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FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 07/02/2000 - DEPARTMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET - Output 1.1 - Economic policy advice and coordination

Senator ROBERT RAY —I have some broad questions about the annual report in the area of performance pay for the SES. Am I right in saying that in the period 1998-99 there were 44 eligible people for performance pay and that 15 received performance pay?

Mr Henderson —Are you reading from a particular page, Senator?

Senator ROBERT RAY —I do not even know whether I brought down your report with me, Mr Henderson. I read it the other day.

Mr Henderson —Those numbers sound familiar to me. That is 1998-99.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes. Basically there are about four divisions in PM&C; in spite of all the changes et cetera, you have about four streamed divisions, don't you?

Mr Henderson —No, there are more than four divisions.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Sorry. Within PM&C before you get to the agencies, you have economic, social, international and support of government. They are the four streams there. Then you have other agencies sort of tacked on.

Mr Henderson —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Were the 15 out of 44 spread through those four programs evenly?

Mr Henderson —They would be spread through those areas. I do not have precise information on the distribution of those 15 people across the four groups, no.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Are executive coordinators eligible for performance pay?

Mr Henderson —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —And it is the secretary who would assess them, I take it?

Mr Henderson —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —The secretary would award performance pay within the various divisions on the recommendation of the executive coordinator, would he?

Mr Henderson —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —What steps do you take to make sure that there is some sort of objectivity here? I know that there is an element of subjectivity anyway but in any organisation, no matter how noble, there is always the odd accusation of favouritism or patronage or otherwise. How do you get an objective approach to this to reward those who have put in?

Mr Henderson —At the start of the process there is, as there now is for all staff in the department, a performance agreement written at the beginning of the performance year - and the performance year, the annual cycle starts in April. You would ask staff to prepare a report on whether they think they have delivered against that performance agreement. Band 1 officers in the SES would discuss that with their division heads. The performance pay for those 44 eligible and the 15 that got it would have been discussed by the executive, which is the secretary, the three executive coordinators and the division head of the International Division. Those executive coordinators would have taken on board the comments of the division heads in regard to those staff. But people are very conscious of being even-handed because there are some positions in which, in one way or another, you get a lot of prominence with the executive because of needing to frequently meet. With other people, in a sense the job might not be as prominent but you are delivering very valuable work for the organisation or for the PMO and the Prime Minister.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is a system that is potentially divisive of unified work and cooperation, isn't it, if people feel that they are not getting a good go?

Mr Henderson —It is potentially divisive, but I do not believe that has been the experience in PM&C. For SES this has been the situation for more than a decade now. Under our certified agreement we introduced performance agreements, not performance pay, for all staff where they are rated. We have a review of that system under way right now. We are conscious of the fact that it is a sensitive issue and it can be divisive, but our experience does not suggest that it has been.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You have a strike rate of 15 out of 44. Do you then go and actually compare that strike rate to other departments to see what percentage of their SES are getting performance pay to see whether you are markedly under or markedly over in terms of percentages?

Mr Henderson —No, not when those decisions are actually being taken.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I am not saying as you make the decisions. But after a year of those decisions having been made, do you go back and reflect, `Well, we rewarded a third of our SES staff with performance pay,' and then check how many in Defence or Finance are being rewarded to see whether there is some sort of equivalency of treatment?

Mr Henderson —In the context of reviewing the AWAs in general and remuneration in general, I would say that, yes, there would be account taken of performance pay. Some departments - and I am now talking about not just the SES - have performance pay for all or most staff. A couple of examples would be DFAT and the Department of Finance and Administration. So, yes, staff do have an eye to the proportions of base salary versus performance pay. In this Australian workplace agreement or enterprise bargaining context with the devolved remuneration negotiation arrangements that we now have, I think people will probably increasingly have an eye to developments elsewhere in the system.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Do you take any steps to debrief staff that have not achieved performance pay to point out and give them some guidance as to how in future they might get closer to achieving performance pay?

Mr Henderson —That would be expected to be an important element of any constructive discussion in respect of people's performance agreement and performance appraisal, yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —For instance, if someone came along to an estimates committee and botched up their evidence and there were all sorts of problems caused coming out of that, is that the sort of thing you would appraise?

Mr Henderson —It could be picked up in certain situations, sure.

Senator FAULKNER —If I could, I would like to understand a little more about Ms Goward's role as the Commonwealth spokesperson on the Olympics.

Mr Henderson —Mr Cook should be able to help you, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —Is Ms Goward permanently located with the Olympics Task Force? That was made clear a little earlier, but I just want to establish it.

Mr Cook —Yes, she is physically co-located as part of the task force.

Senator FAULKNER —Does Ms Goward do most of her work from a desk within the task force? For the tasks that she undertakes, how often would she be required to be present at a desk in the department?

Mr Cook —It varies quite substantially. In the early period of establishing the unit she spent most of her time within the department doing that initial preparatory work. As time goes on, my expectation is she has spent and will continue to spend increasing amounts of time outside the department, and prior to the Games themselves we are planning for her to move permanently to Sydney.

Senator FAULKNER —As the Commonwealth spokesman on the Olympics, how do you deal with this question of what might be appropriate for the spokesperson to make comment on and what might be appropriate for, say, the minister assisting the Prime Minister on the Olympics to make comment on?

Mr Cook —Essentially, one of the things we are developing is a set of protocols with all departments and ministers about exactly who should comment on what. The spokesperson's role is basically designed to comment more on background information. Our expectation is that sensitive issues and issues which go to the core business of other portfolios would normally be commented on by the minister or their spokesperson, if they have one.

Senator FAULKNER —How do we define `background information' here, Mr Cook?

Mr Cook —If a journalist wanted to understand what the Commonwealth was doing in relation to the Games and what our objectives were in relation to the Games, which is essentially factual type information, then Ms Goward is well able to provide that type of thing. It could include radio interviews and appearing on a television program. She has freedom to do those sorts of things.

Senator FAULKNER —When you have a title of Commonwealth spokesperson, you would expect there to be quite a public role in that regard. That would be fair, would it not?

Mr Cook —Yes, that is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —Would Ms Goward, for example, put out a media release?

Mr Cook —It is possible that she could. It would come out under the logo of the Sydney 2000 Games Media Unit, but she has not done so and it would be not all that common.

Senator FAULKNER —She has not put out any media releases and you do not expect that to be common, to use your words.

Mr Cook —No, but it could happen.

Senator FAULKNER —But as the Commonwealth spokesperson for the Olympics, you would expect Ms Goward to do interviews.

Mr Cook —Yes, Senator, and she has done.

Senator FAULKNER —How many radio interviews has she done?

Mr Cook —I do not know that number off the top of my head but I would guess around half a dozen to date.

Senator FAULKNER —Half a dozen?

Mr Cook —To date.

Senator FAULKNER —How long has she been in the job?

Mr Cook —Since the end of October last year.

Senator FAULKNER —We might come back to this, Mr Cook, but just before we adjourn for lunch because we have about one minute, Mr Chairman, when did Ms Goward take up her position?

Mr Cook —I think the exact date was 25 October last year.

Senator FAULKNER —In the lunchbreak perhaps you could find out how many radio and television interviews Ms Goward has undertaken in the time as the Commonwealth spokesperson on the Olympics. You said you thought maybe half a dozen radio interviews. Well, that is a radio interview every two or three weeks. It does not seem like very many to me. I will be interested to learn a lot more about this after the break.

CHAIR —The committee now adjourns and we will recommence at 1.45 p.m.

Mr Henderson —Mr Chairman, could I ask are the only questions in this group to do with the Olympics - in other words, none for Economic Division or Industry and Environment Division?

Senator FAULKNER —I am terribly sorry but that is not quite the case.

Mr Henderson —Okay.

