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Education and Employment Legislation Committee - 04/06/2015 - Estimates - EDUCATION AND TRAINING PORTFOLIO

EDUCATION AND TRAINING PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Birmingham, Assistant Minister for Education and Training

Senator Ryan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Training

Executive

Ms Lisa Paul AO, PSM, Secretary

Mr Robert Griew, Associate Secretary, Higher Education, Research and International

Mr Tony Cook PSM, Associate Secretary, Schools and Youth

Mr Subho Banerjee, Deputy Secretary, Skills and Training

Cross Portfolio

Mr Simon Gotzinger, Chief Lawyer, Corporate

Ms Michelle Cornish, Group Manager, People, Communication and Legal

Ms Jacqueline Gleeson, Branch Manager, People, Communication and Legal

Ms Margaret Leggett, Acting Branch Manager, People, Communication and Legal

Ms Janine Hollis, Acting Branch Manager, People, Communication and Legal

Ms Susan Monkley, Chief Finance Officer and Chief Information Officer and Group Manager, Finance, Parliamentary and Assurance

Mr Robert Latta, Branch Manager, Finance, Parliamentary and Assurance

Ms Delaine Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, Shared Services Centre

Schools and Youth

Ms Deb Efthymiades, Group Manager, Schooling

Dr David Atkins, Branch Manager, Schooling

Ms Louise Hanlon, Group Manager, Improving Student Outcomes

Mr Patrick Burford, Branch Manager, Improving Student Outcomes

Mr David Hardy, Acting Branch Manager, Improving Student Outcomes

Ms Alex Gordon, Group Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Ms Rhyan Bloor, Branch Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Ms Oon Ying Chin, Branch Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Ms Gabrielle Phillips, Branch Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Higher Education, Research and International

Ms Anne Baly, Group Manager, International

Dr Lyndal Groom, Branch Manager, International

Ms Liz Campbell-Dorning, Acting Branch Manager, International

Ms Karen Sandercock, Acting Branch Manager, International

Mr Vipan Mahajan, Executive Director, International

Ms Suzi Hewlett, Acting Group Manager, Higher Education Support

Ms Maryann Quagliata, Branch Manager, Higher Education Support

Mrs Di Weddell, Branch Manager, Higher Education Support

Ms Alison Cleary, Acting Branch Manager, Higher Education Support

Ms Jessie Borthwick, Group Manager, Higher Education Reform

Mr Craig Ritchie, Branch Manager, Higher Education Reform

Ms Julie Birmingham, Acting Branch Manager, Higher Education Reform

Ms Melissa Reardon, Director, Higher Education Reform

Mr Andrew Herd, Director, Higher Education Reform

Mr Harold Lomas, Director, Higher Education Reform

Mr Dom English, Group Manager, Research and Economic

Ms Virginia Hart, Branch Manager, Research and Economic

Dr Andrew Taylor, Branch Manager, Research and Economic

Ms Ditta Zizi, Branch Manager, Research and Economic

Skills and Training

Mr Craig Robertson, Group Manager, Skills Policy

Mr Jason Coutts, Branch Manager, Skills Policy

Mr Grant Lovelock, Branch Manager, Skills Policy

Dr Melissa McEwen, Branch Manager, Skills Policy

Ms Genevieve Watson, Acting Branch Manager, Skills Policy

Mr Brendan Morling, Group Manager, Skills Programmes

Ms Linda White, Branch Manager, Skills Programmes

Ms Peta Furnell, Group Manager, VET Reform Taskforce

Ms Kathryn Shugg, Branch Manager, VET Reform Taskforce

Mr David Turvey, Branch Manager, VET Reform Taskforce

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Mr Russell Taylor, Principal

Dr Lisa Strelein, Acting Deputy Principal

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority

Mr Robert Randall, Chief Executive Officer

Dr Phil Lambert, General Manager, Curriculum

Dr Stanley Rabinowitz, General Manager, Assessment and Reporting

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership

Ms Margery Evans, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Edmund Mission, General Manager

