Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee - 11/07/2014 - Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 to 18 February 2014

CAMPBELL, Lieutenant General Angus, Commander, Joint Agency Task Force, Operation Sovereign Borders

CORMACK, Mr Mark, Deputy Secretary, Immigration Status Resolution Group, Department of Immigration and Border Protection

DOUGLAS, Mr Kenneth James, First Assistant Secretary, Immigration Status Resolution Group, Department of Immigration and Border Protection


CHAIR: Welcome. The committee has not received a written submission from you. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee you are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee. The committee emphasises, however, that parliamentary privilege does not extend outside of Australia and that Australian law cannot protect individuals in another country, whether they are Australian nationals or not. For this reason and so as not to prejudice ongoing criminal investigations and legal proceedings, the committee urges witnesses to exercise caution with regard to naming or otherwise identifying individuals located outside Australia, including Papua New Guinean nationals alleged to have been involved in the incident at the Manus Island detention centre during 16 to 18 February.

I remind senators that the Senate has resolved that an officer of the Commonwealth or a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of them to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy. It does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policy or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. Officers are also reminded that any claim that it would be contrary to the public interest to answer a question must be made by a minister and should be accompanied by a statement setting out the basis for that claim.

I understand both Lieutenant General Campbell and Mr Cormack would like to make opening statements. Lieutenant General Campbell, we will start with you.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Good morning, Chair and members of the committee. I would like to make a brief contextual statement about Operation Sovereign Borders and the offshore processing centres, including on Manus Island. Operation Sovereign Borders is, as you know, a coordinated multiagency effort to defeat maritime people smuggling. It involves a range of activities conducted offshore, onshore, at our borders and in collaboration with our international partners. The operational elements of Operation Sovereign Borders are delivered via three task groups: the Disruption and Deterrence Task Group, led by the Australian Federal Police, which works both offshore and onshore to break up and prosecute people-smuggling syndicates; the Detection, Interception and Transfer Task Group, led by Border Protection Command and responsible for the on-water component of our operations; and—most relevant to today's proceedings—the Offshore Detention and Returns Task Group, led by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and responsible for Australia's day-to-day contribution to the offshore processing system.

Operation Sovereign Borders is delivering results. It has now been more than six months since a people-smuggling venture successfully reached Australia. By late 2013, we saw the number of boats arriving in Australia reduce from a midyear high of 48 in July to just five each in both October and November. In this effort, I acknowledge in particular the work of Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea and Nauru and, of course, the policy settings of both the current and former governments.

Five boats a month, or roughly one boat a week, is still too many when they are being sent by profiteering criminals. Some simple mathematics is instructive in this. Just one boat a week, 52 weeks a year, with 50 people on a boat, equates to 2,600 people a year. Should 50 boats a year arrive into Australia, we know from recent experience that many more would follow. The numbers on the move globally are so large and the profits to be made so attractive that both smugglers and their prospective clients would not stop—indeed, did not stop—at 50 boats.

Furthermore, it is unreasonable to assume in our planning that Papua New Guinea and Nauru will simply keep accepting 50 boatloads of transferees into their offshore processing centres each year, year after year. Eventually these nations may no longer be prepared to provide settlement options to a continuing flow of transferees. Nauru, after all, has a population of only 10,000 citizens.

So from mid-December 2013, as an additional measure, we have turned back boats where it is safe to do so. No ventures have departed Indonesia since early May 2014. There have been no known deaths at sea since 9 December 2013 and no deaths at all in Australian territorial waters since Operation Sovereign Borders began. The Disruption and Deterrence Task Group, working with regional partners, has contributed to 204 arrests, including 49 organisers and 34 facilitators, as well as the disruption of 44 ventures. The refugee status determination and resettlement processes of the Papua New Guinean and Nauruan governments have commenced at the offshore processing centres and, in the absence of new arrivals, the population pressure is slowly being removed from those centres.

People smugglers used to be able to say, 'Give me all your money and I'll get you to Australia,' but this is no longer the case and smugglers are being forced to resort to even greater depths of dishonesty in their struggle to remain in business. We know of one client who, after being disrupted in Indonesia, informed the Indonesian authorities that the smuggler he engaged had promised to get him to New Zealand. When their boat ran aground, the client was told that they had arrived in Australia. In reality, they had merely come ashore elsewhere in the Indonesian archipelago. If the people smugglers were honest, they would now have to say, 'Give me all your money, but you won't get to Australia and I won't give your money back.'

As this example shows, smugglers are motivated by profit, not by compassion. They are organised criminals who operate across international borders. They are persistent, adaptive and resilient. They will exploit any vulnerability or easing of our border security measures to resume their exploitative trade. As I have said elsewhere, the price of border security is eternal vigilance—and that security supports the credibility and coherence of Australia's managed migration program, including its humanitarian assistance component. I am hopeful that, through Operation Sovereign Borders and many other efforts in concert with our regional partners, we are changing the paradigm of people smuggling to one in which it is sovereign states like Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia, and not the criminal smugglers, who hold the initiative.

The effective management of the offshore processing centres is an integral part of the Operation Sovereign Borders architecture. Although much of the initial interest in Operation Sovereign Borders has focused on its on-water activities, it is clear that the OPCs are no less important. Deterrence is central to the success of Operation Sovereign Borders. Successive Australian governments have directed that people who arrive illegally by boat will not be resettled in Australia. A fully functioning offshore processing system is a key element of this policy. Its safe, secure and sustainable operation is of critical importance to Operation Sovereign Borders as a whole.

In recognition of this fact, in early October 2013, right at the beginning of Operation Sovereign Borders, the Acting Commander of the Joint Agency Task Force, then Air Marshal Mark Binskin, initiated a security risk assessment of the Manus offshore processing centre. The intent was to—

CHAIR: I will have to stop you. I am sorry to interrupt you. I note that there are some photographers here. It is customary to ask witnesses if they mind their photographs being taken.

Lt Gen. Campbell : That is fine.

Mr Cormack : Yes.

CHAIR: I think there is a line there, that the photographers are not to go beyond.

Lt Gen. Campbell : I was noting that the then air marshal, Mark Binskin, initiated a security risk assessment of the Manus Offshore Processing Centre. The intent was to assess the capabilities and security limitations of the offshore processing centre and identify risks that required mitigation. Similar reviews have been conducted for the OPC in Nauru and the immigration detention centre on Christmas Island.

Security is not achieved through one initiative or infrastructure project alone. It is the result of a collaborative and all-encompassing effort combining physical, procedural, cultural and attitudinal factors. Any approach to security risk management must also evolve as the circumstances pertaining to offshore processing centres change over time.

Since the October 2013 review, there have been regular progress assessments, each of which continues to improve—or made recommendations on—the security arrangements at the Manus OPC. The joint agency task force works closely with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the government of Papua New Guinea to improve the Manus Offshore Processing Centre. It is in our collective interest to support the government of Papua New Guinea to develop an OPC that is safe, secure and sustainable.

Before concluding, I note that senators Carr and Singh have previously, through Senate estimates, requested access to the recommendations of the Manus OPC security risk assessment of October 2013. While I cannot release the full text of that classified assessment, to assist the committee, as I indicated at the last Senate budget estimates, I have had prepared a tabular summary of the recommendations and their current implementation status as at 23 June 2014.

This table will also be lodged in response to related Senate estimates questions on notice. I have it here to table for the committee. Thank you. I will be happy to take any questions subsequent to any opening remarks Mr Cormack may wish to make, with your permission.

CHAIR: Are you willing to table the opening statement document that you have just referred to?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Yes, I am.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr Cormack : Thank you for the opportunity to deliver an opening statement on behalf of the department. We have heard, over the course of the 10 to 13 June hearings, and through the media, a wide range of perspectives on the incidents in Manus in February of this year. There have been many comments and claims about the role an performance of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

I just take this opportunity to remind the committee that the department is a professional organisation working diligently and responsibly with the government of the day to implement its policies. The work of translating government policies into processes and procedures on the ground is not always smooth and uneventful. Many elements, such as negotiations with service providers, consultations with other agencies and governments, legislative considerations, timeframes and availability of resources, come into play. On Manus this process is further exacerbated by the logistical challenges of rapidly deploying and accommodating large numbers of people—both staff and transferees—and freight in short time frames, together with the need to work closely alongside and within another country's legislative, administrative and social frameworks.

In Manus, of course, there were more complex factors at work, with the OPC being located both in the province of Manus and also within an operational Papua New Guinea Defence force base. In the case of Manus the department did extremely well considering the environment in which it was required to operate. In hindsight it is always possible to identify things that may have been done better but, given the circumstances, it can be said that the department has achieved a lot.

It is worthwhile noting that in the period covering the initial decision to reopen Manus Island, in August 2012, and the installation of the current government, the department responded rapidly to implementing three different policy frameworks: the expert panel on asylum seekers, the regional resettlement arrangement and Operation Sovereign Borders, overseen by four different ministers and three prime ministers. The build-up of transferee numbers in the middle of last year was sudden. In seven weeks, from 19 July 2013 to the election on 7 September 2013, the centre's population grew from 130 to 723—an increase of almost 600 per cent.

While challenging to deliver, this policy has proven to be extremely effective in initially arresting and then helping to stop the perilous journeys of illegal maritime arrivals to the northern reaches of Australia. Regional processing has proven to be an effective policy measure in deterring illegal maritime arrivals. In a short period of time, the Manus OPC transitioned from a low-security facility to one comprised solely of single adult males. A change in cohort is naturally followed by a change in needs and requirements. Particularly challenging issues in managing single adult males on Manus was their expectation that their claims would be processed quickly, and an erroneous belief in a series of amnesties—at Christmas time 2013, and then on Australia Day 2014—which would somehow have resulted in their transfer to Australia.

Their expectations, and accompanying disappointments when they could not be met to the satisfaction of the transferees, are important contributing factors to these events. From its inception in November 2012, the Manus site at Lombrum was intended to be a temporary facility right up until the then Prime Minister's announcements of the regional resettlement arrangement in July 2013. From that point it was apparent that the facility at Lombrum would be needed for some time, as well as an intended permanent facility in East Lorengau. Prior to that point it would have been difficult for the department to justify to government major capital investment in a temporary site, whilst at the same time planning and funding a permanent site.

The matters specifically raised by G4S and the Salvation Army with respect to the Lombrum infrastructure were being appropriately worked through by the department. It is important to note, however, that in any facility—onshore or offshore—building infrastructure takes time. This is further complicated when you are trying to build in another sovereign country, especially in tropical situations where little mainstream infrastructure already exists. There will be impacts on time frames due to local conditions such as weather and rising sea levels, and there are major logistical challenges in bringing in machinery, materials and specialist workers over long distances to largely unmaintained sea and air arrival infrastructure.

Much has been made of the perceived lack of responsiveness of the department with regard to suggestions from service providers with respect to the infrastructure. The department reiterates that although formal written responses to service providers may not have been provided in all instances, that is not indicative of a lack of responsiveness to the issues raised.

Some of the responses were also within the power of the service providers to influence. For example, temporary lighting was and could be used to respond to concerns about the adequacy and effectiveness of permanent lighting facilities, and static guarding can be increased where the security provider believes there is a greater propensity for breaching perimeter fencing. Similarly, procurement of clothing and sunscreen was clearly a service provider matter.

Preparation for processing transferees' refugee claims was also a lengthy process. It could not be done until PNG legislation and procedural guidelines were in place. PNG officers needed to be trained to consider claims. On-the-ground processes needed to be developed. Both PNG and Australian agencies worked closely on their development but, by necessity, they required considered time to execute, particularly as people's futures were at stake.

A status determination process is a staged process undertaken by a series of interviews with officers and claims-assistance providers. It is not a simple process, nor should it be. Though there have not been finalised claims, that is not indicative of a lack of work being undertaken.

It is important, here, too, to address the issue of what constitutes a refugee status determination process. From the moment a person arrives at Manus the overall process commences, with an entry or transferee interview, then engagements with a claims assistance provider—in the case of Manus, Playfair Visa and Migration Services—then formal lodgement of refugee claims, including an interview with an immigration official; assessment of the claims; preparation of a recommendation, and merits review if applicable—and so on, through to formal refugee determination by the minister and hand-down of that determination.

In the department's view, RSD includes all of these stages and is not simply the interview with an immigration official. For IMAs, of course, this process is often made more challenging by the absence of documentary evidence available. Much of the evidence and questioning has addressed, also, the matter of effective control. Significantly, Australia is in partnership with the sovereign government of PNG. The centre operates under PNG law, and it is PNG which is the owner and administrator of the Manus centre.

The department does have influence but only in a supportive sense, as stated in the regional resettlement arrangement signed by the prime ministers of PNG and Australia on 19 July 2013. The regional processing centre will be managed and administered by Papua New Guinea under Papua New Guinea law with support from Australia. In practical terms, this has meant mentoring, training and assisting PNG staff in the development and operation of the PNG RSD process, providing advice on the running of the centre and administering service delivery contracts. None of these roles, in our opinion, constitutes effective control. While the department did and continues to provide advice as in any situation, such advice is not always acted upon as other factors may be more persuasive to the relevant decision-maker. One such example goes to the matter of police services at the centre. The decision to deploy the mobile squad was and continues to be the decision of the Royal Papua New Guinea constabulary and the PNG government. While the department and the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Advisory Authority, or ICSA, have expressed views on the various policing options available for the centre, ultimately that decision was neither Australia's nor, indeed, ICSA's to make. We also categorically refute allegations raised in previous evidence that the department did not respond to warnings regarding the safety of the miners' facility, and we would be happy to provide evidentiary information to support this.

I would now like to turn to the future with the recent High Court of Australia decision confirming the validity of current policy settings. Regional processing centres continue to be a critical element of the Operation Sovereign Borders policy framework. The RPC has strengthened the capacity of our regional partners to implement modern, rigorous immigration standards and practices, and, for the first time, we see the emergence of new humanitarian migration programs in the Asia Pacific region. Consequently, we continue to work closely with our PNG counterparts, our new contractors in Manus in a program of ongoing improvement. I am happy to report that good progress has been made in improving a garrison services building of infrastructure and the conduct of the RSD process.

In closing, I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to demonstrate that the department operates in a transparent manner and that it is genuinely making every effort to work with the PNG authorities in ensuring that a tragedy like that in February of this year does not happen again. The department looks forward to continuing to assist the committee. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Cormack. Now we will go to questions from the committee. I will start with Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Considering, Lieutenant-General, how much detail you had in your opening statement in relation to the current turn-back policy of this government, I find it extraordinary that there was no mention of the 153 people who are currently being detained on one of the vessels that you, of course, are responsible for through your role as the head of the task force. I am going to ask some questions about that now before going on to the other issues in relation to Manus Island. With the United Nations expressing such serious concern in relation to the holding of those people on that vessel, could you please tell this committee where the boat is?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Thanks for your question, Senator. First, I would like to raise a question with the chair. Chair, are questions beyond the specific subject of this committee's hearing open for discussion?

