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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP PORTFOLIO
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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
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Content WindowLegal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee - 28/05/2013 - Estimates - IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP PORTFOLIO
IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP PORTFOLIO
Senator Lundy, Minister for Sport, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation
Senator Thistlethwaite, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Mr Martin Bowles PSM, Secretary
Dr Wendy Southern PSM, Deputy Secretary, Policy and Program Management Group
Mr Peter Vardos PSM, Deputy Secretary, Client Services Group
Mr Matt Cahill, Acting Deputy Secretary, Immigration Status Resolution Group
Ms Elizabeth (Liz) Cosson AM, CSC, Deputy Secretary, Business Services Group
Internal Products: Enabling divisions that provide services and support to the delivery of all programs
Ms Vicki Parker, Chief Lawyer, Legal and Assurance Division
Mr Garry Fleming, First Assistant Secretary, Strategic Policy and Innovation Division
Ms Alison Larkins, First Assistant Secretary, Refugee, Humanitarian and International Policy Division
Mr Jim Williams, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Visa and Offshore Services Division
Mr Phil Thurbon, Assistant Secretary, Client Strategy and Visa Pricing Transformation Branch
Mr Stephen Sheehan, Chief Financial Officer, Financial Strategy and Services Division
Mr Tony Kwan, Chief Information Officer, Technology Services Division
Mr Craig Farrell, Chief Human Resource Officer, People Strategy and Services Division
Ms Marie Johnson, First Assistant Secretary, Client Strategy and Performance Division
Outcome 1: Managed migration through visas granted for permanent settlement, work, study, tourism, working holidays or other specialised activities in Australia, regulation, research and migration policy advice and program design.
Program 1.1 — Visa and Migration
Mr Kruno Kukoc, First Assistant Secretary, Migration and Visa Policy Division
Mr Phil Thurbon, Assistant Secretary, Client Strategy and Visa Pricing Transformation Branch
Ms Marie Johnson, First Assistant Secretary, Client Strategy and Performance Division
Outcome 2: Protection, resettlement and temporary safe haven for refugees and people in humanitarian need through partnering with international agencies; assessing humanitarian visa applications; and refugee and humanitarian policy advice and program design.
Program 2.1 — Refugee and Humanitarian Assistance
Ms Alison Larkins, First Assistant Secretary, Refugee, Humanitarian and International Policy Division
Mr Stephen Allen, First Assistant Secretary, Border, Refugee and Onshore Services Division
Outcome 3: Lawful entry of people to Australia through border management services involving bona fide traveller facilitation; identity management; document verification; intelligence analysis; partnerships with international and domestic agencies; and border policy advice and program design.
Program 3.1 — Border Management
Ms Marie-Louise Smith, Global Manager, Operation Integrity
Mr Gavin McCairns, First Assistant Secretary, Risk, Fraud and Integrity Division
Ms Alison Larkins, First Assistant Secretary, Refugee, Humanitarian and International Policy Division
Mr Stephen Allen, First Assistant Secretary, Border, Refugee and Onshore Services Division
Outcome 4: Lawful stay of visa holders and access to citizenship rights for eligible people through promotion of visa compliance responsibilities, status resolution, citizenship acquisition integrity, case management, removal and detention, and policy advice and program design.
Program 4.1 — Visa compliance and Status resolution
Mr Peter Speldewinde, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Status Resolution Services Division
Mr Christopher Callanan, First Assistant Secretary, Compliance and Case Resolution Division
Mr Robert Illingworth, Assistant Secretary, Strategic Framework Branch
Program 4.2 — Onshore Detention Network
Mr Ken Douglas, First Assistant Secretary, Detention Infrastructure and Services Division
Mr Peter Speldewinde, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Status Resolution Services Division
Ms Kate Pope PSM, First Assistant Secretary, Community Programs and Children Division
Program 4.3 — Offshore Asylum Seeker Management
Mr Ken Douglas, First Assistant Secretary, Detention Infrastructure and Services Division
Ms Kate Pope PSM, First Assistant Secretary, Community Programs and Children Division
Mr Peter Speldewinde, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Status Resolution Services Division
Program 4.4 — Foreign Fishers
Mr Gavin McCairns, First Assistant Secretary, Risk, Fraud and Integrity Division
Mr Peter Speldewinde, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Status Resolution Services Division
Program 4.5 — Regional Cooperation and Associated Activities
Mr Ken Douglas, First Assistant Secretary, Detention Infrastructure and Services Division
Program 4.6 — Refugee Status Determinations for Offshore Entry Persons
Ms Vicki Parker, Chief Lawyer, Legal and Assurance Division
Mr Stephen Allen, First Assistant Secretary, Border, Refugee and Onshore Services Division
Outcome 5: Equitable economic and social participation of migrants and refugees, supported through settlement services, including English language training; refugee settlement; case coordination; translation services; and settlement policy advice and program design.
Program 5.1 — Settlement Services for Migrants and Refugees
Ms Frances Finney, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Citizenship, Settlement and Multicultural Affairs Division
Outcome 6: A cohesive, multicultural Australian society through promotion of cultural diversity and a unifying citizenship, decisions on citizenship status, and multicultural and citizenship policy advice and program design.
Program 6.1 — Multicultural and Citizenship Services
Ms Frances Finney, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Citizenship, Settlement and Multicultural Affairs Division
Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority
Mr Stephen Wood, Chief Executive Officer, Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority
Ms Dora Chin-Tan, Director Professional Development, Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority
Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal
Ms Kay Ransome, Principal Member, Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal
Ms Amanda MacDonald, Deputy Principal Member, Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal
Mr Colin Plowman, Registrar, Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal
Mr Rhys Jones, Deputy Registrar, Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal
Committee met at 8:59
CHAIR ( Senator Crossin ): Minister Lundy and Mr Bowles, good morning. I declare open this public hearing of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. Senators referred to the committee the particulars of proposed expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 2014, and the particulars of certain proposed expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 2014 for the Attorney-General's and the Immigration and Citizenship portfolios. The committee must report to the Senate on 25 June 2013, and it has set 12 and 13 July as the date by which answers to questions on notice are to be returned. Under standing order 26 the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. Officers and senators are familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings. If you need assistance, our secretariat has copies of these rules. I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to an order of the Senate of 13 May 2009, specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised, and we will incorporate that in Hansard.
The extract read as follows—
Public interest immunity claims
That the Senate—
(a) notes that ministers and officers have continued to refuse to provide information to Senate committees without properly raising claims of public interest immunity as required by past resolutions of the Senate;
(b) reaffirms the principles of past resolutions of the Senate by this order, to provide ministers and officers with guidance as to the proper process for raising public interest immunity claims and to consolidate those past resolutions of the Senate;
(c) orders that the following operate as an order of continuing effect:
(a) a Senate committee, or a senator in the course of proceedings of a committee, requests information or a document from a Commonwealth department or agency; and
(b) an officer of the department or agency to whom the request is directed believes that it may not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, the officer shall state to the committee the ground on which the officer believes that it may not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, and specify the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document.
(2) If, after receiving the officer’s statement under paragraph (1), the committee or the senator requests the officer to refer the question of the disclosure of the information or document to a responsible minister, the officer shall refer that question to the minister.
(3) If a minister, on a reference by an officer under paragraph (2), concludes that it would not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, the minister shall provide to the committee a statement of the ground for that conclusion, specifying the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document.
(4) A minister, in a statement under paragraph (3), shall indicate whether the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document to the committee could result only from the publication of the information or document by the committee, or could result, equally or in part, from the disclosure of the information or document to the committee as in camera evidence.
(5) If, after considering a statement by a minister provided under paragraph (3), the committee concludes that the statement does not sufficiently justify the withholding of the information or document from the committee, the committee shall report the matter to the Senate.
(6) A decision by a committee not to report a matter to the Senate under paragraph (5) does not prevent a senator from raising the matter in the Senate in accordance with other procedures of the Senate.
(7) A statement that information or a document is not published, or is confidential, or consists of advice to, or internal deliberations of, government, in the absence of specification of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document, is not a statement that meets the requirements of paragraph (1) or (4).
(8) If a minister concludes that a statement under paragraph (3) should more appropriately be made by the head of an agency, by reason of the independence of that agency from ministerial direction or control, the minister shall inform the committee of that conclusion and the reason for that conclusion, and shall refer the matter to the head of the agency, who shall then be required to provide a statement in accordance with paragraph (3).
(Extract, Senate Standing Orders, pp 124-125)
We got through a fair bit of the program yesterday. We only have outcomes 4, 5 and 6 of the department left today, and we are going to start with outcome 4. Again, there are indicative time frames on our program, and the breaks are the same as we had yesterday.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Except for dinner.
CHAIR: No, that's tomorrow night.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Oh, is it?
CHAIR: Tomorrow night has changed, yes. So, Minister Lundy, good morning; Mr Bowles, as I said, good morning, and welcome to you. So we are going to start with Senator Cash on outcome 4. Mr Bowles, you do not have an opening statement or anything further to say today?
Mr Bowles : No.
CHAIR: So, Senator Cash, let's go.
Senator CASH: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Mr Bowles, last night when we were talking about the Egyptian man who was subject to the Interpol red notice and the Sri Lankan man who had been accused of murdering his girlfriend, one of the things I asked the department to follow up on was where those people are being held in Villawood detention centre. Have you been able to do that?
Mr Bowles : We have spoken to our service provider, Serco, who have advised me that placing individuals within the centre would be a problem for them and the good order of the centre. I am assured that he is held in an appropriate centre for his requirements. So I am not going to put specific places on there because they are quite concerned about the operational nature of the centre. But, as I said, I can assure you he is held appropriate to the level of security required.
Senator CASH: In Villawood?
Mr Bowles : In Villawood. But, as far as placement goes, they are quite concerned.
Senator CASH: On what basis are they concerned?
Mr Bowles : The good order of the centre, and how they actually manage people within the centre. I raised this last night. It is a challenging environment at the best of times, as you know, and we manage people for different reasons in different places within that centre. I have asked them to assure me around how they are being held, but they are very nervous about being specific about where people are, because it does actually impact on how they manage the centre, and I have to respect that for operational reasons.
Senator CASH: In terms of your role as the head of the Department of Immigration, did you ask them to advise you exactly where this man was being held, in which part of Villawood?
Mr Bowles : I have been told what is happening, yes.
Senator CASH: Okay, so you yourself know whether or not he is in Blaxland or in another part of Villawood.
Mr Bowles : I know what is happening with this individual.
Senator CASH: As the head of the department, are you satisfied that this individual is being held in appropriate detention facilities?
Mr Bowles : As I said, Serco has advised me that it is appropriate for the level of concern around the individual.
Senator CASH: That level of concern being the Interpol red notice.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator CASH: So that is the level of concern we are talking about.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator CASH: You say you spoke to Serco. Who at Serco did you speak to?
Mr Bowles : I did not say I spoke to them; I have asked for some conversations with Serco, and I have been advised that that is what has come back. I do not think it is necessarily appropriate that I talk about who, but—
Senator CASH: I am more interested in what level of position it was.
Mr Bowles : It was very, very senior. For instance, it was not the manager of the facility. I went above that.
Senator CASH: But you yourself did not speak to them.
Mr Bowles : I myself did not do that, but I have been assured around a range of issues, and if they believe it could compromise their operational requirements for me to be quite specific about things then I have to respect that.
Senator CASH: And I think you are probably aware, with all the press this morning, that in any event the coalition has sought an urgent briefing in relation to this matter.
Mr Bowles : And I am happy for you to go through that normal process and get a confidential briefing.
Senator CASH: In relation to the Sri Lankan man who was accused of murdering his girlfriend, did we manage to get an update on where he is?
Mr Bowles : Same answer.
Senator CASH: So, he is in Villawood.
Mr Bowles : Yes, he is. And the reasons are the same. I do not want to be specific about where people are.
Senator CASH: Perhaps I could just get you to take me through something, just so I have the evidence from the department correct and I am in no way misquoting you. In relation to the Egyptian national, can I confirm that he did arrive in Australia in May 2012, with his family?
Mr Bowles : That is correct.
Senator CASH: Do we have a date as to when he arrived in May 2012 with his family?
Mr Bowles : It was 11 May.
Senator CASH: What then happened after 11 May 2012?
Mr Bowles : Again, I will not go through all the operational steps, because that actually impacts—
Senator CASH: No, it is more about what then happened: was he processed? He went to Inverbrackie; on what day did he go to Inverbrackie?
Mr Bowles : He entered at an offshore excise place, as normal. He would have been held there for a period of time before being transferred to Inverbrackie.
Senator CASH: And ASIO would have done what I had termed and what ASIO had termed in a different hearing an ASIO light security check. Would that process have been gone through?
Mr Bowles : ASIO would have done their normal process, and we would have done our normal entry interview process, and we would have done that probably over the two- to three-month period and made some assessments around him at that particular time.
Senator CASH: And then when was he transferred with his family to Inverbrackie?
Mr Bowles : I am not specifically sure when he was transferred. Generally speaking it is around that three-month period, so probably around the July-ish time frame, but I will have to confirm that.
Senator CASH: And his family was transferred with him at the time, and that is the reason he went to Inverbrackie?
Mr Bowles : Yes, that is the reason he went to Inverbrackie.
Senator CASH: I know we had a discussion last night about the movement alert list, MAL. Both ASIO and the department undertook the normal processing procedures over this two- to three-month period, but it was not brought to the department's attention at that time that this person was an Egyptian national with an Interpol red notice against his name.
Mr Bowles : Not specifically. Again, as you mentioned, you have asked for a private briefing.
Senator CASH: Not myself, sorry—it was Senator Brandis.
Mr Bowles : Some of this stuff will be best spoken about in a private briefing because, again, I do not want to compromise what we are doing. As I said last night, we were dealing with this individual and then the others, and we had a whole range of operational things happening, and some of that has been compromised by the leak to the media. So I am just conscious of that all the time. Every time I put forward a little more information, someone gets a view about this that is sometimes not helpful for us trying to get a proper outcome for the individuals concerned. So, I can talk about some of this stuff, but I would prefer, if we get into that level of detail, if we could put it in that other sphere.
Senator CASH: I suppose one of the missing links in the situation is this: in terms of the two to three months that the department believes, at this stage—and I am happy to have that verified as to dates—he was in initial processing, the key thing is what security level was flagged with the department in relation to this particular person, and whether or not they understood that it was an Interpol red notice prior to making the decision to move him and his family to Inverbrackie.
Mr Bowles : No, he would have gone into Inverbrackie and then through our processes. The AFP were involved again, and there was a significant number of interviews over a longish period of time, right through to about January or February this year when, as I think I said yesterday, we had more confirmed data about this particular individual and the notice.
Senator CASH: Was his family also transferred out of Inverbrackie? Or are they still at Inverbrackie?
Mr Bowles : No, they are not at Inverbrackie.
Senator CASH: And can you just confirm when the Sri Lankan man arrived in Australia?
Mr Bowles : That was on 18 May 2012.
Senator CASH: And when was he released into the community on a bridging visa?
Mr Bowles : I think I gave you that yesterday. It was 13 September.
Senator CASH: And he is currently also back in Villawood?
Mr Bowles : That is correct.
Senator CASH: Thank you for that clarification, Mr Bowles. Perhaps I could now move on to the chart we were looking at yesterday. You were able to provide me with some of the statistics in relation to what I have termed 'Where are they now?' and that I believe were confirmed yesterday and the secretariat had provided to you prior to the estimates hearing. Can we just go through and confirm a number of the figures and, in particular, that what we had asked for, so that we were comparing apples with apples, were the figures to be completed as at 30 April 2013? I understand that in the last few days the immigration statistics as at 30 April 2013 have been uploaded onto the website. So, in relation to the protection visas granted, the figure you gave was 14,600 as at 30 April. Is that correct?
Mr Bowles : I think it was something like that.
Senator CASH: And in relation to bridging visa E, it was 10,300. Is that correct?
Mr Bowles : That is correct.
Senator CASH: In detention, it was 11,549 as at 30 April.
Mr Bowles : No, that does not sound right. Whatever the figure is I gave you yesterday, I think it was about 8,300, which was probably a figure around that time. When we talked about this tree chart, or whatever you call it, we did talk about different dates around 30 April, and then I gave you a lot of current figures, because I had more current figures.
Senator CASH: Perhaps we could do the 30 April figure. In relation to detention, I will tell you where the figures I have came from, which is the immigration detention statistics summary as at 30 April 2013, table 1, page 3, 'People in immigration detention facilities and alternative places of detention'. The figure adds up to 11,549 in detention, that being detention centres, 5,178; alternative places of detention, 3,619; and community detention, 2,752.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator CASH: So you agree, then, that in detention the figure is actually 11,549.
Mr Bowles : If you include community detention, yes. The numbers I was talking about did not include community detention.
Senator CASH: Okay, that is what I wanted to confirm. So, in detention it is 11,549. And in the detention centres, the APODs and community detention are the figures that we talked about. In relation to offshore processing, the figure you gave yesterday was 732, 430 and 302. Was that as at 30 April?
Mr Bowles : No, that was as of yesterday, or the day before.
Senator CASH: Would the figure have changed as at 30 April?
Mr Bowles : Yes, it would have. It would have been marginally less. I do not have the specific figures at this stage. I think it was around 415 or 416 at Nauru.
Mr Cahill : And it was slightly lower at Manus, by about 20 or so.
Senator CASH: So, 282 at Manus?
Mr Bowles : Again, it will be slightly less, because we have had movement since 30 April.
Senator CASH: For protection visas granted, the figure was 14,600. Was that as at 30 April?
Mr Bowles : No, that was at a later date, I think. Let me just check. No, it was pretty much as of last Friday, I think that was what we were talking about—a bit more than 14,500, which I rounded up to 14,600. I do not have a specific number for 30 April here. I think it would be around 14,500.
Mr Cahill : Senator, I can give you the figures as at 30 April at both RPCs. We had 419 transferees at Nauru, and we had 294 at Manus as of 30 April.
Senator CASH: I do note that we had specifically requested the figures for 30 April, so I am a little bit disappointed that, despite asking for them and giving you prior notice, we have not been able to get them.
Mr Bowles : When we talked about this yesterday we actually went through a lot of that detail, and you also asked me for our current figures, so I think we just got a little bit confused about the two things.
Senator CASH: And that is why I would like to go through it this morning and ensure that we do get the figures so that each figure represents the same period in time. In relation to the claims that are in progress, what is the figure there?
Mr Bowles : I am not sure what you mean by 'in progress'.
Senator CASH: Well, you have either a protection visa granted or a claim that is currently in progress—that is, you have not received a final outcome.
Mr Bowles : Again, you are going to be multiple-counting people, because the people on bridging visas, community detention and detention are all in progress.
Senator CASH: Exactly. That is exactly right. So I would just like to work out what that figure is so I can then work back to 39,224.
Mr Bowles : Well, it will not help you, I am sorry. I am not quite sure how you are trying to work that out. If you try to get to what the total number is, it is community detention, bridging visas, held detention and PV grants, and then there will be people who are in prison or who may have died. Then there are the removals.
Senator CASH: The 2,300 removals?
Mr Bowles : Yes. Then, as far as 'in progress' goes, if you are referring to people in progress as it relates to processing, they are the people who have bridging visas or are in community detention.
Senator CASH: Exactly. So you would add those figures up and they should get to the figure for 'in progress'.
Mr Bowles : They are people we would be dealing with at the moment, but you do not add them to anything to get to 39,000.
Senator CASH: No, but what I am trying to work out is: does the department know where the 39,224 asylum seekers who have arrived as at 30 April actually are?
Mr Bowles : Yes, and that is what I said: they are either in detention and on bridging visas—
Senator CASH: Yes, so we have 11,549.
Mr Bowles : Or they are in community detention.
Senator CASH: That is 10,300.
Mr Bowles : Or they have been granted a PV.
Senator CASH: That is 14,600.
Mr Bowles : We could be just inducting people through, depending on the time frames, because we would not have necessarily assessed everybody. I mentioned a figure of a few hundred that might fit into that category at any point in time. People have died, people are in prison.
Senator CASH: How many are in prison?
Mr Bowles : I do not know off the top of my head, but we are talking a small number.
Senator CASH: Is that a figure that we could get throughout the course of the day?
Mr Bowles : We can see what we can find.
Senator CASH: In relation to the backlog of the 5,000 prior to 13 April and the 19,000 that are now not having their claims processed at the moment: they basically also fit into those figures in terms of community detention, detention or bridging visas.
Mr Bowles : Yes, they will more than likely be on a bridging visa or CD, or could possibly be in held detention, depending on where they sit.
Senator CASH: In terms of the returns there is the figure of 2,300, are we able to break that down to how many have been returned from Nauru and from Manus?
Mr Bowles : I gave you those figures yesterday. There were 62 from Nauru and two from Manus.
Senator CASH: And that is within the 2,300 of total returns?
Mr Bowles : That is correct.
Senator CASH: Okay. In relation to the bridging visa, given you have a cut-off date of prior to 13 August and post 13 August 2012 in relation to work rights, do you have the statistics about those on bridging visa E who do have work rights and those who are without work rights?
Mr Bowles : I will come back to you with a split of those two numbers.
Senator CASH: In relation to the 62 that have been returned from Nauru and the two from Manus, was that as at 30 April?
Mr Bowles : No. that is as of now.
Senator CASH: Could I get figures at 30 April so all my figures are consistent?
Mr Bowles : We will find that for you, Senator. We manage a system on a day-to-day basis and we do not necessarily draw lines at particular dates, that is why sometimes we have got to go back and pull all these things together. I am trying to be as helpful as I can to give you the up-to-date figures.
Senator CASH: In relation to the work rights there is a point-in-time figure, because it is post 13 August.
Mr Bowles : Yes, there is. We can give you that, Senator.
Mr Callanan : Senator, if we work off the current number of 10,327 as of 30 April those with no work rights are 5,039 approximately and those with work rights are 5,288.
Senator CASH: The figure of those without work rights will presumably now be increasing as more people are released onto bridging visas if they are from the post 13 August cohort?
Mr Cahill : That is right.
Senator CASH: In relation to protection visas granted—the 14,600 or so—do we have figures for those who have settled and those who are in work?
Dr Southern : I do not believe we do, Senator. We would have the information about how many flowed through into our HSS services but I very much doubt that we have easily accessible data on who is or who is not in work.
Senator CASH: How would we find that out? Is that going, perhaps, to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations?
Dr Southern : It would probably involve a bit of data matching to work that through. Let us take it away on notice and just see what is available from our systems, but I think it is going to be held on case files and individual service providers would have some of that information. I do not think it will be easily accessible.
Senator CASH: In relation to the arrival total of 39,224 as at 30 April, how many of those people have received a 'no' and are now waiting on appeal?
Mr Bowles : We will take that on notice, Senator.
Senator CASH: Is that something we can get today just so I can flesh it out?
Mr Bowles : If we can. We will try to do that. You are getting into quite a level of detail when we are trying to manage the systems, so we will see whatever we can do.
Senator CASH: Mr Bowles, if your minister were to come to you and say, 'In relation to the 39,224 arrivals, I would like to know exactly where they are', what would response would you give the minister? 'I need to go away and think about it'?
Mr Bowles : That is not what I have said, Senator. I have—
Senator CASH: 'I need to go away and distil the information'?
Mr Bowles : I have given you information on where these people are. What I have said is I can give you a lot of the up-to-date figures, which I have—we keep going back to 30 April. I appreciate that, and we will do that.
Senator CASH: Given that you acknowledged yesterday you received the email from the secretariat, which the coalition provided, in which we specifically stated we would like the figures as at 30 April, you did have prior notice that those are the figures I would be referring to or requesting from you.
Mr Bowles : I understand that, Senator—and, as I said yesterday, we get most of those—but you are asking questions that go to a level of detail and in the few days since I have had that email we have not been able to get all of that information. I am currently trying to be helpful in giving you even more up-to-date figures. We will give you whatever we can as at 30 April. But in relation to getting down into this level of detail, as Dr Southern said a second ago, some of this goes to our case files and we would need to go back and look at some of those issues. We will do that when we need to do that, and we can, but I have been very forthcoming in giving you the detail in the numbers there.
Just to update you: as at 30 April, for the two centres, as far as removals are concerned: 58 from Nauru and two from Manus.
Mr Cahill : Senator, as of 30 April, 94 people are in the other category. In other words, they are either in correctional facilities, there have been a handful of escapes and then the deaths in detention as well.
Senator CASH: So that is a total of 94?
Mr Cahill : Yes.
Senator CASH: Thank you very much. Mr Bowles, my question to you in relation to the figure I asked for—which is: of those of the 39,224, how many people have been given a 'no' and are waiting on appeal—is: if that was asked by the minister to you, would you need to go away and say, 'I need a few days to obtain that information'? Is it not something that the department readily has on hand?
Mr Bowles : We would, Senator, because we have a very large system across the country. We would have to go through and tally those figures up.
Senator CASH: Okay. I may come back to that chart. Did we manage to get numbers in relation to the 11,549 that had adverse security assessments? And was that 85?
Mr Bowles : Sorry, Senator?
Senator CASH: In relation to the 11,549 that are in detention—and that includes community detention—
Mr Bowles : No. The answer is 55.
Senator CASH: Sorry, 55 had adverse security assessments. Could I just go now to the make-up of those people who are arriving by boat. Has the department done any work to analyse the make-up of those coming on boats, in particular the numbers of men, women and children?
Mr Bowles : Yes, we have.
Senator CASH: And what have you noticed basically changes, in relation to the numbers?
Mr Cahill : There has been a growth in the composition of those classified as coming in family groups, Senator.
Senator CASH: And what is classified as a 'family group'?
Mr Cahill : It is a family that identifies as having relationships—it is not a nuclear family in the traditional sense. So it may be a mother, an uncle, a child et cetera.
Senator CASH: So, given the growth in family groups, if you distil that down, does that then give a growth in the number of women and children who are arriving by boat?
Mr Cahill : Not necessarily.
Senator CASH: In terms of the figures that you have, what can you share with us in terms of a 12-month timeframe? Did you look at it over 12 months, 24 months?
Mr Cahill : Yes. I will have to come back to you later this morning on that. I have some figures I can get from the department.
Senator CASH: Thank you. That would be appreciated, because I do want to go through those figures. In particular, I would also like to have a look at how many women, how many children and how many family groups arrived by boat in 2012-13 and how does that compare to previous years.
Mr Cahill : Yes.
Senator CASH: In relation to the statistics that have been uploaded to the department's website—the immigration detention statistics summary as at 30 April 2013—15 per cent of those in formal and community detention are women and 25 per cent are children. Does that then translate to 40 per cent of IMAs arriving being women and children?
Mr Cahill : No, not necessarily.
Mr Bowles : There is a cross-over with female children.
Senator CASH: Okay, so there is a cross-over with female children.
Mr Bowles : I would imagine.
Senator CASH: Actually, it may not be, because 15 per cent are 'women'—so I am assuming that is above the age of a minor—and 25 per cent are 'children'. So there should not be a cross-over if it is done on an age category.
Mr Cahill : My recollection is that we have very few single adult females—in other words, they do not come unaccompanied; they usually come in family groups. I know we are tracking around about 35 per cent of all arrivals being made up of families and unaccompanied minors. But I will confirm that for you later this morning.
Mr Bowles : Senator, if you are referring to that document: if you go to page 6 it does give you the break-up. Is that what you are after?
Senator CASH: What I would like to know is, given that, as Mr Cahill said the department had noticed a growth in the number of family groups, what does the department believe is the reason for the recent spike in the children and family groups arriving by boat?
Mr Bowles : I am not sure Mr Cahill can necessarily answer that.
Senator CASH: Mr Bowles, what does the department put it down to?
Mr Bowles : I think it is, again, part of the broader movement of people. I will ask Dr Southern to talk in a moment, but there is the broader movement of people and what we do see is a move to people in family groups. Unaccompanied minors, for instance, stayed relatively the same as a percentage of the group, but the family groups have moved up. We think it is consistent with the broader movement of people. But I will ask Dr Southern to shed a little bit more light.
Dr Southern : The only thing I would add is that we have seen numbers of Iranians going up, and as a group they tend to travel more in family groups than as individuals—so, in seeing that nationality of country-of-origin group increase, we have also seen an increase in the number of families.
Senator CASH: Mr Bowles, you said 'we think' it correlates with the international movements in relation to the movement of family groups. Are you able to provide more details about the international comparisons to support the reasons that you say we are seeing the increase in family groups in Australia?
Mr Bowles : We have not broken a lot of it down into the different cohorts at this particular stage. But, as Dr Southern said, we are actually seeing this change in nationalities and they are travelling more as family groups—and everything we see is consistent with the broader trends in movement. In the past, probably the largest group in our detention populations were Afghans. It is now Iranians. Earlier on, Sri Lankans were—and still are—a big part of the mix. What we have found is that there are more females in particular—and therefore parts of family groups generally—who are in the Iranian and Sri Lankan case loads.
Senator CASH: That was my next question—whether the department has noticed a change in the nationality of those arriving by boat. So the answer to that is yes. It has moved from the Afghans to the Iranians.
Mr Bowles : The proportions have changed. We are still seeing Afghans, obviously, but there have been a larger number of Iranians. Again, this is quite a volatile issue. We see rises in different cohorts at different times. Then they drop right off and then, later, we see a rise again—or a drop-off again. It is quite different at different times. There is not necessarily any logic to some of that. It is about timing and access for them.
Senator CASH: I appreciate that we are waiting on the statistics and we can go through the statistics in further detail when we get them. But, given that the evidence is that, under your analysis, you have seen a growth in family groups, is the department concerned that the policy of community release on bridging visas has now created a pull factor—because the entire family can be released into the community on a bridging visa for, possibly, years? And they can be on Centrelink benefits.
Mr Bowles : It goes back to the broader movement. I think there are a range of factors which go into why we are seeing a movement of people. There are factors on all sides of this. The world is becoming more and more global, communications are becoming more sophisticated, everyone is pretty much connected and we are seeing civil unrest and difficult situations in places such as Syria. But, more broadly, there are issues in the Middle East region which are seeing people moving across to Indonesia and Malaysia and then jumping on a boat and coming on down. I do not think there is a single issue which drives that. My job is to manage the immigration portfolio and we are looking at different ways of doing that.
Senator CASH: But does it not stand to reason that, if you are released into the community and given an entitlement to Centrelink benefits and if you are almost guaranteed release into the community on a bridging visa—and on your own admission yesterday, that bridging visa could now last for up to a number of years—that is itself a pull factor for families? It is almost guaranteed that a family, if they get to Australia, will get to stay together in the community, in Australia, courtesy of the Australian taxpayer.
Mr Bowles : Firstly, they are not on Centrelink benefits. They get paid through the department through the CAS and ASAS arrangements.
Senator CASH: I appreciate that is a technical difference.
Mr Bowles : And it is 89 per cent of the—
Senator CASH: But they still receive a benefit from the Australian taxpayer.
Mr Bowles : They still receive a benefit which is 89 per cent of that relevant rate. But, again, these people are living in the community and those in the post 13 August group do not have work rights. I would not call it a significant payment. 'Adequate' is the way it has been described. It is so people can live. That is what we are doing at the moment with that cohort.
Senator CASH: What I am trying to get at is that, on the department's evidence, there has been a growth in family groups coming by boat to Australia. I would like to prosecute this further when we have the information so we can see exactly when the department first noticed that growth in family groups. Does the department have any concerns that a policy of quite literally pushing people through into the community on bridging visas as a family group and giving them benefits to live on is within itself creating a pull factor? You are almost guaranteed to be in the Australian community on a bridging visa for a number of years receiving a taxpayer funded benefit, and you can live together.
Senator Lundy: What is the question you are trying to ask? It sounds to me like you are trying to extract from the departmental officers an opinion about the policy.
Senator CASH: Not at all. I am asking whether or not the department has—
Senator Lundy: Then I suggest you move on.
Senator CASH: You can suggest what you like, but it does not mean I am going to adhere to what you say.
Senator Lundy: It is not a question relating to the paperwork. It is a policy question. I think you know the answer to that. If you are going to waste your time—
Senator CASH: Yes, it is a pull factor. That is exactly right.
Senator Lundy: I disagree, and the government disagrees. Just because you say it does not make it a fact. I suggest you move on and stop making political statements, although I have to say I am quite happy for you to waste your time in that way.
CHAIR: Let's have some questions.
Senator CASH: Mr Bowles, perhaps what we could do is wait for Mr Cahill to provide us with the statistics so that we can pursue this line of questioning further when we have the actual statistics that show the growth in family groups in front of us.
Mr Bowles : That is fine.
Senator CASH: Do you know how long that will be, Mr Cahill?
Mr Cahill : After morning tea, hopefully, but before lunch.
Senator CASH: Okay. We will come back to that after morning tea but before lunch. I go now to the processing of claims. The figure I have is 19,048 IMAs who have arrived since 13 August. How many of those have lodged a claim for asylum?
Mr Bowles : It would be very few. I would need to take that on notice, but there would be very few because, as I have said, we have not started that processing yet.
Senator CASH: Okay. So there is a difference between lodging the claim for asylum and the department undertaking the processing of that claim.
Mr Bowles : I am not sure what you mean.
