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

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


CHAIR: I welcome you, Minister Payne, in your new manifestation as Minister for Foreign Affairs; you're no longer representing but are fully-fledged. Do you have an opening statement?

Senator Payne: Thank you. No, I don't have an opening statement.

CHAIR: Secretary Frances Adamson, welcome. Do you have an opening statement?

Ms Adamson : Thank you. No, I don't.

CHAIR: In that case, we'll move to questions.

Senator WONG: Minister, in March Mr Neuhaus, an officer from DFAT, told this committee:

Our position on Jerusalem, as you know, is that it that needs to be left in the final negotiations for what we hope will be the two-state solution, which Australia has supported over the years and continues to support.

Ms Bishop, the former minister, said in June:

… the Australian government will not be moving our embassy to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a final status issue and we have maintained that position for decades …

Obviously the government has changed its position since Ms Bishop said that in June. When did you first became aware that Mr Morrison was considering altering this longstanding bipartisan foreign policy position?

Senator Payne: The Prime Minister has indicated that there are a number of aspects of Middle East policy—one of which you have referred to—that, as the new Prime Minister, he considers it appropriate and desirable for the government to review without prejudice. A legitimate question for a government to examine are the matters before us. He has not indicated a change of policy, but two issues in particular that he wishes to review. He has said on the public record since he became Prime Minister that a number of these issues have been raised with him and that he had come to a view that he wished to examine them. That is predicated on Australia's strong and continuing support for a two-state solution and on a desire to see progress in that process and, as some would say, process in that as well. The government is of the view that we are at somewhat of a stalemate, and his considerations indicate to him that it is appropriate for Australia to have this discussion. I'm not going to go into the details of my conversations with the Prime Minister, as you would expect, but he has been thinking about this matter for some time.

Senator WONG: When did you, as Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, first become aware that Australia's Prime Minister was looking to review and reconsider a position that Australia has held for decades?

Senator Payne: In relation to the specific making of the announcement—

Senator WONG: That's not my question. When did you become aware—

Senator Payne: Perhaps I could finish my sentence.

Senator WONG: Sure; but it wasn't my question.

Senator Payne: In relation to the specific making of the announcement, I discussed the matter with the Prime Minister on the Sunday. It was obviously discussed further—as you've asked my colleagues and other officials—on the Monday. I participated in a press conference with the Prime Minister on the Tuesday.

Senator WONG: Let's just get this chronology. The announcement is made on Tuesday the 16th. Media are briefed on Monday the 15th, at some point later in that day, and you had a discussion with the Prime Minister on Sunday the 14th?

Senator Payne: Correct.

Senator WONG: Was that here in Canberra or by telephone?

Senator Payne: By telephone.

Senator WONG: Was that the first occasion on which you became aware that Mr Morrison was looking to reconsider these two longstanding positions?

Senator Payne: I was aware that the Prime Minister was being briefed across a range of Middle East policy issues. I was aware that the Prime Minister had had issues raised with him in the course of his taking up the role of Prime Minister, but that was our first specific discussion on the specific issue, yes.

Senator WONG: Did you express concern to him?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to go into the details of my conversations with the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: You and I are on different sides, Senator Payne, but you've generally been a sensible person, from what I've observed over many years. I can't imagine that you would want to change a decades-long bipartisan foreign policy position from a phone call with the Prime Minister on the Sunday.

CHAIR: Your imagination is interesting, Senator, but can you ask a question, please? I don't think the minister has to tell us about her imagination. It would be spooky if she did.

Senator WONG: Did it concern you that Mr Morrison was looking to change Australia's decades-long foreign policy position?

Senator Payne: Senator, you've kindly referred to my somewhat lengthy parliamentary career—

Senator WONG: I wasn't doing so pejoratively; I've been here a long time, too.

Senator Payne: I am of the view that governments are entitled to review policy positions, as one would expect. That goes across the breadth of portfolio arrangements and not just this policy area we're working on today in foreign affairs. Prime ministers, recently appointed, have an obligation to examine the policy positions taken by the government they lead and to determine that they are, in their assessment, in Australia's national interest and fit for purpose. The Prime Minister has announced a review of two aspects of Middle East policy—a review, I emphasise; not a decision—that will take into account a range of perspectives on the subject, I am confident, and enable the government to better inform itself.

Senator WONG: But you didn't just review it; you stood up at a press conference with the Prime Minister of Australia and announced that you were reconsidering foreign policy positions which not only had been held for a long time but which Mr Morrison, Ms Bishop and your government have defended.

Senator Payne: They were the positions of the government at that point. Prime Minister Morrison is the new Prime Minister in this government. As the new Prime Minister, across a range of portfolio areas—as I'm sure has been explored across every portfolio that's come before Estimates in this last week—policy positions will be reviewed. This is one of them.

Senator WONG: Let's go back to Sunday. Did he call you or did you call him?

Senator Payne: The Prime Minister telephoned me.

Senator WONG: Before that call, were you aware that he was looking to make an announcement on the following Tuesday about a review in consideration of these longstanding positions?

Senator Payne: Not specifically, no.

Senator WONG: When did you become aware of that?

Senator Payne: During my telephone conversation with the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: So he told you that he was going to announce it?

Senator Payne: No. The Prime Minister said—and I am not going to go into the detail of that conversation—that these were issues he wanted to examine.

Senator WONG: And you were aware they were for announcement?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to go into any further details of the conversation.

Senator WONG: Did he talk to you about the fact that this was important for Wentworth?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to go into the details of the conversation.

Senator WONG: That should be denied.

Senator Payne: I don't need to deny what I've already said on the public record. I have said on the public record that one of the issues was that Australia was expected to participate in a vote on the chairmanship of the G77 that week. That was a specific issue which the Prime Minister wanted addressed in a timely way to ensure that Australia was in a position to vote in the way that it did.

Senator WONG: Did the Wentworth by-election figure in your conversation with the Prime Minister on Sunday?

Senator Payne: I have made very clear that the impetus for the discussion and the timing of the discussion relate to the vote on the G77.

Senator WONG: Did the Wentworth by-election figure in your discussion?

Senator Payne: Senator, I, no more than you, intend to detail the aspects of my conversations with my Prime Minister. You've never done it and I don't intend to.

Senator WONG: When you had the discussion with the Prime Minister, did you discuss the process leading up to the announcement, and what internal decision-making process would occur?

Senator Payne: The Prime Minister indicated that he would discuss the matter with senior colleagues, including members of the National Security Committee and other colleagues—the discussions would take place in that way. It was also—as Senator Cormann indicated to you in estimates earlier in the week—discussed with the members of the leadership group.

Senator WONG: Can I clarify here? Between this phone call and the phone call from the Prime Minister's office to PM&C—I think it was Mr Hayhurst on the Monday; I'll come back to you shortly, Ms Adamson—you were not advised that the Prime Minister was considering this position?

Senator Payne: Are you speaking to me or to—

Senator WONG: To Ms Adamson, the Secretary.

Ms Adamson : I'm sorry, Senator. I thought you said that you'd come back to me—

Senator WONG: I'll come back to you in more detail on this; I just want to confirm this for the purposes of setting out this timeline. We know from other estimates that the first that Prime Minister and Cabinet knew about this very substantive shift in foreign policy was when Mr Hayhurst, the First Assistant Secretary International in PM&C, received a phone call from the Prime Minister's office. His evidence is that he then spoke to colleagues and people at DFAT. I think he said you were one of them; is that correct?

Ms Adamson : Yes, that is correct.

Senator WONG: I want to confirm that that phone call occurred at some point on Monday, around the middle of the day?

Ms Adamson : I think I spoke to Mr Hayhurst at about 1.30.

Senator WONG: So early afternoon?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Can you confirm that that was the first time you became aware that the government was proposing to reconsider and review these two foreign policy positions: the siting of the embassy and the Iran nuclear arrangement?

Ms Adamson : No. The foreign minister's chief of staff called me at about one o'clock.

Senator WONG: One o'clock on that day?

Ms Adamson : Shortly after one, yes.

Senator WONG: But DFAT wasn't part of the process that the minister has flagged occurred as between her conversation with the Prime Minister and his bilateral conversations with ministers and a meeting that we know about of the leadership group. There was no DFAT involvement in that decision-making process?

Ms Adamson : That's correct.

Senator WONG: Senator Payne, the Prime Minister, I think was your evidence, told you he would then consult with other cabinet colleagues.

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: And you understand that to be him making phone calls or having conversations bilaterally with them?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: There was no formal meeting to discuss this until the leadership group meeting on the Monday morning?

Senator Payne: Not as far as I'm aware.

Senator WONG: Are you a member of the leadership group?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: Who else is on that leadership group?

Senator Payne: The leaders of the parties, as you would be aware, and the leaders of both chambers.

Senator WONG: Were any papers prepared for that meeting in relation to this decision?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to go into the details of the material. It was a discussion amongst the members of the leadership group.

Senator WONG: But we can infer from the fact that Ms Adamson wasn't even aware of the decision until 1.30 that afternoon, which was after the decision had been taken by the leadership group, that there was no brief from DFAT?

Senator Payne: That's correct.

Senator WONG: And there was no brief from PM&C?

Senator Payne: I can't comment on that.

Senator WONG: You were in the room.

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: Was there a brief from—

Senator Payne: I'm not going to go into the details. I presume that you've asked PM&C that, anyway.

Senator WONG: Why can't you just tell us? Was there a paper from the department, or not?

Senator Payne: The discussion was between cabinet colleagues and the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: In other words, just at a political level?

Senator Payne: It was not with officials.

Senator WONG: Senator Payne, you are known to be thorough and your attention to process is generally perceived as very good. Were you not concerned that a decision like this was being made at a leadership group level without the benefit of advice from departments?

Senator Payne: Governments have every right to review matters of policy across any portfolio they wish. They do so, as a matter of course, regularly. New prime ministers and new leaders do that, as you would have experienced yourself.

Senator WONG: Did you express concern that such a position would be taken without proper consideration of advice and consequences?

Senator Payne: I've said that I'm not going to go into the details of my conversations with either the Prime Minister or my colleagues.

Senator WONG: It seems extraordinary that something like this would be discussed at a political level without any advice from Ms Adamson or Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator Payne: As you know from your discussions with Prime Minister and Cabinet and as Ms Adamson has just said, following those discussions between the Prime Minister and his colleagues there were then communications with relevant departments.

Senator WONG: There was one communication and now there were two, because Secretary Adamson has given evidence about it. We know that there was a phone call to the First Assistant Secretary of PM&C who then advised colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Ms Adamson was advised by this foreign affairs minister's chief of staff at 1.30.

Ms Adamson : No, at one o'clock. The first news came from the minister's chief of staff.

Senator WONG: I'm sorry?

Ms Adamson : The first news came from the minister's chief of staff.

Senator WONG: Then the 1.30 call from Mr Hayhurst.

Ms Adamson : As I recall it, I rang Mr Hayhurst. I think we were probably both trying to catch each other but I think I initiated the call.

Senator Payne: I think, Senator, you had evidence yesterday from Defence in relation to communications with them.

Senator WONG: Yes. I will go to that. Leaving aside the merit of the position—and I will come back to that because there is a policy rationale to the decision that's being held but DFAT have given evidence that public statements have been made which really go against the Prime Minister's logic; can we just leave that aside for one moment—obviously a decision like this, notwithstanding consideration and review, could have and demonstrably has had an effect in terms of other bilateral relations. Obviously handling that is important. Did the leadership group discuss or consider how to manage this announcement in terms of its effect on Australia's relations with other nations—for example, Indonesia?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to go into the details of my conversations with the Prime Minister—

Senator WONG: But did you consider it?

Senator Payne: and members of the leadership group. But self-evidently, given that communications were later taken up with neighbouring countries, partners, allies and the international community more broadly, yes, those matters were considered.

Senator WONG: Those matters were considered.

Senator Payne: I said I'm not going to go into the details of my discussions—

Senator WONG: No, that's okay.

Senator Payne: But regarding the activities later in relation to informing others—neighbours, partners, allies and other members of the international community—those issues were addressed.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, at the point of the phone call at one o'clock from the minister's chief of staff, were you advised when the decision would be made public?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: What were you advised?

Ms Adamson : I was advised that the government was expecting to make an announcement the following day.

Senator WONG: Were you aware at that time that media were being briefed on that Monday?

Ms Adamson : I was not aware in any detail of who was going to be briefed. But yes, there was an expectation, as there often is with government announcements, that media would be briefed. But DFAT was not central to that consideration.

Senator WONG: I didn't expect that you would be, because quite clearly it was done at the political level. But you used the passive voice then. I actually just want to know: was that because you knew that they would pre-brief or because you were told there would be media briefed on that Monday?

Ms Adamson : I was told that there would be a media brief on that Monday.

Senator WONG: By the chief of staff—

Ms Adamson : Yes—

Senator WONG: or by—

Ms Adamson : I had a number of conversations with the Chief of Staff of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and with the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff. In the course of those conversations, I became aware that there would likely be, or that we needed to ensure that there was, preparation undertaken for the announcement the next day and that that might include the media.

Senator WONG: Did your staff brief the media, Senator Payne?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator WONG: Who briefed the media?

Senator Payne: I understand that those matters were dealt with by the Prime Minister's office.

Senator WONG: The Prime Minister decides to change the position and the Prime Minister's office brief the media. Where is the foreign minister in this?

Senator Payne: The Prime Minister announced a review. You can continue to say the Prime Minister has changed the position, but what the Prime Minister has announced is a review—

Senator WONG: I think Indonesia reckons that we've changed the position, don't you reckon? I reckon that the Indonesians think we've changed the position.

CHAIR: Allow the minister to finish, please, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: It is—

CHAIR: Senator Wong, can the minister please finish her answer?

Senator Payne: Let me reiterate that what the Prime Minister has announced is a review of a number of aspects of this area of policy, not a change of position. Governments are entitled to review policy, Senator, as you are well aware.

Senator WONG: You said—

Senator Payne: They are entitled to have a conversation and they are entitled to take soundings or to engage in the discourse on key aspects of policy, and that is what the Prime Minister wants to do.

Senator WONG: Yes, they are, but they really are not entitled to publicly change a foreign policy position simply for the purposes of a by-election without a proper cabinet process, without proper advice and having a situation where Australia's ADF commanders are told after the media about a change of position which is relevant to force protection.

CHAIR: Is there a question?

Senator WONG: They're not entitled to do that; that's true.

Senator Payne: I reject that assertion.

CHAIR: Is there a question?

Senator Payne: I reject the assertion that it is a change of policy. It is a review.

Senator WONG: How do you reckon that's gone with, for example, the Prime Minister of Indonesia? Has that argument been a successful argument? 'You don't need to worry about this. It's just a review.'

Senator Payne: As you are aware—again, because I have made statements about this on the public record—I have had a very constructive conversation with Foreign Minister Marsudi, whom I've known for some time, and indicated to her the status of this process as a review and indicated to her that we would welcome hearing the views of both Foreign Minister Marsudi and her government.

Senator WONG: Did you consider simply doing the review without an announcement on the Tuesday?

Senator Payne: Actually, that's a very interesting question from you because the Prime Minister said in his media conference, at which I was present—and of which I'm sure you've read the transcript—that he is of the view that the Australian people are entitled to know what their Prime Minister thinks and that he wanted to be very clear about the fact that he thinks there is a stalemate, if you like, in progress towards a two-state solution, that there had been some discussion of a way in which these issues could be considered, including by Australia's former Ambassador to Israel, and that he thought that they merited a review. So he has indicated that he thinks the Australian people are more than entitled to know what he thinks. In fact, he's obliged to tell them what he thinks.

Senator WONG: The Australian people are also entitled to good government. Do you think this process has been good government?

Senator Payne: Yes. The Prime Minister has indicated that he wishes this review to be undertaken. He's been open. He's been transparent. He has engaged agencies to progress the reviews and that is what is now underway.

Senator WONG: You say that the leadership group did consider implications for Australia's other relationships—

Senator Payne: I said I would not go into the details of the discussions with the leadership group.

Senator WONG: The matter was considered, I think you said. I'm not going to go back to that political conversation inside the leadership group at this point but I'm interested to know what the government determined to do to manage the communication of this decision to other nations.

Senator Payne: Through the normal processes—

Senator WONG: What were they?

Senator Payne: to advise ambassadors in Australia—for posts to advise relevant officials in country and for those conversations to be had.

Senator WONG: Where there are significant changes to foreign policy? Let's just leave aside the review and consideration of defence, which you've run valiantly a few times this morning, but I think it is self-evident from the reaction that this was a significant decision. DFAT usually is pretty good; it puts a plan in place around who gets talked to, making sure people get briefed—a pre-briefing pre-announcement to try and manage any fallout, to manage the reaction—and they do so very professionally. Was that initiated? Was that sort of—

Ms Adamson : Yes, it was.

Senator WONG: At what time did that start to be initiated—

Ms Adamson : Immediately.

Senator WONG: and what was it?

Ms Adamson : Immediately.

Senator WONG: What did you do?

Ms Adamson : After the conversations with the minister's chief of staff and with Mr Hayhurst I called my Middle East team together and immediately advised them of the government's decision, and the DFAT implementation plan, as you've described it, in accordance with normal processes, swang into action.

Senator WONG: At what time was that?

Ms Adamson : Immediately after I'd finished speaking to Mr Hayhurst—so, very shortly after 1.30.

Senator WONG: Some time after 1.30. And what was that plan?

Mr Sheehan : After the secretary spoke with me and the Middle East team we took certain actions. One was to provide written input to PM&C in respect of giving effect to the anticipated announcement. And another was to consider briefings of foreign countries in relation to that. A proposal was put forward to PM&C that was subsequently agreed and then it was carried out through the course of that evening and the next day.

Senator WONG: So you prepared written input, written advice, giving effect to the decision. Is that the first advice of that sort you prepared?

Mr Sheehan : After advice from the secretary, that material input was prepared in respect of how to give effect to the anticipated announcement, and that was provided to PM&C. That was the first such advice.

Senator WONG: About what time was that?

Mr Sheehan : Between 3.15 and 3.30, around there.

Senator WONG: This is the first written advice to government about this decision, after the decision was taken by the leadership group?

Mr Sheehan : This was the first advice that we provided to PM&C in respect of how to give effect to the anticipated announcement.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, had you previously provided advice to government about the prospect of a review?

Ms Adamson : Not in relation to a review specifically.

Senator WONG: So a decision taken by the leadership group, not by cabinet and no advice from DFAT. Fantastic; good government! Could we go to the second aspect of your evidence, Mr Sheehan, which is the proposal re briefing other nations. I assume that included, 'This is whom we should talk to and who should be responsible for what.' Correct?

Mr Sheehan : We provided advice on which countries. We did not go into detail about who should be doing the briefing. That, we felt, was a matter for DFAT to manage.

Senator WONG: You are DFAT.

Mr Sheehan : Yes.

Ms Adamson : Providing advice to PM&C.

Mr Sheehan : Correct. I'm rather new to the department—that's true—but I'm aware that I'm speaking about our department.

Senator WONG: You provided advice to PM&C about which countries should be briefed. Was there an expectation that PM&C would initiate any of that outreach—shall we call it that—or was that entirely the remit of DFAT?

Mr Sheehan : No. It was our expectation that we would do that. Obviously they would advise otherwise, if necessary.

Senator WONG: I'm sorry, I missed the last part of what you said.

Mr Sheehan : They would have advised otherwise, if they wished to.

Ms Adamson : Can I just be clear on that. We were specifically asked by the foreign minister's chief of staff—and that was clear also from my discussion with Mr Hayhurst—that DFAT should lead on the advice of foreign governments.

Senator WONG: Tell me when that started, the DFAT advising of foreign governments. I'd like to know how that was rolled out, please.

Mr Sheehan : That began on the evening of 15 October.

Senator WONG: That's the Monday evening?

Mr Sheehan : Yes.

Senator WONG: That's the first time we start outreaching about this decision?

Mr Sheehan : To my knowledge, that is correct, yes.

Senator WONG: And who did what?

Mr Sheehan : Without going into details of which countries specifically—

Senator WONG: I think, given the publicity around this, it would be good for Australians to know that we actually did speak to people. Was the post in Jakarta advised? Did they handle outreach in Jakarta? Can you please take me through which nations were advised and whether or not it was done by DFAT Canberra or in country.

Mr Sheehan : I would suggest that I explain the process and then get to the issue of Indonesia specifically. We considered a number of countries and which countries should be briefed in advance and then—

Senator WONG: How many countries were intended to be briefed in advance?

Mr Sheehan : A significant number, but I would prefer not to go into precise detail as to exactly how many.

Senator WONG: I'm sorry, but this is Senate estimates and that is not a PII claim. I'm asking you: which countries were on the list to be briefed ahead of the announcement?

Ms Adamson : We determined that a range of countries needed to be advised and that list was drawn up in consultation within the department and shared more widely. As you know, and as you said in your earlier question, DFAT's role is often to implement a government decision or to advise. We did that in the normal way, paying attention—

Senator WONG: Sure. I want to know which countries were on the list for pre-briefing.

Ms Adamson : I'm sure you can understand that, regarding the order of countries—

Senator WONG: I will—

Ms Adamson : and which countries—

Senator Payne: Senator, could you let the secretary finish, please?

Ms Adamson : we would rather not go into detail. But I think we can help you broadly—

Senator WONG: No. I am maintaining my request for that. I am not prepared to have a situation where the government can trash a couple of longstanding foreign policy decisions without—

CHAIR: Enough of the editorialising.

Senator WONG: I'll try to change the verb, Senator Abetz, just for you—alter, without cabinet decision, and then be told that the Australian people can't be told which countries you considered needed to be pre-briefed because you're worried about the effect on, what, foreign relations?

Ms Adamson : No. Could I say that all countries which we determined had an interest in this matter were pre-briefed, either on the evening or in the course of the day. You can be assured that DFAT did a very thorough job of ensuring—both through heads of mission here in Canberra and through our overseas posts—that notification of the government's expected decision was given to all countries with an interest.

Senator WONG: I'm maintaining my request for which countries.

CHAIR: Secretary, would you like to take that question on notice and consider it, because I could imagine that there would be very serious sensitivities with some of these matters.

Senator WONG: She's hasn't indicated any of them, Chair. If there's a PII claim, she is obliged to refer it to the minister, the minister is obliged to take it and the Senate is entitled to consider it.

CHAIR: That is why I have suggested taking it on notice—so that due consideration can be given to all of those matters.

Ms Adamson : Thank you, Chair.

Senator WONG: Is there a PII claim?

Ms Adamson : I will take the question on notice.

Senator WONG: Under the standing orders, you have to refer it—

Ms Adamson : I'm aware of the rules, Senator.

Senator WONG: Then why don't you follow them?

Ms Adamson : Because I would like to take the question on notice.

CHAIR: Excuse me. As chair, I will determine whether or not rules are being followed.

Senator WONG: It's actually a matter for the Senate, Chair. How many countries were pre-briefed?

CHAIR: That's been taken on notice, Senator.

Senator WONG: No; the list of countries. How many were pre-briefed?

Ms Adamson : We can give you an approximate number.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Mr Sheehan : A significant number of countries were pre-briefed.

Senator WONG: No. Could we just get out of the adjectives and get into some nominal figures, please?

Mr Sheehan : Might I say that between 10 and 20 were pre-briefed.

Senator WONG: That was over the period of the night and the morning?

Mr Sheehan : Yes, over the period of the night and the morning. I need to be a bit careful about that because, where briefings occurred overseas, obviously there are different time zones, but essentially they were done the previous evening.

Senator WONG: How many briefings occurred as between someone in DFAT Canberra, or were they all done in country?

Mr Sheehan : There were a significant number done from DFAT Canberra; that was the majority of the pre-briefings.

Senator WONG: Was that because of the shortness of time?

Mr Sheehan : That was considered to be the appropriate way to do it.

Ms Adamson : Perhaps I could just add here—because it goes to the thoroughness with which we do these things—that we would typically brief embassies here in Canberra but also ensure, again taking into account time zones, that our own posts are properly briefed, that they're aware of what conversations have been had here and that they also have those conversations with governments to which they're accredited. So we will often adopt an approach—

Senator WONG: You do both, yes.

Ms Adamson : that involves both.

Senator WONG: So most of them were done in Canberra. Of the 10 to 20, how many were done in Canberra?

Mr Sheehan : I'd have to check the exact numbers.

Senator WONG: Okay. I'd like to know that. I'd also like to know how many posts had the opportunity to pre-brief this decision before it was made public.

Ms Adamson : We can take that on notice.

Mr Sheehan : I'll have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, you were aware that the media were being pre-briefed.

Ms Adamson : I was aware that consideration was being given to a media pre-brief.

Senator WONG: I'm sorry; I thought your evidence earlier was that the chief of staff had made it clear to you that that was happening.

Ms Adamson : Made it clear to me that a media pre-brief might happen. I think that's what I said.

Senator WONG: The media were obviously briefed later at some point on the Monday because this appeared online overnight and was in the papers in the morning.

