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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Go To First Hit

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


CHAIR ( Senator Abetz ): I welcome the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, and Ms Frances Adamson, Secretary, together with officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Minister, I understand there is no opening statement from you?

Senator Payne: No, thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Secretary, I understand similarly from you. But there have been a number of answers tabled to the written questions from Senator Gallacher and, there being agreement, we'll table those and incorporate them in Hansard. We will move to questions. Senator Wong is kicking off.

Senator WONG: I do have aid questions, but I'm actually going to start with Mr Sloper, if he's here, and Secretary Adamson in relation to Mr Hockey's declaration of interest and the revision to the evidence and the inclusion of his answers. Mr Wood, before you go, are you able to table anything so we can have a look at it and I can ask questions of you, or not?

Mr Wood : Yes, that has been included in the return and response to Senator Gallacher's letter.

Senator WONG: No. The letter says it will be tabled. It says: 'It will be tabled in the normal way,' or something like that. So I'm asking if you could do that, then I'll look at it in the break—hopefully, after I've finished with Mr Sloper and the secretary. Okay?

Mr Wood : Short answer: yes, Senator.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Mr Sloper and Secretary Adamson, I asked a lot of questions on the last occasion about Mr Hockey and his involvement in facilitating a discussion between Helloworld, a company in which he had shares, and the relevant officers from post—and also were they Canberra based?—who were in Washington—no, just at the post—who dealt with travel. Subsequently, it is the case that the government went to an external procurement process in respect of that travel; correct?

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator WONG: You corrected your evidence, Mr Sloper. Do you want to perhaps explain that correction first?

Mr Sloper : Yes. I wrote to the committee to advise that, on reading through the transcript, I felt I had not been clear about the 14-day requirement when an individual's declaration of interest was perceived by them to have changed in regard to potential conflicts of interest. I think, in one response to a question, I'd said no and in another I'd said we expect people to make clear when a change occurs. And so I chose to write to the committee to clarify the policy.

Senator WONG: I don't mind people making mistakes and if you didn't remember it. But it isn't that you weren't clear; you actually contradicted what is the policy position.

Mr Sloper : I felt that I'd answered two different ways in the Hansard read-through.

Senator WONG: You said no.

Mr Sloper : I said no and then later I said we expect people to make it clear. And I realised that was not clear, and I wanted to clarify that to the committee.

Senator WONG: Were you aware at the time you gave the answers?

Mr Sloper : I wasn't aware at the time I gave the answer. I was aware of our policy; I wasn't aware of my misleading the committee.

Senator WONG: No. Stop. Let me finish the question. At the time you gave the answers, were you aware that there was a 14-day requirement for amendments?

Mr Sloper : I was aware.

Senator WONG: Why didn't you tell me that?

Mr Sloper : Because I was not aware that I'd answered—I incorrectly answered the question and, on reading through the transcript afterwards, had appreciated that I'd misled you.

Senator WONG: And I appreciate you being up-front with the committee. It was such a focus of the questioning, I just find it hard to understand how that couldn't have been disclosed.

Mr Sloper : Yes, Senator. I apologise.

Senator WONG: No, I'm not trying to—

Mr Sloper : No, I understand.

Senator WONG: You're not the person who's done the wrong thing here. You've also attached to that—thank you very much. If anybody from my office wants to come up and get Mr Wood's tables, they're here. Hopefully, they're hearing me! I've also received, and I wasn't clear about how it has come to us—I think it's because you've tabled it—a disclosure of Mr Hockey's interests.

Mr Sloper : That was disclosed in regard to a question I received on notice.

Senator WONG: Yes. So which answer is it?

Mr Sloper : Just bear with me.

Senator WONG: 2(a) or 2 or something like that? The reason is that I do want people to be able to find it. I've got a copy here, and I do have some questions about it.

Mr Sloper : Yes, it's attached in response to question on notice 2.

Senator WONG: Okay. Thank you—which is on the website.

Mr Sloper : I understand that's the case.

Senator WONG: First, it appears that Mr Hockey has amended this, and I think, in fact, that's your evidence in your letter. Were you aware at the time I asked you questions about this at the first hearing that Mr Hockey had amended his register of interests? Sorry, I apologise. It's called the disclosure of private, financial and other interests.

Mr Sloper : I was not aware at the time I presented evidence at the last hearings that there were three dates on the form. I referred to the first date, which is actually on the cover sheet of the form. Then, on return and reading through the Hansard and, again, looking at the form more closely, I realised there were three dates.

Senator WONG: Did you ask him about this?

Mr Sloper : I did ask Mr Hockey about that.

Senator WONG: He didn't volunteer this in your first discussion.

Mr Sloper : I didn't ask him at that point. I asked him subsequently.

Senator WONG: He didn't volunteer this in your first discussion.

Mr Sloper : No, Senator.

Senator WONG: So, just in terms of chronology, this form and the subsequent amendments were signed after the April meeting in question. That was the subject of previous questioning; correct?

Mr Sloper : Yes. The form was signed as part of our annual requirement to go to all heads of mission and SES asking that they complete a disclosure.

Senator WONG: So the chronology is that in April 2017—I'm not quite sure where the chronology is. I have it, but it's my head. I also have seen a document with the chronology in it. It's probably mine, not yours, Mr Sloper. In April 2017, there was a meeting that was facilitated, on the evidence, by Mr Hockey between, I think it was, two DFAT officers who had responsibility for procurement and—what was the position of the Helloworld representative?

Mr Sloper : I think he had two responsibilities. One was QBT and one was Helloworld, and he was a general manager.

Senator WONG: Was it only the one Helloworld representative?

Mr Sloper : My understanding is that that's the case.

Senator WONG: So that occurs in April, and then in May Mr Hockey signs a Disclosure of Private, Financial and Other Interests Form. I'll come back to the content of that, because I think there are some questions to be raised about that. But, as importantly, he also amends it on two occasions within a few weeks—is that correct?

Mr Sloper : That's correct.

Senator WONG: But he doesn't volunteer that to you when he's asked about it prior to the previous estimates?

Mr Sloper : My understanding, from talking to Ambassador Hockey, is that he gave careful consideration to the issues within that disclosure, and we received it after the final date.

Senator WONG: Sorry?

Mr Sloper : As you mentioned, there were three dates on the form. I've asked Ambassador Hockey about the three dates, and he's advised that he gave careful consideration to the form and therefore filled it out on three different occasions and dated it accordingly, and on conclusion of the last date is when we received it.

Senator WONG: No, he didn't fill it out three times; he amended the same form.

Mr Sloper : Yes, he amended the same form. My only point was that our team received it at the conclusion of that. I can't be clear on whether he amended it or continued to work through the form.

Senator WONG: Can you get the form in front of you, because I'm going to ask you questions from the document. Your letter to Ms Beverley says he signed different sections. You said, 'On review following the hearing, I found Mr Hockey signed different sections of his 2017 Disclosure of Private, Financial and Other Interests Form on 9 May, 25 May and 30 May 2017.' Is that right?

Mr Sloper : That's right.

Senator WONG: The 9 May disclosure is on the front page—is that correct?

Mr Sloper : That's right.

Senator WONG: He signed it. There's also a handwritten amendment to the form itself which is initialled but not dated?

Mr Sloper : Do you mean on the right-hand side of the first page?

Senator WONG: That's correct.

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator WONG: Do you know when that occurred?

Mr Sloper : No, I don't, because there's no date other than '2017'.

Senator WONG: Did you ask him that?

Mr Sloper : I did not.

Senator WONG: And then there's a 30 May date on the next page.

Mr Sloper : On the bottom of page 2?

Senator WONG: That's correct. Where's the 25th?

Mr Sloper : On the top of page 4.

Senator WONG: So he's got 9 May, 30 May and 25 May?

Mr Sloper : That's right.

Senator WONG: Did he tell you why he kept changing the form?

Mr Sloper : As I mentioned just earlier, I asked him why there were three dates, and he said that was due to the careful consideration he gave to the contents of the form.

Senator WONG: Okay. I want to go to step 3. Step 1 is details; step 2 is category of staff; and step 3 is, in many ways, the operative part in relation to personal interests. There are three options—it's headed 'Private, Financial or Other Interests'. The first is:

I have no personal, financial or other interests that could or could be seen to influence the decisions or actions I am taking or the advice I am giving in connection with my official duties.

The second is:

I have personal, financial or other interests that could or could be seen to influence the decision or actions I am taking or advice I am giving in connection with my official duties.

The third is:

I have no personal, financial or other interests that could or could be seen to influence the decisions or actions I am taking or the advice I am giving in connection with my official duties. However, I have decided to provide my current personal, financial or other interests.

Now, it's a reasonably stringent set of options, which is consistent, Secretary, with your comment, I think, on the last occasion. I can't remember how you put it, but I think you said 'the expectation was the highest standards of behaviour'. I'm sorry, I haven't got the quote here, but you'll recall that. The options available to DFAT officers here are either that you have no interests that could or could be seen, you do have interests that could or could be seen, or you have none but you will still disclose anyway. They demonstrate a stringent standard. I think your quote was, 'We want our staff to ensure they're meeting the highest community expectations when it comes to their conduct.' The other interesting thing about this disclosure is it doesn't separate out a disclosure as to an interest that could or could be seen to influence. In other words, the test that you're applying is not causal—that is, 'could influence'—but it's 'could be seen to influence'; that is, it's a perception point. Is that correct?

M s Adamson : In each of those step 3 cases, the 'could' or 'could be seen to' is listed.

Senator WONG: Yes, and my point about that, what I'm suggesting to you, is that the test that is implicit or, some would argue, explicit in that is not a causal test; that is, that could influence decisions or actions—not whether it in fact does but that it could be seen to, could be perceived to.

Ms Adamson : Yes, perception of conflict of interest. Anyone who works in the area of conflict of interest knows that it is an actual conflict or something that could be perceived as such, and that is the way we've chosen to express it.

Senator WONG: Which is an appropriate way. Mr Hockey has made a decision to sign the form and tick the box that says that he has no such interests but to strike out 'or could be seen to'.

Ms Adamson : Yes, he has.

Senator WONG: It's an interesting decision, isn't it?

CHAIR: That's an opinion, a rhetorical flourish by the senator which does not require an answer from departmental officials.

Senator WONG: Have you asked him why he did that?

Mr Sloper : Yes, I have.

Senator WONG: What did he say?

Mr Sloper : He advised that he crossed out 'could be seen to influence' on the basis that it could be seen as a judgement he could not be reasonably expected to have confidence in preventing others having.

Senator WONG: You've got to be kidding.

Mr Sloper : That's the advice he has provided.

Senator WONG: When did you have that conversation with him, Mr Sloper?

Mr Sloper : It would have been probably in the week after our last hearing, as I discovered the three dates in the form and returned it to him.

Senator WONG: Secretary, when did you become aware that he'd chosen to take that out?

Ms Adamson : When Mr Sloper told me, which was around the same time.

Senator WONG: The effect of that is that he is removing a certification that there is nothing about his interests which could give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.

Ms Adamson : There are obviously a number of different ways of looking at this. You could also say that he chose very carefully his words and felt that he could absolutely certify that and no more. I don't know his mind on this, but Mr Sloper has had a number of conversations, and I think what he has just said clearly accurately reflects the way Ambassador Hockey characterises this and, when read with the fact that he thought about this and annotated it over a number of days, and alongside the conversations that he had with colleagues in Washington, he was clearly wanting to communicate, or to be open about, his interests in relation to this particular issue.

Senator WONG: The other way of looking at it is that he is saying, 'I can't actually tell you, Secretary Adamson, that I haven't got any interests that give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest, so I can't certify that.'

Ms Adamson : As I say, there are a range of ways of looking at it.

Senator WONG: Is it open to DFAT HOMs to do this, to just decide that they're going to alter the form in an operative sense? The issue here is not that he has added to it; he is actually removing his certification, his assertion, his guarantee or his declaration that he doesn't have anything which might give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest. That is not the standard that you expect.

Ms Adamson : I'm not aware of other heads of mission having chosen this course of action, but I'll ask Mr Sloper to confirm from his point of view also.

Mr Sloper : I'm not aware of other ambassadors or high commissioners making a similar annotation. I would add that the intent of our policy as expressed there is to ask individual officers, individual staff, to disclose the interest to the best of their knowledge based on their personal interests.

Senator WONG: Hang on, Mr Sloper. Please don't defend him. On the last occasion, you said this:

Annually each staff member has to declare a conflict of interest or perceived conflicts of interest, which is a disclosure of their private interests.

And what he's done is remove any declaration as to perceived conflict of interest. It is not consistent with the expectations that are demonstrated in the form and that you both articulated at the last estimates.

Ms Adamson : No, it's not.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Have you raised any concerns, Secretary, with Mr Hockey about this?

Ms Adamson : Mr Sloper has been in discussion with Ambassador Hockey. I had a conversation with him immediately after last estimates and I made clear, as I did to the committee, my expectations of our heads of mission—and it's not just my expectations; it's community expectations.

Senator WONG: Sure, of Australia's ambassador to Washington. There's a lot I could ask about this, but we've got a bit to do and we may be back here next Thursday, so we can have a long discussion about it then. Has Mr Hockey been advised by Mr Sloper or by you that this means of altering the declaration of interests is not appropriate or is not open to him?

Mr Sloper : I haven't advised him in those terms.

Senator WONG: What have you advised him?

Mr Sloper : I've advised him it's unusual to have annotated, I asked him why and, as I said, I'll relay that advice to you. We have looked again at our forms and our policy. The point I was trying to make before is that they are contingent at the moment on the interpretation of the individual about their personal circumstances, and so as a consequence of that we're looking to refresh our policy now.

Senator WONG: Sure, and that's good practice. But I think the secretary answered the point: the difference here is that he's actually changing the standard of disclosure by the annotation.

CHAIR: Well, that's an opinion.

Senator WONG: I think it's self-evident. Anyway, Mr Sloper, there were two points you corrected your evidence on. The first was the dates of Mr Hockey's disclosure, and we agreed they were the 9th, the 25th, and the 30th.

Mr Sloper : That's right.

Senator WONG: You also advised of the conduct and ethics manual at 5.2, which requires the disclosure within 14 days. I am a little confused as to the date. If we go to page 2, you've redacted a fair bit, which I'm just going to have to trust you on. He's handwritten 'Shares in' and he's got a long list and you've redacted everything except 'HLO'. He says:

Helloworld owns QBT that does Australian government travel.

I'm confused as to when the date of that disclosure is.

Mr Sloper : That disclosure I've interpreted as being submitted as a whole, and I took it on the three dates you mentioned and the team that works to me received it after 30 May 2017.

Senator WONG: By the way, is the manual available online?

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator WONG: Is it your assessment that the 14-day window was complied with by Mr Hockey?

Mr Sloper : This returns to some of the questions and answers last time, if you could permit me, and I can clarify my evidence if it is not sufficient. Ambassador Hockey orally advised the department of his interests prior to the meeting with QBT on 27 April. He subsequently advised his staff again of that, and they relayed that to Canberra. At that time there was no commercial process underway. So, we consider that he notified his interests to us. The annual disclosure occurred later, as we've just talked about, and that was in response to a request by the department to all senior staff, heads of mission included, to put in their annual disclosures.

Senator WONG: So, is the answer that DFAT believes that the 14-day period was complied with, or not?

Mr Sloper : The answer is that there was no conflict of interest at that time, because there was not a commercial discussion or process underway.

Senator WONG: But it's also perceived conflict.

Mr Sloper : We judged that it was not necessary at that time for him to declare the disclosure of private financial or other interests within 14 days of the meeting.

Senator WONG: Okay. What do you understand by this annotation? He's gone to step 5, disclosure of private interests, and this demonstrates in fact why his annotation doesn't make sense. He should have ticked a different part of the form and not tried to dodge this 'could be seen to influence', because in fact at step 3, if he'd ticked the first box, he would not even be supposed to fill out step 5, and he's had to fill out step 5, because he does have interests that he needs to declare. Anyway. Sloppy, but—what do you think this bit means? He asked, 'Please list your or your family members' personal financial interests that could influence or could be seen to influence the decision or actions you take' et cetera and then it goes to the types of interest—real estate investments, shareholdings, trusts, nominees, companies et cetera.' He lists shares, a bunch of them redacted, and then HLO—is that Hello World?

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator WONG: And then he's got a little note that says, 'Perhaps all have some investments in USA businesses; I believe most do.' What does that mean? Who's 'all'? Is that family?

Mr Sloper : I assume the 'all' to refer to the list of equities and investments on the left that have been redacted. It's a comment on more than the Hello World shareholdings.

Senator WONG: Okay. That makes more sense. Has the minister been briefed on the disclosure?

Mr Sloper : I have not spoken to the minister about this issue.

Senator WONG: Has the minister been briefed on Mr Hockey's disclosure?

Senator Payne: Not specifically. I saw the disclosure in the preparation of the answer to the question.

Senator WONG: I want to go to the use of official residences. Secretary Adamson, clause 8.4 of the code of conduct for overseas service makes clear that you can't use the mission's address as that of your place of business, and in cases where the mission address is the sole address, household members should use a private PO box for carrying on private business. Is that correct?

Ms Adamson : Correct.