Senator FAULKNER —I can probably informally try to assist -

Senator ROBERT RAY —I have one to Senator Hill and my other ones are on the Olympics.

Senator FAULKNER —I have a couple of others. Just run through who is here, Mr Henderson?

Mr Henderson —The economic division, Ms Scott, and industry and environment, Mr Cassidy, if there was only one or two questions.

Senator FAULKNER —I think we need industry and environment and probably someone who might be able to answer one or two in the economic area. There may be two questions on regional services, if there is someone that can deal with those.

Proceedings suspended from 12.45 p.m. to 1.50 p.m.

CHAIR —We will reconvene the meeting of the committee. We are still on 1.1.

Mr Henderson —Mr Chairman, could I suggest to the committee that there were several questions Senator Faulkner raised in relation to contracts and Artbank. Mr Crane can cover off several of those quite quickly right now, if that is what you wish.

Senator FAULKNER —Thanks.

Mr Crane —In relation to Artbank, the gazetted figure of $5,208 does not represent the department's total holdings of Artbank. The department's expenditure on Artbank for 1998-99 was $27,246 and the expenditure thus far in this financial year is $18,337. The department has Artbank items located in its central office at 3-5 National Circuit in Barton and also in the Prime Minister's office in Phillip Street. We are currently arranging to have some Artbank installed at the temporary accommodation in Melbourne at Casselden Place.

The other contract issue was a variation of $6,888 for fitout of the premises of the Office of Indigenous Policy in Cairns. Those variations were items that were identified after the office had taken up residence in the accommodation. The breakdown was $498 for carpet, $590 for linoleum in the kitchen, $950 for alarm system upgrades, $1,685 to demolish and resheet a doorway, $1,650 to repair and repaint an office, $1,880 for the construction of a counter and storage area, $220 for some painting and a credit for office repairs of $585 - giving a total of $6,888.

Senator FAULKNER —Thank you.

Mr Crane —The department has purchased three benchtop dishwashers which are installed at 3-5 National Circuit. The areas that they service are: the Government Division and Cabinet Secretariat; Social Policy Division and the Office of the Status of Women; and International Division and Ceremonial and Hospitality. They were installed to cater for meetings that are held in those areas.

In relation to the car park at 3-5 National Circuit and the gazettal of an amount of $13,065, that cost represents the difference between the initial National Capital Authority indicative costing of $55,000, which was provided to the department after an initial survey by the National Capital Authority, and the actual cost of the car park of $68,065 - giving a difference of $13,065.

Senator FAULKNER —Thanks for that, Mr Crane. There is still quite a lot of parking area that has not been covered in bitumen, is there not?

Mr Crane —That is correct. The area which is gazetted as Windsor Walk has been sealed. The area in York Park that is being used for car parking has not been sealed. The work involved grading of the area, some compacting of the more eroded areas and the installation of lighting.

Senator FAULKNER —So departmental officers are still getting out of their cars in the mud and slush and so forth when it rains, I assume; would that be right?

Mr Crane —It is much better than it was because the main thoroughfares have been compacted. It is proving to be much better than it was but, yes, they are still affected when it rains.

Senator FAULKNER —Is there any uncovered parking area in the line of sight of the secretary as he gazes wistfully out of his office window?

Mr Crane —The car parking area that is unsealed is certainly visible from the department.

Senator FAULKNER —From the department?

Mr Crane —From a number of areas in the department. Anywhere on the first or second floor that faces Parliament House can clearly see the car park.

Senator FAULKNER —Thanks for that.

Mr Crane —The other issue was the gazettal of some work by Kym Butler Upholstery. That work was in relation to the remanufacture of a dais for the visit by the President of South Korea.

Senator FAULKNER —Where would that dais be located?

Mr Crane —I am not aware of that.

Senator FAULKNER —Is that a temporary thing?

Mr Crane —It is a dais that had to be remanufactured for that occasion. The dais in its current state was not suitable.

Senator FAULKNER —Okay. Mr Chairman, before the break I had asked a couple of questions about the Olympic spokesperson's functions. I wonder if Mr Cook might be able to now let us know what she has done since 25 October last year.

Mr Cook —Yes, Senator. I checked on the number of interviews, but they only represent a small proportion of Ms Goward's task. As you might recall, at previous Senate estimates I tabled a list of her duties, and you will see from that list that much of her work related to issues management, coordination between departments, liaison and the like. In terms of interviews, she has conducted three radio interviews, one interview with a foreign press journalist and a TV interview with a Chinese television crew. She has a number of others currently in preparation.

Senator FAULKNER —So a total of five radio and television interviews since 25 October 1999 and no press releases?

Mr Cook —No press releases.

Senator FAULKNER —I ask this question because of statements that the defence minister, Mr Moore, made in late December last year when he was concerned about the Olympic cost blowouts in Sydney and worried about the potential for the Commonwealth government to recoup. Mr Moore said, `There is the potential to recoup. Whether you will actually get that, I don't know. We are not disposed to spend any more money. We've given them a lot of money.' Mr Moore was, of course, just plain wrong about this. I think you would agree with that, wouldn't you, Senator Hill?

Senator Hill —He is never wrong.

Senator FAULKNER —So he was right, was he, when he said at the end of last year that SOCOG would have to foot the bill for the expenses of the ADF and the Department of Defence for the Sydney Olympics?

Senator Hill —As I understood it, it was, in effect, a shared responsibility. We as a Commonwealth are making certain contributions towards the total cost, and we are making them in the area of defence, intelligence and security agencies and in other ways.

Senator FAULKNER —Mr Moore said in late December last year that he was very concerned that SOCOG would not be able to foot the bill for the cost of the defence and military services for the Olympics because SOCOG was facing budget cuts. You would be aware of those statements from Mr Moore, would you not, Senator Hill?

Senator Hill —I do not recall them.

Senator FAULKNER —They got quite a deal of publicity. In fact, I am surprised you are not aware of them because it was extremely embarrassing publicity for Mr Moore, who made a complete goose of himself. Commonwealth government sources, as well as SOCOG, issued him a strong rebuff, but federal government sources said SOCOG never had to foot the bill. So it was a pretty embarrassing moment for Mr Moore, and I thought you would have been well aware of it.

Senator Hill —The point is that SOCOG is making a contribution to security through, as I understand, a contribution of some $38 million to the New South Wales police service, and the Commonwealth authorities that I mentioned are working with the New South Wales police on the total security package for the games.

Senator FAULKNER —But the point is Australia's defence minister did not understand the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth, SOCOG and the government of New South Wales in relation to services being provided by Defence. We know that is a fact. I think in these situations, Minister, you are better off admitting he made a complete hash of it and getting on with it. But you might be a little reluctant to sell him down the drain. Anyway, everyone came out and just ridiculed what he had said, but Ms Goward refused to comment. The federal government's Olympic spokeswoman, Ms Pru Goward, refused to comment on Mr Moore's claims. Is that not the sort of thing that Ms Goward should be trying to assist with? When a minister like Mr Moore makes a hash of something as important as funding Defence's involvement in the Olympics, why wouldn't the Commonwealth Olympic spokesperson be out there trying to help out?

Senator Hill —Help whom?

Senator FAULKNER —Help the government out.

Senator Hill —The government is fine. The government is contributing Defence assets and other security assets.

Senator FAULKNER —But she is the Commonwealth spokesperson on the Olympics.

Senator Hill —The government is working hand in glove with the New South Wales police to provide the necessary security.

Senator FAULKNER —We know that, Senator Hill.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But we have heard evidence, Senator Hill, that the reason for Ms Goward's appointment is to explain government policies in a coordinated way and reflect those to the public and press and to, if you like, correct distortions. Here is a major distortion either by a journalist or by a minister - let us be generous either way - and she has no comment to make. Why is that?