Senator CASH: In relation to those who have arrived post 13 August, my understanding of the evidence from yesterday is, in relation to the processing of claims of individuals—or is it merely the processing of these individuals—the answer to that should be that the department is undertaking zero because you still have the backlog of 5,000 and under the no-advantage test these people are not having their claims processed.
Mr Bowles : No. We need to keep going back to the no-advantage principle. It has nothing to do with processing. It is about the visa grant. We are not going to give advantage to those who come on boats in visa grants. It is not about processing. It keeps getting confused—
Senator CASH: That is fine. That is what I want to establish. Of the 19,048 you are saying very few have even lodged a claim for asylum. Does that mean that these people merely intend to lodge a claim and have been screened in but have not yet lodged a claim for asylum?
Mr Bowles : That would be the majority of cases, yes.
Senator CASH: Okay. So the process now is that I arrive. Do I have to signify an intent to lodge a claim or does the mere fact that I have arrived—
Mr Bowles : It is the screening and the entry interview process that does that, largely. Go back to the Sri Lankan case load. I will focus on the specific example to give you a bit of an understanding. The screening process around those led to some people being screened in and some people being screened out. Those screened out were removed. For those screened in we would continue to do their entry interviews. We have not started to process any of those people.
Senator CASH: Thank you. So the process now is that there is an intent to lodge a claim, they are screened in or out—and the majority are screened in—they are then released into the community on a bridging visa or, alternatively, if they need to stay in detention, they stay in detention. The processing of those claims is not yet underway.
Mr Bowles : No.
Senator CASH: In relation to all of them?
Mr Bowles : Except the people on Nauru.
Senator CASH: When does the department anticipate that they will start receiving the claims for asylum, not processing the claims for asylum? I understand the evidence yesterday was 'shortly'. If you have not received the claims yet, when do you anticipate receiving the lodgements from these 19,000-odd people?
Mr Bowles : Once we start the process, that will be when these people start to put in their claims, and we will proceed through the process of assessment and determine their refugee status.
Senator CASH: My understanding is that your evidence yesterday was 'shortly'.
Mr Bowles : That is correct.
Senator CASH: Do we have any further update on 'shortly' other than 'imminently'?
Mr Bowles : I talked yesterday about the main focus being in the 2013-14 financial year, so you might draw the conclusion that we are looking very close to that particular time.
Senator CASH: Will the department contact these people to say, 'You can now put a claim in'? How do you anticipate that working?
Mr Bowles : Once we start processing, I am sure people will be contacting us to get claims put on the table, but we will go through in date order and start to process people.
Senator CASH: Have these people been advised to date that they are unable to put in a claim for asylum?
Mr Bowles : They know exactly where they are in the system at this stage.
Senator CASH: Can you take me through that? What exactly have these IMAs been told is happening?
Mr Bowles : Exactly what they have been told is a pretty broad issue. As they come in we do entry interviews. We go through and try to work out what we think about these individuals—
Senator CASH: Screen them in or screen them out.
Mr Bowles : We make a decision ultimately to screen in or screen out. Then we will make a decision about community, bridging visas or held detention. We go through all of the normal things: 'This is what's going to happen'—
Senator CASH: And that is the bit I want to know. What is going to happen? When I put my hand up in this interview and I say to the person interviewing me, 'I want to lodge a claim for asylum'—
Mr Bowles : We would note that down in the entry interview process and, when we start processing, we will go back in date order, pick these people up and start the process of actually assessing their claim.
Senator CASH: So, when the particular person says, 'I would like to lodge a claim for asylum,' what are they told? 'You can't lodge one now. We'll note that down in our book. We'll get back to you.'
Mr Bowles : That is right.
Senator CASH: They are literally told, 'You can't lodge a claim for asylum now'?
Mr Bowles : No, because we have to make a decision when that happens.
Senator CASH: When the person comes back with, 'Why can't I lodge a claim for asylum?' what is the answer that is given to them?
Mr Bowles : Again, 'We are working through our processes to get the process of refugee status determination happening and we will tell you when that is happening.'
Senator CASH: That is the extent of it? 'We're working on the process'?
Mr Bowles : I do not know the specific conversations that happen with every individual—
Senator CASH: I am assuming it is a similar conversation with every person.
Mr Bowles : but in the broad it will be around those sorts of things.
Senator CASH: So we are literally now in the situation of, 'Don't call us; we'll call you when we're ready to process your claim.'
Senator Lundy: I think you are trivialising a very important aspect of the department's operations and I ask you to at least treat this seriously.
Senator CASH: This is a very important aspect of the department's operations.
Senator Lundy: You are trivialising it by your ridiculous attention-grabbing comments. If you just focused your questions on the issues at hand and stopped trying to get a headline, we would get a lot further.
Senator CASH: Based on the evidence of the department—
Senator Lundy: There are only so many ways you can ask a question. I think the officers are doing everything they can to answer you with the utmost patience and accuracy, and I think you ought to show a little more respect.
Senator CASH: Mr Bowles, the asylum seekers are quite literally told they cannot lodge a claim for asylum?
Mr Bowles : They are told a range of things. I will see if we can get the people with the fact sheet. We will give them fact sheets. We will give them a whole range of data. But, ultimately, yes, they are told we are going to assess their claims yet and we will determine when we do that. As I said, that will be soon. We are planning that in the 2013-14 financial year. We will go down those lines.
Senator CASH: So the department will be contacting the asylum seekers.
Mr Bowles : Yes, we will.
Senator CASH: How do you propose to do that?
Mr Bowles : It depends on where they are. Again, this is what we do. We will contact them. It will depend on where they are. We will bring them in. These people are looking at protection claims. We are in contact with them. We have a case management system where we understand all these issues. It is not as though we just leave these people in a grey world around processing.
Senator CASH: Again I go back to why this is happening and if it is because of the no-advantage test that these people are being told, 'You can't lodge a claim for asylum, and the department will call you to advise you when.'
Mr Bowles : No. I will go back again because we need to separate the two issues. Processing is one thing, but no-advantage actually relates to the grant of a visa. That is at the far end of a process.
Senator CASH: So what then is the point? If it is not the no-advantage principle, what is the point of doing this? When was the last time people's claims were not assessed on large scales? It was basically back in 2010 when there was an asylum freeze on the processing of claims just before the election. If it is not the no-advantage principle, what is the reason for the freeze on claims?
Mr Bowles : There is a difference between the pre and post. It is not as though we have stopped processing. We are still processing, as you pointed out, something like 5,000 people. They are the pre 13 August. So it is not as though we have frozen processing. We are treating the 13 August people differently because they have different status now, if you like—
Senator CASH: Because of the no-advantage principle.
Mr Bowles : Because of the broader approach that we are taking. The ultimate issue, though is the no-advantage principle. That applies to a visa grant which is at the end of the process. We have always said that it will take time because we are looking at how these people would be in the normal course of events if they had gone through a normal humanitarian program. Everyone keeps trying to come up with a definitive date, and that is not what we are actually talking about. We will assess individuals and individuals' needs, and will do a range of those things as we go through time and understand the stories better. But, as I said, we are about to start the processing of the post 13 August cohort.
Senator CASH: Can you see, however, that there is a point in time and that point is 13 August, because what happens to people who arrive here prior to 13 August is that, yes, there is a backlog of 5,000 claims, but they are being processed. If a person arrived here post 13 August, there effectively is a freeze on the processing of their claim. On the evidence, they have been told by the department that they cannot lodge a claim for asylum and that the department will contact them in the future to advise when they are able to lodge a claim for asylum. There is either a freeze on asylum seeking processing post 13 August or there is a reaction to the no-advantage principle. I am trying to work out the reason for the freeze on the processing of asylum seeker claims? It is not even a freeze on the claims; they are not allowed to lodge claims.
Mr Bowles : That is correct, and we are about to start. We have not started the process. It is as simple as I can get.
Senator CASH: I know that. What I am trying to work out is why. If on your evidence it is not a result of the no-advantage principle, why is there a freeze on the processing of claims post 13 August?
Mr Bowles : There are a range of issues that we have been dealing with. It is the regional processing. We wanted to make sure we could start that, so that has been part of it, so we are stepping this through. We started with Nauru and we are dealing with PNG. We are hopeful that we can get that up again soonish, and I am hoping that will be by the end of June or July. Then we will start onshore. We are trying to manage the dynamic between the regional processing and here. There are a range of factors that go into that. I want to keep drawing this distinction between processing and no advantage. They obviously come together at some point, but there seems to be a direct link to processing and no advantage, whereas the no advantage actually applies to the other end.
Senator CASH: You are saying the grant of the visa.
Mr Bowles : The grant of the visa. Clearly there is a time frame that we work on and, as I have said, we have been looking at this in all of that context and we are about to start. No, we have not started. You have referred to that as a freeze; I do not quite use that language. But we have not started yet.
Senator CASH: I understand your evidence in relation to the no advantage principle. You say that it is in relation to the grant of a visa and not in relation to the processing of a claim. But the last time we witnessed a freeze on asylum-seeker claims, which was known as the asylum-seeker freeze, was before the 2010 election. What we are effectively seeing now—before a 2013 election—is, again, a freeze on claims. We have over 19,000 people who have been told they are unable to lodge a claim. If that is not as a result of the government's decision to implement a no advantage policy, what is it other than a freeze on the processing and lodgement of claims?
Mr Bowles : I will go back again. We have a range of things we are trying to get in place for post 13 August. Some of that has been the regional processing centres. We are well down that pathway with Nauru—we are moving there—and we will then move to the onshore component. It has taken time to get all of the mechanisms in place that we need to deal with this. We are getting there. We will start shortly.
I was not here in 2010 around any of that sort of stuff, and I am not going to comment on what happened in 2010 other than to say that the network and how we manage the network is completely different today than it was in 2010. I and the department do not manage the detention network to an election—I think that was one of the inferences. I just want to make that clear. We are trying to manage a large cohort of people. I have not shirked from talking about the large number of people. I have been very upfront about the people we are actually dealing with. But we are progressively working through the series of things we need to do to get processing in place.
Ultimately, once we get processing and once we get outcomes, that will not mean that people will immediately get a visa grant. That was the system. If someone got processed all the way through and they were found to be a refugee in the past—pre 13 August, for instance—they got a visa granted. Now we are saying that if they get through and they are recognised as a refugee, we will then apply the no advantage principle to the application of the grant. That could mean a couple of months; it could mean a little bit longer.
Senator CASH: A couple of years.
Mr Bowles : I have never actually put a time frame on this, because individuals are different and different cohorts will be different, and we want to make sure we manage all of those sorts of issues in the grant of a visa, ultimately, for these people. At the end of the day, people who we assess to have engaged our obligations deserve to get an outcome, and that is what we are trying to work through.
Senator CASH: That is a very interesting point you raise because, at this present point in time, they are not getting anything from the government. They have been told they are unable to lodge an asylum claim if they arrive post 13 August. If it is not a freeze, what then is it? I know you said that regional processing plays a part in this. What part does regional processing play in the processing of claims on the mainland?
Mr Bowles : It is part of our timing and part of us trying to work through the different things that we need to do within the broader system. So post 13 August people are subject to go to a regional processing centre. That is part of it. We wanted to make sure we had the regional processing working in Nauru and Manus. We are getting close in Manus and we are up and running in Nauru. The next cab off the rank is the onshore.
Senator CASH: So are you saying that processing on the mainland will not start until processing on Manus and Nauru is fully underway?
Mr Bowles : No, not necessarily, but we definitely wanted to get processing started in the offshore environment. We have had that now. We are now working through how we process onshore. As I have said a number of times, we will start that pretty soon. We are obviously planning for the 2013-14 year to be when we really push hard on that.
Senator CASH: With the huge backlog of the 19,000, plus the 5,000?
Mr Bowles : We will start the way we would do, yes.
Senator CASH: That obviously does not include the additional I think 2,500 to 3,000 that may well come in the next four to five weeks?
Mr Bowles : They will obviously go into the system and be dealt with in the normal way that we deal with things.
Senator CASH: So, by the time we get to an election, the number of people—post 14 August arrivals—who are sitting there with claims to be assessed could actually be up to 30,000 based on the current rate of arrivals?
Mr Bowles : I am not going to speculate on a number.
Senator Lundy: Senator Cash, framing your questions in the way that you are—associating the implementation of the policy by the department as relating to the election time frame—is just irresponsible. I know you are trying to frame it for whatever publicity you are seeking from today's events, but it is inappropriate. If you have got questions about election time frames and so forth, ask me. I am happy to take them on notice for the minister. But do not try and verbal the officers at the table. It is unprofessional.
CHAIR: Senator Cash, we were going to go to Senator Rhiannon.
Senator CASH: That is fine. I will come back to this line of questioning. Thank you.
Senator RHIANNON: Does the immigration department notify involuntary returnees of the possibility of making a complaint to the Australian High Commission of mistreatment by Sri Lankan officials on return to Sri Lanka?
Mr Bowles : Sorry, Senator, could you repeat that?
Senator RHIANNON: It is about people being returned to Sri Lanka. Does the department notify involuntary returnees of the possibility of making a complaint to the Australian High Commission of mistreatment—obviously if it occurs—by Sri Lankan officials when they return to Sri Lanka?
Mr Bowles : I am really not sure what that means. Maybe I will just explain what happens. If people come here and we screen them, there are a whole range of things that we go through. It is quite a rigorous process that we go through when we talk to these people. If they make no claims against Australia, they are—
Senator RHIANNON: No, if you choose to return these people to Sri Lanka, what information do you give them when they go there with regard to possible mistreatment that they might suffer?
Mr Bowles : Again, if these people have made no claims and therefore have not engaged Australia's obligations, we screen them out and then we send them back to Sri Lanka. If there are no claims around mistreatment, and they were in fact here for other purposes—a large number of these people obviously are—I am not sure why we would even be talking about mistreatment.
Senator RHIANNON: But are you not making an assumption there that people that you return—if they have not made a complaint about mistreatment—are not going to be mistreated?
Mr Bowles : We rely on country information around what is actually happening. If someone does engage our obligations, we take that very seriously. I am really at a loss to understand the question.
Senator RHIANNON: So does that mean that there are no procedures in place for returnees from Australia to make a complaint?
Mr Bowles : Back in Sri Lanka?
Senator RHIANNON: Sri Lanka, yes, this is all to do with Sri Lanka.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator RHIANNON: So there are no procedures?
Mr Bowles : There is nothing to stop them making a complaint if they wish, but I make the point that these people have gone through a process where they have not raised those claims. Therefore, they go back; because their country information says it is safe for them to go back.
Senator RHIANNON: So, with regard to—sticking with the procedures—so you are saying they can make a complaint. So what is the procedure for them to make a complaint?
Mr Bowles : I will ask Ms Larkins to answer that.
Ms Larkins : Senator, we sometimes do have cases. I am aware of three cases; one from 2009 and two from 2002, where we were made aware of allegations of mistreatment on return. So people do raise issues with us, and when those issues are raised, the high commissioner in Sri Lanka investigates those claims. We have not found any of the three claims that have been made to be substantiated.
Senator RHIANNON: And how is the investigation undertaken?
Ms Larkins : That is probably more a question for DFAT than for us.
Mr Bowles : They are undertaken by the local high commissioner in Sri Lanka. To highlight the point Ms Larkin made, the complaints that she was referring to were 2009—
Ms Larkins : 2012, sorry.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.
Ms Larkins : In some cases, the post does talk to the individual. So, in one of those cases, the post talked to the individual, who said they has suffered no harm upon return.
Senator RHIANNON: Did they talk to the individuals in all cases?
Ms Larkins : I think that is one of the options. I am not sure in all cases.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you take that on notice, to determine if the individuals were spoken to?
Ms Larkins : Yes.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Has the department implemented a more proactive monitoring of returnees, given that there are more reports about torture of people on return?
Mr Bowles : Senator, we have no reports of torture of the people we have returned. There is broad speculation in the media from time to time, but to my knowledge nobody has raised those issues.
Ms Larkins : And basically, it is not general international practice for countries who return people to their country of origin to monitor individuals, and there are international law issues there. Respect for state sovereignty is a basic principle, and we are a party to the Vienna convention, and that imposes a duty on our consular officers not to interfere in the internal affairs of a state, and monitoring could be seen as infringing—
Senator RHIANNON: So is what we conclude from that that you would monitor and investigate if a complaint is made, but if no complaint is made to you, to the department, or to the high commission, nothing is proceeded with?
Ms Larkins : But we take any reporting of harm seriously, and we do take action to follow up.
Senator RHIANNON: But Mr Bowles just said that you are not responding to general reports that are not specific to you, so I am just trying to clarify—
Mr Bowles : That is correct.
Senator RHIANNON: What is a process that would kick-start you doing something?
Mr Bowles : If we had someone who complained, we would obviously investigate.
Senator RHIANNON: Complained to you? Complained to who?
Dr Southern: Or complained to a third party who came to us.
Mr Bowles : Yes. If we found out, we would do it, no matter what way—whether it was the individual or some other third party.
Senator RHIANNON: So if a third party—like a report in the media, or if a human rights group does a report?
Mr Bowles : No, it depends on whether it is a specific individual or there are these broad sweeping statements.
Senator RHIANNON: I think we are getting closer. You are saying, if an individual specifies the harassment, the violence that they have experienced, you would investigate it, even if it does not come direct to you, if it is about an individual making that statement.
Mr Bowles : Yes. I think we have just said we have done that on three occasions.
Senator RHIANNON: On those three occasions were the complaints made to the high commissioner? Were they complaints to a human rights group? How do you identify the complaints?
Ms Larkins : I do not have that information.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you take that on notice?
Ms Larkins : Yes.
Senator RHIANNON: Are any officials from the department stationed in Sri Lanka in order to work with Sri Lankan authorities to gather information about people intercepted by Sri Lankan authorities whilst attempting to leave Sri Lanka?
Mr Bowles : I am not going to go into what might happen in an operational sense, because it would involve a range of agencies that reside in a post. I can tell you that I have officers in Sri Lanka who do engage with counterparts on a range of different issues. There are other agencies, and you would need to question them to find out if they have similar views or activities.
Senator RHIANNON: How many officers do you have in Sri Lanka?
Mr Bowles : I could take that on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you also take on notice where they are stationed. Is it the high commissioner in Colombo or other cities?
Mr Bowles : Yes, they are in the high commission in Colombo.
Senator RHIANNON: Have any officials from the department ever been present or involved in questioning any of the Sri Lankan people who are intercepted by Sri Lankan authorities?
Mr Bowles : That is a question of a very operational in nature. We do not get involved in that. Your best place to ask that would be foreign affairs as a first point.
Senator RHIANNON: So do I conclude from your answer that your people stationed in the high commission are not involved in questioning?
Mr Bowles : What happens in an operational sense in a post in another country would be best asked to DFAT.
Senator RHIANNON: Does that mean your department people come under DFAT when they are operating out of the high commission?
Mr Bowles : They work out of the high commission which is the responsibility of the head of mission. They have an accountability back to me as the head of immigration but they are working out of an Australian high commission in the case of Colombo in Sri Lanka.
Senator RHIANNON: If they are accountable back to you, are you able to tell us if they are involved in questioning?
Mr Bowles : Again there is sensitive information about what might happen on a post and I cannot go there. We do not generally question people, I will say that, but we are engaged with our counterparts in Sri Lanka on a range of issues all the time. That is why we have the post over there; that is why I have people over there.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you summarise the purpose of these officials from your department in Sri Lanka?
Mr Bowles : They do everything from visa processing to assessing different immigration implications for a particular county. They assist with the removals from Australia from my side. There are a range of function that happen in the post.
Senator RHIANNON: Have the department, your people, played a role in the interviews of interceptees on at the forth floor facilities of the criminal investigation department or the terrorist investigation division in Colombo?
Mr Bowles : I have no knowledge of anything like that, but again you are going to the sensitive nature of activities that happen at a post and I am not qualified to speak on those issues.
Senator RHIANNON: Are there procedures in place that your people operate under which note what information should or should not be shared with the Sri Lankan authorities? Do you have a procedure under which they operate?
Mr Bowles : We have a range of procedures in place around how we deal with foreign countries. Again, it is not my purview to talk about those issues.
Senator RHIANNON: On irregular maritime arrivals from Sri Lanka, are there guidelines or procedures or processes in place to ensure that irregular maritime arrivals who are seeking asylum in Australia are not being refouled?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you run through what these steps are?
Ms Larkins : Building on what the secretary said earlier, we have a screening process when people enter Australia and are brought to Christmas Island or the mainland. We quickly assess the nature of the claims presented to see whether they do engage our non-refoulement obligations so that we can return those who do not engage those obligations quickly. That process consists of an interview of the person, at which they are asked their reason for coming to Australia. That happens with an interpreter. They have a chance to explain why they have come to Australia and we then assess whether they are seeking protection in Australia and their reason for being here.
Senator RHIANNON: Are there operational procedures in place to ensure that family members who arrive separately in Australia or in Australia's excise zones by irregular maritime means are reunited? If there are procedures, what are they?
Ms Larkins : To be clear I would probably have to take that on notice. The general principle is that yes, we do take family composition into consideration in our decision making. But it would be better if I gave you a fuller answer.
Senator RHIANNON: If you could take it on notice, that would be appreciated. Is there a time period within which these procedures must take place, considering that we are talking about family?
Ms Larkins : I will include that in my answer.
Senator RHIANNON: Are you aware that there are 14 Tamil men on Christmas Island who have asked on repeated occasions to be reunited with their wives and children who are also on Christmas Island?
Mr Bowles : I am not personally aware of it.
Senator RHIANNON: Is there anyone else he who would be aware of it? I am just wondering whether they have an the opportunity to speak with their family members.
Mr Bowles : That is the normal policy arrangement. We try and make it as comfortable as possible. We can take it on notice to find out anything we know about that.
Mr Cahill : I am unaware of any specific instances. They are able to do 'I'm alive calls' and contact family back home. If they have got family in the detention facilities, we look to try and join them with their family, subject to security matters.
Senator RHIANNON: You can take it on notice to find out whether any of the Tamils who are family units have been able to talk to each other on Christmas Island and, if there has been a delay in that occurring, why.
Mr Cahill : I will take it on notice. If they have got family on the island, they would be allowed to talk to them.
Senator RHIANNON: As I have received information to the contrary, it would be appreciated if you could take it on notice.
Mr Cahill : I will.
Senator RHIANNON: Are there operational procedures in place to assist IMAs to access legal representation?
Mr Bowles : We have procedures around legal representation.
Senator RHIANNON: What are these procedures?
Mr Cahill : I will have to take that specific question on notice.
Mr Bowles : We will have someone come and talk to you about that, Senator.
Senator RHIANNON: Have any IMAs who have been screened out, and returned to Sri Lanka involuntarily, been denied legal representation when it was requested?
Ms Larkins : No.
Senator RHIANNON: That is a definite no?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Ms Larkins : Yes.
Senator RHIANNON: There have been a number of IMAs who have been identified as 'no claims'. What constitutes an IMA who has been identified as 'no claim'?
Ms Larkins : When we ask the question, 'Why have you come to Australia?' they may say, 'We've come to Australia because we are looking for work.' That would be the simplest example of someone who was not raising a protection related claim.
Senator RHIANNON: What documentation is being kept on those that have been screened out?
Ms Larkins : All interviews are recorded and all of the records of decision making in terms of decisions to screen people in and out are recorded and kept on file. It is a fully documented decision-making process.
Senator RHIANNON: Within that process who actually makes a recommendation for an IMA to be screened out?
Ms Larkins : We have trained officers who are making that assessment. If their decision is to screen someone out, that is then subject to review by a senior officer who either confirms or overturns the initial decision.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you provide us, either now or on notice, the classifications of the officers who make that decision and the different times?
Ms Larkins : Yes. I should just point out that they are trained in our protection process, so they are people who have considerable experience in assessing people's claims for protection.
Senator RHIANNON: Is there any review mechanism for this recommendation that they make?
Ms Larkins : There is internal review of the department's decision making, yes.
Senator RHIANNON: But can this decision be overturned by anyone?
Mr Bowles : A senior officer in the department could come up with a different outcome.
Senator RHIANNON: At what level would that senior officer be?
Mr Bowles : That person is generally at SES level.
Senator RHIANNON: Has the screening out interview been audio recorded?
Ms Larkins : Yes, each of them is recorded.
Senator RHIANNON: During the screening process is the credibility of claims assessed?
Ms Larkins : No. It is not a refugee status determination process. We are testing whether the client is putting forward claims that engage our protection obligations.
Senator RHIANNON: Are you aware that there are allegations that the department does not afford adequate time or opportunity for the IMA to express their proper claims and that, according to complaints by detainees on Christmas Island, they are being denied the opportunity to elaborate on the claims and also are not being given any further interviews?
Mr Bowles : Ms Larkins has just gone through the process that we take people through. We afford people the opportunity to have a conversation with our people. If we are in any way of the view that these people would engage our obligations, they would be screened in and they would go into our normal process. Screening in does not think we mean they are a refugee, but it does mean we want to take a harder look at those particular claims. There is always conjecture about who says what to whom in these sorts of issues. But we have gone through the process and talked about how we actually deal with individuals in these cases.
Senator RHIANNON: The question was: are you aware that there are allegations that the department does not afford adequate time or the opportunity for the IMA to express their proper claims?
Mr Bowles : I am saying, of the individuals we are dealing with, there is no evidence to suggest that.
Senator RHIANNON: I want to move on to the issue of the $375 million diverted to ongoing costs from the aid budget. Was the identification of the $375 million as ODA money at the request of the immigration department? Who initiated that classification?
Mr Bowles : This is a part of the budget process. It is probably a question best asked of other departments. Decisions are made around the budget. The reality is $375 million is a capped amount and it is reflected in the DIAC budget. It is tagged, if you like, as ODA. It is done under the normal OECD Development Assistance Committee's reporting directives. We go through that process.
Senator RHIANNON: When did you learn that this $375 million needed for onshore costs was to be tagged as ODA?
Mr Bowles : I cannot remember the exact time. It was quite a while ago.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you take that on notice.
Mr Bowles : We will take that on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: I would like to know when you found out and the circumstances.
Mr Bowles : I can give you some information but a lot of these things are not a decision of mine.
Senator RHIANNON: It was not a decision of yours. So who informed you?
Mr Bowles : As I have already said, it is a decision of the budget process. I am pretty sure this goes back quite a while now. I just cannot remember the exact time frame.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for sharing with us that it was not your decision. Was it a decision of somebody else within the department, or is it somebody within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or—
Mr Bowles : It is a decision of government ultimately about how they fund different parts of any system. The money here, identified as ODA within the asylum seekers area of my department, relates to people who are in the community either on a bridging visa or under a residence determination during their first 12 months. I talked a bit about this yesterday. It relates to the first 12 month that they are in Australia. If they spend time in detention, that time in detention does not go to the ODA component. If they spend six months in detention and six months in the community, the six months in the community would count within the ODA. This is a rigorous process that sits under the OECD Development Assistance Committee's reporting directives.
Senator RHIANNON: So you heard about it from your minister?
Mr Bowles : I is a decision of government.
Senator RHIANNON: The OECD guidelines that you have just referred to allow transport, reception and upkeep of refugees to be recorded as ODA. What specifically was the $375 million in 2012-13 spent on? I am also interested in what you will be doing with it in 2013-14.
Mr Bowles : As I said, it is a capped amount. If we spend more than that on the care of people within the community in their first 12 months, it will be captured under that. If we do not, it will stay at $375 million.
Senator RHIANNON: My question was about what it is specifically. If you want to take that on notice, that is okay.
Mr Bowles : We do not go down to specifics. It is a payment within that, for those particular people that I have talked about, for their care and maintenance, as you have described.
Senator RHIANNON: If you do not provide specifics, how can we ensure that it remains ODA eligible?
Mr Bowles : Because we manage the cohorts and the people. As I have described, it relates specifically to people in the community on a bridging visa or community detention. It relates to that component only and it is for that 12 months. That is how we manage it.
Senator RHIANNON: So you just have that general description of it? You do not provide within that an explanation of how much has gone to food, transport or health?
Mr Bowles : No.
Senator RHIANNON: Therefore the money is still being spent. Surely you must be providing instructions or some guidance to those responsible for implementing the refugee support programs utilising this money. You have said it is ODA eligible. We know that the ODA guidelines on this are fairly limited. Surely for the people who are putting the money out there in the community there are guidelines? If there are guidelines, can you provide them to us?
Mr Bowles : Through our normal processes the CAS and ASAS are payments that we give. The guidance, as I have already described, is around the type of person within our system who is eligible. It is the people who have arrived in Australia. It is the first 12 months. It is only the component of their first 12 months that they reside in the community on a bridging visa or a residence determination. That could be a much shorter period than 12 months. You have to take into account time spent in detention, because it is their first 12 months. That is how we manage it and that is how we ensure it only goes on those processes. This is not an uncommon practice around the world.
Senator RHIANNON: That does not always mean that it is the best practice, because some of these OECD aspects are a bit rubbery. With regard to spending on Nauru and Manus, is DIAC doing any other spending that is classified as ODA?
Mr Bowles : I think that is a question best asked of DFAT. Nothing of the $375 million relates to Manus or Nauru.
Senator RHIANNON: My question was about whether DFAT is doing any other spending that they classify as ODA.
Mr Bowles : You would need to ask DFAT.
Senator RHIANNON: Sorry, I wanted to know whether DIAC is doing any other spending that you classify as ODA.
Mr Bowles : No. That does not mean ODA money is not spent in Nauru and PNG—of course it is. You would need to ask that question to DFAT. I am saying that we do not.
Senator RHIANNON: You do not—that is all I wanted. The OECD guidelines specify that spending can only be recorded as ODA if it is for food, shelter or health in the first 12 months of a refugee's stay. I want to go back to this because it seems as though it is hard to track. I have heard your answer, but how do you track that the spending only goes for 12 months for any particular refugee?
Mr Bowles : Because we know who the people are in the system. We manage a lot of people all of the time and it relates to that particular 12-month period.
Senator RHIANNON: The guidelines seem fairly loose. When you are talking about so much money, it would seem as though some people could end up being on it for much longer than 12 months and other people for shorter periods. How can you say that all of those people are only on it for 12 months?
Mr Bowles : Because we know how long people are in the system. We manage people across a broad range of issues, and this is one of them.
Senator RHIANNON: I will ask the question again. How do you track that?
Mr Bowles : Again, it is by the individual and understanding where that individual is in the system for their first 12 months. As we have gone through before, it is for sustenance, care, shelter, basic English language training and things like that. That is what it goes on. It is generally through our normal CAS and ASAS payments. So we manage those. We manage the cohorts. We know how long they have been in the system and we know whether they have been in detention or in the community on a bridging visa or a residence determination.
Senator RHIANNON: I am interested in the monitoring and evaluation you do of these ODA allotments. You have got the $375 million and you are satisfied that it all stops at 12 months. Do you do an evaluation of that?
Mr Bowles : We do reconciliations of all of our funding sources and we manage budgets all the time. I do not think you would describe it as an evaluation, but we manage the budget and we definitely do assessments around what the appropriate funding is for particular programs.
Senator RHIANNON: Do you have to report to AusAID?
Mr Bowles : Yes. We are accountable for that. It is in our budget. But ultimately we deal with AusAID on these related issues.
Senator RHIANNON: Does AusAID rely on your report, or do they undertake their own report to—
Mr Bowles : You would need to ask AusAID what they rely on.
Senator RHIANNON: But I can ask you. Does AusAID undertake their own investigation of how this $375 million is being spent?
Mr Bowles : What I have said is that DIAC is responsible for ensuring efficient and effective expenditure and appropriate reporting of its ODA funding.
Senator RHIANNON: Against what criteria will the effectiveness of this $375 million in refugee support be measured?
Mr Bowles : Again, under the guidelines it is very clear that it is for certain things, certain cohorts and certain locations in the network. We will manage it against those things.
Senator RHIANNON: Is any of this reporting and evaluation and assessment made public?
Mr Bowles : No.
Senator RHIANNON: Why is that?
Mr Bowles : We would do that through the normal annual reporting process. We would identify certain things within the annual report. We also report as part of the Australian government's annual review of aid effectiveness. It goes through all those processes.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Madam Chair.
CHAIR: We will break now for morning tea.
Proceedings suspended from 10:34 to 10:52
CHAIR: Let's get underway again. We are dealing with outcome 4. Senator Rhiannon.
Senator RHIANNON: Mr Bowles, how many asylum seekers in 2012-13 were on bridging visas and eligible for support under the $379 million allocation.
Mr Bowles : Senator, I will take that on notice to make sure I get the accurate calculation. Basically, if they only came within the last 12 months and they are in the community on a bridging visa, it will be all of those that have arrived.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you give us a round figure, please?
Mr Bowles : I could not give you a round figure here because it will depend on how long they spend in detention and when they take up. Generally speaking, it is anyone who comes into the system. If you look at 2012-13, if they came at the start of July 2012 to now, it is still within the first 12 months so anyone of those people in the community on a bridging visa or CD would be eligible. So there is probably, what did we say, 10,000-odd on bridging visas and 2,700 or something on CDs, so around 13,000 would, I suppose, be the roundest number I could come up with at this stage.
Senator RHIANNON: You spoke in response to earlier questions that this money is spent over 12 months on those people. We are talking about a lot of money per person. Is it being divided between these asylum seekers or are you giving it to generic programs?