Senator WONG: Does that go to the residence as well, or only to the actual embassy? Can people use the residence for their private businesses?

Mr Sloper : I'm just cautious about what you mean by 'private business', but certainly ambassadors and heads of mission can use it for their family and other activities private to their own circumstances.

Senator WONG: What does that mean?

Mr Sloper : For example, certainly an ambassador could host an official dinner, but equally, if they have friends visiting, they're welcome to stay at their residence, and they can host dinners for them and other friends they may have in a private capacity. That reflects that it's their primary residence during the posting.

Senator WONG: Sure. But we're talking about business. I'll read 8.4: 'An employee must take all reasonable steps to ensure that any activities by a member of his or her household who is carrying on a private gainful occupation do not give rise to a conflict or a perception of conflict between the official duty of the employee in the private interest of either the person or the member of his or her household.' Would it be appropriate, therefore, for example, for a family business to have as its registered address the Australian ambassador's residence in Washington?

Mr Sloper : We're talking hypotheticals, I think, but it may not be the case. I'm cautious, but I'm not aware of a family business being registered there—

Senator WONG: Why don't you just answer the question?

Mr Sloper : but I don't think it would be appropriate.

Senator WONG: I have an ASIC extract for SAI Global, which has Mr Hockey as a director, and the registered business is 3120 Cleveland Avenue NW Washington DC United States. Are you aware of this, Secretary?

Ms Adamson : No, Senator.

Senator WONG: Would you like a copy?

Ms Adamson : Yes, please, Senator.

Senator WONG: Sorry, I've only got the one copy—I apologise.

Ms Adamson : I'm sure the committee can copy it, Senator.

Senator WONG: I'm just trying to see if there are any other entities which have the same—there's also Rahbah Pty Ltd, which has 3120 Cleveland Ave. I want to go back to this, Chair, so do you want to go to someone else while they're copying it? I can flick to another topic, or we can all sit here in breathless silence.

CHAIR: I'm more than happy to take over some questioning.

Senator WONG: I figured I'd get some of the Eric Abetz ones out of the way!

CHAIR: Well, thank you very much. Can I request an update of the implementation of our strategy on the abolition of the death» «penalty» , please? I understand that was released in October last year and, if I recall, I was up there with the minister, and it's something I have had an interest in. And how are our posts putting this strategy into practice?

Mr Lee : Yes, it's correct that you said that the strategy was launched by the minister on 15 October last year. We've been very active in taking that forward. You mentioned our posts. We, as part of the strategy, have asked our posts to develop bilateral strategies in countries which still have the «death» «penalty» . At this point, 30 of our posts have completed those bilateral strategies.

CHAIR: And what does that bilateral strategy involve? Telling the host country that we disagree and then stop or—

Mr Lee : We've asked the posts to do a number of things under the strategy, and the strategy is available. We've asked the posts to increase their reporting on the «death» «penalty» —that's been a particularly important element to be monitoring closely our developments.

CHAIR: Sorry, to interrupt, but that's in those societies where it's actually known to occur—for example, like in the United States? Whereas in China, we wouldn't be so much aware of how often the «death» «penalty» is applied.

Mr Lee : That's right, and it's getting a sense of the status of the «death» «penalty» in those countries. In some countries, while it's still on the books in the country, there have been moratoria in place but, on occasions, those moratoria have been lifted or may be being close to being lifted. Having an understanding of where the countries are up to in the implementation and the use of the «death» «penalty» is important but also looking at what's possible to be achieved in relation to the representations that we make on the «death» «penalty» , so in some cases it may not be outright abolition that's the most achievable in the short term. In some cases, it may be that we are looking to encourage foreign governments to reduce the application of the «death» «penalty» .

CHAIR: So it's certain offences where it should no longer apply.

Mr Lee : That's right, so where the—

CHAIR: Would that apply to our strategy, for example, in Brunei where there has some media attention in relation to a practice of the «death» «penalty» via stoning for certain practices. Have we made strong representations there?

Mr Lee : I won't comment specifically on the representations that we have made. Certainly we have made representations on the «death» «penalty» in Brunei, and I will ask our colleagues from Southeast Asia Division, who are leading on the implementation of the representations. But, prior to the most recent announcements from the Brunei government, there has been a strategy prepared on how we can approach the «death» «penalty» in Brunei. Clearly now, in addition to representations that have been made most recently, we'll need to continue to look at the opportunities to make strong representations, both bilaterally and in multilateral fora, on Brunei.

CHAIR: Talking about multilateral, are we doing anything in the United Nations Human Rights Council?

Mr Lee : We are there as well. It's been a strong commitment of our policy pillars in the Human Rights Council to continue to advocate for the abolition of the «death» «penalty» . We've supported a number of the multilateral initiatives that are occurring. We've become a member of the international anti- «death» - «penalty» alliance, which is promoting ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

CHAIR: How many countries are members of that, out of interest?

Mr Lee : I don't have that in front of me.

CHAIR: Could you take that on notice, with no urgency.

Mr Lee : I can get back to you in this session on that. We've also become a full member of the support group of the International Commission against the «Death» «Penalty» . That supports particular commissioners who advocate for the abolition of the «death» «penalty» . So we've supported that initiative as well. Also, we've set up a «death» «penalty» consultative group here in Australia, in Canberra, and we have a number of members on that group. We had our first meeting back in February. We have Amnesty International, the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, the Law Council of Australia and Reprieve on that so that we can coordinate our efforts with civil society as well.

Going back to multilateral, there are a number of general resolutions on the «death» «penalty» that we have supported historically and will continue to support. The General Assembly considers a biannual resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the «death» «penalty» , and Australia negotiates the text on that and also does outreach to attract co-sponsors and votes for it. That was last passed in 2018 with an increased number of votes in favour, so it's something that Australia has been very active on. Similarly, in September 2017, we co-sponsored the Human Rights Council's biannual resolution focused on the human rights impacts of the «death» «penalty» . That will be coming up again later this year. Again, it was adopted with 27 votes in favour and 13 against back in 2017. So we're utilising both the—

CHAIR: Can you tell us who those 13 votes against were, on notice?

Mr Lee : I can provide that.

CHAIR: Is there an example that you can point to where a country, as a result of representations by us and possibly by others as well, has agreed to either remove or put a moratorium on the use of the «death» «penalty» or decided not to apply the «death» «penalty» for certain offences? Is there anything material that we can point to at this stage?

Mr Lee : To be frank, I think it's always going to be difficult to get that attribution in terms of what we do and what outcomes are achieved in particular countries, but there has been some good—or reasonable—news internationally. It's always a very difficult—

CHAIR: Can you give us some of those examples of the good news.

Mr Lee : Malaysia is an example. Although the final position that Malaysia had taken has been wound back somewhat from what it had originally indicated it was going to do on the «death» «penalty» —I think it has now gone back to a reduced application of the «death» «penalty» rather than moving to an entire abolition—there's been some good news there. Even in Iran—and I know we mentioned this at previous hearings. Iran remains very bad on the «death» «penalty» , in the sense that it has a large number of executions, but there was some small effort to reduce the application in relation to drug offences in terms of the quantity of drugs being carried that attract the «death» «penalty» . But that's coming off a very poor base and has a long way to go. Again, I wouldn't say that's necessarily a result of our representations.

CHAIR: Did you said we had 30 posts?

Mr Lee : So far we have completed 30 strategies.

CHAIR: Do those 30 strategies relate to 30 separate countries?

Mr Lee : That's correct.

CHAIR: Are there any countries in those 30 who have refused to engage with us at all about the issue?

Mr Lee : Not that I'm aware of.

CHAIR: So how are we going with China? I understand our human rights dialogue has been suspended for four or five years now? Is that correct? What's my memory like on that—good, bad or indifferent?

Mr Lee : I can check that. I will just check my notes.

CHAIR: It's four years, I've just been told. So I hit the jackpot. I do listen sometimes when officials give evidence at hearings! So are we engaging at all with China on the «death» «penalty» , apart from the fact they are not engaging with us in the human rights dialogue?

Mr Lee : That's correct. We continue to have bilateral representations to China on human rights.

CHAIR: Wait a minute: I thought they had suspended the discussions for four years now.

Mr Lee : That's the formal bilateral human rights dialogue.

CHAIR: So that's the formal dialogue, but we have an informal—

Mr Lee : There is a standalone dialogue—

CHAIR: The dark arts of foreign affairs! All right. So we are engaged in at least some dialogue with our Chinese counterparts?

Mr Lee : On human rights?


Mr Lee : Yes.

CHAIR: Is the «death» «penalty» included in that?

Mr Lee : Certainly in the multilateral fora we have in the UPR with China the «death» «penalty» was mentioned.


Mr Lee : The Universal Periodic Review, which is the Human Rights Council's review of countries' human rights performances. There are a range of issues that Australia raised. The minister in her visit to the Human Rights Council as well raised the human rights situation in China. In the Universal Periodic Review, Australia had an opportunity to comment and we raised the «death» «penalty» in that context.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator WONG: I am just quickly following up to enable the secretary to respond to the document. Do you have any response, Secretary?

Ms Adamson : I've had a quick look at this document. I have to say the details in it and the significance of them are not something that I am personally familiar with or have professionally encountered. In order to express a considered view, I would have to get advice about what it actually means. I would also, as always, want to give Ambassador Hockey an opportunity to explain to us what this means. I do point out—and it is simply a fact I know from my own experience—that the DFAT code of conduct for overseas services, as you rightly point out, in paragraph 8.4 says that staff:

… must not use the mission’s address as that of their place of business. In cases where the mission address is the sole address, household members should use a private PO Box for carrying on a private business.

Obviously there are some addresses here, but there are no postbox addresses. My assumption is that for this document postbox addresses do not suffice, as I think those serving overseas often encounter. But, beyond that, I would need to have it looked at. I would need to ask Ambassador Hockey what it means.

Senator WONG: We can talk about it on Thursday, I suppose. I will make a couple of points. One is that I assume it is open to people to use accountants or lawyers as registered addresses for business. The second is that, whilst I accept that you may not have looked at an ASIC extract for some time—I certainly haven't; they've changed in the years since I was a lawyer—there are two companies which have as their registered address the residence. The companies are Xai Family Pty Ltd and also Rahbah Pty Ltd. Mr Hockey is identified as a director for the latter and has been previously been the secretary. I appreciate that you wish to have the opportunity, which is a reasonable one, to understand the import of the content of the document and to have Mr Hockey's version of events. I would put it to you that it is not a good look to have Australia's ambassador in Washington having, as a registered address for a business, the mission for the residence. Do you think it's a good look?

CHAIR: Can I just get some clarification on this documentation? There are four pages that I've been given. The first page talks about 'personal/current' and it's about 'Joseph Hockey'. It says 'current role in the organisation' and his address, so where he is. I'm not sure whether that necessarily—and I don't have all of the documentation—translates to that being the registered office of this particular company. Whereas, if that is where Mr Hockey is living for the time being, then he has to state, as a director of this company, that that is where he's living.

Senator WONG: That may be the case.

CHAIR: I am not asserting, Senator Wong, that—

Senator WONG: I might have read it a certain way, given that it's under the company and it has two companies.

CHAIR: But it is under personal—

Senator WONG: But if you look at the next page. Look, I'm going to be—

CHAIR: Let's just be careful.

Senator Payne: The secretary has said that she wishes to check on these matters. I think that's entirely appropriate.

Senator WONG: I'm not going to press this. I have raised the concern. I accept the secretary's request or indication about how she wants to handle it. I would make the point that we've had a number of issues, in these hearings, about Mr Hockey's conduct and today the declaration of interests, where I think he has effectively applied a lower standard to himself by way of annotation, which I have expressed concerns about. I think the secretary has made an appropriate comment about that. We then have, in relation to this, an address, which is the residence's address. But I accept that the secretary wants to go and have a look at that. I'm happy to leave that now and hand over to Senator Rice. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: We will go to Senator Rice. There is about 20 minutes, so about 25 past five.

Senator RICE: I just wanted to start with the situation in Brunei, the very disturbing situation with their new sharia law, and particularly the way those laws are targeting LGBTQ people. Yesterday, I wrote to Minister Payne asking you, Minister, to urgently consider how the government can pressure Brunei to revoke these laws, including the possibility of working with other nations on an UN resolution condemning the Brunei government's actions. To start, what actions has the government taken so far?

Ms Heckscher : First of all, of course, we are extremely concerned about the situation in Brunei and the rollout of the final phase of sharia law there, as from Wednesday. We have expressed that concern directly in Brunei, as well as through statements on this end, including by the Foreign Minister.

Senator RICE: In terms of 'expressing your concern in Brunei', how has that been undertaken?

Ms Heckscher : Apologies, I'm just bringing up the exact dates. We had conveyed, in fact, to the Brunei government our strong opposition to the new measures when they were first announced. When Brunei announced and then implemented the first phase of its sharia law back in 2014, we expressed our concerns way back then and our hope that the Brunei government would actually consider how it implemented the rollout of its sharia law to ensure that it complied with international human rights conventions and standards. We requested at that time that it reconsider the use of the corporal and capital punishments.

After that, Brunei went before the United Nations Human Rights Council for its universal periodic review. That was in mid-2014. Again, we—alongside other countries—raised very strongly our concerns with things that had been foreshadowed that would be ruled out in later phases. Right from the beginning, we expressed these concerns. In this next stage of the sharia penal code, which began on 3 April, ahead of those being implemented, we expressed our concerns through the high commissioner in Brunei, raising those concerns on a number of occasions, including in February 2019.

Senator RICE: They were meetings with the high commissioner?

Ms Heckscher : Yes.

Senator RICE: Who did the high commissioner meet with?

Ms Heckscher : The high commissioner met the permanent secretary of Brunei's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Foreign Minister has written and has made clear, through media statements as well, our opposition. I have also sent a message to the high commissioner here in Canberra. This is something on which we will continue to be engaged. The UPR—which I'm quite happy to hand across to my colleague from the multilateral policy division—for Brunei is coming up in May. That will clearly be an opportunity for a direct discussion about elements of the sharia penal code which we oppose and which we have said quite clearly and firmly are inappropriate and not acceptable.

Senator RICE: Have we met with the high commissioner here?

Ms Heckscher : With the high commissioner since then?

Senator RICE: Yes.

Ms Heckscher : No, although I have communicated with the high commissioner.

Senator RICE: Is there a plan to be a meet? Have you requested a meeting with the high commissioner here?

Ms Heckscher : On engaging with the high commissioner here, I will actually be seeing the high commissioner next week. But we have ongoing contact with the high commission here.

Senator RICE: Minister, have you made any personal deputations to Brunei?

Senator Payne: I wrote to the Brunei foreign minister specifically on this issue last week. I've clearly stated my views and the views of the government on the public record both via an interview at a media conference and in social media.

Senator RICE: Have you had any comfort from the representations that you have made to Brunei up until now?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator RICE: What further action is planned to be taken, then? Particularly, is there a plan for joining with other countries in international action, which would seem to be the next way forward?

Ms Heckscher : As you would expect, we are in contact with other countries in Brunei, in particular. Our high commissioner has been talking to all of the countries that you would expect our high commissioner to be talking to, including to work out what is possible and to talk about what options there might be, including through the UPR process, which is coming up quite soon.

Senator RICE: The UPR process is the—

Senator Payne: The universal periodic review. That's next month, Senator.

Senator RICE: Do you expect that there will be potential for action before that UPR?

Ms Heckscher : We will continue engaging on it. It was rolled out on 3 April. As I mentioned before, we raised significant serious concerns since 2014, when this was first flagged, and we will continue to engage with Brunei and with all of our partners to consider what action we can possibly take.

Senator RICE: I know that within Europe, Asia and the Americas there are regional human rights bodies, but there isn't such a body in the Asia-Pacific. Will this be a prompt for Australia to potentially encourage the formation of such a body in the Asia-Pacific to promote and protect human rights?

Ms Heckscher : Well, there is a body called the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. AICHR is its acronym. It does engage on human rights issues within the ASEAN region, but I don't think that's the kind of body you are referring to.

Senator RICE: No. What action is that body taking on this—

Ms Heckscher : I'm not aware of any action it's taking on this.

Senator RICE: It's not the same body monitoring compliance with international human rights standards?

Ms Heckscher : No.

Senator RICE: Is that something Australia has considered advocating for with other countries in the region?

Ms Heckscher : We have a number of bilateral human rights dialogues. It's fair to say, as you are aware, that there are very different human rights situations and concerns in each country across the region. The approach we take is the one that we think, after carefully consideration with our ambassadors and high commissioners in the region, is most likely to be effective, including where there are risks to individuals. We take those into account. There's no one-size-fits-all approach we can roll out exactly across the region. We have, for example, very robust human rights dialogues with Vietnam and Laos. In my thinking there might be other specific countries in the region with which we could consider that kind of approach. Sometimes you make best progress on these things behind closed doors. You're more likely to have a frank conversation. In some countries it's not that way.

Senator RICE: From your response to my question previously, it doesn't seem that those deputations behind closed doors have achieved very much in the case of Brunei so far. It seems other approaches need to be taken.