CHAIR: Yes. I have resource here to some advice that has been provided by the Clerk of the Senate in relation to this issue, which was previously raised by you, I think, in terms of this inquiry.

Lt Gen. Campbell : It was indeed.

CHAIR: In fact, over many decades, Presidents of the Senate have interpreted the rule of relevance, and it has not been disputed by the Senate as a whole, and considerable latitude is given to the interpretation of what is relevant. The principle also applies to committee inquiries where committees are expected to undertake comprehensive inquiries on behalf of the Senate. Certainly, it is not unusual with these sorts of inquiries. There is a term of reference, which is 'any other related matters', and indeed I think, with respect, Lieutenant General Campbell, your opening statement, and that of Mr Cormack too, referred indeed to the government's general policy about stopping boats, turning back boats and the effectiveness of that from your point of view. So I think you have actually moved into those areas yourself, and so I think that I am going to allow the questions from Senator Hanson-Young.

Lt Gen. Campbell : That is fine, Chair. As you pointed out, I did indeed ask this same question at one of our early hearings. The reason for me doing so is just to ask, then: could I request that you give consideration, when the secretary of the committee writes, to the point also being made—because it does not appear in the letters of invitation to attend the committee—that those wider issues might be at play, and hence that will, I think, better assist persons in their preparation.

CHAIR: I am happy to do that. That is a sensible suggestion.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Now if I could turn to Senator Hanson-Young's question. In regard to that issue and the venture that you speak of, that is a matter under consideration by the High Court, so it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, it is a matter before the High Court, but obviously we are here as parliamentarians to ask questions of you, in your role, carrying out the various functions of the executive, so I will continue with a number of questions in relation to it, because I think it is in the public interest and is actually really important. So you are refusing to tell the committee at this stage where the boat is? I just want that clarified.

Lt Gen. Campbell : No, I would not characterise it like that. I am indicating that, because this matter is before the High Court, it would not be appropriate to discuss it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you outline to me what communications have been, or if any communications with the UNHCR have happened in relation to their expression of concern in relation to the existence of the 153 people that are currently detained on a Customs vessel?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I am aware of correspondence that has been received into the government, I believe through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and I am not prepared—I just have not come with any preparation to be able to comment as to whether a reply to that inquiry has been made.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would you be able to take that on notice for us? You have got some staff behind you, I imagine, who might be able to find that out before the end of today.

Lt Gen. Campbell : It is not in my portfolio space. I would be referring it to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You are the leader of the joint task force. I would imagine if you wanted to get an answer to that question, you could.

Lt Gen. Campbell : I will take it on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. How well supplied are your Customs vessels when they are patrolling our waters? How long can they be at sea for, before having to come into port?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Again, I do not have the information to offer an answer to that question, simply because I have not prepared for it. The head of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, or one of his officers, would generally be able to indicate for how long vessels are provisioned. I can assure you that those vessels that are deployed to sea are provisioned for the time that they are at sea, and there is a very careful effort, through both the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and also the Royal Australian Navy, when they are committing vessels to this work, to ensure that they rotate and manage the flow of those vessels, so that all are well provisioned and able to undertake their tasks.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are supplies able to be sent out to a vessel once it is outside the 12 nautical miles of Australian waters?

Lt Gen. Campbell : The Australian Navy does have supply and oiler vessels. Again, I have not done the preparation to be able to answer the question, specifically, whether that enables a resupply at sea of all vessels involved in border protection operations.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would you be able to take on notice whether the Ocean Protector and the Triton are able to be serviced at sea?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Yes, I will. Again I will refer that to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many people can the Ocean Protector hold?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Again I do not have the answer to that at hand. If you wish me to take it on notice, I will refer it to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many people can the Tritonhold?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I will have to refer that to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can you take that on notice for me?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Indeed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Are the vessels able to be serviced outside Australian waters—therefore, outside the 12 nautical miles?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Again, noting I have mentioned that I am aware just from my general professional background that the Royal Australian Navy has supply and fleet oiler vessels, and merchant vessels may indeed have similar arrangements, but I would have to seek—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You understand that my question is not about the practicality of whether it can be physically done; it is about if there are any legal implications of servicing vessels outside Australian waters.

Lt Gen. Campbell : I am not aware. Equally, I have not done preparation to be able to add to that question authoritatively.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You would obviously know what is going on out there. You are the head of the task force.

Lt Gen. Campbell : I am aware of current operations.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So if vessels beyond the 12 nautical miles needed provisions you would ultimately be responsible for ensuring that that happened?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Actually I would not. My role is in coordinating the efforts across 16 agencies and departments to ensure that a coherent operational effect is generated. With regard to the management of ships at sea, that statutory authority is held either by the CEO of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service or by the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Navy.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How long would it take for a vessel to sail from Christmas Island to Nauru, for example? Has that occurred? Is that something that you have overseen previously?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Again, I have not done that preparation. It will of course depend both on the rates of advance of that vessel, the speed of the vessel and the weather conditions, and indeed the configuration of the vessel. I am not in a position to answer the question. I do not know that answer.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If it is your job to make sure that things are coordinated properly—

Lt Gen. Campbell : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you know whether any of the vessels you have at your disposal would be able to go from Christmas Island to Nauru and how long that would take?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I would have to again ask both the Chief of Navy and the head of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for the unassisted range of the vessels that we operate. I suspect that for the Navy that may be classified, although there would be an unclassified figure that could be available. Again I do not have those figures. My point here is that I am aware that when activities are undertaken they are within the capacity, limitations, constraints and arrangements of the resources involved, whether it be our policing resources, our immigration resources, our naval resources or our customs resources rather than being specifically aware of the limit of capacity in any one element.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ultimately, the buck stops with you.

Lt Gen. Campbell : It does, indeed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So these are surely issues that are at the top of your mind at the moment—if we have a boat out on the ocean, holding 153 people, with no decision as to where they are to go?

Lt Gen. Campbell : As I say, that matter is under consideration by the High Court. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is the communication capacity on the Ocean Protector or the Triton in terms of telephones or videoconferencing?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Again, it is a capability issue that is appropriately directed towards the Customs service. I can only give you what is an obvious answer—that the communications fit for each of the ships involved is fit for the purpose of which that ship is designed and deployed.

CHAIR: Are you asking for that to be taken on notice?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like that to be taken on notice.

CHAIR: I think each time, for the sake of fairness, it is important to indicate when you want something to be taken on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sure.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Sure.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you ever made a phone call to the Ocean Protector, Lieutenant General?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I have not.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you ever made a phone call to the Triton?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I have not, no.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you are the head of the task force—

Lt Gen. Campbell : That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: and you have never spoken over the phone to people on your boats out there on the high seas directly?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I have not, and I think the Commander of Border Protection Command—a very competent admiral—would wonder why I was making a phone call when all I need to do is ask him for the advice or to seek direction of his units.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. So you do not have any personal experience as to the quality of the phone line to your vessels?

Lt Gen. Campbell : They are—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They are at your disposal for your job as the head of the task force.

Lt Gen. Campbell : They are not my vessels. But I have not used a ship-to-shore telephone during my time as the head of the joint agency task force.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Cormack, with the screening interviews that have been taking place on board these vessels, who from the department is responsible for coordinating them?

Mr Cormack : We have a number of officers within our refugee humanitarian program division. Our onshore processing people have been involved in that sort of activity when it has occurred in the past.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many people in the department are trained in running these interviews?

Mr Cormack : I will have to take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have the 153 people currently being held in custody on one of these vessels all been interviewed?

Mr Cormack : I am not involved in that activity, so I will have to take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you aware of what questions people are asked in relation to those interviews?

Mr Cormack : I have seen those questions, yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So there is a standard script?

Mr Cormack : There are a series of questions that are asked during the enhanced screening process.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many questions?

Mr Cormack : I will have to take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: For what?

Mr Cormack : I am not directly involved in that activity. I am aware that there is a set of questions, and those questions are to commence a conversation and to elicit information to ascertain whether the person being interviewed or screened engages Australia's obligations.

CHAIR: Can I just ask one question, sorry. I am interested to know why it is called 'enhanced screening'. What is 'enhanced' about it?

Mr Cormack : I will have to take that on notice. That is just the title that is being used. The screening process was introduced quite some time ago. As with any administrative or policy measure that the department undertakes, it is subject to ongoing improvement, ongoing modification and, I am sure at times, enhancement.

CHAIR: 'Enhanced' indicates improvement and I am interested in what it means, how it has been improved. If you can take that on notice, I would appreciate it.

Mr Cormack : I will take it on notice.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator BILYK: Is that process undertaken by departmental people or by the defence services personnel?

Mr Cormack : It is generally undertaken by departmental people with the assistance—

Senator BILYK: I am talking about on the ships in particular.

Mr Cormack : The activity is undertaken by the departmental officer responsible. There is also assistance given by interpreters and then, clearly, there are people who would be with the person being interviewed—

Senator BILYK: So they are on board the ships?

Mr Cormack : Who is that?

Senator BILYK: The interpreters and the departmental people.

Mr Cormack : I am not going into the detail of who is where for these sorts of operations; I am just telling you that there are a number of people who are involved in this. Our part of it—that is, the department—is to undertake the questioning and to undertake an analysis of the responses to those questions to make a screening assessment as to whether that person engages our obligations.

CHAIR: Senator Bilyk, are you asking Mr Cormack to take that on notice?

Senator BILYK: Yes, I am.

Senator REYNOLDS: Just on that point, can I ask another question?


Senator REYNOLDS: This process of enhanced processing, when was it actually established by the department and how long has it been used?

Mr Cormack : I cannot recall the exact commencement date, but I think it has been a couple of years.

Senator REYNOLDS: So it has been used under the previous government?

Mr Cormack : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: It was established by the previous government?

Mr Cormack : Yes, it certainly was.

CHAIR: Was it called enhanced screening at that time?

Mr Cormack : I would have to take on notice what its working title is.

CHAIR: That is what I am not clear on; I thought that was a U-turn.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I just want to confirm, Mr Cormack, or Lieutenant General, if it is better directed at you, that the 72 hours' notice that has been given as a guarantee for the 153 people not to be removed—is that undertaking just for people to be taken to Sri Lanka, or is that to be moved from where they currently are?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I do not have it in front of me, but I believe the undertaking specifies Sri Lanka.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Where would supplies come from to service or ensure provisions on vessels? Do they have to come from Christmas Island or would they come from elsewhere?

Lt Gen. Campbell : As a general answer to that question, and from a non-expert, there is an international maritime system of supply for ships at sea depending on circumstances and depending on the amount of money and time that companies are prepared either to spend to enable that to occur or otherwise to use port facilities all over the world. It is something that would depend on the circumstance and on the nature of the activity.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you aware whether supplies for clothing and food have been sent from Christmas Island out to vessels?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Again, it is not something that I am prepared to discuss. It is a current on-water activity; it is the same arrangement as before. It is now in front of the High Court and issues of circumstance—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has it happened previously?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I am not familiar with that, but, again, I did not come with the preparation to answer that question.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I know you keep saying that and I hear that, although—

Lt Gen. Campbell : You are asking me a very particular question that is not usual and not part of the invited script of this discussion.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am not going to spend too much time—

CHAIR: That is why it is fair, when needed, that you say you will take things on notice or make it clear that you are not prepared to answer the question and the grounds on which you are not prepared. You can understand why it is considered to be of interest, and public interest, that people are being adequately looked after, for instance, if they are being held on a boat on the seas.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Indeed. I completely accept that. If I have this protocol correct, the senator will ask me to take it on notice, should she wish to do so, and then we will take it on notice.

CHAIR: Or in some cases you offer.

Lt Gen. Campbell : I will offer, indeed. Am I being asked, Senator, to take that on notice?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Whether supplies have been sent from Christmas Island to vessels involved in OSB operations.

Lt Gen. Campbell : I will take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have there been any incidents on board the vessel since the detention of the 153 asylum seekers?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I am aware of no incidents aboard vessels involved in Operation Sovereign Borders in recent times.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What are the security provisions on board these vessels? What would happen if there were an incident? How are the officers equipped?

Lt Gen. Campbell : My understanding is that the arrangements on our vessels are wholly adequate for the tasks that they are required to undertake.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are there medical staff on board the—

Lt Gen. Campbell : Depending on the nature of the ship, the medical capability will vary. Smaller vessels may have advanced medic capability; larger vessels may have operating theatres and doctors.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What provisions are on board the Triton vessel, which is holding 153 people, for children?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I will have to take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are your vessels equipped to cater for the needs of children?

Lt Gen. Campbell : As I say, I will take that on notice.

Senator REYNOLDS: As a new member of the committee, my questions will go straight to the terms of reference. Some of my questions may be ones that you have been asked previously, so I will be very happy if you refer me to where it has come up before in evidence, or I will put them on notice. The questions I will start with will enhance my understanding of the contractual arrangements the department had with the government of Papua New Guinea, and then I will address some of the issues that have subsequently arisen in testimony.

I guess this is a question for you, Mr Cormack: when the previous government established the RRA with the Papua New Guinea government, what were your initial thoughts on how long the process would take and what the requirements for the Papua New Guinea government would be in terms of required legislation, contracts, training and getting the RDA process up and running? Can you give us an idea of the background for that?

Mr Cormack : It is probably a good idea to briefly summarise the legal framework for the way the centres operate. Of course, Mr Douglas has some much deeper historical information around the details here. The first MOU between PNG and Australia was signed in 2012. That established PNG's agreement to host an assessment centre in Manus Province or elsewhere in PNG. That was updated with the current MOU, which was signed by the previous government and remains in force. It was signed on 6 August 2013 and it confirmed the regional resettlement arrangements. It is very specific in describing the roles of both governments. It says:

The regional processing centre will be managed and administered by Papua New Guinea under Papua New Guinea law, with support from Australia.

Following on from that, PNG's own legal framework reflects its responsibilities. Under the PNG migration act, the responsible PNG minister has directed that transferees who enter PNG under the terms of the RRA must reside at the Manus centre. Further under that same act, control and management of the Manus centre resides with an administrator who is appointed by the responsible PNG minister. Policing activities, for example, including those at the OPC, are the responsibility of the PNG police.

