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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
19/10/2015
Estimates
IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION PORTFOLIO

IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Cash representing the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

Immigration and Border Protection Portfolio

Mr Michael Pezzullo, Secretary, Department of Immigration and Border Protection

Mr Roman Quaedvlieg APM, Commissioner, Australian Border Force

Mr Michael Manthorpe PSM, Deputy Secretary, Visa and Citizenship Services

Ms Rachel Noble PSM, Deputy Secretary, Policy Group

Mr Peter Vardos PSM, Deputy Secretary, Client Services Decision Support Review

Mr Michael Outram APM, Deputy Commissioner, Operations and Acting Commissioner

Dr Jill Charker, Deputy Secretary, Corporate, Chief Operating Officer

Ms Cindy Briscoe, Deputy Commissioner, Support

Ms Maria Fernandez, Deputy Secretary, Intelligence and Capability

Ms Jenet Connell, Deputy Secretary, Detention Capability Review

Major General Andrew Bottrell, Commander, Joint Agency Task Force

Ms Maree Bridger, First Assistant Secretary, Executive Division

Ms Rachael Spalding, First Assistant Secretary, Strategic Policy and Planning Division

Mr David Wilden, First Assistant Secretary, Immigration and Citizenship Policy

Ms Linda Geddes, First Assistant Secretary, Travellers, Customs and Industry Policy Division

Mr Lachlan Colquhoun, First Assistant Secretary, International Division

Mr Nick Evans, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Corporate Support Division, Head Strategic Reform Programme

Ms Paula Goodwin, Acting First Assistant Secretary, People Division

Ms Stephanie Cargill, Acting Chief Financial Officer

Ms Philippa De Veau, General Counsel

Mr Stephen Hayward, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Integrity, Security and Assurance Division (Chief Risk Office/Chief Audit Executive)

Ms Karen Harfield, First Assistant Secretary, Intelligence Division

Mr Randall Brugeaud, Chief Information Officer, ICT Division

Mr Michael Milford AM, First Assistant Secretary, Major Capability Division

Mr Gavin McCairns, First Assistant Secretary, Identity and Biometrics Division

Mr Jim Williams, First Assistant Secretary, Visa and Citizenship Management

Mr Kruno Kukoc, First Assistant Secretary, Refugee and Humanitarian Visa Management

Ms Peta Dunn, First Assistant Secretary, Community Protection

Mr Phil Thurbon, First Assistant Secretary, Digital Channels Taskforce

Mr Stephen Allen, Assistant Commissioner, Border Management

Mr Peter Docwra, Assistant Commissioner, Border Force Capability

Ms Cheryl-anne Moy, First Assistant Secretary, Children, Community and Settlement Services

Mr Neil Skill, First Assistant Secretary, Detention Services

Rear Admiral Michael Noonan AM RAN, Commander, Maritime Border Command

Mr James Watson, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Strategic Border Command

Mr Clive Murray, Assistant Commissioner, Strategic Border Command

Mr Steve Lancaster, Assistant Commissioner, Investigations

Mr John Gibbon, Assistant Secretary, Traveller Branch

Ms Anita Langford, Assistant Secretary, Trade and Customs

Mr Guy Boekenstein, Assistant Secretary, Executive Coordination

Mr Richard Johnson, Assistant Secretary, Community Protection and Border Policy

Ms Chloe Bird, Assistant Secretary, Economics Policy

Committee met at 09:01

CHAIR ( Senator Ian Macdonald ): I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee dealing with the supplementary budget estimates for 2015-16. I welcome the representative minister, Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash; Mr Quaedvlieg from the Australian Border Force; and other officers of the department and the Border Force.

Senator Cash: The secretary will be joining us shortly.

CHAIR: The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed expenditure for 2015-16 for the portfolios of the Attorney-General and Immigration and Border Protection and other related documents. These are budget estimates proceedings. The agencies to be heard during today's estimates are from the Immigration and Border Protection portfolio. I think the agenda has been circulated. The committee has set Friday, 4 December 2015 as the date by which answers to questions on notice are to be returned. We have asked that written questions on notice be provided to the secretariat by the close of business on 30 October.

We are obliged to take all evidence in public. This includes answers to questions on notice. Witnesses, as you all know, are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to the committee, and any such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. Officers and senators are familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings, and the secretariat is always here to help if anyone needs help on the process.

The Senate, by resolution, endorsed the following test of relevance of questions at estimates hearings: any questions going to the operations or financial positions of the departments and agencies which are seeking funds in estimates are relevant questions for the purposes of the hearings. There are no areas in connection with the expenditure of public funds where any person has discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament or its committees unless the parliament has expressly provided otherwise.

As you know, officers of a department are not asked to give opinions on matters of policy and are always given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked to any superior officer or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanation of policies or factual questions about when and how the policies were adopted.

I refer to the Senate's 2009 order concerning public interest immunity claims:

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).

(d) requires the Procedure Committee to review the operation of this order and report to the Senate by 20 August 2009.

(13 May 2009 J.1941)

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

Witnesses are specifically reminded that a statement that information or a document is confidential or consists of advice to government is not a statement that meets the requirements of the 2009 order. Instead, witnesses are required to provide some specific indication of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or the document. For the Hansard record, officers called upon for the first time to answer questions should state their full names and the positions in which they appear and speak clearly. I understand that the press are in the room and want to take photos and that there are no objections. Would you like to make an opening statement?

Mr Pezzullo : Noting that the first item of business pertains to the Australian Border Force, which is an entity within the department, I have elected to make my opening statement at this point, to be followed by the commissioner.

I have been secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for a year, having been appointed on 13 October 2014. In that time the department has maintained the integrity of our maritime borders through the ongoing success of Operation Sovereign Borders, with no illegal maritime ventures having reached our shores for over a year. We have integrated the former Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service on 1 July 2015 to create the new Department of Immigration and Border Protection, which has expanded responsibilities for the following functions: immigration, citizenship, customs, border protection and maritime security. We have cracked down on breaches of relevant legislation, especially in relation to the Migration Act, with a focus on labour exploitation, visa fraud and visa noncompliance by noncitizens, something which has been made possible by the formal partnership that the department has with the Australian Federal Police in the form of a seconded AFP assistant commissioner, who oversees the department's investigative functions under the Australian Border Force. This has been successfully accomplished while the department has continued to manage growing volumes in terms of trade, travel and migration.

This is a testament to the men and women of the department, including the department's new enforcement arm, the Australian Border Force. I should like to pay tribute to our staff, who every day successfully deliver immigration and customs functions for the nation, while keeping us safe through their work at the border. For the department and the ABF 2015-16, the current financial year, will be a year of implementation. This morning I would like to reflect on some recent developments and the work of the new department. My colleague, the commissioner, Mr Roman Quaedvlieg, will do the same from an operational perspective in his statement.

I should first like to reflect on the events of 28 August 2015, leading up to what is known as Operation Fortitude, which was to take place in Melbourne. This operation was to be led by the Victoria Police, with the ABF acting in a supporting role. It is clear that the media release issued that morning was very badly worded and gave rise to the impression that the ABF has general powers of questioning people in the street. It does not, and I apologise for the impression that was wrongly created. In the end, the commissioner and I are fully responsible for the department and the ABF, and in the end we are accountable for this regrettable incident. Since these events we have undertaken a comprehensive review which resulted in a number of recommendations being made. We have tightened our internal clearance processes and the visibility of media documents related to operational activities and a number of staff have been formally counselled. However, in the end, we, the secretary and commissioner, are fully responsible and accountable.

I turn to the ongoing reform and integration work that I mentioned earlier. Notwithstanding the official establishment of a consolidated department and the ABF on 1 July, reform and integration activities are ongoing. We are committed to building one culture and one organisation, an objective which includes continuing to consolidate and streamline all functions across the portfolio. Our integration reforms are large and complex. They affect around 14,000 staff across the portfolio as well as all of our financial, legal, infrastructure technology and organisational policies, processes and practices. These activities will be a central focus for us over the balance of the financial year and indeed beyond. The integration has also enabled the department to make significant progress to toward supporting whole-of-government shared and common service programs. The department continues to improve its internal service delivery by developing a range of initiatives designed to improve the efficiency of what are known as back-of-house services.

I turn now to the departmental headquarters project and will provide an update to the committee. In relation to another aspect of departmental reform and integration, I would like to update the committee on the department's search for a long-term accommodation solution for our headquarters in Canberra. As members may be aware, the Department of Finance released an updated Commonwealth Property Management Framework, which came into effect on 10 September 2015. The revised framework necessitates that a local impact assessment be undertaken for current and future property acquisitions. Given the local impact assessment process could not be applied within the constraints of the department's original request for tender, or RFT, the department has been unable to proceed with that RFT, which has been terminated in accordance with its relevant clauses and the Commonwealth's procurement rules. We will work with the Department of Finance now to develop an agreed procurement strategy to deliver a suitable accommodation solution. We anticipate that a new approach to market will commence shortly.

I turn to our enterprise agreement. As members may be aware from a recent ballot on the proposed departmental enterprise agreement, our staff delivered a 'no' vote of 91 per cent. We have conducted a staff survey to help us identify what staff consider to be contentious issues within the proposed enterprise agreement, or EA, and to enable options for reshaping various elements so the agreement is more acceptable to staff. The findings of this survey will be used to inform our ongoing negotiations with staff and their bargaining representatives. We are keen to develop an EA that delivers the greatest benefit to the largest number of employees and one that also recognises the challenging nature of our reform and integration environment that I mentioned earlier, our increasing operational demands and of course our budgetary constraints. The previous offer was developed with a view to keeping employee reductions to a minimum over the life of the agreement to ensure that we had sufficient resources to carry out our duties as set by government. To make the previous offer affordable, a reduction of 184 employees would have been required over the life of the agreement. The unavoidable reality is that any larger pay increases will require more employee reductions, and I am keen to ensure that these are kept to an absolute minimum.

I turn to detention assurance matters. In June 2015, a detention assurance branch was established to provide advice on the management and performance of the immigration detention function, including Regional Processing Centres. The branch operates independently of detention functional line areas and works with stakeholders to improve immigration detention processes in both onshore and regional facilities. It builds on a smaller function that was established initially in November 2014. Acknowledging the value of external and independent feedback in critically examining our operations, we have been building positive relationships with external oversight bodies to improve the way we deliver our detention services. We have received advice from the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Australian Information Commissioner, the Australian Red Cross and others. We are in the process of establishing memoranda of understanding with these organisations which amongst other things will promote new initiatives to help inform our detention operations and practices. On the important issue of protecting children in our care I established the Child Protection Panel in April of this year. This independent panel has already commenced and will continue to assess departmental and service provider policies and practices in relation to the management of incidents of abuse, neglect or exploitation involving children in onshore or community detention facilities and as appropriate in regional detention centres. The panel will review allegations to ensure that they have been handled appropriately. I thank the committee.

CHAIR: Thank you. As usual, you have copies for the committee?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes.

CHAIR: Could the secretariat perhaps get those. Mr Quaedvlieg.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am pleased to make this a short opening statement in my new role as the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force, the ABF. The Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Michael Pezzullo, has reflected on some of the recent work of the new department. My statement focuses on the operational activities of the Australian Border Force. The Australian Border Force Act established the ABF as the operational arm of the department on 1 July this year. In essence, the ABF's operational remit is a combination of the operational functions of the former Customs service and the former immigration department, no more, no less. Similarly, the powers available to ABF officers are simply an amalgamation of the powers that were available to the officers of the former Customs and Immigration. While some of those antecedent powers have been repackaged—for example, disclosure provisions—no fundamentally new powers have been bestowed upon the ABF.

One lesser known function of the ABF is the responsibility for enforcement and collection of border related revenue such as duty owed on excisable goods like tobacco. The oversight of compliance with Australian trade rules and the collection of owed duties resides with the ABF commissioner, who has a dual role as the Comptroller-General of Customs. Last financial year, we collected more than $15 billion in duty.

The ABF's more visible roles, however, are on overt display every day across Australia's border continuum, as we call it. As a statistical snapshot for the committee, on average in the course of the week, ABF officers clear more than 600,000 arriving air passengers and 22,000 arriving sea passengers. They clear more than 600,000 imported air cargo consignments and 55,000 sea cargo consignments. They collect more than $300 million in revenue per week. They seize 450 importations of illicit drugs. They inspect more than one million incoming international mail items, survey three million square nautical miles of our maritime domain, cancel more than 1,000 visas for noncompliance by holders, locate more than 300 unlawful noncitizens and 50 illegal workers in the community and are currently managing the detention of 2,688 persons across our detention centres and community detention facilities.

Most of the ABF's operational priorities for this year will not be a surprise to the committee. They are illicit drugs with a particular emphasis on methamphetamine or ice; illicit firearms; people smuggling and human trafficking; illicit tobacco with an emphasis on organised crime involvement; counterterrorism, focusing on the movement of foreign fighters across the border; serious and organised revenue evasion; illegal foreign fishing; and exploitation of the visa program. While drugs, guns and people smuggling have always been and will continue to be core operational priorities for the ABF, and are well understood by the committee, I want to draw out several of the other priorities for the committee's understanding.

The ABF have been monitoring the movement of foreign fighters across Australia's border since August last year through the deployment of counterterrorism unit teams in our eight major international airports at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Cairns, Gold Coast, Adelaide and Darwin. Their role is primarily to assist security and intelligence agencies by monitoring and preventing persons travelling from Australia to unlawfully participate in foreign conflicts and to manage those persons seeking to return to Australia when they return from those conflict arenas. This is critical work in support of Australia's national security.

Enforcement of visa system exploitation is crucial in maintaining the integrity of our migration programs. We are seeing increasing exploitation of our visa system by organised actors onshore and offshore. We intend to apply the full spectrum of operational tools and powers to this illegal activity. The recent establishment of a joint task force, Cadena, as it is called, in conjunction with the Fair Work Ombudsman to target the exploitation of working holiday makers is an example of this approach. In the past few months, this task force has undertaken five compliance operations, detaining 60 unlawful noncitizens and arresting three persons for breaches of the Migration Act. The task force is currently assessing 31 allegations of organised labour exploitation and has developed a target list of 65 entities, a priority cohort of which are 13 labour hire companies.

Similarly, we will continue routine visa compliance activities to maintain the hygiene of Australia's visa system. This includes supporting partner agencies with immigration compliance advice and support where they undertake broader enforcement activities. The recently cancelled operation at Fortitude in Melbourne was to be one such example of where the ABF provides a support role to those activities. Our role in that operation was limited to six ABF visa compliance officers in two static locations over two evenings in Melbourne's central business district providing a secondary advisory and support service where the lead agencies referred matters requiring immigration expertise. This activity is a routine and a regular component of our responsibilities. Last financial year we provided support to over 300 operations led by partner enforcement agencies across Australia. Unfortunately in the case of Operation Fortitude, the ABF issued a complementary media release which was factually wrong in describing its role. This resulted in public confusion, concern and distress for which I apologise. As the Secretary indicated, we undertook a comprehensive review of internal media procedures in the immediate aftermath of this cancelled event, which resulted in a number of recommendations that are now all fully implemented. A number of staff were also formally counselled.

We currently have an operational focus on the importation of illicit tobacco. This illegal activity not only leads to substantial revenue leakage but is increasingly being committed by serious and organised criminal entities which employ sophisticated methodologies and use profits from this activity to reinvest into other crime. In the last three months alone, we have seized over 100 tonnes of illicit tobacco in Australian seaports and we have worked with our offshore partners and seized almost 60 more tonnes of illicit tobacco that was headed to Australia. The evaded excise on this quantity of tobacco, had it passed the border, would have been $60 million.

I am also pleased to report that we have been able to dedicate a greater degree of surveillance resources to illegal and foreign fishing activities over the course of this calendar year. Not only were we able to conduct a long-range 42-day patrol of the Southern Ocean to fulfil our commitments to police those waters, but also our Maritime Border Command vessel conducted boardings of three renowned illegal foreign fishing vessels as they sailed under false flags near our Indian Ocean Territories while returning from illegal fishing activities in the Southern Ocean. Those interceptions were consequently crucial to the detention of those vessels and the seizure of their illegal catches by our offshore maritime partners. The Commander of the Maritime Border Command can provide more detail on those activities if the committee so wishes.

On 1 July the ABF also assumed responsibility for the operation of the Australian immigration detention facilities. In the three months since, we have initiated a large body of work to improve the operation, security and amenity of those facilities, and the persons held within them. One example is the use of a nationally-consistent model for deciding where in the network to place detained persons, taking into consideration individual vulnerabilities, risk factors, medical needs, family needs, links to the communities and like factors.

Another example is the delivery of the specialised training course for ABF officers in charge of detention facilities, which includes in its curriculum: operational issues, such as command and control, and other input from entities such as the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Deputy Commissioner for ABF Operations and his officers can provide more detail on the current operations and our reform program in the detention network if the committee desires.

Thank you for the opportunity of making this short statement.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Quaedvlieg. It would be good if we could have a copy of that. Before we start, I realise that since we last met there has been the establishment of new department—the Australian Border Force. Congratulations to both of you on the establishment and I extend the committee's best wishes in the important work you both do. Clearly, from your opening statements, both the department and the Australian Border Force have an enormous influence and work to do for the Australian community. It is not always appreciated, but from your opening statements you have given us just a snapshot of the very wide range of activities you do. I understand, Mr Pezzullo, that in the immigration area it is not always an easy job and it can be very stressful for your officers, and we acknowledge that. Mr Quaedvlieg, your people are here, there and everywhere. We see a lot of them at airports but we do not see most of them in doing the important work that they do to help protect Australia. Thanks very much.

Mr Pezzullo : Thank you for those very kind remarks. In terms of the division of labour, it might be helpful for the committee for me to very briefly explain how the Commissioner and I divide up our responsibilities in relation to detention. The Commissioner made the point that the ABF has oversight of what is called 'onshore detention' within the Australian jurisdiction. He will take questions principally on that, subject to any guidance that you may wish to provide us.

In relation to our support for regional processing centres, of which there are two—one in Papua New Guinea and one in Nauru—the ABF have no jurisdiction because the jurisdictions are under the management of those two sovereign nations, and all of the detention support services are provided through my oversight. So, whilst there are ABF officers who provide contract management and the like, they do so under my direction. So I will take questions in relation to regional processing. I just thought I would illuminate that.

CHAIR: That is helpful, and it will save some time later. In relation to the regional processing centres, our obligations are internationally, diplomatically contracted arrangements; is that right?

Mr Pezzullo : There are two intergovernmental arrangements, one with the government of Nauru and one with the government of Papua New Guinea, and pursuant to those agreements we provide contracted support services—health, security and the like—but the legal decision making and the legal control of the persons known as transferees, in both Papua New Guinea and Nauru, are under the sovereign jurisdiction of those two countries.

CHAIR: Those contractual agreements have been made public, haven't they, over the years?

Mr Pezzullo : I will need to check the record. I believe that the two MOUs are in the public domain. If that is not correct, I will correct my evidence in the course of the morning.

CHAIR: Sure. And have they changed since they were first signed?

Mr Pezzullo : No. In both cases, the original MOUs remain on foot, but the implementing understandings and the various subordinate, officials-level understandings—because both MOUs set up joint advisory processes, and there are, if you like, various practical interpretive understandings that arise at officials level, pursuant to those MOUs. But the MOUs themselves—and I will check these facts absolutely, Chair, in the course of the morning—are both public and unchanged.

CHAIR: And they date from about August 2013, or July?

Mr Pezzullo : The first one, with Nauru, was in 2012. The second one, with PNG, was in 2013—that is correct.

CHAIR: Okay. That might save some time later. With that, I will go to Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: Can I begin with this Operation Fortitude. When was it developed? Commissioner, can you help me with that?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I cannot give you an exact date. I am presuming it was developed throughout the month of August. The lead agency in the operation was Victoria Police. The operation involved most, if not all, of the transport entities in Victoria—Yarra Trams, the Taxi Directorate et cetera. Our engagement in the operation was not one of development. We were invited to participate in the operation.

Senator KIM CARR: I have a report here that it was planned since June of this year. ThisWeekend Australian reported that the planning had been undertaken since June of this year. Would that be correct?

Mr Quaedvlieg : It is possible. These questions are probably best directed to the Victorian police. It would not be unusual for an operation to be scheduled well in advance. Whether the actual detailed planning of the operation occurred in June is something the Victorian police would know.

Senator KIM CARR: It is strange that you highlight the Victorian police's role in this operation, Commissioner. The Victoria Police Chief Commissioner is reported to be refusing to take part in any future joint operations with the department after Operation Fortitude. Is that true?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No, it is not entirely accurate. The chief commissioner of the Victorian police and I have spoken. There are many activities which we undertake jointly with the Victorian police. For example, we have had a number of operations in recent times where there have been arrests, across non-immigration matters, in tobacco seizures et cetera. What we agreed to do in the post-Fortitude aftermath was that, before we had further joint operations of this type, we would just review the standard operating protocols around both operations and media management before we continued with further operations of this type. But I can assure you that, across detention operations, waterfront operations and many, many other operations at airports with Customs, we work jointly with Vic Pol every day.

Senator KIM CARR: It is just that I have a report here from 17 September that says that Mr Ashton had issued a directive that the ABF 'not be included' in any planned operations by local police in the immediate future. Is that inaccurate?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I refer to my previous answer.

Senator KIM CARR: Take me back to the planning processes. Who initiated this operation?

Mr Quaedvlieg : My understanding is that it was the Victoria Police transit section in conjunction with the other transport entities of Victoria.

Senator KIM CARR: The transit police, we think maybe in June, approached the Commonwealth to assist, did they?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am not exactly sure when we were asked to participate. I do not know whether it was in June or a bit later on, in August. But we were certainly invited to participate, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: So you were invited by the transit police in Victoria.

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is right.

Senator KIM CARR: What was the purpose of the operation?

Mr Quaedvlieg : The headline purpose of the operation was to conduct policing operations to ensure a safe transport amenity across the course of that weekend within the Melbourne central business district.

Senator KIM CARR: I am not quite certain about this. Where does the issue of safety come up in this matter? Can you perhaps explain to me what you were doing to ensure a safe transport system?

Mr Quaedvlieg : As I indicated earlier, this was a policing-led operation that was focusing on the transport amenities around the CBD. What normally occurs—and I am answering here on behalf of Victoria Police—is that there will be a high-profile campaign where police will pre-empt to the public that they intend conducting some high-visibility patrols and there will be a presence of many uniformed officers in and around the transport hubs and the transport lines within Melbourne. That is to ensure that misbehaviour that is alcohol fuelled, or any other sorts of petty crimes that occur on transport hubs, is not happening that weekend. It is more about ensuring the safety of the citizens of Melbourne as they move around the Melbourne CBD and the inner suburbs.

Senator KIM CARR: How often have you been involved in operations of this type?

Mr Quaedvlieg : As I indicated in my opening statement, since the start of this calendar year we have been involved in over 300 operations supporting partner agencies of this type. This was a rather large one. We do not do ones of this size regularly. But, as I indicated, we have played over 300 support roles so far this calendar year.

Senator KIM CARR: This is keeping safety checks on transport systems. Is that what you are doing?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Our role is limited to immigration compliance. What typically happens is that if there is a focus by police and other transport authorities on transport lines—taxis, buses, trams—in the course of those policing activities questions arise in relation to immigration matters. For example, a taxi driver may have been employed by a taxi service in breach of their visa conditions or a taxi driver may have overstayed a visa. When that occurs, when police or the transport authorities detect that, we are in a stand-off position. We receive a referral from those lead agencies and then we will conduct an assessment in relation to the immigration issue at play.

Senator KIM CARR: So you are saying that this operation in Melbourne was routine.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: You are saying that you had six officers provided to this operation.

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is correct. Six officers were going to be dedicated to this operation.

Senator KIM CARR: That would be the normal number you would have?

Mr Quaedvlieg : For an operation of this size, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: And you had two locations.

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is right.

Senator KIM CARR: So it was three at each, was it?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Presumably, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: What were the locations?

Mr Quaedvlieg : They were Flinders Street taxi rank and Southern Cross taxi rank.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you enlighten me as to why it was that metro trams and Yarra Trams were involved?

Mr Quaedvlieg : The trams are a public transport system. Crimes occur on trams, as they do on bus lines, on train lines and in taxis. It is just part of the system.

Senator KIM CARR: But it was an operation directed at taxis?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No. As I have indicated many times already, it was an operation directed at the transport infrastructure.

Senator KIM CARR: Was it primarily at taxis or was it—

Mr Quaedvlieg : No. It was primarily the transport, or components thereof.

Senator KIM CARR: Which tramlines are there at Southern Cross Station?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I do not know. I am not familiar with Melbourne. To clarify: our role was focused on the two taxi ranks in the locations that I have indicated to you. The broader Operation Fortitude was targeting all the components of the transport system within Melbourne.

Senator KIM CARR: At Flinders Street Station and the tramline there, were you down at the tramline or at the taxi rank?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No. The operation did not go ahead, but the intent was for us to be stationed at the Flinders Street and the Southern Cross taxi ranks.

Senator KIM CARR: When were you advised of the operation?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I was advised of the operation on the Friday afternoon prior.

Senator KIM CARR: What date was that?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I think it was the 27th. It might have been the 28th. I do not have a calendar before me, but it was the Friday afternoon before the operation commenced. I think the operation was on the 28th or 29th of August.

Senator KIM CARR: So you were advised on the 21st, were you?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No. On the day.

Senator KIM CARR: On the day?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: That is the first that you had heard of it?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Correct.

Senator KIM CARR: When was the minister's office advised?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I understand that the minister's office may have received a copy of a media release earlier that week, perhaps on the Wednesday. But I cannot be exactly sure.

Senator KIM CARR: So the minister was advised, but you were not?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No, I think that is an incorrect statement. I think I said the minister's office was advised, not the minister.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, all right. So the minister's office was advised, but you were not?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I had no direct knowledge of the operation.

Senator KIM CARR: Did that surprise you?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Not at all. It is a routine operation; it does not surprise me at all. I do not expect to be apprised of every single operation that occurs during the course of a week or a day for that matter.

Senator KIM CARR: Was there a ministerial briefing or just a press release?

Mr Quaedvlieg : From my understanding, it was a press release forwarded under an attachment to an email.

Senator KIM CARR: Were there any other briefings apart from this one email?

Mr Quaedvlieg : To the minister's office?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Not that I am aware of.

Senator KIM CARR: So it was just this one email, was it?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am not sure. You will have to put the question to the minister's office. I am not sure how many emails were sent. Minister, are you aware of any other communications?

Senator Cash: In terms of receipt of information from Minister Dutton's office, I will take that on notice to ensure that I provide you with the correct information. But my understanding is: as the minister has already stated, his office confirmed that a copy of the press releases was provided to them. It was provided, I understand, for noting and not for clearance. The reason was, as I understand, that this was an operational matter and, as such, it was not directed by the minister's office. But I will take anything further on notice for you.

Senator KIM CARR: Commissioner, can you confirm that the Wednesday that you are talking—you said it was on the Wednesday—that that would be the 25th, would it?

Mr Quaedvlieg : The 26th, I think. It was Friday the 28th, was it?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, the 28th. So Wednesday was the 26th, right? Sorry, my apologies. That is the date.

Mr Quaedvlieg : As I understand it, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Is there any requirement for the minister to approve any of these procedures?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No.

Senator KIM CARR: Only to note the talking points?

Mr Quaedvlieg : As I understand it, this was for the minister's office to note the media release, not to note the actual conduct of the operation.

Mr Pezzullo : I should add, Senator Carr, for the sake of completeness, that in addition to the minister's office receiving a copy of the press release, as the Commissioner has indicated, so did our executive division—the executive division that directly supports the Commissioner and I. So our staff saw it as well. As I have best tried to establish, it did not go into my personal inbox. Nonetheless, it did go to our executive division—that is, the division that coordinates the affairs of the department. They are the people who liaise with the minister's office. They are the people who provide the cabinet, parliamentary and ministerial support et cetera.

I would not want it to be thought or the impression to be left that it was just that the minister's office got this email out of the blue. It was a fairly routine circulation of a media release and talking points pertaining to what was considered to be an upcoming routine operational matter. I want to make it very clear that the department's Executive Division, which coordinates those functions that I have particularised, did receive the document at the same time.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. Who in the Executive Division received it?

Mr Pezzullo : The relevant officers, including at quite senior levels, who routinely receive such information.

Senator KIM CARR: What did they do with it?

Mr Pezzullo : Not enough, and we have put in place remedial action. In the end, the commissioner and I are accountable for the way in which work is done our department, and that includes the way in which sometimes it is not done. It is regrettable. It is a fast-moving tempo. I understand the mitigating factors that bear down on this, but nonetheless we expect all of our processes and procedures to work smoothly and efficiently, and in this case they did not. That is one regrettable lapse in what is otherwise an exemplary record of service by the officers involved.

Senator KIM CARR: Have the media talking points been made available? Are they public?

Mr Pezzullo : Publicly? I think they soon will be because it is the subject of an FOI request—

Senator KIM CARR: Can you table them here?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know where the state of play is with the FOI. It certainly has been FOIed. I just do not know where that is at, but I will take on notice whether it is possible to bring that—

Senator KIM CARR: I would like to have a look at them. Is there any reason why they cannot be made available to the committee?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not think so. No, I do not think there is any reason. They have been looked at from the point of all of the relevant protections that are available under FOI. I know the Senate has a wider remit. If it is possible to release those through the course of the day, we will.

Senator KIM CARR: I may want to return to them if I have actually seen the documents.

Mr Pezzullo : Quite possibly.

Senator KIM CARR: Are they readily available, Mr Pezzullo?

Mr Pezzullo : I will have that checked.

Senator KIM CARR: The minister's office is reported to have said, 'Thanks for letting us know.' Did you, Mr Pezzullo, believe that to mean that the minister had agreed to the talking points?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not familiar with the reference that you are making. Sorry, is that a reference to a statement?

Senator KIM CARR: It is an email straight from the media office, in the minister's office.

Senator Cash: Can I just confirm, Senator Carr: was that in relation to the email that we discussed previously—

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Senator Cash: that attached a press release?

Senator KIM CARR: The one on the 26th of—

Senator Cash: I think it merely attached the press release; is that correct?

Senator KIM CARR: That is the one.

Senator Cash: So not talking points as such; that is my point.

Senator KIM CARR: I understood that the talking points were attached—that is what I understood the commissioner just said.

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is right.

CHAIR: We might leave it there, Senator Carr, and come back to you on that point. Before I pass to Senator Lindgren, can I just follow up. I will start my clock. This is your time, Senator Lindgren, but I am going to pinch a bit of it. I think, Mr Quaedvlieg, you said that your six officers were involved or intended to be involved. Of course, nothing happened because the operation was called off; that is correct?

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is correct.

CHAIR: But your six officers were visa people, were they?

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is correct.

CHAIR: How did you imagine they would be working?

Mr Quaedvlieg : My concept of that is that, as indicated, they would have been stationed at the Flinders Street taxi rank and the Southern Cross taxi rank. They would be in what I call a stand-off location whilst the lead agencies conducted their inquiries with the taxi drivers and the vehicles. Where there was an issue that arose in relation to a question around an immigration issue, we would then be called forward, and we would take that referral and make an appropriate assessment. My anticipated workload for those officers would have been probably no more than half-a-dozen inquiries during the course of each evening across the two evenings.

CHAIR: I am trying to visualise it. The Victorian police would find someone and say, 'Have you got a visa?' They would say, 'I don't need a visa,' and then your officers would check to see whether that particular person needed a visa or not. Is that how it would work, or how would it work?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, Chair. What would normally occur is that the police and the taxi directorate would check the credentials of the driver in terms of their not just being licensed to generally drive a motor vehicle but also having an accreditation to drive taxis. They would check the state of the vehicle, looking for defects et cetera. In the course of discussions or interviews with the drivers, there might be an issue in relation to, for example, a person driving and working in relation to the conditions of a visa that they had been granted. If that visa had expired or they were working in breach of that visa—for example, they were supposed to be working for a particular employer and not another one—then that becomes an issue of potentially a breach of their visa conditions, and that is a matter that requires some immigration compliance expertise. Our officer would then become engaged and conduct an inquiry under the Migration Act.

CHAIR: So the Victorian police were doing the licence checks, the vehicle checks—

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is right.

CHAIR: the taxi licence checks—

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes.

CHAIR: and then, if there were a visa issue, that would come to the attention of the Victorian officer?

Mr Quaedvlieg : That would be the only occasion where our officers would be engaged in the operation—if there were a referral from one of the lead agencies that related to a visa issue.

CHAIR: So a policeman would say, 'Right, you've got a drivers licence and a taxi licence. Have you got a visa?'

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is correct, although—I must add for the sake of clarity—our officers would still need to satisfy themselves that there was potentially a Migration Act offence. Under the Migration Act, if they know or reasonably suspect that someone has committed a breach of the Migration Act, it gives them powers to then talk to and interview persons. So, as the referral comes from the police or the taxi directorate, our officers would still need to go through a triaging assessment in their own minds as to whether there were sufficient grounds for them to detain a person and speak to them about their visa.

CHAIR: Were your officers stationed in a booth, or were they just walking the streets?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No, they would be in a static location—as I described, in a stand-off—so they would not be actually walking through the taxi rank with the lead agencies; they would be standing off to one side. My expectation was that they would be wearing some sort of identification, probably a uniform. All the officers involved in these operations across all the authorities wear uniform, either a police uniform or a vest which says 'taxi directorate', and our officers would be also attired and visible as Australian Border Force members.

CHAIR: Senator Lindgren, I have taken some of your time, but do you have some other questions?

Senator LINDGREN: Mr Quaedvlieg, excuse me if you have answered these questions already. First of all, who was leading this operation, and who tends to lead these joint operations? Is it always police?

Mr Quaedvlieg : In this particular case, on the first part of your question, this was led by the Victoria Police transit unit. It had a number of transit authorities that were joined as part of the operation, as were we. In general terms, these types of operations are led by the police. They have good command and control systems. There are existing operational templates. They have watch floors et cetera from which they can coordinate the operation. So, in operations of this type, they are normally led by the state or territory police jurisdiction.

Senator LINDGREN: How many of these agencies were involved in Operation Fortitude?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I do not have the exact number. There were at least half-a-dozen. It comprised mainly the Victorian police, the taxi directorate, Yarra Trams and others. I do not have the full list in front of me. Perhaps Deputy Commissioner Outram might be able to assist.

Mr Outram : Public Transport Victoria, the Taxi Services Commission of Victoria and the Sheriff's office were all involved.

Senator LINDGREN: Has the organisation done many such joint operations over the past five years, including under the former Labor government?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, many hundreds if not thousands of operations are conducted. I indicated that over the course of the calendar year thus far, so to the end of September, we have done 308 operations of this nature, and that is a standard sort of quantum per year.

Senator LINDGREN: I know that you talked about visa checks before, but can I just put this on the record. How are people selected for visa checks?

Mr Quaedvlieg : The Border Force officers in this particular case would not have been undertaking the selections, to use your term. We would have been receiving referrals from the lead agencies as they spoke to various persons in the transport system. We would then further triage or assess those referrals as to whether we had any grounds to speak to persons under the Migration Act. And, if there were sufficient grounds, we would continue our interview with those persons.

Senator LINDGREN: We know that most people do not carry their passports with them all the time, so how do you verify someone's visa status in these circumstances?

Mr Quaedvlieg : There are a range of tools that we use. Most persons carry identification. We have systems upon which we rely. We are increasingly moving to a mobile technology, but our folks have systems that back them up in being able to determine visa status et cetera.

Senator LINDGREN: Would the officers have been in a uniform or in plain clothes?

Mr Quaedvlieg : They would have been in uniform in this particular case. All officers participating in these operations are identified, hopefully through wearing either high-visibility vests or uniforms. Our officers would have been in uniform.

Senator LINDGREN: In checking visas, are the powers of the ABF the same as its predecessor agencies?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes.

Senator LINDGREN: I have seen criticism questioning why this would have been published in advance. Why was a news release put out? Did any other agencies involved alert the media in advance? If you told people in advance, why wouldn't they just avoid the area?

Mr Quaedvlieg : There was going to be a media announcement at 2 pm on the Friday afternoon, led by the Victorian police, which we were to attend. That was to announce the conduct of Operation Fortitude across the course of the weekend. Police around Australia, and the world more generally, do this as a general modus operandi. If the intent is to achieve a safe amenity around a particular area—in this case, the Melbourne CBD—it is quite normal and routine for police to say: 'We are going to be in numbers across the course of the city this weekend. Our intent is to ensure that people who are attending the city for whatever purpose can do so in safety and security. Our intent is to ensure that security, putting those who may be intending to misbehave or commit some crime on notice to stay away from the area.' It is quite a normal activity for police to say, 'We intend to keep the city safe, and we are going to be there in lots of numbers.'

Senator LINDGREN: This is probably a departmental question. How has the department implemented any recommendations from any review that has been conducted since?

Mr Pezzullo : The review was conducted by a deputy secretary and a deputy commissioner, respectively, of the department and the ABF. They looked at the protocols around advising the executive, the minister and his office. They looked at the procedures that were put in place for the drafting of press releases and ensuring that stakeholder engagement had occurred—in this case, not only with the Victorian police but also with other stakeholders. They looked at the responsibilities of officers in the staff chain, to look at the material from an operational point of view as well as at any reputational issues.

One of the things that I was particularly concerned about, and the review had regard to, was that the powers being exercised in this case, as the commissioner has stated on a couple of occasions, were routine powers that had been in the Migration Act for a long period of time—mainly section 188. I will be clear on this because this is one of the key issues of content that we need to consider here. Section 188 does not provide for a general questioning power. Neither officers of what was formerly the Immigration Department nor officers of the ABF can simply go up to someone without a reasonable suspicion and ascertain their migration status, because that would be very difficult to do and would lead to people making assumptions about someone's citizenship and non-citizenship status.

Therefore the act requires that an officer—who could be a member of the state police or an officer of the former Immigration Department, or now the ABF—has to have a reasonable suspicion, and can reference that reasonable suspicion, that a person is a non-citizen and therefore potentially comes within the ambit of the Migration Act. One of the key findings of the review was that explaining those issues is very important: explaining it from the point of view of public confidence and public certainty in what the officers are doing, as well as ensuring that there is public confidence that ABF officers are not—and I will use a colloquial phrase—simply roaming the streets and checking people's papers. That could have been much better handled at the level of content.

If you pull all of those issues together—clearance processes; the accountability of different people in the staff chain to check for content; and then actually addressing the question of content to ensure that the public is given full information, both on the operational matters that you have just been asking the commissioner about and the legal status that our officers have—all of them have now been fully implemented. Regrettably, a number of people had to be spoken to. I do want to put the context down, though, that it is a regrettable lapse in the context of a high-tempo environment that both our operational staff and departmental staff work in. They normally get these things right. The fact that they did not on this occasion is, ultimately, something for which the commissioner and I are accountable, so we have taken the appropriate remedial action. All of the recommendations, in short, have been implemented.

Senator CANAVAN: Could I just ask a follow-up question there to confirm something for me? Some of the public reporting here has been what you just intimated, that somehow police would be randomly stopping and checking people. Just to confirm: you are saying that was certainly not what this operation would have done and, indeed, to do so would have been breaking the law for your officers, and state offices as well would have been breaking the law?

Mr Pezzullo : Indeed. As the commissioner has made clear, our role in these matters can only ever be a supporting role. In other words, we do not go around ensuring public safety or public order. That is the responsibility of state and territory police. It was previously a longstanding function of the department to provide status checking, up until 30 June, and then those powers were transferred—there are no new powers here—over to the ABF. This could range from some of the incidental matters that the commissioner has referred to, such as traffic stops, which are more incidental policing matters, to a more targeted operation—in this case, a public safety operation. We would always act in support. Once an officer—it could be a Victorian police member, as in this case; it could be another state or territory police member; it could be our own officers working on wharves or in airports—forms a view, based on a reasonable suspicion, that a person is a noncitizen, that starts to engage the Migration Act via section 188. That is when the powers kick in; yes, that is right. There are no general powers of questioning beyond the ambit of section 188.

Senator CANAVAN: In this operation, because it would have been undertaken in the Melbourne CBD, you are saying that the state officers would have been the first contact, if you like, for members of the public—

Mr Pezzullo : Yes, that is right. Otherwise, the ABF—

Senator CANAVAN: whereas, where there is federal infrastructure involved, like ports and wharves, you may take that lead role?

Mr Pezzullo : There is a slight difference in terms of the powers that our officers have in prohibited or declared zones. For instance, in the Customs arrival hall of an airport or the controlled parts of a wharf, where goods are under Customs control, there are stronger powers. But they all still turn on reasonable suspicion. You have to have a basis upon which enforcement powers are engaged. In this case, because you are talking about the general streets of Melbourne, as the commissioner has said, there are no standing public order powers that arise under the Customs Act, the Migration Act or—it is not so relevant, but I will name it anyway—the Maritime Powers Act.

