not recall cabinet consideration of the budget but, as I said, I would want to refresh my memory before I was absolute on that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Perhaps you can take that on notice.
Dr Morauta —I think we can confirm that cabinet did consider the need for a communications strategy, as Senator Hill has indicated, but did not consider the cost of it.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —We are yet to be definitive about who finally approved the cost. I think Mr Williams suggested that it might have been the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance and Administration, but he was going to double check that. Are we any better informed, Mr Williams, about who signed off on the budget?
Dr Morauta —I think we are clear that the Prime Minister would be the ultimate person who signed off on the budget.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —We were not clear about that earlier.
Senator Hill —The Prime Minister would normally do that in conjunction with the Minister for Finance and Administration and the Treasurer. We have taken the question on notice and we should provide it—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I think Mr Williams was going to get back to us tonight if possible. I want to be clear who signed off on it. I would have thought it would have been a normal process that would have been followed. I am just trying to be clear. It now seems to be suggested that the normal process would require the Prime Minister to sign off—which was not clear earlier. We now need to find out whether it was the Prime Minister who signed off. Is that right?
Mr Williams —I said earlier that I would take it on notice, and I will come back to you on that.
Senator MURRAY —I would like to confirm something. Mr Williams, I assume that you have no knowledge of the appropriations from which these expenditures come because that would be dictated by the department and they would merely indicate that they have an amount of money that they want to spend. That is correct, is it not?
Mr Williams —That is correct.
Senator MURRAY —I presume your placement agency would send the acquittal through to you. Do you approve it and send it on to the department? How does it work?
Mr Williams —The media plan is approved by the committee but it is the delegate in the department who completes a form called ‘authorisation to book media’. That will have the global amount on it underpinned by the plan. The media placement company will then go away and place that media and bill the department.
Senator MURRAY —Directly?
Mr Williams —Yes. So we have no role in that.
Senator MURRAY —So you have no role in verifying that the advertising took place, the acquittal of the cost of that advertising or the allocation to the appropriate line item in the departmental budget?
Mr Williams —We have an ongoing interest in the placement of that advertising. It is normal practice for the master placement agency to do a post-campaign report which indicates what they bought and where and what the cost was.
Senator MURRAY —And that verifies that what was ordered was actually placed?
Mr Williams —Yes. They report against what is in the plan.
Senator MURRAY —To you?
Mr Williams —They report, primarily, to the department because it is the department that has exercised the delegation to spend the money and they need to see that the money has been spent on, in a sense, what was planned. GCU, as part of its role in oversighting the contract for the master placement agency, is clearly interested in the fact that the placement agency is placing media in accordance with plans. If an agency were varying from those plans, we would raise it with the agency.
Senator MURRAY —So, in your view, there is a proper audit that what has been ordered and paid for was actually run as an advertisement in either electronic or print media?
Mr Williams —Yes, that is correct.
Senator MURRAY —And you are satisfied that that is a robust audit process?
Mr Williams —We believe so.
Senator FAULKNER —I have a question with respect to Mr Pearson. You said that he has been engaged by Dewey Horton.
Mr Williams —That is correct.
Senator FAULKNER —Does he have another office in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet like he had for the GST campaign?
Mr Williams —No, he does not have an office in our department.
Senator FAULKNER —He had an office somewhere, didn’t he? I thought he did.
Mr Williams —He does not have an office in our department.
Senator FAULKNER —That is good. Is the booklet that is going out going to be accompanied by a letter from Mr Howard?
Mr Williams —The booklet can be ordered through either the internet or the call centre. There is a cover slip which basically has the person’s name and address details on it—which is obviously taken at the time that they make the order. The booklet goes out in a plastic container. That is it.
Senator FAULKNER —Do we know how many of those have been distributed so far? I know it is not your primary responsibility.
Mr Williams —I think that is probably a question best put to DEWR.
Senator FAULKNER —You seem to know a lot about how it works anyway, which is good.
Mr Williams —I rang the call centre on day one of the campaign to see if the system worked. My booklet arrived and that is what it had on it.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I hope you did not ask too many questions, because I rang them too and they did not know any answers. They just said, ‘We will send you the booklet.’
Mr Williams —I just asked for the booklet. I did not ask—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I was a bit more inquisitive than you. I actually wanted to know how the system worked.
Mr Williams —That is an issue you should probably take up with DEWR. I understood there was a facility—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I took it up with the minister in the parliament. He said their job was purely to send the booklet out.
Mr Williams —I thought there was a referral process if people had questions.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You can ring the department hotline where they say they cannot help you either because they have not seen the legislation.
Senator FAULKNER —I assume you can assure us that you have not had any approaches from ministers’ offices, or the Prime Minister’s office, over the selection of consultants or agencies. Can you give us that assurance?
Mr Williams —We developed the lists of consultants, research companies, PR companies and advertising agencies between our department and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, which is the normal process.
Senator FAULKNER —I am just asking if you can give us an assurance that you received no approaches at any stage.
Mr Williams —I was not directed towards any particular companies on those lists. As I say, they were developed by GCU and DEWR.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who were the representatives of DEWR in this process?
Mr Williams —The general manager—I think that is a division head in DEWR parlance—is John Kovacic. He was the person from DEWR driving the process.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So he is the person you negotiated the short list with?
Mr Williams —It would have been his people and my people working through that list, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who made the decision about the research company?
Mr Williams —We, the Government Communications Unit, would have had a representative on the evaluation committee along with DEWR personnel. The appropriate delegate from DEWR would have approved the appointment.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So it is a review group consisting of DEWR and yourselves, and the delegate for DEWR, who I presume is the secretary of the department—
Mr Williams —Or his delegate.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —signs off on the selection?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —Can I be clear on this. I was asking you, Mr Williams, were you aware at any stage in the selection process of an approach to the department from a minister’s office, or the Prime Minister’s office, in relation to the selection process of any of these agencies?
Mr Williams —When you say ‘the department’, are you talking about the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet?
Senator FAULKNER —I do not know how you could speak for any other department.
Mr Williams —Yes, that is right. I was just making sure.
Senator FAULKNER —I would not ask you a question where you had to speak on behalf of another department.
Mr Williams —In terms of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, no approaches were made that I am aware of.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Can I just ask a question with my FaCS responsibilities hat on. I appreciate that earlier you provided the committee with a briefing on other campaign activity, or the broader campaign activity. Obviously, I will come back to the IR issue because there are a few things that you are chasing up for us, but I just wondered if you had the budget for the FaCS campaigns, Keeping the System Fair and Support the System that Supports You. I think they managed to get a couple of ads up in between the IR ads in low rating times.
Mr Williams —The budget that we were given at the start of the campaign was $20 million over four years.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —How much to be spent in this financial year?
Mr Williams —I have a number here which says $9 million on media in 2005-06 but, again, that is only an indicative number. It may be less or more than that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Obviously that is a fairly major campaign as well for this financial year. That $9 million is the media buy, is it?
Mr Williams —The media buy is $8.4 million. That is during this financial year.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Have you got a breakdown of that on TV, radio and papers?
Mr Williams —No, I do not.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Could you take that on notice for me?
Mr Williams —I will.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Have you followed the same processes as in the IR campaign in terms of selection of the agencies et cetera?
Mr Williams —The Keeping the System Fair campaign was an extension of a campaign called Supporting the System That Supports You. The research company and the advertising agency that did that campaign was appointed to the Keeping the System Fair campaign. The companies are Orima Research, and Vinten Browning Advertising from Perth.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —They picked up the previous contracts.
Mr Williams —They did Supporting the System That Supports You, and this was a follow-on from that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Orima Research did the research?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Vinten Browning did?
Mr Williams —The advertising.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Was there a public relations company?
Mr Williams —My records indicate no.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —There was no selection process for those; they were just continued on.
Mr Williams —There was a selection process when they were appointed for Supporting the System That Supports You.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Originally.
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —When was the Supporting the System campaign run?
Mr Williams —I will just check to see if I have that material here. No, I do not. I will have to take that on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I assume it was fairly recently.
Mr Williams —I think it was last year, in 2004-05, but I would have to take that on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you know what the budget for that one was?
Mr Williams —No, I do not.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Can you take that on notice as well?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you have a breakdown of this new campaign in the out years?
Mr Williams —No. As I indicated, the overall budget is $20 million over four years and, as I say, the budgeted media spend for 2005-06 is $8.4 million. Those figures would indicate more money is being spent up front than in the latter years.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes. Have you got readily to hand the value of the budgets for the other campaigns?
Mr Williams —I have the media spend.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Which we take to be a large proportion of the total budget?
Mr Williams —Yes. The budget for the year on national security is $9.3 million.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that for 2005-06?
Mr Williams —Yes. The budget for the year for bushfire preparedness is $3.8 million. For bird flu it is $0.4 million.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes.
Mr Williams —For quarantine matters it is $3.1 million. For Defence Force recruiting it is $30 million.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Thirty million dollars for the financial year?
Mr Williams —No. That is for two calendar years: January ’04 to December ’05.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So it is $15 million a financial year.
Mr Williams —Yes. For smart traveller, 2005-06 it is $2.2 million. For citizenship it is $1.9 million. For elimination of violence against women it is $5.8 million. And we have done Keeping the System Fair, which was $8.4 million.
Senator CHRIS EVANS ——Are those smaller figures all for just that financial year?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —If I were to add them up would it be fair to say that that is the media spend for the Commonwealth government for the financial year?
Mr Williams —On the active campaigns that we are running at the moment, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What do you make that total to be, Mr Williams?
Mr Williams —I do not have a total.
Dr Morauta —I am just a bit concerned that the campaigns we are looking at start from January ’05, which is in the 2004-05 financial year. I am just alerting my colleagues to that fact.
Mr Williams —We are giving you the budget for 2005-06.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So the budget figures are for 2005-06?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And there is $9.3 million for national security; $3.8 million for bushfire; $0.4 million for bird flu; $3.1 million for quarantine matters; $15 million approximately for Defence; for workplace relations $44.3 million, indicative—
Mr Williams —No. We are talking about media spend, Senator.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Sorry—indicative, $36.8 million.
Mr Williams —It is $36.8 million plus the $2.9 million less about $5 million, which is $34.7 million.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —My experience with media spends is that they always come in higher rather than lower, so best of luck with that, Mr Williams. Smart traveller is $2.2 million, citizenship is $1.9 million and eliminating violence is $5.8 million. Is that all in this financial year, including eliminating violence?
Mr Williams —As I have explained to the committee, I cannot say that that is all because there are campaigns out there that we do not know about. We are only at the end of October and there is another eight months to go. There might be other campaigns that come up.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And for Keeping the System Fair the figure would be $8.4 million. Is that right?
Mr Williams —That is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that the total media spend authorised for this financial year so far?
Mr Williams —For the campaigns that are active, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Would it be fair to say that that is the media buy that has been authorised so far?
Mr Williams —That is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Would that be the totality of the media spend, or would departments—
Mr Williams —No, as I mentioned a moment ago, there may be campaigns out there—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I do not mean future things. Is there a limit? Is there a lesser amount of a campaign that could be funded by departments without going through this process?
Mr Williams —No, I would not think so, because there is a requirement to bring campaigns through to the MCGC.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You know, like the tendering where you have a limit, where only something over $1 million has regard to tender. Do they all have to go through this process?