Ms Adamson : It did.

Senator WONG: Is it good practice for media to be briefed before some of our friends, allies and partners in the region are briefed?

CHAIR: That is asking for an opinion on whether it's good or bad practice.

Senator WONG: Would you prefer that DFAT had the opportunity to pre-brief before the media were briefed?

Ms Adamson : I think we were able to have contact, either through embassies here in Canberra or through our overseas missions. I had no concerns about the sequencing of the timing at that point because we were able to ensure that briefings were conducted. We have received, to add to that, no complaints from any government that they were not briefed in advance of the media.

Senator WONG: It's a pity that you didn't follow the example of the CDF in the answer to that question, Ms Adamson. Minister, when did you first turn your mind to the need to pre-brief other nations?

Senator Payne: That's a normal part of the considerations.

Senator WONG: When did you first turn your mind to it; was it on the Sunday or was it on the Monday?

Senator Payne: In a formal sense or in—

Senator WONG: No. When did you first turn your mind to the need to pre-brief other nations about the announcement?

Senator Payne: Obviously that would be part of the consideration of any announcement of this nature, once the issue has been discussed.

Senator WONG: When the Prime Minister spoke to you on the Sunday?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me then why there was no contact made between your office and DFAT flagging, for example, to Secretary Adamson that there was a possibility this would occur?

Senator Payne: Because the Prime Minister was intending to pursue a discussion in the next day and it was not appropriate to do so at that point.

Senator WONG: So you didn't speak to your department at any point after this first was flagged with you before the leadership group meeting?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator WONG: You didn't think it might be useful to get some advice from them about why it wasn't a good idea or why it was a good idea?

Senator Payne: The government was discussing the options of reviewing the aspects of the policy, as we have been talking about this morning. It was a discussion between members of the government and that's where it stayed at that point. After the Prime Minister had furthered his consultations and there was an agreement on a way forward, the matter was pursued further.

Senator WONG: You didn't think it might be useful to give them a heads up so that they could get things in place and arrange a meeting?

Senator Payne: As you well understand, discussions happen between members of governments, which are discussions held at that level. Once the determination was made in relation to how this would be progressed, matters were taken up with appropriate officials.

Senator WONG: Did you lobby other colleagues, after the Prime Minister's call, to try and prevent the change in position?

Senator Payne: I am not going to go into the details of my conversations with my colleagues.

Senator WONG: Did you have any contact with other colleagues as between the discussion with Mr Morrison and the Monday morning leadership group?

Senator Payne: I talk to my colleagues all the time, but I am not going to go into the details of my discussions with my colleagues with you.

Senator WONG: I hope you fought to try to hold the position. Ms Bishop had to fight to hold many positions in this coalition. You understand, don't you, Senator Payne, the problem with the position that the government has adopted?

Senator Payne: I think I have indicated quite clearly my view in relation to a government being entitled to review policy positions as it considers appropriate. This is a policy issue which the government feels it is appropriate to review at this point in time on a number of levels. There are, of course, several facets to this discussion, which we've not gone into the detail of here at this point. Governments are entitled to do that, as prime ministers are entitled to do that—and new prime ministers most certainly.

Senator WONG: You've indicated that you think this is appropriate. Do you think it's appropriate for these decisions to be made without a proper cabinet process?

Senator Payne: Senator—

Senator WONG: I'll ask you a series of questions and you can put your view. Do you think it's appropriate for a decision of this magnitude, changing Australia's bipartisan foreign policy, to be made without discussion at cabinet, without a submission before cabinet and without advice from departments? Do you think it's appropriate that Australia's Defence Force personnel and their commanders are advised of this decision after the media? Do you think it is appropriate to have such a controversial decision made in such a rushed way that DFAT, the foreign affairs and trade department, has such a short period of time to manage the fallout with other nations? Do you think all of that process is appropriate?

Senator Payne: The Prime Minister has indicated that these are matters which had been under consideration by him for some time since he had become the Prime Minister. They had been raised with him in discourse. They had been raised with him in meetings. He had been considering them and had received briefings on a number of aspects of Middle East policy and, obviously, foreign policy more broadly. His discussion with his colleagues culminated, as he has said on the record, with a final discussion with all cabinet ministers. As the Prime Minister has said on the record, his discussion of that matter and then our engagement with appropriate officials is a path that the government has chosen to adopt on this occasion.

Senator WONG: But the first time, in terms of this discourse, as you've described it, that the Prime Minister of the country discusses this with you or even shares his thinking with you is on the Sunday before the announcement.

CHAIR: Of a review.

Senator WONG: You've been very good, Senator Abetz.

Senator Payne: Senator, you're restating my evidence. I don't think that's a question.

Senator WONG: I know. You try to tell us, 'Oh, it's great; we're going to have this discussion; it's all about the discourse'—et cetera—'sharing with the Australian people his thinking.' But he doesn't even share his thinking with you until less than 48 hours before the announcement.

Senator Payne: The opportunities—'opportunities' is probably the wrong word. The approach that has been discussed, which you are discussing at length here, is in relation to a review; it's not in relation to a finalised decision. It's in the context of continued Australian support for a two-state solution and a peace process but a peace process which the Prime Minister has identified as one which appears to be at a point of stalemate. There has been considerable public discussion, not just in Australia but internationally, as you would be aware, and contributions to that made by people like Australia's former Ambassador to Israel about how we may be able to address some of these issues.

A Prime Minister and a government are entitled to look at policy positions taken in the past and to consider whether they continue to be in Australia's national interests and whether they continue to be appropriate to the circumstances as they pertain right now. The Prime Minister wants to review—no matter how many times you assert that a decision has been made—a number of aspects of Middle Eastern policy and we are discussing those in a constructive and open way. You've suggested, I think, that it should have been done in some sort of clandestine and hidden process; that is not the Prime Minister's approach.

Senator WONG: No. I think you should have considered it before you announced it.

Senator Payne: And the Prime Minister has considered it.

Senator WONG: Yes, the Prime Minister has considered it.

CHAIR: Is there a question?

Senator WONG: You should have considered it before you announced it.

Senator Payne: That's not a question.

Senator WONG: I'm responding to a lecture—

CHAIR: How about we both stop the lectures and get into questions, Senator Wong? At about 9.50, I will pass to Senator Leyonhjelm for a quick question on this matter.

Senator WONG: I will come back to this; obviously there is quite a lot to ask, Senator Payne. You would concede that simply announcing a review of a position—what did you find funny, Secretary Adamson?

Senator Payne: Senator, you began a sentence with 'you would concede'. It's an interesting approach to take.

Senator WONG: Alright. You've asserted that it's a consideration and a review. Surely you can see from the—

Senator Payne: It's not an assertion; it's a statement.

Senator WONG: Sure. What I'm putting to you is that considering and reviewing longstanding foreign policy is of itself a significant decision, and the domestic and international reaction demonstrates that. I'm putting that to you.

Senator Payne: Oh, you're asking me a question?

Senator WONG: Yes, I am.

Senator Payne: I think the engagement that Australia takes in matters of this nature is a robust one. We have historically been strong contributors in international debate, and that would be the observation I would make.

Senator WONG: I'll come to the WhatsApp messages shortly. I think Senator Leyonhjelm has some questions, but I want to check something on the JCPOA. With the Iran nuclear deal, you stood up, as Australia's representative, at the General Assembly and articulated the position that Julie Bishop articulated, which is continued support for the JCPOA. That was on 28 September. When did you first become aware that the Prime Minister was seeking to reconsider or review Australia's support for the JCPOA?

Senator Payne: Similarly to other colleagues, I had indicated the government's previous position on this issue. The government has now determined to review the position.

Senator WONG: I asked you when you first became aware that the Prime Minister was considering changing the position that you had articulated just a few weeks earlier at the United Nations.

Senator Payne: In the context of these discussions, Senator.

Senator WONG: On the Sunday.

Senator Payne: In the context of these discussions.

Senator WONG: On the Sunday or later?

Senator Payne: Yes, Senator, in the context of these discussions; specifically, I don't recall.

Senator WONG: At some point between the Sunday and the leadership group, you become aware that the government is also proposing to change its position in relation to the Iran nuclear deal?

Senator Payne: In the context of these general discussions. But no matter how many times you assert that the government is proposing to change its position, I will correct you. The government is engaging in a review.

Senator WONG: Okay, you keep running that argument, Minister; it's going well internationally and nationally.

CHAIR: We will go to Senator Leyonhjelm.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I'm not sure whether this is a question for you, Minister, or staff. Again on this question of the review of Australia's policy regarding the location of the embassy, I understand that it's under review; to what extent should threats of violence or threats to trade from anti-Semitic sources be taken into account? I ask in the context of the announcement of the review and as the review progresses. How much should the government, and will the government, take account of those aspects?

Senator Payne: I don't know if you're adverting to specific examples, but the review process will take account of international circumstances as they currently exist, the views of our international partners, counterparts and allies—I've said that previously—and a range of issues. Specifically, in relation to the matters you raise, if they're part of that circumstance then one imagines that they would be considered. But that is not a focus in any way, shape or form.

Senator LEYONHJELM: The reason I am mentioning it is that earlier this week, Mr Duncan Lewis from ASIO referred to the fact that an alert or an advisory—whatever the term was—from ASIO to agencies had been leaked and it did refer to this matter. Essentially, it suggested to agencies that perhaps some additional caution may be warranted in light of the announcement of the review. There has also been media discussion about Indonesia and its trade policy towards Australia since then. We wouldn't have known about the ASIO alert had it not been leaked and deliberately made public. My question is: to what extent should factors adverted to in the ASIO alert or matters in the media about Indonesia's trade policy influence Australia's position on this issue of the location of our embassy in Israel?

Senator Payne: I'll ask Secretary Adamson to talk about matters relating to the ASIO document in particular. More broadly, reviews of this nature, on the subjects which are under consideration, will always be focused on Australia's national interests. That is the priority and that is the focus which will be given to the review process. Australia's national interests cover a vast range of aspects of engagement and policy, and they will be part of the consideration.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Do you wish to add anything, Secretary?

Ms Adamson : The content of the bulletin is probably something that you've already spoken to Mr Lewis about. We're happy to discuss it, but the minister is absolutely right about the review process going forward.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Australia's international interests might include appeasing a threat of violence, for example. Indeed would that be an influencing factor?

Ms Adamson : Our approach is not typically—indeed, I would hope ever—an approach of appeasement.

Senator Payne: No. As I indicated quite clearly, our approach is based on Australia's national interests.

Senator LEYONHJELM: That can be interpreted in many ways, Minister. Is it in Australia's interests to act on a point of principle in relation to such a matter as the location of an embassy or is it in Australia's interests to avoid a violent reaction to a decision relating to the location of an embassy?

Senator Payne: Your proposition is rather beset by hypotheticals, to be honest. I will return to the point that I have made, which is that we will always act in Australia's national interests.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I probably won't get any further here, Chair, so I'll leave it.

CHAIR: Can I quickly ask, Minister, has the location of embassies generally in Israel been on the public international agenda for a while?

Senator Payne: As I've indicated, and as you are well aware, as a prosecutor of the case, indeed in this forum and elsewhere, this has been part of the conversation in Australia and elsewhere.

CHAIR: In the United States, congress has been passing resolutions about this for over two decades, has it not?

Senator Payne: They have, indeed.

CHAIR: Did not President Clinton and President Obama both promise that if they were elected they would move the US embassy to west Jerusalem?

Senator Payne: That is my recollection.

CHAIR: Is it the fact that countries like the Czech Republic, Romania, Honduras—I can't think of other countries—have either committed to or are considering a move, like Australia is, keeping in mind, as you quite rightly said, that this is only a review to consider what our options are; it's not a commitment to move?

Senator Payne: A number of other countries are considering these issues. Obviously, I can't and won't speak for them, but they are matters of public record.

CHAIR: It's not as though Australia is acting completely and utterly alone in this area in reviewing its position; there are many other players on the international stage that have either made a decision to move or are considering the potential for a move?

Senator Payne: As I said, part of the consideration which the Prime Minister has raised are the issues being taken up with him, both here and more broadly.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. Senator Wong, are you ready? Have you drawn breath?

Senator WONG: Thank you for being so worried about my welfare.

CHAIR: Always concerned.

Senator WONG: Can I go back to the national statement at the UN General Assembly that you made on 28 September, Senator Payne? It's obviously an important stage for any foreign minister. In that you made this statement:

Overwhelmingly, our peoples expect us to prevent further proliferation of nuclear weapons. To do this, we must continue to build on the progress we have made through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

For this reason, Australia supports the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear program, as long as Iran abides by its commitments. It is in our collective interests that controls on Iran's nuclear programme remain in place.

Can you tell me what changed between that statement and 18 days later?

Senator Payne: Let me reinforce the observations I made in my remarks to the General Assembly about Australia's focus on non-proliferation, both in relation to Iran and—

Senator WONG: What changed in the 18 days? That's what I'm asking.

Senator Payne: Senator, you are asking that, and I have answered it several times already this morning, which is to say that the Prime Minister indicated that, as a result of issues and matters raised with him, and of his own views on these matters, he wished to initiate a review.

Senator WONG: But you didn't stand up before the UN General Assembly and say, 'Australia' going to review its position.' You were categorical, as Australia's representative, in our support for that arrangement. So tell me what changed in the intervening 18 days.

Senator Payne: I, like other colleagues, had articulated the government's policy in relation to that matter. Since that time the Prime Minister has indicated he wishes to review a number of these matters and has discussed that with senior colleagues and the full cabinet, and that is the approach we are embarking upon.

Senator WONG: Is the only thing that's changed that the Prime Minister has changed his mind?

Senator Payne: As I said at the beginning of our conversation this morning, the Prime Minister, in his public statements last week on this matter, said that over the last seven or eight weeks, during the period in which he has been Prime Minister, he has been looking at these issues. He has had conversations with a broad range of people. It has been raised with him by a broad range of people—the issues of the location of the embassy, which we've already talked about, and the JCPOA, which you have now raised. They are matters which he thinks Australia should review in terms of considering Australia's national interests and the position we take.

Senator WONG: You made this statement on behalf of the nation, one month after Mr Morrison becomes Prime Minister, and 18 days before you change position—and your explanation for that is what?

Senator Payne: I've just answered your question twice, Senator.

Senator WONG: It is the case inside the coalition, as Senator Abetz has indicated today, that there have been calls from various coalition MPs, senators, backbenchers and others, to change Australia's position on the JCPOA, to change the position on the embassy. This is not a new call from, frankly, a particular group inside your party, and they are entitled to have that view. Can you explain to me why Julie Bishop managed to continue to hold the position and you couldn't?

Senator Payne: Even you may have noticed that, in terms of the leadership of the government, there has been a change. The new Prime Minister has decided that there are a number of matters of policy that he wishes to review, and these matters are amongst those.

CHAIR: Minister, did the federal council of the Liberal Party vote in favour of this proposition whilst Ms Bishop was foreign minister?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: That actually reinforces—thank you, Senator Abetz—my point. I disagree with your position, Senator Abetz, but you hold it.

CHAIR: No, she couldn't hold it.

Senator WONG: Yes, you hold it. Ms Bishop continued to hold a position, both in relation to the Iran nuclear deal and in relation to the embassy, which, if I may say, has been, certainly in relation to that, a longstanding position. I'm asking why it is that Senator Payne is not able to hold that position. I think your answer is: because there has been a change of Prime Minister. With the G77 vote which was used, in part, as cover—although I think it's fallen by the wayside a bit—Ms Adamson, can you remind us when we first would have been aware that a vote on that issue was pending?

Ms Adamson : Senator, I'll invite one of my colleagues responsible for the Middle East to come up, but a draft General Assembly resolution on that matter was circulated, from memory, on 8 September. I invite my colleague Ms HK Yu to confirm that it was on 8 September.

Ms Yu : The Secretary is correct. A draft resolution was circulated, as per the Secretary's comment, on 8 September. We had to review the resolution and provide advice on that.

Senator WONG: When did you provide that advice?

Ms Yu : Advice was provided to the foreign minister's office on 8 October.

Senator WONG: Had you made a decision on that advice prior to your discussion with the Prime Minister on Sunday, the 14th?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator WONG: You hadn't?

Senator Payne: It was a matter of continuing consideration, from my recollection, as I indicated earlier.

Senator WONG: Was the position the government would take in relation to this advice discussed by you and the Prime Minister on the Sunday?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to go into the further details of that conversation. I've already said that several times.

Senator WONG: You've got a decision about a voting position. Advice is provided, appropriately, by DFAT. You said that as at 14 October you hadn't yet made a decision on the voting position. Is that correct?

Senator Payne: It was under consideration.

Senator WONG: So it was under consideration. Was this part of the consideration of the PM phone call, lots of phone calls to everybody else and a leadership group decision?

Senator Payne: This was a matter of consideration by the government in the period running up to the holding of that vote, which was, if I recall correctly—I'm sure Ms Yu will correct me if I am wrong—on the morning of 17 October, the Wednesday morning, Australian time. It had been a subject of consideration by government prior to that.

Senator WONG: Sure. When was the decision taken on our voting position?

Senator Payne: During that week, prior to the taking of the vote.

Senator WONG: When was the decision made by government as to our voting position?

Senator Payne: I do not have in front of me the exact day, but it was at the beginning of that week, prior to the taking of the vote.

Senator WONG: Was this one of the things decided by the cabinet, or was this one of the issues that the leadership group determined in the meeting on the Monday, which changed our position on Iran and the embassy?

Senator Payne: It was part of those discussions, as I indicated in my remarks and as the Prime Minister has indicated in his public remarks. Beyond that, I'm not going to go into confidential cabinet discussions and matters discussed between my colleagues.

Senator WONG: They're not cabinet discussions. Unless you tell me they're cabinet discussions, nothing you have said thus far indicates they are cabinet discussions. Everything is a political level discussion which you asserted very strongly and somewhat heatedly.

Senator Payne: I have said that I don't intend to go into the details of my discussions between colleagues.

Senator WONG: I haven't finished. That's not a cabinet level discussion.

Senator Payne: Or those discussions—either of them.

Senator WONG: So you're not going to tell Australians when you actually decided which way this country will vote?

Senator Payne: I don't have that information in front of me. I will come back to you on that.

Senator WONG: That's a good idea. I appreciate that. Thank you. Let's go to Indonesia. How was Indonesia advised of this change in position?

Mr Sheehan : Noting that there is information in the public domain in relation to discussion with Indonesia—

Senator WONG: I like the express caveat preserving your position.

CHAIR: Allow him to finish.

Mr Sheehan : Indonesia was briefed in Canberra on the evening of 15 October and also in Jakarta later that evening.

Senator WONG: Okay. I'd like to understand the details of who undertook that.

Mr Sheehan : We would prefer not to talk about who briefed at what level for specific countries. We think it would be better not to do that.

Senator WONG: I'm sorry, Mr Sheehan, that is not an acceptable response in Senate Estimates. So I'm asking again—

Mr Sheehan : In respect of Indonesia, the briefing in Canberra was done by me to the Indonesian Ambassador.

Senator WONG: Thank you. That was at what time in the evening?

Mr Sheehan : That was at approximately 9 pm.

Senator WONG: Was the ambassador at that stage already aware of the announcement?

Mr Sheehan : Not to my knowledge.

Senator WONG: So that was just the first appointment you could obtain?

Mr Sheehan : There was earlier contact but we weren't able to speak.

Senator WONG: Post was also advised. What time was post advised?

Mr Sheehan : Post was advised about the same time.

Senator WONG: At about 9 pm?

Mr Sheehan : About the same time, yes.

Senator WONG: Mr Sheehan, can you explain this to me. I know DFAT was working under enormous pressure—big decision, short timeframe, media being advised—but it does seem somewhat odd that post isn't advised until nine o'clock when the secretary knew at one.

Mr Sheehan : It was part of the process of the work we were doing that information went out to post at that time. If it was any earlier I'll let you know, but my recollection is that it was around that time that post were advised, but I'll come back to you on that.

Senator WONG: Secretary, did you not just pick up the phone and call Mr Quinlan?

Ms Adamson : What we did was what you would expect of this department. It was a thorough consideration of who needed to be advised. There were practical issues around people's availability. Obviously, there was a desire to inform some of our close partners at the most senior level possible. There were practicalities around those things—people were, in some cases, in transit. But our missions were quickly advised and were, in all cases I think, able to contact host governments and inform them in the normal way of conducting our diplomatic relations.

Senator WONG: Well, it's not normal, is it? Ms Adamson, it is not normal to have something like this rushed. You're a public servant; I appreciate you defending your department, but don't defend the indefensible.

Ms Adamson : I'm not defending the indefensible.

Senator WONG: I think you are.

Ms Adamson : This government always stands ready to inform host governments through embassies here or our overseas posts of decisions either taken or about to be announced by the government. That is routine business for this department and we conducted ourselves the way we normally would.

Senator WONG: When did you speak to Mr Quinlan?

Ms Adamson : I had a number of discussions with Mr Quinlan in that week. I did not personally call him on the Monday.

Senator WONG: So you didn't have a discussion with him on the Monday?

Ms Adamson : No, I did not.

Senator WONG: Did you seek to?

Ms Adamson : No, I did not. There was a proper process put in place by the department. I did not make individual calls to any of our ambassadors.

Senator WONG: You would have anticipated the possibility—which eventuated—because you are an experienced officer, that there might be a risk of a negative reaction from Indonesia. I am interested as to why there wasn't more senior level contact made with the Indonesian ambassador.

Ms Adamson : There was very senior level contact made.

Senator WONG: Mr Sheehan?

Ms Adamson : Mr Sheehan.

Senator WONG: Mr Sheehan, did you speak to Mr Quinlan?

Mr Sheehan : I spoke to him on the Monday evening.

Senator WONG: That was nine o'clock, or earlier?

Mr Sheehan : No, I spoke to him after that, after I'd spoken to the Indonesian ambassador.

Senator WONG: So you chose to speak to him after you'd spoken to the Indonesian ambassador and, presumably, gave him a readout of the meeting as well?

Mr Sheehan : I did give him a readout, yes.

Senator WONG: At that stage did Mr Quinlan or his officers engage with anyone from the Indonesian government about the pending announcement?

Mr Sheehan : I think he had, yes.

Senator WONG: At what level?

Ms Adamson : We'll have to take that on notice.

Mr Sheehan : Yes, we'll take that on notice.

Senator WONG: I'm trying to work out whether it was a political level or an official level.

Ms Adamson : We can get back to you on that.

Senator WONG: If you could do so later today I would appreciate that. Senator Payne, when was the first contact you had with your counterpart in relation to this decision after the leadership group? You didn't even speak to your department between the PM phone call and the Monday morning so I'm assuming—correct me if I am wrong—there was no phone call to any counterpart in that timeframe.

Senator Payne: Correct.

Senator WONG: Did you speak to Mr Turnbull?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator WONG: You then had the leadership group meeting. The decision is made. I think I asked you this, but just to confirm: your staff weren't involved in the media briefing that was done by the PMO?

Senator Payne: Correct.

Senator WONG: Were you aware of who was being briefed?

Senator Payne: Major media outlets, in general terms.

Senator WONG: Were you asked to provide any comment?

Senator Payne: Me personally?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Senator Payne: To provide comment?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Senator Payne: The matter was being taken up by the Prime Minister. I was not providing additional comment to the Prime Minister's observations.

Senator WONG: I'm sure you wouldn't have wanted to. So after the leadership group decision is made, at which point after that is your first contact with your Indonesian counterpart?

Senator Payne: I spoke directly to Foreign Minister Marsudi on Tuesday morning, and prior to that had received a message from Foreign Minister Marsudi.

Senator WONG: Was your conversation with the Foreign Minister before or after your press conference with the Prime Minister?

Senator Payne: After.

Senator WONG: Foreign Minister Marsudi contacted you by text message or by message some time between the ambassador being advised here and the announcement in the morning?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: How did she contact you?

Senator Payne: She sent me messages by phone.

Senator WONG: These are the WhatsApp messages?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: About what time were they received?

Senator Payne: During the night.

Senator WONG: Late?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: What's the time difference now?

Senator Payne: Four hours, at the moment.

Senator WONG: How many messages were received?

Senator Payne: A number.

Senator WONG: Who did you forward those messages to?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to go into the details of my messages with Foreign Minister Marsudi. But understanding where you intend to take this conversation, Senator, I responded appropriately to Foreign Minister Marsudi, indicated that the government's intention was about a review and that I would speak to her later in the morning—which I did.

Senator WONG: So there were a number of messages. Are you going to tell me how many?

Senator Payne: I said a number. We have spoken many times, and they were part of a conversation.

Senator WONG: Obviously, this is a particular event.

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: At some point between nine o'clock and the Monday evening and the Tuesday morning you get a set of messages from the Indonesian Foreign Minister. Is it three, four or 20?

Senator Payne: No, it's not 20. It's a small number of messages.

Senator WONG: Who did you forward them to?

Senator Payne: I engaged with the Prime Minister on one message, and that is all.