Senator LINDGREN: Mr Quaedvlieg, we need the migration programs to have integrity. How important are compliance activities undertaken by the ABF in this regard?

Mr Quaedvlieg : My personal view is that the compliance activities are crucial to maintaining the integrity of the system. Having taken over the responsibility for compliance on 1 July this year, I look, as an example, at the cohort of what we call overstayers—people who have overstayed their visas. Looking back historically, there have been somewhere in the order of 60,000 persons in the community who overstayed their visas; that is a snapshot in time. Maintaining that system to ensure that we have an orderly migration program is absolutely critical.

Senator KIM CARR: Commissioner, on this operational question are you saying that your officers would not be approaching people unless they were referred by a Victorian policeman?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Categorically.

Senator KIM CARR: Is that right?

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is right.

Senator KIM CARR: Yet the statement that was put out by the regional commander for Victoria and Tasmania, Don Smith, said that officers would be 'speaking with any individual we cross paths with'. How did that come about?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I think we have mentioned this in both our opening statement and in responses to questions thus far. That was an erroneous statement. It was an incorrect description of our role. I think we have outlined what our role was in quite some detail this morning. I previously referred to that media release as clumsily worded; it was inappropriate and did not characterise our role. Appropriate remediation has been implemented.

Senator KIM CARR: The regional commander for Victoria and Tasmania is not a junior officer, is he?

Mr Quaedvlieg : He is the most senior officer in the Victorian command; that is correct.

Senator KIM CARR: How is it that a statement can be issued stating that you 'will be speaking with any individual we cross our paths with'?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I take your point. As the secretary has previously mentioned, it was not good enough. It should not have got through the system. It did, and appropriate remediation has been implemented. I cannot explain it any more than that.

Senator KIM CARR: I will come back to that then. I am interested in knowing how a person is referred to your officers. Do the police have the powers to inspect people's visas?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Police officers can be migration officers under the Migration Act. Let me give you a more practical example. If a police officer or another transport authority officer is speaking to a taxi driver and the taxi driver says, 'I think I might have overstayed my visa' or 'Actually, I'm working for a different employer,' that automatically triggers some sort of suspicion about a breach of the Migration Act, and that results in a referral to our officers.

Senator KIM CARR: You say there were only half a dozen references anticipated.

Mr Quaedvlieg : That was my expectation from having looked at our engagement and involvement in these operations in the past. It is a very low level of referrals. My anticipated referral rate over the course of each evening was maybe half a dozen referrals.

Senator KIM CARR: Per evening? This was an operation that was to go all weekend, so how many?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Two weekends—on the Friday and Saturday evening.

Senator KIM CARR: Again I come back to this point. How do the Victorian Police determine someone is in breach of a visa? Are you relying on the person acknowledging they are in breach of a visa?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Potentially. You might have to put that question to the police, but there could be any number of triggers in relation to what might form a suspicion in a police officer's mind in terms of breaches of any act, let alone the Migration Act.

Senator KIM CARR: But is it because a particular type of person is before them? How do they determine that?

CHAIR: I think he said these are matters for the Victorian police. You are only double-guessing them.

Senator KIM CARR: We have this statement from the Victorian police commissioner, saying that they do not want to be part of this. I am wondering if there was confusion here between the Commonwealth officers and state officers.

CHAIR: You are asking what Victorian police do to select—

Senator KIM CARR: I am only relying on what they have said in the public record.

CHAIR: You cannot ask the customs officers what Victorian police might and might not do. You should ask Victoria Police. But, if your question is relevant—and I cannot see that it is—

Senator KIM CARR: What conversations were there with the Victorian police commissioner about what was actually going on at the Operation Fortitude event?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I suspect the Chief Commissioner of the Victoria Police would have had as much notice as I did—very late in the day. I doubt very much whether the chief commissioner—

Senator KIM CARR: None? Is that what you are saying?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Let me finish my answer. I do not think that, because of the routine nature of the operation, the Chief Commissioner of the Victoria Police would have been apprised of the tactical details of the operation.

CHAIR: All you can answer is whether you or, to your knowledge, any of your officers had any discussions with the Victorian commissioner of police. Did you or any of your officers?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I have no knowledge of that.

CHAIR: You did not.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I did not, no.

CHAIR: And, as far as you know, none of your officers did.

CHAIR: In this review, Mr Pezzullo, has there been any examination of what communications took place between the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Victoria Police.

Mr Pezzullo : Certainly all the documents within our holding have all been examined by the deputies who conducted the review. Subsequently, as I mentioned earlier, we have in any event had to go over all the documents pursuant to one or more FOI requests. So, yes, all the documents that we own; whether there are internal Vic Pol documents that have a bearing on the question, I could not say.

Senator KIM CARR: What has the review found about the level of communication?

Mr Pezzullo : That it was appropriate in terms of the operational side. That was not itself the issue. As the commission has indicated on several occasions, this is a fairly routine style of operation—not necessarily the transport infrastructure dimension but working jointly with police in relation to what might be termed 'sweatshops' or when they go into brothels. In this case it was public transport infrastructure. As I said to senators Lindgren and Canavan earlier, it sometimes can arise incidentally at traffic stops. So there is a variety of occasions on which state police have occasion to make a referral to what were immigration officers and since 1 July have been ABF officers. The operational side of it was not particularly exceptional. What was regrettably exceptional on this particular occasion—I think that is why we are talking about it—was the reference to, as you quoted, 'We will speak with people that we come across.' That was inopportune and imprudent wording. I do not want to leave this committee with any impression that any officers have been thrown under the bus; in the end the commissioner and I are responsible for the culture of our organisation and the values and processes that underpin those values. If officers have expressed that language, that reflects a failing ultimately on the commissioner's and my part. We are reflected in that personally and we take full responsibility.

To be very clear: on the operational side, nothing exceptional; on the explanation of the operational side, given what I said earlier about section 188 and its operation, there was a very clear way to explain it, which is the way that I have explained it this morning and the way the commissioner has explained it this morning, and it is regrettable that it was not explained in those terms. There is no general questioning power at large across the community.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. And, of course, it does stem from this media release—

Mr Pezzullo : Yes—and solely.

Senator KIM CARR: and the public reaction, particularly on social media, that arose from this media release.

Mr Pezzullo : Quite self-evidently.

Senator KIM CARR: Was this media release shown to the Victorian police?

Mr Pezzullo : I will take that on notice because I know that that was looked at in terms of the email transactions that were going on. I am fairly confident—and someone, including officers who did the staff work in relation to the review, will correct me—that there was consultation with Victoria Police about the content of how to describe the operation. Whether the release itself was cleared by them, I suspect that they probably would have had the same reaction as I had when I first saw the release: 'This can't be right; it's misstated.' I would need to check whether the actual release itself was sent or whether the operation was discussed and then a press release was drafted from those conversations.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you actually saying that the release advised the public that you were about to conduct an illegal operation?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not understand the—

Senator KIM CARR: That was the nature of the release, wasn't it? The general powers of officers do not exist to interrogate people on the streets—

Mr Pezzullo : without reasonable suspicion.

Senator KIM CARR: That is right, but that press release said anyone who came across your path.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: That was illegal. You do not have the power.

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know that a press release can be illegal, but it certainly—

Senator KIM CARR: You were advertising an illegal act.

Mr Pezzullo : The acts were not going to be illegal, because they were going to be conducted properly. They were misdescribed.

Senator KIM CARR: It would be illegal for officers of your department to behave in that manner, would it not?

Mr Pezzullo : It would be beyond power.

Senator KIM CARR: I would call that illegal, would you not?

Mr Pezzullo : It would be beyond power, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: What I cannot follow is how it is in a country like this that we can put out a statement to say that officers will behave in this manner.

Mr Pezzullo : That is precisely the intent and the import of the evidence that the commissioner and I have given today. We should not have left that impression in the public's mind, and that is what we regret—very sincerely.

Senator KIM CARR: It is a bit more than regret, but I will deal with that in a moment. Is it the requirement of the visa laws in this country that persons here in Australia carry their passports with them at all times?

Mr Pezzullo : I will need to refresh myself as to the specific provisions, but, generally speaking, no. But (and this is the only 'but') if an officer forms a suspicion under section 188 of the Migration Act—and that officer can be an ABF office, can actually be an immigration officer of the department manning, for instance, a counter where we handle visas and indeed can be officers who are deputed for the purposes of the act and can include state police—you have to respond to their questions in the same way as lawful questioning requires you to answer a police officer's questions. But it is only if that officer has that reasonable suspicion. I will check the question of documents for you.

Senator KIM CARR: If you do not require documentation to be carried with you, you rely on statements made by the visa holder.

Mr Pezzullo : That is right.

Senator KIM CARR: Otherwise you have to rely on racial profiling, don't you?

Mr Pezzullo : We certainly do not rely on racial profiling at all. Australia itself is a multicultural community. It would be a slippery slope to start to assume someone is a non-citizen. Someone might look at me. I have got an Italian surname with two Zs in my name. Someone might well think that I am a non-citizen. I would be offended—I would be greatly offended—if someone simply without any cause and without reasonable suspicion started to ask me about my lawful status in this country.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the percentage of Melbourne taxi drivers who are noncitizens?

Mr Pezzullo : I would not have a clue. I just do not know.

Senator KIM CARR: Is there a very high number of noncitizens driving taxis in Melbourne?

Mr Pezzullo : We often—

CHAIR: The officer said he does not know and he could not possibly know. He is not in charge of Victorian Taxi Regulation.

Senator KIM CARR: Why was the Melbourne taxi rank the focus of this operation?

CHAIR: You will have to ask the Victoria Police.

Senator Singh interjecting

Mr Pezzullo : Well, that makes two of us, Senator. Unless the commission had got anything further to add, it was not an ABF led operation. You would have to ask the Victoria Police.

Senator KIM CARR: I can ask the commissioner. Why was it that the Melbourne taxi rank was the focus of this operation?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am going to respond to that relying on my experience as a career police officer. What I can say to you, quite assuredly, is that crime rate at taxi ranks, particularly of an evening in a CBD, are inordinately high—many assaults, many on taxidrivers. General misbehaviour at taxi ranks is something that police services across the world deal with all the time. Even beyond a targeted operation, taxi ranks receive much police attention during the course of routine patrols.

Senator KIM CARR: I misunderstood you. I thought that you were actually interrogating—the focus was the taxi driver. It was not. It was the passengers.

Mr Quaedvlieg : The focus, as I have mentioned many times in my evidence today, was on the entire transport logistics and infrastructure of the Melbourne CBD. Our role, to be clear, was a secondary advisory support role where an issue related to immigration compliance arose.

Senator KIM CARR: I am still trying to understand why it is the taxi rank is the focus. Are the drivers the ones that are guilty of these violent offences or is it passengers assaulting taxidrivers? Is there a significant crime rate amongst taxidrivers? What is it that leads you to focus on that particular element?

Mr Quaedvlieg : What normally occurs is that taxi ranks of an evening have queues of people who have consumed lots of alcohol. There is lots of alcohol fuelled violence at taxi ranks. There are lots of assaults and the general amenity of people who are trying to use public transport is severely affected by these sorts of behaviours. Therefore the police, focusing on transport hub of the city, decided to lead an operation which was trying to build safety back into the transport amenity.

Senator KIM CARR: You are suggesting to me that it is the passengers. I take it that the taxidrivers are not known to be drunk?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Can I just add that, as I mentioned earlier in my evidence, ensuring the safety security of passengers in taxis includes ensuring that the taxis themselves are roadworthy, that there are no safety issues at play, and that the taxidrivers are licensed, accredited and able to provide the sort of service that is reasonably expected by the general public.

Senator KIM CARR: That is why you had the various taxi regulatory bodies there? But you are suggesting the operation was actually—

Mr Quaedvlieg : I did not have them there. Again, we were a support agency and a small one at that. This was the general construct of Operation Fortitude.

Senator KIM CARR: So you did not have any say with any of the agencies that were there other than the fact you were invited. Is that the evidence?

Mr Quaedvlieg : We had no say in relation to the design of the operation or, necessarily, where our locations were going to be. We were asked to participate and be involved at those two locations.

Senator KIM CARR: What activity were you engaged in on the tramlines?

Mr Quaedvlieg : None.

Senator KIM CARR: On the rail lines?

Mr Quaedvlieg : None.

Senator KIM CARR: It was just the taxis?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes. However, if we had received referrals from either of those two transport lines, we would have responded.

Senator KIM CARR: Of the other 300 operations you say you have run, how many have been on public transport?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will take that on notice. It is not unusual. Public transport is an area where, as I indicated earlier, there are significant policing efforts required. It is not unusual for public transport to be targeted in these types of operations.

Senator KIM CARR: Would it be a significant proportion?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, I would say so. It would be a significant proportion; I just do not have the numbers.

Senator KIM CARR: How many migration offences, out of the 300, have you discovered on public transport?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I would need to take that on notice. I do not think we have that level of detail in our possession.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Pezzullo, you have assured the committee that you do not use racial profiling. Is that the case?

Mr Pezzullo : Absolutely not, Senator. Our officers operate on the basis of reasonable suspicion, because of course ultimately they have to be answerable to the courts and to other tribunals and procedures. Australia is a multicultural nation. Twenty-five per cent of us are born overseas. If you started going down the path of racial profiling you would be potentially picking up a whole lot of people quite improperly and without due cause. They have to have credible information that allows them to form a reasonable suspicion.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. Half a million people use the public transport system in Melbourne every day.

Mr Pezzullo : I would not know, Senator. I assume it is a lot.

Senator KIM CARR: That is what the state authorities tell us. I am just wondering how many of those people you would be interviewing.

CHAIR: We might leave that there.

Mr Pezzullo : A lot of people use public transport. I do not know, Senator.

CHAIR: Let us stop there. Senator Singh wants to get some assistance on where a matter is.

Senator SINGH: Mr Pezzullo, I want to ask some questions, as I did last time, relating to asbestos importation breaches. Is that here?

Mr Pezzullo : It certainly comes under the remit of the ABF, given the commissioner's other role as the Comptroller-General of Customs. If it assists the committee, Chair, it is either under ABF general questions or potentially you would go to program 3.2, Trade facilitation and industry engagement, unless the commissioner can see anywhere else where it might be pertinent. But I would say those are the two opportunities, Senator. Just to be clear, it falls under the ABF because the ABF's other role is customs, and the asbestos matters you asked about previously pertain to the Customs Act. The commissioner's other role is comptroller-general, so you could raise it here, subject to any guidance from the chair, or it will be under program 3.2.

Senator LINDGREN: Mr Quaedvlieg, you are a former policeman. I want to talk about operations levels. At what level would an operation be decided? Would the officer in charge see the statistics and possibly do what I think they call an SOP? Is that correct? A commissioner or a minister would not be notified about every single operation. I would assume it would start at CIB level, maybe at senior connie level picking up statistics and then briefing upwards. Can you explain the process for me?

Mr Quaedvlieg : You are right in general terms. It is not as prescriptive as you would think. In a normal case, the development design of an operation occurs at what I call the operational level. That is not normally higher than superintendent level—commander superintendent level. In most cases, where there are routine operations, such as Operation Fortitude was, it would not filter its way up to the commissioner level that often. It is normally something that is worked through, designed and executed at the operational level.

Senator LINDGREN: That is a fair enough point. I want to continue with visas. How many visa overstayers a year would the ABF locate?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will ask the Deputy Commissioner Operations to talk to the detail. As I indicated to you earlier, there are some 60,000 overstayers in Australia in any given year. That is not the same number, obviously, because there are compliance operations. People leave, people arrive and people newly overstay their visas. Perhaps the Deputy Commissioner Operations will be able to assist with numbers.

Mr Outram : Certainly, sir. In the 2014-15 financial year the compliance teams located 2,661 illegal workers in their operations and in the 2015-16 year to date there have been 627 in their field compliance operations.

Senator LINDGREN: I would assume if they are here without a visa they cannot claim benefits or take Australian jobs, so how do they support themselves?

Mr Outram : I cannot answer that question on an individual basis, but of course some people do seek to work in breach of their visa conditions.

Senator CANAVAN: I have some follow-up questions about visas as well, particularly in relation to your opening statement, Mr Quaedvlieg. Regarding your opening statement about Taskforce Cadena, can you explain how that has come about and why you have decided to particularly target the exploitation of working holiday visas?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, Senator. It came about largely as a result of a number of things. In the lead-up to 1 July, knowing that the ABF was going to assume responsibilities for visa compliance, my officers and I started doing some research into where our highest threats were in visa exploitation. Simultaneously during that time, there was some high-profile media reporting in relation to the exploitation of working holiday-makers. We incorporated those reports into our assessments and thinking. We determined that there was sufficient empirical evidence to indicate that exploitation of working holiday-makers was systemic and serious and required a task force approach.

We then negotiated with the Fair Work Ombudsman's office about how we might establish a task force. It was given the operation name 'Taskforce Cadena.' The operation of Taskforce Cadena is one of assessment, triaging and referrals. As I mentioned in my opening statement, we have conducted five suboperations on Taskforce Cadena to date. In that we have located 60 unlawful noncitizens, but they are not the target of Taskforce Cadena. Taskforce Cadena is looking at the high-level organisers and syndicates that sit behind the exploitation activity. I am talking about offshore syndicates that are providing sponsorship for orchestrated and organised visa exploitation. I am talking about labour hire intermediaries and employers. As I indicated in my opening statement, we have arrested three persons in relation to breaches of the Migration Act which relate to the organisation or exploitation of working holiday-makers.

Senator CANAVAN: Just to be clear there: those three people were not on a working holiday visa themselves; they were in these other categories of—

Mr Quaedvlieg : They may have been, but they were involved in the organisation of—

Senator CANAVAN: Not simply their own noncompliance?

Mr Quaedvlieg : To evidence my earlier statement in relation to the material that concerns me around visa exploitation, we have so far collated 65 targets, if I can call them that. There is a priority cohort in that 65 target list of 13 labour hire companies which cause us concern, and we are certainly conducting some preliminary investigations around those. On top of that, we are dealing with 31 separate allegations of exploitation of working holiday-makers.

Senator CANAVAN: Are you the lead agency in this operation?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No, it is a joint task force together with the Fair Work Ombudsman. The Fair Work Ombudsman—FWO—looks at the exploitation of working holiday-makers in relation to their remuneration and their pay. Our role is in relation to any Migration Act breaches and organised visa exploitation.

Senator CANAVAN: In developing this target list, as you have called it, how have you gone about that? I know from my own travels that often industry groups and/or local governments themselves bring these sorts of thing to your attention. Obviously, there is often some local knowledge about what is going on in certain areas. How have you identified these 65 entities and the 13—

Mr Quaedvlieg : From a variety of sources. We have pooled our information holdings with the FWO. We are conducting some formal intelligence analyses and assessments. We certainly are taking information from the community. As in any operation of this type, being able to ingest allegations, complaints, information and intelligence leads from the broader community is an important element of determining how we might target. Once we have that information, and once we have the broad data, it needs to be synthesised. We need to apply modern intelligence tools to that and determine where it is most likely our resources are going to get the best result. So it is from a variety of sources.

Senator CANAVAN: How many people do you have working in Operation Cadena?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I might ask the Deputy Commissioner Operations to talk about that, but let me clarify the construct. Taskforce Cadena conducts information gathering, collation and analysis, and then refers matters for either investigation or compliance operations. So the task force itself is a lead- and activity-generating task force. The activities are then executed by investigators and our compliance operators in the field, but perhaps the Deputy Commission Operations might assist.

Mr Outram : We have a command group here in Canberra, which is six investigators, and they are coordinating the effort and they are supported by an intelligence group of four.

Senator CANAVAN: Thank you. Are you focusing in particular on certain industries? Can I ask that? Certain sectors?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Not particularly. The sectors are many. They are multifold—agricultural, horticultural, building, convenience, retail, restaurant. There are any number. What we are looking at is where the highest threat is to young working holiday makers who have come here to work. I do not want to provide too much information because—

Senator CANAVAN: I agree. I understand.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am trying to balance here some frank evidence to the committee with trying to maintain operational security.

Senator CANAVAN: I understand that.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Can I just clarify an answer I gave before. Those three that were arrested that I mentioned were actually arrested under the Crimes Act in relation to false documents, which tends to evidence the point I made earlier that this is not about unlawful noncitizens; this is about the organisers that sit behind the exploitation.

Senator CANAVAN: In terms of those sectors, and without going into too much detail about which ones, some industry groups come to me or are seeking a proactive approach. They know there are issues in their sector and they would like to see them stamped out. They need the assistance and help of the authorities to do that. Are you in direct consultation with some of those industries? These would be industry/employer groups in a way; many of the businesses that these groups represent would themselves be employers of working holiday visa holders. I certainly think they are trying to do the right thing. Have you reached out to some of those organisations? I would be happy to provide them myself.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Absolutely. With any crime type or operational priority, industry is a very rich source of information. We would certainly be very amenable to any portal or arrangement that allows information to be provided. I might ask again Deputy Commissioner Outram to respond more specifically to Taskforce Cadena matters.

Mr Outram : In terms of what we have done to date—rather than what we are planning to do—to give you a sense, we have undertaken operations in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, for example, looking at problems in the hospitality, agriculture, poultry and beauty sectors. So it is a wide spread. In terms of our approach to collecting intelligence, of course industry is crucial. And certainly through our relationship with the Fair Work Ombudsman—they are engaged constantly with industry. So the way we exchange information and triage matters with the Fair Work Ombudsman is a key to Cadena, because not all matters lend themselves to high-end enforcement actions. Some require more of an education adjustment working with the sector. That is more the Fair Work Ombudsman's angle, if you like, in relation to Cadena. Whereas, we are more focused on the higher end—more serious matters that look as though they deserve enforcement action.

Senator CANAVAN: If a particular group or employer—anyone—wants to bring information to you, how do they do that?

Mr Outram : We already have a range of public-facing things like email, websites and phone numbers for people to provide information to the department.

Senator CANAVAN: Specifically for this task force or just generic ones?

Mr Outram : Generic would be sufficient.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Senator, if you have entities that want to provide information, please provide them to us and we will reach out proactively.

Mr Outram : Absolutely.

Senator CANAVAN: I appreciate that. Thank you.

CHAIR: There are another three minutes.

Senator LINDGREN: I have a couple more questions. Reports in the media suggest that the stand-up of the ABF cost more than $700 million over six years. Is that accurate?

CHAIR: Sorry? 'Stand up'—that means the establishment?

Senator LINDGREN: Yes. The establishment costs.

Mr Pezzullo : I can respond. The last two budgets—2014-15 and 2015-16—have collectively funded about that amount of money. It might be $690 million or thereabouts over six years. So a significant amount of that is in the forward estimates. Then there is two years at the back end. That is not just for the stand-up or the creation of the ABF; that relates to a whole range of reforms to modernising the department.

It includes things like SmartGates at airports, which will be operated by the ABF, but the funding, if you like, comes through one single line, which is a departmental budget. It includes things like intelligence reforms; the intelligence division being in the department but it actively supports the ABF. It includes things like the acquisition of biometrics technology and so on and so forth. I could go into a lot more detail, perhaps after the break.

The point is that, if you say 'the establishment of the ABF cost X hundred million dollars', that might be misunderstood to mean just the uniforms or the change in livery. It is in fact the budget for the whole reform program, which we can particularise out of the budget papers if you wish: elements of which are in the department, but they support the ABF; elements of which pertain directly to the ABF, like the uniforms and the livery and other matters; and elements of which pertain to the portfolio at large; all of which comes under a single budget which is overseen by me as the secretary of the department. So hopefully that provides a bit of context around that number.

Senator LINDGREN: Were the stand-up of the ABF costs offset?

Mr Pezzullo : It was a budget-neutral outcome which was explained in both of the last budgets. In some cases there were direct offsets in the form of future savings out of what is known as consolidation—that is to say, you consolidate the old Customs service and the old immigration department and you get efficiencies. In other cases there were additional productivities required of us to fund elements of that package. And in other cases it relates to the enhancement of revenue collection and rescheduling or redesign of fees and charges. So there is a variety of measures that go to fund that amount of money.

Senator LINDGREN: What are the estimated efficiencies of the merger of the agencies DIBP and ACBPS?

Mr Pezzullo : It would probably better to go through it in a bit more detail when I have the CFO available under other items, but roughly 10 per cent of the overall package was realised by efficiencies, realised by integration. But I can—Chair, through you—come back to that if the senator wishes for more details later.

CHAIR: We can look at that later. Senator Lindgren, your time has finished, just about.

Mr Pezzullo : Chair, with your indulgence, could I just in 30 seconds acquit a number of matters that Senator Carr asked me, or would you prefer that I do it straight after the break?

Senator KIM CARR: If it involves documents I wouldn't mind seeing them at the break.

Mr Pezzullo : No, it does not involve documents at this stage.

CHAIR: You can probably do that now, and we will break for 15 minutes when you finish.

Mr Pezzullo : Thanks, Chair. Thanks for your indulgence. Senator Carr, you asked me about whether all correspondence was examined by the review. I can answer in the affirmative. Two deputies—a deputy secretary and a deputy commissioner—did review all correspondence in chronological order. I also reviewed standard operating procedures for our media and communications work. They also reviewed the relevant immigration compliance standard operating procedures, as well as the documents that pertain to the regional command and strategic border command oversight of their element of the operation. They also of course reviewed the relevant emails that have been discussed—that is to say, the emails that pertain to the media release and the talking points.

So I can answer in the affirmative that all documents were reviewed. I can also confirm my earlier statement that I thought that VicPol had not been shown the media release; the answer to that is: they had not. There was, however, discussion with Victoria Police in terms of whether joint unilateral/bilateral releases should go out and so forth. So there was not only the consultation and engagement with VicPol at the operational level that the commissioner has described because they had the lead on what was a public safety operation; but there was some contact between the respective media officers and a decision was taken in that context for the ABF to issue a unilateral—I will call it unilateral—press release. I can confirm—and this was one of the observations of the review—that it was regrettably the case that that was not run by VicPol.

Senator KIM CARR: What about the documents that I sought today? Have you got those available?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not have any information at this point. I know that it is going through the finalisation. I know the Senate has its own prerogatives but it is going through some finalisations of some FOIs—

Senator KIM CARR: That is not the question I asked you. I asked: is there any impediment to those documents being tabled with this committee?

Mr Pezzullo : Probably not. We are going through a stakeholder process of—

Senator KIM CARR: That is not my question—

Mr Pezzullo : I know—

Senator KIM CARR: My question is: can we get the documents?

CHAIR: I think the secretary has said he will check into it. Perhaps he can do that in the next 15 minutes.

Senator KIM CARR: What progress have you made?

Mr Pezzullo : I have not had a report on what progress we have made.

Pr oceedings suspended from 10:34 to 10:50

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have a raft of questions across a number of areas. I will start with some questions in relation to the young woman who was sent back to Nauru late on Friday. Mr Secretary, could you please inform us when the department was first told of Abyan's request for a termination?

Mr Pezzullo : In providing this evidence, I will be joined by Mr Skill, who is the First Assistant Secretary for Detention Services. I will start with an overall comment. We always try to be as comprehensive as we can with the senators, as we are required to. There is always a balance to be struck here between the privacy of the person involved—I know that she has made certain statements through lawyers, so she has put certain elements of her own situation in the public domain. I know one of her legal representatives has been conducting some media, including as recently as this morning. The minister has decided that it is in the best interests of all concerned to also respond on certain matters.

Normally we would not go into the sort of detail that I suspect you are going to want to go into, because these are very delicate and sensitive matters, but this is now a matter of significant public interest, so we will try to answer as best we can. The guidance I give to Mr Skill is to avoid putting information on the record unnecessarily, beyond what is already on the record, but, within that parameter, we will try to answer your questions.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you, Mr Secretary. For that reason, I will be using her pseudonym, which has been referred to in the media, and I appreciate that your officers will do the same.

Mr Pezzullo : For Mr Skill's benefit, could I ask if you could restate the question?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Firstly, when was it brought to the attention of the department that Abyan had requested a pregnancy termination as a result of what has been alleged to have been a sexual assault?

Mr Skill : I do not have the date that it was advised to the department. I do know when it was advised to our service providers on Nauru, but I have not been able to follow through as to exactly when it came to the department's attention. The advice I have is that the Connect caseworkers on Nauru were advised on 1 September that she was indicating a wish to undergo a termination. Connect is the settlement support organisation which has been engaged as part of the refugee settlement process on Nauru.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, they are the caseworkers that are responsible for the people living in the community.

Mr Skill : Correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That would be the first point of contact for any of the refugees on the island to speak to if they needed something?

Mr Skill : Potentially. They could also go to the settlement clinic that is operating at the Nauru hospital, and there are also a number of community liaison offices that have been established by the government of Nauru. There are a number of channels.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You obviously have case notes suggesting that Abyan made a request for a pregnancy termination to Connect on 1 September?

Mr Skill : That is the information I have before me.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am hoping that, over the course of these questions, we might be able to get a more specific date as to when the department itself was made aware. I would imagine that, if Connect knew on 1 September, you would have been made aware pretty soon after that.

Mr Skill : It would depend on the process. Terminations of pregnancies go through an assessment process by the medical providers on the island. Generally, we will be advised by the medical service providers once they have done their assessments and they are ready to make a referral back to Australia. I am trying to be completely open when I say that Connect were aware of it on 1 September. But, as I said, I do not know when the department per se received the request from IHMS. We are certainly following that up for you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. I have been given information that suggests that the department and IHMS were directly written to by Abyan's lawyers, including a statement attached from her on 14 September saying, formally, that she wished for a termination. Could somebody please check whether that is the case?

Mr Skill : Absolutely, we will confirm that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: My understanding is that Abyan's lawyers also made the minister's office aware of that letter. Perhaps you could check whether the minister's office was made aware on that date, or if there is any information as to whether he was made aware earlier that would be helpful.

Mr Pezzullo : We will check correspondence. In the case of correspondence addressed to the minister, we will of course check with his office and see if we can make anything further known.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Skill, how long have you been managing this particular case? When did the brief come onto your desk?

Mr Skill : The brief with regard to the request to come back to Australia was provided to me on 6 October.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Where did that request come from?

Mr Skill : From IHMS and it goes via the detention health area of my division. IHMS is the health and medical services provider on the island. My division will take that recommendation. They will look at the contents of the recommendation, determine what may be the most appropriate course of action and make a recommendation to me with regard to that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have details as to when IHMS were first made aware that Abyan had requested a termination of her pregnancy?

Mr Skill : As I mentioned before, we can identify when IHMS made the department aware. Given that this individual is a refugee, we need her permission to access her health records on the island. That is the only way we can determine exactly when IHMS were made aware of her situation. We have requested that permission, but we are yet to receive that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The earliest that we can find is 1 September. You were not made aware until almost a month later. What happened for the four or five weeks between 1 September and 6 October?

Mr Skill : As would normally be the case, there will be a number of counselling sessions and opportunities to discuss the situation with medical professionals on Nauru. There will be a range of support mechanisms offered. I understand there was some torture and trauma counselling offered as well to the individual. I do believe that some of the difficulty in getting to a position for an informed referral to be made was a lack of engagement by the individual with the medical providers. A number of opportunities were provided and offered for assessments, consultations and so on, but my information is that it was difficult to get the individual to engage with them.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you have a brief to that effect—do you?

Mr Skill : I have some information and time lines with regard to the point at which various information and support was offered to the individual. I am happy to provide all I can on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you could. Just to be clear, on 6 October when you were informed that Abyan needed to be brought to Australia, were you given a time frame as to how quickly that had to occur?

Mr Skill : I was not, but I treat any of these requests urgently. I turned that one around within, I think, about 30 minutes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When did the young woman arrive in Australia?

Mr Skill : Arrangements were made for the individual to come to Australia. She arrived on Sunday last week, 11 October.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you were first told on 6 October. You said you turned it around fairly quickly, but she did not arrive until 11 October

Mr Skill : That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What happened between 6 October and 11 October?

Mr Skill : There were seats available on the Friday flight, which was 9 October.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: She was put on a commercial flight?

Mr Skill : Correct. However, on that day, I believe, she was not medically fit to fly; she was having some stomach difficulties. The medical professionals on Nauru treated her and she was fit to fly on the Sunday. So that was the earliest possible opportunity to get her onto a commercial flight.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: She flew on a commercial flight?

Mr Skill : She did.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: She arrived on the Sunday and she flew out on Friday just gone?

Mr Skill : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Friday, 16 October. So she was in Australia for five days? What flight did she fly out on, on Friday?

Mr Skill : She went out on a charter flight.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why is that?

Mr Skill : There were no commercial flights available. It was a decision that we made based on risk assessments as well. Generally, when you are returning to places that they may not wish to go, there are risks associated with that. We were unable to secure seats on the commercial flight on the Friday for her and her escorts. We were unable, and quite legitimately unable, to secure an air ambulance for this lady, because she was deemed to be fit to fly by IHMS and, therefore, did not need an air ambulance. And so we went along the path of a charter flight.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What types of risks would require you to charter a private jet to fly her out?

Mr Skill : I might defer to my detention operations colleagues, but what I can say is that it is general practice, where there are people who may not we be willing to operate or wanting to comply with the requirement to transfer them—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You mean she had not finished doing what she had come to Australia to do?

Mr Skill : No, that is not what I said. What I said was that where there are risks associated with somebody not being compliant—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have heard those words. I am trying to understand what risk Abyan was to the department that it had to charter a private jet on a Friday night to fly her out of the country.

Mr Skill : It is a risk with regard to the non-compliance and disrupting the airline. It was a decision that I made based on the fact that we needed to get Ms Abyan, in my opinion, back to Nauru, back to the place where she is a settled refugee, as quickly as possible, because she made her decision and there was no longer a need for her to stay in Australia.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you know she made her decision?

Mr Skill : I do know. I have seen advice from two medical professionals indicating that she had declined to undergo the procedure on the day and also declined the offer of a scheduled appointment in a week's time. On the back of that information, I made the determination that there is no medical procedure at this point of time and that the individual should return to Nauru.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who in your department, when making a risk assessment like this, has expertise dealing with victims of sexual assault?

Mr Skill : I would have to take that on notice. I do not know.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you, Mr Skill?

Mr Skill : I do not, no.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What time did Ms Abyan arrive in Nauru and what on what date?

Mr Skill : Originally or—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No. When you sent her back on a private jet publicly funded?

Mr Skill : It was just after 8 pm Nauru time on Friday last week.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is your understanding of her position today?

Mr Skill : In regard to her—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How she is feeling?

Mr Skill : My advice from the island, as late as 12 hours ago, was that she is engaging well with the Connect Settlement people, she is talking of her future on Nauru, she is engaging with IHMS in a positive way and we continue to offer her support with regard to what she might need or what decisions she may wish to take into the future.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What do you make of the statement that she has signed that is published in the newspaper today suggesting that she never changed her mind—never said she did not want to not have a termination?

Mr Skill : That is at odds to the information that I had provided to me and upon which I made my decision. The information that I had was that the procedure had been declined and that the clinic that was offering the procedure had also said to our treating doctors that, in the absence of a decision to proceed, they were unwilling to provide another appointment for this individual. Based on that information and on a practice that we have for numerous previous circumstances, we do not transfer people back to Australia until the appointment and the logistics are confirmed for that individual. There was no reason for that person to stay in Australia.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What was the rush? What was the rush for having to get her out of the country on Friday night? You paid for a private jet because there was a risk of putting her on a commercial airline. Why did that all have to happen on Friday night when she had asked for more time?

Mr Skill : Sorry, Senator, I do not know to whom she asked for more time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is what she has said. I am taking her words. I am listening to what she has said about her own feelings.

Mr Pezzullo : Mr Skills has made clear that that was not the information available to him at the time that he made his decision. He has to operate on the information that is before him. He had, I think he said, two reports from the medical practitioners who had engaged directly with this person, who had indicated that she did not wish to proceed with the procedure. Because she is a refugee determined under Nauruan law, the only basis upon which she can stay within the Australian migration zone, the only obligation that we have in respect of her care—and, obviously, we want to be very sensitive about her care and do what we can in accordance with her wishes—is twofold: as part of her general standing as a refugee in Nauru, she will one day be resettled in a country other than Australia. That is the nature of the agreement that we have with Nauru. She cannot be settled in Australia—which is the law of the land and the policy under regional processing now observed by several governments. In the meantime, if medical issues arise that are beyond the capacity of the government of Nauru's medical facilities, Mr Skill, as the delegate, can repatriate people to Australia when all other options have been exhausted. He did that. He authorised repatriation. She attended the relevant clinic. She declined the offer of treatment. Mr Dutton, this morning, put pertinent facts—which I can rehearse, if you wish, but you might have heard Mr Dutton's summary of the chronology. There were a number of engagements with both mental health nurses, general practitioner nurses and GPs. She declined the treatment on the information known to Mr Skill. I acknowledge what you say about her alternative statement that has been issued today.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is hard to call it an alternative statement when she is talking about her own sense of what she wants. Who is the minister or anybody else to say that that is wrong?

Mr Pezzullo : But Mr Skill has to make decisions every day of the week based on the reports that he gets. I do not wish to paraphrase you, Mr Skill, but as I understand it the information that you had on Friday suggested that she had either changed her mind or did not wish to proceed with the operation in question. Is that right?

Mr Skill : Correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why the rush, Mr Skill? You still have not been able to put forward evidence as to why she had to be flown out on Friday night.

Mr Skill : It is simply the pace at which we operate. There were—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Except that it took you six weeks to get her off the island for the termination in the first place. It is clearly not the pace that you operate.

Mr Skill : I can give you a bit of background about what occurred. We were first made aware of the individual's change of mind, or declining to go forward with the procedure—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Which she disputes.

Mr Skill : on Wednesday evening. At that point in time, I consulted with a number areas within the department with regard to the situation as it was evolving and made a decision to explore the opportunities to transfer this individual as quickly as possible back to Nauru. I was conscious of the time frame with regard to her situation should she change her mind in the future. But I was also conscious of the fact that she had declined the procedure on that day. She had declined the opportunity of having another procedure scheduled for the following week without any obligation to go through with that procedure. I was aware that the individual was fully aware of her ability to access termination services up to 20 weeks within New South Wales. So there was a possibility that she may change her mind again. But, with the information that was before me, there was no reason for her to stay in Australia. So I made the arrangements to remove her.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How much did the private jet cost?

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, I have allowed a little bit of leniency because I thought we might get to the end of it, but we can come back to it later.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay, we will come back to it.

CHAIR: Minister, I think Mr Pezzullo mentioned earlier that the minister made some statement and announced some details this morning—is it possible for the committee to get a copy of that statement?

Senator Cash: Yes, I understand the minister did an interview this morning with Fran Kelly on Radio National. I will see if I can get a copy of the transcript for you.

CHAIR: Thanks.

Senator SINGH: I want to follow up on questions at the budget estimates relating to asbestos importation breaches. I appreciate you have given me a list in response to the question taken on notice to do with a list of those instances where asbestos was found—of which there are eight instances—and the countries associated with where that asbestos was from. That list relates from September last year until May this year. I wanted to ask you, firstly, for an update as of May this year to today as to the number of instances where asbestos has been found on import.

Mr Allen : In fact, we have reviewed the question on notice and to bring the figures up-to-date we are doing a data extraction at this point in time. We expect that we will have those figures for you later during this session.

Senator SINGH: Today?

Mr Allen : Yes.

Senator SINGH: Thank you, that would be fortuitous. Do you have any update on the number of prosecutions there have been? Mr Quaedvlieg, I remember last time you told me there had only been one. Have there been any further prosecutions?

Mr Quaedvlieg : The answer is no, there have been no further prosecutions since that period of time. However, currently there are two active investigations in hand in relation to asbestos importation.

Senator SINGH: Are there two active investigations?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Correct.

Senator SINGH: Do you know if they relate to the list in the questions provided, because you did say in there that some of those were matters referred for investigation and were ongoing, or are they new?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am not sure. I suspect they are probably included in that list. I will reconcile that and come back to you on it.

Senator SINGH: Okay. Are you aware of the Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am broadly aware of that, yes.

Senator SINGH: Have you made any submission?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, we have.

Senator SINGH: The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has told that Senate inquiry that there is no guarantee that Australian buildings constructed post-2003, since the ban on asbestos, are free of asbestos—this relates obviously to building products. Would you agree with that summation by the agency?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes I would.