Australian Research Council

Professor Aidan Byrne, Chief Executive Officer

Ms Leanne Harvey, Executive General Manager

Australian Skills Quality Authority

Mr Christopher Robinson, Chief Commissioner

Ms Jonella Welsh, Chief Financial Officer

Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency

Professor Nicholas Saunders, Chief Commissioner

Mr Ben Johnson, Chief Executive Officer (interim)

Committee met at 09:01

CHAIR ( Senator McKenzie ): I declare open this meeting of the Education and Employment Legislation Committee. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed expenditure for 2015-16 and certain other documents for the Education and Training portfolio. The committee may also examine the annual reports of the department and agencies appearing before it. The committee has is due to report to the Senate on 23 June 2015 and has fixed 24 July 2015 as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice.

Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee.

The Senate, by resolution in 1999, endorsed the following test of relevance of questions at estimates hearings: any questions going to the operations or financial positions of the departments or agencies which are seeking funds in the estimates are relevant questions for the purposes of estimates hearings. I remind officers that the Senate has resolved that there are no areas in connection to the expenditure of public funds where any person has the discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament or its committees unless the parliament has expressly provided otherwise. The Senate has also resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to an order of the Senate of 13 May 2009 specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised. Witnesses are specifically reminded that a statement that information or a document is confidential or consists of advice to government is not a statement that meets the requirements of the 2009 order. Instead, witnesses are required to provide some specific indication of the harm to the public interest that would result from the disclosure of the information or the document.

The extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

(a) notes that ministers and officers have continued to refuse to provide information to Senate committees without properly raising claims of public interest immunity as required by past resolutions of the Senate;

(b) reaffirms the principles of past resolutions of the Senate by this order, to provide ministers and officers with guidance as to the proper process for raising public interest immunity claims and to consolidate those past resolutions of the Senate;

(c) orders that the following operate as an order of continuing effect:

(1) If:

   (a) a Senate committee, or a senator in the course of proceedings of a committee, requests information or a document from a Commonwealth department or agency; and

   (b) an officer of the department or agency to whom the request is directed believes that it may not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, the officer shall state to the committee the ground on which the officer believes that it may not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, and specify the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document.

(2) If, after receiving the officer’s statement under paragraph (1), the committee or the senator requests the officer to refer the question of the disclosure of the information or document to a responsible minister, the officer shall refer that question to the minister.

(3) If a minister, on a reference by an officer under paragraph (2), concludes that it would not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, the minister shall provide to the committee a statement of the ground for that conclusion, specifying the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document.

(4) A minister, in a statement under paragraph (3), shall indicate whether the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document to the committee could result only from the publication of the information or document by the committee, or could result, equally or in part, from the disclosure of the information or document to the committee as in camera evidence.

(5) If, after considering a statement by a minister provided under paragraph (3), the committee concludes that the statement does not sufficiently justify the withholding of the information or document from the committee, the committee shall report the matter to the Senate.

(6) A decision by a committee not to report a matter to the Senate under paragraph (5) does not prevent a senator from raising the matter in the Senate in accordance with other procedures of the Senate.

(7) A statement that information or a document is not published, or is confidential, or consists of advice to, or internal deliberations of, government, in the absence of specification of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document, is not a statement that meets the requirements of paragraph (1) or (4).

(8) If a minister concludes that a statement under paragraph (3) should more appropriately be made by the head of an agency, by reason of the independence of that agency from ministerial direction or control, the minister shall inform the committee of that conclusion and the reason for that conclusion, and shall refer the matter to the head of the agency, who shall then be required to provide a statement in accordance with paragraph (3).

(d) requires the Procedure Committee to review the operation of this order and report to the Senate by 20 August 2009.

(13 May 2009 J.1941)

(Extract, Senate Standing Orders, pp 124-125)