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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
20/03/2018
Implications of climate change for Australia's national security

ARCHER, Mr Brad, First Assistant Secretary, International Climate Change And Energy Innovation Division, Department of the Environment and Energy

BROWN, Mr Luke, Acting Assistant Secretary, Disaster Resilience Strategy Branch, Department of Home Affairs

CROSWELLER, Mr Mark, Director General, Emergency Management Australia, Department of Home Affairs

GRZESKOWIAK, Mr Steven, Deputy Secretary, Estate and Infrastructure Group, Department of Defence

HUPFELD, Air Vice Marshal Mel, Head Force Design, Department of Defence

JAMES, Dr Craig, Research Program Director, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

KELLY, Mr Paul, Assistant Secretary, Humanitarian Response, Risk & Recovery Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

SUCKLING, Mr Patrick, Ambassador for the Environment, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

WILSON, Ms Helen, Acting Deputy Secretary, Climate Change and Energy Innovation, Department of the Environment and Energy

Committee met at 17:05

CHAIR ( Senator Gallacher ): I declare open the public hearing of the Senate Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade References Committee. This public hearing is for the committee's inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia's national security, and I welcome everyone here today. This is a public hearing and a Hansard transcript of proceedings is being made. We are also streaming live via the web, which can be found at www.aph.gov.au.

Before the committee starts taking evidence, 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. While the committee prefers all evidence to be given in public, under the Senate's resolutions, witnesses have the right to request to be heard in private session. If you would like any of your evidence to be heard in camera, please don't hesitate to let the committee know. If a witness objects to answering a question, the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken, and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground which is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, a witness may request the answer be given in camera, and, as noted previously, such a request may be made at any other time.

The Senate has resolved that an officer of the department of the Commonwealth or of a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and should 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 an explanation of policy or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. I remind people in the hearing room to ensure that their mobile phones are either turned off or rendered silent.

I welcome witnesses. Two opening statements have been tabled. I understand that an official from the Department of the Environment and Energy needs to leave early, so they might like to provide a short opening statement first. Ms Wilson, do you have an opening statement?

Ms Wilson : I do. Thank you for the invitation to attend today's hearing. Responsibility for understanding and acting on the implications of climate change for national security is shared across portfolios, and I'm joined today, as you've just heard, by colleagues from Home Affairs, Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade and the CSIRO. We hope we will be able to answer all of your questions.

The Department of the Environment and Energy advises on and implements Australian government policies and programs relating to domestic climate change policy, including the coordination of climate change science activities and greenhouse gas abatement and renewable energy programs. The department lodged a submission to this inquiry in September 2017 which covered the following: understanding the impacts of climate change; the intersection of climate change with other risks and our interests in Antarctica; and portfolio responses to managing climate change impacts. The submission noted Australia's warming climate, the risks and impacts of climate change, including on national security, and the potential for climate change to compound other risks. The submission emphasised that the degree of warming that we will experience in the future is not fixed. Holding the average temperature increase above pre-industrial levels to well below two degrees depends on concerted action from all countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2015 Paris Agreement is the foundation for that global action. It commits all parties, developed and developing, to active pursuit of a low-carbon climate-resilient future. It sets global goals to limit temperature increases to well below two degrees and pursue efforts to limit increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, peak emissions as soon as possible and reach net zero emissions by the second half of this century. Australia's ratification of the Paris Agreement and our target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 represents our contribution to the global effort. It recognises that reducing emissions and managing the impacts of climate change are in our national interest, including national security. While it is true that, globally, we are not yet on track to achieve the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, the agreement is designed so that all countries ratchet up ambition through five-yearly submissions of nationally determined contributions. The Australian government has decided, as part of the 2017 review of climate change policies, to establish a five-yearly review and refine cycle in line with the Paris Agreement review cycle. This approach will provide for integrated consideration of domestic policies and international targets.

CHAIR: Are there any other opening statements?

Mr Crosweller : The Department of Home Affairs and the wider portfolio was officially stood up on 20 December 2017 after the Prime Minister announced reforms to Australia's national security and intelligence arrangements in July 2017. The establishment of the portfolio brings together Australia's federal law enforcement, national and transport security, criminal justice, emergency management, multicultural affairs, immigration and border-related functions and agencies working together to keep Australia safe. The Department of Home Affairs is a central policy agency, led by secretary Michael Pezzullo, providing coordinated strategy and policy leadership to contribute to a prosperous, secure and united Australia.

Both the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Attorney-General's Department made submissions to this inquiry. The Attorney-General's Department submission was on behalf of the then Attorney-General's portfolio, which included the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. The entire Department of Immigration and Border Protection and relevant functions of the Attorney-General's Department were transferred to the Department of Home Affairs. The Australian Federal Police was transferred to the Home Affairs portfolio. ASIO will transfer to the Home Affairs portfolio subject to the necessary legislation being passed by parliament.

We understand that climate change is a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing threats and bringing social economic, national security and political consequences. It is likely to exacerbate the complexity and the unpredictability of existing migratory pressures around the world. And, for Australia, climate change may also be a factor in instability in our region and further abroad. Climate change is heightening the severity of natural hazards. We are already seeing increasingly frequent and intense extreme heat events, and we will see more extreme fire weather and a longer fire season, increased rainfall and rises in sea level amplifying the effects of high tides and storm surges. Projections suggest that fewer tropical cyclones will form in the southern hemisphere than are currently observed but that a higher proportion of those will become more intense.

The department is taking the lead role across the Commonwealth to address the future impacts of natural hazards. With the Department of the Environment and Energy, we co-chair the Australian government Disaster and Climate Resilience Reference Group to embed disaster and climate resilience in Australian government policies and programs. This group has representatives from every Australian government department. The group is deepening understanding of the current and future impacts of climate change and provides a forum for sharing experiences of how we can respond through engagement with the Commonwealth's expert science and research organisations in the private sector. We also have a longstanding relationship with the states and territories focusing on reducing disaster risk. Recently we've commenced a dialogue focusing on how governments can work together to address existing risks and vulnerabilities, prevent new ones from being created and make sure decision-makers have the information that they need to achieve this.

CHAIR: Is that all the opening statements?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : We have one from Defence as well. First, thanks for the opportunity to present to the committee. We have also lodged a comprehensive written submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry into the national security implications of climate change. While Defence is not the lead Commonwealth agency for climate change, Defence supports a range of adaptation and mitigation initiatives led by the Department of Environment and Energy, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Home Affairs. Defence accordingly views climate change from the perspective of its portfolio responsibilities and objectives, specifically the application of military power in support of the strategic defence interest outlined in the 2016 Defence white paper. In addition to me and to Mr Grzeskowiak, we're also represented today by Dr Peter Sawczak, who is the Assistant Secretary Strategic Policy, and he can cover, if needed, some broader strategic policy issues and aspects that apply to the defence elements.

Defence views climate change as a complex and accelerating challenge which poses a range of risks globally. Climate change impacts, including changing environmental conditions—the ones that Mark has just explained—can certainly directly affect Defence's operations, our bases, our infrastructure, our equipment and our personnel. We also agree climate change is a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing threats to human security, including geopolitical, socioeconomic, water, energy, food and health challenges that diminish resilience and increase the likelihood of conflict.

The severity of risks will be influenced by the rate of climate change and the effectiveness of global, regional and national mitigation, adaptation, resilience building and disaster risk management. The scale of climate change impacts and level of response required from defence forces are critical considerations in developing the defence strategy, our force design and our preparedness settings. The 2016 Defence white paper included climate change as a factor contributing to state fragility, and that is among the six key drivers identified by the white paper as shaping Australia's security environment out to 2035. It also highlights the specific climate risks to the region and to Defence's infrastructure and bases. As such, Defence considers the impact of climate change in our policy settings. These settings inform planning for operations, preparedness, our capability life cycle and the estate and environmental management.

Defence's force design process considers climate changes as a key element of the future operating environment. Currently, Defence is reviewing its investment business processes and our Smart Buyer framework to ensure that there is adequate consideration of climate change and assessment of risks in future capability and infrastructure decisions. Defence preparedness modelling indicates a trend of increasing frequency and scale of defence support to humanitarian and disaster responses. Despite the introduction of new capabilities, this is forecast to lead to additional concurrency and sustainability management pressures in generating forces for defence operations. Defence has developed climate risk literacy short courses in partnership with the Australian National University and with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and also includes climate change security as an elective at our higher Defence College.

Defence relies on information from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and the Australian Research Council to inform its position on climate risks and the impacts. Successful mitigation and adaptation actions can strengthen national, regional and global resilience and thereby reduce the threat multiplier impacts of climate change. It is our view that continuation of a whole-of-government approach and engagement with international partners will remain vital to deal with this shared challenge.

Mr Suckling : Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. The recently released foreign policy white paper identifies the deepening challenges, including security, associated with climate change into the future, noting that changing conditions are already evident. It says that many countries in Australia's region, especially small island states, will be severely affected in the long term. The white paper says that responding to climate change will continue to be a priority for Australia's development assistance and that Australia is boosting our response capability to natural disasters as well as improving disaster preparedness. This includes a strong focus on building resilience for Pacific Island countries. And the white paper affirms our Paris agreement commitment in the context of our comprehensive national policies to meet commitments, as well as highlighting the economic opportunities for Australia in transition to a low-emissions global economy.

DFAT's made a submission to this inquiry providing further detail on many of these points, consistent with your terms of reference. We emphasise in our submission that successive Australian governments have recognised the security risks of climate change and that Australia's national security agencies have well-defined responsibilities and capacities to respond, evident in the range of submissions to this inquiry. It's a whole-of-government effort. The severity of the risks associated with climate change, including security risks, will be influenced by the rate of climate change itself and the effectiveness of mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction and response efforts. In this, international cooperation is essential. No county alone can solve this challenge.

DFAT leads Australia's international diplomacy to address the threats of climate change. The centrepiece of international efforts is the historic Paris agreement, which 175 countries have now ratified. The Paris agreement encompasses a multifaceted approach to addressing the challenges of climate change, including global efforts on mitigation, adaptation and provision of support to countries in need to ensure that they can play their part. Like other countries, Australia is playing its part, with our commitments among the more ambitious of those of G20 countries, effectively representing a halving of emissions per person in Australia by 2030, or a two-thirds reduction per unit of GDP. We do so because it's in our national interest to address the challenges of climate change, including national security.

We're also playing our part through provision of climate finance for countries in need, with a billion-dollar commitment, as detailed in our submission. DFAT also leads Australian humanitarian relief operations, working closely with the relevant agencies, in particular the ADF. We look forward to answering your questions. Thank you.

CHAIR: CSIRO, you're not at the table. Is there a reason for that? You have tabled your opening statement, so you don't need to read it again, but we want to see who you are, and you'll be ready for questions, no doubt. Perhaps I could put two things to Mr Grzeskowiak before I go to Senator Whish-Wilson for the first 15 minutes of questions. Can the committee get the number of deployments over the last 15 years—in five-year lots—where the whole-of-government approach has been to deploy Defence in humanitarian efforts—floods, cyclones, tsunamis? Can we get that picture over the last 15 years?

Mr Grzeskowiak : I think we can take on notice the deployments that we've undertaken—

CHAIR: I've read your submission, and there has been an increase, but I'd just like that to be a quantified increase over the rolling five years.

Mr Grzeskowiak : We'll take that on notice.

CHAIR: And the other thing: there's a mention of a strategic assessment of Defence estate. I don't know whether there are any confidential bits in that. But appreciating that we've been at a lot of our defence infrastructure for many years, are there any of those sites that are under consideration of being moved? So, perhaps you could take on notice—you've got how many sites?