Mr Lee : Ms Heckscher mentioned the Universal Periodic Review. We see that as the next major multilateral opportunity to raise this issue. We just concluded a session of the Human Rights Council prior to this confirmation of announcement. In the lead-up to considering what we would put in our comments about a human rights situation in a country such as Brunei, we do quite extensive consultation with other like-minded countries to see what they are doing, so there'll be quite a lot of discussion. You mentioned what cooperation we'd have with other countries. We would be speaking to other countries about that. We will then have to look at what other opportunities are available to us. The announcement was not that long ago. There would be other potential opportunities to work with other countries on this in some of the fora. There'll be another session of the full Human Rights Council but not for some period of time, not until June, so we will look for multilateral opportunities to discuss the issue, but the UPR is the first one.

Senator RICE: I look forward to hearing what opportunities you may have availed yourself of at next estimates. Will LGBTQ+ people from Brunei now be afforded asylum in Australia as a result of the serious risk to their lives resulting from these laws?

Ms Heckscher : I couldn't answer that question. I think it would be answered by a different portfolio.

Senator RICE: Minister, should LGBTIQ+ people be afforded asylum in Australia?

Senator Payne: That is not a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as you know.

Senator RICE: The travel advice, which I note has been upgraded, is currently advising Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Brunei. To me this seems not to go far enough to protect the safety of LGBTQI+ Australians, given they are subject laws that will punish homosexual activity with death if they visit Brunei or even potentially board a Brunei registered aircraft.

Mr Todd : Our travel advice is designed to reflect the overall level of risk to Australian travellers anywhere in the world. We updated our language in our travel advice to advise all Australian travellers of the introduction of sharia law and what it might mean to them as a traveller. We don't believe it necessarily requires a change to the total level of the travel advice to Brunei.

Senator RICE: Is there anything specific for LGBTQ+ people in your travel advice?

Mr Todd : There are two aspects on our Smartraveller website. One is a standalone travel advice page for LGBTI travellers that draws their attention to a range of issues we think they should be alert to. In country-specific information across our 157 travel advisories we also have specific information we believe is important for the LGBTI community. We updated our travel advice for Brunei on 27 March to advise that, from 3 April 2019, the full implementation of sharia law would take effect. We advised Australian travellers whom that law would apply to and when it would apply, including when transiting and when on Brunei registered aircraft and vessels. We also advised Australian travellers that, under the code, certainly offences can attract a range of punishments, while others attract more severe punishments, including the «death» «penalty» .

Senator WONG: Can I just check something and follow up on that?

Senator RICE: I just wanted to follow up, particularly given the fact that—

Senator WONG: It's called courtesy, Janet. We often do that in this committee. I have just one question.

CHAIR: I like it when there's a spat between the Labor Party and the Greens.

Senator RICE: I'm happy for you to, Penny.

Senator WONG: I have an extract here which indicates 27 March. It has the sharia penal code. Then there is the LGBTI travellers extract. Is that also referenced in the Brunei Smartraveller website or do you have to link to the LGBTI? You have a particular paragraph which references the introduction of the sharia code, 'Offences that attract the «death» «penalty» include'—then it says 'LGBTI travellers' and has a general proposition.

Mr Todd : In the section in Brunei's travel advice under 'Laws' we advise Australian travellers that certain activities are illegal. We reference homosexual activity and refer travellers to more information. There's a direct hyperlink to that specific page.

Senator WONG: Shouldn't you should warn LGBTI Australians of the higher level of risk as a consequence?

Mr Todd : Our travel advice reflects the overall level of risk to all Australian travellers. We do have a capacity within our travel advice to make reference to specific risks to particular groups or issues or a health issue. We believe the references and the update we made, the prominence we have given it on the travel advice page, and how that information would be pushed out to interested travellers on our social media, for example—

Senator WONG: That's fine, I'll come back to you after the senator has finished. Thank you.

Senator RICE: The other particular risk people may not be aware of is the fact that sharia law applies on Royal Brunei aircraft as well, even in Australia, on. Do you feel your travel advice goes far enough in that regard? Minister, would the government consider banning Royal Brunei Airlines from landing in Australia, given this is basically the importation of sharia law into Australian airspace?

Mr Todd : I can't answer questions about airline registration, but I can advise that our travel advice makes it very explicit where sharia law applies. We do note that it applies even when transiting or on Brunei registered aircraft and vessels. That's made clear in our travel advice.

Senator RICE: Brunei is the only country to have landing rights in Australia with laws that allow for the execution of LGBT people. Is the government considering banning those Royal Brunei flights from Australia?

Ms Heckscher : At this stage we are considering the options for what further action we might take. I can't give you any answer to that question.

Senator Payne: I think that around the world there are aspects of laws in multiple countries with which we strongly, emphatically disagree. We've already discussed the «death» «penalty» here today. I have explicitly spelt out my view on this matter and the government's view on this matter. Of course, the passage of airlines into and out of Australia is dealt with through Mr McCormack's portfolio, but it is, I think, a proposition which government would consider in the full suite of options, as Ms Heckscher has referred to. But it is not under current consideration.

I would like to offer to provide you with further information, in terms of our broader activities as well in the Equal Rights Coalition and in a number of other Human Rights Council activities, on the particular specifics of LGBTIQ discrimination—and worse—in terms of our advocacy. On this matter, we will continue to consider the options that are available to us, to express our views to Brunei and to make it very clear that these are not laws which Australia can support in any way, shape or form.

Senator RICE: I know that there are laws, that's right, of countries that we don't agree with whose airlines fly into Australia. But the fact that Brunei is the only country that has landing rights in Australia that explicitly says it will execute LGBT people—does that make a difference?

Senator Payne: The laws of a range of countries around the world, as I have said, are very explicit in the way in which they approach the implementation of their own criminal laws. This is one of the more extreme examples, and the government will take into account all of those factors in making any decisions.

Senator RICE: In the short time I've got left, I want to move from Brunei to the Uygurs in China and following up on my questioning, and Senator Di Natale's questioning, at last estimates about where we're currently at with representations to China on the imprisonment of over one million Uygurs in Xinjiang. At last estimates Senator Di Natale asked what we were doing. You said you were considering the 'next steps'. I'm interested to know what those next steps are.

I also want to table an article that was on SBS, online, just a couple of days ago. It talked about the Chinese mission in Geneva sending a letter to a number of missions, urging them to stay away from a UN sponsored event that was on the sidelines of the Chinese Universal Periodic Review, and ask whether Australia received that letter and what our actions were, if we did indeed receive that letter.

Mr Fletcher : We did attend the event. A counsellor from the mission in Geneva attended the event that was arranged by the US.

Senator RICE: But did we receive the letter from China?

Mr Fletcher : I'll have to take that on notice. I don't know if we did. We certainly knew that China was not in favour of the event occurring, but we felt it was important, given our interest in the issue and our serious concerns about what's happening in Xinjiang.

Senator RICE: So you knew China was putting pressure on countries not to attend the event?

Mr Fletcher : China makes representations about activity—events in that setting, yes.

Ms Adamson : We'll try and get an answer for you before the end of the day.

Senator RICE: Thank you, that would be good. So what are the steps that Australia is currently taking, and what are the current numbers, in terms of Australian permanent residents and any Australian citizens that are currently detained, as far as you know, in Xinjiang?

Mr Fletcher : There are steps we're taking. We've made direct representation to the Chinese government at a senior level and on a number of occasions. Publicly, we have made clear our serious concerns about the situation. The foreign minister was in Geneva at the Human Rights Council. And separately, in September last year, November and in March we have also made public statements at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on our concerns about that situation. In relation to Australian citizens, we don't have any information about Australian citizens who are detained.

Senator RICE: There is a media report, I know, of an 18-month-old baby that is an Australian citizen and that was certainly detained with their mother.

Mr Fletcher : I'll leave my colleague from Consular to answer that question.

Mr Todd : The department is providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian child currently living in China with his Chinese mother. We are in regular contact with his father in Australia, and we have spoken to the mother in China to check on their welfare. This case is receiving very, very close attention both here in Canberra and at our post in Beijing. It's a very sensitive and complex matter, which has been acknowledged by the next of kin, their lawyer and a number of academics in the media. DFAT will continue to work very closely with the family to provide the necessary assistance.

By way of information, the baby was granted Australian citizenship by descent on 4 February this year. He does not yet have an Australian travel document and his family will need to apply for an Australian passport. His mother remains a Chinese citizen, and the matter of her future status is a matter for another department.

Senator RICE: Are there other Australian permanent residents or citizens that you're providing consular assistance to?

Mr Todd : Not in that particular set of circumstances, no. That's the only person we're aware of.

Senator RICE: Do you know the number of Australian permanent residents that are currently still being detained, and whether there are international efforts? Given our representations, what global pressure can be applied to China?

Mr Todd : In terms of global pressure and the broader issue, Mr Fletcher might be able to respond to that.

Mr Fletcher : I have said previously that we don't have confirmation of any Australian permanent residents being detained in Xinjiang. In relation to the event in Geneva, I can confirm that we did receive a third-person note from the Chinese mission about that side event hosted by the United States.

CHAIR: Whilst we're on matters Chinese, can I quickly ask DFAT about exit bans in China and how many Australians are affected and for what time periods? Is that readily available?

Mr Todd : Sorry, Senator?

CHAIR: Exit bans, as in not allowing people to leave the country.

Mr Todd : We certainly are aware of those provisions and make very clear, in DFAT's travel advice—

CHAIR: The question is: how many, if any, Australians are currently so detained, and for what period of time?

Mr Todd : I don't have those figures with me.

CHAIR: You can take it on notice.

Mr Todd : We would certainly be prepared to take it on notice. We probably won't be able to get that to you this evening, but we are happy to take it on notice.

CHAIR: That's fine. I want to quickly return to the matter that Senator Wong was canvassing before we switched. Can somebody confirm to me that the address of our Australian Embassy in the United States is 1601 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington?

Ms Adamson : Yes; that's correct.

CHAIR: Is the address that has been referred to, 3120 Cleveland Avenue NW—I don't know if that is North-West—Washington DC, the ambassador's residence?

Ms Adamson : That's correct.

CHAIR: The next thing is—and I would invite comment, so I don't give evidence: in the event that Foreign Affairs or anybody else were to do an ASIC search, they might find that the two companies about which we're talking have registered offices in Sydney and in Northbridge in New South Wales. So the companies have their registered offices not at the ambassador's residence but in Sydney.

Senator WONG: Does he want to explain, given you're talking to him, why he decided to strike out that provision form so a lower standard of disclosure applied to him, Senator?

CHAIR: You see, Senator Wong, all this information is publicly available. I have not spoken to Ambassador Hockey for some time, unfortunately. I miss his company.

Senator WONG: Can I have the call?


Senator WONG: Thank you; I appreciate that. Can I go back to Brunei, please. Ms Heckscher, this may or may not have been canvassed. These laws were first flagged in 2013 and there was an international outcry, an international reaction, and they were not proceeded with at that stage. When did the department first become aware that that decision to not proceed with these laws was being reversed and that there was a flagging that they intended to implement these laws?

Ms Heckscher : I will take that on notice and get back to you. I think there was some hope, frankly, that they would not be proceeded with. My recollection, but I will need to check, is that sometime late last year, or perhaps early this year, there was an indication that they were going to proceed but it was not made very public. I will need to check.

Senator WONG: That is what I'm flagging. I can accept that there may be a judgement to a point that the best way to try to press the case that they not be given—that what was averted in 2013 continue to be in abeyance. But, given that that previous public outcry appeared to have an effect, surely at some point there was an assessment as to whether or not the best tactical response was to steer from private exhortations and representations to a public response?

Ms Heckscher : After it became clear that they were going to be rolled out, because of course there was a public response back at the UPR in 2014. It's not as if that was behind closed doors.

Senator WONG: Sure, but these laws were implemented in April. When did you become aware they were going to be implemented in April?

Ms Heckscher : That's what I need to take on notice and check.

Senator WONG: I don't want to go into private discussions but it was quite clear from public reporting that this was occurring. That then led to various public statements, including from the opposition. Why was the judgement made within government, after the period where there was public reporting—I will withdraw that. Was there a judgement made and, if so, why, notwithstanding public reporting of the intention to bring these laws into effect that public statements were not the most effective way to proceed?

Ms Heckscher : I will need to take on notice exactly when we became aware that there was an intention to roll these laws out. I will need to check that. We have made strong statements directly to the Bruneian government since that time and before the measures were rolled out. We have to make very strong statements consistently to express our views, which we have done. I will just need to check the exact date.

Senator WONG: Okay; we can talk about it later next week. There are two broad categories of representation: there's the particular view about human rights, including as to sexual orientation, but there's also the «death» «penalty» , which is a separate issue.

Ms Heckscher : The «death» «penalty» has been in place in Brunei for some time.

Senator WONG: Sure, but my point is that it's now being extended to a further series of activities. Brunei remains a member of the Commonwealth, yes?

Ms Heckscher : Yes.

Senator WONG: Have we considered utilising the Commonwealth? Is that one of the forums in which advocacy can be engaged in?

Mr Lee : I'm aware of some reports that the Commonwealth Secretary-General has made a comment about this.

Senator WONG: Have we said, 'This is a forum we're going to try and utilise to press this issue'?

Mr Lee : As I said earlier, we need to look at the options. We need to look at the response of the Bruneian government to the representations we've been making bilaterally, and we need to look at what other options are available to us. The Commonwealth Secretary-General has already made a comment on it, condemning the decision. She's also offered technical assistance, as I understand it, around amendments to the penal code. There are processes the Commonwealth would have for what would be perceived as breaches of Commonwealth values, so there would be a process that would be initiated by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Secretary-General to take that forward; that would be one of the options. As was talked about, I think we need to look at all the options that would be available to us.

Senator Payne: Can I also add: I expect this to be raised at the next Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which is being held later this month.

Senator WONG: Fair enough. I was going to ask the general question, but I think the answer will be a process answer. The general question is: what do you assess to be an effective way to engage the Brunei government on issues of human rights and the «death» «penalty» going forward?

Ms Heckscher : That is a good question. I mentioned earlier—and you will probably categorise it as a process answer—

Senator WONG: Sorry; that sounded dismissive, didn't it?

Senator Payne: Slightly pejorative, perhaps.

Senator WONG: I was being nicer to myself but, okay, we'll go with 'pejorative' if it makes you feel better!

Senator Payne: It doesn't, actually!

Ms Heckscher : We do look closely at each country to see what is going to work. What we have is not only a country-by-country approach but also a graduated approach; you may start with things in a particular way, and you may actually increase—

Senator WONG: Sure, which was my point: did we hold on to the proposition that private advocacy was better for longer than, perhaps in hindsight, was appropriate?

Ms Heckscher : That begs the question as to whether public advocacy of this kind is going to be effective as well.

Senator WONG: True. But sometimes you've just got to assert what you believe.

Senator Payne: As we have.

Ms Heckscher : We will keep on reviewing and no doubt choosing the UPR to raise this issue. The minister mentioned the Commonwealth. There may well be other avenues that present themselves.

Senator WONG: If we have to come back on Thursday, do you think we can go to that issue about your assessment—after some consideration—of what is an effective way to engage on this issue going forward? Is that possible?

Ms Heckscher : I will come prepared for a further discussion on Brunei.

Senator WONG: Excellent; thank you. I want to ask about a report that was brought to my attention—unless you have been asked this, Mr Todd, whilst I've been somewhat distracted. It is a report about telephone advice given by Smartraveller to a gay couple flying on Royal Brunei Airlines. Have you been asked about that this evening?

Mr Todd : No.

Senator WONG: I will read to you bits of the report—I assume you've come prepared—and then you can tell me what you say happened. The report states that a gay couple sought advice from Smartraveller about flying on Royal Brunei Airlines—from memory, they were transiting through Brunei:

While on the phone, a Smart Traveller representative told them, "I think you’ll be fine".

…   …   …

The couple, unhappy with the response, called Smart Traveller again, requesting an "official policy" from a different adviser.

"He said, 'If you act heterosexual you should be fine'," …

That is what's reported. Were you aware of this report before I asked you about it?

Mr Todd : Yes, we were. We had been approached by the media outlet.

Senator WONG: Is this what happened?

Mr Todd : We take the views of anybody who rings—first of all, just to clarify, there's no such thing as a Smartraveller hotline. The calls were put through to our 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre. Upon receiving notification from the media outlet, we provided a statement. Senior officers in my division spoke to the two officers concerned. Both officers, as a result of those interviews, denied saying or suggesting that the traveller should 'act like a heterosexual'. The officer who took the second call confirmed that the traveller had called a second time wanting more information, but it was unclear what more information the caller wanted. The other point that was made clear was that policy positions could not be provided but travel advice could be provided—so what was in the travel advice was restated. As we address these sorts of issues, we make it very clear in our Consular Services Charter that we welcome comments on our services via our feedback—

Senator WONG: Is the call recorded?

Mr Todd : No, it's not.

Senator WONG: Are there any notes from the call?

Mr Todd : There were no notes taken immediately from the call but the two officers concerned were interviewed. These are two highly experienced consular officers who are very familiar with providing advice. The other point that I think is important to note is that the allegations made were allegations. They're unsubstantiated and anonymous.