Senator SINGH: You told me in the May estimates that we cannot rest on our laurels—I think that was your quote. But clearly asbestos is often going undetected by Australian Border Force—what more are you actually doing to not rest on your laurels?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will answer that question in the general and then I will ask the First Assistant Secretary for Trade, Customs and Industry Policy whether she has got any more detail to add. Since I last gave evidence at this committee in May, the Australian Border Force has been active in the context of asbestos enforcement. At the time I think we had 19 active profiles and I went to some length to try to describe what they were in our systems at the time. We now have 31. Those profiles are split up between 16 alerts on particular either products or entities that are in our intelligence holdings. There is a high degree of risk in relation to whether those goods contain asbestos, and there are another 15 active profiles in relation to goods that may contain asbestos—things like building plasterboard, crayons and various other things. Our profiles have been added to through our engagement with industry. We now have an active engagement mechanism with industry interest groups. I have had a broad briefing to a collation of asbestos industry groups since the May Senate estimates. We have established channels of communication. We are receiving very good information from industry in relation to their concerns and in relation to particular goods that contain asbestos that are being loaded up into our system. Alerts will be brought to our attention as these goods traverse the border, and we can conduct our inquiries appropriately.

We are also very active in an entity called the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities. Essentially, because the regulation enforcement of asbestos in building works is the responsibility of the state and territory work safety authorities, we have engaged very strongly with them not just to provide information about importations which may be of risk but also to establish what we call a rapid response protocol. For example, very recently we had cause to have serious concerns around, potentially, asbestos in children's crayons. As a result of the getting together of those heads of safe work authorities, we were able to initiate some advisories to the public and to industry in relation to our concerns. We have established a very good communication protocol both with industry as well as with the interest groups in relation to asbestos. That covers it—a bit of a chapeau. We have been very energetic in this space and we take it seriously. I will ask Linda Geddes whether she has any more to add.

Ms Geddes : On top of the education and outreach programs which we do very closely with industry, one example is the latest active reporting we did, a Lloyd's List article, on 17 September, which again raised awareness of what we are doing. We also have our Border Watch Program, which allows industry or other interested parties to contact the organisation and give us a heads-up on things of concern, which we can then put on profiles.

Senator SINGH: You have gone from 19 to 31 active profiles. Is the education and outreach which is done not just there for industry but there internally within Australian Border Force so that your workforce knows what to detect?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, indeed. The issue of asbestos has arisen consecutively in a number of Senate estimates inquiries.

Senator SINGH: This is the nondetection by Border Force.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, understood.

Senator SINGH: Obviously, that is where we can stop this—at the gate, so to speak.

Mr Quaedvlieg : You are right. We have certainly raised the level of awareness and consciousness in our workforce in relation to their responsibilities in this regard. I should add that the addition of the profiles is a very important part of detecting asbestos-containing goods as they cross the border, because it ques our people to make an inquiry or investigation in relation to that product. The more we work with industry and the more industry provides us information in relation to commodities of risk, the greater these profiles will become and the more chance we will have of detecting it.

Senator SINGH: Where did the children's crayons come from?

Mr Quaedvlieg : They came from a variety of places. China comes to mind but I think a couple of other countries were involved as well. It was not a specific brand. There were crayons across the board that had some silicone or some product in them which has the risk of asbestos.

Senator SINGH: Were they stopped at importation or were they found out in the community?

Mr Quaedvlieg : It was brought to our attention by one of the interest groups I mentioned. I think the Asbestos Council of Victoria indicated to me, through an email actually, that they had a concern about this particular product, and then we actioned all of those efforts I mentioned earlier.

Senator SINGH: Has there been some kind of call-out to recall these crayons?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will get Linda Geddes to talk through the detail but, yes, we provided advisories. The Rapid Response Protocol came into play, and we have been quite active.

Ms Geddes : As the commissioner said, the rapid response was put out. The ACCC worked with retail outlets. I do not think a national recall was put out, but certainly the retail outlets had bins for families to put the crayons back into and be recalled in that way.

Senator SINGH: So it was left up to the retailers to put that out?

Ms Geddes : Through the ACCC.

Senator SINGH: When was the Rapid Response Protocol set up?

Ms Geddes : I will just have a look at my notes.

Senator SINGH: Have there been extra resources, human personnel, put into place?

Ms Geddes : The Rapid Response Protocol was triggered on 8 September by the ACCC.

Senator SINGH: Since the May estimates have there been further workforce resources put into asbestos importation?

Mr Quaedvlieg : The question is probably a little bit blunt for the actual situation. As I indicated, we have increased our profiles by 12 or so since the May estimates. Those profiles and alerts then trigger actions at the border. To say that we have dedicated more officers or staff to asbestos enforcement would be incorrect, but are we making more effort and are we looking? Yes.

Senator SINGH: It seems from your list—and I appreciate the assistant commissioners providing the committee today with an updated list—that China is clearly a source country for asbestos coming into Australia. What is Australian Border Force doing, knowing that it is a clear target country? Are you liaising with the equivalent agency in China to deal with that export at that end?

Mr Quaedvlieg : In fact this Friday night I am doing exactly that in Shanghai.

Senator SINGH: Well, we will get a follow-up from your meeting after this Friday.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Absolutely.

Senator SINGH: Finally, I know that since May estimates you have been having a bit more collaboration with the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency. Is that an ongoing communication and collaboration on these issues that will occur?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes. In fact, the landscape of agencies that are involved in asbestos enforcement is quite complex. It is across the Commonwealth in terms of ASEA, which you have just mentioned, the ACCC, but also with the state and territory health authorities. As I mentioned earlier, we have put significant effort into participating. We are certainly not the lead; we are a border enforcement agency. But in my view it would be a retrograde step if we did not continue what has been very good collaboration not just across the authorities but also now that we have got the interest groups involved in providing information that is quite specific and enables us to target, quite forensically, goods that are of risk. I think the collaboration is great. My expectation is that we will continue to see good responses to things like the importation of children's crayons. I suspect that we will see greater enforcement on asbestos over the next number of years as a result of the continued collaboration.

Senator SINGH: What is the transparency process that Border Force has in place for when it detects asbestos?

Mr Quaedvlieg : In what respect?

Senator SINGH: Do you keep it hidden within Border Force? Do you liaise with other agencies or with the minister? What is the process?

Mr Quaedvlieg : As I mentioned, we are only one agency in the broader fraternity of agencies that are involved in asbestos enforcement. However, let me again use the children's crayons as a very recent and good example. Once we had ascertained that there was a potential risk in relation to asbestos being contained in the crayons, I would say that Border Force, as an agency, were very active in encouraging and ensuring that all of the agencies involved took this matter seriously. I was quite concerned that consumers of these crayons needed to have an awareness that there was a potential risk, so all of our efforts in relation to our collaboration were geared towards socialising the risk with the various industry wholesalers, retailers and consumers. Transparency is very important. We cannot eradicate the risk by ourselves. The more that we can share the risk, once we are confident that there is a risk—because we do not want to spook the horses unnecessarily—there is no question about transparency.

Senator SINGH: So your transparency process is determined on whether or not there is a risk to the community or the individual in relation to asbestos. Is that correct?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I would not say that is a single predicate.

Senator SINGH: What are you talking about when you say 'risk'?

Mr Quaedvlieg : The risk of asbestos and it being contained in any particular product.

Senator SINGH: The risk of it killing someone eventually? What do you mean by 'risk'?

Mr Quaedvlieg : All of the health risks that are associated with asbestos.

Senator SINGH: All asbestos is a health risk.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am not a health professional. All I can say to you is that the importation—

Senator SINGH: The evidence is that asbestos, whether it is blue, brown, white or whatever, is all deadly. It is all a health risk. I am trying to understand how you are weighing up the risk. All asbestos is a risk to health.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will not disagree with you. I am not a health professional. My point is that once we determine whether there is a product which may contain asbestos, then it becomes an issue which needs to be very transparent. But in some cases we may not come to that determination.

Senator SINGH: What circumstances are they?

Mr Quaedvlieg : For example, you mentioned China. Say we have a shipment of plasterboards that come from China. There is a profile in the system which says, 'Hey—these products are a potential risk for asbestos.' What we do not do, when that import arrives, is to announce it publicly and say, 'Hey—there is a bunch of plasterboards that have arrived from China.' We will make an assessment as to whether there is asbestos in there or not. If there is, there is certainly a process in terms of socialising that. But if those products do not contain asbestos, there is no point putting out any advisory.

Senator SINGH: Obviously. We are only talking about when there is asbestos present.

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is my point. Once the risk is potentially manifested, there is no question about transparency.

Senator SINGH: I am very unclear about your previous evidence. I thought what you were saying, with the children's crayons example, for instance, was that we determine whether or not there was a risk, because there was asbestos contained. What I am saying to you is that there is always a risk when asbestos is contained. I am trying to understand if the Australian Border Force agrees with that and actually ensures that asbestos is always a risk and therefore you have a transparent process and what you do about it.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Thank you, Senator. I understand your question. Let me try to exemplify this through the crayon example. We were advised by an interest group that potentially these crayons contain asbestos. That was the only information we had. Obviously, before we put out advisories and, as I mentioned before, go spooking the horses, we need to ensure that that is actually the case. There are various laboratory tests that need to be undertaken. We need to notify the appropriate authorities that do this. We go through a process of verifying the information that we receive. Once that is received, once there is any indication that there is an asbestos product or derivative contained in the product, then obviously transparency is paramount. But not until we verify the information. We cannot rely on a single source of information.

Senator SINGH: What do you hope to get out of your meeting in Shanghai?

Mr Quaedvlieg : A range of things. There are a number of things on the agenda where we should collaborate with the General Administration of Customs in China. One of those things will be how we might collaborate better at the border in terms of pre-empting prohibited imports across the board. I make no secret of the fact that drugs is very high on the agenda, but certainly prohibited imports like asbestos will be part of that conversation.

CHAIR: In your statement I think you both mentioned the illegal tobacco imports. As you know, Mr Quaedvlieg, as I have mentioned before, I had been approached by several of the tobacco companies in this role about that in months gone by, and I have raised it here a number of times. I have a letter from a group of them congratulating you and the ABF on a conviction of two different offenders following the seizure of a total of 625 kilograms of illicit tobacco. I think that is the one you referred to in your opening statement—is that correct?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, I believe so. I made a generic comment in relation to the seizures that we have recently been able to effect in the illicit tobacco space. They have been significant. We had a single operation recently resolved where we had 71 tonnes of illicit tobacco seized as a result of embarkation from Indonesia.

As I indicated in my opening statement, this focus that we have on illicit tobacco is not just in relation to dilution of revenue, although that is significant to the Commonwealth. The groups that sit behind the importation of these large tonnages of tobacco are organised; they are involved with criminal entities; they use the same infrastructural spine that they use to import drugs for illicit tobacco. And the profits are enormous. We know through our intelligence that the profits are being reinvested back into illicit crime.

For all those reasons, we have a significant focus on the importation of illicit tobacco. And I am pleased to say that last year we had a pretty good year; we had 91 individual detections, we had 150 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco, we had 40 million cigarettes for aggregate weight of 182 tonnes and we managed to prevent the loss of $103 million in revenue. But over the last few months alone our results have eclipsed that. They are quite significant in this area, and I am quite proud of it.

CHAIR: And I think you should be. Clearly the tobacco companies are interested because it is part of their sales, but again that is not my interest. My interest is the same as yours. It is principally the revenue that is lost to the Commonwealth through illicit tobacco sales, and of course the connection with criminal activities.

I am going to get this wrong again, but it has been explained to me that there are three elements of illegal tobacco. One is the health issue and the health warnings on cigarettes. Another issue is the importation. And the third is the revenue. They are all dealt with by different departments of state—and this is perhaps a question to the minister and to Mr Pezzullo as well as you, Mr Quaedvlieg. Inquiries I have made—and perhaps things have moved on—is that the three agencies do not really work together with each other in spite of my written pleas to relevant ministers to do something about that.

For example, I am told that you can walk into any number of shops in Sydney and buy cigarette packets without a health warning on them. That is not a matter for you; that is a matter for the health department. But I am told that health department officers do not want to do it because they are not the sort of people that bust a store and perhaps have to face physical violence. Then I am told that—I get this wrong all the time—you do importation and Treasury does domestic sales. But there seems to be a lack of coordination. Can anyone comment upon that? Do you know if the government is perhaps acting on my pleas and other pleas to try and bring some coordination so all three agencies that deal with illicit tobacco can work together to, for example, stop this plain-packet selling in Sydney, where I am told anyone can go in and buy some? Can you explain to me why something is not done? I suspect it is not you people that are responsible.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I can answer that question. You are right to paint the landscape as very complicated. In fact there are more agencies than just the ones you mentioned. Health obviously has a policy lead. Treasury has an interest. The tax office is responsible for the domestic enforcement of any tobacco that is grown, cultivated or manufactured. State and territory authorities have responsibility in terms of tobacco being sold at retail outlets in their various jurisdictions. And the Australian Border Force has a responsibility for the enforcement role at the border. So it is a very complicated landscape.

In terms of just clarifying your comment. The plain package cigarettes that you refer to are what are called 'illicit whites' in the main; that is a generic descriptor that is used in relation to the non-traditional tobacco products that are produced by the big three: BAT, Imperial and Philip Morris. The Manchester brand is probably the most predominant of those. It is very well known. It is normally at least hubbed out of the United Arab Emirates and China. So, if you go, as you describe, into a retail outlet in one of the jurisdictions and ask for 'chop-chop', you will get loose-leaf tobacco; if you ask for a particular brand of cigarettes like Manchester, you will be able to purchase those for $8 or $12. And a kilo of loose-leaf tobacco is around $200 to $225.

That is the broad landscape. But, to answer your question directly: you are right; I think it is fair to say that in the last number of years the coordination at both state and Commonwealth authority level has been variable. It has been relatively good in some places. There are exemplars of very good interrelationships. But generally there has not been a broad coordinated approach across all the agencies that have an equity.

What we have done hitherto in Customs and continued under Australian Border Force is try and bring some cohesion to that. We have recently established an interdepartmental committee which we are leading; we are chairing that. That will bring together all of the players, both at a Commonwealth level and a state level, in relation to illicit tobacco. It will certainly bring a lot more coordinated operational effort.

We are also thinking about how we might best splice that particular body into working with industry and allowing industry to have a bigger voice in terms of its engagement with the Commonwealth and state authorities. So there is a lot of good work going in the design—better collaboration and more cohesion.

CHAIR: You mentioned Manchester. I am told—obviously, by the tobacco companies; that would not be a secret—that they can direct me to some shops in Sydney where I can just walk in and buy a packet of Manchester.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes. That is right.

CHAIR: If it comes from the UAE, then it does have something to do with you as well as health department—for not having warnings on it. I guess the question is—and this is what frustrates me and most other Australians who do not understand the intricacies of different actions and different laws that allow different agencies to do something—if you and I know it is there, why is it possible? The Commonwealth loses revenue; people can buy cigarettes that do not have the health warning so they do not have whatever benefits those health warnings give; and the criminal gangs prosper.

Mr Quaedvlieg : They do. The Australian Border Force has a number of prohibited items on its watch list, and tobacco is one of those—so are drugs and so are guns. And, yet, unless you seal the border up 100 per cent, you are never going to stop it. Illicit tobacco imports will get through. We are doing a lot more work, which I have evidenced in relation to our recent successes, but loose-leaf tobacco and manufactured cigarettes in the form of Manchester or others, will still make their way past the border controls. When they do, the responsibility of the sale sits with state and territory jurisdictions.

Having said that, there is lots of good enforcement activity that happens at that tactical ground level, through the state authorities as well as through industry. The industry conducts its own investigations. The big tobacco companies will do what they call 'covert buys'. The intelligence and information that is collated during those activities feed their way up into an intelligence system. We have opened up that intelligence system. We have a portal from industry, from those state and territory jurisdictions, and they are a rich source of information. And we use that information to do track-backs in terms of imports.

CHAIR: Thanks. I accept all of that. But if I can walk into a shop in Sydney today and buy a packet, why doesn't one of the enforcement agencies do the same thing and then bust the store owner? You are getting the little guys not the big guys; I understand that; I watch enough TV to understand that. But if you shut down all the retail outlets, you make it more and more difficult for the crims to break the law.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I think that is right but again state and territory authorities will have priorities. I am sure they won't mind me saying this. They have limited resources. There are many other crimes and threats that they deal with on an everyday basis, and it is just a matter of priority. I am sure they do what they can when they can.

CHAIR: Thank you for that. I appreciate what you have done. You say you are chairing a committee. I cannot find my reference to it, but there was some time ago in government a committee like this—the tobacco industry stakeholders group, I think it was. Is that the one you are talking about?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Partially. As I say, there is a need for us as a fraternity of Commonwealth and state authorities to come together. The officials need to come together and have a more cohesive approach. But what I have also asked for is a stakeholder or industry companion body so that they are able to put their concerns, provide us with information—and, because of their very in-depth knowledge of the industry, provide us with guidance on what the landscape looks like. Having a stakeholders body as a companion to that interdepartmental committee I referred to is very important.

CHAIR: I do not always, obviously, accept everything the tobacco industry tells me, but they had a report done by KPMG that says that their assessment is that chop-chop and this illegally imported stuff is costing the taxpayer $1.35 billion, based on the average excise rate for 2014. Those are KPMG's figures.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I have been on the record to say that we have some concerns about the methodology of the report. The quantum that you just referred to uses a predicate denominator which implies that 14 per cent of the tobacco industry is illicit. I do not accept that figure. I do not have an alternative. I have put some modelling into place that will give us, as an agency, a view of our own about the quantum. But I do not accept the KPMG figure.

CHAIR: I hear you say that you do not have another, but even if it were half true, perhaps you could put the state police forces on a share-the-profits arrangement—so that if they make some of these busts, they would get some of the $1.35 billion.

Mr Pezzullo : On that revenue point: whether it is 14 per cent or, as the commissioner said, a different number, the question of revenue is complicated. Once you crack down on the trade, as indeed we should, that excise is potentially foregone forever—because you do not actually want those poorer quality cigarettes illegally imported coming into the country. Because we do not want smoking to increase for other sorts of reasons—public health reasons—one of the issues with the KPMG study and with this issue generally is that it is not like tax minimisation or tax avoidance where you are going after legitimate operations which are masked for tax purposes; in this case you want to stomp down on the trade. Regrettably, that means that the excise avoided is potentially never recoverable. I wanted to put that marker down.

CHAIR: If you are hooked on cigarettes and you cannot buy the illegal stuff, you will go and buy the legal stuff and help pay my wages with the excise payments.

Mr Pezzullo : If you get a diversion into licit streams, obviously by definition the excise is payable. But then there are other countervailing issues, one of which is a general reduction in smoking over time—which is both a societal trend and public policy.

CHAIR: But if you have to pay $20 for a packet of cigarettes rather than $8, you will either pay the $20 and pay the excise or you will not smoke—which is good for your health.

Mr Pezzullo : You will see some diversion into licit trade. I am just putting a caveat on the assumption that, if KPMG is right and it is 14 per cent of the market, that would translate into approximately $1.6 billion—I think that is the figure you might have mentioned. I am just saying that not all of that is necessarily recoverable. It depends on the behavioural impacts, as you yourself have just indicated. Some people will go licit and other people simply will not have access to those cigarettes.

CHAIR: Either way we win.

Mr Pezzullo : To some extent.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Pezzullo, how are we going with that document?

Mr Pezzullo : I have asked for advice on that. I just have not received any at the moment.

Senator KIM CARR: I have further questions on that matter, but I want to look at the document. I go back to your statement regarding the headquarters project. You indicated that the tender had been withdrawn. Is that right?

Mr Pezzullo : It has now been terminated—the original RFT.

Senator KIM CARR: What was the estimated value of that contract?

Mr Pezzullo : We would not normally indicate the total amount of funds we have available, just to ensure that there is a competitive process, but I might ask our chief operating officer, Dr Charker, to indicate what the publicly recorded provisioning for the project is—it is not quite the same thing. Dr Charker is both deputy secretary, corporate, of the department and chief operating officer of the entire portfolio. She has responsibilities for property management, amongst many other things.

Dr Charker : As the secretary has noted, we have been undergoing a request for tender process, which we did recently terminate. It was trying to give the department a key platform to support the integration and reform outcomes that we are seeking to deliver, as well as to try to consolidate functions across a large number of buildings, which would enable us to provide a more open, collaborative workplace and better service delivery to government. We released the request for tender in 2014 and it closed in late 2014. As the secretary has noted, we terminated that on the basis of some changes to requirements and our inability to obtain approval for the tender process. As to the precise amount financially of that tender, I would have to get advice, which I can do in the very short term, from one of my colleagues here. I can provide that to you very shortly.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you.

Mr Pezzullo : I should indicate, as you will know from other proceedings, Defence and others included, we might not necessarily always disclose publicly what the exact provision in the budget is—

Senator KIM CARR: No, that is a separate question from the scope of it.

Mr Pezzullo : Indeed.

Senator KIM CARR: You have indicated that could not get approval for the process. What was the problem with the approval process?

Mr Pezzullo : I might commence the answer and then Dr Charker can add to my answer. When we originally set out on the approved process—obviously we would not go out for an RFT on the order of magnitude involved, the scope being the entire headquarters for both Immigration and what was Customs. The new, integrated agency, was preferably to be consolidated into one precinct which could undertake both executive functions—that is, office accommodation—as well as operational functions: watch floors, command centres, intelligence rooms. Those are the sorts of 24/7 functions you would expect an agency such as ours to be able to perform. When we originally went out to tender there was no requirement for so-called local impacts or local impact assessments. The department, obviously in conformance with the then extant Commonwealth property principles, rules and practices, went out to tender. Quotes were received pursuant to that RFT.

Dr Charker will correct me if I am wrong here. In the context of decisions taken around the 2015-16 budget, the most recently concluded budget, the government—with the responsible minister, being the Minister for Finance, and the lead department, being the Department of Finance—decided to review and revise the Commonwealth Property Management Framework, as I mentioned in my opening statement, to embed in that framework a requirement for agencies in the ACT, if memory serves me correctly, but it might be more generally applicable, to take into account what are known as local impacts. That documentation was finalised by the relevant department, that being Finance, last month, in September. Pursuant to the finalisation of what are new requirements, we made the judgement, in consultation with Finance, that our RFT—which was on foot prior to the government's decision—around local impacts could not possibly conform with the local impacts requirement. So, effectively, we are starting again. Although, in saying that, I have asked Dr Charker to work with her colleagues in Finance to see if we can expedite the process, consistent with sound procurement, to not require the local market and players in the local market to have to do all of the work again, but to specifically, in as expedited and potentially as abbreviated a process as we can, construct with the Department of Finance—because we were midstream—alternative bids that have regard to local impacts.

Senator KIM CARR: What are the local impacts? You have mentioned this term on numerous occasions. What exactly are they?

Mr Pezzullo : I will ask Dr Charker to speak to the impacts that are applicable here, noting that the lead policy agency here is the Department of Finance. So I would ask you to raise the universal policy with Secretary Halton and her staff in other relevant proceedings.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, but the department must have a view as to what local impacts are.

Mr Pezzullo : Whether we have a view or not is beside the point. The framework requires the Department of Finance to advise the Minister for Finance on the applicability of local impacts. And it is the minister personally, as I recall, who is the delegate for deciding whether local impacts have been appropriately taken into account.

Senator KIM CARR: The Minister for Finance?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes, that is right.

Senator KIM CARR: So what are those—

Mr Pezzullo : I will ask Dr Charker to describe those as they apply to us in general terms, but the general policy is a matter for Finance.

Dr Charker : As the secretary has indicated, on 11 September this year an updated Commonwealth Property Management Framework Lease Endorsement Process, or 'the framework', was circulated by the Finance secretary to all departments. As we have noted, that requires a local impact assessment for current and future property acquisitions to be undertaken. The situation is that should a department represent more than 10 per cent of the employment in its current locality, a further detailed assessment may be required if a potential relocation could adversely affect a local economy or transport or give rise to social and community effects. As the secretary has noted, this assessment is undertaken by Finance—it is not undertaken by the department—which has developed the methodology around the assessment. It is not a departmental methodology. It has been developed through the finance department. So essentially what has occurred in our case is the Department of Finance has undertaken that assessment and has ensured that we must conform with those new requirements going forwards to manage local impact.

If I could just return to your earlier question around the value of the tender process, I just had to confirm with a colleague that that is commercial-in-confidence, so I am unable to provide the value of the tenders. What I can provide you is that we estimated that the total lease cost savings which we might aim to achieve through integration of all our campuses or different places of accommodation in the ACT was likely to exceed $7 million per annum, or over $100 million over 15 years. So essentially there was a large savings exercise that we believe could have been achieved, or could be achieved, through integration of our property in the ACT.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. How many companies put in a tender?

Dr Charker : I think I am unable to provide that information at this point for commercial-in-confidence reasons.

Senator KIM CARR: Commercial-in-confidence?

Dr Charker : I would have to take that on notice if—

Senator KIM CARR: It has now been terminated.

Dr Charker : It has been terminated.

Senator KIM CARR: So how could it be commercial-in-confidence?

Dr Charker : I will take that on notice and I will respond this session to address it.

Mr Pezzullo : The mitigating factor there might be the fact that the same proponents might wish to go around again.

Senator KIM CARR: On 1 September the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, and a Liberal ACT senator were reported to have held a dinner at $995 per head at the Boat House restaurant in Canberra. Are you aware of this?

Mr Pezzullo : My department has no knowledge of that.

CHAIR: That is a question for the minister, not for—

Senator KIM CARR: It is a question for the secretary. Are you aware that the minister had a dinner on that night?

Mr Pezzullo : As the chair has indicated, that in itself is a matter for the minister. In terms of my knowledge or that of the department, I have read some media reports about it. Other than that I have no knowledge of the matter.

Senator KIM CARR: Can the minister provide a list of who participated in the dinner on 1 September with Senator Seselja and Minister Dutton?

Senator Cash: I would need to take that on notice.

CHAIR: You would have to check whether it is relevant to put to portfolio budget estimates.

Senator KIM CARR: Did officials from the department attend?

Mr Pezzullo : Not in my knowledge. I will take it on notice but I cannot imagine why they would have.

Senator KIM CARR: Was there any discussion of the tender for the new headquarters at that dinner?

Mr Pezzullo : As I have indicated in my evidence, I have no knowledge of the dinner other than what I have read in various newspaper accounts, so I would not care to speculate. It is really a matter for the minister.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, is that a question for you?

Senator Cash: I would need to take it on notice as well.

Senator KIM CARR: Was the information provided at the dinner provided to all those that had tendered for the headquarters building?

Senator Cash: Again, any questions relating to the dinner will need to be taken on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: You will take that on notice? Thank you. And were any of the tenderers present at that dinner? There are media reports that there were.

Mr Pezzullo : From the department's point of view it is the same answer. We have no knowledge of this dinner, and it is a matter to be referred to the minister.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, can you advise me?

Senator Cash: I would need to take it on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Has the secretary's attention been drawn to the probity arrangements in regard to the tendering of the headquarters building, particularly in regard to guideline 6.6(b)?

Mr Pezzullo : Has my personal attention been drawn?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : I am responsible for ensuring that the tender had probity, so my job is to oversee the department. Part of the function in any RFT is to have a probity arrangement, and Dr Charker might particularise that. The particular clause that you have just referred to—

Senator KIM CARR: That is the one that goes to accepting inappropriate gifts or hospitality.

Mr Pezzullo : We would certainly require that clause to be enforced across all of the participants in the RFT process, but beyond that general statement, unless Dr Charker has any further—

Senator KIM CARR: Would that include the minister?

Mr Pezzullo : The minister technically is not a delegate. He is not involved in the tender process. It is not a matter for the minister other than certain ERC decisions we made reference to, some of which pertain to the funding of the proposal, which is part of our integration initiatives. The minister obviously gets involved at that level of deliberation—securing funding for such measures through ERC. But the actual running of the tender delegations in relation to decision making et cetera do not involve the minister.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, is it the government's view that ministers are obliged to uphold the same ethical standards as Commonwealth offices?

Senator Cash: Ministers are required to uphold the relevant standards, but in relation to this particular tender I would need to take on notice anything you are referring to in that regard.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. I am asking about the government's view about Commonwealth officers and the standards that apply to ministers as well.

Senator Cash: As I have stated, ministers are at all times required to uphold whatever relevant standards apply to them. In terms of the particular tender that you are referring to, I would need to take any matters on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Could you advise the committee as to whether or not hosting a fundraising dinner attended by companies vying for a contract of this size is consistent with those standards.

Senator Cash: I have no information in relation to that particular dinner, so at this point in time the dinner and the guest list are an allegation that you are making. I have said that in relation to those details I will take them on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: And I would ask the secretary: in the department's view is a minister hosting a dinner for people tendering for a multimillion-dollar contract with the department consistent with the probity requirements of a tender of this size?

CHAIR: I do not think that is a fair question for the officer.

Senator KIM CARR: It might not be fair, but it is reasonable question.

CHAIR: It is not a reasonable question either, and I rule it out of order.

Senator KIM CARR: You are ruling it out of order?

CHAIR: Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: On what basis are you ruling it out of order?

CHAIR: Because it is not a fair question to put to officers, who are not here to assess the worth or honesty of ministers that run their department.

Senator KIM CARR: Let me be clear about this—you are ruling out of order whether or not the secretary of the department considers it to be consistent?

CHAIR: Whether the secretary of the department considers it consistent is a matter of opinion, which as you know is not relevant to these hearings, so it is ruled out of order.

Senator KIM CARR: I am asking for the department's view—

CHAIR: It is ruled out of order anyhow. If you have other questions you have 21 seconds left.

Senator KIM CARR: We may well have to take this up in another quarter if you regard this as out of order. I am asking a specific question about the probity arrangement 6.6(b)(ii), about accepting inappropriate gifts from people who are seeking to win a multimillion-dollar tender from the Commonwealth, and you are ruling that out of order?

CHAIR: I have made the ruling.

Senator CANAVAN: Are we still on the Australian Border Force?

Senator KIM CARR: I have further questions to ask the Australian Border Force. I am waiting on further information from the secretary.

Senator CANAVAN: That is fine, Senator Carr.

CHAIR: What is your point of order?

Senator CANAVAN: I was just clarifying where we are at on the agenda.

CHAIR: We are merely going through the general Australian Border Force or anything that was mentioned in either the secretary's or Mr Quaedvlieg's—

Senator CANAVAN: I had to go to another committee and I apologise. I want to ask some questions about the transition to the Australian Border Force. Could you outline to us how that has gone, particularly in terms of transition for staff. This was a merger of how many organisations?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Two.

Senator CANAVAN: What have been the reported outcomes in terms of that merger for staff and the integration of, I suppose, two different cultures and all those aspects of a merger that you need to have?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Let me answer that in the broad to start with. I am happy to drill down on any detail. As you will probably be aware, in May last year the then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, announced the merger of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to create a single department of state, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection as it exists today. Within that there would be an operational arm, the Australian Border Force. We commenced work in the immediate aftermath of that announcement. Over the last period of time leading up to 1 July, a significant investment of effort by our officers and various others worked up the establishment of the Australian Border Force as of 1 July. In the minister's statement at the time, he said that the Australian Border Force would be fully operational by 1 July 2016, so I have been at pains to point out both internally and externally that 1 July this year was not the endgame in terms of the establishment of the Border Force. There is still much to do. As a reference to my opening statement, having looked at the management system of detention centres, I am sure there is a lot of work to be done there to increase the amenity, security and safety of detainees in that network. That is just one example of a lot of work that is still left to do.

Having said that, the work that was put in prior to 1 July was worth it. The dividend, I think, has been evidenced by the successful establishment of the Australian Border Force. We have now got somewhere in the order of 5,700 staff—5,721, I think, was the last count, as of the end of September. We are working through a process where those officers will take up an oath or an affirmation in terms of their commitment to the Australian Border Force. I think we are halfway through that cohort of people in swearing the oath.

Culturally, you are right to point out that merging two entities always brings different cultures—not necessarily bad ones, but different—and we need to work through that cultural reset. I think that will take a period of some years. It is one thing which we have done in terms of crunching together functions, systems and people, but I think that belies the complex and often long journey to creating not so much a monoculture but a set of identified cultures within the organisation that are fit and modern.

Our staff are appropriately equipped, although there is significant work going on in terms of modernising them. I will give you an example of that: we want to untether our officers from their desks and from the arcane PCs. We are rolling out some mobile devices that will enable them to be on the front line more often for longer periods of time. That will enable them to undertake both uploading and downloading of information in a mobile way, and I think that will bring a lot of efficiencies.

We are heavily investing in technology. For example, we are currently in a very aggressive program to install automated departure gates at our eight international airports. By the end of the forwards, we hope to have 90 per cent of our outbound departures being acquitted through technology—through the SmartGates that many of the committee members will have experienced on their way inbound. That program is going very well. We are in the process of installing a second bank of 12 departure gates in Sydney. The Melbourne gates start very shortly. We hope that the automation will actually bring a dividend that will liberate some of our human resources and that we can put those resources to functions that require judgements and higher value tasks. Automation is a significant bedrock of the future Australian Border Force. In essence, things are going well. Good progress is being made across the board, but there is still a way to go.

Senator CANAVAN: That was a very comprehensive answer. Thank you very much for that. What about financially? Were you expecting to achieve some efficiencies in the merging of the two organisations? Presumably there were some costs as well in merging them. How have they panned out in terms of meeting the budget? That might be a question for the department as well.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I might refer that to the secretary in terms of a departmental response.

Mr Pezzullo : Just following on from the line of evidence earlier: the overall program for the reform, integration and modernisation of the department systems et cetera, as disclosed in the budget papers, is over $700 million. Senator Lindgren made that reference earlier. That is over six years—four years in the forward estimates plus two additional years. That is not the cost of consolidation per se. Integral to then Minister Morrison's announcement, followed through in its implementation by Mr Dutton, was the modernisation of systems—take, for instance, the biometric system, the intelligent system—all of which are located in the department proper, which then supports the ABF. That $700 million program is for the modernisation of the department as well as the creation of the ABF, which gets down to things like uniforms, livery on vehicles et cetera. I do not want to diminish that, but that is a subelement of the overall creation of our new capabilities.

I have a breakdown, which I am able to put on the record, that acquits the question that was asked earlier. The government decided to fully offset this program through both the internal efficiencies generated by the integration of the former Customs and Border Protection Service and the department itself. Those efficiencies over that period are estimated at being in the order of $70 million, some elements of which Dr Charker referred to earlier. It includes the headquarters consolidation that was mentioned. That is about 10 per cent of the program. The rest of the program was offset, as is stated in the budget papers, through the reallocation of the previous capital budget of the former Customs and Border Protection Service that was extended out over a period of time. There were previous measures that were incorporated in the reform, namely funding for the National Border Targeting Centre that was allocated by the Gillard government some years ago, as well as enhanced border revenue collection measures—basically cracking down on border revenue evasion. That funds about half of the program. So, through a variety of measures and mechanisms, the program over six years is fully offset.

Senator CANAVAN: Thank you very much for that. I just have some questions going back to your opening statement, Mr Quaedvlieg—that is, about your actions or activities against fishing vessels: You mentioned activities you have undertaken in the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean. Is that just where you are concentrating at the moment, or do you monitor illegal fishing activities right around our territorial waters?

Mr Quaedvlieg : While I give you an introduction to that answer, I will ask Rear Admiral Michael Noonan to come to the table. He is the operational lead on maritime border command. He will be able to give you a broad outline of where we focus and dedicate our efforts to counter illegal fishing. What I can say is, because we have had the capacity to be able to do it this year, we have put a long-range patrol into the Southern Ocean. Those patrols are not done on a dime. They require significant planning and support. We have managed to achieve one of those patrols this year. Moreover, I am pleased to announce some very active interventions on illegal fishing vessels traversing back into South-East Asia coming out of fishing arenas in the Southern Ocean. Now that Rear Admiral Noonan is here, he can give you a more detailed overview.

Rear Adm. Noonan : To address your question in terms of our total focus: it has not been limited just to the Southern Ocean. We have very active patrol and compliance activities occurring throughout all of Australia's waters—to the north, south, east and west. The operations that the commissioner refers to have been specifically targeting the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing that has been occurring in our southern oceans for many years. 2015 has been particularly successful for us in combating IUU fishing. I am pleased to announce that for first time since 1995 there is no IUU fishing activity in the Southern Ocean.

Senator CANAVAN: How do you know that?

Rear Adm. Noonan : We have an ongoing surveillance program. We use a number of surveillance techniques, including satellite technology. We have daily monitoring of what is occurring in the Southern Ocean. Plus we have a very comprehensive information-sharing network with our partners through other like-minded agencies. We have a regional plan of action group, which we are an active contributor to, that has collaborated with us extensively over the last 12 months in the operations against six known IUU operators.

CHAIR: Can I just clarify: you are guaranteeing no-one is illegally fishing even on the high seas?

Rear Adm. Noonan : In the Southern Ocean.

CHAIR: I appreciate that this is within Australia's zone, the French zone and anyone else's zone. But you are saying that even for the high seas in the Southern Ocean?

Rear Adm. Noonan : That is correct. Yes.

CHAIR: Excellent.

Senator CANAVAN: Would you put that down to your increased enforcement activities in the Southern Ocean? Has that been a major contributor to that result?

Rear Adm. Noonan : That has been a major contributing factor. There have been a number of initiatives that we have been able to progress over the last 12 to 18 months that have strengthened our enforcement capabilities and our cooperative arrangements with a range of countries that have common views. Specifically there were three vessels that we boarded this year. All were on the high seas. We boarded them to the west of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, which demonstrates that we have been able to deliver an enforcement effect through boarding operations, information-exchange operations and ultimately sharing information with other countries that have taken enforcement and ultimately prosecution action, namely the Thais and the Malaysians.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I should add: it is not because the threat is diminished. The Rear Admiral has just outlined three vessels that we have known about for a long time as a collective. They change flags. They change names. They change appearances. They are very organised. But, even in a less organised way, there is an enforcement line in the northern waters—the Provisional Fisheries Surveillance and Enforcement Line. Last financial year we observed in excess of 10,000 fishing vessels above that enforcement line. We boarded 84 vessels. The threat is not diminished, but we are certainly doing more things.

Rear Adm. Noonan : I can talk more specifically about the Southern Ocean or more broadly.

Senator CANAVAN: You mentioned satellites in terms of collecting information about where these activities occur. What about the commercial fishing sector itself and the domestic Australian sector? Do they help provide information about activities?

Rear Adm. Noonan : It does. Obviously we work very closely with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. All the enforcement activities that we participate in are with their cooperation. Certainly, back through them, we get a lot of very good information from Australian regulated fishers in terms of activities that occur—not just in the Southern Ocean, but in all of Australia's jurisdiction.

Senator CANAVAN: You have probably seen that there is a plan to quite substantially increase marine park reserve areas, including no-take areas, where there will be no commercial fishing vessels in future. Is that a risk to the information gathering process for your purposes? If so, what strategies do you have in place to mitigate that risk?

Rear Adm. Noonan : I do not see it as a risk. We work very closely with a variety of the state jurisdictions already. One of our biggest stakeholder agencies is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. They have their own surveillance and response vessels which we augment. We share information with them on a daily basis.

Senator CANAVAN: I am talking more out from there, though, in the Coral Sea area. I am obviously not completely familiar with what GBRMPA does, but presumably they do not venture too far out into the Coral Sea area. These new, quite large marine parks would presumably mean no commercial vessels for large distances in parts of our waters.

Rear Adm. Noonan : When you get further out into the Coral Sea you are starting to get outside the Australian jurisdiction. But we contribute to a lot of regional activities—for example, the Forum Fisheries Agency based out of the Solomon Islands. They coordinate the regional response to any illegal activity that occurs inside those areas. We contribute, along with the French and the New Zealanders, to a very active program in that area. This year we have had some very good successes in those areas through those agencies, so I am not at all concerned that we will have a diminution of the information available to us—in fact, it is growing more than anything.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Pezzullo, I would like to continue with questions in relation to Abyan, if that is okay. If Mr Skill would like to come back to the table.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes, Senator, he will approach the table.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Skill, you were saying before we had to move to other questioners that you had made a decision to remove Abyan from Australia quickly based on being told that she had declined the appointments that she had been offered. Had you seen Ms Abyan's medical files?

Mr Skill : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What was given to you to inform your decision to have her removed by Friday afternoon?

Mr Skill : I had email advice from IHMS that indicated that the individual had declined the treatment that was offered on the day and had also declined a further appointment. I was also advised, following a subsequent consultation the following morning, that the individual had again declined to have another procedure scheduled. On that basis, I made the decision that there were no grounds for this person to stay in Australia at this point in time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Did you see any request from Abyan or her lawyers on Friday, prior to her being removed, that indicated that she had asked for more time?

Mr Skill : I would have to check the timing. I do recall seeing a letter from the individual's lawyer. I could not confirm what time I received it but I can confirm that and I will see what time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you could, that would be helpful. To clarify: the lawyers have said publicly that the letter was a direct request from Abyan to have more time to consider her decision.

Mr Skill : I would have to check the content of the letter. To the best of my recollection, there was nothing brought to my attention, prior to the operation commencing to return the individual to Nauru, that would have changed the decision to remove her from Australia.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Did you receive the letter directly?