Mr Grzeskowiak : It's 400 properties within Australia.

CHAIR: So, which ones would be impacted by climate change implications? And I've read down to the level where you're talking about increased humidity, increased rainfall and the difficulty of maintaining troops in those sorts of environments. So if we could get a picture of your strategic thinking about the asset size of your bases, I'd really appreciate that.

Mr Grzeskowiak : I'll take that on notice, but we've done a report, in 2013, looking particularly at the effects of climate change, in particular sea level rise, on existing defence properties. And we use that report in our current planning. We've also got another study underway, which won't come to fruition until next year, looking at our training areas and ranges with a view to what we think the impact from climate change might be in the broad. We would see much of the information that's in those reports as information that we wouldn't wish to release in a public environment.

CHAIR: Okay. Well, we'll ask the question and you'll answer it on notice and we will see whether that gives us a baseline of information for Defence in the report.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I can answer your question about the humanitarian assistance task that we've had in the last five years, if you want me to do that now.

CHAIR: What I wanted to do was go back 15 years—

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Oh, 15 years—

CHAIR: and say what happened 15 years ago, and 10 years ago and in the last five years, because there is a suggestion that there's an increase. We want to know what it is—quantifiable.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: My first couple of questions are quite big-picture, and they deal with the issue of national security across all your portfolios. I might start by asking you, Dr James. It's very unusual: I'm referring to Defence's submission here, but at the very beginning of their executive summary they say:

Australia’s national security includes state and human security and is inherently linked to the security of health, water, energy, food and economic systems at the local, national, regional and global level.

So, it's grouped pretty broadly. What are the key climate threats to those aspects? Could you run through those very briefly?

Dr James : Sure, but could you be a bit more specific about—

Senator WHISH-WILSON: In the Australian context, what are the key threats that we see from climate change to those broad areas of national security?

Dr James : Some immediate ones would be the impacts just of rising temperature—direct effects of climate change—the heat island effect in cities, which leads to heightened death rates during heatwaves and those sorts of impacts. There are occupational health and safety aspects to do with that as well. It's actually pretty hard to continue to labour for a full normal working day when the temperatures are exceeding 40 degrees. So, there are straightforward aspects.

The water quality aspects come in when you're dealing with low quality and low supply of water, where you're going to need more technological ways of dealing with that—treatment processes. Sorry: I've forgotten the other aspects that you mentioned.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Just broadly, national security—when we're talking about Australia's national security—includes factors affecting state and human security and is inherently linked to the security of health, water, energy, food and economic systems.

Dr James : Probably the key phrase in there would be the interaction between food and water as a really broad banner. That applies to Australia's national security and of course it actually affects regional security in a big way as well. There are those interacting effects of both direct and indirect climate change on water supply and the flow-on effect there for agricultural production, the trade-off between agricultural production and other uses for water. And then there's other direct effects on food supply that aren't related to water—for example, CO2 fertilisation changes the quality of the actual food products. All of those play into the nutritional and basic health and safety of people.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: And other physical impacts—extreme weather events?

Dr James : Yes, the very direct ones, particularly in relation to disasters—short and very intense meteorological events. Obviously there's plenty of information about how that's changing.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Could I ask the Department of the Environment: in your submission, on page 33, in points 9 to 12 you talk about the State of the climate report. You say that the report notes:

… that some further changes in our climate, such as an increase in mean temperatures, are almost certain to result from greenhouse gases …

And then you go on to talk about relevant climate prediction scenarios.Then, in point 11, which is what I want to get to, you say:

The future climate change impacts described in the State of the Climate Report include the following projections: an increase in the number of days with weather conducive to fire in southern and eastern Australia; extreme rainfall events are likely to increase in intensity by the end of the century across most of Australia; a decrease in winter and spring rainfall across southern continental Australia; fewer tropical cyclones form in the southern hemisphere than are currently observed, but a higher proportion of those will be more intense …

And you go on to talk about sea level also. Could I ask, Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld, in relation to Defence and what the department of the environment has outlined there: in terms of the six key factors driving our security concerns that you outlined in your introduction, what ranking would you put climate change at in terms of a threat to national security?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : From Defence's perspective, we haven't ranked them in that regard. But certainly, on the key part of the question you're getting to, in terms of how we structure our defence force—so when we look at the defence white paper—the linked element to that is the force structure leading to the Integrated Investment Program. That's what delivers the capabilities that Defence will aim to deliver once approved by government to meet their policy settings. Within those six key drivers, climate change is mentioned and, indeed, has some impacts in operations across all of those. But climate change isn't the force structure determinant for us. Defence's role is war fighting. However, the opportunity is that the capabilities that we acquire to meet the policy settings around our primary role are adaptable and can be used in treating the risks and adaptation elements for climate change itself. That's how we would treat that.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: As you say at point 4:

The ADF is primarily designed and structured to provide for the physical security of the nation.

And you talk about a war role. Would you agree that 'the physical security of the nation' would also include your point 1, where you say:

Australia's national security … is inherently linked to the security of health, water, energy, food …

I suppose where I'm going with this is: you are set up the way you are, but is there scope in the future for Defence to be reorientated more towards other threats to national security?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Yes. As we balance the strategy capability and resources that we have available to deliver our force structure, we have a number of opportunities at the moment to assess the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations that we have met in the last 15 years—we will get that information for you as well. Certainly, as we get better at doing this, we record the lessons from those. That then helps us to determine whether we've got the force structure right. It's not just the force structure; it's how we plan for and then employ forces to contribute to those impacts and the risks that result from climate change. We are continually updating that. With the footing we hold, we'll adjust the preparedness settings to ensure that we can achieve the outcomes we assess, and we include the impacts of climate change and how we will treat them in those assessments.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Following on from this line of questioning, if I were to put national security to you under your definition—which I quite like—what would be the biggest risk of an impact to 'the physical security of the nation', taking into account that human security is 'inherently linked to the security of health, water, energy, food and economic systems'? If you were to look at the threats in our region to national security and assess the probability of those events occurring and the cost or the damage that might occur under those scenarios, would you agree or disagree that climate change is possibly the key threat to our national security, speaking more broadly?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : The key point, from my perspective, is we identify that the risks and impacts from climate change are a threat multiplier—there's no doubt. Things like sea level rising, resulting in migration, arguably can lead to conflict as you get unsettled nations and displaced people. We've seen examples of that in the current strategic environment. We look at that within our region and within the global elements of security that we provide under the white paper policy setting, and we are adapting our means to be able to deal with those. When we see or perceive that there's a strategic environment change leading to those security risks, then that's what we will start to shape and posture the Defence Force for. We do that within the current force structure we've got. In our force design outcomes, we include these planning factors in our future operating environment assessments. We match that to our operating concepts both for the next 10 years and further out, under our future joint operating concept, to examine what we think those impacts may be. We are including that in the design of our force to ensure that we can meet all nature of security threats that this nation may be forced to follow.

CHAIR: Can you give us a specific example of what you have just alluded to?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : When we look at requirements—for example, at the moment, we have a landing helicopter dock that's an amphibious ship designed for war fighting—

CHAIR: No, sorry, the bit before that: you mentioned there had been a dislocation resulting in people moving or—

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : If there was.

CHAIR: If there was.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Yes. I think, arguably, there's been some discussion around the Arab Spring and heat engagement elements within that—

CHAIR: Sorry. I thought you meant evacuations as a result of sea level rising.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : No, I don't have an example of that. They're some of the predictions we look at in our future operating environment to see if they are likely impacts that we might have to help manage.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: This question can go to any of the panel, but I would be particularly interested in Defence's answer. Do you think the broader challenge of climate and security—or national security more broadly, the way you've defined it—should require a whole-of-government response? Who is ultimately responsible for coordinating a whole-of-government response on this issue, or who do you think should be?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I can start with a response. I think the way we are presented before you at the moment is an indication that we are embarking on a whole-of-government response to both climate mitigations and climate adaptation—and I use those terms specifically. They are key elements. We recognise that no one part of the agencies before you can deal with these risks, and, indeed, we also recognise that the international engagement and the need to work globally on the treatment of these sorts of aspects are key.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Can I come to you now, Mr Crosweller, in relation to your role. One of our witnesses at the previous hearing wondered whether you were even going to be incorporated into the new agency, so it's good that you're here today. In response to controlling emergency management, does that include not just natural disasters but terrorist attacks and a whole range of different things? What are you set up to deal with in terms of national security?

Mr Crosweller : In short, yes, we are. Emergency Management Australia is essentially the Commonwealth representative for the posturing of consequence management arising from any threat vector in the country. If it was for terrorism, for example, and there was a significant consequence as a result of an act of terrorism, then it would be Emergency Management Australia, through Home Affairs, who would posture the federal government for that response. Specifically, in terms of climate change, we've been cognisant of the existential nature of this as we move forward into the out-years. We've done a series of modelling with the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO, with states and territories, to understand points of limitation on capability, what those things look like in that more existential threat space and how we might respond to those threats. An example—we probably lined up to 80 per cent of it this year—was moving towards catastrophic fire weather across four states simultaneously in southern Australia.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Is it two at the moment? We've got two ongoing emergencies.

Mr Crosweller : We have fires ongoing at the moment. They're relatively small scale in the scheme of things. What we saw emerge this summer was the potential for something we had modelled and spoken about for some time: four states under extreme pressure from severe fire weather and potentially severe fire in the landscape simultaneously. That puts all states under extreme pressure to not only respond to the effects but also to pick up the recovery aspects afterwards. We do a lot of this work, particularly with cyclones as well as they move south and intensify into the Gold Coast and northern New South Wales. The south-western part of Australia is drying significantly from its traditional rainfall patterns.

I've been in the industry for 34 years, and it's only the last five years where I've seen deployments from other states into Western Australia for firefighting. It just hadn't been necessary up until five years ago; now it's a regular event. It's not that Western Australia can't cope per se; it's that the pressure on resources, the stretch of resources and the extent of fire in the landscape warrants an interstate response. We've done a lot of work to line up the states in relation to those responses through protocols. We've put together a national committee of commissioners and chief officers at the strategic level to make rapid decisions about resource deployments where required. We've done a lot of posturing in anticipation of effects, and we're seeing some of those effects start to play out already.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I might come back later with some specific questions about how it works—if they're not already asked—but I will stick with the big-picture at the moment. Obama ruffled a few feathers when he said climate change was the biggest threat to US national security. We asked our previous witnesses about this in the first hearing. Who coordinates a whole-of-government approach to ranking threats to national security? Is it done at all across the different agencies? Is climate change considered a serious threat to national security? Certainly that is the way you defined it, Air Vice Marshal, in your submission. Has that occurred? Is it possible that at some stage there will be recognition that climate change is a threat, if not a key threat, to our national security?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I have nothing additional to add there in terms of my statement.

Mr Crosweller : I think it is fair to say that Home Affairs was only recently formed and the secretary has a very strong view in relation to the responsibility of Home Affairs domestically in all aspects of threat vectors. Climate change is a significant aspect of that, of course; it is a threat multiplier; it tends to increase the intensity and frequency of natural hazard events. We know, for example, that heat's effect on infrastructure is a significant concern domestically, and that is part of our brief as well.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: The potential for people movement and—

Mr Crosweller : That's right—and even moving to providing commentary or assistance in urban design for example. For example, trying to find cool spaces, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable to habitate in the future, is not often talked about but it is certainly at the forefront of our minds. So I think the effects are increasingly well understood within the portfolio and are starting to make their way into policy formulation and program shaping.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I have a question in relation to the scenario modelling that you do, Mr Crosweller and Air Vice Marshall Hupfeld and the other divisions, around climate change. One of our first two experts we had from the US on the first day of hearings said that the US military is only good at modelling the worst-case scenarios and doesn't really bother with the best-case scenarios. You spoke earlier about the potential for four catastrophic fires. Is that the kind of thing we do in this country as well? Are we cognisant of the potential worst-case scenarios in our contingency planning?