Mr Williams —There is not a tendering process for media placement, because we have a standing arrangement with a media placement agency.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But say multicultural and ethnic affairs wanted to do a campaign among the Chinese community and were only going to spend $200,000. Would they have to come through this process or could they do that on their own? Is this the totality, or would there be other things as well?
Mr Williams —The guidelines—and I normally carry them pretty close to my chest—indicate that it is the issue of sensitivity that indicates whether campaigns come to the committee.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Whose sensitivity? Yours? Sensitivity and government advertising do not seem to fit together terribly naturally.
CHAIR —That is cynical of you.
Mr Williams —The guidelines indicate:
... all major and/or sensitive information activities, whether or not they include paid advertising, and including information activities for which it is proposed to engage the services of outside consultants, are to be approved first by the responsible Minister and then, following discussion with the Government Communications Unit (GCU) ... brought before the MCGC—
the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications—
for approval. (“Sensitive” covers issues which might offend sections of the community or may produce negative reactions from the community group being addressed or its opponents.)
These are the original 1995 guidelines. So if a campaign falls into that category it comes before the MCGC.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So something like Centrelink’s Australian Pension News does not come into this sort of category?
Mr Williams —No.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So there are a whole range of other things that government departments would do from time to time?
Mr Williams —That is correct. Take the Australian Taxation Office as an example. They run ads, which you would have seen in newspapers, about BAS completion time four times a year. That sort of material does not come to the committee because it is not sensitive; it is part of the normal operating processes of the tax office. If there are machinery of operation provisions in Centrelink which might require beneficiaries to complete forms by a particular date, Centrelink may well run reminder ads in local newspapers and we would not be aware of them. But once it becomes a campaign which has the capacity to generate sensitivities then it comes before the committee.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am sure the inquiry into government advertising is covering those grounds, so I will not go over them. I was just trying to get a sense of what that represented as a proportion of what we fund. Who got the contract for the call centres?
Mr Williams —I cannot say.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I thought it was Telstra.
Mr Williams —It might have been Telstra, but I cannot say with any precision.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I have a copy of a memo which purports to be instructing them on the question of confidentiality, which also seems to be from Telstra. Who would have let that contract?
Mr Williams —The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I will ask them. What about the printing of the booklet?
Mr Williams —Again, that was arranged by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is it fair to say that you approved the costs?
Mr Williams —No, that is something that the department negotiates.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Explain to me how these costs will be funded. You mentioned earlier the question of additional estimates. Is there an agreement that the department will be reimbursed for the cost of this campaign?
Mr Williams —You would really have to ask the department that. I cannot answer that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Perhaps you could take me through the process. If the department came to you originally and only wanted $34 million and you said, ‘No, we think that it is $44 million,’ do they do that on the understanding that they have got to come up with the dough? Do they do it on the understanding that you are going to make up the difference or on the understanding that the government from general revenue will provide supplementary or additional estimates?
Mr Williams —They need to get an approval. It would be an approval process because they cannot commit to a media spend, for example, unless they have got the money to pay bills.
Senator Hill —They may have some funding capability within their advertising appropriations so it would differ in each and every case.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am trying to understand the process, as you well know, Senator.
Senator Hill —For a large one like this they certainly would have sought additional appropriation for at least a substantial part of it, if not all of it.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is what I would have thought too. In Defence when it is called upon to meet unexpected emergency operations there has been a tradition of an understanding that Defence would be reimbursed for the additional expenditure. I am just trying to understand whether that sort of process occurs here and whether you as a broader government have been involved in the process and have said to DEWR, ‘We think a budget of this sort is more likely to meet the government’s objectives.’ I am trying to understand whether they have to fork out that money or is there some understanding that it will be reimbursed in the additional estimates or—
Mr Williams —The moneys paid for the campaign will ultimately come from DEWR and they will get that through appropriations of one form or another.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes, but when you put the recommendation up—we think maybe to the Prime Minister though we are not sure—for sign-off does that also include approval as to who is going to pay for it? I do not have in front of me what DEWR’s advertising budget was for the year but I suspect it was not in the order of $55 million.
Senator MURRAY —If it were a line item we would—
Mr Williams —Generally speaking, the advertising component is not articulated separately. If there is a program implementation or a program change then that will include a whole range of issues—more staff to process work, a call centre perhaps, a variety of things including the cost of an advertising campaign—and all that would in a sense be packaged into the costs of implementing or changing a program. So you would not see an advertising budget per se for DEWR or, indeed, any other government department because it is basically inimical to the implementation of the program.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But it is fair to say that in a normal year DEWR would not expect to spend this sort of an amount on a campaign—is that right? For instance, next year they have got the Welfare to Work proposals to —and I use the euphemism—‘explain’ to the community. I presume that they will be seeking additional financial support for that explanation. That would not be covered in their normal budgetary allocations.
Mr Williams —In working up a program such as that, they would look at what the elements are including education and advertising campaigns, and staffing to do new functions, for example, and those sorts of things, and a budget for the package would be developed and considered by government and approved through budgetary processes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Basically, you cannot tell me who is paying for the campaign at the moment? You say the department is paying for it.
Mr Williams —The department is paying for it because the delegate in the department has authorised the expenditure.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you know whether PM&C has authorised or undertaken to provide some reimbursement? What is the technical term?
Senator Hill —Supplementation.
Mr Williams —It would not be PM&C.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —No.
Mr Williams —It would be organised with the Department of Finance and Administration if anyone was to organise it. That would be a machinery process for the Department of Finance and Administration to work out with DEWR.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I guess I am asking whether that is part of your consideration. On the MCGC the government is represented by the principal private secretary to the PM, Senator Eric Abetz is the chair and there are four backbenchers.
Mr Williams —Our parliamentary secretary and three backbenchers.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I have not given the parliamentary secretary due recognition twice; I apologise for that. Finance is not represented on the committee.
Mr Williams —No.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Clearly, one does not with gay abandon pluck a figure out of the air without knowing that the government is going to be able to pay for it. Somebody is going to have to pay. Obviously, the taxpayers at the end get stung. What is the authority and how is that financial consideration made?
Mr Williams —The connection on campaigns we have dealt with in the past is that if there is a collective view of the committee—and the minister whose department is running the campaign is a member of the committee for the consideration of that—that the budget might need to be extended by an amount then the portfolio minister, or the minister who is part of the committee for that purpose, might say, ‘My department can find this money to undertake an enhanced campaign,’ or, ‘We will have a look at departmental funds and if we are not able to do that we will seek approvals to get further funding.’ It will depend on the quantum of the money and how well resourced the department is.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I do not think anyone disputes that we are talking big bickies on this one. You are telling me that effectively it was Kevin Andrews’s problem to go back to the Minister for Finance and Administration and discuss with him whether there would be supplementation or what have you.
Mr Williams —As I say, the process is gone through and ultimately a decision is taken as to whether to support more funds or whether the department has to absorb the funding. If it is not possible to do either then the campaign might have to be scaled back.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes, but that decision is not taken by the MCGC. You arrive at an indicative figure that you think ought to meet the objectives.
Mr Williams —The committee takes a view on what it believes is required, based on a number of inputs from the consultants of the master planning and placement agency and what the research might be saying about what is needed for a campaign. There are a variety of inputs and a view is taken as to what might be an appropriate amount to spend on a campaign.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Then it is up to the minister and relevant department to work out whether they can find the dough.
Mr Williams —That has certainly been the case in the past.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Dr Morauta, have PM&C incurred any costs in relation to the IR legislation development and campaign? I understand a range of legal advice has been sought? Has that been funded by the department or has PM&C been meeting some of those costs?
Dr Morauta —Apart from Mr Williams’s area, there is another area that advises on this type of issue.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is what I was coming to—the policy advice cost.
Dr Morauta —I do not know that we put in extra resources for this. I think we have taken it in our stride in some ways, but I will ask Mr Tilley to provide—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —All I know is that on every flight down to Melbourne in the last six months there have been an awful lot of lawyers going home for the weekend who seem to be chatting about the development of the legislation.
Senator BRANDIS —Have you been eavesdropping, Senator Evans?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —No, they are happy to chat. They are all growing very fat on the work, Senator Brandis. You made a move to politics far too early!
Senator BRANDIS —Well, good luck to them.
Senator MURRAY —It is a profession in need of much sustenance!
Dr Morauta —There are two other areas of the department that had a little bit to do with this. There is Mr Tilley’s policy area, and Ms Belcher might add something.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am trying to get to the cost apart from PM&C’s normal officers involved in the development of government policy advice: whether you have been picking up any other bills in relation to the development of the legislation, the campaign or related issues or whether they have been borne by DEWR.
Dr Morauta —It is about extra bills really.
Mr Tilley —If I can answer for my part, we have just been using the existing resources within my division—just a very small group, with a few people working on the workplace relations legislation. So there is no additional—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Have you been part of an IDC or something?
Mr Tilley —There has been an IDC on the development of the legislation in the early stages which we participated in, but just from our existing resources.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —DEWR chaired that, did they?
Mr Tilley —That is correct.
Ms Belcher —We have used our internal resources in relation to providing advice on the development of legislation. The only related cost that was external to the department related to the High Court case.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So that was the cost of retaining legal representation?
Ms Belcher —Advice was sought in relation to the case.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But the representation—was that funded? I think you got costs awarded to you anyway, didn’t you?
Ms Belcher —PM&C has not had to bear any costs in relation to the court case. The cost to the Commonwealth has yet to be settled.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So you provided some legal advice, which you had to pay for, but that was not the cost of the court case. Have I understood that correctly? When you said you bore the costs of some legal advice, that was not actually the cost of representation?
Ms Belcher —No.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It was advice about the Commonwealth’s position prior to the court case?
Ms Belcher —That is right. And, indeed, PM&C, I do not believe, will be bearing the cost of that advice in the long run.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That will be passed on to DEWR as part of the settlement for the court case as determined elsewhere?
Ms Belcher —Yes. The costs have yet to be settled in dollar terms.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who did you retain for that advice?
Ms Belcher —AGS was the only source of the advice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Dr Morauta, perhaps you might cogitate on this over the break: I am just wondering—this is not meant to be a trick question—whether there are any other costs for PM&C. I take that to be the answer, but if—
Dr Morauta —Okay, we will think about it, and if there is anything we can add we will after the break.
CHAIR —Can I confirm that we have finished with output group 1 and output group 2 and we are left only with output groups 3 and 4. Is that right, Senator Evans?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is my understanding.
Dr Morauta —Have we finished on industrial relations, apart from that question?
Senator MURRAY —For today.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you mean in terms of the policy department?
Dr Morauta —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes.
Proceedings suspended from 6.34 pm to 8.06 pm
CHAIR —I call the committee to order. The committee is continuing its examination of output 4.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Has Mr Williams had any luck with the two or three things I have been chasing for a while, such as the dates of the meetings—
Dr Morauta —I think Mr Williams is just doing some calculations. Could we come back to him? He is preparing himself to give you an answer, but he just needs a few more minutes to make a few calculations. Can you move on to something else?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Would you like me to sing a tune while we wait?
Dr Morauta —No. I was thinking you might like to ask some questions somewhere else in the very large range of output 4.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I think we need a commercial break; Senator Faulkner is the ideal man to turn to.
Senator FAULKNER —In the February 2004 estimates—it seems a lifetime ago—a question I asked about the cost of functions held at Kirribilli House was placed on notice. A couple of years later, I just wondered if I could have a response.
Ms Costello —That question has been answered in the last while.