Mr Skill : Not to my recollection. I can check that. I think it was—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But you did get a copy of that request?

Mr Skill : Yes, I recall seeing an email that had the letter from the individual's lawyer attached to it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: At what time did you make a final decision that Abyan would be removed from Australia?

Mr Skill : I cannot recall if there was an actual decision documented or a time of the decision documented. The decision to put in train the removal was certainly made probably early Thursday I recall That then involved a large number of areas of the department doing appropriate pretransfer checks, legal opinion et cetera as to whether there were any limitations on our being able to remove the individual back to Nauru. It involved medical confirmation of fit to travel, chartering an aircraft et cetera and a range of other logistical activities. At no point, before she was removed, was I asked whether it should still proceed? At no point was I asked if I wanted to stop the removal.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you put the wheels in train on Thursday afternoon, and she flew out on Friday afternoon.

Mr Skill : I began preparatory work on Wednesday evening.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Oh, Wednesday evening?

Mr Skill : Wednesday evening, after we had advice that she had declined the procedure on that day and had also declined the procedure that was offered to her for the following week. However, I did not put anything formally in motion until we had the follow-up appointment with the general practitioner the following morning. Following that was when we swung into action, as it were.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Did you have to have approval from the minister's office—sign-off for her removal?

Mr Skill : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So was it your decision?

Mr Skill : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Purely your decision?

Mr Skill : In consultation with a number of other officers within the department. But if the responsibility lies with a single decision maker then that would be me, yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And at no stage did you consider reviewing your decision?

Mr Skill : It was constantly under review if there were any new pieces of information that became available to me that may have changed the decision. For example, if there were any other substantiated claims for protection or anything along those lines then that would have caused one of the various areas in the department to raise with me the fact that, 'There's an issue here and you shouldn't proceed.'

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Including a request by the woman's lawyers that she be given more time to consider what is a pretty horrific decision for anybody to have to make under the circumstances?

Mr Skill : I think I would have to, as I indicated, check what time I actually received that advice, but I certainly did not get anything from any of the officers that were running the operation to indicate that there was a reason for it to not proceed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Pezzullo, this must have been a pretty sensitive case as it was rolling out. When were you made aware that Ms Abyan and her lawyers had requested she be given more time? When were you made aware of that letter on Friday?

Mr Pezzullo : In relation to the correspondence you have just been asking Mr Skill about, I will need to advise you and the committee that on that day I was myself in transit. I was coming back from Europe, where I was undertaking official business and consultations with UN agencies and other bilateral partners. I was literally in the air all through the time in question, from late Thursday evening Australian time through to the early hours of Saturday morning. I was staying across the case as best these mobile devices allow one to do overseas, whilst I was in Geneva, Istanbul and other places, and then obviously, upon landing in Australia, I did a catch-up and was made aware that she had flown out or was flown out. So, to answer your question, my state of knowledge—with that contextual statement—was that, as of Saturday morning, I was aware that she was removed. In terms of correspondence, I have spent most of the weekend just trying to catch up with correspondence. Some of the matters that Mr Skill has advised the committee of I am hearing for the first time, which is not in itself unusual; I have a lot of information that I have to catch up on after overseas trips. Mr Manthorpe may wish to provide further advice. He was the acting secretary on Thursday and Friday.

Whilst he considers that offer, or that suggestion, can I just make one point: I am assuming, and Mr Skill will correct me, that the transfer back to Australia—or into the Australian jurisdiction, I should say—was agreed to on the basis that the woman in question wanted to undertake the procedure. As you rightly say, this is a very sensitive procedure; it is one of the most sensitive and difficult decisions, no doubt, that women have to face. I understand that. So I am working on the assumption—and this was my state of knowledge before I went on my international business travel myself—that she was coming to Australia with the clear view, because that is the basis upon which we would have transferred her, that she wished to undertake the procedure. As Mr Skill has indicated, and referring back to Mr Dutton's media interview this morning, there were a number of points at which she saw both general nurses and mental health nurses and, I think, general practitioners too, as I recall. She declined to undertake the procedure at certain points, which was her right; no-one is suggesting that she should be forced into doing anything, especially in this regard, coercively—absolutely. As I understand it—Mr Skill has just reminded me—she declined to take up an offer for a subsequent appointment—I think in the following week, which would have been this week.

Mr Skill : Correct.

Mr Pezzullo : Given the facts known to Mr Skill through the course of Friday, and given that the only basis upon which she could be present in Australia—because otherwise, as I stated, she is a refugee in Nauru who will be resettled eventually in a country other than Australia—was to undertake the procedure, when it was clear to Mr Skill that there was no reasonable prospect of her undertaking the procedure, he decided to operate within his appropriate level of delegation and took the decision that he took.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay.

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know if Mr Manthorpe, who was the acting secretary through the course of Thursday-Friday, wishes to add anything.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Manthorpe, did you at any stage request that Mr Skill or anybody else reconsider the removal of this young woman?

Mr Manthorpe : Yes, last week I was the acting secretary for a number of days. I did not request Mr Skill to reconsider, but I think it would be fair to say that, throughout those several days, as Mr Skill himself pointed out, the matter was constantly under review, and it was. I was generally aware of the unfolding developments and I had no objection to Mr Skill taking the difficult decision that he took.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was Abyan told prior to being flown to Australia that she was going to be on an abortion deadline?

Mr Pezzullo : I beg your pardon, Senator—'on an abortion deadline'? She was advised, because she was seeking the procedure, that she would be given the opportunity to undertake the procedure.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: She is a victim of sexual assault and rape, 15 weeks pregnant. It does not really feel as though there was much flexibility in being able to allow her to understand and come to terms with whatever decision she was going to make. Given what you know now—that she has said that she did not make the decision not to go ahead, that she is still saying she is considering a termination—was it a mistake to have flown her out on Friday night?

Mr Pezzullo : I am satisfied, based on what I have read over the weekend, what I have heard in terms of Mr Skill's evidence this morning, that he took a reasonable decision based on the facts known to him at the time. I understand, not least because of the statement that you yourself have referred to and not least because of Mr Newhouse, the legal representative's own media statements, this morning, that her state of mind now—and I do not know when this was known to us or not known to us—is that she is still considering it. We will have to consider—and I am not specifically referring to her case here, but we consider all requests on their merits. Mr Skill, who is the relevant delegate, has to consider whether the appropriate services are available on Nauru or another country. In the case where they are not, there is a checklist that he will work through. People are transferred to Australia as a last option, as required, particularly where there is a lack of capacity on the island, acknowledging the fundamental point—and if I can clear one issue up: Mr Newhouse this morning said, and I am sure he contends this in good faith, and I am paraphrasing her legal representative here, and I will check the transcript, that the reason for her state of some confusion is that she was not sure of her full range of options while she was here in Australia. Can I advise the committee her option is to be afforded the treatment, which is what she sought. There is no other option available for her in terms of any other basis upon which to stay in Australia. Again, I regret that we have to talk about her circumstances particularly, but a lot of it has been put on the record, including by her legal representatives, and that is fine but it just means that matters that are very, very sensitive are being traversed in public. What that means is that, if her state of mind is that she is unsure, well, that is fine; we respect that. If she is sure she wants to have a procedure, we will support that. If she does not want to have a procedure, we will support that. But any suggestion that she is not aware of 'her options', which is what Mr Newhouse contended this morning, cannot be supported, because there is no option other than to be afforded the treatment, to go back to Nauru as a refugee and then eventually to be resettled in a country other than Australia. That is the law of the land.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Skill, did anybody in your department seek to speak to Abyan before removing her to ask what she wanted?

Mr Skill : We work on the advice of the medical practitioners there on the ground. We did have a number of consultations between the IHMS practitioners at Villawood and with the individual.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Did anybody in your department seek to understand from Abyan what she actually wanted and what she needed at that time?

Mr Skill : We defer to the qualified professionals that undertake these works.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Did they suggest that you fly her out of the country?

Mr Skill : No, but they did indicate that there was no scheduled timing for a procedure.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: She did not meet your abortion deadline, so that is it—fly her out of the country. It is pretty harsh.

CHAIR: That is not a question.

Mr Pezzullo : I might just take that as a rhetorical statement, if I may. I do not think Mr Skill has an abortion deadline, nor does the department. We would not operate on such a basis.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why the rush, then?

Mr Pezzullo : There was no basis for her to be present in Australia other than to undergo the procedure. On the information known to the officer, there was no prospect of her seeking the procedure. Whether she changed her mind, whether she has changed her mind again—I am not seeking in any way to diminish those considerations. It is a very sensitive thing. I am especially reluctant, as a man, to be talking about the challenges that a woman would be facing in those circumstances, absolutely. But Mr Skill has to make administrative decisions on a lawful basis. Unless you are here from Nauru to undertake a medical procedure, there is no basis at law for you to be in our country. She is a refugee in Nauru. Our agreement with Nauru is eventually to work with them to resettle her to a country other than Australia.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: She cannot have an abortion in Nauru, though, can she?

Mr Pezzullo : If she wants to have a procedure, we will go back through the decision making that will be necessary. If it would be helpful to all concerned—and again, I do not want to force any false level of certainty into this equation; it is an incredibly complex and sensitive area of life—once we are certain and she is certain that she wants to have the procedure, we will support that. There are various decisions that have to be taken by Mr Skill around that. If she is not sure, we are counselling her, to some extent through these proceedings, that the only thing that we can do in Australia to support her is to provide her with this procedure. That is a commitment we have made to Nauru because of their lack of capacity. Otherwise, she goes back to Nauru.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is not a lack of capacity, Mr Pezzullo. It is illegal for a termination—

Mr Pezzullo : The laws in Nauru are different from here in Australia. That necessarily creates a lack of capacity.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How often has a private jet been chartered to remove refugees or transferees who have been in Australia for medical reasons?

Mr Skill : There are quite regular uses of chartered flights to move transferees and refugees between Australia, Papua New Guinea and Nauru. That is quite a regular operation. I do not have the figures with me as to how often it occurs. The DC Ops may have a brief along those lines.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have a budget that you have to stick by for how many times you can use a private jet to fly people out of the country at short notice?

Mr Skill : There is a budgeted amount for these activities, but it is not something that I have visibility of. It is in the detention operation space.

Mr Outram : There are standing charter arrangements in place. There are three contracted charter aircraft. There are fixed costs associated with those contracts and there are variable costs according to those. For example, in the financial year 2014-15 our Adagold Boeing 737 was a tad under $16 million. Skytraders is about $15 million for an Airbus and about $9.8 million for another Airbus. In terms of how often we have used them, in the 2014-15 financial year, 68 times for onshore operations and 11 times for operations to a regional processing centre. Thus far this year, 10 times for onshore operations and eight for operations to regional processing centres. That was as at 30 September.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I assume that eight is now nine, or there may have been others in the last month?

Mr Outram : There may have been others. I would have to check that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How much did last Friday's private jet cost?

Mr Outram : I would have to take that on notice. I do not have a specific breakdown of that particular flight.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There are reported costs of around $100,000. Is that in the ballpark?

Mr Outram : I would have to check that, because that obviously goes to the variable costs that are associated with things like flying hours, ground handling charges, catering and passenger tax charges. There would be a number of numbers that would go into that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I still do not understand why we would have to pay for a private jet to fly Abyan out rather than waiting for the next available commercial flight.

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure what considerations were brought to bear on that decision. Mr Skill might have better information for you.

Mr Skill : It was predominately around the risk of noncompliance on a commercial flight.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: She is unwell. Only a week earlier she was too unwell to fly. She is a weak, unwell, woman who is 15 weeks pregnant. What type of compliance issues or risk was she?

Mr Skill : It is not as simple—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You thought that she was going to raise her voice on the plane?

Mr Skill : It goes to what is acceptable behaviour on a commercial airliner.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was she well behaved coming to Australia?

Mr Skill : I understand so. Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why would you from the view that she would be misbehaved in flying back if, indeed, she had changed her mind, as you believed so at the time?

Mr Skill : I do not want to hypothesise or speculate about what may or may not have changed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You have made a judgement.

Mr Skill : I have. The route through which she was travelling—i.e. the direction in which she was travelling—was a significant factor in the risk assessments. We took the opportunity to put an additional detention health officer on the ground in Nauru using that flight, and there were no seats available to get that person to Nauru until, I think, Friday at the earliest. It was also an opportunity to bring an individual back from Nauru on the return leg as well.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Did that happen?

Mr Skill : Yes. I believe it did.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, we might have to come back to that. While you are taking some questions on notice germane to things, could you give us the cost of charters generally for when they are going from Christmas Island to Melbourne and from Villawood to wherever they go to—just for comparison's sake. This person was in Melbourne?

Mr Skill : Sydney.

CHAIR: Why don't you take them to Townsville, which is much closer and has wonderful hospital facilities?

Mr Skill : The appointments for these sorts of procedures are sourced by IHMS. They are not always in Sydney. Some are done in Brisbane, some are done in Darwin, et cetera. It really comes down to what the next available appointment is for the type of procedure and the length of gestation that is required.

CHAIR: The commercial flight from Sydney to Nauru is, I guess, Sydney—

Mr Skill : There is no commercial flight from Sydney to Nauru. There is a flight from Brisbane to Nauru.

CHAIR: So it is Sydney-Brisbane, Brisbane-Nauru direct?

Mr Skill : No. You would have to go domestic to Brisbane. But the airline that flies commercially to Nauru goes Brisbane-Honiara-Nauru.

CHAIR: So it is Sydney-Brisbane-Honiara-Nauru?

Mr Skill : No. There is no Sydney leg.

CHAIR: She is in Sydney.

Mr Skill : To move this woman?

CHAIR: Yes.

Mr Skill : Sorry, yes. To move this individual, yes.

CHAIR: When you were worrying about noncompliance—if anyone is screaming, yelling, resisting, and they are doing this through the Sydney airport, the Brisbane airport, the Honiara airport and the Nauru every airport—is that what you were talking about?

Mr Skill : That is correct. Yes, if there were seats available.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Except that you said she made her decision and you acted on the—it just does not make any sense. It is absolutely contradictory.

CHAIR: That is not a question.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is, of course, a matter of opinion. That is the problem—their opinion, not hers.

CHAIR: We will go to the Labor Party. Before I do go to them, I may be a little late back at lunchtime. If I am, I am appointing Senator Canavan as acting chair to take the chair in the absence of the deputy chair. If the deputy chair is here, she will take over. If not, it will be Senator Canavan. Senator Carr, we have only five minutes.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, I understand that. How are we going with the document?

Mr Pezzullo : I am sure I will have advice for you after lunch.

Senator KIM CARR: I guess we will be here for quite some time.

Mr Pezzullo : I said I would have advice for you after lunch. Whether that yields the document, I guess remains to be seen.

Senator KIM CARR: How many SES officers has the department lost in the last year?

Mr Pezzullo : In terms of actual bodies, our SES cap has not been varied.

Senator KIM CARR: But how many people have changed?

Mr Pezzullo : With the combined organisation—bringing together the former Customs Service and the former Department of Immigration and Citizenship—there is a permanent SES workforce of about 150.

Senator KIM CARR: What about the immigration people? How many on the immigration side?

Mr Pezzullo : As I recall it, when we moved the agencies the split was approximately 100 as to 50, about two as to one. Dr Charker might have better particulars. I think your question goes to bodies as opposed to slots.

Senator KIM CARR: I want to know how many of the 100 immigration SES officers are still in place a year later?

Mr Pezzullo : Dr Charker might have information as to the slots. Whether she has information about the throughputs—how many former immigration officers from pre-1 July are still on our books—that would be a matter for her to perhaps follow-up.

Dr Charker : As the secretary has indicated, I can follow up and revert on the throughput issue. At 30 September 2015, the integrated department reported 138 SES staff. Of that, we have 148 substantive SES and we have another 10 SES who were acting in that SES role but who are therefore not substantive at that level; they have been acting for more than three months. Taking away from that number are 20 SES staff who are currently on long-term leave. So all of those additions and subtractions give you that total number of 138 SES staff.

Senator KIM CARR: I am interested to know how many immigration SES officers have left in the last 12 months.

Dr Charker : I will have to take that on notice and get back to you during this session.

Mr Pezzullo : Through the afternoon we will see what we can come back with. When you say, 'Former immigration officers', those who were in the department up until 30 June—

Senator KIM CARR: I just want to know since your appointment, in the last 12 months, how many officers at the SES rank have changed.

Mr Pezzullo : Substantive SES officers from the former department over the last 12 months—is that correct? For rounding purposes we will take it back to 1 October of last year, that is 12 months. How many substantive officers were on the books then in what was the pre-amalgamated department?

Senator KIM CARR: Not your establishment, but actual personnel. It has been put to me there has been a significant number of officers transferred out of the department.

Mr Pezzullo : It depends on your definition of significant. There certainly has been a number, which we will come back to you on. When you say, 'Transferred out of the department'—

Senator KIM CARR: Let's say, 'No longer SES officers.'

Mr Pezzullo : Who are no longer with us.

Senator KIM CARR: They have presumably moved to another department, some have retired—

Mr Pezzullo : Some of them have resigned, some of them have retired, some of them have transferred to other duties in the Commonwealth and some, if I recall rightly, of them have transferred to other duties in state and territory jurisdictions. We will have to do an analysis for you.

Dr Charker : I might have some additional information, which I have just located. From 1 July 2014 to 30 September 2015—that is a bit over a year—we have had a number of SES movements, of course. We have a total of 74 SES coming into the newly integrated combined—I am combining both previous Customs department and the previous immigration department—and we have had a total of 37 SES moving out in that period. Of those who are moving out, approximately 22 have been moving out by reason of transfer to other APS agencies. Other reasons that SES may move out include age retirement or resignation.

Senator KIM CARR: Sure, but of the 74 in, does that include the former Customs officers?

Dr Charker : Yes. Those figures are actually new SES movements coming in over that period of time. The scope of the response is covering both new, in the sense of the previous SES coming in from Customs and the previous SES group coming in from Immigration. If you consider that as a total cohort, my new figures of 74 relate to changes in that total cohort, which amount to 74 newly-incoming people at the SES level.

Senator KIM CARR: You gave me a figure of 148 before, does that mean 50 per cent of the SES is new?

Dr Charker : I am just going back and double-checking my figures. I think what I may have done—and I will check this over the break—is inadvertently given you the SES cap number. The SES cap number is 148. That comprised the department's previous 98 SES cap and another 50 from the previous Customs authority that was transferred at the time of integration.

Senator KIM CARR: I just want to know whether or not there are 50 per cent new personnel at the SES in the department.

Mr Pezzullo : I think the bottom-line answer to your previous question will be that a subset of the 37 would be former officers of the Department of Immigration. We will get a breakdown within the 37 of who has moved on for resignation, retirement, transfer or other reasons. Roughly, if you go off two-to-one, it is going to be at least, I would have thought, two-thirds of that number but we will get you more precise information after lunch. You might be thinking, 'Why is the number coming in greater than the number flowing out?' We will do the analysis, but I suspect what has happened here is that a number of vacancies have been filled which were formerly occupied by acting SES officers, and we have taken the opportunity of integration to fill those positions substantively. Hence the number flowing in is roughly twice the number as it were flowing out.

Proceedings suspended from 12:46 to 13:45

ACTING CHAIR: I welcome back officers from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in relation to cross-portfolio, corporate and general matters. We are still dealing with the Australian Border Force. I would like to follow up on a question asked before the lunch break. On the issue of Nauru, I believe the government has made a substantial amount of investment in the health and infrastructure facilities there. That is probably a question for the minister. Mr Quaedvlieg, do you handle the facilities at Nauru or did you just say that you handle onshore detention facilities?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Onshore, but I think Neil Skill, who has this within his responsibilities, is back, so he can answer your question in relation to investments in health infrastructure on Nauru.

ACTING CHAIR: Mr Skill, I just asked what investments have been made on Nauru to improve health infrastructure there and, in particular, infrastructure and services available to detainees.

Mr Skill : We have had a lengthy period of time of engagement with the Republic of Nauru Hospital. We have a joint funding agreement to redevelop the Nauru hospital. We are doing that in conjunction with DFAT. We are spending $26.5 million, essentially replacing a lot of infrastructure that was destroyed in a fire a year and a half or so ago. We are also providing additional capabilities in regard to diagnostic imaging. We are providing a CT scanning capability on the island, which will assist Nauruans and transferees, refugees, alike. We have also invested around $11 million in capital expenditure in the clinic at the RPC1 site, the regional processing centre 1 site. We have 50 medical professionals on the island at the moment that support the RPC operations, and we have an additional seven working as part of a settlement clinic that is operated by our service providers at the Nauru hospital.

ACTING CHAIR: Have those numbers increased over time? Are those 50 plus seven all medically trained service providers?

Mr Skill : Within that there are 25 primary health care providers, 15 mental health care providers and 10 management or administrator positions.

ACTING CHAIR: Can I take it that these investments will not just return health services and facilities to the state they were in before this fire—did you say last year?

Mr Skill : Absolutely—at the Nauru hospital.

ACTING CHAIR: But will improve it beyond the services that were there beforehand?

Mr Skill : That is the intention. We will have a range of additional services that will be provided, ideally jointly, between IHMS and the Nauru health providers on the ground. The vision, as it were, is to have a joined up health service, where it is provided jointly by IHMS and the government of Nauru, that will be part of our support to assist Nauru in supporting the refugees that are settled on Nauru and have been settled on Nauru. Just to give you a bit of a sense of the quantum of expenditure, across both of the offshore processing or the regional processing sites in 2014-15, we spent in the vicinity of $56 million on health care.

ACTING CHAIR: I think Senator Lindgren has a couple of follow-up questions, then we will go back to Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: We were halfway through my questioning.

ACTING CHAIR: I do understand, Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: You have this ludicrous arrangement that the coalition has put in place where you cannot actually get a line of questions put.

ACTING CHAIR: Senator Carr, I think it has worked very seamlessly relative to other committees I have been involved with.

Senator KIM CARR: No, it has not worked seamlessly.

ACTING CHAIR: Until now! Until now, it has been working very seamlessly. Senator Lindgren has a couple of follow-up questions, and then you will get your full allocation of time, Senator Carr.

Senator LINDGREN: Mr Pezzullo, I am assuming this one is for you. Can you outline the status of the implementation of the Moss inquiry recommendations please?

Mr Pezzullo : Certainly. I might ask a number of colleagues to join me at the table, principally Deputy Commissioner Briscoe, who is back, as well as the head of our Integrity, Security and Assurance Division. The recommendations have been substantially implemented. I think there are a number of issues still outstanding, one of which pertains to matters that have been previously canvassed with this committee which is the resolution of complaints that former NGO service provider officers had. That matter is still on foot. But other than that, there has been substantial or indeed complete finalisation, including with respect to greater coordination between centre management, Nauruan police, our advisers and service staff et cetera. I might ask, in the first instance, Mr Hayward, who is the head of the relevant area that oversees detention assurance, to give a general overview, and the I might ask Deputy Commissioner Briscoe to speak about the detail.

Mr Hayward : Part of my division is the detention assurance branch. The detention assurance branch has been oversighting the implementation of Moss as well as being responsible for the arrangements during the Moss review. The majority of those recommendations are on the way to being implemented. There were a number—I think Ms Briscoe will go into this a little bit—where certainly actions were put in place and then the sustainability of some of that activity was reassessed and reopened for a couple of matters.

Mr Pezzullo : I will ask Deputy Commissioner Briscoe to speak to the details.

Ms Briscoe : Those 19 recommendations had 38 action items associated with them and 32 of those 38 have been implemented. With regard to the reference Mr Hayward just made, I can say that those have now been closed. I will come back to the progress. Those that remain outstanding are all well underway and predominantly involve working with the government of Nauru, so we continue to work with them to support them through those.

In relation to the recommendations that we had complete control over influencing, particularly in relation to our service providers, they have been completed. Significant work has been undertaken, particularly in the area of child protection, including supporting the government of Nauru to develop a child protection framework focussing on child safeguarding and prevention. We have also engaged the child protection panel, as the secretary mentioned earlier, to review actions taken in relation to allegations and incidents involving children.

There have been a number of actions taken in relation to safety and security, including the deployment of AFP officers to support, mentor and train the Nauru Police Force in basic investigations, community policing and dealing with child abuse and sexual assault matters. In terms of privacy and personal safety of transferees, privacy screens have been installed in family accommodation. We have created greater dispersment of families to give them more space amongst the current vacant accommodation and installed more fencing and lighting. There have also been changes to the way the service providers provide their services in the centre, particularly around arrangements for when they patrol the centres. Walking around there is always a female accompanied with another guard and in areas where there are females only, particularly in ablutions blocks, there are only female guards. A range of changes have been made in that respect. The Nauruan Police Force have also introduced a permanent police presence at the Nauru accommodation centre. Finally, in relation to ensuring that people within the centres have access to a means of talking about or raising issues, Transfield Services at our request have created further arrangements to create what we have been calling a drop-in centre, which has received some very positive feedback from transferees.

Senator LINDGREN: If one were to seek some sort of treatment from one of the health workers that were mentioned, what would the procedures be? Would there be a record of appointment or discussion, like any doctor's appointment, where they would write down information, particularly in relation to the types of medication that might be issued at that time and any possible referrals that would go on—for example, to a hospital in Sydney? If you could explain the process, that would be very helpful.

Mr Pezzullo : Senator, before asking Deputy Commissioner Briscoe, who oversees the program that Mr Skill then heads at the divisional level, can I be clear about the premise of your question, because there might be slightly different treatments here. Are these persons in RPCs on Manus or Nauru who might qualify for transfer?

Senator LINDGREN: Nauru.

Mr Pezzullo : Unless Deputy Commissioner Briscoe wishes to open the batting, I might refer to Mr Skill.

Mr Skill : As the secretary alluded to, there is a difference between refugee and transferee treatments and record keeping on Nauru. The requirement to keep appropriate medical records, though, is retained. IHMS provide comprehensive electronic records for transferees which include the date, time and nature of the consultation and any medication prescribed et cetera. That is all part of the medication management program which they have to make sure that they know who is being prescribed what. IHMS do the entirety of the healthcare spectrum for transferees for us; therefore, they have to understand everything, from what they have been prescribed and the case background et cetera leading up to a prescription, for example, and also the administration of that medication, so that there are appropriate controls on the ground. As you can imagine, medication can be quite a useful piece of contraband if people are able to collect it et cetera. So it is closely managed in that regard as well.

To your question around the records, yes, absolutely there are comprehensive records kept by IHMS. Access to those records is closely restricted as well. It is based on the need to know. For example, with regard to the referral question you asked, referrals are driven by IHMS. They will make a recommendation to the department that an individual requires a certain type of treatment. My officers will quite rightly then ask questions with regard to where that treatment could be sourced. It is only in the event that the treatment is not available in Papua New Guinea or on Nauru that we would agree to and approve the transfer to Australia for that person for treatment. As I said, IHMS do the full spectrum. They arrange medical escorts. They arrange the appointments at the hospitals, depending on where they go. As I mentioned earlier, regardless of the type of treatment that is being procured, they will go to the best possible facility that has space and availability to fit them in within the time frame.

Just to clarify the time frame question for you as well, in the event that there is an emergency request, we have an understanding and an agreement with IHMS that an emergency medivac will be approved within 60 minutes of the formal request. Other references or referrals include a time frame and an indication of the urgency of and the necessity for the treatment. For example, if we have a recommendation for somebody who might require orthopaedic review, we may well look at the time frame that is involved and the circumstances of the individual and see whether or not we can hook into one of the visiting specialists in programs that we have established on Nauru where we send in visiting specialists and they provide case care to people in specialties that are not available readily on Nauru.

ACTING CHAIR: Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: It is 15 minutes and, if you recall, the arrangement was 10. I was halfway through a session. The whole strategy here is designed to prevent proper questioning of the officers.

ACTING CHAIR: That is absurd, Senator Carr. You will have—

Senator KIM CARR: What is absurd is that it has taken you 15 minutes of filibustering. Can I ask, Secretary, whether you have been able to secure authority to provide the committee with those documents?

Mr Pezzullo : We are in the final throes of that, Senator. Just to give you an explanation so that I do not appear to be giving you a rote answer, the documents in question are also the subject of an FOI. I know that the Senate has its own prerogatives. We were just going through a normal stakeholder engagement to let people know that documents would be released. To be precisely accurate, you asked particularly for the talking points.

Senator KIM CARR: I would like the emails and the talking points.

Mr Pezzullo : The email, the talking points and I think what was then a draft media release—I do not see any reason, subject to some final stakeholder engagement through the course of the afternoon, they cannot be released.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you.

Mr Pezzullo : We do have a release deadline.

Senator KIM CARR: I understand that. We have not taken this much further in the last three hours.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, Senator, I am not trying to be unhelpful it, in fact to the contrary. We are on a time line; we have an FOI deadline of this Friday. We are just expediting that so that the same stakeholders who we did not surprise on Friday will not be surprised this afternoon.

Senator KIM CARR: I have questions on this issue and I would like to see the documents. As soon as we see the documents, we can get this matter dealt with.

Mr Pezzullo : Understood. I am sure I will have advice very shortly.

Senator KIM CARR: Can I return to the questions that I was asking before the break about a number of SES officers that have departed. Is this part of the cultural change?

Dr Charker : Returning to those questions, we are in the process, as we speak, of tracking down the precise origins of incoming and outgoing SES over that time period that I mentioned. In particular, we are just trying to be precise on the numbers of incoming SES who came in not simply by virtue of the merger of the two organisations. We anticipate having that information to you fairly shortly this afternoon.

Senator KIM CARR: So, Mr Secretary, is this part of your program of cultural change to actually purge the SES?

Mr Pezzullo : No, there is no purge. At the time of Mr Morrison's announcement on14 May; at the time of the portfolio being put under new leadership in October last year, when I was appointed secretary and Mr Quaedvlieg was appointed as commissioner; or subsequently, on 1 July, when we merged the organisation, anyone who had the requisite skills, aptitude and desire to continue working in the integrated department was very welcome to do so—exceedingly welcome, in fact—because their knowledge of their particular area of expertise in either the Customs Service or the immigration department would have been invaluable, but some people make different choices.

Senator KIM CARR: I am looking forward to your final figures, but it does strike me that there is a very significant turnover in SES officers.

Mr Pezzullo : I have given evidence on this question before, back in May, and I will refresh my memory as to what I precisely said, but we had a number of engagements that I described to the Senate at the time. In the case of SES decisions and subsequent SES movements, they are all personally, in the end, drawn to my attention and discussed with me—in fact, the officers come and see me—and there have been a variety of motivations. Some people, as I indicated at the time, felt that they had either joined the Custom Service, as it then was, or, in the case of your question more particularly, the immigration department. What was emerging was a different kind of construct with a different kind of remit and a different sort of span of responsibilities. Some people felt it was time to move on, not necessarily because they were at the end of their working careers, but in some cases people decided they were. In other cases different opportunities arose: transfers that I can recall to mind to other departments at level, which were enticing and interesting opportunities. In other cases, people decided to get out of government service and to go into other fields of work, so there are a variety of explanations.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Pezzullo, how do you respond to the allegation, I suppose it is—the repeated claim I have read that you are militarising the department?

Mr Pezzullo : Well, militarisation has a particular connotation; it involves military forces being created. That is not our job. You will need to go to the defence department to speak to them about that. By reference to militarisation, I think the other phrase I have seen used is the paramilitarisation—that is, the advent of the Australian Border Force. I would say that there is nothing particularly unique or different about that, other than for the fact that the ABF, as we discussed earlier in relation to other matters, has now got a remit over the Migration Act in terms of its enforcement. But, in terms of the uniformed component, which might be the antecedence for this claim of paramilitarisation or indeed militarisation, Customs officers have been in uniform—I stand to be corrected—I think for the entirety of their history going back to 1901 as one of the foundational departments of state. I think they had a certain set of accoutrements and visual identifications. That uniform, obviously, has evolved over time. The uniform that you see the commissioner in—and I think he has two deputy commissioners—is derived from the last Customs uniform; it is perhaps slightly darker. So there is nothing unusual about that in the Customs space.

I think what some of the commentators, and they speak in good faith and I am sure with all the best intentions, are remarking upon is the introduction of a uniformed component into the enforcement of the Migration Act. That is to say, going right back to 1945 with the establishment of the original Department of Immigration by the then Chifley government, it always had a security function. It always had a compliance function; it had liaison with ASIO, for instance, from day one. It had means and mechanisms to deal with overstayers.

Those functions were performed by Australian public servants under the legislation, the Migration Act, which has obviously been amended many times since. The essential core function of compliance was undertaken, up until 1 July this year, by what you might term 'civilian' public servants who, unlike the ABF—but otherwise nothing has changed—did not have powers of arrest and did not have powers to apply police-standard investigative and operational procedures. So part of the modernisation that we are seeking to introduce under the commissioner's leadership is to professionalise that function. Indeed, we have a strategic relationship with the police, which I mentioned in my opening statement. All of our investigative functions, for instance, are overseen by a seconded assistant commissioner of the AFP.

If those threads are drawn together—I could go on, but I will not because I have made the general point—and seen as 'militarisation', I think that is an inappropriate use of the word 'militarisation'. If it is seen as paramilitarisation, again I think that is an overreach. If, however, commentators more accurately choose to describe that as the introduction of a law enforcement approach—that is to say, uniformed officers, some of whom you see at the table, with arrest powers, who are trained to the standard of law enforcement practitioners, including in relation to investigations, and which, as I have said, are overseen by an AFP member—then, yes, I think the commissioner and I, and perhaps even the minister, if I can speak for her, would accept that a law enforcement standard and a professionalisation to law enforcement standards have been certainly introduced as a result of government direction.

Other than that, other than the words that I have used, I reject completely any suggestion that there has been any kind of overreach as would be connoted by the notion of militarisation.

Senator KIM CARR: How would you describe morale in the department at the moment?

Mr Pezzullo : It is a busy department. It is stressed; it is stretched. It has lots of things to do, like many departments of state. It is particularly busy because of the volumes that we have to deal with. Our job is to keep the Australian border open—that is our primary role—and then, within that, to ensure that our community safety is not impaired. It is mixed. There are some areas that are highly motivated, have very high levels of morale and have a very clear view of what is required of them. But then there are other areas. Whether that is reflected in the feelings that staff have in relation to the offer that was made to them on the enterprise agreement is, I think, a factor that probably needs to be taken into account, as are the quite significant changes in the department. If you joined the immigration department in, I will not say the 1960s but perhaps the 1970s or 1980s, it is a very different arrangement. If you even joined the Customs service in that time, there have been big changes. I think change does give rise to anxiety. I think change gives rise to, in some cases, uncertainty that then leads to anxiety. So the answer to your question is that I would say it is mixed.

Senator KIM CARR: You have had recently—you have discussed this with the committee—very serious problems of corruption. You have had clearly—

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, is this in relation to the immigration department or to the Customs service?

Senator KIM CARR: No, I am talking about the Customs service. It was a serious allegation; in fact, it was proven.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes, indeed. There are former Customs officers in jail.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, that is right—for the importation of firearms.

Mr Pezzullo : Well, of drugs in particular.

Senator KIM CARR: Clearly, there are areas where I would have thought that people would require change, absolutely require change. No-one would argue with that. But a 'no' vote of 91 per cent on the enterprise agreement discussion is pretty high by Commonwealth public service standards, isn't it?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not think it requires much of a comparator; 91 per cent is a big number in any circumstance. As I said in my opening statement, and Dr Charker can assist with further detail, we have engaged with our staff in good faith leading up to the original bargaining that was undertaken in relation to the first package. We took it to a ballot. The staff have said no, very clearly and emphatically. Ninety-one per cent is 91 per cent. I think in your game that would be considered to be a bit of a wipe-out. We are surveying our staff: what is it about the package that most challenges you in terms of its acceptability? We will reconsider the package and, consistent with the government's enterprise agreement bargaining framework as it applies to the APS, we will in good faith put a new package to our staff.

Senator KIM CARR: I appreciate the point you have made in your statement and I also note your comments about job losses that will come as a result of this process.

Mr Pezzullo : Potential. I did stress that.

Senator KIM CARR: You say a reduction of 184 employees, and if there is to be a better offer one presumes that will be a higher number.

Mr Pezzullo : The government's parameters obviously have to be complied with. There are very strict formulae in place in terms of how to derive both the affordability of the package and the productivity measures that one would seek to use to underpin any enterprise agreement. As you would expect, in a period of fiscal austerity we have basically gone to the well many, many times in response to other senators asking about efficiencies, consolidation, merging back offices. Dr Charker made reference to the efficiencies that we were seeking to gain from the consolidation of our headquarters, for instance. The well is pretty dry, Senator, so there are going to be difficult trade-offs to be made here.

Senator KIM CARR: I can appreciate the way in which you are putting your case. I am not saying I agree with that. It is a matter of government policy on wages, and there are inevitable consequences of that which you are now having to cope with. But I am concerned as well with the appearance that this lends to the problem we have with morale. You do not get these sorts of numbers unless people are feeling pretty ordinary.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, the confluence in terms of morale and—

Senator KIM CARR: I am saying there is a divergence here, and with the change culture you are introducing there are clearly areas of the department, and areas of the service, that require substantial change. We have highlighted that you cannot have criminal activity in the Commonwealth of Australia service—anywhere. But that obviously leads to quite a serious situation. It cannot be anything other than posing serious questions about what is going on in the service. But also I am saying that a very large number of job losses are occurring and I am suggesting to you that a 91 per cent no vote on an enterprise agreement is reflecting more than the fact that it is a lousy deal you are putting to them; there is a much deeper level of malaise within the service of which you are the head. What do you say to that?

CHAIR: That is not a question. If you want to answer it—

Mr Pezzullo : Chair, I do not wish to leave unremarked or unrecognised the reference to malaise. I did not put it in those terms. Senator, that is your rhetorical point. I do not think that there is malaise.

CHAIR: I would not bother to answer it, if I were you. But it is up to you.

Mr Pezzullo : I think it is important, Chair, in terms of both the commissioner and I making a very clear statement here that we are very conscious of the different pressures for our staff, some of which relate to operational pressures I mentioned and some of which relate to change. I am very open to speak to the committee. I have spoken to this committee before both as the chief executive of Customs and then as the secretary of the smaller department, the original department. One factor that might be in play, for instance, is the introduction of very strict integrity measures, which I note from the premise of your question you would agree with. Mr Clare started a significant reform program in the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service under the former government. That was very strongly supported, endorsed and continued by ministers Morrison and Dutton, who were also the ministers for Customs under the arrangements put in place in September 2013 with the advent of the Abbott government.

I have to say, Senator, that some of those things are pretty confronting—drug testing, alcohol testing, integrity testing, which is a lawful measure passed by this parliament whereby staff who are persons of interest in internal corruption investigations can be the subject of undercover integrity operations, which we have spoken about before in relation to Customs. I think it is fair to say that these are not normal. I do not wish to stereotype or in any way to caricature the Public Service, but these are not normal APS arrangements. I think it is fair to say that if you had joined the immigration department or the Customs Service, although they were a bit further down the track because of the corruption issues that you have mentioned—and thinking of my own personal views that if I joined a department—in the seventies, eighties, nineties or the two-thousands and then all of a sudden a very different construct starts to emerge: there is a uniformed element—which was understood in Customs but never in Immigration—drug tests start to come in—the reason why we did that by the way is that the information systems are not compartmented such that if an officer in what is now called the Department wished to access sensitive information around narcotics importations they potentially could—alcohol testing, the integrity testing that I mentioned, change itself—new functional arrangements being arrived at, consolidation of what I call the back-of-house functions, detention operations for instance being put under the remit of the commissioner and his officers—I can absolutely understand, and I think that I speak for the commissioner as well, that would create uncertainty and anxiety in some staff. I know that because people have told us personally, they send us emails and we do internal staff surveys. Then on top of that, I do not wish to endorse or recognise your reference to 'a lousy deal'; it was the best deal that was able to be put under the parameters of both productivity and affordability requirements, I could see how all of those things cumulatively might indeed play into a 91 per cent negative vote. Yes, indeed.

Senator XENOPHON: I refer to a report in SBS media on 16 October that Australia’s growing international trade with India could increase illicit drug shipments. The theme of that report refers to Australia’s growing international trade may be increasing the opportunities for illicit drug shipments in terms of various trade agreements. The rationale is that unless you have an increase in resources with the increased levels of trade, there may be an opportunity—particularly in India, which is a huge producer of both pharmaceuticals and ephedrine, as is China—that you will see increasing quantities that could come out of those countries. Firstly, is Border Force concerned that these trade agreements will increase illegal drug shipments or the risk of doing so given the nature of the agreement and the potential for that increase in illegal shipments, particularly of ephedrine?

