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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Australian Federal Police

Australian Federal Police

CHAIR: I welcome Commissioner Colvin and his team to the table. Commissioner, do you have an opening statement that you want to make?

Mr Colvin : Thank you. I would not normally make an opening statement, but, on this occasion, given that we have not been before the committee for some time and noting the comments of the Attorney-General earlier this morning about the role that the AFP is playing in the counter-terrorism space, there are few things I would like to say. We would then be happy to take any questions the committee might have.

It is fair to say, and it would be no surprise, that certainly over the last 12 months but up to the last 18 months, the AFP's work has been characterised by a very steep increase in operational tempo. You would see that from a range of reporting by our organisation, but particularly in our annual report. Again, it is no surprise that this has been particularly prevalent and evident in the national security and counter-terrorism space. We have seen a significant surge of our operational investigative capacity go across to counter-terrorism in particular. Of course, while we deal with the terrorist threat, and national security more broadly, we continue to respond to incidents such as MH17, serious and organised crime more broadly, illicit drugs in this country, fraud and anticorruption. Our performance against those particular crimes continues to be strong. But it is CT where much of the interest lies. Along with our partner agencies—you have already heard from ASIO this evening—I would like to make a few key comments. We have already spoken many times about the threat level in Australia having been raised to high or probable in September 2014 under the new threat advisory system. Importantly for police, it is just on 12 months now that the threat level specifically against police was raised to high or probable under the new scheme.

The counter-terrorism environment, as I am sure you have heard, is dominated by the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, and they continue to dominate the Australian context. It is also important we note that this environment that we are facing here in Australia continues to evolve and change. The environment that the Australian Federal Police and our partners are dealing with today, in February 2016, is quite different to what it was even 12 months ago and certainly very different to what it was a few years ago. Without wanting to labour the point, small, unpredictable attacks are of great concern to us and to our partner agencies, as is the age or relative youth of people who are coming up on our radar as being of concern.

Of course, while we focus very much on the domestic threat here in Australia, we cannot ignore the regional threat as well. We saw the very tragic attack on January 14 in downtown Jakarta that killed eight people. In terms of pure statistics, since December 2013, which really mirrors the escalation of the threat out of Syria and Iraq, the AFP, along with partner policing agencies, have charged 36 people in the 13 different operations in relation to counter-terrorism matters. All of those matters, interestingly enough, are ongoing and I would describe as being complex. So even though people have been charged, it does not necessarily mean that the matter is closed. Two people are currently subject to control orders and there are 11 Australians offshore that are subject to first-instance arrest warrants for matters relating to counter-terrorism.

The Director-General of Security may have mentioned this earlier this evening, but since September 2014 there have been three successful attacks in Australia in different measure. We would assess that there have been at least six major disruptions, but as our operations are ongoing it is always difficult for us to be specific and exact about what matters we are disrupting. The operations continue. You read about them in the papers quite a lot. They continue to attract a great deal of attention and, of course, they continue to be the primary purpose of the AFP. We are happy to take questions.

CHAIR: Commissioner, before we pass on, can you remind me what a control order is and what it encompasses?

Mr Colvin : Certainly. A control order is an order of the court that will be issued on application by a police officer. The easiest way to describe a control order is akin to bail conditions. It is an order that would restrict the behaviours of an individual who we have concerns about.

CHAIR: To they normally last for a specified period, or forever?

Mr Colvin : There are different phases. There can be an interim control order and then a confirmed control order. They last for a 12-month period.

Senator Brandis: They are renewable on application.

CHAIR: How many have been issued?

Mr Colvin : There are two currently in operation.

Senator BILYK: In responses to questions on notice from the October 2015 estimates, the AFP stated

The AFP’s capacity to respond to increased volumes of activities and threat means that resources are stretched.

Despite the government highlighting national security spending in this year's budget, why did the AFP not receive any boost from the $1.2 billion allocated for new counter-terrorism efforts?

Mr Colvin : I cannot comment specifically about why we may or may not have been given money at certain times. Those are matters for government. We were answering very specific questions from Senator Collins that were quite particular about moments in time, concerning whether we were given funding from the $1.2 billion national security allocation.

It is always a little dangerous for us to comment about moments in time with our budget. Our budget moves according to measures as they terminate or new measures as they come on. In the same time, or around the same time, the AFP has been provided additional funding for our foreign fighter effort. That was $77 million in the forward estimates. You would be aware of Parliament House security. As well, we have been provided funding for general protection arrangements around Australia. So it can be misleading to look at any one particular moment in time. Yes, we were not provided funding out of that $1.2 billion envelope, but that is not to say that the AFP has not been funded for national security operations.

Senator Brandis: I can provide some additional information as well. In the last 12 months, the government has provided funding of $630 million to boost the capacity of our national security and law enforcement agencies. As part of that commitment, we have provided the AFP with, as the commissioner has said, $77.2 million over four years, announced in the 2014-15 MYEFO, for an additional 80 staff to address the foreign fighter threat, and $158.7 million over four years, announced in the MYEFO, for 229 additional staff to enhance parliamentary security arrangements.

By comparison—as I am fond of saying, context is everything—during the period of the government of which you were a member, Senator Bilyk, $128 million was cut from the AFP between the 2010-11 and the 2013-14 financial years, as well as $30 million and 88 staff cut from the Australian Crime Commission and $27 million and 56 staff cut from AUSTRAC, 750 staff cut from Customs, 97 staff cut from the AFP, $1.2 million of budget cuts from the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, 35 staff cut from AUSTRAC and $8.7 million in budget cuts to CrimTrac.

So across the entire range of law enforcement agencies, the government of which you were a member cut funds and staff. Across the entire range of law enforcement and security agencies this government has increased funding and staff.

Senator BILYK: So—

Senator Brandis: So?

Senator BILYK: Are you right there, Senator Brandis?

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator BILYK: As my father always said, education does not buy manners. He was absolutely correct. How are the stretched resources affecting the overall operating capacity of the AFP?

Mr Colvin : As I said in my opening statement, we have a number of priorities. At any given time there is always going to be more crime than what the police can investigate. We have seen a significant surge in our need to move resources to the most pressing need, which at the moment is the terrorism threat and more broadly the national security arrangements that we are part of. That does mean that we face pressures in relation to other crimes, but that is a normal part of what a commissioner and a senior executive of a police force have to do—prioritise across a range of crime types. I see nothing unusual about the fact that our resources should be under pressure and should be stretched and we should be asked to make decisions about priorities.

Senator BILYK: Have you made a case for additional resources and funds to the Minister for Justice?

Mr Colvin : We are in constant discussion with the government about the AFP's policy position and funding position. I do not think it would be right for me here in estimates to talk about specifics of cases that we may or may not be making to a minister.

Senator BILYK: I am not asking you to talk about a case. I am asking about whether you have made a case for additional resources and funding to the Minister for Justice.

Mr Colvin : Yes we did, and we have been provided money for foreign fighters; we have been provided money for the parliamentary security operations and our protection operations. These are ongoing discussions that you would expect we would be having with the minister.

Senator BILYK: Can you give me any more details of those conversations?

Mr Colvin : No, I do not think that is appropriate.

Senator BILYK: Have you raised concerns with the Minister for Justice or departmental representatives about the consequences of operating underresourced?

Mr Colvin : Implicit in your question is that we are underresourced. I am saying that our resources are our resources and we have to make judgements about priorities. Every police commissioner has to do that.

Senator BILYK: I completely accept that, but I am sure that if you were able to get more money you would appreciate it.

Senator Brandis: Senator Bilyk, there is no point in just reading out these questions that have been written for you. The fact is that the reductions occurred during the Labor government and the increase in staff in funding have occurred under the coalition government. I have given you the figures, and they have been verified by the Commissioner.

Senator BILYK: Senator Brandis, I can ask whatever questions I like and I am sure the Commissioner can answer those questions in his own way.

Senator Brandis: I suppose that is right—

Senator Brandis: It is. It is absolutely correct.

Senator Brandis: but the point I am making to you is that your questions are completely at variance from the answers you have just been given by the Commissioner. They make no sense. You have just been told about the increased funding that the AFP has received.

CHAIR: Perhaps she is confusing it with three or four years ago under the previous government.

Senator BILYK: Thank you, chair, I do not need your little support for the minister to help with his argument.

CHAIR: They are very interesting statistics.

Senator BILYK: I am entitled to ask any questions I want, and I am sure the Commissioner is quite able to answer the questions.

CHAIR: Well, keep asking.

Senator BILYK: Has the AFP raised concerns with the Minister of Justice? Were they raised in writing, in person or both?

Mr Colvin : I do not think it is appropriate for me to share with you in estimates of my discussions with the minister that may or may not lead to funding or policy outcomes for the organisation. The minister provides me with a ministerial direction which gives me his parameters of what he would like the organisation to focus on. That is a continual discussion about where we are placing our effort.

Senator BILYK: Can you tell me how you determine which activities and operations are prioritised?

Mr Colvin : They are decisions that, rightly, the government leaves to the AFP, within a policy framework. We make those decisions based on where we believe the greatest impact for the community is. As I have said, national security and counter-terrorism is a priority for us, and will always be a priority, but amongst the broad remit of operations that we have we take them on an individual, case-by-case basis.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to tell me anything about what processes are in place to ensure that important AFP duties are not neglected, bearing in mind that you do have to prioritise?

Mr Colvin : Absolutely. We operate under what we call the case categorisation and prioritisation model, which is a public document, which gives some guidance to people who would refer matters to us about how they should refer matters to us, and also give us guidance on what the AFP will take into account in deciding whether to investigate or not. It includes such considerations as do we think an offence has occurred; what is the impact of that offence on the community; and whether we think it is within our capability to elicit evidence of that offence. There are a whole range of factors that we will take into account.

Senator BILYK: Given the conflicts in Iraqi and Syria, is it correct that in the long term it is anticipated that the work of the AFP will continue to grow?

Mr Colvin : I certainly see nothing in the immediate future that says that our operational tempo will be anything but intense.

Senator BILYK: How does the AFP expect to meet the security demands of the nation, with your funding concerns?

Mr Colvin : I think we are meeting the security demands of the nation quite well at the moment. We have been very successful in our operations. No police commissioner, I am sure, would say that they can address every matter that is referred to them, but operational experience allows us to make judgements on what we should or should not do. I believe that the AFP is performing the role that the community expects of us.

Senator BILYK: I am presuming you are hoping that there will not be any further reduction in your annual operating budget.

Mr Colvin : I am sure every agency chief that sits here would say that they do not want their budget to be reduced.

Senator Brandis: Senator Bilyk, I think you must have been not listening when I told you that the budget has actually been increased by $77.2 million in relation to the foreign fighter threat with an additional 80 staff, $158.7 million with an additional 229 staff in relation to parliamentary security, by comparison with the $128 million and 97 staff cut from the AFP budget by the previous Labor government. I am sorry, but if you keep asking your questions on a dishonest premise, I will correct the record.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Since Senator Bilyk was raising the moments in time concerns, of course, the exception to the comments you were making earlier about priorities is when the AFP are given new areas of responsibility, one of those being the security around Parliament House.

Mr Colvin : It was not necessarily a new area, but it was certainly enhanced and increased.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Significantly.

Mr Colvin : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can you describe for me how significant that work is, of course without compromising our security arrangements?

Mr Colvin : There will be limits to what I can say. I might ask Deputy Commissioner Phelan to come to the table. We are but one part of the security apparatus that operates here at Parliament House. For us, it involved an increase in our personnel here at Parliament House. In some ways, that was a restoration of numbers that we have here at Parliament House, but more importantly for the organisation, it also led to a change in the operating environment and the way that our protective service officers were used. You would probably recall that prior to these changes, our protective service officers were confined to being outside Parliament House only. Outside the doors of Parliament House was our responsibility and inside the doors was the responsibility of departmental security officials.

That changed, and that was a significant change for us. Obviously it also led to changes in our patterns of security—our patrolling patterns and numbers. I do not want to go into details of what those changes are, but I think most people can see that there is a greater presence of AFP protective service officers inside and outside this building.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Mr Colvin, you will be aware of the discussion that occurred in the Finance and Public Administration Committee yesterday when the Department of Parliamentary Services was appearing?

Mr Colvin : No, I am not.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can I then ask you this on notice: a number of security incidents were canvassed, so I want to give the AFP the opportunity to respond to those issues as well given your role with the parliament.

Mr Colvin : I am happy to take that on notice, but if you can give us some context of the security incidents we may know something of them.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think there were three particular cases canvassed. There was one about someone gaining access without a pass, there was one about someone riding shotgun of the back of another car into the building, and I cannot quite recall the third case. But as I said, given the AFP's role in the security in the building, I thought it was appropriate you have an opportunity to address those matters.

Mr Colvin : They do not ring a bell to me. We will take them on notice. As I said, there is a security framework that includes a security committee that has different agencies concerned. Things such as access without a pass may or may not be reported to us. It may just be dealt with by the Department of Parliamentary Services, but we can have a look at it.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: In part, the reason that I raise this with you and encourage you to have a look at the Hansard when it is available is that part of that discussion was about the role of the security board, how effectively it may be functioning and how effectively advice might be getting to the Presiding Officers on particular incidents. I thought that would be relevant to bring to your attention.

Mr Colvin : That is relevant, and we will have a look at what was said.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It may well be that, on looking at it, you feel there are some further recommendations to progress about how the security board is functioning.

Mr Colvin : Absolutely. We will look at that.

Senator WANG: I thank the police force for its excellent work. My questions are around the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre. Can you just, for the benefit of the Hansard, tell me when the centre was established.

Mr Colvin : Thank you, Senator, I will ask Deputy Commissioner Leanne Close to respond to that.

Ms L Close : The Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre has been established for the past three years, since 2013.

Senator WANG: Within the three years, how many investigations has the centre undertaken and how many are still ongoing?

Ms L Close : That would be extensive. I would have to take that on notice—

Senator WANG: Yes, please.

Ms L Close : because there have been quite a number of investigations.

Senator WANG: I also note that the referrals page on your website it states that a federal government department or agency is able to refer matters in which there has been a 'serious breach of federal legislation'. Since the centre commenced operation, how many referrals have been received by the centre?

Ms L Close : Again, that would be something that I will take on notice.

Mr Colvin : Just on that, it is worth noting as well that the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre has other departments embedded with it, so there would be matters that they would have brought as part of their secondment to the centre, as well as matters that the department has formally referred. It would be extensive, so we will take that on notice.

Senator WANG: Do you put your investigations into different categories or types of offences?

Mr Colvin : Yes, we do.

Senator WANG: Would you put that on notice and give me a breakdown of the types of offences.

Mr Colvin : We may aggregate some together, because within fraud there are many sorts of fraud: fraud against the Commonwealth. We will look at how we can best inform the committee, but we can do that, yes.

Senator WANG: This is probably not a statistical question: generally, has there been any increase in reporting of allegations of corruption and misconduct compared to the period before the centre was set up?

Mr Colvin : We will take it on notice and give you an exact answer. My inclination is to say yes. We know that we have far more foreign bribery allegations now than we would have had four years ago—that is a simple measure. But we will see if we can get you very specific figures on that.

Senator WANG: Am I correct to assume that there were referrals that the centre received but would not be able to progress or investigate due to resourcing restraints?

Mr Colvin : Resourcing constraints amongst other matters, yes.

Ms L Close : And potentially, of course, when matters are referred to us we have to assess whether the AFP or the Commonwealth has a jurisdiction to investigate or whether that is better placed with another Commonwealth investigative agency or a state or territory police service, or even an international police service depending on what the allegation is.

Senator WANG: Could you tell me the names of the departments and agencies you are working with.

Ms L Close : Yes. We also have the Australian Taxation Office; the Australian Crime Commission; the Australian Border Force; the Department of Immigration and Border Protection; the Australian Securities and Investments Commission; the Department of Defence; the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, AUSTRAC; the Department of Human Services; and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Senator WANG: Thank you.

Senator LAMBIE: Could I just ask a question related to that, just while they are putting questions on notice. I just want to know how many charges have been laid since the establishment. If you would like to put that on notice, I would just like to know how many charges have actually been laid.

Mr Colvin : Since the establishment of the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre?

Senator LAMBIE: Yes, please.