There are also a set of administrative arrangements that underpin the MOU. The centre is managed by an administrator, supported by contracted service providers. Most of the delivery is done contracted out. It is very similar in that sense to Australian detention centres where most of the service delivery is done by contractors. The service providers under the agreement are managed by Australia through a contracting arrangement. The roles are clearly defined. The administrator of PNG's ICSA, the Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority, is responsible for the centre. There is an operational manager who is also an officer of PNG ICSA and controls the day-to-day operations of the centre. Then there is a coordinator who was appointed by the Australian government and assists the operation manager through the provision of reports and information from service providers to manage the various contracts.

In relation to refugee determination processes, the PNG government has developed and implemented legislation that governs that. It has developed guidelines and is now finalising settlement regulations. Australia, because of the very significant experience we have had in managing immigration matters for a very long period of time, has been assisting them by mentoring, training and supporting PNG staff. That is kind of the way it works.

Senator REYNOLDS: Specifically coming to the RSD process, you are saying it is completely the responsibility of the PNG government and we have been advising them on the process.

Mr Cormack : That is correct.

Senator REYNOLDS: So how long did it take them to establish this process, to get it up and running?

Mr Cormack : The process really began back in July 2013—and I am looking to Ken to give me the specific details of that. In March 2013 the PNG cabinet or national executive committee approved amendments to the migration act. In April 2013 we attended a roundtable workshop—'we' being the department—in Port Moresby to discuss the development of the RSD process. On 26 April 2013 the amendments were passed and became law. Between May and June 2013 the department worked with PNG ICSA staff to develop the various procedures. It is quite a complex process.

Senator REYNOLDS: I have a point of clarification then. When did the process actually start being applied to transferees? When was it actually up and running?

Mr Cormack : It begins with the initial interview process of arrivals. Under this arrangement that really commenced from July 2013 onwards and then it is enhanced through the appointment of claims assistance providers, CAPs. Then it goes into the next stage, which is the RSD interviews. That is a process that the PNG government undertakes with support and guidance from ourselves.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. In relation to the Manus Island—

CHAIR: Sorry to interrupt you, Senator Reynolds. Senator Bilyk has a point of clarification.

Senator BILYK: Like Senator Reynolds, I am new to this committee. I want to be very clear. Are you saying that Australia and PNG do not have any joint responsibility for Manus Island?

Mr Cormack : No, I did not say that at all.

CHAIR: Perhaps we will come back to that, because that is an ongoing question.

Senator BILYK: I will come back to that, yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: In terms of the initial RRA, how many detainees—or transferees, as you are referring to them—were envisaged to be housed at the centre initially? And what type of detainees under the original arrangement were you foreseeing?

Mr Douglas : When the centre first opened, or took its first transferee, in November 2012, the indicative capacity of the centre was about 500. At that stage it was envisaged—

Senator REYNOLDS: Sorry, were they families?

Mr Douglas : I am just coming up to that.

Senator REYNOLDS: It was always designed to be family or low-risk centre.

Mr Douglas : It was originally envisaged that the centre would accommodate families, as well as single adult males. With the introduction of RRA—in fact, just prior to that—the government decided to change the mix, and families were taken out of the centre while construction work was progressing towards building the permanent centre much closer to the township of Lorengau. What was there at Lombrum was only ever intended to be a temporary centre. With the introduction of RRA, however, the government, given the commitments that it had made there, effectively transformed Lombrum into a centre which was going to have a longer lifespan and a significant increase in its capacity to its current numbers, which are around 1,200.

Senator REYNOLDS: I just want to make a point of clarification on that. Are you saying that people were moved in in November 2012 but the processing did not start at all until July 2013? What happened in that interim break while the Papua New Guinea government was setting up the process?

Mr Douglas : During that period of time, we were conducting, or assisting, the Papua New Guinea government to conduct what in Australia are called entry interviews—in Papua New Guinea they are called a transferee interview. This is a process of gathering information from a transferee about where they have come from and how they got there. It is about getting them to think in terms of what their claim is likely to be based upon, and getting information about their identity—the evidence they have. The department was also working towards engaging with a service provider—in this case Playfair—who would provide claims assistance. So the next process after an entry interview, or a transferee interview, would be for the transferee to meet with a claims assistance provider to help prepare their claim.

Senator REYNOLDS: In terms of the arrangements under the initial RRA, and the profile for the detainees or transferees that were going to go that initially—the 500-odd people of mixed populations—

Mr Douglas : Just to be clear, that was under the expert panel report. The RRA was announced on 19 July 2013.

Senator REYNOLDS: Under that initial concept, who was going to be responsible for the centre itself? You have the running of the actual facility itself but then you have the conditions and the legal terms that they were going to be detained under. I am just wondering because I have heard some discussions about effective control. Is that actually in relation to the physical facilities or is that in relation to people? Also, what is the difference between detention and, in that context, custodial detention, as we would see it here in Australia under the justice system? There is a number of different concepts here. Could you clarify what the legal status of that is—both for the physical facilities and, also, for the people involved?

Mr Douglas : The legal status was that it was always a Papua New Guinea centre under Papua New Guinea control and under Papua New Guinea law, assisted by the Australian government. One of the essential differences was that when the centre was first opened its role purely was for the processing of claims. There had been no policy announcement or decision made or consideration given to settlement outcomes, and indeed strong representation was made by the authors of the expert panel report that the centre should be an open centre where there should be ease of access both by the transferees interacting with the local community and the local community interacting with the transferees.

Senator REYNOLDS: That applies then that you had a risk assessment methodology or process. In this case, it was going to be families and it was going to be open with low security. What risk assessment did you do—if you were going to house families there versus when you move the families out—presumably, the risk profile changed and you needed to make very different arrangements? Can you perhaps give the committee some background on how your risk assessment process worked and what methodologies you used?

Mr Douglas : The contract the department has with its garrison provider includes the delivery of security services, and included in that provision is a requirement to develop and constantly undertake risk assessment for the operation of the centre.

Senator REYNOLDS: So that was G4S's responsibility.

Mr Douglas : G4S at the time and now Transfield Services.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: To clarify—despite the Houston Report requesting that it be an open centre, it has never operated as an open centre, has it?

Mr Douglas : No, it has not.

Senator REYNOLDS: Is that because of the move from families to single men?

Mr Douglas : We have made an important point on a number of occasions—the control of that centre is under Papua New Guinea's control. So while the Australian government might be advising or working with the Papua New Guinea government, ultimately the decision of what happens in the centre is a Papua New Guinea government decision. The Papua New Guinea government was not comfortable with either the risk framework or the legislative framework or the surrounding community support at that time. While it was working towards it—and the Australian government was providing that assistance—the Papua New Guinea government did not feel that the time was right or the opportunity was right. It was approving a number of things which would bring forward that openness: approving things like excursions, where transferees would visit different parts of the rest of the province—

Senator REYNOLDS: But they take time to develop?

Mr Douglas : Yes, and we have never envisaged that the risk assessment would allow you to, from day one, have the gates open and allow entry and departure by anybody and everybody. It was not only the security of the surrounding community but also the security of the centre itself.

Senator REYNOLDS: In terms of clarification of some of the terminology that has been used—Mr Cormack was talking about 'effective control'. Could you explain to me what it actually means in the context you are using it?

Mr Cormack : I was using it in the following context. In evidence given to this inquiry there has been a lot of focus and significant claims made that Australia runs this centre and has 'effective control'. It is a legal context; it is a legal term. We are very clear that we do not have 'effective control': we do not run the centre, we do not set the legal framework, we do not own the buildings, we do not employ the staff, we do not set the policy framework, we do not outline the labour laws under which people are employed, we do not have control over the occupational health and safety legislation, and we do not have control over the environmental legislation. What we do have is a contracting arrangement for service delivery consistent with the regional resettlement agreement that I quoted to you before. It just seemed to be a theme that we thought was unhelpful and inaccurate. We felt that it needed to be clarified that the Australian government, through its arrangements there, does not exercise effective control. It manages contracts consistent with an agreement struck between the government of PNG and the government of Australia in July and August of 2013.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you, Mr Cormack, that was a very helpful explanation. Just one more question before lunch on some of the terminology in relation to the transferees or detainees themselves. In terms of legal status in detention, there is a difference between being detained, perhaps administratively, and custodial detention or the correctional custody that we use here in Australia in prisons, for example. Can you perhaps address that. What is the legal status of these people on Manus Island?

Mr Cormack : Under the PNG legislation, transferees are permitted to enter the country on the condition that they reside and are managed at the Manus centre. They do not have freedom of movement in PNG. That is the guts of it. I am not necessarily an expert in a legal differences between administrative detention and correctional detention—

Senator REYNOLDS: In that case—and that was helpful to point me in the right direction—can you take that on notice to see if you can provide some further clarification.

Mr Cormack : Absolutely.

CHAIR: Thank you. We will now suspend for lunch.

Proceedings suspended from 13:01 to 13:45

CHAIR: The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee inquiry into the incident at Manus Island detention centre between 16 and 18 February 2014 has reconvened and we will go back to Senator Reynolds for some further questions until two o'clock.

Senator REYNOLDS: This morning we heard from IHMS. It was pleasing to hear that they characterised that there is a good relationship between you and them, but they also said that the contract had changed. I am wondering, Mr Douglas, if you could clarify for me how it changed from the initial contract and why it changed, and what were the budgetary implications for those contractual changes?

Mr Douglas : I think Dr Parrish indicated that he would come back to you on notice, and so I am not too sure which particular aspects he may have been referring to. However, prior to the establishment of the offshore processing centres at Manus and Nauru, IHMS had the onshore detention services contract. Certainly, what would have changed are the two very significant centres added in Manus and Nauru. The other changes have occurred since that time—

Senator REYNOLDS: Sorry, just a point of clarification: what they were saying was that the contract for Manus Island, from when they were initially contracted for Manus, had changed significantly in scoping size.

Mr Douglas : That is what I am just coming to.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you.

Mr Douglas : As I said earlier today, when the centre originally opened it had a capacity of around 500. We had a combination of both single adult men, living in tents, and families. Since July 2013 the population of the centre has risen to nearly 1,200, as it is today. It is no longer families; it is all single adult men. So the growth and the change in the nature of the composition is the change I believe he was referring to.

Senator REYNOLDS: One point on that in relation to families specifically: what was the departmental policy on how to house families? Was Manus Island assessed as a suitable place for families?

Mr Douglas : The government decided to accommodate families at Manus at the time based on advice provided by the department about the suitability of the accommodation. In essence, the nature of the accommodation was such that you could, within reasonable limits, accommodate group living arrangements—in other words, a family—within the same sleeping arrangements. Clearly, it was not suitable: the government did not consider it suitable and the department did not recommend that the tents were suitable, whereas the refurbished buildings elsewhere in the former centre were considered suitable.

Senator REYNOLDS: In relation to families, your initial assessment, which you advised the then government on, was that it was a suitable environment for families. You obviously subsequently made an assessment that it was not suitable for families. Was that because there were unforeseen circumstances on Manus Island? Was it because of the unforeseen number increase; was it a factor of time, money? What was the consideration there?

Mr Douglas : I think it is fair to characterise our advice at the time as 'it could be made suitable for families'—

Senator REYNOLDS: But when you put families there it was not deemed to be suitable for families.

Mr Douglas : It was far from ideal. It was much closer—

Senator REYNOLDS: So that is a yes? Yes, it was unsuitable?

Mr Douglas : There is a series of mitigating factors. In essence, yes—if you want a one-word answer, it would be yes—but life is never quite that simple. There were a range of issues: the families being in close proximity to the single adult men, the fact that you could not put in place adequate noise separation—

Senator REYNOLDS: Sorry, just coming back to the proximity of families to single men: did you have a policy in place at the time about the distance or how you actually housed both groups of people?

Mr Douglas : We certainly made provisions in order for that to occur. It was not so much the policy as delivering what the government required of us, which was to provide accommodation capacity for both families and single adult men. Over time, with experience, it turned out to be less than optimal. Consequently, the government decided to remove families from Manus.

Senator REYNOLDS: Did you have families and single young men living together or in close proximity in any of the other centres at the time?

Mr Douglas : There was no accommodation available for families in Nauru. That was largely because the only accommodation available in Nauru at that time was dormitory style accommodation, which is not suitable for families.

Senator REYNOLDS: So it is safe to say, then, that you had no other accommodation for families anywhere else in the network because the sheer numbers that had arrived—

Mr Douglas : No, sorry. There was no available accommodation for families in the two offshore processing facilities.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you for that clarification.

Mr Douglas : There was family accommodation available in the onshore detention network in Australia.

Senator REYNOLDS: Mr Cormack, in your opening statement you said that, with the benefit of hindsight, you have learnt a lot of things, but you did not specify what they were. Would you please share with us some of those observations in hindsight, some of the lessons that you have learnt and perhaps how you would do things differently next time—if there is a next time, which hopefully there will not be. What would you implement?

Mr Cormack : I think what we have in place now is what I would still be implementing, were the conditions, I guess, the same. What I was really referring to was that there were changing policy parameters. Mr Douglas has just outlined a very good example of that, where you set something up with a view to accommodating a particular cohort, being families or kids, and then that policy parameter changes.

Senator REYNOLDS: To clarify, when you say 'policy parameter' are you talking about the numbers of people that you are anticipating to accommodate and the mix of the people? Are you talking about the sheer numbers of people that arrived that you had not anticipated?

Mr Cormack : I think what I was referring to in that instance in my opening statement was just the very rapid requirement under the new RRAs. Effectively, all IMAs from that date onwards went to offshore processing more or less straightaway. It was just the sheer increase in numbers in the difficult environment of Manus and with all the governance arrangements that I have outlined before.

Senator REYNOLDS: They were yet to be put in place by the Papua New Guinean government. They had not had time to put all the arrangements in place.

Mr Cormack : That is right. These things do not happen ideally, but ideally some longer planning time frames might have been useful. But, again, we did not really have control over those. With a longer planning time frame you can anticipate different accommodation arrangements and different service provider arrangements; you can work with the host governments to build capacity—those sorts of things. But I think, in the main, we are very satisfied that we delivered on the policy requirements of the governments of the day.

Senator REYNOLDS: So in hindsight, as I understand what you said, you really made no changes to the initial arrangements you had in place for what you thought to be the requirement, but the difficulties occurred because, in a short period of time, there was an unanticipated large number of arrivals and you did the best you could in the circumstances.

Mr Cormack : Yes, absolutely.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. I have a series of factual questions that have arisen in reading through, in the time I had available, some of the previous testimony. There had been some allegations or some discussion that the department may have ignored warnings about additional infrastructure requirements and perhaps security requirements. If you have already addressed that, I would be happy for you to point me in the right direction, but is there anything you would like to clarify for me in that sense?