Mr Bowles : No. It is a capped amount. It is $375,000 capped, then we do the reconciliation. What did I say before? We are responsible for the efficient expenditure and appropriate reporting. We will go through and do that. If we do not spend it all, it is not eligible, obviously, for recognitions ADA if we do not spend it.
Senator RHIANNON: There does appear to be an unwillingness to give detail. We are talking about a lot of public money, Mr Bowles, so I will ask the question again. How much goes to each of those approximately 15,000 asylum seekers and does money go to generic programs?
Mr Bowles : Money does not go to generic programs. I said that it relates to the individuals in the community on bridging visas or residence determinations. It does not go to anything generic. It is in relation to those specific people and it is for normal payments through CAS and ASAS and it is dealt with through our service providers who deal with the CAS and ASAS payments.
Senator RHIANNON: Therefore, we could divide 15,000 into $375 million and work out approximately how you are spending that money.
Mr Bowles : No. Again—
Senator RHIANNON: You need to give more details on this, Mr Bowles. It is a lot of public money which you are responsible for.
Mr Bowles : I have already explained: it is a capped amount. We make payments to individuals based on our normal CAS and ASAS processes, whether we have 15,000, 20,000 or 5,000. There is not a generic amount for some of these things. Individuals attract different rates for different purposes. When we do the reconciliation at the end of the year and account for the expenditure and report that through our processes, we will come up with what the actual answer is. It is not a matter of saying, 'We are going to see 15,000 people and divide that by $375 million,' because in fact if we spend $300 million that is what is marked as ODA.
Senator RHIANNON: I can understand how that works—you have this amount and it is ODA. But is a large amount of money and you are still not providing details on how it is spent. You said that it is not spent on generic programs. So how are you delivering for these individuals?
Mr Bowles : As I have said a number of times, it is delivered through the CAS and ASAS payment processes, which are through our service providers, such as, for instance, the Red Cross.
Senator RHIANNON: So it is a payment process per—
Mr Bowles : It is for specific things around what we talked about before—sustenance, care, food, shelter and that sort of stuff.
Senator RHIANNON: So it is a payment process per person that varies according to the needs of that person within categories.
Mr Bowles : That is correct.
Senator RHIANNON: Maybe we should just finish up on the categories. We are talking about transport, health and food; was that it?
Mr Bowles : It is sustenance and care, more broadly. Food, shelter and basic English are some of the things that it gets spent on.
Senator RHIANNON: Let's take basic English. You are saying you give that money to the person and not to a centre or a non-government organisation to run English courses for asylum seekers?
Mr Bowles : We do not give it to the centres is my understanding. It is through the CAS and ASAS payments process, as I have described.
Senator RHIANNON: So the CAS and ASAS payments go to individuals and never go to a learning centre or a non-government organisation?
Mr Bowles : Again, it is through the CAS and ASAS payments. It is not something we direct to generic programs or specific organisations to deliver on our behalf.
Senator RHIANNON: Or to companies that run English learning centres?
Mr Bowles : That is my understanding, yes.
Senator RHIANNON: Do you need to take that on notice?
Mr Bowles : I can confirm it on notice, if you wish.
Senator RHIANNON: Okay. When you say that it is your understanding—
Mr Bowles : That is my understanding of how it works, but I can take it on notice to confirm, if you wish.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.
Senator ABETZ: I understand this is the area where I can ask some questions about people who are in your care. In particular I want to ask: when there are certain people in your care who you are escorting to other countries, do you advise the other countries through which you transit?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator ABETZ: Did that occur in the case of Mr Kohl being repatriated to Germany?
Mr Bowles : We can take that on notice. I do not know the specifics of the case. We can make sure we give you exactly what happened.
Senator ABETZ: The circumstance to which I am referring to is that which has just broken in the Bangkok Post and also, I think, the local news here.
Mr Bowles : I can take that on notice and try to find out—
Senator ABETZ: Are you aware of the case of Mr Kohl?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator ABETZ: Can you confirm that they were departmental contractors that were escorting Mr Kohl?
Mr Bowles : I would have to confirm that, but I understand that is the case.
Senator ABETZ: Is it usual that we use contractors to escort?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator ABETZ: It is?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator ABETZ: Are they specially trained?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator ABETZ: Does that training include that they should not fall asleep while they have someone in their custody?
Mr Bowles : I do not know how to answer that. That is not the normal process.
Senator ABETZ: It is a fairly fundamental issue.
Mr Bowles : They are trained in the activities they undertake.
Senator ABETZ: But does that include that one of them, given that there are two escorts, should be awake at all times?
Mr Bowles : If there had been a failure, we would have to deal with that. But what I have is that, contrary to the media report, the escorts were not asleep. That is what I have been told.
Senator ABETZ: When were you alerted to this situation?
Mr Cahill : That was on the evening the gentleman escaped. We have—
Senator ABETZ: That was 17 May?
Mr Bowles : I think it was the 16th.
Mr Cahill : On the evening of 16 May we were alerted to the incident at Bangkok.
Senator ABETZ: Can we confirm that Thai officials were not advised that Mr Kohl was going through the Thai jurisdiction in transit?
Mr Cahill : The group were met by Thai Airways security and escorted to the Airside Transit Hotel at Bangkok airport. So the Thai Airways officials were involved.
Senator ABETZ: But, previously, prior to their arrival, were Thai authorities advised? I withdraw that question. Were Thai authorities advised prior to Mr Kohl's departure from Australia that he would be arriving in Thailand with two escorts?
Mr Cahill : I will have to take that on notice.
Mr Bowles : It would be normal practice. We can confirm it in this specific case. It sounds as if someone must have been advised if they met the plane. But we will confirm that for you.
Senator ABETZ: But it may have occurred after the plane landed or whilst the plane was in the air, as opposed to the Thai authorities having been advised before the departure from Australia. So, in answering that question, please be very careful with the specific question being asked.
Mr Bowles : We will see what we can find out about the specifics.
Senator ABETZ: We can confirm that this is a man who served three years in jail in Australia in the state of Queensland?
Mr Cahill : He was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Senator ABETZ: And he was wanted in Germany over allegations of criminality there?
Mr Bowles : Apparently he had a criminal history in Germany and German authorities had issued a warrant—over failure to report to a parole officer, we understand.
Senator ABETZ: Are we able to advise whether these detainees are handcuffed whilst they are on the aeroplane? Is that normal procedure?
Mr Cahill : Firstly, he is obviously no longer in detention when he is taken out of detention. He is under security escort with a risk profile by Serco. In some instances they are flexicuffed; in other instances they are not. But they are accompanied by Serco.
Senator ABETZ: Do we know whether or not they were flexicuffed—I assume that is something different to handcuffed but has the same debilitating impact on the detainee?
Mr Cahill : I will have to take that on notice.
Senator ABETZ: Can you advise, or take on notice, the specific training these contractors undertake to qualify to undertake this escort work?
Mr Bowles : We can take that on notice.
Senator ABETZ: Yes, please. How do you, as a department, confirm and verify that the contractors used by Serco are so qualified?
Mr Bowles : Under the normal provisions of the contract and our contract management arrangement. But we can give more detail, if you like—on notice.
Senator ABETZ: Yes, please. So the department first became aware of this very embarrassing incident, I put to you, on the night of the 16th. When was the minister first advised?
Mr Bowles : I would have to take that on notice Senator, I do not know.
Senator ABETZ: And I have just been reminded, in an answer I think that I got just previously, that the Thai Airways staff met the plane. Now whoever gave me that answer—thank you Mr Cahill. Was it Thai Airways staff that met the plane?
Mr Cahill : Thai Airways security.
Senator ABETZ: Right. So security from the airline, not Thai police?
Mr Cahill : That is my understanding.
Senator ABETZ: Right, so not Thai police. But normally we would advise the Thai authorities, as opposed to the airline, that a prisoner was transiting through the particular country, in this case Thailand?
Mr Cahill : I will have to confirm that for you, Senator.
Senator ABETZ: But surely that is the protocol, is it not? You do not only advise the airline but you advise the security and police authorities, not the Thai Airline authority.
Mr Cahill : I will have to check the protocol to see how we do that, Senator.
Senator ABETZ: Does anybody know about that? No? Alright: if we have to take it on notice, so be it, but I would have hoped that that would have been a given, that we do not just tell the airlines that we are slipping somebody through their country but that we would advise the police as well. At this stage, do we in Australia and the department in particular take any responsibility for this embarrassing event in Thailand?
Mr Bowles : Clearly it is an issue that we have to manage. We will work with our service provider to work out what exactly did happen and we will make a decision about what happens from there.
Senator ABETZ: Yes, but I am asking: do you take any responsibility for what has occurred?
Mr Bowles : Clearly the contract with the service provider is with us so we have to take some responsibility for that. We will work through how these things actually did happen, because there is a lot of speculation in the media that is not necessarily accurate, at least from what we have been able to determine so far. So we will do what we would normally do and investigate the specifics of this case.
Senator ABETZ: Is there a provision in the Serco contract that, if things like this occur, they can be financially penalised?
Mr Bowles : Yes, there are, Senator.
Senator ABETZ: Could take on notice what those might be, if they are not subject to a commercial-in-confidence. Can you confirm that Interpol agents apparently believed their prisoner was waiting to change planes in a transit lounge, but in fact he was in a hotel room?
Mr Bowles : That goes to some operational detail that will have to come out in a review. So I could not answer that, I do not think, at this stage.
Senator ABETZ: When did this occur—on the 16th? Today is the 28th. That is 12 days; one assumes that the two escorts have been questioned about this?
Mr Bowles : I do not have that detail. I will take it on notice.
Senator ABETZ: Were you aware that this issue might arise at Senate estimates?
Mr Bowles : There are a lot of issues, Senator.
Senator ABETZ: I would have thought, with such a big and embarrassing issue for Australia as a nation, let alone for the department administering this, that you might be appropriately briefed about this or were you hoping it would not break in the media?
Senator Lundy: That is an inappropriate question to the official.
Senator ABETZ: I am pursuing the question because you were either aware of the issues and you were briefed or you were hoping that it would not be raised here.
Mr Bowles : No, Senator. There are some variations on that particular theme. I was aware of the issue. I have a briefing up to a certain point. I do not have all of the details and there are matters still ongoing around this particular issue. We have a number of issues that we deal with over the two days of Senate estimates and I am trying to be across as many of them as I possibly can, and in as much detail as I possibly can. I do not have all the detail. I accept that. I will get on notice whatever else you require, to make sure you do have all the information.
Senator ABETZ: Thank you for that, but I would have thought on anybody's assessment that this might be a red hot issue of great embarrassment not only to the department but to our international relations if, as is asserted, the immigration police in Thailand were not informed about this transit situation and if we would have informed them, we might not be in this sorry state of events.
Mr Bowles : Sorry, Senator, the immigration police are not necessarily the relevant player in this particular space. They do not go through immigration. It is a transit between one plane and another to go to the next country. They do not actually go through immigration. That is why we generally deal with the security services of the airlines to actually manage that transit between the two aircraft.
Senator ABETZ: So you only deal—
Mr Bowles : No, that is not what I said. That is the particular major relationship in getting people from one plane to another behind the immigration line.
Senator ABETZ: Well, I hope as a result of this very embarrassing incident you will review your protocols to ensure that the relevant authorities in relevant countries are notified when we have prisoners transiting through their country.
Mr Bowles : Senator, this is not a prisoner. They were released from prison in Australia and we were escorting them back to Germany.
Senator ABETZ: What, just to keep him company? Is that why the taxpayer was funding the trips for the two escorts?
Mr Bowles : He is a removal, Senator, from this country, and we do escort people back.
Senator ABETZ: Right. Was he at liberty to go when he liked or how he liked?
Mr Bowles : No, he was not, but that does not make him a prisoner is my point, Senator.
Senator ABETZ: Right. So what do we call him? Is he detained?
Mr Bowles : Someone on a removal path.
Senator ABETZ: On a removal path, isn’t that nice.
Senator Lundy: Well it is important to clarify, Senator Abetz.
Senator ABETZ: But his liberties are denied him, just like a prisoner would be, and from time to time he might even have flexi-cuffs on him.
Senator Lundy: Senator Abetz, I think you should be very careful not to mislead the committee in your statements by saying this person was a prisoner when he was clearly not. I think the officials have gone to great lengths to explain to you the status of this person.
Senator ABETZ: If this person would have refused to get on the plane in Australia would he have been forcibly placed on the plane? Did he have a choice of getting onto the plane?
Mr Bowles : It would depend on the circumstances of what was actually happening at that particular time.
Senator ABETZ: Come on, we are playing semantics or whatever. We know that he was not at liberty to do as he wanted.
Mr Bowles : Senator, he was a voluntary removal. He voluntarily chose to go home.
Mr Cahill : He signed documentation to be voluntarily returned.
Senator ABETZ: He voluntarily wanted to go home, and he loved the idea so much he escaped from us in Thailand. He was so looking forward to getting back to Germany, to face the authorities, he thought, 'N'uh, the Australians are doing this far too slowly. I'm going to break away from them and try to get there quicker.' Please!
Senator Lundy: Senator, it does not matter how much you like to restate the situation, the officials have been absolutely clear to you of this person's status, including the fact that he was a voluntary removal and that he was not a prisoner, contrary to your statement to this committee.
Senator ABETZ: But he is now at liberty when we do not want him to be at liberty. Is that right? Is that correct that he is now at liberty and we do not know his whereabouts?
Mr Bowles : He served his sentence in Australia. He had decided that the best course for him was to go home voluntarily. We were escorting him back home and, yes, he has escaped in Thailand.
Senator ABETZ: So, what did he escape from if it was all voluntary? There was nothing to escape from was there? No, there wasn't. The Thai authorities are now offering a 10,000 baht reward. Do we feel any obligation to reimburse the Thai authorities for this reward?
Mr Bowles : No, Senator.
Senator ABETZ: So we put all the blame, do we, on the Thai authorities?
Mr Bowles : That is not what I said, Senator.
Senator ABETZ: Right. So, if we do not put all the blame on them, do we consider we might have an obligation to cooperate with the Thai authorities and at least reimburse them the reward?
Mr Bowles : If the department was asked by the Thai authorities in any way, we will consider it and make a decision at that particular point in time, Senator.
Senator ABETZ: Surely good relationships, especially in this Asian century, demand that we do not sit back and wait but we actually proactively offer assistance and say, 'This mess is of our creation, or at least partially of our creation, and we are willing to assist in relation to the reward offered.' Are we going to sit back, arms crossed and say, 'Well, if you ask us, we might consider it'? Surely we must be proactively giving consideration whether to join with the Thai authorities in relation to this reward that is being offered.
Mr Bowles : We are working with the Thai authorities.
Senator ABETZ: But not in relation to the reward.
Mr Bowles : Not at this stage.
Senator ABETZ: Thank you.
Senator FURNER: I will start with some questions around the employer sanctions reform for businesses that employ unlawful noncitizens. Would you explain to the committee how the reforms of the employer sanctions bill will amend the current employer sanction regime?
Mr Callanan : The legislation introduces a graded system of infringement and penalties. Up until now we have just had illegal worker warning notices at the lower end, which were essentially disregarded, and the higher end criminal charges. The new legislation introduces a tiered approach where we have infringement notices that can be issued to employers who knowingly employing illegal workers, and above the infringement notices is a civil penalty regime, that is where an employer does not accept the infringement, it can be disputed in court under a civil penalty regime.
Senator FURNER: It is a case that the current criminal penalties were not working because they were merely warning notices? Is that what you are indicating?
Dr Southern : I think the gap was between warning notices and then the very high level of a criminal penalty. What the new employer sanctions legislation has done is to place civil penalties in between, if you like, so it gives the department more tools to be able to deal with these issues.
Senator FURNER: Would you inform the committee how these reforms will address the illegal work-hire practices? In particular I am interested in understanding the 'allows to work' provisions and what it intends to capture.
Mr Callanan : Sorry, could you repeat the end of your question?
Senator FURNER: I am particularly interested in understanding how the 'allows to work' provisions intend to capture.
Dr Southern : I think what the legislation does is actually broaden the application of criminal offences and the civil penalty provisions so that you could hold a person liable for participating in an arrangement or a series of arrangements that might result in a foreign national working without lawful entitlement, rather than there necessarily needing to be that direct employer-employee relationship if someone was party to a non-hire arrangement, if you like, or something like that. Under the previous arrangements they would not have been captured but the new legislation extends it.
Senator FURNER: Does that change the obligation on the employers?
Dr Southern : It would mean that employers in both direct and indirect relationships with employees would have to have evidence that the people they are employing are legally able to work.
Senator FURNER: The Howells review found that the current employer sanctions regime is ineffective even though DIAC has had success in locating unlawful noncitizens. Can you explain or describe some instances where DIAC has located unlawful noncitizens but has not been able to take action against the employer?
Mr Callanan : I do not have specific instances but in criminal sanctions proceedings there was a high onus of proof and Mr Howells found the employer sanctions framework ineffective as a deterrent against a number of employers and labour intermediaries who persist in referring noncitizens to work without the required permission.
Senator FURNER: On notice, please identify some examples of where DIAC has located those noncitizens but have not been able to take action against the employer. Can you also, for the committee's sake, set out how the department intends to enforce the new provisions?
Dr Southern : One of the first things we are doing is an employer awareness campaign, basically to provide information to employers about the changes and to ensure that they have arrangements in place to ensure that they can comply. We certainly believe that most businesses will comply, as they have been under the existing employer sanctions legislation. That information is being rolled out through some targeted advertising and some promotional products and direct stakeholder engagement. We are also doing a direct mail-out to 900,000 businesses ahead of the commencement of the new provisions, which start on 1 June this year. So, first of all, we are making sure that people know about the changes and what they will need to do to comply under the new legislation. That is happening at the moment. Then, through our onshore compliance program and the work we do in status resolution, we will be monitoring employers. We will be doing our regular compliance work as well—that is, finding those people who may not be complying.
Mr Callanan: The approach we are going to take is consistent with our overall compliance strategy, which is based on sort of voluntariness—encouraging people to do the right thing through education and awareness—and then slowly stepping up the penalties. We may still in some cases issue illegal worker warning notices to put employers on notice. If there is a repeat offence, we would move to an infringement notice and then to a civil penalty. In the most egregious cases, where there was, say, exploitation involved on a large scale, you might go straight to criminal prosecution.
Senator FURNER: On the employer awareness campaign: how was the selection of the 900,000 employers done?
Dr Southern : We worked with the tax office to identify businesses to do the mail-out.
Senator FURNER: How does this approach compare to that of other regulatory agencies?
Mr Callanan: As I understand it, it is consistent—particularly around the statutory defences—with what the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and ASIC do in that we have a number of prescribed grounds for defence both in regulation and in policy.
Senator FURNER: What was the consultative process in developing these reforms?
Dr Southern : There was quite a substantial consultation process, including on the draft legislation itself—there was exposure draft legislation. We consulted beforehand on the outcome of the Howells review with employers, unions and other interested stakeholders. We then consulted on the exposure draft legislation and used both of those phases of consultation to inform the final product.
Senator FURNER: I will just turn to removals and returns—I have a series of questions there. Firstly, let us look at Nauru. Has that regional processing had a noticeable effect on DIAC's ability to return asylum seekers home?
Dr Southern : As the secretary mentioned earlier, 62 people have chosen to return voluntarily from Nauru. We work with the IOM around arrangements for people to return voluntarily.
Senator FURNER: So they are all voluntarily, none are involuntarily?
Dr Southern : From Nauru, yes.
Senator FURNER: Page 57 shows the deliverables of program 4.1. It is to conduct integrity verification visits. How many of those visits have been made in the migration program year to date?
Mr Callanan : Could we come back with that for you?
Senator FURNER: Sure. Also, how many of such visits are planned to be made in the 2013-14 financial year? If you do not have that ready, we will put that on notice as well. How many DIAC officers are there whose activities are dedicated to the conduct of integrity verification visits?
Mr Callanan : We would have to take that on notice.
Dr Southern : They are spread across a number of different business lines.
Senator FURNER: Could you explain to the committee how the integrity verification visit works?
Mr Callanan : Mainly, as I said, through the education process. We go out and make employers aware of their obligations. Further, if there is evidence of illegal work or that someone might be an overstayer, which we might get through dob-in lines, information from the public, we will approach those locations and seek to locate the people.
Dr Southern : Going back to the compliance field actions, the numbers that you were talking about earlier, in the period until the end of March this year we had conducted 3,188 field actions.
Senator FURNER: The people who are in immigration detention have their detention review by a detention review manager, as I understand it. How many detention review managers does the department employ? If you do not have that readily at hand, we will put that one on notice.
Mr Cahill : Across detention review specifically, there are seven.
Senator FURNER: What is the performance standard, the frequency, for a case manager reviewing detention?
Mr Cahill : The detention review managers review initial detention decisions. The DRM must be satisfied that four core elements are met and they go through those elements. They have to do a review within 24 to 48 hours following the detention of a person and they do a second-phase review for persons where there are unresolved issues relating to case law et cetera, and that is within 14 days following the completion of the first review.
Senator FURNER: What is the proportion of reviews happening within that performance standard?
Mr Cahill : The answer is: 98.1 per cent of phase 1 reviews and 97.6 per cent of phase 2 reviews were completed within service standards.
Senator FURNER: Very good. I take you to page 47. One of the objectives of program 4.1 is to detect and locate persons who have no lawful authority to be in Australia. What actions does DIAC take? What methods does the department pursue to detect and locate such persons?
Dr Southern : That is a combination of our compliance field actions and our compliance status resolution service desks in each of our state and territory offices. What our key compliance statistics are showing us, and as the secretary was talking about yesterday I think, is that we had quite substantial numbers of locations—around 9,474 was the number we were looking at. That is a combination of people, including those who voluntarily come to us. They may have overstayed their visa and are seeking to resolve their status. That is about 80 per cent, and about 20 per cent are where we find people in the community through compliance action.
Senator FURNER: What has been the cost to the department for the financial year 2012-13 in that area?
Mr Callanan : We would have to get a breakdown of that on notice.
Senator FURNER: I would like to know what you budgeted for, the costs, in the 2013-14 financial year as well.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: First of all, there are some questions that I put on notice yesterday, when I was asking questions in cross-portfolio, and Mr Bowles said they were more relevant for here. They were in relation to cost breakdowns. Have you got those, would you like me to go back through them or would you like to just table them?
Mr Bowles : Maybe if you go back through the questions, we will answer them as best we can.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Obviously, in the budget papers it is not broken down, so I would like to know how much has been spent to date on the detention facilities in Nauru.
Mr Bowles : Are you talking about the construction or the operations of them or both?
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Both. I have the same question about Manus Island, obviously.
Mr Cahill : I can go through the value of the contracts for the regional processing centre contracts. For Transfield Services Australia, a contract from 1 February 2013 to 31 January 2014 is valued at $184.3 million, and that is for the operational and maintenance services at Nauru. The Salvation Army, from 1 February 2013 to 31 January 2014, has a valued contract of $74.9 million for welfare and support services for both Nauru and Manus Island. G4S from 10 October 2012 to 9 October 2013 has a value at $80.5 million for operational and maintenance services at Manus Island. MAXimus Solutions Australia, from 20 November 2012 to 19 November 2013, is valued at $496,000 for care and support services for people being transferred to Manus Island who are under the age of 18. IHMS, International Health and Medical Services, on Manus Island and Nauru are between a heads of agreement and a contract right until 28 January 2014 and that has a total value of $63.1 million. The last contract is Save the Children Australia, from 10 October 2012 to 30 June 2013, and that is valued at $8 million for care and support services for people at Manus under the age of 18.
Mr Bowles : I just might add that they are contract values; they are not what we have spent to date on those sorts of things. The operating expenditure for Nauru to 30 April is $112.9 million.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. Have you got the operational cost for Manus Island to date there as well?
Mr Douglas : That would be $49.1 million.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Have there been any variations to those contracts? Of the contracts that you read out, have there been any variations between when the bulk of them were signed or the heads of agreement was signed in October to now?
Mr Cahill : No.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are any of those contracts under review?
Mr Cahill : We manage all contracts and monitor them accordingly. Obviously, some of them will expire at the end of this year.
Mr Douglas : The contract with Save the Children expires on 30 June. Consequently, we are in discussions with them about the extension of that. The original date of 30 June was at their request. We are having discussions with them about their continuation beyond 30 June.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. In terms of the 2013-14 financial year, what is the total amount that has been budgeted for the operating costs of Manus and Nauru.
Mr Douglas : The amount likely to be expended is covered in the larger pool in the forward estimates.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, except that it is not itemised out. That is why I am asking.
Mr Douglas : Correct. We do not have that itemised out.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why is that?
Mr Douglas : Because the expenditure is a function of the number of people who will be located and the rate at which the infrastructure is finished and therefore the rate at which people might come into the centre or leave the centre. As Mr Cahill has indicated, we have estimated the forward value of the contracts over the life of those contracts. To estimate the value into the future years beyond what we have in those contracts would be subject to a procurement process, which is yet to be undertaken.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How much have we budgeted for the cost of transferring people to Manus Island and Nauru over the 2013-14 financial year?
Mr Bowles : The broader way that we manage this is through a demand driven model. As Mr Douglas indicated there about what we might budget next year, it depends on the number of people and likewise it will depend on the number of people who we transfer. I am sure that Mr Cahill or Mr Douglas could probably give you some idea of the cost of transfers year to date. That would give you an understanding of what has happened.
Mr Douglas : To 30 April, we expended $4.7 million on transfers to Nauru and $2.7 million on transfers to Manus.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. Under the budget papers, is there any sense of whether Nauru and Manus Island will be operating at capacity over the forward estimates.
Mr Bowles : The answer to that is yes.
Mr Cahill : The intent is to be operating at capacity.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When have you budgeted for operating at capacity?
Mr Bowles : We should be at capacity in Nauru in the 2013-14 year.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What about Manus?
Mr Bowles : The same. It is only marginally short now. The initial planning for the facility was for 600 beds. We have the potential for 500, depending on the configuration that we use.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Where are things up to with the new Manus Island facilities being build? Has the site where it is going to be located been signed off on?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is that going to be close to the township than where it currently is.
Mr Bowles : I think that it is.
Mr Douglas : Very close; very much closer.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it won't be on the Navy base anymore.
Mr Douglas : Correct.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When will construction start?
Mr Douglas : We expect that to commence in July.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When do you see it being finished?
Mr Douglas : Depending on climate and the degree of construction difficulty, at this stage the plan is that it will be concluded towards the end of January.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is the capital cost of building that new facility?
Mr Douglas : From memory, the total cost is around $107 million. I will check my figures. My apologies: it is $171.7 million.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is that going to be paid through existing contracts that we have or do construction need to be signed in order to make that happen?
Mr Douglas : The department is presently undertaking a limited tender with a number of companies that have the capacity to construct the facility. That tender is presently active. It closes at the end of the week. That tender is for a managing contractor. The managing contractor will then work with the project manager to develop a construction timetable. We will let packages of work to individual subcontractors to undertake the construction work.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Will the new facility include a new water treatment plan?
Mr Douglas : The facility to be built on the vacant land will need to be virtually completely self-sustaining. That includes water management, waste treatment and power generation.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. I also asked some questions yesterday in relation to bridging visas. I asked when the first lot of bridging visas granted to people post 13 August were due to expire.
Mr Cahill : I can advise that the first group will have their visas expire on 4 June.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And that was based on six months?
Mr Cahill : Yes, that is my understanding.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is anticipated to happen to those people once those visas expire?
Mr Cahill : We anticipate that they will be technically re-detained and re-granted bridging visas.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: For another six months?
Mr Cahill : At this stage.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there any prospect that people will be given bridging visas that would last less than six months?
Mr Cahill : No. We look at all individual clients. But the starting basis is six months.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So some could be given bridging visas for 12 months?
Mr Cahill : Not to my knowledge.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is that a matter of—
Mr Cahill : At the end of the day, the minister decides what length the period is. But in the main we grant them for six months.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have some process questions. Mr Bowles, when was it that the department started to use the screening in, screening out process for IMAs?
Mr Bowles : Are we talking about the enhanced screening process for the Sri Lankan case load?
Mr Bowles : I believe that it was in October. I do not have the specific date, but it was sometime in October.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would you be able to see if somebody could get you the exact date?
Mr Bowles : I think that it was 27 October, but I will confirm that date.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is the process used from 27 October based on the screening in, screening out process that had previously been used for airport arrivals?
Mr Bowles : That might have been its basis, but it was specific to this particular group. We have worked on that since we introduced it to move to where we are today. Ms Larkins could probably give us a bit more information.
Ms Larkins : I confirm that we started on 27 October. It is referred to as enhanced screening because it builds on our normal border screening procedures. It has added some other procedural elements and safeguards. That is why we call it enhanced.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Correct me if I am wrong, but the screening in, screening out process that operated until 27 October had only been used for airport arrivals.
Ms Larkins : No, that is not correct. I would need to come back to you with particular advice on that. At various points, we have used screening in and screening out—not the enhanced screening, but border screening—with IMA cohorts. But I do not have that detail with me at the minute.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would you be able to go through the context in which the screening in, screening out process at airports operates and the extent to which that is used?
Ms Larkins : I will need to get another officer to talk you through that, Senator.
Mr Allen : Could you repeat the question concerning airport screening?
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is the usage and the context of the screening process and the extent to which that is used at airports?
Mr Allen : The screening process is the standard process used when people arriving at airports raise claims that may engage our obligations under the refugee convention.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can you explain how that happens practically? Somebody gets off a plane and they are going through customs. What next?
Mr Allen : People may be referred to us for various reasons at the border. It may be for bona fides, it may be because they have been referred through one of our analytic systems. They are then interviewed by our airport inspectors to determine whether they are entering Australia for the purpose for which their visa was granted.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. How long has this process been used for at airports?
Mr Allen : I would need to take that on notice to give you a definitive answer, but the screen in, screen out process in its current form has been used for many, many years, going back decades, I believe.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who runs that process?
Mr Allen : The interview at the airport is undertaken our airport inspectors. If a claim is raised that engages our obligations, information is collected and the claim is referred to an officer from the onshore protection branch here in Canberra, usually a senior officer or a senior delegate, for consideration.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How often does this occur?
Mr Allen : I can give you some figures for the current year.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That would be great.
Mr Allen : For this year, 2012-13, to 30 April there were 47 protection claimants screened in at Australian airports.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many were screened out?
Mr Allen : I do not have an answer for that. It would be contained within the broader group of people who are interviewed and are then removed from Australia. I would need to take that part of the question on notice.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, if you could. Could you also explain to me now what you mean by 'the broader group'? I am not following you.
Mr Allen : In terms of the number of people we talk to at airports, we receive something in the vicinity of several thousand referrals every year. Many of those people will be interviewed and, in the course of those interviews, no claims for protection will be raised. For example, we might talk to somebody who has come in on a tourist visa and it becomes apparent during the course of the interview that they have come here to work; therefore, they will be suspect bona fides; therefore, their visa will be cancelled.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can you take on notice for me how many people were screened out as part of this process? I would appreciate that.
Mr Allen : Sure.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ms Larkins, you said that the enhanced screening process started on 27 October. What was the process that was being used for IMAs prior to that?
Ms Larkins : Immediately prior to that, we had taken a decision—this refers to my previous answer; I am just not sure about the time of that decision—that we would automatically screen in most IMAs without any border screening. I am not sure about all IMA cohorts. As I said before, at various times we have done border screening with IMA cohorts.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Where did that screening fit in relation to the regular entry interview?
Ms Larkins : It comes after the regular entry interview, to my knowledge. But I am not the expert on where it fits.
Mr Bowles : We will clarify that for you, Senator.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The question I asked, Ms Larkins, was about post 27 October. Please clarify that for me. Then I want to go back to 27 August.
Ms Larkins : That will take us some time. We are just trying to find the answer.
Mr Bowles : In relation to when the screening is done, the screening is done as they arrived.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When is it in relation to the entry interview?
Mr Bowles : Before.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is that the case now or was that the case prior to 27 October.
Mr Bowles : That is the case now.
Mr Cahill : My understanding is that it is now.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We will take that as being the process now. I just want clarification about what the process was prior to 27 October.
Ms Larkins : There were not any. We were not doing border screening for most cohorts prior to 27 August.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But, Ms Larkins, you did say to me that you have done it before.
Ms Larkins : What I said to you was that we have done it in the past. I do not have the time frames for the cohorts in which we have done it, but I think it is important to know that we have at times applied border screening to various IMA cohorts.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you take on notice, please, where it happened previously and where that fitted in relation to the entry interview—was it before or after? Mr Bowles, what was the rationale for changing the process and introducing the enhanced screening process on 27 October?
Mr Bowles : This was in relation to the increase in the arrivals of Sri Lankans, in particular with a greater number of people coming for, as they described it, work and economic reasons.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why could that not have been picked up in the regular entry interview?
Mr Bowles : What we were seeing is quite a significant increase in numbers; from almost nothing within that Sri Lankan cohort to significant numbers in the latter part of 2012. So we had a look at our processes and at what was the best way to deal with people who were arriving for largely economic reasons and did not engage our obligations. We looked at this process; we introduced the enhanced screening and we went from there.
