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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Australian Transport Safety Bureau



Mr Hood : I have a brief opening statement.

ACTING CHAIR: By all means, Mr Hood, fire away.

Mr Hood : I will give a brief record of some of the accidents that we've seen in the last 12 months in particular from each of your states, sadly. The ATSB currently has 153 active investigations underway, comprising 111 aviation, 31 rail and 11 marine investigations. We're making significant progress in finalising a number of older investigations. Last year we published 127 final investigation reports. We have a program called Back on Track which continues to close the gap on our key performance indicators. Part of our strategy to improve the timeliness of our reporting was to recruit additional resources, consistent with the 2017-18 budget measure 'Improving transport safety'. Earlier this month 11 new transport safety investigators commenced their employment with the ATSB. Once they've completed their training, this cohort of new investigators will enhance the ATSB's ability to investigate future incidents and accidents.

In 2017 we deployed to a number of often tragic and in some cases avoidable transport accidents across the country. In the marine mode, we're investigating a number of collisions and groundings, as well as a fire on board a cargo ship in Newcastle, New South Wales. In rail our investigators deployed to a coal train derailment near Duaringa, Queensland, which saw 20 loaded wagons derailed, blocking the reciprocal line. Fortunately no-one was injured. And we're supporting the New South Wales Office of Transport Safety Investigations with their investigation into the buffer stop collision involving a suburban electric train at Richmond station, New South Wales, on 22 January this year, which saw a number of passengers seriously injured.

Aviation continues to be a major focus, due to the volume and to the nature of safety occurrences. On 15 January we released our aviation safety statistics for 2007 to 2016. This showed that there were fewer fatalities in the aviation sector in 2016 than in any previous year recorded by the ATSB. Whilst this is a positive result, there were unfortunately a high number of fatal general aviation accidents in 2017, when there were 22 fatal accidents and 40 fatalities. These included the loss of two young people during an Australia Day fly-past on the Swan River in 2017; the significant loss of life at Essendon Fields airport, where five people died when a Beechcraft King Air crashed into the DFO shopping outlet in 2017; three people killed in an accident near Renmark airport in South Australia in May 2017; in June 2017 a further three killed at Mount Gambier during an aeromedical angel flight accident; and in September an accident involving a Diamond aircraft at Allenview, Queensland, which claimed the lives of a student pilot and his instructor.

On 23 October we deployed two teams to two fatal in-flight break-ups, including a Cessna 210 aircraft east of Darwin airport in the Northern Territory and one the following day in Albany in Western Australia. We deployed a team of transport safety investigators to Port Macquarie, New South Wales, on 28 October to investigate an accident involving a Cessna 310 while the aircraft was on approach to a private airfield at Johns River. And on 7 December 2017 we deployed investigators to an accident involving a Squirrel helicopter at Hobart airport, Tasmania, which claimed the life of an experienced helicopter pilot. As most were preparing to enjoy their New Year's Eve celebrations, we deployed a team of transport safety investigators to a fatal collision with water involving a De Havilland Canada Beaver seaplane on the Hawkesbury River, which tragically claimed six lives. We worked during the first two weeks of the new year to recover the aircraft from the river and to remove it to a secure facility for inspection.

We're making progress in improving the timeliness of our reports, but sometimes there are factors outside the control of the ATSB that can extend time frames of the investigations. The priority is to ensure that investigations are thorough, meticulous and evidence based and that, if needed, our resources are directed towards those investigations with the potential to deliver the greatest safety benefits.

Given the interests of the committee in near encounters between drones, I also have with me today the latest data to the end of January 2018, which I'd like to table. The ATSB continues to be on stand-by to deploy to any location in the country, at any time of day or night and in any weather, to commence a transport safety investigation. Thank you. I am happy to take questions.

Senator STERLE: With the latest update on the incursions of drones within air space around our airports, what's our latest figure?

Mr Hood : We had a spike. We have the document to table and I'll pass it around if I may?

Senator STERLE: Sure.

CHAIR: Are these figures done on a calendar year, a financial year or something else?

Mr Hood : They're done on a month-by-month basis. You'll get a graph that has the number of near encounters per month.

CHAIR: We're comparing that to 176, was it?

Senator STERLE: It's 180-something.

CHAIR: We won't kill each other over a couple. We'll use 180 as a measurement to compare it with?

Mr Hood : Yes. In the five-year period, 2012 to 2016, there were 127. In 2017 there were 151.

CHAIR: Sorry, 127 over multiple years?

Mr Hood : Over 2012 to 2016 there were 127 and a further 151 in 2017. And in January 2018 we had 11 occurrences; six of those occurred within 20 miles of Sydney

Senator STERLE: How many—11?

Mr Hood : There were 11 up as near encounters in January this year.

Senator GALLACHER: In respect of these reports that you've got, how do you identify a drone, per se? Has it got an identification number?

Mr Hood : At this stage, there's no requirement under the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations for the aircraft to have a number. In fact, in the majority of encounters it's almost impossible to identify the drone, as the aircraft takes it down the left or the right side or above or below the aircraft.

Senator GALLACHER: The drone itself is not registered with ATSB or CASA, but it's possible to identify a drone, though, isn't it, through the internet connection? You can track that back to a SIM card and, therefore, to a mobile phone, and you can track that back to an operator. Is that correct?

Mr Hood : Not really. The sequence of events for us for, let's say, an Australian commercial aircraft on descent into Sydney, which is the most likely scenario that we seem to encounter, is that the pilots may see something—and I think Senator Sterle's son or nephew—

Senator STERLE: Nephew—frightened the crap out of him!

Mr Hood : had one of these incidents where it went past so fast that it was impossible to identify, from the pilot's perspective, who the encounter was with.

Senator GALLACHER: But if it fell out of the sky and you had it in your hand you'd be able to reconstruct who was flying it?

Mr Hood : I'm sorry. Can you say that again?

Senator GALLACHER: You'd be able to reconstruct—

CHAIR: If you had the drone as an artefact in your hand—you've located it; it's landed. I think the burden of Senator Gallacher's question is: is there anything you can then do, technically, to trace back the ownership of it, or the operator at the time?

