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Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Page: 2204

Export Finance and Insurance Corporation

(Question No. 350)

Senator Ludlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 13 December 2010:

With reference to the 5 year environment and social policy review conducted by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC):

(1) What steps have been taken by EFIC to promote the current review.

(2) What kinds of efforts were made by way of consultation and encouraging public submissions.

(3) Has EFIC provided a public document outlining the review process and opportunities for consultation and engagement.

(4) What efforts were made to seek input from EFIC supported projects where communities have been affected, and from other stakeholders in host countries.

(5) In relation to the submissions received by EFIC as part of its review: (a) how many have been received and from whom; (b) will they be made public; (c) will EFIC publish a public response to the submissions and recommendations received during the current review; (d) will EFIC respond to these submissions beyond a letter of acknowledgement; and (e) is there anything in the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991 that prevents EFIC from responding to the substance contained in the submissions.

(6) Has EFIC engaged in a public forum or public hearing process during the review; if not, will EFIC hold such a public consultation event before approving the revised policy.

(7) Have the proposed new EFIC Social and Environment Policy and Procedure documents been reviewed by an independent corporate social responsibility expert during the review process.

Senator Conroy: The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) EFIC commenced the current review of its Environment Policy more than 18 months ago. Over that time EFIC has consulted its stakeholders through a variety of methods including one-on-one discussions, distribution of a questionnaire to clients, a formal public consultation period (discussed under questions 2 and 3) and a workshop with respondents to the formal consultation (discussed under question 6).

(2) (3) and (4) EFIC formally consulted its stakeholders by posting a draft revised Environmental Policy and Procedure on its website and requesting submissions from interested parties. The consultation period was open between 6 August and 1 October, 2010 and was twice extended following the separate requests of two civil society organisations that eventually made submissions.

To encourage submissions EFIC directly emailed details of the consultation period and the consultation documents to those people and organisations registered with EFIC to receive alerts when EFIC's Category A register is updated. (The Category A register advises stakeholders of EFIC's potential involvement in projects with a potential for significant environmental and social impact).

(5) (a) EFIC received three submissions from civil society organisations (CSOs): Oxfam Australia, Jubilee Australia and the Mineral Policy Institute. (b), (c), (d) and (e) EFIC organised a workshop in December 2010 with the three CSOs that responded to its request for submissions on its Environment Policy Review (discussed under question 6). One of the outcomes of that workshop was an agreement that EFIC will publish on its website:

- copies of the submissions received (subject to the author's consent);

- EFIC's response to the submissions. This comprises an analysis of the submissions that was used as the basis for the workshop discussions; and

- a paper summarising the workshop outcomes. This was prepared by an independent facilitator engaged for the workshop and represents a set of agreed outcomes that will help inform the finalisation of EFIC's revised Policy and associated Procedure.

(6) EFIC organised an independently facilitated one day workshop between EFIC, DFAT and the three CSOs that made submissions on its Environment Policy Review. The workshop's aims were to:

- provide an opportunity for EFIC and the CSOs to discuss the Policy, Procedure and the submissions, and

- identify and develop some consensus views that will inform the Policy and Procedure finalisation.

- An independent facilitator was engaged for the workshop to both facilitate discussions and also to prepare a paper summarising the workshop outcomes.

(7) EFIC has internal expertise in environmental and social impact assessment and management. However EFIC did not engaged an independent corporate social responsibility expert. A combination of that expertise and consultation with stakeholders and the other activities noted above has provided a broad basis for the preparation of the new Policy and Procedure.

The preparation of the proposed new Policy and Procedure for EFIC's environmental and social review of transactions has been in progress for about 18 months and was informed by a broad range of activities including:

- direct discussions with stakeholders as outlined in the responses to previous questions;

- the participation of EFIC's staff in a variety of external forums. Coincidental to EFIC's Environment Policy review there has been a review by the International Finance Corporation of the Performance Standards (EFIC's benchmark) and a review of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development "Common Approaches" (EFIC's international obligation). EFIC staff have been actively participating in these reviews.