Senator Hill —I think it is very difficult to ask us. She obviously made a judgment that a contribution to this debate, which as Senator Faulkner said had already become a domestic political issue, was unhelpful or would not help. So I presume that she did not see any need to be dragged into it - probably good judgment.

Senator ROBERT RAY —What is the cost of this consultancy?

Mr Cook —Ms Goward's contract is $175,000.

Senator FAULKNER —For what period of time?

Mr Cook —From 25 October until the end of 2000, the end of this year.

Senator FAULKNER —But the Olympics are over, are they not, just after mid-year?

Mr Cook —They are over at the end of September.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So she is being paid more than Senator Hill to say, `No comment'?

Senator Hill —Does she do the Paralympics as well?

Mr Cook —Yes, she does the Paralympics as well, which is why her contract has been extended.

Senator FAULKNER —That is two weeks after the Olympics.

Mr Cook —Yes, and then we have some clean-up work to do after that, including an obligation to assist with the post-Olympic report, which SOCOG will prepare for the IOC.

Senator ROBERT RAY —In essence, she is being paid the same as Senator Hill and, when a crisis comes up, she says, `No comment.' Her job is to media manage those particular matters. How do you spell `sinecure'?

Senator FAULKNER —On a pro rata basis, that is $7,500 an interview so far.

Senator Hill —I do not know that her role is to intervene when there is a domestic political dispute over the respective roles and functions of governments. Her position, it seems to me, is rather to reflect the position of the -

Senator ROBERT RAY —There is no dispute. Where is the dispute? This is Mr Moore coming out and saying he does not think Defence is going to get reimbursed because SOCOG is not going so well. He is not in dispute with SOCOG at this stage. Surely it is up to the federal Olympics coordinating area to say that Mr Moore was poorly advised or Mr Moore has been misunderstood or misinterpreted, other than saying he was blatantly wrong - let's not go that far. Surely that is the reason you are paying someone - the Prime Minister's biographer -$175,000 a year.

Senator FAULKNER —It is not good enough just to say Mr Moore is a dill.

Senator Hill —That is what you said.

Senator FAULKNER —I thought it was a reasonable interpretation from your response at the table.

Senator Hill —No. I hear what you say but I think it is pretty difficult to make a judgment on what she should and what she should not intervene in. It is her job to make those decisions when she thinks it will be helpful.

Senator FAULKNER —In relation to this issue about cost blow-outs, Mr Moore said, `It is a bill that's got a bit of creep in it, I have to say.' That is what Mr Moore said. Then he went on to refer to unforeseen costs in areas such as `chemicals and nasties'. Chemicals and nasties? That is what required Defence to call for more overseas expertise. `"They add to the bill. They are inevitable. Who pays?", Mr Moore said, shrugging his shoulders.' This is high farce. I want to know whether Ms Goward was the federal government source who on background -because we heard about the backgrounding role for Ms Goward - basically bucketed Mr Moore. Who were the federal government sources? Was it Mr Cook's task force or Ms Goward who basically contradicted what is described in newspapers as contradicting Mr Moore in a strong rebuff. Was that Ms Goward?

Senator Hill —I am sure that would not have been Ms Goward or Mr Cook.

Senator FAULKNER —It is the only conclusion I can draw, because Ms Goward is the Commonwealth government's Olympic spokesperson. Mr Cook talked about the backgrounding role that she had, and she has done only five interviews in three months - five radio and television interviews in three months. It is a pretty low hit rate - no press releases. We are entitled to be a little cynical about this, aren't we?

Senator Hill —I obviously do not know what the reference to chemicals specifically related to but I can understand how it could be covered by a police function -

Senator FAULKNER —It is not only chemicals; it is nasties as well.

Senator Hill —or how in some unusual circumstances it could be covered by Defence's responsibilities, and who picks up the tab largely depends on which it falls between.

Senator FAULKNER —But that is governed by an MOU, isn't it, Senator Hill? We all know about that, and so should Mr Moore as the defence minister - if he was doing his job.

Senator Hill —The MOU, as I understand it, says that the Commonwealth will provide, free of charge, services that fall within our Commonwealth constitutional responsibility and legal obligations. That is the sort of language one expects in an MOU but within that I would have thought there would be plenty of room to debate particular security issues and who is in effect meeting the financial responsibility in relation to them. But the main thing is that we are both contributing - the New South Wales government and SOCOG - and also the Commonwealth.

Senator FAULKNER —We know all that, Senator Hill. We have canvassed the MOU at some length in previous estimates committee hearings. I assume, Mr Cook, you do not have responsibility, because you know the negotiations that went on over the MOU, and that is reasonable enough with the New South Wales government and SOCOG and so forth. We have heard about that all before and we know what some of the elements were that were on the table for negotiation. I do not want to go over that old ground. All I would like to know is: having finalised an MOU, why didn't someone in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet have the good sense to shoot a copy off to Defence and Mr Moore? Why was he left in the dark about all of this?

Mr Cook —Senator, we of course distributed copies of the MOU. I cannot speak on behalf of Mr Moore, of course.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But you cannot force him to read it, can you? You can only send it.

Mr Cook —We distributed the MOU around all relevant departments, Senator.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Who held this position before Ms Goward?

Mr Cook —No-one, Senator.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So it was a new position?

Mr Cook —That is correct.

Senator ROBERT RAY —When was the decision made to create this position?

Mr Cook —From memory, around February last year when we started to develop a media strategy for the Games and that media strategy foreshadowed the need for a Commonwealth spokesperson.

Senator ROBERT RAY —When was this position advertised? Was it before or after the decision to appoint?

Mr Cook —I cannot recall precisely, but it would have been late July last year.

Senator ROBERT RAY —How many applicants did you get, do you know?

Mr Cook —We had five initial expressions of interest.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Is there a difference between applications and expressions of interest?

Mr Cook —Some of them did not proceed. We went to a limited tender of five people

Senator ROBERT RAY —It was not a generally advertised response; you went to a limited tender?

Mr Cook —That is right.

Senator ROBERT RAY —How was this tender list drawn up?

Mr Cook —It was drawn up in consultation with the Government Communications Unit in the department.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Not from their notorious register?

Mr Cook —I was not involved in the detail, Senator, but they provided some advice on who they thought might be suitable for the task.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Could we have Mr Williams up now to check on that aspect, if you are willing? Mr Williams, my question is: when were you first notified by the Olympic Coordination Task Force - I hope I got the term right - of their requirement for a media officer, or `media spokesman' would be a better word.

Mr Williams —I do not have any detail with me, Senator, but I heard Mr Cook mention late July last year, and that's probably consistent with my recall.

Senator ROBERT RAY —This was to be five people sounded out - is that the best word? - as to their interest?

Mr Williams —We understood they were looking for a consultancy to provide a spokesperson service for the Commonwealth.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So they were looking for a consultancy? Is that a formal consultancy firm or someone willing to undertake a consultancy?

Mr Williams —It is a bit hard to distinguish. Some people are sole practitioners and call themselves -

Senator ROBERT RAY —Let me rephrase it, Mr Williams. You were looking for a registered consultancy or consultant, not an individual who was willing to become a consultant. That is what I am getting at.

Mr Williams —Individuals are consultants, in some respects, Senator. In some cases it is a company.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You would only have a list of people who were in a consultancy, were consultants, et cetera; you would not have a list of thousands of individuals who may potentially set up a consultancy, would you? I am trying to get at how you got to the five names.

Mr Williams —We were asked whether we knew of people in the field who might be able to fit this bill.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Okay. Were you asked for a limited number of suggestions?

Mr Williams —It was to be a restricted tender process, yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Restricted tender process?

Mr Williams —A select tender process, not a public tender process.