Ms Larkins : If I could just add figures to Mr Bowles' statement. There were more than 3,000 Sri Lankans IMA arrivals between August and October in 2012, and that compared with a total of 16 across the same three month period in 2011. So it was a very dramatic increase and it was not supported by any other movements internationally and was not supported by UNHCR in terms of country information.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We have a process, we already had a process, to determine who engaged our obligations for protection and who did not. Why did we need to come up with a new process at the front?
Mr Bowles : Because there were significant numbers arriving at far greater rates and, as Ms Larkins just mentioned—was it 19 or something?
Ms Larkins : Sixteen.
Mr Bowles : Sixteen the previous year, the same period, versus 3,000. We saw the arrival of something like nearly 6,000 people over a period of time.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it was about the numbers of people? Not necessarily—
Mr Bowles : The numbers of people and the claims that—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They had not made claims.
Mr Bowles : When we do the screening we ask these questions, and they were here largely for economic reasons and mainly work.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is the process of this new enhanced screening?
Ms Larkins : I can take you through that. The screening process consists of an interview. Each eligible client receives an interview which is conducted by officers with the assistance of an interpreter. The interview covers the following information: there is an introduction and explanation of the purpose of the interview; there is a confirmation of the person's bio data details; there is collection of basic information relating to the person's background, including their migration history and then their reasons for coming to Australia. Depending on the nature of responses provided by the client to these parts of the interview we may also collect in more detail a person's reasons for coming to Australia and how those reasons may engage our protection obligations. The purpose of the second part of the interview is to determine whether a person has claims that are remote or otherwise unfounded or claims that are specific and well-founded and which warrant consideration in the standard protection assessment process.
There is an escalation process. So, if in the view of the interviewer the case raises potential protection related issues, that is referred to a senior officer for further consideration. If it does not raise an protection issues, that case is also referred to a senior officer for further consideration.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How long do these interviews take?
Ms Larkins : It really depends on the nature of the information provided by the client. They can range from quite short at the most simple, to quite long. It really depends on the client and the information. I do not know that I can give you an average time figure.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you table the list of questions that are asked?
Ms Larkins : We could provide some advice on the process that we use.
Mr Bowles : We will take it on notice. This is operational detail, and we will have to consider what implications that has in terms of basically giving advice to people on how to get around our system. But we will take that on notice and have a look.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many questions are asked? If you have got the questions in front of you, Ms Larkins?
Ms Larkins : No, I do not have the questions in front of me. I have given you the sorts of issues that are raised.
Mr Bowles : We can take that on notice and see what we can provide. I do not see a problem with the number of questions.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, if you could get an answer to me on how many questions are asked, before we finish this questioning, that would be—
Mr Bowles : Again, I think this is going to be a moving feast. It will depend on the nature of the person and the nature of the responses. So, again, as—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How can it be, Mr Bowles, when this is not an official entry interview or indeed an official assessment of whether somebody does have a claim for refugee status?
Mr Bowles : This is an official enhanced screening process that we use that meets all of the obligations that we need to meet. It can—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have legal advice suggesting that?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When did the department get legal advice?
Mr Bowles : We sought legal advice around a whole range of the different things that we do every single time.
Ms Larkins : And I might add that it is a documented process. The interviews are recorded and we keep records of the process and the responses of the clients.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, how can you be sure that we are upholding our obligations to people if, as you have put it, this whole process is a moving feast.
Mr Bowles : I did not say a moving feast. I said it depends on the client. If someone comes out with some pretty basic information that says they are here for work and whatever, it could be a short process or it could be much longer. We explore certain issues. How are we confident? We have people who are trained in this sort of work. We have two officers, at least, to do this interview work. We have a review mechanism of a senior officer back here who has a look at every one of these claims. That is why we are confident about the process we have introduced.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ms Larkins, are people who are being interviewed during this enhanced screening process told they have a right to seek asylum?
Ms Larkins : We provide them with a statement—I am just trying to be clear about the process. They understand the purpose. We explain the purpose of the interview to them.
Mr Bowles : They equally have to have a reason for claiming asylum.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. Are people told they have a right to seek asylum?
Mr Bowles : We give them the purpose of the interview up-front.
Ms Larkins : I just want to get the exact words.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you could, that would be helpful. Mr Bowles, could you give me the APS levels of the two people who you said conduct the screening-in, screening-out interviews?
Ms Larkins : I took that on notice previously. We will get that to you.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And, Mr Bowles, you suggested that there was somebody back here in Canberra who reviewed all of these decisions.
Mr Bowles : It is generally an SES officer.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is it the same person?
Ms Larkins : No, it is not the same person.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many people does the department have working on these processes?
Ms Larkins : We would have to come back to you on that. I do not have the numbers.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When these decisions are being reviewed by members of the department back here in Canberra, is that all decisions or just the ones of the individuals who have been screened out?
Mr Bowles : To clarify, I said SES, but it is usually an executive level or an SES. It has been both over the period of time. It is usually and EL2 and in some cases it has been an SES. What is the second part of your question?
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The second part was about the number of people, but Ms Larkins said—
Ms Larkins : I think it is two or three, but we will take that on notice.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay.
Ms Larkins : And I should add that they are not necessarily in Canberra. They may be in another state office.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do these senior officers review all of the assessments or just those of the individuals who are being screened out?
Mr Bowles : I am pretty sure they do review the screen-outs. I will confirm that, but I am pretty sure we review all screen-outs.
Ms Larkins : I would need to check—
Mr Bowles : We will confirm that, but that is pretty much what I think happens.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many times has a screening-out been made and then been overturned?
Mr Bowles : I would have to take that on notice.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has it happened at all?
Mr Bowles : It is likely to have happened.
Ms Larkins : Yes, it has happened. I am not sure if we have a record of that, but, yes, it does happen. I will have a look. I just do not know if our systems allow us to capture how many have been overturned, but I will have a look.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would be pretty surprised if you did not have a system that could track what had been overturned.
Ms Larkins : However, that may be the case.
Mr Bowles : All screening, we believe, has been referred to that senior officer—both the ins and outs.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: After somebody arrives—they get off the barge at Christmas Island—when does the screening interview happen?
Mr Cahill : After they arrive at Christmas Island we have normal arrival processing that we go through: health checks et cetera. Then, depending on arrival numbers and when the 'onpro' specialist teams are deployed, we will arrange them to be interviewed anywhere up in the first few weeks of their arrival.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What was the name of that team?
Mr Cahill : They are called 'onshore processing', which is under Mr Allen's leadership.
Mr Allen : We can give you the exact name of the team. They are deployed officers trained in protection assessment, who are sent to Christmas Island and other locations to undertake the work. Generally we will have a team in place. As Mr Cahill has suggested, the interviews are undertaken as promptly as possible after arrival.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But Ms Larkins just told me it was two people.
Mr Allen : No, it is two people for each individual interview. But given the numbers arriving the teams themselves—that is, the number of people deployed—will be more than two.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many people are running the screening-in, screening-out interviews on Christmas Island?
Mr Allen : It is a rotating group of people deployed from mainland locations. I would have to take on notice the actual size of the deployed team within which those, if you like, two-person cohorts are created.
Mr Bowles : It will depend on the number of people we are screening at the time.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are the officers who are managing the enhanced screening process also the people who are doing the entry interviews?
Mr Cahill : No.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Totally separate?
Mr Cahill : That is my understanding. The entry interviews are a different team.
Ms Larkins : The people doing the enhanced screening processes are trained protection decision making staff, so they have a background in understanding our protection obligations.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are they the team Mr Allen was referring to?
Mr Allen : That is correct.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Totally separate to the entry interview officers?
Mr Allen : They are drawn from a different part of the department.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So some of these interviews for screening-in and screening-out could happen several weeks after an individual has arrived?
Mr Cahill : No, it is as soon as possible in that first couple of weeks.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What determines when somebody is up for their screening interview?
Ms Larkins : I am not quite sure I understand.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If it does not happen straight away—
Ms Larkins : I think it does. The intention is that it happens as soon as we are able to do it, within operational constraints. So it happens as soon as people arrive, but we have to sequence them. We need enough people to do it. It is just in arrival order as far as I understand it.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How close to people's deportation does this screening-in and screening-out interview happen?
Ms Larkins : Once we have made a decision, removal planning follows quite quickly. But it follows the decision. It is not planned before we have done the screening for an individual.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Where do the screening interviews take place.
Mr Cahill : I understand it is in our interview rooms on Christmas Island.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I think there are several interview rooms on Christmas Island. I want more detail than just 'interview rooms'. Is this in North West Point—
Mr Cahill : We have interview rooms at North West Point and at Construction Camp and Phosphate Hill. Depending where the clients are we will use those interview rooms. We use them for a lot of different reasons. We have not built special rooms.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have the screening-in and screening-out processes happened anywhere else other than the interview rooms in North West Point, Construction Camp or Phosphate Hill?
Mr Bowles : At the Cocos Islands in early times, I think.
Mr Cahill : And not to my knowledge in recent times.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have they ever happened at the airport on Christmas Island?
Mr Cahill : No, not to my knowledge.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ms Larkins, after somebody has been deemed to be screened out, at what point does that decision go to the reviewer for a decision?
Ms Larkins : Straight away.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Within the hour, the day—
Ms Larkins : Often it is straight away. As soon as those decisions are written up in a form that can be considered by the reviewer, that is sent to them.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is the time frame in getting the reviewer's decision?
Ms Larkins : As I said, we do not have an average time. We are trying to do this quite quickly. Review by the senior officer is prioritised and it happens quite quickly.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How quick is quickly?
Ms Larkins : I do not have average data. I cannot answer that question.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Work with me here. I do not know whether you are talking about a day, or hours or a week.
Ms Larkins : I cannot give you that information. I could come back with some more detail, but I do not have it with me.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would it be at least a day?
Ms Larkins : I do not want to speculate as I really do not know. I would just be guessing. I can come back and give you more information, but I do not know.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It sounds like this process is being made up as you go through.
Mr Bowles : That is not true. We have gone through quite a significant amount of detail in the last 45 mins or so, where we have actually stepped out in some detail what actually happens through this process. What Ms Larkins is saying is, again, we review these people and once those interviewers actually formulate their view it goes to the senior officer for review. There is no predetermined time that says you have to have this done in an hour or two hours or five days. It is however long it takes. It gets to the senior officer and it is reviewed.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are all decisions reviewed?
Mr Bowles : We have just said yes. Ins and outs are reviewed.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Only people who the senior reviewer here in Canberra has decided will be deported are deported?
Ms Larkins : Not just in Canberra.
Mr Bowles : Removed. And not just in Canberra.
Mr Allen : I can just add a slight level of detail to the screen-in, screen-out review. If an individual is screened-in the EL2 review officer, if you like, does not review that. The screen-in stands. It is if a screen-out decision is made that two EL2 officers review the decision.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Allen, that is different to what Ms Southerland had advised.
Mr Allen : In both cases there is a review, but as I said in the second case there are two EL2 officers involved in the screen-out decision.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many screening-out decisions have been made?
Ms Larkins : We have undertaken 2,596 screening interviews and 965 people have been removed as a consequence.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Were all of those decisions reviewed and endorsed by a more senior officer?
Ms Larkins : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there a register of who these people are? Does the department keep a list of who they have screened out but have not yet been removed?
Ms Larkins : Yes, we know who those people are.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do names come on and off that list as people are being reviewed?
Mr Bowles : They would.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So there is some evidence as to who may have not been removed just by initially being given a screening-out assessment?
Ms Larkins : I do not know that we have that in any easy format to give you. That is my point—because we all know that, but it is a matter whether we have that stored in a system somewhere that we can report from.
Mr Bowles : Again, it is private information anyhow.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am not worried about whether it is private. I am not asking who is on it. I am asking where this register is kept. Is the list kept by your department here in Canberra, Mr Bowles?
Mr Bowles : My department is not only here in Canberra. It is across Australia and globally.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who keeps—
Mr Bowles : The relevant area that is managing these issues.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who keeps the list of people who are awaiting removal?
Mr Bowles : It will be the part of my department that manages the removals.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Which part is that?
Mr Bowles : It is in the status resolution part, who manage the removals. We also have information in Mr Allen's area and Ms Larkins' area. It depends on what we are actually talking about. If you are talking about removals, they are run from our status resolution area.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If these people have been given a screening-out assessment and are waiting on Christmas Island, at what point are they told that they will be removed? Is it before or after their decision has been reviewed by somebody in Canberra?
Mr Bowles : It would be after.
Ms Larkins : As I said before we take no action until we have made that decision, and that decision includes the senior-officer review. At that point removal planning begins for that person. At any one time there are not huge numbers of people who are in a backlog for removal.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it must happen pretty quickly then?
Mr Bowles : That is correct.
Ms Larkins : As I said, this whole process is designed to be done quickly.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there a central list of people who have been screened out and are awaiting removal?
Mr Bowles : As I said, that is something that is held with our status resolution people. So we know who we are going to either remove or we are not going to remove, and we make decisions about where we place those people within the network.
Mr Cahill : We maintain a list of those who are subject to removal, and that is the basis of our removal planning.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have any errors been found as to who is on that list?
Mr Cahill : No, not to my knowledge. We have a thorough process. Our removal planning makes sure that we do reconciliations right through to the manifest for the aircraft, to make sure that we are removing people who have been found not to engage our obligations and have been screened out after the review process.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Does that include children?
Mr Cahill : I would have to take that on notice.
Ms Larkins : Yes.
Mr Cahill : Yes, it does.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Cahill, you are telling me that there have not been any errors made on the removals list and the removal plan. Have there been any instances where somebody was mistakenly put on that list?
Mr Cahill : I might get you to clarify that. What do you mean? The list that I operate on is those who have had a screening decision saying they are screened out and that has been confirmed. Then we have checks and balances through that process to ensure that those who are removed are those who have a screened-out decision.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So there has not been a circumstance where the list you have been given—
Mr Cahill : No—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: changes between who then goes on the plane?
Mr Cahill : The list is changed at times for travel, and for a range of other reasons, but no-one has been removed who has not been screened out.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has there been a circumstance where the wrong person was put on the list for removal?
Mr Cahill : No.
Mr Bowles : We have said no.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many times is that list checked before the plane departs?
Mr Cahill : I would have to take that on notice. But we do have a process of confirmation and reconciliation to ensure against the manifest, right up to the point of departure, that we are removing people who have been screened out.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How close to the departure of the plane is the list finalised?
Mr Cahill : I understand that the final list is in the last 24 hours. I can confirm. That is because we have to make sure we have met some health requirements, as well, and obviously people's health can change.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who enters the names on the list for removal?
Mr Cahill : I do not know.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is a pretty important list. It is people's lives.
Mr Cahill : The list would be maintained probably by the detention operations staff at Christmas Island, in terms of the removals, and there are removal and detention operations staff on Christmas Island.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Surely it is the same list as the people who have been screened out?
Mr Cahill : It is drawn from the list of those who have been screened out.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you trying to tell me that you do not know who is in charge of the list of removals?
Mr Bowles : He just said the detention operation and removal people on Christmas Island.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is that checked by the senior officer back here in Canberra?
Ms Larkins : The process will be that Mr Allen's staff will advise the outcomes of the screening process to the removals team, who will then organise the plan.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How do you know that list is the same list?
Ms Larkins : Which list?
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You have told me that a senior officer determines who is being screened out.
Mr Cahill : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There is a gap then between that—
Mr Cahill : No. What happens is that the screening decisions done by the relevant expert people are passed to the detention operations staff at Christmas Island, who then put in place the removal operation. There are reconciliations throughout the process to ensure whoever we remove on an aircraft is someone who has been screened out.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Which screened-out assessed people are put on the removals list? Who makes that decision?
Mr Cahill : The decision is made by the detention operations removal staff as to which people are going on a particular aircraft on a certain day, drawing from the screened-out decisions.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: On what basis is that decision made? If there is a register of people—
Mr Cahill : It is based on available aircraft and how many people we can put on an aircraft. We will fill up an aircraft, we will look at that list, and because we are moving and doing this operation in response to those screened out, generally we will take whoever has been screened out already and put them on the aircraft and remove them.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many people do you take on each plane?
Mr Cahill : It varies. It can be as low as 20 or as high as 50. I do not have the specific figures with me.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I guess this is where this is not making much sense. You have a list of people who have been screened out.
Mr Cahill : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is then someone else's decision on Christmas Island to pick and choose out of that list who is removed.
Mr Cahill : They do not pick and chose. They work off the list.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But which people—
Mr Bowles : Can I respond to that. We have a list of people who are screened out. We have a group of people who manage the removal of these people who are screened out, who are on Christmas Island. The flights go from Christmas Island. We will determine on the day, or thereabouts, who is available and fit to fly, and all of the things we normally do. As Mr Cahill said, that could be as few as 20—I do not know—and generally the most we would put on one flight would be around 50. If we had 50 there we might put 50 on. If we do not have them we do not wait until we do that sort of thing. We will work with the cohorts we have and we will manage those issues like that. That is how the system works.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you believe that once somebody is on that screened-out list officers on Christmas Island can pick people off that list and put them on a plane?
Mr Cahill : They get the whole list and then they do their fit for travel et cetera as part of the removal planning and then that plane is filled up and they are removed. If there are more people on the list than what is the plane's capacity we look to having a second aircraft as soon as possible.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was the department asked by the Prime Minister's office to establish the enhanced screening-out process?
Mr Bowles : All decisions ultimately are decisions of government. I did not have any conversation with the Prime Minister's office. It is a normal part of processes of government that decisions are made. We have developed an enhanced screening process.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Were you given a directive to establish a process that could remove people quickly?
Mr Bowles : I am not sure I would describe it as a directive. We have a range of conversations around how we would deal with the very high number of arrivals of Sri Lankans. We were developing a process to deal with that. Yes, there would have been conversations with a range of my departmental colleagues about the best possible way we could do those sorts of things. We went forward to develop that process. Clearly, government knew what we were doing and, clearly, government had taken decisions around this being an appropriate thing for us to do. But we then went ahead and implemented the procedures and we have continued to do that for many months now.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You have said to me that we did not use this process before 27 October.
Mr Bowles : That is correct.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is now being used.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You have created a system.
Mr Bowles : Yes, in response to a significant number of arrivals of Sri Lankans.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I hear that that is what you are saying. We already had a process for determining who engaged our obligations and who did not, so this is a new process.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who asked the department to establish a new process?
Mr Bowles : I do not recall being specifically asked at the time. We were having discussions around how best to deal with a significant increase in arrivals of Sri Lankans, who had no claims and generally were talking about economic—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But you had not assessed their claims, had you, Mr Bowles, because they had arrived after 13 August?
Mr Bowles : I would like to finish my answer, please. We had seen arrivals increase from early in the 2012-13 financial year. It actually probably started to increase around June in particular. We had started to do entry interviews on a range of those people in those earlier times. Many of those people were saying that they were really turning up here to work, and other economic claims.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You had not assessed any of their claims. So how would you know that?
Mr Bowles : I have just said that we went through the entry interview process and this is what the people were telling us: that they were here for work and no other reason. We then started to—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Telling who, Mr Bowles? Again, I come back to the point that you had not assessed anybody's claims. So this is on a gut—
Mr Bowles : Senator, it gets to a certain point and I cannot—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is on a gut feeling.
Mr Bowles : We do the entry interviews. As I said, what we were being told by the individuals was about their economic claims, not—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Telling who, Mr Bowles?
Mr Bowles : Our entry interview personnel.
Senator Lundy: Senator Hanson-Young, I think you have taken this about as far as it can go. The officials have been extremely patient in attempting to respond to your questions. It makes it hard when you keep interrupting. If you have information that you would like to be more forthcoming about and which is informing your line of questioning, I would suggest that you be upfront about it because this is not going anywhere.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Minister Lundy, I can tell you that there is a lot more to this.
Senator Lundy: Can I suggest that you do not—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have asked for the process to be outlined and that is where we are getting to.
Senator Lundy: Can I suggest that you do allow the officials to answer and that, if you do have additional information which informs your line of questioning and which can resolve this mystery for all of us, at least be upfront about it.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have one final question for, Mr Bowles. You have said that the reason this enhanced screening process has been developed is because of the numbers of people coming from Sri Lanka. It is a new process to assess their claims. Therefore, you have already prejudged those who have arrived and those who are still arriving, based on where they have come from.
Mr Bowles : I disagree with that assessment.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there any other cohort of—
Senator Lundy: Senator Hanson-Young, you are making a statement. Mr Bowles disagrees with your statement. So please do not persist as though it were true.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, is there any other cohort of asylum seekers who this enhanced screening process is being undertaken with?
Mr Bowles : Not at this particular point.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So only those from Sri Lanka?
Mr Bowles : That is correct. At this particular point, there is no reason it could not be applied to some others. We are assessing that, but we have not made decisions at this particular point.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you been asked to run this process with any other cohort?
Mr Bowles : No, we are looking at the different cohorts that arrive. We use other forms of process through different cohorts. It would depend on what was happening. It is wrong to suggest that it was based on ethnicity, per se. It is about the economic claims within the Sri Lankan cohort, who happened to be moving at very rapid rates, which was completely at odds with previous movement and with all of the assessments that we had seen through the UNHCR.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yet you had not assessed any of their claims. You would not actually know whether they were entitled to asylum.
Mr Bowles : Again, we made decisions around enhanced screening for the particular cohort from 27 October.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was there a figure ever given to you, as secretary of the department, or indeed a figure that you gave to your officers on Christmas Island—those running the screening-in and screening-out process—of how many people should be removed?
Mr Bowles : No.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You do not have a—
Mr Bowles : I do not have a target, if that is what you mean. But if people arrive and they do not—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But if this is about numbers, how would you not have a target?
Senator Lundy: Chair, there are only so many ways you can ask the same question.
CHAIR: There are, but I think Senator Hanson-Young is probably not quite getting the answer she is after.
Mr Bowles : I do not have another answer, sorry, Chair. The senator is asking me whether I have a target and I said no. We will remove those who do not engage our obligations, who are screened out through the processes we have. I do not have a target of X or Y.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What figure of arrivals of Sri Lankans would stop you using this enhanced screening process?
Mr Bowles : Again—
Senator Lundy: Senator Hanson-Young, your question implies that there is some arbitrary measure. The officer has clearly explained to you that it is not in relation to an arbitrary measure.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But this whole process has been proven to be arbitrary.
Senator Lundy: It is in relation to the circumstances surrounding that cohort.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But it is not, Minister Lundy. That is the whole point. Mr Bowles has already indicated that that is not the case. It is totally arbitrary, based on the number of arrivals.
Mr Bowles : Again, I—
Senator Lundy: Senator Hanson-Young, you keep making statements like they were the truth. You are choosing to misinterpret the evidence that is given and making a statement in a way that I think verbals what you are hearing.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am not verballing anybody.
Senator Lundy: I just think it is inaccurate and I think it is misleading.
CHAIR: It might be an opportune time to break for lunch.
Proceedings suspended from 12:38 to 13:43
CHAIR: Let's get underway. We are going to finish off questions with Senator Hanson-Young and then go back to Senator Cash.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, if we could pick up where we left off. Where did the idea for this new enhanced screening process originate? Was it from within your department?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It came from someone within which team in your department?
Mr Bowles : I think it came out of an internal discussion that we had across a range of groups. I know I participated in it and I think Dr Southern did and probably a few others. It was looking at new and different ways to do business.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: At what point was it put to the minister for a decision?
Mr Bowles : I would have to take the specific date on notice but it would be sometime just before 27 October, I would imagine.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, what communication has there been between your department and the government in Sri Lanka about the people who are removed?
Mr Bowles : I visited Sri Lanka myself twice. We have officers posted over there within the high commission in Colombo. My regional director for that area, who resides in New Delhi in India, has, I know, been down there a number of times as well. So there have been a number of different conversations about all of that.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there any formal arrangement for the removal of these people once they have been screened out?
Mr Bowles : In the sense of a returns agreement type process?
Mr Bowles : No. At the joint working group meeting we had in December last year, we talked about the arrangement working as it is. Both sides were comfortable with that. We also talked about whether we would continue to have conversations about the notion of a returns arrangement.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has Sri Lanka at any stage asked for fewer people to be returned?
Mr Bowles : I am just trying to think—have they ever asked for fewer people? In the early days, I think we settled on about two flights a week of around 50. At one stage we had returned more than two flights a week—in that very early stage. I would have to go back to the exact dates. When we started to do this, there were quite a number in the first while—basically because of the numbers we had. Then, I think, there was one planeload of around 100. We used a military aircraft, which was a very large aircraft. That was, I think, the only one which was outside the general 50 or thereabouts. That is from memory. That is right, is it not?
Mr Cahill : Yes, Secretary. The only discussions with Sri Lanka are at that logistical level—about the number of clients they can take at any one point in time. In the early days, we had one aircraft which had 100 or thereabouts and we had a number of flights in one week. We worked with the local Sri Lankan airport officials to work out was sustainable and manageable for them.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Were you suggesting that that was too many at that one time?
Mr Bowles : For that time, I think the answer to that would be yes. That is why we settled on the Tuesday and Thursday arrangement. That said, they did agree to all of those transfers. You cannot transfer into another country without the agreement of that country and we did that. But, once we got so many through, in trying to work out systems and processes—particularly on reception over there—we eventually agreed on the two per week with around that 50 mark.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What arrangements are in place for people once they arrive in Sri Lanka?
Mr Bowles : Once they are in Sri Lanka, it is largely the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government. But I do have an officer there. While they do not have a specific role within that Sri Lankan arrangement, the person is there. There are a whole series of steps the Sri Lankan people insist on. It is not something we dictate on.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We do no monitoring of what happens to people once they have been returned?
Mr Bowles : Past them leaving the airport? No, we do not. Again, that was explained by Ms Larkins early this morning—she explained why that was the case.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is DIAC aware of anybody who has been returned and has subsequently been charged?
Mr Bowles : I think a number of people have been charged. Again, this distinction between who are the crew of the people smugglers and who are the people who just went for a ride comes up. But I think everyone is charged on the way back—because leaving the country without a valid visa is illegal in Sri Lanka.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Does your department have any information about how many people have been imprisoned once they arrive back home?
Mr Bowles : Again, I do not have specific information on that.
Mr Cahill : I am aware that at some times clients may be remanded for 24 hours or something to that effect, but, as to being incarcerated for a period of time, I am unaware of that.
Mr Bowles : If they have committed crimes under Sri Lankan law, they will be dealt with within that context.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like to go back to the question I asked Ms Larkins around whether, during this screening process, people are given information about what their legal rights are.
Ms Larkins : I am sorry, we will need to bring someone else to the table to answer that question.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The question I specifically asked you was in relation to whether they are informed they have a right to seek asylum. You were going to get the form of words.
Ms Larkins : There are two separate questions there.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, they are. I accept that.
Ms Larkins : I do not have the form of words yet.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When are we going to be able to get—
Ms Larkins : I have asked for them.
Ms Parker : Senator, your question was in relation to legal—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What information are asylum seekers given in relation to their legal rights during the screening-in interview?
Ms Parker : Under the Migration Act we rely on section 256, which indicates that, if they request legal advice, we will facilitate that.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They are not told they are able to request legal advice?
Ms Parker : Not so far as I am aware.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would you step me through what happens if somebody does seek legal advice.
Ms Parker : If they seek legal advice, we facilitate that contact with a legal adviser of their choice.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How do they choose somebody if they have only just arrived in the country?
Ms Parker : We provide them with a telephone book and access to a telephone, and an interpreter if necessary, I believe.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You provide them with a telephone book, an interpreter and a telephone?
Ms Parker : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many people have opted for legal assistance during the screening-in interviews?
Ms Parker : I do not have those figures with me, but some people have engaged lawyers or asked for lawyers, yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What has happened then?
Ms Parker : The normal practice cuts in, as required under the act, and they are provided with reasonable facilities to make contact.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What constitutes reasonable facilities?
Ms Parker : As I indicated, if they do not have a particular lawyer in mind they are provided with a phone book and a telephone. In some cases, as I mentioned yesterday in my evidence, some solicitors have indicated that they are acting for some people who are in the screening-out process or have been screened out. If they have indicated they are acting, the people are asked whether they have in fact sought legal advice and by whom.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If someone is listed on the screening-out register, are they still able to access legal assistance?
Ms Parker : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How would that happen?
Ms Parker : In the same way as it would normally happen. If they indicated they were seeking legal assistance, they would be provided with what was necessary to access legal advice.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: At what point are they told that they are on the list of people to be screened out?
Ms Parker : That is an operational issue. I am not sure.
Mr Bowles : They will be screened out and then put on the list.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When are they told that?
Mr Bowles : That they have been screened out?
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. It is obviously after the interview.
Mr Cahill : I understand that—at some point in time; I do not have the specifics—they are told that they have been screened out, between the review officer and when they are removed, obviously.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In the process of being screened out, being told they are screened out and then being removed, are they able to request legal assistance?
Mr Cahill : At any point in that time, I understand.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How would they do that? They are not in an interview room at this stage.
Mr Cahill : I understand that they can approach one of the case managers or one of the detention operation staff at Christmas Island at any point in time and ask that. We have a protocol that Ms Parker has expanded on at any point in that time.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We know that the time between being told that they are on the screening-out list and when they are removed is quite quick. Ms Larkins has already said that.
Ms Larkins : I actually said the whole process is designed to be quick.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, but I also specifically asked you about the time frame between being told they are screened out and being removed.
Ms Larkins : And I said that we worked towards a quick time frame, but I could not give you any average time.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is a person able to request legal assistance in any time frame within that quick process that would mean legal advice and assistance is often not practical?
Ms Larkins : I am not sure I understand the question.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If I could just come back to the point around how long people have between being told that they are to be removed and being removed. How much time do people have to apply for legal assistance?
Ms Larkins : As Ms Parker has mentioned, if someone requests legal advice then they are provided that opportunity to seek—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How quickly is that facilitated?
Ms Parker : As soon as possible.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What does that mean? What does 'as soon as possible' mean?
Mr Cahill : What that means is that if it is two or three in the morning we have to be able to find the right time to give them the material to be able to contact and talk to legal counsel. It will be as soon as is practical. It is not instantaneous but, straightaway, we go through the process of providing the book, access to the phone and also interpreters.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So if somebody has requested legal assistance before the plane leaves, does the plane wait until they are given that legal assistance?
Ms Larkins : The plane might not wait, but they do not go on the plane. Basically they are given the opportunity to get that legal advice before any further action is taken.
CHAIR: Why would you tell somebody that, Mr Cahill, at two o'clock in the morning?
Mr Cahill : Tell them what, sorry?
CHAIR: You said, 'If we are going to tell them at two o'clock in the morning—
Mr Cahill : No. What I am saying is that sometimes a client will talk to our people at two o'clock in the morning for various reasons. They might say, 'I want to see someone urgently,' and obviously we talk to them about that.
CHAIR: Rather than you proactively saying to them—
Mr Cahill : No. I am not suggesting that. I am just saying that sometimes clients ask—
CHAIR: I just wanted you to clarify what you meant there.
Unidentified Speaker : Maybe they are on different body clocks.
Mr Cahill : Some of them are very nocturnal.
CHAIR: They will not be the only ones on different body clocks, I suspect.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you, Chair. I was wondering the same thing. What happens if a lawyer rings and they have somebody's boat number and name and say they have been contacted to speak to somebody about their removal? What is told to that lawyer?
Ms Parker : There would be a process whereby the person who was identified would be spoken to by a DIAC officer to ask whether in fact they had sought legal assistance or whether they wished to seek legal assistance.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who asks the asylum seeker that question?
Mr Cahill : It will be either a case manager or a detention operation staff member on Christmas Island.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are they told that they are absolutely able and allowed to speak to a lawyer on the other end of the phone?
Ms Parker : They are asked whether they have sought or are seeking legal assistance.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are they informed that they have a right to?
Ms Parker : I am not aware.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The reason I am asking is that you are locked up and told that you are being removed and somebody then comes and asks you whether you have sought legal advice without even being told that perhaps you have a right to. You could understand why somebody would feel pretty intimidated by that. So I think this is a pretty important question. Are people told they have a right to legal assistance?
Ms Parker : I will take that on notice.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ms Larkins, have we got any further with the wording about whether people are given—
Ms Larkins : No. I just asked some people to follow that up.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has there been an instance where somebody has sought legal assistance and been removed from the removals list?
Mr Bowles : The answer would be yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many times has that happened?
Mr Bowles : I think on three occasions. We talked about at least two of those in the last Senate estimates.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What assistance is given to people once they have sought legal advice to ensure that their lawyer is able to have access to them in a practical and hassle-free way? What is the process of making sure that once somebody has engaged legal assistance they can actually practicably get it?
Mr Cahill : My understanding is that once they have made contact with legal representation we facilitate them having a room—the interview rooms I referred to earlier—to be able to have a conversation with that solicitor. Whether they access TIS, our translator interpreting service, or we provide an interpreter I am not clear, but they do have the ability to have a confidential conversation with their legal representation.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I go to the question of minors. Are minors given the screening-in, screening-out interview?
Ms Larkins : As I said before, it applies to everyone, but we do identify vulnerabilities during that process. We will not apply it if we think a client is vulnerable.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But that does not answer my question. Does the process apply to children under 18?