Mr Hood : I'll have to take it on notice. I'm not sure. I went to buy one myself and bought a DJI Mavic Pro, specifically for the purpose of learning a little more about the technology. We've said in our reports that it's an emerging risk, but we're having difficulty quantifying the likelihood and consequences. I've done three flights myself and, yes, it's a software application. And, obviously, your mobile phone is talking to the network, but whether you can identify that down to a person I'd have to take on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: I think that logic would tell you that if you've got your mobile phone or your iPad and you're flying your drone using the internet, that it can be reconstructed using your iPad and your iPhone. I can use a program to find my iPhone and it will find it, so your IP is there somewhere. It's all recorded. It's false to say, 'It's up there; we don't know what's going on.' They're all controlled through the internet, through a server which is storing the video and all the information, and a phone with an individual identifying number. It seems to me that you're not really all that helpful in saying, 'We can't really work this out, and I bought a drone to work it out.'

Mr Hood : Sorry, I'm not meaning not to be helpful. But I think that in terms of our role in enforcement it may be a question better placed for CASA.

CHAIR: Do any of the colleagues object to having this tabled?

Senator STERLE: No. It's good.

CHAIR: I promised myself today that I wouldn't start on drones. I'm not going to express the 'drone' word. I'm all droned out for the minute. We've got to get to the end of these inquiries.

Senator BROCKMAN: It's hard to tell from the dots, but is that one at Perth Airport and one at Pearce, or—

Mr Hood : The Mallard accident in WA?

Senator STERLE: They are the RPAS models—


Senator BROCKMAN: Near encounters.

Mr Hood : I can provide you that specific detail on notice, if you like.

Senator BROCKMAN: Thank you.

CHAIR: I think we agreed on language in a statement earlier in an encounter with your agency, about if one had to apportion who was where they shouldn't be in terms of these encounters. I think last time you reported that on the basis of your independent knowledge you couldn't have blamed the commercial aircraft for being in the wrong place. It was doing what it does. Is that still the case?

Mr Hood : That's still the case. If the commercial aircraft was in the wrong place, then there'd be a separate incident report on that.

CHAIR: Yes, okay. If we had 10 in January and there's 12 months in the year, that's 120 a year. Is this suggesting that there has been, potentially, some stabilisation of these incidents or even a—

Mr Hood : I think my data scientists would say it's too early, statistically, to forecast whether there's a trend downwards. But I am aware that there has been a great deal of safety education undertaken by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

CHAIR: That's what we're interested in, obviously, to see whether the measures that have been taken are having an impact. I assume we can all work on the principle that there are more drones, in terms of other empirical data that talks about the sales and volumes. It would be a great thing if that's happening.

Senator PATRICK: I have a couple of supplementary questions on drones. Are you aware of the incident in South Carolina, I think, where a drone appears to have caused a helicopter to collide with a tree?

Mr Hood : Certainly, I'm aware of two incidents in the United States. One of them was where a drone collided with a military helicopter on the east coast of Australia. The drone was destroyed and the helicopter was damaged. On the second one: I corresponded last week with the head of the National Transportation Safety Board of the United States, and that one is still under investigation. Early indications are that the crew thought they saw something which could or may not have been a drone. They took avoiding action at about 50 feet AGL, and the helicopter struck a tree. We're still waiting, obviously, for the NTSB to conduct its final investigation.

Senator PATRICK: That answers my second question about whether or not you'd sought some advice on that.

CHAIR: Did your agency submit a submission to our inquiry?

Mr Hood : Yes, we did. We actually submitted a couple, I think, to the drone inquiry. We also provided a submission to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority discussion paper.

CHAIR: Just refresh my memory: did that include any ambitions you may have on your part that if there were to be some regulatory adjustment, that those would make your job easier in the sad event of? Did it involve some recommendations in relation to what you'd like to see in terms of being able to identify the artefact if there's a collision?

Mr Hood : We wrote back to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in response to their discussion paper and said that markings or personal identification, of some sort, on the Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems would assist the ATSB, greatly, in the conduct of its investigations.

CHAIR: I know all of my cattle have a chip in their ear.

Senator GALLACHER: It's called IMEI.

CHAIR: It worries me when you know these things, Senator Gallacher!

Senator GALLACHER: It's International Mobile Equipment Number. Are you going as far as to say that it should have that?

Mr Hood : I don't think we were specific, in relation to that. We just said identification would be very useful for the ATSB to do its job, were there to be a collision between a drone and a remotely piloted, a fixed wing aircraft.

CHAIR: Coming back to my question, my cattle have a small chip in their ear and it tells me everything I need to know, whatever volume of data I want to put in about that particular beast. Did your recommendation go as far as to suggest what technology may exist today that, in a perfect world, you'd like to see in the wreckage or the artefact of a drone if an event occurred?

Mr Hood : Not specifically. We stay at a high level, in terms of providing the solution. Technology changes every day, so what we said we want to see is an outcome which is a marking or identification of the RPAS. I suppose there are many different ways you could do that.

CHAIR: But if something is particularly damaged, that may challenge your ability to use a form of marked registration. Would you consider working up a small submission for us with respect to the latest cutting-edge technology? I know now in police surveillance you can put a little pad the size of a pinhead on a car and follow it up to 30 kilometres away. The technology's there.

Mr Hood : As an action on notice, we'll look at that for the committee.

CHAIR: I think we'd appreciate that.

Senator GALLACHER: Right on that point, you say technology changes all the time but every mobile phone in the world has an IMEI number. Most of these drones will be operated by some sort of technology like that chip or the chip that's in here. Why wouldn't you, by extension, issue these drones with an International Mobile Equipment Identity number? They're buzzing around planes, for goodness sake.

Mr Hood : That's not an issue for us but for the regulator. But if that's a solution and if that's the best solution—

CHAIR: Mr Hood, when you get involved in one of these you get a mop in one hand and a bucket in the other. What we're trying to anticipate is, if there is to be some root-and-branch regulatory change around this or a whole-of-policy adjustment about what might happen, I know that we would find it useful if you and your investigator said, 'Look, in the perfect world, it would be great if you would consider any one of these options as way of anticipating that we'll have an event.'

Mr Hood : Thank you. I'm not a technologist but I do have an organisation that has a number of technologists with it—

CHAIR: I was hoping you did.

Mr Hood : and I will undertake to provide the committee, on notice, with a response to that.

CHAIR: You might share it with Mr Carmody and his people too, given their inquiry—

Senator PATRICK: In the event that there is an accident and you are investigating, do you have powers under the telecommunications interception act to access metadata? Is that a power that fits within scope of that—

Mr Hood : I'll refer to Mr Hornby; could you answer that question, please?