Mr Colvin : Yes, we should be able to find that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I would like to ask some questions about the status of the AFP investigation into the theft of the official diary of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives. I appreciate the sensitivity of the matter, as the investigation obviously remains on foot, so I will be attempting to ask some fairly factual questions, but please let me know if you think it is inappropriate, given that the investigation is on foot. It has been reported publicly that the AFP raided the homes of Mr Brough, Mr Ashby and Karen Doane, looking for evidence in relation to the theft of the former Speaker's diary. Are those reports accurate?

Mr Colvin : The way that you have characterised them, Senator, I guess is relevant to the investigation. We are making an investigation into the unauthorised disclosure of and access to the diary. I would draw a distinction between that and theft. I just want to be very careful about what we say.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sure. So you do not think it is appropriate to discuss at this stage whether you have raided the homes of those people?

Senator Brandis: Senator Collins, I think the point Mr Colvin was making to you is that there is no investigation into theft.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. What language would you like to use, Mr Colvin?

Mr Colvin : We refer to it as unauthorised disclosure.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: All right, we will use that language and I will ask the same question.

Mr Colvin : Yes. I am not trying to be picky on that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is fine.

Mr Colvin : In relation to matters that we have or have not done, some aspects of this investigation are already in the public arena, and I am happy to confirm matters that are in the public arena. But, to the extent that matters are not, it is not our normal course, as you would appreciate, to talk about what we may be doing. Deputy Commissioner Close has the details.

Ms L Close : Senator, I can confirm that the search warrants were executed on premises for the three people that you have just mentioned.

Senator COLLINS : Are there any other search warrants that are fitting in with Mr Colvin's point and that are a matter of the public record?

Ms L Close : No, there are none on the public record.

Senator COLLINS : Am I correct in concluding that you do not want to discuss any that may have occurred but are not on the public record?

Ms L Close : That is correct.

Senator COLLINS : Okay. What is the current status of the investigation into Mr Brough's conduct?

Ms L Close : The investigation continues. As you can understand, we are relying heavily on electronic records, which we have obtained from various entities. Because of the complex nature of this matter we have also had to obtain legal opinion in respect of search warrants and other avenues of inquiry. Just to demonstrate, some of the investigation time frames are quite lengthy, because we have recovered, to date, in excess of 7,600 emails, 141,000 documents, 116,000-plus images and thousands of email attachments. That just highlights for you the extent of the investigation we are undertaking.

Senator COLLINS : Are you able to tell me when you expect to be able to finalise the investigation?

Ms L Close : No.

Senator COLLINS : Does all that material you just referred to cover the book Ashbygate?

Ms L Close : No.

Mr Colvin : No.

Senator COLLINS : What are the possible outcomes of the investigation? What will happen when you conclude all of that work?

Ms L Close : We then make an assessment as to whether we believe there is sufficient evidence beyond reasonable doubt to have a prima facie case to put to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. The Commonwealth DPP will then make a determination of whether there are any charges to be laid in respect of any people.

Senator COLLINS : And at this point in time you are not able to advise me of the time frame on which you think you will conclude your review of the material?

Ms L Close : Not at this point, no.

Mr Colvin : Further to that, there are aspects of all investigations, and this one is no different, that are out of the control of the organisation. We are in the hands of processes, and sometimes individuals, that mean that we cannot give you a time frame with any degree of certainty.

Senator COLLINS : Mr Brough has remarked that he is willing to be interviewed by the AFP in relation to the criminal accusations that have been made against him. Has that interview occurred?

Ms L Close : We have spoken to Mr Brough, and that is on public record.

Senator COLLINS : When was that, and where did the interview occur?

Mr Colvin : I think in fairness to Mr Brough, if he wishes to make some of that material public then he may do that. We have not said that publicly and I do not think it is appropriate. We would not normally make that public. That is a matter for Mr Brough, if he wishes to.

Senator COLLINS : When you say, though, that you have spoken to Mr Brough, is that what would be regarded as an interview? Or have you a need for further interview?

Ms L Close : It really will depend on the analysis of all the material that I outlined to you earlier as to whether we need another interview or not.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay, but in terms of you looking at all the material before you, it was not just simply a preliminary discussion.

Ms L Close : We have had preliminary discussions—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Chair, could I just raise a point of order? I am struggling to see the relevance of this in the context of estimates. I would understand if the senator were pursuing details about the cost of these investigations, the volume of resources and the like. But we have quite literally hundreds of investigations underway at the moment that would have a political interest, and the trade movement and the like. We could spend the next week here examining the AFP's involvement. I just do not understand the relevance, and I would like you just to consider it and perhaps rule on it.

CHAIR: It is relevant to the expenditure on wages and equipment.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Well, if the questions were that, I would understand that, but that is not—

CHAIR: Well, that is not how they are being used, I guess, but I would allow it at this time.

Senator Brandis: I think the point is that Mr Colvin and Deputy Commissioner Close have made it clear that they cannot go beyond that which is on the public record, and that which is on the public record is already on the public record. So, I just wonder what it profits us to ask questions to which we already know the answer, since only matters to which we do already know the answers are appropriate objects of inquiry.

CHAIR: It is really up to the senator to use her time in whatever way she seems fit. As you say, even if the information is already there, if the senator wants to keep asking the same questions and gets the same answer, that is really up to her.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you.

Mr Colvin : In answer to your question: I do not wish to discuss investigational strategies. Whether we decide to re-speak to Mr Brough in a formal or informal capacity, they are all matters that my investigators will make a judgement on depending on where the investigation takes them, and it is not something I wish to discuss openly.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, and that was not really the point of my question. I was simply seeking to establish whether we were both talking about an interview, which is what Mr Brough had referred to, as opposed to some preliminary conversation to establishment.

Mr Colvin : I will leave that for Mr Brough to talk about, not us.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It has been reported that Mr Ashby has offered to provide the AFP with a copy of the document which he says proves that Wyatt Roy instructed him to steal the former Speaker's official diary. For example on 1 December—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: That is an emotively embedded question when the commissioner has made it very clear to you that there is no investigation on foot regarding theft. At least keep your language in accordance with the fact that have been presented to you in the evidence.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I suggest you go back to the buffet.

CHAIR: You have made your point of order on that one.

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman, on the same point, if I may—and I know Senator Collins is a serial offender here—but if words are to be attributed to someone then the precise words they use, not a paraphrase of them, has to be put to the witness. On numerous occasions, in this forum and in the chamber, it has been discovered after Senator Collins has put a paraphrase of words to a senator or a witness that what she has put to the senator or the witness was not an accurate rendering of what they said.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is simply untrue.

Senator Brandis: On numerous occasions I have caught you out doing this.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, that is untrue. On numerous occasions you have practised malapropism, because you do not know how to apply words that you think are big and attractive.

Senator Brandis: If you are going to attribute words which bear a very, very important insinuation against somebody's reputation then in fairness both to the witness and to the person whom you are trying to smear—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: 'Smear' now? Stop imputing improper motives.

Senator Brandis: please put the direct speech to the witness or not at all.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Your behaviour is outrageous. I really do not know how Mr Turnbull puts up with you.

CHAIR: A point of order was raised and I am ruling on it. There is no point of order—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, there is not. That is right.

CHAIR: but I am sure Commissioner Colvin will take the warning and will, himself, be cautious in how he answers the questions, as he always is, of course.

Senator BILYK: It is all very draining now.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I mentioned that it had been reported and I was about, if I had been given one extra moment of oxygen, to quote that report. If Senator Brandis wants to take issue with the quotation he is encouraged to take issue with the ABC.

Senator Brandis: Then you will be kind enough to provide us with the source from which you are quoting.


Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Certainly, which I just did.

CHAIR: That is a reliable source. We can all rest assured now that this will be accurate.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: On 1 December last year the ABC reported that:

Mr Ashby has also claimed today that Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy advised him to copy Mr Slipper's diary.

CHAIR: And the question is?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I am going to go through the full quote, because I do not want to—

Senator Brandis: Are you reading from the report or are you reading from words attributed in direct speech to Mr Ashby?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am about to go to words directly attributed to Mr Ashby now, in The Australian newspaper.

Senator Brandis: In direct speech?


Senator O'SULLIVAN: Chair, can we have a copy of this while this is happening so we can keep it in context and so we can follow the senator's efforts here?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sure. In quotation of Mr Ashby:

"Wyatt said he didn't really know how to advise me and said he wanted to speak with Christopher Pyne,"

Mr Ashby told The Australian newspaper. Again in quotation of Mr Ashby:

"He then called me back and I went and saw him in his office and he presented me a sheet of paper with instructions of what I should do, and one of the first steps was to get a copy of the office diary."

Still in quotation:

'That is how I came to be printing off a copy of the digital diary. It was evidence in my case.'

That is the end of the quote. This is still from the ABC, though:

Mr Ashby confirmed the quotes on Macquarie Radio this morning and said the sheet of paper would have Mr Roy's fingerprints on it.

Finally, referring to Mr Ashby:

'And Wyatt's never denied giving me any assistance in the beginning,' he said.

Following that public reporting, has Mr Ashby provided a copy of this set of written instructions to the AFP?

Mr Colvin : I am not aware of that particular report. I know it is not necessarily relevant to your question, I just think it would be very unwise for me to give an indication to the committee while this matter is still ongoing. That is directly relevant to the ongoing nature of the investigation, and it is just not something I am prepared to talk about publicly.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Hear, hear.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I appreciate that. Senator O'Sullivan, maybe you were still down at the King O when I started these questions—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: You do not know where I was, and your comments are offensive and you should keep them to yourself.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We do know where you were.

CHAIR: Senator Collins, that is an offensive comment on a Senate colleague. I will not ask you to withdraw—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: For the record, I was not at the Kingston Hotel.

CHAIR: You do not have to say where you were.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: No, but I am just sick of this.

CHAIR: You should desist from that, though, because otherwise people will say you are always permanently drunk, Senator Collins, and that does not get us anywhere.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: They are welcome to say that. It would not have much credibility.

CHAIR: Well what you are saying about Senate colleagues does not have much credibility either.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The issue is that I said at the outset of this discussion, and Mr Colvin remembers that because of the response he just made—

CHAIR: You made a snide comment to another senator, which should not happen. Go on with your question.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: If you defended me as adequately as you are now him, obviously people would not feel encouraged to respond to poor behaviour. I understand that Mr Colvin does not want to respond to that question, and I accept his explanation of that. My next question—

Senator Brandis: I think Mr Colvin said it would not be appropriate to respond.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, and I said that I accept that.

Senator Brandis: You said that he said he did not want to respond.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Will you stop being such a pedant? Seriously.

Senator Brandis: I think there is a difference.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is very late at night, and your behaviour is very draining.

Senator Brandis: There is no reluctance on the part of these witnesses to respond to questions to which they feel they can respond appropriately. When the commissioner of the Australian Federal Police says that it is not a question to which he can appropriately respond, then that is the ground on which the question has not been answered—not because he does not want to provide the committee with all the information he appropriately can.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Senator Brandis, no one implying any differently. You are just making this tedious.

CHAIR: Let us move on. Your time has finished, but we can come back to you, Senator Collins. I will go to Senator O'Sullivan, but, before I do, as part of Senator O'Sullivan's time, could I just ask if the offence being considered or investigated is unauthorised disclosure? Is that right?

Mr Colvin : The circumstances that we are investigating is the unauthorised disclosure of the former speaker's diary. The offence that we may end up considering as the most appropriate—if we even get to that point—is still to be determined.

CHAIR: It is what?

Mr Colvin : It is still to be determined. We have a range of—

CHAIR: There is no technical offence of unauthorised disclosure, is there? That is not a criminal offence.

Mr Colvin : There are offences of unauthorised disclosure.

CHAIR: Where do they rate in the scale of offences? Are they like murder? Terrorism? Rape? Robbery?

Mr Colvin : Chair, that is very difficult for me to answer, because it depends upon the circumstances—for example, are there aggravated circumstances. All offences have penalties that the court can impose, and, clearly, unauthorised disclosure has a very different penalty to what a terrorism offence would.

CHAIR: There was a lot of discussion earlier about the cost and your resources and all this, and I was absolutely gobsmacked to hear Ms Close say that you have investigated thousands and thousands of emails and documents. I can well appreciate the questions on the use of your resources, when you are clearly involved in a huge amount of effort. Is someone, or are several people, going through every one of those emails, every one of those documents, with a magnifying glass, considering each aspect?

Ms L Close : Yes, we have investigators looking at every document that we have seized in relation to this matter.

CHAIR: That would be a very time-consuming exercise, I take it.

Ms L Close : Yes.

CHAIR: For something that I would have thought—and you can tell me I am wrong—in the course of criminal activities that the AFP look at would rank pretty low: unauthorised disclosure.

Mr Colvin : There are a few things there to consider. One is: the court will make determinations in terms of penalty of what gravity of offence the court may consider if somebody is convicted. But there are broader considerations for the AFP than just the penalty of the offence. It is the circumstances and the public interest in the matter. I am probably better off just leaving it at that.

Senator Brandis: I think, if I do not misunderstand what is being said, that it is actually not the offence of unauthorised disclosure; it is the offence of procuring another person to have unauthorised access. I do not think it is being suggested that Mr Brough himself had unauthorised access. I think it is being suggested by some that Mr Brough encouraged somebody else to have unauthorised access.

CHAIR: That would take it to being an even lesser matter, but I take Commissioner Colvin's point and will not pursue that. I hesitate to ask for this on notice, but can someone tell me the penalties that have been imposed on the last successful convictions for procuring someone to have unauthorised disclosure?

Senator McKim interjecting

CHAIR: It is wasting resources, is my point, when we are dealing with criminals, thugs, rapists, murderers, and we have the AFP looking through hundreds of thousands of documents and emails for an offence which, even on conviction, I guess would get a good behaviour bond or something. That would be my experience of how lenient the courts are these days. How difficult would it be to get me some examples of the last time someone was convicted for procuring someone else to make an unauthorised disclosure? Would that be difficult to find?

Ms L Close : I am not aware of the last matter where a person was convicted, so we will have to take that on notice and do some research.

CHAIR: I do not want you to do too much research, because I for one appreciate that you have far more important things to do. But if it is easy to get the last couple of times there were convictions—if there have ever been any in the history of the Criminal Code of the Commonwealth—I would be interested to see when they were, what the penalty was and how many there were. With that, I will pass to Senator O'Sullivan.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Commissioner, has your department been involved either directly or indirectly in relation to the royal commission into corruption within the trade union movement?

Mr Colvin : The trade union royal commission? Yes, we have.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I do not want to leave you with anything on notice, so your best shot is a good enough shot for me. What sorts of resources do you have devoted to that exercise and how long have they been devoted to that exercise?

Mr Colvin : There have been various iterations of our involvement with the trade union royal commission. We have numbers of how many people are involved and we can also give you a sense of what our involvement will be going forward.

Ms L Close : Up to 31 December 2015, the AFP contributed 30 staff to the trade union royal commission. As well as that, we had some state police representatives from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria and some technical specialists assisting.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: That is a reference to what period of time?

Ms L Close : That was from 13 March 2014 until the royal commission concluded on 31 December 2015.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I imagine that there is a cost centre for a project of that nature that you have. Do you have any sense of how much has had to be invested in the investigation of these serious allegations of organised corruption across the trade union movement?

Ms L Close : Up to 31 December 2015 the Australian Federal Police costs for our involvement in the trade union royal commission investigations was $5.5 million.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Do you have any sense of how many live investigations you are involved in?

Ms L Close : There are currently 11 defendants charged before court with various state or Commonwealth offences. We had an additional charge against one person in the ACT that did not proceed. And there is one matter currently with a state DPP for consideration.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: So, these are multiple offences on some of these occasions?

Ms L Close : In some instances.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Does it include serious offences?

Ms L Close : Yes.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Has the investigation—at least your contributions to it—been exhausted?

Ms L Close : From 1 January the AFP received funding of $6 million to continue working with the state and territory police services in relation to finalising the investigations that arose during the royal commission and also to assess any arising from the final report of the royal commissioner.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: If that were an adequate allocation of funds, that would take it to around $12 million, dedicated through your service, to your activities?

Ms L Close : For the Australian Federal Police and the states, yes.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: At a state level, for example, if there were investigations to be conducted—for example, in my home state of Queensland—would it be done by that contingent of officers? Or might the resources of the state police be called upon to assist in your normal cooperative sort of arrangements.

Ms L Close : Going forward for these next 12 months, as an example, in Queensland we would have four state police officers working with three Australian Federal Police officers to continue the investigations.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: And you will rebate the Queensland police service for those officers?