Senator WONG: Did you forward them to anyone else?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to discuss the messages I received from Foreign Minister Marsudi beyond that, except to say that I raised one of them with the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: I'm just asking who you sent them to. I haven't asked you about the content yet.

Senator Payne: I understand that.

Senator WONG: Who did you send them to?

Senator Payne: I said I just raised one of them with the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: It's not the only one you forwarded though, is it?

Senator Payne: I beg your pardon?

Senator WONG: It's not the only one you forwarded to someone?

Senator Payne: Is that an assertion?

Senator WONG: I'm asking.

Senator Payne: I am not quite sure how can you be asserting it.

Senator WONG: I'll ask you: is that the only message you forwarded?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: Were any cabinet colleagues aware of the messages?

Senator Payne: Not from me.

Senator WONG: Were the messages that appear in the media correct, accurate? I just want to confirm that they're not fake. I think we can agree on that. Right?

Senator Payne: What? That they're not fake?

Senator WONG: Correct. Nobody's mocked them up. These are actually the messages?

Senator Payne: I understand that to be the case. I was, in fact, in transit to Brussels for the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting so was not in Canberra at the time. But I do understand that the messages were as received.

Senator WONG: Did you send them to Mr Turnbull?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator WONG: Did you send them to Mr Pyne?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator WONG: Do you have any knowledge as to how these were put into the media?

Senator Payne: No, I don't, but most certainly not by me and not by members of the government.

Senator WONG: You don't know that, do you?

Senator Payne: I do, actually.

Senator WONG: You can speak for yourself.

Senator Payne: No. I can say that, because the messages were received by me and not distributed further by me.

Senator WONG: But one was given to the Prime Minister?

Senator Payne: Discussed with the Prime Minister and sent to the Prime Minister, yes.

Senator WONG: Were you concerned when you received the messages?

Senator Payne: Concerned, yes.

Senator WONG: You have the foreign minister of a very important friend—

Senator Payne: No, I am sorry, I just misheard you. I was just clarifying what you said.

Senator WONG: Were you concerned?

Senator Payne: I expected to receive contact from counterparts in relation to this matter.

Senator WONG: Because you understood what sort of reaction this was likely to generate, didn't you?

Senator Payne: Because it's an important issue.

Senator WONG: You understood what sort of reaction it was likely to generate?

Senator Payne: I expected counterparts would raise it with me, as they have, and as they have with the department.

Senator WONG: I assume you did actually inform the Prime Minister of the likely reaction prior to the decision being taken. I assume that was actually considered by the government, notwithstanding the lack of a cabinet process?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to go into the details of my discussions with the Prime Minister or my colleagues.

Senator WONG: Was the government aware, at the time it took these decisions, of the potential reaction in the region, and particularly from Indonesia?

Senator Payne: The government always considers its decision-making—

Senator WONG: It doesn't look like it.

Senator Payne: in terms of Australia's national interests and the impact on Australia's national interests.

Senator WONG: And how was this decision in Australia's national interests?

Senator Payne: I've made some observations in response to your previous questions about the Prime Minister's view on the status or the state of the progress of the peace process, for example of the national and international, as Senator Abetz has reminded us, conversation on some of these issues. And the Prime Minister had determined that he thinks it's an appropriate time for Australia to review its policy, without prejudice, in relation to some of these matters. As prime minister, he is entitled to do that, and the government is entitled to do that.

CHAIR: Can I quickly ask: is the government aware that Indonesia does not recognise Israel?

Senator Payne: The government is aware, yes.

Senator WONG: When I ask you what the national interest issue is, you respond in terms of the Prime Minister's state of mind and his thinking. You don't give me any indication why the decision that was announced is in Australia's national interests.

Senator Payne: I think that's not an accurate representation but you're entitled to your view.

Senator WONG: Having a chat with the nation is your response. We've got a decision that overturns a longstanding position. And considering and reviewing this—Ms Bishop is on the record; Mr Turnbull is on the record; Mr Morrison is on the record; you're not you are on the JCPOA; Ms Adamson is on the record; Mr Neuhaus is on the record, and we can go on and on—what is the policy rationale that you say is in Australia's national interest to announce this review?

Senator Payne: Australia is a strong supporter of the two-state solution, and the Prime Minister has reiterated that position. But in the context of that consideration, and at this point in time, Prime Minister and the government have considered the profound lack of progress in terms of moving towards a two-state solution in a constructive peace process.

Senator WONG: How does this review help that?

Senator Payne: Consideration of these issues, which is perfectly within the government's remit and entitlements, is able to make a contribution to the discussion of the peace process itself, to the discussion of where Australia stands in relation to that, where Australia stands in relation to the location of our embassy and, for example, the effectiveness of the JCPOA, which, as I have said and as the Prime Minister has said, has been in place now for three years. We are not a party to the JCPOA, as you are well aware, but we have been watching with interest its implementation. We want to take stock of that.

Senator WONG: I could put to you the multiple statements from DFAT officers. 'Our position on Jerusalem, as you know, is that it needs to be left in the final negotiations for what we hope will be a two-state solution, which Australia's supported over the years and continues to support'. Can I come to this point, in terms of Australia taking a sort of balanced role in relation to the peace process: you had a package of announcements. They were: 'Consideration of recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the move of the embassy'—two points there—'Reviewing our support of or our approach to the JCPOA', and 'Our voting position in relation to the G77'. Can you tell me, in terms of the different interests and the divergent interests of both Israel and the Palestinians, is there any aspect of the announcement that you think the Palestinians would be supportive of?

Senator Payne: These are matters for conversation and for the review process.

Senator WONG: In other words, Prime Minister Netanyahu has previously advocated for both those substantive positions. It's public record, and he's obviously made public statements subsequent to the announcement. But in terms of us actually taking a balanced position, is there anything in that set of announcements that the Palestinian representatives would have been supportive of or would have welcomed?

Senator Payne: I'm not going to speak for—

Senator WONG: You're Australia's foreign minister.

CHAIR: Let her finish.

Senator Payne: Perhaps I could finish my sentence.

Senator WONG: Yes, you can. But it would be good if you addressed the answer.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: You're ducking and weaving on this.

CHAIR: It's only five minutes till cup of tea time.

Senator WONG: Yes. I'm waiting. I don't think icy stares get away from the fact that this is an untenable position that you've been putting. I asked you a question about the Palestinians—

Senator Payne: I was waiting for you to finish interrupting.

Senator WONG: I had, thank you.

Senator Payne: I said—or I tried to say—that I was not going to speak for other countries and other groups who will contribute to this review process, as we welcome them to do. But in terms of the process that has been set in place, I reiterate that it is a review to look at the breadth of the policy implications on these issues, which have been set out both in the Prime Minister's press release and the public comments that have taken place since. We will undertake that review, in good faith, without prejudice, without a prejudged position, with an open approach and we will engage broadly on these matters.

Senator WONG: Both parties of government have sought to take a balanced position. Both parties of government have, I think, demonstrated historically our friendship with Israel and both parties have supported a two-state solution. It was only one party which, over a flurry of phone calls, has shifted a bipartisan position. I have a couple more process questions. The first is just to confirm in terms of the time line: the first contact between Foreign Minister Marsudi and you was the foreign minister's—I was going to say 'angry' message—message expressing deep concern at the announcement late at night on the Monday in relation to this announcement?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: You didn't seek to call her?

Senator Payne: No, that briefing process was taking place through DFAT.

Senator WONG: Can I ask you why you didn't? This obviously, given her response, which is in the public arena, regrettably was a very serious issue for the Indonesians. Why did you not reach out to her?

Ms Adamson : Senator—

Senator WONG: I'm asking the minister—

Senator Payne: The secretary wants to make a comment and then I will respond.

Senator WONG: I'm asking the minister why she didn't.

Ms Adamson: Yes, but you asked a question earlier about advice by our ambassador in Jakarta at either the official level or the political level and we said we'd come back to you with an answer on that. I can confirm that our head of mission in Jakarta was in contact with—he initiated it—Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on the evening of 15 October. They had a discussion then. That's the sort of role that we would expect our ambassadors to play.

Senator WONG: When did you become aware that Mr Quinlan had spoken to your counterpart, Senator Payne?

Senator Payne: On Tuesday morning.

Senator WONG: So at the time you've made a decision, by default, of not contacting her, you're not aware whether or not Mr Quinlan had made contact with your counterpart?

Senator Payne: I was aware that formal processes were in place for making contact both here in Canberra and in Jakarta.

Senator WONG: Why didn't you give her a call? Why didn't you try and set a call up? You knew this announcement was coming. You are, I'm sure, intelligent enough to assess the likelihood of negative reaction. Why didn't you call her?

Senator Payne: There are appropriate mechanisms in place for advice and for consultation. Once the formal announcement was made I had a very constructive and productive telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Marsudi.

Senator WONG: Are you going to tell me about that? You've just described it as productive. I invite you to tell us why it was productive.

Senator Payne: Because it was an opportunity to explain the government's position—to make it very clear that the government announced a review, not a change in policy in this announcement—that we continue to be committed to a durable and resilient two-state solution and that we would welcome Indonesia's input into our considerations.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me how a pre-emptive decision around the capital of Israel, which has been a point of contention and viewed as a final status issue for decades, helps the peace process and—

Senator Payne: Had there been a pre-emptive decision—which you continue to assert and is not the case—then we could have the discussion. But what the government has announced is a review.

Senator WONG: Can I just go back to the G77 position—

CHAIR: Can I just quickly ask on this particular matter: is it not the case that, in relation to the two-state solution, the Prime Minister, in his statement, was quite strong, in relation to this review, about having East Jerusalem as a possible capital for any future Palestinian state and, for some reason, our friends in the ABC and other people are not willing to balance this debate in relation to the review—it's only about moving our embassy in Israel to West Jerusalem—but they studiously avoid, for whatever reason, the other aspect of the statement, if I'm correct, which was to consider East Jerusalem as the capital of any future Palestinian state, which, in that context then, balances things up very well, especially if one seeks to pursue genuinely the two-state solution?

Senator Payne: The fourth paragraph of the joint media statement released on 16 October goes specifically to that point.

Senator WONG: I'd like to know when the UN post was first advised of our voting position on the G77 resolution.

Senator Payne: I can clarify the timing from my end on that, which I didn't have before.

Senator WONG: But I'd like to know when DFAT provided that voting advice but you go ahead.

Senator Payne: The department was notified of that decision on 15 October.

Senator WONG: Who made that decision?

Senator Payne: I did—in consultation with the Prime Minister and colleagues, of course.

Senator WONG: This was one of the Prime Ministers discussions?

CHAIR: Let's adjourn until 10:45, when I understand Senator Di Natale will be asking some questions.

Proceedings suspended from 10:30 to 10 : 45

CHAIR: We will resume. Senator Di Natale has the call.

Senator DI NATALE: Secretary, can you tell me what's changed regarding the situation in Israel-Palestine since your recent comments that the US decision to move its embassy had 'not been helpful' and 'makes a very, very difficult process even harder'?

Ms Adamson : What has changed is that the government has decided to review Australia's position.

Senator DI NATALE: But your comments still stand?

Ms Adamson : My comments were made in relation to the US decision. I was asked a particular question in an interview and I gave a response that the move had not been helpful to the Middle East peace process. In relation to the location of Australia's embassy, I answered a question which was consistent with the Australian policy under the previous Prime Minister.

Senator DI NATALE: Does it remain your view?

Ms Adamson : In relation to which particular aspect? There are two—

Senator DI NATALE: Both.

Ms Adamson : It's fair to say that the peace process has long been in a period where there's been no significant progress; that is the first thing to say. Therefore no action that has been taken could be regarded as helpful to that process because it has been in a period of stasis.

Senator DI NATALE: Does it remain your view that the US decision, and, indeed, as a corollary to that, Australia's decision to move its embassy, is not helpful and makes a difficult process harder?

Ms Adamson : In relation to the peace process, there's probably a need for a broader discussion about it. Certainly, there have been some developments, or at least some thinking within the US administration in relation to that, which has not yet been announced or made public. That is really the focus of the process rather than the location of embassies.

Senator DI NATALE: I don't have much time. You made a very clear comment about your view in relation to the relocation of the US embassy—that it was not helpful. I've asked you now on a number of occasions: does it remain your view?

Ms Adamson : I was asked a question about whether the move of the US embassy was counterproductive to the situation in the Middle East, and I said it had not been helpful. That was back in June.

Senator DI NATALE: Does it remain your view?

Ms Adamson : There has been no change to my assessment of the move of the embassy. I said it had not been helpful. It had not assisted the process, but I made—

Senator DI NATALE: You also said that 'it makes a very difficult process even harder'. Does that remain your view?

Ms Adamson : There is no doubt whatsoever that the peace process has long been a very difficult process.

Senator DI NATALE: Does the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem make a difficult process even harder? It's a very simple question.

Ms Adamson : Yes, Senator—

Senator DI NATALE: You're being very evasive and I've asked you a very straightforward question.

CHAIR: Ask the question.

Senator DI NATALE: Does it remain your view?

Ms Adamson : It remains my view that the peace process is very difficult and that the embassy move has not assisted the peace process.

Senator DI NATALE: Does it make it even harder?

Ms Adamson : That's really a judgement currently for peace process negotiators, and Australia is not directly involved in that role. I would not now reiterate that view in exactly the same way.

Senator DI NATALE: How does it advance the likelihood of achieving a two-state solution?

Ms Adamson : I am sorry, Senator; how does what—

Senator DI NATALE: How does the relocation of the Australian Embassy to Jerusalem—

Ms Adamson : That's a hypothetical question.

CHAIR: It is only part of the policy.

Senator Payne: The government has announced a review—

Senator DI NATALE: The government has announced it is considering it. It is an entirely appropriate question when the government announces it is considering relocating its embassy to Jerusalem.

Senator Payne: It is a matter for review, Senator

Senator DI NATALE: I'm asking a very straightforward question: how does that advance the likelihood of achieving a two-state solution?

Ms Adamson : The government has announced a review. We will have input into that review, obviously, as will a range of other stakeholders.

CHAIR: Is it not the case that the totality of the announcement of the review was not only considering recognising west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but also recognising east Jerusalem as the potential capital of a Palestinian state?

Senator Payne: As I said, Senator, when you raised that earlier, that is clearly stated in the Prime Minister's joint media release of 16 October.

Senator DI NATALE: Can I take it that the government has recently privately condemned settlement activity, Minister?

Senator Payne: The government has raised its concerns with Israel in relation to settlement activity, as I indicated to you in the chamber recently, and we do so in our engagements with them.

Senator DI NATALE: Can you detail when and how those criticisms were made?

Senator Payne: I'll take that on notice. Actually, I can tell you that the previous minister raised it earlier this year. It has also been raised directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I will get the finer details of that; or HK Yu, who is here, can add to that.

Ms Yu : Yes, there have been a number of representations made by the Australian government with regard to the settlement issues. I'm happy to go through a number of interventions that we've made, if that would be helpful to you, Senator.

Senator DI NATALE: Given that we've got restricted time, I'll get you to take those on notice.

Ms Yu : Sure.

Senator DI NATALE: If you could provide those on notice, we'd all appreciate it. Ms Adamson, are you concerned about the message that we're sending regarding the continued breaching of international law through illegal settlement construction by the consideration given to the relocation of the Australian Embassy to Jerusalem?

Ms Adamson : No, Senator.

Senator DI NATALE: You don't believe it makes a very difficult process even harder?

Ms Adamson : You asked whether I was concerned about the impact of settlement activity.

Senator DI NATALE: The message we're sending as a result of the relocation of the embassy.

Ms Adamson : We continue to make representations on the settlements issue.

Senator DI NATALE: Are you concerned it is being seen as a tacit endorsement of that breach of international law—the relocation of the embassy?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator DI NATALE: I will move to Saudi Arabia. I'm not going to re-prosecute some of the questions I asked yesterday, Minister. I understand that the US has indicated it will proceed with travel sanctions against key individuals; is that correct?

Ms Yu : Yes, I believe the US is currently considering the sanctions against individuals.

Senator DI NATALE: Minister, I take it that when you say all options are on the table, travel sanctions are something that's being considered?

Senator Payne: All options. As I said yesterday, these are matters under consideration by the government.

Senator DI NATALE: There's concern that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in this murder of the journalist. If independent investigations conclude he was involved in the murder, would you consider sanctions directly against the Crown Prince?

Senator Payne: I indicated in our discussions yesterday that I do want to see the investigation which is being run in Turkey progress to a conclusion. We will then consider what options are available to us.

Senator DI NATALE: Given that there is an investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, are you satisfied that the investigation will be vigorous and not a whitewash, and will you call for a UN investigation into the death?

Senator Payne: With our international partners, with whom we are in consultation and dialogue, we will await the outcome of the current investigation, which we have encouraged to be transparent and rigorous; then we will determine what options are available to us.

Senator DI NATALE: How can you be satisfied that the investigation won't be a whitewash, and, in those circumstances, to give yourself some certainty that the investigation that takes place is a rigorous one, will you call for a UN investigation?

Senator Payne: I have indicated here, today and yesterday, that we wanted to see the outcome of the investigation that is underway. We will work with our international partners, as I have indicated, to focus on it being transparent, thorough and credible. We will review our position when we have the outcome of that investigation.

Senator DI NATALE: Perhaps while we're on the subject, could you advise how many Australian businesses have gone to Davos in the desert and what kind of facilitation the Australian government's provided?

Senator Payne: I'll take that on notice.

Senator DI NATALE: I would like to ask some questions on Cambodia. In DFAT's view, the July elections were not genuine; is that correct?

Senator Payne: Can we wait for the officials to come to the table, Senator?

Senator DI NATALE: Yes. I'll ask the question again: in the view of the department, were the elections genuine? Did they provide a full opportunity for Cambodians to participate fairly in the electoral process? I would have thought it was a fairly straightforward question.

Senator Payne: It is, Senator. We had very serious concerns about Cambodia's election. That has been raised at very senior levels by members of the government and senior officials. I will ask Ms Heckscher to go into further detail

Ms Heckscher : I was looking for the specific media release that was put out by the then foreign minister, Ms Bishop, on 30 July specifically in relation to the electoral process in Cambodia, in which then Minister Bishop stated that Australia had serious concerns with the national election, and had made those concerns known to the Cambodian government. She stated:

The election process, which included the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party … the detention of CNRP leader Kem Sokha, and the banning of CNRP parliamentarians and officials from engaging in politics for five years, has reversed more than 25 years of progress towards democracy in Cambodia.

Freedom of expression and association underpin democratic societies. Australia is concerned the election took place in an environment where not all political parties, civil society organisations and media could operate freely.

Australia is disappointed that Cambodian people have been unable to freely choose their representatives.

I think that responds to your question.

Senator DI NATALE: Pretty straightforward. What representations has the government made since that statement?

Ms Heckscher : Since that statement, Senator, we take opportunities whenever they arise to make representations about human rights concerns and about the concerns about the democratic issues in Cambodia, whenever they occur. For example, at the—

Senator DI NATALE: Given the limited time, could I ask you, on notice, to provide a summary of representations since that statement was made, when and where they were made and the specific responses received from the Cambodian government?

Ms Heckscher : Yes, absolutely.

Senator DI NATALE: At the last estimates, you might recall that we discussed the 1991 Paris Peace Accords. At the time the department didn't have a view about whether or not there had been a violation of those accords. Has the department formed a view on that issue?

Ms Heckscher : Our response on that is that this is a matter for the UN. I think the specific question was whether we had been contacted by the UN or been requested by the co-chairs of the Paris peace accords to reinvigorate that process. Our response was that, no, this was a matter for the UN Secretary-General.

Senator DI NATALE: The accord states pretty clearly that Cambodia has to have free and fair periodic genuine elections and that the violation or threat of a violation of the agreement would lead to consultations amongst the various parties to the accord taking place. Have you sought advice specifically on this matter since the election?

Ms Heckscher : No.

Senator DI NATALE: Why not?

Ms Heckscher : All options in relation to responding to the situation in Cambodia remain on the table. We have not specifically sought advice. I assume your request is in relation to whether we have sought advice from the UN.

Senator DI NATALE: It is a pretty big table now. We've got options around Saudi Arabia on the table, we've got options around Cambodia on the table, and I'm sure we're going to hear there are options around Myanmar on the table. When are we going to get them off the table and actually start acting?

Ms Adamson : The Australian government has been very active in representations across a range of human rights issues in South-East Asia, the current focus of your interest. Since Senate estimates back in May, the Budget estimates, we've made 17 separate representations to the Cambodian government on human rights. It is a feature of the work we do at a diplomatic level and in discussions between foreign ministers.

Senator DI NATALE: It's one thing to make representations; it's another thing to act. Last year the US imposed visa restrictions on Cambodian officials who undermine democracy. Will Australia follow and implement targeted sanctions against members of Hun Sen's government?

Senator Payne: It's important to acknowledge that Australia has a very different relationship with ASEAN and members of ASEAN than countries in other parts of the world. We have been very clear with the Cambodian government, as Ms Heckscher and the secretary have outlined, about our views about the process of the Cambodian election and about the government's approach to freedom and other issues, including, as Ms Heckscher has outlined, the detention of the opposition leader. In the list of material that you receive in relation to the question we have taken on notice about issues being raised, you will be advised that I have raised this directly myself with the Cambodian foreign minister recently at the UN General Assembly bilateral meeting I had there. We will continue those focused efforts and we will work with our counterparts to ensure that the Cambodian government is in no doubt about Australia's concerns. But in our engagement with our counterparts in ASEAN we take a slightly different approach from the United States and other countries.

Senator DI NATALE: Minister, that's obvious. The United States has responded with sanctions, appropriately, towards a regime that has reacted brutally to its citizens, that is undemocratic, that has dismantled opposition parties and put people under house arrest. The US has acted. It's clear that we have a different relationship with Cambodia because we refuse to take that action. What is it about that relationship that would mean that, while the US imposes sanctions of that nature, Australia continues pointing the finger without taking meaningful actions against this undemocratic regime, actions which might go towards changing it?

Senator Payne: We take those concerns very seriously—

Senator DI NATALE: Obviously not seriously enough though, Minister, with respect.

Senator Payne: In your view.

Senator DI NATALE: I don't understand what's special about our relationship with Cambodia that we would refuse to impose sanctions on a regime that has dismantled opposition parties and conducted a sham election. We refuse to say to those individuals responsible for that behaviour, 'We're going to impose travel sanctions on you.'

Senator Payne: We are working within the region and, like most of the international community, we ultimately work with the government of the day. In this case, we're working within the region and, more broadly, through the UN Human Rights Council and other mechanisms to continue to raise our concerns in relation to the recent events you've outlined, amongst others, in Cambodia and we will continue to do that. We take those responsibilities seriously and we do it in a very considered way. You may disagree with that approach and, clearly, you do—

Senator DI NATALE: So does the US and so do many other jurisdictions.

Senator Payne: Clearly, you do. But we are focused on ensuring that, where possible, we assist with addressing those concerns and we will continue to do that.

Senator DI NATALE: What about the 'dirty dozen', whom the Human Rights Watch identified? These are the 12 senior security force officers who are responsible for some appalling human rights abuses. Would you consider sanctions against those 12 individuals?

Senator Payne: We consider options of that nature on a case-by-case basis. As Ms Heckscher has indicated, sanctions are one of a range of foreign policy tools available to the government.

Senator DI NATALE: I'll ask a related question. The resettlement agreement with Cambodia will expire at the end of the year. Has DFAT had any input into whether that agreement will be extended beyond the end of the year?

Ms Heckscher : That is a question for the Department of Home Affairs; however, the resettlement MOU has expired.

Senator DI NATALE: Is DFAT recommending that that be extended?

Ms Heckscher : That's a question for the Department of Home Affairs.

Senator DI NATALE: Do you provide any recommendations, or do you have any dialogue with the Department of Home Affairs?

Mr Shaw : I understand that Home Affairs has been engaging with Cambodia right throughout the process. We've had conversations with Home Affairs.

Senator DI NATALE: What's the nature of those conversations?

Mr Shaw : We talk about the implementation aspects of the agreement.

Senator DI NATALE: Is your recommendation that the deal continue?

Mr Shaw : We've been consulted on that. The advice that we provide, policy advice to the government—

Senator DI NATALE: Not to the government—to the department. Have you provided any advice on the extension of that arrangement?

Mr Shaw : Yes, we've been consulted on the extension.

Senator DI NATALE: What recommendation are you providing to the department?

Mr Shaw : I don't think it's appropriate for me to discuss that policy-wise.

Senator DI NATALE: Why is it not appropriate?

Mr Shaw : Because that's policy advice we've provided to the government.

Senator DI NATALE: I'm not asking you to provide policy advice to government; I'm asking you with regard to another department, the Department of Home Affairs. Have you recommended that that deal cease?

Mr Shaw : I'm not in a position to answer that question.

Senator DI NATALE: Why not?