Senator FAULKNER —Has it?
Ms Costello —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —So it has been provided to the committee?
Ms Costello —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —Recently?
Ms Costello —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —I have not caught up with it. If it has been answered, that is terrific. I will get a copy of the answer. It only took a couple of years to get organised, but there we are.
Ms Costello —It has been answered now.
Senator FAULKNER —When was it provided?
Ms Costello —I will check the date, but it was within the last couple of months, since the last estimates hearing.
Senator FAULKNER —I have not seen it, but no doubt I will get to see it now that it is there. Is someone from CERHOS here? I do not know whether this question is for CERHOS, but it is in some area of output 4.
Dr Morauta —Try us with the question, Senator.
Senator FAULKNER —I am sure you will help me. On Mr Howard’s recent trip to London he stayed at Claridges Hotel, didn’t he?
Mr Leverett —That is correct.
Senator FAULKNER —Can you tell me which suite he stayed in?
Mr Leverett —I was not on that trip. I think it was the piano suite, but I would have to check that.
Senator FAULKNER —The piano suite—thank you.
Mr Leverett —I am not sure of that.
Senator FAULKNER —Do we know how many nights he stayed at Claridges?
Mr Leverett —I would need to check the detail of that trip. I can do that this evening for you before we depart.
Senator FAULKNER —Would you be able to give me the cost of the party at Claridges?
Mr Leverett —I do not know that I can get you the cost of the full party tonight but we can certainly take that on notice.
Senator FAULKNER —You can provide me with the Prime Minister’s costs and then the costs of the full party. I am interested also in any extras like food and alcohol consumption. Can you help me with that too?
Mr Leverett —I can help you with that but I would have to take it on notice.
Senator FAULKNER —Were seats booked for the Lord’s test by PM&C or the government?
Mr Leverett —Again, I would have to take that on notice. I do not know. Certainly, seats were offered to some members of the party. I think others then chose to buy tickets and attend. I will take that on notice.
Senator FAULKNER —How many seats were offered and who availed themselves of that opportunity for the Lord’s test, and for how many days? I would be interested to know that. That is all I have on that. If you can come back with some of that information later in the evening, all to the good. No doubt by now Mr Williams has concluded his figuring.
Dr Morauta —Not quite. We need a couple more fillers, please.
Senator FAULKNER —We do not work on fillers here.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I do not know that international security policy could be regarded as a filler.
Dr Morauta —No, that is right. Are there any more questions around output 4?
Senator FAULKNER —Do you want a couple of fillers on international security? Let me try this for size: has anyone found any weapons of mass destruction yet?
Senator Hill —Do you want me to answer that?
Senator FAULKNER —We were just asked for some fillers.
Dr Morauta —I am sorry; I was being facetious.
Senator FAULKNER —How long do you think you will be, Mr Williams?
Mr Williams —I think I am right now, Senator.
Senator FAULKNER —There is no need to answer that, Senator Hill.
Senator Hill —I am still thinking of the answer.
Senator FAULKNER —I think we all know the answer to that question.
Mr Williams —In response to the question on reach and frequency of the television components, I am advised that we were targeting 95 per cent of the viewing audience seeing a commercial at least once during the campaign and 82 per cent of the viewing audience seeing the commercials three-plus times over the three-week period.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is the TV reach.
Mr Williams —That is the TV reach. The average frequency would be 29 over that period.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Twenty-nine whats over what?
Mr Williams —The average viewer—which is the 50th percentile—would see it 29 times.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —See the TV commercial 29 times?
Mr Williams —That occurs in attempting to reach the target of three-plus for 85 per cent of the viewing audience and one-plus for 95 per cent.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —The average viewer would have to see the ad 29 times for that outcome.
Mr Williams —The average viewer would see it on average once a day over the three-week period.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —If you like the cricket you would have to endure it much more often.
Mr Williams —Depending on the program that you watched.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Unfortunately, I like the cricket so I had to suffer a lot.
Senator FAULKNER —We would never describe you as an average viewer, though, Senator Evans.
Mr Williams —In terms of the other issue, I have gone back to DEWR and made some inquiries of my own people. If I can just recast the figures so we know what we are talking about, I mentioned $44.3 million as the media spend and the cost of the advertising agency, the PR company and the research company. I am advised now that the media spend would reduce by $6 million, so that takes that spend down to $38.3 million. If we include the printing and distribution—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am sorry, I thought you gave us a figure of $36.8 million for the media budget.
Mr Williams —That is right. But what I am saying is that I said before that we expected that to come in $5 million under and the latest advice I have is that it would come in $6 million under.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So how then do you get $38.3 million?
Mr Williams —If I take $6 million off the $44.3 million I get $38.3 million as that total.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But before we were talking in terms of the media buy and you were using the figure $36.8 million.
Mr Williams —I am now say that is $30.8 million, and if you extrapolate that to the total of $44.3 million you are looking at $38.3 million—by taking $6 million of that. For the call centre, which will continue in operation for the foreseeable future, I mentioned a figure of $8.1 million as the budgeted cost for that. I am advised that that is now likely to be $4.7 million. The printing and distribution stays the same.
On those figures, the $44.3 million becomes $38.3 million. The $10.8 million included the call centre, which is in a sense separate from the campaign because it will continue after the campaign is finished. But if you add the $38.3 million and the revised figure of $7.4 million, which is reducing the cost of the call centre to what is now expected, you end up with a total of $45.7 million as the more likely cost of the call centre, at $4.7 million, the advertising at $38.3 million and the printing and distribution at $2.7 million. So we are not looking at $55.1 million, we are looking at $45.7 million, if you include the call centre—and I do not believe the call centre is really part of the campaign; it is separate.
Senator FAULKNER —We will see that when the final figures come in. Anyway, the budget is for $55 million.
Mr Williams —These budgets are always couched as a maximum. We now have much more precision on the figures. What I am saying to you now is that $45.7 million, including the call centre of $4.7 million, is the likely cost of the campaign, the advertising and the call centre arrangements.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you want to revisit any of your other evidence?
Mr Williams —No. As I say, I have spoken to people during the break to get a more up-to-date picture.
Senator FAULKNER —Who are these people?
Mr Williams —I spoke to DEWR, because they are the people who are running the campaign.
Senator FAULKNER —Did you speak to anyone from the Prime Minister’s office?
Mr Williams —I did, but not on—
Senator FAULKNER —Of course you did, Mr Williams.
Mr Williams —Not on these issues, Senator. I spoke to DEWR—
Senator FAULKNER —It is the same old pattern; you get it all the time.
Mr Williams —on the likely costs. Those costs are based on DEWR advice, no-one else’s advice.
Senator FAULKNER —Some staffer in the Prime Minister’s office starts to get worried about all the negative publicity, as they should be, and we have a bit of a revision over the dinner break of the figures. I do not treat that with any credibility at all.
Mr Williams —I spoke with DEWR on these figures and they are the best advice that they have given me. They would be the numbers that they will be coming forth with on Thursday because it is, in a sense, their campaign.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —We will see if they last until Thursday.
Senator FAULKNER —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Can I go back to the reach targets. When was the last time a government campaign sought a reach target of this level?
Mr Williams —I would have to take that on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —In your history, do you recall such a high target being set?
Mr Williams —I can recall high targets, but I cannot give an answer without taking it on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So 95 per cent of viewers are expected to see the commercials—
Mr Williams —Once.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes, and 82 per cent three times—
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And your average viewer at the halfway mark would see it 29 times or once a day?
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What about your radio ads?
Mr Williams —They do not do reach frequency measurements.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You must have determined a buy, though, that was driven by something.
Mr Williams —We do a buy in terms of number of spots, but you do not get that degree of precision with radio.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is it fair to say that you bought across a whole range of radio stations?
Mr Williams —We bought capital city and regional radio.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But across a range of both AM and FM bands?
Mr Williams —Yes. It was across the range. This is a campaign that is looking at people from the age of 18 to 64, so you have to cater to the different demographics of the radio station.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you have any idea of the reach on the newspaper ads or is it just circulation figures?
Mr Williams —It is just based on circulation and readership figures.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Did we finally decide who approved the budget?
Mr Williams —There were number of parties involved in the consideration and approval process. As I mentioned earlier in my evidence, there was the minister and the committee. I would only come back to my earlier evidence and say that there were a number of parties involved in coming to a view on what might be appropriate.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You seriously cannot tell me who in government signed off on the expenditure of $55 million of taxpayers’ money? Is that your answer to this committee?
Mr Williams —I am saying that there were quite a number of parties involved in the consideration of the process.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Sure—the cleaner might have been involved in the process. But who signed off? Who authorised that amount of taxpayers’ money to be spent? It cannot be a state secret. Someone has to approve it.
Mr Williams —It was a government decision.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who in government? Senator Brandis and Senator Trood are part of the government—
Senator FAULKNER —Only just.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Did they authorise it?
Senator BRANDIS —Don’t look at us.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I know what being a senator in a government is like, Senator Brandis.
Senator FAULKNER —He is only just in there.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Did Senator Hill approve it? This is not a Yes, Minister show. There must be an answer, surely.
Senator BRANDIS —It is a ‘No, Senator’ show.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Are you seriously suggesting that you do not know or are you suggesting that you have not been able to find out? I am not clear on which it is.
Mr Williams —What I am saying is that I have made some inquiries and I would like to get more information before I respond substantively to the committee.
Senator FAULKNER —Who have you made those inquiries of?
Mr Williams —I have spoken to DEWR on the issue. I have spoken to my colleagues who were involved in MCGC processes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And you have spoken to the PM’s office over the break. So between DEWR, PM&C and the Prime Minister’s office, we cannot actually work out who authorised the expenditure of $55 million?
Mr Williams —I am just saying that my inquiries are not complete yet, but I will respond when I get full details.
Senator FAULKNER —In other words, the government does not know who authorised the expenditure of $55 million. That is terrific. That is fantastic. As long as the ads go out there—all of the propaganda and partisan political rubbish is out there on the television screen—there are no problems.
Senator Hill —It is public information.
Senator FAULKNER —Nobody has authorised it. We cannot find out—the Prime Minister’s office does not know, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet does not know, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations does not know, Billy the goose does not know—
Mr Williams —I would wish to make further inquiries.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So you can tell us exactly what you spent the money on but you cannot tell us who allowed you to spend the money?
Mr Williams —I can say that it was approved by government; I am making further inquiries.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —The other questions that you were having a bit of difficulty with before were the dates of the meetings and when these decisions were taken. Did you have any luck with those? The best we got was that the earlier meeting to the one on 23 June was before 23 June.
Mr Williams —I do not have that information. I was a bit tied up trying to get other information during the break.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —We know that 9 August was when the final decision was taken in relation to the public relations company. Is that right?
Mr Williams —What I said earlier, Senator, was that the public relations company was selected at a meeting on 13 July 2005.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I thought you said that was the advertising agency.
Mr Williams —No. I said that the list of agencies to be invited to pitch and the brief were approved by the committee at that meeting on 13 July. The agency, Dewey Horton, was selected by the committee on 9 August 2005.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But the public relations decision was made on 13—
Mr Williams —The public relations company was selected on 13 July 2005.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Was 9 August the last meeting of this committee to deal with the IR advertising campaign?