Ms L Close : Yes.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: What about extraneous assistance that you might get from time to time from the state services, be it cursory inquiries for them to provide information or documents? Is it compensated to the state? Or is that a cost that the state might incur on the normal, everyday relationship they have with the AFP?

Ms L Close : In respect of this, the officers attached would generally undertake those day-to-day inquiries, but we do have some additional funding available if there is technical support required. So, it will depend on the nature of the support that we are looking for.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: So, it is not unreasonable to make the point that the cost for the conduct of the law enforcement side of this is greater than $12 million. It is a bit hard to work out what the additional cost may be across the country.

Ms L Close : Yes.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Does this take into account the time that your officers, when the cohort of officers are disbanded from their current direct functions, will devote to pursuing their briefs of evidence, going through the processes in the courts, giving evidence—the time taken for them to dedicate to those sorts of duties?

Ms L Close : We have the funding for the next 12 months, so that is what we will be endeavouring to do to complete those investigations.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: So, you are assuming that perhaps these prosecutions will be completed in that time.

Ms L Close : It is difficult to say how long any court processes may take. We actually do have a couple of days of planning in the next two days, with state and territory agencies, to understand exactly what they may look like.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Sure. Is it typical for the AFP to provide the law enforcement resource for a royal commission? Is that a typical thing?

Mr Colvin : I do not know that I would describe it as typical. There are royal commissions into all various manner of questions. Sometimes if there is a requirement for an investigative arm of the royal commission then the AFP might be asked to give up resources, such as with institutional child abuse, where you have resources working to the royal commission. But there will be other royal commissions that we have no involvement with whatsoever. It really depends on the royal commission.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: In the near-term history of, say, the last decade, has your service found itself having to put such a large cohort of investigators and support staff and to expend such a large budget on any other focus group? In this case it is the trade union movement and their allied activities. And I am not talking about the establishment of a drug squad or a major crime commission; I am talking about a focus on a cohort of people. Do you remember, in the last decade, where that much resource has been applied with that many personnel dedicated for that period of time just on a specific target group?

Mr Colvin : That is difficult for me to answer. In terms of initiatives by a government to set up a royal commission, this is a large contribution from the AFP, but it is not unusual for the AFP to contribute resources of that size, and I guess potentially larger, to new areas of crime or new priority focuses for us. Our resources are very flexible. We move them around. We do not get involved in every royal commission, as I have said. In terms of royal commissions, it is a sizeable contingent that we have committed to it.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Deputy Commissioner Close, to the extent that you are able to answer this, the modus operandi of your group—did they process as if it was an organised crime investigation? That is to say that links in their mind across borders were between organisations in this sort of class of people, these trade union executives?

Ms L Close : That is a difficult question to answer, because you have to look at every single case.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Well, let me ask the question another way, to release you from the burden of that question. Was there evidence of cross-border relationships here between individuals who may well now be prosecuted? For example, within their organisation someone in Brisbane is involved in an investigation, as is someone in New South Wales, and then Victoria.

Ms L Close : Well, the nature of some of the unions that we are looking at do have cross-border representation. So, there may well be some aspects of that in the investigations, yes.

Mr Colvin : If I may add to that, we do not want to be difficult in not answering that, but the investigations were conducted under the auspices of the trade union royal commission, not under the auspices of the Australian Federal Police. The royal commissioner has made his report based on those investigations. I am not sure of the entirety of what is in that report, but he would have had findings if that was the case. Going forward, the investigations will be under the purview of individual agencies to work together, but, up to this point, they have been conducted by the royal commission.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: So, it means that your resource, your personnel, were at the disposal of the royal commission in that they were given their leads, for want of a better term?

Mr Colvin : That is correct. In fact, the investigational component of that was managed by an AFP commander, an SES 1 officer, answering to the royal commission and the royal commissioner. As they saw the need they would refer matters to police jurisdictions or work with police jurisdictions, but the task force was a reasonably all-encompassing task force working to the royal commissioner.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I have one final question. Do you in your memory, Commissioner, in law enforcement, now over decades, remember so many prosecutions coming out of a royal commission directed at just the one cohort of individuals, in this case trade union members?

Senator LAMBIE: [inaudible]

Senator O'SULLIVAN: A cohort is a group of people who bear a relationship to each other, Senator.

Mr Colvin : I think that is a very difficult question for me to answer.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Well, it is a simple question. Just based on your general history and knowledge, do you—I have laboured my mind to it, and it has not been since the royal commission in Queensland that I would say that there had been—

Mr Colvin : I do not want to say no, because I could not think of every circumstance in which there have been cohorts of individuals involved in crime of a not similar nature but of a similar size. Thinking of my own experience I think is not a helpful way to inform the committee.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: There was an attempt. Thank you.

Senator McKIM: What proportion of the national security advertising campaign budget came from AFP?

Mr Colvin : There was an offset. I do not know that we have the exact figure, but we can certainly get it for you.

Mr Wood : I am pretty sure it was $7 million. If I hear it corrected from behind me in a moment then I will put that on the record.

Senator McKIM: Thank you. We will take that as an initial response. So, it was a $10 million campaign, and $7 million came from the AFP. What was the process around—

Mr Wood : I can confirm the figure, Senator.

Senator McKIM: Thank you. So, what was the process around the AFP determining that it would provide that $7 million? Was that a direction or an instruction to AFP? Or was there an internal process within AFP to evaluate whether the objectives of the advertising campaign met the AFP's organisational objectives and strategy?

Mr Colvin : This is a policy position of the government. The funding needed to be found and agencies, as is not unusual, were asked to contribute. As to the actual machinations of how $7 million was arrived at, I think it related to another offset that we were able to put forward. But this is a normal part of the process of our appropriation.

Senator McKIM: Yes, I understand that; thanks. Did the AFP go through any evaluation of the kind that I have just referred to? In other words, did you look at the objectives of the campaign and assess whether or not they were in line with your organisational objectives?

Mr Colvin : Well, the campaign was managed by the Attorney-General's Department, and I am sure that we would have been consulted, but it was not incumbent on us to make those decisions.

Senator McKIM: So, to your knowledge, there was no process undergone within the AFP around assessing the strategic objectives of the campaign, compared with your organisation's objectives?

Mr Colvin : No, we would have commented on the development of the proposal for the national security awareness campaign, but it would not have been a trade-off for us to say how much we think it is worth to come out of AFP appropriations.

Senator McKIM: Are the objectives of the advertising campaign in line with the AFP's objectives?

Mr Colvin : Absolutely. The objective of the campaign is to bring information to agencies' notice that may be of a security concern, and anything that gets the public involved in providing information to police about national security matters is squarely something that we support.

Senator McKIM: Is there any particular reason this campaign should be funded now and not a year ago or next year? Is there any particular reason that the AFP is aware of that this campaign is being run in an election year?

Mr Colvin : It has been run on and off for quite some time. In terms of it being an election year I have no comment on that. We are always looking for information from the public, and if the assessment is that the awareness campaign is timely, to remind the public of how to give information to police, then we support that.

Senator Brandis: And Senator McKim, I note the political barb in your question there. It is not right to say that this campaign has begun at this time, because it is a continuation of a campaign that began not long after the national threat alert level was raised, in the old language, to high, which meant that a terrorist event was assessed to be likely. Now, I think, if my memory serves me correctly, that was done on 11 September 2014. I took a submission to the relevant cabinet subcommittee for an awareness campaign to be run over the summer of 2014-15—in other words, a little over a year ago—and that was done. That campaign ran over the summer; I cannot tell you the exact dates. But in one form or another this public awareness campaign owes its genesis to the decision of ASIO to lift the national threat alert level to high in September 2014.

Senator McKIM: I will raise that again when we get back to your department's estimates around—

Senator Brandis: For completeness, let me make it clear that the campaign has not been continuous since the summer of 2014-15, but it had its genesis then.

Senator McKIM: I understand, but it is recommencing, I guess, to use your framework, in an election year. I will raise that later if we have got time, in relation to some of the other contributions, but I wanted to ask the AFP about its counter-terrorism investigative function. Firstly, now that the Australian Border Force has bedded down a bit, to use lay terms, are you able to provide the committee with an assessment of what proportion of the functions of AFP's previous counter-terrorism investigative workload are now conducted by Border Force?

Mr Colvin : The answer to that is zero. The role of the Border Force is very specific to the border and, as has been well documented and, I think, spoken about in this forum, the Border Force have done a very good job of increasing their presence and awareness at the border and their ability to stop people leaving the country to go to conflict zones and people coming into the country that the Border Force assess as someone that should not be allowed in. That does not mitigate or take away any of our responsibilities in terms of the investigation. Nor, might I add, does it change the fact that the Border Force will refer many of those matters to the police for investigation.

Senator McKIM: If they come across, in the course of their duties, something within your jurisdiction, that is just a referral to you?

Mr Colvin : Yes. Border Force does not have the responsibility for investigating matters of counter-terrorism.

Senator McKIM: All of those that you previously had you maintain now?

Mr Colvin : That is correct—ourselves, our state police, ASIO. It is a combination.

Senator McKIM: I want to ask now about the AFP's community engagement efforts. Are you able to quickly break down for the committee how much of your budget—perhaps we could do it in dollar terms—is spent on community engagement as opposed to your other functions?

Mr Colvin : I believe we can. Whether we can give you an exact figure—we can certainly give you a sense of the rate of effort that we have on community engagement, which is very important. I might pass to Deputy Commissioner, National Security, Mike Phelan. He will give you more detail.

Mr Phelan : Our community engagement component of the AFP works across all the jurisdictions, and we work very closely with the National Disruption Group, which is within the AFP, which was set up under the foreign fighters new policy proposal, the 77 million. The amount of people we actually have in our community liaison teams is 12. The jurisdictional breakdown is: four in Sydney, four in Melbourne, two in Brisbane, one in Perth and one in Adelaide. That is our community engagement teams. Their main role is to, obviously, engage with community, build community support, build rapport between the police service and the community. The people that we have in those particular teams throughout the jurisdictions work very closely with community members. They work with youth, they work with community leaders, they set up meetings etcetera. They work with the community when we do major operations. When we do major operations with the state police as part of the Joint Counter Terrorism Teams, then they are the first to go out to talk to the community, to explain to the community leaders exactly what is happening—what is happening around the warrants, what is happening around the investigation—before they read about it in the paper or see it on Sky News or ABC 24, so that we can get to them and explain the situation, because community engagement is important. We want to make sure the right messages get out, and for the right reasons, before things get a head of steam and get out of control in terms of wrong messages, people sending the wrong things. That is where the community engagement teams, in particular, are extremely important.

Senator McKIM: I completely agree with your comments around the importance of community engagement. Firstly, there are none in my home state of Tasmania?

Mr Colvin : Senator, I was just about to—

Senator McKIM: Sorry to get all parochial on you, Commissioner, but—

Mr Colvin : There may be another senator up there as well who—

Senator Brandis: You are a senator, Senator McKim. We are meant to represent the states. Never apologise for that.

Senator McKIM: Exactly right. Thank you, Attorney.

Mr Colvin : The numbers that Deputy Commissioner Phelan has given you are the dedicated officers to that function. We also have AFP officers in locations such as Darwin and Hobart who also perform that role amongst other matters that they are taking care of. It is not that the community in the Northern Territory or Tasmania is of any less importance, but we manage our resources according to the need.

Senator McKIM: I will address this to the Attorney, to be fair, because it does cross over into politics, but I would be interested if the AFP has a view: there has been some political commentary around statements that have been made by some politicians that demonise Islam as a religion. I will put on the record that Tony Abbott is one of those politicians, from my point of view; there are others. But, if you take the personalities aside, I would like to ask the AFP—because of their interactions on the ground with communities, including potentially with people who are at risk of becoming radicalised—what sort of impact those comments have on the AFP's attempts to engage with the community and hopefully prevent people from becoming radicalised.

Senator Brandis: Well, Senator McKim, before Commissioner Colvin responds, can I just say that I think that is a very unfair characterisation of anything Mr Abbott has said. For all the time that he was Prime Minister I was at Mr Abbott's side, as it were, as the Attorney-General in dealing with these matters, and I have never once heard him, in a private or public statement, say anything that I think could be fairly characterised as demonising Islam. That is a grossly unfair characterisation.

Senator McKIM: Well, we can agree to disagree on that.

Senator Brandis: You have not pointed to anything that Mr Abbott has said. With that objection, as it were, perhaps Commissioner Colvin might care to address the substance of your question.

Senator McKIM: Thank you.

Mr Colvin : I do not wish to participate in an analysis of political commentary, I am sure you can understand that.

Senator McKIM: I am sure you do not.

Mr Colvin : Community relations are important to us. We spend a lot of time working with the community at grassroots level—all communities. Communities react in different ways to us. They react in different ways to our state police partners. What we focus on is trying to get a level of consistency in the relationship, and we focus on our relationship with the community. What others say—and there is a lot of commentary about communities in Australia that you hear—is really irrelevant, because what we do is build up trust between the community and the police.

Senator McKIM: Thank you, Commissioner. I just want to follow that up, but just to be fair to you I will put this through the Attorney: we have had allegations made that the current Prime Minister's office has become involved in leaning on outspoken conservative MPs in a bid to get them to tone down their rhetoric. I think that this is a legitimate matter to explore with the AFP. Perhaps if I rephrase the question slightly that might address some concerns. Is there a danger that some of the political language in this country can be taken by some, who may be at danger of becoming radicalised, as demonising Islam or being unfairly critical of Islam, and therefore leading them to have an increased risk of become radicalised?

CHAIR: I am not sure that is a very—

Senator Brandis: Is that to me or to Commissioner Colvin?

Senator McKIM: I said I would put it through you, Attorney, to be fair to the commissioner, because the AFP has experience in this area—

Senator Brandis: No, I understand. It is a very general question. I agree with what Commissioner Colvin said in response to your last question. We do have to be careful with our language because, as Mr Abbott has said and I have said and Mr Turnbull has said, the Islamic community are our necessary partners in dealing with an evil that moves within Islamic communities: Islamist terrorist recruiters acting on behalf of ISIL.

Senator McKIM: There is evil in all communities, if you want to use that word.

Senator Brandis: Particularly that community, because the young men in particular, the young men and women who are being recruited—and you have heard what the Director-General of Security said earlier in the afternoon—are being recruited from that community. As I have said quite often in public statements and media interviews, that community in particular is a victim of the people who do the work of ISIL and other Islamist terrorist organisations. Therefore, it is essential that we maintain a good relationship with that community and work with them in order to deal with the problem that is threatening to Australia at large and to that community in particular.

Senator McKIM: That is the point of my question. Do some of the comments that are made in the public debate place that policy aim at risk? That is a very simple question.

Senator Brandis: I do not think it is possible to answer a question as generic as that. If you can point me to a particular remark, then perhaps we can comment on it. I think it is enough to say that we need to be careful with our language. It is very important that we do not demonise the Islamic community. I do not believe we have done that. We need to work with them, because they are particularly threatened—as we are all threatened, as Australians—by people who move among that community and seek to recruit vulnerable young people from within that community.

Senator McKIM: Commissioner, I note from your annual report that you have officers deployed now at new deployments in Ankara, Amman and The Hague in liaison positions. Have those deployments affected deployments in other parts of the world, such as in South and South-East Asia, and how are we ensuring that we are not taking our eye of some of the real hotspots of the world by sacrificing potential resources in those areas?

Mr Colvin : We are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our international footprint. On any given day, we have between 85 and 100 officers offshore, around the globe, in dedicated international liaison positions. That is not counting our officers in, say, the Solomon Islands or PNG on a different peace and stabilisation mission. Those officers in Amman, Jordan and in The Hague were additional officers to our network. At the same time, we are constantly assessing whether we need to increase or decrease. It was new money that we were provided, which the Attorney-General talked about earlier—funding for the foreign fighter challenge that we are facing. I guess I would say that we consider those to be hotspots, which is why we have put officers there.

Senator McKIM: So they are in relation to your counter-terrorism operations?

Mr Colvin : Absolutely—they are predominantly for counter-terrorism matters.

Senator LAMBIE: Commissioner, I refer you to the speech I made in parliament last week, where I raised, under privilege, the concerns and allegations made by SAS trooper Evan Donaldson and former Army officer Marcus Saltmarsh. You will recall that they both made allegations which include official corruption and cover-up at a high level, serious assaults and the abuse of office by senior members of the Australian military. After writing to you, asking for your office to visit my Senate office and take the statements of these two young men—and after a delay and some confusions—two AFP officers politely showed up, and the Australian Federal Police began the process of deciding whether they want to investigate these very serious matters or refer the matters back to Defence so that Defence can investigate the matters in-house. Do you think that is a fair description of the course of events that happened in my office last week?

