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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
SUSTAINABILITY, ENVIRONMENT, WATER, POPULATION AND COMMUNITIES PORTFOLIO
Bureau of Meteorology
- Committee Name
Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
Birmingham, Sen Simon
Bilyk, Sen Catryna
Macdonald, Sen Ian
Boswell, Sen Ronald
Waters, Sen Larissa
Heffernan, Sen Bill
Siewert, Sen Rachel
Whish-Wilson, Sen Peter
McKenzie, Sen Bridget
Ludlam, Sen Scott
Farrell, Sen Don
Conroy, Sen Stephen
- Sub program
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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
(Senate-Monday, 15 October 2012)
CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY PORTFOLIO
Clean Energy Regulator
Climate Change Authority
Senator IAN MACDONALD
- Clean Energy Regulator
SUSTAINABILITY, ENVIRONMENT, WATER, POPULATION AND COMMUNITIES PORTFOLIO
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Bureau of Meteorology
Senator IAN MACDONALD
- Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
- CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY PORTFOLIO
Content WindowEnvironment and Communications Legislation Committee - 15/10/2012 - Estimates - SUSTAINABILITY, ENVIRONMENT, WATER, POPULATION AND COMMUNITIES PORTFOLIO - Bureau of Meteorology
Bureau of Meteorology
CHAIR: I now call on the Bureau of Meteorology.
Senator Farrell: Chair, I just indicate that Dr Greg Ayers has resigned for health reasons from the bureau. On behalf of the government, I formally wish him all the best and note that Dr Rob Vertessy has now taken on that role and has been officially appointed by me to that position. I congratulate Dr Vertessy on that appointment.
CHAIR: Thanks for that. On behalf of the committee, could we have you express our best wishes to Dr Ayers in his retirement and wish him well in his health. I think that would be agreed across the committee. If you could do that, thank you.
Senator Farrell: Thank you. I shall do that, Chair.
CHAIR: Thank you. Dr Vertessy, congratulations and welcome to estimates. You are an old hand at this, so I expect nothing but the best.
Dr Vertessy : Thank you, Chair.
CHAIR: Would you like to make an opening statement?
Dr Vertessy : No, thank you.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: On behalf of the opposition, I echo the remarks that have been made and the sentiments that have been expressed already.
Can I go firstly and quickly to the issue of the Tennant Creek radar facility. I understand that this facility has been decommissioned?
Dr Vertessy : That is correct, yes.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Is this the only such facility in Australia to be decommissioned, or is it part of a series of facilities being cut out?
Dr Vertessy : No, we have also announced our intention to close the Eucla radar on the South Australian-Western Australian border.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: What are the consequences of closing the Tennant Creek and Eucla facilities?
Dr Vertessy : Very little in both instances. In both cases, the radars were used for wind finding. That is to determine the upper air wind profiles. This was traditionally done by releasing balloons and then using the radar as an instrument to track the movement of the balloon. We have since installed wind profilers at these two sites, which produce vastly superior information on the upper air winds, and therefore the radars are actually surplus to requirement. They had also approached their end of life, and we deemed that it was not cost-effective to replace them, particularly given that we were now harvesting superior data through wind profiler technology.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Is there any information that is actually lost through the closure of these facilities?
Dr Vertessy : Yes. Certainly the Tennant Creek radar and possibly the Eucla one—I will get confirmation from my colleagues in a moment—were used occasionally in a dual mode, weather watch as well as wind finding, so it was possible to see rain on those radars as well. That is a downside of closing those facilities. Was Eucla used for weather watch as well? I will pass to Dr Ray Canterford here for a moment.
Dr Canterford : Yes, as Dr Vertessy said, the radars were used, when they were not being used for wind finding, for weather watch capability.
As Dr Vertessy mentioned, the performance of the radars was problematic because of their age and we were in the process, as normal routine, of changing equipment, in particular for Tennant Creek. The wind profiler there gives us a 24-hour regular update of low-level wind information, which is important for aviation, and this is the sort of technology which is being used in other countries as well.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: However, the Weather Watch service means that the capacity to monitor rain or storms in those two regions in that nature is now lost. Is that correct?
Dr Vertessy : It is diminished somewhat, but I would say that these are areas not noted for heavy rainfall and storms. These are pretty dry areas.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: They like to watch it and know about it when it is coming though.
Dr Vertessy : Yes. What I would say though is that the superior information that we are getting on upper air winds is going to improve our weather forecasts greatly, so there is much more upside that there is downside in the change in the technology that we are putting in at these sites.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: What consultation was had with the local communities or local users of services prior to the closure decisions?
Dr Vertessy : We announced our intention through a service change on the bureau website in early October.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: But early October is not that long ago. It is now mid-October, so in effect there was no consultation—you just announced the decision.
Dr Vertessy : That is correct, Senator.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Has there been feedback or an opportunity for you to provide some explanation of the decision to these communities and try to provide them with the reassurance that their standard of services will not be diminished since your announcement.
Dr Vertessy : I am not aware of any communication on the Eucla issue. I am aware of some communication with the Regional Aviation Association. We have had some correspondence from them and we have been discussing the issue with them.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: For locals on properties who might have relied on these services and who may be concerned at their closure, what information has been provided directly to them to reassure them, as you have sought to reassure us tonight, that the replacement information is in fact superior.
Dr Vertessy : I might throw to you if I may, Dr Canterford.
Dr Canterford : There has been information placed, as Dr Vertessy said, on our website, which provides alternate information that is available. It describes the new technology that is being placed there at the same time. I know there has been personal consultation with some members of those two communities as well.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Are there local employment impacts from these decisions?
Dr Vertessy : At each of Tennant Creek and Eucla, one observer is being redeployed to an alternative site. Those employees are not losing their jobs, but they are moving to another site. There is one less bureau employee at each of those sites. That is the impact.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Have any bureau employees been maintained at those sites after the change?
Dr Vertessy : No. Both of them are now just automated stations. They will be visited periodically and we have engaged contract observers in the region to make periodic measurements.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: So, one less bureau employee at each of those sites effectively means the closure of the bureau at each of those sites.
Dr Vertessy : That is correct, Senator. If I could just clarify that: the sites are not closed. We need to be clear about that. The sites remain open. We continue to run automated instrumentation at those sites. They will continue to be visited, but we just are not housing staff at those sites. They are not being closed.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: The sites themselves are not being closed. The equipment stays and a different regime of monitoring is maintained, but the physical presence is no more.
Dr Vertessy : That is correct. And may I say that this is part of a very continuous and long-term process in which the bureau is progressively automating its observations. We are getting much, much more information through instruments than we are through having observers based on the ground making manual measurements.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I am not sure what the impact of moving one person out of Eucla would be to the population, but I suspect it would be quite significant. It would be a very significant proportion of the population, I suspect. Are there any facilities other than these types of radar facilities that are currently earmarked for closure or change in similar ways?
Dr Vertessy : We have no plans at this stage.
Senator BILYK: At last estimates, I asked some questions about how the new Mount Koonya Doppler radar was going. It had only just been launched—I think it was in April. I am just wondering if there is any information there you can update the committee on.
Dr Vertessy : I might throw to Dr Ray Canterford.
Dr Canterford : I have been in discussions with our head of forecasting in Tasmania, and he and forecasting staff have told me, and I am aware, that the new radar is an excellent improvement to our current services. They are able to detect thunderstorms that are affecting the Hobart area, out to the west, and the fact that it is a Dopplerised radar means they can actually track wind changes. It is a modern radar that can track wind changes, which helps with fire weather forecasting, of course.
Senator BILYK: Do you get information from that about the upcoming summer season—expectations and things like that? Does it help you predict anything like that or is it just used for day-to-day activity?
Dr Canterford : It is part of an overarching project which does have a science component as well. The scientists are going to be inputting this radar data in real time into our numerical models, in what is called a rapid update cycle, to look at improving our severe weather forecasting several days out. So it does have a benefit on that side as well. That is in development. That is part of our overall project to look at improving our severe weather modelling.
Senator BILYK: In regard to being able to maybe predict the future, does the bureau expect there might be an El Nino this year?
Dr Vertessy : We are hovering around the threshold. Our perspective at the moment is that we are now less likely to enter an El Nino than likely. We are very much at threshold conditions. The Americans are not calling an El Nino yet. The Japanese have. They have gone with a slightly different method to us. In any case, it looks unlikely it will manifest as a significant El Nino event anyway.
Senator BILYK: I have a couple of questions on the Atlas of Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems. First of all, can you just very quickly, in a minute, explain to us what it does and what use it is to the general public. Can people access this information on their mobile phones or whatever?
Dr Vertessy : You could access it on a mobile phone, but it is better to view on a web page on a computer, because of the nature of the application. Basically it is an online mapping application that shows where most of Australia's groundwater dependent ecosystems are. That is things like wetlands, springs, caves and rivers—any kind of ecosystem that intersects with the groundwater and might be dependent on groundwater for its survival. We have gone through a very systematic process of identifying all of those ecosystems around the country and mapping them in a dynamic web system. So you can search by groundwater dependent ecosystem type or by location. You can find the asset and you can then get a whole lot of information on the nature of that asset—what kind of groundwater system it is intersecting with and so on. That was launched just in September and we have been getting pretty good feedback on it so far.
Senator BILYK: People can look at it and get information, but you obviously receive information from it as well. What is the idea behind that?
Dr Vertessy : It is chiefly to be used in planning work and would probably also be useful in development approvals—anywhere where, say, development intervention relied on groundwater, this would be a useful information source to help those planning to understand what the impacts might be on groundwater. We have gone that step of making it freely available to the public because one of our objectives is to really enhance public understanding of Australia's water resources.
Senator BILYK: I know it was only launched recently, but are you able to tell at all how much local government use there has been?
Dr Vertessy : No, I do not have that data to hand. We do systematically monitor the number of hits on these pages and who uses them, but it is too early to say anything about that particular application yet.
Senator BILYK: Okay, thanks.
CHAIR: Dr Vertessy, there has been ongoing publicity in relation to global warming. It seems to be unending. Is there any scientific evidence that you are aware of since the State of the climate publication from BOM that would lead you to believe that most of the surface global warming observed since the mid-20th century is not due to anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gas?
Dr Vertessy : No.
CHAIR: So the fundamentals are still absolutely the same in terms of the signs?
Dr Vertessy : Yes. That view, I believe, of the scientific evidence is very, very solid on that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Perhaps I can start with Mr Grimes.
Dr Grimes : Dr Grimes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Sorry, Dr Grimes. Is the bureau playing its part in the efficiency dividend?
Dr Grimes : Yes, the efficiency dividend also applies to the Bureau of Meteorology. Dr Vertessy may be able to answer in more detail questions on that, but the efficiency dividend applies to the BOM as well.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: What does it mean in cash terms, Dr Vertessy? First of all, congratulations on your appointment. I am sorry to lose you out of the land and water area but I guess you will be there around the edges and in spirit anyhow. Congratulations though.
Dr Vertessy : Thank you very much, Senator. Sorry, your question to me was?
Senator IAN MACDONALD: What does the efficiency dividend mean to the bureau in cash terms?
Dr Vertessy : Are you here referring to those additional efficiency dividends announced last year in the Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook?
Dr Vertessy : They equate to a reduction of $5.3 million in our operating budget.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: What is your operating budget?
Dr Vertessy : It is $300 million.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So it is $5.3 million out of $300 million.
Dr Vertessy : There is also $10.45 million from our departmental capital budget.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Which is?
Dr Vertessy : That was in the order of $70 million and is now 20 per cent less, as it is across the Public Service for departmental capital budgets. For us, that equated to a $10.45 million reduction.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: In capital works?
Dr Vertessy : In our capital budget, yes. That would include buying kit, replacing kit, doing the installation of it, maybe building—any capital asset, basically.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: That impacts on your 2012-13 budget. Is that right?
Dr Vertessy : That is correct.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: How are you going to address both of those? What savings can you make?
Dr Vertessy : We have made a series of adjustments into our budget in the year ahead. Things like Eucla and Tennant Creek are obviously part of our response. We are seeking efficiencies in our property operating expenditure and a number of other kinds of things.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So apart from the one person at Tennant Creek and the one person down on the border of South Australia and Western Australia, the name of which place I did not quite get—
Senator Farrell: Eucla, where the Nullarbor Nymph was spotted some years ago.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you.
CHAIR: Is that like the Penrith black panther?
Senator Farrell: I do not think there is any connection.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Apart from those two persons what other staff cuts are you looking at?
Dr Vertessy : We are not cutting staff per se.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: You are just not replacing retired people.
Dr Vertessy : That is correct, yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: How did I know that?
Dr Vertessy : When you have to adjust a budget it is the most graceful way to do it. We are working patiently and diligently to make sure we keep our staff numbers within our available budget—as we do every year, I might add.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Will that have an impact? Hopefully, people in Townsville, Cairns, Rockhampton, Mount Isa, Darwin and Kununurra are healthy and not old so that they are not retiring, and their departure will not need to be not replaced—a double negative.
Dr Vertessy : No specific geographic areas are targeted.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: But does that mean that if someone from, for example, Townsville leaves they may not be replaced?
Dr Vertessy : That may be the case, yes.
CHAIR: Thanks, Dr Vertessy. I now call officers from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Welcome, Dr Reichelt. Would you like to make an opening statement?
Dr Reichelt : No, thanks.
CHAIR: I invite questions.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: It may be that you need to get one of your officials to work on this and come back to us with the information, but are you able to provide a breakdown in spending on the crown-of-thorns eradication activities as to how much is spent on removal and eradication activities versus how much is spent on research into crown-of-thorns problems and potential eradication opportunities?
Dr Reichelt : My colleagues can correct me if I am wrong, but in terms of federal funding in recent years $1.4 million was allocated through the federal minister in June, with $300,000 through the National Environmental Research Program for research. Those are the areas I am familiar with for Commonwealth spending. There are university programs and students also working but I do not have the precise figures. Does that give you what you want to know?
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I am just trying to get a clear fix. You indicated $300,000 for research. Of the $1.4 million how much—
Dr Reichelt : That was in addition to the $1.4 million.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Is the $1.4 million all research funding or does some of that go into eradication programs?
Dr Reichelt : That is virtually all eradication. It is putting a boat with 15 divers into the field with up to 8,000 starfish.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: And that funding lasts until when?
Dr Reichelt : Close to the end of the financial year, perhaps slightly over.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Beyond that, is there any funding within your ongoing resources to be able to fund eradication works?
Dr Reichelt : Those are the only resources allocated at the moment.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: So when that runs out around June next year that is it, unless further funds are provided.
Dr Reichelt : Yes.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I know my geographically based colleagues have some questions. If the Reef Rescue funding to reduce run-off from cane farms is not refunded or ongoing what impact would that have?
Dr Reichelt : The status of that funding for the marine park authority is $4 million due to expire at the end of June 2013. It is $2 million for marine monitoring and $2 million for the Indigenous partnerships program, currently approved through to the end of this financial year.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: And the impact of that coming to an end?