Mr Hornby : We investigate under the Transport Safety Investigation Act and that does give us coercive information-gathering powers that we can use to access information like that.

Senator PATRICK: Does it include metadata? I note that the Telecommunications Act, specifically, gives authority for, for example, the police to access metadata.

Mr Hornby : Sure. We're very fortunate in the fact that the Transport Safety Investigation Act gives us priority in investigations and supersedes other Commonwealth legislation to the extent of any inconsistency. So if there are any provisions that say we couldn't have it, the Transport Safety Investigation Act would likely for us trump that.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you; that's helpful.

Senator GALLACHER: To put that really clearly, you could seize someone's computer that has video of the operation of that drone prior to it impacting with an aircraft.

Mr Hornby : We do that now in investigations. We seize video and mobile phones.

Senator GALLACHER: How do you get from the drone to the computer—that's my point—without the identification number?

Mr Hornby : For anyone who stores that data, we can access that information.

CHAIR: But you need to know who they are. The burden of his question is: you've now got the artefact on the ground; you've picked up the wreckage of a drone. From that, he wants you to be able to find its miniature black box and lead you to the owner or indeed the operator at the time of the event.

Mr Hornby : As Chief Commissioner Hood said, we've got technologists in our organisation. If there's a train of inquiry that we can be led on from the information that exists in that drone to start with then I'm sure we'll chase it as far as we can.

CHAIR: All right. We'd appreciate that. I think it will be useful.

Senator PATRICK: I have a couple of questions, one relating to the search for MH370, Mr Hood. There's a report in an ABC News article on 9 February, talking about Seabed Constructor, which is the vessel looking for MH370. The last statement in that news article says:

Until now, the MH370 search has been conducted by eight civilian aviation experts including Malaysians as well as foreign nationals, one of them from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

Can you confirm whether that is correct or not?

Mr Hood : The ATSB's formal involvement in the search for MH370—that's the search for MH370 concluded last year. All of the Australian government coordination with Malaysia is currently effected by the department, and that's Deputy Secretary Zielke at the end of the table there. There are two separate elements to this. There is the Annex 13 investigation, which is ICAO, about what actually happened on that flight. There's a Malaysian-led investigation team under ICAO Annex 13, which has a number of accredited representatives on it, and Australia has an accredited representative on that investigation team. That's the one Australian representative that you referred to. Any other questions in relation to Seabed Constructor and the actual search are referred to the department.

Senator PATRICK: You have no knowledge of an ATSB person going to sea on Seabed Constructor?

Ms Zielke : The joint agency coordination sits within the department. It's currently coordinating, as Mr Hood said, arrangements in relation to involvement with Malaysia on the new search. No; we do not have any officers on the vessel, at the moment, undertaking the search.

Senator PATRICK: Or ever on that vessel? Thank you very much, that's very helpful. I'd like to move to the Pel-Air report that came out in November, quite a voluminous report. In reading that report—and obviously this is a second attempt at that report—there were some things that struck me. I've got a PPL licence, but I won't call myself an expert. A lot of the report focused on fuel management. It's my understanding that when the pilot in command left the east coast of Australia to fly to Samoa, to Apia, he had enough fuel onboard to divert if Norfolk weather had closed in. On the way back, because of the distances involved, he only had 87 per cent fuel. But had he had 100 per cent, it would have made no difference in terms of his ability to divert once he'd arrived on the scene in Norfolk. Would you agree with that assessment?

Mr Hood : I wouldn't mind making a few overarching statements about the report, if I can, and then I might hand over to Mr Hornby, who has a much greater and more detailed knowledge of the report.

Senator PATRICK: Sure.

Mr Hood : The report was released on 23 November 2017. It's the largest and most thorough report ever undertaken by the ATSB—in excess of 500 pages. We're very cognisant of the fact of the history. Obviously, the first time round, it led to a Senate inquiry, which led to David Forsyth's regulatory and safety review of ATSB and CASA and to a review of the ATSB's methodologies by the Transport Safety Board of Canada. It reopened investigation of where we went back to Norfolk Island and recovered the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, at the cost of some $500,000 to $600,000. And then, of course, the reopened report includes an additional 30 interviews et cetera the second time round.

Like all of the investigations, the findings in the report are not meant to apportion blame or liability to anybody or any particular organisation or individual. The captain's individual actions with respect to flight planning and fuel management are included in the report as some of the contributing factors. The actions of the captain and other parties are explained in an organisational context, examining the risk controls of the operator and the regulatory framework. So we went to great pains to have a look at the whole chain of events, from regulatory oversight to the ownership of the company and the processes and procedures in the company and then, of course, to the individual factors. So we think it's a thorough report.

In terms of the detail, I don't think anybody at this table or at the back has been involved in the investigation team. The investigator in charge is based in Brisbane. I'll refer to Mr Hornby for specifics on any of your questions.

Mr Hornby : The key safety lesson from this is that the weather can change at aerodromes at any time. I think that's a really important lesson for flight crew, for operators and for regulators. Consequent to that, it's very important that you have in place robust and conservative fuel planning and inflight fuel management processes. That is caught up in the context of weather. As you mentioned, when that crew left Samoa, they didn't have maximum fuel on board. During the course of the flight, the weather at Norfolk Island significantly deteriorated. In terms of the safety factors that we pulled out with weather, it was the fact that they weren't given the extra weather information that might have helped them make extra decisions about diverting before the point of no return. Likewise, the crew didn't proactively seek that weather information in time to allow them to make alternative decisions before reaching the point of no return.

As Chief Commissioner Hood mentioned, that is caught up in the context of the risk controls that we brought out in this investigation. For the operator, that was fuel planning guidance and also training for crew. With the regulator, it's caught up with this type of operation, aeromedical operations, not being regulated to the same standard at that time in comparison to public transport operations. A number of those issues have been addressed, particularly the fuel planning. These types of operations now are required to designate an alternative aerodrome for these types of flights, so there has been quite a bit of safety action taken from this investigation.