Mr Williams —No. Once an advertising agency is selected and a researcher is selected the advertising agency will work up the development of the creative. That creative is then tested by the research company to see how it impacts on the target audience, the creative and research results are presented to the committee and further work is done on the creative as and when required. So there were a number of meetings after the meeting of 9 August, when the agency was selected.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you have the dates of those meetings?
Mr Williams —Yes, I have. There was a meeting on 12 August, 16 August, 18 August, 22 August, 30 August, 2 September, 6 September, 9 September, 13 September, 23 September, 27 September, 3 October and 6 October. So there were a number of meetings. Those meetings basically considered the iterative process of developing an advertising campaign that resonates with the target audience, based on research.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I have been on federal election campaign committees that met less often. They were certainly busy. Did they meet after 6 October?
Mr Williams —No, they did not, because the campaign went to air on the 9th.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So the committee went back and forth to the advertising agency finalising the creative concepts. Is that right?
Mr Williams —That is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Were they also finalising the media buy or were they purely focused on the creative?
Mr Williams —The media plan was considered at those meetings, yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It seems an unusually large number of meetings. I have been involved with these processes in election campaigns. It seems it was pretty hectic and pretty regular. Is there a reason for that?
Mr Williams —There is a need to refine the campaign, based on concept testing. That is not unusual with campaigns.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who did the concept testing?
Mr Williams —Colmar Brunton, the research company. So I would not see anything unusual. As you would have seen by watching the campaign, there were a number of executions.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I did not know you killed anybody. I know when the system comes in people may drop dead from overwork but I do not know that it has happened yet.
Mr Williams —Executions of concepts—TV commercials. I am using jargon; I apologise. Given the number of concepts, it is not surprising that there was a fair amount of work in developing the package.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Has there been any formal evaluation at this stage of the success of the campaign?
Mr Williams —No, not at this stage.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —The Prime Minister referred in a radio interview to having received some feedback on it. How would he have got that?
Mr Williams —There would have been some tracking research done during the course of the campaign.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —By whom?
Mr Williams —Colmar Brunton would have done that tracking research as part of their terms of engagement.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Whom would that be provided to?
Mr Williams —That would normally be provided to the department by Colmar Brunton, as they are contracted to, and it would be provided to the committee—the MCGC.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Was it provided to MCGC?
Mr Williams —I would have to take that on notice. My expectation is that they did receive some elements of that tracking research, but I will take that on notice to be safe.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Was the Prime Minister provided with it directly?
Mr Williams —I cannot answer that, Senator.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —He was not provided it through the MCGC?
Mr Williams —Not to my knowledge.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Are you aware of who else was provided with the tracking research?
Mr Williams —As I said, I will take this question on notice, but my expectation would be that it was provided to the department, Minister Andrews’s office—he is a member of the committee for the purpose of the campaign—and members of the committee.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —They are the obvious ones. Is anybody else likely to be in the loop for this sort of stuff?
Mr Williams —Not unless it was distributed to elements in DEWR.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —How often did the tracking research come in?
Mr Williams —I cannot recall the frequency.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Will you take that on notice for me?
Mr Williams —I will take that on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —The frequency and the dates that you received tracking research.
Mr Williams —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is another more formal evaluation then done?
Mr Williams —I mentioned in my evidence before the dinner break that Universal McCann will do a post-campaign review to see how the campaign has placed compared with the campaign as planned. They will do that report. It is something they do normally for all campaigns.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That just tells you what they bought, though, doesn’t it?
Mr Williams —It will tell you what they bought and give you a more precise view on what you achieved. When you are buying television you buy on the expectation of the programs you are in delivering certain ratings. The aggregate of that is in a sense the TARP weight of the campaign. Ex post you can see what those programs delivered in rating points and audience and you will get a more precise view on what you actually achieved. It is a standard process.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I understand that side of the process. Is there any formal assessment as to what impact the advertising campaign had in meeting the objective, which you were not able to be all that clear about—that is, the information provision it was designed to achieve?
Mr Williams —You should, through your tracking research, conducted by Colmar Brunton, get an indication of the target audience’s reaction to the campaign in terms of knowledge levels growing of particular elements of the campaign. And you will get, on your TV spend at least, more precision on your reach and frequency outcomes because you will actually know what has been delivered. So between the two you will get a better picture—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You will not be getting anything other than the tracking research in terms of evaluation of the campaign?
Mr Williams —That tracking research is done against a benchmark. It is a standard process. You attempt to benchmark knowledge levels and familiarity with particular issues, and your tracking research will tell you whether you are building on that benchmark. At the end of the campaign in your final element of tracking research you will be able to get a view on how much you have changed people’s knowledge, based on the particular issue that the campaign has been focusing on.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Thank you. That is all on that section, Mr Chairman.
CHAIR —No more on output group 4?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I do not have any.
Senator FAULKNER —I have been sent a copy of the answer to the question on notice, but I did not consider that to be an answer. I had asked on 16 February 2004 that PM&C provide a list of official functions at Kirribilli House from 1 July 2003 to 1 January 2004, indicating the cost for each of those official functions borne by the Commonwealth. A couple of years later I get this pathetic answer from the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, saying that he does not intend to provide the cost. I do not consider that an answer, Chairman. Do you?
CHAIR —I do not know quite what you are referring to. Without meaning to be rude, I do not remember you asking the question.
Senator FAULKNER —You were not on the ball here a couple of years ago when this question was asked.
Senator BRANDIS —I remember.
CHAIR —Senator Brandis recalls all these things, particularly in relation to Kirribilli House.
Senator FAULKNER —My recollection is that when I asked that question Senator Brandis was outside the room, so he must have read the Hansard.
CHAIR —He probably did.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —He was probably flying on his way to Claridges.
Senator FAULKNER —Is that the new policy, Senator Hill—that no questions seeking a modicum of accountability about what happens at the official establishments are going to be answered by Mr Howard?
Senator Hill —I would not draw that conclusion, no.
Senator FAULKNER —Well, why haven’t I received an answer? Why has it told me that he is not intending to answer the question?
Senator Hill —I do not know. I have not seen the answer. I will have to make inquiries.
Senator FAULKNER —Good. Thank you. Let us know.
Senator Hill —He says it is in keeping with normal practice, including that of his predecessors—
Senator FAULKNER —It is not actually normal practice. Previously this information has been provided.
Senator Hill —so perhaps Labor Prime Ministers established a precedent.
Senator FAULKNER —You know the truth means nothing to your government. This information has been provided in the past.
Senator Hill —I will find out what was the practice of his predecessors. He says that the normal practices established by his predecessors were not to provide the cost for individual functions held at the Lodge and Kirribilli House.
Senator FAULKNER —Why did it take two years to come up with this pathetic excuse, just out of interest? How come it took two years to provide that abysmal answer?
Senator Hill —He goes on to say that it is his practice to meet personally the cost of any significance hospitality at those residences which is essentially of a private or family nature.
Senator FAULKNER —Sure. Can anyone explain why it took the best part of two years to provide that answer?
Senator Hill —Maybe they were researching the practice of his predecessors.
Senator FAULKNER —Maybe they were not.
CHAIR —As there are no further questions on output group 4, I thank the officers responsible for those areas for their assistance. The committee will now commence its examination of output group 3, international policy advice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Mr Chair, I understand that in the parliament today the Prime Minister announced an inquiry into the involvement of the Australian Wheat Board in the Iraq oil for food program. Forgive me, I am not across the details of the announcement, because I have been here all day. I want to ask the officers whether they have been active in providing advice to the government on this issue or whether it was all handled by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Prime Minister has made a number of comments about advice he has received et cetera. I am trying to understand what the PM&C International Division’s involvement in this issue has been. It is a general question. I want to know whether they have had any involvement or not. If not, we will obviously move on quickly. If they have, then I would like to know what it has been.
CHAIR —Mr Lewis, can you help us on that?
Mr Lewis —With regard to that question, I am also aware of the Prime Minister’s announcement at lunchtime that there will be an investigation into the matter. Clearly, that investigation has now to work through the process. But I might just ask Mr Borrowman to speak on the issue of advice that goes specifically to your question.
Mr Borrowman —If you mean advice in terms of the establishment of the inquiry, there was some discussion with the department this morning, but that is still being worked through.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —No, I was starting off more generally than that, Mr Borrowman. Obviously, questions about the UN resolutions, compliance and the UN investigation et cetera have been around for a while. The government would have been following those because we were a major supplier of wheat to Iraq. The issue has been around for a while. I am just trying to understand whether you have been providing advice on the UN inquiry. Were you involved in submissions to the UN inquiry? Were you answering requests for information? Has PM&C been involved or has this been handled by Foreign Affairs alone? That is the starting point, really.
Mr Borrowman —The first thing I will say in response is that this is an inquiry into the activities of the AWB. The AWB has been the entity principally involved in responding to the inquiry. Within government, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have also been involved in assisting. A lot of your questions would probably be better directed to them. In terms of this department’s role, yes, we have been involved in briefing the Prime Minister. We briefed the Prime Minister on 16 September and 14 October specifically in relation to the oil for food inquiry.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —On 16 September and 14 October?
Mr Borrowman —That is right.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Were you briefing the Prime Minister in anticipation of the UN report being handed down?
Mr Borrowman —It was broad advice on the progress of the inquiry.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —As it was about to come to a head. Is it fair to say that? Was he briefed on it earlier than that?
Mr Borrowman —No, Senator.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Were you provided with advice or warned about the potential findings? Obviously, some of them did not reflect terribly well on certain Australian organisations. Were you given a heads-up or asked for comment at all?
Mr Borrowman —I think the short answer to that is no. The inquiry has now been called. At this stage we, like you, have been involved with this inquiry all day, so I would have to say that we are not fully across the terms of how that might develop. I am not really in a position to—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I will cover that in the second. I am talking about the UN inquiry, not today’s announcements by the Prime Minister, at this stage. I am trying to understand what the Australian government’s involvement has been in providing assistance, information, responding to requests or being asked for opinion during the course of the UN inquiry into the oil for food program.
Mr Borrowman —To the extent that the Australian government has been asked for assistance, it has fully cooperated with the inquiry. That has been acknowledged by Mr Volcker on a number of occasions.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Did that involve responses from and involvement of the PM&C, or has it been purely dealt with by Foreign Affairs?
Mr Borrowman —It has been largely dealt with by Foreign Affairs. Obviously, there has been the usual degree of interdepartmental consultation.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But there has been no IDC or joint working group to deal with the matter? Nothing formal of that nature?
Mr Borrowman —There have been meetings, but there has not been an IDC per se, Senator.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is it fair to say that Foreign Affairs has had the lead on the issue?
Mr Borrowman —Yes, it is.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You briefed the Prime Minister on 16 September and 14 October. When did the department become involved in the question of this Australian inquiry?
Mr Borrowman —I would have to take that on notice. It also involved the legal areas of the department. I would have to consult with the legal areas, which are no longer present.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You said you had been involved with it all day.
Mr Borrowman —No, I have been involved in this committee. I have been sitting up the back and outside, so I have not been able to get on top of the details. In any case, as I understand it, the Prime Minister has announced that the details of the composition and structure of the inquiry will be announced in the near future. So I would imagine that in the next few days, by the time we get to DFAT on Thursday, there will be more details available on that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am glad to see people anticipating estimates procedures. I take it from that that you as PM&C have not briefed the Prime Minister on the question of an Australian inquiry then?
Mr Borrowman —Again, I would have to take that on notice because this has been evolving during the course of the day and I have been up here for most of the day.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But at least prior to today it is fair to say that PM&C International Division had not briefed the Prime Minister on issues relating to an Australian inquiry?