Dr Reichelt : Subject to forward decisions by government which I cannot comment on, those funds are currently used for a program with eight staff, 10 staff, who are working on traditional use marine resource agreements along the coast and $2 million allocated to monitoring the marine environment program that is largely delivered through Australia's Institute of Marine Science but some other institutions for assessing water quality at the river mouths.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Are you subject to the efficiency dividend?
Dr Reichelt : Yes, we are.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: What has it meant in cash terms to you for the current financial year?
Dr Reichelt : In the current financial year the figures were $485,000, which was reallocated from our budget to the department and the department met that cost for us.
Dr Grimes : It may be worth clarifying that Dr Reichelt is right, the efficiency dividend applies to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. At the last budget the additional efficiency dividend that was applied at that budget was absorbed by the department on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's behalf. So it was an efficiency cut applying to the department rather than to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: That was for the last financial year.
Dr Grimes : Yes, and for the additional efficiency dividend. For the last budget, for the 2012-13 budget that is applying in this financial year.
CHAIR: I think a lot of people are straining to hear. Could I ask Broadcasting if we could put the mikes up a little bit to see how it goes. I notice people are straining. Thank you, Broadcasting.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Dr Reichelt, I take it from what you said that you are $485,000 worse off, that it has gone to the department but you do not have the use of it.
Dr Grimes : No, Senator, the situation is that the additional efficiency dividend was borne by the department rather than by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Dr Reichelt is referring to the ongoing efficiency dividends which would apply to GBRMPA but the additional efficiency dividend was absorbed by the department. So the department had to find the financial impact so that it was delivered to the budget as a whole without the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority having to find that additional efficiency.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Okay. Dr Reichelt, you have got $485,000 less to use this year than you thought you would have. Is that correct?
Dr Reichelt : No, Senator. The funds that would have come out had the department not borne the costs of that dividend we did not lose. In a sense our budget was not reduced by the $485,000 because of what the secretary has explained, that they met the cost for us essentially.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So you have not had to offload any staff or cut back on any programs?
Dr Reichelt : No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So everything this year is what you were spending last year.
Mr Elliot : Our resources for this financial year as per the portfolio budget statement are approximately $1.2 million less than last financial year but we have had a reduction in the capital moneys provided for the refurbishments in the Reef HQ aquarium of $1.9 million finished at the end of last financial year. As you can tell, we have actually had a slight net increase in resources once you make the adjustment for that capital.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So your operating costs and your capital refurbishment of the Reef HQ come out of the same bundle of money, do they?
Mr Elliot : The money for Reef HQ refurbishment was a two-year funding with a total of $3.8 million specifically for refurbishing Reef HQ.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So your operating costs you say you got a slight increase because you are not using the 1.9 million.
Mr Elliot : The comparison I gave was our total resourcing between one year and the next. So we actually had a slight increase in our operating resources.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: And for staff that are paid full-time equivalents, how is the authority going?
Mr Elliot : As at 30 September, we had 219 full-time equivalents. That compares with the same period last year of 225 full-time equivalents. As you can tell, this is a slight reduction. Our staffing figures have gone up and down over the years largely in response to additional moneys that we have been given, as opposed to the core staffing numbers.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Is the crown-of-thorns starfish program, that Senator Birmingham mentioned, principally run, organised, directed or project managed by you?
Dr Reichelt : The funds allocated for its eradication?
Dr Reichelt : Yes, we contracted it out to Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators based in Cairns to do the bulk of the fieldwork, but we are accounting for the funds and auditing the progress.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So how does the reef tax now impact upon your funding or not at all these days?
Dr Reichelt : There was a reduction in the overall levy last year, but the government increased our funding to ensure there was no impact on our budget to match the amount that it was reduced by.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Is it still dependent upon tourist numbers?
Dr Reichelt : Yes, it is.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Is the government picking up any shortfall—or is there a shortfall; do you know that?
Dr Reichelt : The overall picture is one of decline, as you know, over a number of years, but there is no shortfall caused by the change in levy.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: No, the change in numbers.
Mr Elliot : Last financial year the visitation numbers were very similar to the year before. From a revenue perspective we received approximately $200, 000 more than our forecasts, and our forecasts were based on the visitation numbers of the year before. There has been a decline in visitor numbers since the global financial crisis, so they have not yet rebounded to the pre-GFC figures—they are still depressed.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: How long does the reduction in the reef tax last that the government picked up the tab for?
Mr Elliot : That lasts for three years from 1 April this year.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So you will be getting that supplementary funding for the next three years, including the current one?
Mr Elliot : Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you have new responsibilities, should the bioregional plan of the Coral Sea be adopted in its current form? Does that involve you in additional work or involvement? Do you have a part in that?
Dr Reichelt : At this stage, no, we are not involved in any forward planning beyond the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. That would be a matter for future decisions by government, I imagine, but we are not involved.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I saw some news reports that it was being suggested that you should be in charge of the Coral Sea as well as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Did you see that as well?
Dr Reichelt : I have seen the speculation. My advice here is that there is no decision or plan inside the marine park authority that has been initiated to take on the function. It is a matter of forward decisions by the government.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: You contribute to surveillance and enforcement in the marine park—is that correct?
Dr Reichelt : Yes, we do. We are considerably assisted by Border Protection, Customs and other agencies. Our capacity is quite reliant on those other capacities.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: On notice, rather than take the time now—which is rather limited—could I get you to again indicate what your current financial year forecast or budgeting is for surveillance and enforcement, and where those funds come from? I understand that Queensland makes some contribution—is that correct?
Dr Reichelt : Yes, that is correct.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Is there any suggestion that that will change in the Queensland budget at all?
Dr Reichelt : The forecast projections for this year were in the Queensland budget papers.
CHAIR: A number of senators want to ask questions, so I am going to have to ask you to wind up asking your questions.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes, that is why I put that one on notice.
Senator BOSWELL: The PNAS are stating claims alarmingly that since 1985 coral colour on the Great Barrier Reef has halved from 28 to 13.8 per cent, and that 48, 42 and 10 per cent of the loss—100 per cent in total—has been due to tropical cyclones, coral predation by crown of thorns and coral bleaching respectively. Would you say whether you agree with those things?
Dr Reichelt : Yes, I am familiar with the study and the methods they use and the assessment of the causes of those methods—I would agree with it.
Senator BOSWELL: You are committed to through your research and actions to get rid of the crown of thorns. How do you do that—just dive for it, pick it up and throw it away?
Dr Reichelt : It used to be that way. Now it is injection with a harmless pool chemical type product no longer used: copper sulphate. It is very diver-intensive, labour-intensive, and I know research is underway to see if that can be done more quickly.
Senator BOSWELL: I have a number of other questions I will put on notice.
Senator WATERS: I have a number of questions I want to ask. I am hoping that I will have time to get through them. First of all—
CHAIR: It depends on how many there are.
Senator WATERS: I am ever the optimist. I want to start with the UNESCO recommendations. Does GBRMPA agree with UNESCO that:
… the development of new ports or other types of large infrastructure, ahead of addressing demand through strategic planning and management within the existing port facilities would create a significant and largely irreversible negative impact on the—
overall universal value of the reef world heritage area.
Dr Reichelt : The discussions around ports and interpreting UNESCO's intentions really falls into the province of the department rather than the authority; however, we read the decisions and the report from the UNESCO mission. We are cooperating to our fullest extent with the government's response, most importantly, through the strategic assessment. But on your question of decisions around ports, they are questions for the minister and the international position is one developed by the department for the government.
Senator WATERS: My question was: does GBRMPA agree with that statement from UNESCO?
Dr Reichelt : By agreeing or not agreeing, I would be pre-empting a government's position on interpreting that. It is outside our jurisdiction. What we agree on is the outstanding universal value of the Barrier Reef must be preserved. It is in the authority's act, and any actions we can take to mitigate any risk to it, we would agree with.
Senator WATERS: The rest of that recommendation refers to the undermining of the effectiveness of the strategic assessment. Does GBRMPA agree that failing to wait to do that strategic assessment before approving new ports and infrastructure will undermine the effectiveness of the strategic assessment?
Dr Reichelt : Again, it puts me in the position of second-guessing the minister's decisions.
CHAIR: You cannot do that and you should not do that. I am glad that you are being careful, Dr Reichelt.
Senator WATERS: I will move on then. In developing the terms of reference for the strategic assessment, did GBRMPA support stopping the clock on new development approvals, pending the completion of the strategic assessment?
Dr Reichelt : We were consulted on the terms of reference and carried out the consultation. The question of stopping the clock, again, falls into that category of pre-empting the minister's decisions on the legal processes the minister himself is bound by. It is not something I can answer without stepping into the territory of the minister's decisions.
Senator WATERS: So you did not make a recommendation either way as to whether approvals should be temporarily paused while the strategic assessment was completed?
Dr Reichelt : I recall that at that time our position was to ensure that the strategic assessment was done as fully and completely as possible. The minister's views on stopping the clock were made public at the time. It wasn't something that the authority pursued separately from the department or the minister. I am strongly committed to using the strategic assessment as the means for projecting the long-term management arrangements for the Barrier Reef. I think it is our best opportunity.
Senator WATERS: Did GBRMPA recommend approval of the T3 development at Abbot Point that was announced last week by the minister?
Dr Reichelt : The authority gets consulted on projects that are adjacent to the marine park. The minister makes decisions on the basis of all the information they gather, of which we are one source. I cannot answer—
Senator WATERS: You did not make a recommendation as to whether it should be approved or conditioned?
Dr Reichelt : The precise nature of our input to the minister is the province of the minister. We are fully consulted. We do not feel that we are shut out of decisions. However, giving opinions on the values in that region is just one of the sources of input to the minister's decision-making process. The authority does not run a parallel process.
Senator WATERS: So you did express your opinions on the impact of the values of the World Heritage area from T3 going ahead.
Dr Reichelt : Yes—
Senator WATERS: What was the substance of that advice to the minister or that opinion that you expressed?
Dr Reichelt : I do not have those with me.
Senator WATERS: Perhaps you could take that on notice.
Dr Reichelt : Could I take that on notice?
Senator WATERS: Yes. My understanding, as part of those conditions of approval of T3, is that GBRMPA will receive in the order of $600,000 each year from the proponent. If that is the case, what percentage of your total budget does that represent?
Dr Reichelt : I think that is the order of the amount. It sounds slightly high but it is in that order. There were three elements to it. This is a very new area for us. Sorry, you asked about the proportion of the budget.
Senator WATERS: Yes, first of all, now that the minister has his technology sorted.
Dr Reichelt : If it was $500,000 out of a $50 million budget, that makes it less than one per cent.
Senator WATERS: If it is roughly one per cent, is that additional to your budget appropriation or will that supplement it?
Dr Reichelt : No, it would be separate from not in addition to.
Senator WATERS: So you are not aware that there are any plans to reduce your budget allocation by that amount?
Dr Reichelt : Again, the government decides these things annually. On the specifics of the offsets allowances, they have not been tied to any other reductions. Governments of the future will choose to make reductions as they will, or increases.
Senator WATERS: Is this a trend? Are there other payments such as this that proponents make to GBRMPA as part of their approval conditions?
Dr Reichelt : Those offsets arose from negotiations by the department. I think the government has just published an offsets policy. To say it is a trend, I do not know. This is the second round after Gladstone. I think I have to hand the 'Is it going to continue?' to the department, although that for future decision of the minister.
Senator WATERS: Perhaps you could respond as to whether this is the first instance in which GBRMPA will receive funds from a proponent?
Dr Reichelt : No. There were allocations in the liquid natural gas conditions.
Senator WATERS: Could you take those on notice and provide the details of those contributions to date, including any information, if you have it, as to whether that is expected in future, just from your knowledge base?
Dr Reichelt : Yes, I am happy to take that on notice.
Senator WATERS: Do you agree that there is a risk of GBRMPA becoming reliant on funding from such sources that might in fact put the reef itself at risk?
Senator Conroy: That was asking for an opinion of the officer.
Senator WATERS: You could have stayed away for another 15 minutes, Minister, and I might have got further.
Senator Conroy: I think you are asking an opinion of the officer, which I think is a little outside the standing orders. Would you perhaps like to rephrase the question.
CHAIR: Can I just indicate that Senator Conroy has joined us, I think, at an appropriate time for his words of wisdom. Senator Waters, maybe you will rephrase the question.
Senator WATERS: I will try my best. Have you advised the department that you believe there might be any risk from GBRMPA being in receipt of such funds from proponents?
Dr Reichelt : That kind of discussion has not occurred in the sense of me advising the department. In terms of funding for a particular purpose, in addition to our core funding my object as the manager would be to avoid any diminution of protection efforts from the appropriation funding.
Senator WATERS: Lastly, on this topic before I move to my final short set of questions—
CHAIR: I am afraid you are out of time after this one. You will have to put them on notice.
Senator WATERS: Alright, then I will ask about the impact of the environmental management charge which was due to start on 1 July this year, but my understanding is it has not yet started. Please take on notice for me the current status of that proposal. What are the estimates of the likely revenue of that environmental management charge, what are the amounts of dredge spoil that those estimates presuppose and from which specific dredge proposals?
Dr Reichelt : Briefly, the government has not taken a decision to proceed with that charge. Not having taken that decision means that I cannot answer any of your follow-up questions as currently no decision has been taken for the charge to come into effect.
CHAIR: I am having a look at your Reef in Brief publication and there is a Mr Terry Hudson from Southern Cross Sailing Adventures under the heading 'Climate action good for business'. Please explain what that report is about.
Dr Reichelt : You caught me unprepared on that one.
CHAIR: I thought it was a good-news story. I am happy for you to take it on notice.
Dr Reichelt : On the issue of climate impacts on the Great Barrier Reef and partnerships with industry, under the climate change action program we initiated four years ago we have actively encouraged partnership with the tourism industry. They have led a program with our encouragement and cooperation to find ways to adapt to climate change impacts on their businesses. We are doing the same thing with the fishing industry. We are seeking to prepare them for mitigating any impacts from climate change. They are very receptive to it; in fact, they are extremely supportive and it is largely industry led.
CHAIR: On the crown-of-thorns starfish, you are undertaking a labour-intensive approach to try and control the starfish. I have recently seen reports that the egg production of the crown-of-thorns starfish is huge and that this labour-intensive approach is probably not a long-term solution, so there is going to have to be some genetic or another type of approach to control the egg production. What is the latest analysis of this?