Senator PATRICK: Sure. Where I'm going with this, just to be completely transparent with you, is that I understand that there have been a whole range of different changes that have resulted from this report; however, weather didn't seem to get a lot of focus in the report. And yet we've seen situations in 2013 where we had a Virgin aircraft and a Qantas aircraft land at Mildura with basically no opportunity for go-round because they'd run out of fuel. We had a situation on Lord Howe where someone on the ground wanted or was able to provide weather information to inbound aircraft but was prohibited because CASA wanted them to do a $20,000 training course—and this is just someone who's a volunteer. Where I'm going to with this—and we have talked with the committee on this—is that weather didn't seem to feature prominently in the report. In fact, it's my understanding that the title of the draft report that came out talks about fuel management and weather, but in the first report weather wasn't mentioned in the title.

Just going back to my original question, it's my understanding that, had the pilot in command had 100 per cent fuel in the tanks, it would have made no difference to the outcome other than that he perhaps could have had a few more attempts at landing before he ditched. Would that be fair?

Mr Hornby : We're happy to take any questions on notice in relation to the technical elements of the report. As Chief Commissioner Hood mentioned, the investigator in charge is based in Brisbane, but we can take that on notice. But in the report itself it said that, if there had been maximum fuel on board and he had reached Norfolk Island, there would have been opportunities to make other decisions and spend more time.

Senator PATRICK: Okay. Flowing to the question of weather, had better forecasting models been available for the Bureau of Meteorology, perhaps in that instance we wouldn't have had the same incident, because the pilot simply wouldn't have taken off or would have taken a different route.

Mr Hornby : The report does address the Bureau of Meteorology and forecasting at Norfolk Island. It mentions that it is difficult. In this situation, a number of events happened with the weather that were difficult to predict.

Senator PATRICK: Sure. I'm just running through a few scenarios in relation to the weather. ATC passed on several amended weather reports. So the ground were aware of weather changes that weren't passed on. Had they been passed on, the pilot in command could have been presented with options much earlier to divert and could have avoided the incident.

Mr Hornby : The report does pick up on all those things as contributing factors. There are quite a number of weather related contributing factors, including the fact that there was an 8.30 special weather report that showed that the weather at Norfolk Island was deteriorating to below the landing minimum. That wasn't provided to the crew. That's in the context of a changeover of operations from Nadi to New Zealand air services. We weren't able to determine the exact reasons why that weather information wasn't provided to the crew. But we did acknowledge that, if it was provided at that point, the crew may have been able to make some other decisions—because they still had enough time before the point of no return to decide on another aerodrome.

Senator PATRICK: We would all love BOM to have a better model that would give more accurate information or perhaps more sensors. However, in this situation advice was available but not provided. I understand from my reading of the report that no-one breached any of the regulations. It wasn't a mandatory requirement to pass the information on. But just as the pilot in command could have contacted a home base if they'd had a full-time person on the ground looking at this, or used another method—just as that could have happened from the operator and the pilot's perspective—we could have had a situation where air traffic control could have advised the pilot in command earlier. Yet there don't seem to have been any recommendations made to suggest that we ought to be moving in that direction.

Mr Hornby : That's in the context of whether or not there was a systemic issue. We didn't have enough evidence to suggest that there was a systemic issue, that this would happen in other circumstances for Nadi's international flight information services or for New Zealand's air traffic services. Certainly it was a contributing factor in this accident. But in terms of a wider problem, we didn't have evidence to say that.

Senator PATRICK: We're looking at a number of incidents now that are dealing with weather related concerns. Surely that's something you might turn your mind to in the context of that.

Mr Hood : In the Pel-Air accident report we devoted two full appendixes—H and J—to remote island weather and to Norfolk Island weather. I think out of the 500-odd-page report about 10 per cent, about 50 pages, are devoted specifically to weather. We certainly did have a pretty good look in the report at the weather factors. The other point you make is about general Australian weather. We do have a pretty good look at what we're seeing in Australia in relation to weather events. In most years we have around 12 to 15 reports of unforecast weather where aircraft have been faced with decision-making in relation to diversion because of unforecast weather. That reduced in 2017. We had eight of those. So we are actually looking very carefully. We don't think there's a systemic issue in Australia in relation to weather events currently, but it is certainly under watch.

Senator PATRICK: There was a recommendation made, I believe in 2001, in an ATSB report that weather forecasting be improved at Norfolk. My understanding is that that wasn't actioned, and there's still no action in relation to that. Is something happening on that?

Mr Hornby : There was some safety action at Norfolk Island that the BOM did take, I understand, after the Senate inquiry—I think it was in 2012—regarding this investigation. The BOM did take some safety action to put in place new infrastructure there. So there was some safety action taken.

Senator PATRICK: Could you provide me with that, perhaps on notice?

Mr Hornby : It's in the report. Safety action is towards the back.

Mr Hood : We're still happy to provide that on notice.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you. Once again, when the draft report had come out, my understanding was that the report didn't have as much focus on weather. Would that be a fair assessment?

Mr Hood : As I said, at least 50 pages, or 10 per cent, of the report are devoted to weather, with two specific appendices. So I don't think that's the case.

Senator PATRICK: Will you be presenting this particular report at the International Society of Air Safety Investigators conference this year?

Mr Hood : Not to my understanding.

Senator PATRICK: Normally you present significant reports to that conference. My understanding is the ATSB turns up and often makes presentations there.

Mr Hood : I'm looking at my budget currently in terms of whether we can send someone to the ISASI conference. But from time to time the ATSB presents detailed reports. It is not to my knowledge that we're preparing to present this one.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Are you done, Senator?

Senator PATRICK: Yes, thank you.

Senator GALLACHER: Can I ask one or two questions on fuel?

CHAIR: How many—one or two?

Senator GALLACHER: Two.

CHAIR: All right.

Senator GALLACHER: Ultimately when you do an investigation like this, the pilot is the person in command. He's the person responsible.

Mr Hood : That's correct. We look at all the factors. We look at company, fuel policy—all of that.

Senator GALLACHER: But ultimately he's flying the plane and he's in charge of the decision-making. When we go back to the Virgin accident, where a fairly large aircraft landed at an airport that wasn't suitable for an aircraft of that size, where is the contest between computerised fuel planning exercised by major fleet operators and the command role of the captain? Can the captain overrule that computerised fuel plan?

Mr Hood : It's my understanding that many of my friends who are airline captains do carry above and beyond what the company requires them to carry.