Mr Borrowman —Not to my knowledge.
Mr Lewis —Because this situation is unfolding, certainly within our own department we have not even got to a point of briefing the secretary of the department at this point. That will be done by the back end of tomorrow. It is an unfolding situation and I am sure that in the next 48 hours or so we will have some more concrete information.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Briefing your departmental secretary on what—on the Prime Minister’s announcement?
Mr Lewis —In order that we might provide some advice to the PM, I am sure.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What I am trying to ascertain is that you did not provide advice to the PM before the announcement.
Dr Morauta —I think we have taken that question on notice because we are not sure what people who were not here at Senate estimates might have done in our absence. I think it is fair to take that one on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So you were covering yourself for the possibility that it may have happened this morning?
Dr Morauta —Yes, or during the day.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Who is responsible for monitoring compliance with UN resolutions? Is that Foreign Affairs? The UN is very fond of passing resolutions. They are usually very noble, long and wordy. Whose job is it to make sure we comply with them?
Mr Borrowman —That is a good question. I do not know that there is a particular agency of the Australian government that has that responsibility. Insofar as there is one, I would expect that it would be the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What process is there? Do you receive advice from the foreign affairs department about such things?
Mr Borrowman —There is no formalised process for monitoring the many thousands of resolutions that come out of the United Nations. But I would really have to defer and suggest that you take that up with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is better placed to answer.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I will. I am always careful to cover my bases just in case I get to Foreign Affairs on Thursday and they tell me to ask you blokes, you see. It is always best to check first, because Senator Hill will then lecture me that I should have asked the question of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Senator Hill —Wasn’t there an argument as to whether it was the UN’s job to audit the process? It is probably not the place now to get into a debate on responsibility, but certainly some say that the structure or architecture for this scheme was set up by the UN and they had to approve the contractual arrangements, in which case you would normally think that the audit process would be theirs as well.
Mr Borrowman —Senator Hill, I had understood the senator’s question to be a bit more general, but you are certainly correct in that the responsibility for monitoring and implementing the oil for food program lay squarely with the United Nations.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Mine was a more general question. Senator Hill, as you know some resolutions relate to trade with certain countries, defence armaments et cetera. We vote for these resolutions. How as a government do you deal with meeting our obligations to enforce them in terms of our activities, not in terms of the things they do?
Senator Hill —It depends on what the particular obligation is, but certainly my department monitors some and has to give approvals in relation to certain exports. DFAT is involved in some processes related to restricted exports. There is a whole-of-government committee process. You need to look at the particular obligation.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I was really trying to understand if the International Division was aware of how the Australian government responded to UN resolutions that might affect Australian government activity. It was a general question so I could understand how we might deal with those things. It was not particularly the food one.
Mr Borrowman —As Senator Hill has pointed out, the answer depends on the specificity of the resolution in question.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Thanks for that. There have been a number of issues involving our participation in Iraq in a military sense, its relationship with the operations of the Japanese forces there and our role in helping to provide protection for them. Obviously that is better directed to Senator Hill when we get to the Defence portfolio, in the specifics of what they do, but I am interested in the contact between Australian and Japanese officials on these issues. Are they conducted by Foreign Affairs or is PM&C involved in these issues?
Mr Lewis —I think in the main the contact has been through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They would always be the conduit through which the contact is made. I will ask Mr Orme to address that question.
Mr Orme —The majority of those interactions are under the lead of DFAT, with assistance as appropriate from PM&C, but DFAT are in the lead.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —As I understand it, the Prime Minister has had a conversation with the Japanese Prime Minister. He has obviously spoken to President George W Bush on a number of occasions and to Tony Blair. But, particularly in relation to the consideration of our involvement in Iraq, it seems to have focused a bit of late around the Japanese plans—the timing of their withdrawals, the timing of their activities. Do you provide advice to the Prime Minister before he speaks to, say, the Japanese Prime Minister?
Mr Orme —Yes, that would be normal.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So would you, as well as Foreign Affairs, provide a brief to him before that sort of contact?
Mr Orme —We would provide a separate brief to the Prime Minister but in conjunction with other relevant agencies, providing him with a whole-of-government perspective on the issue.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Are you able to tell me the last time you briefed the Prime Minister in preparation for discussions with the Japanese?
Mr Orme —The last general brief to the PM on our commitment to Iraq would have been in the last several weeks. We brief the PM on a quite regular basis on developments in Iraq.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I assumed that would be the case. I suspect he gets briefed by other agencies as well, doesn’t he?
Mr Orme —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Say he is going to meet or call the Japanese Prime Minister. Would you provide him with a brief before that?
Mr Lewis —Yes. That was the answer that was just given by Mr Orme. It is the normal practice that before the Prime Minister engages in such a discussion he gets a supporting brief from the department.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is why I asked the question. I got a more general answer. When was the last time you briefed him in relation to discussions with the Japanese?
Mr Lewis —I am not sure that we have a specific date, but it has been in the last couple of weeks. We will take that on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Perhaps you could give me the dates that you provided briefs to the Prime Minister in preparation for contact with the Japanese government regarding Iraq.
Mr Orme —Okay.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Perhaps you could do the same thing for briefs before contact with the governments of the United States and the UK. Senator Hill, maybe you could best help me with this. What is your current understanding of the Japanese intentions in relation to their Iraq involvement?
Senator Hill —They have to report to the Diet late this month or next month on whether they are going to extend their deployment. The government has the authority to make the decision, but it has to report. I do not believe that the government has publicly stated its position in that regard. Is that what that briefing note says?
Mr Lewis —Yes. It appears as though the Japanese Diet will take the issue in mid-December. That is when the consideration of the matter will be.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So, unlike in our system, the parliament is going to make a decision on it.
Senator Hill —No. They have the parliamentary approval but they have to report on the extension. I think originally they had to get parliamentary approval.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I hasten to add, for Senator Murray’s information, that I am a firm believer that the commitment of troops is a decision for government and not for the parliament. I am certainly not arguing the proposition that has been put by some in the Senate that we ought to have a parliamentary vote on it and a bit of a decision about such things.
Senator MURRAY —So you think the American congress is wrong to have to approve war.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I actually think it is a decision for the executive, who are then answerable to the parliament and the people.
Senator MURRAY —Congress backed Mr Bush, but he had to ask their opinion.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —In the old days the Senate process used to be quite slow. I have noticed lately that it is speeding up a bit. There used to be slightly unwieldy responses. These days, with half-day inquiries and quick votes, if you use the gag and the guillotine you can get stuff done very quickly. I am getting diverted. This is probably in 3.2, but, Mr Lewis, I gather that this is timely in a sense. I understand that you have been in Brisbane today at the avian influenza preparedness and response meeting. Are you happy to take some questions on that?
Mr Lewis —Certainly.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That was an APEC meeting, as I understand it.
Mr Lewis —That is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Was it an initial meeting to explore options or was it considering actual measures?
Mr Lewis —The purpose of the meeting really was to do both of those things—explore what possibilities were in front of us collectively and how those might be progressed. You are aware that there is a meeting of the APEC leaders in the middle of next month in Pusan. The purpose of today’s meeting was to explore the possibilities that might be carried forward at that APEC leaders summit.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So, if you like, the leaders summit will be the decision-making body? Is that fair?
Mr Lewis —Yes. With these things, I think it is safe to say that, from an international point of view, it would require international leaders—that is, the leaders of each of the nations—to spearhead such a thing. That was the object of today’s meeting.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —As part of the discussions, was there an assessment of the risk of a possible pandemic?
Mr Lewis —It is almost impossible to have a discussion about a pandemic without discussing the risk. I am not technically qualified to speak on such a thing.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It would be wasted on me anyway, so I suspect that a layman’s interpretation would be better anyway.
Mr Lewis —The risk of human-to-human transmission is very low.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Was there agreement at the meeting about the risk or was that a bone of contention?
Mr Lewis —There was no definitive discussion about the risk and there was certainly no tabling of a figure. I could not give you a figure of percentage risk.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —In terms of the lead-up to the APEC leaders meeting, will PM&C be doing the preparatory arrangements?
Mr Lewis —We would not have the lead. That will be done by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. However, to the extent that our national leader, the Prime Minister, is involved in those discussions, then yes, we are involved in preparing him.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is there an IDC or something set up?
Mr Lewis —For avian bird flu?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes.
Mr Lewis —Yes, there is.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —And are you participating in it?
Mr Lewis —That is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that headed by Health?
Mr Lewis —No. The IDC process is actually co-chaired by Dr Morauta and me, but it is true to say that, for the domestic preparation and the technology aspects of bird flu, the Department of Health and Ageing has the lead. For the international aspects, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has the lead.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But PM&C is chairing it.
Mr Lewis —Yes, it has the coordinating function. As you can imagine, there are a number of departments that obviously have an interest in that.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Obviously there has been greater focus lately on the link between traditional forms of security and non-traditional forms. Customs, immigration, animal quarantine and health have been brought into prominence by the avian influenza debate, and also by the fishing incursions in the north west of the country—the worry about fishermen, birds, dogs and what have you. I am just trying to understand what whole-of-government coordination is being undertaken to address maritime border issues in any of the non-traditional security cases. I think this is part of your remit. I want to understand how that is working. We understand that, if it is a military threat, we send in the SAS, but how do we respond and how is coordination of the non-traditional security threats going?
Mr Lewis —I think your characterisation of the diffusion—if that is the right way to describe it—of the threat is correct. A number of, as you characterised them, non-traditional threats are now presenting. You may recall that a task force was established in 2004 to address the very issue of maritime security for the country. That task force reported in December of 2004. A number of outcomes flowed from that. The most visible was probably the establishment of the joint offshore protection command. There was a COAG agreement that the Commonwealth would take responsibility, certainly from the point of view of counter-terrorist prevention, for all the areas beyond what is known as the baseline—the baseline defines the distinction between offshore waters and what are state or enclosed waters.
There are a number of facilities—gas and oil platforms in particular, but also shipping lanes—that fall inside that baseline. Discussions have been and are still in progress between the Commonwealth and the states to address how the security of those facilities might be addressed. I have personally been involved in discussions in the last couple of weeks with Western Australia on that matter.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —There has been a bit of Western Australian concern that a lot of the focus has been on the north and not so much on the North West Shelf and other areas in terms of resources. That is currently being addressed, is it?
Mr Lewis —Yes, that is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What are the options in providing better protection on those sorts of issues? Obviously keeping patrol boats out there permanently is not one.
Mr Lewis —There are number of measures which, clearly, Senator Hill can speak to also. They go to the issue of additional patrol boats being based in Darwin but forward positioned down to Dampier. There is the issue of UAV trials over the North West Shelf. There is increased patrolling by the Joint Offshore Protection Command. They have what they call an enhanced patrolling program through the gas and oil facilities of the North West Shelf. So there are a number of measures running concurrently to bring a focus to the security of those very important assets.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —In terms of the non-traditional security cases, given that intrusions by Indonesian based fishermen seem to be very much on the rise, what is the risk assessment of those intrusions? Do you have confidence that we are actually getting that whole-of-government coordination to meet those non-traditional security issues?