Mr Quaedvlieg : To answer your latter question first, yes we are aware that the free trade architecture not just with India and China but also with other partners may expose us to risk of prohibited goods coming from those countries. But can I say that our drug enforcement settings in this country have matured quite significantly over a period of time. We are putting a lot of effort into doing underlying intelligence assessments. That essentially means—I will use India as an example—if you take the likely drug threat coming out of India, it is likely to be precursor chemicals. India has a very large pharmaceutical, very large veterinary industry and the risk for Australia out of any free trade arrangement with India is likely to be in the domain of precursors. At the border we have a number of settings, we conduct some intelligence assessments at the country level, we do some tactical assessments in term of entities that we know of in India and we share our intelligence with our enforcement agencies—we do a lot of work which ends up setting profiles and alerts on our integrated cargo system. For example, if we get a bunch of consignments out of India from an importer who we have no history on and it arises out of one of the key pharmaceutical or veterinary or other chemical industries in India then those sorts of profiles start making us pay attention. Those consignments will be flagged, they will be given a priority rating—

Senator XENOPHON: My time is very constrained, the issue is that there will be an increase in trade with countries such as China and India with either impending and future trade agreements—do you agree with that proposition?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, hopefully.

Senator XENOPHON: That means that there will be an increased risk, given the pharmaceutical industry in China and in India. Will there be a commensurate and requisite increase in resources for the Australian Border Force to ensure that there can be enough interception of what could be a real risk—

Mr Quaedvlieg : I understand the question. In relation to the specifics of the FTA, there is no specific increase of Australian Border Force resources relating to the FTAs. However, we are in the process of actually increasing our resourcing and screening efforts at the border as a result of a new policy initiative which came in last year called Tackling Crime. That has given us increased numeric screening numbers to implement at the border. So we are actually doing that.

Senator XENOPHON: Finally, I will put this on notice—I will put a number of questions on notice. What risk assessment has been done with these free trade agreements in terms of the risk of illicit substances coming in, particularly precursors to crystal methamphetamine, which, of course, is a huge community concern because of its impact. Effectively, what risk assessment has been done by the Australian Border Force? I will put that on notice.

Mr Quaedvlieg : We have been consulted on those, and I will take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Pezzullo, I have some questions that I want to go on with in relation to ABF, but I just wanted to finish up the questions in relation to Abyan. I just wanted to clarify the minister's comments this morning in his interview with Fran Kelly, which you have kindly distributed the transcript for. He goes through a list of the interactions that this young woman had with nurses and/or other medical officers while she was here in Australia. I just want to clarify: is that every single interaction that she had? The minister basically read through a list. I just want to make sure we know what list he is actually referring to.

Mr Pezzullo : Without doing a textual analysis of the transcript plus the chronology that I know Mr Skill and other officers have—and no doubt the minister was operating on the basis of advice—I do not know whether he read every serial out. But I listened to the interview; it sounded very comprehensive. Whether it was all the serials, I just do not know. Perhaps Mr Skill can add to that response; otherwise, we can take it on notice and do a more detailed check with the minister and his office.

Mr Skill : I think we will have to do a complete comparison between what the minister notified this morning and what our records indicate. However, he did indicate that there were consultations with a number of mental health nurses over a number of days. He did indicate that there were consultations with the clinic—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Just to be clear, the minister never used the word 'consultation'.

Mr Skill : Sorry, 'interactions', to use the—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: 'Reviews' is what it was. My next question is: what is a review?

Mr Skill : I think it comes down to terminology. The individual was seen, to use another word, by the medical professionals on a number of occasions. I would have to do a complete cross-reference between what the minister said—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you could take that on notice, I would appreciate knowing what those interactions are.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Senator Hanson-Young, perhaps, if I can, I have the transcript in front of me and—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: As I do, too.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Yes, I am just looking at where Mr Dutton, on page 2, refers to 'consultation'.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Page 3, where he goes through the chronology of the appointments, is what I am referring to.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I think he does use the word 'consultation'.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Good. At least there was one of them.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: There were a number of them.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: My point is, Minister, that I would like to know from Mr Skill what they consist of, because this is clearly an issue of dispute, and I want to know what they are. Abyan, I understand, sought painkillers several times during her time in Villawood. Is that what some of these include, or are they all organised appointments? I would like a list of her interactions.

Mr Skill : I would be happy to provide that to you, if I get approval from her to access her records.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you.

Mr Pezzullo : It might be that we would prefer to take it on notice so that I can review the actual information. The minister obviously acts on advice, and Mr Skill's area has no doubt generated some of this information. As to whether something is a review or a consultation, I think I would rather be very precise in our response, so my preference is to take it on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Please do. I would like it to be precisely what occurred. Could I also ask—

CHAIR: I want to clarify something Mr Skill said. Did you say you would have to seek the consent of the person to divulge—

Mr Skill : —to access the records.

CHAIR: To access the records that Senator Hanson-Young is asking for?

Mr Skill : Yes. We have been able to access a chronology of the types of consultations, but what went on within those consultations is—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am simply asking what the types of consultations are. I am not asking for what was discussed or anything like that. I am asking what they actually were, because that information has not been provided.

Mr Skill : No worries, Senator.

CHAIR: But you will still have to get permission?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No. He has that information. He just said that.

Mr Skill : I think it is going to be a fine line. That is why the secretary quite rightly said earlier that we should take this on notice. We have to confirm what it is we are able to provide without her consent, and what we can provide with her consent.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I understand that her lawyers have also asked on her behalf for all of her medical files.

Mr Skill : We have also indicated to the lawyers that we require her written consent to provide them to the lawyers.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has that communication happened today?

Mr Skill : No. It happened on Wednesday, when we had our initial conversation with the lawyers.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There is a fresh request in today from her lawyers, requesting full access on her behalf to her own medical files. She wants to see her own medical files. Will you comply with that?

Mr Skill : Yes, we understand that. I understand that we have gone back to the lawyers and indicated that we do require her consent.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Today?

Mr Skill : That is my understanding. I will confirm whether that correspondence has actually gone, but that is certainly the position: that we require her consent, because she is a refugee. She has refugee health records that we cannot access without her written consent, and we asked for that so that we could investigate some of the claims that were made by her lawyer earlier in the week with regard to lack of care. We were not provided with that permission.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you will respond to that request of hers as she has submitted today?

Mr Skill : Her lawyer has submitted that.

CHAIR: In view of the allegations and the lawyers, I would be very careful, if I were you.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I want to clarify that this is the second interaction in relation to consent. I think , Mr Skill, you have indicated that there was interaction in relation to consent a few days ago, and now again today.

Mr Skill : Correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Did the minister seek Abyan's approval prior to his interview this morning?

Mr Skill : I cannot comment on that. I do not know. I would not think he would have needed to, given the content of the advice was—again, we are going to confirm. We provided basic information about the types of consultations that had been provided. I think it was put in the public domain by the claims by Mr Newhouse and also by the individual's letter that was posted on various media outlets overnight. Those allegations or claims indicated that there were no doctors.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You mean her words of her own feelings?

Mr Skill : I do not know. I have not seen the signature or the actual letter.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You have not read the actual letter?

Mr Skill : I have read the letter, but not the hard copy. I have seen a scanned image with a signature blurred out, so I cannot be sure that it is hers.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I will move on.

CHAIR: That would be wise.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: One of the issues that Abyan has raised herself is that she did not have access to interpreters during the interactions that she had with medical staff. The minister says that she did. Is that because he is referring to an interpreter via the telephone?

Mr Skill : I would have to confirm that. I have been advised that interpreters were available. I do not know whether that was on the phone or in person. I would have to check that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was there an interpreter available 24 hours a day while Abyan was in Villawood Detention Centre who speaks her language?

Mr Skill : That would be subject to the availability of the TIS—translation availability.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you do not know the answer to that question. It is an issue that the minister has wanted to debate, and you do not know the facts?

Mr Skill : I know the facts that there were interpreters present at the vast majority of the interactions or consultations.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is what I am asking. Present in what form?

Senator KIM CARR: The issue is what language would these interpreters have been speaking.

Mr Pezzullo : If Mr Skill does not have that information at his fingertips, we have already agreed, subject to—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Skill, can you get that information so that we can get it out tonight, please?

CHAIR: Hang on, Senator Hanson-Young. Let the secretary finish what he is saying and then we will come to you.

Mr Pezzullo : I am becoming increasingly concerned to ensure that there seems to be both media interactions here—the minister was at pains to state this morning, as I heard him, that he is reluctant to get into too much detail, but there were certain pertinent facts that legal representatives had put on the record that he wished to engage on. There appears to be correspondence that is circulating today, I think you have referenced it yourself. I have been sitting at his table since nine o'clock so I have not had a chance to review that myself. My preference is to take this on notice, which is not to return to this matter today with an incomplete, impartial and potentially erroneous chronology for this committee. This is a sensitive, delicate matter. The less that is spoken about it in what I would call real time—with lawyers sending letters, Mr Skill having to take advice and respond to those letters—on the day that we are sitting the better. I would prefer to come back on notice. You asked some questions about the chronology last week and there might be some elements that Mr Skill can acquit today, because it is now of a historical record. For matters that are breaking today, I would like the chance to review those matters myself. My preference would be to take them notice, if that pleases the committee.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am happy for you to do that, but just to reiterate, my questions are around the interpreters and access to interpreters is based on last week's events and a chronology that Mr Dutton read out on radio. I would like to know whether those interpreters were in person or over the telephone and were they in Ms Abyan's own language?

Mr Pezzullo : If they are any basic facts about last week's events that we can return to the committee throughout the course of this afternoon and this evening, we will. I apologise if I misheard you, Senator, but anything that relates to matters that appear to be known to you about correspondence being sent today, my preference as secretary would be to review these matters myself and to not provide advice on the run to the committee about what is contemporaneous events.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am more than happy for that to occur. I would like to move on to another topic. There has been a bit of talk around that more ABF officers are being armed. How many officers in the Australian Border Force carry guns.

Mr Pezzullo : I will ask the commissioner to commence the detailed evidence. The broader response to your question is that a number of Customs officers were armed—all of those officers, whether by position or by a person, who have come across to the ABF will continue to carry that competency if they certify and recertify. The government took a decision last year to create counter-terrorism units at the airport, they are armed. There is a program that the commissioner can explain in more detail that as the ABF's capabilities are enhanced and they go into more situations—particularly when they are in partnership with other law enforcement agencies—there will be a consideration given by the commissioner to the arming of those offices. It essentially has three components. Firstly, there are the former legacy Customer officers who were armed—either the person themselves or the positions. Secondly, there are the counter-terrorism unit officers. Thirdly, there is the future arming of officers. I might ask the commissioner to give you the details.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Just a couple of points of detail to the secretary's response then I will ask Assistant Commissioner Peter Docwra, who is in charge of our Border Force Capability Division, to answer questions in more detail in terms of the training. The legacy functions within Customs that have been armed for quite a period of time—I think seven or either years, but I will get some more precision on that—are the maritime unit, the surveillance operatives, investigators, and some enforcement staff. It is the intent to increase the number of officers who are able to use force up to and including lethal. However, we need to go through an assessment process in terms of the functions. The secretary has mentioned the latter edition of the counted-terrorism unit teams at the airports. We note an enterprise decision to arm those officers. All officers in the CTU teams as they take up the positions will be armed in the future. There may be some other roles that require officers to be armed, but it is about the function and not about the individual officers—I think that is an important distinction to make. Where we make a judgement that a function ought to be conducted by an armed officer, no person without a formal qualification will be able to take up those positions. The curriculum that we have put in place emulates the policing standard. In fact, we have adopted the Australian Federal Police standard in terms of the use of force, and that includes recertification on a periodic basis. In terms of the number of officers who are armed in the ABF, I think it is under 1,000, but I will ask Peter Docwra if he has any more detail in relation to numbers.

Mr Docwra : As the commissioner said, we do not have officers who are permanently armed per se. The latest number of officers who are trained to carry firearms is in the order of 1,000. During the course of this briefing I will get the exact number for you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is that an increase overall? I understand that there are some people who have been carried over from the old Customs unit, but overall this is an increase—is that right?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, that is right. It is an increase.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many people are we talking about, or how many positions are we talking about as an increase?

Mr Docwra : I do not have an exact number. As the commissioner said, there are a number of new functions. The functional review and the risk assessment process is new, so we do not have a previous number to compare it to. I can get an order of magnitude figure for the officers who were previously qualified under the old Customs and Border Protection Service for you shortly.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What type of guns do they carry?

CHAIR: Is this confidential or secret?

Mr Quaedvlieg : It should be. I believe they are 9 millimetre Glocks, but I will get confirmation of that. The entirety of our side-arms are Glocks, but in the main they are Glock 9 millimetres.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has there been any reaction internally within the Border Force staff in relation to more people being required to carry guns as a result of these changes?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Anecdotally, the notion of officers carrying firearms is quite alien to parts of the department that hitherto had not had exposure to that. I think that is probably a fair point to make. I would like to make the point that there is no intention to rollout firearms to every single officer in the Australian Border Force. They are finite—they will depend on the function. Many of the functions that I have described earlier are those primary functions which require a firearm for defensive purposes. I would not want to see Australian Border Force officers carrying firearms when there is no need for them to require firearms; however, having said that, we need to recognise that there are functions and situations that are contingent where our officers need to be able to protect themselves and others. It is those judgements we will make in terms of which positions ought to have an officer carrying firearms.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You said 'enforcement staff', as well—who does that include?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Primarily, they are the officers who work on the sea walls.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So there are no enforcement staff at Australian based detention centres?

Mr Quaedvlieg : There are Australian Border Force officers at detention centres, but they are not armed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there any suggestion that that is going to happen?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What safety procedures are in place to keep track of the guns that the ABF have had to procure because of these changes?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Let me correct the premise of your question. We had existing firearms on issue to staff in the hundreds before we moved into the Australian Border Force construct, and we will carry over and improve on the arrangements. The management of a firearm inventory—the maintenance, the issuance, the records of who has a firearm at any given point in time—is something that is intrinsic to enforcement. You cannot run an organisation which has the capacity to use up to lethal force without having the appropriate governance, compliance and auditing in place. Without being exhaustive, there is governance in terms of armouries and the recording of persons, both in terms of who has a firearm and whether they are qualified to have a firearm. Any time there is an incident involving a firearm there is an immediate inquiry, even if that firearm is withdrawn from a holster, let alone been used. That governance is in place. On the assurance component of the organisation, which is quite separate from the governance of the issue and use of firearms, there is an oversight mechanism through our internal audit processes. Then we have scrutiny from external scrutiny bodies in the form of the Ombudsman and the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many guns are in circulation?

CHAIR: We might have to leave it there, unless there is a—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They might be able to answer that question quickly.

CHAIR: Okay. If there are only one or two questions on that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am nearly finished, Senator Macdonald. How many guns are in circulation?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will take that on notice. Let me state this: there are a variety of weaponry within the Australian Border Force, not all of which are side-arms. We have larger weapons that we use on some of our maritime assets and we have long-arms for domains such as that. So, there is going to be a bit of a breakdown in terms of the type of weapon and the function.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That would be helpful.

Mr Quaedvlieg : We are quite happy to take that on notice and break that down as much as we can for you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A final question: were any of the Australian Border Force officers who were going to be involved in Operation Fortitude going to be armed?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No.

CHAIR: Mr Pezzullo or Mr Skill, just while you are taking some questions on notice, I assume that anything the minister says on radio—and we helpfully have the transcript; thank you for that—would be information that he would only get from the department.

Mr Pezzullo : He stated it several times, as I heard him and as I am advised. It is the responsibility of my department and the officers to provide him with advice.

CHAIR: Secondly—and I am not sure whether this is a fair question to Mr Skills—in the talk about interpreters, are we able to ascertain that the statement allegedly signed by this lady and no doubt written in English was actually explained to her by an interpreter? Would we have any way of—

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know if Mr Skills has direct knowledge. If it is a statement that has been put by her legal representatives, you can take it as read that we would not have been involved in its preparation. What Mr Newhouse or Shine Lawyers did to arrive at a position that she comprehended what was put in front of her, that she understood it lucidly and was willing to sign it, I am not sure that it is a matter that we can really help you with, unless Mr Skill has that got definitive advice to the contrary.

Mr Skill : The document that we have seen is handwritten. It purports to be from the individual. Unfortunately—

CHAIR: Is it handwritten in English or in some other language?

Mr Skill : It is in English but it is poor quality English. But it is in English. It is legible. It is intelligible. You can understand what is being said. And that in itself raises some questions with regard to the claims that are contained therein. The individual stated that she had only seen a nurse during her time in Australia. That is patently wrong. So that is what introduces an element of doubt in my mind as to the veracity of the document. However, as I said before, I have not seen the actual document. The signature is blurred, so we cannot confirm that it is the person.

CHAIR: So the person in question who needs interpreters has a good enough command of English to write out a statement herself.

Mr Skill : Evidently, Senator, yes.

Mr Pezzullo : I think Mr Skill indicated that it appears to be fairly fractured English. Is it?

Mr Skill : It is.

CHAIR: My English is pretty fractured some say too, Mr Pezzullo. But if the person was able to write out a statement in intelligible English, if not copybook English—

Mr Skill : My advice is that during a number of the consultations—and they were consultations during the week; I have been able to confirm that while we have been away from the table—the treating GP at Villawood indicated that her English was of a suitable standard to be able to understand interactions in English.

Mr Pezzullo : Verbally.

Mr Skill : Verbally. However, for an abundance of caution, interpreters were provided. I understand that they were telephone interpreters, which is a broad practice; but, again, we are confirming that for Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator KIM CARR: I am just wondering, Senator, whether you or, if not you, one of the officers perhaps could help me with this. Senator Nova Peris sought to visit Christmas Island and had the agreement, as I put it, of the contractor of the detention facility on 9 October.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, I missed the very first part of your question.

Senator KIM CARR: I will ask the assistant minister at the table and then you. Are you aware that on 9 October Senator Nova Peris sought to visit the Christmas Island detention facility, which I understand is in her electorate?

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I am not aware, but I will ask if Mr Pezzullo is aware of that.

Mr Pezzullo : No. I am not aware. The ninth was 10 days ago. I probably would have expected to have been advised if a senator had so asked, but I am certainly not aware. It might have been that—

Senator KIM CARR: Are any other offices aware?

Mr Pezzullo : I might see if there are any officers either at the table or in our support areas who might know. But, no, it is not personally known to me. I will just have a slight pause to see if any officers are—

Senator KIM CARR: able to identify a knowledge of this matter.

Mr Pezzullo : able to assist. We will take—

Senator KIM CARR: I am told that Serco agreed to the visit but that the department refused Senator Peris's request to visit the facility.

Mr Pezzullo : I might ask the commissioner who oversees detention operations to explain the approvals process, without in any way asking the commissioner to comment on something that he has no direct knowledge of. The centres, certainly from 1 July of this year, are not run by Serco. Serco provides support services. They are run by the commissioner. There are protocols in place to support the visit of VIPs. A senator would certainly qualify as a VIP. I might ask the commissioner to speak either directly or through one of his officers to the approval process. If in the course of that evidence other colleagues are able to ascertain the facts of what may or may not have happened on 9 October, then all to the good.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Briefly, let me confirm I have no knowledge of an application by the senator in relation to a visit to Christmas Island. The secretary is correct: as of 1 July the ultimate accountability for the operation of the centres sits with the Australian Border Force. There is a process in place for visitations. Requests can be submitted through the Serco process by either detainees or visitors who wish to meet the detainees. Those applications are assessed. A number of factors come into play in relation to why they should or should not be allowed. One of those factors is the profile of the visitor. Visitors with a higher profile bring a greater security risk in terms of managing that person through a centre. We need to ensure that they do not create a public disorder event or that they are not vulnerable to some sort of assault themselves. It does require a higher level of assessment in relation to high-profile visitors. I have no information on the specific matter that you mentioned. I will take it on notice—

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you, yes.

Mr Quaedvlieg : unless Deputy Commissioner Outram has any further information on either the process or the senator's application.

Mr Outram : I am not aware of an application by that particular senator. What I can say is that on the ninth of this month Minister Dutton was on Christmas Island with me visiting the facility. A couple of days before that there was an issue of the maintenance of good order. There was basically a small riot in the facility. It was very quickly quelled by Serco. I am not aware of an application being made. Generally speaking the department will deal with applications for official visitors, which includes members and senators. Generally speaking—and this is on the website—we would ask for seven days notice of such a visit.

Senator KIM CARR: First of all, could you confirm that an application was made, because that may well explain it. You are saying that there was no application.

Mr Outram : I did not say that. I am not aware of an application.

Senator KIM CARR: That is right. I understand that. But it is strange that a senator from the Northern Territory who sought to visit the facility is not known to you. If there was an application, could you indicate to us the reason for the rejection of that application.

CHAIR: Senator Carr, I think everyone at the table said they know nothing about it and they will make inquiries and get back to you.

Senator KIM CARR: You mentioned there was a small riot. What was the nature of the small riot?

Mr Outram : There was a disturbance. We have a number of what we call 501 detainees in a particular compound. A number of these detainees decided that they were going to misbehave. They equipped themselves with makeshift weapons. The Serco emergency response team very quickly went in and got the situation under control. I think 12 or 13 detainees were separated and put in another compound where they were able to be managed.

Senator KIM CARR: What date was that?

Mr Outram : The seventh.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Pezzullo, are you familiar with the minister's trip to Geneva?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes, indeed I am. I was not on it, but the department supported it.

Senator KIM CARR: How did that trip go?

Mr Pezzullo : It was a successful visit that involved a meeting, as the minister has since described in the media and I think in a ministerial statement in the parliament, with High Commissioner Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Senator KIM CARR: That took place in Geneva?

Mr Pezzullo : By the time we were able to get the minister and the high commissioner in the same city, I think it ended up being in Paris. The high commissioner was involved in other meetings with EU officials related to what is happening in Europe. I think the minister, though, from memory—and I will have to get the sequence right—either went to Paris first to have the meeting with the High Commissioner, his Excellency Mr Guterres, and then flew to Geneva for their meetings with subordinates both within the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as well, as I recall it, the International Organization for Migration—and I think also the International Committee of the Red Cross, from memory—and then he made his way back to Australia.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you very much. Can I just follow up the questions—

Mr Pezzullo : Just to be clear: I hope I have not given too conclusive evidence. I cannot quite recall to mind the sequence of the travel, but I think it was Paris then Geneva.

Senator KIM CARR: Right. Is the department able to advise when the refugee who was deported on Friday night and who has been spoken about at estimates hearings today last saw a medical professional on Nauru?

Mr Pezzullo : I might ask Mr Skill to resume his place at the table. I am assuming it would have been on the eve of or shortly before her travel to Australia for the transfer for the medical procedure, because there would have been not necessarily a consultation around the procedure itself, but a consultation around her fitness to travel. But I might just see if Mr Skill has further and better particulars.

Mr Skill : The individual was seen by medical professionals on Nauru in the two days before she travelled to Australia.

Senator KIM CARR: Was that a nurse or a doctor?

Mr Skill : I would have to check that, but I believe she was an in-patient, so it would have been both.

Senator KIM CARR: Was an interpreter available for that consultation?

Mr Skill : I will have to check that detail.

Senator KIM CARR: Have there been any medical consultations since her return to Nauru?

Mr Skill : My advice is that she has engaged with IHMS mental health support, but I do not have any further detail with regard to the content of that.

Senator KIM CARR: If you could get details of that. I am particularly interested in whether there was an doctor or nurse in that regard. Can I go to the issue of onshore management. How many detainees are currently in the onshore detention network?

Mr Pezzullo : I will ask the commissioner and his officers to speak to that question.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I had a figure, which was current as at 30 September, of I think 2,688 persons in detention—onshore.

Senator KIM CARR: How many were children?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Sorry, there might be a correction here.

Mr Outram : 2,044 on 30 September.

Senator KIM CARR: How many of the 2,044 are children?

Mr Outram : I have a total of 66 male children and 47 female children out of that.

Senator KIM CARR: How many are unaccompanied minors?

Mr Outram : Unaccompanied minors on the mainland—I have one.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. I was wondering if you could go through the reasons people are in detention. How many are in detention as a result of having their visa on a mandatory basis cancelled or on character grounds?

Mr Outram : Can I just say that of the children, some would be on the mainland from Nauru. So I should say that that is a fluid number. I will get to the issue of the current cancellations.

Unidentified speaker: Sorry, what did you say then?

Mr Outram : Some of the children on the mainland in mainland detention are here from Nauru, so the numbers do fluctuate.

Senator KIM CARR: So they have returned to Australia—

Mr Outram : Because a family member or they may require medical treatment.

Senator KIM CARR: It is for medical purposes?

Mr Outram : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: It is temporary?

Mr Outram : Yes. So the numbers fluctuate in other words. That is the point I am making.

Senator KIM CARR: Sure. And how many of those here on a temporary basis are from Nauru?

Mr Outram : Eighty.

Senator KIM CARR: Sorry.

Mr Outram : Eighty, eight zero.

Senator KIM CARR: I am sorry, I am having trouble hearing your microphone. How many people are in the network because of mandatory visa cancellations?

Mr Outram : I have a very detailed breakdown and I am trying to find an aggregate number for you. I will have to go by facilities because that is what I have in front of me. I am talking about cancellations under section 501 and that means they are either mandatory cancellations or they are character cancellations. There have been 130 at Villawood, 40 at Maribyrnong, 94 on Christmas Island, 85 at Yongah Hill, 11 at Perth IDC, two at Adelaide ITA, five at Brisbane ITA and 15 at Wickham Point. That was at the 30 September.

Senator KIM CARR: How many of those are New Zealand citizens?

Mr Outram : I am told there are 226 New Zealand citizens in onshore immigration detention.

Senator KIM CARR: Was that 226?

Mr Outram : Yes, in detention, and there are 196 who are subject to character cancellation.

Senator KIM CARR: There are 196 cancellations, are there?

Mr Outram : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: When I talk about the network, I am including Christmas Island. We are not at cross purposes?

Mr Outram : No, I mentioned Christmas Island.

Senator KIM CARR: I just want to be clear: the network is including Christmas Island?

Mr Outram : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: How many of the New Zealanders are on Christmas Island?

Mr Outram : Fifty-two.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the length of stay for people who have had their visas cancelled either because they have been in jail or because of character grounds?

Mr Outram : I would have to take that one on notice in terms of getting average length of stay. Of course, once someone comes out of prison there is a returns process, but of course they have a right to seek revocation of the cancellation decision and there could be all sorts of other legal and judicial processes to be gone through, so there is no fixed length of stay. People can voluntarily go back to New Zealand if they choose to do so and seek to challenge the decision from there, or they can remain in held detention if there is a problem with returning into community because they present some sort of risk to the community.

Senator KIM CARR: You have no way of telling us, even in broad terms, how long people are in detention?

Mr Outram : I can come back to you with a number on that. I do not have that number readily available at hand.

Senator KIM CARR: I take it there are people from a number of countries in the same category?

Mr Outram : Absolutely.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you give me breakdown of the other countries that have citizens in the same category?

Mr Outram : I can. I do not have the list of 501 cases to hand, but I can tell you from memory that behind the New Zealand number, which is the greatest number, there are UK nationals, people from the United States and people from other parts of Asia and Europe. I can get you the exact breakdown of the 501 cohort, but the New Zealanders are the greatest number.

Senator KIM CARR: Is the reason you have had to put them onto Christmas Island that that is the only place where we have facilities to keep them from other refugees?

Mr Outram : No. The way we place anybody within the network is not according to either where they come from, whether they are an IMA or the status of their visa. It is based on the risks. There is a very detailed risk assessment undertaken in relation to every individual in held detention. Those risk factors look at a whole range of factors from security assessments to criminal history, behaviour in jail, medical issues and ties to the local communities. There are a whole range of factors that determine where people can go. If people become high or extreme risk, though, there are only a select number of facilities where we can safely manage those sorts of people. Christmas Island is one of the best and the largest of such facilities that we have to manage those sorts of people.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. How do you determine that they are high risk? What is the basis on which you make that judgement?

Mr Outram : If they have an extensive history of violence, for example, that would be high risk, or if they have demonstrated violent behaviour in a detention facility or in prison that would be high risk, or if they have a significant criminal record which involves violence that would be high risk. So there are a whole range of factors.

Senator KIM CARR: So a history of violence?

Mr Outram : A history of violence will obviously be the most important.

Senator KIM CARR: Is that why you have 52 on Christmas Island? It is quite a significant number.

Mr Outram : The people who are on Christmas Island in the 501 cohort are there because they are high risk or, in some cases, extreme risk.

Senator KIM CARR: What sort of offences have they committed?

Mr Outram : A range of offences—very serious assaults, armed robberies, trafficking commercial quantities of drugs, child sex offenses, assaults on women and sexual offenses. There is a veritable catalogue of significant and serious offending by that cohort and by a lot of people within that cohort.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you able to tell us what the representations from the New Zealand government have been?

Mr Outram : I am not.

Senator KIM CARR: Is the assistant minister able to tell us?

Mr Pezzullo : Unless the minister wishes to add anything, I am probably better placed to speak on that issue.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: No.

Mr Pezzullo : Thank you, Minister. The New Zealand government, as recently as, of course, this past weekend, when the two prime ministers met—I think this matter was a subject of public comment by both Prime Minister Key and Prime Minister Turnbull—certainly have been engaged very closely with my officers, along with other colleagues in Foreign Affairs and elsewhere, on how it is that the implementation of the laws passed by this parliament in the latter part of 2014 is best effected. If I recall rightly, the laws were passed in either October or November and subsequently were given royal assent. We have been in discussion—I think I can accurately say constant, consistent and indeed frequent discussion—with the government of New Zealand through its various representatives, including at ministerial level, the high commissioner here, our high commissioner in Wellington and other officers across different agencies, on how to best give effect to the laws passed by this parliament which amended the Migration Act late last year. That has two significant material dimensions to it. One is the so-called mandatory cancellation provision that pertains to persons who have been convicted and served 12 months of imprisonment. There is no time stipulation for convictions and penal servitude that pertain to child sex offences, but otherwise it is 12 months. That is the subject of mandatory cancellation. So the minister is required under the law to cancel the visa of such a person, subject to where the law provides for what is called a revocation of that decision that the person is entitled to submit, and that goes to Mr Manthorpe here, and he can speak about the detail of that. This parliament also, in the course of 2014, tightened the provisions around so-called character cancellation, where there is discretion available. That is not pertinent to the first matter, of convictions.

We have been in dialogue with the New Zealand authorities since the start of the year, perhaps more intensively in more recent months but certainly going back to at least January or February, to say, 'Here's how the law is now framed. This will require a series of decisions that are mandatory in one case, in the case of persons serving jail time, and discretionary in another case. What is the best means by which we can notify you, by which we can provide pertinent information about their return,' and so on and so forth. That has been a reasonably extended process, so much so that we signed an MOU about how to effect the information-sharing arrangements only in recent weeks. We had to go through a series of consultations, including with state police forces and, more particularly, state corrections authorities because of course there are no federal prisons and there are very few federal prisoners. These are mainly offences at the state and territory jurisdictional level. So there was multiparty stakeholder engagement. Other officers can provide more detail, if you wish, about the numbers of meetings and the like. I can certainly attest to the fact that they have been numerous.

Obviously, as we have worked through those issues, as the Prime Minister stated on the weekend, we have looked at and we will look at more intensively how we can apply the law as it is stated—because we do not have any discretion there, of course—but in a way that is reflective of the closeness of our relationship, diplomatic, strategic and otherwise.

CHAIR: We might have to leave it there, Senator Carr. One more?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. What was the outcome of the conversations between the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand? What actually changed?

Mr Pezzullo : The two prime ministers have made clear, and our Prime Minister has affirmed, that we will look at the decisions that are being made in as empathetic and as considered a fashion as possible. Materially we are going to look at how we can deal with the requests or applications for so-called revocations. I will not explain that again, other to than to say that, if you have been mandatorily cancelled by the minister, which is required under the law, you might have a basis for saying, 'I've kind of redeemed myself, I've served my jail time, I've been rehabilitated, I have strong ties to Australia'—they might have children here, for instance, or be in a long-term partnership, marriage or the like—'and these are material factors which I would like the minister or one of his senior delegates to give consideration to.' If we can expedite or, indeed, industrialise that process of revocation, it might well be that we are able—not all in cases, and obviously we cannot prejudge what decision a decision maker would make—to mandatorily cancel, which the law requires, but almost in the same motion say, 'But having regard to these other factors I hereby revoke what would otherwise be a mandatory requirement under the act.'

Senator KIM CARR: Will those principles apply to another country—

CHAIR: That is more than one question, I am sorry, Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: Will they apply to everyone else in the system?

CHAIR: You have had much more than your 15 minutes. We will come back to you; you can ask that later. I want to clarify with Mr Outram, I think it was, the number of children in custody. I got confused by your numbering. Can you start again? How many children are in detention? Sorry, it was Ms Briscoe.

Ms Briscoe : At 30 September, there were 113 in held facilities, but they are in APODs, not detention centres.

CHAIR: They are in what?

Ms Briscoe : What we call alternative places of detention.

CHAIR: Can you explain that? What is an alternative place of detention?

Ms Briscoe : Yes. There is different infrastructure and services provided, and families are put in alternative places of detention. They are separate from other detention facilities.

CHAIR: Can you give me an example?

Ms Briscoe : Yes. We have the Melbourne transit accommodation and the one in Brisbane; we have Wickham Point; we also have one in Perth; and, adjacent to Villawood in Sydney, we have a residential housing complex which is also considered an alternative place of detention.

CHAIR: What are they like? Motel units or—

Ms Briscoe : It varies, but the residential housing in Sydney is like motel units.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What about in Wickham Point—purpose built for adults, not children?

Ms Briscoe : The area where children and families are in Wickham Point is separate from the single adult males' facilities in Wickham Point.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They live in dongas, don't they?

Ms Briscoe : I am not sure what the definition of a 'donga' is, but—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A shipping container.

Ms Briscoe : No, I do not believe that they are shipping containers, but I am also not sure that they are dongas.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, thank you for helping me, but I will probably be able to manage this myself. I would like to get some clarity on this.

Ms Briscoe : So 113 in Australia.

CHAIR: One hundred and thirteen—

Ms Briscoe : And 80 of those are subject to return to Nauru. So they are here for medical treatment or are part of a family that is here for medical treatment.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many are in Nauru?

CHAIR: Eighteen in Australia have come from Nauru.

Ms Briscoe : It is 80—eight-zero—

CHAIR: Oh, 80! That means that there are only 33 permanently in detention in Australia on the mainland?

Ms Briscoe : That is right.

CHAIR: Thirty-three permanently in detention in Australia?

Ms Briscoe : Yes.

CHAIR: Of those 33, why aren't they released?

Ms Briscoe : For a range of reasons. These cases are managed on a daily basis. Some of them are on a pathway to community detention. We put advice to the minister, who makes a decision about placement. So some are on a pathway to community detention. Others are part of a family that is subject to either an adverse security assessment, other law enforcement matters or health matters.

CHAIR: So the children are there because of their parents, not because of themselves?

Ms Briscoe : There will be a combination.

CHAIR: Are there any that are there without their parents?

Ms Briscoe : I would have to take that on notice to be absolutely precise on that.

CHAIR: Okay.

Ms Briscoe : There may be a case where there are law enforcement matters for the minor themselves.

CHAIR: Okay. But, in some instances, of those 33 in detention on the mainland, some of them are only there because their parents are considered to be a security risk or for some other serious reason are held in detention. Is that right?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, that is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many of those are there? Do you have that number?

CHAIR: Of the 33, how many are there because their parents are held for a specific what I will generally call 'serious' reason?

Ms Briscoe : Cheryl-anne has it to hand, so I will ask Assistant Secretary Moy to respond.

Ms Moy : Of the number of children who are held in detention, of the 33 that you mentioned, one of those is an unaccompanied minor who is in detention in relation to pending criminal matters.

CHAIR: Serious criminal matters?

Ms Moy : Yes. Of the remainder of those children, there are a number who are on a pathway to community detention, and there are approximately 17 who relate to families who have adverse security or other criminal matters that are under consideration.

CHAIR: But you are saying to me that none of those 33 are held in detention centres but are in APs, is it?

Ms Moy : Alternative places of detention—APODs.

CHAIR: Okay. You mentioned some. There was a facility in Darwin near the airport. Would that be an APOD? Do you know the one I am—

Ms Briscoe : We no longer use that, I think—I will have to just check that. But the facility in Darwin where we have children is called Wickham Point. It is out to the west of Darwin; it is not near the airport.

CHAIR: Okay. How does an APOD differ from a detention centre?

Ms Briscoe : In the physical location of it. It is separate from where we keep, for instance, 501 detainees and single adult males.

CHAIR: What are 501 detainees?

Ms Briscoe : They are the mandatorily cancelled cases that Mr Outram was just referring to.

CHAIR: Okay, and single males. At the APODs, are there chain wire fences or armed guards? No, there are no armed guards at all, but are there guards? Are they what you would call one- or two-bedroom apartments in normal language? What exactly are they?

Ms Briscoe : They vary in different places. The Sydney residential housing is a three-bedroom house, for instance. It is sort of a little stand-alone house adjoined to another, like a duplex, and there are eight of those. All of them are run—

CHAIR: Are they a complex? Are they behind some sort of fence?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, there is a fence.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is part of the Villawood facility.

Ms Briscoe : All of them are run still by Serco—sorry, not run by, but security, welfare and garrison services are done by Serco in those centres. What it allows us to do in an APOD is tailor the services to the cohort that we have there. Where we have families, there are a range of additional programs and activities put in place that are suitable for the age of the children that are in that location, so putting them in this alternative place of detention enables us to tailor the services and care for that cohort.

CHAIR: So do they all have television sets?

Ms Briscoe : Yes.

CHAIR: Swimming pools?

Ms Briscoe : No swimming pools, no.

CHAIR: Children's playground equipment.

Ms Briscoe : Yes, children's playground equipment. There are classrooms or early learning centres, playground equipment, outdoor play, outdoor oval areas—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How often are the head checks by the guards?

CHAIR: Do they have toys to play with?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, definitely.

CHAIR: Computers or iPads? You know what they call them.

Ms Briscoe : There are computer rooms with internet access. There is an early learning centre program run, for instance, in the Wickham Point centre that I observed quite recently. There are a range of toys and facilities provided in there.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would you have your children there?

CHAIR: Is there any payment? Do the people there actually pay anything for these services?

Ms Briscoe : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They are locked up, Senator Macdonald.

CHAIR: So these are some of the—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They are detained. Pay to be locked up? I do not know what kind of gross understanding of the immigration detention network you have. People do not pay to be locked in indefinite detention with their children.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, are you finished? Well, you are finished, because I rule you out of order. I am just trying to get an idea of what the Australian taxpayer is funding that, I dare say, some taxpayers do not have themselves. I am just trying to get a concept of these APODs. There are 33 children currently in them. You mentioned early learning centres.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A hundred and thirteen.

CHAIR: There are 33 permanently on the mainland. These early learning centres are staffed by who?

Ms Briscoe : The staff are from Serco.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Guards.

CHAIR: What qualified—

Ms Briscoe : No, they are not guards. They are welfare workers.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They are guards. They are security officers.

Ms Briscoe : The programs and activities are run by specialist—

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, if I want you to give evidence, I will ask you to go to that side of the table. Until then, could you please keep quiet and let the officer, who knows what she is talking about, actually answer the question.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like to ensure that officers at the table do not mislead the committee. They are Serco officers and guards.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, that is completely out of order.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So there are Serco officers.

CHAIR: If you are alleging that officers are intentionally misleading—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Well, I am.

CHAIR: Well, you will not do that in my committee. I am sorry.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am sorry. You do not dictate to me what I will say.

CHAIR: Yes, I do. You will not be called unless you apologise to the officers for suggesting—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am sorry, Senator Macdonald.

CHAIR: You do what you like, Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You do not dictate what questions I would like to ask and what questions I would not.

CHAIR: But you will not accuse public servants of deliberately misleading the Senate.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am just clarifying.

CHAIR: You are not clarifying.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: You are not clarifying. You are making allegations, Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There are Serco officers and guards at these detention centres.

CHAIR: You are saying that these officers are deliberately misleading, and I will not have that done here. Senator Conroy tried that once.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You are deliberately misleading, Senator Macdonald.

CHAIR: Senator Conroy tried that once, and you will not be asking questions until you apologise to these officers. You make up your own mind.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Senator Macdonald, you are the one who is misleading.

CHAIR: Ms Briscoe, could you please continue.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I really think this sort of infantile behaviour is really not acceptable. I really think you should apologise to the officers at the table.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What would you like me to apologise for, Minister?

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: You are asserting they are misleading. They are not misleading, and I think that you should apologise.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I said people at the table—Senator Macdonald is misleading the committee.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I think, Senator Hanson-Young, it really would be appreciated if you could apologise.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I will not be apologising to Senator Macdonald.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. I really do not need your help either.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I will not be apologising to Senator Macdonald.

CHAIR: You will apologise to the officers or you will not be called again.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What am I apologising for?