Mr Crosweller : I think we are, Senator. We have worked closely with Defence on this issue as well, and also with the Department of the Environment. I think the resilience reference group that has been established across all government departments is also considering the existential nature of this. We have participated in many exercises involving many government departments at state and federal level to fully understand the context of what we're dealing with and, I stress, to understand the limitations in the system and how we can move past those limitations when these things manifest. So it's probably best to say it's an unfolding space of complexity but also an unfolding space of competency. The more we work through these exercises the better we're getting at understanding the challenges and how we might respond to them.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: In relation to worst case scenarios—and talking about emissions, which have been mentioned in several submissions around the Paris agreement—leading US national security figure James Woolsey, the former head of the CIA, said three degrees or more of warming would produce, to use his words, outright chaos in the US. I suppose that given their summer, with the hurricanes, you can see where he's coming from. Will you be in a position where you can provide scenario contingency planning to our government on worst-case scenarios under emissions reductions into the future? Will someone have that granular ability to provide us with information and data?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I can answer part of that. We're using simulation modelling and testing to assess the scenarios and the work to try and answer the questions that you're asking—we are looking to answer some of those questions—and we use the terms 'most likely' and 'most dangerous'. 'Most dangerous' is 1½ to two degrees. We're still looking at three degrees; I think there's more work to be done on that. That is across all agencies, particularly Home Affairs and the Department of the Environment and Energy, when we work through these. There are scenarios conducted at the secretaries group level on the climate risk; we actually put some of these scenarios in front of the secretaries of the departments to assess their response. When we talk about 'most dangerous', one of the key areas is concurrency—a number of threats or disasters that result from the impacts of climate change occurring concurrently. Having a cyclone in the north and the flooding that we've had from that—the wind and storm damage and the ongoing effects of that—and a fire season down in Victoria—

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Or Tasmania.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Or Tasmania. That could cause us some other challenges. Those are the sorts of things we are looking at. We have had scenario examples of that to try to test and stress our response, not just in the capabilities we can bring to bear but also in our the decision-making to start to get the thinking around command and control and some of the other key aspects of how we deal with this threat.

Senator FAWCETT: Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld, how are you?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I'm well thanks, Senator.

Senator FAWCETT: Good. You say in your submission that Defence is considering adopting new energy sources more broadly, including various alternative fuel sources. Could you talk to us a bit more about the US biofuels initiative—what we're contributing to that, what we're learning from it and what alternate sources we are looking at?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I can really only talk to the level of detail in the submission. To provide any more technical level of detail, I will need to take that on notice and get back to you.

Senator FAWCETT: Strike one! Deeply disappointed!

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I wear a blue uniform, Senator!

Senator FAWCETT: Well, it probably has application: the US Navy flies quite a few aircraft—probably more aircraft than our Air Force does.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Indeed, and I'm sure some of their fields will relate to that. I am in the joint area, and that is work we're continuing to do. But I can't answer that question for you now. I would have to take that on notice.

Senator FAWCETT: Could you take that on notice.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Yes.

Senator FAWCETT: Dr James, in your submission, you talk about supporting international adaptation, and one of the areas you talk about is fuels. Again, I come to this area of alternative fuels. I saw the media in the middle of last year on your work around hydrogen and fuel cells. Could you talk to the committee about what work the CSIRO is doing in terms of alternative fuel sources?

Dr James : Unfortunately, like Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld, I am not familiar with the area of highly specialised new fuels, particularly the hydrogen one. I cannot speak to that. I would have to take that on notice and provide you with more information.

Senator FAWCETT: That would be fantastic if you could. Strike two! Can I come to the Department of the Environment and Energy. I want to go to the issue of fuels and alternative fuels and how we manage fuels and fuel shortages. I notice that AEMO, around electricity and gas in terms of their energy sources, has a process whereby they have exercises to test the system, to test the response to shortages and how they are going to respond. There are national responses to energy in an advisory committee that looks at determining how it will respond. When I go to liquid fuels, though, there doesn't appear to be the same degree of resilience. There's a discussion there about the act—I think it is the 1984 act—and what the federal government can do in consultation with the states. But I see no evidence of active planning around things like fuel shortages. Can you talk to the committee about what the department would do, from a whole-of-government planning perspective, around alternative fuels if our normal supply of liquid fuels were interrupted—what I'm sure someone like Senator Whish-Wilson would say are the effects of climate change down the road—or even what the IEA says about our lack of storage and disruptions to the supply chain? How do we test that? How do we demonstrate that we have resilience in that space?

Ms Wilson : Senator, I apologise; you're going to be disappointed by my answer as well. My energy division and energy security division colleagues are not here today. I will also take that on notice.

Senator FAWCETT: Strike three!

Ms Wilson : We didn't realise we'd go into fuel security and those sorts of energy questions. We're certainly very aware of AEMO's work. We're aware of IEA's recommendations and things they have also said. Let me assure you that in the department we are considering these issues, but I will take that on notice.

Senator FAWCETT: In this case, Chair, I've struck out three times. I will hand the call to someone else.

Mr Archer : If I may, I'll go back to your question about hydrogen. Certainly the department has a keen interest in the prospects around hydrogen as an alternative fuel source, both its potential domestically and also as a potential future major export industry. So we are actually working with the CSIRO, the Chief Scientist and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to look at pieces of work that go to scoping what the issues might be around the future of hydrogen in those respects, in terms of both the opportunities and barriers. In fact, it was something that was identified in a preliminary way in the report that CSIRO has previously prepared, the Low emissions technology roadmap, in terms of opportunities for domestic industry and for exports.

Australia is also part of an international initiative called Mission Innovation, which was established at the same time as the Paris agreement was concluded in 2015. Under that initiative, there are a range of so-called innovation challenges. Hydrogen is not currently one of those challenges, but we're certainly working actively with our international colleagues to see what effort can be put within the Mission Innovation framework on exploring the opportunities for hydrogen globally.

Senator FAWCETT: I understand some of the work the CSIRO has been doing is in terms of what form it can take—I think they're working with ammonia as the way of being able to then package it up and send it off. I'm more interested to understand, as we do that work—you say you're looking to try to bring together some of the streams of research—what we are doing around the ability of our existing or future platforms, whether they be land, sea or air, to utilise an energy source like that as an alternative for climate impacts. My concern is more around disruptions to our existing liquid fuel supply.

Mr Archer : That's a fairly detailed question—

Senator FAWCETT: That's why I asked it.

Mr Archer : I'm probably not in a position to point exactly to a piece of work that goes to those questions.

Senator FAWCETT: You started so strongly, Mr Archer!

Mr Archer : Certainly there is a range of aspects that are being considered in terms of how you produce the hydrogen in the first place, the input sources to that and the energy that's required to manufacture hydrogen. You've alluded to the transport questions, because hydrogen per se is not a particularly stable product to be transporting. There is a range of applications that hydrogen potentially could be utilised in, whether it's as a replacement for more traditional forms of gas within our own energy uses or whether it's in advanced technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells in transport. So there are a lot of issues that the potential for hydrogen raises, and we're really only just starting to unpack those and identify the sorts of issues you are raising around potential disruption as well as the economic opportunities that go with them.

Senator FAWCETT: Sure. Rather than to have three or four different answers on notice, perhaps the various departments could actually talk together in terms of providing a supplementary submission talking about what work you're doing in the space of alternative fuel sources, their suitability for rapid development and deployment in the event of disruptions to our liquid fuel supplies, including, from Defence's perspective, as the owner of the platforms, their suitability for use in current or near-generation platforms.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Senator, I could attack it again to check that we're heading in the right direction or take that question on notice as you've explained it.

Senator FAWCETT: I'm in your hands, Chair.

CHAIR: Take it on notice, I think. One of the things that's just occurred to me is that we've got a full board of experts but I'm getting a sense that there's no central coordination point here. I want to ask a question that is quite obvious to me but may not be obvious to anybody else. I know from Senator Whish-Wilson's contributions in the chamber on these matters that insurance companies, in particular reinsurers, have been quantifying this risk, because they pay the bills, since the early seventies. So the reinsurers can actually model, with their actuaries, what they need to do in terms of pricing risk in certain areas of the world that are prone to typhoons, cyclones and the rest. Are we, in Australia, looking at that data and interacting with that group to model our risk? Are we actually modelling our risk? I know that QBE—and I shouldn't say this but I've probably got shares in QBE through my superannuation fund—paid out an enormous amount in premiums in the last year. But there's a reinsurance industry that is well in front of all of that, modelling the risk and pricing the risk. Are we talking to those people? Do we look at the data they use to predict what's happening? If we go back to your assessment of Western Australia, that they hadn't had bushfires that—

Mr Crosweller : Yes—

CHAIR: Is someone in charge of all that, or do you do it individually?

Mr Crosweller : In the resilience reference group that Environment and Home Affairs chair—absolutely. We had, for example, the chief executive of the Insurance Australia Group meet with us not three or four weeks ago to have an extensive conversation about insurance and reinsurance.

CHAIR: Is that a new thing or is that an ongoing thing?

Mr Crosweller : It's an ongoing dialogue. We've had an ongoing dialogue with the Australian Business Roundtable, which includes a reinsurer, plus an insurer, plus the banking sector, plus the telecommunications sector. EMA is working, through Home Affairs, on specific initiatives around knowledge and data. Part of that is about knowledge and exchange with the private sector, with insurance and other sectors, of government data that can assist them and insurance data that can assist us in terms of better positioning for government programs and investments. All of that is happening now. It's an unfolding space for their industry as well as ours. They're certainly ahead on the insurance data, but we're probably well ahead on the natural hazard data and the impacts and effects. There's a very open and generous dialogue that's currently occurring, which is being formalised through good program development and policy advice.

CHAIR: And that is through your department?

Mr Crosweller : Yes, that's correct.

CHAIR: The next question I have is about something I've been wanting to clear up. I only got onto Twitter because I was in a cyclone and Twitter was the only way you could get information. In terms of information, is there a national umbrella where that's disseminated, or is it left to me: if I have 10,000 followers, I tell them to all run that way or all run this way, or to go to this shelter or that airport?

Mr Crosweller : There are essentially two levels of warning. There are the warnings that are issued from the Bureau of Meteorology around weather and weather hazards, whether they be fire weather or cyclones or flooding. How that's interpreted on the landscape, in communities and society, is a matter for state and territory responsibilities, and specifically—

CHAIR: At that point who secures the infrastructure that allows it to happen?

Mr Crosweller : Who secures the infrastructure?

CHAIR: Yes.

Mr Crosweller : The infrastructure for warnings is provided by the telecommunications sector in partnership with the state and territory—

CHAIR: But who secures the infrastructure that allows that to happen—that dissemination of information?

Mr Crosweller : Just to clarify your question, Senator, do you mean when it's under impact?

CHAIR: Who secures the cybersecurity, the internet? Who secures it? Who makes sure there is still availability of that?

Mr Crosweller : The obligation is on the asset owner, irrespective of the threat factor.

CHAIR: So we could be without that capability in a severe event?

Mr Crosweller : In some circumstances that happens. That happens, for example, in natural hazard events; critical infrastructure will be interrupted. There are often contingent ways of dealing with that. There ought to be contingent ways of dealing with that. Infrastructure in Australia is quite resilient, but we also experience effects of nature that are beyond the capacity to mitigate or provide immediate resilience. In those circumstances, getting it back up quickly is the challenge. That's usually subject to quite complex planning between frontline emergency services, the utility and critical infrastructure providers. It's a constant space of work and effort between, particularly, states and territories and the asset owners.