Mr Douglas : Over a period of some four months, we requested a detailed proposal from our contracted service provider on six occasions for specific infrastructure improvements and design requirements. We did not receive that. In the event, we decided we would not wait any longer and we actually engaged a further contractor to take over the—

Senator BILYK: Can I just clarify the dates of that four-month period?

Mr Douglas : Between the end of July and November 2013 we asked for detailed proposals from our contracted service provider, which we did not receive. Consequently, we engaged another contractor to undertake that planning and management of the infrastructure upgrade. Notwithstanding that, we still continued to engage with our service provider.

Senator REYNOLDS: So they informally raised issues with you that they wanted addressed, you asked them to provide detail, they did not provide the detail, but you still actioned it anyway, through somebody else?

Mr Douglas : Correct.

Senator REYNOLDS: An issue has also arisen in various ways in relation to the personal protective equipment. I am not sure whether this is the G4S staff or the local police, but I think G4S may have said at some stage either that they had not received the equipment that they needed or that it had been inadequately supplied. Can you provide some clarification on that issue?

Mr Douglas : On 23 August 2013, the department was approached at its regular weekly meeting to procure additional personal protective equipment, or PPE. The formal submission of the request occurred on 6 November, and that request was for 200 kits. We referred that request to the team that—

Senator REYNOLDS: Sorry; 200 kits of?

Mr Douglas : Personal protective equipment. A standard kit comes with a shield, helmet—the various sorts of equipment required for personal protection. We referred the request for 200 additional kits to the team, which General Campbell referred to earlier, undertaking the risk assessment at the centre given their experience in these matters. On the basis of that advice, we indicated that we would not support a request for 200 additional kits. G4S subsequently submitted a revised proposal requesting 50 additional kits and we approved that. There were then no further proposals received.

Senator REYNOLDS: So the issue was about quantity, not about provision of—

Mr Douglas : Correct. It was never about quantity. The issue for us was that the advice we had was that the existing kits—G4S already had 22 in their possession—had not been size-fitted to existing staff.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you; that has clarified the question I had. Is there or was there a dog squad there, because there is some reference to that?

Mr Cormack : Yes, there is.

Senator REYNOLDS: Who actually runs the dog squad, and under what legislation or jurisdiction?

Mr Cormack : It is run by the PNG police, and it is completely covered by their legislation and their operating and command structures.

Senator REYNOLDS: In relation to security arrangements, was it the IRT?

Mr Cormack : Yes, the incident response team.

Senator REYNOLDS: Who was responsible for establishing and training the IRT?

Mr Douglas : G4S.

Mr Cormack : G4S.

Senator REYNOLDS: In terms of the security guards, was that all G4S as well?

Mr Douglas : That is part of their contract for—

Senator REYNOLDS: Were they all locally engaged?

Mr Douglas : There was a combination of locally engaged staff who were G4S employees, security staff who were subcontracted from a local security provider and security staff who were fly-in fly-out personnel from a range of different countries, predominantly Australia and New Zealand.

Senator REYNOLDS: In terms of OH&S and the safety of the transferees actually in the centre, that is garrison issue for G4S. Specifically, there was some discussion about faulty wiring or an electrocution incident somewhere within the centre. Was that an issue?

Mr Cormack : We have heard that allegation. We looked into that in some detail, both at the time and more recently, and we cannot really find any record of that. Under the contract, complaints and incidents are required to be reported. Somebody receiving an electric shock from a shower or in the kitchen area or wherever would be a significant reportable issue under the contract.

Senator REYNOLDS: So there was nothing?

Mr Cormack : We cannot find any evidence of that having happened.

Senator REYNOLDS: I will move now to another question of fact as to the two days of the incident, in terms of evacuating staff. There has obviously been some discussion in terms of who was responsible, where the staff were located, and how they were managed at the time. In terms of evacuation of any of the contracted staff, who was responsible for that, what was the process and were any of the staff actually evacuated from the centre at any point?

Mr Cormack : They certainly were evacuated. Managing the security aspects of any incident was the responsibility of G4S. They obviously had to work closely with the PNG ICSA operational manager, and they coordinated activities with us. In essence, calling an evacuation and directing certain categories of staff from one place to another is really a security issue.

Senator REYNOLDS: How many staff did the department have on the ground at the time of the incidents?

Mr Cormack : We normally have around 10 or 12—sometimes less, sometimes more. It just depends on the range of activities being undertaken. I will take that on notice, but it was around about that.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you—if you can take that on notice. Were there any interpreters on site at the time?

Mr Cormack : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: Were they your staff or were they contracted by somebody else?

Mr Cormack : We facilitate the supply and accommodation arrangements for—

Mr Douglas : The department has a Translating and Interpreting Service known as TIS. That is a service that is provided across the country. They also were responsible for providing interpreters to the OPCs.

Senator BILYK: Can I just clarify: does the department pay the interpreters?

Mr Douglas : They are contracted through the Translating and Interpreting Service.

Mr Cormack : We effectively pay for it.

Mr Douglas : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: You do not pay them directly, but you pay them through another agency?

Mr Douglas : We pay TIS and TIS pays them.

Senator REYNOLDS: As part of that, were any of the contracted staff or any of the departmental staff subject to confidentiality agreements? If they were, what was the basis for them?

Mr Cormack : In the contracts that exist between the department and G4S and between the department and the Salvation Army, who were the welfare providers at that time, we required those organisations to ensure that personnel carrying out work or performing duties under those contracts signed certain confidentiality deeds. That was a requirement we had with each contractor. How they translated that into their arrangements with individual staff was a matter between the employer and the employee. We did have those in place.

CHAIR: Which contractors did you have those requirements with?

Mr Cormack : All contractors. It is standard across just about any Commonwealth contract that I have seen. There are confidentiality provisions, Commonwealth property provisions and contract material provisions in most Commonwealth contracts, and that was also the case with these contracts.

Senator REYNOLDS: So they were standard contracts?

Mr Cormack : There was a standard contract template, but it was very much adapted for the particular service delivery that was required under the contract. Each of them had a confidentiality requirement.

CHAIR: I put to you that one of the service providers gave evidence—I will go back and check the transcript, but my recollection is that it was G4S—that it was an absolute requirement of the government to require those confidentiality agreements of their staff.

Mr Cormack : Yes.

CHAIR: There was further evidence given by one of the witnesses to the inquiry that they sought legal advice about the confidentiality requirement that they were required to sign and the legal advice was that it was more extensive than the lawyer had ever seen in any other situation. What would you say to that, Mr Cormack?

Mr Cormack : Our confidentiality requirements were based on standard Commonwealth confidentiality clause requirements and adapted for the particular environment in which the service was being delivered, but the translation of those into arrangements between the contractor and their employees was a matter for them. Provided our contract requirements for confidentiality were met, they specified and developed the contracts with their employees according to their own legal advice and requirements.

CHAIR: One of the themes of this inquiry is where the responsibility lies in relation to both Papua New Guinea and Australia and also in relation to the government and the contractors. Can I ask you to get on notice information about the specific terms of the contract that you entered into with your service providers and what the confidentiality requirements of the Australian government were? That will help us to then work out to what extent the service providers imposed additional or extra confidentiality requirements on their workers.

Mr Cormack : The easiest thing to do would be to provide you with a copy of the contract.

CHAIR: That would be the most straightforward.

Mr Douglas : I believe we have already done that. There is a clause contained in the contract. If it would assist the committee, section 5.4.1 of the G4S contract contains the confidentiality requirement.

CHAIR: Was that the same requirement for every service provider or did it depend—

Mr Douglas : A similar clause exists in the contracts of all service providers.

CHAIR: Were there no other requirements conveyed or related?

Mr Douglas : There were no other Commonwealth requirements. I cannot speak of the requirements individual service providers may have sought.

CHAIR: I understand that. I am interested in knowing whether that confidentiality clause in the contract is all that the Australian government required of the service providers and then anything additional to that, you would say, was their choice?

Mr Douglas : Any request other than those contained in the contract would be unenforceable. The answer is yes. It is in the contract.

Senator REYNOLDS: We will have a look at your standard contract. Could any additional clauses that the contractor may have put in relate to confidentiality of health records, personal case or circumstances? Would those be in your contract template or is that this sort of thing contractors would need to take into consideration?

Mr Douglas : We would not be able to speak about what the service providers themselves might have required in addition.

Lt Gen. Campbell : In reply to a question on notice earlier today from Senator Hanson-Young, with regard to the inquiry by the UNHCR Special Rapporteur of an urgent appeal, that has been replied to as of yesterday through the Australian post in Geneva. I have a copy of the third party note which I will present to the committee.

Senator BILYK: Lieutenant General Campbell, in your opening speech you talked about the summary of the recommendations that you tabled today. How long was your full report?

Lt Gen. Campbell : It was 15 to 20 pages, I imagine.

Senator BILYK: Can you explain to me the reason why we cannot have a copy of the full report.

Lt Gen. Campbell : I mentioned this previously to both Senators Carr and Singh when it was raised at Senate estimates. The report is a classified document. The reason it is classified is because it indicates areas of security weakness or describes concerns of procedural function that may be improved. As a document, it presents, if it were in an unclassified form, to those who might wish to manipulate it, use it or take advantage from it. I am talking about any persons. It is not a sensible thing to release.

Senator BILYK: I was presuming that was the reason but I just wanted to clarify for myself as a new member of the committee. Has the minister got that report?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Yes indeed.

Senator BILYK: When did he get that?

Lt Gen. Campbell : The minister received and actioned that report on 5 November 2013.

Senator BILYK: In the tabulated format you have given us, I notice some things have been completed and some things partially completed. Are there timelines linked to when they might be completed?

Lt Gen. Campbell : We are making best efforts to complete them but that is one of the elements I would not wish to put into the public space.

Senator BILYK: I understand that. The implementation of a police liaison officer at the bottom of page 1, is that police liaison officer a full-time role or only if you think there is going to be an incident?

Lt Gen. Campbell : That is a role that has been put into place, but I am not sure.

Mr Douglas : It is a role that has been put in place. It is effectively a full-time role supported by Transfield Services, which is the newly contracted service provider.

Senator BILYK: We have heard there are issues around control and contracts being discussed. We discussed those things prior to lunch. I am still a tad confused but I will keep reading back issues of Hansard to make sure I know exactly what is going on there. Can you explain to me the contractual relationship between G4S, the Salvation Army and the department?

Mr Cormack : There is a contractual arrangement between the department for G4S to provide garrison services, security and a range of other logistical functions that effectively keep the centre safe and operating. The contract with the Salvation Army, which was completely separate—and there was no contractual relationship between the Salvation Army and G4S. It was for the provision of programs and activities, educational services, recreational programs, welfare and those sorts of activities that effectively operate 24 hours a day to look after and care for the personal welfare needs of the transferees. That is a contract between the Commonwealth and those two organisations. The details of those were up on the government contracts website.

Senator BILYK: Did any aspects of the running of Manus Island centre need to be cleared through the department in regard to G4S and the Salvation Army?

Mr Cormack : These were big contracts and they were complex contracts. They specified certain deliverables, certain standards. If there were to be a departure from, if you like, a business-as-usual service delivery, or if they were needing some additional equipment, for example, or some capital items that were not currently provided for within the business-as-usual operating framework, then they would seek approval from the department. In fact, there was an example just earlier about the purchase of PPE. They assessed a need for an increase; the level that they were seeking was not immediately provided for in the contract. They put a proposal. We assess the proposal, get advice and give approval or not. That is a standard part of a contract of this nature.

Mr Douglas : So there was a very small contract management team of the department at the centre which was engaging on a daily basis with all of our contracted service providers to clarify and resolve issues; to ensure that there were delivery matters being actioned; to approve small requests; but also to ensure that there was good early filtering of perhaps more substantive requests.

Senator BILYK: Were the contractual arrangements with the new providers, Transfield, the same as it was for G4S and the Salvation Army in terms of running the centre?

Mr Cormack : They are not the same. They have many similar elements. There is a pretty much standard Commonwealth contract core—

Senator BILYK: Are you able to detail the changes that are being implemented?

Mr Cormack : I can detail to a high level the specific differences that we put in place. The first and most significant is that, whereas we had two separate contracts for the garrison and security arrangements with G4S and the welfare and programs activities that were with Salvation Army, they are effectively amalgamated into a single coordinated contract with Transfield. The other obvious big change was that Transfield had already been a service provider at Nauru and was now a service provider across both of those processing centres.

Senator BILYK: I understand there were some issues with chain of command that were revealed in the inquiry previously. Has that been resolved? If so, how has that happened? What you have done in terms of guidelines and policies.

Mr Cormack : I think Mr Cornall's report summarises some of the issues and has some specific recommendations around improving the operation particularly on the security side of things. Many of those recommendations have been either fully implemented or are in the process of being implemented. In fact, there is now a formalised arrangement for hand-over of security between the police and the security services provider in the event of any potential incident that requires a response across both police and the security services provider. That was certainly one of the issues that Mr Cornall identified. That has now been rectified and there is a protocol in place that is agreed between the police and the security services provider as to how control might be passed from one to the other in the event of a serious incident, and then how that control would be handed back once that incident has been controlled. That is just an example of some of the improvements that have been put in place.

Senator BILYK: I am not sure if you answer this next question: but are you able to explain quickly again the contractual relationship that G4S and the Salvation Army had with the PNG immigration department?

Mr Cormack : They did not have a formal contractual arrangement with the PNG immigration authority.

Senator BILYK: In regard to running the Manus Island centre, nothing needs to be cleared through the PNG department of immigration?

Mr Cormack : It certainly did. Any policy change, any significant new program activity, any security related issue—for example, a piece of work we are continuing to work on is the search powers which are also identified in the Cornall report. That is a very good example of the implementation of a such a policy being the responsibility of the contracted service provider, but the enablement that gives power to a security provider to undertake a search or, if necessary, to use force must be a matter that is approved and governed by PNG law or PNG policy and operational guidelines that are controlled by ICSA.

Senator BILYK: So there is accountability to the PNG government—

Mr Cormack : Yes.

Senator BILYK: but there is no contractual arrangement—is that what you are telling me?

Mr Cormack : That is the way it works.

Senator BILYK: That would be the same for Transfield?

Mr Cormack : That is correct.

Senator BILYK: Prior to the incidents in February, did G4S and the Salvation Army make any requests to the department for the facilitation of further training for staff?