Mr Shaw : That's confidential policy advice that we've provided up to our executive—

Senator PATRICK: That doesn't accept policy advice as a public interest immunity—that's very clear in Odgers. You can advance a public interest immunity, but not that one.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Patrick.

Ms Adamson : We'll take that on notice.

Senator DI NATALE: You'll take that on notice. So you've got have an answer in front of you, but you're not prepared to provide it.

Ms Adamson : No, I don't have an answer in front of me.

Senator DI NATALE: Mr Shaw has an answer, but he's refusing to provide it.

Ms Adamson : We'll take the question on notice. If we can get back to you during the day, we will; otherwise, we'll take it on notice.

Senator DI NATALE: On what grounds are you taking it on notice, given that you've got the answer in front of you?

Ms Adamson : I don't have the answer.

Senator DI NATALE: Mr Shaw does.

Mr Shaw : I don't have specific details of the conversations I had—

Senator DI NATALE: I don't need the details. It's a yes or no answer.

Mr Shaw : I do not have in front of me the details of conversations that have taken place with Home Affairs.

Ms Adamson : We'll come back to you.

Senator DI NATALE: Okay. Don't spend too much time workshopping the answer.

Senator Payne: Coming from the Greens, that's a very interesting observation!

Senator DI NATALE: Does the department see a contradiction in promoting Cambodia as a safe destination for refugees, on the one hand, and expressing the concerns you've just outlined, Minister, on the other?

Senator Payne: Are you asking the department?

Senator DI NATALE: I'm asking the department. Feel free to proffer a response, Minister. Might there be a contradiction there? You've just expressed concern in the strongest possible terms—by waving a finger at the Cambodian government—about their actions, and we're sending refugees there. Do you think there might be a contradiction?

Mr Shaw : The MOU expired on 26 September, so it's no longer an option for refugees on Nauru to resettle into Cambodia.

Senator DI NATALE: We don't know that because you've refused to provide an answer as to whether that will continue.

Mr Shaw : No. The MOU has already expired as per the arrangement. It was a four-year arrangement and it has expired, so it's no longer an option for refugees to come—

Senator DI NATALE: Will it continue to no longer be an option?

Mr Shaw : It's no longer an option at this time.

Senator DI NATALE: Will it continue to no longer be an option? That's something you're taking on notice.

Mr Shaw : That's a question best directed to Home Affairs.

Senator DI NATALE: I'd like to move on to Myanmar. Evidence from a UN fact-finding mission found that the Myanmar military was directly responsible for gross violations of human rights under international humanitarian law. I'm glad to see that this is one issue that has moved from the table into reality and the government has announced targeted sanctions and travel bans against five military officers. How do they compare with the sanctions imposed by other countries?

Ms Heckscher : The important starting point is to recognise that every country has different sanctions regimes. These are autonomous sanctions, so you will see right across the spread of sanctions, in different countries and different regimes that there are differences between individuals and forms, et cetera that are applied by, for example, us, Canada, the EU and the like. So the starting point is that all our legislation is different and that ends up, in many cases, with different results on who can be sanctioned under existing legislation.

Senator DI NATALE: Can I go specifically to the chief of the armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing. Has Australia considered sanctioning that individual?

Ms Heckscher : That individual is not subject to sanctions by Australia. I would not comment on whether any individual would be considered for sanctions in the future.

Senator DI NATALE: On what basis can't you provide that?

Ms Heckscher : The decision has not been made to sanction that individual.

Senator DI NATALE: Will Australia publicly call for the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court?

Ms Heckscher : The fact-finding mission report had a certain number of recommendations, including in relation to ICC referral. It recommended that the UN Security Council refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. Australia's view is that, given the severity of the fact-finding mission's conclusions, that would be appropriate.

Senator DI NATALE: I understand that other countries have suspended military ties with Myanmar. Has Australia received representations from other countries urging us to do the same?

Ms Heckscher : Not to my knowledge. I would need to check the specifics of that because it's likely that we may not have received that ourselves—not to my knowledge.

Senator DI NATALE: Has the department had any reports that the Myanmar government or military has used its continuing defence cooperation with Australia as a shield to deflect criticism against what are clearly crimes against humanity?

Ms Heckscher : Not to my knowledge, but that's a long, circuitous question.

Senator DI NATALE: Are you aware of them citing our defence cooperation—

Ms Adamson : I'm not, no.

Ms Heckscher : No.

Senator DI NATALE: in any context to justify their behaviour?

Ms Heckscher : I'm not reading all the Myanmar press. I am not aware of whether that is the case.

Senator DI NATALE: China has its universal periodic reviews at the Human Rights Council coming up on 6 November. I imagine that the department is working to prepare Australia's input into that process. Can you talk us through some of the concerns that Australia has regarding human rights abuses in China? I'm particularly interested in the situation of the Uygurs in China.

Mr Fletcher : Yes, that's correct. The universal periodic review of China is to take place on 6 November; we're preparing for our participation in that. We have concerns about human rights in China on a number of fronts. Probably the most prominent at the moment is the situation in Xinjiang with the Uygurs; we have been discussing that with the Chinese on a number of occasions.

Senator DI NATALE: Can you tell us more about that situation?

Mr Fletcher : It's a little unclear exactly what's going on. But the broad shape of developments there seems to be that China has established a system to reinforce its objectives to eliminate extremism, terrorism and separatism. They're the three 'isms' that they see as the biggest danger to their national security in that part of the world. There seems to be a fairly widespread incidence of individuals being detained for periods for re-education and indoctrination. They call it 'vocational training' and we don't know enough about it to be able to say whether that is an element of it or not, but it seems to be designed to reinforce the Chinese government's priorities in relation to ethnic relations and civil order et cetera in Xinjiang.

Senator DI NATALE: Does the department agree with members of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination who recently stated that there were credible reports of more than one million ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslim minorities being held in what looks like massive internment camps?

Mr Fletcher : Certainly we're well aware of that report and we'd agree that there are credible reports. We just don't know enough to be able to say how many individuals have been affected. In total, cumulatively, it may well be in the range or the number that you've mentioned, but we just don't know.

Senator DI NATALE: Is the Australian government considering, in terms of responses to what is happening, a joint statement, through the UN Human Rights Council, of concern with other like-minded countries? And can I ask whether DFAT is helping residents who have said that they can't contact family members of the Uyghur autonomous region?

Mr Fletcher : We're considering a range of possible measures that we can take to convey our concern or express our views on this subject. In relation to family members, we have spoken to a number of Australians who have relatives in Xinjiang whom they're unable to contact and in some cases we have, at their request, passed information to the Chinese government about them.

Senator DI NATALE: I'm sure that they'll be greatly relieved.

CHAIR: Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: I have a number of questions. We had been on the topic of Cambodia. I think Senator Di Natale has given you, Minister, the opportunity to talk about the consideration of targeted sanctions; so I don't propose to go back there. But I do have a question about potential foreign interference or the risks thereof. The ABC reported on 15 September that the current prime minister's party is extending its influence into Australia by recruiting students. There were reports of the Cambodian community in Australia feeling intimidated by apparent CPP agents. Can I first ask whether the department is aware of these reports?

Ms Heckscher : Yes, we are aware of those reports.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me if any representations have been made to Cambodia in relation to these reports?

Ms Heckscher : Those specific reports, we're constantly making representations through our embassy in Phnom Penh and here when we hear reports of threats.

Senator Payne: The answer is yes.

Senator WONG: Ms Heckscher—

Ms Heckscher : The answer is 'yes'.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I have a general disposition against the word 'constantly' because it's one of those opaque words that are used in estimates to deflect people like me. It is not possible because one is never constantly in communication. We had these reports. Was this raised and has this been raised with the Cambodian government and, if so, at which level?

Ms Heckscher : The answer is yes. We have raised them in Phnom Penh and directly with Cambodia's ambassador to Australia, most recently on 19 September in Phnom Penh and 21 August here.

Senator Payne: We have also made contact with appropriate Australian authorities in relation to those matters.

Senator WONG: I was going to ask that. There have been measures taken or there has been relevant communication with domestic agencies?

Senator Payne: Absolutely, yes.

Senator WONG: I don't want to go into the detail of that, but can I ask you whether or not the government, DFAT or others have had engagement with the local Cambodian community to check whether there is a degree of confidence in the actions that the government has taken, particularly domestically? Do they feel safe?

Ms Heckscher : Yes. We are in receipt of multiple communications from the Cambodian community making these allegations. I'm not aware that we have had specific discussions on the issue: do they feel safe?

Senator WONG: Have any investigations occurred as a result of these reports by domestic agencies?

Ms Heckscher : That would be a matter for the other agencies—

Senator WONG: Are you aware of any?

Ms Heckscher : and I don't have information on that.

Senator WONG: Would you regard the actions alleged to have occurred in the reports as being a form of foreign interference?

Ms Heckscher : I think that's a hypothetical question because there have been multiple allegations made—

Senator WONG: Why is that a hypothetical question? It's not at all hypothetical. I'm saying the allegations that have been reported publicly have caused—and appropriately—representations to be made at officer level to the Cambodian government and have caused consultation with domestic agencies. I'm asking if you regard that as a form of foreign interference.

Ms Heckscher : I don't think I'm in a position to be able to judge. I'm not trying to avoid the question but—

Senator WONG: You are, but I'm going to let you. What about you, Minister?

Senator Payne: We are obviously not going to comment on individual cases of this nature but we are concerned about suggestions that individuals may be threatened in Australia. That's why we've made representations to the Cambodian government and that's why we have forwarded those threats to a number of appropriate authorities in Australia. We don't condone those activities and we take those allegations very seriously.

Senator WONG: Are you confident that the government has taken all necessary measures?

Senator Payne: Yes, I am, and we remain vigilant about these matters as they are raised with us.

Senator WONG: Can I return to our favourite topic. I have two questions. I assume that you saw this joint media release before it went out, this is in relation to the Middle East announcements that we've been discussing.

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: Who put the paragraph in that makes specific reference to the Liberal candidate for Wentworth?

Senator Payne: The paragraph refers to the material publicly available and developed by Australia's former ambassador to Israel, Mr Sharma. That is a matter of fact. I don't know if somebody put the paragraph in or not. It's a joint media release.

Senator WONG: Who drafted the release?

Senator Payne: It was drafted in consultation between offices.

Senator WONG: Did DFAT provide a draft of this release?

Mr Sheehan : DFAT didn't draft the release. We did see the release before it went out.

Senator WONG: So there was no departmental level draft that was then revised in ministers' offices if? It was generated in the ministers' offices?

Senator Payne: I said that it was drafted between offices.

Senator WONG: I'm just clarifying.

Senator Payne: Yes, sure.

Senator WONG: Correct?

Mr Sheehan : I can only speak for DFAT in that regard.

Senator WONG: Obviously I'm asking about DFAT, Mr Sheehan. On many occasions, there is a departmental draft which is then altered in the minister's office—normal practice. Before you decide that you need to get involved in this political game, Secretary Adamson, sometimes they are drafted in minister's offices?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: I just want to be clear that this was entirely generated out of the minister's office and the department was not asked to advise on the draft.

Ms Adamson : We were not asked to advise on the draft. As for the elements of it, after we were advised the previous day, there was language that went backwards and forwards between departments and two ministerial offices, but we did not hold the pen on the draft.

Senator WONG: In all drafts that the department saw, was Mr Sharma included in the release?

Mr Sheehan : I'd have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: When did you first become aware there was going to be a specific reference to the Liberal candidate in the week leading up to the by-election?

Mr Sheehan : I'd have to take that on notice. I'm not sure when we first saw it.

Senator WONG: How about you, Secretary Adamson?

Ms Adamson : From the outset, in terms of advice, it had been made clear that the Prime Minister had said openly on the Tuesday—and we were advised also on the Monday—that the arguments that Mr Sharma had advanced publicly, including through an op-ed piece in May, I think it was, had been considered by the Prime Minister and that he found elements of them persuasive. And that was one of the reasons that he wanted us to undertake a review. So that was clear from—

Senator WONG: Who told you that?

Ms Adamson : That was clear from the previous day.

Senator WONG: So you're telling us that you became aware that the Prime Minister was apparently convinced by an article six months ago by Mr Sharma in the context of being advice that the government was announcing the review?

Ms Adamson : That he had been persuaded that there were other ways of looking at this issue. Just let me be very clear about that: it was Mr Sharma as former ambassador to Israel, someone who had some knowledge of and expertise on these issues. It was not described to us in any other way.

Senator WONG: But you were aware he was the Liberal candidate in Wentworth?

Ms Adamson : Yes, but that wasn't the basis—

Senator WONG: When he wrote—I'm sorry, you finish.

Ms Adamson : That wasn't referred to in any of the communications that we had as being relevant.

Senator WONG: It didn't need to be. It was relevant though. The op-ed in May, did Mr Sharma write that as ambassador or after having been ambassador?

Ms Adamson : It was after he'd completed his term.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, when were you first aware that Mr Sharma was an active Liberal Party member?

Ms Adamson : I became aware of it, I think, when he nominated for Wentworth. I was not particularly aware of it before then—

Senator WONG: What do you mean by that?

Ms Adamson : or when he sought pre-selection for Wentworth.

Senator WONG: What do you mean by 'not particularly aware'? Does that mean that you were aware but you didn't—

Ms Adamson : No. I mean that, after he left the department, he took on a role which gave him prominence in public on certain issues. I had not focused on his Liberal Party membership or leanings before I became aware that he was a contender for pre-selection for Wentworth.

Senator WONG: I wasn't asking you if you'd focused on them; I was asking—

Ms Adamson : No, I was not aware then. I did not know. I did not have it in my mind until he was spoken of as a potential candidate for Wentworth.

Senator WONG: At the time he was appointed ambassador, therefore, you weren't aware of his Liberal affiliations?

Ms Adamson : No. He was appointed ambassador before I became secretary but, no, I was not aware.

Senator WONG: All right, three years, yes.

CHAIR: When was he first appointed ambassador and by whom?

Ms Adamson : I'll ask my head of staff to—

CHAIR: Was it by Foreign Minister Bob Carr?

Ms Adamson : I'll have to check that, but I can easily do that. We can have someone come to the table. I'm sure from the way that you're asking the question that the answer to that is, indeed, Senator Carr, but I do want to be absolutely accurate in what I say.

CHAIR: Don't bother taking it on notice.

Ms Adamson : Fortunately, Mr Sloper can help us.

CHAIR: I don't want to take up the Labor Party's time.

Senator WONG: Can I get back to my questions? I'm moving on.

CHAIR: All right, move on. I don't need an answer to that. It is on the record.

Mr Sloper : Senator—

Senator WONG: It's all right, Mr Sloper. We don't need that defence. We all know what's happening. I want to talk about the review. The government has said the government will carefully examine Mr Sharma's argument—look how important he was then—that we should et cetera. This is the paragraph:

Second, the Government will carefully examine the arguments put forward by Australia's former Ambassador to Israel—

you're right; it doesn't say 'and current Liberal candidate for Wentworth', but I think everyone knew—

Dave Sharma, that we should consider recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, without prejudice to its final boundaries—

et cetera. It continues:

Specifically, the government will examine the merits of moving Australia's embassy to West Jerusalem ... Any decision will be subject to a rigorous assessment of the potential impact of such a move on our broader national interests.

I suppose that might be described as shutting the door after the horse has bolted. But leaving aside those arguments, I'm actually interested in understanding what the department believes is the process of engaging in the consideration that is referenced in the minister's press release.

Senator Payne: As you've been advised previously, in estimates this week, the development of the review into that matter is still being considered.

Senator WONG: Being considered.

Senator Payne: Determined or considered, yes.

Senator WONG: You can't tell me who's doing it—

Senator Payne: Not at this point, no.

Senator WONG: or how long it will take?

Senator Payne: The government has indicated that it wishes to receive advice on the review questions by the end of the year.

Senator WONG: No. That's only in relation to JCPOA, unless your evidence is to the contrary.

Senator Payne: I'm sorry; you are correct. The timing on this is to be determined.

Senator WONG: We don't know who's conducting this review?

Senator Payne: Not at this point. That is still being determined.

Senator WONG: We don't know how long it will take in relation to the Jerusalem issue?

Senator Payne: That's still being determined.

Senator WONG: We don't have any terms of reference?

Senator Payne: Not at this point.

Senator WONG: It's a very well-considered announcement. Ms Adamson, can you provide any more information? Have you been asked to provide advice in relation to the process of the review?

Ms Adamson : There is discussion between departments, between my department and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, about the form a review might take.

Senator WONG: Are you considering having external personnel on the review panel or whoever is conducting the review?

Ms Adamson : The government is considering a wide range of options with respect to the review.

Senator WONG: Can anyone give me an indication of the time line for determination of the process and personnel doing the review?

Ms Adamson : No, Senator.

Senator WONG: You don't even know when the government are going to decide how to do what they've said they're going to do—just being clear?

Ms Adamson : It's still under consideration.

Senator Payne: The government will make those announcements in due course.

Senator WONG: I just don't quite understand why it takes less than 48 hours to announce that you're considering changing Australia's foreign policy position but a week and a bit later you still don't know how you're going to conduct the review. Can you just explain the difference in the time frames?

Senator Payne: The government is considering these matters and we will make announcements in due course.

CHAIR: I am sure the answer was that it's an iterative process.

Senator WONG: You also announced the JCPOA review.

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: Can I just ask: prior to the minister again backing in the JCPOA just over a month ago at the General Assembly—a position, I reiterate, that the Labor Party supports—had you conducted any in-depth review of the issues associated with the JCPOA and, in particular, the decision of the US administration to repudiate the agreement and the efforts of the EU to keep the agreement in place?

Ms Adamson : A range of work had been done across government, some of which DFAT had contributed to, in a genuinely ongoing way to look at the JCPOA agreement itself. Also, obviously, the second part of your question has been a matter of ongoing interest on the part of our posts with specific reference to signatories of the JCPOA.

Senator WONG: When did the department provide advice to the government in relation to the JCPOA in the time frame between the US administration's announcement of its change in position?

Ms Adamson : On a number of occasions in terms of the US position and also the agreement of others. It's been the subject of ongoing reporting from posts, ongoing interests within government and assessments from time to time.

Senator WONG: But, consistent with the evidence that you gave this morning, no advice was provided in the context of this decision-making process.

Ms Adamson : That's correct.

Senator WONG: Does the department have available to it any evidence that Iran has failed to honour its obligations under the JCPOA?

Ms Adamson : There are a range of views in relation to that. You've used the word 'evidence' carefully.

Senator WONG: Yes, evidence.

Ms Adamson : That is a matter of some difference of opinion within the international community.

Senator WONG: What is your assessment?

Ms Adamson : The IAEA's view is that Iran continues to adhere to the provisions of the JCPOA.

Senator WONG: Can you just remind me of the date of the US decision?

Senator Payne: I think it was in May, from my recollection.

Senator WONG: On how many occasions subsequent to that has the department provided advice as to the status of the agreement?

Ms Adamson : Let me confirm that the minister's memory was accurate. President Trump announced on 8 May that the US would withdraw from the JCPOA. I couldn't tell you on how many occasions, but it has been a subject of ongoing attention within the department and, as I said, relevant overseas posts.

Senator WONG: Has there ever been, prior to the Sunday, consideration of Australia changing its position?

Ms Adamson : I would simply say that, when a close partner makes a decision to take action on a subject, we will often then look at our own position. I wouldn't say 'active consideration to changing', but within the department we have always been open to the fitness of the JCPOA to serve the purpose for which it was intended and other related issues—because, as you are aware, the JCPOA deals with only one aspect, the nuclear aspect, of behaviour by Iran, which has been the cause of some concern in the region and, indeed, more broadly in the international community.

Senator WONG: But we can assume, can we not, from the fact that the minister included support for the agreement in the statement to the General Assembly in September, that the department's and government's assessment at that point was that the merit of continuing support for the agreement in the context of all those things remained?

Ms Adamson : Yes, we supported the agreement.

Senator WONG: Do you support it now?

Ms Adamson : We are currently commencing a review of various aspects of that. Our view up until now or up until relatively recently had been that it was. But, as I say, it's a matter of some contest and differences of view within the international community; there is a variety of evidence available and there are some things that are difficult to support by evidence.

Senator WONG: It would be correct to say that you're not actually conducting the review; you're considering how to conduct the review.

Ms Adamson : No. In relation to the JCPOA, work has commenced on—

Senator WONG: Okay, let's talk about that. Who's doing that work?

Ms Adamson : That work is being led out of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. DFAT is contributing and so too is the Office of National Assessments.

Senator WONG: That is being conducted by the international division of PM&C?

Ms Adamson : The review is actually, I think, being led at deputy secretary level by Deputy Secretary Caroline Millar.

Senator WONG: A former DFAT officer.

Ms Adamson : Correct.

Senator WONG: The US.

Ms Adamson : I can run through her career, if you like—

Senator WONG: No. I was just trying to remember—

Ms Adamson : but she served in Washington and then more recently in Brussels as our acting head of mission.

Senator WONG: When did that commence?

Ms Adamson : This morning.

Senator WONG: This morning! I ask questions and things happen. Who would have thought we had so much power!

Ms Adamson : We have been working on the review terms.

CHAIR: It happened before you asked. Let's get the time line.

Senator WONG: No. We've been asking questions all week. I should have asked them louder.

Ms Adamson : I think our teams start working fairly early in the morning!

Senator WONG: I was joking, but it is kind of funny that you started the morning of the Foreign Affairs estimates. Who made that decision?

Ms Adamson : What decision?

Senator WONG: That Ms Millar would start the review this morning.

Ms Adamson : She's leading the review in another department. We have been talking since—

Senator WONG: Come on!

Ms Adamson : Since we were informed of the government's decision, we've been working on what suitable terms might be for the review and how we might bring it together. It's being led, as I said, out of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet with DFAT—

Senator WONG: I should just be clear. The decision as to who was conducting the review was made this morning; is that what your evidence was?

Ms Adamson : No. The task force commenced work this morning.

Senator WONG: The task force commenced this morning.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: When was the decision about who was leading it and the processes associated with that made?

Ms Adamson : In recent days.

Senator Payne: During this week.

Senator WONG: During this week!

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator Payne: That's logical.

Senator WONG: Before or after PM&C estimates?

Senator Payne: That's logical.

Senator WONG: No. What's logical is that you made some of these decisions before you announced them publicly. That's probably more logical.

Senator Payne: The discussions have been, as you know, underway since the announcements were made last week. The arrangements for the review in relation to the JCPOA have been finalised and put into place.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me why DFAT's not leading that and why it's being done out of PM&C?

Ms Adamson : I think it's because it draws in expertise from more than one department.

Senator WONG: You can talk to other departments though.

Ms Adamson : Yes, of course we can. But where a review is headquartered is less important than who is involved in it, and we will contribute actively to the review.

Senator WONG: Surely it's important for DFAT to be leading foreign policy.

Ms Adamson : In some instances, I think it makes more sense for reviews to be led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. As you know, over the years sometimes we have and sometimes they have. In this instance, I think it makes sense.

Senator WONG: So the task force met for the first time this morning. The decision as to the structure of the task force and the process was made at which level then: between ministers or at departmental level?

Senator Payne: A combination.

Senator WONG: Can you explain it?

Senator Payne: Of course ministers were consulted on it.

Senator WONG: It didn't go to a cabinet process. Were there briefs to ministers and consistent advice signed off and then implemented or was it at a more senior level or did it go to the leadership group, like the original decision?

Senator Payne: It's been the subject of discussions between departments and between ministers, an agreed arrangement to have the review led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and supported by DFAT and, as the secretary has said, ONA and other agencies as necessary.

Senator WONG: Ms Millar is leading it?

Ms Adamson : Ms Millar, yes.

Senator WONG: Who is on it from DFAT?

Ms Adamson : We have offered to provide a number of colleagues; I don't have their names with me at the moment.

Senator WONG: I don't need the names; it's more levels. Is it Mr Sheehan?

Ms Adamson : Typically, a task force will be led by a band 3 officer and will probably have a band 1 in there and some working level staff. We have been in discussion with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, making it very clear that we would provide whatever expertise at whatever level they need.

Senator WONG: You say 'typically', but you told me that the task force met this morning.

Ms Adamson : Yes, it did.

Senator WONG: Who went to the meeting this morning?

Ms Adamson : I've been here this morning, but I can check it for you.

Senator WONG: DFAT officers.

Ms Adamson : I said that the task force commenced work this morning under Deputy Secretary Millar's leadership. I've also said that DFAT has offered to provide whatever expertise is required. I would expect that Deputy Secretary Millar will be in consultation with our staffing area about precisely who she has in mind and what level of staff might be required, and that may well change during the course of the review.

Senator WONG: We talked earlier about the outreach process or prebriefing. Did that occur in relation to the JCPOA announcement as well?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Were all signatories or parties to the JCPOA advised before the announcement?

Mr Sheehan : The prebriefing occurred with all signatories, except Iran, who were briefed the following morning.

Senator WONG: I should also just clarify; I missed asking this in the morning with all the excitement. When did DFAT first become aware that the Prime Minister had communicated with President Widodo by text message in relation to these matters?

