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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee - 27/05/2013 - Estimates - PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS PORTFOLIO

PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator the Hon. John Hogg, President of the Senate

Department of the Senate:

Dr Rosemary Laing, Clerk of the Senate

Mr Richard Pye, Deputy Clerk of the Senate

Mr Chris Reid, Clerk Assistant (Committees)

Ms Maureen Weeks, Clerk Assistant (Table Office)

Mr Brien Hallett, Usher of the Black Rod

Mr Simon Harvey, Director Parliamentary Education Office

Michael Hall, Acting Chief Financial Officer

Department of Parliamentary Services

Ms Carol Mills, Secretary

Dr Dianne Heriot, Parliamentarian Librarian

Ms Eija Seittenranta, Chief Information Officer

Parliamentary Budget Office

Mr Phil Bowen, Parliamentary Budget Officer

Mr Tim Pyne, First Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer

Mr Colin Brown, First Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer

Mr Mathew Fox, Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer

Mr Gareth Tunks, Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer

Mr Paul Gardiner, Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer

Ms Rachel Lloyd, Acting Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General

Outcome 1—Program 1

Mr Stephen Brady, Official Secretary to the Governor-General

Ms Karen Baker, Acting Deputy Official Secretary

Ms Sharon Prendergast, Director Australian Honours and Awards Branch

Mr Chandy Paul, Chief Financial Officer

Committee met at 09:01

CHAIR ( Senator Polley ): I declare open this meeting of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed expenditure and particulars of certain proposed expenditure for 2013-14 for the parliamentary departments and the portfolios of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Finance and Deregulation. The committee may also examine the annual reports of the departments and agencies appearing before it. The committee has fixed Friday, 12 July 2013 as the date by which answers to questions on notice are to be returned.

The committee proceedings today will begin with examination of the parliamentary departments followed by the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. Examination of the Finance and Deregulation portfolio is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice.

Officers and senators are familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings. If you need assistance, the secretary has copies of the rules. I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to an order of the Senate of 13 May 2009 specifying the process by which the claim of public interest immunity should be raised, which I now incorporate into Hansard.

The extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

(a) notes that ministers and officers have continued to refuse to provide information to Senate committees without properly raising claims of public interest immunity as required by past resolutions of the Senate;

(b) reaffirms the principles of past resolutions of the Senate by this order, to provide ministers and officers with guidance as to the proper process for raising public interest immunity claims and to consolidate those past resolutions of the Senate;

(c) orders that the following operate as an order of continuing effect:

(1) If:

(a) a Senate committee, or a senator in the course of proceedings of a committee, requests information or a document from a Commonwealth department or agency; and

(b) an officer of the department or agency to whom the request is directed believes that it may not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, the officer shall state to the committee the ground on which the officer believes that it may not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, and specify the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document.

(2) If, after receiving the officer’s statement under paragraph (1), the committee or the senator requests the officer to refer the question of the disclosure of the information or document to a responsible minister, the officer shall refer that question to the minister.

(3) If a minister, on a reference by an officer under paragraph (2), concludes that it would not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, the minister shall provide to the committee a statement of the ground for that conclusion, specifying the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document.

(4) A minister, in a statement under paragraph (3), shall indicate whether the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document to the committee could result only from the publication of the information or document by the committee, or could result, equally or in part, from the disclosure of the information or document to the committee as in camera evidence.

(5) If, after considering a statement by a minister provided under paragraph (3), the committee concludes that the statement does not sufficiently justify the withholding of the information or document from the committee, the committee shall report the matter to the Senate.

(6) A decision by a committee not to report a matter to the Senate under paragraph (5) does not prevent a senator from raising the matter in the Senate in accordance with other procedures of the Senate.

(7) A statement that information or a document is not published, or is confidential, or consists of advice to, or internal deliberations of, government, in the absence of specification of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document, is not a statement that meets the requirements of paragraph (1) or (4).

(8) If a minister concludes that a statement under paragraph (3) should more appropriately be made by the head of an agency, by reason of the independence of that agency from ministerial direction or control, the minister shall inform the committee of that conclusion and the reason for that conclusion, and shall refer the matter to the head of the agency, who shall then be required to provide a statement in accordance with paragraph (3).

(Extract, Senate Standing Orders, pp 124-125)