Mr Douglas : Not for further training. Certainly it requested additional staff, and that matter was canvassed at some length at the earlier hearing.

Senator BILYK: Just for staff but no training. So who is responsible?

Mr Douglas : It would be their responsibility to provide training. It would be unusual for them to ask us for training.

Senator BILYK: So they did not ask for any support, or anything like that, for further training for staff?

Mr Douglas : Not in a training way, no.

Senator BILYK: The next question I have is with regard to an article from The Age. I am sorry, I am jumping from Manus to Christmas Island. It is with regard to the mental health of a number of people on Christmas Island. It is a report from 11 July in The Age

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is today.

Senator BILYK: I am sorry, it is today. Thank you, Senator Hanson-Young. I am really interested in how the department interacted with IHMS in dealing with some of these issues—how decisions were made based on people's mental health and when to transfer them back, and who made the ultimate decisions, for example, at Manus Island. There were about 60 people injured over the course of the two days at Manus Island. I am trying to gain an understanding of how the department and IHMS dealt with it together.

Mr Cormack : There are a few questions in there. We did not come along necessarily prepared to address any recent matters that are reported on in relation to Christmas Island. But, with the way your question has unfolded, you are interested in the way that the department, through its contractual arrangements, deals with health issues, either of an ongoing or an emerging nature, or, in the case of the Manus incident, a very significant emergency. We have a—

Senator BILYK: And how you interact with IHMS.

Mr Cormack : Yes. They are also a contracted provider to the Commonwealth. We have a very similar arrangement in place with IHMS with Transfield, as we had with G4S and the Salvation Army. They have a contract that specifies a range of accountabilities. I think we heard a bit from Dr Parrish and his colleagues this morning on that. We require a significant standard of service delivery to meet the known and predictable requirements of a group of transferees—or, in the case of Christmas Island, a group of detainees—taking into account the specific geographical circumstances in which they are operating. So it is a contract arrangement. We have a contract manager, as Mr Douglas mentioned, and specific contract managers that look after the health side of things. We have health liaison officers. They are involved in monitoring performance. If there are items that IHMS request or services that they request for transferees and detainees that are, if you like, above and beyond the normal service offering, they put in a request—for example, a medivac, which is an urgent evacuation. That would normally be something they would advise us of, obviously, due to the importance of the issue. That would generally be a very serious health matter that we would need to be aware of and it would also be a very significant logistical and financial matter as well. So they would put in a proposal; we have people available to them, 24 hours a day, for any urgent approvals. They would then make the necessary arrangements at the receiving end with either a hospital or a specialist service provider as needed to deliver care beyond what is available either on Manus or Christmas Island. They then arrange for, more or less, a subcontracting arrangement to be put in place. In the case of Manus, it is the private Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby that provides a lot of the hospital services that are not available on Manus. On their advice, they would determine with the treating team whether the person is fit and appropriate for transport back. We then work with them to facilitate the transport back, which could be on a charter. In fact, coming back it would almost always be on a charter—a specialised medical charter. That is based on their advice as expert medical professionals—whether we have the facilities and services in place to look after that person back on Manus or Christmas Island. That is generally the way it works. We do not override their clinical advice, if they provide clinical advice.

Senator BILYK: So you never—

Mr Cormack : We will certainly ask questions. We will challenge that—we have people with quite significant expertise who can do that. But—

Senator BILYK: Medical practitioners? Psychiatrists and—

Mr Cormack : We have access to an independent health adviser who has access to specialist advisers. But, in a specific case situation, we have almost never had to do that. I actually—

Senator BILYK: I was going to say that might rather slow issues down a bit, too, mightn't it?

Mr Cormack : It would, and that is why it is in very rare circumstances that we would seriously question the clinical judgement of a surgeon, a psychiatrist, a paediatrician or whoever IHMS has used to give that opinion.

Mr Douglas : If I could assist, Senator: the sort of instance we are talking about where that might occur is where there has been a recommendation that requires further assessment by a specialist and treatment at the same time. The question we will often ask ourselves or seek advice on is: what would with the normal waiting times for access to that form of specialist advice be in Australia? Is someone being advantaged, or is the referral at a timely point? Should there be a further waiting period or other, further treatment? If there was an urgent medical evacuation—

Senator BILYK: I do understand all that, Mr Douglas, and I only have a few minutes left, so if I could just move on. Senator Reynolds asked whether there were dogs in the compound on 16 February and the answer was yes. Is that correct?

Mr Cormack : There was the PNG dog squad—sorry, the mobile squad—which I think we have covered previously. A range of its measures include the deployment of a dog squad and on the evening of the 17th, there was a decision taken to do a walk-through of the compounds as a security measure. That was a matter that was ultimately authorised and determined through G4S and the PNG police. That took place. There is no suggestion that the dogs were unleashed or that the dogs were in any way used to inflict harm on any of the transferees. I do not think that has been—

Senator BILYK: But what was the purpose of the dogs, then?

Mr Cormack : My understanding—not being an expert in these matters—is that, as part of the management of what was at that point a significantly escalating security situation; significant unrest—it was agreed as a show of capability and a show of force that the dog squad—

Senator BILYK: So, intimidation.

Mr Cormack : It was a police matter and—

Senator BILYK: Do you know how many dogs were there, Mr Cormack?

Mr Cormack : I do not know.

Senator BILYK: Can you take that question on notice?

Mr Cormack : I certainly can.

Senator BILYK: The other issue I am concerned with—I think you were in the room when I mentioned it earlier—is that in some of the submissions are claims that internet access at the centre was turned off after the incidents of 16 to 18 February, and that asylum seekers were not allowed to access the internet until sometime in late February. Do you have the date of when that was? It says late February or early March in my notes.

Mr Douglas : Perhaps I might be able to tackle an earlier part of your question which underpins the assumption of the answer. The internet was not turned off. The internet access had been damaged as a consequence of the incidents on the two evenings. So it could not be turned on to be turned off. What needed to occur was that equipment needed to be repaired and, once it was repaired and full access was restored, we increased people's access. There was only limited access available and some of the phones had also been destroyed, so we were assisting people to make calls using mobile phones.

Senator BILYK: I would still like you to take on notice those time lines for me.

Mr Douglas : We will happily do that, yes.

Senator BILYK: I understand that transferees were not allowed to access phones in the aftermath of the incident.

Mr Douglas : To the same extent, the phones were destroyed during the course of the incidents.

Senator BILYK: Did that include mobile phone access?

Mr Douglas : No, that is why we did arrange for access to mobile phones. Obviously we did not have sufficient mobile phones for all of the people, but we did gradually enable people to make mobile phone calls.

Senator BILYK: Can you take on notice how many phones there were and how they were distributed to people for use.

Mr Douglas : I will take that on notice. I am not too sure if we will have that detail, but I will take that on notice.

CHAIR: Can I just clarify that?

Senator BILYK: Yes, sure.

CHAIR: I would just like to make it clear, in taking that on notice, I think there is an issue between 'not able to' and 'not allowed to'. I think one of the questions is: were there any restrictions placed on the people at the Manus Island detention centre? Did detainees—

Mr Douglas : My recollection was that the only restrictions were in terms of ensuring equity of access, but I will take on notice to see whether or not there were other factors at work.

CHAIR: And, if there were, directions as how that was to be done—if you could clarify what they were. If, indeed, you say that it was due to a restriction on the ability to use the internet because of the breakdown of the internet, that is something—

Mr Douglas : My recollection is that it was purely a logistical issue, but we will take that on notice.

Senator BILYK: I am just wondering if we can get an update. I understand the latest update on the refugee status determinations was provided by Mr Cormack, the deputy secretary of the immigration department, at the last hearing on 5 June, and the numbers were: 829 asylum seekers have had their initial entry interview and a further 385 have had access to advice and assistance. Are you able to update the committee on the refugee status determination and resettlement arrangements? How many asylum seekers are currently being held in Manus? How many claims have been found to be owed protection? How many are found to be a refugee? What is the status of the resettlement arrangements? You might need to take some of those on notice.

Mr Cormack : Yes, I am happy to give that. At 4 July there have been 1,172 transfer interviews, 735 CAPS interviews, 306 RSD interviews. In terms of hand-downs—and these, under the PNG system, are initial assessment notifications—as at today, there have been 65 initial assessment notifications: 34 of those have been negative, and 31 positive.

Senator REYNOLDS: I would like a clarification, if I could. The terminology 'CAP', what does that mean?

Mr Cormack : It is a claims assistance provider. That is a third party—generally lawyers. In fact, Playfair is the organisation. In an independent sense, they help the asylum seeker to prepare their claim.

Senator BILYK: In regard to those who have positive assessments, what is the future for them?

Mr Cormack : The next step for the 65 is that, under the PNG legislation, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the PNG government will confirm a final decision. So each of those 65—more specifically the negatives—have an opportunity to re-put their case and to make an appeal against that initial assessment notification. Once that is exhausted, the minister will make a final determination and they will then be subject to the PNG government's settlement policy. That matter is one that is currently in the decision-making processes of the PNG government. We are anticipating, in the very near future, that they will specify their model for settlement and how that will work in PNG. But, as we have said a few times here today, that is a matter for the PNG government. It is a PNG government policy decision. We have been providing them with advice, guidance and assistance over the last couple of years on how these sorts of things can be managed. But once that policy is settled by the PNG government, then the positives will presumably be offered settlement according to PNG government policy.

Senator BILYK: So at the minute, though, the people with positive outcomes are still being held in the centre?

Mr Cormack : That is because they are initial assessment notifications. They are not finally determined. Just to give you an example of the opposite of that: on Nauru, where they are at a slightly more advanced stage, those that have a positive notification or decision are now living outside the centre. They are going to school—some are working—and they are not in any detention arrangement at all.

Senator BILYK: But at the minute, 31 people with positive assessments are still living in the centre and they are not able to come and go or have any sort of release.

Mr Cormack : No. At this point in time, they have access to excursions and those sorts of activities that do take them outside of the centre from time to time.

Senator BILYK: So what is the time line?

Mr Cormack : That is a matter for the PNG government, but we meet with them. In fact, our foreign minister and immigration minister meet with their counterparts every month to review progress on all matters to do with the PNG and Manus programs. The final shape of the settlement policy is a matter for the PNG government and we look forward to learning about that at the next meeting.

Senator BILYK: And when is that next meeting?

Mr Cormack : The next meeting is next Friday, but we are not sure whether we will hear whether a decision has been taken or not by the PNG government. But we will certainly get a progress report from Minister Pato of the PNG government.

CHAIR: I am going to ask a few questions now before I go back to Senator Reynolds. The committee has heard evidence that Australia and Papua New Guinea have joint and several responsibility in relation to the detention centre at Manus Island; that was evidence that was given at one of the previous hearings. Can I ask you, Mr Cormack: do you agree that Australia and PNG have joint responsibility for the centre?

Mr Cormack : The responsibility we have is reflected in the legal framework of the RRA, and I outlined that before, which specifies the various roles and responsibilities of the parties and their future intent. There are a series of administrative arrangements that are attached to that. Our role in that is to support the work of the centre through the contracting management process, as well as other capacity-building activities that we undertake in partnership with our colleagues in ICSA.

CHAIR: So we have some responsibility and Papua New Guinea has some responsibility?

Mr Cormack : The responsibilities of the parties are outlined in the RRA, and I have just outlined what they are.

CHAIR: Yes. So we both have some responsibility, and the details of the degree of responsibility are outlined in those legal documents?

Mr Cormack : The RRA specifies the roles of the parties and the responsibilities.

CHAIR: Does Australia have an obligation to protect the lives and welfare of asylum seekers held on Manus Island?

Mr Cormack : The responsibility for the operation and running of the Manus centre lies with the PNG government. Our responsibility is to provide support through the contracting arrangements that we have with service providers, but these centres operate under PNG law.

CHAIR: I am still interested to know—because initially these asylum seekers came seeking asylum from Australia—whether Australia has an obligation to protect the lives and welfare of asylum seekers held on Manus Island that originated in Australian custody.

Mr Cormack : I think the government policy on this is very clear.

CHAIR: That is good. Tell me about it, then.

Mr Cormack : Government policy, under our legislation, is that all unlawful maritime arrivals past 19 July are subject to offshore processing and settlement. That offshore processing and settlement is undertaken by the sovereign governments of PNG and Nauru, and the details of that are outlined in the RRA.

CHAIR: That does not actually answer my question, though. I am interested if you say that, once that has occurred, Australia no longer has an obligation to protect the lives and welfare of asylum seekers held on Manus Island, as a result of the contractual arrangements that Australia has made with Papua New Guinea.

Mr Cormack : What I am saying to you is that responsibility for assessing the claims, determining their status and settling them is the responsibility of the PNG government, consistent with the RRA.

CHAIR: Yes, but that is not the question I am asking you.

Mr Cormack : That is the answer I am giving you.

CHAIR: The question I am asking you is: we had someone who died while in detention, and significant concerns have been raised throughout the course of this inquiry about the welfare of asylum seekers ranging from mental health right through. Does Australia have any obligation to protect the lives and welfare of asylum seekers held on Manus Island?

Mr Cormack : The responsibilities of the Australian government in relation to the delivery of services to people who are transferred to the Manus offshore processing centre are outlined in the RRA.

CHAIR: Do you think Australian people who may be listening to this broadcast might be interested to note the extent to which our government is willing to say that Australia either has, or does not have, an obligation to protect the lives and welfare of asylum seekers held on Manus Island that originated in Australia?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Chair, I really think that is a question that you would have to pose to a minister of government.

CHAIR: So you say that, by virtue of your position—I do accept and understand that. Excuse the frustration, but I think that these are legitimate questions that people want answered.

Mr Cormack : Absolutely.

CHAIR: So you are not able to say, in terms of legal obligation in your position as an official, that Australia has an obligation to protect the lives and welfare of asylum seekers? Are you saying that Australia, under contract, has an obligation to maintain services and so on, but you are not saying that—

Mr Cormack : I am saying that our responsibilities in relation to this cohort are outlined in our legislation and are outlined in the Regional Resettlement Arrangements, and that the resettlement arrangements for those people in the processing centres are governed by PNG law. PNG is a signatory to the relevant conventions, as is Australia, and that is the way that this arrangement works. That is a matter of government policy.

CHAIR: It has not worked too well, because we are inquiring into the death of a person that occurred while they were under those arrangements. That is right, isn't it?

Mr Cormack : I think that it is a matter for the Senate to determine what it wishes to investigate. In terms of this being a matter of government policy, I think it is absolutely clear, the legislation is clear, the accountabilities are clear, and we are delivering that, according to government policy. That is what is required of the department.