Senator WONG: Can we not—I don't want to get into a combative point about this, okay, and I didn't ask it in that way. The point is: regardless of whose story is correct, you would agree, would you not, that telling people to act heterosexual is not appropriate advice to give?

Mr Todd : Absolutely.

Senator WONG: Can we just make sure that everybody understands that rather than delving into 'did it happen, didn't it happen, unsubstantiated et cetera'. Somebody thinks that that's what was said. People don't usually walk around making that up. It may be that they misunderstood the advice or it may be that they are right; we're not in a position to pursue that here. But it would be good to have a clear statement in these hearings that that is not appropriate advice to give people.

Senator Payne: You are absolutely correct, and that is the approach that has been taken.

Senator WONG: I don't have anything more on Brunei. I might turn to the aid budget, if I may. By the way, Secretary, in the opposition lock-up I couldn't find a copy of the orange book. Do you call it 'the orange book' now?

Ms Adamson : You're waving something that is black.

Senator WONG: Sorry; I don't get a printed copy. We're lowly opposition senators, so I had to just print it off! We didn't get one, that I could find, in the lock-up—but anyway.

Ms Adamson : We did bring some hard copies today. I asked for a box to be made available so that all members of the committee could have a copy, but I don't see anyone rushing forward with it. We will make sure there is a box; I hope my staff listen to me the way that yours clearly listen to you! I hope we will soon have a box of orange books here to give to members of the committee who would like a copy.

Senator WONG: All right.

Mr Wood : I think we brought 10 copies up. We did a small print run. We'll find out where they are.

Senator Payne: It's a small box, apparently; it's only got 10 copies in it!

Senator WONG: I looked for it in the lock-up, and I thought, 'Clearly, Frances doesn't care about me and it's not here'! But that's okay.

CHAIR: Stop being so paranoid.

Senator WONG: It's all right.

Senator Payne: A touch needy, perhaps!

Senator WONG: Thank you very much! I even asked the finance minister—I said 'the orange book'—and he didn't know what I was talking about.

Senator Payne: The monitoring of the Finance estimates did not tell me that you had asked the finance minister that question.

Senator WONG: No, I asked him across the table at question time. I said, 'No-one brought one of these to the opposition's budget lock-up.' I asked people about them and no-one knew about them.

Senator Payne: I sit right opposite you. Why didn't you ask me in question time?

Senator WONG: You never give me anything.

Senator Payne: Not true!

Senator WONG: Mr Wood, first, thank you for your document. I understand what has been transacted through the secretariat but can we be clear why. In the reporting of the equivalent document in 2019, you gave me three columns for each financial year of the forward estimates—the budget estimate, total activity approval amount and committed—and you've dropped one of the columns off in the March one. Why?

Mr Wood : It's just a timing issue, in terms of the budget, to prepare this information. It takes a little bit of time, following the announcement of the budget. I mentioned to the secretariat that, for the Thursday hearing, we'll have a bit more information for you. We had a similar conversation in the last budget estimates and also I think in the 2016 one.

Senator WONG: You remember that. I've had so many conversations that they're all blurring into one right now.

Mr Wood : We're obviously happy to talk about the 2019-20 allocations, because they're in the orange book, and also about the general trajectory, because they're in the portfolio budget statements.

Senator WONG: Can you confirm what the orange book does show us. There's a distinction between this and the PBS figures. I assume that the orange book is all ODA and that the PBS is only your portfolio, correct?

Mr Wood : Absolutely correct.

Senator WONG: The total ODA component is at the bottom of page 25 of the PBS—$3,460,916,000 and then $3,411,120,000. Is that correct?

Mr Wood : That's correct. In the last budget estimates, we had a discussion around the reconciliation from the PBS to the orange book figure. Essentially it is the information that you're looking at, at the bottom of page 25, plus other government departments and an adjustment for our multilateral replenishments.

Senator WONG: Okay. And what this shows is that there is a reduction in Australian ODA between 2018-19 and 2019-20?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me why that doesn't appear in BP2? If there's a cut—and there is; there's a reduction; we're going down in real terms, in nominal terms and, presumably, as a GNI proportion as well, between 2018-19 and 2019-20—why does it not appear in Budget Paper No. 2?

Mr Wood : I can't answer that question. It would be to best put it to the Department of Finance, which does the measures for Budget Paper No. 2.

Senator WONG: It lacks transparency. You're supposed to be able to read one budget update to the next. You're supposed to be able to look at: here is the budget bottom line and here are the changes to that, as a result of government decisions. That is in BP2, Budget Paper No. 2, which has measures. There is no measure in there that actually discloses a cut in aid.

Mr Wood : That's correct.

Senator WONG: But there is a cut in aid.

Mr Wood : There's a reduction, which we do disclose.

Senator WONG: But only in the orange book and the PBS, not in Budget Paper No. 2.

Mr Wood : Correct, yes.

Senator WONG: It's about transparency. Who made that decision?

Mr Wood : The central agencies manage the production of Budget Paper No. 2.

Senator WONG: Were you aware that there would be no measure description?

Mr Wood : Generally, as you may recall and appreciate, we don't know the final measures until just before the budget is handed down. As a line agency, we don't see Budget Paper No. 2 until we're in the lock-up.

Senator WONG: So there's a reduction in ODA in the PBS—this is the portfolio component.

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: There's a cut between 2018-19 and 2019-20. In fact, even the 2020-21 figure is lower than the 2018-19 figure.

Mr Wood : Yes. If it may help, I could give you the forward allocations for the ODA budget over the forward estimates.

Senator WONG: Is that not in here?

Mr Wood : No, not across the whole forward estimates.

Senator WONG: But isn't that what I'm looking at on page 25 in the PBS?

Mr Wood : You're looking at the DFAT appropriations.

Senator WONG: You're doing a whole-of-government figure?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Why not? Why don't you give me that?

Mr Wood : In 2019-20, the ODA budget will be $4.044 billion, in 2020-21 it will be $4.000 billion, in 2021-22, $4.000 billion, and in 2022-23, $4.1 billion. You may recall our conversations—

Senator WONG: What you're telling me is that the government has cut aid again, that it will go lower again in 2020-21, and that, in 2022-23, it won't even get to the level it was in 2018-19?

Mr Wood : That's correct.

Senator WONG: What is the total cut over the forwards, then?

Mr Wood : A decision was taken in previous budgets around maintaining the level of ODA at $4 billion. That was a measure in last year's budget papers.

Senator WONG: MYEFO, wasn't it?

Mr Wood : I think it was in the 2018-19 budget. In Budget Paper No. 2 from 2018-19, page 103, there was a statement that spending will be maintained at $4 billion per year, with indexation to recommence in 2022-23.

Senator WONG: Is that still the government's position?

Mr Wood : That's the position, and those are the figures that I gave you.

Senator WONG: What's the indexation rate?

Mr Wood : The rate that was used was 2.5 per cent, hence the increase from $4 billion to $4.1 billion.

Senator WONG: What is the actual reduction over the forwards, between the last budget and this one?

Mr Wood : Based on the information that we have in the budget papers, the original budget estimate for 2018-19 was $4.161 billion, and the budget estimate for 2019-20 is $4.044 billion. That is a reduction of $117 million. Then as I said earlier, the ODA budget goes from $4.044 billion to $4.000 billion, which is $44 million.

Senator WONG: So it's $117 million plus $44 million.

Mr Wood : That is essentially from $4.161 billion down to $4.000 billion over the two years.

Senator WONG: So it's $161 million less?

Mr Wood : If you compare the 2018-19 budget to the 2020-21 budget, correct.

Senator WONG: Right. What you're telling me, given the 2018-19 budget, is that that budget assumed—what did that budget assume? It assumed 4, 4, 4, 4 out to 2022, did it?

Mr Wood : No. In our evidence at the June—

Senator WONG: Sorry, I've forgotten what the actual forward estimates total figure is, over the forwards.

Mr Wood : In our evidence at the last budget—I think it was May 2018—we were looking, at that point, at a budget for the 2019-20 year of $4.17 billion.

Senator WONG: For the 2019-20 year?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: As at the 2018-19 budget, the 2019-20 year was assumed to be $4.17 billion?

Mr Wood : Yes. That was the evidence I gave in the Hansard.

Senator WONG: What were the out years assumed?

Mr Wood : That it was the 4.00. We had a bit of a conversation around the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the recognition of that contribution.

Senator WONG: So the actual cut then is $117 million to $440,000? I'm above the $4 billion here.

Mr Wood : I was just letting you struggle with that one.

Senator WONG: You should look at all this spidery writing! If you'd actually put this all in, I'd have been all right. So the total cut is?

Mr Wood : I have to make it difficult.

Senator WONG: Can you not? I'm really tired. I've been doing this all week. I had to do sustainment and submarines and everything this morning. It's $116-and-a-bit million.

CHAIR: Has somebody got a violin?

Mr Wood : Can I say that we haven't even got onto numerators and denominators yet!

Senator WONG: I'm going to get to that! I like them better. You gave me a $117 million figure.

Mr Wood : The 2019-20 budget estimate at the 2018-19 budget was $4.17 billion.

Senator WONG: Which is now reduced to $4.044 billion.

Mr Wood : $4.044 billion, correct.

Senator WONG: So the total cut in that financial year is—just give me the figure, please.

Mr Wood : I've just worked it out at $126 million.

Senator WONG: $126 million. Then you gave me a 4.0—oh, right. But the remaining out years were all budgeted at $4 billion?

Mr Wood : Correct, consistent with the budget measure from the 2018-19 budget.

Senator WONG: So what was the $116 million figure you gave me? You don't know.

Mr Wood : I gave a figure of $117 million, which is the 2018-19 budget estimate and the new 2019-20 budget estimate.

Senator WONG: I thought that was the $126 million figure you just gave me.

Mr Wood : No.

Senator WONG: Explain—all right. We'd better—

Mr Wood : It is late on a Friday!

Senator WONG: Yes. Can I do it this way: the current 2019-20 figure in the budget is $4.044 billion?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: The 2018-19 equivalent figure is $4.17 billion?

Mr Wood : Correct, that's the $126 million.

Senator WONG: Therefore, the government has cut it by $126 million in that year?

Mr Wood : The budget for the 2019-20 year is $126 million less that it was this time last year.

Senator WONG: Yes. That, I get. So where do you get the $117 million?

Mr Wood : The $117 million is the difference between the 2018-19 budget estimate of $4.161 billion and the new 2019-20 budget estimate of $4.004 billion.

Senator WONG: Okay. So we're comparing the last financial year with the current one?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Right. Now I understand. You could have explained that very easily, but you chose to make me work that out! What is the GNI figure?

Mr Wood : The GNI figure for the 2019-20 financial year is 0.21 per cent.

Senator WONG: And for the rest of the forward estimates?

Mr Wood : The figure for the following year, 2020-21, is 0.20 per cent; for 2021-22, it is 0.19 per cent; and, for 2022-23, it is 0.18 per cent. And that is because, over that period, gross national income is increasing at a higher rate.

Senator WONG: Are you going to give me the GNI figure?

Mr Wood : I did have that, yes. You will recall these are very big numbers. I might do this in millions.

Senator WONG: Yes, do.

Mr Wood : For 2019-20, the number we have is $19,382.31 million; in 2020-21, $20,332.96 million; in 2021-22, $21,221.00 million; 2022-23, $22,178.00 million.

Senator WONG: 22,178.00?

Mr Wood : Yes. Obviously, in that year, the $4.1 billion divided by the $22,178.00 million gives you the 0.18 per cent.

Senator WONG: Okay. I want to get to some of the detail of these cuts. So there's a reduction in South-East Asia and East Asia total?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: There's a reduction in South and West Asia total.

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: There's a reduction in Middle East and Africa, and also Latin America and the Caribbean and multilats, correct?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: I'm doing this off the orange book.

Mr Wood : Are we looking at table 1?

Senator WONG: I was looking at table 2.

Mr Wood : Well, they both tell a similar story. I was looking at table 1. But, yes, you are correct.

Senator WONG: Which is the table I should be looking at?

Mr Wood : Both are very good! Table 1.

Senator WONG: Says the man himself! Self-praise, no recommendation! Sounds like my mother. That's what I say to my kids, actually! We had this discussion on Monday in PM&C estimates. Was that yesterday? Sorry, Thursday.

Mr Wood : We can run down table 2, if you wish.

Senator WONG: What's the difference? This is total ODA?

Mr Wood : That's correct. So the bilateral programs are in table 1.

Senator WONG: And table 2 is total by country?

Mr Wood : Total flows, so it includes how the government departments will spend their money and humanitarian flows. Table 1 has a bit more granular detail.

Senator WONG: I don't care, but basically we've reduced funding to South-East Asia—is that correct?

Mr Wood : That's correct.

Senator WONG: Can someone in the department advise me on what the rationale was to fund a step up in the Pacific with a step down in Asia? That's probably not a question for you, Mr Wood.

Mr Wood : As we discussed at the February estimates, the Prime Minister said that the step up would be funded from within the budget and that that would require a reprioritisation. Clearly, in putting more money into the Pacific, we have had to reduce funding in other areas. As you know, funding to the Pacific has increased by roughly $100 million, which is that figure in table 2.

Senator WONG: That's a mathematical answer; I'm asking a policy question. I'm asking: can you explain to me the rationale of funding a step up in the Pacific with a step down in Asia?

Ms Adamson : The answer is that, within the $4 billion envelope that the government gives us to work with in this area, and given the priority attached to the Pacific step up, we obviously needed to look across the whole program in a very detailed way at from where further funding could be reprioritised, and that is clear from both table 1 and table 2. Now, if you would like to talk about the detail at a country-specific level, and I imagine you will, I can invite colleagues responsible for the geographic divisions to come to the table and talk through it with you, but that was very carefully considered over a period of time. Balancing the needs of the Pacific is very hard to do, of course, given the various needs in various parts of the world that we have long supported. But within the $4 billion envelope, that's what we had to do.

Senator WONG: Sure, but there's no foreign policy rationale to actually having to cut these. There's a financial rationale, isn't there, which is essentially, as Mr Wood just said, that we had to cut these programs to fund the Pacific step up because the Prime Minister made clear we had to fund it from within the existing allocation?

Ms Adamson : We've always tried, within the $4 billion envelope, to make the best possible use of the funding that we have, and that necessitates, in any given year, some decisions about priorities.

Senator WONG: We've had very interesting, lengthy discussions at these estimates—and, with all due respect, I hope we don't have to have too many more, but that's in the hands of the Australian people in this context—about the region and about the importance of engagement not only with the Pacific but also with the ASEAN region bilaterally and as entities as part of how we deal with the increase in strategic competition in our region and the range of other issues that we've discussed. We're cutting ODA to Indonesia, we're cutting ODA to the Philippines and we're cutting ODA to Cambodia. Do you have any concerns about those decisions?

Ms Adamson : As you know, and you've referred to a broader interest across the region, it is difficult to compare individual countries within regions, but I think everyone would agree that there are particular needs in the South Pacific that we have a particular obligation to address.

Senator WONG: No, please don't suggest that I don't know that or that we don't think that. Of course we do. But what I am questioning is: why is this government funding a step up in the Pacific with a step down in South-East Asia?

Ms Adamson : And what I was going to say is that the sum total of our relationships with individual countries within a region derive from more than simply what we do through our aid program. That is important, and of course I would always, as you would expect me to—

Senator WONG: I understand why you are having to do these, but you are in a situation where even the finance minister says you're looking at $80 billion of cuts in total. That's what the finance minister has said. Don't take that rationale too far because then others might say, 'That rationale says we don't have to have an ODA element to our relationship.' Of course we do. And even ostensibly middle-income countries, such as Indonesia, which is critical to Australia—it is critical and I would have thought that is unarguable—still have enormous development needs.

Ms Adamson : Absolutely, and I was about to say that, of course, if the aid program were larger—if it grew in future—we could make tremendously good use of that. The report released yesterday, as a result of the inquiry, I think shows a strong degree of bipartisanship around the desirability of doing that in future, and you would find a very willing department should there be in future more funding found for aid, whether it supports governance and economic reform in South-East Asia, where that is the principal need, or poverty alleviation in countries across South-East Asia or the South Pacific. The needs are great. We have also, though, been working with multilateral development bank partners to try to bring more funding through their programs into the region. We've had some success in doing that, and we will continue to do it.

Senator WONG: Were there any discussions with representatives from any of these countries prior to the announcement of decisions to reduce the ODA component, presumably which had consequences for particular programs?

Ms Adamson : You'll appreciate that the final budget outcomes are settled very close to the date of the budget. Our heads of mission in affected posts were advised in advance that we thought there would be a need for them to communicate these decisions to their host governments. They were put on notice to do that at the end of last week, and those meetings have happened in the course of this week. I would need to check with colleagues whether all of them have, but, when I checked yesterday, they had all either been held or had been arranged and those conversations were in the process of happening.

Senator WONG: Were any concerns raised?

Ms Adamson : I think my overall characterisation, on the basis of the information I have, is that there was a natural degree of disappointment, a strong commitment to continue to partner with Australia and obviously, in some cases, there will need to be discussions at more detailed levels about what this might mean in practice in relation to particular projects. But part of our advice to government about doing this was designed to minimise the negative impact.