Ms Larkins : Yes. I answered that before.
Senator MARSHALL: Why is that? Is it because it is seen to be an unfair process that should not be applied to children?
Ms Larkins : It does apply to children. It is applied to children.
Senator MARSHALL: What do you mean by vulnerable—
Ms Larkins : For example, if someone is ill and not able at a particular time to be subject to an interview we would not continue. We consider wellbeing of children in our assessment of that process.
Senator MARSHALL: Is the process applied to children in the same way it is applied to everybody else?
Ms Larkins : Except where there are vulnerabilities which would mean that was not the case. Clearly age of the child is an issue.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But it does apply to children?
Ms Larkins : We would not be applying an interview process to a six-year-old but we may apply it to someone who is 17.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is it applied to unaccompanied minors?
Ms Larkins : I would have to take that on notice.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has it been applied to unaccompanied minors?
Mr Bowles : Yes, it has.
Senator MARSHALL: What is the age cut-off? You said you might not apply it to a six-year-old but you might apply it to a 17-year-old.
Ms Larkins : I do not have an age cut-off.
Senator MARSHALL: Surely you have a determination about this?
Mr Bowles : If there were an unaccompanied minor aged six they would fit the vulnerability criteria. Generally speaking, younger children come in family groups—so the mother and father would be interviewed, for instance, and the—
Senator MARSHALL: Just tell me: what is the age cut-off that you apply this process to?
Ms Larkins : We will get that.
Senator MARSHALL: You don't know?
Ms Larkins : I will get that.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I guess the point that Senator Marshall is asking is: is there a cut-off?
Mr Bowles : I think the answer is no, but we will apply the vulnerability criteria to that. If people are in family cohorts, they could have young children and that family could be screened out and the whole family could go back.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Where does this vulnerability criteria exist? Is there a list of vulnerability criteria?
Ms Larkins : I will get some further information for you, Senator.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But is there actually a set of criteria written down?
Mr Bowles : We apply 'vulnerability' to a range of different people across the network on a regular basis. Our criteria for how we currently determine people going into community detention, for instance, is based on that sort of criteria. It is the same sort of criteria that we use.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I understand. Is there a specific criterion that is used to determine who is subjected to this screening-in, screening-out process?
Mr Bowles : We will get that information for you, Senator.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But is there an existing criterion?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Is it correct that unaccompanied minors have been screened-out?
Mr Bowles : I believe so.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is it correct that the decision about whether an unaccompanied minor has been screened in or out has changed?
Mr Bowles : I would have to check, but—
Ms Larkins : I know of at least one case.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the answer is yes. What was the purpose of that change?
Ms Larkins : I would have to go and have a look. You asked whether it had ever happened, and I am aware of one case, but I do not have the details.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. Let us just unpack this. An unaccompanied minor was screened out and obviously put on that list to then be removed. That decision was then changed.
Mr Bowles : No, it would be changed at the review stage.
Ms Larkins : If it is the same case, I think further information came to light.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: At what stage?
Ms Larkins : I am not sure whether it was as part of the review process or post the review process—because, as I said, I do not have the details of that.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But they are not actually on the 'out' list until it is reviewed, are they?
Ms Larkins : No.
Mr Bowles : That is right.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it would have to be post-review.
Mr Bowles : Assuming someone has gone through the entire process, through the review mechanism and then there was a decision changed—we do not necessarily know that yet, but that was what Ms Larkins was referring to.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ms Larkins, how long ago was this?
Ms Larkins : As I said, I do not have the details of the case with me—and I don't know if we are talking about the same case. But I do not know.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would that unaccompanied minor still be being held in detention?
Ms Larkins : I don't know, Senator—I don't have the details.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ms Larkins, you know of one case. If you do not know whether this is the only one, who would?
Ms Larkins : We can take that on notice, but I do not have it with me at this point.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, were you aware of this?
Mr Bowles : I did not know of the specific case, no.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Don't you think it is a pretty concerning circumstance that an unaccompanied minor was listed for removal, only to then have—by chance—more information come to light which then led to that unaccompanied minor coming off the removal list? How would that not be an issue that raises bigger questions about this whole process?
Mr Bowles : Again, Senator, I don't think anyone has suggested that anything has happened 'by chance'. We have a process, which we have gone through a number of times, about how things would happen. If more information comes to light, we would alter our decision if it required altering.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How does more information come to light, if this whole process happens so quickly?
Ms Larkins : Clearly, in this case it did come to light. I think sometimes information does come to light.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What if it does not?
Mr Bowles : If it does not, then it is hypothetical. I am not sure—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Now we know it is not.
Mr Bowles : Potentially, it is. We have a process, which we have described to you, around the number of people who get involved in this process, how it is reviewed and how we actually go through that process. Potentially, if something comes up, we will review that—and, as we said, we have a review mechanism as well, just to make sure that we have a check and balance in the system. So we do go through that sort of process.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But if this happens all so quickly, how do you ensure that an unaccompanied minor is not wrongly deported?
Mr Bowles : Again, Senator, we have a process that we go through and we have checkpoints in that process that allow for—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Except, Mr Bowles, you did not even know about this case.
Mr Bowles : I did not know about this specific case. That does not mean I do not know about the process and the checkpoints we have in this process. Again, this is run within the department; it is a process that we have had running for quite a while now.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Since 27 October.
Mr Bowles : Since 27 October. And there are very experienced people that we have doing this sort of work, as we have already talked about.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay, so let me put this to you, Mr Bowles. The information that came to light in relation to the unaccompanied minor I am speaking about—
Mr Bowles : Sorry, I am not sure who you are thinking about.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ms Larkins can probably tell us.
Mr Bowles : Again, Ms Larkins said we know of a case; we are not quite sure if it is the same case.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would be pretty concerned if there were more than one.
Mr Bowles : Yes, Senator.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: My understanding is that the reason why this unaccompanied minor was not removed was information given by their parents in Sri Lanka, pleading with the department not to deport this young boy back into danger, where his life was being threatened, where his safety was at risk—that was the reason he was not then deported. What if, Mr Bowles, that information had not been handed over before the boy was removed? Where are your checks and balances then?
Mr Bowles : On reception, we have arrangements for UAMs in Sri Lanka as well.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You have just told me you don't know what happens once they leave the airport.
Mr Bowles : Senator, we are talking about a broad system here. For UAMs we do have a reception arrangement in Sri Lanka.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many UAMs have been removed.
Mr Bowles : I would have to get you that number, Senator.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ms Larkins, is this the same case that you know about?
Ms Larkins : I am not sure, Senator. With the case I know about, there were claims that were not raised by the client at interview—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: He is an unaccompanied minor!
Ms Larkins : If I may finish: there were claims that were not raised in the interview. We then received subsequent information about that client, which we took into account in our decision-making, which is the responsible thing for us to do.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who sits in that interview with a child, advocating for their rights?
Ms Larkins : I am not clear who was there. I will need to come back to you.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There is no lawyer present, is there?
Ms Larkins : No.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There is nobody advocating on that child's behalf.
Ms Larkins : Not unless the client requests—I am not sure, actually—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A 16-year-old is meant to be able to 'request', know that they have the right to request legal assistance and for somebody to advocate for them. Is that really the view of the department—that a 16-year-old should only have these things if they know they are allowed already, for some unknown reason, to request it?
Mr Bowles : Senator, we can find out if we are talking about the same case and be able to actually respond to your specific inquiries—and we can tell you who was in the room. We don't know whether we are talking about the same person. If you do not want to give us the name of the person you are talking about, we will find out the one Ms Larkins is talking about and we will give you some examples about what is actually happening—and we may be able to determine if it is the same person.
Senator Lundy: The alternative, Senator Hanson-Young, is that you meet privately with the members of the department to discuss a particular case, and in that way preserve the privacy of the person.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you, Minister. I am more than happy to take up a private briefing. The reason I am asking these questions is that I want to know whether this is a systematic problem with your enhanced screening-out process. If you cannot tell me how many time this has happened—you did not even know about this, Mr Bowles—how can you be absolutely certain that we are not deporting people, vulnerable people, back into danger? How can you be certain?
Mr Bowles : Senator, we have collectively gone through the process and the checks and balances in that process. You are talking now about a specific case. It is very difficult for me to respond—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have just raised one example.
Mr Bowles : to a specific case. If we can find out a little bit more about this—and we can do that—and how we dealt with that particular individual, I am happy, within the bounds of the privacy arrangements around the individual, to explore this a little bit more.
CHAIR: We are going to have to—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I just want to clarify what I want tabled.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am still asking for the wording, the script, that is used in these interviews. Are we going to have that tabled, Mr Bowles?
Mr Bowles : I think I said earlier that we will take that on notice and then determine how we can actually provide information that is not going to compromise the operations that we undertake.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There are two parts to that. There are the questions that are asked.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And I would understand that you will take that on notice. Ms Larkins has already agreed to give me the information that the people are told at the front of the interview.
Ms Larkins : The interview preamble, yes.
Mr Bowles : The preamble that is, yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like that tabled by five o'clock today. I do not see why that cannot happen if it already exists. Thank you, Chair.
CHAIR: All right. We will now go to Senator Cash.
Senator CASH: Thank you, Chair. Mr Bowles, if you recall earlier today, prior to 10am, we were discussing the processing of claims. I believe we had established that since 13 August 2012, 19,462 people had arrived by boat. They are at this stage have been unable to make a claim and they are waiting for the department to notify them as to when they can make a claim. There is an approximate backlog of those who arrived prior to 13 August of 5,000. So, if you add those two figures together, you around the 24,400 mark of cases that are still requiring processing. In the event that the department does not commence processing—because you said there were a number of factors that come into play, and they need to come together for the department to be able to commence processing again—if we go on the current number of arrivals, which is around 3,000 a month, but if we average it out for this year to 2,000 a month, and we take that through almost to the election, that becomes a legacy of almost 30,000 people who have not been processed. Is that correct?
Mr Bowles : I think you asked me that before and I said I was not going to speculate on the arrivals that might happen between now and a particular point in time.
Senator CASH: But would you agree that, if we average the arrivals out, we are looking at 2,000 a month? That is a fair average—in fact, it is slightly lower than average.
Mr Bowles : It depends on what happens: it depends on the conditions and it depends on whether there is any particular change in the people-smugglers activities—and we do see that change. That is what I talked about yesterday, and I think again this morning—the volatility and the changes that have affected the arrival rates. Last year we saw the Sri Lankans have a huge impact on arrival rates. If you take them out, it changes the dynamic quite a bit. We slowed those down. In the first couple of months this year there were very low numbers, but then in April we have had a large number and we have had a large number—not as many at this particular point—for May. Clearly, if you just extrapolate from where we are now, and add 2,000 to it, you will get a figure. But that does not make that figure right. One thing that the benefit of hindsight has in looking at what has happened in numbers is that it varies quite dramatically over a period.
Senator CASH: The issue I have with that at the moment is that, whilst it is varying, it is varying upwards. In January, 483 people arrived; in February, 1,430; March, which was a record, 2,501; April, which was a new record, 3,369; and May, to date, 2,755. So if we are looking at trends, at this particular point in time it is only trending upwards. That is why I gave what was a very fair average of slightly under what is the actual average of 2,000 per month. At this point in time the department is unable to give a date as to when processing of the 24,000 or 25,000 asylum seekers who have not yet had their claims looked at and who have not had a chance to lodge their claim. If that does not commence, you will have a huge backlog that the immigration department is going to have to process at some point in time. An incoming government—if there were a new government on 15 September—we need an understanding of exactly what that legacy case load may well be. At the moment it is around 24,000 or 25,000. You said in evidence yesterday that you believe that 2,500 to 3,000 people could arrive by the end of June, which takes it up to the 27 or 28 mark.
Mr Bowles : About 25.
Senator CASH: And if processing is still not commenced—
Mr Bowles : Twenty-five, in fairness, from what I said yesterday. I said 22,265 had arrived—
Senator CASH: But you also have a 5,000 backlog. You have 19,462—
Mr Bowles : I was talking about arrivals. I just want the context, that is all.
Senator CASH: Okay, 19,462 have arrived post-August. Let us say you get to 25—
Senator Lundy: Is there a question in here somewhere?
Senator CASH: There will be very shortly, and we are having a discussion about figures at this point in time.
Senator Lundy: When you get over you politicising the issue.
Senator CASH: How are figures politicising the issue?
Senator Lundy: Perhaps the opposition could support the Malaysia arrangement and all the expert panel agreements, then there would not be such a backlog.
Senator CASH: I ask you: how is stating for the record figures that are facts politicising the issue?
Senator Lundy: You have just spent 10 minutes doing it. We all know the numbers, because Mr Bowles here has said them about 35 times over the last 24 hours or so. If you want just to keep saying the numbers, fine, but do not try and couch them in political terms or be so arrogant as to assume you are going to win government come September—
Senator CASH: I am not assuming that at all. I am saying—
Senator Lundy: and asking questions about projections between now and the election.
Senator CASH: if there were a new government, what would be the Labor legacy in relation to arrivals and the fact that there has been, in my words, a freeze on the processing of arrivals since 13 August 2012.
Senator Lundy: I am glad you acknowledged they are your words.
Senator CASH: Because it would appear that we are heading towards a Labor legacy of 30,000 people that are not being put through the system.
Senator Lundy: Which would not be such a number if the coalition had supported the Malaysia arrangement and the expert panel recommendations, as you well know. We go through this in the Senate chamber on a regular basis. The opposition made a choice and we are now discussing the ramifications of the choice the opposition made not to support the government's proposals.
CHAIR: Let's get back to questions. Senator Cash, will you complete your question, please?
Senator CASH: I need to correct my evidence, Mr Bowles. I said that 2,755 people had arrived in May to date. I was incorrect; it is 2,963. What I am trying to get a handle on is what you believe will be the number of people who potentially will need to be processed—if processing is not recommenced—come 30 June and come 15 September.
Senator Lundy: Before Mr Bowles answers that, perhaps I could put the question back to you as: is it the opposition's intention now to support the full suite of recommendations of the expert working panel, because that would indeed affect the potential numbers that you are now discussing. Is there going to be any change in opposition policy?
Senator CASH: Senator Lundy, the bad news for you is—we have had this conversation before—whilst we are in opposition we get to ask questions—
Senator Lundy: I know you don't like answering that one—
Senator CASH: on the impact of the government's policy.
Senator Lundy: because the answer is no, and that is not going to change.
CHAIR: Senator Lundy, I think it would be fair to say that both of you need to provide each other the opportunity to complete your sentences.
Senator CASH: The minister asked me a question, and I will give the minister a response to her question. Perhaps the minister would like to enlighten the Senate committee of what the recommendations are that the coalition has stood in the way of. My understanding is that we have stood in the way of none of the recommendations. The Houston panel itself gave the red light to Malaysia. The department admitted yesterday that the government has done no work on changes on strengthening the Malaysian deal, so why are you lecturing us on this side when we have not stood in the way of anything? In fact, if I recall rightly, you stood with us the other day and voted to excise Australia. That was your policy.
Senator Lundy: My recollection is that you stood with us to resolve a particular problem, but a problem that has been exacerbated because of the coalition's attitude and failure to support the measures Labor has put forward in addressing this problem. Nothing is going to change that, and I think everybody understands that. So, by all means, keep asking the same questions about the numbers all afternoon; it is not going to change the fact that the coalition has contributed significantly to exacerbating this problem.
Senator CASH: Mr Bowles, I am trying to get a handle on this: when the Labor government came to office in November 2007, my understanding is that the legacy caseload that the coalition left Labor in terms of IMAs in detention was four. Is that correct?
Mr Bowles : I would have to check. It was a very small number as I understand it; but, as you know, I was not here at that stage.
Senator CASH: That is fine. It was four, for the record. What I am trying to get a handle on is that in comparison to the four that we left for the incoming Rudd government to deal with, we currently have 19,462 that have not yet even had the opportunity to lodge a claim for asylum because they are waiting for the government or the department to give them a call. The backlog from prior to 13 August is 5,000. I would just like to get a feel of what would happen in the event that the department does not commence processing, because you were unable to give us a date—your evidence is 'shortly', but we cannot put a date on 'shortly'. What are the anticipated numbers going forward?
Mr Bowles : While I said 'soon', I also indicated that the 2013-14 financial year would be when we would start. That is five weeks away from today, or probably from yesterday—I am not quite sure of the exact date is nowadays. July is the start of the 2013-14 year, and that is when we are planning to start. For me, that is 'soon'. I do not agree that we will not start this. I know yours was a supposition of 'what if'. Again, it is very difficult for me to respond to 'what ifs'. I can give you the facts of where we are today. You talk about the 19,000-ish number post 13 August, plus what you have classified as 'backlog', which effectively are the cases that we are dealing with now, so they are in train—in the process. That 19,000 will definitely get added to that figure, and I have said that speculating around the arrival numbers has proven to be inaccurate many times because of the changes.
Senator CASH: Particularly in terms of budgeting.
Mr Bowles : I would be uncomfortable in predicting what might happen over the next number of months.
Senator CASH: Can I just then confirm your evidence? You said that you are planning on recommencing the processing in the financial year 2013-14. That financial year commences on 1 July 2013. So you do anticipate recommencing processing on or about 1 July?
Mr Bowles : As soon as we can around that time. I cannot give you a definitive date, but I have said '2013-14' and 'soon' a couple of times, which means we are truly trying to push around that time. I just cannot give you a definitive date because I have to make sure everything is in the right order for us to start.
Senator CASH: Mr Cahill, prior to the morning tea break this morning, you were going to see if you could get me some information in relation to the family groups.
Mr Cahill : Senator, what I can confirm for you is that as at close of business on 27 May the financial year-to-date average breakdown of cohort between families, unaccompanied minors and single adult males is as follows: families is 30 per cent of arrivals; single adult males is 63 per cent; and unaccompanied minors is seven per cent. For the 2011-12 full year, the number of single adult males was again around 62 to 63 per cent. The change was that the number of unaccompanied minors last financial year was 15 per cent, so that has gone down eight per cent. And the number of families has gone from 23 per cent last financial year to 30 per cent.
Senator CASH: So there has been, as you said, growth in the family group.
Mr Cahill : But an offsetting reduction in the unaccompanied minors. The number of single adult males has gone from 62 to 63 per cent.
Senator CASH: Yes, I can see where that has actually occurred. I do appreciate you getting back to me with that information; thank you for that. Now that we have those figures, we can directly see that there has been a correlation in the increase of families and the decrease in the unaccompanied minors. One of the issues that I placed on the table earlier this morning was whether the department had concerns in relation to the policy of community release on bridging visas and whether that had created a pull factor given that there has been an increase in the growth of the family groups. Could I just get you to run through again why you believe there has been the decrease in the unaccompanied minors but the increase and the growth in families?
Mr Bowles : I did things in the context of the global movements. I am just trying to understand these figures. So, we have seen the change in the configuration between the unaccompanied minors and the families. Part of that—and they are roughly the same percentage increase—could be that they are coming in family groups to start with as opposed to sending kids separately. There could be a range of factors in there. Without doing some more detailed analysis, I cannot really get to the bottom of specifically why those sorts of things have changed.
I have had a look at numbers over time, and, again, it is one of those volatile things. I would have to really take it right back and have a look at what has been the configuration over time. It has fluctuated depending on different things.
At the moment, we have seen a particular increase in families. While this says it has moved from 23 per cent to 30 per cent, we have seen that largely change in the last couple of months with the larger arrivals. So it is not something that has been happening for a long time in that sort of level; it has been in the last couple of months. It has also coincided with the changes in the make-up of the cohorts that are arriving. As I said this morning, the Iranian and Sri Lankan caseloads were the biggest for periods of time, as opposed to what used to be the Afghan arrivals. So there are all those dynamics that get mixed up in why various cohorts change.
I think the thing here is that the families and unaccompanied minors together has not largely changed at all, and, in fact, it has probably gone down marginally in comparison to the overall number of single adult males. So that configuration has not changed; it is just a split in that underlying group of families and unaccompanied minors.
Senator CASH: What has happened in the last financial year, in the context of the global environment, that would have driven such a change?
Mr Bowles : I do not have specific figures here, but when we were trying to have a look at how patterns have changed—it must have been around Christmas time—what we started to see was that probably from about 2009-10-ish the global movement of people started to rise again. What can you put that down to? Most of the stuff out there about this is around unrest, particularly the Arab Spring issue that flowed through. We now have Syria with serious problems. We have seen turbulent changes, if you like, around some of those sorts of places, which seem to have moved large numbers.
Just reading the media about Syria, we are seeing significantly large numbers now living outside the borders of Syria as displaced people of one form or another. Many of those probably will end up in some asylum seeker loop somewhere at some stage. That has progressively been happening in a range of places. The economy in Iran is not travelling as well as ours, for instance. Therefore, we actually do see a whole lot of economic reasons for people to start to move.
So we started to have a bit of a look at all of those sorts of things. What we found was that our increases happened roughly at the same time as the international numbers changed as well. The one that was outside the norm for us was the Sri Lankan case load last year. That was when we started to do some real thinking about how that might have impacted on what is happening more broadly out there.
Senator CASH: And our Sri Lankan case load compared to internationally?
Mr Bowles : It was far different. It was a much greater increase. There was a trend up, but ours just sort of kicked almost straight up.
Senator CASH: Spiked.
Mr Bowles : When you have a look at ours, it is a flat line. It was literally flat, went straight up and straight down. It happened over about a five-month period, which was totally out of whack with anything else. I think, if you look at the other cohorts, we have seen a constant rise in the number of Afghans. The Iranians have started to rise. I have not looked at it in the last couple of months, but my supposition would be that we are probably starting to see that a little bit higher than what the broader movement would be. But, again, that is supposition at this stage.
If I just go back to July and have a look at the changes to the cohorts that have impacted on what we do, last July we had a huge issue around Sri Lankans. That was gone largely by the end of November. We saw very few arrivals. I think it might have been down to about 100 people in December from Sri Lanka, and then we had nothing for a period of time. We have seen a couple of boats in more recent times, but, again, a lot of the Sri Lankan arrivals are still via Indonesia now, not direct from Sri Lanka.
So we saw that and then we saw things go right down in that January period compared to where we were in that earlier time. Then we have seen the spike in some of the Iranian case loads in particular, and the Afghans are still on that sort of steady rise. In the space of 10½ or 11 months, we have seen many things happen. Now we are on a different plane with a different group of people. So we are constantly trying to move and watch how all of that actually happens. That is why I keep talking about the volatility in the numbers and the volatility in the types of people who are coming. We can put things in place to deal with a particular issue—like the Sri Lankan issue, and it worked quite effectively. Obviously we are now working on what we do around some of these others. And some countries are a little bit easier to deal with than others, of course.
Senator CASH: That segues nicely into my next section of questioning, which is about the reintegration program.
Mr Bowles : Removals?
Senator CASH: Yes. So perhaps I can ask you: how many IMAs accepted a reintegration package and returned home from 2012-13 to date? And to which countries did they return?
Mr Bowles : In 2012-13 the number of people who returned with packages were three to Afghanistan, 41 to Iran, 31 to Iraq, one to Pakistan, 148 to Sri Lanka and seven to Vietnam. That is a total of 231, and that will be people on bridging visas and people in detention centres, and a range of options like that.
Senator CASH: Do you anticipate any more accepting the reintegration package between now and 30 June?
Mr Bowles : I would, but, again, it is probably difficult to speculate. Since we started to do a range of the things we have been doing we have actually seen a spike. For instance, in 2011-12 we only saw 50 in total, versus 231 for the less than 11 months to date. So, we have actually seen some quite positive changes in that process.
Senator CASH: Is the value of the reintegration package the same for each country?
Mr Bowles : No, it is not.
Senator CASH: So, what is the value per country?
Mr Bowles : The full value for Afghan and Iraqi nationals is US$4,000 and for other nationalities is $US3,300.
Senator CASH: That would be Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka—
Mr Bowles : That would be anyone else other than Afghans and Iraqi nationals, effectively. I talk about that as the full package, so I will just explain some of the other things that happened. IOM deal with these on our behalf and make direct payments to service providers rather than cash.
Senator CASH: And that was my next question.
Mr Bowles : It is how you make it up.
Senator CASH: Yes, how you make it up: is it a cash payment, or is it a combination of goods and money?
Mr Bowles : It is a mixture. If there is a cash component it varies depending on individual circumstances.
Senator CASH: And who makes that determination as to the amount of cash they will get?
Mr Bowles : It will be us dealing with IOM, dealing with country information and the client. So, it is a mixture of all of that. So it will depend on the individual circumstances—cost of living—but does not exceed 49 per cent. So the maximum cash component, if you like, will be 49 per cent, and that is not always the case. And the rest is an in-kind type of arrangement, like training, assistance and accommodation. Some people end up with tools to be tradesmen, or a motorbike to be a delivery person—all sorts of different things like that. And, again, if someone comes up with a good idea about how they might be able to sustain themselves back home we will contemplate how that will actually work.
Senator CASH: You mentioned $4,000 for the Afghanistanis and the Iraqis, and the $3,300 for all other nationalities. Is there an average value of the reintegration package? Or is the full amount given every time?
Mr Bowles : As I understand it, it is the full amount, but it is the variation of the in-kind cash component that changes the dynamic. Around the 231, the information I have is that 204 have actually used their package to start a small business. The remaining 27 accepted cash plus training, house repairs and assistance with accommodation and things like that. And, again, it just depends on the nature of the particular individual. But, as I said, we work with IOM and the client themselves to work out what is the best way forward.
Senator CASH: Is there any truth to the reports of asylum seekers 'double dipping'? Is the department aware of cases where an asylum seeker has accepted the reintegration package and returned home, only to come back to Australia by boat again and receive a package for the second time?
Mr Bowles : I have not heard of anybody receiving two packages. I have heard of people returning. I could not guarantee that they had actually received a package, because we have seen some people we have sent home come back a second time, and they were sent back again.
Senator CASH: So you can confirm that there have been a number of cases where people have come back a second time by boat. Do you know how many people have received a package, gone back home and then returned to Australia?
Mr Bowles : No. We can take that on notice and see if we can determine that. I have not heard of anybody—and this does not mean it cannot happen—taking the package, going home and then coming back, or, as you say, trying to double dip. I have heard of people who have gone home and come back. But I can take it on notice to check.
Senator CASH: We have until 11 pm tonight. There may be another line of questioning. If you are able to come back with that information, that would be good.
Mr Bowles : If we can we will.
Senator CASH: For someone who has come to Australia, accepted a reintegration package, returned home and then come back to Australia by boat, what steps are taken to identify them on their return, and to determine whether they (a) have been here before and (b) have also received an integration package?
Mr Bowles : There is the biometrics and the entry interview information. If we have actually sent someone home, we would have captured a whole lot of things. If they come back, we very quickly can understand that. I can think of a couple of cases in more recent times when some people have done that, and we have known it immediately and they have gone back home again.
Senator CASH: So they are literally subject to removal.
Mr Bowles : Yes, assuming circumstances have not changed. We will make an assessment, obviously. One thing we have to be careful of is if they go back and are there for a period of time and then things deteriorate. Again, we make an assessment—a screening or whatever. But if someone leaves and then comes back quickly, things do not change too much, so we will probably look at the screening exercise and then send them back. But it will depend on individual circumstances.
Senator CASH: Why do these people come back?
Mr Bowles : Some people try to try on the system, I suppose.
Senator CASH: A second bite of the cherry.
Mr Bowles : Yes, I suppose. People just want to try on the system
Senator CASH: Perhaps I could now turn to Australia's detention network. I know via the secretariat, again, that we had asked the department to come prepared today with a number of figures in relation to the detention population statistics and the breakdown.
Mr Bowles : Perhaps you could just refresh my memory on that one, so I know what I am talking about.
Mr Cahill : You asked yesterday, Senator, about the breakdown between IDCs and APODs.
Senator CASH: No, if at all possible, I now want to ultimately get onto the detention network itself. Or perhaps we will work through them and see. Does the department have any plans to further expand the onshore detention network?
Mr Bowles : You would have noticed—and I think I raised this in my opening statement—that we constantly look at the detention network and its configuration, and in the last little while we have changed Pontville to an alternate place of detention to deal with unaccompanied minors. We have changed parts of Curtin and Wickham Point to deal with families. We have done some planning around what we might do next if we had to expand the network, but that has not gone past us yet, and we would have to have further conversations with government about that.
Senator CASH: So, at this present point in time, as you said in your opening statement, there may well be plans to change the configuration of some of the detention centres—and we will obviously pursue that when we get to Curtin in Western Australia. But at this stage you are saying that the department and the government do not have any plans to further expand the onshore detention network.
Mr Bowles : No, what I said was that we are always planning about what the future look of the network might be. That could involve—and we have to be thinking about—what might come next. So yes, we are doing that, but there is nothing before government at this stage that says, 'Tick it off'.
Senator CASH: But in terms of your planning, given the increased number of arrivals, I assume, you have to think about what you can do and whether or not there should be an expansion.
Mr Bowles : We are thinking of what we need to responsibly do.
Senator CASH: But there is nothing in front of government at the moment to tick off on.
Mr Bowles : No. We are having our internal conversations at the moment about how we manage certain things, and we will take that forward to my colleagues in Finance and the like eventually and see whatever decision comes out at the end of that.
Senator CASH: Given the increased number of arrivals, is it reasonable to think that there may well have to be an expansion of the detention centre network?
Mr Bowles : I think this is a balance issue that we really still have to come to grips with. We have increased the number of bridging visas, as you know. It depends on the numbers. But, quite frankly, I would like to be in a position to consider, if we are looking at the network in a fundamentally different way, whether we could reconfigure some of our locations over time. It is that sort of stuff. We constantly like to future-proof some of the things that we do, so we will think about it in that sort of context.
Senator CASH: And the flip side, as you said, is: given the high number of bridging visas currently in play, or the high utilisation of bridging visas, has any consideration been given to closing down any of the onshore detention network facilities?
Mr Bowles : Not at this stage. I think the next move is that we will consider what the footprint should look like and then maybe make some adjustments so we can actually be better positioned over time if numbers change—so that we can actually get the footprint back in a different way.
Senator CASH: In terms of the figures I had previously asked for on what I said were 'double dippers', or people taking a second bite of the cherry, can I just confirm some of the information? How many people has the department recorded as having previously arrived in Australia by boat seeking asylum and subsequently receiving a visa or being rejected and returning, outside those you have already mentioned? And do you have an update on the last two financial years?
Mr Bowles : I am not sure I understood that, sorry. Have we gone back to the other one?
Senator CASH: The reintegration package, yes. I just need to be sure about what I have asked you. How many people has the department recorded as having previously arrived in Australia by boat seeking asylum who have been rejected and then returned, outside those that I have already asked you for, which is those who received the integration package? There will be two separate statistics.
Mr Bowles : We will take that on notice.
Senator CASH: I will now go to the answer received to AE13/407. It refers to five incidents that have taken place since March 2011 in the detention network which involved a number of people in immigration detention who caused damage to Commonwealth property—and that is the answer that was given. Which five incidents is the department referring to in its answer? When and where did these occur? And what was the cost of the damage to the property?
Mr Bowles : I will get Mr Cahill to start looking for that, and meanwhile I will have a look around these numbers. If I get this right, it is asylum seekers who have re-entered Australia following a previous arrival as an IMA and being refused a protection visa and all of that sort of stuff who have gone home and then gone back.
Senator CASH: Correct—and those who separately accepted a reintegration package.
Mr Bowles : I do not have that. The numbers I have is that since 2009 to 2012 we have seen 35 IMAs. The breakdown—actually, 2009 is not right—is 2006-07, one; 2007-08, two; 2008-09, thirteen; 2009-10, fifteen; 2010-11, four; and 2011-12, two. That is 37; two of them are non-IMAs who have tried again. The 2006 person arrived by air on the second arrival. And one of the four in 2010-11 arrived by air on the second arrival.
Senator CASH: These are people who have come back. Did they receive a reintegration package?
Mr Bowles : We do not know, and that is the bit we will have to take on notice.
Senator CASH: Did we get information in relation to AE13/0407?
Mr Bowles : Just to clarify: I mentioned 'since 1999'; that was the first arrivals. We saw no returns in that earlier period, but we have seen the early arrivals come back at the later time. That is why I said '1999' at the start; that is all.
Mr Cahill : I am just checking on the answer to your question, Senator. I have incidences, but mixed in my brief I have the odd minor incident, so I want to make sure. There was the disturbance at Northern immigration detention centre on 8 November 2011. A group of about eight clients was involved in that disturbance in the South 2 compound. All eight clients had been charged and placed on bonds with the court.
Senator CASH: What have they been charged with?
Mr Cahill : I do not have the specifics on that. I know that they did cause significant damage Commonwealth property.
Senator CASH: Do you know the extent of the significant damage in terms of financial cost?
Mr Cahill : No, I do not have that.
Senator CASH: It says the department is referring to five incidents. What are the five actual incidents?
Mr Cahill : There was another one at Northern IDC on 31 August.
Senator CASH: In 2012?
Mr Cahill : Yes.
Senator CASH: What was that incident?
Mr Cahill : Upwards of 50 clients began looting and damaging Commonwealth property in South 3 compound of the Northern Immigration Detention Centre.
Senator CASH: What has happened to those 50 clients?