CHAIR: We'll go to Senator Kitching and then—

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Just before we do, Chair—Dr James, did you want to add something in answer to the chair's question?

Dr James : Sorry, Chair; I missed my opportunity to jump in when you moved from one question to the next. Going back to your question about the database the reinsurance industries have: we know, as Mr Crosweller has just pointed out, that they have extensive databases looking over the history of events, insured assets and what's happened to them. To some extent they've been able to model what the projection of what that would look like, what would occur with the increasing asset destruction. What a number of people are pointing out is that we're looking at scenarios of complex interactions between events, so multiple events at the same time and maybe different sorts of events—fires in one spot, floods in another. Those industries do not have access to the data that's necessary to try to do that more complex assessment of hot spots of where activities are going to basically become problematic.

CHAIR: Why don't they have access to the data?

Dr James : Because you're talking about completely different sorts of information than they would have at their fingertips. Also, they don't have the mandate to go and do those sorts of modelling exercises to understand the problems. It's a good partnership to think about accessing some of what they've got, but putting it into the context of information that would be held by the people on this panel.

Senator FAWCETT: [Inaudible] asked the question about whether we should give some more guidance for their answer on notice. I want to make a very quick comment on the scope of what I would love to see from the combined agencies. Rather than a generic 'big hands, little map' answer about generalities, I'd love to see an answer that is fairly specific. For example, at the moment we know that you can take a modern gas turbine powered aircraft and put diesel in it. It decreases engine life and the performance suffers a bit, but we know we can do it in an emergency. In World War II, with very simple engines, we could very quickly adapt charcoal and gas producers to put on the front of cars and trucks. Can we do that for our modern Bushmaster type vehicles and other things? With any of the fuels and alternates, whether it be hydrogen or other things, how quickly can we adapt it, if it indeed is at all possible? That's the kind of response I'm looking for, so I understand what priority we need to place upon either investment in adaptation technologies or investment in liquid fuel security to make sure our current platforms remain useable in the foreseeable future.

Senator KITCHING: You might have to take this question on notice. In the region, are we able to track climate change to the extent that given, for example, in one program—most of the submarines that are coming online in the region, they're moving to nuclear. There'll be less—I was going to say emissions, but they are oceanic. There will be more nuclear powered Defence vehicles, Defence resources. Will that lower climate change in the region? Would you be able to have an assessment of that that's meaningful?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I'm not a technical expert on that aspect either—

Senator KITCHING: But you understand what I'm asking?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I do. I guess if you're talking about emission control, then any level of emission control will contribute to the greater element. But when we talk about the number of submarines that are there—so if it's a diesel-electric submarine, they still charge their batteries on the surface. They have to snort to do that, therefore they're creating emissions. As an example for Australia, we have a small number of submarines; the impact is probably small, but, yes, it would add to the overall element. I can't give you a specific answer on it, but there are a large number of elements in terms of emission control, of which they are but one.

Senator KITCHING: It seems our regional neighbours are predominantly moving to nuclear powered submarines, for example, so that may decrease emissions because nuclear power doesn't make emissions.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : If you're using nuclear instead of a diesel electric, then there are less emissions, for sure, but what the impact of that would be and how you'd analyse that I wouldn't be able to answer that question for you.

Senator KITCHING: Is there any analysis being done or likely to be done?

Mr Suckling : I would say it would be marginal with submarines. There's an agreement through ICAO for civilian aircraft to have a voluntary emissions reduction program from 2020 where airlines will look at ways in which they can reduce emissions. That initiative, which covers a large portion of the international airlines, will save 500 million to 600 million tonnes of carbon a year from 2020. That is not insignificant—it's around Australia's emissions—but that's for a majority of commercial aircrafts. If you're talking submarines then you're talking a very small number, so the emissions would be marginal to the impact of emissions reduction.

Senator KITCHING: The submarines were an example, but if there are Defence resources, Defence frigates and destroyers et cetera, in our region—not in Australia, but in our region—moving to nuclear power, that would reduce emissions in our region? And I notice that's a term of reference.

Mr Suckling : Marginally.

Senator KITCHING: But there's no analysis being done on that?

Mr Suckling : No.

Senator KITCHING: Okay.

Senator REYNOLDS: Following on from Senator Kitching's question, my understanding is that the biggest polluters that impact on climate change are commercial vessels. It's not necessarily the smaller number of military vessels, and particularly the ones we have; it's that, globally, ships emit more than cars do.

Unidentified speaker: Absolutely.

Senator REYNOLDS: To put it into perspective: would it be correct to say that certainly our vessels make no discernible impact on climate change in terms of their emissions, particularly when compared with civilian fleets?

Mr Suckling : That's correct.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you.

Senator MOORE: Is there any data on that that we can get?

Mr Suckling : No.

Senator MOORE: So it's correct that we don't have any data on that?

Mr Suckling : There's data on commercial shipping emissions. There's an initiative through the IMO—the International Maritime Organization—for a strategy to reduce emissions through commercial fleets, but there wouldn't be data on military defence emissions.

Senator REYNOLDS: But nuclear powered vessels are far better for the environment in terms of emissions than conventional vessels?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : If you're looking to get a carbon footprint analysis, then I think we would possibly have some of that data.

Mr Suckling : For the region?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Not for the region.

Mr Grzeskowiak : Within Defence, we track our fuel usage across the range of uses and types of fuel. We add that up into total gigajoule consumption and we turn it into a net emissions figure. We track that. My latest information for the 2016-17 financial year was that the net emissions from Australian Defence use of fuel was 1,705,000 tonnes of CO2. That's actually a 10 per cent reduction from the previous year. What tends to drive that is Defence's operational posture. The bulk of that comes from what we refer to as operational fuel use for our warships, our fighter planes and our military vehicles. We also track what we call our stationary energy use, so that's electricity and gas mainly for our Defence bases, but that is a small fraction of the overall total.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : But we don't have that data for any of our regional neighbours or other militaries. It's not our business to be able to do that.

Senator MOORE: But it does put it into context, and it is extremely useful that Defence is tracking that.

Mr Grzeskowiak : We track it because we're particularly interested in trying to reduce our fuel usage; we're interested in trying to reduce our emissions. In the things where we have more control—for example, the stationary energy and the cost of running our bases in Australia—we are seeing a reasonably flat line in terms of usage. We're fractionally above our baseline of 2006-07. When you consider the number of more modern facilities we're building, every new capability that we've introduced in the last 10 years comes with extensive use of simulators and the like, which are energy heavy, then the fact that we're only using a small amount more energy than 10 years ago is quite positive.

Senator REYNOLDS: Just on that, I understand that the IMO are introducing new requirements for commercial ships in terms of diesel emissions, and a number of them are now looking to convert to gas, for example. Is the Navy subject to those IMO requirements? Are you aware of them?

Mr Grzeskowiak : Navy would be aware of those but wouldn't be subject to them in terms of a legislative requirement to meet them. Generally in our defence operations, when we're operating in peacetime, we try and meet as many regulations that exist from various authorities. But we don't often see ourselves as bound and obliged in many of those cases.

Senator REYNOLDS: Would you be able to take that on notice with respect to where the civilian shipping industry is going in terms of fuel efficiency and reduction of emissions and how that compares with what Navy is currently doing and what you might be looking at for the future surface combatants, in particular?

Mr Grzeskowiak : We can take that on notice.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I think that will come to the heart of Senator Fawcett's question in answering the same sort of—

Senator REYNOLDS: It does, yes.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : To provide a little bit more insight into it, there is also a performance factor in terms of what types of fuel sources you have based on the design of the engines, and, in the fullness of time, as technology enables our solutions, we'll be aiming to have technologies that can deliver a better fuel emission—

Senator REYNOLDS: I just ask because I know there are moves in my home state through a national company to see how the LNG carries themselves—they are great polluters—and how they can convert to use domestic gas as a new fuel source.

CHAIR: I think a British ship in Adelaide recently had a diesel drive train, or whatever you would call it, and a gas one.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : That would be a Type 23 frigate, I would assume.

CHAIR: It was a combination of diesel and gas, but immediately they went to gas it was more expensive. It might have given them more if it was a turbo.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I'm not sure it uses gas as in LPG.

CHAIR: Does our fleet already have a combination of diesel and gas?

Mr Grzeskowiak : The Type 23 frigate which you're referring to is a British ship. When they talk about diesel and gas, they're talking about a two-prime-mover propulsion: a diesel engine and a gas turbine. They both run on diesel fuel. So the gas turbine runs on diesel fuel.

CHAIR: Are our ships the same?

Mr Grzeskowiak : Many of our ships would be the same, yes. The gas turbine is simply used when you need to go fast.

CHAIR: So the additional cost is just from going faster?

Mr Grzeskowiak : You're using a lot more fuel, yes.

Senator MOORE: I want to ask a question in this space about the facility we have on the Solomon Islands which tracks all the shipping in our region. Is there any way, from that tracking, you'd be able to see the kinds of emissions that would be there? My understanding—I've only been there once, and I understood very little of it—was that they've got the facility on the Solomons that shows you every form of fishing and every form of boat that's in the whole of the region across the whole of the Pacific.

CHAIR: There's one just down the road here.

Senator MOORE: I'm wondering whether, when looking at that, that would give some indication, whether there'd be some way of tracing from that what would be the energy impact of that.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : My understanding of the system you're referring to is the AIS system, which is like a transmitter that every ship carries above a certain size and weight, and if they're a commercial vessel, certainly. That's a satellite tracking system. I can't answer whether that tracks fuel use and emissions—

Senator MOORE: Even possible fuel use.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : or whether it's just tracking their position. My understanding is it's just tracking their position.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I'd like to get back to the topic of war functions versus non-war functions and the way the ADF is set up and go into a bit more detail on that. The committee's heard that by the middle of next decade Defence may be stretched responding to concurrent natural disasters and geopolitical unrest. I think the next decade is also outlined in your submission with respect to challenges. Could you tell us a little bit more about how Defence is preparing for that possibility and whether you also engage in cross-agency discussions?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : As I explained, the force design process that we use will look at modelling both assessments of what we call the force in being, our current force structure. We'll look at how we employ it and at what the resources to employ and sustain it will be. We look at that against the current modelling against the scenarios we face and then we'll apply that in a future assessment through experimentation or what we would call war gaming to try and examine what the impacts of all of the threats to security may well be in the future. We have included that modelling currently against previous humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, and then we apply that in those scenarios to see what the changing impact will be. So, I wouldn't use the word 'stretched' yet, but it will increase the pressure on Defence in terms of the sustainment cost and impact, and it will create additional pressure in terms of what we see as concurrency. We are managing and modelling those to see what that impact would be and if that needs to factor into how we manage our capabilities.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Before I get to Tropical Cyclone Winston, which is in your submission and also in an excellent case study provided by DFAT, what kind of consideration is given to something as broad as procurement in regard to a potential humanitarian or disaster role in the future? One example I mentioned in the first inquiry was that I understand the LAND 400 is not well-suited to amphibious landings in our region, if it needed to be used for humanitarian purposes—as an example. Is this sort of climate contingency planning incorporated in procurement? I'd be tempted to have a go at the Joint Strike Fighter here, too, because I don't know if it yet can fly in thunderstorms, or whether it is too hot for it to take off. Presumably these kinds of things are factored into our large procurements, as well?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : If I could start with the F-35. It has one seat, so it's not going to be able to carry too many people around.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: But can it take off in a thunderstorm, though?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : It will be able to fly appropriately in and around or be aware of thunderstorms in the fullness of time, if it is not already—and I am not close enough to that system. In regard to the LAND 400 vehicle, it's not a vehicle that could, what we say, swim ashore. It can't get itself ashore. It needs ship-to-shore connectors, and that's a capability that we are ensuring we have—the ability to take those vehicles ashore via an appropriate method.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Can you assure us that that has been planned for and is the case? They are not too heavy even for that kind of—