Senator ROBERT RAY —How did you go about selecting the five?

Mr Williams —I think it was a combination of people in the unit who were aware of people or entities who might wish to provide these services and who could provide these services.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You did not go to a database, in other words? It was people within your unit putting ideas up to you. Is that right?

Mr Williams —I think it was a bit of an iterative process as these things do tend to be, yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —How did Ms Goward's name come up?

Mr Williams —I really cannot recall the exact detail.

Senator FAULKNER —She is an officer of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Senator ROBERT RAY —Or was she not at that point?

Mr Williams —She was an officer, as I understand, yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Did Mr Henderson's name come up?

Senator FAULKNER —Mr Moore-Wilton?

Senator Hill —Senator-

Senator ROBERT RAY —I wonder how these names come up -

Senator Hill —Ms Goward has a strong media background.

Senator ROBERT RAY —All right. I accept that - that she has a strong media background. But I just wonder how that name came up. I am not sure she is the only person in PM&C with a strong media background. I am not sure why you would not go through an advertising or other process for such a person.

Mr Henderson —Off the top of my head, I think I would say she certainly would have been distinctive in terms of the strength of her media background. We have some public affairs officers and journalists, but nobody that I can think of in recent times -

Senator FAULKNER —No-one else who had co-authored the Prime Minister's biography, I suppose.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Why would you look only within your own ranks? There are thousands of people with media backgrounds.

Mr Henderson —We haven't only looked within our own ranks. Mr Williams has been mentioning that there were five people considered in this short list.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I do not want to know the names of those who missed out, but where were the other four coming from in a broad sense, so I can see how wide the net was cast?

Mr Williams —I do not have that detail with me because it was not something I came along to the committee briefed on.

Senator FAULKNER —Anyone in the press gallery of Parliament House here, for example? They all have pretty extensive media backgrounds.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You can't answer any of those questions; can you answer who determined the fee of - what was it? - $170,000 for 12 to 14 months? Who determined that?

Mr Cook —Senator, it was a fee that I came up with, having talked to Mr Williams and people in Industry, Science and Resources about what might be a reasonable fee to offer someone for that sort of function.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Did anyone from the Prime Minister's office ever approach you about setting up this job?

Mr Cook —No, no-one from the Prime Minister's office. About setting up the consultancy?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes.

Mr Cook —When the strategy was being developed, it was developed in consultation with the Prime Minister's office and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister's office and other ministers. So there were a number of ministers involved in developing the strategy.

Senator Hill —But that was a lot earlier, wasn't it?

Mr Cook —That was a lot earlier.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes, I understand that. So, Mr Williams, you cannot remember any of the other type of categories of people who were approached out of the five? We know Ms Goward was approached because she had a media background in PM&C. You cannot recall anyone else? I do not require their names; I want to know the sort of background you were looking at.

Mr Williams —To do the sorts of things that were indicated in the statement of requirements, which Mr Cook referred to earlier.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I am starting to wonder why you were asked at all. You did not go to actual databanks, did you? If it was an advertising agency, PR agency or polling organisation, you would press the button, you would go to the research and you would match the requirements against the characteristics of those firms - I understand that. Are you normally approached when a person is about to be appointed somewhere to be a media representative, consultant, or whatever?

Mr Williams —I think we were approached because we deal with communications type issues and the Forests and Olympics division wanted some assistance.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Even though you do not normally deal, do you, with the appointment of media people?

Mr Williams —That is not our normal area of specialty, but we -

Senator ROBERT RAY —No. You still cannot recall how Ms Goward's name came up in that context?

Senator Hill —When you say that they don't deal with media people, this is not just a media type job; this person is to act as the government's spokesperson.

Senator FAULKNER —There has been a lot of that, Senator Hill. Five interviews over three months.

Senator Hill —I know, but we haven't got to the Olympics, have we?

Senator ROBERT RAY —I am just set to wondering - this job is created, it goes to a key operator in PM&C and it goes out to a limited tender. We do not know who the other four potential tenderers were and what areas they come from. All of a sudden the sinecure is created, the person is appointed and we see very little evidence of activity. What I resent is that they are getting paid more than you, Senator Hill, for all the work you do.

Senator Hill —I interpret what you are saying as suggesting she operates as a press secretary, but in many ways it is a media management job. Just refreshing my memory of the contract, she has to give advice, work to achieve the objectives of the Commonwealth in its media strategy and oversee the work of the Olympics media unit. There is also issues management and liaison and development of good relationships with the print and electronic media. It is not just a person who puts out press releases, and I would have thought that, for the sorts of talents that come out of this contract, Mr Williams would be well suited to advise the government.

Senator ROBERT RAY —With that very long list of requirements - and I never said that the person was a press officer in that sense because we heard the evidence earlier - has Ms Goward paid a visit to Mr Knight, the Olympics minister? Has she managed to do that in the three and a half months she has been appointed?

Mr Cook —Ms Goward has had a range of contacts with people in SOCOG, OCA-

Senator ROBERT RAY —That was not the question.

Mr Cook —I honestly cannot give you an exact answer for that; I would have to check with her.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I understand she has visited SOCOG, but I am asking whether, having this wide range of responsibilities at a very high salary, she has taken the basic step of visiting the New South Wales minister. You will take that on notice and get me an answer.

Senator Hill —I think the New South Wales minister has been pretty busy lately.

Senator ROBERT RAY —That is more than you can say for Ms Goward.

Senator Hill —Putting out the bushfires he is responsible for himself.

Senator ROBERT RAY —We have one bushfire here started by Mr Moore, and Ms Goward, the firefighter, is nowhere to be seen. The simple question is: why not? `No comment' is what you said.

Senator Hill —Now that I have refreshed my memory of the terms of her engagement, getting herself into that issue does not appear to be what her role was all about.

Senator FAULKNER —Mr Cook, today is 7 February. Let us not worry about last year, but let us take the year 2000. How many days would Ms Goward have been at her desk located in your task force in this calendar year?

Mr Cook —How many days she has spent in Canberra in the year to date?

Senator FAULKNER —How often would she have come into the office?

Mr Cook —She would have come into the office every day other than when she was travelling. I cannot give you an exact number off the top of my head for that.

Senator FAULKNER —What sorts of facilities are you providing for her?

Mr Cook —We get her an office and access to a PC, printer, fax and telephone - that is basically it. And her and her staff get access to newspapers.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Sorry, what did you say?

Mr Cook —To newspapers.

Senator ROBERT RAY —To her and her -

Mr Cook —Staff.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I see. What staff has she got?

Mr Cook —We have two other journalists who are working in the media unit as well.

Senator ROBERT RAY —And what is their annualised cost?

Mr Cook —The journalists?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes.

Mr Cook —They are basically employed at the equivalent of an executive officer level 2.

Senator ROBERT RAY —And how were they appointed? Mr Williams, did you recommend them?

Mr Cook —No, we did not consult Mr Williams about those.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Where did they come from? From an advertisement, from within the Public Service?

Mr Cook —From inquiries both within and without the Public Service. One of them normally works in the media unit in the department of health as a consultant and the other one has come from the press gallery.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Are we allowed to know their names?

Mr Cook —The first one is Mr Neil Branch and the second one is Mr Andrew Cummins.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So it is a unit of three?

Mr Cook —Yes, and we may employ one further additional person -

Senator ROBERT RAY —What did the other two do? We have had Ms Goward's duties read out. What did these other two do?

Mr Cook —Broadly speaking, their role is very similar to Ms Goward but without the spokesperson component of it, so they assist with the coordination and liaison work that needs to be done, they prepare material, they assist with issues management, they help field inquiries from the press and all those types of activities.

Senator FAULKNER —Would you be able to take on notice how many inquiries the unit has received from the press since its establishment and break it down on a month by month basis, please?