Mr Cahill : The AFP has completed their investigation into the incident, with one person being sentenced after being found guilty of the offence of destroying Commonwealth property.
Senator CASH: What was the sentence they received?
Mr Cahill : I do not have that.
Senator CASH: Any further incidents?
Mr Cahill : I have a major disturbance on 20 to 22 April at the Villawood IDC.
Senator CASH: How many were involved in that?
Mr Cahill : Just a small group of clients who gained access to the roof of the Macquarie building in the Fowler compound.
Senator CASH: Have any of the asylum seekers involved in those disturbance been charged?
Mr Cahill : I am not sure all of them were asylum seekers. The site has both IMA and non-IMA. Sixteen clients were investigated in relation to the disturbance. These individuals have been charged with a range of offences including riot, affray and destroying property. Of the 16, one has been removed to Iran, four are serving sentences in state correctional facilities, five were found not guilty of the charges, one remains in immigration detention under a good behaviour bond and five are to be sentenced next month.
Senator CASH: Five are to be sentenced next month?
Mr Cahill : That is what we have been advised.
Senator CASH: So that is three. There were two more, then.
Mr Cahill : I am just looking at the context. Unfortunately, I do not have the context of the question on notice, because it is a supplementary question. I have more than five incidents but I think it was a follow on to a specific question. When I look at the actual question that was taken, it says in the report 'The department noted', and refers to a certain report—it might be Christmas Island or something. I do not know which five it is. There are more than five and I am happy to expand on those, but that would be referring to a narrower—
Senator CASH: Okay.
Mr Cahill : I can come back in the next hour and confirm.
Senator CASH: That would be appreciated, thank you very much. How any IMAs have arrived on the mainland in 2012-13, before the passage of the excision bill, who consequently will not be able to be processed offshore?
Mr Bowles : We have seen 699 arrive this financial year.
Senator CASH: They have arrived on the mainland before the passage of the excision bill and consequently—
Mr Bowles : It was a mixture of a direct arrival—
Senator CASH: Yes.
Mr Bowles : or people who have come in, once we pick them up, who did not go via an excise territory.
Senator CASH: So 699. And they are unable to be processed offshore?
Mr Bowles : That is correct. They cannot go into our regional processing centre.
Senator CASH: That was this calendar year?
Mr Bowles : No, this financial year.
Senator CASH: Do you have the figure for this calendar year?
Mr Bowles : It is 585.
Senator CASH: Were there any further arrivals in the days after the passage of the bill—in other words, prior to it receiving royal ascent?
Mr Bowles : I do not believe so but we can check that. I do not believe we have any in recent times but we will confirm that.
Senator CASH: But in relation to the calendar year, it is 585?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator CASH: Are the APODs facilities actually full?
Mr Bowles : Let me just have a look at the paper on the network. Christmas Island APODs—overall, there is available capacity.
Senator CASH: What is the maximum number of people that we put into an APOD, and what is the current figures in the APODs?
Mr Cahill: I can delineate that between Christmas Island and the mainland. We currently have at Christmas Island, as of close of business 27 May, 1,637 clients in APODs.
Senator CASH: 1,637 in the APODs?
Mr Cahill: Yes.
Senator CASH: What is the maximum capacity of the APOD or APODs?
Mr Cahill: Our published contingent capacity is 1,624.
Senator CASH: 1,624—so we are over capacity.
Mr Cahill: That is the published contingent capacity. We can operate above that parameter based on how we design and run the centre.
Senator CASH: Okay, so you are obviously now operating above that published capacity—
Mr Cahill: We can operate above that, and have quite sustainably at various times.
Senator CASH: In operating above the published capacity, what are the changes to the design that you utilise?
Mr Cahill: It depends on the bedding configuration, the number of people in rooms—
Senator CASH: So you might double-bunk?
Mr Cahill: Well some of the rooms have got bunks in them by their nature—
Mr Bowles : Families make a big difference for instance.
Mr Cahill: If you have a family of two and you have a room that takes five, you cannot mix families in, so it depends on the cohorts there and how you configure the rooms.
Senator CASH: So that is Christmas Island. What is the additional capacity that you could utilise in Christmas Island over and above the published capacity?
Mr Cahill: It is subject to the cohort that is there at the time, so depending on the mix of unaccompanied minors, the mix of families, we configure around those families, we can go above that.
Senator CASH: That is Christmas Island?
Mr Cahill: Yes.
Senator CASH: What other statistics do we have?
Mr Cahill: For IMA-specific combination, I have 2,021 in mainland APODs and a published contingent capacity of 2,652.
Senator CASH: The published contingency capacity is 2,652?
Mr Cahill: Yes.
Senator CASH: Where are the mainland APODs that you referred to?
Mr Cahill: Berrimah House, which is a small facility next to Northern Immigration Detention Centre. There is the compound at Wickham Point that is an APOD. There is the compound at Curtin that is an APOD. There is the Darwin Airport Lodge facilities—both the main one and stage 3. There is Leonora, Inverbrackie, Pontville, and Port Augusta. That is APODs on the mainland that are housing IMAs. I do have other facilities at Adelaide, Brisbane—the immigration transit accommodation.
Senator CASH: What is the capacity of the transit accommodation?
Mr Cahill: The transit accommodation, I have Adelaide ITA, the Brisbane APOD, the Melbourne immigration transit, the Sydney and Perth residential housing and the Brisbane ITA. Their contingent capacity together is 607.
Senator CASH: What is their current capacity?
Mr Cahill: The current people in there are 444 and the published contingent capacity is 607.
Senator CASH: So there are effectively 163 places there. And in the mainland APODs there are effectively—
Mr Bowles : Over 600.
Senator CASH: Is it 600, or thereabouts?
Mr Bowles : There are 2,021 out of 2,651, so that is 630.
Senator CASH: So the APODs are not currently at full capacity, based on those figures.
Mr Bowles : No, remembering that we have just brought on Curtin and Wickham Point. It is in those numbers.
Senator CASH: What are the capacities of those two centres?
Mr Bowles : It is 800 in total.
Senator CASH: I missed a figure in the questions I asked on the excision bill. There are 699 arrivals this financial year before the passage of the excision bill and that consequently will not be able to be processed onshore, and 585 this calendar year. Do you have the figure of how many arrived between the time the bill passed the House of Representatives and the time it passed the Senate?
Mr Bowles : No, I do not.
Senator CASH: Can you have someone have a look at those dates.
Mr Bowles : We can have a look.
Senator CASH: There are currently several hundred places available in the APODs, so why are children being released on bridging visas if they could be put into the alternative places of detention?
Mr Bowles : Children are being released with their families on bridging visas and I suppose it is a more appropriate setting to have families with children in the community rather than being purely in an APOD. But this is a balance. We still need to manage people within the detention network to do the health and security checks that we talk about. Generally that is around about a three- to four-month period before we get that through. If we think it is a viable option for people to move into the community on a bridging visa within the family unit that is how we operate.
Senator CASH: Given your evidence yesterday that the cost of putting someone on a bridging visa in the community as opposed to keeping them in detention is approximately 20 per cent, is it therefore cheaper to have these people in the community on bridging visas than it is to have them in detention?
Mr Bowles : It is cheaper and it is probably a better setting, too.
Mr Cahill : Also we are mindful that you do not get necessarily the same arrivals every day and so you need to be able to manage the network to have capacity if you need to quarantine clients or if you have a system failure where you need to move people around the network. Part of that is that you do not run at fully crowded or at above published contingent capacity right across the whole network. We are trying to make sure that is balanced.
Senator CASH: Why did the previous minister reject the option of releasing families on bridging visas? My understanding is that that was put to him, and the option was rejected.
Mr Bowles : Again, that was before my time. The decision was made to release people on bridging visas I think in about November 2011 and the decision at that time was that he would restrict families going out with kids of 17.
Senator CASH: My understanding was that the former minister rejected the policy on the grounds that there were inadequate safeguards for children to be released on bridging visas. Obviously that has changed and you are having children being released on bridging visas. How often will the government arrange for children released into the community on bridging visas to be physically visited to check on their welfare, accommodation and living conditions, given that the previous minister rejected this policy based on the lack of the ability to do that?
Ms Pope : The decision regarding bridging visas commenced in November 2011, and at the time we were very focussed on single adult men. In the time since then, we have released single adult females, couples, families with older children—17 and older—and, as we discussed earlier, the definition of what is a family unit is fairly broad in this context, because there can be cousins and nephews and other relatives in a family group. We have progressively moved towards a position where we are confident in the arrangements that we can put in place to the extent that we can consider releasing families on bridging visas with younger children.
Senator CASH: Is there a higher level of support and monitoring of families in community detention over bridging visas?
Ms Pope : I would not call it monitoring. There are obvious differences that we have discussed before between people on bridging visas and people in community detention.
Senator CASH: Exactly, so is there greater monitoring, or greater protections for children, in community detention, as opposed to those on bridging visas?
Ms Pope : Again, I would not describe it as monitoring or protection; it is probably around the level of contact with a caseworker.
Senator CASH: Is there greater ability to be able to provide services? How would you define it?
Ms Pope : As I was saying, I would say that it is around the level of caseworker attention. Caseworker attention to a family in community detention is a bit higher than to those on bridging visas.
Senator CASH: How much higher? When you say 'a bit higher'; how much higher?
Ms Pope : This is a little awkward, because I own one part of it and my colleague at the far end of the table owns the other part. I can speak about arrangements in community detention—I think that you are pretty familiar with the arrangements in community detention in any case—and my colleague can discuss the arrangements for families on bridging visas in more detail.
Senator CASH: I just want to get the feeling for the comparison. Are there better safeguards for the welfare of children in community detention or on bridging visas?
Ms Pope : In the case of children in families, that responsibility is with their parents. It is not really about where they are placed and the difference between CD and BV in that sense, because we respect the right of parents to take care of their children. Similar arrangements are being made for children to attend school in both settings in the same sort of way. There are differences in allowances paid, which are higher on bridging visas than they are in community detention, reflecting the fact that after a period of support clients have to find and pay for their own accommodation, for example. It is not that easy to directly compare the two. Unaccompanied minors will not be moving on to bridging visas; they will be remaining in community detention.
Senator CASH: If bridging visas are a cheaper alternative for the government than keeping people in community detention and the safeguards do not appear to be much different, why is it that only now the government has determined to put people onto bridging visas?
Ms Pope : I cannot speculate as to the government's thinking. As I explained earlier, we have been working with IMAs on bridging visas now for some time and have greater experience of the way the arrangements will work in practice with higher numbers. We have moved out couples; we have moved out families with older children; and now we are moving on to families with younger children.
Senator CASH: Are we able to have a unit cost breakdown across all facilities provided to us? What information do you have?
Mr Bowles : It would be quite difficult to get down to that level of detail. I will take it on notice and have a bit of a think about what sort of level of detail—it does not always make a lot of sense to what we are actually doing, but I will take that on notice and have a look at what we can come up with which makes some meaningful sense of the cost by facility.
Senator CASH: Can we also have a look, if you have the information, at the specific maintenance costs for each immigration detention centre for the financial years 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 to date.
Mr Bowles : We probably will not have that. That will probably be built into the Serco contract arrangements.
Mr Cahill : The Serco contract and the capital costs in the broader capital program.
Mr Douglas : It would take some time and a quite lot of effort. We certainly will not be able to get it today, Senator.
Mr Bowles : It is in the Serco contract arrangements.
Mr Douglas : Some we do and some they do.
Mr Bowles : I can give you a broad brush of the network year-to-date costs to actually operate. It is not necessarily relevant to the number of people in there today, because it is a throughput issue of how long people stay; it is that complexity argument that I keep talking about. But year to date it is just under $1.5 billion.
Senator CASH: Tell me exactly what that figure is. It is a figure to 30 April.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator CASH: It is $1.5 billion. What is it for?
Mr Bowles : That is to operate the immigration detention network.
Senator CASH: Okay. Are there any other figures that you have?
Mr Bowles : I am just trying to have a look. I can probably get some of the costs out of that. For detention services, for instance, which will be largely around the service provider cost, it is around $686 million.
Senator CASH: Again, this is year to date?
Mr Bowles : Sorry, 30 April. I can give you a couple of different ones here. We lease some of the facilities and we own some of the facilities, and that is $103 million; Red Cross is $53 million; and charter, freight and travel is $107 million.
Senator CASH: So to 30 April there is $107 million on charter and freight. What does that entail?
Mr Bowles : I am not sure if we have a breakdown.
Mr Cahill : I understand that entails obviously the charter of aircraft to move clients around the network and also obviously freight to move stores or whatever else that we need to into various locations.
Mr Bowles : Health services are around $206 million, and the rest of it is made up of other odds and sods.
Senator CASH: Okay, so that is all within the $1.5 billion?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator CASH: Could I just go back to the discussion we were having before about the difference between bridging visas and community detention. Is it fair to say that the key difference between bridging visas and community detention is that support provided in community detention is continuous as opposed to bridging visas, where, as Ms Pope said, you are really left to your own devices; you are with your family and are the responsibility of?
Ms Pope : I think that is also true in community detention too, in terms of caring for your own children and so on. Probably the key difference is the provision of accommodation that is provided in CD. It is provided under the CAS program for the first six weeks at the grant of a bridging visa and then on an emergency basis, if needed in the future, on a needs based assessment, which my colleague Mr Callanan could set out more fully. That is probably the key difference.
Senator CASH: My understanding though is that if a particular child is in community detention, they have the continuous support there every day, should they need it.
Ms Pope : Yes, but that is also true of people on bridging visas who have service providers assigned to them that they can go to for assistance. The visits by service providers, case workers in CD, are probably more regular than those will likely be on bridging visas, but we are just starting out with this, so it is hard to draw a direct comparison at this stage.
Senator CASH: But you know where someone is if they are in community detention—is that correct?
Ms Pope : Yes, because they are required to reside at the address assigned to them.
Senator CASH: Exactly. But, if someone is on a bridging visa, do you know where they are? The figure we ended up with was, let's say, 10,327. Do you know where each of those 10,327 people are?
Ms Pope : I think you know that they are required to advise us of a change of address.
Senator CASH: But do you know where they are? I am trying to get to the fundamental difference. You know where someone is on community detention. You could go around tomorrow and see them.
Mr Bowles : The difference is that we know exactly where the community detention people are because they go there under that arrangement and they stay there.
Senator CASH: Exactly.
Mr Bowles : A bridging visa person can actually do secondary movement, but they advise us of where they are. So our records are updated every time they move.
Senator CASH: We have had the discussion, and that might be once every 12 months or once every two years.
Mr Bowles : It depends on how often they move, too.
Senator CASH: On the evidence of the last estimates, in between that time there is no real way of knowing where those people are.
Mr Bowles : If people advise us we know all of the time. If people do not advise us and we follow up—and as I think history would say—there are very few people who do not engage with us because they are obviously after a protection visa at the end of it.
Senator CASH: But, in relation to the bridging visas, I would have thought it is fair to say that after six weeks they could actually be anywhere.
Mr Bowles : They could move; that is correct.
Senator CASH: The point that I am trying to get at, in particular in relation to children, is that it is almost safer for children to be in community detention with the support that is provided, particularly when it comes to the contact that is had with the families and the children by the department or the service providers, as opposed to the differing level of contact that you have if they are on bridging visas.
Mr Bowles : Again, it gets back to family responsibility as it is in the broader community also for these sorts of things.
Senator CASH: As opposed to departmental responsibilities?
Mr Bowles : As opposed to departmental responsibilities.
Senator CASH: Regarding the departmental responsibility, how regularly is there contact with families and children in community detention as opposed to people on bridging visas?
Ms Pope : On general it is on an as-needs basis. We are not visiting people in community detention every second day—
Senator CASH: But they are in the department's care?
Ms Pope : Yes, they are and they know the name of their service provider and their caseworker and they know how to contact them. That is also true of people on a bridging visa, so they know the name of—
Senator CASH: Are bridging visa people within the department's care?
Ms Pope : We could get into a long argument about the degree of duty of care in relation to either of those—
Senator CASH: If you are doing a comparison between those in community detention and a person on a bridging visa—
Ms Pope : The person in community detention is in detention, so the duty of care is therefore higher.
Senator CASH: Exactly. I want to pursue this issue of duty of care a little further, because I think that is the issue. If you are in community detention, it does go to the degree of risk under the department in relation to the duty of care that you have. You have a greater duty of care to people in community detention than you have to people on bridging visas.
Ms Pope : I do not think that is in dispute.
Senator CASH: So you would agree? That is exactly the case, then—there is a greater duty of care by the department to those in community detention?
Ms Pope : By dint of the fact that they are in detention, yes.
Proceedings suspended from 15:29 to 15:45
CHAIR: Senator Cash, you've got the lucky door prize. You can start.
Senator CASH: Thank you very much. Mr Bowles, could I clarify a few issues that we were discussing prior to the short adjournment. The first is in relation to the $1.5 billion cost to 30 April 2013 to operate the immigration detention centre network. You gave me a number of figures that were found within the $1.5 billion. When we say 'to cover the costs of the operation of the detention network', how many people does that actually entail? Is it just those in immigration detention centres and alternative places of detention or does it also include the community detention—
Mr Bowles : No, it is just the held detention network.
Senator CASH: When we say 'held detention'—
Mr Bowles : APODs, the transit accommodation, the IDCs—immigration detention centres—IRHs. It is all of the physical properties that we own.
Senator CASH: So who does it exclude? Does it exclude, or example, the people on bridging visas?
Mr Bowles : Yes—and CD. It is the physical side of the held detention network.
Senator CASH: Okay. Depending on where they are, does it include the 19,000 people who have not had their claims processed?
Mr Bowles : Only if they are in detention. It includes everyone who has gone through the detention network. It is the cost to operate. This gets back to my comments about the complexity of the funding of this. What I have given you is the operating cost to 30 April based on anyone who has gone through that system plus fixed and variable costs. The variable cost depends on who is going through. It is not just the number. It is the length of stay. It is the type of accommodation we use, depending no whether they are unaccompanied minors, families, children—that configuration.
Senator CASH: But once they are on a bridging visa or in community detention—
Mr Bowles : Their costs are handled separately to the figure I gave you.
Senator CASH: Thank you. That is what I wanted to confirm. Are the 732 people who were offshore included?
Mr Bowles : No.
Senator CASH: So that is also a separate figure.
Mr Bowles : Correct. It is the onshore—including Christmas Island—physical network.
Senator CASH: Okay. I also asked you whether or not you were able to provide unit costs across facilities, and you said either it was difficult to find or that you would take it on notice and see if you could put it—
Mr Bowles : I said I would take it on notice but it is a difficult concept to get unit costs. There is this mix of fixed and variable. But I might be able to get you a cost to operate. Again, this is the discussion we had—I am not sure it was you or not—about the future cost of a particular facility. We do not know, because of the variable components. We have what is called a demand driven funding model now. We know what our fixed costs are, but we will not know until we actually see the specifics of the individuals who go through.
Senator CASH: The reason I re-raise the question is: when you go to Budget Paper No.1, at page 6-50, 'Box 9: Irregular Maritime Arrival Costs', it states:
Estimates for Irregular Maritime Arrival (IMA) costs are heavily influenced by the occupancy level across the immigration processing network, which is determined by …
And one of the dot points is:
operational decisions as to how IMAs are placed throughout the network (that is onshore detention, community detention, offshore detention or on a bridging visa) …
Is it not then implicit in that that you have to have a general understanding of what those costs are if they are influencing—
Mr Bowles : Again, this is an exceptionally complex issue and it is very hard to describe in this sort of forum, but I will try and break it down a bit. As a person arrives, they go into detention. Ultimately then they step into the other things. That is obviously how that works, and you know that. In building the model, we have to look at who is going through the held detention network and how long they stay before they move to whatever the next phase might be—be it CD or a bridging visa stage. We then need to determine what the flow-through of all those individuals is like. When we are looking at costing, or estimating the costs, we have got to look at not only the people who flow through, the number of arrivals, but also how long they are staying in each space and therefore, effectively, how many people build up in each of those things—the numbers I gave you yesterday and we talked a little bit about this morning. So we have a stock, if you want to talk in accounting terms, of people on bridging visas, which is the 10,000 number—
Senator CASH: That we talked about.
Mr Bowles : All of that has to come together in building the model to develop what it actually costs us to run the detention network. That is why I pulled out there specifically the stuff for the physical detention centres. To project forward, we can do that, but we would have to do that based on some assumptions about what the flow-through rate is and what the stock is, if you like, of people who sit in each of those categories. Then we have to understand what the influencing factors are on each of those particular categories around health requirements, transport arrangements, and it goes down to the cohorts—so if we need to treat families in a particular way. That alters the capacity of the detention network. If we put two people in a five room or a six room, it takes four out of the network, but we are still paying for the infrastructure for that. That is why it is always a very complex story to tell and why we always struggle to tell the story in a coherent manner. What we have been trying to do over the last little while is develop this demand driven model that gives us the ability, at least retrospectively, to put a much clearer picture on the table so that we can start to understand all of those components.
Senator CASH: In saying that, would the big shift of people onto bridging visas have seen a significant ripple through the influence of the costs of the detention network?
Mr Bowles : It will not change the actual cost of the network, because the cost will be based on how many people are in there and how they flow through. But, if you remove the stock quicker and you get them to another place, you are actually running this cheaper than it would be if the stock remained in the physical facilities. I know that is a bit technical, but it is quite an important concept.
Senator CASH: In relation to the $1.5 billion: the figure covers the APODs, people in transit accommodation, IDCs and all of the physical properties. You said that it covers the cost of everyone who has gone through the network up to 30 April. Do you have a figure of the number of people who have gone through the network to 30 April?
Mr Bowles : We would have to take that on notice, but we could probably work that out.
Senator CASH: If you could—and if you could provide it tonight that would be appreciated.
Mr Bowles : We might struggle for tonight.
Senator CASH: And how many are in transit? Literally how many have flowed through the network to 30 April?
Mr Bowles : Largely, you would say that at least the people who have arrived in the 2012-13 year since 1 July to now, which is the 22,000 figure, have flowed through the detention network. We could have had people in there before, and they could have moved through and we have replaced them with others. Again, it is quite complicated; but that is how it works.
Mr Cahill : We can follow that up—we have something on that—but it is complicated, so we will have to outline the methodology.
Senator CASH: Because it is complicated, I will just confirm that you will still attempt to provide the per unit costs on notice.
Mr Bowles : We will. But, as I said, per unit is not a really relevant cost. I hear this a lot, not only in this committee but in a range of places: 'You have 10,000 people; therefore, this divided by 10,000 should give you an answer.' Actually, if 30,000 people flow through a system and you have only five or 10 in there at the moment you have to look at this across the whole stock and flow of what has been happening. So getting to per unit is very difficult.
Senator CASH: I will take you to the answer given to AE13/0300, which states that 15 clients in community detention had their residence determination revoked on behavioural grounds. Can you tell me how a behavioural breach is assessed and determined?
Ms Pope : I would not describe them as being assessed and determined. Rather, issues come up, things happen, people do all sorts of things in their daily lives. Some of those represent risk factors for a continued stay in community detention. As you are aware, there is capacity under the arrangements for the minister to consider whether he wishes to revoke a person's residence determination on the basis of some issue of behaviour.
Senator CASH: So, when it says here:
42 decisions related to breaches of community detention conditions:
15 clients were revoked on other behavioural grounds;
is there a list of behavioural grounds?
Ms Pope : There is not a predetermined list, no. It is more that we compile advice to the minister on an incident that might have occurred and give him the opportunity to decide whether he thinks it is in the public interest for that person to remain in community detention or for him to consider revoking that placement.
Senator CASH: What are the conditions referred to in the answer that I have been given?
Ms Pope : In terms of breaches of the conditions, that would be, for example, not remaining at the property to which they were assigned—if somebody absconds, in effect, or moves somewhere else and does not seek our permission and, therefore, the agreement of the minister, for that move, for example. They are required to remain in contact with the department and so on.
Senator CASH: How are the individuals expected to know what is expected of them to ensure that they do not end up in the situation here, where you have 42 decisions related to breach of community detention conditions, of which 15 were revoked on behavioural grounds?
Ms Pope : We give advice to the clients at the outset about the behaviour that is expected of them in community detention, which is in line with community standards—that is, the way you would expect the average person to behave in the community. There is also a process of warning notices being served to people who are pushing the boundaries, for want of a better word. You will notice that quite a few of the revocations are in relation to unaccompanied minors, and as they are, for the most part, teenage boys and away from their families, they push the boundaries perhaps more than other clients in community detention. There is an arrangement where we can warn them that their behaviour is getting close to the point where the minister might want to reconsider their placement, and they can modify their behaviour in response to that.
Senator CASH: Are you able to table what is expected of the clients you just referred to?
Ms Pope : I will take that on notice, Senator. I do not know whether we have it in written form. We may have to prepare that for you. I am not sure.
Senator CASH: If it is not in a written form, how do you know that each client is told the same thing?
Ms Pope : There is a discussion between the caseworker and the client upon entering community detention.
Senator CASH: I assume that discussion is based on a set document.
Ms Pope : It probably is. I cannot recall the document in my head right at the moment, so I do not want to promise something I may not have, but, if we have it, it can be made available.
Senator CASH: In relation to this particular answer, the question I asked was: how many people have been in community housing and have been taken back into detention, and why? The answer given, as you can see, was that there were 71 revocations and 42 decisions related to breaches of community detention conditions, and 15 clients were revoked on other behavioural grounds, other than criminal charges and/or they had absconded from community detention. In relation to those 15 clients, what were the other behavioural grounds?
Ms Pope : I do not have the detail of those, but they would be the sorts of things that I mentioned. They would be behaviour that stopped short of criminal offences and, probably over a period of time, build up to a position where we would consider revocation. For example, with an unaccompanied minor, it might be minor property damage, it might be aggression or bad language to their caseworker or a person who lives with them, it might be disruptions between clients in a household, and so on—the sorts of behaviours which stop short of, as I said, criminal offences but build a pattern of behaviour that is ultimately deemed not be acceptable in community detention.
Senator CASH: So that behaviour is deemed to be unacceptable?
Ms Pope : Behaviours of that kind—yes.
Senator CASH: It is deemed to be unacceptable. So antisocial behaviour is deemed to be unacceptable?
Ms Pope : In certain cases. It would depend on factors that might mitigate against that sort of a view. The case is looked at as a whole. I would not say that you could list a series of behaviours and if someone does those they would certainly be revoked. It is very much done on a case-by-case basis.
Senator CASH: In terms of the instructions that are given to the case officers regarding the behaviours that are expected, are you able to see whether you could have that information, if it is in written form, tabled after the dinner break?
Ms Pope : Yes, that should be possible.
Senator CASH: Thank you. In relation to the standards that we have been discussing and that the caseworkers relay to their clients, as to what is expected of them in community detention so that they are aware of their behaviour, are those similar behavioural standards imposed on those on bridging visas?
Ms Pope : Broadly, the expectation is that people comply with the law and that they understand the expected behaviours in the Australian community. Some of the things that might trip people up are around things like recycling. Some people have very strong views about recycling and some of our clients have never come across the concept of recycling. That is a very minor example, but we provide a range of advice to give people the best chance of fitting in and managing well—
Senator CASH: Is it the same advice that you give to those who are in community detention? Is it the same piece of paper?
Ms Pope : No. And I was not suggesting that recycling advice is on a piece of paper. There is a behavioural expectation, but I cannot say that is the case for the bridging visa.
Mr Bowles : We might ask Mr Callanan to talk about bridging visas.
Senator CASH: Mr Bowles, I take you to your opening statement. You said that the percentage of clients complying with bridging visa E conditions has remained around 90 per cent. I would have thought that implicit in that are conditions. What are those conditions?
Mr Bowles : Mr Callanan can talk about the conditions. I think I was talking about a specific issue around non-IMA bridging visa holders in that particular context, but the same sorts of issues apply.
Mr Callanan : The specific conditions for bridging visa holders include reporting to the department as directed, providing the address or the place where they live and notifying us within two days if they move. For those who were released in the post-August 2012 cohort, not being allowed to work.
Senator CASH: Could I just confirm something, because we have been having a discussion in relation to the behavioural expectations of people released into community detention and in particular in relation to the ability of the minister to revoke a residence determination on behavioural grounds. Are you saying that the department has behavioural expectations of people released into the community on community detention and on bridging visas?
Mr Callanan : Yes, but I guess the powers differ between the two. In relation to community detention, people are detained. The minister has put them into community detention and he has the power to revoke it. For those going on to bridging visas, once again it is a personal power, but there are no particular conditions attached to that.
Senator CASH: Exactly. For example, in relation to antisocial behaviour, whilst it is enforceable within a community detention scenario, is there a behavioural standard in relation to antisocial behaviour for those on bridging visas?
Mr Callanan : Through our fact sheets, and there is a booklet that we give people about standards and behaviour—the things that Ms Pope referred to—we try and convey to people going out on bridging visas that they must live up to those standards.
Senator CASH: Mr Bowles, are decisions of revocation, in relation to AE13/0300, appealable?
Mr Bowles : I personally do not know.
Ms Pope : I do not think so, but I do not know for certain either. We would have to take that on notice.
Mr Bowles : Personal power of the minister, I think.
Ms Pope : I think not because it is a personal, non-delegable, noncompellable power.
Senator CASH: If you could have that clarified—
Mr Bowles : We will clarify that, but we think that is the case.
Senator CASH: The issue that arises in relation to the standards that are required for someone in community detention versus the standards required for someone on a bridging visa is: why is it good enough to have certain standards that could result in revocation of residence determination being made by the minister for, for example, families in community detention but the same standards are not applied to, for example, single adult males on bridging visas? Why is there a difference?
Mr Bowles : Between community and bridging visas? I think it gets back to what Mr Callanan and Ms Pope have been saying. There are differing powers for us and, at the end of the day, someone in community detention is in detention and we have a little bit more control over that. For someone on a bridging visa, at the end of the day, they have a visa that makes it legal or whatever for them to live in the community. There are community expectations and, if they do not do that, if they break the law, as for a normal citizen, they will be charged and we will deal with them in a certain way and the legal system will deal with them in a certain way. The minister just has the power to revoke a residence determination in the community detention system.
Senator CASH: Is the revocation delegated to officers or does it need to be exercised by the minister personally?
Ms Pope : No, it cannot be delegated.
Senator CASH: So if the minister can revoke the visa—I think that is what it is—
Mr Bowles : There is no visa in CD. They are in detention.
Ms Pope : It is called residence—
Senator CASH: If the minister is able to revoke a residence determination, why is it that there are not clear standards for what are noncriminal offences?
Mr Bowles : Within CD? I think Ms Pope said there are.
Ms Pope : There are. I have confirmed that there is a piece of paper provided to unaccompanied minors, to single adult men and to family adults setting out the expectations. We will have that available for you shortly.
Senator CASH: In relation to bridging visas, if the minister can revoke a bridging visa, why is there not—
Mr Bowles : The minister cannot revoke a bridging visa. He has to cancel a visa.
Senator CASH: If the minister is able to cancel a visa, why is there not a set of standards that are in written form and apply, as you have for community detention, as Ms Pope just referred to?
Mr Bowles : Again, they are fundamentally different things. We have more responsibility for someone in a detention context, even if it is community detention, versus someone who is legal in the community on a bridging visa E. Someone in the community legally on a visa still needs to abide by the community standards. If we look at the numbers, the numbers of problems with people doing stupid things—and particularly illegal stupid things—is still quite low in the context of the broader community averages that we see. That does not make it right. The minister has cancelled people's bridging visas from time to time.
Senator CASH: Mr Callanan, did you say that a booklet was provided to bridging visa holders?
Mr Callanan : That is right. I think that it is called Living in Australia.
Senator CASH: Are you able to table a copy of that booklet?
Mr Callanan : Yes, we can. We will to get it for you.
Senator CASH: Okay. The issue that still arises, though, is that there is a difference when it comes to the individuals. One individual has to adhere to behavioural standards and the other does not, aside from criminal offences. Is that correct?
Mr Bowles : That is correct.
Mr Callanan : Yes, I think so. It is really the way that the law has developed since community detention came in. As I have said before, it is a personal power of the minister to release someone and to revoke it. The powers around people on visas is limited to the cancellation powers that have been in the Migration Act for a while. They are fairly precise.
Dr Southern : The various cancellation powers reflect expectations, I guess, in relation to the sorts of grounds on which a person might have their visa cancelled.
Senator CASH: Why is the department reluctant to set out a clear code of behaviour for individuals?
Dr Southern : I think that you will find that the booklet that we are talking about does go into some detail about expectations of behaviour in the Australian community.
Mr Callanan : We have given some thought to this. Codifying behaviour in the law is a more difficult thing to do—
Dr Southern : Short of criminal—
Mr Callanan : short of some sort of criminal test.
Senator CASH: In this booklet that we are going to be getting a copy of, are breaches of the types of behaviour outlined in the booklet subject to sanction?
Mr Callanan : My recollection is that it kind of exhorts people to behave well. It talks about standards and some of the things that Ms Pope mentioned, such as behaviour on the street and in the community—those kinds of things.
Senator CASH: But is it subject to departmental sanction?
Mr Callanan : We will have to refresh our memories, but I think that there is a reference to a sanction. But we will need to check.