Mr Colvin : Yes, except to say that those initial discussions with Mr Donaldson and Mr Saltmarsh were to ascertain whether they wished to make a referral to the AFP. We have advised them how they should go about referring. At this stage, they have not come forward and made those allegations or referred anything to the AFP—on this occasion. One of those gentlemen has previously referred matters to the AFP, which have been dealt with, but, in terms of the current matters that you spoke about in parliament, both of those gentlemen are free to make those allegations to us and bring us information to assist us in assessing them.

Senator LAMBIE: I do not believe a time or anything has been made for that, and, actually, we are waiting for you and the Australian Federal Police to get back to us. One of those allegations has actually been presented to you on a couple of occasions before.

Mr Colvin : That is correct. One of the allegations I think has been presented at least twice—if not, on three occasions. I want to be careful. Until such time as either of these gentlemen bring that information to us—and we have given them the options to do that; and I think arrangements may even have been made to meet with them in their home state—I am not in a position to make a judgement about what they have said to us. On the previous occasions we have dealt with the information that one of the gentlemen has referred, and my understanding is that he is satisfied with the course of action we took.

Senator LAMBIE: When you dealt with the previous matter did you contact the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Binskin, or any other senior military officers about this matter? Have you actually spoken to the side of the military?

Mr Colvin : I would have to look at what the AFP did at the time of those referrals. Personally, no, I have not spoken to the Chief of the Defence Force about those referrals.

Senator LAMBIE: I would like to know when that contact was made, if it was made et cetera. So if I could have that. Air Chief Marshal Binskin has written to me saying: 'There are serious allegations that require thorough investigation.' It is a comment that I agree on. Do you?

Mr Colvin : I can only go on what your statement was in parliament.

Senator LAMBIE: I am happy to supply it.

CHAIR: Please let the witness finish his answer.

Mr Colvin : I can say that I am sure all police would be the same. We need to hear the matter from the people who are making the allegations. When they have done that we will be in a position to assess that information.

Senator LAMBIE: Okay. I am happy to table the letter from Air Chief Marshal Binskin that says there are serious allegations that require thorough investigation. Commissioner, the only problem I have is that it appears that Air Chief Marshal Binskin appears to think that his military can deliver a thorough investigation. Given the number of senior military members, including defence investigators accused of corruption and misconduct, do you think that the military can impartially and independently investigate the matters of Evan Donaldson and Marcus Saltmarsh?

CHAIR: I am not sure that is a fair question.

Mr Colvin : That is not a matter for me to comment on. Until such time as I actually see the allegations that Mr Donaldson and Mr Saltmarsh wish to make to the AFP, I am in no position to give you an assessment of its seriousness, the right agency to investigate it or what the appropriate course of action is.

Senator LAMBIE: How many members of the Australian Defence Force have approached the Australian Federal Police in the last 10 years wanting to make statements alleging they were victims of crime or misconduct committed by other members of the Australian Defence Force? Do you keep these stats? If you do, I would like to get the answer on that question.

Mr Colvin : We would have to take that on notice to see how many matters have been referred to us by former or serving members of the Defence Force.

Senator LAMBIE: How many potentially criminal matters have you referred back to the Australian Defence Force for investigation?

Mr Colvin : I will take that on notice.

Senator LAMBIE: When you are given statements from military personnel and you take those statements, who makes the decision on whether or not you refer them back to the Australian Defence Force?

Mr Colvin : The AFP would make that decision.

Senator LAMBIE: What rank in the AFP makes that decision?

Mr Colvin : It would really depend on what the allegation is, the conduct being alleged, the circumstances of the matter. As I explained to Senator Bilyk earlier, we have a very well tried and tested case categorisation prioritisation model that works through a number of factors in terms of whether we are the right agency to investigate, whether there is a more appropriate agency to investigate, whether it is a priority matter for us that we would actually take on.

Senator LAMBIE: Are any AFP officers taken into account? Are they made to disclose any conflicts of interest, for example? Does any officer involved in the decision-making process have family or other links with the members of the Australian Defence Force?

Mr Colvin : All senior executive members of the Australian Federal Police make a conflict of interest declaration. However, I think implicit in your question is that there would be some bias in the way that that judgement is made. I have certainly never seen any evidence of that. I see no reason why we should be presuming that an AFP officer would have a prejudice or bias in terms of making an assessment of a matter.

Senator LAMBIE: Is an undisclosed conflict of interest just another name for official corruption?

Senator Brandis: No. It could be, but not necessarily.

Senator LAMBIE: It is no? It could be? Which one is it, Attorney-General? No? It could be? I am just trying to appreciate.

Senator Brandis: Your question is: is it another name for official corruption? The answer to that question is no. It could be, but it isn't necessarily. The concept of an undisclosed conflict of interest and the concept of official corruption are different concepts.

Senator LAMBIE: So if no conflicts of interest exist with the ADF investigators and judge advocates, do you believe that the Australian Defence Force has the capacity to conduct an independent, unbiased investigation of Donaldson and Saltmarsh on criminal and corruption allegations?

Mr Colvin : I am not in a position to make a judgement about the Australian Defence Force's investigation ability, especially on matters that have not been referred to the AFP and of which I do not know the significance or circumstances of.

Senator LAMBIE: I look very forward to seeing what allegations you have received in the last 10 years and what has been done about those allegations, and how many of them have gone back to the Australian Defence Force. Thank you very much.

Mr Colvin : We have those records. We will share them.

Senator LAMBIE: That would be great.

CHAIR: Are you finished, Senator Lambie?

Senator LAMBIE: I have. Thank you, Chair. I will go to Senator Madigan.

Senator MADIGAN: Last week, around 70 police were deployed to the Port of Newcastle to break up industrial action taken by the crew of the ship CSL Melbourne who had been sacked to enable their employer, Canada Steamship Lines, to replace them with foreign crew. Of the 70 police who arrived at the scene, I believe 15 boarded the ship and escorted the five crew from the ship. What was the involvement of the AFP in this operation?

Mr Colvin : No involvement.

Senator MADIGAN: None at all? Right. So there was no involvement in the planning and execution phases of this operation?

Mr Colvin : No.

Senator MADIGAN: Was the AFP informed that the operation would be taking place prior to it occurring?

Mr Colvin : No. I read about it in the media, like many others. No, we were not advised.

Senator MADIGAN: Did the minister have any knowledge or involvement of the operation?

Mr Colvin : I cannot answer on behalf of the minister. Certainly not from the AFP, though, because we were not aware of it.

Senator MADIGAN: Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Thanks, Senator Madigan, that was—

Senator Lambie interjecting

CHAIR: I can come back to you, Senator Lambie. I am trying to do this as fairly as possible. You don't have any AFP—

Senator BILYK: We have no more on AFP. Senator Ludlam.

Senator LUDLAM: It should not take too long. Thanks for being here. I am going to refer a bit to some questions—or one of them—for which we had the answers returned to the Senate late last week. They were tabled by Senator Brandis. And there are a couple that have not come back yet. One was with reference to question on notice 266, regarding the AFP funding of Sri Lankan CID units—Criminal Investigation Department. We have some answers back. Thank you very much for providing those. I am not sure whether to direct these questions through Senator Brandis or you, Commissioner, so I am happy for whoever wants to take them on.

Mr Colvin : If I can answer them, I will.

Senator LUDLAM: All right. Let's go then. For the response to question 2, I had asked whether you were aware of the credible allegations of human rights abuses, including physical, sexual, torture, as well as forced extrajudicial incarcerations and killings, committed by the CID—this Criminal Investigation Department. The response that came back was: 'The department is aware of allegations of human rights abuses.' That is all we have. So they are speaking on behalf of the AFP. The AFP is aware of those allegations?

Mr Colvin : Was that a question to the department that the department answered? I am just trying to get a copy of the question on notice. Is this one that we answered?

Senator LUDLAM: It was to the Attorney-General's office, but it referred directly to the AFP.

Mr Colvin : We are just trying to find if we have a copy. It is not in the questions on notice that I have with me today.

Senator LUDLAM: I can table it, if that would help.

Mr Colvin : If you could, that would be fantastic.

Senator LUDLAM: I might just need some assistance from the secretary in making a copy for the commissioner. I will keep it general until you have a copy in front of you, if you like, Commissioner. What is your understanding of the situation regarding human rights as far as the Sri Lankan CID is concerned? Obviously, the AFP has been providing assistance for a couple of years.

Mr Colvin : Clearly, there have been media reports in the past of allegations of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, including the Sri Lankan police CID. From an AFP perspective, we have very clear guidelines, if that is to be observed and what we do with it. I am not aware of any reports from our officers of having observed human rights abuses.

Senator LUDLAM: You have not observed?

Mr Colvin : I am not aware of any reports from our officers having observed human rights abuses. I am aware that the media have reported those allegations.

Senator LUDLAM: We can come to some of the media reports of that later. Was the AFP aware, presumably, under your predecessor, of these allegations and reports prior to providing the material assistance that we have been doing for a couple of years?

Mr Colvin : I believe the answer to that would have to be yes because the allegations have been around for some time.

Senator LUDLAM: They have, indeed. Again, you go into a little detail in the question on notice, but if you are happy to proceed without direct reference to it, you indicate that there is a risk assessment process that you go through not just in Sri Lanka, obviously, but anywhere we are providing direct assistance—to police units, military, paramilitaries. There is a risk assessment process that you go through. Tell us a little about that, please?

Mr Colvin : First of all, we do not provide assistance to militaries and we are very careful about that. With the assistance we do provide to police, we necessarily have to make judgements about what assistance that is. For instance, the AFP does not involve itself in training of a tactical nature. We predominantly limit ourselves to providing assistance at training and support in relation to investigations, the conduct of investigations and how intelligence is used. Implicit in our training is a human rights subtext because we train on the basis of the way that we operate.

Senator LUDLAM: Sorry, what was that last bit?

Mr Colvin : We train on the basis of the way that we operate.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. So what happens when the units or departments that you are training do not operate according to those principles, repeatedly, over and over again over a period of years?

Mr Colvin : In partnership with departments such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we would have to make judgements about the utility of providing that support. There is an element of wanting to improve the conduct of some of these police forces. But this is a constant and ongoing assessment that we make.

Senator LUDLAM: I am trusting that you have the document in front of you.

Mr Colvin : We do now. It does not ring a bell as one of ours, but I accept that it talks about the AFP.

Senator LUDLAM: Well, it would have gone through the department, the A-GD, but obviously it refers to you guys directly. In answer to question 3, you have pointed out you conduct an initial feasibility study before the establishment of any liaison post. Again, I am happy for this to be forwarded through the department if you would prefer. What criteria do you look for before deciding whether to start shifting equipment, training, capacity building into a particular place?

Mr Colvin : There are a few things in that. You also referred to when we conduct feasibility studies, which I note now is in the actual question on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, answer No. 3.

Mr Colvin : I would want to go back to the feasibility study that we did for Sri Lanka to find exactly what the assessment criteria was and what we looked at. Perhaps Deputy Commissioner Close has some more information.

Ms L Close : Yes. As well as the areas you are outlining, we also have a memorandum of understanding between the Australian Federal Police and the Sri Lankan police. That sets out the aspects in relation to what equipment, training et cetera that we will provide to them.

Senator LUDLAM: A formal MoU?

Ms L Close : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: When was that signed?

Ms L Close : I will have to take that on notice.

Mr Colvin : It is a while ago.

Senator LUDLAM: 2009 is—

Mr Colvin : I think that was the initial one and it may well have been updated since it.

Senator LUDLAM: Could you table a copy of that, whatever is the current standing iteration of that document?

Mr Colvin : Could we table that?

Senator LUDLAM: Yes.

Mr Colvin : I do not believe we can table MoUs because they are agreements between ourselves and another country. I think we have dealt with this issue before and the advice has always been that we are not able to table MoUs.

Senator LUDLAM: Senator Brandis, is that your understanding?

Senator Brandis: I am sorry. I was not listening.

Senator LUDLAM: That is all right. Sorry if we are an inconvenience to you. Tabling MoUs—

Senator Brandis: No, I was just distracted by my advisers. What was the question?

Senator LUDLAM: It is about the tabling of MoUs between, in this instance, the AFP and their counterparts in other countries where we are providing material support or training capacity building. I sought a copy of the MoU that has been signed between the AFP and the Sri Lanka Police Service. Is it formal government policy that such documents would never be tabled? Why would it not be possible for Australian taxpayers to see that?

Senator Brandis: I do not immediately know the answer to that question, so I will take it on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: It is worth asking then. If you are able to take that on notice, I am interested in the specifics but also in the general government policy. In answer—

Senator Brandis: Obviously, I would have to acquaint myself with the document to which you refer to seek advice as to whether it is the kind of document that might be tabled.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, that is understood. In your response to question number 4, you said: 'The AFP has not received any reports from its own officers regarding allegations of abuses involving the Sri Lankan police service.' That is obviously a bit bigger than just the CID. You referenced the entire Sri Lanka Police Service. You pointed out that, in 2010, you were made aware of some specific allegations. There is very careful language there: the AFP has not received any reports from its own officers regarding allegations of abuses. With one Google search, in about eight seconds, I discovered a Human Rights Watch report titled Sri Lanka: routine police torture devastates families. Human Rights Watch is a credible organisation that has global reach and is of good standing. Do you take into account that kind of open source material, or do you just wait to hear from your own officers?

Mr Colvin : No. As I said before, we are aware of the allegations. We are aware that there has been significant reporting of these allegations, including from organisations that you have just mentioned. In specific reference to the question, as I have said before, our officers, who have very tight guidelines around what they should or should not report if they become aware of abuse by our partners, have not reported any that they themselves have witnessed.

Senator LUDLAM: Unless you specifically witness somebody being tortured, everything is hunky-dory?

Mr Colvin : No, not at all. It is quite the opposite. That is not what I said before. I said that we take a range of things into account. I did say to you that I did not want to comment on the initial feasibility study until I was able to refresh my memory of it and know what was taken into account.

Senator LUDLAM: What about day-to-day conduct, the sort of activity that is reported by Human Rights Watch?

Mr Colvin : I am not sure what the question is.

Senator LUDLAM: You have referenced a document that we believe was signed off in about 2009. You have undertaken to take that on notice. The initial feasibility study was long before you took up the role that you are in now; I understand that. We are not just interested in the assessment you did in 2009. My question to you is: what about the assessments you do from day to day? Does it cause any sort of stir, for example, when Human Rights Watch publishes this sort of document?

Mr Colvin : We do not operate in a vacuum. Our officers work in a number of countries around the world where there are allegations of misconduct.

Senator LUDLAM: Why are we supporting and providing equipment, training, surveillance gear, computer equipment and white vans—which I will get to in a second—to a police unit that is regularly accused of committing horrific human rights abuses? Why do we do that?

Mr Colvin : We have a vast international network, in which we work with our partners in a range of countries, particularly within the region to our near north. We work with them because it is in Australia's law enforcement interests to try to take the battle against crime offshore and, where we can, defeat it at the source. We work with them because the effects of transnational crime require us to take that approach. If we did not then we would be far less effective at our work. We do that, very conscious of the expectations of the Australian government and the Australian community about the way police should conduct themselves. As I have said, we are aware of these allegations, but they do not necessarily mean that we should not continue to work with trusted partners.

Senator LUDLAM: That is breathtaking. When you say that they are trusted partners, they are accused in this document—again, I found this in less than 10 seconds—of routinely using torture methods, including severe beatings, electric shocks and suspension from ropes in painful positions, against criminal suspects. We would not tolerate this kind of behaviour from a domestic law enforcement agency.

Senator Brandis: There is a policy issue here.

Senator LUDLAM: Tell me what that is, Senator Brandis. Enlighten us.

Senator Brandis: First of all, you seem to be assuming that, because an allegation is made, it ought to be accepted as established. I do not think that that is very sensible, and I do not think that is the way any police law enforcement organisation can operate. Secondly, and I am sure Commissioner Colvin will elaborate on my remarks, it is very important that the Australian Federal Police have collaborative and cooperative relationships with other national police forces—including the Sri Lankan police—across a whole range of areas of important mutual interest, including combating transnational crime, people smuggling, terrorism, child sexual exploitation and a range of other serious matters. Surely you are not suggesting that, because an NGO has made allegations that you assert to be credible against another national police agency, we should have no cooperation with that police agency?