Mr Cook —I will take it on notice. I am not sure whether we have kept the statistics of every phone call they received.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Don't tell me they destroyed their notes.

Mr Cook —I am not suggesting that at all. I am just not sure we have the numbers, but I will do what I can.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I have an Olympics related question to get out of the road. There were one or two articles in the press in January about accommodation for Commonwealth ministers visiting Sydney during the time of the Olympics. Have 14 rooms been booked for the duration of the Olympics?

Mr Cook —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —They are at the Brighton-Le-Sands. Is that right?

Mr Cook —That is right, the Novotel at Brighton-Le-Sands.

Senator ROBERT RAY —They were actually allocated by SOCOG?

Mr Cook —Yes, we got those rooms through the SOCOG process.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Are all 14 rooms the same?

Mr Cook —No, there are two different types of room. I have not seen them but I understand one is slightly better than the other.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Do you know what the breakdown between the 14 is?

Mr Cook —I understand one type is called a panorama king suite. These are the larger rooms. We have three of those. The other ones are called panorama standard king suites, and we have 11 of those.

Senator FAULKNER —What is Senator Hill, a king or a standard king?

Senator Hill —Very modest - somewhere out the back, I would say.

Senator ROBERT RAY —My understanding is that the rental on these rooms was fixed some time ago and cannot be altered upwards. Is that right?

Mr Cook —That is correct.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Could you tell us what the cost for each panorama king suite is per night?

Mr Cook —I think it is $416 plus GST .

Senator FAULKNER —And for the panorama standard suite?

Mr Cook —$301.

Senator FAULKNER —Plus GST or including GST?

Mr Cook —No, plus GST.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Did you have to pay a deposit on the rooms?

Mr Cook — Yes, we had to pay for them in advance, the full cost.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You paid the full cost in advance?

Mr Cook —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Are these booked for 15 nights?

Mr Cook —Twenty nights. That was the standard SOCOG contractual arrangement. We had to take them for the full period.

Senator FAULKNER —Can you tell us what those dates are, please?

Mr Cook —13 September to 3 October.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Now will you give us the total cost of booking them?

Mr Cook —Just over $100,000.

Senator ROBERT RAY —How do ministers pay for their rooms?

Mr Cook —They have actually been paid for by their departments, because it is not possible for ministers to have an advance of their travelling allowance.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Under what aspect of financial arrangements do departments pay for ministers' accommodation within Australia, as opposed to the provision made by the Remuneration Tribunal?

Mr Cook —It is reasonably frequent. If a department organises a conference or a seminar that the minister comes along to speak at it is not unusual for the department to pay for the accommodation.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Is it?

Mr Cook —That is correct.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So you are saying that for those ministers who have gone to those things, paid themselves and paid extra, their departments could have paid for it. I did not know that it was so common.

Mr Cook —Could you say that again?

Senator ROBERT RAY —I must say - I was for nine years a minister - I never had a department pay my accommodation; it was always via travel allowance. If the accommodation was more than the travel allowance, we took the burn, always on the basis that on some other occasion you would probably make the money back by it being cheaper. I did not know it was a practice of departments to pay for accommodation for ministers.

Mr Cook —It happens in the case where they are booking a conference or seminar or something like that and the rooms have to be paid for in advance.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It doesn't always happen, then.

Mr Cook —No.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You say it is a common occurrence; I do not think it is a common occurrence.

Mr Cook —I know of a number of cases where it happened.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You see, there is a difference here. Let us extract one person out - that is, the Prime Minister. It has been, I think, over a number of years that the department of PM&C would pay for accommodation, rather than go via the travel allowance route. I think that is well recognised. But I do not think it has been normal over the years for departments to pick up their minister's domestic travel and accommodation cost; certainly overseas, absolutely, but it is not normal within Australia, I put it to you, Mr Cook.

Mr Cook —I am not suggesting it is a normal occurrence; I am saying that it happens when you have to pay for rooms in advance, because ministers cannot under current arrangements get an advance of their travel allowance to pay for the room in advance.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Where I am going is really a step forward - whether they are entitled to have their accommodation paid for, when the Remuneration Tribunal actually makes a provision to cover accommodation when visiting the capital cities, such as Sydney.

Mr Cook —The Remuneration Tribunal is looking at this whole issue. The Olympics question threw this issue up in stark relief, and they are currently examining the issue. My understanding is that they will make a determination to cover this situation.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Who approached the Remuneration Tribunal on this?

Mr Cook —We did.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So there must have been some doubt - as I was expressing earlier - as to whether this is properly covered.

Mr Cook —Yes, we had to investigate. We went to ask them the question.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Now we are getting somewhere. That is good. So we are not going to imperil ministers without the Remuneration Tribunal having a view. I take it these rooms will not be occupied every night.

Mr Cook —We will do our best to ensure that they are occupied every night - that is, the task force will attempt to coordinate the usage of the rooms so that they are used to the maximum extent possible.

Senator ROBERT RAY —They are not going to be used much on the 13th and 14th - that is a sitting week here.

Mr Cook —That is correct.

Senator ROBERT RAY —And they are not going to be probably used on 2 and 3 October, either; are they? But that is just a write-off in the conditions, I take it, under which you booked the rooms.

Mr Cook —We had no choice. We had to sign up to this deal if we wanted the rooms. The advantage in going through the SOCOG process was that we got them at those prices.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Senator Hill, I take it that if it pans out that the government pays for the total cost of the accommodation no minister will be putting in for travel allowance while they are in the Olympic city for that purpose.

Senator Hill —I cannot say what ministers will do, but I presume that one of the issues the Remuneration Tribunal would be asked to look at would be that very question, as to whether it is legitimate for there to be some reimbursement of other expenses relating to the time spent in Sydney. I certainly accept your point in relation to the accommodation that has been paid for. I do think this is an unusual circumstance - just listening to the exchange - where the government in order to secure a number of rooms has had to take a deal and pay many months in advance. It is, in effect, for a block. It seems to me to some extent that that has for administrative purposes been divvied up between a range of departments, certainly reflected by the guidance that had been given earlier as to ministers likely to be attending.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Just getting back to the travel allowance, I am not suggesting any minister - I think I can say this - is dopey enough to claim full travel allowance while staying in free accommodation paid for here. But they could part claim, and I am still saying I think that is a bit unwise, because most of the time they will be on the free food and drink out at the super box. I just do not think it is very advisable to claim anything in those circumstances. I think that, with having your room and tickets paid for, you can put your hand in your pocket and pay for your coca-cola on the way to the stadium. That is what I am suggesting.

Senator Hill —That might be so, but the issue as to the exercise of a judgment as to whether a minister claims is different from whether a minister is entitled to claim for any part expenses.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I was just dropping a broad hint, Senator Hill, that you may pass on. I think it would very wise not to in these circumstances, where at the very best we will get a fairly late endorsement by the rem tribunal for these arrangements; I am not say the rem tribunal should not, because of the unique circumstances, and I am glad that Mr Cook has taken it to the rem tribunal. I think that is very sensible, given the other provisions. There is also some suggestion that you may be given a second round offer with a more central location. Is there any substance to that?

Mr Cook —It is possible. SOCOG sought to provide all of the Commonwealth rooms in one block at one location, which led us to Brighton-Le-Sands. They have indicated that if more central accommodation became available then they may be able to provide that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —When we want to do an overall tabulation of the cost of having Commonwealth ministers at the Olympic Games, we have to take into account this $100,000. Will anyone other than ministers be using these rooms?

Mr Cook —They may.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Who might qualify there?

Mr Cook —If a minister were coming to Sydney, there may be cases where their senior adviser or the secretary of their department may need to stay in those rooms.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Do you do a priority list?

Mr Cook —The portfolios that have the notional allocation of the room will have of course first call on the room.