Mr Lewis —Yes, I do. I am confident that we are coordinated in a better and more improved way then we have been in the past. I think an institution such as the Joint Offshore Protection Command is a good example of how information is fused between those agencies. Of course, once you have the fusion of information, we are in a much better position to respond according to the specific threat.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I do not want to sound parochial, but, certainly from Western Australians’ point of view, we felt that the response to the fishermen issue was very slow and inadequate, and it only became more concentrated as the press coverage got to the point where the government had to act. There is a real sense that that increase in fishing incursions into our waters and into the north-west has been going on for some time now. I think even on Customs figures—your government’s own figures—the number has increased rapidly. It strikes me that perhaps a number of people who were involved in the illegal smuggling of people into this country have now transferred their business into the illegal fishing industry. Are you really confident that the response there was adequate?
Mr Lewis —I do not think there is any evidence to suggest that there is a nexus between illegal immigration or people-smuggling and fishing, but I am confident that we are well coordinated. As to whether things could be done better, I am sure that there is some further tweaking to be done. We will continue to do that. But there are high levels of cooperation between the agencies currently.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I accept that there are higher levels, but it seemed to be a very slow response. My comment earlier about illegal transportation of individuals and fishing was just that another economic opportunity had opened up. It may not be the same people or related, but it seems to me that there was an economic opportunity in bringing illegal immigrants into the country and an economic opportunity has now arisen in fishing inside Australian territorial waters. Are you satisfied that the rate of response to your own government figures on the increased incursion of fishing vessels into our waters illegally was adequate?
Mr Lewis —Am I satisfied? Yes. Could they be better? Yes. We will continue to work towards that, I am sure.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Do you think Customs are the appropriate people to do that work?
Mr Lewis —I think it is important that it is a coordinated effort between agencies now. Precisely who responds and how and when is something to consider, but we would want to ensure that across the agencies we have the right sorts of responses in the right place at the right time. You cannot be everywhere, clearly, but I believe that we are well coordinated across agencies, which is the point of your question.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is one point of my question. The other is whether the response has been adequate. I must admit, I am yet to be convinced. It seemed to me that it took an awfully long time to respond to what was an identified threat. That is why I am focusing on the non-traditional threat, in the sense that there was a real feeling in the Western Australian community that the response was very slow.
Senator Hill —I think that is unfair, because there has been a consistent and continuing response. I think what has changed, particularly in recent times, is the level of publicity that is being given to the issue. Having said that, we do recognise that there are new, larger, more efficient boats coming into the fishery that provide new levels of challenge. We also suffer from the difficulty that, at the other end of the spectrum, the cheaper boat can be constructed in a very short period of time and the loss of a boat does not seem to be the penalty that it once was.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —They are made of cardboard, as I understand it.
Senator Hill —Yes. Finally, the rewards seem to be very high just at the moment. I think shark fin is almost at record prices. So it is an ongoing challenge. I think Australia has been responding reasonably well to it, but there are new elements, and that has led us to increase the capability that we have to offer in retaliation and response and also to change some of the penalties, which we hope might be more effective as a deterrent. That is yet to be seen. We have improved, as has been said, the coordination of our offshore command mechanism. I think it is as good as any similar organisational structure in the world now. It is an ongoing challenge, but I would not concede that there has been a slow response to anything in particular.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I do not want to get into an argument. I am just looking at official government figures on incursions and what I say is the slowness of the response to them. We have been plotting them for a long time, and only the recent publicity seemed to bring out any action in response to those incursions.
Mr Lewis —It might be helpful to acknowledge that the JOPC has run two major activities, Clearwater I and Clearwater II—two significant operations in the north of the country that went to the issue of illegal fishing. I do not have the results of those operations but I know that certainly Clearwater I was very successful. It directly targeted the increase in reported incursions that you allude to.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that the one run in the Gulf of Carpentaria?
Mr Lewis —Clearwater I was in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I gather we seconded all the people out of Western Australia to attend that.
Mr Lewis —I do not know the detail. It was a JOPC activity.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Mr Lewis, Mr Abbott is quoted in the newspapers as saying that Australia will consider closing its borders in a pandemic. Are you able to help us with that? Are there plans for that to occur and, if so, who would be coordinating that?
Mr Lewis —There is a department of health plan for the management of an influenza pandemic. That was published, I think, back in May this year. The issue of closing borders, of course, is a very complicated one, but clearly in extremis that would be one of the measures that could be considered.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that contained in a department of health plan?
Mr Lewis —It is a department of health publication.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Does that include the proposition that we would close the borders?
Mr Lewis —I am not sure of that detail, but certainly the technical way in which the department of health plan on managing that is something that could be directed to them.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It struck me that this is an issue more for you and your IDC in the sense that Health alone are not going to close our borders. That is going to require Customs, and virtually every agency I can think of in the Commonwealth government would be involved in some way.
Mr Lewis —That is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Has the IDC developed a plan to close Australian borders in the event of a threat of a pandemic being taken seriously enough?
Mr Lewis —Not in the specific, but your point is quite right in that such a decision would be taken based on technical advice as to what the risk was. If the risk were of such an order that closing the borders was warranted, clearly that would be considered.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But do you have a plan in place as to how you would do that?
Mr Lewis —I would need to refer to the published document from the department of health which goes to those issues, I believe.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What I am coming to is that Health may well have a plan—and Dr Morauta is probably familiar with all this—that says, ‘In these circumstances, based on this technical advice, we will require the closing of Australian borders,’ but the implementation of that will not be done by Health.
Mr Lewis —No, that is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I thought you would have had some role in coordinating that.
Mr Lewis —It would certainly be a whole-of-government role.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is why I am asking you, in your role as heading up the IDC for the whole-of-government response. Do you have a contingency plan for closing Australian borders?
Mr Lewis —No, we do not as a specific for the IDC that is chaired by PM&C, but I would need to refer to that Health document to see whether there are measures in there that go to the issue of what the considerations might be. Most certainly, I have been involved in discussion outside of the IDC as to what would be involved in such a decision.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I presume cabinet or, in an emergency, the Prime Minister would take such a decision. Who would then get the job of implementing it?
Mr Lewis —Again, that would be coordinated across government. All of those border agencies that currently have a role with respect to border control would exercise their roles in order to bring about the closure, if such a decision were taken.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes; that is what I trying to find out. Who would coordinate it? Who would get the job of making it happen? I am not trying to be alarmist about it. I am one of those who is trying to talk down some of the alarmist things. I am just trying to understand the preparedness and the response and how it works. I would have thought that PM&C would lead on something like that, in terms of the implementation.
Mr Lewis —In terms of the policy, yes, but not the implementation of it. That is something for line agencies. The Customs agency and the various agencies that are involved in our border protection would implement it.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But who would drive it?
Senator Hill —I think the policy decision process would be through the National Security Committee of cabinet. I do not think the Prime Minister would mind my saying that that committee has already taken briefs on the subject. The work identifying the threat and appropriate responses has been primarily led by Health, but if there were a crisis the emergency provisions that are implemented would be run through that process.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I understand who would take the policy decision. I am asking what happens next. You and the National Security Committee or the Prime Minister take a decision that we ought to close our borders. Who makes that happen?
Senator Hill —As has been said, it would be devolved to particular agencies, but the coordination of it, I think, would probably fall to PM&C.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is what I thought, too. That is why I am asking what the plan is.
Mr Lewis —That is why I said the coordination is our function but the implementation is something for line agencies to do.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But there is no plan at this stage, or no template, for what we would do in that event?
Senator Hill —It is very important in these things not to cause undue panic and concern. There is a lot of work and effort behind the scenes to try to imagine all possible scenarios and what would be the appropriate response in each. And that is being done not only at the federal level but also in conjunction with the states and different agencies within each of the states. I think it is fair to say that the cooperation has been good and everybody sees this as a serious national issue. But it is important to find the right balance between appropriate precautions and avoiding undue public concern and panic.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I accept all that.
Senator Hill —If you are asking for everything to be put on the table now, I think we would need to talk to the Minister for Health and Ageing and I think we would suggest that it would probably be better done in other than a public forum.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —One of the advantages of asking you at 9.20 pm on an estimates night is that I am unlikely to spread public panic from the coverage of the question or the answer. I accept those concerns but I am trying to understand the mechanism. We have had debates about whether to have a department of homeland security et cetera. I am trying to understand your mechanism for dealing with the possibility, floated by a senior minister, of us maybe having to close our borders. I am trying to understand how that mechanism will work. I understand it from a policy point of view—it would be the National Security Committee, the Prime Minister or cabinet, depending on the time frame. What happens next? Who does what? It seems that it is just left to the individual. I thought there would be a coordinating role for PM&C in, if you like, having a plan in place as to what happens.
Mr Lewis —I reiterate that the coordinating function is a function for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Perhaps the missing link that you might find useful would be the issue of whether some form of emergency task force was established at that time, as we have done for other crises. Think back to the tsunami and various other natural crises that have occurred. We would be in the business of establishing some form of emergency task force to address that possibility. I would imagine—and certainly we have discussed this—that such a task force would be set up in this case. But it is clearly a responsibility of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to coordinate the activities of the line agencies.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I will raise the issue of natural disasters, pandemics and the recent American experience with hurricane Katrina et cetera. That raises the question about whether there is any review occurring as to call-out amendments or provisions for call-out of military capabilities or other emergency capabilities in these sorts of situations. Is that a live question or is the government happy with the current arrangements in relation to call-out in the face of things like Katrina. Katrina brought to mind the use of the military to deal with a civil disaster. I just wondered whether that is a current issue.
Senator Hill —We do not have any new proposals for callout, but we do have proposals to reform the emergency processes of government under part 3AAA of the Defence Act, and we hope that that will come forward soon. We would like to have that process of reform completed before the Commonwealth Games start.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I knew there was some review going on. Could you refresh my memory?
Senator Hill —The review took place and reported some little time ago.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —To whom? To cabinet?
Senator Hill —I thought we had released it publicly. Under the current act, the provisions required for there to be an examination after a period of time has taken place.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is this the Defence Force act?
Senator Hill —It is in the Defence Act.
Mr Lewis —It is part 3AAA of the Defence Act.
Senator Hill —That is the new part—it is about three years old now—but it is a very awkward process. I must say that I found it very awkward during CHOGM, when I was seeking to logically go through the steps that would be necessary. And, in a few of the exercises we have had since, it has proved to be quite a restrictive and cumbersome process. It would be quite difficult to utilise in a real emergency situation, so everybody then says, ‘Well, you would then rely on the executive power in the Constitution for defence and do it that way.’ But ideally it would be better to have provisions within the Defence Act that are reasonably usable. We propose to bring forward a set of changes in the next few months for the consideration of parliament in that regard.
Senator MURRAY —To streamline the process?
Senator Hill —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —When are the Commonwealth Games on?
Mr Lewis —In March of next year.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Parliament rises in a month’s time. You have a bit on your plate between now and then, Minister, in a legislative sense. If they have not seen the light of day yet, I suspect that means that they are not going to be this year.
Senator Hill —All the approvals have been given and we would obviously want to give the parliament sufficient time to properly consider the details, but we will meet the timetable.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So it is still your intention to have the defence force legislation amended prior to the Commonwealth Games?
Senator Hill —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Does that change the civil callout provisions in any material way? Your argument seemed to be about process rather than—
Senator Hill —In relation to calling on the military force in a civil emergency, it streamlines and improves the ease of process.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —All right, so the legislation will come forward when it is ready. What other involvement is necessitated by the Commonwealth Games from the point of view of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in terms of counter-terrorism responses and security? Are you involved in the task force on that, Mr Lewis?