Senator LUDLAM: Senator Brandis, you imply that I just assume that they are credible. Are you assuming that those allegations are not credible? What I am trying to find out here is what happens—

Senator Brandis: No, I am not assuming the allegations are not credible.

Senator LUDLAM: What was done to validate them or otherwise?

Senator Brandis: The boot is on the other foot. You are saying that we should take a decision which would have a very significant blow on international crime cooperation merely because allegations of torture—

Senator LUDLAM: That you say—

Senator Brandis: The subject of the allegations is hardly to the point. The question is whether the allegation—

Senator LUDLAM: It is precisely to the point, or I would not be wasting your time.

Senator Brandis: The credibility of the allegations is a different issue from the gravity of that which is alleged.

Senator LUDLAM: Alright. Let's pick a specific example from this report that I have cited a couple of times: 'Sri Lanka routine police torture devastates families'—Human Rights Watch, 23 October 2015. What did the AFP or the ATD do when that report was published to either validate, verify or otherwise the claims that it contains?

Mr Colvin : First and foremost, it is not the AFP's job to attempt to validate or otherwise allegations against an individual of a foreign police service.

Senator LUDLAM: Whose job is it, then, if we are providing them with materiel support, training and capacity building?

Mr Colvin : Our job is to make sure that the support that we provide is used in accordance with our expectations, and we do that routinely. I know you will ask me about the white van, and I am sure we will talk about that as well.

Senator LUDLAM: Let's go there, since you have brought it up.

Mr Colvin : The question has been raised with us before. Yes, we provided a vehicle to the Sri Lankan police service in furtherance of our objectives; I believe it was around people smuggling in particular. I know there have been links drawn to white vans in Sri Lanka participating in human rights abuses. There are many white vans in Sri Lanka, I am sure, and I find it quite difficult to try and draw any link between the vehicle that we may have given and some allegation that a white van has been used in some inappropriate way.

Senator LUDLAM: It is not about white vans. It is about white vans used by this very specific CID—this very specific unit of the Sri Lankan police force—to abduct people who were then extrajudicially tortured or murdered.

Senator Brandis: But all these statements you make are claims. They are allegations.

Senator LUDLAM: I am interested to know what the government does to verify the allegations. Or do you just hope for the best?

Senator Brandis: They are allegations. No government alters its policy merely because some unspecified unknown person might make an allegation. Allegations are made all the time.

Senator LUDLAM: It is groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. They are credible organisations.

Senator Brandis: I am not particularly familiar with Human Rights Watch. I am familiar with Amnesty International, but over the years I have seen a number of claims made by Amnesty International which were demonstrably false.

CHAIR: Absolutely!

Senator LUDLAM: Have you done anything at all to verify the claims in this document in particular? Otherwise it looks as though it is kind of a don’t-ask-don't-tell policy.

Senator Brandis: I am not even familiar with the document of which you speak.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. I will come back to this a little bit later.

CHAIR: Your time has finished.

Senator LUDLAM: Can I put one or two more on notice?

CHAIR: We can come back to you if you want to do it that way. Senator Lambie had some questions; when she is finished I can come back to you, if you want to.

Senator LUDLAM: Thanks Chair, go ahead.

Senator LAMBIE: Commissioner, I want to clear up a question that we had before in reference to Trooper Donaldson and Marcus Saltmarsh. I want to make it quite clear that, when they were in my office last week, your AFP members made it quite clear to me that they will not take statements until they are given the order. You have not given them that order, and they have not contacted my two men. They are waiting by the phone. I am happy to ring them and they can say that straight to your face, or you can retract the statement that you made in misleading me. Which one is it?

CHAIR: I will not have you accusing officers and witnesses before this committee—

Senator LAMBIE: It is not accusing, it is a fact, and he knows it, don't you Commissioner?

CHAIR: Senator Lambie, you will apologise or you will be excluded from this hearing. I will not have you or anyone else making accusations like that against distinguished serving officers—

Senator LAMBIE: They are not allegations, they are the truth. You are telling me I have two ex-soldiers lying to me. My goodness me, Chair!

CHAIR: Does anyone else have any questions, or do we move on? I will not be calling Senator Lambie again until she apologises, and I would rather you did not respond—

Senator LAMBIE: Maybe he could apologise for misleading.

CHAIR: Do you have any more questions, Senator Ludlam?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: On a point of order, if Mr Colvin feels that he needs to respond he should be able to.

Senator LUDLAM: I do have some questions, but I am happy if the commissioner wants to respond. He was about to offer a response.

CHAIR: I have made a ruling. Unless Senator Lambie apologises I am not going to pursue that any further. I am sorry, Commissioner.

Senator LAMBIE: So you want me to apologise so that I can get my answer. Okay, if that is what it is going to take to get my answer then I will apologise. So if I could have my answer please.

CHAIR: Commissioner, Senator Lambie has apologised and retracted that statement she made about you, so on that basis you may like to respond.

Mr Colvin : Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Senator. I do take great offence at the inference, but I accept the apology. I am not sure what those officers said or why they would have said that, but I can categorically state that an officer does not require a direction from me to take a statement. As I advised, we have spoken to Mr Donaldson and Mr Saltmarsh. We have advised them of what they need to do and how to go about reporting these crimes to us. The officers here in Parliament House are not the appropriate officers to report them to, but I accept that they were the officers here on the day. I believe Brisbane office is dealing with the matter. I am sure that we will talk to them and take their statement when they are ready.

Senator LAMBIE: Who spoke to them, and when do they do that?

Mr Colvin : I take that back. It was suggested that they speak to the Brisbane office—they must be from Queensland, I do not know. No-one needs a direction from me to take a statement.

Senator LAMBIE: So why would the Australian Federal Police tell me that they cannot take a statement until they are told to do so?

Mr Colvin : I do not know, and I do not know why they would have said that. I would be very pleased to talk to the officers and find out from them what they said. But that is not as it has been reported to me.

Senator LAMBIE: Commissioner, we are waiting on their move to contact those two men so that those two men can give their statements. That is what we are waiting on. So if the Australian Federal Police—

Mr Colvin : Do you mean that 'we are waiting on', Senator, or that Mr Donaldson and Mr Saltmarsh are waiting?

Senator LAMBIE: Mr Donaldson and Mr Saltmarsh are waiting for the Australian Federal Police to contact them so that they can have a time and date at which they can give their statement. That is what was organised in my office.

Mr Colvin : I will double-check the officers, but there will be no delay from our perspective if any member of the public wishes to come forward and bring allegations of that nature to the police.

Senator LAMBIE: So far they have waited a week. They tried to give their allegations on that day. Now I am waiting on your people to give them a time and date.

Mr Colvin : I am not sure what more you want me to say. That version of events is inconsistent with what I have been told, but we will rectify it, if the two gentlemen are waiting to talk to us. I certainly have no interest in having the matter aired in Senate estimates. I would be very keen to talk to them so that we can hear their allegations direct.

Senator LAMBIE: Thank you. That would be wonderful. I am sure they will be looking forward to that. I have a couple of questions on the shipping incident that happened last week, Attorney-General, because I know this has nothing to do with the Federal Police. Is it true that 70 civilian police showed up to remove eight men from a ship? Can you clarify that for me, and who gave the order to use 70 civilian police to remove six or eight personnel from a ship?

Senator Brandis: I do not know. I will take that on notice.

Senator LAMBIE: And when you have done that could you please also take on notice whether you found any arms or drugs or anything on that ship? And how long were those civilian police—

Senator Brandis: I think I know the incident to which you are referring, but could you be a little specific, please?

Senator LAMBIE: I am talking about the ship that last week that was at the CSL.

CHAIR: Were Federal Police involved?

Senator LAMBIE: No, it was the civilian police.

Mr Colvin : It was the New South Wales Police. I stand to be corrected, but I am not sure—

CHAIR: If it is not a matter for this estimates committee—

Senator Brandis: Senator Lambie, I am not familiar with the incident, but if Commissioner Colvin is aware of that to which you are apparently referring and he tells us that it had nothing to do with the Australian Federal Police there is really nothing this committee—

Senator LAMBIE: I know that. I am just trying to see if the order has come from parliament.

CHAIR: It is not a matter for this estimates committee if it does not relate to—

Senator LAMBIE: It is if the order has come from either the Attorney-General or the immigration—

Senator Brandis: No order of the kind of which you describe came from me.

CHAIR: And it certainly did not—

Senator LAMBIE: Any other minister?

Senator Brandis: I would not expect so, because if the law enforcement officers involved were from New South Wales Police it is highly unlikely they would have been acting on the orders of a federal minister.

Senator LAMBIE: Could I find out which minister ordered that at the state level?

Senator Brandis: My point is that I did not and I think it is very unlikely that any federal minister ordered it.

CHAIR: If it is not this minister it is not a matter for this estimates. You will have to go somewhere else and ask.

Senator LUDLAM: I have a couple of follow-up questions. These refer to question on notice No. 2794, which remains unanswered—I think it is about 40 days overdue. Specifically, it is in regard to the AFP's support, or otherwise, to Detachment 88, which is a counter-terrorism unit within the Indonesian National Police. I have asked your predecessor questions about this in years past, but I do not think we have had this discussion before. So, in the absence of a response to the question that I put on notice can you tell us whether the AFP, financially or otherwise—training, capacity building, mentoring, equipment—provides assistance to the Detachment 88 unit specifically, or indirectly through INP?

Mr Colvin : I will ask Deputy Commissioner Phelan to come to the table. In terms of the unanswered question on notice, we have answered all of our questions on notice. I am not sure if perhaps it was a question to the department—

Senator LUDLAM: It might be held up a bit further up the line, but the parliament does not have an answer yet.

Mr Colvin : I understand that. I know we have put material on the record before. Yes, we still continue to work with Detachment 88, the counter-terrorism arm of the Indonesian National Police, in a range of matters.

CHAIR: I am told by the secretariat that you are referring to a question on notice in the Senate and not a question on notice through the estimates process.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, that is correct.

Mr Wood : Which is why we do not have it with us.

Senator LUDLAM: In the absence of a response, though, do you want to just sketch very briefly—because we obviously are expecting a more detailed written answer down the track—in what capacity we assist this unit?

Mr Colvin : We will say what we can, and we will check the status of that question. I will hand over to Deputy Commissioner Phelan.

Mr Phelan : I think I have answered this question before this committee in the past in this place—almost exactly. I will try to remember the details. Over the years, effectively since the Bali bombings, we have provided consistent training on and off to Detachment 88. The question specifically put to us before was whether we had been involved in tactical training to their tactical alarm. The answer to that is no. But Detachment 88 has an investigative component as well. We work very closely with their investigative component. We work with them in relation to cybercrime exploitation. We work with them with investigative training. They have a hand in forensic investigations, as well, and we work very closely with them on that. We have provided them with training both in Indonesia, primarily at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation, in Semarang, which is a joint Australian and donor-funded training facility in Indonesia. That is the extent of our training with Detachment 88, and it ebbs and flows. Over some years we have given a large amount of equipment and so on, and in some years it is next to nothing.

Senator LUDLAM: We have asked on notice for a bit of detail about what kind of equipment, so I will not hold us up tonight on that. I think Detachment 88 has in past times played a very important role in counter-terrorism work, so it is obviously in Australia's interests that they are well-trained and supported.

Mr Phelan : They do. They are one of our key partners in Indonesia. There is no doubt about that.

Senator LUDLAM: How does it work when the same unit—and this is going to start sounding grimly familiar, I am afraid—is then implicated in gross human rights violations in West Papua; same guys, same unit, same training, same equipment, different mission?

Mr Phelan : We certainly do not get involved in their operations in West Papua, and—

Senator LUDLAM: We do not get involved in their operations, but we have helped build their capacity and their training.

Mr Phelan : Not the capacity in terms of the tactical capacity we are talking about. We do talk about their investigative capacity, forensics and social media exploitation, which is relatively new.

Senator LUDLAM: I am presuming we are not then simply washing our hands if these very same individuals, and this very same unit, are then implicated in some kind of terrifying conduct in West Papua.

Mr Phelan : A very similar answer to what the commissioner gave: we do not wash our hands of anything. We are very cognisant of the equipment we deliver. We provide the training for it and it has a very specific nexus back to Australia for a specific purpose.

Senator LUDLAM: I am sure you can tell why I am raising these questions. It must be reasonably obvious where am I heading. What kind of due diligence do you do to make sure that the equipment, the training and the capacity building that we are providing to these individuals are not being thrown outside a counter-terrorism role—which I do not think there would be a person in this room who would oppose—to a role of cracking down on, torturing and disappearing pro-democracy campaigners in West Papua? It is some of the same people.

Mr Colvin : I think some of these questions are best directed towards Foreign Affairs, because they are questions that Foreign Affairs deal with on a regular basis, in terms of allegations of this nature. We are as specific and as careful as we can be, as the deputy commissioner has said, about the types of training that we provide and the equipment that we provide, to minimise the ability for it to be diverted and used in any other way. We train to our standards. We constantly work with our partners to have a standard that is very similar to what we have here in this country. We cannot be held accountable for what they are alleged to have done. It is something that we are acutely aware of and it is something that we have answered in this chamber many times.

Senator LUDLAM: There are reasons that it comes up over and over again.

Mr Colvin : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Are you able to engage in any kind of vetting process for members of the Indonesian police, or specifically Det 88, given that they are in receipt of Australian public funding, or is that out of scope?

Mr Colvin : To the extent that we can, yes, we are tailoring our efforts and our capacity building to those members and those areas we feel are operating in Australia's interest.

Senator LUDLAM: Is there anybody, for example, that we have simply refused to train, on the basis of their record?

Mr Colvin : I might take that on notice, because I want to give the committee a proper answer to these questions. They are very serious allegations and they are proper questions for us. I need to be very careful about the way we answer them. I want to try and give the committee the confidence that the AFP is not acting rashly in the way that we cooperate with these units.

Senator LUDLAM: Rashly?

Mr Colvin : Yes. I am trying to give you confidence that we are not acting rashly.

Senator LUDLAM: The last question is equally applicable to those that I put to you not that long ago about the Sri Lankan CID. There are these due diligence processes that you engage in when you are first establishing a mission in another part of the world. I am interested to know how that process is iterated over time and, if there are particular allegations of human rights abuses, whether anything happens or whether, unless AFP individuals directly witness this kind of conduct, it just goes through to the keeper?

Mr Colvin : It does not just go through to the keeper. If we witness that kind of conduct, there is a very strict guideline, protocol, that we must work through with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about that activity. At the same time, if our presence in a country—in my mind or in my senior officers' minds—became untenable because of allegations of misconduct or because of a lack of trust in officers that we were working with, then we would have to reconsider, but we are not in that situation.

Senator LUDLAM: How bad does it have to get in West Papua before we would reconsider? What are your threshold questions?

Mr Colvin : We are not operating in West Papua—

Senator LUDLAM: But the people that we are training are operating there, Commissioner, with respect.

Mr Colvin : I do not know that that is the case. Det 88 is a very large organisation, and I have not seen any evidence to suggest that somebody that we have provided training to has been directly implicated in allegations. As I said before, you need to ask some of these questions to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Senator LUDLAM: I do intend to do so, if there is any of those individuals in the room. I do intend to do so; they are likely though to refer me right back to you because you have the people on the ground, actually providing the training.

Mr Colvin : I am in no position to make a comment about allegations of human rights abuses in West Papua.

Senator LUDLAM: It is the people that we train, and the capacity that we are building, and the equipment we are providing, that I am trying to understand how we can possibly do ongoing due diligence and track those people or that gear.

Mr Colvin : Senator, we work and train with a fairly small, select group of individuals. Can I categorically say that I always know where those individuals are, deployed across the archipelago of Indonesia, and what duties they are involved in? No, I cannot, but our officers are very conscious of making sure we work with people who serve in the interests of Australia.

Senator LUDLAM: You have taken a fair number of matters on notice so I might leave it there. I am just going to put one—it is probably going to seem a bit left field—on another matter and then I will let you go. Could confirm for us, whether or not you have received a complaint in relation to a Mr Nick Ross, former employee, tech journalist with the ABC, regarding the recording of a conversation without disclosing it to the other participant of the conversation, which has hit the media over the last couple of weeks.