Senator WONG: I want to know what the impacts are. It might be that you have to take this on notice, because we're not talking about a budget change to an out year; we're talking about a cut—I'll have to go back and look at Mr Wood's—of $126 million for the financial year which commences in a few months. So there must have been programs approved and potentially contracts, or certainly things were already happening which can no longer happen, and I would like to know what they are. That might be something we can discuss on Thursday, if that information can be obtained, but I would like to know what's going to happen particularly in what is described, I think, as the South-East Asia and East Asia total.

Ms Adamson : We will come prepared for further discussion.

Senator WONG: Thank you very much.

Mr Wood : Senator, I would probably just note that we have had similar questions on notice in the past. So the supplementary—

Senator WONG: Do you just remember everything we ask you? Wow!

Mr Wood : In some of those responses we spoke about our intention not to cancel any current activities and not to stop any contracts as sometimes—

Senator WONG: That's the intention, but isn't your problem the time frame?

Mr Wood : That's correct. What our hope would be is that we can do this through reprofiling or rephasing some projects rather than ceasing them. But what our posts and our programs are currently doing is having those consultations with our partner governments.

Senator WONG: Can you come prepared to give me what you can give me about where you're at? If the answer is—and that's not particularly good, frankly—'We're not quite sure yet,' as at April, and the financial year where this cut commences starts in a few months, that's a bit of a problem.

Ms Adamson : We are keenly aware of the sorts of impacts that you are concerned about and are doing our very best to minimise those impacts. We will, as I said, come prepared for more detailed discussion next time.

Mr Wood : Obviously, given budget confidentiality, our posts and programs don't know about this until 7.30 pm on Tuesday.

Senator WONG: When did you know about these cuts, Minister?

Senator Payne: As the secretary has said, these have been the subject of significant consideration, so for some time.

Senator WONG: Did you raise concerns?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to go into the details of my discussions with officials.

Senator WONG: I thought I'd try! No, not with officials. Did you tell ScoMo, Mr Morrison, or Senator Cormann that this was a problem?

Senator Payne: Or those discussions, Senator.

Senator WONG: Okay. You know, but I can try.

Senator Payne: Indeed.

Senator WONG: With the AIFFP, I'm having a little trouble understanding where some of these cuts are going. There was a discussion I think with Ms Klugman on the last occasion. Is she here?

Ms Adamson : Yes, she is here.

Senator WONG: It would not be estimates without her. I asked:

With the $500 million in grants, was there any additional funding provided to DFAT for that or has DFAT had to reprioritise from existing funding?

Ms Klugman said:

There was no additional funding to DFAT for the $500 million.

So this is the on-budget component of $500 million, so you have the $1.5 billion loan component and then the $500 million grant component; is that correct?

Mr Wood : Yes, Senator.

Senator WONG: Your evidence was that that $500 million on-budget grant component would be reprioritised from the ODA budget. Can you tell me how these cuts relate to the $500 million? Ms Klugman, you just handballed it.

Mr Wood : These cuts over the forward estimates provide the funding for the $500 million.

Senator WONG: They don't. Even on our discussion it's $160 million.

Mr Wood : For one year. The $500 million is over the forward estimates.

Senator WONG: I know that, but the outyears were already $4 billion.

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: So the only change is to the 2019-20 figure. How do you find the remaining $360 million or $370 million?

Mr Wood : Also the 2022-23 year where we get the additional $100 million—

Senator WONG: Can you write this all down. Blimey! I'm not having too much of a go because you're answering questions, but the attempt to make it difficult to find just how much more you're cutting is irritating. So there is $126 million in 2019-20; correct?

Mr Wood : That's the budget reduction, yes.

Senator WONG: Rather than look at budget reductions, you tell me how much in each financial year ODA is contributing to the $500 million under this budget?

Mr Wood : In simple terms, the $500 million for the grant component of the AIFFP is all being found from within the aid budget. It is made up of a combination of reprioritisations and in 2022-23 that growth in the overall aid budget, so it's—

Senator WONG: That comes to $326 million; correct?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: So you're telling me that $126 million cut to ODA in 2019-20 will all be reprioritised to the facility or whatever it's called?

Mr Wood : No. What is happening over the forward estimates will be the continuation of some of those reductions, so if a program is reduced by $10 million next year there will then be the flow-on of that saving over the forward estimates.

Senator WONG: Which is not currently reflected in the ODA document. What you're essentially telling me is that there are more cuts to come.

Mr Wood : There will be more reductions over the forward estimate. If you're looking at page 25 you can see that the country program line shows a reduction over the forward estimates. You will see that the regional program line shows an increase. A large part of that increase in the regional program line is the funding for the AIFFP, because at this stage that is a broad regional program.

Senator WONG: We can calculate, in that regional program budget line, what the funding for the AIFPP is. Can you give that to me?

Mr Wood : We can come back with that.

Senator WONG: Tonight?

Mr Wood : We can try, and, if not, the following session on Thursday.

Senator WONG: Okay. Mr Wood, given this country program line item in 1.2.1 is reducing, it's the case isn't it that if you did an orange book over the forward estimate what you would see is further country cuts?

Mr Wood : There would be a continuation of some of those reductions, yes.

Senator WONG: What is the total reduction over the forwards?

Mr Wood : I would have to take that on notice. That is essentially how we are funding this and the other measures.

Senator WONG: Is the 500 million provision over the forwards?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: All funded out of ODA?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Including cuts not yet disclosed to South-East Asia—not yet disclosed by country?

Mr Wood : It's spread across the whole of the aid program.

Senator WONG: I might come back to that. Can I ask about innovationXchange?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: We used to love it when—not we, I never loved it, you used to love it—Ms Bishop was the minister, now you are cutting it, is that right?

Ms Adamson : I, as Secretary, am a very strong supporter on innovation in the department in all its various forms.

Senator WONG: You have cut it by two-thirds?

Ms Adamson : Yes. But I'm saying innovation across the department. One of the points is that we do innovation in a variety of ways, including mainstreaming it across the department. It is correct though that actual funding for the innovationXchange, which was originally designed to be an aid program specific thing, has resulted in a number of innovations which are now being scaled up, and, what we are doing is mainstreaming innovation across the department.

Senator WONG: So is it gone?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: The exchange itself?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: I'm not saying innovation itself.

Ms Adamson : No, I know. The innovationXchange is, in fact, there. I launched an innovation strategy in July last year. I appointed our Chief Innovation Officer, Sarah Pearson, to the role of DFAT Chief Scientist as well, because I wanted to complement our innovation work, particularly when it comes to our preparedness to challenges and opportunities posed by emerging science and technological developments in our region. We are quite open about that. The innovationXchange has had a number of specific successes, some of which have been award winning.

Senator WONG: Are you at the table because up to say something, Ms Wright?

Ms Wright : We still have a very active program of activity. As the secretary said, a commitment to innovation remains high in the department and is testimony to the work of the last four years. The innovationXchange still has a current portfolio of ongoing innovative programs—30 programs—and almost 100 projects, and we're continuing to manage those into next year.

Senator WONG: Then what will happen?

Ms Wright : I would have to look to my colleague to see if I'd ask about the forward estimates.

Senator WONG: No—I'm just trying to work this out. You say 'mainstreaming'. Does that mean that, over time, your intention is, subject to government decision, presumably, to integrate the innovationXchange into—how did you describe it?—the mainstream?

Ms Adamson : To mainstream it across the department. If I can say so, that was the previous foreign minister's, foreign minister Bishop's, very clear intention; indeed, it was her instruction to me on the day I became secretary that we needed to be able to mainstream innovation across the department, and we continue to do that. We need to do it.

Senator WONG: Sorry—we're conflating a lot of words about mainstreaming when I'm actually asking a function question, which is this. You have an entity or a unit at the moment called innovationXchange. Is it the intention—or do you not want to talk about this yet?—that, over time, those personnel and those functions will not exist in a separate unit?

Ms Adamson : We will certainly need to have the people. There is a question I have not yet settled. The innovationXchange actually has a very good reputation, a very strong reputation, that links into all sorts of areas globally, actually, so the brand is a strong brand, but it is a brand now that works across DFAT.

Mr Wood : And what was reduced was the Innovation Fund. That was a standalone fund that was managed by the innovationXchange. The innovationXchange now works very closely across a whole range of programs across the department. It's just the fund that is being reduced.

Senator WONG: Unless you wanted to say something, I haven't anything further.

Ms Wright : I was going to point to the secretary's innovation strategy that she launched last year. It does in fact clearly point to what you might call a transition from a programmatic approach to doing innovation, and we're now in the process of this transition—selecting the most promising of the projects that we looked at over the last three or four years and scaling those. But that means that they're taken up across the department, in some shape or form, or sometimes externally, or sometimes they're sustainable enough to attract other private sector funding and they take on a life of their own externally.

Senator WONG: Thanks for that. I'll move on to the UN International Women's Day statement. Minister, you've previously stated, when we've talked about the priority that the government, and you personally, give to gender equality, that it was a guiding principle for our time on the UN Human Rights Council. I assume you acknowledge the positive contribution towards gender equality of Australia's sexual and reproductive health development assistance programs?

Senator Payne: I'm not disagreeing with that.

Senator WONG: There was an International Women's Day statement proposed by Mexico and Finland to the UN Human Rights Council, supported by 57 countries. Did the Australian delegation join the statement?

Senator Payne: No. I'm sorry—I'm happy for the officials to answer.

Senator WONG: Why not?

Ms Haddad : Australia was unable to join the statement as it called for access to safe abortion without referencing that this should be consistent with the law. As such, the statement did not reflect the language of the International Conference on Population and Development program of action, or the ICPD, to which Australia is committed. The ICPD states at paragraph 8.25 that any measure or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level, according to national legislative processes, in circumstances—

Senator WONG: Okay—just stop.

Ms Haddad : in which abortion is not against—

Senator WONG: Please stop. How is our support for statements—or nonsupport—or our position on statements at the Human Rights Council determined? Who determines it? Is it a decision for the minister? Is it a decision for the delegation? Is it a decision for cabinet? At which level are these matters determined?

Ms Haddad : These are decisions taken by the minister's office.

Senator WONG: These are decisions taken by the minister's office?

Ms Adamson : Well, it depends on the issue—

Senator WONG: I'm responding to Ms Haddad. So is that generally the case? You wanted to qualify the evidence, I think.

Ms Adamson : That's what I wanted to say. I thought you'd asked a general question—

Senator WONG: I did.

Ms Adamson : about the Human Rights Council and how those positions are determined. Mr Lee has come to the table and will be able to give you more detail on this, but the answer is: it depends on the issue, it depends on the resolution and it depends on what role Australia is playing. But let me hand to Mr Lee, who's the expert in this area.

Senator WONG: Please don't give me a whole heap of—I'm going to get to this eventually, who made this decision. You can give me a long DFAT answer about process, with lots of adjectives, but I actually just want to understand whether there was a differentiation from the existing process for this or not.

Mr Lee : In relation to this particular statement, and in relation to the Human Rights Council, we look at it on an issue-by-issue basis, depending on the substance of it, whether we have an existing mandate in order to decide on whether we join the statement or whether we need to get further consultation with other agencies. Part of what we do is the consultation with other Australian government agencies—and there are a lot that have input into that—and also with ministers' offices. This was one where there was consultation both internally, with a number of different people who are at the table now, and also with other Australian government agencies and with the minister's office.

Senator WONG: So there's not an existing mandate that says that we support accountability for human rights violations, respect the right to bodily autonomy, guarantee universal access to education and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to safe abortion and comprehensive sexuality education? We don't have an existing position which enabled us to sign up to this?

Mr Lee : There's a lot in every resolution and in every statement, and we can agree to large parts of it, but on some occasions we can't agree with everything that's in there if it crosses our red lines.

Senator WONG: What is a red line in this statement?

Mr Lee : As was previously expressed by Ms Haddad, it was the nonreflection of the language that had been used in the ICPD previously.

Senator WONG: When was that supposed red line—and this is a new red line to me, in terms of Australia's position—identified?

Ms Rogers : It wasn't identified until quite late in the piece, because we received reports from Geneva that several other countries had tried to insert that qualifying language, if you will, around 'abortion where legal'.

Senator WONG: It says 'access to safe abortion'. When was the decision as to support or nonsupport of the statement first considered by government?

Ms Rogers : The first contact between DFAT and the foreign minister's office on this was the Friday before the statement.

Senator WONG: There was no brief prior to that?

Ms Rogers : The initial advice from Geneva was on 25 February.

Senator WONG: So it's 25 February, with 'advice from Geneva' meaning they said, 'Here's the statement coming'?

Ms Rogers : That Australia had been approached to join the statement.

Senator WONG: Was there advice from Geneva that recommended joining?

Ms Rogers : There was no advice provided on that. The advice was simply that we'd been asked to join the statement and the statement itself.

Senator WONG: What happened as a consequence of that?

Ms Rogers : Typically—and Mr Lee can jump in if I'm incorrect in this—we would go out for whole-of-government consultation on the statement as it was worded when we received that.

Senator WONG: Why would we go for whole-of-government consultation on this?

Ms Rogers : This is something that is part of our normal human rights process.

Mr Lee : Just because of the number of issues that are covered. Many of them are beyond the policy responsibility of DFAT.

Senator WONG: And you did so?

Ms Rogers : Yes.

Senator WONG: That's at bureaucratic level, at APS level?

Ms Rogers : That is correct, yes.

Senator WONG: When did you finalise that whole-of-government consultation?

Ms Rogers : That consultation took place over 26 and 27 February.

Senator WONG: And that resulted in a brief to the minister's office?

Ms Rogers : A brief did not go up to the minister's office at that point. This is where I'll need to defer to my colleague Mr Lee, because there is a standard process for alerting the foreign minister's office in relation to Human Rights Council resolutions that have been agreed, because there are so many of them and they come through so quickly. As I understand it, on this occasion there was initial conversation with an adviser in the minister's office on 28 February.

Senator WONG: Okay, so we've got a DFAT FMO policy adviser discussion, alerting them or communicating this, and then we have the departmental-level whole-of-government consultation over the 26th and 27th. What was the end point of the whole-of-government consultation at departmental level?

Ms Rogers : The whole-of-government consultation finished prior to 28 February, and then the first conversation with the FMO happened on 28 February.

Senator WONG: Was there advice to the minister prepared as a result of the whole-of-government consultation?

Ms Rogers : There was advice prepared, but that advice wasn't provided until we received word that the statement was in a more final state. There were ongoing negotiations in Geneva on the wording of the statement.

Senator WONG: As part of the whole-of-government consultation, was there any department that raised concerns as to Australia joining?

Ms Rogers : Not that I'm aware of.

CHAIR: It is 6.30, Senator Wong. Do you have many more questions in this area?

Senator WONG: I do, but it's okay. I'm happy to come back after dinner.

Proceedings suspended from 18:31 to 19:30

CHAIR: The committee is resumed. Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: What was my last question? You said there was nothing in the whole-of-government consultation process which raised a concern with the statement—correct?

Ms Rogers : Yes.

Senator WONG: And then on the 28th there was a conversation with the FMO, yes?

Ms Rogers : Yes, that's correct.

Senator WONG: Who had the conversation with the FMO? Was it you or Mr Lee?

Ms Rogers : No, that wasn't me. I'm not sure who had the initial conversation on the Friday.

Mr Lee : It was the assistant secretary of our human rights branch.

Senator WONG: Okay. And, as a consequence of that discussion, were you advised that there might be a concern from the government about the joining of the statement?

Ms Rogers : I wasn't privy to that conversation. As I understand it, that conversation was simply directing us to a different adviser in the foreign minister's office.

Senator WONG: I just want to know: at any point was DFAT advised by the FMO that the government might have a concern about joining the statement, and, if so, how, by whom et cetera?

Ms Rogers : On the following Tuesday, as I said before, the statement was still subject to negotiation, and there were representations made to try to insert that caveated language around 'abortion where legal to do so' over that interim period. On the following Tuesday the alert was sent to the foreign minister's office, to the relevant adviser.

Senator WONG: Sorry; 'the Tuesday' is which day?

Ms Rogers : The fifth.

Mr Lee : The fifth of March.

Ms Rogers : The fifth of March, yes.

Senator WONG: And what was advised? The finalised statement was sent at that date?

Ms Rogers : That's correct. We were fairly confident that the statement would not change very much after that, so we were able to provide advice on that basis.

Senator WONG: And? What happened?

Ms Rogers : Then we had a series of interactions with the foreign minister's office over the statement and we went back to Geneva on several occasions.

Senator WONG: Okay. So the foreign minister's office raised concerns with the statement with DFAT, which resulted in you going back to Geneva?

Ms Rogers : DFAT was aware that the language around abortion was not fully in line with the exact text of the ICPD, which is very clear that it's safe abortion where legal to do so. The interactions with Geneva were around trying to negotiate that language in, and there were discussions with the foreign minister's office around that language.

Senator WONG: And? Sorry, the ICPD: that's what you're referencing?

Ms Rogers : The International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action, paragraph 8.25.

Senator WONG: Of the code, or the?

Ms Rogers : Of that.

Senator MOORE: The Cairo declaration.

Senator WONG: The Cairo declaration; that's what I know it as—okay.

Ms Rogers : Yes, that's correct.