CHAIR: For alleging they were deliberately misleading the Senate.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am alleging that you are misleading the Senate, Senator Macdonald—you.

CHAIR: That is not what you said, Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, I did.

CHAIR: In that case, can you say to the officers, 'If perhaps you understood me as saying you were, then I did not and I apologise'?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Senator Macdonald, I stand by what I said. You are misleading this committee.

CHAIR: Okay, Senator Hanson-Young, you will not be asked any questions until—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am sorry; you are not my father or my schoolteacher. You are the chair of this committee and you should chair it properly.

CHAIR: I am the chairman of this committee.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You should chair it properly.

CHAIR: Ms Briscoe, would you please proceed.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Honestly, no wonder no-one takes you seriously, Senator—really, honestly.

CHAIR: Please, Ms Briscoe, proceed.

Ms Briscoe : Serco officers have a range of skills. There are Serco officers that are guards. There is the Serco officer, for instance, that we can point to that is a hairdresser.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sorry, could we just get that clarified.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, you are out of order, and if you are going to keep interrupting I will have to ask you to leave the room.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Senator Macdonald, I just asked the officer whether she could—

CHAIR: Would you leave the room, please.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I will not be leaving.

CHAIR: Would you leave the room.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You have no power to throw me out of here.

CHAIR: Ms Briscoe, could you please continue and just ignore the interjections.

Ms Briscoe : And there are Serco officers that provide a range of activities, whether it be in the gymnasium, as a hairdresser, or in looking after the younger children. Children of school age go to schools in the local area.

Senator LINDGREN: Ms Briscoe, can I add a supplementary question. Do those people have qualifications?

Ms Briscoe : I believe so, but I can take that on notice.

Senator LINDGREN: Okay, thank you.

Ms Briscoe : The particular people that do the programs and activities with children—I will double-check that and come back to you.

Senator LINDGREN: Thank you.

CHAIR: So the children live in these A pods, but they actually go to regular schools?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, that is correct.

CHAIR: Does someone take them there?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, they are transported by our service providers.

CHAIR: So they are actually driven from their place of residence to a regular school and stay there from nine till three or whatever—

Ms Briscoe : Regular school hours, that is correct.

CHAIR: And then they are collected by Serco or someone—

Ms Briscoe : That is correct.

CHAIR: and brought back to the detention centre—sorry, to the A pod?

Ms Briscoe : Yes.

CHAIR: This is for 33 children permanently in Australia?

Ms Briscoe : I believe also children who are here subject to return to Nauru are also taken to school.

CHAIR: That is a different category. Well, let's go on to those. I have wondered, and I suspect many other Australians have too, about children in detention. To me, that brings up the idea of armed guards, dogs and razor-wire fences. But you are telling me they are in A pods, they go to school regularly, they have iPads and facilities like that. Who supplies the mobile phones?

Ms Briscoe : No, they do not have mobile phones.

CHAIR: Are there phone facilities in these places?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, there are phone facilities and they get access to the telephones and they get points from the canteen to get regular access to the telephone.

CHAIR: What do you mean 'they get points'?

Ms Briscoe : And internet access.

CHAIR: They get that, and that is provided, I assume, by the Australian taxpayer?

Ms Briscoe : Yes.

CHAIR: Are you able to categorise how many of them have not been classified as genuine refugees?

Ms Briscoe : Anyone who is here from Nauru for medical treatment—

CHAIR: Sorry, let me talk about the 33. I will come back to Nauru. Of the 33 children there, are their parents those who have been refused permanent settlement in Australia, people who have been found not to be genuine refugees?

Ms Briscoe : I am not sure of the exact breakdown. There are 16 of those 113 who are non-IMA children, so are in detention for another reason—a visa overstayer or some other reason. So 16 of those, I assume, would not be applying for protection. The others, I assume, are in the process of protection claims. Mr Manthorpe may be able to comment on that.

Mr Pezzullo : I should clarify, and it might assist the committee, in terms of what is called the status determination—whether persons are owed protection or whether they are in detention for other reasons to do with breaches of the Migration Act otherwise—the ABF does not make those determinations. So Mr Manthorpe and his staff might be able to assist you. But, in general terms, the law is as follows: if you have arrived—including with your parents or unaccompanied as a child or a minor—as what is termed an illegal maritime arrival, the law, as currently stated, is that you cannot in fact apply for or be granted permanent protection; you can either be granted temporary protection for a period of three years or you can gain what is called safe haven protection for a period of five years. I can explain the differences if you wish, but essentially that is the key distinction. For those persons in detention who are not illegal maritime arrivals, they are in detention, obviously, for some other reason—there has been some kind of breach, more often than not by one of the parents rather than the child, of the provisions of the Migration Act—then they would be the subject of quite specific consideration under other parts of the act. But I can get Mr Manthorpe and his staff to give you further particulars, if you wish.

So the way that we divide up the work is that the ABF, if you like, undertake the custodial function. We do not jail people, but we have people in administrative detention pursuant to the act. That is the ABF. They look after the care; the oversight of the provision of services and health care; and, in the case of children, things like amenity, recreation, entertainment et cetera. Then the decision makers about status—or those who advise the decision makers, if the decision maker is one of the ministers—reside in the department proper. So, depending on whether your questioning goes, I might just seek Mr Manthorpe's assistance, if you wish.

CHAIR: It is probably close enough. Can I get on to the 80 children who are in detention on the mainland because their parents have come from Nauru. Is that the category?

Ms Briscoe : That is right.

CHAIR: So how long are they there for?

Ms Briscoe : That varies on a case-by-case basis depending on the medical treatment that they are receiving or that their family members are receiving.

CHAIR: So the 80 children are there for medical treatment for themselves or their parents?

Ms Briscoe : Or a sibling, yes.

CHAIR: And that is the reason that they are in Australia. Would you expect, or does history show, that they are there for matters of weeks, matters of months or permanently? If somebody were being treated for cancer, they would be there permanently, I guess?

Mr Pezzullo : I might commence the response; the deputy commissioner may have the data. Some of the persons might have arrived quite some time ago but have been joined to various legal proceedings. They are known as what are called transitory persons—people who have been transferred into our jurisdiction but, pursuant to a number of cases that are before the High Court, some of them have been joined to those High Court cases, so we cannot return them—

CHAIR: To Nauru?

Mr Pezzullo : Or PNG. There are two lines of matters before the High Court, one of which pertains to Nauru, which is known as M68 and related matters. There is another matter, which is not yet listed, which pertains to PNG. So, whilst Deputy Commissioner Briscoe might have some data to give you, I just want to put a caveat: the length of stay now might not just be solely related to medical considerations. In the case where the parent, a sibling or the child themselves has undergone a procedure, it might well be that the procedure has been dispensed with and dealt with, but they have been joined to legal action and so the minister has entered into undertakings to not return those persons until those High Court matters are dealt with. In other cases, some of the medical matters might still be ongoing. So I just wanted to differentiate for—

CHAIR: That is very useful; that helps clarify it for me and, I think, for most Australians. On notice perhaps, can you tell me how many of the 80 are in APODs in Australia on the mainland because they or their parents are involved in legal proceedings?

Ms Briscoe : I think that that is 29 or 59.

Ms Moy : I can confirm those numbers.

CHAIR: So it is 29 or 59. That is okay, you will get back to me.

Ms Moy : I will confirm the numbers.

CHAIR: That has clarified it for me. Are you aware if the Nauruan or PNG governments provide APOD accommodation for children in detention in Nauru or PNG?

Ms Briscoe : There are no children in PNG. In Nauru, the centre is a full open centre now, so I guess it is quite a different arrangement to either held detention or an APOD—it is a variation again. They have access to the community 24 hours a day.

CHAIR: How many children are there in Nauru, not counting the 80 who are in Australia?

Ms Briscoe : There are 92 with a status of transferee and 87 with a status of refugee.

CHAIR: So 92 transferees—

Ms Briscoe : So they have not yet had their protection claims processed by the government of Nauru, and 87 that have received determination to be refugees.

CHAIR: And they will be, by arrangement with the Nauruan government and some other country, moved on to another country at some time as refugees.

Ms Briscoe : Yes, but the 87 refugees are given access to a ten-year refugee visa by the government of Nauru.

CHAIR: That is a Nauruan visa.

Ms Briscoe : That is right.

CHAIR: There was some recent media about all of those claims being dealt with in a short period of time. Is that the 92?

Ms Briscoe : Those numbers I provided were at 15 October. The government of Nauru continues to make hand downs, so the combination of numbers there is likely to have changed in that few days, but the total would still be 92 plus 87 in terms of children on Nauru—although we did have a birth, I think, last week or on the weekend.

CHAIR: Are you aware of whether the Nauruan government is providing schooling and health facilities for those children in the open centre in Nauru?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, for both the transferee children and the refugee children. School age in Nauru is from seven years up, and children from seven up all attend local Nauruan schools. If they are under seven, their education is still provided in the RPC setting.

CHAIR: Are you aware whether any of those who have applied for refugee status and have been rejected by the Nauruan government are in that category?

Ms Briscoe : No, I do not have that information. There are a number that have received an initial negative determination who are currently subject to the review process—so there are no final determinations of negative status, if you like.

CHAIR: That is a process being undertaken by the Nauruan government?

Ms Briscoe : That is correct.

CHAIR: Is the UNHCR involved in that as well?

Ms Briscoe : The government of Nauru have a relationship with the UNHCR, but I do not believe it is in the determination of refugee status. I am not sure what role they play with the government of Nauru.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for that.

Senator KIM CARR: I will return to the network questions I was asking. Could you give me information on the capacity and numbers in each of the following centres: what is the capacity of Maribyrnong?

Mr Outram : In Maribyrnong there is a total of 113. This is as at 31 August—the number I have got here with me—but let me get a more up to date number. Maribyrnong is 113, Christmas Island is 285, Perth IDC is 43—

Senator KIM CARR: Just hang on, you have to slow down. My list is slightly different to yours. Which one was that?

Mr Outram : Perth IDC is 43.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Outram : Villawood IDC is 395 and Yongah Hill IDC is 345. I have a note here that, amongst the mainland APODs, 630—I will try to get a more detailed breakdown of that for you—

Senator KIM CARR: Darwin?

Mr Outram : That will be one of the APODs—that is Wickham Point.

Senator KIM CARR: So that is a total of 630.

Mr Outram : That will be included in that number. I will get the number for you.

Senator KIM CARR: Curtin?

Mr Outram : Does not exist anymore—not as an APOD, at least, or as an IDC.

Senator KIM CARR: Okay. How many are there at Curtin?

Mr Outram : None—it does not exist anymore.

Senator KIM CARR: So it is off the system?

Mr Outram : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the capacity of the system?

Mr Outram : We are not up to capacity yet. It depends on the facility and whether it is high risk, medium risk or low risk. We do not just look at the entire system as one number, because it depends on the cohorts.

Senator KIM CARR: By category, what capacity do you have for high-risk detainees?

Mr Outram : At North West Point, which is on Christmas Island, the business is normal; the operational capacity is 348.

Senator KIM CARR: How many people are there?

Mr Outram : The population as at 30 September was 285. We could push that number in a contingency sense, if we were to be satisfied we could manage the risk and get sufficient additional—for example, Serco—people there, to 592. So conceivably, in terms of the available rooms and beds, if you were to double up in certain forms of accommodation, you could push it to well over 500. But we would have to look at the cohort before we did that, if that makes sense. You would not necessarily want 592 extreme-risk people there. At Wickham Point we currently have 630. The capacity, if it were full, would be 1,160. But, again, I do not want to oversimplify this. For example, in Wickham Point I am aware of some difficult cases where people cannot just be detained in the main population; they need to be put in—

Senator KIM CARR: I am obviously not expressing myself very well, so I will put this as a question on notice. I am interested to know how close we are to maximum capacity for high-risk detainees and at what point you think we will reach that, given that you are relying on an act of this parliament, which I presume is causing the significant increase in the number of people in detention.

Mr Outram : There is no doubt there is pressure on in relation to high- and extreme-risk detainees. We obviously have fewer facilities that are set up to manage those sorts of people in a physical sense—so, to prevent escape, to be able to quarantine people and to maintain good order in those facilities, where some of those people are obviously quite violent. But, as to the network as a whole, we have plenty of capacity left for low-risk families.

Senator KIM CARR: I am sorry if I am not making myself clear, but the parliament passed an act in October or November 2014 requiring mandatory cancellation of visas, and various other steps were taken for people to be deported on character grounds. That has led to the significant expansion in the number of people in detention. Is that correct?

Mr Outram : That would be a fair statement, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: I would like to know how many people have been put in detention that you can relate to the changes in the law as of October-November 2014?

Mr Outram : We will have to do some analysis around that, because obviously section 501 existed before last year, and there were mandatory cancellations, and there have been some changes in the law. So we would have to do some analysis and take that question on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Most people I talk to, members of parliament, are saying they are getting representations from people who have been in this country for a long time. They are being faced with deportation. They will often have kids here. They have longstanding family relationships, but because of these changes in the law they are now being required to leave. Is that a fair statement?

Mr Outram : That is possibly true. But, in terms of the relationship between that and people being held in detention and people being on Christmas Island, it goes to the risks that those individuals present to our community.

Senator KIM CARR: I am going to come that issue—

Mr Outram : There is a separate issue of the cancellation process, the speed with which we can then implement that cancellation and that removal, and whether or not being held in a detention centre is the appropriate mechanism to protect the community in between the person leaving the country or settling their affairs.

Senator KIM CARR: I am interested to know how many people are in the detention network because of the changes in the law. Then I want to know how you have categorised them. Obviously that places pressure on certain types of facilities if they are high risk, because the system was not set up for high risk, as I understand it. It is actually—

Mr Outram : Some of the facilities are pretty good for high risk. North West Point on Christmas Island would be one of those facilities.

Senator KIM CARR: I am not being absolute here. It is the case that the detention system has always had high-risk persons.

Mr Outram : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: But you now have a lot more of them.

Mr Outram : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Is that fair to say?

Mr Outram : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: I would like to know the pressure that is placing on the system. How are you preserving the security of the rest of the system, because this extra number of people being put in there as a result of legislative change? Can you tell me that?

Mr Outram : We have a national placement model and we take very conscious decisions about where we place detainees within the network. That decision is taken based on a range of factors; one of which is the risk rating in terms of their likely behaviour and whether they are likely to become violent or not while they are in detention. Another is in relation to the health of the individual and whether they have particular needs around accessing particular health specialists. Another one would be in relation to the community ties and whether they need to be close to members of family and the community. Another one would be in relation to the facilities themselves and whether they are geared up to looking after those individuals.

So the national placement model that we have looks at a range of variables and factors. Two of the key ones are safety of the centres. We do not want to put a high-risk individual into a facility that is not suited to managing them. And we do not want to mix them up with, for example, families and kids. Another one is obviously in relation to whether they are likely to escape. We need to make sure they go into a suitably secure facility.

So there is a range of factors in terms of decisions on placement. Of course people come into and out of the network. We still do a lot of detaining of various people—fruit pickers and overstayers and a whole lot of other people come through the facilities. It is constantly in flux. We have to manage in a real-time way the placement and movement of people within the network, and people are constantly moving around the network.

Senator KIM CARR: So how many people are there in the system as a result of the legislative changes?

Mr Outram : We have already said we will take that question on notice. We will have to do some analysis.

Senator KIM CARR: And was that the number you anticipated when the legislation was presented to the parliament?

Mr Outram : Again, I will take that on notice.

Mr Pezzullo : As to the—I think I might be paraphrasing—'strain on capacity', we will take on notice that element of it. Sufficed to say, lest you be left with a misimpression, the expansion of all of our facilities—including the higher security facilities at Christmas Island, which occurred over the period 2008 through to 2013 to deal with other matters—created a degree of latent capacity in the network, not only in the lower risk areas of Christmas Island but in the higher risk facility that both the commissioner and the deputy commissioner have referred to.

As Deputy Commissioner Outram said, we do not construct facilities on the basis of how you got here. Whether you were an illegal maritime arrival, whether you were an overstayer or whether you had a mandatory cancellation, we look at the use of our facilities consistent with the risk prism that has been described. So I would not want you to be left with the impression that the law was passed by this parliament absent the capacity of the department to deal with high-risk detainees for at least a period of time while their matters were being completely resolved.

I must say, as secretary of the department, my preference would be for people to go in the mandatory lane, pretty much from prison to removal—almost prison to plane—

Senator KIM CARR: To the airport.

Mr Pezzullo : Indeed. Persons have rights under our legislation to seek review; some of which I have outlined to you earlier in proceedings. Some persons seek relief after they are put into detention. They seek injunctive relief. So we do have a circumstance where you cannot just have a clinical: 'Their prison sentence expires. Corrections hands them to us. The ABF then effects the removal.' You do have a degree of churn in the system.

Our preference certainly for the mandatory cases is prison to plane. Deputy Commissioner Outram has to weigh up those factors. So when you say, 'What are the numbers anticipated?', to some extent you are trying to anticipate each of those behavioural choices. People have rights and they have rights to seek injunctive relief and so on and so forth.

So we will come back to you both on the numbers, as you have asked, as best we can—numbers attributable to the changes in the law. Then to the extent we can we will come back to you about the question of our capacity to deal with high-risk detainees.

Senator KIM CARR: And how many of the long-term residents of Australia that have been convicted of an offence involving 12 months jail—

Mr Pezzullo : Or of any period involving child sex, but otherwise 12 months.

Senator KIM CARR: How many of those persons who have sought appeals have had them granted?

Mr Pezzullo : We will take that on notice as well. As best as I can recall, nearly all of them seek revocation. What the strike rate is on success, I do not have readily to mind. Mr Manthorpe might be able to assist.

Mr Manthorpe : It is probably a bit early to put a number on the success rate of appeals. The law was introduced, as you know, late last year. We have been through a process of mandatorily cancelling a series of visas, which has, as you have been discussing with my colleagues, resulted in an increase in the number of people in detention. Those folk in many cases—something like 70 per cent or 80 per cent of them—are seeking revocation of the decision to cancel the visas. We are at the early stage of working through the case load of people who have done that. We think we can accelerate that, certainly in the context of the New Zealander case load off the back of the conversations that were held on the weekend. And we will be better placed to give you proportions.

Senator KIM CARR: I want to ask you two questions about that. Let me first deal with this: how many people have actually been deported?

Mr Manthorpe : That one, we would have to take on notice—

Senator KIM CARR: Since November 2014, how many of these people have actually been obliged to leave the country?

Mr Pezzullo : I think we will wrap that into a general omnibus response.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. In regard to the talks regarding the New Zealand prisoners, will any arrangements applying to New Zealand apply to people from other countries? Will there not be a legal precedent established that would automatically apply to other people?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure I would describe it as a legal precedent. We do not adjudicate matters of law. In terms of administrative practice, we will—in the spirit of our bilateral relationship, the closeness of our ties both historical and contemporary—

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, yes—I know all that—but tell me this: will it not have an effect on everybody else?

Mr Pezzullo : We will work on the New Zealand case load as a matter of priority, to the extent that we can spare resources, given Mr Manthorpe's staff do many different tasks. To the extent that we can spare resources for looking at other revocation cases, we will. But we will give priority to the New Zealand case load.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Pezzullo, is it not part of your consideration that under administrative law—won't there be an automatic flow-on effect to other people?

Mr Pezzullo : It does not change the nature of the decision making; it might change the order in which cases are looked at. That said, in absolute numbers I think you will find that the New Zealand group, simply as a function of the number of people who have travelled here—and, as you have said, become long-term residents or more recent residents. Those numbers are high anyway so it is not in that sense unusual for there to be on the face it what might appear to be overrepresentation. But it is not really overrepresentation; it is just a reflection of—

Senator KIM CARR: It is a product of the population, yes.

Mr Pezzullo : of the number New Zealanders here. It is miniscule in terms of the number of New Zealanders here of course. But in absolute numbers it looks significant. Obviously it has created a degree of discussion that has been required to be held at the bilateral level.

Senator KIM CARR: My question goes to precedent for other groups, and you have not answered that.

Mr Pezzullo : In fairness, I think I have. We will give priority to the New Zealand group to give effect to the undertakings that have been given and then others will be dealt with as and when resources can be afforded to those caseloads.

Senator KIM CARR: I turn to—

CHAIR: Senator Carr, your time is up. We will come back to you. Senator Lindgren.

Senator LINDGREN: On the New Zealand question: are New Zealand citizens' visas different from other visas for coming into Australia?

Mr Pezzullo : In effect they are. Pursuant to the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, which has been in place for several decades—I think about four decades—we have free travel, as it were, in the sense that you do not have to apply for a visa but under our law you are deemed to have a visa. You get what is called a special category visa of, from memory, type 444. I cannot speak for the New Zealand law, but I think the arrangement is basically reciprocated for Australians. You travel as if it is visa free but you have, if you like, an invisible visa attached to you at all times.

Senator LINDGREN: What types of things would disqualify you from maintaining your visa? Would an example be violent crime?

Mr Pezzullo : All of the normal provisions of the Migration Act apply. There is no carve-out for New Zealanders. Despite the fact that they have travelled here on what appears to be a visa-free basis—although, as I have indicated, they do actually have 444 visas—all the pertinent provisions of the Migration Act are applicable, including character and the mandatory cancellation provisions that have just been outlined. The one that, technically, is not applicable by definition is an overstay, because other visas have a temporal limitation. You can have a four-year temporary work visa, for instance. By definition, if you have a deemed visa that attaches to you by virtue of your status as a New Zealand citizen under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, you in effect have it for life unless we take it off you.

Senator LINDGREN: My next question would then be around those changes. How many New Zealand citizens have been caught by these changes? Is it because of those different visa arrangements?

Mr Pezzullo : In terms of the numbers, responding to Senator Carr's question on notice will effectively answer the first part of your question. In respect of the second part of your question: it is not that they have differential visa status. What appears to be a large absolute number—although, relative to the number of New Zealanders here and the flow of trans-Tasman travel, it is actually a miniscule number. But, in terms of the absolute numbers—and people often quite properly look at the absolute numbers because it involves real live people—it is more, as I just said to Senator Carr, a function of the volume of travel and the volume of New Zealanders resident here. There are also Aussies over in New Zealand. It is just reflective of the closeness of our two cultures and societies.

Senator LINDGREN: You talked about an appeal review process. Could you describe that? Elaborate for me on what you meant by injunctive relief.

Mr Pezzullo : There are two elements. I might ask Mr Manthorpe to fill in any gaps that I miss. The law requires the minister to execute what is known as a mandatory cancellation if you have been convicted of and have served a prison term of 12 months, with the one exception to that being that there is no stipulation around duration for a child sex offence conviction and term of imprisonment—you have to have served the term of imprisonment.

The law is now in place, and it is not retrospective. It is prospective. As you move through the course of your sentence, in some cases some people will be caught who are on 20-year prison terms, so these matters will arise in two decades time unless the law is changed. The persons who have been caught more recently are obviously those who are coming out of prison progressively post the granting of royal assent and commencement of legislation. As people come out of prison, having served their time, the minister is required by the law to mandatorily cancel that visa I described earlier—the so-called 444 visa. The law also, though, entitles the person who is so dealt with to seek in administrative law a revocation of the cancellation decision. Mr Manthorpe can speak in more detail, if you wish, about the decision-making criteria that apply or attach themselves to a revocation decision. That is administrative law.

Of course, we also have in this country judicial review, and all persons can seek to come before the court—most particularly the High Court in terms of the original jurisdiction of that court but more typically the Federal Court—and seek injunctive relief. I will paraphrase the terms: 'I think a bad decision has been made administratively. It is beyond law or it is poorly made. I am seeking review of that. And to protect my rights I am seeking a declaration that that decision was wrongly made.' That it one type of relief you can get from a court. Another type of relief might be an injunction to stay any action to remove you, and so on and so forth. Those are matters for courts under judicial review. The other matters that I described earlier are for admin law purposes—obviously, administrative decisions made under the laws and regulations that flow from the Migration Act.

Senator LINDGREN: I have a question about crimes. Are they mostly petty crimes? Some of the media reports are suggesting that they are. Is that accurate?

Mr Pezzullo : I might ask the Commissioner, as a former serving policeman and also given his responsibilities to review the risk factors that have been spoken about. If you go to jail for 12 months or more, it is something reasonably significant. There are going to be cases where violence is certainly involved. There might have been an aggravated assault; there might have been murder. Obviously you did not get 12 months for murder; you get longer terms. But equally there might be cases where—and I do not want to start to speculate about the types of considerations, but just to give you an answer in the vernacular, if you like, or as a layperson's response—you might have gone to jail for over 12 months for white-collar crime or fraud; you might have rehabilitated. I would not say that the crime is petty, because there are very few victimless crimes. If you been the subject of white-collar fraud, you might have lost lots of money. As Secretary, I do not want to be saying, 'That was just petty crime.' But there might be a degree of mitigation there. You are not running with gangs anymore, you are not involved in any gang-type associations that are connected to violence. You have rehabilitated. It might be that you can demonstrate not only your rehabilitation but your close ties here. You might have started a family, and the like. That would be one type of person coming out of prison. Then, if you go right through to the other end of the spectrum, a person is coming out for quite serious offences which include offences against people. I do not know if the Commissioner wishes to add to that.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Maybe by way of example. Over the weekend, I had cause to review the case summaries of 52 detainees in detention. I think it is fair to say that the criminal histories associated with each of those 52 were both extensive in terms of offences over time as well as serious in terms of the offences committed. The majority of offences were against the person—offences of violence, murder, assaults, rapes. They were of that nature. There were, in amongst the case summaries, lower-end offences. But they were what I would call companion pieces to the headlines of very serious offences against the person.

Senator LINDGREN: I have just one more question in relation to that. Once they finish their jail sentence, how are they transported? Are they taken by Customs to the airport or are they placed in a cell? Can you just explain the process to me?

Mr Pezzullo : The contemporary entity, post 1 July, is the Australian Border Force. It performs, in this case, a migration enforcement function. So I might ask the Commissioner to speak to that.

Mr Quaedvlieg : The answer is: it varies. If the individual is low-risk, it will be conducted by a routine escort of our service providers in Serco. If the individual is high or extreme risk, we may, under certain circumstances, transport them using some more tactical resources. But if the risk is of such a nature that the person's history of behaviour as well as their future propensity for violence is unacceptable within our detention network, we will prevail upon the existing corrective services entity to retain them in the high-risk, maximum security prison under administrative detention.

Senator LINDGREN: Thank you. That is all.

CHAIR: Senator Lindgren, you had another six minutes, so I might just use them up. The New Zealand—

Senator KIM CARR: Before you start, Chair, I was wondering if Mr Pezzullo could provide us with that document so that I could at least read it while you are asking these questions.

Mr Pezzullo : I am in a position to answer, Chair, if you wish.

CHAIR: Okay.

Mr Pezzullo : I am able to release—and we will do it through the staff—the talking points that you asked for. I think you also asked for the covering emails. I absolutely recognise the prerogatives of the senator here; I do not wish to suggest otherwise or be disrespectful. But because we were working to—I think it was—a Friday deadline for the release of the FOI material, there are people named who are not the subject of reduction under the FOI laws. We have just brought forward the notification to those officers so it does not come to them as a shock or a surprise that they will be, in effect, named in a document tabled in the Senate, potentially, later this evening. We are just going through those consultations. But certainly the talking points—

Senator KIM CARR: Can I have those talking points now?

Mr Pezzullo : I just want to be clear why you are not getting the emails.

Senator KIM CARR: I accept that. This should not be too hard if you need to get out a black pen.

Mr Pezzullo : The black pen has already been done through the FOI process.

Senator KIM CARR: I do not see what the issue is, but we look forward to the document.

Mr Pezzullo : We are just observing there will be notifications—

CHAIR: That is okay. The question has been answered. Can anyone tell me what the New Zealand law is in relation to Australian citizens resident in New Zealand who are in the same category as those we have just been talking about?

Mr Pezzullo : If I had thought about it, I would have armed myself with the knowledge on that—unless officers can assist. I do not think—this is hopefully an informed answer but not a scientific answer—that the provisions are the same. In other words, I do not think that the New Zealand law mirrors the changes that were introduced by this parliament in the latter part of 2014, though I will take advice on that. If officers at the table or who can come to the table can answer that, we will try to answer that; otherwise I will have to take it notice. My lay understanding—and I should have armed myself because it is a good question—is that the measures, as I recall them, are not precisely reciprocal. Maybe Mr Manthorpe can assist.

Mr Manthorpe : I can make a couple of general comments. Like New Zealanders in Australia, Australians are not treated differently from other residents who are liable for deportation from New Zealand. The length of time a person resides in New Zealand is something that is taken into account in considering whether noncitizens are liable for deportation under the New Zealand immigration act—the equivalent arrangements to ours. It depends on factors such as when the person was granted residence, the date of offending and the sentence received or the potential sentence the court could give. My understanding is that an Australian citizen living in New Zealand on a residents class visa would not be considered liable for deportation following the conviction of a criminal offence if 10 years or more had passed since they were first granted a visa. So there is a timing factor. But the considerations are not dissimilar to those that we would be considering in the context of requests for revocation.

Mr Pezzullo : If I may, I should just seek clarity myself. As I heard the evidence, I do not think that there are the mandatory cancellation provisions that we have under our law. They are the provisions that I was referring to that I do not think exist in the New Zealand law. I believe Mr Manthorpe's evidence is to that effect. But we will check in case.

CHAIR: Perhaps on notice—and this is a hypothetical and as chair I probably should not allow it—if an Australian is charged with a serious sexual offence in New Zealand and is jailed in New Zealand, when they are released from jail under New Zealand law would they normally be removed back to their homeland?

Mr Pezzullo : If you have allowed the hypothetical question, as I have heard those provisions, I must say—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: There's a bit of a love-in going on here!

CHAIR: I should rule it out of order as hypothetical, but it is the easiest way to ask.

Mr Pezzullo : Can I check whether it is in order?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We will be generous on this occasion.

Mr Pezzullo : Having heard the evidence, and it has refreshed my memory, it is still a matter of discretion. In that hypothetical scenario—did you say 'murder'?

CHAIR: No, serious like a rape or something.

Mr Pezzullo : I would have thought our New Zealand colleagues would take all of those facts into account that have just been listed by Mr Manthorpe. I think the balance of probability is that such a person probably would be removed. There is a stipulation there that the offence cannot be more than 10 years old. The difference being, and again we will check this given my uncertainty earlier, under New Zealand law, it is a matter of discretion. So they take all those factors into account that were just listed under Australian—

Senator BILYK: Maybe not for much longer.

Mr Pezzullo : That is matter for the New Zealand jurisdiction. Under our law, it is mandatory and then you apply those sorts of considerations about things like length of stay, family ties, rehabilitation and the rest of it. I think you end up in the same place, but the decision-making process sounds like it is different. It is mandatory, first, with us and then revocation is discretionary. It does not sound—and we will check this during the break—like the mandatory element exists in New Zealand law.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Further to the chair's question, are you able to tell us—perhaps after the break, or it might take a bit longer—the outcome of their process in comparison to the outcome of ours?

Mr Pezzullo : Are we able to—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: How many Australians have been removed in comparison to how many New Zealanders in Australia?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure that we could get the data during the break.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is why I was suggesting it might take a little longer.

Mr Pezzullo : There would be some data, because our border officers would have to receive such persons. Unless the commissioner or his officers just happen to have the data, I think it will take us a bit longer than 15 minutes to check. But we can take it on notice, Senator, if you wish.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes please.

CHAIR: I have asked about this at previous estimates but things have happened and I am not sure whether I have caught up with the latest. Where are we at with your training facilities for the Australian Border Force? As I recall, at the last hearings we were told that you were using a mixture of Army and police in various states, but I thought there was some element still to be determined.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Indeed. We are currently still operating an interim ABF college, which is in Customs House at Sydney airport. The intent is to have a substantive ABF college within our consolidated headquarters here in Canberra. You heard evidence in relation to the status of that earlier. But, to confirm your point, there is also a hub-and-spoke model that we want to apply here in recognition that we have a decentralised workforce and decentralised facilities. We want to be able to have a core ABF college but we also want to be able to deliver curricula in the regions and then rely as well upon more specialist training through our policing and military partners and the facilities that they have across the country.

CHAIR: I think you have told me in the past about your maritime group. Where is their training? Do they use Tasmania?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Neutral Bay in Sydney.

CHAIR: Is that specifically Border Force or is it Navy?

Mr Quaedvlieg : It is Australian Border Force, yes—our maritime training facility.

CHAIR: And that has been there for a long time?

Mr Quaedvlieg : For a long time, yes. It was previously under the auspices of the customs service. It is now an ABF facility.

Mr Pezzullo : Again, I am loath to provide to advice to this committee on the fly in relation to the legislation of a foreign jurisdiction but as I have read the summary of their legislation—and we will look at the provisions and indeed consult with our New Zealand colleagues as required—the point of difference is that under our law there is no discretion about the deportation; there is a discretion about revoking, in effect that deportation. Under New Zealand law it seems that you get to the same place but the minister has an active discretion to deport, subject to those factors. Again, I just want to summarise this briefly and then we will take more considered advice and come back to you after the break or maybe after dinner if time requires it. I think you end up in the same place; it is just that the sequence of administrative decision making is not quite the same. Ours is mandatory first—you have to be deported; the minister has no discretion—but then the minister can reverse that through what is called the revocation process. Under New Zealand law—again, it is has just been paraphrased; I am loath to provide advice until I actually see the statute—it is the other way around.

CHAIR: For some reason a couple of radio stations in New Zealand contacted me—I am not quite sure why—for some comments. The suggestion was that we should have a special category for New Zealanders because they are our cousins across the ditch, but I was wondering whether Australia got special deals as well or was just made subject to the normal law that applied in New Zealand.

Mr Pezzullo : Again, we will check.

CHAIR: The other thing I am curious about is whether we are seen to be picking on New Zealanders any more than they would pick on us in similar circumstances.

Mr Pezzullo : I can give you an assurance, Chair, that the law as passed by this parliament is applied universally, whether you are a New Zealander anyone else; there is no carve-out as such.

Mr Manthorpe : I can add to that. The number of New Zealanders in our character case load—the case load of people that we are working through in relation to this—is proportionate to the number of visitors in Australia. At any given time there are about 600,000 New Zealanders here, which is about a third of the non-citizens who are in Australia, and that is roughly the proportion in the character case load.

CHAIR: I always start my comments by saying that we love all New Zealanders, but some of them we do not want to keep here as permanent citizens—but that is beside the point. Senator Collins? Senator Bilyk?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Senator Macdonald, I think—

CHAIR: I am sorry Senator Hanson-Young. I have a video clip of your intervention, which I will review at 4.30. I am absolutely certain the assertions you made were against officers, initially, and I want you to apologise.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am happy to apologise for any inference that I was accusing the officers of misleading—it was not about the officers, it was about the questioning.

CHAIR: Thank you for that. I will review the tape at afternoon tea time myself, just to refresh my memory and make sure that I was not maligning you. In view of your apology, I will call on you at the appropriate time—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Which is now.

CHAIR: Hang on, I am the one that will determine when that is. I think we have had two Labor and two government, so Senator Hanson-Young back to you then. Thank you for the apology.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you Chair. Can I go to a question in relation to the forthcoming contracts for the detention facilities offshore. My understanding is that they were meant to wind up by 31 October. Could we have an update as to where the new contracts are up to—have they been signed in full or is that still underway?

Mr Pezzullo : Just to assist officers, can you clarity you are limiting your questions to the regional processing support contracts in Manus Island and Nauru?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, let's start with the Transfield contracts first.

Mr Pezzullo : Mr Skill, who runs Detention Services, which includes, amongst other things, obviously the health matters that he has been dealing with over the course of the day, but he also oversees the procurement of offshore services. I might ask Mr Skill to answer your question in more detail, but yes, the contracts that are on foot expire on 31 October, that is in two week's time. They are currently the subject of a near-to-final tender evaluation and tender negotiation process.

Mr Skill : The Transfield component is under negotiation at the moment and those negotiations are progressing very well.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is it still under negotiation?

Mr Skill : It is very close to finalisation but out of an abundance of caution, we have put in place a short-term extension to the existing contract to ensure that there is continuity of services—it has an initial period of three months with a one-month option, and that aligns with the transition-in period of the new contract. We have built the flexibility into that extension to allow us to progressively move into the new terms of the new contract. We have also built in access to savings et cetera that may be realised under the new contract as well.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Just to be absolutely clear, Transfield will be the continuing service provider—is that correct?

Mr Pezzullo : No, we are currently in contract negotiations. The way in which Commonwealth tendering is done is that you have a preferred tenderer, as I think you would be aware. You always keep someone in reserve—it may be that in some cases several parties in reserve—and that is done from a point of view of commercial prudence—the term that the officers in the trade use is that we just want to make sure that the relevant commercial provider sharpens their pencil and seeks to improve on the proposition that they have put forward in their proposal. That is done equitably and fairly, so that there is no disadvantage. But they are the preferred tenderer—I do not want you to think otherwise—but there is no inevitability and subject to the decisions made by my delegates, they will get the job if they can demonstrate value for money and conformance with the other elements of the RFT, and if they deliver the benefits to the Commonwealth that our contract negotiators require. If we cannot come to terms, there is no inevitability about the closure of the deal. It is a very standard contract negotiation period.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But you have given yourself an extra three months grace, basically.

Mr Pezzullo : As Mr Skill advised, yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Where does Wilson Security fit within that? Obviously they are a subcontractor to Transfield under the current contract.

Mr Pezzullo : I will ask Mr Skill whether there has been advice to the market. It is my understanding that we are engaged with Transfield as the prime contractor. I do not know whether it is a matter of public record, Mr Skill, and I do not know whether we disadvantage anyone commercially by indicating otherwise, but Transfield have put to us as part of their RFT response what their proposal is for the provision of security services. I will check with Mr Skill about whether we can indicate who their subcontractor would be. He advises that for reasons of commerciality I am not in a position to state publicly what the subcontract arrangements would be.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Wilson security will remain at the centre for the extension period?

Mr Pezzullo : I am sorry, Senator?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Does that mean that Wilson Security will remain at the facility for at least the extension period?

Mr Pezzullo : My assumption would be, and Mr Skill will confirm this, is that all of the contractual arrangements that are currently on foot would be covered by the extension period.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you able to tell us who is in the reserve for the contract?

Mr Pezzullo : No. Sorry, that was an emphatic answer. Mr Skill, has that been disclosed to the market?

Mr Skill : No, it hasn't.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, Senator. It hasn't been.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are there any other current contract negotiations that the department is having with service providers for Manus and Nauru?

Mr Pezzullo : This is the head contract. So, unless there are specialist contracts around health services, for instance—I will check with Mr Skill.

Mr Skill : There are two streams in the RFT, as we previously discussed in the inquiry particularly. The first is the garrison and welfare component, and the second is the health services component. We are making good progress with regard to the garrison and welfare component. We are still reviewing the procurement process for the health services component and, as a result, we are again putting in place a short-term extension to ensure continuity of service provision in those sites until we finalise the procurement process.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who is the preferred tenderer for that? That has not been publicised yet?

Mr Pezzullo : I can confirm that we have not got to the point of finalising the tender evaluation. So, until you get to that point, you do not know who your preferred tenderer is. Mr Skill has just confirmed to me privately, and I will put it in evidence, there are currently therefore no contract negotiations on foot for the health component.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Right. Because you are evaluating the tenders. I get it.

Mr Pezzullo : Or indeed reviewing. I will get Mr Skill to describe it in his words rather than mine. You said that we are reviewing the procurement approach.

Mr Skill : We are. We have undertaken that stream of the procurement. We have undertaken the vast majority of the evaluation process. We are just finalising the evaluation process now. We have commenced some initial discussions with the providers but we are not in a position where we can announce preferred tenderers et cetera at this point in time. We are expecting that to be very soon, but at this stage we cannot go to that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In terms of the other issues—the garrison and security—the last time we spoke it was that there would just be one contractor engaged in the primary contract. Is that still the view? Because obviously Save the Children are not having a separate contract.

Mr Skill : I am sorry, I missed the first part of the question. For the garrison and welfare contract, yes, there is a primary contractor, which, at this point in time, Transfield are the preferred tenderers to provide that. The range of those services will include those that are provided currently—so, transport and escort, security, catering and so on. It will also go to the welfare aspects. Transfield are currently providing those services in RPC2 on Nauru. They will be extending those capabilities into RPC3 for the residents of those sites, once the Save the Children contract expires on 31 October.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you take on notice perhaps for later on this evening the other contracts that the department currently holds with service providers on Nauru and Manus Island so that we have an actual list of them and status.

Mr Skill : I will find that out and provide it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am happy for you to table it, if that is more helpful.

Mr Skill : I will see where it fits in the documentation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Have you got current figures as to how much the offshore detention operations have cost for this first quarter of the financial year?

Mr Skill : I will defer to Dr Charker.