Mr Lewis —We will continue to be involved with our habitual national counter-terrorism committee commitments. That committee is engaged directly in the matter of counter-terrorism response and the policy arrangements and so forth that go to security, and that includes those for the Commonwealth Games. To that extent, the department will continue to be involved.
Senator MURRAY —Minister, I agree with you that these matters should be dealt with rather circumspectly. I recently returned from Europe and I was quite astonished by the level of aggravated media coverage in some respects on this matter. Plainly, any pandemic has an economic as well as a health or social effect. The government had very much a cross-portfolio and coordinated plan with respect to the millennium bug. Is your planning process a cross-portfolio, whole-of-government plan which encompasses potential economic as well as health effects?
Mr Lewis —As I mentioned before, the plan as it is published currently, which is the Australian Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza, is a health department document. We accept that there are a large number of very important non-health issues. They will be treated as they have been in previous crises by the formation, we expect, of some form of emergency task force. Those measures that are recommended by the health experts would then be considered by government and, if considered worthy, would be put in place. The implementation of those measures and the coordination of the line agencies would fall to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The task force, when appointed, would be managing this on a day-to-day basis. Line agencies would be implementing the policy.
Senator MURRAY —Let me be specific and use the SARS crisis as an example. Closing your borders for a short period has immediate effects on particular industries—transport, hospitality, tourism and so on. The consequence is immediate cash flow difficulties, with business being unable to meet their obligations. In those circumstances it is wise to have at the back of your mind the ability to provide relief with respect to, for instance, payments to government or taxation and so on. It is much better for them to be paying their suppliers and paying their employees than to be coughing up other liabilities. That is what I am concerned with. In case there is a short-term closure, the government needs to be thinking about those economic sectors that would be most obviously affected and to be thinking about the sorts of relief measures which might be available for businesses and industries.
Mr Lewis —Within the IDC process that Dr Morauta and I preside over, those considerations have been discussed. We are alive to the issues. Your question as to whether we have a piece of paper that I could show that goes to that issue—
Senator MURRAY —I do not want to see a piece of paper. I just want to know that you are thinking about it.
Mr Lewis —We do not have a piece of paper. But we are most certainly deliberating those matters. We are alive to them.
Senator MURRAY —Thank you.
Senator Hill —They are hugely difficult issues, though.
Senator MURRAY —Yes—horrific.
Senator Hill —One that I have heard discussed, for example, is this: what of Australian citizens wanting to return home and are you going to prohibit them from doing so?
Senator MURRAY —I heard Mr Downer on that topic. He was musing without coming to any conclusion.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I do not think we would let him back in. There is a consensus on that. Senator Hill would probably agree to that.
Senator MILNE —My questions relate to the Pacific Plan and the recent Pacific forum. I am interested that the Pacific Plan focuses on efforts to enhance security in Pacific nations yet does not focus on the security situation in West Papua. I am interested to know what advice was given by your department to either the Prime Minister or to the Pacific forum secretary general in relation to putting the security issues in West Papua on the agenda or in the communique from the recent forum.
Mr Borrowman —West Papua not being a member of the forum, there was no advice given on its inclusion in the Pacific Plan.
Senator MILNE —Is it not true that the World Civil Society Forum, which concluded just prior to the governmental aspect of the forum, presented in their communique to the Pacific forum secretary general, Greg Irwin, a formal communique that urged that the UN revisit the 1962 New York agreement on West Papua, that West Papua be granted official observer status at formal meetings and so on, and that when Prime Minister Helen Clark and Mr Irwin had a press conference they indicated that West Papua’s independence struggle would be discussed and so on and so forth yet that did not occur? Are you saying that there was no discussion between your department and the Prime Minister on the inclusion of issues pertaining to West Papua?
Mr Borrowman —Yes, I am saying that.
Senator MILNE —Let me put it another way. Have you done any risk assessment on the current security situation in West Papua in terms of stability in the region?
Mr Borrowman —Not our department, as far as I am aware. It may be that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has.
Senator MILNE —So the current security situation in West Papua is a very low profile issue as far as the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is concerned?
Mr Borrowman —I did not say that.
Senator MILNE —Is it a high priority then?
Mr Lewis —Regionally, we are focused on areas of instability. I would not want to characterise West Papua as either high or low. I think all areas are of importance to us. I would not want to be characterising it from PM&C’s point of view one way or the other.
Senator MILNE —So in relation to the current Pacific forum, were there any discussions about how Australia should respond, through the Prime Minister obviously, to the formal communique and representations from the World Civil Society Forum in relation to these matters of granting West Papua official observer status at forum meetings?
Mr Borrowman —Not to my knowledge.
Senator Hill —Our position is that West Papua is part of Indonesia and we deal with West Papua through the Indonesian government. We urge the Indonesian government to provide good governance in West Papua, and if there are any ways in which we could assist them in that regard we would want to. We have done it through our aid program for a long period of time. West Papua is one of many challenges facing the Indonesian government. I missed your point on security. I do not see a significant security issue with West Papua that is affecting Australia’s interests.
Senator MILNE —A second aspect of the discussions at the Pacific forum that interests me is in relation to land tenure. I am interested in the level of consultation that the Australian government has had in the region with regard to the likely impact of forcing an agenda to change land tenure in the Pacific when that is so central to traditional and customary law.
Senator Hill —Who is changing the land tenure?
Senator MILNE —Well, let me ask: what is Australia’s proposal with regard to the rest of the Pacific in relation to changes to land tenure?
Senator Hill —I am sorry, I am having trouble hearing you. In relation to?
Senator MILNE —Land tenure in the Pacific. As I understand, part of the Pacific Plan that was put forward, and that has largely been developed by Australia, is in regard to a change to land tenure in the Pacific which, until now, has been very much communal and very much part of the traditional and customary law arrangements in those Pacific island cultural contexts. So I am asking about the risk assessment that Australia might have done about forcing the issue in Pacific island nations on land tenure.
Mr Borrowman —In responding, can I first say that the Pacific Plan was not largely developed by Australia. The Pacific Plan was a document put together by a group of Pacific island countries. It was an idea that initially originated with New Zealand. Australia has of course participated in its development, but it is by no means an Australian document or that necessarily Australia has a position on every aspect that is included within it. That said, in terms of your specific question related to land tenure I think that is a question that perhaps AusAID would be able to assist you on. It is not something we have any information on.
Senator Hill —But, again, I did not see a security issue for Australia. Basically, the issue of land tenure is for the individual states of the Pacific. If they look to our advice or support then I am sure we would be prepared to give it, but they may well prefer to settle their future land ownership matters themselves.
Senator MILNE —Is it not true, however, that some Australian aid is going to be tied to changes in land tenure?
Senator Hill —I have not heard that, but you can come along on Friday and put that to the foreign affairs department.
Senator MILNE —Okay. Thank you.
Dr Morauta —Chair, we have come back with some answers on something from output 3. Would it be useful for that to happen now?
CHAIR —I think that would be delightful.
Dr Morauta —Mr Leverett has some information on hospitality matters.
Mr Leverett —If I could preface my comments by saying that for the PM’s trip to London, as indeed for all his overseas trips, the practice that has been in place for several years now, whereby the Australian post makes recommendations on suitable accommodation and they are then put to the secretary of the department for final decision, was followed on this occasion. That process takes account of such factors as location of the hotel, cost, availability, accessibility, security and a range of other factors. Based on those factors, Claridges Hotel was the chosen hotel. There were four potentially suitable suites. The cheapest of those had an adjoining room that was used for housekeeping and the hotel could not close that down for the duration of the visit—the hotel had to go on functioning and all sorts of staff would have to have access to that room. So that suite, for obvious reasons, I think you would agree, was ruled out as unsuitable. The next cheapest suite was chosen and it was the Piano suite. That cost $A4,526 per night.
Senator FAULKNER —Per night?
Mr Leverett —Per night.
Senator FAULKNER —How many nights did the Prime Minister stay in the Piano suite?
Mr Leverett —Six nights.
Senator FAULKNER —Have you done the multiplication for us?
Mr Leverett —I have not.
Senator FAULKNER —Not yet?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —You could get a good TV campaign for that.
Senator FAULKNER —Around $27,000-plus—would that be right?
Mr Leverett —That looks about right.
Senator FAULKNER —How many others in the party were staying at Claridges Hotel?
Mr Leverett —There was a party of about 20. I indicated earlier I would not be able to get all the details of the whole party tonight.
Senator FAULKNER —They weren’t all jammed into the Piano suite, though, where they?
Mr Leverett —No, they were not.
Senator FAULKNER —It would be a bloody orchestra if they were!
Senator CHRIS EVANS —At least a swing band.
Mr Leverett —As I indicated earlier, I will take on notice the issue of other costs and come back to you on that.
Senator FAULKNER —Do you know whether there were 20 other rooms at Claridges?
Mr Leverett —Were they at Claridges?
Senator FAULKNER —Yes.
Mr Leverett —Yes, the rest of the party stayed at Claridges.
Senator FAULKNER —Everyone stayed at Claridges? What a motser!
Mr Leverett —It has been the practice for as long as I can remember that the party stays together, for obvious reasons, I would have thought.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —To have a party!
Senator FAULKNER —I am sorry, I do not think that has always been the practice at all. I have heard evidence from other witnesses at this committee that, because of costs, some other members of the official party have stayed in other accommodation. So I do not think that is right.
Mr Leverett —That may have happened on occasions, but I have been working in CERHOS since 1982 and I have been on many visits by prime ministers since that time. In the vast majority of cases, the whole party stays together in the one hotel—as I said, for obvious reasons.
Senator FAULKNER —I have not been working in CERHOS since 1982, but I have been asking questions, unfortunately, for far too long at this estimates committee. I can tell you that, in the last 10 years, we have had circumstances where not all of the party stays together. I am not necessarily critical—
Mr Leverett —I acknowledge that. I agree with you. There are circumstances. But in the majority of cases a party stays together as a group.
Senator FAULKNER —So we know that the Prime Minister’s accommodation was in the piano suite. I assume that the piano suite contained a piano, did it? This is just a guess on my part, but it seems like an educated guess.
Mr Leverett —I do not know.
Senator FAULKNER —Why would it be called the piano suite?
Mr Leverett —It may have had a piano once. I do not know whether it still has. That is the name of the suite and that is where he stayed. It was not chosen because it had a piano; it was chosen because it was the cheapest suite available to us.
Senator FAULKNER —At $4,526 a night for six nights? Yes. And 20 other room at Claridges were booked. What about the Ashes tickets? Have we got to the bottom of that yet?
Mr Leverett —I can give you some information on that. On the first day of the cricket, which was Thursday, 21 July, six complimentary tickets were made available to the party by the MCC president. The Prime Minister had a full day of engagements that day and attended for a very short while late in the day. On the Friday, again, there were six complimentary tickets available for the president’s box. The Prime Minister attended for a slightly longer period. He had engagements until mid or late afternoon and then went for a while after that. On the Saturday, again, there were six complimentary tickets available. In addition to those, four tickets were purchased for members of the party who needed to be in attendance.
Senator FAULKNER —This is security and the like, is it?
Mr Leverett —No, that was one of the Prime Minister’s advisers, a media adviser, the advance officer and a doctor.
Senator FAULKNER —Four additional tickets were purchased?
Mr Leverett —They were purchased, yes.
Senator FAULKNER —What did they cost—somewhere between 40 and 60 quid?