Senator CASH: When we have the booklet, perhaps after the dinner break we can revisit the questions after you and I have an opportunity to look at it. We will continue along with this line of questioning then. But in terms of where we are at with what a person may do in community detention as opposed to what they may or may not do as a bridging visa holder, is it the case that bridging visa holders are subject to a lower behavioural standard than—for example—the families and children in community detention in terms of what they can be sanctioned for?
Ms Pope : I would answer that in a different way. The expectation of somebody on a bridging visa is the same as for everybody else in society. They are expected to behave like anybody else is expected to behave. Societal pressure is brought to bear on people who do not conform with expectations. If you make a lot of noise—
Senator CASH: Except that the department is not sanctioning me if I am out there, whereas if I—
Ms Pope : That is because people on bridging visas are legally in the community and people in CD are in detention. It is about the mechanisms available to regulate behaviour rather than being about—
Senator CASH: Hold on. I understand what you are saying. But in relation to the particular question that I am asking, if you are comparing the two, is there a lower standard in terms of the behaviour that I am able to be sanctioned for by the department for someone on a bridging visa versus someone in community detention?
Mr Bowles : I would characterise it in the same way as Ms Pope. They are for different purposes. Community detention is there for a purpose; bridging visas are there for a different purpose. I do not think that you can characterise it as a different standard. They have different purposes. The reality is that one is in detention and one is legally in the community with a visa. Like for any other person—like you or I—in the community, there are expectations about behaviour. There are expectations about our behaviour; there are expectations about their behaviour. We do not all get sanctioned because we make loud noise or do silly things necessarily, either.
Senator CASH: I understand that. That might be the reason for the ultimate reason. But at the end of the day, it gets back to looking at the standards that are applied. They would appear to be lower for those who are on bridging visas than for those in community detention.
Mr Bowles : The expectation for behaviour is the same across the board. It is the same for me; it is the same for them. I am sure that I will get someone annoying the life out of me if I play my music loud when I get home tonight after estimates at whatever time that may be. These are the things that some of these people do. Should we be necessarily sanctioning people all the time for that if they are legal in the community? We would be straying into a pretty interesting space.
Senator CASH: What is the extent to which you could put conditions on a bridging visa?
Mr Bowles : We do have that capacity. We are contemplating what we can and cannot do all of the time. It is a bit like what I said before: when we talk about the detention network, we are always planning for what we need to do in certain circumstances. I talked a little bit earlier about having a broad conversation—and I think that this was in response to Senator Hanson-Young—around what to do about enhanced screening. A range of us had a conversation to work out what we can do. We are having those conversations right now. We have been having them quite often. We look at what options that we can put on the table for government to consider.
Senator CASH: Why don't you put conditions onto bridging visas so that asylum seekers who are released into the community are subject to the same standards?
Mr Bowles : Again, we have to be careful. Going back to what I said earlier, community detention and bridging visas are for fundamentally different purposes. Do we want to be the monitor of everything or do we expect community standards to apply? Quite frankly, we expect community standards to apply. That does not mean that we might not at some point in the future place further conditions on visa holders.
Senator CASH: Okay.
Mr Bowles : That does not mean that we cannot do that.
Senator CASH: On that basis, could you, for example, take the conditions that those on community detention are subject to and apply them under a bridging visa?
Mr Bowles : We would need to have a good hard look at that because, again, we are talking about someone with a visa that makes them legal within the community. I am not saying that we could not do that. We would need to contemplate how we might do that. Would they be exactly the same? I would say probably not, because at the end of the day we are keeping people in a detention type environment. But there might be like issues that we could look at. We are constantly challenging ourselves as to how we could look at some of those things.
Senator CASH: Given that community detention and bridging visas are different and that the standards applied to those on bridging visas appear to be lower than the standards that are applied to those in community detention, isn't there an argument that we need to be more careful about who we give bridging visas to?
Mr Bowles : I think that we are careful. The fact that we have seen small numbers of people giving problems in the broader context of the numbers in the community would suggest that we are relatively careful about who we put into the community. But if there is an expectation that everyone in the community is going to behave the right way all of the time we do not get that in the broad community now. You are going to get some of that play out. If people are doing absolutely the wrong thing, we will have consideration to the cancellation of their visas. As I have said, we have done that. But to try and look at a different standard to a community expectation standard for behaviour and to try and define behaviour in a legal sense would be reasonably interesting. But there are clearly some community standards around behaviour that we expect as a broad community.
Senator CASH: Bridging visa holders can have their visas cancelled for behavioural reasons that are not criminal reasons.
Mr Bowles : I would need to defer. I am not sure that you could cancel necessarily for behavioural reasons. We would need to determine whether it was in the best interests of the community more broadly to cancel a visa. Maybe for a recidivist person who did a whole lot of stupid things for a long period of time we possibly could look at that. But again we would need to be very careful about how we managed that outcome.
Senator CASH: But you can revoke a person's community detention and put them back into detention if they breach behavioural standards, as we have.
Mr Bowles : Yes, but they are in a detention environment where there are specific requirements.
Senator CASH: I suppose the issue is that shouldn't people have a clear understanding of what is expected of them? Why is there mystery surrounding the expectations? Why hasn't there been codification of clear behavioural expectations?
Mr Bowles : But we do not codify for the 22 million people living as Australian citizens in that sort of way. I understand that there are differences. But the people we have in community detention are in our care and therefore there are certain expectations. The bridging visa people are legal in the community, as I have described, who are living similarly to you and I, who are also legal in the community as citizens. It is about that really difficult balance around those sorts of issues. I do not think that it is fair to characterise it as us not putting expectations on these people. We should wait for the booklet.
Senator CASH: I want to pick you up on that one point about them living in the community like you and I. I would dispute that on the basis of, in particular, the evidence given earlier today that a number of them—in fact, several thousand of them—have not even been able to make a claim for asylum. These people are not like and I; they are not citizens. Many of them have not even lodged a claim for asylum. They may have been screened in, but they have not even been able to lodge a claim for asylum. They are not even refugees.
Mr Bowles : I understand that.
Senator CASH: They are just people who have arrived in Australia unlawfully who we have put into the community because we have nowhere else to put them.
Mr Bowles : Many people before me have asked how we should treat people claiming asylum and how should we move them through the system. The way we do it today is a better outcome than the way that we used to do it. There are varying views on all of those sorts of issues.
Senator CASH: If they had not turned up in such large numbers, they would be in detention. But because we have got—
Mr Bowles : Again, that depends on the government of the day and the policy position the government takes at a particular point in time. It could be a decision that, yes, you do the initial detention and process and put people in the community. There is nothing to stop that, whether you have got low numbers or high numbers. It is really a policy position of the government of the day.
Senator CASH: Can you just remind me when the government abolished mandatory detention as a policy? How long ago was that?
Mr Bowles : I am not sure. It is mandatory detention on arrival, for health, security, processing reasons.
Senator CASH: Which is obviously different to mandatory detention.
Mr Bowles : You are saying mandatory until they actually are determined. Bridging visas came in in November 2011 and community detention—
Ms Pope : October 2010. But bridging visas, in all sorts of circumstances, existed long before they were applied to IMAs.
Mr Bowles : That is right.
Ms Pope : And they have been applied to air arrivals for I do not know how long, but a very long time.
Mr Bowles : So it is not a new system.
Senator CASH: It is not, but we get back to the fact that they are not in detention, because the detention centres are full. They would otherwise be in detention if the detention centres were not full. We would not necessarily be having this conversation.
Mr Bowles : Again, it would depend on the policy of the government of the day. A government can make a policy decision, whether there are large numbers or small numbers, about how it actually does that. We are in a situation where we have the policy parameters that we are dealing with.
Senator CASH: Could I now go onto some statistics in relation to the bridging visas themselves. In relation to the government's announcement on 13 October 2013 that asylum seekers will be released into the community on bridging visas, how many people have been released under these arrangements to date?
Mr Bowles : This is in relation to the families with children 16 and under?
Senator CASH: No, this is in relation to the government's announcement on 13 October that asylum seekers would be released into the community on bridging visas.
Mr Bowles : You actually said 13 October 2013.
Senator CASH: 2011.
Ms Pope : It was 25 November 2011.
Senator CASH: It was 25 November, was it?
Ms Pope : Yes, and the total number of bridging visas issued up until 24 May is approximately 16,477.
Senator CASH: Do you have that broken down by month?
Ms Pope : Yes, I do.
Senator CASH: Could I get you to read that into the record?
Ms Pope : Certainly. November 2011, 27; December 2011, 80; January 2012, 150; February 2012, 238; March, 596; April, 459; May, 442; June, 749; July, 611; August, 1,036; September, 1,073; October, 1,946; November, 1,113; December, 1,836; January 2013, 1,178; February, 948; March, 756; April, 796; and May, up until 24 May, 2,443.
Senator CASH: 2,443?
Ms Pope : That is right.
Senator CASH: Of the 16,477, how many have been granted work rights?
Ms Pope : The split between pre 13 August and post 13 August is: 9,221 pre 13 August and 7,256 post 13 August.
Senator CASH: Of the 16,477, how many have subsequently been granted a permanent visa?
Ms Pope : That is 3,660.
Senator CASH: How many are still living in the community?
Ms Pope : It is 12,744.
Senator CASH: How many have failed at all stages of review and have been returned to detention?
Ms Pope : That is not an automatic process. I do not have the figure here for how many are through both primary decision and review. It would be amongst those that are in the 9,221 group of pre-13 August clients. What rounds out the number is that of those, seven have had their bridging visas cancelled, 54 have departed voluntarily and two have died.
Senator CASH: If I add that up and I get to 63, is that the total number for how many have failed at all stages of review and have been returned—
Ms Pope : I do not have that figure. People are not automatically returned to detention if they fail at review.
Senator CASH: If they fail at review and they are not automatically returned to detention, what happens to them?
Ms Pope : They remain on bridging visas until arrangements can be made for them to be removed or they choose to voluntarily remove themselves.
Senator CASH: So I can be on a visa pending removal, which is a bridging visa—like Captain Emad's family. They are on a visa pending removal but they are living in the community.
Ms Pope : That is right. There is more than one kind of bridging visa or other visa that they could be on in that situation.
Mr Callanan : It is probably worth making the distinction between finally determined merits review, that is after the RRT considers it, and then people seek judicial review and go through the courts. They would in all likelihood remain on a bridging visa for that period.
Senator CASH: Do you have a statistic for how many of these 16,477 have been returned to detention for other reasons?
Ms Pope : Yes, that is the seven that have had their bridging visas cancelled.
Senator CASH: Why did they have their bridging visas cancelled?
Ms Pope : We discussed this earlier. Four have had their bridging visas cancelled for criminal related reasons, one has had his bridging visa cancelled for security reasons and two clients requested that their bridging visas be cancelled.
Senator CASH: Are you able to tell the committee what the planned schedule of placements of families into the community is?
Ms Pope : To date—these numbers are included in the 16,477—295 family members have been released on bridging visas. We are not aiming for a target in particular, but a broad parameter will be somewhere between 500 and 600 a fortnight over the coming months.
Senator CASH: Was the person who had their bridging visa cancelled for security reasons found to have an adverse security assessment?
Ms Pope : Yes.
Senator CASH: Do you have the figures on how many women and children have been released on bridging visas in 2012-13?
Ms Pope : I do not have that. We could derive it with a bit of effort. As I said, we have been releasing couples and single adult women for some time and also families with children 17 and over. I do not have that breakdown but we could get it for you.
Senator CASH: I am assuming that if I just go from the figures that you gave me for January, February, March, April and May and add those figures up, that is the figure for the calendar year to date?
Ms Pope : Yes, to 24 May.
Senator CASH: How many this month, to 24 May—2,433. Were the 2,433 released gradually or were they released in one wave into the community? How does it work?
Ms Pope : Clients are released on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in alternate fortnights.
Senator CASH: Are you able to say what states they have been released into and the suburbs and the postcodes, if possible?
Ms Pope : We would have data—I do not have it with me—around the service provider that they were assigned to upon release, and that gives an indication of the state of their first residence. But then, as you know, people are free to move provided they let us know where they move to. So tracking place of residence beyond that first period is quite difficult. We can certainly give you an indication of where they start out and how many go to each state on the basis of where we release them.
Senator CASH: Can you tell me whether or not, on 13 May, 700 women and children were granted bridging visas and were released?
Ms Pope : On the basis of the figures I have given you, I think that would be inaccurate. The figure I have is 295 up until 24 May. What date did you say?
Senator CASH: On 13 May, 700 women and children were granted bridging visas and released into the community.
Ms Pope : I think that is inaccurate.
Senator CASH: The other two figures I have are that on 20 May 1,200 were given bridging visas and released into the community.
Ms Pope : Again, I do not think that is accurate. My colleague Mr Callanan might be able to assist me, but my advice is that 295 family adults and children have been released since 7 May.
Mr Callanan : There is a question whether single adult males are in those figures.
Ms Pope : You are saying women and children, but even if there are family adults, the number is still 295.
Senator CASH: And they are for the weeks of, not the particular day—I do apologise. Basically, the information I have is that in the week of 13 May, 700 women and children were granted bridging visas and released into the community.
Ms Pope : That is not accurate, Senator.
Senator CASH: In the week of 20 May, 1,200 were given bridging visas and released into the community.
Ms Pope : No, as I said, the number was 295 up until 24 May.
Senator CASH: Are there any plans, for the balance of May, to release people on bridging visas into the community in large numbers?
Ms Pope : There will be releases of families and single adult males. The single adult males might be in what you would consider to be large numbers but the families we are ramping up gradually rather than going to very large numbers straightaway. I would suggest that there will be similar numbers, and this week is a week for releases as well.
Senator CASH: I go back to the person who was on a bridging visa who had the bridging visa revoked for security reasons. When was that person withdrawn from the community?
Ms Pope : Immediately, once the advice was provided that his security assessment was adverse.
Senator CASH: How did you manage to locate the person?
Ms Pope : I would have to take that on notice; I do not have all the details.
Senator CASH: Do you know where they were living, in which state they were living and how long they had been there?
Ms Pope : I believe we know, but I do not know right at the moment. I will check over the dinner break and see if I can advise you.
Senator CASH: Thank you. Do you know where they are now that they have been taken out of the community?
Ms Pope : Yes. The client is back in held detention.
Senator CASH: And where are they in held detention?
Ms Pope : As you know, there are 55 people with adverse security assessments in various centres within the network.
Senator CASH: In various places in the network?
Ms Pope : Yes.
Senator CASH: Could I take you now to answer AE13/0061, which states:
For IMA BVE holders all accommodation sourced by the service provider is in accordance with operational guidelines that require the service provider to comply with relevant legislation and standards, including State government requirements relating to tenancies and boarding houses.
What are the operational guidelines referred to and are you able to table them?
Mr Callanan : Yes, we will get them for you.
Senator CASH: Is it possible to do that in the dinner break?
Mr Callanan : We will try to do that, yes.
Senator CASH: In relation to the answer, specifically what pieces of federal legislation or standards governing arrangements were referred to?
Mr Callanan : Do you mean federal legislation?
Senator CASH: Federal legislation or standards.
Dr Southern : Could you give us the number of the question, please, Senator?
Senator CASH: Yes, it is AE13/0061.
Mr Callanan : The answer did not actually refer to federal legislation, Senator. It referred to—
Senator CASH: I know that it referred to relevant legislation, but what I am asking is: are there any pieces of federal legislation or standards that govern the arrangements?
Mr Callanan : Not that we are aware of. Most of these powers rest with state and territory governments around boarding houses and accommodation.
Senator CASH: What happens if a service provider fails to comply with the operational standards?
Mr Callanan : I suppose that would be in breach of the state legislation.
Senator CASH: What would happen to them?
Mr Callanan : I imagine the state authorities would take action against them to change the accommodation—
Dr Southern : To rectify, if necessary.
Senator CASH: Can I now take you to the answer to AE13/0063, which states:
Bridging Visa E holders are subject to a condition requiring them to report to the department at a time, or times, and at a place specified by the Minister. The frequency of this reporting will vary according each client’s individual circumstances.
Is there a standard reporting requirement for IMAs released into the community bridging visas? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
Mr Callanan : There is a condition that is imposed, but it would depend on how we articulate that. For the most part, they must remain in touch with us, but it may vary from cohort to cohort. I would have to look at the actual—
Senator CASH: Take me through that again. 'It would depend on how we articulate that.' What does that mean?
Mr Callanan : We can put on reporting conditions, whether they be weekly or whatever. For the most part, it is not onerous reporting.
Senator CASH: Is there a standard that you could table?
Mr Callanan : Yes. We would have to get that.
Senator CASH: Are you able to tell me what the standard is? If you have it in front of you, can you tell me what the standard is?
Mr Callanan : No, I do not have that in front of me.
Dr Southern : Each client will have a bridging visa grant letter, and that letter will set out the particular reporting requirements for that client. Everyone will be directed to report to the department, and we set that out in the individual letters.
Senator CASH: Can I just go back to AE13/0061. In relation to the fact that it is state legislation that may well be contravened, in the event that the legislation is contravened would the state take an action against the service provider or would it be the department?
Mr Callanan : I think it would be the state.
Dr Southern : The contractor.
Senator CASH: What role would the department have there?
Mr Callanan : We will try and get those for you. But, as I think the answer reflects, we have a requirement on service providers to abide by and fulfil whatever the local or state regulations are.
Senator CASH: Would you terminate the contract as the department?
Mr Bowles : If there were a series of breaches; not necessarily for one breach. All breaches would go into any contract management framework that we have.
Senator CASH: Has the department been requested by the New South Wales Police Force and/or other state and territory police forces to provide location details of IMAs released on bridging visas?
Mr Bowles : I had a conversation with the commissioners of police services across the states and territories as recently as two weeks ago. Some were represented by their deputies, and there are also deputy commissioners meetings as well. I have been talking to the commissioners about what level of data we should and should not release. We have got an active engagement happening at the moment with the deputy commissioners meeting—I am not sure when that is on.
Mr Cahill : I met with the deputy commissioners last week by conference call.
Mr Bowles : I had the initial meeting with the commissioners and so the New South Wales commissioner was there, as was the AFP commissioner, and we talked about a range of issues. Out of that came the arrangement that Mr Cahill would meet with the deputy commissioners and work through a range of data that we can provide to police commissioners.
Senator CASH: Was the request by the New South Wales Police Force, and/or other state and territory police forces, to provide the location details of IMAs?
Mr Bowles : I cannot specifically say what each of them had done. I think that New South Wales were after more detail. Other police commissioners probably were not quite as strident around all of that data. But, as I said, I had a phone conversation with Commissioner Scipione about a month or six weeks ago, which led to a teleconference that I had about two weeks ago, which led to the deputies meeting, which was a teleconference last week that Mr Cahill held.
Senator CASH: Who initiated the meetings? Was it the department initiating the meetings with the police, or the police initiating the meetings?
Mr Bowles : I had a phone call from Commissioner Scipione about four to six weeks ago and I said that a way that we could deal with that is that I could come along—and I could not physically be there, so we teleconferenced. I think it was about two weeks ago.
Senator CASH: I just want to confirm that it was the police contacting the department.
Mr Cahill : The deputy commissioners meet on a periodic basis and we have engaged in that forum and briefed them. So I, several weeks ago in one of their forums, sat down and briefed the deputy commissioners and engaged with them in a face-to-face forum. I cannot remember the exact times. We do engage with them on an ongoing basis.
Mr Bowles : I think it was after that that Commissioner Scipione contacted me. I had a conversation with him, and at that point I said that I was happy to talk to all commissioners, which we have done, and we could go from there. There is a series of things that we are trying to work through.
Senator CASH: Has the information that was requested from the department by, in particular, the New South Wales Police Force been provided yet?
Mr Bowles : Not in that level of detail. We have provided some information to all governments around broad locations. We are now looking at whether there are other things that we can and cannot do and we are trying to work through, in a very balanced way, with each of the states and territories about what is possible. We also have to recognise where there are some certain limitations around the Privacy Act, but we are equally trying to work out what the best way is for police services to do their job and for us to do our job, and that was the tenor of the conversation that we had the other day.
Senator CASH: Can I just confirm, in relation to the information that has been provided by the department in relation to the bridging visas placements, that it has been provided to the state governments and the various police services?
Mr Bowles : It goes through the state governments.
Mr Cahill : At this stage, I think there has been some material placed on CD. We are working through—
Senator CASH: That is in relation to general location as opposed to specific location.
Mr Cahill : That is general location. We engage with the police forces throughout Australia at a range of levels. The secretary referred to our immigration status service, which is a 24/7 operation in which the police can contact us. Obviously, there is the ImmiCard, and we providing them with a lot of education, a lot of material around that. We have been engaging with them at the state and territory level—I have regional managers around Australia—and also a lot through AFP as well.
Senator CASH: You say you have provided the general information and some on the CD to the various state governments. When we say 'general', how general are we talking? Are we talking just a postcode or areas within a postcode?
Mr Cahill : I will have to take that on notice.
Mr Bowles : At the moment it is only the postcode. That is why we are working all these issues through with them at the moment.
Senator CASH: But the police have requested further information?
Mr Bowles : They have requested that we have a conversation about what they can get to help them with their community policing, but equally to help us with how we are managing things.
Mr Cahill : It was very constructive.
Mr Bowles : It was a very constructive conversation.
Senator CASH: When was the information first provided to the state governments? Was it provided from November 2011, when the policy was first introduced?
Mr Bowles : The information provided is around community detention, at this point.
Senator CASH: Can we clarify that? I thought it was in relation to bridging visas.
Mr Bowles : No, it was community detention. It was a CD reference: it was not on a CD; it was community detention.
Senator CASH: I thought you meant on a CD, that you collated all the information onto a CD and passed it onto them.
Mr Bowles : No.
Senator CASH: Okay, we will take a step backwards.
Mr Cahill : I am used to iPods now!
Senator CASH: I thought it was very efficient that it was on a CD. I was going to ask you to table the CD.
Mr Cahill : CDs are old school now.
Senator CASH: We do have to work backwards now, because we have been working on two different planes. The information provided to state governments is not in relation to bridging visas.
Mr Cahill : Not at this stage.
Senator CASH: But the information that has been requested by the police is in relation to bridging visas.
Mr Bowles : It is in relation to all. We give some level of detail, and that is why we have been having a number of conversations with them in recent times.
Senator CASH: But they have the general information in relation to community detention.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator CASH: And you are working through the process in relation to the other information.
Mr Bowles : And broader information.
Senator CASH: When did you say the discussions with Commissioner Scipione occurred?
Mr Bowles : I said I had a phone conversation, I don't know, four to six weeks ago followed up by teleconference with police commissioners or their representatives probably about two weeks ago.
Mr Cahill : Two to three weeks ago, and then last week with the deputy commissioners. That was just working through the options and what their specific interests were.
Mr Bowles : Mr Cahill had met with the deputies previous to that meeting last week, as well. So we have had a series of conversations.
Senator CASH: Would it be possible, purely because there may be a line of questioning flying from the particular dates, for you to check during the dinner break to see when the phone conversation four to six weeks ago occurred, when the teleconference occurred and the date that the meeting with the deputy commissioners occurred?
Mr Bowles : I am not sure that I would be able to give you a definitive date on which the first phone call occurred. It was a phone call. I do not necessarily diarise all phone calls. I think the teleconference would probably have been on Friday, not last week but the week before—whatever that date happens to be.
Senator CASH: On 17 May.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator CASH: Mr Cahill, when was the deputy commissioners meeting? While Mr Cahill is getting that information, can I confirm exactly what has been asked for by the various police bodies, now that I have established that we have not provided them with any information in relation to bridging visas? What information have they now asked you to come back to them with?
Mr Bowles : The teleconference was about what information can you provide us in the context of where people are living. I said we have some broad issues around privacy, but I also recognise there is a balance to be struck between our obligations and their responsibilities around community policing. That is the piece of work that is happening. Not everybody has asked for everything, but I think it would be fair to say that some would like the individual details of every person. Part of what we are doing with the police is talking to them about the ImmiCard system and the 24/7 number. Generally, at some levels, they know this information, but not necessarily at all levels. So we are trying to give them a lot more information around that and a lot more information about the difference between community detention and bridging visas. We have said that we would actually have some long and deep conversations around all of those issues to help them. Just to confirm, it was on Friday, 17 May.
Mr Cahill : And on 21 May I had a telephone conference with the deputy commissioners.
Mr Bowles : I cannot recall the actual date of my earlier phone call, but it would probably be about two weeks before that, because it would have taken that long to get into the diary.
Senator CASH: Is there any agreed time frame in which you will get back to the police to say—
Mr Cahill : Yes.
Senator CASH: And what is that time frame?
Mr Cahill : In the first half of June.
Senator CASH: In the first half of June?
Mr Cahill : That is the intent. I am just still working through those processes.
Senator CASH: Will that be with the information, or will it be with a response to the information that you can provide?
Mr Cahill : It will be what I am best able to present to them, and the approach.
Senator CASH: In relation to the privacy issues that the department says arise and are one of the reasons that you cannot provide the information to the police at this particular point in time, what are the privacy issues associated with the police knowing locations?
Mr Bowles : It is private data, where people live. It is private to the individual.
Senator CASH: So, in terms of the particular sections of the Privacy Act, what is the contravention of the Privacy Act itself?
Mr Bowles : I do not know specifically. We have actually asked for further advice around whether there are any exemptions that we can use. That is part of what we are working around, about how much information is realistic to help them with their community policing activity.
Senator CASH: Do you ask this from the government's lawyers—a brief in relation to privacy implications?
Mr Bowles : No. Our own legal people, and Ms Parker's there.
Senator CASH: Ms Parker, are you able to enlighten the committee as to the particular sections of the Privacy Act that may be breached if the department were to provide the police with merely the locations in terms of postcodes of people?
Mr Bowles : I did not suggest there was a privacy issue around postcodes.
Senator CASH: Sorry, what did you say there was a privacy issue in relation to?
Mr Bowles : I said there is a privacy issue about giving individual addresses of people. We are working through what level of granularity we can get to, even below postcode, around locations that might help them in their community policing—which is the issue we are dealing with. It is not about the individuals. The conversation we had the other day was more about how we can help and how they can help, together, in the whole community policing issue with this group of people. We are working that through.
Senator CASH: Could Ms Parker enlighten us as to what the legal implications are under the Privacy Act?
Ms Parker : Yes, I can try to enlighten you. I am not a Privacy Act expert, but basically the issue is what amounts to personal information, and personal information is information that can identify someone. Clearly, giving a postcode would not identify someone. It is an issue of working through, as Mr Bowles has said, how much information you can provide before you are actually identifying someone. The alternative is that the police could establish that providing the information would fall within an exemption under the Privacy Act, such as it being for law enforcement purposes. So, if they were investigating a particular criminal offence, that may be one thing. If they were looking for information just for the purposes of community policing et cetera, that would raise different issues.
Senator CASH: Are you providing legal advice to the department on that basis? Are you looking at that now?
Ms Parker : Yes, we have been.
Senator CASH: What about providing the details of the location in the initial six-week settling-in period of supported accommodation? Are there privacy implications in providing that information?
Ms Parker : It goes to the same issue in terms of how broadly you see personal information. The Privacy Commissioner may have views on that as well.
Mr Cahill : That is one of the areas we are exploring. We are exploring what we can do constructively within our legal framework to be able to assist the various police forces and agencies with their community policing.
Senator CASH: Thank you for that. Ms Parker, when do you anticipate that you will have the legal analysis done for the department?
Ms Parker : We have been working through that analysis and we are well advanced in that. Again, it is an issue of what amounts to personal information.
Senator CASH: But in any event, in the first half of June, Mr Cahill I think your evidence was that you will be going back to the police with hopefully some form of response?
Mr Cahill : That was the undertaking I gave to the deputy commissioners on 21 May. I am working mainly through the AFP on that as a key liaison to help coordinate.
Senator CASH: So there is a potential line of questioning for the AFP when they appear in the A-G's Department in relation to this? Would the relevant people—
Mr Bowles : I presume so. The Commissioner Negus was part of the teleconference.
Mr Cahill : I can confirm that I met with the deputy commissioners at AFP headquarters on 17 April as well.
Senator CASH: I now take you to the answer that was provided to AE13/0504 which states: 'During the period of November 2011 to 31 December 2012, service providers have reported five incidents of assault involving asylum seekers on bridging visas where the police attended the situation.' Have any charges been laid in relation to these incidents? If so, have any of the charges been laid against asylum seekers?
Ms Pope : I can give you information about charges laid against bridging visa holders. I would have to take on notice correlating that to these five incidents, because I do not have it connected in that way.
Senator CASH: That is okay. Let's go with the information that you have.
Ms Pope : This is further to the answer I gave yesterday when we were discussing this matter. I talked about the number of people who had their bridging visas cancelled as a consequence. There are a number of others who have been charged, not convicted or in fact, in a couple of cases, convicted but have not had their bridging visas cancelled. I can take you through that information.
Senator CASH: If you would not mind. I may have a line of questioning in relation to them as well.
Ms Pope : Yes, Senator. I will just get the right page. As at 30 April, there were 17 incidents involving possible criminal activities and, of those, eight BVE holders had been charged with a criminal offence, two had been convicted of a criminal offence and, as I said earlier, four had their bridging visas cancelled, until 30 April. The figure of seven we were giving you was as at 23 May. The two that were convicted are not included amongst those who have had their bridging visas cancelled. The reason for that is that in one instance his bridging visa expired coincidentally with the incident and was not renewed.
Senator CASH: So on that one we have a conviction and the bridging visa expired. What happens to him then?
Ms Pope : He is in held detention.
Senator CASH: Pending removal?
Ms Pope : Not necessarily. It depends on his refugee status.
Senator CASH: Even though he has a conviction? Has all that been worked through?
Ms Pope : Yes. I do not know whether he is post or pre 13 August, but issues of charges and convictions are taken into account in relation to refugee status.
Senator CASH: Do we know in relation to that particular person, who is now back in held detention, what he was convicted of?
Ms Pope : Yes, it was assault.
Senator CASH: And the other person with the conviction?
Ms Pope : I was really hoping you would not ask me that. It was indecent behaviour not involving exposure, if that is enough information to get you there.
Senator CASH: Was it with a minor?
Ms Pope : No, it was just of himself.
Senator CASH: What has happened to that particular person?
Ms Pope : He was fined and he remains on a bridging visa.
Senator CASH: So he remains in the community?
Ms Pope : Yes, Senator.
Senator CASH: Mr Bowles, when someone is convicted of an offence—and in relation to this particular person it was of indecent behaviour—and they are fined, found guilty and a penalty is handed out, why isn't that grounds to take the person back into held detention?
Mr Bowles : Sorry, Senator, I was walking in as you started that question, but someone else at the table might be able to help.
Ms Pope : I can finish. What I was talking about was a person who was convicted of touching himself in public, but not exposing himself, and it involved only him and not anyone else. He was fined and he remains in the community on a bridging visa.
Senator CASH: Are there grounds to revoke that person's bridging visa and put them back into detention? Is the minister giving consideration to this?
Mr Callanan : It goes back to our earlier discussion around the powers under the Migration Act.
Senator CASH: But the minister does have the power to revoke a bridging visa.
Ms Pope : In some circumstances.
Mr Callanan : Note revoke it, cancel it.
Senator CASH: Being convicted of indecent behaviour and fined and a penalty handed out, does that not constitute grounds for cancellation?
Dr Southern : It would have to go to one of the specific cancellation powers under the Migration Act.
Senator CASH: Can you remind me what they are, Dr Southern?
Dr Southern : There is section 501.
Senator CASH: Character grounds.
Dr Southern : The character grounds which is when a person is not in detention it goes to convictions where there is a custodial sentence of 12 months or more. So clearly in this particular case he would not meet those grounds. Then there is the general cancellation power which goes to matters like circumstances which were applicable to the grant of the visa no longer existing, that the grant of the visa was in contravention of the Migration Act or other Australian law, that there has been noncompliance with the visa conditions, or that there is a risk to health, safety or good order of the Australian community.
Senator CASH: Could I go back to you now, Ms Pope, in relation to this particular offence. Where did this offence occur?
Ms Pope : I am sorry, Senator, that is all the information I have, but I can take it on notice.
Senator CASH: Would you mind? I want to know whether it occurred in a public place, at shops, outside a school. We had a conversation before, Mr Bowles, in relation to behavioural standards and in particular the fact that you can have your community detention revoked if the minister so determines that you are not complying with the behavioural standard and you are then taken back into held detention, but in relation to those on bridging visas you can be convicted of indecent behaviour, namely playing with yourself, and fined. I am interested to know exactly whether or not that does contravene one of the sections of the act. If it does not, we could have a whole lot of people out there on bridging visas, who are convicted of indecent behaviour, but the minister does not have the power to cancel their visa.
Mr Bowles : First of all, we do not have a lot of those people out there. The ones we are talking about—
Senator CASH: He was caught.
Mr Bowles : There were five people, I think.
Ms Pope : There was a total of 17.
Mr Bowles : In the context of the numbers that is not a great number of people.
Senator CASH: Some might say it was 17 too many.
Mr Bowles : A lot would say it was 17 too many, but it is 0.2 per cent of the current population.