Senator WONG: Has Australia not signed up to, or joined, statements before that don't precisely follow the Cairo declaration?

Ms Rogers : We've had a look through previous statements that we've signed on to. We were able to find examples where we'd made comments in relation to other countries on UPRs, universal periodic reviews. In terms of resolutions, though, the language has in the past been caveated by that reference to 'legal'.

Senator WONG: As a result of this interaction between the foreign minister's office and DFAT, the eventual position of Australia was not to join the statement. Is that correct?

Ms Rogers : That's correct.

Senator WONG: Senator Payne, was there any discussion between your office and the Prime Minister's office about Australia's position in relation to this statement?

Senator Payne: I'm not specifically aware of that, but I'll take that on notice and ask my office. What I can say, further to what Ms Rogers just said, is that, since March 2013 and a statement at the CSW, this is the language that Australia, according to advice I received, has adopted. In the March 2013 session of the CSW, the phrase was 'safe abortion where such services are permitted by national law'. That was replicated with similar language in the CSW of 2014, again in 2016 at the CSW and twice in July 2018 at the Human Rights Council. In September 2018, again the phrase was 'safe abortion in accordance with international human rights law and where not against national law'. Then, in the third committee of the UNGA in November 2018, the phrase was 'safe abortion where such services are permitted by national law', consistent with the ICPD, which the—

Senator WONG: We refused to join a statement. It was a pretty clear signal. I want to know: is it because the Prime Minister or other members of the coalition have an issue with abortion?

Senator Payne: No, I think the effort was made to have the language reflect and be consistent with language which had been adopted by Australia since 2013, particularly given the federated state of our laws.

Senator WONG: Did you go in and fight for the right position, which was for Australia to join so many other countries in issuing this statement?

Senator Payne: Senator Wong—

Senator WONG: Did you? Did you go in and fight for the right position here?

Senator Payne: I had long and detailed discussions around these issues and I actually think that the consistency of language has been useful in all of this. I'm not sure all of dates that have been provided are completely accurate, but they're neither here nor there in terms of the detail. The point was that the language which the resolution had chosen to use was not consistent with six or seven or so of our previous resolutions, and in the end we did not sign up to it.

Senator WONG: No, we didn't—you didn't as foreign minister. We in Australia didn't sign up to a human rights Women's Day statement supported by 57 countries. What sort of message does that send to the world about our commitment to gender equality?

Senator Payne: Australia actually has a very—

Senator WONG: There's not much point in talking—

Senator Payne: You can do that as much as you wish, Senator Wong. I'm very used to that.

Senator WONG: Do what?

Senator Payne: But Australia is absolutely consistent in advocating—

Senator WONG: Do what? Stand up for a woman's right to choose? Yes, I will continue to do that.

Senator Payne: Absolutely, and Australia is absolutely consistent in advocating in relation to the ICPD, including the program of action.

Senator WONG: Did you try and get the Prime Minister to agree to join the statement or not?

Senator Payne: I have told you before, and I will repeat it again, that I am not going to go into the details of conversations with my colleagues, but I will also say to you that there were significant discussions held along the development of these words. The words that I have indicated to you in the resolutions that I've referred to are the ones which have been consistent for over six years now. We were not in a position to ensure the words in this resolution were consistent with that.

Senator WONG: But that is, frankly, a legalistic argument. How does it look—

Senator Payne: Well, pot, kettle, black—but nevertheless.

Senator WONG: Can I finish? How does it look when a country that says, 'We're for gender equality,' refuses to sign a statement in these terms, where 57 other countries have joined for International Women's Day.

Senator Payne: Countries make their own decisions for a range of reasons, but that does not diminish in any way, shape or form the work that we do through the CPD, through the UN and through a range of other activities, including our investment in reproductive health and family planning, including in the statement we delivered at the 52nd session of the CPD three days ago about our continuing strong commitment to advancing universal access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights, and including a number of other things on which I'm more than happy to provide you with further detail.

Senator WONG: I think we all know we're not going to agree on this. It's a fundamental difference. Can I move now quickly to the issue of Jerusalem. I don't propose, given the time, to ask many questions about this. Secretary, because you were very assiduous, you or your staff would have noticed the questions I asked in PM&C and in particular the penultimate page of the Sydney Institute speech by the Prime Minister where he said:

We've started the work to identify a suitable site for a suitable embassy West Jerusalem …

That was said in December. Have you done anything to implement the Prime Minister's declaration?

Ms Adamson : The focus since the Prime Minister's speech in which he obviously announced the government's response to policy reviews that we've previously discussed here has really been on the immediate task at hand, which has been to identify suitable premises in West Jerusalem for a trade and defence office. That has been done. There are, I am advised, a considerable number of potential sites in Jerusalem which could be used as an Australian embassy, should we get to that stage in a peace process and final settlement issues and be able to do what the Prime Minister said he hoped we would be able to do.

Senator WONG: That seems quite logical, but that's not what he said. He said:

We've started the work to identify a suitable site for a suitable embassy West Jerusalem …

Ms Adamson : Yes, he did, and I said we are absolutely seized of what the Prime Minister said in that speech. I've discussed it with my colleagues, but the focus for the moment—and that does not exclude the task the PM has given us—and over recent months has been to identify a suitable site for this office and that has been done.

Senator WONG: On point 4 in 2018-19, which was budgeted, what has been done associated with the trade and defence office? What has been done on that? Have you expended that?

Ms Adamson : This responsibility falls to Austrade, and detailed questions would need to be—

Senator WONG: Yes, but I'm sure you would be able to tell me. Has anything been expended on that line item?

Ms Adamson : The office is now open, so I assume something has been expended, but precisely how much would be a question for Austrade to answer because this is being managed at arm's length from the embassy, given its function.

Senator WONG: I didn't have anything further on that, Ms Yu. On Yemen—oh, Ms Yu, you have to stay. Sorry, I forgot. I think you're probably aware that my, and I think Mr Marles's, public statement is that we're calling on the government to ensure itself that any Australian military cooperation in the region, including on defence equipment sales, does not inadvertently contribute to the suffering of the Yemeni civilian population. Can that assurance be provided?

Ms Yu : I may have to invite up my colleague who actually looks after defence exports from DFAT's perspective, but defence exports is the responsibility of the Department of Defence and the assurance that you're seeking is probably best answered by Department of Defence.

Ms Gorely : Senator, I'm sure you're aware that DFAT's role in the defence exports—

Senator WONG: Arms Trade Treaty assessment—is that your role?

Ms Gorely : That's part of the role. We do an assessment in accordance with our obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty and we also take into account regional security, foreign policy and other considerations along those lines. So it's a broad assessment of a number of different considerations before reverting to Defence, with DFAT's perspective, and then the final decision rests with Defence.

Senator WONG: Have you provided any such assessments in relation to Saudi Arabia?

Ms Gorely : Yes.

Senator WONG: Most recently? I assume whatever the dates are, which you can give me on notice, that the assessment was that there was no breach?

Ms Gorely : In relation to—

Senator WONG: I asked if you had undertaken any assessment in relation to arms sales to Saudi Arabia. You said yes. I asked you for the date. You couldn't find it. I said I was happy for you to take it on notice. I then said to you that I assume the result of that assessment was there was no breach of our obligations.

Ms Gorely : We're not talking about one particular arms sale. There are a number of applications that would have been referred—and were, indeed, referred—to DFAT.

Senator WONG: I can go through this bit by bit. I assume there's not been any assessment to date that you have undertaken in relation to arms sales to Saudi Arabia which suggests we are in breach of that treaty—correct?

Ms Gorely : No.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Have you revisited any advice to Defence in light of the UK parliamentary committee report that described arms export sales as unlawful?

Ms Gorely : No.

Senator WONG: One of the conclusions of that report was that:

Relying on assurance by Saudi-Arabia and Saudi-led review processes is not an adequate way of implementing the obligations for a risk based assessment set out in the Arms Trade Treaty.

Ms Gorely : Sorry, can you repeat that?

Senator WONG: Are you familiar with this report?

Ms Gorely : I am aware that there has been consideration in other countries about the situation.

Senator WONG: Okay. Perhaps I will come back to that. The UK select committee comes to a conclusion, and I'm inviting your response to it. It unanimously describes these arms export sales to Saudi Arabia as unlawful, and it states that:

Relying on assurance by Saudi-Arabia and Saudi-led review processes is not an adequate way of implementing the obligations for a risk based assessment set out in the Arms Trade Treaty.

I'm inviting your response.

Ms Gorely : We conduct our particular process on the basis of the information that is available to us at the time. We take into account a range of factors, including the likely end use. Of course, circumstances can change over time as well and further information can come to light.

Senator WONG: Do you consider that the assessment you undertake is a risk based assessment?

Ms Gorely : I would describe it as such, yes. There is an element of assessing the risk of the particular export being used in ways that would be in breach of Australia's obligations under international law.

Senator WONG: And this was at Defence estimates, but I just want to be clear about who does what. There are five criteria that are utilised to assess weapon sales, both the legality and the appropriateness: whether we judge it will be used to commit human rights abuses, international obligations, national security, regional security and foreign policy. That's consistent. I'll come back to that on Thursday if we're here. Senator Payne, I realise that this was in Defence estimates, but you were asked whether or not Australia was reconsidering or considering its position on weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, and you said, 'We keep those matters under review.' Can you explain what that review process is?

Senator Payne: It just means that it's a matter that we consider as part of our approach to these issues.

Senator WONG: Are you able to assure us that defence equipment sales from Australia are not inadvertently contributing to the suffering of the Yemeni civilian population?

Senator Payne: I think Ms Gorely and Ms Yu have set out the background and the details to the process. You yourself alluded to the five criteria: international obligations, human rights, regional security, national security and foreign policy, broadly speaking. They are part of a considered and detailed process of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade providing advice to the Department of Defence that establishes the strong system that we have in place to address human rights considerations in our defence exports process. And that of course is done against the background of being acutely aware that the Middle East is a very complex security and political environment. So, any of those defence export activities to the Middle East will be considered under that rigorous system to ensure that they're not prejudicing those matters.

Senator WONG: Okay. Do you feel in a position to provide an assurance that these sales are not inadvertently contributing to the suffering of the Yemeni civilian population?

Senator Payne: Based on the system that we adopt, and the engagement between the departments, that is the outcome that we look for, yes.

Senator WONG: We had a lengthy discussion last time I think about the $17 million contract for free TV in relation to commercial broadcasting content to the Pacific. Are you aware as to the current status of any of this contract?

Ms Adamson : I think the answer is that this, as I recall last time—

Senator WONG: I know it's Communications, and I'm happy to ask it there, but I assume that you've got an office for the Pacific. Surely they know a little bit about what we're doing in terms of soft power and broadcasting to the Pacific and the $17 million. So, do we know what's happened with that?

Ms Klugman : I'm just going to the most recent developments that have happened since you asked your questions at the last estimates.

Senator WONG: It wasn't that long ago, was it?

Ms Klugman : No. Therefore, I have not a great deal to tell you.

Senator WONG: Do you know whether the contract has been signed?

Ms Klugman : No, I don't. I am aware that there were discussions with Pacific media between 11 and 13 February 2019 at the Pacific Islands News Association's CEO summit in Auckland. We, Australia, were there—both the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Communications and the Arts. On the status of contract discussions being undertaken by the department of communications with Free TV, I don't have anything further to tell you.

Ms Adamson : The latest information we have, including in preparation for this, is that the Department of Communications and the Arts is negotiating with Free TV to finalise arrangements—

Senator WONG: Can I make something very clear. You can't answer this. We are very close to an election. The opposition has made clear its view about the $17 million. I would really encourage the Public Service not to engage in a contract where, clearly, if there is a change of government, there is a different view about the merits of this contract.

Have you finished the soft power review? Sorry, you've finished it but you haven't done anything with it. Sorry, I'm not trying to be pejorative. The review's been finished, you were considering it and the government was going to be briefed. Where is that all that?

Ms Adamson : Where we're up to, while Mr Byrne comes to the table: we had a discussion at this morning's strategic policy committee meeting—part of our new governance arrangements—about the latest draft of the soft power review, which is taking shape. It is coming along reasonably well but still requires more work. We won't be in a position to send it to the minister before the election.

Senator WONG: Fair enough. Do you think broadcasting is an element of soft power?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: So why didn't they wait for the review before they gave someone 17 million bucks?

Ms Adamson : The review is DFAT-led, and the Pacific step-up was a whole-of-government exercise in which everyone contributed.

Senator WONG: You've got to run more stuff, I reckon. Thank you; I'm done.

Senator WATT: You may have seen some recent media reporting involving claims that the member for Dawson has spent an extended period of time overseas. Has the department, including the post in Manila, ever provided any assistance of any kind to the member for Dawson during his visits to the Philippines, whether or not the visits were work or personal?

Ms Adamson : The answer to that question is yes, but Ms Heckscher will be able to give you more details.

Ms Heckscher : The answer is, yes, DFAT did provide assistance and advice about several official meetings during trips to the Philippines.

Senator WATT: You said assistance and advice was given by DFAT. Is that the post in Manila?

Ms Heckscher : Yes, it is the post in Manila.

Senator WATT: And other parts of DFAT or just the post in Manila?

Ms Heckscher : I think it was just the post in Manila.

Senator WATT: I think what you said was that DFAT had given assistance and advice in relation to meetings was it?

Ms Heckscher : Official meetings, yes. I can give a little bit more detail than that.

Senator WATT: Yes, sure.

Ms Heckscher : Of course you would be aware that DFAT does provide assistance to travelling parliamentarians regularly when there are official meetings in place. That is indeed what happened on several occasions. The embassy in Manila provided routine support to the member for Dawson on three occasions. In September 2014, during a private visit to the Philippines, DFAT officers facilitated and accompanied the member for Dawson to meet the Speaker of the Philippines House of Representatives. In December 2016, DFAT officers facilitated and accompanied the member for Dawson to meetings with congress men and women and the Speaker of the Philippines House of Representatives. In September 2017, the member for Dawson visited Manila to participate in the 38th general assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly.

Senator WATT: Was that one with other Australian members of parliament?

Ms Heckscher : Yes.

Senator WATT: I've seen some reporting that one of the member's trips to—

Senator GALLACHER: It was me! I was there!

Senator WATT: There you go. So that one, the 38th general assembly, was an official delegation, if you like, of members of parliament?

Ms Heckscher : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: Absolutely.

Senator WATT: And support was provided to the member for Dawson and presumably others in relation to that trip?

Ms Heckscher : Yes. I hope we provided it to others!

Senator WATT: But the two other occasions, September 2014 and December 2016, were both during private visits?

Ms Heckscher : Yes.

Senator WATT: And meetings were arranged by DFAT officers, first of all with the Speaker of the Philippines parliament?

Ms Heckscher : Yes.

Senator WATT: And DFAT officers accompanied the member for Dawson to that meeting?

Ms Heckscher : Yes.

Senator WATT: And in December 2016 it was—

Ms Heckscher : With congress men and women and the Speaker of the Philippines House of Representatives.

Senator WATT: Did multiple meetings occur, or was there one meeting with—

Ms Heckscher : I think it was one meeting. If that is important I could check that, but I think it was just one meeting.

Senator WATT: Okay. Was there any other assistance provided by the department, including post in Manila, to the member for Dawson during any of his travel to the Philippines?

Ms Heckscher : Those are the only three particular visits or meetings that the department assisted with.

Senator WATT: What was the cost of providing that assistance?

Ms Adamson : We don't cost providing that sort of assistance, Senator. It's a routine thing for our missions overseas to assist parliamentarians with their meetings and, in some cases, some other arrangements. There are guidelines for all of this, but we don't cost it.

Senator WATT: Would it be fair to say that multiple DFAT officers in post would have been involved in providing that assistance?

Ms Adamson : No, I wouldn't say it was fair to characterise it in that way.

Senator WATT: Because it might have only been one officer each time?

Ms Adamson : It could have been one or two. These things are typically not onerous. They constitute routine business for embassies and high commissions overseas.

Senator WATT: Do you have any information about how many DFAT officers accompanied the member for Dawson in any of these meetings that he had?

Ms Heckscher : I do not have that information.

Senator WATT: Could you take that on notice, please?

Ms Adamson : We may not be able to answer that. We can check for you, but typically it would be one or two, and no more than that, particularly when there are a number of members of the delegation. As I say, this is absolutely routine business.

Senator WATT: That's it for me. Thank you.

Senator MOORE: I have some questions around family planning and sexual reproduction funding. I've gone to the must-do handbook on statistical summary of Australia's aid program. I'm wanting to go through some of the figures in that around family planning.

Ms Adamson : Certainly, Senator.

Senator MOORE: I looked at 16-17 and then 17-18. We don't have 18-19 yet, do we?

Ms Rogers : I don't have 18-19 yet, no.

Senator MOORE: I was hoping you might. It looks to me, by studying the figures and colouring them in, that there has been a reduction in family planning expenditure between those two years. In 16-17 the total amount was 13055 and in 17-18 it was 10732. I want to see whether that is absolutely accurate and whether there are other things that aren't added in.

Ms Rogers : Could you repeat those figures? I have two sets of tables here.