Ms Adamson : I'd have to check that.

Senator WONG: When did you become aware?

Ms Adamson : When did I become aware?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Ms Adamson : I can't recall. There was a lot going on at that time—

Senator WONG: There certainly was.

Ms Adamson : in terms of reactions. I can't recall.

Senator WONG: Did you become aware via media or were you advised?

Ms Adamson : I honestly can't recall.

Senator WONG: Really?

Ms Adamson : No, I can't. There was a lot going on in terms of timing and sequencing. I was particularly focused on the foreign minister, obviously, and her interactions. I understood that there would be communication between the Prime Minister and President Jokowi, but I can't say when I became aware and in what form interactions had taken place. I do know, though, obviously, that the Indonesians were early adopters of the text message as a form of communication and—

Senator WONG: Thank you; I don't know that we need the commentary.

Ms Adamson : They had, for at least 10 years.

Senator WONG: That's fine. Mr Sheehan, when did you become aware?

Mr Sheehan : When I heard in the media, I believe.

Senator WONG: Is that what you had anticipated would occur in terms of Prime Minister to president communications?

Mr Sheehan : I didn't have a particular anticipation of the matter. If I may, I'd like to make a correction in respect of signatories to the JCPOA. Russia was not briefed before the announcement.

Senator WONG: The US was, I assume?

Mr Sheehan : Yes.

Senator WONG: Has the department received any representations from other nations expressing concern about the announcement of the JCPOA review?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: From whom?

Ms Adamson : A range of countries have expressed views on this matter. Probably the first thing to say is that, in relation to those countries who were pre-briefed or briefed at a very early stage—some of them were the day before and some of them were in the course of the day—overwhelmingly, they were pleased to receive advice of the Australian government's intention to review these matters. Some governments then expressed concern and some expressed interest. A range of views was expressed and continues to be expressed. We have been careful to ensure that all countries, all governments, are aware that these are matters for review and that the government has not taken decisions in relation to the matters that are the subject of review.

Senator WONG: Has there been a recent—I always think this term is amusing—demarche in relation to JCPOA?

Ms Adamson : In relation to JCPOA, the various signatories—in fact, I think all signatories, one way or another—have expressed views to us. Those views are as one would expect of countries that are signatories to an agreement. They will, I am sure, continue to express those views. So, yes, formal representations have been made, and in some cases I would characterise those in the term that you use—a demarche.

Senator WONG: For those who are not familiar with the term, do you want to remind us of what it means?

Ms Adamson : Simply, it's a form of representation. Diplomats make contact with the host government, seek an appointment and say that they want to come in and make representations—'representations' and 'demarche' are often used interchangeably—to express a view; and, of course, in our business it carries some weight.

Senator WONG: Who were participants in a recent demarche?

Ms Adamson : A range of countries have sought to contact us to seek information about what is envisaged, to clarify their understanding of the government's announcement and, in the case of JCPOA signatories, to make clear their views—those who continue to adhere to the agreement—that they see value in the agreement continuing. That is exactly what we would have expected them to do.

Senator WONG: Would you describe the representations from Indonesia in relation to the Jerusalem decision as a demarche?

Ms Adamson : Indonesia has expressed its views on this matter, both publicly and privately. I'm not sure that the characterisation of them specifically matters. We know what their views are and they've made them known through a number of different avenues.

Senator WONG: I think Senator Di Natale spoke about Myanmar as well, while I was out of the room. I will check at the lunch break how much he covered, because we've got a fair bit to get through.

Senator Payne: Do you want to go to that now or come back to it later?

Senator WONG: I want to ask a couple of questions quickly because then I want to move to the Pacific before lunch, if that's okay. There was the announcement of targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against, I think it was, five military officers; is that correct?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: Can you perhaps give us a quick outline of why these individuals were chosen and why targeted sanctions in these circumstances were considered to be appropriate and effective by the government?

Senator Payne: The Australian government has obviously been following the development of the UN fact-finding mission report on Myanmar very closely, flowing from the interim or preliminary report—I think it was characterised as—which was provided in August. The full report obviously documented, in some detail, very serious violations, coming to a conclusion that crimes against humanity and war crimes have occurred, as well as finding sufficient evidence to support a possible finding of genocide. That added to a significant body of evidence of the crimes committed against the Rohingya. A decision to impose targeted sanctions of the nature that you have described is based around those findings. We have also pursued these matters through the Human Rights Council and through other bilateral and multilateral approaches.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me what the government would like to see from the Myanmar government regarding the response to the UN fact-finding mission and other concerns that you've identified, Minister?

Senator Payne: We are very concerned that the perpetrators are held to account, and we are supporting international efforts for accountability and justice in Myanmar. I am looking at our statement to the Human Rights Council on 18 September, which incorporates some of these observations. We want to see security for all communities in Rakhine state and to create conditions which are conducive to safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return of displaced Rohingya. We have urged the implementation of the MOU on repatriation, which would require full access for UNDP and UNHCR and also the full implementation of the advisory commission recommendations. We have sought the lifting of restrictions on humanitarian access, not just in Rakhine but also in Shan and Kachin states. We have also made clear our concerns in relation to media freedom.

It is worth noting, and important to note, that, as a country in our region, we've been a long supporter of Myanmar's difficult processes towards democratisation—very difficult processes. They have been navigating complex political and development transitions. We will continue to focus on their efforts towards full democracy and towards peace and reconciliation, but accountability is a very important part of that. We have worked, as I said, to focus on the fact-finding mission outcomes. There was an Australian member of the fact-finding mission, Chris Sidoti, who'd be well known to many people in Australia. I sat down with Mr Sidoti for some time after the release of the final report, to get a firsthand appreciation of the work that had been done. This is something that we regard as the most significant humanitarian crisis in our region, and we are very focused on addressing it with counterparts and through Australia's direct engagement.

Senator SINGH: Can we get a copy of the statement dated 18 September to the Human Rights Council?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: In the course of the early part of that answer did you indicate how these particular individuals were identified? Is it because they have particular connections to Australia, financial or otherwise?

Senator Payne: They're identified through the information that is provided in the fact-finding mission, in large part.

Senator WONG: I wasn't perhaps explaining myself clearly. There is a range of individuals identified in the fact-finding mission as being perpetrators or having responsibility for actions which the international community regards as inhumane. I'm trying to understand if our response to that is simply our being part of a collective response to these individuals for that reason as opposed to these individuals having a particular relationship with Australia and therefore a targeted sanction in respect of them being more effective.

Senator Payne: More in relation to the former, based on their complicity in terms of the acts which have been perpetrated on the Rohingyas.

Senator SINGH: I want to follow up on the humanitarian side of our response to the Rohingya crisis. I understand that in June we made an additional commitment of $18.4 million for food and shelter for the camps in Bangladesh. I want to know where that's at. How much of that has been spent, if there's a breakdown, where has that been allocated and where did that kind of funding come from?

Senator Payne: While we're looking for that information, there have been a number of statements, both through the Human Rights Council and, further, in the UNGA Third Committee, so I'll get copies of all of those for you.

Senator SINGH: Thank you.

Mr Kelly : Senator, I didn't hear your full question, as I was making my way to the table.

Senator SINGH: It was about the additional spend of $18.4 million since June. I think I'm correct on that but you might want to confirm that.

Mr Kelly : That's correct.

Senator SINGH: What's the breakdown of that, has it all been spent, where is it at and, also, where did that funding come from?

Mr Kelly : I couldn't tell you right now how much has been spent. Funding of $15 million was provided to the UNHCR, $2.24 million to WFP and $1.45 million to IOM. That's just continuing the funding that we'd already provided to those partners.

Senator SINGH: Additional?

Mr Kelly : That's correct.

Senator SINGH: Where did that allocation come from?

Mr Kelly : I'm pretty sure that would have been from the humanitarian emergency fund.

Senator SINGH: You're not aware of how much of that has been spent and therefore what further additional funding may be required or needed?

Mr Kelly : No, I couldn't tell you at this stage what's been spent.

Senator SINGH: Do you want to take that on notice?

Mr Kelly : I shall do so.

Senator SINGH: UNICEF warned of catastrophic risk in Cox's Bazar from the monsoon season. Have you been informed of how the camps have coped through that season and what kinds of risk factors are coming out of that?

Mr Kelly : Obviously, it would have exacerbated an already very difficult situation. The biggest challenge was the prospect of the outbreak of contagious disease.

Senator SINGH: I know what the challenges were; I was there just before it. I wanted to know if, post the season, you've been informed of how everyone survived, basically?

Mr Kelly : Apologies; I'm not across that level of information. We can provide a little more information.

Senator Payne: We can take that on notice and come back to you.

Ms Adamson : We can get that for you, and probably today because our post in Dhaka monitors this very closely; we can ask them for the information you are seeking.

Senator SINGH: Thank you; that would be great. Finally, in June this year the Myanmar government signed an agreement with the UN to facilitate the repatriation of Rohingyas back to their home. How much progress, is the department aware, has been made in this space?

Ms Heckscher : I can answer that one. As you mention, after long and difficult negotiations the MOU was signed in June. Implementation has been slow. On 12 September, UNHCR and UNDP were given permission to begin assessing the suitability of 23 Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State for returns. This represents partial access to only two per cent of the total number of villages in northern Rakhine State, significantly less than the 31 village tracts to which the UN had sought access. Even with the MOU in place, many issues need to be addressed if returns are to be safe, dignified and sustainable, including establishing security, law and order, addressing issues of statelessness and freedom of movement and removing barriers to Rohingyas' access to livelihoods, markets and health and education services.

Senator SINGH: Has Australia been asked for support with those challenges?

Ms Heckscher : We certainly have been offering assistance. As with other countries, there are difficulties continuing in terms of access to northern Rakhine, in particular. But we certainly are ready to assist, and we have been making representations to the Myanmar government, for example, to support access by UN agencies and to ensure that the Myanmar government is aware that we are there and available to assist.

Senator SINGH: What about from the Bangladesh government—have we been asked to assist?

CHAIR: That is more than one last question.

Senator WONG: We will come back to it later.

CHAIR: I think we should. Senator Wong has a quick request and then we will have Senator Patrick.

Senator WONG: Mr Wood always provides me with some documents—

CHAIR: Can we do that privately so we don't cut into time now?

Senator WONG: If he's happy to give them to me privately. I was going to ask him to table it.

CHAIR: Is that appropriate, Minister?

Senator Payne: In relation to the material Senator Wong wants?


Senator Payne: I'm familiar with what that might be, so yes.

Senator WONG: I want to look at them over the break; is that all right?

CHAIR: Yes. Then you can table them after lunch, if that suits.

Senator WONG: Fantastic.

CHAIR: Senator Patrick, over to you.

Senator PATRICK: Welcome, Minister, as the Foreign Minister. I am going to miss you in defence. When was the Australian government first informed of the US announcement that they intended to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty?

Ms Adamson : Shortly before the announcement.

Senator PATRICK: It was obviously through some diplomatic channel?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator PATRICK: It wasn't discussed at AUSMIN, in the US, Minister?

Senator Payne: Not specifically.

Senator PATRICK: What's the government's response to this announcement about withdrawing? Obviously, it has significant security implications.

Senator Payne: Mr Sadleir will make some observations about that.

Mr Sadleir : Australia's position on this is that this is a result of Russia's persistent non-compliance. The United States has foreshadowed its intention to withdraw from the treaty. This reflects a long period, since at least 2014, where the United States has been expressing grave public concerns about Russia's violations of its INF obligations. Australia shares those concerns about violations, along with other US allies.

Senator PATRICK: That sets a nice context, but I presume that Australia would have preferred a situation where there wasn't a withdrawal. You've explained the reasons why the withdrawal may have occurred. But in principle, compliance with the treaty would be a good thing?

Mr Sadleir : The treaty has a formal withdrawal process in it which requires a formal notification and other activities. The United States has made its intentions clear. There has been some media speculation that there might be discussions around the November 11 meeting in Paris, but the United States has made its intention very clear, and we'll have to see where it goes from here.

Senator PATRICK: Your answer went to process. My question was about preference. It does have implications for this region, does it not?

Mr Sadleir : The INF Treaty is an interesting treaty because it binds the United States and it binds Russia as a successor to the USSR, but it doesn't bind other states. So there would be countries which have capabilities or emerging capabilities or aspirations which would not be caught by the INF Treaty, which I think is the point you're referring to about implications for the region.

Senator PATRICK: I am sure China would not appreciate the stationing of intermediate weapons in South Korea, for example, or in Okinawa. Consequences could flow from this. Some of those are hypothetical, but they're not beyond possibility.

Mr Sadleir : The problem here is that you can't have unilateral compliance with a treaty. The United States is strictly complying with the treaty. It's clear that Russia is not. The United States is responding to that. The announcement with respect to the INF Treaty underlines the seriousness of the matter.

Senator PATRICK: The Japanese government have now made a statement that they think it is a shame that the United States has indicated an intention. Do we share that view? Have we had discussions with the Japanese about it?

Mr Sadleir : We regularly talk to the Japanese about many issues. It's a very cooperative and detailed relationship on arms control and disarmament issues. However, we all have our national positions.

Senator PATRICK: You will have further discussions with Japan and China, South Korea and the US in relation to this?

Mr Sadleir : I have no doubt that these sorts of issues will be discussed in a range of fora.

Senator PATRICK: What impact might this decision have for nuclear arms control, especially from the renewal of New START treaty?

Mr Sadleir : It is very difficult to speculate at this time about that. At the Helsinki Summit there were some indications that Russia and the US might engage in some further discussion on New START. None of this precludes further discussion on New START, but it's hard to speculate at this point. As I understand it, the United States and Mr Bolton have had discussions in Moscow. We'll have to see how these firm indications of US representations play out.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you, Mr Sadleir. I would like to move to the speech you delivered in the United Nations on 28 September, Minister. I don't mean to be in any way disrespectful in asking this question but—

CHAIR: I always like the caveats which go 'but'. What does the 'but' tell us?

Senator PATRICK: You had just become the Foreign Minister when you went to New York because of the change of leadership. Was the intention that, presumably, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was to go there?

Senator Payne: No; I don't believe so. As I understood it, the former Foreign Minister was attending.

Senator PATRICK: But it was only a short period between when you took the reins and then you went to—

Senator Payne: Correct.

Senator PATRICK: I presume that speech may have been generated by the previous Foreign Minister?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator PATRICK: In that speech, which could be summarised as talking about preserving and advancing the international rules and order, you chose an example which I am struggling with. Referring to the treaty with East Timor, you said:

The Treaty underscores Australia's commitment to international law. The Treaty underscores Australia's commitment to international law, and is testament to the way in which international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, enables countries to resolve disputes peacefully and properly, abiding by the rules. The conciliation process created the space for compromise and negotiation on what I acknowledge was a previously intractable disagreement, and ultimately strengthened bilateral relations.

Minister, are you aware that on 21 March 2002, just prior to East Timor becoming independent, Australia withdrew from the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea?

Senator Payne: I'm aware of the background to the issue, which is why I, in broad terms, in a relatively short presentation, referred to the situation between Australia and Timor-Leste as having been 'a previously intractable disagreement'. The point of the reference I made to UNCLOS—the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea—was at several levels. First, the treaty itself, the Maritime Boundaries Treaty, is the successful result of the first ever compulsory conciliation that has been initiated under the UNCLOS. So that is a significant outcome, no matter between which countries. Secondly, our engagement through that process is, for both countries, testament to the way you can use a construct such as the UNCLOS to resolve disputes in a constructive way.

Senator PATRICK: It goes to your choice of the example. I'm suggesting that we pulled out of that jurisdiction prior to them becoming independent because we had a concern about oil and gas in the Timor Sea. The next thing that happened was we entered into a treaty, started negotiations and then we initiated some spying action on the East Timorese Cabinet rooms during negotiations for the purposes of defrauding East Timor of revenue. I presume you were aware of that activity in your choice of the example you've given in the speech?

Senator Payne: I'll take that as a statement of your view of the events, Senator. I'm not going to make any comment on intelligence matters, as you would expect. But I did indicate that I recognised in my speech, expressly, that this had been a previously intractable dispute between our two nations and that the ability to engage under the parameters of the Convention on the Law of the Sea has provided a constructive outcome which has been warmly welcomed both by our counterparts in Timor-Leste and by Australia. I might ask Mr Larsen, our chief legal officer, if he has anything more to add to the operation of the UNCLOS in this process.

Mr Larsen : Minister, I have very little to add. The key elements of the arrangement reached between Australia and Timor-Leste as an outcome of the conciliation process are reflected in the treaty that has been agreed by both parties. Obviously that treaty and the conciliation process are the culmination of a long series of different disputes, and those disputes have been resolved.

Senator PATRICK: I'm partly addressing this as an historical matter but it actually has relevance moving forward in respect of what's probably a fragile relationship, but hopefully getting better. I recognise that we've had a very, very trying relationship between the two countries as a result of the Timor dispute and there are opportunities that have opened up for China in respect of soft power because of this mess. Minister, in making that statement—and I know you're not going to confirm or deny the operation; and, rightly, who's Senator Patrick to say the operation occurred—this is the view of the East Timorese. This is what they said in their memorial in the Permanent Court of Arbitration:

The circumstances ... are that during the negotiation of the 2006 Treaty between Timor-Leste and Australia in 2004, Australia covertly spied on the Timor-Leste negotiating team by means of listening devices surreptitiously and unlawfully placed by Australian personnel—

In East Timor. They go on to say:

The conduct on the part of Australia violated customary international law in that it was manifestly done in bad faith, contrary to the requirement of good faith which is a fundamental legal principle governing relations between States.

I could read on. That was from what was confidential testimony. The reason it made it into the public domain was that Australia then raided the offices of their legal representative, which then spurred another litigation activity in the International Court of Justice. My question goes to the wisdom of putting that particular example in a speech, noting all the history and the need to move forward.

Senator Payne: I would refer you, if I may, to the joint communique of 30 July 2018, a highly contemporary document which makes a number of observations between Foreign Minister Soares of Timor-Leste and the then foreign minister of Australia made in Dili. I would refer you to that in the first instance and then I would also refer you to the comments of the former president of Timor-Leste and the head of its negotiating delegations, Xanana Gusmao, who thanked the conciliation commission for helping to resolve:

... a long and at times difficult process, to help achieve our dream of full sovereignty and to finally settle our maritime boundaries with Australia.

This is an historic agreement and marks the beginning of a new era in Timor-Leste's friendship with Australia.

Minister Agio Pereira said:

This treaty marks an historical landmark for Timor-Leste, and for the friendship between Timor-Leste and Australia. Thanks to the strong commitment of the leadership of both countries to this conciliation process, we have arrived at an agreement in maritime boundaries that is equitable, and consistent with international law.

I will leave the final words to Xanana Gusmao, which again I quote:

History is made today as Timor-Leste signs a treaty on permanent maritime boundaries that establishes, for the first time, a fair border between our two countries, based on international law. We thank the Commission for their patience, wisdom and trust, and the Australian representatives for their constructive engagement and spirit of cooperation. This moment also provides hope for the peaceful resolution of disputes around the world.

The heading of the joint communique is 'A new chapter and revitalised partnership'. Points 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 15 are particularly pertinent in terms of the current status of the relationship between Timor-Leste and Australia but, more importantly, the future of that relationship. If I can just read point 2:

The Ministers committed to a new chapter in the bilateral relations that will strengthen ties and deepen collaboration between Timor-Leste and Australia. The Ministers had an extensive discussion on bilateral relations and cooperation and acknowledged that the friendship between their two countries was strong. The Ministers committed to a revitalised partnership for the future, focused not only on close bilateral cooperation but on working together in the Indo-Pacific region and globally. The Ministers restated their commitment to a partnership based on mutual respect and trust.

I have had a long and deep relationship with Timor-Leste since I came into the parliament in 1997, but particularly from 1998 onwards. I acknowledge and understand the issues to which you have referred but my perspective on this is that we have to be looking forward, and I take note of the heading of this joint communique 'A new chapter and revitalised partnership'.

I would have met with my colleague Minister Soares in New York, but he was taken ill and was unwell. We have sent our best wishes to him of course for a fast recovery. But I think in terms of contemporary assessment, the words that I have read into the record from Mr Gusmao and from Agio Pereira and now from the joint communique are an indication of why I would have adopted an example of that nature.

Senator PATRICK: I appreciate all the points you're making and that's what's happening at the sort of government-to-government level and international diplomacy level, but you'd appreciate there's a fairly large body of citizens inside East Timor who are still unhappy. They feel that , for example, compensation is due because we've renegotiated a treaty. I know it specifically excludes the prospect of compensation. They say, 'We had this treaty signed in 2006. It was clearly flawed. We now get to 2018. We have a treaty signed but there's a whole bunch of lost revenue as a function of that.' I understand where you're coming from, from a government level, but there is a large population in East Timor who feel differently, as they're entitled to.

Senator Payne: When the signing of the treaty occurred, my understanding is that, when Mr Gusmao, the chief negotiator, returned to Dili with the outcomes of the signing of the treaty, the streets were lined with people enthusiastically welcoming his return and welcoming the outcome which he brought back with him. We have had significant levels of support from both leaders and civil society representatives in terms of their public comments, both on social media and more broadly. So I understand the point that you make, and the observation I would return is that I have been a politician for a very long time. By and large, I expect at least 50 per cent of the population to disagree with me on most days. That is the case in any democracy, and I understand there may be individuals and groups who might disagree with the arrangements or with the determination reached between Australia and Timor-Leste. But if you work from the joint communique, headed 'A new chapter and revitalised partnership' and if you work from the strong relationship between our governments and the enthusiasm with which the finalisation of negotiations were received, I think we can actually progress very positively with Timor-Leste.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you for your perspective.

Ms Adamson : Can I just very briefly add another point because I think this treaty has real significance beyond our bilateral relationship, which the minister has spoken about? In a part of the world where there are, as you know, other maritime disputes, the fact that Australia and Timor-Leste have been able to reach agreement through a conciliation process has real significance beyond our two countries, as we seek through UNCLOS to ensure that other disputes are also able to be settled peacefully. Where there previously was no example, there now is an example of successful use of that mechanism. That's something that we will continue to talk about publically, as will others in our region and beyond.

Senator PATRICK: Secretary, I mentioned at the start that we withdrew ourselves from the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. Is that still the current status?

Mr Larsen : Yes, it is.

Senator PATRICK: Minister, thank you for your perspective. I think we may have some more discussions but I appreciate your perspective. I'll move on now, because of time, to the topic of Julian Assange» . I think there is some reasonable prospect that Mr «Assange» may find himself not welcome in the Ecuadorian embassy very shortly. That seems to be the signal I'm receiving from the press. Can you just confirm whether DFAT has rejected an application from Mr «Assange» to have a new passport?

Mr Larsen : No, there's been no such rejection.

Senator PATRICK: Minister, are you aware whether Ms Bishop discussed Mr «Assange» on the visit she did to London in July for Australia-UK ministerial talks?

Senator Payne: I'm not specifically aware, no, but I can seek advice on that and I'll come back to you on notice.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you. I think she then went on to the United States where—

Senator Payne: We both did. They were all communicated at AUSMIN respectively, but I will seek advice.

Senator PATRICK: I guess the department's aware that Ecuador has now said, 'We're not going to talk to the British government on your behalf. We're not your lawyers.' There have been disputes over cats and all sorts of things but predominantly I think the issue at hand is that there's a requirement for Mr «Assange» not to engage in political activities from the embassy. I'm just wondering: he may well get ejected from the embassy. If he does, I presume he'll be arrested for breach of bail conditions by the UK police and will have to face the UK courts but, potentially, then face an extradition to the United States. What role is Australia prepared to play in resolving Mr Assange's circumstances, bearing in mind that he is an Australian citizen?

Mr Todd : The Australian government is not able to interfere in the legal processes of any foreign country, just as we would not welcome interference in the legal processes of this country. Mr «Assange» has his own independent legal advice and we encourage and have encouraged Mr «Assange» to use those resources and also the judicial process in the United Kingdom to resolve his circumstances. At the press conference at the end of the AUSMIN discussions in London, the UK Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon. Jeremy Hunt, on 20 July made it very clear that Mr  «Assange» would receive due process in the United Kingdom in any consideration of any proceedings before a court in that country.

Senator PATRICK: I respect the principle that we don't interfere in the legal processes, and I'm not in any sense very comfortable with the UK legal processes. I note, for example, and I thank you, minister, for the work that your department did in the case of Mr Ricketson. He was an Australian citizen. Consular assistance was provided and we ended up with a good outcome. Notwithstanding the legal issues, you've said what you won't do. You won't interfere in the legal processes of another country. I'm asking what you will do. What could you do?

Mr Todd : We provide a range of support and have offered a range of support to Mr «Assange» consistent with our consular services charter. That makes clear exactly what we can do and can't do. Mr «Assange» , on occasion, has accepted that offer. We have followed through with a number of issues that he's asked us to follow through. We maintain that Mr «Assange» is free to leave the Ecuadorian embassy at any time. We do not believe that he is being held against his will or in arbitrary detention. We would advise Mr «Assange» that he should make best use of his own legal advice and undertake due legal process in the United Kingdom, just as we advise all our consular clients, as we advised Mr Ricketson to do.