Mr Leverett —I do not have the figure, I am sorry. I can give you that figure when I give you the other information.
Senator FAULKNER —I think that is about the going rate—or it was in the outer, where I was.
Senator WEBBER —I do not think they were in the outer, though.
Senator FAULKNER —There is no outer, actually. The lower deck of the Mound Stand was 45 quid—
Senator WEBBER —Did you stay in the piano suite?
Senator FAULKNER —and I did not stay at Claridges.
Senator Hill —I just want to confirm that your prime ministers stayed in equivalent suites when they travelled to London. I just thought you might like to have that on the record. You seem to be suggesting that there is some new practice being adopted here, which is not the case.
Senator FAULKNER —No, I am not suggesting that.
Senator Hill —I am pleased that you are confirming that.
Senator FAULKNER —What I am suggesting to the witness is that, on occasions since you have been in the chair here at Senate estimates—but you probably would not recall, Senator Hill, because you often do not concentrate on evidence that is given—we have heard that members of the Prime Minister’s party have stayed in different hotels. I make no judgment about that; I am just indicating that on this occasion everyone stayed in the one hotel. It is not always the case. I am not being critical of that. I am merely pointing out to the witness that on other occasions that has not been the situation.
Senator Hill —I also remember on previous occasions officials telling us that they have been able to get, in effect, a bulk purchase of rooms, using the leverage of the Prime Minister’s suite as part of the inducement. From that, I take it that PM&C does make an effort to contain costs.
Senator FAULKNER —I have heard that evidence too. Did that happen on this occasion?
Mr Leverett —I was not part of the arrangements.
Senator HILL —Accommodation in a major hotel in a city like London is expensive, and there is no way in which that can be avoided.
Senator FAULKNER —You are always so defensive about these things, Senator Hill. Let us just have the information on the table and we will deal with it accordingly.
Senator Hill —I have to be a little defensive because—
Senator FAULKNER —You do not have to be defensive at all. It is your culture of cover-up.
Senator Hill —you seek to distinguish the approach of this Prime Minister from others.
Senator FAULKNER —I do. I certainly do that in a whole range of areas in relation to integrity.
Senator Hill —In actual fact, your prime minister stayed in equivalent accommodation.
CHAIR —Senator Faulkner, perhaps you might like to ask some more questions.
Senator FAULKNER —I do, as a matter of fact.
CHAIR —I would be delighted if you would ask some more.
Senator FAULKNER —I was being interrupted by Senator Hill, who appeared to be off on another jaunt of his own. Soon he will be off on a jaunt that is going to take him a very long way away.
CHAIR —Senator Faulkner, please.
Senator FAULKNER —Could I ask who paid for the tickets? I know you do not know the amount.
Mr Leverett —The tickets were purchased by the Australian high commission. They will be refunded by the Department of Finance and Administration.
Senator FAULKNER —Why does DOFA refund those costs?
Mr Leverett —DOFA pays most, but not all, of the costs for a prime ministerial overseas visit.
Senator FAULKNER —I want to ask this of DOFA anyway, but just broadly: is there a developed protocol about costs met by home departments for a prime ministerial or ministerial visit and costs borne by DOFA? I think there has been. I know there are elements such as staff, air travel, expenses and a whole range of things, but is there a standing protocol on this?
Mr Leverett —I do not know whether DOFA have a standing protocol, but I can answer that any officials from Prime Minister and Cabinet who travel with the Prime Minister are paid for by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Senator FAULKNER —Is that a protocol that extends to other departments, or are you not aware of that?
Mr Leverett —I believe it does, but I am not party to their financial arrangements. I believe they do pay—
Senator FAULKNER —So let us be clear. Is this a protocol that is developed by Finance? Is it best to ask these questions of Finance? That is what I had intended to do.
Mr Leverett —It is probably best to ask Finance. PM&C has paid for PM&C people for as long as I can recall.
Senator FAULKNER —When you say ‘paid for PM&C people’ do you mean every element of their expenses?
Mr Leverett —With one exception. If it is commercial air travel then PM&C pays for the air ticket. If it is a RAAF flight, DOFA pay for the RAAF flight but do not seek reimbursement.
Senator FAULKNER —I see.
Mr Leverett —But other costs—accommodation et cetera—are paid by PM&C.
Senator FAULKNER —Thank you. I might follow that through with DOFA. So you will take the rest of the questions on notice?
Mr Leverett —I will take them on notice and get back to you, as I said.
Senator FAULKNER —We are looking for the costs of 20 additional rooms in Claridges for six nights, which is going to be an absolute motser. I also want to know about the food and drinks bill, please. I hear that that will be quite interesting, so I would appreciate you providing that. I must say, I get amused by these things.
CHAIR —It has come to this, Senator Faulkner. It has come to meals at Claridges.
Senator FAULKNER —It has come to this. I admit it. I wonder if it will ever come to this with you, Senator Mason.
CHAIR —I hope it doesn’t!
Senator CHRIS EVANS —He is too much in touch with the people of Australia.
CHAIR —I would not say that.
Senator FAULKNER —I have no more questions on Claridges. I will follow up these matters at a later stage.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Moving on to output 3.3, I want to ask a couple of questions about the APEC Task Force. I will not take long, given that time is marching on. Firstly, I want to ask about staff. I think the annual report said that 26 staff were employed at the end of June 2005, but there seems to be a quite increased budget for next year. Could someone tell me what staffing is proposed for this financial year, 2005-06? I presume quite a large increase in staff is proposed.
Ms Pearce —I am the head of the APEC 2007 Task Force. By the end of December this year, we expect to have 110 staff.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that the top of the range or are you going to keep building it up after that?
Ms Pearce —We expect that, by the end of next year, which will be the end of our detailed planning year, and in January, when the actual active APEC events begin—the first is in January 2007—we will have about 250 staff. That includes a New South Wales police command based in Sydney with some of my colleagues in our Sydney office and an APEC security branch, which is the PSCC, as part of our integrated approach to preparing for the events.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I gather that you have moved into office accommodation for the task force?
Ms Pearce —Yes. I am based here in Canberra with colleagues who need to be in Canberra to deal with some of our clients and stakeholders, not least the Prime Minister, federal ministers and agencies and our APEC economies here at the embassies. I now have an office in Sydney. Given that the leaders meeting week’s events will be based in Sydney, we are building an office space in Sydney as well.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —The PM&C contracts say that it is going to cost $3.5 million a year. Is that right?
Ms Pearce —Did you say ‘contracts’?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Yes, the office accommodation contracts.
Ms Pearce —Yes. That is our office here in Canberra as well as our office in Sydney.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What is the breakdown for the Sydney office versus the Canberra office? Are you leasing from the same people?
Ms Pearce —No. In fact, we are in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet here in Canberra, and we have rented an office block in Sydney through a private company.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So the $3.5 million is not just the Sydney lease then. Are you telling me that it includes some sort of payment to PM&C as well?
Ms Pearce —I understand that the $3.5 million is for Sydney only.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is what I thought. It was on the contracts list. So will that $3.5 million be for the three years?
Ms Pearce —Yes. It will be until the end of 2007.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that the financial year?
Ms Pearce —No. The actual leaders meeting will finish on 9 September, and we have to unwind, and of course it will take us a bit of time.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So you have basically leased it for the calendar years 2005, 2006 and 2007?
Ms Pearce —Yes, that is correct.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —At $3.5 million a year. Where are these premises?
Ms Pearce —At 60 Market Street.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is it a number of floors of an office block?
Ms Pearce —We have two floors, with an option for a third, which we have taken up. We have not filled that yet. It is on a needs basis. As the task force grows, we are—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —But you are currently renting the full three floors.
Ms Pearce —No, the third floor starts from January.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So is the $3.5 million for the two floors or for the three floors?
Ms Pearce —It is for the total.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So is the contract for this calendar year slightly less than $3.5 million?
Ms Pearce —We established our office in Sydney only in June. If you would like more detail, we will have to take that on notice.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Okay. Did you have to pay for a fit-out as well?
Ms Pearce —Yes, we paid for a fit-out. We acquired, as part of the leasing arrangement, some of the office equipment that was left by the previous occupants—carpet and office arrangements—but we did have to purchase additional equipment.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is the figure I have of $5.6 million correct?
Ms Pearce —That was our budget for Sydney.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Has that been expended or is it likely to be expended?
Ms Pearce —It is being progressively expended. It has not been expended in total as yet, but we can take that on notice as well and provide you with more information.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —For how long will you be at that larger staff number?
Ms Pearce —Until the end of the exercise, which will be at the end of 2007.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —When will you get to the peak?
Ms Pearce —It will essentially be at the end of next year.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —The end of next year?
Ms Pearce —Yes, because the APEC year is an entire year—it culminates in the leaders week in Sydney in September.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Sure, but what is your staffing level in 2006? Is it somewhere between 110 and 250?
Ms Pearce —Yes. We are progressively building it up. We have 15 ministerial and senior officials meetings across Australia that I am responsible for organising. We have a huge organisational activity.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I understand that it is a large undertaking. Is all that cost met by the Australian government or is it shared in some way?
Ms Pearce —The arrangements and organisation for APEC essentially come from the Australian government.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —There are no cost-sharing arrangements for each APEC meeting or anything like that?
Ms Pearce —We do pay for leaders and their accommodation. There are arrangements of that kind, but it is not extensive.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Are they already a part of your budgeted figures?
Ms Pearce —Yes.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —They are not departmental costs—they are part of your cost structure?
Ms Pearce —We are separately funded.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What is your total budget?
Ms Pearce —The total budget for my task force for the three years is $149 million.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —I have a couple of questions on the fit-out of PM&C’s headquarters. According to the PM&C annual report, last year the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works approved a budget of $23 million for the fit-out of the new PM&C offices. I then saw a figure of $25 million to fit out a new purpose-built building. Can someone clarify for me how much it is going to cost? There is also some question of an equity injection for preparatory work.
Ms Costello —The budget for the fit-out is $23 million. That was approved by the PWC. When we went for it in the 2004-05 budget, we had all the money put in one year because we did not at that stage have a build program or indeed a building that we were put against. So we had the money put in the out years and we have successively rephased as the building project has firmed up and we have firm costings on elements of the fit-out. That is why you would have seen rephasing and possibly future rephasing—as we know exactly where the money is going to be spent in which financial year.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —On a different page of the report it had $25 million. Was that just a wrong figure?
Ms Costello —Can you tell me what page that is?
Senator CHRIS EVANS —It is page 135 of the PM&C annual report of 2004-05.
Ms Costello —I do not have a tracking on that figure but I assume that that includes the first year’s depreciation. But I will have to check that.
Dr Morauta —We will take it on notice. There seems to be—
Senator CHRIS EVANS —That is like saying ‘accrual accounting’ to me. You know that will throw me off the trail.
Dr Morauta —We will check that for you.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —White flag—you win!
Ms Costello —It is definitely a $23 million project.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —What about the equity injection for preparatory work? What does that mean?
Ms Costello —That is pulling forward the equity. It is a capital appropriation and that equity injection is a capital approp.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —So that is part of the $23 million?
Ms Costello —That is right.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —When will the project be completed?
Ms Costello —We are due to move in in December 2006.
Senator CHRIS EVANS —Is that on track?
Ms Costello —Yes.
CHAIR —As there are no further questions, I thank Dr Morauta and officers from the department. Thanks very much for your help.