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : We are assessing amphibious capability to make sure we can deliver on the requirements of the white paper. The language I'd use here is: understanding what effects as Defence we would need to apply in order to achieve treatment to the risks we see due to climate change, as in the example you're raising here. It's the same operational approach we take for any of our military operations. The LAND 400 vehicle, in this case, may not be the vehicle that is the best suited for the humanitarian assistance disaster relief environment. We have a number of vehicles that we can use. The aim is to have those vehicles and to use the same sort of ship-to-shore connectors to deliver those vehicles to the environment where they're needed.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: One thing that came up in our previous day of submissions is that domestically, or in our region, it's not just providing aid and humanitarian assistance. There is also the potential for civil unrest and the breakdown of law and order and that kind of thing.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Yes. That's an effects based outcome. So, if the result of the climate impact were unrest and/or conflict, then we would assess which vehicle we needed, with the protection levels and indeed lethality levels we will need, based on a government decision to commit us to that sort of an operation.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Regarding point 30 on page 25 of your submission, you say 'The 2016 Defence White Paper outlines the ADF’s role in disaster response and the potential need for increased involvement. A number of ADF assets'—and then you say—'are easily adapted for such responses'. I know Senator Patrick wants to ask you more about the ships, and the problems you've had in the past with rolling those out for humanitarian responses, so I won't go into that in too much detail. Could you tell us a bit more about what you mean by 'easily adapted'?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I used the example earlier of the Landing Helicopter Dock. That's a ship we can take and deploy equipment to support any sort of humanitarian assistance disaster operations that we may need. They can carry helicopters. So, on arriving at a location—and we've done this in a number of recent operations—we can employ the helicopter to then get to remote areas within a number of different areas. The Landing Helicopter Dock also has what we call a Role 2E-level medical facility. We can embark those sorts of capabilities and deploy the vessel to near those areas and remove people from the areas of danger and threat and treat them in a medical sense. They're just a couple of examples of how we adapt our military capabilities to contribute to a humanitarian assistance disaster relief operation.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Your submission then says, 'Experience in recent years shows that government is willing to deploy'—and you use the expression 'relatively large-scale ADF contingents in response to natural disasters'. You mentioned Cyclone Winston in Fiji and Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. Can you put more meat on the bones in terms of what you mean by 'large scale' deployments?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Australia's military capabilities as being delivered under the white paper and the integrated investment program are becoming quite an enhanced capability and an ability to project force, and, in the last decade and the last five years, that has been increasing. In terms of 'large scale'—

Senator WHISH-WILSON: You do outline it in your submission, actually, in a bit of detail, sorry. You talk about 1,000 ADF personnel being deployed—

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : As to the numbers of people: we have a diverse range of assets, including the ones I've addressed in the previous answer, but also the C-17, which is a major strategic asset that allows us to get equipment very quickly, so we're often able to respond very rapidly; that can lead the deployment, putting people on the ground, to do reconnaissance; then there are other layers and scales of airlift and air mobility and support; the maritime forces that I've explained, and then, of course, boots on the ground. So our army possesses just the ability to put people out there and respond to the urgent need that's there, and then the equipment that we can embark to get across there on the landing helicopter dock, to then do search and rescue and assist other government agencies to contribute to those effects, and the reconstruction effort itself. So there's a full spectrum there that can be scaled within the means that we have within the ADF.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: In terms of the internal budgetary processes within Defence, is it possible to give the committee an estimate of the kind of funding allocation we're seeing towards metrics like humanitarian aid or disaster relief or even deployments within Australia around floods, like we saw in Queensland and that kind of thing? You can see what I'm looking for—

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Yes, absolutely.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Getting back to: 'What's a threat to national security?'—what kind of money are we already spending within Defence?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : We've responded to a question on notice from Senator Patrick, previously, that lays it out, with a table that talks about the last five years of humanitarian assistance disaster relief and includes the cost basis, by operation, in the years that they occurred.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I must admit, I haven't seen that. We'll be able to add that up, will we, and get a pretty good idea about it?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : There is a table there; it's the last five years across a number of operations and comes up with a bottom line. I can explain that to you now, or I can pass you this sheet if you want to have a look now.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: We may not have time to do it right now, and Senator Patrick, I'm sure, will want to ask you for some detail when he gets here. On point 32, you go on to say that the government will acquire enhanced aeromedical evacuation, search and rescue capabilities, commencing with upgrades to the Chinook helicopters, and that, in the longer term, the government will investigate options to enable the ADF to undertake combat search and rescue tasks more speedily and at longer range. I'm not sure if the combat stuff has a direct connection with humanitarian aid, but is the Chinook stuff underway already and has that already been budgeted for, or is it in the planning stage?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : The items referred to under paragraph 32 are elements that are already included in the integrated investment program. To clarify, though, the capabilities that are represented by that, as labelled 'combat search and rescue', allow us to respond to a number of different scenarios, whether to get search and rescue equipment and people, using the C-17, or even further inland, using a Chinook helicopter, to areas that have suffered from disaster. So those combat capabilities, once again, are part of that adaptability that the military capabilities have, and we can deploy those rapidly. The scale of it then would be determined on the nature of the capabilities we deploy.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Could I perhaps step back a bit and ask a question in relation to operations in our region around humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. How does it work? Does DFAT advise you? How does the actual decision-making process work before a deployment, and the planning around that, and the expected outcomes of these kind of things?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : We certainly take the lead from DFAT once we're talking about international and regional operations. That then is a whole-of-government decision that's generally taken by the National Security Committee of cabinet. That's where the whole-of-government approach would be pulled together. Until we commit to the operation, as directed by the government, DFAT would take the lead in assessing, planning and providing advice and recommendations to government on what they might want to do and contribute.

Mr Kelly : I can add a little more about the structure. The foreign minister has responsibility for Australian government responses, in an international context, and then delegates that to an official of the department. That whole-of-government response is then coordinated through an interdepartmental emergency task force. Specific military deployments would be subject to a request from the government of the country suffering from the emergency. We obviously then seek to maintain a capacity to respond in 48 hours. In terms of the military engagement, what we would do is try to get clarity around what the requirements are, put that to Military Strategic Commitments and then let our Defence colleagues work out what assets are the best respond to that requirement.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: This is something of special interest to me. We had some unusual fires in Tasmania in 2016 in our World Heritage areas. We ended up flying in some New Zealand military personnel who were remote area specialists. I've done a bit of research and looked at other defence forces around the world that use water planes. I think the US marines have their own water planes. I'd like to discuss—I'm not sure if we'll have time to do that tonight—whether there is a potential role for Defence to own and operate a fleet of water planes in this country. When we had a number of fires in Tassie, we found we couldn't get those planes for about six days, because they were tied up with fires on the mainland. We've done an analysis on that at a state level.

I'd like to get to the point about war functions versus non-war functions and whether there's a role for the ADF, for example, to fly and operate those kinds of aircraft. We've certainly received information that it may be too expensive and it's not the most efficient way to do it. There are counter arguments to that. Would you like to make some comments about that, Mr Crosweller?

Mr Crosweller : Certainly. I'd have to refresh my memory on the Tasmanian fires. I was certainly heavily engaged with them as the director-general. On the issue of remote area firefighters—New Zealand, as I understand it, did send over some military reservists who were also trained in firefighting. They don't have the capacity Australia has in its volunteer ranks, and that's why the military reservists in New Zealand supplement that type of firefighting work.

In Australia, particularly in the southern states, the fire services have extensive, what they call RAF capability—remote area firefighting capability. It always has to be weighed up against the perils and hazards of the fire on the ground. I spoke to the chief officer down there during the operation, and there were a number of days where the weather forecast, the intensity of fire and the location of the fire were such that it was very difficult to insert those crews. In other circumstances, the crews couldn't get in because the weather effectively socked them in. There was low-level cloud, a lot of smog and smoke, so they couldn't get aircraft in to insert those crews, anyway, and that was hampering operations. It also hampers their operations. Australia, I think, on average, has the capacity to call in in excess of 100 aircraft—upwards of 150 aircraft, as I understand it.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: What aircraft?

Mr Crosweller : Water bombing aircraft, both fixed and rotary wing, all the way up to a DC10. We're now engaging C130s and DC10s.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Are they all privately owned?

Mr Crosweller : They are privately owned, and there's a good reason for that. We're able to contract the best and the brightest and the latest aircraft into Australia that suit Australian conditions. These machines work for 12 months of the year of course. They're not required in Australia for 12 months of the year, so we bring the expertise in from overseas when we need it. It goes back when we don't need it. That's managed through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre, which is a cooperative arrangement between the federal government and the states.

The Tasmanian operation was complex. The fire services have done a review on that through the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council. I am privy to those outcomes, but I can take that on notice, if you'd like to see what they had to say.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: All right. Thank you.

Mr Crosweller : I can say that, in this country, we are well-serviced by a volunteer firefighting force that is the envy of the world. I often remind all of us of that, because they did engage in that operation. They engage in all operations in Australia. They provide a very effective capability. We've often talked to Defence about supplementation of capabilities in that particular space. We don't believe that it's necessary to train soldiers to that level of firefighting capability, and I think Defence would agree with that.

CHAIR: On this point, can we give Hansard a break to stretch their legs for 15 minutes, and then we'll come back in continuation.

Proceedings suspended from 18:30 to 18:45

CHAIR: It being 6.45, we will resume the hearing with Senator Patrick to lead the questions.

Senator PATRICK: Mr Crosweller, to follow on from the discussion that took place prior to the break: I'm not ambushing you and I will say this is hearsay. I've talked to a number of helicopter or machine operators who tell me that the rates that someone, either state or federal, pays for aircraft are quite high. I can imagine in a business context that you can't bring an aircraft to Australia, put it on stand-by and have no-one making money with the machine, so there's a cost to that. But I'm wondering if you are in a position maybe on notice to provide the committee with some details about how much the Commonwealth and perhaps—I don't know if you have access—states pay on an annual basis for the availability of either helicopters or aircraft for firefighting roles. Perhaps give some description that says that cost covers three months' residence in Australia and typically deals with these operations, the cost varies as a function of how much we use them or something along those lines.

Mr Crosweller : The Commonwealth contributes approximately $14.8 million to the National Aerial Firefighting Centre, which is the entity that was established by the federal government with the states in about 2003, probably around the time of the Canberra fires or thereabout. The states contribute somewhat more money into that arrangement as well because they're the ultimate users of the asset. That $14.8 million Commonwealth contribution helps to pay for the contract costs and the standing charges for the aircraft. The operational costs are covered by the states. The Commonwealth does reimburse some of that operational cost through the counterdisaster operations of the natural disaster relief and recovery arrangements, so it's a fairly complex financial arrangement. NAFC produces an annual report of its costs and the aircraft that it contracts. We can make that available to you.

Senator PATRICK: Does that include the states' contribution as well?

Mr Crosweller : It does in relation to those aircraft that NAFC are responsible for. States also contract own aircraft, and it's essentially a two-tier system as I understand it. There are the seasonal contracts, which aircraft operators tender for, and then there's a list of what's called 'call when needed'. They may well be agricultural aircraft or commercial aircraft that have gone through the training and certification to operate on fire grounds safely and effectively. They would operate at a higher rate than a contract rate, of course, because they're only called when needed. That entire fleet of aircraft in Australia, I'm pretty sure, can reach 150 or more if it needs to. So it accesses into the commercial market as required. When the fire danger ratings increase over time, more aircraft come on board under either contract or call-when-needed.