Senator PATRICK: Mindful of time—my last question because I know we're about to adjourn—in the discussions that may have taken place, and maybe that needs to be taken on notice, to your knowledge, Mr Todd, have there been any discussion about a pathway to get Mr «Assange» back to Australia?

Mr Todd : I'm not aware of any discussion about a pathway back other than our firm view that Mr «Assange» should take an opportunity to undertake due legal process in the United Kingdom, face those charges that he may face when he leaves. We have assurances from the United Kingdom at the highest levels that he will face due legal process in that country. He is entitled to an Australian passport. He is free to travel back to Australia at any time. And it is our view that he is free to leave the Ecuadorian embassy at any time he wishes.

Senator PATRICK: He is entitled to a passport. Does he have one or not?

Mr Larsen : Mr «Assange does have an Australian passport, yes.

CHAIR: The committee stands adjourned until 1.30.

Proceedings suspended from 12 : 30 to 13 : 30

CHAIR: Secretary, I understand that you have a document you wish to table in response to the request from Senator Wong?

Ms Adamson : Yes. That's the list of representations on political developments to the Cambodian government since the last estimates on 31 May this year.

CHAIR: Thank you, Secretary. Senator Rice?

Senator RICE: I just want to start with the disturbing news out of Singapore about the execution of a Malaysian person on Wednesday for drug-related charges and the planned imminent executions of two men tomorrow. I'm wondering what awareness the Australian government has about that and what actions we are taking about that?

Ms Adamson : I'll need to ask my colleague, head of our South-East Asia division responsible for Singapore, to come to the table. You are aware, of course, of Australia's long-standing and active opposition to the death penalty.

Senator RICE: I am.

Ms Adamson : I am sure the foreign minister will want to contribute to that, since she recently launched a new plan. I'm sure you were there as well.

Senator RICE: Sadly, I missed it. I was busy. But I intended to get there.

Ms Hecks c her : I was not aware of those either, the execution or imminent executions. We are, of course, aware that Singapore continues to have the death penalty. As you know, abolition of the death penalty is a very important part of our long-standing human rights policy, and abolition of it is something on which we advocate in multilateral forums around the world. We have made representations previously in relation to Singapore, but I am not aware of these current cases. I will need to go and find out about the cases.

Senator RICE: There was an Amnesty International report and another online article. Yesterday's was a drug-related conviction. Tomorrow it is a man who has been named as Prabu Pathmanathan, a Malaysian national, and another man whose name has not released. Their executions are scheduled for tomorrow. Assuming that the Amnesty International report is accurate, which we have no reason to doubt, will the government be in a position to make immediate representations to the Singaporean government about those executions tomorrow?

Ms Hecks c her : I will need to take that on notice.

Senator RICE: Minister?

Senator Payne: You would be aware, and the secretary just adverted to it, that we have recently launched our strategy in relation to abolition of the death penalty. The use of the death penalty in our region remains a concern to the Australian government. I will take up the issues you have raised and come back to you.

Senator RICE: I think Australia's immediate representation could be a very powerful thing. I wanted to also ask more broadly about DFAT's view about the human rights situation in Singapore and, in particular, the situation around labour rights or lack of labour rights for migrant workers and the freedom to protest peacefully. I have heard reports that are concerning about the crackdown on the right to protest and the ongoing exploitation of migrant workers. Is this something that DFAT has been actively engaged in and is making representations to Singapore regarding?

Ms Hecks c her : I don't have any information with me. I will need to come back to you on some of those issues.

Senator RICE: Has the government made any public or private representations about human rights in Singapore in recent times at all?

Ms Hecks c her : We consistently make representations on human rights in multilateral fora and certainly on the death penalty, of course. That's a very recent one. Whether we've made specific and recent ones, I would need to seek information.

Ms Adamson : The generic descriptions you have provided are issues we are seeking to pursue through our term on the Human Rights Council. But let's check specifically in relation to Singapore.

Senator RICE: You're not aware at all about anything that we have done in relation to Singapore in recent times?

Ms Hecks c her : We certainly have made previous death penalty representations several years ago. I have some specific information on those. But whether we have made more recent ones, I can't tell you.

Senator RICE: The information is that there are currently around a million migrant workers earning as little as $2 a day, who have virtually no rights at all, and in relation to the right to protest, people are being arrested and fined massive amounts as having a protest of even just one person is an illegal protest. I would appreciate you following up on that.

I want to ask about the situation with the Uyghurs, which my colleague Senator Di Natale asked some questions about this morning. I understand that DFAT may be helping Australian residents who are saying they can't contact their family members in the Uyghur Autonomous Region. You advised this morning that this involved passing information on to the Chinese authorities about people? Is that the case?

Mr Fletcher : Yes, that's correct.

Senator RICE: Can you provide figures on how many cases DFAT has been assisting with?

Mr Fletcher : I think there are two. One of them involved a family member, one individual, and the other involved a number of individuals, possibly I think about 20 people who were relatives and/or friends of his that he could not contact. We asked him if he was willing for us to provide information about family members that he wasn't able to contact to the Chinese authorities, which we did.

Senator RICE: What exactly is that assistance? You provided information? Can you expand a bit on what that means?

Mr Fletcher : Over the last 10 months a number of members of parliament have received letters from members of their electorates, individuals, saying 'There are problems with me contacting my relatives in China.' Some of those members of parliament have passed that on to the foreign minister. One of our responses has been, 'If you wish the government to take up this issue with China, we are prepared to do so.' We have said to the Chinese government—it has been done here in Canberra as well Beijing—'An Australian citizen has concerns about the welfare or whereabouts of certain individuals who are related to him or that he's acquainted with. These are their names, this is where they live. What can you tell us?'

Senator RICE: Has there been a response from the Chinese government?

Mr Fletcher : The response was that we hadn't supplied sufficient information.

Senator RICE: Has that ended the engagement with the Chinese government about these people, or are you continuing to take further action about them?

Mr Fletcher : We need to consider what action, if any, we're prepared to take as a next step. We haven't done that yet.

Senator RICE: What further action could be possible that we could be taking beyond just providing that information?

Mr Fletcher : We're asking a question of the Chinese government about whether they can help us with information as to the whereabouts of these individuals. The answer has been that we haven't provided sufficient information for that to happen.

Senator RICE: Have all of your representations been at national level, or have you been making representations at a regional level?

Mr Fletcher : At the national level.

Senator RICE: Have you made representations at the regional level, in Xinjiang?

Mr Fletcher : No, we have not.

Senator RICE: Is that under consideration?

Mr Fletcher : At the moment, we haven't had any visits to Xinjiang in recent times from the embassy. Our embassy in Beijing has not visited Xinjiang recently, as far as I know.

Senator RICE: Is that something that would be considered in terms of further representation?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator RICE: Is that something that is being actively considered?

Mr Fletcher : At the moment, our embassy's officials have not been able to arrange official visits to Xinjiang.

Senator RICE: What has been the barrier there?

Mr Fletcher : They need approval to do so.

Senator RICE: Has approval been refused?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator RICE: What representations have you made to the Chinese government or to Xinjiang? Has it been refused at a national level or a regional level?

Mr Fletcher : We have expressed to China at a national level our interest in visiting Xinjiang. I don't think we've been there, in terms of an official visit, since the beginning of last year. But we continue to seek permission to travel to Xinjiang.

Senator RICE: Have there previously been problems with getting permission to visit Xinjiang?

Mr Fletcher : Previously visits used to occur from time to time; not every year, but from time to time.

Senator RICE: How many applications have been refused?

Mr Fletcher : A number. I don't know how many.

Senator RICE: Over the last year?

Mr Fletcher : Over the last 18 months.

Senator RICE: What is the department doing about that refusal? Are you raising it up to a higher level of concern with China? It seems very problematic.

Mr Fletcher : We continue to express to the Chinese government our interest in Xinjiang, our concerns about the situation there and our interest in conducting a visit to Xinjiang. In a similar way we have an interest in Tibet and we have previously sought to visit there as well.

Senator RICE: Have you had discussions with other countries about whether they are having the same restrictions placed on their embassy staff travelling to Xinjiang?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator RICE: Is this the case across the board?

Mr Fletcher : That is correct.

Senator RICE: So essentially there's a crackdown on any foreign countries visiting Xinjiang?

Mr Fletcher : It would be fair to say there are limits on access by foreign diplomats to Xinjiang at the moment.

Senator RICE: And that's been put in place over the last 18 months?

Mr Fletcher : It seems to have been introduced some time in 2017, yes.

Senator RICE: Are you also aware of the fact that there are six Australian residents who are Uyghurs who have travelled to China and haven't returned because they have been detained, either in jail, under house arrest or internment camps?

Mr Fletcher : Are you referring to Australian citizens?

Senator RICE: My information is Australian residents. I'm not sure if they are citizens or not; but permanent residents.

Mr Fletcher : We're aware of a small number of Australians who travelled to Xinjiang and have returned. I don't know of any Australian citizens who have travelled to Xinjiang and have not returned. I don't know of others who may have Australian permanent residency but don't have Australian citizenship.

Senator RICE: Of the ones you do know of, do you have any more details you can share about those cases?

Mr Fletcher : There are three individuals who have told us that they were detained in Xinjiang during the course of last year, but who have since returned.

Senator RICE: I am told there are a further six who haven't returned.

Mr Fletcher : I don't have that information.

Senator RICE: Perhaps you can take on notice to follow up and see if there is more information that you can gain about those six people.

Mr Fletcher : I can tell you that the department does not have information about any Australians who have not returned from Xinjiang.

Senator Payne: Senator, if you have relevant information that you think should be passed on—

Senator RICE: I will see if there is further information beyond what I have in the brief.

Senator Payne: If it pertains to Australian citizens, then it is a matter that we're able to address.

Senator RICE: Moving on to Saudi Arabia, earlier today Senator Di Natale asked whether you could advise how many Australian businesses have gone to 'Davos in the desert' and what kind of facilitation the Australian government provided. You undertook to take it on notice. Is it possible to have that response by the end of today?

Ms Adamson : Yes, Senator. We are checking with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission and we'd hope to be able to come back to you before the end of the day, but we don't have that information at the moment.

Senator RICE: Okay, thank you.

Senator Payne: As you know, Senator, there is no official Australian government representation there.

Senator RICE: Yes, I'm aware of that, Minister. Certainly, the level of facilitation of Australian businesses is also of considerable significance. Moving on to the Philippines, what funds do the Australian government provide to human rights organisations in the Philippines to address suspected extrajudicial executions involving the Philippine National Police and other security forces?

Senator Payne: We will just invite those officials to the table, Senator.

Senator RICE: Thank you.

Ms Heckscher : Apologies, Senator Rice. Would you mind repeating the question.

Senator RICE: I was just wondering about the level of funding, if any, that the government provides to human rights organisations in the Philippines who are working on suspected extrajudicial executions involving the Philippine National Police and other security forces?

Ms Heckscher : Thank you for the question, Senator. We do—I'm just trying to find the exact reference—provide support for human rights organisations and on human rights issues in the Philippines. It's not specifically on that particular point, but what I can tell you is that Australia's supporting the promotion and protection of human rights through a number of initiatives. We're supporting the strengthening of Philippines judicial institutions and a more responsive criminal justice system through a grant that we've made to the Asia Foundation program to assist with effective case management in the Philippines judiciary. We are working with the United Nations to support the promotion of human rights. We have a grant to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights to support a Manila based human rights adviser. We have money that we have supplied to the World Health Organization that builds on existing work with the Philippine Department of Health in developing and implementing a rights based and health based substance-use response. So, it is a drug response that is based on health measures. And we have money that we supply to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to work on ensuring a holistic, effective and coordinated response to Philippines government program that address drug use, prevention and rehabilitation. So, we have a number of programs that are trying to provide effective, practical support for both human rights and on the drugs issues but not directly in the way you suggested.

Senator RICE: Thank you. Can you tell me the amounts that you're providing for each of those grants.

Ms Heckscher : I can indeed. For the Philippines judicial institutions strengthening, $600,000 over the period 2017-18; an $850,000 grant to the office of the high commissioner on human rights over the period 2016-21; $2.4 million over the period 2017-19 to the WHO; and $1 million over the period 2017-19 to UNODC, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Senator RICE: Thank you very much. I want to move onto Bougainville—I'm going on a trip around the world in my half an hour—and know whether the Australian government has offered any assistance, whether financial or otherwise, to the PNG government, the autonomous Bougainville government or the Bougainville Referendum Commission to assist with the upcoming referendum?

Ms Klugman : Australia is funding a few initiatives associated with the referendum. Most of them are focused on improving the institutions, the electoral institutions and the processes in Bougainville. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems—we are providing up to $5.2 million over the period 2016 to 2020, and that is helping to build the capacity of the Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner. We are providing, or have provided, $3.1 million over 2017 to 2020 for the National Research Institute to undertake research and produce materials to help encourage all stakeholders to have a more informed dialogue on the future status of Bougainville, which is, of course, essential.

Senator RICE: Yes. Has DFAT done an assessment of what criteria are still to be met before a fair and free vote can occur?

Ms Klugman : No.

Senator RICE: No? So do you feel—

Ms Klugman : We're monitoring the situation there. We're very keenly interested and engaged in supporting the electoral processes, as I set out. In addition to the amounts that I mentioned that go to the electoral processes, we have increased the funding through our broader bilateral aid program to Papua New Guinea. We are providing the share of that that goes to the activities on Bougainville. You asked if we had done an audit or are looking at criteria for the referendum. We have not specifically done that.

Senator RICE: Are you concerned about whether or not they're going to be on track by when the referendum needs to be held, which I understand is 15 June next year?

Ms Klugman : That's right. That's the window.

Senator RICE: Yes.

Ms Klugman : The window has opened. There are many difficult questions involved in the readiness, both in terms of the processes and the understandings on the ground—political and otherwise—in Bougainville and other parts of Papua New Guinea. These are complex matters. We are trying to play a positive role and we will continue to do that, because the issues are very important to stability in Papua New Guinea.

Senator RICE: But on current levels of readiness, what do you think the chances are that they will be able to have a referendum that is legitimate before 15 June?

Ms Klugman : We are doing all we can to support the processes that will be fundamental to achieving that outcome.

Senator RICE: You're going to do all you can, but that's not answering my question as to whether you think that, on current trends and at the current level of readiness, they are going to be able to have a free and fair referendum in June next year?

Ms Klugman : I think the elections, the Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner and the processes around that have come a considerable way with our support and outside of that as well, but I think there are still some very considerable challenges.

Senator RICE: Are you concerned about that and, in fact, concerned that, if that referendum doesn't take place on that target date, there is a chance that it won't occur before the date that was set by the Bougainville Peace Agreement?

Ms Klugman : Clearly, the stakes are considerable for Papua New Guinea when it comes to Bougainville. We are very close friends of Papua New Guinea and our concerns are that the path ahead is one that remains peaceful for the people of Bougainville and the people of Papua New Guinea.

Senator RICE: Okay.

Senator Payne: May I just add briefly: I took the opportunity, when I was in Papua New Guinea about two weeks ago, to meet with former Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, who, of course, is engaged as a part of the process. I had a very good discussion with him about the role he's playing with the Joint Supervisory Board—I think that's what the acronym means; I'm transitioning from Defence acronyms to foreign affairs acronyms, and it's a considerable challenge. It was a really good discussion. He is very interested and very focused on his role and on supporting, as you say, the establishment and the carrying out of a referendum that reflects the qualities that you've raised.

Senator RICE: I've got five minutes left, and I actually want to go back to the Uyghurs in China, if I may.

Ms Adamson : While Mr Fletcher is coming to the table, and with the agreement of the chair, could I perhaps just quickly provide further answers on the questions of the Rohingya and funding we're providing to them. Senator Singh, that was in response to your question this morning. You asked how much of the $18.4 million for camps in Bangladesh has been expended. The answer is that all of the $18.4 million has been expensed. In fact, all of Australia's now total $70 million in humanitarian contribution has been expensed. In terms of where that funding came from—and this is where I need to correct the record—funds were drawn from three budget lines: $15 million from our partnerships with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, $2.49 million from the Bangladesh bilateral program allocation and $950,000 from the humanitarian emergency fund. I have more information about the monsoon question, but I don't want to take Senator Rice's time, so I can come back to that, if you like.

Senator RICE: Mr Fletcher, I just want to get more detail about the representations that Australia has made to China and the requests to China in terms of access to Xinjiang. Also, in terms of Australian citizens and the three cases that you are dealing with, what options are available to these people and does the Australian government feel that it has gone as far as it can?

Mr Fletcher : I think I've actually told you as much as I can. We've received representations from members of the Australian public about their family and acquaintances in Xinjiang that they have not been able to contact. So we have made that known to the Chinese authorities and said, 'People in Australia cannot contact their relatives and friends in Xinjiang,' and in two instances we've actually passed across information about those people. In relation to the three Australians who had been detained for a period of, I think, only a matter of weeks, we only found out about that after they had left Xinjiang. I don't recall whether it was in Australia or in Beijing that we first became aware of what had happened to them. Under our consular agreement, we have an interest in Australians in China if they are in trouble in any way. So that's why we continue to take an interest in that.

Senator RICE: Can you give me more specific details about that interest and what your representations to China had been and what the reaction of China to those representations has been?

Mr Fletcher : Our interest is in the welfare of Australian citizens, and that's actually the consular department more than my own division, but we engage in ongoing conversation with China about—

Senator RICE: What does 'ongoing conversation' mean? You've got these particular cases and it seems like they're very serious. We know that there are reports of up to a million people being detained, and that, clearly, is potentially something that Australia should be making representations on at the highest level.

Mr Fletcher : Those three individuals are now back in Australia, so they're okay.

Senator RICE: But in terms of the overall human rights of Uyghurs, more broadly, we've got up to a million people being detained. That's extraordinarily concerning.

Mr Fletcher : 'Up to a million people' is a very easy statistic. We don't know that that's correct. If it is correct, it would be a cumulative total, I believe, rather than a—

Senator RICE: Anyway, I know I've only got a couple of minutes left, so more specific, rather than 'ongoing representations', please, Mr Fletcher.

Mr Fletcher : I gave evidence earlier today. I was asked about human rights in China and I said that the most prominent issue is Xinjiang. So that is the most prominent issue and it is something we are discussing with China. It is a priority issue for us and we will continue to convey our views and encourage different policies in Xinjiang.

CHAIR: Thank very much, Senator Rice. Five minutes to Senator McDonald and, then, to Senator Wong.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you very much, Chair. It sounds from Senator Rice's last questions that the questions I was going to ask have already been asked. I've just come from a meeting of the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, where we had a group of Uyghur people. Senator Moore was at the committee as well. So I was going to ask the questions which, I guess, have already been asked and which I'll follow up. The evidence which was given to us is that there are a million people in a detention camp and that there are several detention camps. This surprised me. I'd never heard of it before. I hear everything about Manus and Nauru, where 600 people are being looked after well by the Australian government with one medical practitioner for every 10 inmates, and then I hear about this obvious human rights catastrophe in east China. Minister, could I ask you, perhaps? I understand Mr Fletcher's comment that the welfare of Australian citizens is paramount, and that's what the consular people do, and can I tell you I'll be writing to you shortly with some names of not Australian citizens but wives and relatives of Australian citizens to see if you can find out what has happened to them. That's all we want to know, because they just disappear. Apparently, there have been some BBC and The Economist articles on this. Minister, I appreciate you've been in the job a short period of time, but my question to you, perhaps, is: is this something that's raised at the United Nations? Is it something that Australia, with our obviously very good record for human rights and our interest right around the world, has raised regularly? We hear about the Rohingya and we hear about others, but I must say I hadn't heard much about this.

Senator Payne: Senator, it is a matter of discussion both in relation to the Human Rights Council and other bodies of the United Nations. In our Australian statement to the Human Rights Council, which we made on 11 September, we raised the targeting of this group in China specifically, and I have indicated in public previously my concerns and have been reported as so doing. In terms of other activity around either the Human Rights Council or the UN, I'll ask the officials if they have anything to add.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: That you haven't already said earlier in answer to my—

Senator Payne: And certainly there is further material on the record from our discussions with other senators, and that also went to individual cases of concern, and we have suggested to senators that, if they do have specific information and if that could be conveyed in relation to Australian citizens, then we will of course respond in relation to that.

Ms Adamson : Senator MacDonald, perhaps I could just add that this concern about Xinjiang—culture rights, religious rights, economic welfare of citizen in Xinjiang—has long been of interest to us. In fact, during my term as ambassador in China I visited Xinjiang and spoke to the party secretary there and made representations about these broad issues. At its core, from the Chinese point of view, is a concern about terrorism. That is evident from our discussions with them over a long period of time. We would argue, and I think Mr Fletcher made a reference to this in his evidence earlier on, that there are other ways of dealing with these issues and that—economic livelihoods, opportunities for education and health—there are a range of ways that we would suggest to the Chinese, respectfully, of course, that they seek to deal with this. But it really just goes to your point of whether this a recent phenomenon. Yes, in its current form, but for a number of years it has been evident to us that there were matters of concern and matters that we have sought to rise with the Chinese at appropriate levels in a range of settings. I think it would be fair to say that, as a result of recent evidence, if you like—knowledge, media reports, reports from Australian citizens—it has become a more significant focus of our attention in the ways in which we engage with the Chinese. So, when Mr Fletcher said this morning it's really at the top of our list, it absolutely is.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Good.

Ms Adamson : But, again, particularly in relation to the broader issue of concern to many countries around returning foreign fighters from the Middle East, the Chinese have a concern about that and they are seeking to protect, as you put it, that part of the country and ensure that there are no further attacks, as there have been in the past, in other cities involving other Chinese citizens.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: The people we spoke to half an hour ago said there are some terrorist activities but mainly from outside the country. It all upgraded, apparently, since 9/11. My final question is: when you deal with the Chinese and say, 'Here are some names. Can you tell us where they are and what their classification is?' are you able to get responses? Is it a quick process? I'm told by some people that some of them asked 10 months ago and still haven't got any substantive response?

Mr Fletcher : I was answering questions from Senator Rice earlier. It was about a month ago that we passed across information, and I said 20—I think it may have been more like 35—individuals. Within a matter of weeks we had a response from the Chinese to say that we hadn't handed over sufficient information. So there was only that one passage of information and one response.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: All right. Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Senator Singh wants one question.

Senator SINGH: Thank you. Minister, I understand the Trump Administration is considering sanctions. Is that something the Australian government is considering in relation to the situation going on with the ethnic Uygurs?

Senator Payne: As Mr Fletcher and the secretary have outlined, we continue to make recommendations to the Chinese government on this matter and raise the issues through the bodies of the UN and the Human Rights Council, and that is where our current position stands.

Senator SINGH: So no. Okay.

Senator WONG: Senator Fierravanti-Wells, we've got you!

ACTING CHAIR ( Senator Fierravanti-Wells ): Eric's just stepped out for a little while.

Senator WONG: I feel a need to talk about you and your past statements. I promise not to!

I go to the Pacific labour mobility schemes. This is just to refresh my memory, Secretary or Ms Klugman. The Pacific Labour Scheme was announced at the PIF last year?

Ms Klugman : Yes, last year.

Senator WONG: By former Prime Minister Turnbull. That is currently open to workers from Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands. Have I covered everything?

Ms Klugman : That's it.

Senator WONG: And that's a scheme you administer?

Ms Klugman : Correct.

Senator WONG: To truncate this: I assume that was done because it's a very important aspect of our relationships with the region and our bilateral relationships.

Ms Klugman : That is true. The Pacific Labour Scheme was announced, as you said, at the previous Pacific Island Forum meeting, but it came into existence on 1 July this year. The six countries that you just spoke up have indeed signed up to the Pacific Labour Scheme. Three of those countries were part of a pilot scheme that pre-existed it and were graduated into it. They went through the process of signing up to an MOU and implementation arrangements. The three additional countries you mentioned—specifically Vanuatu, Samoa and Solomon Islands—had MOUs for them to enter into the Pacific Labour Scheme. They were signed up by the Foreign Minister, Senator Payne, at this year's Pacific Island Forum leaders meeting.

Senator WONG: I didn't hear the lead-in; I was just distracted for a minute. What happened at this year's—

Ms Klugman : MOUs were signed.

Senator WONG: No additional nations though?

Ms Klugman : No additional nations. From MOU we are now negotiating implementation arrangements for those three additional partners. As soon as we finalise those, citizens of those countries can start flowing into the Pacific Labour Scheme just as they are already sending citizens to Australia under the Seasonal Worker Program.

Senator WONG: Which was my next question. The differences between the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Program—I will truncate this because we're running a little late—are that the Pacific Labour Scheme is longer, the period of time people can access the Australian labour market is for a longer period, it's a wider range of industries—

Ms Klugman : Correct—and higher skills level?