Senator GALLACHER: That's really awkward. I've worked in an airport where the captain's rolled up and said, 'Full under wing, that's it. Get the weather, get the notes in, fill the bastard up. I'm going.' That was how you used to operate. But with computerised fuel planning and the efficiencies that that drives in the marketplace, you would need to have a bit of seniority and a bit of clout in the company to override an efficiency mechanism. Would that be a fair statement?

Mr Hood : The CASA rules—both current and proposed—under parts 91, 121 and 135 propose re-baseline of the regulatory fuel requirements. Then the company, obviously, in the context of its safety management system agrees to what's acceptable and not acceptable in terms of the captain's decision-making. At the end of the day, we have investigated a number of fuel starvation events—a number of close calls in relation to insufficient fuel. We've got at least one fuel starvation event currently under investigation by the ATSB.

Senator GALLACHER: With the recent announcement by Qantas to establish flight training in Australia to boost the number of pilots, because we're going to run out of these experienced pilots—who have carried, in my view, the safety of the Australian airline industry—is this an area that ATSB has any concern for at all? That is, computerised flight planning remote from captain's decision-making about weather and that sort of thing?

Mr Hood : Personally, once you've been to an accident where people have lost their lives as a result of fuel starvation, obviously we have a stake in the ground in that space.

Senator GALLACHER: I don't think the issue will go away. That's my last comment.

CHAIR: Perfect timing. We're going to break for afternoon tea. Dr Kennedy, if you're able, you might arrange the resources more or less per the agreement this morning with Senator Sterle. We'll deal with that little passage and then we will come back. I think our friends are free to go. We really appreciate your effort and preparation. We wish you safe travel back to wherever you came from. Thank you.

Proceedings suspended from 15:28 to 15:45

CHAIR: By arrangement with Dr Kennedy there were some questions on notice this morning. This is probably around a sensitive area given recent events, and I urge senators that our questions be clinical, directed to the facts. There is not a lot of scope for editorialising on the way through. That's not directed at you, Senator Sterle—the rest of the audience has left. Let's endeavour to do that.

Senator STERLE: I go back to my earlier question today, which you do now have a copy of, Mr Murphy. Let's work our way through it if we can, please. For the purposes of the questions I did supply on notice earlier this morning in relation to Ms Diana Hallam. I must say in the outset I don't know who Ms Hallam is and there's no doubt in Ms Hallam's ability to do the job but I have procedural questions around her employment as the now general manager of operations for the Inland Rail and Rail Policy Division. Is that correct, Mr Murphy?

Mr Murphy : That's correct.

Senator STERLE: On what date was the position advertised?

Mr Murphy : On 16 March 2017, there were a number of positions at the SES band 1 level advertised. We did a bulk recruitment round, so we advertised for several positions, and the advertising stood from 16 March until 3 April, when applications closed.

Senator STERLE: You said there were a number?

Mr Murphy : That's correct.

Senator STERLE: So there was the advertisement for the general manager. Is that correct?

Mr Murphy : We just advertised and said we were seeking to fill a number of expected vacancies, for the general manager—

Senator STERLE: Sure, Mr Murphy. I'm not trying to cut you off, but I'm mindful of the timing. If I do cut you off, feel free to jump in and say, 'I'm getting to it.' Tell us what positions were advertised.

Mr Murphy : We didn't specifically identify any positions. We said we were seeking to fill a number of expected vacancies, specifically in roles that have responsibility for—and there were three categories: policy advice, program delivery and regulatory management and reform.

Senator STERLE: For those expected vacancies, how many applications did you get?

Mr Murphy : We got 136 applications.

Senator STERLE: How many people were employed following that advertisement?

Mr Murphy : To date we have filled six positions through that process. We created a merit list. The merit list exists for 12 months, so conceivably we could fill further positions until 16 March, when 12 months elapses and the merit list would close.

Senator STERLE: So at no stage did you actually mention you were chasing a general manager—or not you, the operations of the Inland Rail and Rail Policy Division. Who was the general manager before Ms Hallam was engaged, and when did he or she leave?

Mr Murphy : Prior to Ms Hallam being engaged, Inland Rail was not a division; it was a branch within another division, the Infrastructure Investment Division. The decision was taken to, if you like, increase its size to a division once there had been certainty that the Inland Rail project was being funded, as announced in the budget. As a result of that, this process filled two new branch head positions—one that Ms Hallam moved into and one that another person, as a result of that process, moved into. We also established a division head position above Ms Hallam's position, through a separate SES band 2 process.

Senator STERLE: So we have two general managers, do we?

Mr Murphy : That's correct. We went from one general manager to two general managers—

Senator STERLE: Sorry; just so I can follow this: at the time of the advertising in writing for that period with no names around it, just expected vacancies, there were no positions, because it was a branch within Infrastructure Investment; it wasn't a division?

Mr Murphy : That's correct.

Senator STERLE: And you've kept this merit list. So Ms Hallam was picked up, along with five others, around that same time. When she started with the operations of Inland Rail and Rail Policy as a branch within Infrastructure Investment, what did she start as?

Mr Murphy : She started in the position you stated earlier, which was a newly created position when she commenced.

Senator STERLE: So she started and she gave her name as general manager straightaway, and then another general manager in this process came on board around the same time?

Mr Murphy : Yes, at the same time. That's correct.

Senator STERLE: So she was general manager of the branch, before it became a division?

Mr Murphy : No. What we did was turn it from being one branch into two branches with an executive director or division head sitting above.

Senator STERLE: When was that actually done?

Mr Murphy : That took place in July-August 2017.

Senator STERLE: Let me write this down. There was a breakup of the two branches with an executive sitting above them in July/August. Can you say exactly when it was?

Mr Murphy : What happened was that the selection process that we were talking about was completed on 12 July 2017. As a result of that, the two branch head positions were filled. One was filled on 20 July 2017.

Senator STERLE: By who?

Mr Murphy : Through an internal promotion, by Scott Mashford, and then Ms Hallam's branch was established when she commenced in the role on 21 August 2017.

Senator STERLE: The day Ms Hallam started was when the second branch was set up?

Mr Murphy : That's correct, yes.

Senator STERLE: Help me through this if you can—

CHAIR: Sorry, what was that date?

Mr Murphy : The 21st of August.

Senator STERLE: I've got to come back to the original application where 136 people applied for 'expected vacancies'. I understand vacancies, when someone moves or whatever. How did we go from vacancies in March-April, in that three-week period, to all of a sudden having two new branches with two newly created general managers? Pull me up at any time. Budgets and all that must have been set aside—I shouldn't pre-empt; you tell me. Were they set aside back in April or March, when you thought, 'We've got vacancies, but we're not replacing people; we're increasing'—did you increase numbers at all there?