Mr Colvin : Senator, the allegation does not ring any bells with me. Looking back, none of my officers-

Senator LUDLAM: Are looking genuinely mystified. Do you want to take that one on notice and if you can just confirm either way.

Mr Colvin : We will check. Was the name Nick Ross, did you say?

Senator LUDLAM: Nick Ross. R-O-S-S. Thanks for your time. Thanks Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Ludlam. Commissioner, I think that completes the questioning for the Australian Federal Police. Again, our thanks to you and your colleagues for attending the hearing, and also again, on behalf of the people of Australia, and I think I can say that, thanks very much for the work you and your guys do that help keep us all safe. We really do appreciate it. It is not easy work, so thank you.

Mr Colvin : Thank you, Chair. I appreciate it. Thank you to the Committee.

CHAIR: We are back to Group 1. This is; corporate, cross portfolio, general, Defence, abuse reports, taskforce of the two or three royal commissions. Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you, Chair. If it helps officers, I have questions in relation to the trade union royal commission.

Looks like we are settled. Now I understand that there are two confidential volumes in relation to the trade union royal commission—one in relation to the interim report and one in relation to the final report. Is that correct?

Ms Innes-Brown : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The former Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon QC, made a nondisclosure order in the relation to the confidential volume in the interim report, can you direct me to where that is available?

Ms Innes-Brown : He has made two changes to that original non-publication direction. One he did on 11 December 2014 and then it was further amended on 16 December 2014, and recently, as early as 28 December 2015, on the same interim report he has varied the non-publication direction to enable the report to be shown to people with restrictions.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay, sorry, let me understand that. The nondisclosure order was first made on 11 December 2014, or was that the first amendment?

Ms Innes-Brown : The non-publication order was made when the interim report was released that directed that any of the-

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, what date was that?

Ms Innes-Brown : The eleventh of December 2014.


Ms Innes-Brown : That any information in the confidential that might enable a person who has given evidence before the Commission to be identified shall not be published or disclosed, including any manner that discloses the evidence given.


Ms Innes-Brown : Then to, sort of, reduce a bit of the restriction he varied it on 16 December 2014 indicating that 'it is varied by adding the following sub-paragraphs in paragraph 2'. That is set out in a disclosed document.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am wondering, if you have those, could you table them for the committee's benefit?

Ms Innes-Brown : They are not published but I can give you copies of them.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: If you could please. In part, the reason I am asking is that other non-disclosure orders you can find fairly easily on the website, but I have not been able to find these.

Ms Innes-Brown : Absolutely. I can send you copies of them. Then it has been further varied as recently as 28 December 2015.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And the nature of that variation?

Ms Innes-Brown : Just to enable the Prime Minister and cabinet to provide supervised access to the confidential volume in circumstances where the person given access may only inspect the volume in the presence of an officer of the department.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Which department?

Ms Innes-Brown : It just says 'of the department'.


Ms Innes-Brown : And shall not take notes or copies of the material contained in the volume.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So at this point though we are referring to the interim report.

Ms Innes-Brown : Yes, the interim report. There was no non-direction non-publication order on the final report. The only statement that the commissioner added was that it was recommended that this volume not be published and be kept confidential. Any particular decision to publish should take into account the fact that the safety of some witnesses and sources of information may be imperilled by publication. So there was not a non-publication order for the final report, but it was to remain confidential and he recommended it on those terms.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So the recommendation you were just reading, is that available?

Ms Innes-Brown : Yes, it would be.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. Can you direct me to where it is available or provide me with a copy?

Ms Innes-Brown : I can get those. It is actually within the confidential report within paragraph 4.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. Is there a reason the same approach was not followed with the final report as opposed to the interim report?

Ms Innes-Brown : I think, when it was originally done, it was quite restrictive and it PM&C then had issues in relation to who actually could view the report. Then the commissioner amended it to have restricted access to the people that they deemed were able to see the report.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We are talking now about the final report?

Ms Innes-Brown : We are talking about the interim or the final.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, my question was: is there a reason the approach taken with respect to the final report was different from the approach taken with the interim report. In the interim report we have an original—you are using a different word to me—non-disclosure order and then it was varied. Why with the final report was the same approach not taken?

Ms Innes-Brown : I could not answer that. It was something that the commissioner decided at the time that he would not put a non-publication order on it.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: This is where am trying to understand, because a moment ago you were talking about changes in the approach from the department, so I want to be very clear which report we are talking about and the approach.

Senator Brandis: Senator Collins, it was Ms Innes-Brown who said that this was the commissioner's decision, and I am not sure that Ms Innes-Brown can, unless she happens to know, which apparently she does not, acquaint us with the commissioner's thinking.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, and indeed she may not know, but equally she might. We have, in relation to the interim report, a clear indication of nondisclosure varied as the commissioner deemed appropriate, but we have no disclosure in relation to his intentions in relation to the confidential report other than from, if I understand Ms Innes-Brown correctly now, some commentary within the confidential report itself. Is that correct?

Ms Innes-Brown : The is a paragraph within the confidential report that actually states that the volume should not be published and to be kept confidential, but he did not put a non-publication direction on like he did for the interim report, which he has subsequently amended to give restricted access.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Then in paragraph 4 of the final confidential report does the commissioner discuss conditions for access?

Ms Innes-Brown : What I previously read, it was on the basis that he recommends that it remains confidential and not be published. In particular any decision to publish it should take into account the fact that the safety of some witnesses and sources of information may be imperilled by publication.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I would like to refer to the copy of the letter from Senator Cash, dated 28 January 2016, which was written to Senator Lambie and also published on The Age website which says:

This letter is in response to your request for access to the confidential volumes of the reports of the Royal Commission—

That is the two volumes. It goes on to say:

The confidential volumes contain information on—

And it goes through to say what is in the general terms of volumes, but is still referring to the two volumes. Then it says:

The confidential volume—

We are no longer in the plural now in the letter—

of the interim report is subject to a non-publication direction—

So now we are back to just the interim report. The letter goes on to say that:

A person who contravenes a direction made by the Commissioner under section 6D of the Act is guilty of an offence punishable by a fine not exceeding $2000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months.

It seems from that letter that the threat of imprisonment made in the letter could only relate to the confidential volume associated with the interim report. Is that correct?

Ms Innes-Brown : I have not read the letter.

Senator Brandis: We do not have the letter in front of us at the moment.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I will give you a copy of the letter then, and we will move on and I will come back to it.

CHAIR: While we are doing this, could these confidential volumes be made available to Senator Collins which could obviate a lot of these questions?

Senator Brandis: Senator, I can tell you what happened and I think this does appear in the body of Senator Cash's letter to Senator Lambie. It certainly appears in the letter that I wrote to Mr Dreyfus which took essentially the same position. It offered an opportunity to read the confidential volumes subject to certain conditions, fairly strict conditions, as recommended by the commissioner, and with the redaction of the names of people to protect them and also, I might say, to protect the reader so that if anything were to happen to those people it could not be suggested that it had anything to do with the fact that they were shown to members of parliament.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you for that, Attorney, because I have also seen a copy of the letter you wrote to Mr Dreyfus and that letter makes no reference to the consequences of breaching 6D. So why is Minister Cash raising that in her correspondence to Senator Lambie but you make no such reference in yours?

Senator Brandis: I do not know the answer. You would have to Senator Cash. Perhaps I assumed that Mr Dreyfus being a Queen's Counsel would be familiar with the law.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, it is not solely an issue of being familiar with the law because it seems we have inconsistent behaviour in relation to the application of the law in relation to the two reports.

Senator Brandis: I think the question is, if I may venture to say so, whether the terms on which Mr Dreyfus, Senator Lambie and other members of parliament were offered the opportunity to inspect confidential volumes were the same or substantially similar, and I am reasonably sure that they were.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The terms may have been similar.

Senator Brandis: That was the point, Senator.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No. My point is that the correspondence from Senator Cash is the one that alludes to the threat of breaching section 6D of the act.

Senator Brandis: These really are questions for Senator Cash, but it may be that Senator Cash took the view that, in order to protect Senators Lambie, she should draw to her attention relevant offence provisions.

Senator LAMBIE: I do not think those offences were attached to that secret report. That is the problem that we are having. Is Senator Cash trying to intimidate me? I guess that could be her game.

Senator Brandis: Senator Lambie, I am sure Senator Cash is a very nice person and would be the last person in the world to want to intimidate anyone. I did not draft the letter that Senator Cash wrote. I do not know why she put that provision in the letter. It seems quite innocuous to me as a matter of fact.

CHAIR: Helpful I would have thought.

Senator Brandis: If anything, helpful. In any event, if we want to do what was in Senator Cash's mind perhaps we should be asking these questions of Senator Cash.

Senator LAMBIE: It is not helpful if what she is saying she is making up when there was no disclosure about that in that secret report to say that. There was nothing put on that in the report.

CHAIR: We cannot go into what Senator Cash may or may not have thought. I would assume that Mr Dreyfus might not need the same level of advice on the law.

Senator Brandis: The reference by the way to the offence provision is a reference to section 6D of the Royal Commissions Act.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: For a report with nondisclosure provisions.

Senator Brandis: I would be very, very confident that Mr Dreyfus would be familiar with the provisions of the Royal Commissions Act, therefore I would have thought it gratuitous to direct his attention to that provision. Senator Lambie, I do not know whether you are familiar with the provisions of section 6D of the Royal Commissions Act, but Senator Cash's letter goes to some trouble to ensure that you are acquainted with them.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But they only apply to the interim report. There was no nondisclosure—

Senator LAMBIE: That is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: order for the final report.

Senator Brandis: We are going around in circles. I think that is something you would have to Senator Cash in the appropriate committee.

CHAIR: Besides which we have run out of time. We are due to have a 15-minute break now so will resume at 10 past 10 at which time we come back to Emergency Management Australia for Senator McKim. Mr Moraitis.

Mr Moraitis : Chair, could the rest of the department be excused for the last segment?


Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I still have further questions.

Mr Moraitis : I see, I am sorry.

Senator LAMBIE: I have some too.

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman, I thought it had been agreed earlier in the day that Emergency Management Australia would happen now, and that was a hard deadline.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Then we go back to the earlier matter.

Senator Brandis: I see. You are assuming they have will not take the full 50 minutes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is right. Senator McKim indicated to me earlier that he believes he has about 20 minutes.

CHAIR: Mr Moraitis, I am not sure how the department is organised but, if we do Emergency Management Australia and then back to group 1 and the royal commissions, I am just wondering if there are people further down the list that you could take the chance on, for example, in group 3.

Mr Moraitis : It is okay. It is in 10 past 10 and it is only another 50 minutes.

CHAIR: The hearing is suspended until 10 past 10.

Proceedings suspended from 21:55 to 22:10

CHAIR: In accordance with a decision made earlier by the committee we now move over to program 1.2, specifically Emergency Management Australia.

Senator McKIM: I would like to ask a range of questions about the response to the current fires burning in Tasmania. What is your advice on how many fires are currently burning in Tasmania and how many of those fires have human and or mechanical resources attending?

Mr Crosweller : As of this afternoon we understand that Tasmania has 73 active fires. Of these 26 are currently 'going'—uncontrolled or uncontained—and 47 are currently in 'patrol'. We have a number of advices on those fires. There are no emergency warnings or other alerts. We know that there are approximately 110,000 hectares burnt with a perimeter of approximately 815 kilometres. There are currently 32 aircraft operating throughout the state, most of those from interstate. We understand that there are personnel and vehicles from Queensland, the ACT, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and New Zealand. We do not have the exact numbers on the fire ground. I do know that on some days there are in excess of 400 firefighters on the fire ground. I am not sure currently how many firefighters are operating as of today.

Senator McKIM: I understand that would change from day to day due to weather conditions and safety issues and so forth?

Mr Crosweller : That is correct.

Senator McKIM: Are you aware of how many of those 73 active fires are currently actively being fought or contained or are being attempted to be contained?

Mr Crosweller : The vast majority have been worked on. Some are considered non-threatening and are burning in areas where rate of progress or rate of spread is very low, and compared to some of the other more sensitive and high-value areas those areas have been prioritised for resourcing. It was difficult as I understand it for the local jurisdiction to map many of these fires because of the weather conditions and terrain. I understand that most of that, if not all that, has now been done, so they have a total picture of situational awareness and what it is that they are dealing with. I have spoken with the chief officer of Tasmania on numerous occasions about strategic priorities and resourcing and how the Commonwealth may be able to assist in that regard.

Senator McKIM: Has the chief officer in Tasmania requested Commonwealth assistance?

Mr Crosweller : No, he has not. What we have been able to do for him is to coordinate the interstate response from the rest of Australia. He was more interested in direct frontline firefighting resources and particularly interested in arduous firefighting personnel. They are personnel that generally are rappelled in by helicopter—

Senator McKIM: Do you mean remote area?

Mr Crosweller : Remote area firefighters. I know that New South Wales have supplied on a rotating basis in excess of 100 of those firefighters, and New Zealand I think around 50. The entire complement in New South Wales of that level of firefighting is only 300, so New South Wales committed one-third of its resource to Tasmania on that task alone. It is probably the biggest single mobilisation of firefighting resources to Tasmania that I am aware of in 30 years in the industry, and it happened quite rapidly, facilitated by Commonwealth coordination through EMA.

Senator McKIM: I will ask about that in a minute, but I just want to place on record my appreciation, and I am sure that of all senators, for the fantastic work that all of the volunteer and professional firefighters are doing.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Hear, hear!

Senator McKIM: Do you know when the first request for assistance was made by the Tasmanian government or any Tasmanian agency?

Mr Crosweller : Yes. I know that on Thursday 21 January we were contacted by the chief officer of the Tasmania Fire Service, who asked the Commonwealth if it would coordinate interstate assistance more holistically to Tasmania. I am aware that Victoria had responded earlier than that. In fact, as I understand it, Victoria and possibly South Australia—we might have to check that for the record—responded in a matter of days after 16 January. So it is my understanding it was a line of storms that moved through on the 16th—

Senator McKIM: It was the 13th actually.

Mr Crosweller : Sorry, I stand corrected. So not long after that there was some interstate assistance almost immediately. It was then stepped up to a more national response soon thereafter.

Senator McKIM: Perhaps you could assist me to understand. In a situation like this, does a state government request general assistance or do they put in requests for certain types of assistance?

Mr Crosweller : There are two ways of requesting assistance. One is directly to the Commonwealth for Commonwealth assistance for physical or nonphysical assistance. If that is the case—and it has not been the case at this stage for Tasmania—then the COMDISPLAN, the Commonwealth disaster plan, would be activated through EMA and then they would send EMA a specific tasking request.

Senator McKIM: But that has not happened?

Mr Crosweller : No, and it has not happened because they have not required it. I have been in dialogue with the chief in relation to this matter, and he has been more than satisfied that the state and territory resource that has been supplied by states and territories has been sufficient for the purpose. He is satisfied that there is nothing that the Commonwealth could offer that would be advantageous in this theatre of fire. We did brief Tasmania extensively in September as part of our round-the-country briefings that we do with all jurisdictions and with heads of services and first minister departments. We talked extensively about the climate outlook and El Nino and their potential effects, particularly in Tasmania. And we saw very early the potential for quite severe fire activity across much of the state of Tasmania and the southern part of Australia. We outlined the Commonwealth assistance in its capability in regard to that potential hazard space.

Senator McKIM: So the first request from Tasmania was on 21 January?

Mr Crosweller : It was the first request to come to the national level.

Senator McKIM: Are you aware of how many fires are currently burning within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area?

Mr Crosweller : Not specifically in the wilderness area. I do not think we have that information available tonight, but we can certainly obtain that with a simple phone call to Tasmania tomorrow morning and come back to you on that question if that is helpful.

Senator McKIM: It would be helpful, and would you also ask how many of those fires are currently actively being managed?

Mr Crosweller : Yes.

Senator McKIM: Because I am trying to paint a picture, and I have to say, with the greatest of respect to everyone involved, that the information flow to the public has not been great around the remote area fires. I am referring specifically here to the fires that are not threatening built assets and private property. It is those wilderness fires, specifically those inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, that I am asking about.

Mr Crosweller : We can certainly get more specific information for you. I am aware that there is significant effort being put into those fires in the wilderness area, and I am aware of the sensitivities of the biodiversity. I know for example, from the last statistics I saw, which are probably four or five days old now, that only about two per cent of the wilderness area was in fact impacted by fire.