Senator FAULKNER —Are they the same as the portfolio ministers who are on the list of approved ministers for the superdome and the Olympic stadium?

Mr Cook —Yes, I think all the portfolios that have booked rooms fall into those categories.

Senator FAULKNER —Could you provide the committee with a list of portfolios and ministers who are approved to use the accommodation at Brighton-Le-Sands ?

Mr Cook —I can give you the list of portfolios and the respective ministers now if you wish.

Senator FAULKNER —That would be fine.

Mr Cook —Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry have got two rooms.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Could you indicate whether they are king suites or standard suites as you go? I just want to know the pecking order.

Mr Cook —All right. Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry have one standard and one king, and the relevant minister there is Mr Truss.

Senator FAULKNER —Obviously the senior adviser would not be staying in the king.

Mr Cook —The next one is Austrade. They have one king, and that is for Minister Vaile. Environment and Heritage have one standard for Minister Hill. Communication, Information Technology and the Arts have one standard for Minister Alston.

Senator ROBERT RAY —We will call those two the federation suites.

Mr Cook —Treasury have booked one king for Mr Costello.

Senator FAULKNER —The way things are going he will not be a king by then!

Mr Cook —For Prime Minister and Cabinet, we have two standard rooms, which are designed for the Prime Minister's senior advisers.

Senator ROBERT RAY —He will not require hotel space?

Mr Cook —He has his own accommodation in Sydney.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So he is fine, but nevertheless you still booked two?

Mr Cook —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It helps to be in charge. These are for staff, not for bureaucrats, of course?

Mr Cook —Yes, these are for the Prime Minister's senior advisers from his private office.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Let me just hold you there for a moment. Basically, we are providing $6,600 worth of accommodation times two for the senior staff of the Prime Minister. Is that right?

Mr Cook —Yes, it is $13,000 altogether.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes, taxpayers are paying $13,000 for senior staffers. It is not as though they are getting the guernsey when their minister is not around or anything. They are specifically set aside for senior staffers. That is incredible. That is the first one I really think is off. Continue.

Mr Cook —Finance and Administration have one.

Senator ROBERT RAY —That would be a broom closet, would it?

Mr Cook —That is for Minister Fahey.

Senator FAULKNER —Hang on. What standard has he got? Is he a king?

Mr Cook —Standard.

Senator FAULKNER —So he is another wannabe? Okay.

Mr Cook —Foreign Affairs and Trade have one for Parliamentary Secretary Sullivan.

Senator FAULKNER —Why is that particularly designated for the parliamentary secretary? Have I missed something there?

Mr Cook —Foreign Affairs and Trade as a portfolio will have a big operation in Sydney with all the foreign dignitaries coming, so they are expecting that their ministers and parliamentary secretary will all be in Sydney fairly heavily engaged.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, but where does Mr Downer stay?

Mr Cook —I think he is staying privately. I do not know.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But overall you are saying that Foreign Affairs has only one?

Senator FAULKNER —Austrade have got one.

Senator BROWNHILL —Austrade have got the business club at Darling Harbour.

Senator FAULKNER —So you have quite clearly been talking to ministers and parliamentary secretaries and nailed down who is eligible to actually reside in these rooms during this period, have you, or is this notional for Parliamentary Secretary Sullivan?

Mr Cook —The need was identified by the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio, and we run off the information they have given us as to what their requirements are.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Okay. Keep the list going.

Mr Cook —The Attorney-General's Department have got four standard rooms for Ministers Williams and Vanstone.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Let us keep going and see who else they have got.

Mr Cook —That should be it. There should be 11 standard and three king.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Did you say A-G's had four?

Mr Cook —Yes. Two of them are for their ministers.

Senator ROBERT RAY —What are the other two for?

Mr Cook —They are for senior advisers, I think.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So we are paying another $13,000 out for senior advisers?

Mr Cook —My understanding of the senior advisers one is that they will pay for their own rooms at the time. They will reimburse their departments at the time they use the rooms.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I am not really following that.

Mr Cook —The only way we could get these rooms was by paying for them up front.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I accept that.

Mr Cook —So departments have put the money up front.

Senator FAULKNER —Who pays the GST then?

Mr Cook —I do not know that detail.

Senator FAULKNER —I think it is terribly important. We do not want these senior advisers having to front up with the Howard government's GST. Could you take that on notice so we could check that out?

Senator ROBERT RAY —I think it is a relevant point. It would deflect a bit of my horror at it if you were saying the senior advisers apart from getting a good inside run - good luck to them - are actually going to pay for their rooms.

Mr Cook —That is my understanding.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is a bit more than understanding. It is your certainty, isn't it?

Mr Cook —I will double-check on that, but, yes, I am fairly certain that is the case.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You might check whether they are going to pay in full, whether they are going to claim travel allowance and then reimburse you that way, et cetera.

Mr Cook —I will do that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Either way, we will pay -either by TA or directly.

Mr Henderson —Just to be clear, the situation that Mr Cook has just been indicating applies to two rooms for A-G's and two rooms in respect of the PM&C portfolio.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Defence haven't booked any rooms? Are they still a bit crook from having to pick up all the SOCOG costs?

Mr Cook —No, we do not have any rooms booked for the Minister for Defence.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You obviously do not book rooms generally for people who are resident in Sydney. It is basically for out of towners.

Mr Cook —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Are these ministers who booked rooms going to be there for the entire Olympics?

Mr Cook —I would have thought the answer is probably no for many of them - not the entire Olympics.

Senator ROBERT RAY —All right. Let us take Senator Hill. He is here; he can defend himself. If Senator Hill decides he is going to drop in for five days and go to the key events where he can make all his contacts and do a few green Olympic events, what then happens to his room for the other 15 days?

Mr Cook —If we have a circumstance like that, the task force will notify all other relevant portfolios that there is a potential accommodation availability and see whether or not that room can be filled by someone else.

Senator FAULKNER —Are the relevant portfolios the ones you have read out, Mr Cook?

Mr Cook —No, they could be any of those where ministers have a legitimate reason to be in Sydney, as we have discussed before, in respect of access to boxes and tickets.

Senator FAULKNER —Which is basically anyone.

Mr Cook —No, not quite.

Senator FAULKNER —Who doesn't it include? Who is on the outer?

Mr Cook —I cannot recall the exclusions, but the list does include all cabinet ministers and quite a few of the junior ministers - that is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —It includes nearly all ministers.

Mr Cook —Most ministers.

Senator FAULKNER —Have we decided what the status of the Leader of the Opposition is yet? I have raised this on a number of occasions, as you know.

Mr Cook —In regard to access to the boxes and so forth?

Senator FAULKNER —In regard to access to the boxes. I suppose I can put him up if he comes to Sydney. It does not look like he is going to get a look-in anywhere else.

Mr Cook —He will be looked after. But the Commonwealth does not need to provide it, because he has G accreditation for the games, so he automatically gets access to all the games venues.

Senator FAULKNER —This is a crucial point, I would have thought. A lot of people have access to all games venues whom you do not want to be coming through the door of the private ministers club up there in the superdome. They are two different things, aren't they?

Mr Cook —Yes. The Leader of the Opposition is not on the list of people to access the Commonwealth boxes.

Senator FAULKNER —That is right.

Mr Cook —That is correct.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Getting back to these 14 rooms booked for 20 nights. I am still a bit concerned. I think I would be concerned if a minister were there all 20 days, but I am also concerned about, if other duties mean they can be there for only five days, how you actually fill the hole up with other people and what the cost of reimbursement will be, et cetera. Accommodation in Sydney is going to be pretty tight in this period.

Mr Cook —Yes, very tight, which is why we have had to go down this route. We will do our best to ensure the rooms are used to the maximum extent possible by advertising when the nominated portfolios need their rooms and seeing who else may need accommodation at the time.