Mr Murphy : Yes, we did.

Senator STERLE: You put on six. How many people are left?

Mr Murphy : No. When we say 'expected vacancies', we are saying there will potentially be a mixture of positions that will become vacant because the incumbent leaves and possibly new positions will be created. In March, when we advertised that, we had in mind that Inland Rail might be approved in the budget. If it were, we would draw from this process to fill positions in what would then become a larger part of the department and funds would be allocated to Inland Rail as a result of the budget.

Senator STERLE: Can you tell us by what means the positions were advertised?

Mr Murphy : We advertised in APS Jobs, or the Gazette, which is, of course, standard practice. We also put advertisements in The Australian Financial Review, The Weekend Australian and The Canberra Times.

Senator STERLE: Can you tell me why there were two branches created? It wasn't a division; it was a branch, but why were two branches created within that branch with an executive over the top?

Mr Murphy : We went from a single branch to, if you like, splitting that branch into two entities and creating an executive director above them.

Senator STERLE: What was the branch previously and what were the two branches after the new formation?

Mr Murphy : Previously, the branch covered all aspects of Inland Rail, which was predominantly preparing the business case to be considered in the budget process. When that was signed off, that was split into an operations branch—

Senator STERLE: You started an operations branch, so you had a branch for all aspects—

Mr Murphy : Yes, we split the branch in two. One side had an operations focus, so one of the new branches was operations, and the other one was around communications and stakeholder relations.

Senator STERLE: Where did this overarching executive come from?

Mr Murphy : We ran a separate SES band 2—the level above—bulk round as well. As part of that process, Phil Smith was promoted from a position in the Department of Finance to move into that SES band 2 position as the head of the Inland Rail unit.

Senator STERLE: Who was the previous head of the Inland Rail unit?

Mr Murphy : A chap called Richard Wood. He was running the branch when it was just a branch. When it was split in two, Richard acted in that position of executive director for a period of time until Phil Smith moved in.

Senator STERLE: What happened to Mr Wood?

Mr Murphy : Mr Wood's now working in our Aviation and Airports Division as a branch head.

Senator STERLE: So he's not in Inland Rail?

Mr Murphy : He's not in Inland Rail anymore, no.

Senator STERLE: He's moved sideways.

Mr Murphy : That's correct.

Senator STERLE: He acted, but he didn't apply.

Mr Murphy : No, he didn't.

Senator STERLE: Can you tell me how many of the 136 applicants—this is for all these positions, how many there were—were short listed?

Mr Murphy : Of those 136, 56 were short listed. There were two stages in the short listing. We had a number of people, 37 of whom we weren't sure whether they would go through to a formal interview. We engaged a recruitment provider to do a screening interview with them. As a result of those screening interviews and some others who went straight through to interview, we had 27 people who were short listed for formal interview by the interview committee. One withdrew before the interview, so in total 26 were interviewed by the committee.

Senator STERLE: Of the 136 applicants for the expected vacancies that were gazetted in The Canberra Times from 16 March to 3 April, were all 136 within then or did some others come later?

Mr Murphy : No. All of them had their applications submitted by 3 April 2017.

Senator STERLE: Can you tell us what the interview involved?

Mr Murphy : It was a panel interview with three people doing the interviews. It was simply a series of standard questions that were asked of all 26 interviewees.

Senator STERLE: Is it silly of me to suggest that the 136 had different qualities?

Mr Murphy : Do you mean the 26 that were interviewed?

Senator STERLE: Sorry—the 26 that got down, not 136.

Mr Murphy : Yes, they would have had different qualities.

Senator STERLE: Were they all capable of performing the general manager's position?

Mr Murphy : Not all of the 26 interviewed were rated as suitable. Some were not.

Senator STERLE: One of my dot points is: what date was the final decision made to employ them? You had 56 originally, then the screening interviews were outsourced and then 26 were short listed. I know one started in July and the other person started on 21 April. What date was the final decision made to engage both of these general managers?

Mr Murphy : The selection committee presented their report to the secretary of the department, who made the final decision on accepting the recommendations in the report. The then secretary, Mike Mrdak, signed off the selection report on 12 July 2017. As of that date, offers could be made.

Senator STERLE: Sorry, you did say that. The first one started on the 20th. So the main decision maker was Mr Mrdak?

Mr Murphy : Yes. I won't call him the delegate, because the secretary is not a delegate, but he was the person who signed off and accepted the recommendations of the committee, which then enabled the offers to be made.

Senator STERLE: Just run me past that—who was the committee again?

Mr Murphy : There were three people at deputy secretary level—two from within the department—and an APSC representative. The Public Service Commission requires an external representative, and that was a deputy secretary level employee from the department of industry.

Senator STERLE: And the other two were internal within your department.

Mr Murphy : That's correct.

Senator STERLE: Are they still around?

Mr Murphy : Yes, they are.

Senator STERLE: Do they normally do that? Is that a special role?

Mr Murphy : No. They normally do it when I can sweet-talk them into being on committees.

Senator STERLE: At any stage, did these positions require ministerial approval?

Mr Murphy : No. Under the Public Service Act, the secretary's got the authority of an employer.

Senator STERLE: Who made the decision to split the branches into two?

Mr Murphy : The then secretary, Mr Mike Mrdak.

Senator STERLE: What led to that? We have the highest of respect for Mr Mrdak in this committee.

Mr Murphy : Once the decision had been made and announced in the budget that the Inland Rail project was going ahead, there was recognition that having a single branch trying to manage that project was inadequate, so we took the model that we'd taken with the Western Sydney unit.

Senator STERLE: When was this?

Mr Murphy : This was following the budget.

Senator STERLE: This is the 2016 budget.

Mr Murphy : No, the 2017 budget.

Senator STERLE: Let me raise it because my memory is like a sieve. In the 2017 budget, there was a decision that the Inland Rail project was getting too big for one branch. The government wanted to do something, we will say, around May 2017.

CHAIR: When you say 'the 2017 budget', do you mean the 2016-17 budget or the 2017-18?

Mr Murphy : The 2017-18—the budget of May last year.

Senator STERLE: The job applications were gazetted and put in The Canberra Times in March of 2017. That's two months before.