Dr Reichelt : The crown-of-thorns does have the biology for boom and bust, the same as the plague locust does. It is the most fecund starfish in the world for its size, with the most eggs per body mass. On the hand control, once the starfish is in an outbreak phase, the scientific community and the industry undertaking it realise that it is not effective for stopping the waves of outbreaks. But if we can develop some rapid methods—even if we could just inject them once or touch them with an enhancement of their natural pathogens, which is the work happening now; so it is not a new bug but just something natural, instead of fishing them out, taking 10 minutes to destroy one, you could to destroy 10 in five seconds by touching them—that could be enough to alter when they are in the low state before they become outbreak. The pattern for the last 40 to 50 years for major waves has been that they always begin between Cooktown and Cairns where the highest impact from wet tropics run-off is, and then in waves of successive cycles of reproduction they migrate to the south with the East Australian Current when the eggs flow south. The chances are really for intervening in the low state. All we can do now with this control is to keep high-value tourism sites clear of the starfish. That is the main purpose of the current effort.
CHAIR: How is the issue of calcification being dealt with?
Dr Reichelt : There really is nothing other than addressing global climate change, with all our national effort, and influencing the global picture for rise in CO2. What we can do and are doing is to remove local pressures, and the biggest single local pressure we have at the moment is declines in water quality, with fertiliser, sediments and pesticides running off the land into the Barrier Reef. It has been linked strongly to crown-of-thorns. It slows down the recovery after both unnatural and natural disturbances. So build the resilience and the bounce-back capability—that is our immediate response to those disturbing statistics from the Institute of Marine Science last year.
CHAIR: How do you get the balance between the farmers who would see the need to maintain or improve their productivity through chemical use? That is a legitimate issue for the farmers. How do you get that balance?
Dr Reichelt : I am not sure of the chemical figures but the sediment fertiliser run-off is five-plus more times than pre agriculture. The farmers themselves have really embraced the Reef Rescue plan and the adoption of best practice.
Senator BOSWELL: Is that the sugar cane?
Dr Reichelt : It is mainly sugar but also grazing.
CHAIR: Senator Boswell, let Dr Reichelt finish and we will come to you after that.
Dr Reichelt : There are many farmers now adopting that program. That is something that another division of the department will address—the Land and Coasts Division. We are now trialling a recognition program: Reef Guardian farmers. Mackay, Ingham and Innisfail sugar growers are starting to embrace that as well. The communities that are responding strongly and trying to reduce their impacts and to wind back want to keep the sediment, the fertiliser and any pesticides on the farm where they are doing their job. They do not want them to run into the water. We have found a very positive community reaction to acknowledging when people do change their practices.
CHAIR: Thanks. Senator Boswell, we have a couple of minutes if you would like to pursue this.
Senator BOSWELL: Are these sustainability accreditations?
Dr Reichelt : In the tourism industry, on the water it is ecotourism standards and certifications. On the land it is a recognition program, the same as our Reef Guardian schools.
Senator BOSWELL: Who is behind Reef Guardian?
Dr Reichelt : The marine park authority.
Senator BOSWELL: Not World Wildlife Fund or anything?
Dr Reichelt : No, it started inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and it has remained inside the authority.
Senator BOSWELL: We welcome that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: It is a very good program.
Dr Reichelt : Could I add that there are now over 250 Reef Guardian schools, with 110,000 students proud to be in those schools.
Senator WATERS: I will hark back to my questions about the proportion of funding that the T3 approval will see coming to your coffers, Dr Reichelt. I think you said you would take on notice whether other contributions had already been made and whether you had information about possible trends of that continuing. Do you see this money and those conditions from government as bribes to buy your support for development?
Dr Reichelt : No, I do not. The two injections of funding by way of the offsets program I see as opportunities to undertake actions to build resilience in the Great Barrier Reef through improved local management practices, protection of nesting turtles and seabird sites, Indigenous ranger programs and community involvement. I see them as a way to improve our protection of the local region.
Senator WATERS: Those sorts of activities would not be able to be undertaken without funds from developers destroying different parts of the World Heritage site?
Dr Reichelt : They could be to some extent, but if they can be enhanced I am in support of that. I do not see it as a bribe.
Senator WATERS: Okay. I had a similar question relating to the offshore dumping that you say has now stalled and the government has not progressed that, with the original start date of July 2012. My concern was whether or not GBRMPA would be more inclined to improve offshore dumping as opposed to onshore dumping if there were this dumping charge that were going to be paid to GBRMPA. What is your response to that?
Dr Reichelt : No, I do not think so. I can say unequivocally not.
Senator WATERS: What are the regulatory or other parameters that you will use to make sure there is no such influence?
Dr Grimes : Senator, I think you are speculating on a policy which Dr Reichelt has indicated is not a policy. It is not a mechanism that is in place. There has been no decision on that matter.
CHAIR: On that note, Dr Grimes, that concludes the questioning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Thank you for your input. I now call the Director of National Parks.
Park s Australia
CHAIR: Good evening, Mr Cochrane. Would you like to make an opening statement?
Mr Cochrane : No, thank you, Chair.
Senator BOSWELL: You are the Director of National Parks. The report on the Commonwealth marine bioregional planning, when will that be finalised?
Mr Cochrane : Very shortly.
Senator BOSWELL: What is very shortly—two weeks, 10 weeks?
Mr Cochrane : Within weeks.
Senator BOSWELL: Two weeks, three weeks?
Senator Conroy: Within weeks.
Senator HEFFERNAN: A thousand weeks?
Senator Conroy: Could be.
Senator BOSWELL: Minister, I am trying to get some answers here because a lot of people are interested.
Senator Conroy: You are asking a question and the officer has given you a reasonable answer.
Senator BOSWELL: Will the report be made publicly available?
Mr Cochrane : Yes.
Senator BOSWELL: Are you responsible for Get the Facts advertising that has been running?
Mr Cochrane : No.
Senator BOSWELL: Minister Burke stated in his media release on 14 June that, 'The marine reserves are expected to be declared at the end of 2012.' Will the marine parks be declared by the end of the year? Is this the timetable the department is working towards?
Mr Cochrane : That is the timetable the department is working to.
Senator BOSWELL: How does the government intend to proceed? Will they declare one bioregion at a time or will they declare all the marine parks at once?
Mr Cochrane : I might ask my colleague Stephen Oxley from the Marine Division to provide some of these answers.
Mr Oxley : Before answering your question, I might provide a point of clarification in terms of the arrangements within the department. I am a delegate of the Director of National Parks. So when we talk about the report of the Director of National Parks or functions carried out in relation to marine reserves, the Director of National Parks has delegated all of those functions to me and to other officers of Marine Division. That is why I have come forward to speak now.
Senator BOSWELL: So you agree with the director's answers?
Mr Oxley : I have not heard him say anything I disagree with yet, Senator.
Senator BOSWELL: Okay. So let us continue. The question is then: will they declare the bioregions one at a time or will they declare all of the marine parks at once?
Mr Oxley : That is still subject to consideration by the government. The proclamations that the minister has given are a pretty clear indication from the outset that subject to him considering the final report from the Director of National Parks that his intention is that all the reserves would be proclaimed by the end of 2012.
CHAIR: Senator Boswell, you have only one more question because other senators need to ask questions.
Senator BOSWELL: I have written these questions down and given you notice so that the questions will be asked. Once the parks are declared, the Director of National Parks will declare the interim management plans on all of the national parks. Will the interim management plans affect the activities of commercial and recreational fishermen?
Mr Oxley : Back in estimates hearings in May we had quite a long exchange about this. I indicated to the committee in response to your question then that on my estimation the process from the proclamations through to bringing into full effect the management plans would take approximately 18 months. I do not see any reason to vary that answer.
CHAIR: Thanks, Senator Boswell. We will move to Senator Birmingham.
Senator BOSWELL: As a matter of interest, how long did I have then?
CHAIR: Five minutes.
Senator HEFFERNAN: That is why these estimates are absurd.
Senator BOSWELL: This is getting to an absurd stage. Who makes the decision that we are going to have five minutes each?
CHAIR: The committee makes the determination about the time allocation. You are entitled to talk to your colleagues about the time you need. There is a discussion that takes place, basically a negotiation, about the allocation of time. All of the parties are involved in that, and that has been going on ever since I have been the chair of the committee. If you want extra time on one area or another then that time has to come from somewhere. It was decided there would be 15 minutes; that is an agreed proposition. I am not going to spend any more time on this. Senator Birmingham, you have the call.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Mr Cochrane, how many applications to film in Uluru are received each year?
Mr Cochrane : In this year to date, from January to October, we issued 161 permits for photography and filming, and four were rejected.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Was the Royal Ballet Company one of those who were rejected?
Mr Cochrane : I do not believe so. The two examples I have of image use that was inappropriate include one proposing to advertise French perfume and another that involved an animated dog running over Uluru. Those are the sorts of things we reject.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Noting the time limitations, I will put the rest of my questions on notice.
Senator BOSWELL: The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig, indicated that approximately $100 million will be set aside for compensation for fishing related businesses. Do you have any idea how that figure was arrived at?
Mr Oxley : Yes, we—
Senator BOSWELL: Yes or no and forget it. If you know then I will go onto another question.
CHAIR: Senator Boswell, you know you cannot tell a witness to cut the answer.
Mr Oxley : We did estimates on it and we came up with an estimate. That has been publicly signalled by ministers.
Senator BOSWELL: The fisheries adjustment assistance package does not give any consideration for downstream businesses. Why was there no provision to assist business in the coastal communities that will be greatly impacted by the proposed marine parks? Will seafood processes and charter boat operators come into consideration?
Mr Oxley : The government has released, as you would be aware, a discussion paper that sets out a series of components of the proposed adjustment package. It elaborates on a number but not all of measures that were mentioned by the ministers in their joint media statement back in June. The reality of the marine reserves proposal is that while there are some potentially regionally significant impacts the overall effect of the reserves is to displace about one per cent of the volume of catch and a little bit less than one per cent of the value of supply from marine reserves. It is not clear that all that catch will be lost to the industry overall—that is, that it cannot be made up in other areas. At that level of displacement the flow-on to upstream and downstream through the fishing industry we assess as being within the normal fluctuations and business cycles that would be seen in those sorts of businesses. Therefore, there is not a strong case for assistance to those businesses.
Senator SIEWERT: I want to ask about Christmas Island. I have a number of questions and I will put some on notice. Can you tell me about the scale insect predator and the crazy ants?
Mr Cochrane : There is, although it is a little early to be too confident, a parasitoid wasp that has been identified as a potential biocontrol agent for the scale insect which is closely associated with the yellow crazy ant. But I would not want to say terribly much more than that because we have got another six to eight months of that research to go before we would be a little bit more confident with that. It has also been identified from overseas and that poses some questions also about how we bring it into the country.
Senator SIEWERT: So there are six to eight months to prove up whether it is a sufficient predator and there are quarantine issues on top of that.
Mr Cochrane : We are currently examining what the quarantine issues are. As you would probably be aware, the Quarantine Act and the EPBC Act intersect to create a regime for us to work our way through.
Senator SIEWERT: The six to eight months encompasses all of that work, do you think?
Mr Cochrane : Yes. The lengthier bit obviously would be the biocontrol work, but we are expecting the final report from that work in June next year.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of cat eradication, can you tell me whether that program is still running.
Mr Cochrane : It is, and I am pleased to say we have now got rid of a total of 500 cats, up from 300 last time you asked me.
Senator SIEWERT: You have still got funding for that specific program?
Mr Cochrane : That is ongoing work, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Is funding being maintained?
Mr Cochrane : I believe so. Can I take that on notice, because it does depend on funding from several sources, as you might recall.
Senator SIEWERT: That would be good. Biosecurity and the asylum seeker boats that are arriving on the island: are those boats being inspected for Christmas Island quarantine?
Mr Cochrane : That is my understanding, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Each one has been examined?
Mr Cochrane : That is my understanding, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: How far from shore are they?
Mr Cochrane : I think all the asylum seekers are brought on shore via those smaller transporters, barges. The vessels themselves do not come ashore or close to.
Senator SIEWERT: I am interested in knowing how far they are kept from the island in terms of quarantine basis and making sure that nothing, including those ships, is able to gain access to the island.
Mr Cochrane : I would have to take that on notice because how far they remain off island would depend a little on weather conditions.
Senator SIEWERT: Please take that on notice. But you are confident that each one is inspected for quarantine hazards?
Mr Cochrane : That is my understanding but let me get back to you.
Senator SIEWERT: That will be good. What happens to them afterwards?
Mr Cochrane : They are taken off to the deeper ocean and sunk.
Senator SIEWERT: Is a permit required for that?
Mr Cochrane : That is EPBC Act sea dumping matter. It is not something I am responsible for.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. I doubt I am going to get a chance to ask all my questions in that particular section. Could I ask that they be taken on notice.
Dr Grimes : Certainly, Senator. We can confirm whether there were sea dumping permits there or not.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. Supplementary to that, are they all inspected and stripped of diesel and things like that before they are scuttled?
Dr Grimes : We would have to take those details on notice. We are happy to do so.
Senator SIEWERT: I am going to get pinged a moment so I will rush to my next question. I want to move to the broader NRS program and perhaps ask you to take on notice, because I know I am going to run out of time, for an update on the number of hectares we now have in the reserve system. One of the issues I am particularly interested in is, given the changes to the Caring for our Country program and the different funding streams and ongoing negotiations over the environment side, have you yet had an indication of the funding you will receive out of that new funding block from next financial year?
Mr Cochrane : No.
Senator SIEWERT: When do you expect to have an understanding of that?
Mr Cochrane : The decision is yet to be made and it is outside my area of responsibility to be able to answer that question. It is not my decision and I do not have an expectation other than that I imagine it must be sometime before the end of this year.
Senator SIEWERT: Financial year?
Mr Cochrane : Calendar year.
Senator SIEWERT: So you expect to know by the end of this year.
Mr Cochrane : I am hazarding a guess and I am sure my colleagues may well be able to answer that one more accurately than I.
Dr Grimes : We may have an officer who can answer but I suspect it is in the realm of a decision that has yet to be made by the government and will be announced in due course.
Senator SIEWERT: I presume that you are advising the government. Are you involved in that process?
Dr Grimes : Our department will be involved in advising the government on allocations of funding for Caring for our Country, yes.
CHAIR: Senator Siewert, we are out of time. That concludes the questions for the Director of National Parks. Thanks for your input.
CHAIR: I now call officers from the department in relation to program 1.1, sustainable management of natural resources and the environment.
Senator HEFFERNAN: I would like to talk about a property which I think you have been forewarned about between Bathurst and Mudgee—
Senator Conroy: It is never possible to forewarn for your questions, Senator Heffernan.
Senator HEFFERNAN: It was earlier in the day. They knew they were coming.
Senator Conroy: It is still never possible.
Senator HEFFERNAN: This is a property that was purchased by a Ms Ridge, who interestingly enough gives her email address as firstname.lastname@example.org. She works in the department of state planning in New South Wales. She acquired the property on 23 February 2010 for $230,000. By late May 2010, between the 17th and the 21st, Ms Ridge received a letter of agreement from Charlie Zammit, Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. On 30 July 2010, a valuer was engaged by the Commonwealth to value the property due to Ms Ridge seeking a first mortgage. The property has gone into receivership and these questions will follow from that.