CHAIR: With respect, I would not agree that the accountabilities are clear and that is what my questions are directed at.

Mr Cormack : You need to take that up with the minister.

CHAIR: It has been put to the committee that Australia breached several of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the ICCPR, during the incident at the Manus Island detention centre in February, including obligations to protect individuals' right to life under article 6 and the right to be treated humanely while in detention under article 10. Do Australia's obligations under the ICCPR extend to asylum seekers detained at the Manus Island detention centre?

Mr Cormack : You are just coming at the same question a different way—and you are also getting into matters that are the subject of proceedings in the High Court. I do not intend to get involved or comment on any of those matters.

CHAIR: No, I am talking about the Manus Island detention centre, and I am asking—

Mr Cormack : There are High Court matters in play at the moment that address aspects of your question. I do not intend to complicate or comment on matters that are currently—

CHAIR: You might mean the Supreme Court.

Mr Cormack : the subject of High Court or any other court proceedings.

CHAIR: Has the government assessed the extent to which the incident at the Manus Island detention centre during February might have breached articles 6 and 10 of the ICCPR? I am not asking you about the findings at this point. Has that assessment been done?

Mr Cormack : Our assessment of the events of 16-18 February are addressed in the Cornall report and that is the extent of the assessment we have undertaken into the events at Manus at that time.

CHAIR: The terms of reference of that report did not specifically require an assessment of the ICCPR and any potential breach.

Mr Cormack : No, because that was actually not what the report was about. The report was about an incident. It was not about compliance with international treaties or other matters.

CHAIR: No, but I am trying to get an answer to the question. So if that was the only assessment that has been done, then the answer to that would be no, there has been no assessment.

Mr Cormack : No. You are going to take us into areas that I just mentioned before. I do not intend to comment.

CHAIR: No, I am not trying—

Mr Cormack : I will take it on notice, if that satisfies you, Senator.

CHAIR: I did not ask you what the assessment was, I asked if an assessment had been done; and, with respect, I do not think that would impinge on court proceedings. Has an assessment actually been carried out?

Mr Cormack : I will take that on notice.

CHAIR: Let me take you to some more questions. At the public hearing on 13 June, the Australian Lawyers Alliance stated:

… the Commonwealth's own detention standards currently enforced and applicable in respect of this incident say that immigration detention is administrative, that the service provider, in this case G4S, has a duty of care; but also say, these words, 'ultimate responsibility for the detainees remains with the department at all times' so that that acceptance of a non-delegable duty of care in law means that the Commonwealth may be liable with or without fault on behalf of the Commonwealth, if there is fault, in respect of the functions, which it has delegated to organisations such as G4S.

Can I ask, first of all: are the detention standards to which the Australian Lawyers Alliance refer current?

Mr Douglas : They are extremely dated.

CHAIR: 'Extremely dated'—what does that mean? Are they—

Mr Douglas : In my recollection, they go back to around about 2008, 2009 or 2010. They were internal standards. They do not, to my knowledge—and I am not a lawyer—have a legal standing or recognition. They are simply a set of internal standards which to my recollection have not been updated in that time frame. But I will take their age on notice.

CHAIR: If you would take on notice: what those standards were; if they have been updated; if they are considered to be still current; to what extent they are legally binding—you say they are internal guidelines; and if, indeed, there are more current standards that would be more timely and more relevant to the Commonwealth's current offshore detention.

Mr Douglas : I will take that on notice.

CHAIR: The standards to which the Australian Lawyers Alliance referred appear to be unequivocal about the Commonwealth's nondelegable duty of care and liability. Can you take on notice—I presume you will not know the answer to this—whether that is a correct interpretation of what those standards were.

Mr Douglas : There are a number of different avenues to that question. All officials operate on the notion that our duty of care is nondelegable, but to link the nondelegable duty of care to the standards—I would really want to take some advice before giving an answer to that; therefore I will take that on notice.

CHAIR: You will have to take this question on notice because it is related to the answer to my previous question. If indeed those standards are non-delegable and they are still the only standards that apply then how would the government reconcile its claim that Papua New Guinean authorities and not the Australian government have overall responsibility for the regional processing centre on Manus Island?

Mr Douglas : That is a fairly loaded question. I clearly would want advice. But I also want to clarify a matter. You talked about standards being non-delegable. My recollection of the earlier part of the question and the provision I responded to was that the duty of care was non-delegable. So I think what we want is to go through the transcript and have some good advice in preparing an answer for the committee.

CHAIR: To be clear, I am not trying to trick you. I said you would need to take it on notice, and I understand that is the case. It is actually the duty of care that is non-delegable. I want to know the current state of those standards. You said that they are not really up to date. If that is the case, are there more up-to-date standards? If not, what actually governs the duty of care that the Commonwealth approaches a processing centre like this with? If the duty of care is non-delegable then how does that sit with the argument that it is the Papua New Guinean government and not the Australian government that actually has responsibility overall for the regional processing centre on Manus Island?

Mr Douglas : We will take those on notice.

Senator REYNOLDS: Listening to the previous question and answer, is it correct for me to assume from your answers that any ICCPR articles or anything related to them are really issues for the Papua New Guinean government, not the Australian government under what you said about effective control?

Mr Cormack : What I said before was that the processing centres operate under PNG law. The PNG government is signatory to a range of conventions and that is where the accountability lies.

CHAIR: Mr Cormack, can I just interrupt you there. I feel that you were not prepared to answer my question in relation to the ICCPR but you were prepared to give that answer.

Mr Cormack : I think I effectively gave the same answer I gave a while ago.

CHAIR: I think you said that you were not prepared to give an answer on that because it was subject to some kind of legal proceedings at the moment. That is what I heard you say earlier and now, in response to the question specifically about an article under the ICCPR, you are actually making the assertion again that it is in fact Papua New Guinea's responsibility. I do not mind if that is the answer you are going to give but I think you need to be consistent. If that is what the government's position is, I would be interested to know.

Mr Cormack : I have been completely consistent that the responsibility for these matters rests with PNG, consistent with RRA. Your question before, with respect, had multiple parts to it.

CHAIR: I will ask them simply again if you like.

Mr Cormack : And you will get the same response.

CHAIR: The question I asked was about Australia's duty and a potential breach of the duty under the ICCPR, particularly article 6. I understand that was the follow-up question that Senator Reynolds was asking about. In response to my question, you said you were not prepared to give an answer to that because the matter is subject to legal proceedings. In relation to senator Reynolds' question, you made the assertion that Papua New Guinea has the responsibility, as you said earlier, further offshore processing centre. If I can take from that that the Australian government's position is that it is not subject to the ICCPR in relation to matters Manus Island, I am happy to take that answer but I need to be clear if that is what you are saying.

Mr Cormack : You have asked a series of multilayered, multiclause questions. I need to be able to see the questions within the questions you asked. On that basis, once I have seen that, I will take notice and give you a response.

CHAIR: It may be that you look back at the answer that you gave to Senator Reynolds' questions and you may decide that you actually want to give a different answer to that, I would suggest.

Mr Cormack : You can suggest what you like, Chair. But my comment to you is that when I see a full breadth and range of elements to your question then I will determine whether the answer I gave to Senator Reynolds was in fact the answer to the same question that you asked.

CHAIR: I would appreciate it if you could do that.

Mr Cormack : I will do that.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Cormack.

Senator REYNOLDS: I have one last question. It is just a follow-up question to some evidence you provided earlier in relation to families at the Manus centre. Specifically in relation to the families who went there initially in 2012, had the processing of those families started by the time they were removed in 2013, or did they start again somewhere else, or had they started under the PNG process and then had to start again under some other arrangement when they were moved?

Mr Douglas : The first group of people to arrive in Manus arrived on 21 November 2012. Progressively from that date, additional people arrived. The first lot of transferee interviews commenced in Manus from February. There had been no interview at all with a claims assistance provider—

Senator REYNOLDS: Which is the CAP.

Mr Douglas : or an immigration official. So, by the time that they were taken off Manus and brought back to Australia, there had not been any further progress made with our RSD deputy and, indeed, there would be no further progress that has occurred since their return.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Cormack, we have had documentation handed to us from the department in relation to the questions we have already had on notice and a list of discovery documents that we had asked for. We have had one public hearing with the department already. In that hearing and in the information that we were given by the department, there was no reference at any stage to the emergency control organisation. It was when we as a committee were questioning the Salvation Army that we learnt about this emergency control organisation. Could you explain to me why the department had not informed the committee of the role that that group played on the night.

Mr Cormack : I think it is a terminology issue here. Whenever you experience an incident such as this, which, thankfully, is not very often, you do set up an emergency control point or an emergency control centre, which is basically a kind of command suite that brings together all of the key players who are involved in the management of an emerging incident. On the evening—I think it was the 17th—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Cormack : that was set up within the G4S suite of offices. At a point in time it was relocated to, I think, a mobile vehicle or a van. It was a four-wheel drive, basically because of the security environment on the evening. The reference to an ECO—and I am happy go back over and look at what the Salvation Army or whoever it was who had raised this—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The Salvation Army.

Mr Cormack : I will have a look to see what they are referring to, but I think that is probably what they were referring to. It is not a separate agency. It is not a separate organisation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I appreciate that. My understanding is that it was the group of people who were representatives of the different service providers in the department. Nonetheless, it is the first time it was referenced.

Mr Cormack : I think it was referenced in the Cornall report.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, but that came after both the department's information to us in the discovery documents and the time that the department appeared before this committee.

Mr Douglas : From memory, I think the requirement to establish an ECO is contained in the G4S contract, so it would have been contained there.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why didn't you talk about it? When we have asked questions about what happened on the night, and I have asked for time frames—a time line of what occurred—why wasn't that referenced in this committee until now?

Mr Douglas : I do not know that there was any deliberate strategy to preclude your reference. It simply would not have come up in the context of our answers. That is the first point I make. The second point I make is that the department does not run the ECO. The department is a stakeholder of the ECO. The ECO is the responsibility of the service provider.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay, let's continue. Could you tell me who made up the ECO?

Mr Cormack : I can take the details on notice, but I can give you a reasonably specific answer to that. It would have been the senior officers of each of the service providers involved in the delivery of services plus one or two departmental officers and the centre administrator. So it would have been G4S, Salvation Army, ICSA, DIBP and possibly IHMS at times. It is really the most senior nominated person for that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Could you please take on notice the names of the individuals and the agencies they belonged to for confirmation of who was there.

Mr Douglas : To clarify: we might need to do that in two chunks. There were two separate nights, two separate incidents and two separate groups of people.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am happy for that. On the night of the 17th, was the emergency control organisations group of senior representatives from each of the agencies connected to Canberra through a phone call?

Mr Cormack : Yes, at various times, not throughout the whole event. There were a number of occasions where senior officials from the department were involved in getting reports from the ECO.

Mr Douglas : On both evenings.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. The key events that happened throughout each night would have been relayed through that telephone communication back to departmental officers here in Canberra?

Mr Cormack : A summary of what was happening would. It was an unfolding situation, and we were obviously very keen to find out exactly what as going on and to take whatever action we needed to take.

Mr Douglas : That hook-up was a national process facilitated by G4S. It consisted of an update from the senior G4S officer of events that had transpired since the last phone call and then a planned course of action over the coming period together with an opportunity for participants to then ask questions. It had the ECO representatives on Manus and the equivalent representatives from their respective organisations based in Australia.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Including the department?

Mr Douglas : Including the department.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Were there any representatives from the minister's office involved in those phone calls?

Mr Cormack : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the updates to the minister via Mr Bowles were done in a separate conversation throughout that night.

Mr Cormack : There are a number of forms of communication that were in place. As the events unfolded particularly on the 17th. We provided a situation report at various times over the course of the 16th through to the 18th. That is a standard reporting arrangement, and I think we have provided that information to the Senate committee. There would also be verbal updates between the departmental officials involved in the teleconference with people on a need-to-know basis.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So there would have been departmental reps, including Mr Bowles, who knew within hours, if not minutes, that attacks on asylum seekers had happened inside the centre.

Mr Cormack : I would not say within minutes. I think it is really well covered in Cornall's report, and you have at your disposal the G4S log, which forms part of their submission. We were getting regular updates, but it would necessarily be within minutes of every significant event occurring.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But within hours?

Mr Cormack : Certainly for most of the significant events you would find out within hours, but I also would like to add that these are early reports of a live incident that are being relayed predominantly from IRT officers out there managing quite a significantly violent and volatile situation, radioing back to the ECO and then being fed up. So I think you will find with any incident like this that the full, accurate chronological details are not always readily apparent within minutes of an event occurring. I do not think this incident would be alone in experiencing that phenomenon. Again, I think Mr Cornall's report really identifies that. He certainly did a very detailed analysis of what happened, and I think one of his comments or conclusions was that there is still some dispute about aspects of individual incidents and injuries that were experienced and it is likely that some of the details of that will never be known.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sure, but the fact that attacks happened inside the compound was not a minor issue. People knew from that night while it was happening that that was what was occurring.

Mr Cormack : Certainly there were people who knew that was occurring, and I think it is well covered in Mr Cornall's report.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have a copy of the handwritten logs here, and it is definitely written in there as well.

Mr Douglas : It was very obvious too. The incident was unfolding with an exchange of rocks and other missiles between G4S officers and transferees, so it was clearly inside the boundary of the centre.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Cormack : I think who was doing what to whom and where people were coming from—was it from one compound to another, was it people going outside of one compound outside the centre, was it potentially people coming in—were certainly not facts that were clear and settled on the evening of the 17th. Indeed, precisely what had happened was not settled for a number of days. There were reports, and indeed there were conflicting reports.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Except that we knew that the attacks happened inside on the night. That is what we knew. Mr Douglas summed that up pretty well.

Mr Douglas : I am a little concerned that when we are talking about the attacks we are talking about the action occurring between the transferees and the G4S officers. That is the only thing we are talking about in terms of being clear about inside the centre. As Mr Cormack says—and I vividly remember through both evenings—there was a lot of confusion through what was a very significant event unfolding in a number of different ways through the night.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It seems as though the only person who was confused was the minister, when it took him five days to admit that this had happened inside the centre when on the night the logs that the department has—the G4S handwritten logs, the information via the phone calls, the information available in discussions amongst the emergency control organisation—show everybody knew it was going on inside the centre. The only person who seems confused is the minister.