Senator ROBERT RAY —If I were in the queue - and I am not, but if I were - and I heard that Senator Hill had his room pre-booked by SOCOG, I would think, `That is good. So he should. He's got to get down there and work,' and I would think the same of the minister for fisheries. But once I started to think, `Why should four senior advisers get the inside running over and above me, Joe Public, who put in for accommodation?' I would be a bit more dubious, and when I found that maybe the rooms were not going to be occupied, possibly for up to half the time - we do not know; I concede that - or that someone else was going to be jumped in, wouldn't I have a right to complain a bit? Have we overbooked the rooms?

Mr Cook —We had no choice but to go with the SOCOG contract.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Did the SOCOG contract nominate 14 rooms?

Mr Cook —No. We nominated 14 rooms based on our estimate of what we would need at the maximum usage point.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It just occurs to me you might have got away with 10 and juggled them very expertly.

Mr Cook —The judgment made by people, for better or worse, was that 14 was that point.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I hope the senior advisers did not have any input on having 14 rather than 10, seeing they are going to be lodged down there for part of the time. When you said before that you did not know about the GST, what did you mean?

Mr Cook —Senator Faulkner asked me who pays the GST on the advisers' rooms.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Have you already paid it?

Mr Cook —We have paid for the rooms, yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Have you already paid GST for the rooms?

Mr Cook —That, I do not know, to be honest.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is a contract post 1 July, so they are entitled at this stage to impose a GST on that, are they not, Senator Murray? You are the expert.

Senator MURRAY —You are right.

Mr Cook —I am advised we have paid the GST.

Senator FAULKNER —But the issue is, I suppose, whether you will expect those who are reimbursing you for the cost of the rooms to reimburse you for the GST as applied to the individual room charges. Do you know whether that is going to happen?

Mr Cook —Yes. My expectation is we would be reimbursed for the full cost of the rooms.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Will you be paying fringe benefits tax on the rooms?

Mr Cook —That would be an issue that I do not know the answer to.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Do you have someone up the back who might know?

Mr Cook —If fringe benefits tax is payable, it will be paid.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I have a feeling it might be for accommodation supplied by the employer. I would just like to know how much that will be as well.

Mr Henderson —I do not think it would be. The only distinctive thing about this is the SOCOG imposed payment way in advance. Apart from that, it is just like normal hotel accommodation, which is not an additional remuneration. It is compensation for costs of accommodation.

Senator FAULKNER —But in your negotiations with SOCOG, was there any consideration of whether this sort of accommodation could be provided as part of the package that was worked through between New South Wales and the Commonwealth - for example, the superdome, the stadium tickets and boxes and so forth were all part of those arrangements.

Mr Cook —The assistance by SOCOG to find this accommodation is part of the MOU.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, that is to find the accommodation.

Mr Cook —Yes.

Senator FAULKNER —The next step, of course, is paying for it.

Mr Cook —You mean to net it out?

Senator FAULKNER —Yes.

Mr Cook —I cannot recall whether we raised that or not, but SOCOG were very keen to differentiate issues such as this from the main thrust of the MOU, which was about them getting money to assist with the staging of the games.

Senator SCHACHT —At a previous estimates, last year, I asked a question which you took on notice. I got an answer to it which was, in a sense, what I would have expected: a non-answer. It was about whether the government had any policy view about the need to reform the IOC. Since then, there has been an announcement by the IOC to reform its structure somewhat to take account of the international and national pressure about accountability and responsibility and about how people get on the IOC and how long they are there for - about it being a self-selecting club and all those accusations. Since that announcement was made, does the government have any view on whether that is an adequate response to the concern expressed quite clearly in the Australian community about the lack of accountability by the IOC and the way it has conducted its business and its activities over recent years?

Senator Hill —My understanding is that statements that have been made have been made in a general form. They have been designed to encourage the reform process to continue but have not been specific in dealing with the pace or the exact nature of those reforms.

Senator SCHACHT —There was an announcement just before Christmas about some structural changes to the membership - that previous and well-recognised athletes would get a small percentage of positions on the IOC and that a number of presidents of national Olympic committees would get representation, as they are elected by their national Olympic committees, as some form of accountability.

But I understand that in the American Congress people have expressed a view that this has not gone far enough in terms of full accountability of all of the delegates and the way in which they are selected - although an age limit has now been imposed. Are you suggesting that the changes so far have been an encouraging step but that the government would welcome further changes to the structure and operation of the IOC as part of the reform program?

Senator Hill —That is what I understand both for the minister responsible to the Prime Minister and the minister assisting, and statements they have made have not gone beyond what I have said.

Senator SCHACHT —Apart from answering a question on a talkback program or something like that, is there no formal statement?

Senator Hill —There is no deliberate policy position on the issue that I know of and nor have they put down a formal line, so to speak - with the exception of the World Antidoping Authority.

Senator SCHACHT —Yes, I understand that. I am talking about the IOC itself. In view of the fact that the IOC will make some money out of the holding of the Olympic Games in Australia in one form or another through sponsorship, et cetera - and of course Australian taxpayers will be making a contribution to the successful running of the games - is it possible that we could get a more formal statement from the government about the need for further IOC reform and accountability?

Senator Hill —I am happy to refer that point of view and see whether either the Prime Minister or the minister assisting wishes to take it further.

Senator SCHACHT —In particular, there is the question that at least a substantial majority of the members of the IOC should be elected by an appropriate body and therefore accountable in a democratic sense to some constituency rather than responsible only to themselves.

Senator Hill —Let us take it as a question on notice and see if we can get a response.

CHAIR —Are there any further questions?

Senator FAULKNER —On output 1.1, I just wanted to ask about the issue of the Halon Bank sale. I wanted to understand what the involvement was, if any, of the Prime Minister's department or the Prime Minister's office in the Australian halon management strategy.

Senator Hill —The strategy is really a document that deals with how we might build on the experience of the bank. It was set up in 1993 from memory and is now, having destroyed most of the surplus stock that exists in Australia, looking to the future role that it might play in a broader sense and, in particular, in a regional sense. That strategy was prepared by my department together with a consultative group and so forth, so any role of PM&C would have been an incidental one.

Senator FAULKNER —Was there an IDC or anything on this?

Senator Hill —There were certainly interdepartmental consultations. I do not know whether there was a formal process.

Senator FAULKNER —All that I was interested in understanding was the role, if any, of PM&C or the Prime Minister's office.

Senator Hill —I do not think there was any significant role.

Senator FAULKNER —I assume the National Halon Bank itself had some input into the strategy.

Senator Hill —The bank in itself was - and this is the technical word - an instrumentality of the Department of Finance, although it was operated by DASCEM. That responsibility has now been transferred from the Department of Finance to my department.

Senator FAULKNER —There is a consultative committee of course, isn't there?

Senator Hill —Yes, that is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —That is under your department?

Senator Hill —It will now be.

Senator FAULKNER —What do you mean by `it will now be'? Was it under DOFA before?

Senator Hill —Yes, that is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —Is there any PM&C involvement in that at all?

Senator Hill —On the consultative committee?

Senator FAULKNER —Yes.

Senator Hill —Not that I know of. As I recall, the consultative committee is comprised of key stakeholders in the process of the recall, recycling and destruction of halons.

Senator FAULKNER —Did the consultative committee support or oppose the sale of halons?

Senator Hill —The question of the sale of halons is a different question again. This is the sale to the United States Defence Force?

Senator FAULKNER —Yes.

Senator Hill —That was initiated before the transfer of responsibility to my department, so it was initiated under Finance. The proposal to sell some surplus stock of halon-1301 to the United States was, as I understand it, referred to the consultative committee.