Within 10-12 weeks of buying this property Ms Ridge, who works for the NSW Department of Planning, got an approval under the letterhead of your department and DAFF for a grant to lock up about 7½ acres under your conserved box gum grassy woodland program. Are you familiar with this case?
Mr Sullivan : I am.
Senator HEFFERNAN: The property was then valued because this woman wanted to take out a mortgage. Have you seen the valuation?
Mr Sullivan : No, I have not.
Senator HEFFERNAN: Let me tell you about it. The valuer valued the place at zero. She paid $230,000 for it. To give you an idea of the weeds on the place, it is heavily infested with Bathurst burr, blackberry, blue heliotrope, serrated tussock, St John's wort, sweet briar and Tree-of-heaven. It is estimated that the first round of treatment would cost about $450,000 on a property worth $230,000, for which she was successful under the wisdom of your department to get a grant of $893,660, not including GST, to manage for conservation purposes, to lock up, seven acres of box gum grassy woodland. Would it not have been cheaper for the Commonwealth just to buy the property? How in God's name can you agree to a property—
Senator Conroy: Would you like him to answer your first question?
Senator HEFFERNAN: The property is valued at zero for any commercial agricultural use, is heavily infested and is subject to orders from the local council to eradicate the weeds. The cost of the eradication is more than the value of the property. Yet you have given nearly $900,000 in a grant to lock up seven acres of the property for some gum grassy woodland. The first instalment of $96,597, which does not include GST, was paid and then the woman went into receivership. The first thing I want to know is what happened to the grant?
Mr Sullivan : If I could go back to the beginning. My understanding is that on 8 June, Empire Property, an investment group, entered into a funding deed with the Commonwealth and that was for the maintenance and improvement of 341 hectares of critically endangered white box, yellow box and Blakeleys Red Gum grassy woodland and derived native grassland ecological community on the property that you have referred.
With respect to the valuation that you talked about, I have not seen the valuation so I cannot comment on it. In terms of the funding deed, that funding deed has subsequently been terminated, as the property is now subject to administration. There is an independent audit of the grantees' actions in relation to the funding agreement and that is in progress at the moment. At this stage I am unable to make further comments until those forensic audit investigations are finalised. However, it is important also to realise that as a market based instrument for protecting private land of matters of national environmental significance, we are not purchasing the property; we are purchasing ecological outcomes.
Senator HEFFERNAN: With great respect—
CHAIR: Mr Sullivan will finish his response and then I will come to you.
Mr Sullivan : In terms of it being a grant for $983,000, as I think you quoted, that deed was over 15 years and it was purchasing not just the current state of the property but it was for maintenance and improvement of the 341.2 hectares of critically endangered ecological community that was on there. In terms of the selection process that chose that property, I can give you detail as to the process—
Senator HEFFERNAN: I'll get that from you later. How many acres of woody grassland did you say?
Mr Sullivan : My information is that it is 341.2 hectares.
Senator HEFFERNAN: Did your blokes go and have a look?
Mr Sullivan : Yes.
Senator HEFFERNAN: Can I take you through some of the reality of this property. For serrated tuscan and blackberries, both notifiable weeds, the local weeds council were about to impose some penalties. It is estimated that the first round of spraying would cost $450,000. You are worried about a bit of box gum grassy land, not the total obliteration of the property from those weeds. The place is out of control and valued at zero after taking into account the spraying program. There could be insider trading; it is interesting that the woman works for the New South Wales Department of Planning and Infrastructure. Could you give me the details of when this lady applied for the grant? Was it before or after she bought the property?
Mr Sullivan : I cannot give you that detail.
Senator HEFFERNAN: Can you take that on notice?
Mr Sullivan : I can take it on notice.
Senator HEFFERNAN: Also, when it was approved, the officer that went to visit the property—
Mr Sullivan : With respect to the criteria for going through bids—and in this context additional scrutiny was given to this property along with other properties because it was greater than 200 hectares—part of the basis for costing the provision of ecological services or reimbursing for the provision of ecological services was going through something called the conservation value measure. That is calculated by trained field officers who visited the properties of all applicants.
Senator HEFFERNAN: Can you give me the names of the people who visited the properties, on notice because I am against the clock.
CHAIR: Senator Heffernan, I will give you another six minutes.
Senator HEFFERNAN: Great! Where would be the best place to take this up with you, because I think this is a serious rort and I would like this audited. Did you say there is an audit in process?
Mr Sullivan : There is a forensic audit that is being investigated. I signed the termination to the contract mid-year.
Senator HEFFERNAN: What happened to the first tranche of the grant, the $90,000 or near enough?
Mr Sullivan : I assume, and I will take advice on this, that the components of what has previously been funded is part of the forensic audit investigation.
Senator HEFFERNAN: The difficulty I have, and I admit I am a farmer and vice chair of our local Landcare mob, is that the last thing in the world we would do is to let any property that is totally infested with blackberries and serrated tuscan even apply for a grant. Ten weeks does not seem long from when she bought the place to when she was offered the grant. I have a copy of the paper offering the grant from your Mr Zammit. Ten or 12 weeks, is that how quickly it can happen if you have insider knowledge?
Mr Sullivan : I think you are implying something in terms of process.
Senator HEFFERNAN: I am.
CHAIR: Senator Heffernan, I do not think it is fair to ask Mr Sullivan that question.
Senator HEFFERNAN: I will put it to you this way, and the minister can answer if he wants to—I know you do not know much about it, mate. If you have 2,800 acres which the local shire and the local catchment management authority say is totally infested with blackberry, serrated tuscan—all the weeds—St John's wort, how in God's name would you think it would be effective for the environment and wise spending of taxpayers' money to give this person $900,000 over a period of time to lock up a tiny portion of the property but had no obligation on that person to clear up 26,000 acres of blackberry—no obligation at all under the agreement. Forget about all the noxious weeds on the property.
Senator Conroy interjecting—
CHAIR: The minister is trying—Minister, I did not hear that. Did you say you would take it on notice?
Senator Conroy: If there is any part of that that we can add to the sum of knowledge we will. It was a rhetorical question.
CHAIR: Senator Heffernan, do you have other questions on this? You have a couple of minutes.
Mr Sullivan : I do not want to put words in your mouth but what I am hearing is that weed infestation was there in 341 hectares that we were—
Senator HEFFERNAN: The 341 hectares you refer to has still got St John's wort, serrated tuscan, all through it.
Mr Sullivan : Well, as part of the forensic audit process that is looking at those 341 hectares for which the funding deed was signed, I know that that is being monitored as to the status of that post the funding deed.
Senator HEFFERNAN: But this is Caring for Our Country. It has a nice ring to it. You are worried about the gum grassy but you are not worried about the invasion and absolute desecration of the land with the infested weed and there is no obligation on the person to whom you are giving $900,000 to do anything about the weed.
Dr Grimes : I think the officer has indicated that there are some serious issues here and they are being investigated through a forensic audit. The important thing is that there is action taken in response to this. That process needs to be completed.
Senator HEFFERNAN: What burdens me mostly is that if this is one how many others are there? For God's sake! We will get to that at another time.
CHAIR: Mr Sullivan, how does that forensic audit work in general terms?
Ms Murray : Ernst & Young has been engaged to conduct a forensic audit and to not only engage with the landholder and Empire Property Group but also to have a look at the property and where those funds were spent et cetera.
CHAIR: Senator Heffernan, do you have any further questions?
Senator HEFFERNAN: I will have a lot more questions on this issue in the future. I am thanking you but I absolutely think this is a corker of a rort.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I wish to ask some questions about the Indigenous rangers program. In particular, how much is each Indigenous ranger paid?
Mr Sullivan : It is a very difficult question to answer. There is no generic amount out there that a ranger will get. Part of that is because of the different governance mechanisms that the ranger coordinator groups and ranger groups have. For example, the Torres Strait Regional Authority rangers would operate under a collective agreement versus all the way through to brand new organisations that have been formed specifically for the purposes of starting new ranger groups. So there is not a single answer to that question. I am not trying to obfuscate and not provide you with an answer but it varies depending on the ranger group. Ms Fraser could add to that.
Ms Fraser : As Mr Sullivan said, it varies widely, depending on the organisation they are working with. We work with small Indigenous organisations through to state agencies. The wage can vary from the low $20,000s for a trainee ranger up to, we believe, about the mid $55,000s for a senior ranger. That is quite a wide variation depending on the organisation and the duties involved.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I appreciate at least getting that range. Those wide variations depend on what sorts of factors?
Ms Fraser : Largely, the host organisation, state agencies even within Australia, vary enormously in the salaries that they offer their staff. We deal with organisations from state agencies and statutory authorities such as the Torres Strait Regional Authority through to very small, almost one-family Indigenous organisations. The collective or enterprise agreement under which rangers are employed vary.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: How many rangers are employed Australia wide?
Ms Fraser : 680, approximately.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: What is the total annual Commonwealth budget for running the Indigenous rangers program?
Ms Fraser : I will check the exact figure for you, Senator. Sorry, I just cannot find it easily. I think it is approximately $47.1 million for this year, but I need to confirm that.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Okay.
Ms Fraser : I can confirm that now. That figure is correct.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: $47.1 million for approximately 680 ranger positions funded across the Commonwealth. This year—
Ms Fraser : Sorry, Senator, can we correct that.
Ms Howlett : $47 million is the 2013-14 number. In 2012-13, it is $57.4 million.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: $57.4 million for 2012-13, which is cut to $47.1 million for 2013-14.
Ms Howlett : Yes. As you would be aware, the government is still deliberating on the final budget splits for Caring for our Country. The current Working on Country budget came together from a Working on Country appropriation plus some money for Caring for our Country. So that number may shift.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: It may vary depending on government decisions and so on. More particularly, the 680 current positions funded relate to $57.4 million in 2013-14?
Ms Howlett : That is correct.
Mr Sullivan : Sorry, that is not quite correct. Also inside this year's financial statements for this program is a Northern Territory expansion.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I was just about to ask whether that was included or additional. So that is the $19.1 million to create 50 new positions in the Northern Territory?
Mr Sullivan : That is right.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Is that $19.1 million all in this year's budget?
Mr Sullivan : No, it is an incremental increase over a couple of years. The process for that increase in this year has been undertaken and it is for final decision at some point in the near future.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: The extent of that $19.1 million that applies to this year is not yet known?
Mr Sullivan : No, the extent is known.
Ms Howlett : $1.3 million.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: So $1.3 million for this year. How many years does that $19.1 million cover?
Ms Howlett : Four years.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: How many of those 50 new positions have been filled?
Ms Fraser : By June 2013, we anticipate 12 of those positions will be filled. That is the target. None of them have been filled yet. It is under consideration.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Obviously there are quite high overheads involved here. The $19.1 million to create 50 new positions in the Northern Territory works out to about $380,000 per position.
Ms Fraser : No, that is not the cost per ranger. There must be a glitch in the calculations.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I will recheck those. What is your understanding, roughly, of the cost per ranger? What are the overheads per ranger?
Ms Fraser : At the outside, in a remote area it could cost up to $120,000 to fund a ranger per year. That would include all overheads, including managerial support, administration, operational costs including vehicle lease and hire, helicopter hire, chemicals for weed control, fire control, et cetera.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Just to be clear, with Indigenous rangers and Working on Country, are these one and the same budget or are they differentiated in some way? Are there other aspects to Working on Country that are not part of the Indigenous rangers program?
Ms Fraser : I am not sure that I understand your question fully. I do not think so, although Working on Country can be called, more generically, the Indigenous ranger program, but there are also other Indigenous rangers that are not funded under Working on Country. I do not know that that is what you are asking. Sometimes there are Indigenous ranger teams that do source some funding from elsewhere as well to do additional jobs.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Sometimes it gets confusing trying to work through which programs go where and so on, but is there anything out of Working on Country that is not related to Indigenous rangers?
Ms Howlett : The Working on Country program, as described in the portfolio budget statements, is entirely directed to Indigenous rangers.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thank you. Is working on Country clearly funded beyond 30 June 2013, or is that part of the carve-up of Caring for Country funds?
Mr Sullivan : It has a defined appropriation line over the forward estimates. I think the point that Ms Howlett was referring to before is: what has not been decided is, for example, Indigenous engagement is part of one of the key themes for the environment stream moving forward under Caring for Country, and those issues have not yet been fully decided by government.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thank you. Ms Fraser, it is always hard to do calculations on the run, but I am pretty confident that $19.1 million spread across 50 positions comes out at $382,000 per position—which seems to be a marked difference from your 'up to $120,000 per ranger'.
Mr Sullivan : That is over four years.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Obviously you are only going to have 12 in place by June 2013—
Mr Sullivan : And then, I do not know what the profile is but it is not just a single division. We will have 12 in place at some point soon, and Ms Fraser might have the schedule.
Ms Fraser : Sorry, I just cannot find the page quickly—
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Each of these positions is ongoing, then, so they are not a 12-month position or anything and they are all ongoing.
Mr Sullivan : That is right, and part of this is also building capability. I had the good fortune to visit one of the ranger groups recently and part of that is not only building capacity but it is also building the infrastructure Ms Fraser referred to—vehicle costs, et cetera. In terms of return to country this is also providing the infrastructure for those trips for return to country. So it is building the capacity of the organisation, building the infrastructure required to support those rangers—particularly in very remote parts of Australia. Part of this is also that it is not just funding for one year. This is trying to build capacity over time.
Ms Fraser : Senator, the funding for 2015-16 for Working on Country, the expansion in the Northern Territory for 50 rangers is $6.2 million. That is where you would do the calculation, based on that year.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: If your funding does go from $57.4 million to $47.1 million in 2013-14, what will that mean for the number of rangers that can be maintained in their positions?
Mr Sullivan : That is what I referred to before, in terms of government has not made a firm decision yet on the components of Indigenous management within Caring for Country. In terms of moving from $57 million down to $47 million, that would provide some real challenges for us in terms of moving ahead.
Senator BOSWELL: I have some questions on the impact of the fisheries adjustment package. Could you advise what consultation will take place with the impacted industry organisations regarding the Fisheries Adjustment Assistance Package discussion paper and the parameters of that package?
Mr Oxley : The discussions with the commercial fishing industry have begun. They began in advance of the release of the discussion paper. We had an extensive workshop with the industry at the beginning July. We have had, subsequent to that, another meeting with representatives from what is called the National Seafood Industry Alliance. We have agreed that we will reconvene with them in a further workshop around the end of November at a time to be agreed with them and that, over the course of the next six months with the industry, the department will be involved in an ongoing discussion about the finalisation of the detail of the adjustment program and the delivery arrangements for that, so in short, ongoing engagement.