Mr Murphy : No. The Canberra Times gazetted expected vacancies. We have filled six positions as a result of that process, two of which were in Inland Rail as a result of those positions being created after the budget. The other four were vacant positions.

Senator STERLE: I'm clearly directing, in my mind, questions about the Inland Rail and Rail Policy Division. My line of questioning was asking: when were these jobs advertised? You clearly said to us it was 16 March through to 3 April 2017.

Mr Murphy : Those jobs were not advertised. We advertised a number of expected vacancies in the three areas I mentioned.

Senator STERLE: That is 'we' being the department.

Mr Murphy : Yes, that's correct.

Senator STERLE: It is not 'we' being the Inland Rail and rail policy.

Mr Murphy : No. I'm sorry. I should have made that clearer. The department advertised a series of expected vacancies across the department.

Senator STERLE: You thought there were six positions fill.

Mr Murphy : No, we didn't know. We create a merit list so, in theory, we can draw on that over the next 12 months rather than advertising as positions become vacant.

CHAIR: Theoretically, had the budget fallen over, none of the 136 may have been employed anywhere.

Mr Murphy : The other four positions were outside of Inland Rail. They would have been filled as a matter of course, but the two within Inland Rail would not have been filled. That's correct.

Senator STERLE: It's general practice within the public sector or certain departments to be one step ahead of the curve. You say, 'Let's see who's out there, who has what skills and who may want the job,' follow the budget and then see where there's a bit of dough thrown somewhere where you can maybe grab them. Is that it?

Mr Murphy : That's correct. We would also fill other positions that we already had funding for. Where we won't do that is if we have a specialist skill we're looking for. We'll run a separate, independent process for that.

Senator STERLE: I'm not familiar with the bands and all that, but if we've created one extra branch—firstly there was originally Mr Wood. Mr Wood was the head of the branch and he was on a package. Is that the same package or band that the two branch general managers are on now?

Mr Murphy : We have a range for SES Band 1. People can be paid within that range, so salaries vary. We don't have a single pay point for the 50-odd staff who are in that SES Band 1 classification.

Senator STERLE: I'm trying to establish that Mr Wood was on a remuneration package that was in a band.

Mr Murphy : That's correct.

Senator STERLE: But then another branch general manager was created.

Mr Murphy : That's correct.

Senator STERLE: Are both of those new branch general managers on the same dollars—let's put it that way because bands can vary—as Mr Wood was originally engaged on?

Dr Kennedy : They're on the same band.

Senator STERLE: Tell me the difference between the bottom and top of the band. I don't get that.

Mr Murphy : For example, if you have someone who has been in an SES Band 1 position for 10 years, you would expect that they would be getting paid more than someone who was newly promoted to an SES Band 1 position because they have 10 years of experience. We have a range of salaries for our SES Band 1 depending on experience. Sometimes they come across from another department where they're being paid more, and we will meet that salary.

Senator STERLE: I get all that, but I think it's imperative for the taxpayer dollars—because I'm being haunted by a reporter now who has nothing write about and thinks they're onto something and I'd hate to disappoint him—that questions are answered because when it comes to taxpayer dollars you tell the truth. How much more has it cost the Australian taxpayer to create this extra branch manager? How much extra is it to the Australian taxpayer—which I'd hope you would have in front of you, Mr Murphy—that it's cost above what Mr Wood was being paid on his own? Plus we have the creation of Mr Smith's job; and, obviously, there's a lot more workload now for him than before, that's correct. Could you have those figures available for us?

CHAIR: Would you mind if I asked a qualifying question here, Senator?

Senator STERLE: Sure.

CHAIR: For you to be able to answer that, are we dealing with apples and apples? We had Mr Wood doing a job that would have had a description, and then there's some form of restructure where there are two divisions, each with a head and an executive. Are we dealing with apples and apples? Would knowing Mr Woods' old salary assist at all in determining, in a comparative sense, the salary of one of the heads of the two new divisions or are we—

Dr Kennedy : Perhaps the simplest thing we could do, to give the committee some assurance around the overall cost of the Inland Rail unit, would be to go back to our records—we are going to have to take this on notice—and tell you what their approximate annual cost of the branch was and, now, what the annual cost of the new larger group is. They are different; the new unit has more people in it and it will cost more.

CHAIR: But the old branch was a branch of anticipation. The new branch was an action.

Dr Kennedy : That's true, but if the Senate wants to know the before and after we can do that.

Senator STERLE: So it's regular for the department to go out there and sniff the breeze and see who's around. But can you give me an idea, just a rough idea?

CHAIR: Hansard can't record a nod. Is your answer to that question, 'Yes,' Mr Murphy?

Mr Murphy : I'm not sure what the senator meant by sniff the breeze.

CHAIR: You've got this list of 136 people upon which you can draw for this and other purposes. Is that an annual event, the creation of that list, a biannual event; is it a living thing you might update every six or 12 months?

Dr Kennedy : It's a matter for each department. It is a very usual occurrence for departments to run what's called a bulk round, a process where you identify staff that may be suitable to work in your department. As Mr Murphy said, you can use the merit list, the order in which people get represented off that list, to promote vacancies that come in the following year. The other way departments recruit executives is to advertise specific positions. But in many of the departments I have worked in we've used what's called bulk-round processes—I think you called it sniff the breeze—which identify our list. We may have a couple of known vacancies but we think someone may leave in a few months and, rather than wait for that person to leave and have the delay of having to advertise and come back again, we've created a pool from which we can draw immediately. We found it an efficient way to manage human resources.

Senator STERLE: In terms of this department, how often do you do that?

Dr Kennedy : Bulk rounds?

Mr Murphy : We did a bulk round for the SES band 1 and SES band 2 last year, and we did a bulk round for SES band 1 and 2 in 2016. I joined at the end of 2015 so I'm not sure what happened before then, but we have used bulk rounds, so possibly before then, not every year. We have used them for precisely the purposes the secretary outlined.

Senator STERLE: Is this normally the modus operandi? These are pretty senior positions, I take it.

Mr Murphy : That's correct.

Senator STERLE: Are there any other examples of senior managers being picked up in bulk rounds?

Mr Murphy : Do you mean in our department?

Senator STERLE: In that process, yes.