Senator WONG: This is the ANZSCO level 3, level 4 and level 5 in scope.

Ms Klugman : Whereas the Seasonal Worker Program is for unskilled and low-skilled—

Senator WONG: Six months.

Ms Klugman : The Pacific Labour Scheme is for low skilled and semiskilled. Whereas the length of time workers stay in Australia under the Seasonal Workers Program, it being seasonal, is up to six months and, in a few cases, up to nine months, under the new Pacific Labour Scheme it's up to three years, with a minimum of 12 months.

Senator WONG: Thank you for that. Would the discussions that DFAT has had reflect the discussions, for example, that were had on the bipartisan trip that the then Foreign Minister led in which, in fact, three senators at this table also participated, mean that this is a high priority for Pacific Island nations?

Ms Klugman : Yes.

Senator WONG: Would you also agree that, if one looks at Australia's comparative advantages in the region—what we have that other nations don't in terms of being a natural partner of choice—proximity and access to our labour market under appropriate terms and conditions could be one?

Ms Klugman : Yes.

Senator WONG: And it is given a high priority by those nations; correct?

Ms Klugman : Yes.

Senator WONG: Timor-Leste is in the SWP but not the broader Pacific Labor Scheme; is that right?

Ms Klugman : It is not yet in the Pacific Labour Scheme.

Senator WONG: Is it intended to try to extend it to Timor-Leste?

Ms Klugman : That's a possible addition in the future.

Senator WONG: Did you say it only started in July?

Ms Klugman : Yes, but, as I said, there was a pilot scheme which was grandfathered into the Pacific Labour Scheme, so we have some numbers under the Pacific Labour Scheme. Total workers in Australia are 84.

Senator WONG: That also reflects that this particular program, notwithstanding the pilot, is a relatively nascent scheme?

Ms Klugman : Yes. It only started on 1 July this year.

Senator WONG: The importance of the program and the priority it has in terms of our regional relationships is, I assume, one of the reasons why management of this is located in DFAT as opposed to Home Affairs in the immigration area.

Ms Klugman : I think the Seasonal Workers Program is important for the people of the Pacific and the governments of the Pacific. I wouldn't make that distinction.

Senator WONG: So why are you handling this one?

Ms Klugman : That is the result of the decisions made by government.

Senator Payne: And it has been the case for some time.

Senator WONG: No, it's a good idea. DFAT should keep hold of it. I'm trying to give you the opportunity to tell me why.

Ms Adamson : Including because elements of our development assistance program are linked into this—

Senator WONG: Correct; good answer!

Ms Adamson : particularly in terms of capacity building and capability building, it fits very comfortably with the broader work we do and the priority that we give to deepening relations with other nations.

Senator WONG: Did you want to ask something, Senator Fierravanti-Wells?

ACTING CHAIR: No, I was about to assist.

Senator WONG: Good. How would these programs be affected by the introduction of a new farm visa to bring up to 100,000 people to Australia?

Ms Klugman : It's hard to speculate on a step that hasn't been taken.

Senator WONG: Senator Payne?

Senator Payne: Let me be very clear about this.

Senator WONG: Please do.

Senator Payne: The commitment of the government—our commitment to the Pacific and particularly for the promotion of economic resilience in the region, which has gone to part of your questions—is through the Pacific labour mobility schemes: the SWP that we've been talking about and the Pacific Labour Scheme. We know that Pacific Island countries have significant potential to meet those labour demands that we see in Australia's agricultural sector. Our immediate focus, right now, is working quickly to meet any shortages in agricultural workers through existing visa arrangements, which include the Pacific schemes, and through the work the Prime Minister announced recently in relation to Australian workers.

So, what we are doing is being absolutely focused on working to expand access to the Pacific Labour Scheme to the Seasonal Worker Program because they are such an important part of our commitment to the economic development of the Pacific, of strength and resilience. If you look at the numbers, in terms of what is able to be returned by workers who come here, and has been returned, for example, since 2012, through the Seasonal Worker Program, i's a significant economic contribution back into the region. It also assists, of course, in experience and skills development. I have absolutely assured anyone who has asked me, whether it's in the chamber or elsewhere, that we remain committed to building on labour mobility opportunities for Pacific countries and to ensuring that Pacific countries will always take precedence.

Senator WONG: Is the government proposing to undercut these programs by introducing a new agricultural visa class in the form that is being flagged by the National Party?

Senator Payne: The government is not proposing to undercut the programs in any way, shape or form. I've just outlined the government's extremely strong commitment to the Pacific—

Senator WONG: There's bipartisanship view about that.

Senator Payne: Yes, I appreciate that.

Senator WONG: Let's leave aside the word 'undercut'. Is the government still proposing or is the government proposing to introduce a new agricultural visa which could allow up to 100,000 workers in, as has been supported publicly, by members of the National Party?

Senator Payne: Well, there has been discussion of that, as you know, but the Prime Minister's approach, and indeed the government's approach, has been to address any shortfalls in relation to worker demand through both the announcement he made in relation to Australian workers in South Australia just recently and then with our focus on the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Program and increasing those numbers to address the shortfall.

Senator WONG: It is the case, isn't it, that the sort of program that Mr Joyce and others have advocated for would have the effect, logically, of reducing the demand for workers from the Pacific, with a consequent effect on all of the benefits that you've already identified?

Senator Payne: The focus that we have, as I have clearly said, is on the Pacific. That continues to be our absolute priority and, as far as I am concerned, the importance of expanding that access, which is exactly what I have discussed with counterparts in the region and also within the government, is where we currently stand.

Senator WONG: Currently?

Senator Payne: Where we stand.

Senator WONG: So, can you tell us the government is not going to introduce a new visa class that would allow up to 100,000 workers from other parts of the world in, thereby undermining the Pacific workers scheme?

Senator Payne: Well, Senator MacDonald is making a contribution. The government's focus is on absolutely ensuring that we've got an adequate workforce to support domestic productivity to advance our economic and trade agenda. But I am confident, and we are confident, that expanding the Pacific Labour Scheme, growing the Seasonal Worker Program and the initiatives that the Prime Minister has referred to in relation to Australian workers are a significant part of that.

Senator WONG: Sure.

Senator Payne: Governments will always discuss options, Senator; you know that. But this is our absolute focus.

Senator WONG: There are lots of words like 'absolute focus', 'significant focus', 'absolutely committed', but ultimately the Nats want something different; what the National Party wants is clearly going to have an impact in this portfolio. Are you going to win?

Senator Payne: We know, and I have made the point before, both publicly and in the chamber, that the potential of Pacific Island countries to meet the labour demands in Australia's farming sector is very significant and we are focused on growing that and using that to meet the demand.

Senator WONG: Is that the position of the Deputy Prime Minister?

Senator Payne: I'm speaking to you as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and telling you that that is our absolute focus. I know you don't like the term, but it is actually true.

Senator WONG: I just think jargon obfuscates it.

Senator Payne: It's actually true. You can ask anybody who's discussed this with me in recent times—it is my absolute focus.

Senator WONG: Sure. Is the position you've outlined the Deputy Prime Minister's position?

Senator Payne: The Deputy Prime Minister has been very supportive of this position.

Senator WONG: He's been supportive of a position that involves protecting this program and not announcing a new agricultural visa, which is the position you've outlined?

Senator Payne: I said he's been very supportive of ensuring that we can use the visa categories we have in the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Program as well as Australian workers to meet the demands in Australia's farming sector. But governments will continue to discuss options. We also have work and holiday visas, which make a contribution to this process as well. As you well know, there's a vast range of participants in the agricultural workforce who come from a myriad of sources.

Senator WONG: When Mr Littleproud, your cabinet colleague, told National Party delegates, at a Nationals conference in Canberra, that MPs had to band together and demand government make an ag visa happen, was he reflecting government policy?

Senator Payne: The agricultural minister was obviously raising issues of concern to him. The most important thing is that we address demand in the agricultural sector.

Senator WONG: No, you don't need to convince me.

Senator Payne: There are a number of ways we do that.

Senator WONG: You don't need to convince me. I'm making the point that you're not convincing your cabinet colleagues. You've got cabinet colleagues, including the Deputy Prime Minister, publically advocating a position that is contrary to the position you're outlining.

Senator Payne: The Prime Minister has also canvassed the role of an agricultural visa. But as I have explained to the committee—and I'm happy to explain again—we are currently focused on expanding the Seasonal Worker Program and the Pacific Labour Scheme, which, as you and Ms Klugman have observed, the Pacific Labour Scheme has only just commenced. We are also using the Working Holiday Maker Program to need those immediate labour needs. And they are very important labour needs. We understand that. We recognise that. We work with the sectors—Minister Ruston has been doing a great deal of work in that regard—to address those needs.

Senator WONG: Okay. On 24 September Mr Packham wrote an article for The Australian in which there is an assertion that you, Ms Adamson:

… in a pre-NSC meeting with other departmental secretaries, argued the new visa class would undermine the existing Seasonal Workers Program for Pacific Islanders, alienating key strategic partners at a time when China was expanding its influence in the region.

I'm sure you won't answer this question but: is that the view you put?

Ms Adamson : You might be surprised to know that, when I read that, I did not recognise either the meeting or the conversation. My view of the contribution that the Pacific Labour Scheme can make and the Seasonal Workers Program is as the minister and Ms Klugman have outlined. But I read that and, to be very honest, I wondered what it was about.

Senator WONG: So your position is that the article does not reflect what you said? I have to say, I thought you'd say, 'I neither confirm nor deny'!

Ms Adamson : That is government policy and DFAT's input on this issue, but I did not recognise the discussion to which the article purportedly referred to as having taken place.

Senator WONG: Have you asked your counterparts how this alleged contribution was reported to the media?

Ms Adamson : Counterparts?

Senator WONG: Departmental secretaries or colleagues. The allegation in here is—

Ms Adamson : Yes, I know. I've had some discussions with some colleagues but not in a meeting context as purported in that article.

Senator WONG: In that same article, a senior government source is quoted as saying, 'If the Nats had opened it up to Asia, it would have undermined our whole approach in the Pacific.' Do you agree with that assessment, Senator Payne?

Senator Payne: I don't comment on unsourced material like that, Senator.

Senator WONG: But you would agree that opening a visa class up to South-East Asia, for example, for 100,000 workers is not going to be a good thing for the Pacific Labour Scheme?

Senator Payne: I would agree, Senator. I would agree with the comments I've already made, unsurprisingly.

Senator WONG: 'I vehemently agree with myself!' Unfortunately, one has to convince other people to hold a position.

Senator Payne: I've made several statements in response to your questions which are similar to that one.

Senator WONG: On 26 September, AAP reported that the visa had been sunk because you, Senator Payne, had told the cabinet that the Pacific program was central to Australia's efforts to deal with Chinese influence in the region, and would be put at risk by the plan. Can you confirm that is your position on the visa?

Senator Payne: It's fair to say that the veracity of that article is much as Secretary Adamson has characterised it.

Senator WONG: Different article. One's AAP, one's Mr Packham for The Australian.

Senator Payne: I would say that I don't comment on discussions I have with my cabinet colleagues. As I've said before, I never have and I don't intend to start now. I reiterate the statements I've already made.

Senator WONG: I'm a little confused, given the various public statements by senior members of the government—not Mr Joyce or backbenchers, but senior members—on what the current government position is. Can I just take you through the various public statements. As I said previously, Mr Littleproud, the agriculture minister, flagged this publicly in August, including at a speech at the Nationals' national conference. It's then reported to have been rejected by cabinet. Then a few days later we have the Prime Minister's announcement to which you've referred, titled, 'More workers for regional Australia', on 13 October. That's then rejected by the National Farmers' Federation as 'a shallow attempt at solving a deep problem'. Then the Prime Minister states: 'Our government does support moving towards an agricultural visa. There has never been any question about that.' He says 'visa', not, as you have today, making current visa arrangements work better. He says very clearly, 'Our government does support moving towards an agricultural visa.'

Senator Payne: The Prime Minister has also very clearly said that he is focused on ensuring that the labour shortages in the agriculture sector are addressed in a number of ways, including both by Australian workers, as we have discussed here already, and by ensuring that the Pacific Labour Scheme, the Seasonal Worker Program and the Working Holiday Maker Program are able to fill those demand gaps. That continues to be the case.

Senator WONG: So is the position the one that he has now announced, which is that you do support a new agricultural visa?

Senator Payne: He has indicated that, in terms of the long-term processes in addressing the worker demand and the range of visa categories, there are several matters under consideration. I understand that he has said at the National Farmers' Federation—I don't actually have that with me—that there is support for ultimately, in the medium to long term, moving towards an agricultural visa. But I'm not sure that your immediate conflation of that with the rest of our discussion is necessarily a sound one. Our focus is still very much on ensuring that we maximise engagement under the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Program to make sure that we are working closely with our Pacific neighbours. It was the subject of a discussion at a roundtable lunch meeting that I had held in Papua New Guinea recently in terms of significantly increasing Papua New Guinea access to the schemes.

Senator WONG: Well, the problem is, Minister, you haven't said anything today which tells those of us who support these schemes for the reasons you've outlined that you're winning that argument. The article I'm referring to is on 18 October. It is headlined, 'Scott Morrison rethinks agriculture visas'. The intro is:

Scott Morrison has dropped his resistance to a new agricultural visa, throwing a lifeline to his besieged Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, who is facing an internal push for a Barnaby Joyce comeback.

He is directly quoted as saying: 'Our government does support moving towards an agricultural visa. There has never been any question about that.'

Senator Payne: I think the point of the Prime Minister's observations are that we have a number of mechanisms in place. We have a Seasonal Workers Program, we have the Pacific Labor Scheme and we have the Working Holiday Maker scheme or category. They are the focuses and the mechanisms that we are using to fill the demand. The demand is significant. We are also asking for registration in the National Harvest Labour Information Service around labour requirements. That is not my area of expertise. That is an area of expertise for another committee entirely, frankly, but they are the processes that we are using to address the demand problem.

Senator WONG: Senator Payne, can you assure us that this prime minister is not going to put in place a new agricultural visa which undermines our Pacific schemes simply to shore up the leadership of Mr McCormack?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: Because he was prepared to change Australia's foreign policy position to try and win a by-election, so we haven't got—

CHAIR: That is false.

Senator WONG: How is that false?

Senator Payne: As you know, there has been no change to Australia's position.

CHAIR: There is no evidence of that.

Senator WONG: I admire that, Eric, but I think the evidence over the whole week demonstrates that.

Senator Payne: We have discussed the question of the review of those policy positions at some length this morning and indicated that they are reviews without prejudice, and no decisions have been made.

Senator WONG: Okay. Would you agree that this public discussion in the government about this new visa has caused some concern from Pacific island neighbours, particularly those who are currently in the scheme? I assume you've had representations too.

Senator Payne: Those who are currently in the scheme have absolutely been assured that we are committed to building on those labour mobility opportunities for Pacific countries and to ensuring that Pacific countries will always take precedence.

Senator WONG: Does Mr McCormack agree with that?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: Is this commitment to an agriculture visa part of the coalition agreement?

Senator Payne: I am not an author of the coalition agreement.

Senator WONG: That's not what I asked. Have you been told that it is, and that's why you have to deliver it?

Senator Payne: That is a confection or a creation of yours.

Senator WONG: No, it's been reported and, actually, Barnaby Joyce has said so, so I'm just asking you to confirm it.

Senator Payne: I'm not an author of the coalition agreement. It's not a document in which I have any involvement whatsoever.

Senator WONG: Has it ever been put to you by colleagues the introduction of an agriculture visa is an aspect of the coalition and therefore has to be delivered?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator WONG: Never.

Senator Payne: Not by colleagues, no. I have read it. It's not a matter that is an area of my responsibility.

Senator WONG: Sorry, you have read it.

Senator Payne: I have read about the assertion.

Senator WONG: Then how can it be a confection of my imagination? I'm not reported in the article. It's asserting it.

Senator Payne: You've asserted it to me.

Senator WONG: Yes, because people talk about it, including your colleagues—publicly and to the media.

Senator Payne: I've responded to your question.

Senator WONG: No worries. Can we go to the PIF, please. I'm just checking—when did the Prime Minister make the decision not to attend the PIF?

Senator Payne: I'm not specifically sure when he made the decision. I was asked to go to the PIF some short time in advance of that and, as you know, I attended.

Senator WONG: By whom? Was it by the PMO?

Senator Payne: I believe so. I don't recall specifically.

Senator WONG: You don't recall. That's okay. How long before the meeting were you asked to attend? How much notice did you have?

Senator Payne: Well, my appointment was made on 27 August. In discussions and briefings with the department officials immediately after that, my attendance at the Pacific Islands Forum was raised.

Senator WONG: Senator Abetz, did we ever actually table Mr Wood's documents? Not yet? Have we actually formally tabled them?

CHAIR: I thought they—

Senator WONG: No, what was tabled subsequently by the secretary was the list of representations in respect of Cambodia, I think.

CHAIR: Are they in a position to be tabled, secretary? Minister?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

CHAIR: We've got them. They are so tabled; thank you.

Senator WONG: Is it possible for the disaggregated budget estimate figures—which are for 2018-19, on the second page—to be disaggregated for the whole forward estimates years, please? Can we have that document too?

Mr Wood : Yes. I think we gave you that format in response. I think it might have been question on notice 4 from the last estimates. We can update that.

Senator WONG: I have some questions, which I'll come to shortly but not right now, but I thought I'd give you some notice of that—if that's possible. If it's not possible, so be it.

Mr Wood : I don't believe the budget numbers have changed, but we'll check and—

Senator WONG: Since my question on notice?

Mr Wood : Since your question on notice.

Senator WONG: Just to flag for the officers, I want to understand the infrastructure financing component of these figures. I'll come back to that. I'm giving people warning. Can I go to the PIF? You'll take on notice, will you Minister, how long before—or did you have an answer?

Senator Payne: No, I think that time frame is the accurate time frame. I was appointed on the 27th, I think, from memory.

Ms Klugman : The PIF itself was 3 to 6 September, so there was a very short period of days between.

Senator Payne: Correct. Immediately after that in briefings with the department arrangements were made.

Senator WONG: No, it was actually when you were told the Prime Minister wouldn't attend so you had to attend.

Senator Payne: I'm sorry; I will check that, yes.

Ms Adamson : But I will just say, in terms of discussion between departments, we had a clear sense of what travel commitments at high levels were in the weeks following the swearing in of the new ministry and we were working really from day one on the basis that the foreign minister was likely to represent the Prime Minister at the Pacific Islands Forum.

Senator WONG: Okay. Can I go to the declaration? I assume, Minister, you were involved in the negotiations about this declaration?

Senator Payne: Yes—well, I was part of the meeting that discussed it, yes.

Senator WONG: Does the government support the statement contained in the Boe declaration that climate change represents 'the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific'?

Senator Payne: Yes. The governments supports the Boe declaration.

Senator WONG: I asked whether you supported that aspect of it.

Senator Payne: The government was part of the process of developing the Boe declaration.

Senator WONG: Why are we dancing around this?

Senator Payne: I'm not. I'm trying to answer your question.

Senator WONG: Do you support that aspect of the Boe support, which says 'Climate change is the single greatest threat—'

CHAIR: You might find out, if you allow the minister to answer.

Senator WONG: Sure.

Senator Payne: It's quite an important development in the definition of security that is contained in the Boe declaration, which is what I was trying to say, and we therefore support the—I presume you're pointing to—

Senator WONG: Paragraph 15.

Senator Payne: Small Roman one?

Senator WONG: I was looking at para 15, in the communique.

Senator Payne: You're in the communique?

Senator WONG: I should be quoting from the statement.

Senator Payne: You're in the communique; I'm in the Boe declaration, so—

Senator WONG: I think it's repeated at—what did you say, Roman one? It's the same sentence as para 15.

Senator Payne: Yes, we do.

Senator WONG: The declaration was included as part of the PIF communique in September with qualification. Post forum, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu said there was a country beginning with 'A' which insisted on those qualifications. Can you confirm that was Australia, and what were the qualifications we insisted upon?

Senator Payne: Senator, I have said I think since the forum that the discussions around the communique were the discussions of the private leaders' retreat and I am not going to go into the details of that. The forum communique is an agreed document.

Senator WONG: So the answer is: you don't want to tell us what we stood our ground on?

Senator Payne: Senator, there are extensive discussions held in private leaders' retreats. I was Australia's representative in the private leaders' retreat. There were extensive discussions held in that which enabled a communique of this nature to be developed. I respect those discussions. I respect the confidentiality of those discussions. The forum communique stands.

Senator WONG: It was publicly reported that Australia did not support a section in the agreement calling on the US to return to the Paris agreement on climate change. Is that correct?

Senator Payne: I refer you to my previous answer, Senator.

Senator WONG: It is the case that we disagree with the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, isn't it? Or has that position been changed by Prime Minister Morrison also?

Senator Payne: No, Senator. We have made public comments on that.

Senator WONG: You made public comments on Jerusalem and workers visas as well and it looks like both of those are on track for change. I'm just wondering if that position has been changed too since you became the foreign minister and he became the Prime Minister.

Senator Payne: No, Senator.

Senator WONG: Were we the only country to insist upon those qualifications?

Senator Payne: I refer you to my previous response, Senator.

Senator WONG: I refer to paragraph 17 of the communique. Do you have that with you, Minister?

Senator Payne: Yes, I do.

Senator WONG: There is very careful wording:

Leaders of Forum Island Countries called on the United States to return to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The next four paragraphs refer to 'Leaders', which includes Australia; is that correct? This paragraph has a narrower remit, which is 'Leaders of Forum Island Countries'.

Senator Payne: Some of those leaders of those countries in the sessions preceding the retreat made those statements. I believe it's a reference to that, Senator.

Senator WONG: Were you not prepared to have Australia be part of a call on the US to return to the Paris agreement?

Senator Payne: I don't have anything further to add, Senator.

Senator WONG: Wouldn't that be consistent with our current position?

Senator Payne: I think I've responded to your question, Senator.

Senator WONG: Australia did express regret when the US announced it was withdrawing from Paris; is that correct?

Senator Payne: I believe so, yes.

Senator WONG: Is there any chance Australia will also withdraw from Paris under this administration?

Senator Payne: The Prime Minister has reiterated on multiple occasions since he became Prime Minister our continued engagement in the Paris agreement, and that has been affirmed by the government itself.

Senator WONG: Then foreign minister, Ms Bishop, said earlier this year—I think in July—'Australia plays by the rules. If we sign an agreement, we stick to the agreement.' How would withdrawing from the Paris agreement impact on Australia's international reputation as a nation committed to a rules based order?

Senator Payne: The government is not withdrawing from the Paris agreement.

Senator WONG: Would you agree that it would have a negative effect on Australia's international standing?

Senator Payne: The government is not withdrawing from the Paris agreement.

Senator WONG: Have you asked Senator Abetz that?

Senator Payne: Well, Senator—

Senator WONG: Senator Macdonald or Mr Joyce?

Senator Payne: Senator Abetz I believe—

CHAIR: I think people know my view—

Senator WONG: Correct. You've got a whole bunch of your—

CHAIR: No, but it does not reflect the government view. What you are asking now are hypothetical questions.

Senator WONG: People say it's hypothetical, but, as you correctly pointed out earlier, Senator Abetz, the position that has been announced in respect of Jerusalem reflects a position that part of the Liberal Party have been advocating for a long time. As I said to you, I disagree with you, but I accept that you've been consistent about this. This minister, under this Prime Minister, was not able to hold that position. I'm just wondering whether in this portfolio this government is going to be able to hold the Paris agreement position, given so many of the Liberal Party room and National Party room are openly advocating against it.

CHAIR: You shouldn't be asking me questions, but all that the government has sought to do—

Senator WONG: That was a question to the minister.

CHAIR: All the government has sought to do is have a review. No decision has been made about the movement of our embassy in Israel, as I understand it. It's a review.

Senator Payne: Thank you for repeating my multiple responses to Senator Wong today, Chair.

Senator WONG: It's working well, that one! I suppose one has to find the only safe ground one has. So you can guarantee the government won't be changing its position in relation to Paris?

Senator Payne: Yes, and, as I have reconfirmed multiple times now, the Prime Minister has also said our participation in the Paris Agreement is in the national interest. That remains the government's position, and that is as I have stated.

Senator WONG: While we're here, how is the climate change strategy going? It was announced in 2016, 2017? Help me out here, Secretary.

Ms Adamson : What would you like to know, Senator?

Senator WONG: When did you first announce you were doing a climate change strategy? Was it 2016 or 2017? You want to make me look at my brief?

Ms Adamson : No; I'm—

Senator Payne: Ms Walsh is here.

Senator WONG: Ms Walsh will probably know.

Ms Adamson : Ms Walsh will know without needing to refer to her brief, I suspect.

Ms Walsh : Senator, I think at last estimates you may have asked about the climate change strategy for the aid program. I just want to check we're referring to the same thing. Yes, we've made some good progress on that. We have a draft in good shape and it is at the stage of consulting with some stakeholders.