Senator BOSWELL: Both ministers have indicated that the money will flow before the fishing restrictions take place, so if these packages are going to depend on final workshopping with the industry, when will—
Mr Oxley : I did not indicate that the package would depend on a workshop and I did not say that it was a final workshop, Senator. What I said was there would be another substantive workshop with the fishing industry. I expect it to be in November—the time is yet to be agreed between the department and the industry. At that workshop, we would be talking through in quite some detail issues around package design, the fine-print guidelines and so on and then the delivery arrangements.
Senator BOSWELL: When—
Mr Oxley : If I may: the first point you made was that the ministers indicated back in June that the assistance would be in place and flowing before the reserves took effect in terms of displacing commercial fishermen and that remains the government's intention.
Senator BOSWELL: When do you believe the money will start to flow?
Mr Oxley : That is a decision yet to be taken by the government.
Senator BOSWELL: When does the government intend to declare the marine parks—at the end of this year?
Mr Oxley : I have indicated in an answer to you earlier, Senator, that the minister previously indicated that his desire, subject to considering the final report from the director of national parks, is for the proclamations to be made by the end of the year. When the reserves actually take effect is a different question.
Senator BOSWELL: What government department or company will process the fishing adjustment claims?
Mr Oxley : It is yet to be decided.
Senator BOSWELL: How will the business advise assistance payments be calculated?
Mr Oxley : It is still being resolved within government.
Senator BOSWELL: The draft package suggests that fishing business might be given, I think, only 60 per cent of their annual gross income they have historically earned from the lock-out areas? Is that still—
Mr Oxley : That was a proposal and it was one component of a suite of elements in the adjustment package which was set out in the discussion paper. Transitional business assistance was the title of it and it was designed to give fishers a payment proportional to their catch history in the area to help them adjust to changed operating environments.
Senator BOSWELL: I think there are 55 and I think I asked you and you said there are 86 boats or something like that that are going to be affected. The capital value of commercial fishing boats, plant and equipment—are you going to take that into consideration in the payments?
Mr Oxley : In the licence buyout component, the details are still to be resolved but if we use the effort removal or licence buyout component of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Structural Adjustment Package as an example, it was up to the individual fishers to work out the value of their entitlements and they were able to incorporate into their bids for the effort removal the value of licences and so on and other assets.
CHAIR: Thanks, Mr Oxley.
Proceedings suspended from 21:00 to 21:14
CHAIR: We will resume.
Senator BOSWELL: Many fishing businesses lease fishing licences or permits and use the lease licences on their own fishing boats. Who will receive the compensation, the boat owner or the licence owner?
Mr Oxley : Under the proposals that are out for public discussion, the transitional business assistance would be available to the person who is actually doing the fishing.
Senator BOSWELL: So the guy who might be fishing someone else's license but—
Mr Oxley : That is correct.
Senator BOSWELL: How long will affected fishers have to lodge claims?
Mr Oxley : That is implementation detail that is still being worked through within government.
Senator BOSWELL: How will the appeals process work? How long will affected fishers be given to lodge an appeal?
Mr Oxley : The appeals mechanisms have not been decided yet.
Dr Grimes : I think it is worth observing that there is a consultation process underway to determine each of these questions. As Mr Oxley indicated, there is quite extensive consideration being given to how the package will be structured.
Senator BOSWELL: I understand that but a lot of fishermen want these questions on the record. These are questions I have been asked to ask.
CHAIR: Senator Boswell, I am not sure how many questions you have—
Senator BOSWELL: I have about another three.
Senator BOSWELL: Thank you. Will the government bear the claimant's cost of legitimate appeals?
Mr Oxley : We have already indicated that the appeal process is still being resolved. All those arrangements will be settled in consultation with the industry.
Senator BOSWELL: When do you expect the money to flow to impacted commercial fishermen?
Mr Oxley : The ministers have indicated that the adjustment assistance will be in place and flowing before the reserves come into effect. The timing of that is still to be decided by government.
Senator BOSWELL: You have said that the government is going to take 18 months to get the management plans up and running. I think you said that, did you not?
Mr Oxley : I have said that that is broadly the time frame that we are looking at from starting a management planning process at the same time as interim arrangements come into place through to the marine reserves management plans being fully in effect. That is my estimation. A decision is yet to be made on that in detail. But the key point is in place and flowing.
Senator BOSWELL: Yes, but you are on interim management plans.
Mr Oxley : Yes.
Senator BOSWELL: How does the government intend to proceed with management plans? Will there be one management plan for each region or will there be a separate management plan for the new marine parks?
Mr Oxley : We have indicated publicly that we have just gone through a consultation process in relation to the south-east Commonwealth marine reserves, which were proclaimed back in 2007. We have just run a public consultation process on a draft management plan for the south-east region as a whole, incorporating all 13 marine reserves in the south-east region. We are working on the basis that we will be moving to managing the reserves at a regional level.
Senator BOSWELL: Okay. I am going to get cut off. How many management plans will be required? There are 62 parks—is that correct?
Mr Oxley : Yes, about 60.
Senator BOSWELL: 60?
Mr Oxley : All told, including the existing ones. At the end of it, we will have a management plan for the south-east, the south-west, the north-west, the north, the Coral Sea and the temperate east—so six management plans, one for each region.
Senator BOSWELL: But you will not have a management plan for each park?
Mr Oxley : The parks will be managed as parks within each region under six regional management plans.
Senator BOSWELL: If you only have to prepare six management plans, why would that take 18 months?
Mr Oxley : It does not take 18 months to development the management plans, but it does take some time to work up and bring into effect the management plans.
Senator BOSWELL: Okay. I now want to refer to ABARES's report, Final Commonwealth marine reserves network proposal. The report shows that the Cairns' economy will be hit $3.6 million by the new marine reserve parks? Cairns is doing it tough at the moment. Does the department give any consideration to the economic impact when it designs the marine reserves?
Mr Oxley : Yes, Senator. Minimising social and economic impact has been one of the foundation stones of the whole of the marine reserves development process. There are a number of examples where the reserves changed between what was put out for public consultation originally and then where the government landed and announced in June. At some point there was a side bet between yourself and Minister Conroy over whether trawling would be allowed within the Coral Sea marine reserve. As an example, in order to reduce impacts the government made a decision to establish a general use zone in the southern part of the Coral Sea—
Senator BOSWELL: Yes, I understand—
Senator Conroy: When are you buying me lunch?
Mr Oxley : Through the course of that process we have worked to minimise impacts.
Senator BOSWELL: I understand that.
Mr Oxley : In relation to Cairns, yes, it is understood that there are significant pressures at play in Cairns, and the businesses that are affected by these reserves will be, clearly, recipients of the proposed assistance measures.
Senator BOSWELL: That is—
CHAIR: Senator Boswell, you are right. I am going to have to wind you up.
Senator BOSWELL: Could I have your indulgence, Mr Chair?
CHAIR: Yes, very briefly.
Senator BOSWELL: That is news, because you have just said that the businesses that are going to be affected—
Mr Oxley : Fishing businesses—my apologies, Senator—including vertically-integrated fishing businesses that have onshore processing facilities, for example.
Senator BOSWELL: If someone does not own a fishing boat but he owns a processing facility he will not be in line for compensation. But if someone owns a boat and a processing facility he will be in line for compensation. Is that what you are saying?
Mr Oxley : That is consistent with the answer I gave you earlier, Senator.
Senator BOSWELL: You nearly put a lot of joy into people's hearts when you said 'businesses'. You want to be a bit more careful there, because that would have been headlines in the Cairns Post.
CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Boswell. Senator Siewert.
Senator SIEWERT: I want to move on to a couple of other marine things—or marine protected areas. Did you see, during the latest round of consultation processes, the Keep Australia Fishing Facebook site and website, that it looks like they are offering inducements and prizes for lodging a submission with the department? Did anyone raise that with you?
Mr Oxley : I may have seen it at some stage, but I cannot specifically recall having seen what you are showing us now.
Senator SIEWERT: Are you aware of how many submissions you got that were initiated by this particular website, and those that may have received an inducement to get a submission in?
Mr Oxley : We got quite a number of submissions. I would have to take on notice exactly how many, but I think we could confidently provide it to you. Keep Australia Fishing ran two campaigns under the title Don't Lock Us Out. I cannot tell you tonight how many we received through that organisation's campaign.
Senator SIEWERT: Could you take that on notice?
Mr Oxley : Certainly. If it would be helpful, the general indication I can give you is that we have received just under 80,000 submissions all up. Of those 80,000 submissions, around 69,000 were supportive of the declaration of the marine reserves, and it was just a little over 10,000 that expressed some level of concern or opposition.
Senator BOSWELL: How many were on template?
CHAIR: Senator Boswell, Senator Siewert has the call. You had a fair go. Give Senator Siewert a fair go.
Senator SIEWERT: So, despite inducements, there was overwhelming support for the proposals. Is that what you are saying?
Mr Oxley : And the vast majority of the submissions that came in were campaign style, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Have you experienced this before with submissions where there was an inducement offered to get in the submission?
Mr Oxley : I do not think we have had that experience previously.
Senator SIEWERT: Are you aware whether this has been brought to the minister's attention?
Mr Oxley : I would have to take that on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: If you could that would be appreciated, and could you look at whether the department will in the future issue terms of reference or instructions that indicate that this sort of inducement may not be desirable.
Senator BOSWELL: What about Pew—about 100,000—
CHAIR: Order, Senator Boswell!
Senator SIEWERT: I want to move on and ask about sharks and the situation in Western Australia. I have written to the minister but I have not heard yet whether the Western Australian government has approached the department about their proposals for great whites in Western Australia.
Mr Oxley : Some discussion has been held. Sorry, I am not immediately sure whether we have had a specific department level discussion about the Western Australian proposals as such, though there is ongoing engagement between our departments in relation to the more narrow focus on great white sharks. There is a proposal for a science workshop to be held, I think, in Hobart at the end of this month, where we will be getting shark experts together in order to try to get a better understanding of the population dynamics of great white sharks because, essentially, at this point in time, we do not have a good picture about whether it is a recovering population and, if it is, the extent to which it is recovering.
Senator SIEWERT: Will that include global experts?
Mr Oxley : I would have to come back with advice on that, unless Mr Richardson can let you know now.
Mr Richardson : There will be Australian experts from different states, including from Western Australia.
Senator SIEWERT: It is not that I doubt our experts, by any stretch of the imagination. Obviously when we are talking about great whites, we are talking globally. Will there be an attempt to get some global experts even if they are not at the meeting?
Mr Richardson : They will not be attending the workshop, but the people who are attending the workshop obviously are networking.
Senator SIEWERT: Will any findings from that workshop be available publicly?
Mr Richardson : The outcome of the workshop is in part to respond to the Western Australian minister's advances to our minister earlier in the year following one of the recent fatalities there. The workshop is actually looking at the draft recovery plan that is currently in its final stages before being released for public comment. It will feed into that process.
Senator SIEWERT: I understand that recovery plan is the revision. So the idea is to progress—is that correct?
Mr Richardson : That is right. The outcome of that workshop will feed into the revision.
Senator SIEWERT: In the meantime, they have indicated they are going to take sharks if they pose a threat. As far as I am aware, they have not as yet defined what posing a threat is, because they seem to have moved beyond an immediate threat. Have you had any discussions with them about how that interacts with the recovery plan and whether they would be breaching the recovery plan?
Mr Oxley : If we could just take a step up from the recovery plan, which is a critical document and is clearly going to provide us all with guidance about what we need to continue recovery of great white shark populations, if indeed that is what is occurring. Notwithstanding the objectives of the recovery plan, there are provisions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act that allow for the killing of an endangered species in the event that there is a threat to human life.
Obviously we would want to work very closely with Western Australia to find us all in the situation where the need to exercise that prerogative is minimised.
Senator SIEWERT: I understand that. The language about immediate threat in Western Australia is not as precise as was in the past. Because there has not been a definition available in Western Australia, has there been a discussion with you or have you defined what an immediate threat or a significant threat would be?
Mr Oxley : There has not been a discussion, to my knowledge, on that subject between departments at this point in time.
Senator SIEWERT: Between departments or within your agency to better define these concepts?
Mr Oxley : I do not think we would have come back to that subject in recent times. I suspect that we will have had a view on that previously. If that is the case, we would share that and we can provide that to you on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated, including the method to take. My final question is on sea lions and the west coast demersal gillnet fishing, could you clarify whether the export licences have been agreed to? In Western Australia we are unclear about whether they have been signed off on.
Mr Oxley : The situation is that there is a wildlife trade operation approval in place for demersal gillnet and longline fisheries. There is also an EPBC Act parts 13 approval in relation to interactions with protected species. That includes a number of conditions which seek essentially to manage the risk of interactions between those fishing methods and the sea lions present on the West Australian coast, by requiring the WA Department of Fisheries to put in place measures to mitigate those risks.
Senator SIEWERT: Last time we looked those conditions were not on the website. Are they now on the website?
Mr Richardson : Yes, they are.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: In relation to the threat abatement plan for impacts on marine debris on vertebrate marine life in 2009, how is the TAP progressing and what funding has been allocated to this since 2009?
Mr Oxley : The question of allocation of funding I will have to take on notice. I am not sure that the marine debris threat abatement plan is one we have anticipated receiving questions on, but we could give you some response on notice, noting that the threat abatement plans are an overall framework put in place nationally. The undertaking of actions under those plans is the responsibility of many parties including the Commonwealth but also state governments, industry and so on.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: My question was going into what level of participation you were getting from various parties and whether you had budgets set aside for that. Also, whether any objectives had been reached. But if you do not have responses, I will put those questions on notice.
Mr Oxley : I think that would be best.
Senator WATERS: My first questions are about the Reef Rescue program. Has this program been evaluated as successful to date?
Senator Conroy: You might wish to reframe that question away from an opinion to something like: what would the results be?
Senator WATERS: Has the department undertaken an evaluation of the program and what were the results of that evaluation? Is that bland enough for you, Minister?
Senator Conroy: Thank you; I have faith in you.
Ms Howlett : Yes, we have undertaken an evaluation of the Reef Rescue program in the context of the Caring for Country review. The report of that evaluation is available on our website.
Senator WATERS: Please give me a very quick indication of those conclusions.
Ms Howlett : It was generally found to be an efficient and effective program. The evaluation was particularly complimentary of the partnership approach that was taken for the delivery of the program and the monitoring components of the program that supported the grants component. The evaluation also drew some lessons learned from how that model could be applied to other programs in the future.
Senator WATERS: Given that it is due to run out next June, is the department investigating a range of funding options relating to the renewal of the program?
Ms Howlett : Yes, ministers have committed to a second phase of a reef rescue-like program. We are currently in consultation with key stakeholders on the shape of that. As with the broader Caring for Country initiative the budgets have not yet been settled and are under consideration.
Senator WATERS: Has the department been asked to advise about any length of the program or budget that would be less than the stage 1 part of the program?
Mr Sullivan : The appropriation for the second tranche of Caring for Country is another five-year component. Our advice to government on the options for the next phase of Reef Rescue is based around that five-year time frame.