Senator McKIM: Yes, that is a number that has been made public. Of course, the issue is that there are non-fire-adapted ecological systems that exist nowhere else in the world, except in those very small parts of Tasmania.

Mr Crosweller : Yes.

Senator McKIM: We have already lost some of them.

Mr Crosweller : Yes, that is right.

Senator McKIM: I have not seen official numbers on how many hectares we have lost but I have seen photos and I am going to do some more exploration of that myself next week. But could you provide any further information to the committee as soon as possible?

Mr Crosweller : We will have this confirmed for you, but we understand that between 14,000 and 17,000 hectares of sensitive biodiversity has been impacted by fire out of a total of 30,000 hectares in the wilderness area. The remainder of that 30,000 hectares is, as I understand it, considered non-endangered for the purposes of the fire regime.

Senator McKIM: It was put to me during the Department of the Environment's estimates yesterday, and you have repeated a similar set of words today that you have had reassurances—I will paraphrase here and please correct me if I am misquoting or not attributing these words to you correctly—that all the resources that are necessary are there and there is no need for more resources. What is the capacity constraint in Tasmania that would prevent further resources being allocated to remote area fires?

Mr Crosweller : I should highlight the point also that the Tasmanian Fire Service has been working in conjunction with the land management agencies, particularly the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, since day one. In Tasmania, the Parks and Wildlife Service have been determining the operational priorities in conjunction with the fire service. So, to answer to your question in relation to the wilderness area: I have every confidence that the priorities and the resources are being attached for that purpose through the land management agency involvement. In terms of the Tasmanian Fire Service resources, and, in fact, interstate resources, on the fire ground, there are a number of operational limitations—one is the remoteness of where the fires have occurred. The biggest impact has probably been the weather, particularly regarding low cloud in relation to humidity and moisture, and they are unable to get firefighters in or out—the term used is 'socked in'. Once an area is socked in, aircraft cannot operate and it is impossible to get people in and out. Some of those firefighters were bedded in for 72 hours to simply work through the night, and take rests where they could, in order to do as best they could, but they were extracted after three days. They have had some rain on the fire ground but unless it is more than 50 millimetres, it is actually a nuisance and it is not helpful. It has turned many of fire trials into quagmires and quite dangerous conditions for firefighters. It has laid the fire down, it has not put it out. It has actually hidden the fire in some areas and it will not re-present until the conditions dry out, the sun shines and the wind starts to blow. So they are dealing with all those conditions, and some fires take four hours to reach.

Senator McKIM: I have spent a fair bit of time in that terrain, so I am aware of it.

Mr Crosweller : There was a suggestion that the Australian Defence Force could offer assistance in this regard, and the Chief Officer rang me and expressly said, 'No.' That it was inappropriate to do so, that he had more than enough firefighters and that he could not deploy what he had. The Australian Defence Force has been clear in the preseason briefs that they are not skilled for arduous, direct firefighting in this region.

Senator McKIM: I was going to come to that later, because there are jurisdictions, very similar to Australia, around the world where elements of their defence forces are actually trained in remote area firefighting, but I will just park that for a minute, if that is okay right. The thing that I am struggling to understand here—I will be clear—is that from all that we can discover, there are many fires burning in wilderness areas in Tasmania. The Sentinel website has just popped another one up today—it looks like a fresh fire but I do not know how it started or whether it is a fresh observation of a fire by the Sentinel system. But it appears that there are many fires burning in remote areas that basically have not been attempted to be even touched by human response or by mechanical response. I want to stress that I understand that remote-area firefighting is a very difficult thing to do. I understand that, ideally, it would be a combination of aerial assets and human assets, people, on the ground. I get that it is difficult. I am struggling to understand the capacities constraints. You have mentioned the weather, but surely if the local weather is the capacity constraint, then why do you not have the resources on standby in Tasmania so you can scramble them in when the weather improves rather than having to pull them in from around the country and taking two or three days to brief them up and transport them to Tasmania. I am still not satisfied as to exactly what the capacity constraints are here and why more resources are not on the ground right now in Tasmania to assist in fighting these fires.

Mr Crosweller : We are unable to answer that specific question because it is an operational decision of the jurisdiction. What I can say, because we helped coordinate it, was that firefighters were deployed in advance and staged in anticipation in base camps to mobilise into the fire grounds once the conditions were conducive to that deployment. That also included firefighting appliances from Victoria and South Australia, which were ferried across on the Spirit of Tasmania, that were forward-staged in anticipation of being able to mobilise and also in anticipation of those fires breaking containment lines and moving towards property. I think we have been very fortunate that much fire is on the landscape, much of it driven by highly-volatile fuel and influenced by drought and terrain, and we have not had severe-to-catastrophic fire weather influencing those fire grounds.

Senator McKIM: I agree, but the fire season is only one-third to halfway through in Tasmania, as we sit here today. Can I just ask whether you accept the premise that, if you want to minimise the damage caused by wilderness fires in particular—it may apply to all fires; it probably does—ideally you would hit them as hard as you can as early as you can and get them while they are still one, five, 10, 20 hectare fires, before they turn into the sort of 30,000 hectare monsters that we currently have burning inside the World Heritage area.

Mr Crosweller : Yes—provided we can do that safely.

Senator McKIM: Of course.

Mr Crosweller : At the Commonwealth and state levels safety is a key consideration about the insertion of people into these areas. The industry has significantly improved its performance in this regard. Over the course of my career I have seen many firefighters perish in similar circumstances, where decisions were made to insert early on the basis of keeping fires small, but the conditions were such that those fires rapidly escalated and caused entrapment and killed firefighters.

Senator McKIM: I absolutely accept what you are saying.

Mr Crosweller : That is the tension that exists for all of us in this space, from EMA down, when looking at resourcing and assistance and the capacity for the fireground to take those resources. It is high on the consideration of all of those who offer assistance and all of those who are in charge of such operations.

Senator McKIM: I absolutely accept and agree with what you are saying about safety. I guess it is a presumed caveat around everything that we are discussing here that safety needs to be an absolute priority.

Mr Crosweller : I know that the chief is very frustrated at the complexity of the fireground and not being able to get more resources in. He is also frustrated by not being able to, for example, scan fires for location, based on the weather condition and the socked-in nature of the atmosphere. It was very frustrating for him. We looked at Commonwealth capacity to assist him in that regard, and there was more than enough civilian capacity to assist him once weather conditions cleared. The key to this was weather. There was no failure in the provision of technology to scan fires to determine locations and size and rates of spread; he was constrained by the atmospheric conditions.

CHAIR: Thanks, Senator McKim. I have a few follow-up questions. Who bears the cost of the Commonwealth's involvement?

Mr Crosweller : At this stage there is no Commonwealth involvement. However, Tasmania has contacted the Commonwealth in relation to its forecast assistance under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements. They are working through their costs. They are working through the criteria of those arrangements, and we have been maintaining a dialogue with Tasmania to assist them with their interpretation and with some of those programs that may come forward. We would expect them to start bringing those requests forward from next week.

CHAIR: So Tasmania pays the first so much?

Mr Crosweller : It depends on what it is they are seeking. If it is around essential public assets, there are thresholds in relation to the activation for what is called category B. We suspect that it will be counterdisaster operations, so the first threshold to hit for that is $240,000. But that is only if it relates to the protection of life and property directly.

CHAIR: Are there lives at risk in most of the fires?

Mr Crosweller : Indirectly at this stage. Most of the direct impact has been averted through the strategies deployed for the purpose.

CHAIR: Do you know how much the territory where the fires are was previously logged?

Mr Crosweller : No, I do not.

CHAIR: Was it much, do you think?

Mr Crosweller : I think it probably varies. We would not be in possession of that knowledge without seeking it.

CHAIR: I am just wondering if there are former logging tracks through the area that can help with access to fight these fires.

Mr Crosweller : Sometimes, yes. But not in the wilderness area, as we understand it.

CHAIR: Is this all wilderness area that you are talking about?

Mr Crosweller : No, it is not. The fires are across private land, crown land, public lands more broadly, parks and wildlife land, as well as wilderness area.

CHAIR: Are there any statistics on the number of trees that have been lost and comparing that with the number of trees that would have been lost had logging continued in Tasmania?

Mr Crosweller : I am not aware of that, no.

CHAIR: In years gone by the people working in the forestry industry were well trained in fighting forest fires and were always on hand. That resource is no longer available, I take it?

Mr Crosweller : I cannot speak specifically for Tasmania. I do know the industry holds a capability of 250,000 volunteers and about 25,000 career staff in fire and emergency services. The vast majority are available and accessible for deployment across the country. That is a substantial—

CHAIR: Across Tasmania or Australia?

Mr Crosweller : Across Australia—across the country.

CHAIR: But, in Tasmania, in the old days, when there was a viable, sustainable logging industry down there—

Senator McKIM: There never was.

CHAIR: all the people involved in the logging industry were well trained in firefighting. They have tracks through there, so they could get to the source of the fires immediately—

Senator McKIM: These are not forested areas in the main.

CHAIR: and were then able to save these trees. Are you aware whether that is still available or not?

Mr Crosweller : Not specifically for Tasmania. The industry has been aware, for a number of years, of the shifting in that space between forestry and land management. The national parks challenges are complex issues, which are taken into account operationally. But the Commonwealth is silent on that issue insofar as our role is to assist with resourcing, to assist with funding through these standing arrangements and to provide coordination across jurisdictions when asked to do so.

CHAIR: Just going back to your earlier answer: there are no lives directly at risk; I think you said 'indirectly', didn't you?

Mr Crosweller : Whilst ever fires are present on the landscape and uncontained, there is always the potentiality for impact on life and property. We have been constantly monitoring the weather for Tasmania five to seven days out, pretty much from 13 January, to try to get a sense of whether we thought there would be any critical days of fire behaviour where the Commonwealth may be called to assist. We will continue to do five- to seven-day outlooks. For the whole course of this fire that weather has not manifested.

CHAIR: I will leave that there. Can someone quickly tell me where we are up to with the consultation regarding changes to the EMA arrangements, particularly with local governments around Australia.

Mr Crosweller : My colleague Aaron Verlin and I are meeting all states and territories tomorrow in Melbourne to commence consultation in relation to reforms in the central public assets space of the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements towards up-front assessments of assets to give local governments and state governments, ultimately, greater flexibility and, hopefully, less process in relation to accessing those arrangements.

The Australia-New Zealand Emergency Management Committee is considering the Productivity Commission recommendations outside of those considerations. The department is currently looking to the states and territories on anything to do, specifically, with the funding arrangements, and the national committee is looking at the remainder of those recommendations.

CHAIR: What I am asking is: has a decision been made yet to adopt the Productivity Commission's recommendations?

Mr Crosweller : No. We are in the process of consulting and considering the recommendations in order to formulate a response.

Senator WANG: My question is around a national anticorruption plan that was done for the former government in 2013.

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman, is that all for EMA?

CHAIR: Senator Wang, your question is not related to emergency management, is it?

Senator WANG: No.

CHAIR: Sorry, Senator Wang. The decision was made to come back to Emergency Management Australia, but now, having done that, we go back to where we were.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Which is back to me.

CHAIR: Which is back to you, Senator Collins, on program 1.9, Royal Commissions.

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman, just to clarify: Emergency Management Australia can be excused.

CHAIR: It is finished, yes.

Senator Brandis: Thank you.

CHAIR: Thanks very much for your attendance.


Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am still in continuation on questions regarding the trade union royal commission. Attorney, perhaps while the officers come forward, you may be able to answer why it was yourself who wrote the letter to the shadow Attorney-General when all the other correspondence relating to the confidential volumes up until that point in time had been written by Senator Cash?

Senator Brandis: Because I am the Attorney-General. Senator Cash wrote to Independent or minor party members of parliament, specifically their Senate crossbenchers, and I, as the Attorney-General, thought it would be appropriate protocol to write to the shadow Attorney-General.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Senator Cash also wrote to Brendan O'Connor on 29 January declining his request for access. Then you wrote to the shadow Attorney with a difference response on 1 February—which I think was the day of the cabinet meeting. What changed?

Senator Brandis: A view was arrived at that the matter should be handled so far as concerned the opposition by offering the opportunity to Mr Dreyfus to inspect the confidential volumes in the terms set out in the letter. The view that the government took was, having offered the opportunity to inspect the confidential volumes to crossbench members of the Senate, it would appropriate to offer the opportunity to a senior person on behalf of the opposition, and it was decided to offer the opportunity to Mr Dreyfus because he was the shadow Attorney-General. For that reason, a judgement was made that he was the most appropriate person to make the offer.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I go back to my earlier comment that it is officers of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet who proposed supervised access to this report. But in this case you have chosen the shadow Attorney to be relevant person from the opposition, not officers of the Attorney-General's Department. That does not seem odd to you?

Senator Brandis: No.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Just going back to the issue of the consequences of breaching confidentiality restrictions, given that there is no nondisclosure order in relation to the final report, there are no consequences for breaching the restrictions, are there?

Senator Brandis: Are you referring to Senator Cash's letter?


Senator Brandis: As I said to you before, Senator, you really have to ask Senator Cash why she put those words in the letter that she wrote to Senator Lambie.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I suppose I am seeking confirmation that the provisions in section 6D of the Royal Commissions Act do not apply to the final report.

Senator Brandis: I would have to have a look at that. So I will take that on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you, Ms Innes-Brown. I now have a handwritten version of, I think, paragraph 4 of the report. Is that correct?

Ms Innes-Brown : Within the confidential volume.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So you have simply handwritten the words that are in paragraph 4?

Ms Innes-Brown : The words I read out before, yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is there anything else in paragraph 4?

Ms Innes-Brown : I am not aware of anything, because I have not read the confidential report.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is there any other reference in the confidential report, to your knowledge, that relates to who should have access or confidentially recommendations?

Ms Innes-Brown : Not that I am aware of.

Senator Brandis: The witness has said that she has not read the report.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It depends on what the basis is of her being provided this handwritten paragraph. I do not know the answer to that, but she has come forward with that as an indication—

Senator Brandis: Sorry, but that is not the point I was making. Ms Innes-Brown was saying, as we know, that she has not read the confidential volume. I thought you were asking her whether there was anything in the confidential volume that answered the description of your question, and obviously she cannot speak to that, not having read it.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: As I said, Attorney, it depends on what basis this information we have been provided with was provided to her, which is why I am asking the question. So if this information—

Senator Brandis: Well, why don't you ask that question?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: This information was originally provided to us as the comments that Commissioner Haydon made in relation to confidentiality. I am asking Ms Innes-Brown: is she aware of whether this paragraph is exhaustive on that point?

Ms Innes-Brown : I understand that, as there was no direction made—as there was in the interim report—but as the commissioner did include this paragraph, basically stipulating that it is recommended that the volume not be published and be kept confidential. That is all I am aware of.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay, so you are not aware of whether there were any further conditions he commented on—

Ms Innes-Brown : That is correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you, Ms Innes-Brown. Attorney, maybe you can assist us there. Are the specific limitations proposed by the government based on any recommendations by the commissioner? Or are they issues that the government has come to?

Senator Brandis: I will have to refresh my memory about that, Senator. The limitations did have a provenance, and I am just trying to recall what it was. So I will take that on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. Looking now at the issue of the presence of an officer of PM&C, was that a recommendation of the commissioner, to your recollection?

Senator Brandis: Look, just to be on the safe side, I will take that on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Do you know whether the state and territory governments who view the report will need to do so in the presence of an officer of Prime Minister and Cabinet?

Senator Brandis: I do not. Whatever limitations the commissioner prescribed would apply, mutatis mutandis I imagine, to the state and territory governments—or at least to those states that issued complementary letters patent. You see, because the states issued complementary letters patent, this is a report not just to the Commonwealth but to each of those governments. Now, as to whether the territory governments issued letters patent—they did not, I am told. But all of the state governments did issue complementary letters patent. So the report, as I say, is a report to seven governments, not to one.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Attorney, in your letter to Mr Dreyfus you indicated that the government will impose one further restriction on your inspection of the volumes—that is, the names of individuals or entities that may identify individuals will be redacted from the copy of the reports made available for inspection. 'This is to protect not only those individuals but also to protect you.' The letters to the senators did not include that condition, so am I correct in inferring that means that if the senators avail themselves of access to the report, they will not have redactions?