The fire services, particularly in conjunction with the Bureau of Meteorology and others, will assess the incoming fire seasons. If it looks delayed, they will delay the contracts. They will prevent the bigger aircraft coming in-country until the weather starts to move towards a drier, more volatile climate and weather pattern for fire. So those contract periods do vary. They can be extended, and they tend to try to adapt them to what's unfolding in a climatic and weather sense that results from that.

Senator PATRICK: To give you a feel for the information I'd be interested in: I'm wondering about cost analysis. Companies often lease to preserve capital so they can spend money on other things, and the Commonwealth is not in a different position. If you've got an asset that you end up using all of the time, sometimes it can be better to pull at least some portion of those onto your own ledger for capital procurement cost. Has any analysis been done as to the leasing verses part-procurement option? If so, can you potentially provide the committee with analysis?

Mr Crosweller : We will take that on notice. The National Aerial Firefighting Centre would absolutely have information on that. They're separate to government, but we can ask them. The specific rates are probably commercial-in-confidence.

Senator PATRICK: Yes. I don't want the detail of any one particular contract. I want to understand the cost to the Commonwealth of that approach and any analysis that might have been done to say: 'You know what? We might be better off paying for 10 aircraft ourselves, because that will always be filled with that sort of use or mix of capability.'

Mr Crosweller : We will seek some information from NAFC. We regard them as the experts in the country in the contracting, the deployment, the use, the training, the standards—all that comes with a very complex asset that has to operate in a very complex operational space. I can also say that it very early days, of course, but the sector is looking at night-time operations. It is an incredibly complex theatre with fire grounds that produce enough problems during the daytime without having to tackle night-time complexity, but the sector understands and appreciates—and the weekend had a great example in Victoria of some quite severe fire activity in the middle of the night which Victoria, and Tasmania for that matter, can experience, particularly when there are cyclones off the north-west part of Australia. They will draw all the moisture from the southern part of Australia and tends to send down very hot northerly winds. They can often come down overnight. So the effect is that, at the moment, we can't put aircraft up at night-time. We're restricting to ground force operations and that has somewhat of a limiting effect.

The sector is very aware of the changing nature of fire, the intensifications and the increasing frequencies. It is looking at how it adapts resources into that space, and part of that is night-time operations. We're probably a few years from being satisfied that we've got the right protocols in place to operate safely at night. It's an example of how we are adapting the capability to that intensifying space.

CHAIR: Are you confident that you will have the capacity to deliver daytime capability in your worst case scenario of four fires in four states simultaneously?

Mr Crosweller : The way I would answer that is that we seek to look at those scenarios as existential threats to understand where the limitations would be and how we would move past them. We find that it's often in the most severe circumstances, particularly in fire, that more resource is simply not the answer.

CHAIR: There is no second prize if we have fires in four states and we don't have the capability to launch what communities expect, which is aerial carriage of water. It's a simple threat to be assessed. I think Senator Patrick is asking if an investment is required here. That's what we're on about. Have you assessed our threat and can you defend your position?

Mr Crosweller : I'm not disagreeing at all with the senator. What I'm trying to say and perhaps not explaining very well is that Australia will adapt to what it needs. Whether it needs 150 aircraft or 200 aircraft, it does that through leasing arrangements and by sourcing the international market. When circumstances arise such that that scenario could emerge, it takes a number of months for the landscape to dry and produce that result. So, if we were reading the result that way, if we were reading the landscape that way, we would position that way.

Senator PATRICK: I'm more interested in whether or not we've done analysis to look at the mix of purchase and lease or whether we say lease is the best option from the taxpayers' perspective.

Mr Crosweller : The short answer is that we will go to NAFC for that information because we regard them as experts in that regard.

Senator PATRICK: Fantastic.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Specifically to you, Mr Croswell, or Air Chief Marshall: has there ever been an analysis of ownership of these assets verses leasing? Has there been a cost-benefit done at any level across agencies on this issue?

Senator PATRICK: Can I add that? That's on a Commonwealth and state perspective, because this is a mix. If you just looked at it from the Commonwealth perspective, I imagine it would be somewhat distorted. If you looked at it from any one particular state, it would be distorted. The total cost of taxpayers in Australia, state and federal.

Mr Crosweller : Yes, and I think the other consideration here is the competencies and capabilities that exist that need to be maintained on a regular basis. The scenarios we're talking about here, particularly the existential scenarios, are rare, but not improbable. The whole point of the work that we do is to look at worst case and how we posture for worst case. To resource every year for worst case is just simply economically impossible.

Senator PATRICK: That's clear. But I also wonder if you owned an asset whether you could—even for training perspectives—lease out that asset to North America or somewhere else where that might be required. Has that ever been factored into any consideration as to how you approach this from the taxpayers' perspective?

Mr Crosweller : Again we would probably refer that approach to NAFC. It's a competitive global market. It's well resourced. It would be complex to work through the benefits of whether it would be sensible for a government to purchase assets, maintain assets, maintain competencies and standards, and participate in a commercial market in anticipation of a one-in-50-year or a one-in-100-year event, but the industry has always ultimately said that it needs to be adaptable and flexible to the emerging climate effects and source the market for that purpose. As a firefighter for 30-odd years, I can confidently say that that is the best approach to access the market for the rising threat and then to have a stagnant capability that may find its limitation very quickly. Accessing a full commercial market in this space I think is the most adaptable, flexible and economically efficient way of dealing with the problem.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: If you have a large-scale fire or if you look at the fires we have got at the moment, how many aircraft would you generally use? I know you need helicopters, spotter aircraft and capability to drop water, but what are we talking about here—a handful?

Mr Crosweller : It depends on the size and intensity of the fire. I operated a fireground in the late 1990s with about 84 aircraft. Because that's what we needed that's what we brought in. That was for crew transport, surveillance, reconnaissance and water bombing. We built an airport in Picton. We ran an airport out of Picton to control all of the aircraft.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: So major fires—the worst-case scenario you said is a one-in-150-year event—would require 150 aircraft?

Mr Crosweller : It's speculative. It's a very hard question to answer. On the worst day of the worst fire they can't fly anyway. This is the point I'm trying to make. When we move to existential threat and existential intensities you can't put aircraft in the air and you cannot put firefighters on the fireground.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Would you have any on stand-by? I was going to ask later about having assets strategically placed. When you know that the risk factors provided by the weather bureau and others are very high, do you have these things ready to hit fires early?

Mr Crosweller : Yes, we do. NAFC through its operations committee does the strategic placement of aviation based on forecasts. Based on any window from 24 hours to about 96 hours it would look at the bureau forecasts and move the aircraft ahead of time in anticipation of events. I had to explain this to someone yesterday down at Tathra. It is different to a cyclone, a flood or a storm, which arise directly from weather and can be forecast in terms of location and timing. You cannot say the same for fire. It's not much different from a terrorist event really because it's a very short notice event compared to a cyclone, a flood or a storm. With a cyclone you get five days notice. A fire could be five minutes notice.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: That's right. In terms of having something readily available rather than having to bring in things from overseas or source agricultural aircraft, what kind of stock of aircraft do you have readily available at five minutes notice or 10 minutes notice in high-fire conditions?

Mr Crosweller : I think we'll take that on notice. NAFC manages that entire contract space. They do the aircraft profiling—so the mix of aircraft between rotary, fixed wing, water bombing, retardant bombing, surveillance, reconnaissance and air attack. All of those things are dealt with by NAFC and they are assessed every year based on climatic outlooks that the bureau provides us. We also look at what has happened overseas, particularly in America, for example. America can often be a precursor to fire seasons in Australia. So all of that is taken into account in terms of contracts, aircraft placement and the establishment of call-when-needed aircraft as well.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Also, in a sense, for preventative fire management. I know the helicopters in Tasmania are often unavailable because they're being used to do strategic fuel reduction burns as well. It would be useful to know who manages that as well.

Mr Crosweller : Certainly. We're more than happy to provide the committee with whatever we can obtain from NAFC.

Senator PATRICK: Air Vice Marshal, I put some questions on notice which you helpfully answered. I want to seek some clarification on some of the details of those answers—they had a 14 February return date. I asked for the actual expenditures on HADR operations over the last five financial years. It wasn't clear to me what was included. We can see that expenditure in 2012-13 was about $2 million, going to $6.5 million, $3.1 million and $5 million, so it varies each year. What's included in those costs? Are those costs just fuel and logistics or do they include NPOC or any asset value?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I'll have to take that detailed question on notice to get you the exact answers, but most of the time it's only those additional costs that have come above what our operating requirements are. For example, flying hours for aircraft that contribute are included in the normal flying hours rate and the cost of that.

Senator PATRICK: It surprised me a little bit. It may not concern me too much, but it didn't seem like you allocated a budget for that within your operations. In operations generally, you've got a pool of money and a set asset base—

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : We don't pre-allocate funding for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Of course, the uncertainty of that would make that difficult to assess. We would commit to those activities or those operations and then what is discussed with government is a no-win, no-loss. When you reach a certain threshold, then the government may consider to refund that; otherwise it's absorbed within the defence budget.

Senator PATRICK: It was interesting. You didn't really have many people focusing on these operations. It was sort of ancillary. Obviously, you've got very highly specialised and very competent people that operate these assets, but, in terms of planning, there's information here on full FTE allocated to HADR functions. This inquiry, I guess, works on the presumption that over time we expect an increasing requirement. I don't know whether this is true or not, but there is the idea that there might be some increasing requirements for disaster assistance as a result of climate change. You're not considering that at this point in time? You don't feel the need to allocate any significant thinking to that problem?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : To clarify the first part of your question, there are no specific FTE or ADF numbers that are allocated to be sitting ready for HADR or defence aid of civil community tasks, but, when we commit to one of those operations, there are extant personnel—the same with our military capability—that we then apply to that planning and the execution of the activity.

Senator PATRICK: I guess I was thinking about policy and long-term planning. You clearly have people available to respond, and we thank you for that, but I'm more wondering whether or not you've got anyone at least sitting somewhere in Russell offices who looks at these things.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : There are various elements within the department that would look at that from the beginning with a policy setting on how the department will manage the policies around defence aid to the civil community, humanitarian assistance and preparedness. Those elements are already done within extant functions that we have. Specifically around preparedness, I have a staff that work for me to examine preparedness. As Mr Crosweller explained, in doing analysis around the high-risk weather season, Defence works with Home Affairs to examine what that risk analysis would be so that we can prepare in advance. We certainly pre-plan, we adjust and the Chief of the Defence Force will adjust the preparedness requirements if he thinks it's necessary based on those risks. So there are staff that are allocated to those functions and we perform those activities in planning and policy.

Senator PATRICK: Yes, and I note that you did provide effectively what the plan was for this cyclone season in your response. Were the assets that you used in Victoria similar assets to what you'd had sort of planned for cyclone relief or other situations? It says, 'King Air, Hercules, Spartan aircraft, the tankers and the Globemasters.' Were they the assets you used just recently in Victoria?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : They're used to assist the effort, but they're not assets that we use to firefight, if that's the question.

Senator PATRICK: Sure, I understand that.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : But, in delivering stores and resources and transporting people around to contribute to the overall disaster response, those assets are used.

Senator PATRICK: Do you know which of those assets might have been used? I can see you've planned. You've said that these are available. Were they called on and were they available?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I'd have to take that on notice to give you the specific ones that were used for a specific operation, if you wanted to know that detail.