Mr Douglas : There is a reference there to whether the police were involved from outside the centre or inside the centre. That was not clear through the night and remained unclear for several days. As Mr Cornall notes in his report, there are probably some elements of it that will remain unclear for some time—although yes, it was apparent, with time and in daylight, that some of that police action must have occurred inside.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Lieutenant General Campbell, when were you first informed that an incident was underway?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I was advised by Mr Bowles in the late evening of the 17th and then given an update by him progressively through the evening—through that night.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was your understanding that this violence was happening inside the centre?

Lt Gen. Campbell : It was unclear to me. I just want to add to what Mr Douglas has noted: there was transferee to transferee; G4S and other provider to transferee; external police to transferee; in or out—all of those things were not clear until the days following. So, when you have asked questions with regard to attacks or actions or events or disturbances inside the camp, it is really a matter of as it was analysed and understood, between which parties. That is where the key point emerges.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Perhaps it was not a very wise move of the minister to be so adamant on the first morning that asylum seekers were safe inside, then, if it was so unclear.

Lt Gen. Campbell : All I am speaking to is what I think were three—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Your knowledge.

Lt Gen. Campbell : updates to me from Mr Bowles. I am speaking from my own knowledge of circumstance, which is quite limited.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I accept that. Thank you. Could I move on. How many people have been sent to Manus Island since 18 February?

Mr Cormack : None.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why is that, Mr Cormack?

Mr Cormack : It was important to us that we gave the centre time to come back onto a more normal footing; also, we had the Nauru centre building in capacity. Most of the kind of ongoing infrastructure that was required—and indeed, probably better infrastructure—was available at Nauru, so we were able to manage any subsequent transfers to Nauru. Also, as part of our working closely with the PNG government, the PNG government were very keen to ensure their centre had time to recover. There was also a transfer of service provider from G4S to Transfield. Those arrangements have remained in place and, as Lt Gen Campbell mentioned early in the piece, we are starting to see some people exit from both Manus and Nauru for reasons of return and settlement.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So no-one has been transferred to Manus Island over the last five months since the event—since the incident?

Mr Cormack : There have possibly been people transferred back who were there previously. In fact, there would have been people transferred back to Manus who were from Manus, but there have not been any new arrivals.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No new arrivals into Manus Island. When do you ascertain that new transferees will be sent to Manus Island?

Mr Cormack : That is a matter we will work through with our colleagues in PNG and with the PNG government. Again, it is one of the many matters that the ministers will discuss when they have their regular forum.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So at the moment there is effectively a moratorium on sending people to Manus Island.

Mr Cormack : I have said to you that there have been no transfers since the event.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I just want to be clear: there needs to be a new agreement from PNG to send—

Mr Cormack : No, there does not need to be a new agreement. This goes back to an issue that I raised before. Every person that has transferred from the Australian mainland to Manus and to Nauru requires the specific individual approval of the PNG government. That is the arrangement that has been in place from the beginning. We do not need a new agreement; it is simply enacting the existing agreement between the PNG government and the Australian government.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You just said it is the topic of discussion in the meetings, to start those transfers again, so obviously—

Mr Cormack : No, I did not say that. I just said—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sorry, could you clarify, then?

Mr Cormack : A range of matters are discussed at the regular monthly meeting that include RSD, transfer numbers, infrastructure, contracts—all of those things. There is a standard range of issues that are covered and, no doubt, that one will be reported on or covered as part of the normal meeting procedure.

CHAIR: Mr Cornall informed the committee that he had received 270 feedback forms from asylum seekers giving accounts of the events as part of his review and that the forms are now held by the department. Is that right?

Mr Douglas : My recollection is that they have been passed back to Transfield Services for them to action individually.

Mr Cormack : That is right.

CHAIR: I am interested to know if a copy of those can be provided to the committee.

Mr Cormack : We will take that on notice.

CHAIR: I want to go to evidence in relation to some minutes of the operations meeting on 19 February at the Manus Island detention centre which were provided to the committee by the department. They note: 'DIBP, DFAT, the Australian High Commission and Defence visitors will arrive at the MIRPC today regarding the recent activity at the centre.' What was the purpose of those visits from those organisations or government agencies?

Mr Cormack : The purpose of those visits was to follow up and inquire into what had happened over the 16th to the 18th, to make an assessment of any actions that needed to be taken, to gain a better understanding of the extent of the incident and to put in place any responses that may be required by the department, by the Australian government, by the PNG government and by service providers.

CHAIR: Can you give us a bit more information about the role of DFAT, the Australian High Commission and Defence and what they did in the days after the incident?

Mr Cormack : This was a delegation. I have to say, it is not unusual that we have a delegation of that composition. In fact, it is quite regular to have a delegation of that composition that goes to Manus on a regular basis. DFAT is obviously from Post in Port Moresby. The Manus centre is occupied on a PNG defence facility and, therefore, the liaison role with the PNG defence force is a critical role. There is a defence attache from Post who travels there on a regular basis to maintain good relations and to assist with matters of a bilateral defence nature.

CHAIR: So that is not unusual. What was their role in the days following the incident on 16 to 18 February?

Mr Cormack : I outlined to you before what the role was, and I was part of that group. This was a very significant incident, as we are all aware. We went there to get a firsthand account of the impact of this incident and to assess any actions or new measures that needed to be put in place to manage the return of the centre to a normal footing, and also to liaise with our colleagues in the PNG government, which we did.

CHAIR: That was on 19 February, and I notice that the minutes from the same meeting note that the PNG Chief Migration Officer was on site and would meet with service provider heads. Does the PNG Chief Migration Officer regularly visit the centre?

Mr Cormack : Yes.

CHAIR: How regularly?

Mr Douglas : Under the Papua New Guinea Migration Act, he is the administrator.

CHAIR: Can you tell us how regularly? What does regularly mean?

Mr Cormack : I do not know his diary, but he is up there very frequently. He also has his own staff base there. He has the centre manager and another staff member there, plus staff members coming and going; so he would be there simply as the responsible, accountable administrator to make an appropriate and timely assessment—in the same way we had to for our government—for his government.

CHAIR: I am interested to know how many times he has visited the centre since July 2013.

Mr Cormack : I think you need to put that question. We do not keep his diary.

CHAIR: I understand. Is there any means by which you—the Australian DIBP—could ascertain that?

Mr Cormack : We are happy to take it on notice but it is really a matter for the PNG government. Their visits to their facilities are their business, Senator. We are happy to make an approach but at the end of the day how many PNG immigration staff visit PNG immigration centres is a matter for the PNG government.

CHAIR: I am asking about the Chief Migration Officer, not staff generally. I am asking about the principal official.

Mr Cormack : According to the RRA he is the administrator.

CHAIR: Yes, and that is why I am asking—because he is the administrator according to what you are saying.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Chair, you can understand that he may not particularly take that kindly—that a parliament of another nation is asking about his diary and his actions.

CHAIR: I am not asking that. I am not even clear that it would be necessary to ask about his diary. I would have thought there would be records held at the offshore processing centre.

Mr Cormack : It is his centre. He can go there whenever he wishes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That the Australian taxpayer funds.

Mr Cormack : We do not fund his position.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We fund everything in relation to this. You know that.

CHAIR: I will just make clear my request. If you want to take that on notice, Mr Cormack, and if the view is that there is some reason it would not be appropriate to pursue that information, then presumably you will provide that information to this committee.

Mr Cormack : Will do, Chair.

CHAIR: I am interested to know: were Department of Immigration and Border Protection officials present at the meetings between the CMO and service provider heads?

Mr Cormack : I cannot comment on that. I can certainly say that the delegation that is referred to in those minutes—we arrived as the CMO was leaving. However, he also interacts with departmental staff that are based at the centre—our departmental staff—and I cannot ascertain today whether he met with them. But he certainly would have met with the service providers as part of his administrative responsibilities.

CHAIR: Presumably you can take that on notice, because I am asking about department officials. Could you provide information, when you have taken that on notice, as to what was discussed at those meetings, if indeed he did meet with department officials?

Mr Cormack : I will take that on notice.

CHAIR: I want to ask now about the information or the evidence that was given by the Law Society of New South Wales to this inquiry. They argued that in order to safeguard against a repeat of the kind of incident that occurred in February, the Migration Act should be amended to ensure that regional processing countries must have effective procedures in place for assessing protection claims. I can repeat this if it is too layered, but I will go through it first of all. They are suggesting the Migration Act be amended to ensure that regional processing countries must have effective procedures in place for assessing protection claims, be able to provide protection to asylum seekers during and after the assessment of their claims and meet relevant human rights standards consistent with Australia's obligations under the ICCPR, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture.

Mr Cormack : What I would say to that is that it is a policy question. I think it is a fair policy question and I think it is one that should be addressed to the government.

CHAIR: I am actually going to ask you to take these policy questions on notice to put to the minister, because we do not have the minister here. I understand that I can ask you to do that. I will ask the following questions. What legal safeguards are currently in place under Australian law to protect the human rights of asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea?

Mr Cormack : I will take that on notice.

CHAIR: Thank you. What legal safeguards are currently in place under Papua New Guinean law to protect the human rights of asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea?

Mr Cormack : I will take that on notice.

CHAIR: Would the amendments proposed by the Law Society of New South Wales provide greater legal protection for asylum seekers?

Mr Cormack : I think that is a policy question.

CHAIR: So you will take that on notice?

Mr Cormack : Sure.

CHAIR: Thank you. Are such amendments necessary to ensure the human rights of asylum seekers are upheld? That may well be a policy question as well.

Mr Cormack : We will take that on notice.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I want to go back to the night of 17 February. Lyz Cruickshank from the Salvation Army, who was a member of the emergency control organisation on that night, in evidence to this committee stated:

I recall there being discussion about the mobile squad on the 17th February but I do not recall who made the final decision as to if and when the mobile squad would enter and effectively take over the OPC.

It was obviously discussed within the emergency control organisation, that group of people. Mr Douglas, you said earlier to us that the police and the mobile squad entering the centre was a decision of the PNG police. If was a decision of the PNG police, why was it being discussed by the emergency control organisation and the nature of that discussion?

Mr Cormack : Can I just respond to that? The Cornall report really covers off that issue as comprehensively, I think, as anybody can do. Having seen some of the evidence that has been presented here, I do not think we are any clearer, to be perfectly frank, about—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was it discussed by the emergency control organisation or not?

Mr Cormack : I would be surprised, Senator, if it was not discussed. But the issue of the mobile squad and their potential role, invited or uninvited, requested or unrequested, was not discussed. I would be very surprised if it was not, but I was not there for all of the ECO meetings and I have not seen all of the ECO minutes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you understand why as to whether they were invited in is important?

Mr Cormack : I do understand why it is important.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yet you are telling me that no-one can tell us whether they were invited or not?

Mr Cormack : It is clear from Mr Cornall's report—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No, it is not clear.

Mr Cormack : Could you just let me finish, please, Senator. It is clear from Mr Cornall's report that that matter remains a matter of significant dispute. That is what is clear. What is clear is that we are not entirely clear—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So what is the department's understanding?

Mr Cormack : We are accepting what Mr Cornall has said, because it is the best available analysis.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You had representatives in that organisation. You had representatives within that group that discussed this issue. You had members of our own department on telephone calls.

Mr Cormack : And they have been interviewed by Mr Cornall and their recollections are accurately reflected in this. Mr Cornall has come up with the conclusion that it is unclear—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Not much of a conclusion, is it?

Mr Cormack : I think it is a conclusion. It is a valid conclusion. It is not clear, because there does not appear to be sufficient evidence available that definitively says who invited or were they invited, at what time and by whom. That, I think, is relatively well laid out in the report. I do not have any further information that will satisfy the line of questioning that you are pursuing.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Cormack, that is different to what we have already been given today from Mr Douglas—sitting right next to you.

Mr Douglas : With respect, no it is not. My answer was in relation to whether or not the mobile squad chose to enter the centre in relation to policing matters to deal with the daily operation of the centre. My answer to your question was in no way reflective of what was transpiring on the night of 17 February.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. So the department does not have a view as to whether the police squad allowed themselves in or were invited in.

Mr Cormack : We accept the findings of the investigation report that was commissioned and we accept the findings that, whether invited or uninvited, it would seem pretty clear that the PNG mobile squad did enter the compound. That is about as definitive as we can be. We just cannot say if they were invited or not.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The reason that it is important, of course, is that, if you cannot ascertain whether they let themselves in or were invited in, who is to say it will not happen again?

Mr Cormack : What we have seen since the change of contractor from G4S to Transfield and Wilson Security to look after the security aspect under the contract is the establishment of a regularised form of engagement and coordination between the provincial police, the mobile squad, the in-centre security and the PNG defence base offices. Part of that work has led to the development of a formal protocol to deal specifically with the issue that you have just—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is that protocol finalised?

Mr Cormack : I believe it is finalised, but I am happy to take its status on notice. It outlines that, in the event of a similar incident or an incident that requires the intervention of the police beyond the capability of the security, there is a protocol for engagement, for handover, for hand back and for de-escalation. I think that is a very significant move forward. It is regrettable that that was not in place before the incident, but that is what has happened, and I think that is a very good outcome.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can we have a copy of that protocol tabled to the committee?

Mr Cormack : I will take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the protocol as it now stands and which, as you point out, it would have been helpful to have had five months ago is that the PNG police have to be invited in—or can they make their own decision?

Mr Cormack : The protocol has been worked through with the relevant stakeholders, and they have come to an agreement on how such a transfer of responsibility for managing a serious security incident is to be undertaken. I do not have it in front of me. It is a matter that I will take on notice, but they have formed an agreement on how such events, should they occur in the future, will be managed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But whose decision is it ultimately as to whether or not they go in?

Mr Cormack : At the end of the day, under the PNG legislation that governs the behaviour of the police—and this is covered in the Cornall report—police have a statutory responsibility to quell any sort of riot or civil unrest, as indeed do their citizens. It is a different arrangement from what we have in Australia, but certainly police have a specific responsibility to do that. I believe that the PNG police will abide by the legislative framework that governs their behaviour in those incidents. I think the important point is to ensure that, with that being known and clear, there is a regularised arrangement between the centre security, the provincial police and the mobile police to better coordinate and handle those incidents should they occur in the future.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Perhaps this is also a question for the lieutenant general. Has there been any change to the location of the generator in relation to power supply since the event?

Mr Douglas : I will take that on notice. Certainly we are constructing the logistics to take that well away. Some of the essential equipment has already been moved. Whether or not that includes all of the generator sets I am not too clear, so we will take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The power went out and the generator was on the other side of the road, outside the centre, and the only people between the centre and the power box were local PNG staff and local citizens.

Mr Cormack : They might have been. I am not sure who was there on the night. There could have been other people there; I do not know.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You would know because you have read the Cornall report.