Senator Brandis: I think that is a question you will need to ask Senator Cash. The reason that I put that stipulation in my letter to Mr Dreyfus, as you have just read out aloud, Senator, is to protect those individuals and also to protect Mr Dreyfus. The reason the two volumes were to remain confidential, as we know, is that there was concern for the physical safety of the named witnesses, given the violent criminality of some of those involved in certain unions, which was disclosed by the public volumes of the report. The commissioner had a fear that those people could be physically harmed, which is why the reports were made confidential. So the redaction of the names of the individuals seems to me to be an appropriate measure not only to protect those individuals; also, in the unhappy event that something did happen to one of them, so it could never be suggested that the source of the person who identified that witness was a member of parliament who had been given access to the report.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So redaction would indeed be something that you would recommend to all who will access the report?

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But you are not aware whether Senator Cash has changed—

Senator Brandis: As I say, Senator Cash wrote to the crossbenchers. I wrote to Mr Dreyfus. I did show Senator Cash a copy of my letter to Mr Dreyfus in draft and she was happy with it. It was not sent to him until it had been cleared by her office as well.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You have taken on notice what providence there might be from the commissioner in relation to the conditions that the government has applied. Can I ask whether—

Senator Brandis: I think they did come from the commissioner, but I am just not 100 per cent sure which is why I am taking it on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes. So I have further questions in relation to that issue that you might take on notice, please.

Senator Brandis: Sure.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Does the royal commissioner say anything about it only going to one member of the opposition?

Senator Brandis: I am not sure. I will take that on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Or that it should not be taken to shadow cabinet?

Senator Brandis: No, he does not say that. What I am about to say is based on my recollection of reading the report, so it is not even a paraphrase, and please do not take it as such. The royal commissioner handed the report to the government with certain recommendations about confidentiality—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Over and beyond what was in paragraph 4?

Senator Brandis: No, I am not saying that—but, essentially, left it to the government to make decisions about the further disclosure or dissemination of the report. But, as I say, we took the view that having decided to show the report to those Senate crossbenchers who had requested and were willing to inspect it, it would be an anomalous thing not to offer it to the opposition as well.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, there is potentially a few anomalies here. My next question is about it being shown to the Leader of the Opposition or it being shown to the parliamentary committee considering the bill, or indeed to other individual senators.

Senator Brandis: The view the government took was that the opportunity to inspect the report on the terms stipulated should be offered to each, as it were, element of the parliament—so individual crossbenchers or members of minor parties and the opposition; not to show it to every member of parliament but to every, as it were, element or interest in the parliament.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The concern there on the current conditions is, of course, if you refer to the opposition, you cannot say showing one member of the opposition adequately addresses that issue if that member of the opposition is denied the capacity to take it to their leader and/or the shadow cabinet.

Senator Brandis: I think you are misunderstanding the purpose for which the report was being provided. The purpose for which the report was being provided was so that the members of parliament who reviewed it on the stipulated terms would have a sense of the nature of the findings so that whatever decisions that they subsequently made would be informed by an awareness of the nature of the findings.

CHAIR: We might have to leave it there.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, can I just close one point there—

CHAIR: I have got 10 minutes and three senators—okay, go ahead. You have had 50 minutes. The next three senators are going to have three minutes each.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is fine. To the same extent that it is relevant for this matter to go before cabinet, it is relevant for it to go before the shadow cabinet.

CHAIR: I am not sure that is a question.

Senator Brandis: The confidential volumes did not go to cabinet.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, but material related to them did.

Senator Brandis: The confidential volumes did not go to cabinet. They were not made generally available to members of cabinet—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, but material related to them did.

Senator Brandis: as they were not generally made available to members of the shadow cabinet.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Material related to them did.

CHAIR: That will do there. We will move on.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And that is the limitation I was seeking to apply.

CHAIR: I have two very quick questions: Senator Brandis, when am I going to see the confidential volumes? Why are Mr Dreyfus and the crossbenchers being treated differently to me?

Senator Brandis: Because, Senator Macdonald, you are a member of the coalition parties. Senator Cash has seen the confidential volumes and on that same principle we offered the opportunity to a designated person from the opposition to inspect them on behalf of the opposition. Senator Cash, I understand, as the relevant minister within the government, has read the confidential volumes.

CHAIR: But neither you nor Senator Cash are going to tell me what is in them, and I assume the same would apply in Mr Dreyfus's case. I assume Mr Dreyfus has had a look—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is a condition: not to say anything to the shadow cabinet.

CHAIR: Hang on. Senator Brandis and Senator Cash are not saying anything to me either—not that I am in cabinet.

Senator Brandis: But, Senator Macdonald, the whole premise of this discussion is that these are confidential volumes.

CHAIR: The question is rhetorical. The other question is that with all the hoo-ha about not seeing it, I assume Mr Dreyfus has actually seen the—

Senator Brandis: No, he declined to inspect it.

CHAIR: Okay.

Senator Brandis: I will make one other point very quickly. Of course this is not a report to the parliament.


Senator Brandis: It is not a report to the parliament. It is a report—strictly speaking, to the Governor-General—to the executive government. Strictly speaking, there is no reason why confidential volumes of a report to the executive government would not remain confidential to the executive government. But because certain recommendations are made in the public volumes of the report for the case for the reform of industrial relations, including, in particular, the ABCC, one can infer that the case made in the public volumes of the report is augmented by that which is to be found in the private volumes of the report in relation to the kind of conduct that demonstrates the necessity for having an ABCC. Given that there are certain legislators who will determine the fate of that reform, including the Senate crossbenchers, it seemed prudent to the government to show the Senate crossbenchers the confidential volumes on the terms we have discussed. That decision having been made, it then seemed to the Prime Minister and me an odd thing not to show the report to a designated representative of the opposition.

CHAIR: I will close that session by commenting that my vote also counts in the Senate. Now, what I am going to do is to give five minutes to Senator Siewert and five minutes to Senator Lambie and then we will call it a night.

Senator SIEWERT: I want to ask about the announcement, responding to the royal commission report, about the national approach for a scheme of redress for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. Firstly, I would like to ask about the time frame. I think the statement said it was starting soon. Could you outline the time frame for that process please?

Ms Pirani : We have not finally settled our timetable for those next steps. Essentially, it is dependent on the availability of officials in the states and territories to be available to speak with us. We are in the process of trying to make those arrangements. We are keen to do it as soon as scheduling can be sorted out and we are in the process of doing that now.

Senator SIEWERT: Have you got a date by which you are aiming to complete that process?

Ms Pirani : You would be aware that the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council has indicated that it would want to consider this matter in detail at its next meeting, which I believe is at the end of April. So we are trying to advance it as much as we can prior to that, obviously.

Senator SIEWERT: The initial process, you mean? Or to report to that meeting—is that what you mean? Or are you trying to wrap it all up by then?

Ms Pirani : No, to be able to prepare for that meeting.

Senator SIEWERT: I thought that was a massive, massive undertaking. Even though I want to see it done as soon as possible, I did not think that would be possible. So the idea is to take a framework for the approach to that meeting—is that correct?

Ms Pirani : Hopefully.

Senator SIEWERT: Have you got a date in mind for resolving and coming to an agreement on this?

Ms Pirani : That would be matter for government, ultimately.

Senator Brandis: That is right. And it will be highly relevant what the next Council on Law, Crime and Community Safety decides. What the Commonwealth has decided to do—and Mr Porter, the social services minister, and I announced this in a joint press release late last year—is to take leadership to try and shape a nationally consistent approach to redress. This is for the obvious reasons that it is a Commonwealth royal commission and we are the lead jurisdiction. On the other hand, we do not have responsibility for most—in fact, for hardly any—of the institutions that are subject to the review, so the Commonwealth sees its role as taking the lead in creating the architecture, as it were, of a nationally consistent approach to redress.

Senator SIEWERT: Have you already got the agreement of the states and the territories to engage in this process, or is the initial step to seek their agreement to engage in the process?

Senator Brandis: I wrote to the states and territories at the end of last year—and I had better take on notice how many replies I have received from them so far. Obviously, where one is talking about a very large amount of money that will be paid by way of redress payments to the victims, there is, as there always is in a federation, a back-and-forth, as it were, between the states and the Commonwealth about financial obligations. For the moment the Commonwealth has said that it will take the leadership in creating the architecture, but we have not made any commitments in relation to the assumption of financial obligations. I am sorry—I am corrected. The letters that went to the state and territory ministers went out at the end of last month, not at the end of last year.

Senator SIEWERT: Around the time the announcement was made—on 29 January, is that correct?

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: So you have not had time for a response yet?

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: In your statement you and Mr Porter are silent on any contribution the Commonwealth may make in terms of what I call top-up.

Senator Brandis: You would not have to be Nostradamus to expect that this is a matter that the states and territories may raise at the next Law, Crime and Community Safety Council meeting.

Senator SIEWERT: My question is: is it completely off the table, or is that an issue that you are still discussing?

Senator Brandis: The Commonwealth's position is as outlined in my letter.

Senator SIEWERT: In your letter, or in your statement? Your statement is silent on it.

Senator Brandis: As is the letter. The Commonwealth's position is as outlined in the statement and the letter.

Senator SIEWERT: So that means, no, you are not going to consider it?

Senator Brandis: It means the Commonwealth's position is as outlined in the statement and the letter.

Senator SIEWERT: So it is off the table?

Senator Brandis: I have nothing to add to my earlier answer.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand that at the moment there is not an anticipated date for the finalisation of this process. Is that correct?

Senator Brandis: Senator Siewert, remember that this royal commission is not due to deliver its final report until 30 June 2017.

Senator SIEWERT: I am not being critical; I am asking: do you have an end date in mind that you are aiming for?

Senator Brandis: For what? For an agreement with the states and territories?

Senator SIEWERT: For trying to finalise this process.

Senator Brandis: We have not put, as it were, a drop-dead date on it, but naturally we would like the nationally consistent framework to be agreed to as soon as practicable. I do not see that happening before the April council meeting, but it would be highly desirable if it could be agreed to by the conclusion of that meeting.

Senator SIEWERT: So you anticipate getting—sorry, I thought we just had a discussion along the lines of 'by the conclusion of the meeting there will be agreement on the framework for it to proceed with reaching that agreement'.

Senator Brandis: I am not being prescriptive here. The sooner we get an agreement the better. I do not anticipate an agreement being reached before the council meeting, but if it could be reached at the council meeting, as one of the outcomes of that meeting, that would be desirable.

Senator LAMBIE: It is my intention today to find out why Justice Peter McClellan AM from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse failed to properly answer all three questions I put to him in a letter sent on 5 June 2015. Does the representative from the royal commission agree that I sent a letter to them on 5 June 2015, and Justice Peter McClellan AM from the royal commission replied to me on the same day—yes or no? We are on a time limit here; I am happy to table copies of the letter I sent and I received.

Senator Brandis: Just hold your horses, Senator; Mr Reed is going to answer your question.

Mr Reed : You wrote a letter to Justice Peter McClellan on 5 June 2015, and he responded to you on 5 June 2015.

Senator LAMBIE: In response to my question 'Do the commissioners intend to take action on said child sex abuse in the military', Justice Peter McClellan AM from the commission admitted and wrote:

The Royal Commission is required by its Letters Patent to investigate, consider and report on issues relating to the sexual abuse of children in an institutional context. Military establishments, which included children, are relevant institutions.

However, Justice Peter McClellan AM from the royal commission, as you will no doubt acknowledge after reading his reply, was not as forthcoming about my other two questions, which I would like answered today. What kind of action do the commissioners intend to undertake in relation to the said child sexual abuse in the Australian military? Has the royal commission requested a copy of the DLA Piper volume 2 report, which, Chair, is the roomful of secret volumes of defence abuse? I would like to have the two questions answered, because I am actually offended by Justice Peter McClellan AM and his official attempt at avoiding those two important questions. Firstly, what kind of action do the commissioners intend to undertake in relation to said child sexual abuse in the Australian military? Secondly, has the royal commission requested a copy of the DLA Piper volume 2, which is the roomful of secret volumes of defence abuse?

Mr Reed : The royal commission does not comment on its investigations, and does not confirm details of public hearings until they are formally announced. Hearings are usually announced around four weeks before the commencement date. That is the public position of the royal commission.

Senator LAMBIE: So given the high number of children who have served in our military, is it likely that there were or still are paedophiles that have served in our military and have never been brought to justice for their sex crimes and assaults—yes or no?

Mr Reed : I do not think I can add anything to the answer I just gave.

Senator LAMBIE: You cannot tell me whether there are still paedophiles serving in our Defence Force? That is what I am asking you, Mr Reed.

Senator Brandis: Mr Reed is the CEO of this royal commission. He is the administrator of it. How would you expect Mr Reed, the man who is the CEO—even if he were at liberty to answer, which he is not—to know the answer to that question? It is not his job.

CHAIR: Isn't it a matter for the military police?

Senator LAMBIE: Please do not go there. It is a matter for the Attorney-General; he can answer it. Would you agree that should your royal commission—

Senator Brandis: Senator Lambie, I do not know.

CHAIR: I thought you were in the military police, Senator?

Senator LAMBIE: Would you agree that should your royal commission fail to conduct hearings into institutional child sex abuse in our military between 1948 and 1993, that failure—given that Justice Peter McClellan AM has admitted in writing to me 'military establishments, which included children, are relevant institutions'—could in itself be viewed by ordinary Australians is either gross dysfunction or evidence of high-level cover-up of child sexual abuse or corruption?

Senator Brandis: I do not agree with that one little bit, Senator. The McClellan royal commission is doing a very, very demanding job very well, in my respectful opinion. Justice McClellan is limited by his terms of his letters patent. If there are relevant matters falling within his letters patent, no doubt he and the other commissioners will pursue them, and if they are without the letters patent, then he will not be at liberty to pursue them.

Senator LAMBIE: Has the royal commission made inquiries to the defence department about their apprenticeships scheme, where children aged between 14 and 17 years old were employed and trained by the Australian military?

Mr Reed : I have nothing further to add to the answer I gave earlier.

Senator LAMBIE: Is the royal commission aware of the fact that a defence apprenticeships scheme was conducted from 1948 to 1993?

Mr Reed : I am not personally aware.

Senator LAMBIE: I estimate that up to 30,000 Australian children served and were trained as apprentices in our military over the 45 years between 1948 and 1993. Do you disagree with my calculations?

Senator Brandis: I do not have a view about your calculations.

Senator LAMBIE: Does the royal commission think that the safety of 30,000 children who were in the care of the Australian military institution is just as important as the tens of thousands of children in the care of the Roman Catholic church, Scouts Australia, the Salvation Army and the Uniting Church? Surely you can answer that?

Mr Reed : All children who were in the care of institutions that fall within our terms of reference have relevance to the royal commission. We are just not in a position—I am not in a position—to talk about the investigations the royal commission is undertaking.

Senator LAMBIE: Has the royal commission been made aware of allegations of institutional child sexual abuse in our Defence Force?

Mr Reed : Certainly we are aware of the reports of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce.

Senator LAMBIE: I would like a list that shows the total amount of communication—broken down into letters, emails and phone calls—between the royal commission and the defence department and the military. I will put that on notice.

Mr Reed : I am not going to be in a position to be able to answer that on notice.

Senator Brandis: I do not think, given the nature of the inquiries that this royal commission is undertaking, it would be appropriate to disclose that.

Senator LAMBIE: I would like a list that shows the total amount of communication—broken down into letters, emails and phone calls—between the royal commission and the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Senator Brandis: I will refer to my previous answer.

Senator LAMBIE: Does the royal commission have independent powers of prosecution or will it rely on either the federal or state Attorneys-General to prosecute alleged offenders?

Senator Brandis: It does not have powers of prosecution because it is a royal commission, and attorneys-general do not prosecute. Directors of prosecutions, or their equivalent body however so called in the states, is the body that decides on prosecutions. What ordinarily occurs, as has occurred, for example, in the Heydon royal commission, is that where there are findings of criminal behaviour, in appropriate cases they are referred to the police for investigation, who may refer them to the director of prosecutions.

Mr Reed : I would add that we are publicly on the record saying that we have referred more than 900 matters to the appropriate law enforcement agencies around the states and territories.

CHAIR: We will have to leave it there. I thank you, Mr Reed, for that. Minister, Mr Moraitis and all of your team: I thank you for helping us out today so efficiently and professionally, as you have always done. I thank Hansard, the secretariat and my colleagues. We look forward to the next estimates happenings.

Committee adjourned at 23 : 09