Senator FAULKNER —Do you know what their view on it was?

Senator Hill —I think they expressed a range of views.

Senator FAULKNER —They did not have a consolidated view?

Senator Hill —I do not think so. My recollection is that they expressed a range of views. I read in the press last week that they had opposed it and when I asked for that to be clarified I was told that it was not so - that is, that they had expressed a range of views.

Senator FAULKNER —Is it not true that the strategy was signed off by the Prime Minister? Isn't there at least that involvement at the prime ministerial level?

Senator Hill —The new strategy was released by me last week and was signed off by me, but there was a draft last year that I think from memory went to cabinet as a cabinet document and got some form of endorsement as a draft, so obviously the Prime Minister would have had some briefing on that. The time of that draft was also about the time of the proposition from the United States Defence Force to purchase some of the surplus Australian halon.

Senator FAULKNER —I do not understand and the purpose of this questioning is to try to figure out why the Prime Minister signed off on the sale of the halon. Why didn't you do it as the environment minister, or somebody else do it? Why did the Prime Minister do it?

Senator Hill —The minister responsible at the time was the finance minister, but obviously, in terms of the relations between Australia and the US Defence Force, I would be amazed if it did not go to the Prime Minister for at least some form of noting and approval at some stage.

Senator FAULKNER —Do you know why the Prime Minister signed off? I am asking this question at Prime Minister and Cabinet estimates.

Senator Hill —Even though it was a sale negotiated by Minister Fahey and his department, I am sure that the PM would have signed on the process at some stage. Why would he do that? Because he is the Prime Minister and this is a sale of a stock of Australian halons to the US defence department. It does not happen every day.

Senator ROBERT RAY —If we did not sell it to them, someone else would.

Senator Hill —The concern is that they would purchase it from developing countries. A misunderstanding created by my opposite number in the Senate is that the bank was set up solely for the purpose of destroying halon. That is not so at all. The bank was set up to gather in stock around Australia in order that it can be processed and dealt with safely and then can be recycled for essential purposes, either domestically or internationally, specifically stated to be the case in Prime Minister's Keating's 1993 statement. If there is any surplus, that would then be destroyed. Exactly as was set up by the Labor Party, the bank has operated. It has been the most successful body of its type in the world.

Senator FAULKNER —Your opposite number can talk to you about matters relevant to your portfolio in the environment estimates. I want to touch on one issue only, which is the involvement of the Prime Minister. Can you tell me when he signed off on this?

Senator Hill —As I said to you, beyond the reference to cabinet, whether the Prime Minister specifically signed a minute saying `I approve of this sale', we do not know. If you want the answer as to whether he did and when he did, we can get one.

Senator FAULKNER —I would like to know if he did and when he did. And, if he did, I would like to know why he did it. That would all be quite useful.

Senator Hill —The answer to the last question is because the finance minister would naturally want the Prime Minister's approval for the sale of halon gas from Australia to the United States Defense Force.

Senator FAULKNER —Could you take on notice through this department's estimates whether the consultative committee provided any advice. You said you thought it was a range of advice. For the purposes of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, what advice was this department aware of? Are they aware of whether the advice was followed? That can perhaps be followed through at a subsequent estimates hearing. I accept the arguments that the Department of Finance and Administration on the one hand and your own department on the other obviously have perhaps a more intimate association with this issue than the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I am interested in the role of the Prime Minister, why he has a role and what the role has been.

Senator Hill —See will see whether we can find anything further that will assist you.

Senator FAULKNER —As far as the strategy is concerned, is that available?

Senator Hill —Yes. It is a public document.

Senator FAULKNER —When was that made public?

Senator Hill —Last Friday.

Senator FAULKNER —Quite recently. I will catch up with that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Did the Minister for Communications ever write to the Prime Minister proposing that he accompany him on a New Year's Eve-New Year's Day flight in February last year?

Mr Henderson —I do not know the answer to that question. I am struggling to think as to who to ask. At the first opportunity, we will check with the Prime Minister's office.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Senator Alston was quoted as saying, `I have told the Prime Minister that he will be standing next to me in the cockpit of an aircraft on 1 January'. This is his statement in February 1999. I am uncertain as to whether he ever formally invited the Prime Minister. Senator Alston's spokesman is now saying that that was a big joke. Was that your impression when he made the statement in February 1999?

Senator Hill —I would have to confess that I did not particularly focus on the statement.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You did not think you would get an invitation? I am raising a question about how you know when Senator Alston is serious. There was no allusion for 10 months that it was a joke; it was only when he was pinned afterwards for not having the event that his spokesman described it as a joke.

Senator Hill —It is probably better to clarify it with Senator Alston.

Senator ROBERT RAY —The PM's judgment in not going was probably pretty good. That is all I have.

Senator FAULKNER —Has the department been asked by the Prime Minister to communicate to ministers about the announcement that is being made about no further cutbacks to the delivery of government services in regional and rural Australia? We have seen that announcement made in a blaze of publicity, not all of it good, for the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, it got a lot of prominence. How is this view being promoted to ministers? How are other departments and ministers being informed that the Prime Minister suddenly has decided that he will not slash and burn government services in rural and regional Australia any more?

Mr Cassidy —The Prime Minister made statements on both 30 and 31 January; that is, Sunday and Monday last week. On 31 January, the Prime Minister's office sent a memo to all ministers' offices drawing their attention to the Prime Minister's statement. We were subsequently requested in the department by the Prime Minister through his office to prepare correspondence for him to send to all ministers. That correspondence is currently with the Prime Minister.

Senator FAULKNER —When was the department first made aware of this new policy position of the Prime Minister? Was it after the public announcements or before?

Mr Cassidy —I do not know whether it is quite appropriate for me to be commenting on exactly when we knew about certain things.

Senator FAULKNER —I am only asking when. I am not asking anything other than a fairly normal question which is often asked at estimates, which is when departments become aware of prime ministerial directives. That is totally in order in terms of the sorts of questioning we have at committees like this and have had for decades. I am not asking you about the nature of the advice. I am asking you when this communication was received.

Senator Hill —What these officers know is that after the Prime Minister made his public statement, the department was asked to prepare letters and inform ministers in the terms of the Prime Minister's statement.

Senator FAULKNER —Are there any bureaucratic communications on this, or is it just being done at a Prime Minister to minister level? Is the department engaged on a department-to-department basis as well?

Mr Cassidy —Not at this stage. We are waiting on the Prime Minister writing, and then there will probably be a need for some bureaucratic process after that. But the first step is for the Prime Minister to write to other ministers.

Senator FAULKNER —So it is all news to you. You just saw it on the television bulletins - and away we go.

Mr Cassidy —I did not say that, Senator.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It was a case of the dog that did not bark.

Senator FAULKNER —I think we all heard what you said, Mr Cassidy. It is all right, you are in the clear.

CHAIR —That completes 1.1. We will move to 1.2

Mr Henderson —Mr Chairman, could we come to social policy a little bit later? Mr Hamburger, who would be better placed to cover the whole Social Policy Division, is at a meeting elsewhere in the building.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I suggest we go to 1.4 and then come back and do 1.2 and 1.3.

CHAIR —Yes, I am happy to do that.

Mr Henderson —Mr Chairman, just before we do that, there is one further question in relation to the broadcasting equipment at 70 Phillip Street. I think it is probably best if I just table the answer to an earlier question on notice.

Senator FAULKNER —I have seen that.

Mr Henderson —The only thing we can add to that is the precise description of the equipment - and I am not sure whether you need it.

Senator FAULKNER —That is what I asked for, but I am happy for you just to table that.

Mr Henderson —An Audio Sigma CS-3951003 Broadcasting Unit plus a Shure microphone, and the cost: $3,328.

Senator FAULKNER —Thank you.