Senator WATERS: With at least $200 million funding again, or more ideally?
Dr Grimes : This is going to questions about decisions that the government has to make. Ms Howlett has indicated that we will be providing advice to the government, but announcements around those are things for the government to announce in due course.
Senator WATERS: Has the department been asked to advise on a range of financial options that may include an amount less than or greater than $200 million?
Mr Sullivan : We are providing advice on the direction of the future Caring for Country program in total. It is not just an element of advice on a particular part of that. As Ms Howlett said, government has made a commitment to a continuation with respect to Reef Rescue and ministers are looking at options around that.
Senator WATERS: Do we know when the announcement about the amounts is going to be made?
Mr Sullivan : No.
Senator WATERS: I want to move to the staffing cuts that the secretary went through earlier. Dr Grimes said that restrictions were going to be placed on replacing staff, so there is natural attrition. How many staff has your division not replaced if people have exited?
Mr Sullivan : I would have to take that on notice; it is not something I have directly at hand and I apologise for that.
Senator WATERS: Please take that on notice. What impact is this having on the program's ability to deliver its outcomes?
Mr Sullivan : At the moment we do not have a huge loss of staff, so I do not want to paint this as being in any way, shape or form losing capability. We are also in the process—and I think this was discussed in another committee—of disbanding and separating the current joint-term arrangements with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. At the same time we are looking at our structure and our capability moving ahead, so we have factored that in to our forward budgets. It is not just about continuing to deliver the final six months of Caring for Country mark I. It is also making sure that we finish that well but also about setting the parameters so we can start well in terms of the next funding streams.
Senator WATERS: This is my last question, Chair. Have any changes been made to the grants program to reduce expenditure in this financial year? If so, what changes are they and what are the impacts of them?
Mr Sullivan : To my knowledge there have been no changes to grant programs.
Senator WATERS: Please take that on notice if your answer is incorrect.
Mr Sullivan : If that is incorrect, I will correct it.
CHAIR: Mr Sullivan, I understand that you have a clarification or an amendment to answer you gave.
Mr Sullivan : Thank you. It is a follow-up to a question on Working on Country and whether all the funding for Working on Country was directed at just rangers. I think we answered that it was.
There has previously been support for indigenous dugong, marine turtle and sea country management by Indigenous communities in Northern Australia and that included a ranger component. But, to be completely factual, there were some non-ranger components around Indigenous capacity building with respect to that project.
CHAIR: That concludes questioning on sustainable management of natural resources and the environment.
CHAIR: I now call officers from the department in relation to program 1.2—environmental information and research.
Senator SIEWERT: It was in the media two or three weeks ago that the Japanese may not be sending a fleet down this time. What is the status of that report? What is your understanding of whether or not there is a fleet going down this summer?
Ms Petrachenko : Our understanding is that the Japanese government is reviewing the situation with respect to their so-called scientific research in the Southern Ocean but that no decision has yet been made.
Senator SIEWERT: Do you know if there is a time line for that decision?
Ms Petrachenko : I am not aware of any precise time line, but, if we look at the overall approach to Southern Ocean programs they undertake every year, the fleet usually departs Japan at the end of November or the beginning of December.
Senator SIEWERT: I understand that there is an IWC process whereby they notify the region that they are whaling and where they are going to whale. Has that happened and what areas have they identified?
Ms Petrachenko : They have previously submitted a multiyear research—so-called research—plan. Normally they would change year to year between focusing on an area which is in the Australia search-and-rescue zone—which is where they were last year—and an area which is more the New Zealand search-and-rescue zone. But what they have done in the past few years, when they actually come out with the permits, is include both areas—to give, I would imagine, flexibility should conditions change.
Senator SIEWERT: Going back to the time line—you answered that by saying that the fleet would normally depart Japan in late November or early December. They have not indicated to the Australian government when they expect to be making a decision?
Ms Petrachenko : No, they have not.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: We would probably not be high on the list of people they would politely inform.
Senator SIEWERT: Are you the right witness to ask about our court case?
Ms Petrachenko : As we have discussed previously, most questions associated with the court case would be more appropriately addressed to the Attorney-General's Department.
Senator SIEWERT: Are you still continuing to provide advice on that case to AG's?
Ms Petrachenko : Yes.
CHAIR: You would be able to answer general questions in relation to the government's submissions which are on the public record, responses and so on. It is not that we cannot ask any questions about this—that would be the case?
Ms Petrachenko : That is exactly correct.
Senator SIEWERT: What is your understanding about when the case will now proceed?
Ms Petrachenko : We submitted our pleadings; Japan then submitted theirs. The court then had to decide whether there would be a second round of written pleadings. The court decided there would not be a second round. So now we are waiting for official confirmation from the court as to when the oral hearings will take place. We anticipate that they will be in the latter half of 2013.
Senator SIEWERT: There is no second round of pleadings?
Ms Petrachenko : No.
Senator SIEWERT: Is that usual?
Ms Petrachenko : My understanding is that the court is such that it does things on a case-by-case basis.
Senator SIEWERT: Going back to the potential that there may be a season again this year, what action is the Australian government taking to address that? Is there any proposal to send any monitoring vessels down, over and above what has been done in the past?
Ms Petrachenko : What we do every year in preparation for the Southern Ocean so-called research whaling that takes place is that we develop appropriate contingency plans. We do that in a cross-government approach, a whole-of-government approach, because it involves everything from AMSA, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, to other government departments. This year, because of the relationship with New Zealand, we share information with New Zealand about our experiences from last year. We share all of that information. In terms specifically of any monitoring, I am not aware of the government having made any decision on a monitoring vessel for this year.
Senator SIEWERT: Have you been asked for any advice? I am not asking what the advice is; I am asking: have you been asked for any advice?
Ms Petrachenko : No, I have not.
Senator SIEWERT: Can I ask another question—it is not related to the Antarctic but is related to whales—about the ongoing use of the area offshore from James Price Point and the nursery off there. Have you done any monitoring recently about the use of that area by whales or provided any advice to the assessment process for James Price Point development?
Ms Petrachenko : I am going to have to take that one on notice and check with our scientific group.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. Have you reviewed the environmental impact assessment document that Woodside have produced? Did you do a review of that document? If you did, have you provided advice to the assessment—
Ms Petrachenko : I can answer generally, and I will have to take on notice the specifics of the case. The way it works within the department for specific referrals that could have an impact on whales or other cetaceans is that when the application comes in it is then referred to our division, and we undertake an examination of it and provide information into the referral. But I will take on notice the specifics of the case you have mentioned.
Senator SIEWERT: If you could, that would be much appreciated, thank you.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Ms Petrachenko, you attended the 64th IWC in Panama City since we last met?
Ms Petrachenko : Yes, I did.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: What were the key outcomes of that meeting? My understanding is that you were going in with objectives that the IWC would shift to a biennial approach to meetings and some other key things that you hoped might provide some important reforms?
Ms Petrachenko : Yes. I am very pleased to tell you that we were successful in having agreement from the International Whaling Commission to move to a biennial format, so that will be an improvement, in that the Scientific Committee will continue to meet annually but the full commission itself will meet every two years. That will save some costs, obviously, but it will enable the intersessional work to still continue, so the important work of other subgroups will continue. We are now in the midst of planning intersessional work for the whale-watching subcommittee, the subcommittee working group on conservation management plans. So we are making sure that the work progresses, but the next commission meeting will not be held until 2014.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Excellent; thank you. There was also work going on in terms of attempting to finalise or reach some consensus on population estimates of minke whales. Can you provide me with an update on where agreement was or was not reached in that regard?
Ms Petrachenko : You will have to bear with me because, in the way the IWC works and the science that we have, while we do have an agreement it in fact is agreement on a range of numbers. So over a very long period of time, as you are aware, Senator, there have been a number of circumpolar cruises, which were non-lethal that were undertaken previously, which provided a range of data on various abundance for minke whales in the Southern Ocean. They were referred to as CP1, CP2 and CP3. They came up with different estimates. There were two different approaches to looking at that data. One that is referred to in the scientific literature is the OK method and the other method is referred to as the SPLINTR method. It took scientists a very long time to come to grips with the different approaches to what some viewed as inherent biases in the data and its collection.
It was finally agreed at this year's scientific committee and presented to the commission that in fact we now have a range that has been accepted by the commission that says that the population of minke whales could range from approximately 361,000 to 733,000. That is at various confidence levels but, overall, any point within that range, depending on the confidence level, could be the number. But there is not a number on which agreement has been reached. But, overall, the general feeling from the scientific committee reports is that there is a decline in minke whale populations. However, based on the modelling we cannot be certain that there is a decline. Some scientists would argue that there has been no decline; some could argue that there is still an increase and again it is because of this huge range. But the scientists from the Australian delegation are of the view that there is a decline in the numbers, potentially, of up to about a 30 per cent decline.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: A 30 per cent decline—I missed over what period of time.
Ms Petrachenko : That would be going back to the seventies, but I will have to take on notice any more precision than that.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: A 30 per cent decline since approximately the seventies. To what does the science attribute that decline?
Ms Petrachenko : The scientific committee in their review said these results indicate that more work needs to be done and more work to look at what is actually going on and more refinement into the methods. So there is more work to be done. The scientific committee will look at that at the next scientific committee meeting in Korea, in 2013.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Sometimes it all gets a little circular.
Ms Petrachenko : It shows the importance of the Southern Ocean Non-Lethal Research Partnership that we are embarking on, to look at what is going on in the Southern Ocean in terms of the overall ecosystem—a lot of work on the health of the ecosystem and the environment. That has been done not only through the Southern Ocean Non-Lethal Research Partnership but through other work that is happening through the IWC.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I appreciate that much of that relates to the work that you say is being undertaken to gain population estimates but in terms of trying to appreciate if there is approximately a 30 per cent decline since the 1970s, we need to establish what the cause of that decline is and how much of that is attributable to whaling activities as opposed to simply other habitat type issues.
Ms Petrachenko : Also, I should mention that it is not necessarily just those human-induced factors.
There are some scientists who have raised questions about the data itself. What we have been able to do in the past couple of years are aerial surveys that have in fact started spotting whales under pack ice, and so there are ideas that the numbers we started off with were incorrect and the models themselves could be flawed. That is why there has to be a really concerted effort to look at population, yes, the environmental factors, yes, but also the models themselves and whether there are problems.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Okay. In terms of the international whale science initiative, we are now well advanced in that sense; it is funded through to 2013-14. At this stage, has it produced indicative findings or do we have to await the grand results next year or the year after?
Ms Petrachenko : I think you would have seen over the last number of years a number of things the minister has announced in terms of some of the interim findings. A lot of the findings show that non-lethal means are able to give us the information that previously some believed could only be obtained through lethal means. So I think that already is one of the key outcomes of the research—our various tagging devices that we are using as well as acoustics. We will be having a blue whale research voyage this Australian summer, which will go down to the Southern Ocean in January-February and trial some new ways for finding blue whales. We know that blue whales are one of the most severely depleted whale populations on the planet, so if we can use this new technology that is what the Southern Ocean Research Partnership is all about.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Can you remind me again which other countries are engaged in the Southern Ocean Research Partnership?
Ms Petrachenko : Yes, Senator. You do this to me every time.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I do not know that I have asked this question for a long time. I have been reviewing the Hansard from last time and I certainly did not ask it then.
Ms Petrachenko : Okay, almost every time! Apart from us, there is New Zealand, the United States, France, Norway, Chile, Argentina and South Africa, and the rest I have to take notice.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Okay. Norway is of course a whaling country.
Ms Petrachenko : That is correct.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: So they are a very important partner to have in that regard. Has the partnership, during its work, provided the Japanese with an opportunity to comment on the approaches or methodology or other activities that are being undertaken?
Ms Petrachenko : We have. I have personally, on numerous occasions, spoken to Japan's Commissioner to the IWC about the importance of having Japan involved in the Southern Ocean Research Partnership. They have received that information but they have not decided to participate through any of the meetings of the partnership steering committee or the other workshops that we have. However, through the IWC, the Southern Ocean Research Partnership has been endorsed as a program of the International Whaling Commission. So it is not an Australian program; it is a partnership program endorsed by the IWC. Its results go to the IWC Scientific Committee, where Japan is a key member. So they are aware of the results and they have the opportunity to review our reports and the scientific results from the partnership.
CHAIR: We are running out of time, Senator Birmingham.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Can I just ask one quick question. Through that scientific committee, have Japan expressed any opinions, be they endorsements, reservations or otherwise, on the work of the partnership?
Ms Petrachenko : I will have to take that on notice to provide the detail and look through the scientific committee reports, but from what I can recall I am not aware of any area of concern that was raised.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Please do so. Thanks.
CHAIR: Ms Petrachenko, has there been any analysis or research done on the potential effects of supertrawlers on whales?
Ms Petrachenko : No, not to my knowledge, Senator. There has not.
CHAIR: Could that be an area for research?
Ms Petrachenko : I would have to leave that up to what the minister has announced in terms of the scientific review and what they will undertake, but there has not been anything from our area yet.
CHAIR: Okay. Thank you.
Senator SIEWERT: Chair, can I ask one question about the IWC and a vote there?
CHAIR: Yes, very quickly.
Senator SIEWERT: On the vote on St Vincent, why didn't you seek to unbundle those particular motions?
Ms Petrachenko : We did seek to unbundle those motions. We raised it with the parties. The United States and Russia had bundled their quotas with St Vincent and the Grenadines, but they held firm on the view that it had to go through for a one vote.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.
CHAIR: That concludes the questioning of environmental information and research.
CHAIR: I now call officers from the department in relation to program 1.3, carbon pollution reduction, land sector initiatives and the Land Sector Taskforce.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: On the biodiversity fund and the 318 funded projects, have contracts been entered into for all those projects?
Ms Lane : [inaudible] with those first round projects.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Have those projects hit first milestones or have they had to provide reports or the like?
Ms Lane : Yes, the first round projects have all now provided project plans, which we are currently looking through.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Can you tell me whether all those plans have been designated as satisfactory or otherwise at this stage?
Ms Lane : I believe they have been received, but I think there may still be a couple of additional pieces of information being sought on a couple of projects. But I do not have the details with me.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: First payments for all of these projects were made prior to 30 June.
Ms Lane : That is right.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Have payments for any of them been made since 30 June?
Ms Lane : No.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: What was the value of the pre-30 June funding?
Ms Lane : For the first round projects it was $271 million.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is the total value for these projects?
Ms Lane : That is right.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: What did the payments made pre 30 June total?
Ms Lane : The 2011-12 payments were $31.2 million.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Payments for this year?
Ms Lane : The payment due for 2012-13 is $20.6 million.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: As the projects got such large funding, essentially upfront, if any of them fail to meet their obligations, what provisions exist to recoup funds provided?
Ms Lane : The payment arrangements are structured in such a way that if the proponents fail to meet various reporting obligations then we have the right to cease further payments until such time as they meet those obligations.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Have they all had to provide reports by now?