Dr Charker : I do have some information, Senator. I will just find it for you. Probably the most useful thing I could do would be to give you the figures separately for operating costs by facility—Manus and Nauru. In the period July to September 2015, so to date on Manus, the department has spent $113.83 million and, on Nauru, it is $93.26 million to date, in the first quarter. In terms of what those costs actually are, they would include certainly support costs as well as direct costs. So direct costs typically include the service provider costs, which include the contractor costs that my colleague just mentioned before. But it also includes departmental employee and supplier costs, which impact on a given facility as well. They do not include, however, settlement costs—so the cost of refugee settlement under the offshore management program—and they do not include capital costs for the Immigration Detention Network. I can certainly provide those separately, if you wish.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you, please.

Dr Charker : Yes. Sure. Just one moment and I will dig those out.

Mr Skill : Senator, I can provide you those costs. For the 2015-16 financial year to date, we have expended $15.6 million in Nauru on capital. For the 2015-16 financial year for Manus, it is $23.07 million.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And settlement costs?

Mr Skill : The East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre has been completed, so we do not have any additional capital to put into East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre. We are doing some minor modifications on behalf of the PNG ICSA—things like a fence that they have requested and so on. But they have not been expended yet, so we do not have those costs.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And settlement costs for Nauru?

Dr Charker : I have got those costs. Year to date—so, in other words, July to September 2015—Nauru settlement costs are $19.5 million.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I just check what the settlement costs cover?

Dr Charker : I might have to take the detail of that on notice, I suspect. Certainly, they cover both departmental costs and administrative. So they include costs of our staff, our employees, as well as administered costs. I will just double-check whether I have got anything directly here that can help you. I will have to take the description of settlement costs in detail on notice and come back this evening, if that is okay.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. That would be helpful. Mr Skill, I want to double-check settlement costs for Manus. At the moment, you are saying there is nothing.

Mr Skill : In capital components.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What about settlement costs for Manus.

Dr Charker : I can deal with that. For July to September 2015 for Manus, settlement costs were $14.21 million to date.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And, again, you will come back with the—

Dr Charker : I will come back with a description of what settlement costs are getting qualitatively.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What about cost for transportation to and from the mainland, between both Nauru and Manus?

Mr Pezzullo : If I might just provide some guidance here for Dr Charker. My preference here is that, once you start getting below one line budget items, how much we spend on Manus and how much we spend on Nauru is to be increasingly—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This would be my last question in this section if I can get the transport costs.

Mr Pezzullo : My preference would be to be more cautious. In some cases, I would like to review the material myself. So my preference, Dr Charker, is that we take the breakdowns on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I just clarify: is that because the transport cost is part of another line item altogether?

Mr Pezzullo : Quite possibly—and, out of the corner of my eye, I am detecting Dr Charker very helpfully trying to flick through tables.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay.

Mr Pezzullo : I just want it to be right—and Dr Charker herself has very high standards when it comes to accuracy—so I would rather take it on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Dr Charker, is it that transport costs are part of another line item, budgeted separately by the department?

Dr Charker : Yes, that is exactly right. As you would appreciate, we collapse all sorts of relevant expenditure to form a useful line item. So, when you ask after a particular specific, I have to try and break it out, and I do not think I have that here.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is fine. If you can take that on notice, I am happy for you to do that. I am happy to move on to some other questions. I can see that my time is almost up. We got the numbers of children still on Nauru. I would like to know how many pregnant women are on Nauru currently.

Mr Pezzullo : I just need to check who has the relevant information, out of Mr Skill and possibly Ms Moy. They can sort it out between themselves. I think that there are a number of pregnant women.

CHAIR: Would you have that information?

Mr Pezzullo : We certainly would, to the extent that the service providers report to us what activity they are engaged in. To further particularise that on Nauru, there are a mixture of persons no longer detained, because it is a so-called open-centre arrangement—persons who have not yet had their refugee claims assessed and those who are living in the community as refugees. So there are two different groupings here. But I will just see if Mr Skill has that information and if there is any way in which we can assist the committee.

CHAIR: Do you ask people if they are pregnant?

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry?

CHAIR: Is it a matter of interest for the department that they go round asking people if they are pregnant?

Mr Pezzullo : The only matters of interest are twofold. One is if a pregnant woman falls within the ambit of our care from the point of view of the provision of services—

CHAIR: Well, I understand that.

Mr Pezzullo : and the other, further to that, is if they then have a complication in their pregnancy—

CHAIR: I understand that.

Mr Pezzullo : and they have to be transferred to Australia in accordance with the criteria that the minister and others have spoken about, including Mr Skill earlier today. Then their pregnancy would become, if you like, of interest to the department.

CHAIR: I am just wondering how you can answer the question about how many women are pregnant in this facility unless you have asked each and every single woman whether they are pregnant. You would know them if they had health problems, but that is not a pregnancy; that is a health problem.

Mr Pezzullo : Understood, Senator. I think I will give this guidance to Mr Skill: how many pregnant women are there that we know of because of the undertaking of our duties, as it were? I think that is the best way to answer the question.

Mr Skill : Senator, we are going to confirm the exact number. There may be some information that has not been passed back to the national office as yet because some are in the very early stages of pregnancy and therefore do not require additional services or support; they are just being monitored by the island. I am aware of six pregnant women at the moment. It was seven until Saturday: a healthy baby boy was born on Saturday at the Nauru hospital, which was fantastic news for everybody involved, and congratulations to the family of that child. So there are six that I am aware of currently under care and in discussion with the IHMS, and the settlement clinic as well, to ensure that they have the support they require.

Mr Pezzullo : So, to be clear, in response to the chair's point, Mr Skill knows that because Australian support is provided to those women through the arrangements that we have. As to your question, Chair, are there more pregnant women on Nauru, it is quite likely. How many are known to us? Six, as Mr Skill just indicated, and seven before Saturday.

CHAIR: We have another two minutes, Senator Hanson-Young, if you wanted to finish.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. How many people are on Manus and Nauru who either have had their claims assessed and been found to be refugees or remain there as transferees and asylum seekers—how many are Syrian?

Mr Pezzullo : How many on Manus and Nauru are Syrian across—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Both cohorts.

Mr Pezzullo : Whether they have been assessed or not yet assessed?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : I might ask Deputy Commissioner Briscoe to start and, then, if she wants to defer to Ms Moy, that would be fine. Ms Briscoe, do you have that information?

Ms Briscoe : No, I do not have it, but Ms Moy indicated that she does.

Mr Pezzullo : Ms Moy has that information.

Ms Moy : Senator, on both Manus and Nauru, there are less than five Syrian people.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Does that mean four?

Ms Moy : It means less than five at the moment. Normally, we do not provide information that can identify people unless they give us permission to release their details. So when there are—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am asking how many people.

Ms Moy : When I am talking about less than five that includes refugees and transferees—people who may not yet have received a hand down. So there is less than five on Nauru and less than five on Manus.

Mr Pezzullo : So less than 10 altogether.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I do not understand why you cannot give me the actual number. It seems a bit silly.

Ms Moy : Generally, when we provide data, if there is a very small cohort and it is able to identify individuals then we do not provide that detail as such.

Mr Pezzullo : So the answer to the question is that it is in single digits.

CHAIR: We might it leave it there, but for everyone's benefit we are still on Australian Border Force, although we interposed that with the two opening statements which gave us a wider area to question. According to the program, which is indicative only, we have to do the department cross portfolio and general corporate, Operation Sovereign Borders and border enforcement compliance, offshore management, offshore management and regional cooperation and then the indicative program shows that at 7.30 pm we go to citizenship, migration, visas and other issues. I am wondering—and it is immaterial to me—Senator Carr, would you have much more in that line up to the dinner break?

Senator KIM CARR: I would finish by dinner time, I guess, but it depends on how much time we get to actually ask the questions.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have a few more pages of questions.

CHAIR: It looks like we might get to the citizenship section—outcome 2—after dinner. I thought I would mention that for what it is worth.

Proceedings suspended from 16:32 to 16:49

CHAIR: I call back to order this meeting of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee taking evidence on the 2015-16 budget.

Senator KIM CARR: I thank you for the document that has been tabled—Operation Fortitude. It was dated the 28th August. I take it that it was addressed to the minister's office?

Mr Pezzullo : It was addressed to the minister, amongst other persons. This is an attachment to an email that we talked about in the proceedings prior to the break, and that email went to a number of persons.

Senator KIM CARR: It went to which minister's office?

Mr Pezzullo : It certainly went to Mr Dutton's office, as has previously been put on the public record. As to other persons I will have to check.

Senator KIM CARR: It went to Minister Cash's office as well?

Senator Cash: Senator Carr, I understand that it was ccd to a media adviser in my office.

Senator KIM CARR: This was the second email, was it not. I thought we were told this morning by the commissioner that there was an email on the 26th. This one is dated the 28th.

Mr Pezzullo : Whether the attachment has changed, or the covering email had different content, I do not know. This is the version that was cleared. If you go to the third page, this was the document that was cleared through the course of the latter part of August, culminating in a clearance at 2.10 pm on the 26th, which was a Wednesday.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes

Mr Pezzullo : Whether this document is attached to the first or the second email is a matter of fact that I need to clarify for myself.

Senator KIM CARR: The document has a date on the back of it on the last page. The Regional Commander, Don Smith, has signed it off at 2.10 pm on the 26th, but on the front page it is dated the 28th.

Mr Pezzullo : That is the date of the event.

Senator KIM CARR: The effect?

Mr Pezzullo : No, that is the date of the event.

Senator KIM CARR: The event.

Mr Pezzullo : In this case, this is a standard template. The subject matter is clearly identified—the date of the event could be—

Senator KIM CARR: Okay I have it. But this is the second email. There were two emails.

Mr Pezzullo : That is right. The point I made earlier is that I do not know which email that this attaches to other than the fact that this must be, by definition, the version signed off on the Wednesday prior to Operation Fortitude's intended start time.

Senator KIM CARR: Commissioner, I am a little confused here because earlier I thought you were telling me that this was just a routine operation.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, that is correct.

Senator KIM CARR: The document says:

For the first time the Australian Border Force (ABF) is joining forces with Victorian police …

Does that fit into the category of a normal operation?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I would like to clarify a point there. It is the first time that we conducted this routine operation under auspices of the Australian Border Force, whereas previously it was conducted under the auspices of the immigration department.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. So I should read the 'first time' there as not particularly significant? If I look to the second page and it says:

The ABF regularly participates in inter-agency activity. This is the first time we've been involved in an inter-agency operation of this size and nature.

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is probably right again, given the previous answer. Under the auspices of the ABF, it was probably the first large operation of this size that we did—under the brand of the ABF.

Senator KIM CARR: Again, I raise the question of whether or not this is just a standard operation. Clearly, by definition and its own description it was much bigger and different in nature from standard operations.

Mr Quaedvlieg : No, I stand by my comment. It is routine, it is very low level and we do lots of these.

Senator KIM CARR: 'This is the first time we've been involved in an inter-agency operation of this size and nature.' What do those words mean to you?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I think I have just explained that. I can repeat that for you if you like.

Senator KIM CARR: If you would help me there. I seem to be having difficulty following this.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Let me try and simplify it. It is the first time under the banner or branding of the Australian Border Force that we were involved in an operation of this scale and size.

Senator KIM CARR: That is the first page reference. I accept that.

Mr Quaedvlieg : As I said, that reference applies also to that comment.

Senator KIM CARR: It states:

This is the first time we've been involved in an inter-agency operation of this size and nature.

It does not go to the fact that ABF is being used for the first time. It goes to the meaning of the words 'size and nature'.

Mr Quaedvlieg : What is the question?

Senator KIM CARR: Sorry?

Mr Quaedvlieg : What is the question?

Senator KIM CARR: The question is that I am having trouble understanding what the reference is to size and nature. It is clearly not a reference to the ABF being used for the first time. It goes to the size and nature of the operation.

Mr Pezzullo : Senator, if I may, to assist the interpretation, I think not only relevant is the bullet point from which you are reading but also if you look at the bolded text which—if you like—is the hypothetical question that a talking point is directed to—

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : and I will quote for the benefit of other members or indeed anyone listening to these proceedings. This is the hypothetical question that a user of the talking point would have regard to: 'Has ABF been involved in any similar operations in the past?' I think the Commissioner's point is that if you read it against the subheading, 'Has the ABF been involved in any similar operations in the past?', this is the first time given that the ABF was only established some 10 weeks prior to this point.

Senator KIM CARR: And of this size and nature?

Mr Pezzullo : Well, that still holds true. If you read it against the hypothetical question, it holds true.

Senator KIM CARR: That is right.

Mr Pezzullo : It has to by definition, because unless an exact replica operation had been conducted in the proceeding 10 weeks, that statement is factually true.

Senator KIM CARR: The document also says 'we are proud to be involved in this operation'. What do you think was meant by that?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I think it is self-evident. I would not want to think what is in the mind of the drafter, but I think we are proud to be involved in joint operations.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. It also says here, 'Why are you involved?' and you say here, 'Individuals need to be aware of the conditions of their visa. These people who deliberately commit a visa fraud should know that it is only a matter of time before they will get caught out.'

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, you have read that accurately.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. So the intent was slightly different from what you were talking about before in terms of public safety.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I think we traversed this ground earlier when we discussed this particular operation. Nothing in the media artefacts detract from my evidence that this was a routine operation which was secondary and we were in an advisory and support role. How that is represented in the media product, I think both the secretary and I have acknowledged that was erroneous and that they misrepresented our role—and they do. But nothing in these changed the actual nature of what it is we were going to do.

Senator KIM CARR: Given what you have just said, would that not also apply to the point that you have made here: 'How will ABF decide which individuals to target?' and 'We will be speaking with a range of individuals we come across as part of this operation.' Would that not be consistent with the press release?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, well the way I read that—

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, Senator—consistent?

Senator KIM CARR: Consistent.

Mr Pezzullo : It is precisely consistent.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, exactly.

Mr Pezzullo : And as poorly drafted as the media release was—

Senator KIM CARR: And some of the talking points.

Mr Pezzullo : Indeed.

Senator KIM CARR: Why were they not picked up?

Mr Quaedvlieg : For the same reasons that we indicated earlier. There were a range of defects in the way that that media clearance occurred. They have been identified and surfaced with a review and we have put into place remediation efforts to try and ensure that it does not occur again.

Senator KIM CARR: I would have thought that if anyone actually read it they would have picked it up pretty quickly.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I agree with you. I read this for the first time on that Friday afternoon and I had the same view as you. I thought. 'Well, whoever has read this in the organisation probably should have picked this because it is wrong. '

Senator KIM CARR: I will get the other email presumably later on this evening. We will see that there is a list of people who have missed this including two ministerial officers.

Mr Pezzullo : I do know that it is fair to say that people have missed it. I do not know what processes—

Senator KIM CARR: Who drew it to your attention Mr Pezzullo?

Mr Pezzullo : In my case? Personally?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : I think from memory it was the ABC World Today bulletin at midday.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, that is right. And the wall of protest. There were people gathering on the streets in Melbourne.

Mr Pezzullo : The wall had not started at that point.

Senator KIM CARR: The point is that substantial numbers of citizens took offence at this.

Mr Pezzullo : A numbers of persons took offence.

Senator KIM CARR: But no-one in any of the political offices or, it would seem, in senior levels of the department who actually received this email saw this as a problem.

CHAIR: That is not a question for Mr Pezzullo.

Senator KIM CARR: Well, it is for Mr Pezzullo.

CHAIR: It is not. He cannot say whether senior people in political offices should have known or otherwise.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Chairman, let me ask the questions! It would be very helpful for the work of this committee is you actually stopped trying to intervene.

CHAIR: You have to ask questions that can be answered by a public servant.

Senator KIM CARR: They are straightforward questions.

CHAIR: How can these public servants tell you what would happen in a minister's office?

Senator KIM CARR: The question to you, Mr Pezzullo, was: when were you advised about this matter?

Mr Pezzullo : I heard it on the media. On the second part of your question—what happens in ministerial offices—that is a matter for ministers.

Senator KIM CARR: Or a number of other senior officers within the department.

Mr Pezzullo : I was passing down your question. As to what happened in ministerial offices, that is a matter for the relevant ministers. They are ultimately accountable for the conduct and performance of their staff. I think that is well-established convention and practice in terms of ministerial arrangements. For officers of both the department and the ABF, I have said several times today that the commissioner and I take full responsibility. We do not throw people under the bus. We do not blame people for innocent and honestly made mistakes, particularly those who have otherwise excellent service records. Had any officer, and I exclude here ministerial staff and I am not going to comment on the role of ministerial staff, read this in the cold light of thinking what impression might either the media release or the talking points might give rise to—any inference that might be created because of the sensitive and delicate nature of how persons might be questioned under any circumstances, but particularly in relation to whether they are citizens of this country or not—it would not have proceeded. This is where we need to do a better job and this is the thing that we have fixed—because the commissioner and I are responsible. We are accountable for this matter. If I can use this phrase, it was the first hit-out of the ABF. We have just established that, in relation to this nature of this operation, it should have been very carefully laid out that the Migration Act has limited, very surgical and precise bearing on such matters and that it does not entail, pursuant to section 188 of the act, any generalised powers to question of persons in the street.

Senator KIM CARR: I am interested to know, Mr Commissioner, the relationship with the Victoria Police—how have they been affected by this matter? I understood you to tell me before that they had not. Would that be a fair summary of your evidence today?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No, it would not be a fair summary. It is too short. I mentioned earlier that the joint operations and activity with the Victoria Police continue. They are diverse, they are deep, they are voluminous. What Chief Commissioner Ashton and I decided in relation to operations like Operation Fortitude was that we would review our standard operating protocols and how we interact in the planning and the media management of those before we re-joined and conducted operations like Fortitude. So the general characterisation that I would put to you is that the relationship with Victoria Police is very good. The chief commissioner and I are very good professional colleagues. We have good institutional relationships. Commander Don Smith has an excellent relationship with his counterpart, Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana, and every day, including today, we are conducting joint operations with Victoria Police.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Ashton is quoted on 18 September as saying:

Victoria Police had held many operations with the ABF when it was Customs and Border Protection over taxi driver compliance, but said the new agency had a “different look and feel” to the role immigration used to play in those standard operations.

I asked some questions earlier about the changing culture of the department. Perhaps you will not be able to answer this because you were not in the old department, but, Mr Pezzullo, do you think the changing culture of the department has had an effect on the operational cooperation of agencies such as the Victoria Police?

Mr Pezzullo : I noted Chief Commissioner Ashton's remarks at the time. Commissioner Quaedvlieg has spoken to him. The Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police can speak for himself. It is clearly obvious that there is a different look. I explained earlier in my evidence that, from the point of view of Migration Act enforcement, there are now uniformed officers, known as officers of the Australian Border Force, who undertake those activities. Why is that? The government of the day, with the support of this parliament—because this parliament passed the ABF legislation—decided to ensure that more of a law enforcement professional set of standards was applied in this area. That was already evident in Customs. That had long been the case in Customs—we talked earlier about powers of arrest, powers to be armed and the like. Visa compliance is getting increasingly challenging. This is to do with syndicated criminal elements when you are dealing with labour exploitation, sexual servitude and the like. It was decided by the government in the 2014-15 budget cycle and reinforced in the subsequent budget cycle to professionalise the standard of what might be termed immigration compliance officers and the immigration compliance function. Is there a different look? Yes. You can see it sitting here at the table. There are at least three officers of the ABF. Is there a different feel? Feeling is a subjective matter. I do not know whether there is a different feel.

Certainly in terms of culture the ABF as the department at large is very acutely sensitive to the following, and this is why the press release and the talking points are not consistent with the culture or values that the commissioner and I are seeking to promote and is why we are ultimately accountable for both identifying and fixing the problem. We have to balance in this area—and I will not detain the committee for very long—twin imperatives. There are something like six million visas issued regularly every year, inclusive of the New Zealand 444 visas that we talked about earlier. The rest go to all corners of the earth. The number of people that we have to deal with who are either overstayers who breach their visa conditions or are the subject—in some cases as victims, in some cases as perpetrators—of labour exploitation or sexual servitude in absolute terms is regrettably large but in proportion terms is very small. That is to say that, as with the customs function, you are always trying to keep open borders, the flow of labour mobility, the flow of tourists, the flow of people coming here to attend conferences, to undertake temporary work and the like.

You then have to balance that with what might appear to be a paradoxical and maybe even contradictory imperative, which is to keep Australia safe, which is to, as it were, keep out 'undesirables'. How you balance that is a very delicate matter, and that is why the ABF commissioner, I and all of our senior officers as well as all our officers more generally are constantly in discussion about how to balance those twin imperatives. That has not changed from either the customs service, which dealt with goods, or the immigration department, which dealt with noncitizens coming here and leaving after their stay has ended.

Senator KIM CARR: I look forward to the other emails.

CHAIR: I have some questions about the Cambodian resettlement arrangement. Can someone tell me where that is at?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes. I will ask Ms Briscoe and her officers to assist. We have an agreement with the government of Cambodia for them to work with the government of Nauru and ourselves—I will explain why there is a three-way arrangement in a moment—to resettle persons from Nauru on a voluntary basis. The reason why Australia is involved in what is in effect a trilateral agreement is that, pursuant to the MOU and the agreements that were struck with Nauru that you asked about earlier in the day, Australia undertook intergovernmentally through the agreement we have made with Nauru to assist that jurisdiction with eventual resettlement and/or removal of persons, depending on whether or not they were found to be refugees. That behoves us to undertake discussions, consultations and eventually negotiations with what are known as third country resettlement destinations. The government of Cambodia indicated an interest and willingness to be involved in resettlement. To flesh out an answer I gave Senator Carr earlier: I was reminded that Mr Dutton visited Cambodia recently on his way back from the meetings in Europe with High Commissioner Guterres and his staff. He made some public comments about this. He visited Cambodia to engage in some discussions about the state of progress. It is the case that four persons were transferred under resettlement arrangements from Nauru to Cambodia. I believe one of them has decided to return to his or her country of origin. There are a number of other people who are being considered actively. They have to give their own consent—this is a voluntary agreement and arrangement—and obviously the government of Cambodia has to be satisfied with their entry into their country. For more detail, I might ask Deputy Commissioner Briscoe to assist me in the undertaking of these duties.

CHAIR: Something you said there attracted my attention. You said one of the refugees who went from Nauru to Cambodia decided to return to their country of origin.

Mr Pezzullo : Has indicated a desire to return. Ms Briscoe will clarify this. On that point, I might seek clarification from the deputy commissioner.

CHAIR: Please do. Deputy Commissioner, my question is: if someone has been determined to be a refugee on, I assume, the grounds of harm befalling that person if they return to their country of origin, how have they now decided that perhaps that harm is not there? Does that say something about the determination of the refugee process? Anyhow, you follow on from Mr Pezzullo and I will ask those questions later if I need to.

Ms Briscoe : In that particular case, we were advised that one of those refugees who had settled in Cambodia did voluntarily repatriate to their home country. I am not aware of their motivations.

CHAIR: Have we kept a track on that person?

Ms Briscoe : No, we have not.

CHAIR: What was the country of origin?

Ms Briscoe : Myanmar.

CHAIR: Was this done by Nauru rather than the Australian officials?

Ms Briscoe : That process is facilitated by the International Organisation for Migration.

CHAIR: Who or what is that?

Ms Briscoe : IOM are an organisation that we have an arrangement with who work in a range of places. In Cambodia they are looking after the settlement of the refugees.

CHAIR: What I am getting at, though, is that this person was in Nauru and someone assed that person as having refugee status. Do we know on what basis that refugee status was granted? For example, was it because they could not return to their homeland for fear of being tortured or killed?

Mr Pezzullo : I can perhaps assist. I am not sure that we can go into that level of detail without the consent of another government with the relevant case file, because these are not determinations made by my officers. The relevant convention that is enshrined in domestic law both here and in Nauru relates to the 1951 Refugee Convention. That requires for a decision maker to have regard to whether a person has 'a well-founded fear of persecution' in their country of origin. The convention plus the practice that has been built upon the convention then particularises the forms of persecution that might have relevance. In this case it might be related to ethnic origin or religious status. Sometimes it relates to gender and sexual orientation. That really would be a set of considerations that the decision makers would have had regard to. They are government of Nauru decision makers. We have no role in making those determinations.

CHAIR: That is fine. That answers my question; you cannot tell me. It just seems strange that someone who was determined to be a refugee for one of those reasons has now voluntarily decided that those reasons do not apply and has returned of their own free will.

Mr Pezzullo : As the deputy commissioner stated, it is hard for us to speculate absent knowledge about their state of mind or what considerations they might have brought to bear.

CHAIR: Of course. Do we have a budgeted cost for this arrangement with Cambodia?

Mr Pezzullo : The resources involved are in two dimensions, both of which are on the public record. I might state them briefly and the deputy commissioner can add to my answer. There is an agreement that the government entered into to provide various forms of capacity-building and development assistance. That is provided by DFAT through the overseas development vote. Then there are obviously the costs incurred by my department in terms of running the program which I think we have given evidence on previously. The two components are $40 million in development assistance—not directly related to the resettlement per se but part of the commitment that we entered into to assist the Cambodians—and then, as I recall, a figure we put on the table in estimates before for $15 million funding for the overall program. But that is pay on performance, so it is not as though the $15 million is gone. You see some media speculation: $15 million divided by four is $X million per refugee. We are going to pay on performance.

CHAIR: I think you said to me earlier that this is—

Senator KIM CARR: You get a refund, do you, on the money that has gone?

CHAIR: This is done under an arrangement between Australia and Nauru in those MOUs entered into, which I think you said were in 2012.

Mr Pezzullo : Nauru is 2012.

CHAIR: Okay, so that is why we are doing that. Is Cambodia a signatory to the refugee convention?

Mr Pezzullo : They are a party to the convention, and we provide assistance to Nauru and Cambodia in their bilateral discussions about the resettlement of these persons, and then the actual resettlement work is undertaken by the body that Deputy Commissioner Briscoe outlined, which is a multilateral forum of states called the International Organization for Migration. It is not in the UN system, but it is aligned with the UN system. They provide the case officers and the field officers on the ground, who then assist with the settlement in country.

CHAIR: How are they related to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees?

Mr Pezzullo : The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is established pursuant to the convention, which was implemented, and ratified subsequently, from 1951 onwards. The High Commissioner for Refugees is a senior officer in the United Nations system. He—currently it is a he, Mr Antonio Guterres—heads a UN agency no different from, if you like, the UN Development Program and other UN agencies. The IOM, the International Organization for Migration, is not formally within the UN system. It would not be recognised within the charter or the governance chart, if you like, of the UN system. However, it works so closely with the UNHCR; it is very closely aligned. It is a government body; it is an intergovernmental body of member states. Australia is a party. In fact, I think we were one of the earliest signatories to the IOM agreements.

The basic split of responsibilities—this might be a little bit crude, but for the purposes of answering your question—is that UNHCR undertakes policy work. It, if you like, enshrines and ensures that the global system of what is called protection is observed pursuant to the 1951 convention. It also delivers immediate humanitarian assistance, so it is currently, for instance, engaged in providing support to various European member states in relation to the persons who are moving towards Europe. The IOM's remit goes beyond refugees; it deals with all persons who are displaced or removed. It can be for reasons to do with forced migration other than fleeing persecution. People flee for all sorts of reasons: there might be famine; there might be drought; there might be environmental degradation and the like. It is very much an operational agency that provides support to both the persons who are forcibly being moved about and the countries that thereby have been impacted. So it delivers services on the ground, but its remit goes beyond refugees, for the reasons I have just said.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Perhaps I could also add that, for example, the IOM are contracted by the Australian government to deliver our Australian orientation program. For people who are selected to come to Australia under our humanitarian program, we have a contract with IOM, and they deliver the orientation program in different parts of the world for us. That is one of the services, for example, adding to what Secretary Pezzullo said that they do.

CHAIR: That would be a fee-for-service arrangement?

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Yes, that is done through the Department of Social Services as part of our settlement services. But I just wanted to give another dimension to what the secretary was saying in terms of what services IOM deliver on the ground.

CHAIR: Can anyone off the top of their head—or, if not, on notice—tell me who is party to IOM. What is the management of IOM? Is there a board of all contributing nations? What is the funding?

Mr Pezzullo : We can take most of that on notice. I can certainly indicate in terms of governance—because I had a chance to refresh myself last week, because I was actually in Geneva in our annual consultations with the director general—that it is a multilateral body. As I said, it is associated with but not formally part of the UN system. The director general is appointed by all member states. There is a governing council that sits above the director general. We will give you on notice a breakdown of the organisational chart and the governance arrangements. I will chance my arm here. I think the number of member states is probably in triple figures. Whether it is the full 198 member states or a number short of that, I will need to take on notice.

CHAIR: That is probably all I need to know. You fund it on a pro rata basis, do you?

Mr Pezzullo : Everyone makes contributions based on a formula that I think is pro rata. It might be that countries can choose to contribute more. In addition to that, as the minister has just indicated, the IOM engages in specific programs that are then funded through specific fees over and above its core unearmarked funding.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: For different countries, Senator.

Senator KIM CARR: I am sorry, Mr Pezzullo, but could you repeat how many additional persons have been accepted for resettlement in Cambodia?

Mr Pezzullo : Additional above the four? None yet have been finally confirmed. There are a number of people going through the processing system. That is to say, they are qualified in the sense that they have been positively identified as being refugees. They are volunteers, they have given consent and now we are just working through to assist the governments of Nauru and Cambodia to effect the resettlement.

Senator KIM CARR: Obviously you are waiting on approval from the Cambodian government, are you?

Mr Pezzullo : Like any sovereign nation, they get a say about who comes into their country. That is certainly one of the factors involved, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: How are the negotiations going with the Philippines?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not really at liberty to put on the record much more than ministers and others have said in recent days. We are in active discussion with a number of countries pertaining to potential third country resettlement opportunities integral to regional processing, given the agreements that we have struck—with Nauru, particularly, where everyone will ultimately be either resettled or removed, the difference being whether they have protection claims being recognised or not. In the case of Papua New Guinea, they have a preference for in the first instance choosing to resettle under their own laws, but otherwise we have committed to assisting Papua New Guinea with third country resettlement where that is appropriate. We are in discussions and consultations with a number of potential third country resettlement partners.

Senator KIM CARR: How many other countries?

Mr Pezzullo : A number.

Senator KIM CARR: You are not able to provide the committee with any further information?

Mr Pezzullo : No. It is a matter that we have not previously disclosed. If need be, I would be prepared to take guidance and advice, but—

Senator KIM CARR: Clearly there is some advice provided to the media with regard to the Philippines.

Mr Pezzullo : I cannot speculate about who has provided advice to whom. Suffice to say that unauthorised disclosures of information to the media are treated very seriously.

Senator KIM CARR: They have been treated very seriously! You have sent the plumbers in to clean up that leak, have you?

Mr Pezzullo : We do not have a plumbers unit, Senator.

Senator KIM CARR: Have you identified who the source of the unauthorised disclosure was?

Mr Pezzullo : No, Senator. If there are unauthorised disclosures of departmental information, there are other means and mechanisms to deal with that. I would have to take advice on the establishment of a plumbers unit, if you are willing to assist me.

Senator KIM CARR: I could probably provide you with someone. How many times have you actually discovered the source of an unauthorised disclosure?

Mr Pezzullo : That is really a matter for the Federal Police.

Senator KIM CARR: I am asking in your experience?

Mr Pezzullo : It is reasonably rare. It is a high evidentiary standard. You have got to be able to put a brief together in a court of law that would go to the criminal standard of proof, and it is challenging.

Senator KIM CARR: I think you will find, as is the saying, that the ship of state is the only ship that leaks from the top. So you should perhaps start with a ministerial office.

Mr Pezzullo : Senator, I have no particular insight into how the ship of states leaks. I would have to look to others to provide me with advice on that.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the current number of people on Manus?

Mr Pezzullo : Roughly speaking, it is approximately 900 in both localities. I will get Deputy Commissioner Briscoe to speak about Manus in particular.

Ms Briscoe : There are currently 932.

Senator KIM CARR: How many of them have been determined to be genuine refugees?

Ms Briscoe : One hundred and sixty-six.

Senator KIM CARR: And how many have been determined not to be refugees?

Mr Pezzullo : While the deputy commissioner searches her notes, I should, just for sake of clarity for the committee and anyone listening to the committee, make it abundantly clear that those determinations are made by the Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority—ICSA—of Papua New Guinea.

Ms Briscoe : I believe there have been 10.

Senator KIM CARR: Where are they now?

Ms Briscoe : The 10?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, the 10—the ones who have been rejected.

Ms Briscoe : I believe they are at RPC. I will need to check that—still in the regional processing centre.

Senator KIM CARR: On Manus still?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, I believe so. I will need to check that.

Senator KIM CARR: Have any of them voluntarily returned to their homeland?

Ms Briscoe : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Of the 10? Is that right?

Ms Briscoe : There have been returns. I do not know if they are of the 10.

Ms Moy : I can help with the numbers there. Of the 10, there are eight who remain in the regional processing centre and two have been returned.

Senator KIM CARR: Were they voluntary departures?

Ms Moy : They were involuntary.

Senator KIM CARR: Which countries have they been returned to?

Mr Pezzullo : I might need to take some advice on this. My earlier caveat applies. These are matters that are handled by Papua New Guinea under its jurisdiction. We provide assistance—I am not shirking from that or suggesting otherwise. But the repatriation of persons from Papua New Guinea to a third country involves at least two other jurisdictions—Papua New Guinea plus one. I would want to assure myself that both Papua New Guinea and the receiving jurisdiction are comfortable with us providing this advice.

Senator KIM CARR: These are people who, I presume, were taken out of the Commonwealth of Australia's custody?

Mr Pezzullo : They were transferred pursuant to, in the case of Manus, the intergovernmental agreement struck in 2013. They were transferred to the jurisdiction of the state of Papua New Guinea.

Senator KIM CARR: But does the Australian government still provide management services for the centre?

Mr Pezzullo : The Australian government, as is the case in Nauru as we canvassed earlier, provides support services to the facility at Manus. The effective control, and the jurisdiction applicable in this case, falls under the state of Papua New Guinea and its relevant laws. We do not run the centre, so much so that we have a separation even within our own agency whereby the detention operations staff who work in relation to the Australian network have nothing to do with—have no jurisdiction over and no control over—the functioning of those centres. They are purely matters for the governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru respectively.

Senator KIM CARR: Will you take that on notice—the country the two have been deported to?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: What engagement has the Commonwealth had with the government of Papua New Guinea regarding resettlement of genuine refugees?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not distinguish between genuine and non-genuine refugees. If their status has been determined in accordance with a lawful procedure undertaken either under the Migration Act or in accordance with the procedures and practices pursuant to the law of another country, they are refugees.

Senator KIM CARR: I am only seeking to distinguish those who have been determined to be refugees. There is no argument about that. What is the Australian government—

Mr Pezzullo : I am sorry. I just did not understand the reference—maybe I am just being a bit slow here—to the word 'genuine'.

Senator KIM CARR: The word 'genuine' relates to those who have been determined to be refugees. I just do not want to get into any argument about whether or not they are the real McCoy or otherwise. What is the engagement between the Australian government and the government of Papua New Guinea regarding resettlement?

Mr Pezzullo : We have regular engagement at ministerial level. Some of it is at my level with my counterpart. Some of it is through a joint advisory committee. That recognises that, pursuant to the agreement we have spoken about several times today, that Australian undertook to provide support services—I want to stress 'support services'—in terms of the provision of facilities, the building of facilities. In this case, for instance, we assisted with the provision of a transit facility that is separate from the main regional processing centre, which would hold persons positively determined to be refugees but is also—Ms Briscoe or her officers will assist me here—relevant to settlement in country. We have discussed what sorts of service provision we could provide, including drawing on the experience the minister touched on earlier about the integration of refugees into a new country. We have had discussions and negotiations about how we might be able to assist in that regard. To finish the picture off completely, although it is not on refugees, we have also provided assistance, technical and otherwise, on how you go about removing persons from your jurisdiction.

Senator KIM CARR: There are 166 that have been determined to be refugees. Where are they housed at the moment?

Mr Pezzullo : Deputy Commissioner Briscoe will correct me here, but a number would be housed in the transit facility that relates to persons who have been determined to be refugees, some might be on their way to the transit facility—I do not quite know where they are in the evolution of their case—and some might still be in the RPC. Perhaps the deputy commissioner can assist me on that point.

Ms Briscoe : There are 48 refugees currently in the transit centre, and the remaining 118 are still residing in the RPC.

Senator KIM CARR: This is the question: how much time do you anticipate they will be there before they are resettled into the community?

Mr Pezzullo : That is a matter that ultimately will need to be answered by the government of Papua New Guinea. We can make inquiries of that government, because it relates to applicable laws, policies and practices that they have in place. If there is anything we can assist the committee with, we will, but we will do it on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: There have been suggestions that people there are indefinitely engaged through that centre whether they are refugees or not—

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, Senator?

Senator KIM CARR: There will be an indefinite stay because there is no arrangement for resettlement.

Mr Pezzullo : The government of Papua New Guinea, prior to entering into this agreement in the middle part of 2013—and this is a matter of public record—did not have an established refugee and humanitarian program. We are assisting them with that. This is something that they desire to create for all sorts of reasons, one of which is pursuant to their agreement with Australia but also from the point of view of being members who wish to uphold the international system of protection. They need to arrive at the place we did many decades ago, which is: once you have grounded someone—in this case—in permanent protection, how do you go about their settlement and integration? They are still working through those issues, with our assistance. I do not wish to speak for the government of PNG other than to reflect on their own public statements and comments that they do not wish to see anyone 'indefinitely' held in any form of detention. Their ultimate goal will be to achieve in-country resettlement, which is one option; third-country resettlement, where that is to the mutual satisfaction of all parties; and, in the case of those not found to be refugees, their ultimate repatriation.

Senator KIM CARR: How many incidents have been reported at the RPC since the last estimates?

Mr Pezzullo : Incidents? I cannot remember what definition we used last time; I am just trying to recall. Deputy Commissioner Briscoe might be able to update you, but if you want an apples and apples comparison I might just need to remind myself of the definitions we used at the last hearing.

Senator KIM CARR: Reportable incidents are presumably the cases of violence.

Ms Briscoe : I do not have a number since the last estimates period, but I can provide a number for a longer period, which is from 24 March 2014 to 29 September 2015. The total number of incidents of sexual assault is 14; physical assault, 213; and abusive and aggressive behaviour, 798 in that 18-month period.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you.

Mr Pezzullo : We will need to take on notice, with those numbers, what has been reported since May.

Ms Briscoe : Just to clarify, they are reports.

Senator KIM CARR: Have there been any prosecutions for sexual assault?

Ms Briscoe : No.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the nature of the reports, then?

Ms Briscoe : Beyond the categories?

Senator KIM CARR: They are reports, so presumably they are incident reports from the service provider back to you.

Ms Briscoe : That is right.

Senator KIM CARR: How many of them involve children?

Ms Briscoe : There are no children in Manus.

Senator KIM CARR: None at all?

Ms Briscoe : No children in Manus.

Senator KIM CARR: So sexual assaults against women?

Mr Pezzullo : They are all single adult males.

Senator KIM CARR: Offshore men. What police action has been taken in the case of any of them?

Mr Pezzullo : We will need to consult with our partners in Papua New Guinea and see if they wish to provide any advice that we can provide to you.

Senator KIM CARR: Have there been any reports of any serious injuries of detainees or staff as a result of these incidents?

Mr Pezzullo : I am assuming that some of those reports that deal with violence might have occasioned serious injuries, but I do not know whether the deputy commissioner has got the definitional breakdown.

Ms Briscoe : I do not have the correlating information of those incidents with health statistics.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you take that on notice, please.

Ms Briscoe : Yes, certainly.

Senator KIM CARR: Were there any medical emergencies?

Ms Briscoe : I do not have medical emergencies; I will take that on notice as well.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. Could you also provide us with advice on how many asylum seekers have been treated at the new medical facility. And, if you can, what categories of injuries does your report contain?

Mr Pezzullo : Some persons might have attended the facility for an illness rather than an injury.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, I know, but just whatever categories you have.

Senator DI NATALE: I have some questions about the so-called gag clauses for health professionals. I am interested to know if there have been any prosecutions of any health professionals since the law was passed just over a month ago now.

Mr Pezzullo : I do apologise, but I will not accept the characterisation of a gag clause—I know you said 'so-called' so I am going to agree with you that it is so-called. In terms of the provisions around the nondisclosure of information outside of your official duties, which is the law of the land as passed by this parliament, yes, it is the case that the law was passed in time for the establishment of the ABF on 1 July 2015. There have been no prosecutions.

Senator DI NATALE: No prosecutions at all. Have there been any cases heard?

Mr Pezzullo : There are no relevant matters under that provision of the ABF act before the courts.