Senator CASH: But, Mr Bowles, with due respect, that is not the issue. The issue is whether or not, under the current policy, the minister has the power to cancel the visa.
Mr Bowles : The minister has the power and he has to weigh up a range of issues and take into account those individual circumstances for what can and cannot be done. As I said before, there has been some cancellation of bridging visas for certain behaviours. The courts have dealt with this issue, and they chose to put a fine there. That is one issue. We could consider a range of other options. But ultimately we have to abide by the law ourselves, so we need to make sure we are doing the right thing in relation to that broader population through that individual.
Senator CASH: If this particular person had been in community detention and had been convicted of indecent behaviour and fined, the power is there for the minister to revoke the community detention, is it not?
Mr Bowles : Correct.
Ms Pope : But it would not have necessarily have happened, because he would have to weigh it up against all the other factors and it is his personal, non-compellable power.
Mr Bowles : But, in relation to very clear guidelines as to the types of behaviour that I am meant to be complying with in community detention, I am given those very clear behaviours.
Ms Pope : Yes, but it does not mean that one breach of those behaviours would result in a revocation. The description I gave earlier was a pattern of behaviour—warnings and so on—that would suggest that the person is not intending to broadly comply with those requirements and also with the law. The law is the arrangement that is put in place by the government of Australia to manage behaviour in general, and those are the standards that we expect people on bridging visas to adhere to.
Mr Bowles : This gets back to what we tell people, as well. We said we will get you that booklet, and we will. There are a lot of things that will be spelt out in that in the same way as they are spelt out for community detention people. The issue gets back to the difference between the purpose of community detention and the purpose of a bridging visa, and the responsibilities we have for community detention people, because they are still in detention. Yes, there are certain things that are different to a bridging visa in that context.
Senator CASH: Clearly this person was convicted. They were not issued with a warning by the courts. They were issued with a conviction and a fine, and it would appear that nothing has happened to them.
Ms Pope : Yes, but the community standard is that anybody else in the community who commits a similar offence would suffer a similar penalty. They would not be put on remand or held in any form of detention.
Senator CASH: No, they would not, but that is because they are Australian citizens. These people have come here unlawfully.
Mr Bowles : Or they are temporary visa holders, or residents. There are a whole range of people who are in the community in the same way. We have a whole lot of temporary residents in the community at any one time who are there legally.
Senator CASH: But do temporary residents have to comply with certain standards?
Mr Bowles : They do under the law, and if they did a similar thing they would have been charged and probably fined in the same way, if it was the same incident.
Senator CASH: Can I just clarify. There were 17 incidents; eight people were charged; two were convicted; four had their visas cancelled.
Ms Pope : Yes, but they are not the same people.
Senator CASH: And in relation to the other three?
Ms Pope : Which other three?
Senator CASH: Eight were charged, two were convicted, four were cancelled. That is 14.
Ms Pope : The two are a subset of the eight people charged. To date two have been convicted.
Senator CASH: Out of those eight?
Ms Pope : Yes. The four cancellations actually relate to different people, so they are not included in the eight. This was the security case—the Sri Lankan accused murderer and the two who requested that their bridging visas be cancelled. They happened in that time frame. They are not the same people.
Senator CASH: Are we missing any people here?
Ms Pope : There were 17 incidents involving possible criminal activity.
Senator CASH: With 17 people?
Ms Pope : It could be more than 17 people if two were involved in a particular incident, for example. From those 17 incidents there resulted eight charges and two convictions, and there are four unrelated cancellations during that time frame.
Senator CASH: I do understand now. I am sorry. I had it down as 17 incidents, and as a result of those incidents—
Ms Pope : Yes.
Senator CASH: And in relation to the number of people who were involved in the 17 incidents?
Ms Pope : I am sorry, Senator. I do not have that information with me. I would have to take that on notice. I would not think it would be many more than 17.
Senator CASH: What was the actual cost of the bridging visa arrangements in 2011-12 and the budgeted cost for the 2012-13 financial year?
Mr Bowles : While my colleagues find that, Senator, the budgeted costs go down to that discussion we had about the demand model, and it will depend on the number of people in the flow and the stock of that. Mr Callanan has probably got the figures for the year to 30 April.
Mr Callanan : Yes. As the secretary says, it depends on the throughput, and arrivals and the like. There is not a specific figure in the portfolio budget statements. We identify only the non-IMA component. That is the only one that has a figure attached to it. That is non-IMAs on BVEs.
Senator CASH: What figures do you have for that?
Mr Callanan : The PBS for 2012-13 had a figure of $5,741,000.
Senator CASH: But that is the non-IMA component?
Mr Callanan : Yes. Do you want expenditure as well?
Senator CASH: Yes, if you have it.
Mr Callanan : It is $4,349,830 to 30 April.
Senator CASH: Thank you for that. That is non-IMA?
Mr Callanan : Yes.
Dr Southern : We have expenditure to date. There is not a PBS line for IMAs, but we have expenditure on CAS and ASAS.
Senator CASH: How much is that?
Mr Callanan : For CAS it is S69,554,560 excluding GST.
Senator CASH: To 30 April?
Mr Callanan : That is right.
Senator CASH: And for ASAS?
Mr Callanan : It is $61,718,904.
Senator CASH: So it is around $130 million in the financial year to 30 April.
Mr Callanan : Yes.
Senator CASH: I will move on. Have the two men charged with offences in relation to an alleged incident at a concert in Parramatta had their bridging visas revoked?
Dr Southern : Cancelled?
Senator CASH: Yes, cancelled. I have 'revoked' in my notes. It should be 'cancelled'.
Mr Callanan : No, I do not believe so.
Senator CASH: The next question flows from that. If not, why not? You are saying both of the men have not had their visas cancelled.
Mr Callanan : That is right. I cannot say why they have not been.
Senator CASH: My understanding is that one of the men had had his visa cancelled and one had not, but you are saying that both have not had their visas cancelled.
Mr Callanan : I do not believe so, but we will need to check that.
Mr Bowles : The two individuals are only charged at this stage, as well. They have not been convicted. So we would have to really think about how sustainable those charges are. We would have a look at that. My understanding is that neither of them has been cancelled.
Senator CASH: So neither of them has been cancelled—and you are saying that on the basis that at this stage they have only been charged, they have not been convicted.
Mr Bowles : Charged, and the severity of what has actually happened—we will have a look at those sorts of issues and see if there are substantial cases and if in fact they were ultimately convicted and sentenced or something like that we would take a view at that time.
Senator CASH: Of the three Sri Lankan IMAs on bridging visas who were charged with indecent assault, only one appears to have had their bridging visa cancelled—the man who is alleged to have committed the indecent assault at Macquarie University. Why has only one had their visa cancelled?
Mr Bowles : I would need to find out who all three are. You are right, the minister has cancelled the visa of the gentleman from Macquarie University.
Mr Callanan : Are the other two the ones you just mentioned, at the concert?
Senator CASH: They were Sri Lankan.
Mr Bowles : They are the same people, I think.
Senator CASH: So those are the three cases.
Mr Bowles : Yes; they are the three Sri Lankans.
Senator CASH: So there are three Sri Lankans and one has had his bridging visa cancelled, two have not but my understanding is that all three are being charged. Has one been convicted?
Mr Bowles : No. Again, it is the severity issue which would be taken into account.
Senator CASH: Even though they have not been convicted?
Mr Bowles : That is potentially right., yes.
Senator CASH: What are the differing circumstances in the three cases, given that two men have not had their visas cancelled and one man has, and what are the charges they are facing?
Mr Callanan : We will have to check on the charges relating to the two at the concert, but my recollection was that they were fairly low level charges—around indecency but low level.
Senator CASH: Some persons would say, depending on their upbringing, that all levels of indecency are not appropriate.
Dr Southern : We will get the details of those charges. The third Sri Lankan was charged with indecent assault in relation to the Macquarie University incident.
Senator CASH: And he is the one who has had his bridging visa cancelled?
Dr Southern : That is correct.
Senator CASH: But you are saying that in relation to the other two the charges are for indecent behaviour?
Dr Southern : We will check that for you, because we are not sure.
Senator CASH: We can have a discussion on this after the dinner break. Given that the payments for the CAS and the ASAS are demand driven, is there an anticipation of what would be budgeted for for 2013-14? We have the figures to 30 April.
Mr Bowles : It goes into our demand driven model. It brings all of those things together to calculate what we are projecting, which is how we look at that. We could not disaggregate it that easily. The indication for going forward I imagine would be similar to where we are at for this year.
Senator CASH: It would be similar because there would be similar numbers of people—
Mr Bowles : Yes, managing through the system.
Senator CASH: I have more information on the two Sri Lankans. Two Sri Lankan asylum seekers have been charged with indecent assault on two women and a girl at a Ricky Martin event in Sydney. It was the night before 10 May. The women, 39 and 31, and a 14-year-old girl were allegedly attacked by the men, who were on bridging visas and living in the community at Westmead. They have been charged with indecent assault and common assault. What I am trying to understand is: what is the difference between the charges? One Sri Lankan man's visa has been cancelled—and on my reading this sounds quite serious—but these two people's visas have not been cancelled.
In relation to the people on bridging visas who have work rights, what are the assumptions about how many months it takes for them to find a position of employment?
Mr Callanan : We have not made any assumptions about that. The figures are relatively low. We only have estimates, I think. It is certainly less than 10 per cent.
Senator CASH: That find work at all?
Mr Bowles : In that first phase.
Mr Callanan : Yes, of any kind—and it might only be part-time. This is based on feedback from service providers.
Senator CASH: Whilst they do have work rights, there is no assumption as to how long it might take them to actually find work. What you are saying is that the evidence shows that less than 10 per cent, in any event, find work.
Mr Callanan : That is the anecdotal evidence.
Senator CASH: What is the department's response to that?
Mr Bowles : Again, it is a point-in-time issue. These people arrive and they are on a bridging visa. It is that first phase of coming to grips with Australia as well, so the expectation is that the take-up will probably be low in those first months in the program.
Mr Callanan : It is low for offshore humanitarian entrants as well. I do not know what the figures are, but it takes them time to—
Senator CASH: The first bridging visas were granted in November 2011. So we have had a good 18 or 19 months.
Mr Bowles : Yes. I think 3,800 have progressed through to permanent visas. We do not then track those sorts of people. It is very hard to get a good evidence base around that because, as they move around the system from bridging visa to permanent visa, you will lose track of them.
Senator CASH: In any event, the anecdotal evidence is that it is less than 10 per cent.
Mr Bowles : It is low, particularly in the time frame in which we are dealing with those people.
Senator CASH: I want to go back to the two Sri Lankans who had their bridging visas cancelled. Did the department make a submission to the minister in relation to the cancellation of these Sri Lankan's visas?
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator CASH: And did you recommend that they should be revoked?
Mr Bowles : That would be advice to the minister and government.
Senator CASH: Would the department normally make a representation to the minister in such circumstances?
Mr Bowles : Again, I think it is non-delegable, non-compellable power that he has. He makes those decisions and we will provide the circumstances.
Senator CASH: So, in each case, you provide the circumstances in a submission, or only in cases in which the minister asks for a particular submission?
Mr Bowles : No. We will provide advice on those sorts of things.
Senator CASH: In relation to the three Sri Lankan men, where did you provide the submissions to the minister?
Mr Bowles : We would have to take that on notice.
Senator CASH: There is a gentleman by the name of Daxchan Selvarajah. My understanding is that he is appealing his bridging visa cancellation. Do we know the outcome of his appeal?
Mr Bowles : I do not know. It would be very difficult to go into individual cases, especially named individuals. I do not know whether it has even been heard or if he has appealed or not.
Senator CASH: Is it possible to obtain that information over the dinner break?
Mr Bowles : We will see what we can find during the dinner break. Again, it is a little difficult because then we are putting into the public domain who individuals are. It would be best if we did not name individuals because it then becomes a little bit too public.
Senator CASH: Could I take you to the answer to AE130304. It states: 'Departmental policy requires that DIAC case managers complete a case review for each of their clients at least monthly to ensure the client is progressing towards status resolution.' How are these monthly reviews conducted for people on bridging visas? Is it by phone? Is it in person?
Dr Southern : Looking at the response to the question, we have talked about the case manager contacting each of their clients over the phone or in person to complete that case review, and the case manager may decide to have that contact more frequently if they feel that there needs to be a higher level of case management intervention.
Mr Callanan : Your specific question was around asylum seekers in community detention.
Senator CASH: Yes. In relation to those on bridging visas, is it similar?
Mr Callanan : We will need to confirm that. While they are in CAS transitional they have case manager support. That is for six weeks. And then if they go out onto ASAS payments it is just as needed.
Senator CASH: So it is no longer monthly for those on bridging visas? It could be six months or 12 months. It is virtually on an as-needed basis. If I need to contact the department or my case manager, I will contact my case manager.
Dr Southern : And it will go to the reporting frequency as well.
Mr Callanan : Down the track though, if someone fails at merits review and they exhaust their judicial review options, our community status resolution officers would engage with them about removal.
Senator CASH: In relation to the language skills of those on bridging visas, are they eligible for English language tuition?
Mr Callanan : Yes. There are two lots of 22½ hours.
Senator CASH: What do I get for 22½ hours?
Dr Southern : Some very basic tuition in English as a second language. It is a start.
Senator CASH: Does that include those after 13 August, or is it only for those prior to 13 August?
Dr Southern : Both.
Senator CASH: Are those from prior to 13 August also given job search assistance?
Dr Southern : I think they are eligible for stream 1 in Job Services Australia.
Senator CASH: And that is obviously not for those after 13 August, because they do not have work rights.
Dr Southern : Yes.
Senator CASH: How many of those on bridging visas are receiving special benefits payments?
Mr Callanan : I do not think any would be. If you are talking about bridging visa Es, they get CAS or ASAS—the 89 per cent—
Senator CASH: So they do not get any special benefits payments?
Mr Callanan : No. Special benefits attaches to the removal pending bridging visa. It is a very small number.
Dr Southern : The way we talk about it is that it is equivalent to 89 per cent of the special benefit but it is actually a payment that comes through the service providers made under our CAS/ASAS arrangements. The language around it is to describe it in the context of the Centrelink special benefit but it is not actually paid through them.
Senator CASH: So who receives the special benefit payment?
Dr Southern : Other Centrelink clients. It is not bridging visa holders.
Senator CASH: Okay, so it is bridging visa holders. There might be a terminology thing here.
Mr Bowles : Eighty-nine per cent of the equivalent rate is paid through the ASAS—
Senator CASH: So how many of those on bridging visas are receiving the ASAS payment? Would it be 100 per cent?
Mr Bowles : It is probably not 100 per cent but it would be close. All non-work rights people obviously are. Although it would be very hard for us to come up with the figure, there would be a small portion that probably would not be.
Mr Callanan : I can give you the actual number at the end of April. It was 8,265.
Senator CASH: Are in receipt of payment?
Mr Callanan : ASAS, yes. For completeness, 1,876 are in receipt of CAS, community assistance support, which includes the transitional support in that six weeks.
Senator CASH: In relation to the anecdotal evidence that fewer than 10 per cent of those with work rights find employment, do you have any actual numbers on how many have found employment?
Mr Callanan : No.
Dr Southern : We have made some extrapolations from the data taking the number of clients that we know are on bridging visas who have work rights and comparing that with the numbers of bridging visa holders who have work rights who are still receiving an ASAS payment. I do not know what that number is, but the difference would be a combination of people who have found work or are being supported by relatives or the community in some way.
Senator CASH: Do those who are employed receive any payments?
Dr Southern : No.
Senator CASH: So once I notify you that I have a job I no longer receive any form of payment?
Dr Southern : That is right.
Senator CASH: Those who are not employed are the 8,265 and the 1,876?
Dr Southern : Yes.
Senator CASH: I want to go back to Daxchan Selvarajah. He has been named in The Daily Telegraph after his court appearance. His temporary visa was cancelled on 3 May, the day after the Supreme Court granted him bail. The acting minister cancelled his visa on 3 May. My understanding is that he has appealed that decision. So that is what we are looking for.
Mr Bowles : That is right.
Senator CASH: This is just so you know that this is all in the public domain.
Mr Bowles : It is one thing for the media to put things out into the public domain, but we as a department do not like to do that because it compromises how we—
Senator CASH: The in camera hearing was held on a certain day by the MRT and a decision was expected.
Mr Bowles : Yes.
Senator CASH: So are you able to get the information on it?
Mr Bowles : We will come back after the dinner break with that. He is still in detention, obviously.
Senator CASH: Budget Paper No. 2 contains a one-off injection of an additional $10.5 million in 2013-14 to fund the ASAS scheme. What was the need for the additional $10.5 million?
Mr Bowles : Do you know what page that is on, Senator?
Senator CASH: I knew that you would ask me that.
Mr Bowles : It is on page 196. I am getting good at this. It is scary, really.
Senator CASH: It is a worry.
Mr Bowles : This is to support the current level, as it says, of asylum seekers. We are going to review that program. You will remember that the ASAS comes into the integrated service delivery framework where we are looking at driving a different model. This gets us through that review period so we can have the review and then work out what the ongoing funding measures might need to be.
Senator CASH: Is that why the government does not expect the additional support to be required?
Mr Bowles : Or we will make that decision at the next budget to normalise whatever the outcome might be.
Senator CASH: So additional moneys may be required, but that will be decided?
Mr Bowles : Yes. We have a whole range of things in place with the integrated service delivery framework.
Senator CASH: I know we touched on it yesterday and I had a series of questions which unfortunately I did not get to. Could you take me through the integrated service delivery framework?
Mr Bowles : I will start and we will see if someone could help me along the way. Currently we go to the market for the CAS and ASAS programs. They are delivered separately, generally by the same people, so therefore they are structured in different ways to meet different needs. ISDF is about taking both of those and trying to lift it up so we get one model and then we go to the market for the delivery of the combined CAS, ASAS and CD payments. Therefore you streamline the management of the programs and get a benefit. If you look at page 198, it talks about the ISDF delivering $33.5 million in savings, for instance, this year. That is the saving that we will get once we bring all of these issues together.
Mr Douglas : It is an integrated approach to the range of business that interacts with people seeking to undergo status resolution, from their period of time in detention through to a bridging visa. It is one procurement process rather than separate and inefficient procurement processes.
Mr Bowles : This is the one we talked about being administered through a Centrelink process going forward. You will see the Department of Human Services on page 198 as well. We talked a bit about that yesterday.
Senator CASH: We did. I now have the questions here, because they were referred over outcome 4. I will go through them. The budget contained the new service delivery arrangements with Centrelink. How will that work?
Mr Callanan : We are still in the design stage with DHS. Centrelink will deliver it on behalf of DHS. It is mainly around the income support component. That is currently done by all our service providers. It is fairly onerous and, with the increasing numbers, it is obviously attractive to hand over that in one job lot to DHS.
Senator CASH: And the government will achieve savings of $102.6 million over the four years through the rationalisation of it?
Dr Southern : Yes. It is a combination of doing the payments through DHS and the efficiencies through bringing the different services for CD, CAS and ASAS together under one platform.
Senator CASH: When you say you are still in the planning stage, exactly where are you up to?
Mr Callanan : We have until next March, I understand, for it to be in place, because existing contracts do not expire—next March is the latest date they can expire.
Senator CASH: Will bridging visa holders and those in community detention be required to physically go into Centrelink offices to receive their support payments?
Dr Southern : We anticipate that clients will attend Centrelink offices for interviews, but the actual details, such as the frequency of the required contact, is one of the things that we are still working out with Centrelink colleagues.
Senator CASH: How many people do you anticipate having to go into Centrelink offices? Would it be all of the clients who are on bridging visas and in receipt of the payments, which would appear to be the majority of them?
Mr Callanan : Yes.
Dr Southern : Not all of the people all of the time, but at least on occasion.
Senator CASH: How often do you have to go to Centrelink to receive a payment? Weekly?
Mr Callanan : That is what we are working out with them.
Senator CASH: Which agency will be primarily in charge of overseeing the integrated service delivery framework? Will it be your department?
Mr Callanan : Yes.
Senator CASH: It will not be Centrelink?
Dr Southern : No.
Senator CASH: If we look at the figures that we are currently working on, 8,265 people on ASAS and 1,786 on CAS will have to go into Centrelink. Has Centrelink been, or will it be, provided with any additional resources or funding from the department to assist with this quite onerous process.
Mr Callanan : It is a fully costed proposal within the budget. If I am not mistaken—
Mr Bowles : Do you see in the table at the bottom of page 198 the figures 10.9, 14.2, 12.2 and 12.2?
Senator CASH: Yes.
Mr Bowles : That is for DHS to manage this.
Senator CASH: That is the additional resources that have been provided to DHS which ultimately, I am assuming, will go over to Centrelink.
Mr Bowles : Yes. It is to deliver the savings—the minus figures—on the next line.
Senator CASH: What about translators et cetera? Will Centrelink be given additional resources?
Mr Bowles : It is a fully costed proposal.
Senator CASH: So translators are included in the money?
Dr Southern : Yes.
Senator CASH: Would you explain the figures associated with this and how the savings will be realised and how they will be used? For example, in budget paper 2, on page 199, it says:
To achieve these savings, funding of $56.3 million (including capital funding of $6.8 million) over four years will be provided to DIAC and the Department of Human Services to enhance monitoring of service delivery functions.
Mr Bowles : That is the funding we just talked about—the figures at the top—and the capital cost is at the bottom. You will see the 56.3—
Senator CASH: That is the 10, 14, 12 and 12?
Mr Bowles : Yes. And then the 6.8 is the capital. The 56.3 is the top line plus the capital. So 56.3 is: 10.9, 14.2, 12.2, 12.2 and 6.8, which is the capital. That is what that paragraph is saying. That is the cost of delivering the saving of 102.6, which is the 33.5, 28.7, 20.4 and 20 in the table on page 198.
Senator CASH: Thank you for that. Can I now go to the answer was given to AE13/0300.
Mr Bowles : Senator, I think we have already dealt with that.
Senator CASH: Yes. I will move on to another line of questioning.
Ms Pope : Senator, before you do that, perhaps I could give you the broad percentages of which state people on bridging visas are first placed in. I would like to caution that these are approximate and may change over time. These are just the rough percentages. For the ACT it is about one per cent; for New South Wales it is about 24 per cent; for the Northern Territory it is approximately 2 per cent; for Queensland it is 20 per cent; for South Australia it is 14 per cent; for Tasmania it is one per cent; for Victoria it is 30 per cent; and for Western Australia it is eight per cent.
Senator CASH: Thank you for that, Ms Pope. I refer back to answer AE13/0300. I want to ask about another aspect of it. It states that, as at December 2012, eight clients were brought back into detention after being released into the community, because they were subject to adverse security assessments. How long was each of these people in the community before they were found to have adverse security assessments?
Ms Pope : I would have to take the detail of that on notice. These are family groups and, from memory, it is two or three families and a couple of individuals. But I would need to get the detailed breakdown on notice.
Senator CASH: Could you also get for me how long these people remained in the community after they were found to have an adverse assessment before they were recalled into detention, and where they are presently housed in the detention network?
Ms Pope : Yes.
Senator CASH: I will go to the answer to AE13/0357. The question I asked was:
How many people currently in community detention or released into the community on bridging visas have been charged with a criminal offence? What are those offences?
The answer you gave was:
Four clients in community detention have been charged with criminal offences including assault, theft and animal cruelty. Four clients on bridging visas have been charged with criminal offences including assault, stalking and having custody of a knife.
Are these people in the group of people that we have previously talked about?
Ms Pope : Yesterday I gave advice that there were five clients in CD currently who were the subject of charges. They are not necessarily the same people as at that time, because that was as of February.
Senator CASH: Okay. In relation to this particular answer, you are right—it was as at 11 February 2013. In relation to these particular people, have any of these persons appeared before the court?
Ms Pope : All of those who have been charged with criminal offences would be going through the process. Whether that has included a court appearance or not I would have to take on notice.
Senator CASH: Where are these particular people now? Are they still in the community or have they been returned to detention?
Ms Pope : I cannot answer that, because I would have to reconcile those four clients with the advice that we have given you as of 30 April to be able to tell you whether they match up to those clients or not. As we said, eight have been charged. Two of those have been cancelled. The other six have not yet been. They could be going through court processes.
Senator CASH: Could you also then take these on notice: in relation to the answer to 0357, were these people taken into police custody, were they granted bail and have any of these asylum seekers been granted a visa?
Ms Pope : We can take that on notice, Senator.
Senator CASH: How much has the department paid in total for the rental of homes and accommodation for community detention purposes in 2011-12 and 2012-13 to date? How much has been spent to make good any damage done to rental homes?
Ms Pope : The figure for client rental includes the set-up cost for the house, as we have discussed before. It includes the household formation package. The figure for 2011-12—and I will round these—was $16.5 million.
Senator CASH: $16.5 million?
Ms Pope : Yes. The cost to date for financial year 2012-13 is $18.5 million.
Senator CASH: Is that as at day or as at 30 April?
Ms Pope : As at 30 April.
Senator CASH: How much has been spent to make good any damage done to rental houses?
Ms Pope : The figure for repairs and maintenance for this financial year to 30 April is $364,000. That is not necessarily to make good for damage that might have been caused by a client. There could have been other issues with a property that were not because they had done anything that they should not have done, just to be clear. It is included in that figure.
Senator CASH: What would those other issues include?
Ms Pope : It might be something like a door handle falling off or something.
Senator CASH: General maintenance that might be required on the property.
Ms Pope : Yes. Things that are outside what you would necessarily expect the landlord to cover as part of the lease arrangements.
Senator CASH: Okay. That was year to 30 April. What about 2011-12?
Ms Pope : It was $482,000.
Senator CASH: Thank you. Do you have the estimated cost of the community detention arrangements for 2012-13 to date?
Ms Pope : I have the total cost, not the estimated cost. I have the expenditure to 30 of April. The total cost is $134 million—that is again rounded. The split is $128 million administered—so paid outside the department—and $6 million of departmental costs, which include staffing and so on.
Senator CASH: I refer to the answer to AE130299, which indicates that no further MOUs relating to community detention and the various state and territory governments have been finalised. Why is that the case?
Ms Pope : There is not a requirement for MOUs in relation to community detention. We have agreements in place around access to education. That is really the only arena in which we have formal arrangements with state governments, and they are not all at the status of an MOU. We are not pursuing any additional MOUs. We have arrangements in place.
Senator CASH: My question was regarding the MOUs relating to community detention with the various state and territory governments and how many have been finalised. How many have been finalised?
Ms Pope : I would have to check that. It is a question of what you consider to be an MOU. Most of the arrangements that we have education providers—state government providers—are not of the status of an MOU. There might be one that is but I would have to take the detail of that on notice.
Senator CASH: Normally I would describe an MOU, obviously, as a memorandum of understanding. On the front page, it would say 'MOU'.
Ms Pope : We might have an exchange of letters or some other agreement arrangement that would not have the heading 'memorandum of understanding'.
Senator CASH: Okay. So why did you say that no further MOUs have been—
Ms Pope : We do not require any further MOUs. Arrangements are set up for access to education for students in states across Australia. We are not pursuing any MOU arrangements in relation to community detention.
Senator CASH: In relation to community detention. What about the MOUs in relation to the formal detention network?
Ms Pope : That is a question for Mr Cahill.
Mr Cahill : Yes, there are MOUs in place to support the formal detention network.
Senator CASH: Are all of those MOUs finalised? I know that we have had discussions at previous estimates hearings on this and there were ongoing negotiations in relation to MOUs. How many MOUs do you have and how many are still in the process of finalisation?
Mr Douglas : We have MOUs with Victoria, Queensland and South Australia and—
Senator CASH: When were each of them finalised?
Mr Douglas : The Victorian MOU commenced in May 2008. It does not have a specific end date. This is in relation to health services. We have different MOUs for different purposes. This is for health. The health MOU with Victoria commenced in May 2008 and does not include a specific end date. The MOU with Queensland commenced in August 2008. It does not have a specific end date.
Senator CASH: What was that in relation to?
Mr Douglas : That is for health. All of these that I will go through now are for health. There is a separate agreement with the Queensland Ambulance Service for the Scherger IDC that expires on 30 June this year. There is an MOU with the South Australian government that commenced in 2005 without a specific end date. There is an MOU with the Department of Regional Australia that commenced in November 2011 that is in relation to access to health services on Christmas Island. For the remaining states and territories, there are agreements of some description in relation to health care. For education, an MOU is in place with New South Wales. I do not have a commencement date for that. We have undertaken preliminary discussions with Victoria towards an overarching MOU. They have not yet concluded.
Senator CASH: How long has that negotiation been going on for?
Mr Douglas : I would have to take that on notice. I do not have that detail.
Senator CASH: When do you anticipate finalising the MOU?
Mr Douglas : I would hope soon but I have not had an up to date briefing on that and I would need to take that on notice. There was an exchange of letters between the department and the Queensland government in late 2010. There is no further progress towards an MOU, but a continuation of our arrangements and costs were agreed by letter in November 2011. In South Australia we are working towards the development of an overarching MOU which would cover education, health and police services. Once again, I do not have a date of expected conclusion. Agreement could not be reached for the Western Australian government to allow unaccompanied minors residing at Leonora to attend the Leonora District High School, so the department has arranged alternative services through its detention services provider to deliver educational services at the Leonora APOD itself rather than at the school. With the recent designation of part of Curtin as an APOD, we are working through similar arrangements in relation to access to educational services.
Senator CASH: So children will be provided with education at the Curtin detention centre?
Mr Douglas : That is subject to any further developments. That is our intention at this stage. We have arrangements in Tasmania with both the Tasmanian Department of Education and the Tasmanian Polytechnic for access to relevant education, whether it be technical educational or school based education, for students at Pontville. An exchange of letters has occurred and we are working towards the finalisation of the MOU, but I note that students have already started school services at Tasmanian schools and that Polytechnic is already providing education to people in Pontville.
Senator CASH: And that is even though the MOU has not been formally finalised?
Mr Douglas : I think that one is extremely close, to my knowledge. The Northern Territory government has an MOU in place which covers education arrangements for minors aged four to 17 years as well is an educational holiday program for minors aged five to 15 years. With the ACT, there is an exchange of letters which, as Ms Pope has indicated, covers access for children in community detention.
Senator CASH: Thank you very much for that. I now go to the answer given to AE13/0083. The question I asked was: 'Regarding the client who absconded from community detention who was arrested, charged and sentenced regarding drug issues, when was he arrested; why was he arrested; what was he charged with; when was he tried; what was his actual sentence; and where is he being currently held? Please include whether or not the offence was for possession or trafficking.' The answer I received was: 'The client who absconded from community detention was arrested in April 2012 for drug related offences and sentenced for two years and six months. He is currently in prison in Victoria.' What now happens to his asylum claim?
Ms Pope : That might be a question for Dr Southern.
Dr Southern : He was in CD?
Senator CASH: Yes. The answer I received to the question was: 'The client who absconded from community detention was arrested in April 2012 for drug related offences and sentenced for two years and six months. He is currently in prison in Victoria.' My questions flowing on from that answer are: what happens now to his asylum claim; has he been granted a visa; and when will the decision be made?
Dr Southern : In relation to the particular circumstances of the case, as to whether he has been granted a visa, I do not know, but, if he was sentenced to two years and six months in jail, presumably he is still in prison.
Senator CASH: What happens to his asylum claim?
Dr Southern : Given that he has been charged and convicted of an offence while in detention, he would come under the changed arrangements to section 501—the character provisions—which the amendments—
Senator CASH: So the minister is able to cancel the visa.
Dr Southern : That is correct. So he will have failed the character test. And when it comes to dealing with an asylum claim, in the context of a protection visa application, the minister or the delegate would first of all reach a view that yes, he will have failed the character test, because he has been convicted—
Senator CASH: Has been convicted and is serving a prison sentence.
Dr Southern : while in detention or having absconded from detention. Secondly, there is the discretion as to whether the visa is refused.
Senator CASH: When does that discretion kick in? Is the minister able to cancel the visa at any time?
Dr Southern : This fellow would not have a visa at the moment—because, I assume, having gone into prison from a detention situation, he was not a visa-holder—so it will come into play at the point at which—
Senator CASH: When he finishes his sentence?
Dr Southern : That is correct. And when an application for a protection visa—
Senator CASH: Is actually made.
Dr Southern : Yes. So he may well be found to be a refugee—
Senator CASH: But—
Dr Southern : but will have failed the character test and then there is a discretion as to whether a protection visa is granted or something else.
Senator CASH: Okay. Thank you for that, Dr Southern. Can I now turn to the Red Cross. I know I have been given some figures in relation to the Red Cross. But could you just confirm: what is the value of the Red Cross contract, funded by the department, in 2012-13?
Mr Callanan : I will have to break it down.
Senator CASH: Okay. I have to ask you: what actually is it? Is there a total value for the Red Cross? Is it made up of a number of components?
Mr Callanan : It is, yes. The total value of the Red Cross, which includes CAS, ASAS and community detention—
Senator CASH: So CAS, ASAS plus CD?
Mr Callanan : Yes, plus the Family Tracing Service. It is $603,600, 642.
Senator CASH: Okay, so that is the total contract.
Mr Callanan : And that went from when it was signed in—
Senator CASH: Wow. Can I just clarify that: that is over half a billi