Senator MOORE: In the official document, 17-18 is a total of 10732, with, in the Pacific, 4810; in South-East and East Asia, 1257; and then lower figures. They're the two that are the largest expenditure. In the previous year, 16-17, it was a total of 13055, with 5556 in the Pacific and 2592 in East Asia.

Ms Rogers : Apologies. I don't have it broken down by geographical distribution. I've only got total—

Senator MOORE: We'll go through the total first. Are those totals accurate?

Ms Rogers : According to my figures here, for 16-17 it was $82.4 million. This is from the statistical summary book produced by our ODA area. For 17-18, $95.4 million in total.

Senator MOORE: What am I missing? This is what I'm trying to find out. These are the figures that I've been looking at. I knew there was more—this is why I put it on the record. Over the last couple of years we've had a number of discussions around exactly how much money is being spent where in sexual and reproductive health. We have also gone through the process of looking at the special one-off payment that was made, I think, last financial year. I'm just trying to find the accurate figures. What am I missing?

Ms Rogers : Are you referring to the increase—you'd like to know over the last financial year?

Senator MOORE: I'm looking at the figures. I went through to look at statistical expenditure. They're not the same figures that you've just given me.

Ms Rogers : No. That could be because I've just given you figures from the ODA statistical handbook, which pulls together the data from a number of different OECD DAC categories. You may be referring to some subset of that.

Senator MOORE: I must be. Can you tell us the total Australian ODA investment in family planning over the past term of parliament year-by-year—can you go through those figures?

Senator Payne: What if we decided, between you and the officials, what the preferred truth source was from which you want to work. Then Mr Wood, I'm sure, would be able to help. In fact, he appears to have the orange book.

Ms Rogers : I have the green book.

Mr Wood : I have an orange book, a green book, a yellow book and a white book.

Senator Payne: He's showing off now! He has a traffic light set here!

Senator MOORE: I have a kind of aqua—

Senator Payne: We're good at aqua. We're very good at aqua.

Mr Wood : There are a couple of measures, as you are well aware, in family planning.

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Mr Wood : What you may be looking at is a table for family planning assistance based on the 2012 London Family Planning Summit methodology.

Senator MOORE: That is exactly what I'm looking at.

Mr Wood : I think what my colleague Ms Rogers had was a summary from a previous table, which is table 17 of the document, which had a total for total family planning and reproductive health of that $95 million.

Senator MOORE: Which actually includes reproductive health care and family planning?

Mr Wood : Correct. We're both looking at the same table.

Senator MOORE: When we're talking about it, it's reproductive health and family planning?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator MOORE: Under that basis, 17-18 and 16-17—there still does seem to be a reduction. If you add those figures together of 16-17, of the titles 'reproductive health care' and 'family planning', it still seems to me to be a lower figure in 17-18 than in 16-17.

Mr Wood : That may well be the case, Senator. I've got the 17-18 table here. That may well be the case, but we could come back and confirm that.

Senator MOORE: I'm trying to see whether everything is actually gathered under those figures into this space. That would be the department's position: if you add reproductive health care and family planning, those two come to the process? What about population policy and administrative management? Which is the other subset?

Ms Rogers : I'm not sure whether that's included.

Senator MOORE: I don't know whether that's included, because population policy and administrative management could well be in that same figure. I'm not going to go through the process of going figure by figure. From the document you've got there, which is the cumulative statement of everything that the department considers within this space, can you go through the figures for me for the last few years?

Ms Rogers : Certainly. I've got two sets of tables here. They draw on some of the data that my colleague has mentioned.

Senator MOORE: Which book are they from?

Ms Rogers : The overall data—the broader category, if you like; the broadest category—is, I believe, from the aqua book.

Senator MOORE: It's really the one based on—which has become a bit of a bible—the London Family Planning Summit, which is the language we talk in. That is the table, the aqua one?

Ms Rogers : I don't have the benefit of having the book in front of me. So let me just make sure that what I read out to you is correct. Okay; I can see where you are looking. This only came out this week of course so I haven't had an opportunity to digest it. I've got figures from 2013-14 here all the way through to 2017-18.

Senator MOORE: Are they using the same—that this would be like to like?

Ms Rogers : If I read those out to you, that will give you a sense. It actually varies quite a bit from year to year. For 2013-14, I've got $210.6 million; for 2014-15, $169.8 million; for 2015-16, $125 million; for 2016-17, $82.4 million; and for 2017-18, $95.4 million.

Senator MOORE: Is 2017-18 the year that the extra one-off funding increase was made or was that 2018-19?

Ms Rogers : I've actually got four different commitments listed for 2018.

Senator MOORE: What were those commitments?

Ms Rogers : I've got $7.5 million as the first payment to UNFPA in the Pacific; $3 million as the first payment under a $10 million three-year multilateral funding agreement with UNFPA suppliers—that's the global essential medicine, procurement and distribution program; $4 million as the first payment to UNFPA under two new programs, with a total value of $13.4 million to provide sexual and reproductive health services in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan; and then $2.82 million as a first payment under a new $10.4 million program with Marie Stopes International to expand access to family planning in South-East Asia.

Senator MOORE: And those last three were all first payments to an ongoing program over a number of years?

Ms Rogers : That's correct.

Senator MOORE: Under those, can you give me what the commitment is over what time?

Ms Rogers : Yes, I can. Do you want me to do that now?

Senator MOORE: If whatever page you are reading off can give all of those figures at once it would be very useful.

Ms Rogers : Would you like me to provide those to you?

Senator MOORE: It would be great to get that tabled or whatever, but can you give those commitments on record now as well?

Ms Rogers : Yes.

Senator MOORE: The last series of commitments have been to the UNFPA.

Ms Rogers : There's also one to the IPPF that was signed in October.

Senator MOORE: And Marie Stopes.

Ms Rogers : That's right. The last I mentioned before was Marie Stopes International and then there was one with IPPF for $18.4 million over 2018-2022.

Senator MOORE: Was that a new commitment?

Ms Rogers : That was the signing of a new agreement, yes.

Senator MOORE: So that's IPPF. UNFPA?

Ms Rogers : Going backwards, UNFPA's was a first payment under a $30 million four-year program. The second UNFPA payment was a new $10 million three-year multilateral year funding agreement—so three years.

Senator MOORE: Three years of $10 million or a total of $10 million over three?

Ms Rogers : A total of $10 million.

Senator MOORE: A total of $10 million over three years?

Ms Rogers : Yes. The UNFPA $4 million was first payment to UNFPA under two new programs, with a total value of $13.4 million. It does not have the time frame for that.

Senator MOORE: It may actually be something that we can work out for the future. Does the total commitment over the period bring in 2018-19? What does that bring it up to? Is it possible to know that?

Ms Rogers : I'm not a mathematician.

Senator MOORE: I'm not either. Can you take that on notice to get a comparative? I'm not going to go to you, Mr Wood; you've done too much tonight.

Mr Wood : That's okay; I was just—

Senator Payne: We're only just starting, Senator Moore—please! We're not even out of the blocks yet.

Mr Wood : I'm just following the NRL game at the moment, so it's okay.

Senator MOORE: I really hope you weren't listening to the one last night. I turned off.

Senator Payne: How did the Broncos go last night, Senator Moore?

Senator MOORE: I think that should be a health committee one! Mr Wood, in the data that you have there, do you have a cumulative figure to cover everything Ms Rogers has just told me for 2018-19?

Mr Wood : No, I don't.

Senator MOORE: But we could get that somewhere?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator MOORE: Could I put that on notice, because in the past you have given me what comes under that—so I can get that focused?

Mr Wood : Yes, definitely.

Senator MOORE: We have had discussions here before about what the department's understanding of the impact has been of the US changes in this area. Up until the last Senate estimates, I had asked that each time and it was too early to have an assessment about what people had been feeding back from post and what people have been feeding back in various discussions. Has that changed? Has there been any more feedback to the department about what the impact, in our region in particular but also generally, has been of that major reduction of US funding?

Ms Rogers : I've got some information here. You will be aware that there was a further expansion of the policy just recently.

Senator MOORE: I am.

Ms Rogers : According to my notes here, we have information that—2017, the IPPF and Marie Stopes International anticipated a combined funding loss of around $270 million over 2017 to 2021. But there is no further information on the specifics. I know that some of those organisations didn't provide services in the Pacific, so—

Senator MOORE: Some did.

Ms Rogers : Yes, that's correct. So, we would need to get back to you on—

Senator MOORE: That would be really useful, because I think there is still a lot of discussion going on, and it certainly is within the international groups. But I haven't seen a clear analysis about what will happen to the areas that we most closely work, and that's the Pacific and East Timor.

Ms Adamson : I was in New York very recently talking to various people at the UN, including, meeting with a very committed group of people in UNFPA who had done quite a lot of work with other potential contributors, a number of whom had stepped into the breach, as it were, to try to help fill this gap. We spoke quite a lot about the needs of the Pacific. They were very seized of those. We can certainly come back with the figures, but I just wanted to give you a sense of that, because they were very focused on it. They recognised that a number of countries had stepped up even as the US had stepped back. They were very pleased, as a number of others were, with the engagement that they had with Australia.

Senator MOORE: Are we still the largest provider in the Pacific in this space?

Ms Adamson : I am almost 100 per cent sure that must be right.

Senator MOORE: I would think so, because some other countries haven't put their money into those programs as yet.

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator MOORE: There is ongoing discussion, and also with Family Planning 2020, which is continuing to focus into that area. Minister, have there been any particular discussions with the department about this issue, in terms of the family planning process in our program and also particularly what we can do to further be involved in the step-up across the world in terms of what's happened with the cuts from the US?

Senator Payne: Across a range of areas. From last year we started a number of partnerships in this context: a four-year partnership with the UNFPA in the Pacific to grow access; a three-year partnership with UNFPA Supplies to provide commodities globally and in the Pacific; and new programming in the border regions, particularly of Afghanistan and Pakistan—so quite difficult and contested areas. I made some statements around gender equality, particularly, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva when I spoke there in February. So, there is a range of issues, yes.

Senator MOORE: Those commitments you have just spoken about are the same ones that Ms Rogers has given me the figures for?

Senator Payne: And since we have been on the Human Rights Council, in our first year alone we made 33 statements that had a primary focus on some of the key gender issues, which includes sexual reproductive health and rights, as well.

Senator MOORE: We have had an ongoing position where we have been giving money to UNFPA. I know it is in one of the books. Has that continued, or has it been increased?

Mr Wood : That's been maintained at $9.2 million.

Senator MOORE: Do we have any comparator about how that $9.2 million compares with other comparable nations? At one stage, we were one of the major contributors to the UNFPA because of other countries not focusing in that area. Can you take that on notice. Ms Adamson has just been to the UNFPA. There has been quite a dynamic dialogue between that organisation and Australia over many years in terms of our engagement. So I would like to get a snapshot about that compares.

Mr Wood : Yes.

Ms Adamson : And I think they have a very good website that sets out absolutely who does what, and what that means, and how that translates. So we will have a look and if we can get back to you this evening we will.

Senator MOORE: That same document, the one that is linked to the London family planning summit, looks at programs such as health policy, administrative management and medical services. It seems there has been a large increase in health policy and administrative management, particularly in our Pacific areas. Am I reading that right? Has that been part of a particular program? There were issues raised, particularly in the Pacific, about the level of administrative skills within health departments and the impact that that has across the whole way the system operates. I want to see whether that has been a particular program and where that focus has been. Has that been through work at the post with the health groups there or through some of the other agencies?

Ms Rogers : I think what you are describing is a change in our approach. We have moved away from funding specific illnesses or diseases and into more of a health assistance strengthening approach. So that would be consistent with that increase. Certainly it has become much clearer that the whole system needs to be strengthened in order to provide the full range of services to individual diseases and also primary health care and those other things that we seek to improve.

Senator MOORE: And that seems to be a move away from the heading of 'Basic health care' and to another area. So that is a change in approach.

Ms Rogers : I believe that would be the case—more into health system strengthening.

Senator MOORE: In that same document there seems to have been a significant reduction in South-East Asia and East Asia around family planning and reproductive health care. Have any programs been cut in South-East Asia?

Ms Rogers : I wouldn't be able to answer that question. We have already had the discussion about some of the decreases in the other places.

Senator MOORE: This is 2016-17 and 2017-18. We still don't have the impact of anything from 2018-19 into the future. In the historical aspect of 2016-17 and 2017-18, were family planning programs cut in that area? Can I put that on notice? I haven't got that before me.

Mr Wood : We will take that on notice.

Senator MOORE: Can I also get on notice how you define the difference between family planning and sexual and reproductive health. There must be a document somewhere that gives me what that means in terms of what comes where.

Ms Rogers : Are you referring to the DAC codes around this?

Senator MOORE: I've got the DAC codes. Is there something the department users in addition to the DAC codes? From the past, I think it is not just the DAC code on which you operate. I just want to make sure I have got that right. Also, you've given me information about the newest programs, which are the ones that have, particularly, come through UNFPA. Is it possible to tell me the allocations that have gone to UNFPAs, NGOs and managing contractors?

Ms Rogers : We should be able to provide you with that information.

CHAIR: I'll just put on record my disappointment at a media report headed 'Labor queries use of diplomatic residence.' There is a picture of Mr Hockey with the line:

Labor queries the listing of two firms at the official address of ambassador Joe Hockey in the US.

The first paragraph is:

Australia's ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, is the director of two businesses which have their registered address as the official residence in Washington DC, a parliamentary committee has heard.

You have to go five paragraphs down before they finally acknowledge what I had said about the two companies having registered offices in Sydney, but they did not correct the fact that the registered office was not in the United States. That sort of journalism is just appalling, and I would invite the journalist who wrote it and the company or the masthead that printed it and put it online to withdraw it. It's just disgraceful. It's untrue and they know to it be untrue. To find the facts you have to go about six paragraphs down. They besmirch Australia's reputation and Mr Hockey's reputation and do themselves no justice whatsoever.

Senator PATRICK: I have two lines of questioning, one on Mr Julian Assange and one on Mr Yang Hengjun. You might be aware that WikiLeaks tweeted today that Mr Assange has probably hours not days left in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Has that been passed to you at all?

Mr Todd : The department has been aware of the claims in the media and in the twittersphere. Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in various capitals around the world have been attempting throughout the course of today to ascertain the facts. At this stage, we have not been able to confirm that there are any efforts by the government of Ecuador to remove Mr Assange from the embassy.

Senator PATRICK: Would that contact have included the government of Ecuador?

Mr Todd : It has. We are awaiting a formal response from the government of Ecuador, but they have been approached in London and in Quito. We have spoken to other officials in London in a number of agencies to seek the best information that they have. The most recent information that I have is that there's no substantiation to that claim.

Senator PATRICK: Okay. In line with the philosopher Seneca—hoping for the best and planning for the worst—have you recently discussed with the UK government how Mr Assange would be handled if he were to leave the embassy?

Mr Todd : We have not had any recent detailed discussions with the UK government other than an assurance that they have given us that Mr Assange will be treated in accordance with UK law and due process.

Senator PATRICK: As I guess would be expected. In those conversations with the UK, have you talked about a potential extradition to the US?

Mr Todd : No, we haven't. The matter of an extradition to the US is a matter for the UK government and the US government. We don't have a role in that.

Senator PATRICK: I appreciate that they are sovereign matters, but, of course, Mr Assange is an Australian citizen. So, just in terms of consular assistance and our care for any Australian citizen not subject to criminal proceedings but perhaps in trouble, we might make representations and explore what potential circumstances may arise.

Mr Todd : We make it very clear, through our Consular Services Charter and in writing to consular clients, that the Australian government is not able to intervene in legal matters in other countries. So we actually don't have a role to exercise. We have no standing in those matters other than to seek an assurance that Mr Assange would be treated appropriately under UK law.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you very much for that. I'll move across to Mr Yang. In response to question on notice No. 118, concerning Mr Yang, who is detained in China, DFAT advised that DFAT consular officials had last visited Mr Yang on 26 February. Has there have been any further contact with Mr Yang since that time?

Mr Todd : Yes, there has. A further consular visit was conducted on 26 March.

Senator PATRICK: I hope he's well.

Mr Todd : He reported that he was well.

Senator PATRICK: Your answer also stated:

Australia has raised Mr Yang's case with China on multiple occasions both in Beijing and Canberra.

At what level has it been raised? Has it got to ministerial level, or is it still at departmental level?

Mr Fletcher : I think that in terms of seniority the most senior person has been our ambassador in Beijing.

Senator PATRICK: So, just to be clear—

Mr Fletcher : And the defence minister, Mr Pyne.

Senator PATRICK: Oh, okay—the defence minister. Can you perhaps give me the date on which he may have been in contact?

Mr Fletcher : He was visiting China in January and raised it with his counterpart.

Senator PATRICK: At what level did the ambassador raise the issue in China?

Mr Fletcher : The director-general of the division in the Chinese foreign ministry that deals with Australia and the United States.

Senator PATRICK: What's that like? A deputy secretary level?

Mr Fletcher : It's a first assistant secretary equivalent. The ambassador has sought meetings with other senior officials in China to discuss the case and has not so far had those meetings.

Senator PATRICK: Are they pending? You don't know that?

Mr Fletcher : They haven't been arranged, possibly because they know what we want to talk about.