Senator DI NATALE: What impact has it had on staff retention rates? Have you got any sense of whether it has had any impact on—

Mr Pezzullo : In my department?

Senator DI NATALE: No, in terms of health professionals working in detention centres. Have you seen an increase in staff turnovers since that announcement was made?

Mr Pezzullo : We would have to refer that matter to our medical service provider, International Health and Medical Services or IHMS. Whether they have noticed any kind of movement in staff attrition rates is a matter for them. It is something that we can report to this committee but we would need to take it on notice and speak to them. We do not have any direct salaried employees who work for the department who provide those health services.

Senator DI NATALE: I realise that. I am talking specifically about people who are working on contract in detention centres. Have you got any—

Mr Pezzullo : As I said, our provider, IHMS, employs the workforce. They have not drawn to my attention—I will check with the commissioner whether they have drawn it to his attention—any issue around staff retention at all. If that is contradicted by facts or there are any further and better particulars we can provide, we will do it on notice.

Senator DI NATALE: In terms of responding to some of the organisations who have expressed concern around the conflict that it places doctors and other health professional in—for example the College of General Practitioners, the College of Psychiatrists, infectious diseases and so on, all of whom have expressed concern that the law as it stands prevents a health professional from fulfilling their duty of care to patients—what is the response from the department?

Mr Pezzullo : That view is not well founded in terms of the law that this parliament passed. It absolutely provides for and in fact it obligates all professionals, whether they are contracted for health purposes or whether they are providing other forms of support to the department or indeed my own officers or those of the ABF, to disclose any and all information that is relevant to the performance of their duties to those persons to whom they are required to disclose those matters.

So in the case of a health incident, which is germane to your question, the obligation would be on that doctor or other health professional to, in the first instance, provide advice up their management chain as to the requirements of care for the particular patient. I do not know whether you heard Mr Skill's evidence earlier in relation to a particular matter. The department then engages with the service provider, IHMS, in terms of whether care should be adjusted, whether persons should be removed or whether persons should be transferred within the network—I am referring here to the Australian detention network in particular. Mr Skill then applies some judgement to that. He has access to internal medical advice.

We have recently recruited and indeed filled the position of chief medical officer of the department, who also acts as the Surgeon General of the ABF. He has just started recently, so I will describe his future role rather than the role he has been playing historically. His future role will be to provide advice to me, the commissioner and other officers of the department and the ABF to provide a second opinion, as it were, or to provide some assurance. Unlike you, I am not medically qualified and nor is the commissioner. So we have an organic capability that has been created in recent weeks to get a second opinion, and then decisions are made about the care of persons pursuant to all of that advice—the advice we get from IHMS and the advice that in future we will be getting from the surgeon general.

In those cases where a contracted service provider still feels, after all of that management escalation, that there is a question of inappropriate care or misconduct—and this does cover the contracted workers that you were describing, and this is no different from what happens in hospitals and other collective care environments—then that officer, even though they are not an officer of the Commonwealth in the way that the commissioner and I are, is a worker of the department for the purposes of the protection that I am about to describe. They have access to the whistleblowing provisions under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, otherwise known as the PID. So they have that additional layer of protection, which is, again, the law of the land as passed by this parliament.

They are protected absolutely as to their identity. I have particular obligations, solely under me as secretary, to provide those protections under the PID—I am using the shorthand for the public interest disclosure law. It creates significant consequences for me and my officers if those arrangements are not put in place in the manner that this parliament determined.

They can raise issues of misconduct, malpractice and indeed, I suppose, their own interpretation of whether care arrangements are being appropriately acquitted after they have gone through the relevant process. What I suspect would happen is that after persons have escalated matters to their management and they feel that they are not getting satisfaction, if they feel that the department and maybe IHMS are not taking those concerns seriously, then they have the full protection of the law to make a public interest disclosure to an entirely separate part of the department. This is the way that the law works in terms of whistleblowers. They are given absolute protection under that regime. So there are many checks and balances here.

I will conclude my answer, and this is perhaps more pertinent to medical practitioners—and I say this very respectfully. If it is assumed that after all of those procedures, mechanisms and processes have been exhausted there is still no satisfaction—and I can see in good faith why someone might come to that view—there is no lawful basis upon which you can then approach the media. I do not mean to be in any way disrespectful, but there is no public interest disclosure that is sanctioned by this parliament that protects further disclosure to a media outlet. These are the laws that parliamentarians have passed.

That is probably the point of contention. Those associations that you have named, and there are others as well, seem in their public articulation to believe—and I am sure this is done completely in good faith and based on their comprehension of the state of the law, which I must regrettably say is not accurate—that there is some higher appeal that goes beyond the whistleblowing provisions that this parliament has provided for. This parliament has not provided protections for those who go to the media. I have to apply the law as it stands. If the parliament sees fit to change those laws, then I will change our practice.

Senator DI NATALE: I think this criticism comes from a pretty straightforward place. In any other sphere of practice, when they make a complaint outside of that framework, they are not subject to a criminal penalty.

Mr Pezzullo : I do not want to go over that ground again, other than to say that there are many aspects of Commonwealth legislation—I will not seek to quantify them—that go over and above the generalised provisions of the Crimes Act, which has the underlying obligation that we all have to observe to not disclose information outside of authorised channels. There are numerous instances—the tax act, the ASIC Act, the former customs act. This provision was imported across to ensure that there is—

Senator DI NATALE: You are not comparing that to a doctor-patient relationship, are you?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know whether this comes with a degree of surprise, but we have doctor-patient relationships across many different parts of the Commonwealth. As you would well know, there are Medicare records. There are lots of instances where the Commonwealth, either directly through its officials—

Senator DI NATALE: That is not a clinical relationship.

Mr Pezzullo : I understand the distinction.

Senator DI NATALE: You are not comparing apples with apples.

Mr Pezzullo : What I am saying is that the Commonwealth is in a position of having lots of information to do with—

Senator DI NATALE: Yes, but it is not a clinical relationship.

Mr Pezzullo : All I can say is—

Senator DI NATALE: You are trying to draw an analogy where one does not exist.

Mr Pezzullo : That might well be your view, and I respect that. What this parliament would then have to do is to say that, for the purposes of clinical relationships, this parliament provides further protection for doctors after all of those checks and balances have been activated, after all of those escalation mechanisms have been exhausted. I will not repeat them; I will not insult your intelligence by doing so. This parliament could provide protections for those entrusted with protected information who disclose it other than to an entrusted person—and that could include a journalist, potentially, although I find it hard to see the circumstances where this would apply. Potentially, any officer is subject to the consequences of that legislation. If the parliament wants to change the law and say that there is an absolute right of disclosure to the media because of the clinical nature of the relationship—I understand the point you are making—then the parliament needs to change the law and give me a different set of practices to put in place.

Senator DI NATALE: In the interests of time, I will hand over to Senator McKim.

Senator McKIM: In some of the opening statements this morning you referred to advice you had received from the Australian Human Rights Commission around detention centres. Were you referring to the Forgotten children inquiry report, or are you referring to advice that you have received more recently than that?

Mr Pezzullo : Not only more recently but more expansively. I am very familiar with the report otherwise known as Forgotten children, for the purpose of shorthand. But this commissioner and I have met with the Human Rights Commissioner since her appointment. Indeed, we reached out very early in the piece. The Human Rights Commissioner and her officers provide us with advice in relation to particular cases, but they also provide us with practice improvement suggestions.

We have decided to formalise that partnership. I think I might have referred to the bringing into being of memoranda of understanding with a number of agencies. Professor Triggs is very interested in assisting us beyond the specific remit she has to consider cases before her. We do not want to in any way suggest that her independence will ever be fettered in that regard but, as we do with the Ombudsman, the Audit Office or other external scrutiny bodies, if there are practice improvements, process improvements, themes or patterns that the Human Rights Commissioner or her officers are discerning, this commissioner and I have indicated to her that our preference would be to have early advice, to have opportunities to institute proactive management of issues—how detainees are dealt with, for instance, or any of the health issues, some of which we have just canvassed with your colleague Senator Di Natale.

I do not want to speak for the commissioner, other than to say—and I do not think that Professor Triggs would mind me saying—she has indicated a strong willingness to work with us, without in any way fettering her investigative capacities. She will work with us on thematic issues as well. Indeed—again, I do not think I am disclosing confidential material here—we have initiated a senior level dialogue, managed trilaterally between the Human Rights Commissioner, me as secretary and Mr Quaedvlieg as the ABF commissioner. Our officers attend that. We have had the inaugural discussion and we have agreed to have regular meetings. That will be supported by working groups and subordinate groups that will tease out specific matters. Because a lot of this goes to detention operations, I should ask the commissioner whether he has anything to add, if I may.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Thank you, Secretary. The only thing I would add is that Professor Triggs in her role as the commissioner of human rights in Australia and we have a joint and shared interest in ensuring that the human rights of detainees in our detention network are observed, recognised and respected. It is in that spirit that we reached out to the commissioner, Professor Triggs. She has kindly offered to provide assistance not just in terms of input into training curricula for our officers who might be working in the centres, though that is obviously very important in terms of, as the secretary mentioned, their views on trends and areas where human rights may be impinged upon. But certainly, as senior practitioners in this space, there is an imperative for the secretary and me to have a very strong relationship with the commissioner.

Senator McKIM: Thank you. I appreciate those answers. It is probably incumbent on me to point out that the Forgotten Children inquiry actually suggested that detention of itself is a breach of some fundamental human rights, and I think it is important to place that on the record.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, Senator; I should then place on the record that the government, in responding, did not agree with that contention.

Senator McKIM: Well, the government was wrong about that, but I am not here to argue that point with you.

Mr Pezzullo : We just need to be a bit comprehensive perhaps.

Senator McKIM: I am not here to argue the point with you, but I will stand by the comments that I have made. This is a separate issue. Can I ask—

CHAIR: If it is a separate issue, you have 60 seconds.

Senator McKIM: It is a separate question, thank you—and less now that you have reminded me. This will be my final question for this period. Announcements from the Attorney-General were made just last week about the age of people to whom control orders can be applied. I understand that this is not necessarily technically in your area, but it will become apparent as I ask the question. The proposal was originally to lower that age from 16 to 14. There have now been news reports that the age may be lowered to as low as 12. When did ABF first become aware of that proposal, if in fact you did, before media reports on it? When you first became aware, was it a proposal to reduce the age to 14, or was it a proposal to reduce the age to 12? And what was your response to any consultation process?

Mr Pezzullo : This is a matter still before the government. I am aware of the Attorney's announcements in this regard. I am also aware of things that you read in the media. We are public officials. We deal with what ministers and officials say.

Senator McKIM: I am asking you: were you consulted on this before the announcement?

Mr Pezzullo : And I was going to complete my answer by saying that, because it is a matter still before the government, I am not really in a position to speak to the primary issue, which is the question of preventative orders or control orders, and I prefer not to discuss, until the government is in a position to announce its mind on these matters, what the consultative processes involved, other than to say—just to give you a reassurance—that this portfolio is one of a number of portfolios that are consulted regularly by the Attorney-General's Department, who have the lead responsibility in relation to what are called the various tranches of counter-terrorism legislation, so we would be in that consultative loop. As to the question about when we became aware of particular issues around age limitation, I would prefer to take it on notice as a factual matter: when were we consulted?

Senator McKIM: It was a factual question.

Mr Pezzullo : It is, but I am also going to add the caveat—so you are not overly disappointed when potentially a non-specific answer comes back to you on notice—that this is really a matter for the Attorney-General and his department. We will see what we can supply on notice; otherwise, it is a matter for the Attorney-General and his department.

CHAIR: Thanks, Senator McKim. We can come back to you later if you have other questions. Just before I call Senator Canavan: I am pleased to hear your comments about Professor Triggs. Who initiated this new round of consultation?

Mr Pezzullo : It would be fair to say that it was mutual. I came into the job, as I said, just a little over a year ago. That was the point at which The forgotten children report was coming down. Just as a normal professional courtesy, I did a round of—

CHAIR: Mr Pezzullo, as you well recall and as I indelibly recall, your department gave evidence that it had not been consulted in relation to The forgotten children report, that there was much in that report that you disagreed with—there was much in that report where, had the commission picked up the phone and asked you for the facts, you could have given them the facts rather than the dodgy set of facts that appeared in that report. That is all correct, isn't it?

Mr Pezzullo : It is certainly correct to suggest that both my predecessor and I, at the very end, because I was secretary when the report was being finalised, disputed—and you just saw that played out in the exchange between me and Senator McKim—and still continue to have a difference of view about some of the interpretations of our human rights obligations. There were also matters that we have canvassed in earlier estimates about the provision of responses to requests that the commission made of us for information—

CHAIR: That is right.

Mr Pezzullo : and whether or not all of that information was taken into account, had due regard to et cetera. But, to answer the primary question, at the time of that report I thought it best in any event, irrespective of whether she had an inquiry on foot, as I reached out to colleagues in other scrutiny bodies such as the Ombudsman to introduce myself—Professor Triggs and I were known to each other—in my new role. During the course of that conversation, I said: 'Look, let's work our way through the government's response to your inquiry. Let's set that to one side. Irrespective of what happens there, there is an issue of external scrutiny that you are empowered to undertake under the laws of this land, and I'm very keen to ensure that we have a structured way in which to do that so that particular issues are able to be dealt with proactively.'

CHAIR: Did you get an assurance from the chairman that, if she were doing any other work, she would consult with the department to get the facts correct?

Mr Pezzullo : I will not speak for Professor Triggs. She might well contend that she did have regard to all the facts. I do not know how she would answer that question. But we certainly agreed in those initial discussions in the October-November time frame—I would have to check diary notes as to when that might have occurred—

CHAIR: Don't.

Mr Pezzullo : that we would collaborate closely. I think implied in that, Senator, is that we would have full information sharing pursuant to her legislation.

CHAIR: Perhaps you have suggested to Professor Triggs that, if she wants to know about how many children are in detention, she actually asks you for the facts of that?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not recall having cause to raise that with her. I think it was assumed that we are the repository of that information.

CHAIR: Her report said there were a thousand children in detention, when we all know that there were about 200 at the time the report was released.

Mr Pezzullo : The matter at issue was that, yes, there was a decline over time.

CHAIR: It was more than a decline.

Mr Pezzullo : Well, a significant reduction.

CHAIR: It is a significant reduction—which maligned your department, I might say.

Senator CANAVAN: I just want to ask some questions about your activities to combat the importation of ice. Just to start with, I presume that your interaction here on this issue is on the border with the importation of the substance. I have noticed some media reports in the last few months of some seemingly major activities in this regard. Could you outline for us exactly what you are doing at the moment.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, I can. Please indulge me for 60 seconds to put ice into context. Last financial year, in the major drug categories—and I include methamphetamine, or ice, in that, but it also includes cocaine, heroin, MDMA et cetera—we made 14,899 individual detections for 7.3 tonnes of drugs. That is an increase—

Senator CANAVAN: Over what period was that?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Over 12 months, in 2014-15.

Senator CANAVAN: Seven tonnes?

Mr Quaedvlieg : 7.3 tonnes. In comparison—and the comparison is relatively important—for the 2013-14 financial year, so the year before, we had somewhere in the order of 11,000 detections for 4.2 tonnes. So, in essence, we have, if you will, if I can use this term, improved our performance by some 3½ thousand detections and some 3.1 tonnes, so there is quite a large improvement or increase in detections at the border.

In relation to amphetamine type substances, or ATSs, as we call them, within those there is a broad range of stimulant type substances, one of which is methamphetamine. Methamphetamine comes in all forms. It comes in liquid, in powder, in tablet and in crystal form. The crystal form is what is known as ice. In the amphetamine type substances for last financial year, we seized 3½ tonnes, and 2½ tonnes of that was ice, the crystal form of methamphetamine, so it is quite significant.

Senator CANAVAN: Do you know the growth in that category? You mentioned the growth in the broader category from—I am paraphrasing—around 11,000 to 14,000 detections. In terms of ice or methamphetamine generally, has there been an increase in that as well?

Mr Quaedvlieg : There are significant increases in numbers and weight. The numbers are coming about predominantly because we are doing a lot of seizures of methamphetamine, or ice, through what we call the air sector, the air vector. That is mainly in fast parcels and a little bit of international mail, although the quantities are quite low in mail articles.

Senator CANAVAN: When you say 'fast parcels', you mean DHL or things like that—courier services?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, all of the couriers that do a 24-hour service. I do not want to list them all because there are quite a few, and I do not want to single anyone out in particular other than to say that, whilst we still have our traditional importations of ice coming through the sea cargo, through our containers—there are significant quantities in those—we are seeing significant increases in numbers through the mail and the fast parcels, so that is quite significant.

The embarkation points in the main in relation to ice are Hong Kong and China, in both sea and air cargo, predominantly. That underscores what we in the enforcement community globally and certainly in Australia all know: the epicentre of ice production, at least for the Australian market, is in the south of China, Guangzhou and its surrounding suburbs, but Guangdong province more broadly. We know there is significant manufacture, production and distribution of crystal methamphetamine out of that province of China, either directly or transiting through Hong Kong to Australia.

In terms of the efforts at the border, I think the increase of seizures has come about through two different reasons. One is that we are doing more screening. As a result of some funding we received in February 2014, called the tackling crime initiative, we were able to ramp up our screening in the air cargo space, for example, from 1½ million articles per year to two million. We achieved that and some, and that continues to be in place over the course of the forwards. We have increased our screening of international mail from 40 million to 50 million. In fact, we overachieved. We screened 55 million mail articles last financial year.

And we are doing more inspections, or rather examinations, of sea cargo containers. I draw the difference. Inspection is essentially an X-raying or a screening through technology; an examination is actually getting the container into a warehouse and unpacking it to see what is in it. So we are doing more of those, another 1,500 of those, as a result of that particular initiative.

The other component of why we are achieving greater successes, of course, is better intelligence. We are doing a lot of work in terms of intelligence assessments, doing the analytics and working with our partners both domestically and offshore, and we are increasing our strike rate. Strike rates are going up quite significantly in terms of those types of seizures. That is it in a nutshell.

I am happy to take any further questions, but, in terms of ice, it is certainly a headline. The other headline through the course of last financial year, at least, was that in those 7.3 tonnes we had a seizure of three tonnes of drugs. There were two types of drugs in a container that came out of West Germany. Around 900 kilos of that was crystal methamphetamine, but the other two tonnes was MDMA. In comparison to the previous financial year, we had seized less than 100 kilos of MDMA. We thought it was on the decline, and yet in October-November in the last calendar year we detected two tonnes of it in a single container.

Senator CANAVAN: Your supposition to us is very much that the increased detections are due to increased effort, not simply due to increased flow, if you like? Are you confident that—

Mr Quaedvlieg : I think it is probably both. What you will hear often in the Australian context is that we are an attractive market for drug manufacturers and traffickers because we pay a high price. If you do a comparison of street prices of drugs of any description and you compare it to both our region and the world, we pay a high dollar; we have a fairly big consumer market; and organised crime syndicates will target us for that purpose. So I think it is both. I think we continue to be an attractive market, and we are looking more and we are looking better.

Senator CANAVAN: Do you see a relationship as you clamp down or become more successful at detection and restrict supply of some of these substances? Is there a price impact on the streets?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Barely. We barely see movements in the street price. Occasionally, if you have a particularly good year or a very, very large seizure, you might see some sort of marginal shift in street prices. We do not particularly see a direct correlation between seizures and street prices in Australia.

Senator CANAVAN: I notice some activities you are doing in Cape York, in particular, to tackle issues from Papua New Guinea. Could you run down what the risks are with importation of some of these substances through that channel?

Mr Quaedvlieg : The Torres Strait is the closest that we have to a land border. In some places at low tide you could almost float across on a wheelbarrow and esky, which I say almost tongue in cheek because it has been done. Having said that, there is a complexity in the environment in that we allow traditional movements of Islanders through the Torres Strait. There is a significant degree of movement of smaller vessels in and across the Torres Strait at any time of the year. Traditionally there has been rumour, innuendo, anecdotal information about the trade of cannabis, PNG gold, firearms. We are not seeing significant evidence of that certainly in the modern day environment.

What we are somewhat concerned about, and this is evidenced to some degree by an operation we conducted last year, is the movement of precursors and/or methamphetamine-type substances from PNG. PNG's legislation is not yet modernised in terms of recognising some of the precursor chemicals, so syndicates have recognised that and are, in my words, doing a bit of stockpiling of precursors in and around Moresby—not all destined for Australia, I should add, but it does cause some concern when the laws are somewhat lax in PNG. We have raised that with our counterparts. We are seeing some movement of methamphetamine through the air from Moresby and other places in PNG to Cairns and we are seeing occasionally attempts by persons of interest to move drugs, amphet and precursors across the Torres Strait by vessel. We managed to have a successful disruption of such a venture sometime last year, I cannot remember the exact date. We are on the ball up there, we are working very closely with our PNG counterparts and with our domestic partners. We have lots of surveillance resources in place, we have border management officers who are local Indigenous people who work on the islands. They serve as an early watch program and they have proved to be very beneficial to us not just in countering criminal activities but attempted movements by asylum seekers or others across the Torres Strait.

Senator CANAVAN: Certainly in my travels around Queensland concerns about ice seem elevated in those gulf and cape communities, including Indigenous communities. Is there evidence that their proximity to PNG is playing a role, or would they have access to these kinds of substances regardless of that particular route?

Mr Quaedvlieg : We are probably getting into an area where I have not had a close focus recently. I have certainly not had that reported. I am aware of the impact of drugs, alcohol and other substances in Indigenous communities through my policing experience but I have not seen the consumption and use and trafficking of ice in the Torres Strait for Torres Strait Islanders in my current role.

Senator CANAVAN: I am not just saying Torres Strait Islanders, but communities in the gulf and the cape more broadly.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Potentially I think there is a risk. You know Queensland well—the Torres Strait is a stretch of maritime domain which provides access to Cape York and those waters. We certainly have not seen that. We pay a lot of attention to movements across the Torres Strait, and we are not seeing that at this point in time.

Senator CANAVAN: The issue of ice and how to deal with it is obviously very topical at the moment. What is your sense of how much contribution the destruction of the trade itself and your activities can make to help manage this issue?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am a very strong believer in the principles of supply and demand reduction. I think they are very important. In supply reduction, that is where enforcement plays a role. I think we can play goal catcher at the border all day every day in perpetuity. I think we need to continue our efforts to strengthen and be more cohesive. Certainly, we need to take the fight offshore. As I mentioned earlier, some of the epicentres of production are offshore. We have very good relationships with our foreign and domestic partners, so pre-emptive action offshore, detection at the border and, obviously, our state and territory police colleagues have a role in terms of what we call post border. If drugs do get through the border, then they have a role in sweeping that up in the community.

In consultation with the fraternity of police, all of my police colleagues domestically and internationally are focused on this issue. That is leading to more concerted, more coordinated, efforts. I think we play a very big role in the overall combating of drugs generally but ice specifically.

Senator KIM CARR: I just want to return to this question of the Somali refugee—this woman that was flown out of the country last week. There is a report in The Guardianthat that cost the Commonwealth $130,000. Is that accurate?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not personally know that. I will see if Mr Skill has got any information.

CHAIR: I think we have taken on notice the cost of that.

Mr Pezzullo : I think we did.

Senator KIM CARR: The department has taken it on notice, but there is a report tonight that someone else does not seem to have to wait that long.

Mr Pezzullo : What standing or authority The Guardian newspaper has with regard—

CHAIR: Not much.

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know.

Senator KIM CARR: You said accurate.

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know if Mr Skill has got further and better particulars, noting that we have taken it on notice.

Mr Skill : I have seen the article. It is an extrapolation of previously provided RAAF costs, so it is not accurate. It is not to my knowledge reflective of even the plane that was used. It is an inaccurate report, including the quoting of me.

Senator KIM CARR: Was a RAAF jet used?

Mr Pezzullo : No, there wasn't, Senator.

Senator KIM CARR: Could I ask you about a couple of matters with regard to child protection agencies. What action has the department taken with child protection agency authorities to improve the level of reporting to the states and territories?

Ms Pearce : I will ask Ms Moy to join me. We are currently in a round of discussions with all relevant jurisdictions, partly as a result of external advice from the child protection panel that I mentioned and through our own internal decision making to put in place what I describe simplistically—Ms Moy will have a better description—as equivalent reporting regimes. There is a question of jurisdictional cover. I have made it clear to my officers that I do not want any legal complexities to get in the way of the wellbeing or the protection of children. At the Commonwealth level, there is no direct legislative regime that pertains to the protection of children. They are all state based statutes, and so you do have an issue—

Senator KIM CARR: But you do have an obligation to report.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes, and I was just going to come to that. So you do have an issue in terms of functions performed on Commonwealth premises but within a state jurisdiction, like any matter of crime, requires reporting—absolutely. Whether though all the precursor—leaving reporting to one side for a moment—activities that are put in place around child protection and wellbeing are, if you like, mandatorily required is something that we are going to be looking to put in place, irrespective of the lack of coverage of the statute. Yes, as to reporting, it is no different from any other state based crime—

Senator KIM CARR: And there is a statutory reporting obligation, is there not?

Mr Pezzullo : It varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but I might ask Ms Moy—generally speaking, yes, the laws have been harmonised across states and territories along the lines you have indicated. I might just get Ms Moy to answer that question a bit more specifically.

Ms Moy : The secretary is correct: in the Commonwealth there is no statutory arrangements for child protection. It all remains within the remit of the states. The states each have their set of legislation, which manages child protection arrangements. Various states have mandatory reporting for Commonwealth departmental officers. There are some states that do not.

Senator KIM CARR: So which ones?

Ms Moy : Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia do not have mandatory reporting for Commonwealth departmental employees; however, within the department, we have an arrangement that requires all departmental officers to report any issues of child abuse and the same for all of our employing contractors.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you very much. So the Commonwealth obligations come from the direct position that you have taken, as a department, with regard to all detention facilities?

Mr Pezzullo : We have found ourselves in the—

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, that is what I am saying. How long has that been in place?

Mr Pezzullo : I might need to take the details on notice. Certainly, it is a direction that I gave from the start of my secretaryship. I do not know—

Senator KIM CARR: But it was the practice?

Mr Pezzullo : I believe it was, but we will need to do the research and take it on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. And are you able to tell me if it is common practice across other Commonwealth agencies?

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry?

Senator KIM CARR: Do the same principles apply, to your knowledge, for other Commonwealth agencies?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not have personal knowledge, other than to say that a number of other agencies engage in arrest and custody of person. The Federal Police come to mind. We do not do correctional detention, but we do administrative detention pursuant to the Migration Act. I think it is fair to say we are probably the only agency that faces the prospect of ongoing detention being required under legislation, but Ms Moy might have further and better particulars.

Ms Moy : The secretary is correct. I could not speak for other agencies.

Senator KIM CARR: You say it has been longstanding. Are there underpinning protocols here that have been operating for some time, or is this something new?

Mr Pezzullo : As I said, we will do the research into the practice. There is no Commonwealth statute that is relevant and there have been varied practices across states because of the not entirely harmonised laws that Ms Moy has just referred to. But in any event, we have chosen to embark on self-imposed mandatory reporting. The key issue for us—if I can just extend very briefly; I know time is limited—is in working with our state partners, particularly in relation to children who might have to leave our facilities. For instance, they might have to attend an emergency room to be seen. They will be transported in an ambulance. They then trigger a whole lot of state-based requirements and obligations. That places, in my view, unreasonable burdens both on Commonwealth offices and state employees. The better view, that I have formed—and I will research the practice that goes back prior to October 2014—is that if we are reporting incidents that are occurring within Commonwealth promises then at least the background and the history of the child's treatment would be known when that child presents, say, in an emergency room.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Chairman, I have two questions regarding the scale of Operation Sovereign Borders.

CHAIR: I am happy with that.

Mr Pezzullo : Chair, in terms of administrative convenience, the oversight of Operation Sovereign Borders, in departmental terms, is under the remit of the ABF. It is a joint-agency task force, but it is administratively under the ABF.

Senator KIM CARR: How many turn-backs have there been since the last estimates?

Major Gen. Bottrell : I am commander of the Joint Agency Taskforce for Operation Sovereign Borders. The last Senate estimates occurred in May and since that time—and I will confirm this separately—I believe we have had three returns.

Senator KIM CARR: Have there been any since the change in Prime Minister?

Major Gen. Bottrell : No, there have not. But can I add that there has been the report of a disruption out of Indonesia.

Senator KIM CARR: By the Indonesians?

Major Gen. Bottrell : That is correct.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. That's it.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young has indicated she has a number of questions for Operation Sovereign Borders and more for the border protection service. Senator Lindgren has questions for Operation Sovereign Borders.

Senator KIM CARR: The major general has been sitting there patiently all day and I am wondering why we are keeping him here if there is no need.

Mr Pezzullo : A number of officers have been sitting there patiently.

Senator KIM CARR: Some more patiently than others.

Mr Pezzullo : The general is noted for his patience.

CHAIR: If we can do the Operation Sovereign Borders questions by 6.30, we can then at least dismiss the major general.

Major Gen. Bottrell : Chair, I actually have an opening statement prepared if you would indulge me.

CHAIR: Okay. Senator Carr is trying to look after you!

Major Gen. Bottrell : I think it is at least my duty to give the committee as much information as I can.

Mr Pezzullo : I will brief the general subsequently on the notion of a bird in the hand! In light of where we have got to, the general should read his notes.

CHAIR: Fire away.

Major Gen. Bottrell : Thank you. I would like to take the opportunity to update you on a range of operational issues relating to Operation Sovereign Borders that have transpired since I last appeared at the budget estimates hearing in May. It has now been more than two years since Operation Sovereign Borders was established to combat people smuggling and protect Australia's maritime borders, a remit that continues unchanged. As I advised during a recent press conference, we are aware that, as a result of Australia's decision to accept 12,000 Syrian refugees and the change in Australia's Prime Minister, people smugglers are actively trying to use these events to convince vulnerable men, women and children that Australia's policy has changed. This is clearly a lie. As both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection have been strenuous to reinforce to me, there has been absolutely no change to the Operation Sovereign Borders' policy.

We have now passed more than 440 days since the last successful boat arrival and, more importantly, nearly two years since the last known death at sea en route to Australia. In addition, over 20 people-smuggling ventures have been safely returned, with over 650 potential illegal immigrants. This has been a combined effort of all the agencies that collaborate under the coordination of the joint agency task force. I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the significant efforts of all agencies, particularly the efforts of the men and women working in the field and on-water to secure Australia's maritime borders and prevent any further loss of life at sea.

Our collaborative efforts extend further than Australia. We have established strong relations and continue to work closely with our regional counterparts to combat the common threat of people smuggling. As proof of this, there have been 395 arrests of people smugglers by foreign law enforcement partners. In addition, the Operation Sovereign Borders' strategic communications campaign has continued to work to inform people about the lies of people smugglers, the realities of the dangers at sea, the financial risks involved and the consequences of illegal migration. This campaign has remained focused on key source and transit countries to ensure awareness of Australia's policy remains high.

The success of Operation Sovereign Borders has, in large part, been due to the successful denial of operational information that can be accessed and used by people smugglers. I will continue to release whatever information I can without compromising the safety of all people involved and the success of current and future operations. In this context, I will not release details surrounding our capacity or the tactics that we apply during on-water operations or any other information that I judge will provide people smugglers with an advantage. The primary means that we will continue to use for the public release of information pertaining to Operation Sovereign Borders is the monthly update posted to our website after the information is deemed to be no longer operationally sensitive. Thank you for your indulgence.

CHAIR: Thank you. We very much appreciate that. There are some good messages there.

Senator LINDGREN: Are there people smugglers still operating and where are the current hot-spots?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Suffice to say that, as a result of the events that I just explained, the information that we have gained is that across both source and transit countries there is what we typically call 'chatter'. There is an amount of information that suggests that people smugglers are trying to convince, potentially, illegal immigrants, would-be irregular migrants, that the routes have opened and Australia's policy has changed. They are using any information to try to convince them to get onto a boat. We are actively trying to counter that. The government has obviously gone out specifically and made announcements. I am using whatever avenues I can to make sure that we pass the same information back up through those transit and source countries.

Senator LINDGREN: So why do you believe that Australia is an attractive destination people smugglers?

Major Gen. Bottrell : I think it speaks for itself in terms of what we stand for. It stands for itself in terms of its attractiveness.

Senator LINDGREN: What are the key elements that have made Operation Sovereign Borders such a success?

Major Gen. Bottrell : As we discussed at the last Senate estimates, it is the suite of effects that have been brought together under Operation Sovereign Borders. I do not believe there is any one particular aspect that adds to the success. It is the combination of those effects with an absolute resolve for those effects to be maintained as part of a system.

Senator LINDGREN: You may have already touched on this, but how many illegal maritime arrivals have there been since 2014?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Since 2014—

Senator LINDGREN: Financial year and calendar year, if you don't mind.

Major Gen. Bottrell : In 2014, we had one suspected illegal entry vessel arrive with 157 illegal maritime arrivals on board. That was in July 2014. Since that time, we have had no arrivals.

Senator LINDGREN: You talked about the successful denial of information. What kind of information program do you deem necessary will keep people smugglers away?

Major Gen. Bottrell : The less they know about how we are disposed on-water, how we are prepared, the information that we have and the knowledge that we have about what they might be doing, the more advantage that places in our hands and the less advantage it gives to the people smugglers. Similarly, though, if people smugglers are assuming that our disposition is such that they can simply push a boat out into the water and that we will be there to pick it up is potentially dangerous as well. We have very good coverage, but we are not everywhere and it is a large ocean.

Senator LINDGREN: Are there any budget measures to disrupt people-smuggling efforts in our neighbouring countries?

Major Gen. Bottrell : There is a wide range of efforts that we engage in here, including the disruption and deterrence task group, which is primarily led by the Australia Federal Police. But they work very closely with regional partners across source and transit countries in a collaborative manner to try to identify people-smuggling syndicates and to break those down in conjunction with those countries. There is a range of other programs as well, including the strategic communications program that I mentioned which is quite comprehensive across a full range of those countries as well.

Senator LINDGREN: That is it, thanks.

CHAIR: We have finished on Operation Sovereign Borders. After the break, we will continue with the Australian Border Force and then move on to outcome 2.

Pr oceedings suspended from18:29 to 19:30

CHAIR: We now resume this hearing of the Senate estimates process for the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. We are dealing with the first program, the Australian Border Force. We will go to questions from Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Pezzullo, I have some questions in relation to the current list of women who have put forward claims of sexual assault and abuse on Nauru. Both asylum seekers and refugees living in the community are who I am referring to in particular.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, Senator, just to be clear, to whom—to the local authorities or via the auspices of arrangements that we support?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is what I am hoping you can tell me—what information you do know about the number of cases that you are aware of and the status of those.

Mr Pezzullo : I am joined by Ms Moy, who handles a number of our regional processing settlement and other services support. I will ask Ms Moy to advise what we are aware of in terms of the incident reporting and similar documentation that we get, but with a caveat that some of these matters may be known to local authorities without us being aware of it. I am sorry to do this, Senator, but it perhaps might assist if you briefly restate the question, please.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ms Moy, I am asking for information in relation to cases of reported sexual assault and rape towards asylum seekers and refugees in Nauru. I would like to know how many cases you are currently aware of and the status of those.

Ms Moy : Thank you for repeating that question, Senator. On the information that we have in regard to allegations of sexual assault of adults, I have nine. They are from 8 September 2013 to 29 September 2015.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have an understanding from your data as to whether that nine includes women and men or—

Ms Moy : No, that is sexual assaults of adults, so that would be women and allegations of male—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you do not have a gender breakdown?

Ms Moy : Just one moment, and I will see whether I have a breakdown. I could take that on notice for you or possibly even get it in this session.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you, if you could. I do not want to make assumptions that all nine are women—that is all. What about incidents relating to children?

Ms Moy : In regard to children, a child under 18, I have 10. Five of those relate to one incident.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, Senator, just to be clear, does that also relate to sexual assault matters?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : Ms Moy, your answer relates to that?

Ms Moy : That is correct—sexual assault.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So sexual assault. Are there any other incidents of assault towards children?

Ms Moy : There are allegations of physical assaults of children under 18 years. They number 82 for the same period. Those allegations relate to anything from parental discipline, to siblings fighting, to children at school fighting.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I clarify, out of the nine adults, are they individuals who have resided both in the detention centre and in the community, or are they—

Ms Moy : So those nine are transferees. Obviously, that is till 29 September. Some of those now may be refugees. But, in terms of the data, it is transferees.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have any data related to refugees—people living outside the facility and deemed to be refugees—who have been subjected to sexual assault or alleged—

Ms Moy : Yes. We have received some information from the government of Nauru in regard to allegations of sexual assault on adults, and that is 10.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Again, just checking: do you have a gender breakdown of those?

Ms Moy : Not at the moment, but I will get that for you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I just check the dates for those. Are they the same?

Ms Moy : They are from May 2014 to 30 September 2015, to reflect when refugees first moved into the community.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have an understanding as to where those 10 incidents are up to in terms of their status?

Ms Moy : A number have been reported to the Nauruan police force and are under investigation. There are also some where the alleged victim has requested no report.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How closely has your department been liaising with the Nauruan government and police force in relation to those 10 cases?

Ms Moy : The management of these cases is a matter for the Nauruan police force and the government of Nauru. We liaise and assist them with the provision of mentoring and support through the AFP, where there have been people on island assisting the Nauruan police force with certain investigation types and training. In terms of the department liaising with the government of Nauru, we talk quite regularly at our joint agency councils in regard to updates on where things are up to, but it is up to the Nauruan police force and the government of Nauru to provide that information to us if we request it as well.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I just go back to your dataset there. You gave me the numbers of sexual assaults of adults in the community—10 incidents that your department is aware of. Do you have the numbers of incidents relating to children?

Ms Moy : Yes, that is zero.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Does that include physical assault as well?

Ms Moy : Physical assaults of under 18s is 10 in the refugee community.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In relation to the privacy of individuals involved with these incidents, I was quite alarmed to see the publication of a police report and the name of at least one woman who has alleged rape and sexual assault in a press statement and the distribution of that by the Nauru government, through their PR firm based here in Australia, last week. Do you know the incident I am referring to?

Ms Moy : I am aware of the incident.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has the department had any conversations with either the PR firm or the Nauru government in relation to this publishing of private information of this woman?

Ms Moy : We certainly have had no discussions with the PR firm. The PR firm is no connection to the department or to the Commonwealth of Australia. In regard to the government of Nauru, their press statements are a matter for the government of Nauru, and, as a sovereign state, it is not a role for the department or my area.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But you discuss things with the government all the time, surely.

Ms Moy : We discuss operational matters.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the department has not raised any concerns in relation to the publication of this woman's identity?

Ms Moy : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Pezzullo, are you aware of whether anyone else in your department has raised this as a matter of concern?

Mr Pezzullo : Ms Moy would be best placed to know, so if in her state of knowledge her officers—she runs a division—have not raised it, that is the most likely place in which that would have arisen. As to whether other elements of the department—our international area, our media area or others—have had either incidental or direct communication with the government of Nauru, we will take that on notice. But in Ms Moy's knowledge her officers, in one of our critical divisions, do not appear to have had any contact, no.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have any concerns that the publication of this woman's name and such personal details in relation to her alleged assault puts her safety at further risk on Nauru?

Mr Pezzullo : Those really are matters for the government of Nauru. It is a matter for them to explain their practices in such matters. If I recall correctly—and other officers will correct this evidence—the justice minister of Nauru himself has further added to the discussion by his own statement, as I recall it—not about the woman's particulars but about the rationale, as he saw it, for the government of Nauru to engage fairly directly on what he, Mr Adeang, considers to be biased or distorted reporting. But these are really matters for that government and for statements by their officials.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I understand that, Mr Pezzullo, but my concern is that Nauru is a small community, as you know—you have been there—and people on the island now know who this woman is and what her name is. They would know where she resides, and they have access to very personal information about an alleged sexual assault. I cannot see in any way how that is appropriate.

Mr Pezzullo : I do not mean to diminish your question at all, but that is a matter for judgement and opinion. Would an Australian police service or an Australian government proceed down this path? I do not readily recall a comparable incident, but these are really matters for the Nauruan government. They have made a decision to—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, but this woman's safety is put at further risk.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes, I understand the question and its premise. I can only presume, and we can make further inquiries and take on notice the thinking about how to ensure that the risks are appropriately managed and the woman is given full and appropriate protection. I am not seeking to dodge the question, other than to say it is really a matter for another jurisdiction. They have to make decisions about—

CHAIR: I think you have made that clear, Mr Pezzullo. I do not think saying it 10 times over is going to help.

Mr Pezzullo : Thank you, Chair. I accept your guidance and admonition.

CHAIR: It is another government.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If the department were under the impression that this woman is in further harm's way, what would you do about that, Mr Pezzullo?