Mr Murphy : For example, last year, at the SES band 1 level, we filled all bar two of our vacancies through the bulk process. The other two were specialist positions. For the head of HR and the chief information officer, we ran separate processes. So the answer is, yes, most of our positions were filled through bulk rounds.

Senator STERLE: Dr Kennedy said you were taking this on notice, to come back with the figures, but can you give me a rough idea? Are these $80,000 a year positions or are they $200,000 or—

Dr Kennedy : The thing I took on notice—perhaps this is a different question—was the cost of the Inland Rail unit as a branch and now its cost in total.

Senator STERLE: I'll narrow that down for you. When departments are employing, that's fantastic, they're getting bigger. I'm not one of those who want to kill off the public service. I think that's great. But if you can tell us the cost of having that band 1, Mr Wood's previous position—

Dr Kennedy : Yes.

Senator STERLE: To the decision from the bulk round of March to all of a sudden in July we have two general manager positions and then an executive over the top. Can you tell me what the difference is from that one job to the three jobs?

Dr Kennedy : I'm happy to take on notice the difference in those costs. I'm sorry to be particular, but to correct something in what you just said: the decision to expand the Inland Rail unit came through the budget process, not through running the round to recruit people.

Senator STERLE: Mr Murphy made that very clear. Could you tell us then, were you involved in any of the scoping of the applicants at all, Mr Murphy?

Mr Murphy : I wrote the ad. I was the contact officer for the advertisement, but I wasn't on the committee so, no, I did not do any of the shortlisting.

Senator STERLE: Okay. I'll ask this question to Dr Kennedy and to the whole department. I did flag it earlier. Would you know if the minister or the minister's office at any time recommended directly or otherwise involved itself with the recruitment process for this position?

Mr Murphy : No.

Senator STERLE: Is that the whole department, Mr Murphy, or is that no just from you?

Mr Murphy : No. I can confirm that's for the whole department.

Senator STERLE: Okay, that's good. So, what we established there was—because it's one of the questions—that Mr Wood was acting in that position prior to—was it the same position? You said general manager, but is there difference between—

Mr Murphy : Mr Wood was the general—

CHAIR: You need to come back to the apple and orange question here. I'm trying to help you, not frustrate you, Senator Sterle, but it would seem to me that this is a reformed structure. Mr Wood headed up an old structure. You have a reformed structure, and for a moment in time he comes from the old structure to be the executive officer, if you like, of the new structure. And then you start to populate it. I imagine you have some hierarchical chart that developed and you populate it underneath.

Senator STERLE: I think it's more than fair for me to repeat it, because I gave the officers the written questions, too, and if there are others listening back in Civic or whatever, I'm very clear in my line. Thanks for that, Chair. As I was saying before—I am trying to get to it—the role that Mr Wood was performing, was it any different than the role that Ms Hallam is now performing, even though you did split it into two? One was comms and the other was ops.

Mr Murphy : Yes, it was different. As Senator O'Sullivan said, before the unit was expanded Mr Wood was really responsible for everything to do with Inland Rail. He was looking after operations, he was looking after communications, he was looking after stakeholder—

Senator STERLE: He was doing the whole lot.

Mr Murphy : He was doing the whole lot, but there was not much to do around communications and stakeholders until Inland Rail was funded in the budget. When Ms Hallam came in, she took, in simplistic terms, one half of that role that Mr Wood was doing, which was the operations side. Mr Mashford took the other side and an executive director was appointed above because the work involved had increased significantly.

Senator STERLE: Mr Murphy, thank you very much. That does answer the question that I was asking earlier and then had to repeat. You're going to take it on notice, but what is the pay range of these positions? Roughly—you're not going to embarrass yourself, and I don't expect you to.

Mr Murphy : For an SES band 1 currently our range is between about $194,000 and about $230,000. For the executive director or SES band 2, it's roughly $250,000 to $280,000.

Senator STERLE: That's great. Thank you, Mr Murphy. Can you tell us what is the nature of any interactions with the minister's office under this position, if any? I mean the interactions of these positions, the general managers, with the minister's office.

Dr Kennedy : All SES and sometimes some of our executive level staff will be expected to deal with ministers and brief them on occasion. Typically, those briefings will be led by either me or the relevant deputy secretary, with support from the division head and the general manager, the next layer down, and occasionally staff below that level if they hold the technical expertise. It will depend on the matter. Regular engagement with ministers' offices is usually between me and the deputy secretaries and the ministers, but we bring in our other colleagues whenever we need their expertise to brief on a particular issue.

Senator STERLE: I know we have set the date for those questions on notice to—Chair, remind me—two or three weeks' time?

CHAIR: Jane will help us here.

Senator STERLE: I'm always mindful when we put questions on notice of the work that it does create for the department when you get back. So if you do have them before you go, it would be helpful. It is 13 April. Thank you. Mr Murphy, thank you very much for your assistance. Chair, I'm finished but Senator Gallacher will have questions.

CHAIR: It's good cop, bad cop, is it?

Senator GALLACHER: No. We're all good cops over here. The 26 probably eminently qualified people would have all come to the table with references. You obviously take note of those references and check them all out. I presume the candidate that Senator Sterle has been asking about would have come to the table with perhaps a different—well, maybe not—reference. But you would have also come to the table with references. Was there a reference from the Deputy Prime Minister?

Mr Murphy : No, there wasn't.

Senator GALLACHER: Was there a reference from other parties and offices she'd worked in?

Mr Murphy : No. Her referee was the secretary of agriculture. Mr Daryl Quinlivan.

Senator GALLACHER: Who?

Mr Murphy : Daryl Quinlivan, the secretary of the department of agriculture.

Senator GALLACHER: No other referees, political offices, on work that she'd done? Was that not part of the criteria?

Mr Murphy : No. The process was a referee was sought and comments were sought for each of the short-listed applicants, and Ms Hallam's was Mr Quinlivan.

Senator GALLACHER: For anybody aspiring to an SES band 1 or 2 level in terms of referees, you come up with one principal referee. Is that the process?

Mr Murphy : Practice varies, Senator. In our processes, when people complete their initial written application, we ask them to provide the names of two referees. It's then up to a selection committee as to whether they want to approach no referees, one referee, both referees or even seek additional referees. That's up to the selection panel to determine.

CHAIR: All done. Are there any other questions from colleagues in relation to this? There being none, thank you, Mr Murphy, we appreciate you putting the effort in to be able to answer the senators' questions with somewhat short notice.