Senator PATRICK: Fair enough. What access does Mr Yang have to legal representation?

Mr Fletcher : He has not yet met his lawyer. He has a lawyer, but they have not yet had a meeting.

Senator PATRICK: I don't profess to be expert in Chinese processes. Is that unusual?

Mr Fletcher : He's being investigated under the part of the criminal code dealing with endangering national security. For investigations which come under that category, the investigating authority has discretion about the timing of access to legal representation.

Senator PATRICK: Is there a limit under those arrangements or rules?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator PATRICK: So it could be indefinitely?

Mr Fletcher : As long as the investigation period is underway, yes.

Senator PATRICK: Is there any further clarity on the exact nature of the national security matter?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator PATRICK: Has there been any indication as to when the investigation might be concluded?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator PATRICK: But obviously you'll be continuing to make representation.

Mr Fletcher : When we make representations to China we are asking that the investigation be carried out expeditiously, transparently and with due process and that he gain access to legal representation. From our perspective, he ought to be seeing his lawyer, and we're asking for that.

Senator PATRICK: That sounds very appropriate. Thank you very much.

Senator MOORE: I just want to put something on the record. I want to acknowledge the minister and the department regarding the Human Rights Council on «Sri» «Lanka . We had a significant discussion at the last estimates, and I saw the statement that we made, and there has been a significant response from the community. I just wanted to put it on record, seeing as we talked about it at the last estimates.

CHAIR: That concludes the committee's examination of the department's non-trade programs for today, and I thank the minister, the secretary and officers for their attendance. We will take a short break until the arrival of Minister Birmingham.

Proceedings suspended from 20 : 36 to 20 : 40

CHAIR: I welcome Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, and officers from the department with responsibility for trade programs. Minister, tell us you don't have an opening statement, please!

Senator Birmingham: Good evening, Senator Abetz. I'm very happy to confirm that.

CHAIR: Thank you. And, Secretary, I am assuming similarly for you.

Ms Adamson : Similarly.

CHAIR: So it is over to questions. Senator Gallacher.

Senator GALLACHER: I want to go to the issue of coal trade with China. Mr Fletcher, I just want to put a couple of reported facts to you to see if they concur with your knowledge. It's reported that China imported 271 million tonnes of coal from January to November last year, with supplies running some 9.3 per cent above the same period in 2017, outstripping the total of 270 million tonnes imported for the whole of 2017. Is that your understanding?

Mr Fletcher : Yes, Senator.

Senator GALLACHER: And metallurgical coal was at $200 a tonne.

Mr Fletcher : I'll take your word on that.

Senator GALLACHER: And just before we had this impasse, so to speak, we were running at an accelerated rate of imports.

Mr Fletcher : China was importing coal during most of 2018 at an accelerated pace, yes.

Senator GALLACHER: Was there any underpinning knowledge or evidence about why that was? Or is that just the way the cycles work? There seems to have been a peak in coal prices at the same time that they were increasing.

Mr Fletcher : Yes. Perhaps I could give you a bit of context. China produces about 93 per cent of its coal. Chinese coal demand is met almost totally—

Senator GALLACHER: So our 270 million tonnes is part of the seven per cent they don't do themselves.

Mr Fletcher : Yes. The 271 million tonnes of imported coal represents about seven per cent of Chinese consumption.

Senator GALLACHER: Are we the only importer?

Mr Fletcher : We supply about a third by volume.

Senator GALLACHER: So, then, we would be less than seven per cent.

Mr Fletcher : What I'm saying is that China produces 93 per cent of the coal that it uses. So, at the margins, another per cent up or down looks like a big number to us. In an economy the size of China, from year to year they might import slightly more or slightly less; that's just the way it is. Ten years ago, we sold 500 million tonnes worth of coal to China, and we're now selling vastly much more than that because their demand has skyrocketed. But they will seek to meet as much as they can from domestic sources where possible. That's why they only import about seven per cent.

Senator GALLACHER: Obviously you've been across this issue for a long while. The import and export of coal is one of your areas of knowledge and expertise. When did the department first identify that there was a problem here?

Mr Fletcher : It was in November last year. The industry told us that they had evidence of a slowing of imports of coal into China. The monthly imports into China last year were about 22 million tonnes, on average, per month. In November that started to slow appreciably and in December it halved; there was only about 10 million tonnes imported, and we believe the Chinese were—

Senator GALLACHER: But in July of that year it was 29 million.

Mr Fletcher : Yes, it fluctuates. And there are different kinds of coal. You've got metallurgical coal and what we call thermal coal, and then you've got lignite, which is brown coal, mainly from Indonesia, which is not high quality and is just used for electricity generation.

Senator GALLACHER: So it was the industry that identified the issue to your department?

Mr Fletcher : Yes, they came to us—

Senator GALLACHER: Was that in China or here?

Mr Fletcher : It was here. The Minerals Council of Australia wrote to us and said there was an appreciable slowing through longer Customs clearance times at the dock. That was in November. In December the volume imported into China halved from the normal monthly figure. So it was clear that the authorities were managing their imports as they can. If domestic production is 93 per cent of what they use then it's very easy just to dial up or down imports to vary the total volumes.

Senator Birmingham: And then, of course, in January we saw a figure that eclipsed any monthly total from last year, so there are significant ups and downs.

Senator GALLACHER: Wouldn't it be more normal that the orders would dry up, rather than the physical ships not being unloaded?

Mr Fletcher : I think it's pretty easy for them just to slow things down as ships get unloaded and the coal gets cleared through the docks. As I think the minister said last time, the normal delays of around 20 to 25 days were being extended to 40 to 45 days. If you start doing that in November, it's not long before you get through the end of the year and then business is booming again.

Senator GALLACHER: You're the expert in this field. If you want to reduce your import of a product, you just have a bottleneck; 25 days goes to 50 and the problem's solved?

Mr Fletcher : That appears to be the approach that was taken, and over the last five years there have been a number of occasions where that has occurred. This winter was a bit warmer in the Northern Hemisphere for China, and so they perhaps didn't need as much as well.

Senator GALLACHER: Just a procedural point on that: once the department was aware, obviously the trade minister was informed and there was a time line for that. When did the minister first become aware?

Mr Fletcher : I believe it would've been in November. I think the letter from the Minerals Council of Australia was actually to the minister. I'll take that on notice; frankly, I'm not absolutely certain of that.

Senator GALLACHER: Was the department involved in going to the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister or anybody else, or was that left to the ministerial office?

Mr Fletcher : I'm sure there were discussions with the trade minister's office, and, because we've seen this sort of thing before, our message would've been: 'This is not something to be alarmed about. It is characteristic of the Chinese coal industry as a whole to have fluctuations in demand from time to time.'

Senator GALLACHER: So you wouldn't have proposed any solutions or taken any specific action to remedy it, other than to just explain?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator GALLACHER: Were you aware of anybody else's coal being in the same predicament?

Mr Fletcher : Yes. What was experienced last November was experienced by all suppliers of coal to China.

Senator GALLACHER: Were you aware at the same time of any other restrictions on Australian exports? Was it simply an issue with coal, which you see from cycle to cycle, or were other exports in the same way delayed at disembarkation?

Mr Fletcher : No. No other products were affected.

Senator GALLACHER: The European Union free trade agreement—we're going to get over this bloody fetta and prosecco and parmesan!

Senator Birmingham: If we wrap up quickly, I'm sure I can find some prosecco and some feta to share with you, if you like!

Senator GALLACHER: That's very generous! We raised these questions at the last estimates. It's certainly true that EU trade negotiators have provided us with a list of geographical indicators which they would seek to protect—is that correct?

Ms Burrows : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: And that includes feta?

Ms Burrows : It does include feta.

Senator GALLACHER: Does it include parmesan?

Ms Burrows : It includes Parmigiano-Reggiano. It doesn't specifically include parmesan, and we haven't yet negotiated what the treatment of terms in translation would be.

Senator GALLACHER: Is parmesan a product of—

Ms Burrows : It's a translation of 'Parmigiano-Reggiano'.

Senator GALLACHER: Oh, it's just a different translation. How do they deal with that?

Senator Birmingham: Officials will help Hansard later, or they can refer to Senator Fierravanti-Wells!

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I've never heard that translation before!

Senator GALLACHER: Is prosecco on the list?

Ms Burrows : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: And we ruled out pilsner, didn't we?

Ms Burrows : Pilsner is not on the list.

Senator GALLACHER: Did we get down to a list of GIs we would like to protect, or have we not done that?

Ms Burrows : We haven't done that. We're still in consultation with industry. You wouldn't need to do a free trade agreement to register GIs with the EU, if that's what we wish to do.

Senator GALLACHER: But it would be a legitimate negotiating tactic to, if you're faced with three GIs, come out with four?

Ms Burrows : Absolutely. We will be looking very closely at the possibility of Australian GIs, and we will consult closely with industry, because they would have to be involved for us to be able to do that.

Senator Birmingham: The final equation—whether or not to conclude successful negotiations on an agreement—is, of course, an assessment of the net benefit that we see from such an agreement. Market access issues and other matters, including GIs, all form part of the pros and cons in that analysis.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Is prosciutto still a problem?

Ms Burrows : Prosciutto on its own seems as if it will not be a problem.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: That's good.

Ms Burrows : But it is on the list as part of Prosciutto di Parma or Prosciutto Toscano. So, again, we have negotiations to do to see whether they want to protect the whole names or parts of the names, and we're not at that stage yet.

Senator GALLACHER: Can we get a snapshot of any public consultation that would happen if there were to be some GIs in the negotiation process? Would you advertise for something that needs to be protected or do we know it?

Ms Burrows : The minister has not yet made a decision to go ahead with this, but anything that we do would involve very close consultation with affected industries and public information. The minister has said that, if industry raises strong and justified concerns, we would defend those very robustly.

Senator Birmingham: There's a type of process that is analogous to what New Zealand is doing at present, which is to go through a public objections process to present a list—it may or may not be the full list that the EU has provided—and to simply invite submissions in relation to that for parties to make a case as to why they should not be part of any GI arrangements. If we or any other government were to go down that path, that would not and should not be interpreted as suggesting that government was prima facie going to include those terms; it is simply a consultation process, as you say. As I've said before, the net terms of the overall agreement are what matters, but, of course, where Australian producers have a strong interest in a particular term, then I would expect us to put up a mighty defence of that term.

Senator GALLACHER: Is this a new, emerging area of concern in trade agreements or have we dealt with it elsewhere?

Ms Burrows : This would be the first time that we would have dealt with it in a free trade agreement, should we go ahead, subject to a ministerial decision. But it is absolutely commonplace in all the EU's free trade agreements.

Senator GALLACHER: How do we get out of the champagne issue?

Senator Birmingham: And it does appear in the EU wine agreement, in a form.

Senator GALLACHER: We don't use 'champagne' anymore. How did that come about? Was that a trade—

Ms Burrows : That was part of a wine agreement that was negotiated bilaterally—

Senator GALLACHER: A separate agreement?

Ms Burrows : completely separately. It was first negotiated in the early 1990s and then revised with the full involvement of our industry in the early 2000s.

Senator GALLACHER: That was just access into France, presumably.

Ms Burrows : Sorry, I didn't catch that.

Senator GALLACHER: It was Australian wine gaining access—

Ms Burrows : Yes, absolutely right.

Senator GALLACHER: But there was more to be gained by it than protecting champagne.

Ms Burrows : The wine industry were very closely engaged because they saw benefits coming from it in terms of access.

Senator GALLACHER: Is that a template going forward?

Ms Burrows : We would have to talk to industry about what they want to do—whether they see it as a template or not.

Senator GALLACHER: It's a successful outcome, isn't it, for both?

Senator Birmingham: It's a useful example in one sense, because what the EU has successfully done in a range of other markets is to protect a number of those terms, such as 'champagne', most notably, which means that Australian producers would not be able in those other countries to potentially sell their wine as a champagne. Even if the Australian industry at that time had said, 'No deal,' and not struck an agreement with the EU, they may have found that that constrained their ability to export under the types of terms they use in Australia into those other markets. Whether that carries through into other sectors is, of course, a matter to be assessed sector by sector, case by case.

Senator GALLACHER: What's the department's assessment? Is this a nine-out-of-10 issue or a one-out-of-10 issue, or is it just a peripheral issue?

Ms Burrows : This is a significant issue in the negotiations in the sense that the EU are very keen that for them it is an essential part of the FTA negotiations. We have said that we will only consider it if at the end of the negotiations the outcomes from the negotiations, including on market access overall, are great enough for us to consider it. This will be something that will take up the whole time of the negotiations, however long that may be.

Senator GALLACHER: Thank you very much for that. I will go to RCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Mr Baxter, when will the negotiations for the RCEP be concluded?

Mr Baxter : Good evening, Senator. Leaders of RCEP countries met in November last year and indicated that they wanted RCEP negotiations to be concluded this year.

Senator GALLACHER: Was there a provisional date for the signing of any such agreement set?

Mr Baxter : They called for the conclusion of negotiations this year.

Senator GALLACHER: Will the agreement include ISDS provisions?

Mr Baxter : I think it's fair to say that the inclusion of provisions on investor-state dispute settlement is a matter that's still under active discussion in the negotiations.

Senator GALLACHER: What have we done with respect to labour market testing for contractual service suppliers? The secondary question is: if that's contained in the Japanese economic partnership agreement or the Korean free trade agreement, how do they blend together? Which one takes primacy?

Mr Baxter : Senator, as you've indicated yourself, we already have commitments to waive labour market testing as a result of free trade agreements we've concluded with a number of RCEP parties. The question of whether we will offer to waive labour market testing in relation to the RCEP agreement is one that is still under consideration and therefore not one I am at liberty to discuss.

Senator GALLACHER: Excellent. Does the agreement include an enforceable labour chapter?

Mr Baxter : The agreement will not include a labour chapter of any description.

Senator GALLACHER: Does the agreement include an environment chapter?

Mr Baxter : No, it will not.

Senator GALLACHER: Has Australia agreed to give greater concessions on procurements than currently exist in existing agreements?

Mr Baxter : The agreement will include a chapter on government procurement, but it will not include market access commitments by any RCEP party.

Senator GALLACHER: Excellent. Thanks very much for that. If we could go to beef trade with China.

Ms Adamson : While my colleague is coming to answer questions about beef trade with China, Senator Gallacher, you asked a few minutes ago about when the Minerals Council of Australia wrote in November last year. As Mr Fletcher said—and he could say this himself, but I'm halfway through it—the MCA wrote to DFAT and to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science on 16 November. That was a letter to the department, not, in fact, to the minister.

Senator GALLACHER: So on 16 November we had the ministers for trade and resources and the Prime Minister?

Ms Adamson : DFAT and DIIS, so Industry, and Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Senator GALLACHER: Thank you for that. Where are we at, Mr Fletcher, with the commitment to review the memorandum of understanding on the investment facilitation arrangements of ChAFTA? Is it further advanced?

Mr Fletcher : That's handled by my colleague who is rapidly approaching the table.

Mr Mercer : The review of the investment facilitation arrangements MOU which sits beside ChAFTA commenced with a meeting in Canberra in October 2017.

Senator GALLACHER: How is it progressing?

Mr Mercer : As I explained at the last estimates session—

Senator GALLACHER: I've got 10 questions and they're pretty straightforward. So you had October 2017?

Mr Mercer : That's the one and only meeting that has been held to date.

Senator GALLACHER: There haven't been any subsequent meetings?

Mr Mercer : That's right.

Senator GALLACHER: There wasn't a more recent meeting? What progress has there been on the review since the meeting?

Mr Mercer : The only exchange that we've had with China is in trying to schedule another meeting.

Senator GALLACHER: So we're not likely to see the review concluded in the short term?

Mr Mercer : That's correct.

Senator GALLACHER: Was it March 2017 that the commitment was signed—the agreement to review to increase market access?

Mr Mercer : The IFA MOU doesn't deal with market access. It's an arrangement which relates to the movement of people. What was signed in March 2017 in the context of the visit by Premier Li was an understanding between the former trade minister, Mr Ciobo, and his Chinese counterpart to launch the review process.

Senator GALLACHER: So before that meeting and that agreement how many companies could export beef to China?

Mr Mercer : I'll hand to Mr Fletcher.

Mr Fletcher : We've answered this question before. The same number of establishments as previously. I have given you the number. There are 40-something establishments.

Senator GALLACHER: And post the meeting there has not been any improvement?

Mr Fletcher : That has not changed.

Senator GALLACHER: So basically no Australian businesses have exported beef that couldn't already do it?

Mr Fletcher : That's correct.

Senator GALLACHER: It's a stalemate. So, despite the minister's best efforts, we haven't been able to increase our beef exports?

Mr Fletcher : Our beef exports have increased quite well.

Senator GALLACHER: Under this process?

Mr Fletcher : The number of establishments has not changed, but the volume of trade has increased.

Senator GALLACHER: Is any of this a breach of parts of ChAFTA?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator GALLACHER: I can probably think of a few more questions.

CHAIR: Don't bother.

Senator GALLACHER: I'm finished.

CHAIR: All right. Minister, secretary and department officials, thank you all very much. I thank the secretariat for their assistance.

Committee adjourned at 21:04