Ms Lane : They have all provided project plans. They are due to provide a first progress report, I believe, early next year.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: When did they have to be provided by?
Ms Lane : I will have to take that detail on notice. I think they were due 40 business days after the first payment was made.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: That would mean somewhere around July, at worst, early August, assuming all payments were made by 30 June.
Ms Lane : All payments were made then, that is right.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Has the department managed to finalise review of some of those project plans or are they all still a work in progress?
Ms Lane : No, I believe some of them have been finalised, but some clarification of information on some may still be underway.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: And they are all being reviewed internally?
Ms Lane : Yes.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Some you have had to seek clarification on but you do not necessarily have data to give me an indication of how many that may be.
Ms Lane : I would have to take that on notice.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Aside from seeking further information at this stage, none have been deemed to be unsatisfactory.
Ms Lane : I do not believe so.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is all I have on the Biodiversity Fund.
CHAIR: I have got some questions. I am happy to come back if you want to continue.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I am happy to let you go.
CHAIR: The round one funding: one of the largest grants is the Border Rivers-Gwydir Catchment Management Authority grant. It says:
A broad consortium of natural resource management organisations and individuals has developed a vision for an increase in connectivity and agricultural productivity across the eco-climatic gradients in Northern NSW.
Can you give me some feedback on where that is up to?
Ms Lane : I do not have the details of that specific project with me; I am happy to take it on notice.
CHAIR: Yes, happy for that. Another one in the Gwydir—do you have any details on any of these projects?
Ms Lane : It depends on the nature of the question. I do not have the project plans or descriptions of the projects with me.
CHAIR: I will not pursue it then if you do not have them. That is fine. I may put some questions on notice if I need to.
Ms Lane : Sure, happy to take them on notice.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: In terms of the carbon farming initiative, what role is this department playing in advising and assisting the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the operation of the DOIC and their determinations, methodologies et cetera?
Ms Lane : We do not have a role in advising that department on methodologies going through the DOIC. Our relationship with the department of climate change other than through, obviously, our relationship under the Land Sector Package is through the Biodiversity Fund primarily, which is in part designed to assist CFI projects to become more biodiverse, but we do not have a role in advising on proposals going through the DOIC.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: In that sense, of the Biodiversity Fund projects that have been funded, how many of those are going to be able to make recognised contributions under the Carbon Farming Initiative?
Ms Lane : From memory around a third of the projects we funded in the first round indicated they would be participating in the CFI. That is that they are working with methodologies that are already approved under the CFI, but there are a number of other methodologies that we are aware of going through the DOIC process at the moment that may well be approved by the time we have the next round of the program.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Do you have any estimates as to the offset potential that these projects are going to generate?
Ms Lane : I would have to take that on notice; I do not have those details with me.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: In terms of the nature of the types of projects that are operating under existing, approved methodologies or those that may be able to make contributions under methodologies under consideration, can you give me a sense of the different types of projects that we are looking at here?
Ms Lane : I do not have those details with me. From memory, they are largely revegetation projects. They would be using the environmental plantings methodology under the CFI.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: And they might be looking to use the soil carbon methodology, which has not yet been approved.
Ms Lane : To participate in the CFI, they will need to be operating under an approved methodology, obviously. The majority of those that we have supported in our first round were largely around revegetation from memory.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: But, in terms of those that you think indicated that they would be looking to participate in the CFI but are under 'not yet approved methodologies', is soil carbon one?
Ms Lane : It may well be. There may well be projects that we are funding through the Biodiversity Fund which do not yet have approved methodologies but in order to gain carbon credits those methodologies obviously need to be approved under the CFI.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I go then to the Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund. How much is administered under that fund?
Ms Lane : The total value of the program is $22.3 million—$17.1 million of which administered by this department and $5.2 million administered by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is funding for the totality of the program or for this year?
Ms Lane : That is the total value of the program up until 2016-17.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: And for this year?
Ms Lane : In 2012-13 for this department it is $1.4 million and DCCEE's component is $1 million.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Okay. It is a very small ramp-up in this financial year compared to the overall four-year funding.
Ms Lane : It does increase in 2013-14.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: What are the objectives of the Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund, in abridged terms, not necessarily in a full page of program objectives?
Ms Lane : Broadly the program is designed to assist Indigenous Australians participate in the carbon life and in particular help them with some of the barriers unique to Indigenous Australians. For example, negotiating particular arrangements around land ownership and tenure. The DCCEE component is largely focussed on methodology research.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Round 1 of this program is meant to commence this financial year.
Ms Lane : That is right.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: So have the program guidelines been finalised?
Ms Lane : Program guidelines have been developed and we hope that the program will be announced shortly.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: The guidelines have been finalised pending announcement by the minister or someone to release it. What short of timeline are we looking at for inviting applications for the program?
Ms Lane : I will have to take that on notice. I cannot recall exactly the detail about the time frame for applications within the guidelines.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Okay. Within the $22.3 million overall pool, of which there is a chunk for research activities as you indicated, what is the ambition for the number of projects that will be supported?
Ms Lane : Within the SEWPaC component?
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Within the overall $22.3 million activity but you indicated that DCCEE's component was largely for research.
Ms Lane : Yes. Obviously I cannot comment too much on the research component that belongs in DCCEE—that largely depends on demand for the program—but the SEWPaC stream is designed to assist Indigenous communities either to develop proposals for participation in CFI or to assist them with things such as access to legal services or other expertise that would assist them to further develop already established proposals. I cannot really estimate the number of projects that we might receive by our application process or subsequently fund.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: What would be the maximum available grant?
Mr Sullivan : We will correct this if it is wrong but I think it is up to $300,000.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thank you. This really is to help with establishment and administration costs, essentially for Indigenous CFI activities, not to actually fund them per se but to help provide sufficient support to allow them to establish and get over the line, if I can put it that way.
Ms Lane : That is right. I think from memory there are two types of projects that we are looking to fund, as I mentioned earlier. One is where a small amount of money might be needed to develop an idea and then, as Mr Sullivan suggested, up to $300,000 to access particular legal expertise or business development support.
Mr Sullivan : You are right, Senator—it is basic capacity building and basic business support services, and again until we test the waters with the program we will not have a clear idea, as with any competitive grants program.
CHAIR: We now move to outcome 2, the improved sustainability of Australia's population, communities and environment through coordination and development of sustainable population and communities policies and the reduction and regulation of waste pollutants and hazardous substances.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I want to look at issues involving the application of the carbon equivalent price for refrigeration and the like. Can you firstly provide the committee with the details of how many paying liable entities there are facing these bills.
Dr Wright : I assume you are asking how many liable parties would be subject to the carbon price equivalent levy.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is correct.
Dr Wright : As I responded at the last estimates, there are around 900 regular importers of synthetic greenhouse gases and about 600 occasional importers, low volume importers.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Do those 1,500 importers have to register to pay the levy as indeed liable entities for the carbon price themselves have to register through DCC or the Clean Energy Regulator, or is this simply a case that they are already paying?
Dr Wright : They are required to hold an import licence, which has a charge to it, and most of the entities have already been subject to import licence requirements because synthetic greenhouse gases have previously been covered by the ozone and synthetic greenhouse gas legislation. In addition, they are subject to a carbon price equivalent based on the global warming potential of the gas they are importing, equivalent per tonne, and the first three years is set in legislation.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: From your estimates how much should refrigerant gases have gone up by as a result of the application of the carbon price equivalent levy?
Dr Wright : We can talk in absolute terms or percentage terms—there is a very large range of gases imported.
I could give you a couple of examples. There are a large number of gases which are sold on the market, but, in the hydrofluorocarbon family, the carbon price per kilo could be between $29 and $74. There is an outrider, sulphur hexafluoride, which has a very high global warming potential.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is the additional cost as a result of this levy, in that instance for hydrofluorocarbons. Barring your outrider, the impost, in addition to existing charges, would be between $29 and $74 per kilo.
Dr Wright : That is correct.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: What were those existing charges?
Dr Wright : That is the market price. The figure I have given you is the carbon price equivalent per kilo for the particular family of gas, which is calculated based on the global warming potential of that gas.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Was there an existing levy that had to be paid?
Dr Wright : No, there is an import licence required—and, my colleague has just reminded me, there is an administrative levy of $165.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: The administrative levy and the import licence are flat rate fees—it does not matter how much you are actually importing?
Dr Wright : That is right.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: This is the first time payments have had to be made on a per kilo basis?
Dr Wright : That is correct.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I appreciate that they are the market rates for how much consumers would pay for these types of gases. But, Dr Wright, as I am sure you would appreciate, there has been some debate about the extent to which these types of gases should go up. Are you able to give us any indication of what the actual cost is so that we could see what $29 to $74 per kilo would mean in relative terms? Have you done any research or work in that space on behalf of the government?
Dr Wright : Companies like Heatcraft have published their list prices for refrigerant gases. In June, on their website, they put the price per kilo and the quantum attributable to the carbon price equivalent, separately identifying other cost increases.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: You have cited Heatcraft—I am not sure if you are reading something there from which you could give us their figures? If you could, that would be useful. But obviously you are citing them in the belief that their figures are well explained and, to some degree, credible in terms of what the cost rise for these gases would be.
Dr Wright : I am aware that there has been media coverage of cost increases and concerns that the quantum attributable to the carbon price has been significantly higher than the levy impost per kilo. Increases of over 200 per cent have been quoted. The ACCC has been asked to look at all complaints and has followed them up. In the majority of cases they have found that the significant increase has been attributable not to the carbon price equivalent but to other market factors. To my knowledge, there has only been one case where a company was found to have been misleading and that company was required to issue a retraction and entered into an enforceable undertaking with the ACCC.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Dr Wright, you mentioned Heatcraft before. Do you have their breakdown figures in front of you?
Dr Wright : I do have figures that were released on 6 June.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Are you able to table them? Or perhaps you could read out the range of examples that relate to the range of tax you gave us for HFCs of $29 to $74 per kilo
Dr Wright : There is a paper here that Heatcraft sent to their customers which has a table with the prices on the back. There are two tables I could provide. I only have one copy, so we would need to take a copy of it.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: What would be the carbon price equivalent levy for the gas R404A, which I understand is one of the more commonly used refrigerants?
Dr Wright : The carbon price per kilo would be $74.98.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: That is helpful because it means that the article I am quoting from has its basic facts correct, which is always nice to know before you go diving into these things.
Senator Farrell: It has never been a prerequisite before, Senator.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Please, Senator Farrell. That is a very unfair slur. It is also a very rare intervention. I think it is the first time you have said anything since about 9.30 this morning!
Senator Farrell: That is not true. You obviously were not here when I was talking to Senator Macdonald.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: On the record, I meant.
Senator Farrell: That was on the record.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: That must have been the only two minutes of the day that I was not here.
CHAIR: Senator Birmingham, I would counsel you not to ask the ministers to engage.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Indeed.
CHAIR: We know what that leads to, don't we?
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thank you. Dr Wright, is the department aware of a warning provided by Zurich Australia insurance about the potential impact of the carbon tax and the carbon equivalent levy to the loss of refrigerant gases from accidents or breakdowns?
Dr Wright : No, I am not aware of what you are specifically referring to.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I understand Zurich issued a note that indicated that 95 per cent of all machinery breakdown insurance risks involved air-conditioning and refrigeration plants. To quote from the note: 'Carbon pricing will have a dramatic effect on losses. It does not take into consideration added costs of repair and mark-ups or the costs associated with actual equipment breakdown. It should also be noted that carbon tax per tonne is not static; it will rise in 2013 and 2014.' It went on to advise: 'Due to these significant increases, we recommend brokers review the adequacy of sums insured with clients and, as with the Zurich Engineering product, ensure their current coverage automatically includes the costs associated with the loss of refrigerant gases.' Are you aware that it is widespread practice to insure against these types of machinery breakdowns and include insuring against refrigerant gas loss?
Dr Wright : We are generally aware that, as with most businesses, it is good practice to insure against breakdowns and things that may cause losses to business but we are not across specific details.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: In terms of the overall costs for an average supermarket having to restock gas as the result of a loss, what is your understanding of that average loss likely to be?
Dr Wright : What I can give you is an estimate for a refrigerator in an average takeaway store, where it would be subject to an annual leakage of around 12.5 per cent and the additional cost per year for regassing would be in the order of $30.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: For an average takeaway store where there is an average annual leakage of some gas—
Dr Wright : Yes, R134a is the gas and a typical annual leakage is 12.5 per cent. Leakage rates vary from four per cent for a domestic air conditioner to—some can be as high as—40 per cent. There is quite an issue in terms of maintenance of equipment to prevent leakage.
Senator McKENZIE: Sorry, Dr Wright, just to follow up on that: have you done any work on cool stores for horticultural products such as apples and pears?
Dr Wright : No, Senator.
Senator McKENZIE: Thank you.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Are there any other industry examples aside from the average leakage of the corner shop?
Dr Wright : A medium-sized supermarket coolroom gassed by R404a has an annual leakage rate of around 12.5 per cent and the typical additional cost per year to regas is $122.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: And do these annual leakage rates include those occasions where there is a complete machine failure and a need to completely restock the gas? Or is it simply a case of taking what might be an ordinary average annual occurrence and ignoring the extraordinary incidents?
Dr Wright : I would need to check the data from which these figures were derived in order to answer that accurately.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: If a coolroom lost all its gas, how much would it cost to regas it? Do you have that in any of your models? Are we talking thousands or tens of thousands of dollars?
Dr Wright : The example we were talking about just now would be $975 for a complete regas.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: For the corner store's fridge?
Dr Wright : No, this is the supermarket; for the takeaway store it would be $239.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: You are saying $900-odd for a mid-sized supermarket to restock all of their gas.
Dr Wright : That is correct in the event of total loss.
CHAIR: Hydrofluorocarbons are one of the most polluting of gases, aren't they?
Dr Wright : In terms of carbon pollution?
CHAIR: Yes, carbon emissions.
Dr Wright : They have global warming potentials of between 140 and 23,900, and some of the gases can last in the atmosphere for 3,000 years.
CHAIR: There is a worldwide move to try to reduce the use of these gases, isn't there?
Dr Wright : That is correct.
CHAIR: It is not just Australia that is trying to deal with this.
Dr Wright : No.
CHAIR: Was Heatcraft a company that the ACCC dealt with?
Dr Wright : No, that was—
CHAIR: What was the company that the ACCC made a determination against?
Dr Wright : It was a refrigeration contractor in South Australia called Equipserve Solutions Pty Ltd.
CHAIR: What was the situation with their breach?
Dr Wright : They contravened sections 18 and 29 of Australian consumer law.
CHAIR: In what terms did they breach the consumer law?
Dr Wright : As I stated earlier, the ACCC was concerned that they had misled customers and caused them to believe that the entire price increase was due to the carbon price when, in fact, this was not the case.
CHAIR: So they misled the public.