CHAIR: There is a division in the Senate, so the committee will suspend. If there are a series of divisions, we'll communicate with the secretary.

Proceedings suspended from 19:06 to 19:15

CHAIR: We had a very short division and we're not likely to have any more before 7.20, with a bit of luck.

Senator PATRICK: Air Vice Marshal, I was discussing the plans you had for HADR this season. Perhaps you could take this on notice: had any of those assets that you had online or intended to be available been called upon for the Victorian fires, would they have been available? In some sense I'm reflecting on Cyclone Yasi. I'm sure you probably remembered we couldn't get Manoorah, Kanimbla or Tobruk to assist when the Queenslanders needed help. I'm sure you've addressed some of those availability and preparedness issues. How you do measure yourself for this season?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : The first part of your question refers to this weekend's events in Victoria?

Senator PATRICK: That's correct.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I'll have to confirm for you on notice what Defence assets may have been used, if any. For the high risk weather season, which is still in place until the end of April in this current season and then will start again for the next year's season, we are looking at our preparedness requirements. Every year the Chief of the Defence Force puts forward his Preparedness Directive, which states the levels of readiness required and the readiness notice we would need to achieve to meet all of the security threats and risks identified. I won't explain the detail of those, obviously. To do that would start—

CHAIR: We will suspend proceedings here until after the division.

P roceedings suspended from 19:17 to 19 : 26

CHAIR: We can now be assured of no more disruptions, because the Senate has now adjourned.

Senator PATRICK: We were just talking about preparedness. I worked inside CASG for a while. At that stage General Hurley had written a preparedness document. You are saying that is updated every year and it includes this sort of—

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : The Chief of Defence Force provides a preparedness directive to the ADF that outlines the level of readiness and what we call the notice to move will be for various elements of capability and for various missions and roles. That direction is provided each year. Within that, when we look at the full range of security capabilities and the risk that we need to be able to manage, then it does include the opportunity to deliver against those threats. We include climate change and the impacts of climate change in our assessments for preparedness, and of course that then allows us to assess what the likelihood would be during a high-risk weather season not just domestically but within the region, in particular, to assess where we may be called upon for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Senator PATRICK: From recollection, that's a relatively highly classified document, isn't it?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : That is a classified document.

Senator PATRICK: Would the components about preparedness for local and/or domestic operations be classified?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : They are not necessarily isolated. As I explained earlier, in the military side of Defence the capabilities that we possess we force-structure for war-fighting, and then we adapt our capabilities to meet other tasks, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as an example.

Senator PATRICK: I understand that, but the preparedness aspects would be highly relevant, noting that is a short-term assessment. I'm not trying to get access to anything that's classified; I appreciate the sensitivity of that document. I am just wondering, but I imagine that, within that document, the HADR and assistance related preparedness inputs wouldn't be classified. I'd be interested in looking at the way Defence thinks about the problem.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Either way we were to break those down we would be talking about Defence's capabilities and abilities to respond, so that is a capability issue, which then becomes classified. But specifically humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as one of the missions or functions that we might need to perform, is rolled up within the preparedness documentation and includes a concurrency element. So our capabilities have to be ready and on standby for a number of security aspects, including HADR. It's not possible to pull those out and remove that from the overall posture, which is a classified-level statement.

Senator PATRICK: Sure. I understand that.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Even if it were just for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief alone, it would demonstrate our ability to respond, which would then make it classified.

Senator PATRICK: Although I note that in this answer you lay out the assets that are doing it.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : We explain the assets, and indeed they're available. We talk about the assets we have in the ADF. But how many of them there are, what our ability to respond is and how we would sustain them in operations, which is the data included in the preparedness directive, is not information that we would release in the public domain.

Senator PATRICK: Sure, but I'm thinking that, particularly in your planning for a potential international aid situation, you've run through a methodology to get to some point that you put into that document that says, 'This is what we need and this is the preparedness level.' If we went back to how you did that to feed into that document, I think that would be of assistance to the committee. That would show the way in which you think about this problem or, indeed, if you think about it in a particularly deep way or a relatively shallow way, noting what you said—and I accept that obviously the Defence Force is there for other reasons.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : As an example, we have analysis and I can show you some graphs that talk about the severity of storms, for example, and the number of storms. We have that data that goes back to the 1970s. We've done modelling analysis to examine what that would be, and that starts to give us an indication as to how we might need to respond into the future. If that's the sort of methodology that you'd like to see, I can take that on notice and provide that for you.

Senator PATRICK: Yes, just saying, 'This is how we approach the forecasting, and therefore here's our methodology,' within the scope of what you would view to be your other, more important tasks—and I understand you have a primary function—and how you might then work out what goes into that.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : As soon as we start to talk about allocation of assets, though, that's when it becomes classified. We can talk about methodology in terms of how we do the analysis but not about how we would then break that down and the notice to move and the readiness of various or specific assets. That isn't data that we'd be able to provide unless it were a classified-level session. That would be in camera, I guess.

Senator PATRICK: Sure.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : That might be the only other way of doing it.

Senator PATRICK: Yes, some sort of in camera session. Maybe you could try to respond to that with the methodology to the extent that you're comfortable.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Just to confirm, the methodology we use to examine what our preparedness is?

Senator PATRICK: Your preparedness requirements.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : What they would be as we assess that against—

Senator PATRICK: For example, what inputs do you take into consideration and how you might then juggle the competing inputs to then say, 'That's how we would then decide what assets we might think about allocating,' without necessarily going into the allocation—just the methodology of what you do in and around HADR specifically, rather than any more classified function.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Sure, we'll have a look at that. If I could add a caveat, indeed the response to the question that we tried to answer there was about humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. What we will also aim to do is to provide the distinction between broad humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and indeed, those that we assess to be the result of climate related disaster response. For example, in some of the data that's there, that includes earthquake elements, but we can look at extreme weather events, storms and other aspects.

Senator PATRICK: That would be appreciated, thanks.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: In relation to that, I had a look at your response to Senator Patrick on notice and the table you provided there. Is this external to Australia's territories, or does it include work you do on cyclones, floods, bushfires and other things in Australia?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : If I understand the question correctly—

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Is it domestic as well as—

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : It's particularly regional, and domestic, so it's both.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: So it's both domestic and regional. Okay.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Yes, that's correct.

CHAIR: I just have one question of CSIRO. What is your assessment of the major national security risk posed by climate change?

If it's 15 different areas, you might need to take some of it on notice, but I'd be really interested to know where you think the main national security aspect of climate change is going to evidence itself.

Dr James : To tell you the truth, I don't believe we've actually done an assessment that would answer that question directly. There are a few different angles to take it from, so I think we would have to go away and have a look at it. You could look at it from an energy perspective, for which there's plenty of background material. By energy, I mean electricity supplies, for example, as opposed to the liquid fuels one that we were talking about earlier. You can certainly look at it from the humanitarian point of view, as I said earlier or food security and water issues. There are many dimensions to that.

CHAIR: Perhaps it's best to take it on notice. Then there's a snapshot of where you think the emerging national security issues will be.

Dr James : Okay.

CHAIR: Senator Moore.

Senator MOORE: I want to follow up on the Disaster and Climate Resilience Reference Group. I know that you were answering questions about that earlier. I haven't got in my head clearly how it operates, who is on it and whether you have a regular meeting schedule or it is called together as required. I want to get that on record.

Mr Crosweller : It constitutes 22 government departments as well as the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO, and there could be a couple of others in there. It meets—Mr Brown will correct me if I'm wrong—every three months minimum.

Mr Brown : That's right.

Mr Crosweller : It has a progressive agenda. It's looking particularly at climate change scenarios. It looks at those matters that specifically relate to how climate change affects government departments and how government departments may posture for those effects. For example, at the last meeting, we engaged the insurance industry through IAG, and the chief executive of IAG will talk about the insurance challenges in climate change and what they might mean for the federal government, particularly around the release of federal government data that may assist insurance in doing better-quality assessments around risk. So it's essentially around disaster and climate resilience and those specific areas that affect the Commonwealth and how the Commonwealth may respond to those challenges. It's not ad hoc.

Senator MOORE: It's jointly shared by you and Environment and Energy; is that right?

Mr Crosweller : That's correct, yes.

Senator MOORE: At what level are those attending?

Mr Crosweller : Generally deputy secretary level or first assistant secretary—essentially, that level. And it just depends a little bit on—

Senator MOORE: Is there full coverage on the website of what the agendas are and the outcomes?

Mr Crosweller : I'm not sure if it's on the website. Is it?

Mr Brown : No.

Senator MOORE: It's not? Okay. And the issues around national security impacts would come up on the agenda from time to time?

Mr Crosweller : Yes, they would do in an unclassified sense. It doesn't deal with classified material; it deals in the unclassified space. Those matters that pertain to national security that can be dealt with at that level of documentation are discussed.

Senator MOORE: I have only one other question. I know Senator Whish-Wilson has more questions about the humanitarian stuff. I want to go a little bit into the international liaison, in that these issues aren't just for Australia; they're international. I want to know how we link in with other international organisations, such as CHOGM, which I know has a climate change agenda in its space; the pacific forum, which I know has a climate change agenda in its profile; and also looking at national security. That could well go on notice. But I'm really interested to see how we feed into and who feeds into those international agenda, so that we're getting the best practice and taking our role. Following on from that, I'm interested to see how the SDG agenda is picked up on, because one of the clear SDG agendas is climate change, and, when you read all the little subsequent dot points, one of those is about security. I will put that on notice because that's a big question.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Dr James, I'll ask you this question because it relates to the question the chair asked you about national security but maybe on a different bent. On the first day of hearings, we asked a number of witnesses about the importance of the CSIRO's capability around climate research, monitoring and modelling, your observation and your international collaboration, which was recognised by our witnesses as playing a very important role in having forecast capability, especially. Is the importance of your contribution to national security recognised within CSIRO?

Dr James : Is that a question of my personal view?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Your personal view if that's what you'd like to do.

Dr James : I believe so, absolutely, yes. We are very conscious of the fact that climate projection capability is critically important to all of the topics have been talking about today, to understand where those impacts are going to occur, the uncertainty around them, the size and magnitude of them—all of those are critically important to all the preparedness and planning we've been talking about. It's quite clear.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I think the case study we looked at was on the forecasting ability for the hurricane trackers in the US. Their impacts have been bigger over the years, but there have been fewer lives lost because they've had a better ability to plan around that kind of capability. I just wanted to check whether within the culture of CSIRO the term 'national security' was ever used. This committee is looking into the impact of climate on national security. We talk about climate change a lot, but we very rarely talk about national security in relation to climate change.