Mr Cormack : I am not sure that the Cornall report definitively says, at any point in time, who was physically occupying the space between the external perimeter of the centre and the generator. I am happy to go back and have a look at that. I am not quite sure it goes to that level of specificity, but I am happy to investigate that for you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Douglas, you will take on notice whether or not those generators have moved location?

Mr Douglas : Yes, that is what I said.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Lieutenant-General, in terms of your security review, has the location of those generators been considered as part of that review?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Yes, it is part of the relocation of the logistics hub and, as with Mr Douglas and Mr Cormack, we are just not clear today which pieces of the hub have been progressively moved as that hub has been rebuilt elsewhere.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is the security of those generators an issue that you had identified prior to the incidents or is this something that occurred afterwards?

Lt Gen. Campbell : It has long been known—and certainly it was understood through our assessment work—by the department, well before Operation Sovereign Borders, that it was not an arrangement that we would like to see in the maturing of the centre. It is just a matter of being able to adjust the facilities layout and to extract the logistics hub, which is what is going on.

Mr Douglas : And moving such equipment, of course, is not trivial. Given that the centre operates within the confines of a working Defence Force base, simply deciding in a short space of time where it would go is also non-trivial. Then the site which was selected and agreed to was contested. It took some time to resolve that. That has been resolved and we are in the process of undertaking the movement of all the logistical equipment.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I go back to the issue of people being sent to Manus Island. When does the department envisage that women and children will be sent to Manus Island?

Mr Cormack : It is not part of the plan to do that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: At all? Is that a new change of policy?

Mr Cormack : No, it is not a new change of policy. What we have at the moment is a centre at Nauru which is designed and staffed for a mixture of families: families with children, unaccompanied minors and single adult males. The facility at Manus is for single adult males and there is no reason to change that configuration. We have options to deal with the likely transfer population within the configuration of the centres, and that is the way it is.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But previously it was the government's position that new facilities would be built on Manus Island to send women and children. Have they been shelved?

Mr Douglas : That is the facility at East Lorengau—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Douglas : There is no accommodation at Lombrum and East Lorengau is not completed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. Is that construction still happening or has it been put on hold?

Mr Douglas : Construction is still occurring.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And that will take women and children?

Mr Douglas : I think Mr Cormack has given the answer.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There seems to be confusion.

Mr Douglas : No, there is no confusion. There is accommodation suitable for families, unaccompanied minors and single adult men in Nauru. There is accommodation available for single adult men in Manus at present. That is the situation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, I understand that and that is why I am asking: in the future, when will women and children be sent to Manus Island?

Mr Cormack : There are no plans to send women or children to Manus Island.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why are we constructing a new detention facility, then?

Mr Cormack : We are constructing a new facility there, a permanent facility, consistent with the settlement requirements and the processing requirements that are in place with the PNG government. They do not include the need to have women or children there.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So once that construction is finished, women and children will no longer go there?

Mr Cormack : They have not been going there for quite some time, Senator.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I know they have not, but what I am saying is that the government has put to us, publicly, that the new facilities on Manus Island would be used to house women and children. Either they are—either that is the current situation or it is not.

Mr Douglas : No, Senator. The government statement said that the new facility at Manus, being constructed at East Lorengau, would be suitable to accommodate families.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Oh, suitable to accommodate women and children.

Mr Douglas : They did not say it will be used to transfer families.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why would it need to be suitable for women and children if women and children were not going to be sent there?

Mr Douglas : I covered this off in an earlier response. Dormitory-style accommodation is not suitable to accommodate families. Accommodation which is shared is suitable to accommodate families. The accommodation that is being constructed at East Lorengau is in a shape that could be used to accommodate families. It could also be used to accommodate single men.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It could be used—but you are telling me it will not be used.

Mr Cormack : We are saying there are no plans—for the third time—in place to transfer women and children to Manus.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When will the construction at East Lorengau finish?

Mr Cormack : Probably towards the end of this calendar year.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And what will the capacity be?

Mr Cormack : We envisage the capacity will be sufficient for our requirements and we are not necessarily specifying any capacity upper limit.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Just so I am clear, that accommodation will be used for people who have been given visas by the PNG government.

Mr Cormack : As I mentioned earlier, the PNG government policy for settlement is a matter that is under active consideration, or will soon be under active consideration, by the PNG government. Once that consideration has been given and a decision has been made, then we will be looking to accommodate that policy within the infrastructure that we have and, also, with the future plans the PNG government may have for settlement. That is really all we can say on that at this point in time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Let’s move on. I am sure, Mr Cormack and Mr Douglas, you would be aware of evidence given to this committee by two young Salvation Army workers who both spoke very eloquently to this committee about their experiences working both on Nauru and on Manus Island. What is the department's view of the employment of individuals to work inside the detention centres offshore—people who have no qualifications for the work they are doing?

Mr Cormack : Under the contracts between the department, G4S and the Salvation Army, it was the responsibility of the service providers to ensure that staff were appropriately recruited, skilled, qualified and trained. We expect all of our service providers to meet their contractual obligations and we make every effort to ensure that our expectations are clear to service providers.

We were certainly very concerned to hear the accounts that were given here that the Salvation Army staff allegedly recruited people who were not properly assessed, according to the evidence that was given. Again, according to the evidence that was given, they were assigned tasks for which they were not qualified. It was unacceptable from the department's point of view and if we were aware of that behaviour going on with any of our current service providers, we would certainly bring to their attention the requirements under the Commonwealth contracts, and we would be requesting that any staff that they engaged were appropriately qualified for the job they undertake. But it is also the responsibility of the employer to make those necessary arrangements.

I have no reason to question or doubt the evidence that was given by those two young people except to say that if all that evidence is completely correct and accurate—as I said, I have no reason to doubt that it is not—our contracts would not allow for that sort of employment practice to be undertaken. If it did happen the way it was described, it is regrettable that it did.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is not the only evidence we received in relation to those types of recruitment practices. There has been a number of submissions to this inquiry that say very similar things.

Mr Douglas : I might also make the point that there were a number of occasions and continue to be number of occasions where staff of service providers have had their commitments terminated early and been asked to return to their place of residence.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It was extraordinary to hear from these young guys as young as 21 going from Maccas to Manus, effectively, after seeing an ad for the job advertised on Facebook. I keep hearing that the department has quite a number of media staff these days that monitor social media. There are something like 70 people are in the department to do this type of monitoring. Why was it not picked up?

Mr Cormack : I cannot say why it was not picked up. What I can say is that from time to time with contracts in our detention onshore and offshore, community detention, community providers, we received reports of either inappropriate behaviour or inadequate training amongst staff of service providers. When it comes to our attention, we bring that to the attention of the service providers. On a number of occasions that has resulted in the termination of those staff members. That is our normal practice. It did not happen in this instance, as I have acknowledged, and that is regrettable.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is the department doing to review those practices? If this is a requirement of the contract of all your service providers, surely this incident has highlighted that there is a lack of due diligence in those contracts being met. What is the department doing since we have heard this evidence?

Mr Cormack : The department has a very active program of compliance and monitoring of the performance of its contractors. We have annual contract value in this group of over $2-billion worth of contracted services. We have a suitably qualified and diligent group of contract managers and contract authorities to monitor this stuff very closely. I do not think in any environment, whether are directly employing people whether you are contracting out, that you can completely avoid the possibility of inappropriate behaviour or untrained staff on occasion doing what they should not to. We find it unacceptable, we have a good solid monitoring process in place and these sorts of incidents—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is obviously not thorough enough.

Mr Cormack : I just said to you, you can just cannot guarantee 100 per cent in any contract that there will not be departures from expectations on occasions. I am not denying that this has happened. I said that it is regrettable if it did happen that it did happen.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you requested from the current service providers information on the training and appropriate recruitment of all current staff at Manus Island and Nauru?

Mr Cormack : I will take that on notice and I will give you some additional advice on the mechanisms that we have in place to manage the performance of contractors.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Senator Reynolds, you have a question?

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. I have one final question. I understand an investigation Comcare did on the time frames surrounding the incident has been the subject of some discussion and a question on notice. Can I confirm two things with you. First of all, Comcare found that there was no breach of any Australian workplace health and safety guidelines or legislation, and that the death and the injuries were caused by criminal activities not by anything that could come under the act? Is that correct?

Mr Cormack : I can confirm that. There were no breaches of the Workplace Relations Act, and the department provided a safe workplace as far as reasonably practicable.

Senator REYNOLDS: What is the engagement between Comcare and the department in relation to Manus Island and any of the other centres?

Mr Douglas : Any situation which Australian government funding is involved in obliges both the department involved and its contracted service providers to be bound by the Work Health and Safety Act. Consequently, as the regulator, Comcare has a responsibility to ensure the departments comply with those obligations.

Senator REYNOLDS: Given that Comcare found that the department was compliant over that period of time in question, have there been any other concerns by Comcare subsequent to that? Or does that still stand that they are happy?

Mr Douglas : From my recollection, Comcare made at least two visits to both Manus Island and Nauru as part of its regular monitoring program of compliance work. The specific reference that Mr Cormack has made was obviously an investigation done specifically into the incident surrounding the evening of 16, 17 and 18 February.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. Back to you, Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I want to ask about payment for returns. Firstly, do you have the numbers of people who have returned back to their home country since 18 February?

Mr Cormack : I do not have the figures for that specific period. But I can give you the overall figures for last financial year and up until 9 July.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would appreciate it if you could. But I would appreciate if you could take on notice for those specifics.

Mr Cormack : There have been 317 transferees who have returned home as at 9 July 2014.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have a breakdown of what countries they have returned to?

Mr Cormack : It is: 245 to Iran; 27 to Iraq; 17 to Lebanon; 15 to Vietnam; four to Bangladesh; three to India; two to Pakistan; two to Sri Lanka; and two to Sudan.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. How much money has been spent paying people to return home?

Mr Cormack : I will take that on notice. I think that is probably the best way to address that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are there different amounts—

Mr Cormack : Yes, there are.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: to incentivise people to return home?

Mr Cormack : Yes. The amount of assistance is in accordance with a calculation that is made in relation to the GDP per capita in the country of return. So there is a sliding scale based on that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have those amounts been increased in the last five months?

Mr Cormack : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When was that decision made to increase the amount of money?

Mr Cormack : The decision was taken around about the end of March, I think, and implemented at the end of May.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What was the rationale for the increase?

Mr Cormack : The rationale for the increase was really to ensure that there was no barrier to people who had voluntarily put their hands up to return to their country.

In some cases that barrier was support, once they got back in the country, to re-establish themselves. In some cases it was supporting family activities when they got back there. In some cases it was to help them get back into the workforce or business. A whole range of factors weigh on people's minds when they want to go back. This program is delivered by the International Organization for Migration. We work closely with them in the design; they actually manage the delivery of the program.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there any truth to the allegation that the increase in money for returns has been given a time frame of until 19 July?

Mr Cormack : I am not aware of that. There are a lot of rumours circulating.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is why I am asking.

Mr Cormack : I suspect that is a rumour. July 19 has significance for many people, as you could appreciate, Senator, but that is not what this policy sees.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You are not aware of any expiry date for the amount of money people are being offered to return home at the moment?

Mr Cormack : I am not. This is a new government measure and obviously, as with any government measure, it is subject to the normal processes of evaluation, but—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sure. But it is not a programmed expiry date.

Mr Cormack : No.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Excuse me, Senator. I think at one stage you indicated 'to incentivise return'. It is really important to note these are voluntary returns. The variations that Mr Cormack has been speaking of are to better reflect the economic circumstances of persons returned; they are not to encourage return.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What kind of money are we talking about? How much would you be paid to return to Iraq?

Mr Cormack : I will take that on notice. It varies from country to country and it is not just like a dollop of cash. It is a package that supports people who wish to go back. It is getting ready for return. It is supporting their air travel and their accommodation, plus some in-country support and support for their families. It is quite a comprehensive package and the best thing we can do is take that on notice and give you the details of it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is IOM still facilitating returns to Iraq on behalf of the government?

Mr Cormack : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When did that stop?

Mr Cormack : I cannot say the precise date, but pretty recently.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Recently, with the troubles.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. Have there been any returns to Syria?

Mr Cormack : They are not on my list. I cannot recall any returns to Syria, but I will make sure. Certainly IOM does not offer any kind of support in Syria, as I understand it. I will confirm that for you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They are not offering any support—they are not facilitating returns to Iraq. Is the Australian government doing that itself?

Mr Cormack : I will take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you also take on notice how many people have been returned to Iraq from Manus Island and Nauru in the past month.

Mr Cormack : Sure. I can take that on notice.

CHAIR: I might just ask you, while we are talking about voluntary returns: the committee heard that asylum seekers removed from suspected illegal entry vessels and taken to Christmas Island have been required to sign a voluntary statement prior to their transfer to Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. That was evidence that was given during the course of the inquiry.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Excuse me, Chair. To what purpose is that statement?

CHAIR: That is what I am interested to find out. It was described as a voluntary statement prior to their transfer to Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, and the evidence was given by Mr Pynt of Humanitarian Research Partners. He said he understood some of the asylum seekers had not been able to understand the nature of the form and so had written on it, 'I do not understand this form.' I am interested in asking Mr Cormack if he is aware—

Mr Cormack : There are two points. It is not voluntary, that people say, 'No, I won't go to Manus or Nauru.' It is not government policy to give people that choice.

CHAIR: No. I am interested in knowing—

Mr Cormack : So, as to the notion of a document that reflects a choice—it would be a bit inconsistent with government policy.

CHAIR: I am interested in asking whether or not there is a document that people are required to sign before transfer from Christmas Island to Manus Island.

Mr Cormack : I will take that on notice and provide for you any documentation that transferees are required to sign prior to transfer.

CHAIR: Thank you. Could you then take on notice if there is such a document that may fall within that—obviously, I do not know—

Mr Cormack : I would be surprised. If it is as you have described, it would not be consistent with government policy, because we do not give people a choice.

CHAIR: The description to us was 'voluntary', but it may be that there is a document that—

Mr Cormack : Looks like that—

CHAIR: is analogous, or similar, and, in that case, I would be interested to know the legal standing of the document. Is it in English or is it translated? Is there any legal advice provided before the signing of the document?

Mr Cormack : We will check that out for you.

CHAIR: Could you do that. Thank you. We are actually—unfortunately, perhaps, from our point of view, though perhaps not from your point of view; you have worked hard today, Mr Cormack, Mr Douglas and Lieutenant General Campbell, in terms of lots of questions—at the end of the hearing now. So thank you very much for your attendance today. With that, the hearing is adjourned.

Committee adjourned at 16:01 .