Dr Wright : That is correct.
CHAIR: There has been a fair bit of misleading on this stuff. I suppose some politicians are misleading more than some businesses.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: Like the Prime Minister at the last election?
CHAIR: No, like Sophie Mirabella saying that this is terrible for industry and for the retail sector. Are you aware, Dr Wright, of a Mr Tim Edwards, the President of the Australian Refrigeration Association?
Dr Wright : Yes.
CHAIR: Are you aware of some analysis that he has made about the claims by the opposition industry spokeswoman, Sophie Mirabella, and Zurich Australia?
Dr Wright : No.
CHAIR: Let me run past you some of the things he said and get your analysis of it. Mr Edwards said:
… while machinery breakdown insurance premiums may face some rise in the short-term in response to the high replacement costs of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) refrigerants, this is only expected to be a short-term transitional impact.
Is that consistent with the department's view?
Dr Wright : The government's policy is seeking to reduce the impact of synthetic greenhouse gases, including by increasing recycling and improving maintenance. As I said earlier, leakage rates can be 40 per cent per annum, so there is huge scope to improve maintenance of equipment. It is also seeking to encourage the use of alternates which have low or no global warming potential.
CHAIR: It is not just the government that is saying this but also Mr Edwards, who is an expert in the field. He says:
HFC refrigerant price changes arising from the HFC levy can be expected to result in better maintenance practices.
Is that consistent with your view?
Dr Wright : That is most certainly consistent. There is good documentation of leakage rates, particularly in commercial equipment, and 40 per cent leakage per annum offers huge potential for improvement.
CHAIR: He goes on to say:
Better maintenance will reduce refrigerant leakage and catastrophic losses and avoid the cost of refrigerant replacement. Better maintenance will also improve the energy efficiency of refrigeration equipment.
Is that consistent with the views of the government and the department?
Dr Wright : That is correct.
CHAIR: He says:
In time the insurance risk will ameliorate. At the same time greater use of natural refrigerants will further reduce the operator’s and the insurance industry's exposure to large cost impacts imposed by the levy.
Is that consistent?
Dr Wright : That is correct. I would also add that the cost increases on synthetic greenhouse gases that are not attributable to the carbon price equivalent have been driven by global factors. They have been larger than the carbon price equivalent and driven by a change in policy in China to use most of their fluorspar, which is a major input for the manufacture of fluorine fine chemicals, including refrigerants. So they have not been exporting much to the rest of the world. This has driven a global shortage and the spot price has increased by up to 69 per cent.
CHAIR: You have seen this, haven't you?
Dr Wright : I have other sources, Senator.
CHAIR: You are pre-empting my questions here. It says that Mr Edwards said:
For the last five years or more the major supermarket retailers and many independents have been taking steps to use carbon dioxide cascade refrigeration systems or self-contained hydrocarbon freezer cabinets in all their new stores.
Is that a trend that has been seen?
Dr Wright : That is quite noticeable in local supermarkets in Canberra. In Coles you will find that the fridges are now cabinets which are sealed and they have lights which go on only when you walk up to them. They are alternate refrigerants, not synthetic greenhouse gases.
CHAIR: It also said:
This has been done both to address the high leakage rates in conventional systems and to avoid the high refrigerant replacement cost of leakage, and also in anticipation of carbon pricing on HFC refrigerants.
Dr Wright : Yes, I believe the major supermarkets undertook their own internal studies and found that their leakage rates were up to 25 per cent.
CHAIR: It says:
All other users of refrigerants now have a significant incentive to follow their lead and to invest in natural refrigerant systems which avoid exposure to the HFC levy.
That is part of the driver of a carbon price to get people to adopt better practices, better refrigeration, better technology.
Dr Wright : Indeed, and there is purpose-built refrigeration equipment now that uses alternate refrigerants which have either no or very low global warming potential, a GWP maybe of four.
CHAIR: And it goes on to say:
International evidence in this regard is available from Denmark and Norway. Their HFC taxes raised the price of HFC significantly, which stimulated improved maintenance practices, reduced leaks, and encouraged the development and application of natural refrigerants.
Has the department seen any of this evidence from Denmark and Norway?
Dr Wright : Sorry, we are checking on some facts. The question was: had we seen any evidence from overseas?
CHAIR: Yes, basically overseas, that what is trying to be achieved here has been achieved by increasing the price of HFCs. Mr Dadswell?
Mr Dadswell : Sorry, I missed the question, Senator.
CHAIR: I thought you were trying to get advice on the question. I am not sure what you were doing but I will ask it again. It says:
International evidence in this regard is available from Denmark and Norway. Their HFC taxes raised the price of HFC significantly, which stimulated improved maintenance practices, reduced leaks and encouraged the development and application of natural refrigerants.
Is that a correct statement?
Mr Dadswell : Yes, Senator.
CHAIR: So the arguments being put forward that this would increase insurance costs and that it will have a significant negative impact on employment and costs in the retail sector are overblown and not correct, based on the analysis we have just gone through?
Dr Wright : As you have indicated, there is likely to be a shift over time as businesses plan for capital replacement, that they can move to different equipment with lower global warming potential gases, that there is likely to be a shift into increased maintenance. So over time you are correct that there will be a move away from the high price gases.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: I have several questions, but perhaps I could just ask about hazardous wastes. Are you aware of any issues with existing C-cells across the country in terms of leachates or problems with their structure or design in terms of the disposal of hazardous wastes?
Dr Wright : Sorry, I am not sure I fully understand the question.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: We have an issue in Tasmania at the moment where we are developing a C-cell for our hazardous waste disposal. I am just wondering if you are aware of any issues with existing C-cells across the country. We are the only state which does not have one, but there is strong community opposition. Are you aware of any issues with existing C-cells?
Dr Wright : It has not come to our attention to date.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: So there are no major issues there. In terms of hazardous waste trading between states, I am just wondering if there has ever been an attempt to develop a register of hazardous wastes at a commercial level. I have seen the details relating to the types of wastes traded across states that have already been processed within states, but there does not seem to be any company-specific information. Has there ever been any attempt to develop that?
Dr Wright : As part of the National Waste Policy, there is an undertaking across jurisdictions to look at the classification of hazardous waste to try and improve the capability for businesses to operate across borders. There are currently different operational systems and different classification systems that operate in each jurisdiction. Some systems are manual; some are electronic. They use different data and different classifications, and that is a barrier to trade, so that aspect is being addressed under the National Waste Policy. That would really be a precursor to the sort of information that you are asking about. The only other source of data is collected under the movement of controlled waste NEPMs, which register movements across boundaries, but there is no central register as such at the moment.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: Has there been push-back from companies on that specific area of transparency, on wastes and legacy wastes or what they are trading? Is it a reputational risk issue?
Dr Wright : No. In the consultation on the National Waste Policy, businesses were quite keen to have improved capability to operate across jurisdictions, because the nature of hazardous waste disposal and destruction facilities in Australia is more boutique style. If you want to destroy pharmaceuticals, you need to go to the facility in Adelaide. If it is clinical waste, then it is Brisbane. There are different capabilities in different jurisdictions.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: Once again, on the issue in Tasmania at the moment about heavy metal contamination of soil et cetera, there does not seem to be anything compelling companies, particularly in terms of legacy waste, to register what they actually have or what needs to be treated.
Dr Wright : Not at a national—
Senator WHISH-WILSON: Not at a national level either? And there are no moves to do that—
Dr Wright : Not at a national level at present.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: at a company level?
Dr Wright : No.
CHAIR: Thanks very much, Dr Wright. That concludes the management of hazardous waste substances and pollution.
CHAIR: We will now move to program 2.2, Sustainable communities.
Senator McKENZIE: Under program 2.2, I understand that there is a Sustainable Australia, Sustainable Communities Suburban Jobs Program—yes?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : Yes, that is correct.
Senator McKENZIE: Excellent. When can we expect to see this program delivering jobs in suburban areas?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : I should point out that the program itself is not a job creation program, it is a program that is designed to assist people to be able to work closer to home. People that are having to drive into the CBD, instead of going all that way, through this program they will have opportunities closer to where they live.
Senator McKENZIE: It does not create the job. At the moment they are driving to the CBD for their job. We want them working closer to home but is not going to assist to create the jobs.
CHAIR: You should allow Mrs Wiley-Smith to answer the question.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : It is about assisting state and local governments to plan for and provide enduring employment opportunities outside of CBDs. So while it is not an employment participation or creation program, there will be through the projects that have been announced employment opportunities that are created but most of the focus of the program is really getting people out of working in CBDs and getting them close to where they live and where they have a community.
Senator McKENZIE: There have been three projects recently announced, I believe.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : That is correct.
Senator McKENZIE: One is in Melton.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : Correct.
Senator McKENZIE: Out of the amount allocated, how much was the federal government's portion of that?
CHAIR: I hope you put it out in your next newsletter how much money.
Senator McKENZIE: I do not look after Melton, Senator Cameron. It is in the city, it is a suburban jobs program, not regional.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : The project itself, which is in the Shire of Melton, the Western Business Accelerator and Centre for Excellence, is worth $21.1 million and of that the Commonwealth is contributing $14.6 million.
Senator McKENZIE: Excellent. I believe it is to build a sustainably designed business hub.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : It is, and there are further elements of the project as well.
Senator McKENZIE: Could you let me know how much of that component of funding is for the sustainably designed business hub?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : I can, but I will have to take that on notice. I do not have a breakdown with me.
Senator McKENZIE: Okay. In the proposal how many jobs was the sustainably designed business club projected to assist with developing in the community?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : The completed project, for the whole accelerator and the centre of excellence, is 60 construction jobs anticipated and another 134 ongoing jobs, which will be within the precinct itself. But the western accelerator is actually part of the larger Toolern precinct development which, along with the economic enablers that are happening in that region, with public transport, public spaces and community services that are going in, aims to provide about 22,000 jobs by 2030.
Senator McKENZIE: Do we have an estimation of the carbon footprint of that project?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : No, I do not.
Senator McKENZIE: But we know it is sustainably designed.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : I will have to take that on notice.
Senator McKENZIE: I appreciate it.
CHAIR: Could you also give us on notice some estimate of the savings on carbon for people who would be employed there and not travelling long distances. Has that been looked at?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : I am sure that it probably has, so we will certainly take that on notice.
CHAIR: I want to ask about a similar project. Is it a similar project at the University of Western Sydney Werrington Park Corporate Centre? It sounds like it to me.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : Yes, it is a similar project.
CHAIR: That is another $13.5 million government funding for Western Sydney.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : Correct. The project itself is $29.5 million and the Commonwealth is contributing $13.5 million.
CHAIR: This will be for enterprises in e-health, digital communication and intelligent engineering sectors.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : Correct.
CHAIR: Has it been welcomed by the Western Sydney community?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : It certainly has. The project itself, which is with the University of Western Sydney, is also supported by the Penrith Business Alliance and the Penrith City Council.
Senator McKENZIE: I have a follow up on that, Chair. Are those three projects—the Western Sydney, the Penrith and the Blue Mountain Coalition—in Labor held or coalition seats?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : I do not know.
Senator McKENZIE: Please take that on notice.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : Certainly.
CHAIR: I am sure we can find that out for all the projects, and not just those ones. I think you know, so I do not know why you are asking.
Senator LUDLAM: Do the three projects we are discussing, the other one being Playford, account for the entire appropriation for the grant or are there other announcements yet to be made?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : The entire appropriation for the program in terms of what was available in grant funding has now been expended or allocated, yes.
Senator LUDLAM: I understand that program was pretty heavily oversubscribed in the end, wasn't it?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : It was, yes.
Senator LUDLAM: I think the original announcement was $100 million. Did all of the states and territories make at least one application for funding?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : No, the program itself was really targeting the five major capital cities. Of those states, they all submitted applications.
Senator LUDLAM: Are those applications public? Can we find out what you had to let go and what you were not able to fund?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : They are not public at this stage. We are going through a process at the moment of talking to all of the unsuccessful applicants and providing some feedback to them. Through that process we hope to make them all public.
Senator LUDLAM: How will you determine the effectiveness of the program and whether it is likely to be continued? I am not sure whether Senator McKenzie was expressing scepticism before or merely asking for information, but it looks like a damn good idea to me to bring jobs and services to where people live in the suburbs. If this works, will it be continued and how will we find out?
Mrs Wiley-Smith : That is a matter for government and the project is only at its early stages. However, in terms of how we would measure our success, we have set up a project working group with the three successful proponents and the Commonwealth. We are going through and sharing project lessons and outcomes and also looking at the barriers to successful delivery of local employment opportunities into the future. We hope to be able to share that information with other state governments and local governments as well. Through the monitoring and evaluation we will be looking at contributions to deliver improved employment opportunities. We are also looking at reducing investment risk in similar projects. We are also looking at how partnerships have contributed to the development of these precincts. We are also looking at the National Broadband Network and how that element has ruled through the precincts. All of that will be reported on.
Senator LUDLAM: That is great; those are the kinds of cross-portfolio initiatives that we are looking for. You have provided me with three answers to questions on notice from last session. Apologies if you submitted this and I missed it, but I asked you about whether affordable commercial space was being looked at as being made a priority, particularly in areas where there are empty spaces as is the case in many even suburban town centres and high streets, such as shop top spaces that are empty. I did not see any sign of an answer. Can you check whether that was provided and if not please provide an answer. It seems to me that at a relatively low cost we could bring a lot of commercial space in suburban areas into use. I am perplexed as to the reasons why that is not happening. I was in Sydney at the weekend and all through the inner city space is vacant at the same time as we have a housing affordability crisis and a lot of businesses that cannot get into these areas.
Mrs Wiley-Smith : We can certainly check on that. Available commercial space was an issue that came up during the consultation and it is something that has been addressed in the three projects that have been selected.
Senator LUDLAM: My only grief with that is that there are only three projects and presumably you had a lot more interest than just that. Due to the time constraints, I am now going to fire a whole lot of questions which you will probably need to take on notice. You would be aware I generally ask about indicators, consultation data sources to underpin the headline indicators. Mr Sullivan, is that still your domain?
Mr Sullivan : Temporarily it is.
Senator LUDLAM: Please provide us on notice, in terms of funding, what is left in the bucket and what kinds of resources the indicators will measure and provide us with an update on what is happening there. One of the largest threats to biodiversity is obviously land clearing. Please tell us how you think land clearing, both in urban and regional areas, will be included in your indicators and whether they will tell us, for example, what we have left and what needs to be protected, particularly in urban areas where we are down to the last little bits and pieces of urban diversity. How will you be working with the states and territories on these indicators? Even though we have spoken on this at some length in various sessions, I am still—
CHAIR: Senator Ludlam, I think you can put the others on notice. That concludes the day's program. I want to thank the Parliamentary Secretary and officers for their attendance. Senators are reminded that written questions on notice should be provided to the secretariat by close of business Wednesday next week, 24 October.
Committee adjourned at 23:01