Dr James : I think in the climate adaptation area, as opposed to the climate projections area, we do a lot of work with other government agencies here and internationally exactly on these issues. As Senator Moore just alluded to, with the question on notice there's going to be plenty of information come as to how we are helping to prepare the region for what can be anything from pretty bad effects to pretty catastrophic ones.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: The next time anyone tries to cut funding to climate research at CSIRO, I'll tell them they're a threat to national security. Take that as a comment. Air Vice Marshal, in terms of your planning for climate related events, weather-related events or whatever you want to call them—extreme weather events—and the use of your assets, is there ever any strategic deployment of having assets in certain places at certain times around cyclone season, for example, or during periods of drought, or are we set up with our bases around the country to be able to provide what assistance is needed with air support or other military support? Is there any other planning that's going into—I note that in your submission it says that some of the infrastructure is ageing and that there are sea level rise impacts and other impacts. I'm specifically interested in your rapid response.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : As we discussed earlier with Senator Patrick, I read in this notice 'our preparedness status'. That includes all the assets that are listed in the question on notice that we have previously discussed, but it also includes the bases that we might need to use to launch and facilitate support for those activities, whether that's in a domestic, regional or even global sense. The preparedness applies to those bases and all areas as well. While we don't necessarily specifically point to the capabilities for a specific event, we do work with Home Affairs. As we have spoken about, from an EMA perspective, with the high-risk-weather season we have a look at where we think some of these threats may be and, as we progress through the season, as we get indicators and warnings and they become more apparent and we reassess the risk throughout, these are the normal functions that we perform, both as a part of Defence but working whole of government with the agencies that are accountable for the management of those elements, so that we can ensure that our assets are ready if and when we require them. Our preparedness directive is an annual document that Chief of the Defence Force provides, but he will update the level of readiness as he assesses the threats that might be there, whether that is a climate related risk or a more-strategic or other state or non-state based risk, depending on the security environment at the time.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: A consistent theme in the submissions and on our first day of hearings—ASPI and a number of others raised that they felt that Defence hadn't appointed a senior enough person to oversee cross-ADF climate change related matters—for example, Dr Bergin was saying procurement, strategic policy, operations, training, military health et cetera. There was a gentleman here on the first day of hearings who was a captain. Is he a part-time position? He was specifically appointed to coordinate—

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : Was that one of the witnesses at the public hearing?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: No, he wasn't a witness, but he was an observer. I think that's how I'd describe it.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : I'm not sure who you are referring to there as a captain. We have a colonel who we've appointed as our Defence climate adviser.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: That would be him, actually. I should know the difference between a colonel and a captain.

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : He does the legwork, but he's only one of many. We have a number of key staff that contribute to that. In terms of an accountability point, the Vice Chief of Defence takes a very strong look and is an accountable officer in the department. He includes the climate elements both as my boss and in preparing our work for the Chief of Defence Force. So the preparedness statements are the vice chief's responsibility—to prepare for the Chief of Defence.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Is it a full-time responsibility, or is it only one of many?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : It's one of his functions. He also performs a function that we call the Joint Force Authority. He has and takes the authority to prioritise the joint force integration and options that we might use as we operate the force and prepare it for operations prior to then passing them to the Chief of Joint Operations for the conduct of operations. The vice chief also sits on the Secretaries Group on Climate Risk, which is the group above the Disaster and Climate Resilience Reference Group that Mr Crosweller explained. So the vice chief participates on that forum. We also have the Deputy Secretary Strategic Policy and Intelligence, who is the policy lead within Defence who looks at the climate change aspects. Once again, that's one of his functions, and it looks at the policy settings by which we will contribute to and conform to the whole-of-government policy agenda.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: You have probably read the submissions, and the transcripts from the first hearings, and—this was discussed a lot—the suggestion was that we are behind what other countries are doing. Is that because they have bigger departments?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : We've appointed a colonel to do the hard work.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Full-time?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : He's a reservist. As we move further forward, in my role I also have—at the next level down from the vice chief—climate change, and how we roll that into our investment decisions and the recommendations that we would put forward for approval through our governance structure to government. I'm accountable to the vice chief to ensure that those aspects are considered, and I work with my other Defence colleagues to ensure that that's accounted for. So the colonel is only one part of the machinery of considering all aspects of the security risks that we face.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Who would work across government departments, for intergovernmental liaison? Who would be advocating and working with other government departments—with Home Affairs, of course—on this kind of thing?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : At all levels, as for any other activity we perform. We work across all departments of government on climate risk and adaptation, the same as we do for any other activity that we perform. It's all various levels to achieve the outcome.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I won't ask you your opinion on this, as I'm not supposed to, but have there been discussions about the appointment of someone to a senior position to do this full-time and work across those capabilities that you've got at different levels?

Air Vice Marshal Hupfeld : The resourcing and how we manage—once again, we structure for the key war-fighting activities that we need to perform, and then work out our capabilities to meet those. But there is no doubt that the senior leadership is focused on the climate change elements as one of the security threats we face, so that will continue to be our normal activity. As for whether we set up a deliberate office or some other structure, as I think you are suggesting, that is yet to be seen. We have a number of elements. We continue to review our structures to see what is the most efficient and effective way of delivering the capabilities that are required.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Interestingly, if you followed the UK and US, you'd be appointing an ex-Navy officer who is an oceanographer. That seems to be the trend. Thank you.

Can I ask DFAT a couple of questions. We've only got a few minutes left go to, so I'll probably have to put a lot of them on notice. In relation to your submission about the humanitarian response to climate change, you mentioned the government has increased its humanitarian budget for 2017-18 by 18 per cent. What was the dollar amount there in terms of that increase in the budget?

Mr Kelly : I think the amounts you are referring to are under the budget line for the humanitarian, emergency and refugee program. In 2016-17 that was a $340 million allocation. In 2017-18 that program is $400 million.

CHAIR: Is that because you actually had forces deployed and that's what caused the increase, or was that a deliberate increase?

Mr Kelly : Sorry, Senator?

CHAIR: Was it because you were in more efforts?

Mr Kelly : Yes.

CHAIR: There were more humanitarian instances—that's what caused the increase?

Mr Kelly : Yes. It's recognising the pressure that the humanitarian system is under at the moment. We are not talking about only for rapid-onset events like floods, cyclones and the like; we are talking about protracted crises as well.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: We had some witnesses and submissions from humanitarian and aid groups. All of them consistently said that the Australian government should be doing more on a number of different levels, including contributions to the Green Climate Fund. You've probably read those submissions and the transcripts. Do you accept that the overall aid budget has been cut by nearly a third over the last four years? How would you answer that?

Mr Suckling : I think the government's commitment to climate finance was strongly made in 2015 in the context of the Paris Agreement, which called on developed countries to make further commitments. The government committed $1 billion to climate finance. That's a significant amount of money. It's appreciated by those that receive it. In addition to that, we are working with other climate finance entities, such as the Green Climate Fund, to leverage money into areas of priority for our region. The Pacific is a very good example of not generally getting a lot of MDB funding. They've got 11 per cent so far of what's been disbursed from the Green Climate Fund, which, according to them collectively, is a very good record and a good reflection of the amount of effort Australia's been putting in through the Green Climate Fund, as we've been co-chairing that. That in itself is leveraging private sector capital as well. Public money is one thing; what we are trying to do is get public money to leverage or mobilise private money as well.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: How much of that $1 billion over five years to build climate resilience and reduce emissions was additional to our existing aid budget?

Mr Suckling : It is within our existing aid budget.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: But was it meant to be?

Mr Suckling : Yes.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Was it supposed to be on top of our existing aid budget? Wasn't that the agreement, or the spirit of the agreement? That is the evidence that was provided to us.

Mr Suckling : The responses we are getting from donor countries are that they appreciate the significant increase in climate finance, but the thing about climate finance is that, when you say 'additional', it's often embedded in existing aid programs. For example, a lot of the infrastructure development that we are doing in the Pacific at the moment is being climate-proofed. You would build a road and that could be an infrastructure project in PNG, for example, or in Kiribati, but, because we then climate-proof it to a certain tolerance of being able to weather different storms and natural disasters, the additional element to climate-proof it then gets accounted as climate finance. In that sense, it's hard to compare apples with apples when you're having a marginal addition to a major infrastructure project that's creating a climate-proofed project. For example, the OECD says on infrastructure projects on average, if you spend an additional four per cent climate-proofing it, that's what you'll require to have a significantly stronger product and a better aid delivery in country.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: More broadly around foreign aid in our region, what kinds of numbers have we been looking at, annualised over the last, say, five years or 10 years? Can you give us, perhaps on notice, a breakdown of the kinds of annual contributions we've been making to the region?

Mr Suckling : In terms of climate finance or aid generally?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: More broadly, just in terms of foreign aid or humanitarian assistance.

Mr Suckling : For the last five years—in which region?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: In the Asia-Pacific region. I'm going on the assumption that you believe, as do other stakeholders, that humanitarian assistance and, certainly, building resilience in the region through various means is a good investment—

Mr Suckling : Yes.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: in terms of getting ready for more extreme weather events and these kinds of things in the future. My understanding is that the aid budget under this government has been cut by nearly a third since it came to power. Would that be an accurate reflection overall?

Mr Suckling : I don't know the overall aid figures for the last five years in the Asia-Pacific region. I would have to take that question on notice.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Could you take that on notice? In terms of the current gross national income, my understanding it's about 0.27 per cent. Aid organisations are consistently calling for 0.7 per cent, which is part of an international commitment. We're ranked at about 18 at the moment in the OECD in terms of our overseas development assistance. Would that be accurate?

Mr Suckling : The climate finance is going up. The reports that I get back—I went to about eight countries in the region over the last year, and Pacific Island countries in particular—are all effusive, from the leaders down.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the overall aid budget, the data is available, but I'd be interested to see what the climate expenditure has been over those five years specifically. If you put that beside the overall budget, that would be a useful comparison.

Mr Suckling : Since 2015 or so?

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: So that we can break the figures down more. If we're looking at overall effectiveness of taxpayer funds and we accept the premise that there are lots of things we can do in our region to enhance adaption and resilience, as well as having funding available for humanitarian assistance when it's needed—

Mr Suckling : Part of that equation, as I mentioned, is Australia looking at how we mobilise or how we help countries in the region mobilise capital from the MDBs, for example. Some of our aid is going directly to help countries build the capacity to access or build pipeline projects to go to MDBs. That's proving very successful. In terms of harnessing capital, Australia's becoming more effective in the way we're using our aid. That's certainly an objective of ours, and similarly harnessing private sector capital, which is a very big objective, where we can do that. If we can build resilience, as you say, in terms of disaster responsiveness or preparedness, that should save money. That goes into the equation as well. If we can get cheaper renewables, where solar has dropped by 80 per cent over the last few years, we won't have to spend as much money. All of those elements go into the mix when you're talking about the effectiveness of the dollar being spent.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: The aid agencies that we took evidence from were complimentary of DFAT. They said that you're doing good work. Basically, their view—and you can read it for yourself—is that your policies haven't matched up to your words in terms of what they would like to see spent on the ground. I'll let you look at that. If you could provide those figures, that would be great.

Mr Suckling : Yes, Senator.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I have one last question, out of interest, for DFAT. In terms of our trading partners, like China, for example, are you aware of whether they're doing any kind of climate related risk analysis of their ports and trading infrastructure? Places that are major ports for us, like Shenzhen in China, are less than a metre above sea level at the moment and, based on IPCC projections, they'll be underwater this century. I'm interested in whether you have discussions around climate risks with our major trading partners. The economic risk is, of course, part of national security.

Mr Suckling : We do have those discussions with international partners. Effectively, concerns about the multiplicity of threats and risks that climate change presents—including security but beyond security as well—is informing the strong number of countries coming together saying, 'We need to take action on this. We need to collectively address these challenges.' That's what the Paris agreement is all about. I think there's a very, very strong consciousness around the world about the challenges presented by climate change. China is taking a lead and has itself declared that it's taking a lead on action on climate in all sorts of different ways. They say they'll invest nearly $7 trillion to 2030 just to meet their 2030 commitments under the Paris agreement. That gives you some sense of the magnitude of the way in which they're addressing these challenges.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I wanted to know that because it's obviously an issue for us as well, in terms of our trade and trade routes. I'll put any other questions on notice.

CHAIR: Excellent. That was well-timed. On behalf of the committee, I'd like to thank all the witnesses who appeared here today. The committee asks that answers to questions on notice be returned by Friday, 6 April 2018. I thank Hansard for another sterling job and I thank the secretariat.

Committee adjourned at 20:00