Senator WONG: A draft? This is the time frame I have: July 2016, DFAT's development policy committee endorsed the development of a framework and implementation plan for climate change and development. In July 2017 the former minister agreed to develop a climate change strategy. Where are we at? I think at the last estimates I asked about it. You said you were still working on it and it would be published by the end of 2018.

Ms Walsh : The draft strategy has been through the aid governance board.

Senator WONG: The aid governance board?

Ms Walsh : It is an internal governance board.

Senator WONG: When did it go through there?

Ms Walsh : In July 2018.

Senator WONG: When is it proposed to be made public?

Ms Walsh : I can't give you an exact date. The next step is to consult with key external stakeholders, but I think the date that you were given previously—towards the end of this year—is probably still a realistic time frame.

Senator WONG: It remains a realistic time frame?

Ms Walsh : Yes.

Senator WONG: Can someone explain to me why it is this was announced before the white paper announcement and yet it has taken so much longer than the white paper? It just wasn't a priority?

Ms Adamson : No. There were, as you know, references to the significance of climate change and its various impacts and the link between those impacts and our national security, amongst other things, in the foreign policy white paper. That provides the sort of policy anchor, if you like, in terms of what the government said about this. As Ms Walsh says, work has been continuing on the strategy that she has referred to. There are a number of elements of the foreign policy white paper that are still being given effect to, including the soft power review, which similarly is still underway.

Senator WONG: Ms Walsh, this is now your area of responsibility, is it?

Ms Walsh : It is.

Senator WONG: When did you start?

Ms Walsh : Officially on 4 June this year.

Senator WONG: Welcome back.

Ms Walsh : Thank you.

Senator WONG: The DFAT development policy committee that was referenced in previous answers is different to the governance board? Or is that the same thing?

Ms Walsh : We have two. There is the aid governance board, which is the formal governance structure within the department. We also have a development policy forum. I'm not sure which you are referring to, but those are the names of the two—

Senator WONG: This is what people have told me.

Ms Adamson : I can help you there. The role of the development policy committee was subsumed by the creation of the aid governance board. I think we discussed it briefly at the last estimates. That took place after an aid programming health check that I had asked be undertaken, towards the end of 2016, and that looked carefully at our aid governance arrangements, made recommendations to the departmental executive, which we accepted, and the Aid Governance Board has now been on foot for some time and is performing exactly the role that we did envisage for it.

Senator WONG: Okay. I think, with appropriate caveats, the department is indicating that the previous time line of the end of this year is looking realistic. Do you intend, Minister, to announce this strategy before Christmas this year?

Senator Payne: I haven't made a decision on that, Senator.

Senator WONG: Does it concern you, Minister, given the obvious focus on climate change, particularly for Pacific neighbours, which I'm sure has been raised with you, that is reflected in the various declarations and statements over the last year from various forums. Are you not concerned that the government's failure to have a climate change strategy sends a negative message to our Pacific neighbours?

Senator Payne: We have a very strong focus, in our engagement with our Pacific neighbours, on concerns around climate and climate change—a very strong focus. It is embedded in our development assistance program, in terms of supporting adaptation, in terms of supporting the development of resilience. We know that Pacific island countries are particularly vulnerable to the effect of not just climate change but, indeed, disasters, and that it is a most significant priority for the region. The support that we provided in the previous financial year, for example, was focused on improving governance, as I said; improving climate resilience; and emissions reduction, and was across a number of programs. The Pacific Risk Resilience Program, which is working with Fiji, the Solomons, Tonga and Vanuatu, to strengthen those things. That bilateral focus, that focus on those issues which are of great concern to our Pacific neighbours, is one which we regard as a very effective way to engage and is welcomed by our Pacific neighbours.

Senator WONG: Lots of words, but I don't think you answered my question. Do you think the government's failure to have a climate change strategy, after announcing one two-and-a-bit years ago, gives a negative message to Pacific island neighbours on an issue which is demonstrably so important to them?

Senator Payne: I've gone into a bit of detail there about the way in which we engage with our Pacific neighbours and have reiterated in my discussions with you that we continue to engage through the Paris Agreement—which, as you have noted, is very important in this region—and they are very important parts of our engagement. You want to dismiss them, that's a matter for you.

Senator WONG: That's called a straw-man or -woman argument. I just asked you a direct question: do you think the failure to have a climate change strategy has a negative effect—

Senator Payne: I reject the premise of your question, Senator.

Senator WONG: Hang on. That's just so factually incorrect. Your predecessor announced a climate change strategy. Your secretary and deputy secretary have just been talking to me about when that strategy is coming forward. I'm saying: don't you reckon your failure to do that is a negative signal? You can't just tell me it's factually incorrect.

Senator Payne: I said the premise of your question was factually incorrect, Senator—

Senator WONG: You don't have a climate change strategy yet because you haven't developed it.

Senator Payne: and both the deputy secretary and the secretary have indicated to you that the strategy is—I think 'in development' was the phrase.

Senator WONG: On notice, can someone give me a list of the programs and an explanation of those programs which fall under the minister's assertion that climate change is embedded in our aid program.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Did the department met with the former President of Kiribati, Mr Tong, on his recent visit or otherwise?

Ms Klugman : Senator, the Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Anne Ruston, did meet with Mr Tong.

Senator Payne: A meeting I referred to in the chamber, Senator.

Senator WONG: You know, you might be better off trying to win some of your internal fights than just telling me the things you've previously said. Does the government recognise the contribution—

Senator Payne: Well, that will save a lot of time, Senator, because, if you keep asking the same questions and you don't want me to refer to things I've previously said, then I won't have to answer!

Senator WONG: Does the government recognise the contribution that former President Tong has made to advocating for the needs of Kiribati and the Pacific, more broadly, and when it comes to the imperative to address climate change in the region?

Ms Adamson : Yes, we do.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Has the new Minister for the Environment offered any input into the department's climate change strategy, either in her current capacity or as the former Assistant Minister for the Environment?

Ms Walsh : The minister, herself, has not had any direct engagement with the strategy for our aid program, but we have consulted with her department officials.

Senator WONG: I wasn't aware of this, but apparently she was formerly Assistant Minister for the Environment. Do you know if there was any input in that capacity?

Ms Walsh : I am unaware. I can take it on notice and confirm.

Senator WONG: Has the Minister for the Environment engaged with you, Minister, on what Australia's approach to responding to climate change in the Pacific should be?

Senator Payne: We have not had a formal engagement of that nature, no.

Senator WONG: What does that mean? What does 'formal engagement' mean?

Senator Payne: You asked me whether she'd engaged on that matter and I'm saying no.

Senator WONG: Is it no engagement or no formal engagement, and, if it's the latter, what's a formal engagement?

Senator Payne: It's no.

Senator WONG: Minister, you'd be aware of reports regarding the minister's comments about the Pacific. Do you have any concerns about them?

Senator Payne: I'm aware of reports. I'm also aware that Minister Price has indicated that she has apologised if former President Tong was, in any way, offended. But she believes the characterisation of those reports was mistaken. I understand that she and President Tong have agreed to move on from that discussion and that there are more important issues—I believe, in fact, former President Tong was quoted as saying himself.

Senator WONG: Have any concerns about the minister's comments been raised with the department?

Ms Klugman : No, Senator.

Ms Walsh : No.

Senator Payne: And they were not raised by former President Tong in his subsequent meeting with Assistant Minister Ruston either.

Senator WONG: They were clearly said. If you've listened to his interviews, they were. He just demonstrates a lot more graciousness than some others.

CHAIR: Do you have a question?

Senator WONG: I'm defending someone who's not here.

Senator Payne: I wasn't—

Senator WONG: I don't think the government or anybody should be trying to defend the position by suggesting that Mr Tong has somehow made this up. He has been extremely gracious. Ms Walsh, you said earlier, when you were describing the climate change strategy, there was some limited stakeholder consultation. Can you give me some more detail on that, please?

Ms Walsh : What I said was we're at the stage of now going out and seeking stakeholder engagement.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me who the stakeholders are?

Ms Walsh : I can't give you specific names of any particular organisations. What I can say—

Senator WONG: Why not?

Ms Walsh : I just don't have that list in front of me, and I'm not sure that I can confirm there's a specific list. I'm certainly happy to check that.

Senator WONG: Who determines this?

Ms Walsh : We'd do that internally, within the—

Senator WONG: So someone in the department would determine who the draft strategy would be send to or be consulate with.

Ms Walsh : That's right.

Senator WONG: I do want to know who is being consulted with.

Ms Walsh : Happy to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: You were going to give me some high-level information.

Ms Walsh : I was going to say that it would be members of the NGO community, relevant academic and research institutes, and relevant sector players.

Senator WONG: Thank you. And you'll give me that on notice. And the time frame around consultation?

Ms Walsh : I'll give that to you on notice too, if that's okay.

Senator WONG: Is there someone here who can tell me? I've been asking questions about this for two years. So it just would be nice if we could find out what was—I'm glad that it's finally moving.

Ms Walsh : I just can't give you a specific date. I can say it will be very soon, because we are working towards an end-of-year time frame. It obviously has to be in the next little while.

Senator WONG: I want to move to infrastructure financing. I'm just wanting to check—sorry, this is the question I should have asked: why did the Prime Minister announce there'd be no more funding for the Green Climate Fund?

Senator Payne: We'll need Ms Walsh to come back.

Senator WONG: Sorry, Ms Walsh, I meant to ask you that while you were at the table. My apologies; it was on my list, and I just didn't get back to it. On the Green Climate Fund, I think the Prime Minister has announced there's no further funding. Is that right?

Ms Walsh : Senator Wong, my colleague Chris Tinning is here and can answer those questions. He's actually our board member on the Green Climate Fund.

Senator WONG: Okay. Why was that announcement made?

Mr Tinning : There are a range of governance and operational challenges with the Green Climate Fund, and a decision's been made that we're more effectively providing our climate finance commitments through other channels.

Senator WONG: When was that decision made?

Mr Tinning : I believe the announcement was made on 8 October.

Senator WONG: Yes. When was the decision made and by whom?

Mr Tinning : By the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: By the Prime Minister? What do we fund the Green Climate Fund out of—DFAT's ODA?

Ms Adamson : Yes—

Senator WONG: So why was it made by the Prime Minister and not by the minister?

Ms Adamson : I'm not sure that we can say, Senator, that the decision was made by the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: Well, he just said that.

Ms Adamson : I know he did, but I'm not sure that that is an entirely accurate characterisation of the decision. I want to give Mr Tinning an opportunity to clarify that answer.

Mr Tinning : Thank you.

Senator WONG: Oh dear, this is a career-worrying moment, isn't it? She said very quietly and sweetly to you, 'I'm going to give you an opportunity to fix this up.' Do we need a tea break while we have a chat?

Ms Adamson : No, we don't.

Mr Tinning : No. The Prime Minister announced that we were no longer planning to provide contributions to the Green Climate Fund, and that is the position of the government.

Senator WONG: That is entirely unresponsive to my question. Who made the decision, and when was it made? It's a pretty reasonable question. Do you need to talk to people? I don't think it's an unreasonable question, particularly as these are funds, as I think you indicated, that came out of the DFAT budget.

Mr Tinning : Senator, there's no decision that is pending on further contributions to the fund. The Prime Minister's announced that we're not planning to provide any further contributions.

Senator WONG: So now the evidence is not that we decided not to—I think these are double negatives. Is the position now that it's not that he decided to end funding—which I think is actually how he announced it, but I haven't got the announcement in front of me—but the decision was that we weren't going to fund it anymore?

Mr Tinning : That's correct.

Senator WONG: Who made that decision, and how was it made?

Mr Tinning : Our existing contributions to the Green Climate Fund are $200 million, and they have been fully paid. There is no pending decision on further contributions to the fund.

Senator WONG: The Prime Minister has announced that?

Mr Tinning : That's right.

Senator WONG: Who made that decision?

Mr Tinning : The Prime Minister made the announcement.

Senator WONG: Can you help, Secretary?

Ms Adamson : I'm not sure that I can help with a full answer to the question of the kind that you're searching for.

Senator WONG: I'm frustrated. I am frustrated. I just want to know. PM&C provides advice and the Prime Minister decides. Is this something that was discussed between departments, with a brief provided, or is this a political-level decision? I just want to know who made the decision.

Senator Payne: The Prime Minister indicated that, because of the concerns that had been raised around the Green Climate Fund, which have been adverted to by Mr Tinning and by Ms Walsh, although we have currently made a $200 million contribution to the Green Climate Fund and the replenishment cycle is, in fact, as I understand it, not due until 2019, from memory, given the concerns around the Green Climate Fund administration and processes, we would not be making a further contribution.

Senator WONG: When did DFAT first become aware of that decision?

Senator Payne: Senator, I will ask the officials to take that on notice if we don't have that information with us today.

Senator WONG: Do you have that? When did you first become aware, Mr—

Mr Tinning : Mr Tinning.

Senator WONG: I just haven't got my glasses on. Ms Klugman has the same problem, but I think hers is the opposite way around.

Ms Adamson : We will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: You need them for reading, not for looking. Leave them on; it's fine—solidarity!

Ms Adamson : We will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Mr Tinning, when did you first become aware?

Mr Tinning : I was travelling at the time, so I became aware when I was informed by my colleagues.

Senator WONG: You became aware via the announcement—correct?

Mr Tinning : That's correct.

Senator WONG: How about you, Secretary?

Ms Adamson : I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Because you don't know or because you need to have a chat?

Ms Adamson : Because I don't know. I need to check that. You asked specifically when.

Senator WONG: Yes, sure, that's fair enough. How about I ask it this way: did you become aware as a result of the Prime Minister's announcement, or were you aware before?

Ms Adamson : I can't recall exactly when I became aware, but I think I first became focused on it, if I can put it that way, when the Prime Minister announced it. But I would like the opportunity, please, simply to check.

Senator WONG: Of course. I understand. Ms Walsh?

Ms Walsh : Senator, I was travelling at the time, so I'd like to ensure that I can check my records before I give you a definitive answer.

Senator WONG: With that caveat, did you—to use the secretary's terminology—become focused on it as a consequence of the Prime Minister's announcement?

Ms Walsh : Senator, can I come back to you on notice, please, and just check and give you an accurate response?

Senator WONG: Only because I think you've done a good job in other areas!

Senator Payne: Senator, how extraordinarily generous of you!

Senator WONG: The concerns which were raised about the Green Climate Fund—you referenced that, Minister. Can you tell me, Minister, to which concerns you're referring?

Senator Payne: There are a number of issues that have been raised. I'm happy to talk about them from the perspective of my awareness, but I think the officials are better placed.

Senator WONG: No, actually, I just want to know: are these concerns about the operation of the fund which have been raised by stakeholders, or were these political concerns raised by coalition party room members?

Senator Payne: Concerns about the operation of the fund.

Senator WONG: Okay, I accept that. Can I go to the budget announcement in May about the internet cable to PNG and the Solomons. Can someone tell me how that is being funded—hopefully by reference to Mr Wood's very good but incomplete tables.

Mr Wood : I can have a go.

Senator WONG: Your mic's not on.

Mr Wood : Senator, the undersea cable is being funded through a combination of mechanisms. Firstly, there's a contribution from the Australian aid program, and then, secondly, there are contributions from the PNG and Solomon Islands governments. In relation to the contribution from the Australian aid program, you will see that reflected in the totals for PNG and the Solomon Islands, so it's a subcomponent of those budget totals that you see.

Senator WONG: Yes, so, in the Senate estimates reporting table which goes over the forward estimates, are you telling me that each of those activity approval amounts—not committed but approval, I assume—includes a component for the cable, or is this still at the stage of preapproval?

Mr Wood : I would need to confirm that, Senator—

Senator WONG: Okay.

Mr Wood : in terms of where the project is in terms of approvals. I can tell you about the budget allocations.

Senator WONG: Why don't you do that. But I was interested in understanding—I know it's a little granular—the extent to which the May budget announcement is already reflected in this table, which is your line item forward estimates of each of the regional ODA programs.

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Do you want to do it at a high level? You can give me the numbers at a high level; what you can't do is tell me where they are in this table or if they are—correct?

Mr Wood : I can tell you that within the PNG budget allocation and within the Solomon Islands budget allocation are the amounts coming from the Australian aid program to support that.

Senator WONG: How much, and over what period?

Mr Wood : It's over a couple of years—the 2018-19 financial year and the 2019-20 financial year. I have in front of me the 2018-19 component. I could give you that.

Senator WONG: Yes.

Mr Wood : We have an amount of $29.6 million for PNG and $50.4 million for the Solomon Islands.

Senator WONG: Can you on notice give me 2019-20? I want the total cost of the project over those two line items.

Mr Wood : Sure.

Senator WONG: Are you able to get that?

Mr Wood : We could get that. Ms Klugman or Mr Kang may have more precise details.

Mr Kang : In relation to the total cost of the project, we estimate that it will cost up to A$200 million. As Mr Wood has said, that would be spread out over the 2018-19 and 2019-20 financial years.

Senator WONG: It's still a reasonably short time frame for that expenditure, though. Is the budget allocation over only those two financial years, or are you anticipating 2020-21 as well?

Mr Wood : It is. If you look at the table that has the forward allocations for PNG and the Solomon Islands, you'll see that it drops off in 2020-21, which reflects the terminating measures. So, effectively, it's a short-term terminating measure.

Senator WONG: Just so I'm clear: on notice you're going to give me how much is in each of these columns for 2018-19 and 2019-20 relating to this project?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Mr Kang : Sorry, I was going to say that, as per what Mr Wood said, there is also a part contribution to the capital expenditure of the project which will be coming from the governments of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands respectively. That amount is up to one-third of the total cost of the capital phase of the project.

Senator WONG: And Australia's component is approximately $200 million. Is that right?

Mr Kang : That's the anticipated total cost of the project. That does include a certain amount of contingency, to take into account the potential for delays and unforeseen costs that would be associated with any major infrastructure project, but the Australian contribution is roughly two-thirds of the capital expenditure. That is sourced from the official development assistance program.

Senator WONG: What's the total cost you are budgeting for, for Australia's contribution?

Mr Kang : Roughly, the total cost would be approximately two-thirds of that, as I said, up to $200 million. It is important to note, however—

Senator WONG: I just want to know what you are budgeting for as an ODA contribution. Can you give me a number?

Mr Kang : Mr Wood is in charge of the forecasts—

Mr Wood : As Mr Kang says, the two-thirds of $200 million is about $133 million, $134 million. It's in that vicinity.

Senator WONG: That's a capital component.

Mr Kang : That's correct.

Senator WONG: Are we funding anything else?

Mr Kang : We are funding some related technical assistance to enable the governments of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands to ensure that, for example, they are able to assist with regulation and pricing once the cable is commissioned. These are largely sourced from the bilateral aid programs in Papua New Guinea—

Senator WONG: So how much—well, all of this is sourced from the bilateral aid program, from what you said before. Is that not right?

Senator MOORE: There's no money coming from any other department.

Mr Wood : Australia's contribution is funded through the bilateral aid program. We're probably talking about certain line items.

Senator WONG: Correct.

Mr Wood : We have a line item associated with the—

Senator WONG: capital expenditure and a line item associated with—what do you call it? What would the capacity funding come out of?

Mr Kang : From the bilateral aid program.

Senator WONG: I know that.

Ms Adamson : Technical assistance and capability.

Senator WONG: How much is the second category?

Mr Kang : That quantum is yet to be fully determined—

Senator WONG: Approximately—

Mr Kang : mainly because a lot of the work will occur once the cable is commissioned, and the ready-for-service for the cable is end of December.

Senator WONG: Are you anticipating any expenditure in relation to that in the current financial year?

Mr Kang : There is some expenditure which we would anticipate will take place in the current financial year.

Senator WONG: Just so we're clear: I'm talking about the technical assistance component of the capital expenditure.

Mr Kang : That's correct.

Senator WONG: How much in this current financial year?

Mr Kang : I'm sorry; I can't give you a precise figure—

Senator WONG: I don't understand this. I understand you can't give me a precise figure, but you do budgets and then you work to those budgets—you've got to go back if you are not working to them—so you must know broadly how much you've got to deal with?

Mr Kang : To give you an example, there's an economic and social infrastructure program that's run out of the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby. They have a budget for that over four years. Part of that budget is to go towards this technical assistance and capacity building for the cable project in this financial year.

Senator WONG: Can someone come back to me—

Ms Klugman : We will come back to you on notice and give you an answer.

Senator WONG: I appreciate that. Is it all ODA eligible?

Mr Kang : Yes.

Senator WONG: Technical and capital?

Mr Kang : Yes.

Mr Wood : We can come back on notice precisely, but that's my understanding.

Senator WONG: I'll come back to the aid budget and what's happened to it, but there was no additional funding provided to the ODA budget in the May budget to reflect this expenditure. Is that correct?

Mr Wood : That's correct. As you'll recall, we had a discussion and we also had a question on notice about where that $200 million has come from. It was offset within the ODA envelope.

Senator WONG: But, from memory, not all from the bilateral program?

Mr Wood : You're correct. It came from a range of programs. We mentioned previously Indonesia, Cambodia and some other funds as well.

Senator WONG: I might have to find that question on notice because I can't—

CHAIR: Okay. Senator Hinch.

Senator HINCH: I'll be very quick. Minister, on 2 December last year I got a phone call at my apartment, and he said, 'It's Malcolm here'—the then-Prime Minister—'I want you to know that we turned the first one back at Sydney Airport this morning.' That was paedophiles travelling overseas to Asia on 'child-rape holidays'. I've since been told, from sources inside the department, that about 500 passports have been cancelled. Can you confirm that for me?

Mr Tysoe : While I'm finding the figures, what I can report is the child sex offender measures are working very effectively. We have denied since—

Senator HINCH: The figure I got was about 500.

Mr Tysoe : Yes. We've denied passports to 857 offenders, 39 offenders have been stopped at the border, as at 30 September, and, as at that date as well, the AFP have charged nine registered child sex offenders with ten offences under the new legislation.

Senator HINCH: That's fantastic. Congratulations. It's extraordinary, because, in 2016, when I came here, I didn't believe that they could still travel overseas. I thought, 'How can this be?' I give credit to Rachel Griffiths, the actress, who brought it to my attention. I said, 'This can't be so.' We found out through the department that, in 2016, 800 travelled overseas, and 400 of them went to South-East Asia to Myanmar and Cambodia and Vietnam on what I call 'child-rape holidays'. There were 800 then, and 400 went there. So, you had 800 cancelled. That's not to say how many perhaps just didn't apply because they know the borders are now blocked.

Mr Tysoe : I think that's the case. Of course, the states and territories have responsibility for deciding who can and can't travel, and they can make requests to the department to place alerts on passports as well. Of course all persons on a child sex offender register are registered at the border, if you like. It is an offence to attempt to travel if you are on the child sex offender register, so the AFP will deny departure from Australia for anyone on that register as well.

Senator HINCH: It's nice to hear some good news out of estimates.

CHAIR: Well done all around. Senator Wong, do you want to ask more questions till 3.30, because after 3.30 Senator Leyonhjelm and then the coalition might take some of the time.

Senator WONG: Sure. You've been—I was going to say 'generous', but that's probably too nice!—more than fair.

CHAIR: It would go against your normal graciousness to say that I was being generous.

Senator WONG: I can be gracious, occasionally. Can we go back to the infrastructure financing. I was part way through that.

Ms Adamson : Which aspect of infrastructure financing are you interested in?

Senator WONG: Budgets.

Ms Adamson : I want to make sure we have the right colleagues at the table.

Senator WONG: Why don't I just ask the question? I've just asked the secretariat to remind me of the question on notice, but I think Mr Wood has said that money was diverted from the Indonesia and Cambodia bilateral ODA programs in order to provide the capital funding for the cable. Is that correct?

Ms Adamson : The answer that we provided on notice would have been correct. That is my recollection, but, because you've asked the question again—

Senator WONG: I just can't find it, sorry.

Ms Adamson : It is my recollection but I'd like Mr Wood—who, as you know, tracks these things fastidiously—to answer your question.

Mr Wood : We had an exchange where we did get to that $200 million. We mentioned the reductions to Indonesia and Cambodia. The reference was page 83 from the last Hansard. We also had portfolio question No. 85, which was from Senator Moore, which asked about those specific reductions to the ODA bilateral funding to Indonesia and Cambodia.

Senator WONG: Money is fungible so it is all probably a little theoretical, but was there any reduction in any Pacific program to fund this cable?

Mr Wood : No. As you know, there was an announcement about a record level of funding to the Pacific—

Senator WONG: I was about to ask about that. In the 2018-19 budget statement the then Foreign Minister declared the regional benefit of over $103 billion in aid in 2018-19 'our largest ever contribution'. Can you confirm that the figure includes the spending on this cable?

Mr Wood : That is correct. Our Australian aid budget summary reports precisely $1.2836 billion. That includes that funding to PNG and the Solomon Islands.

Senator WONG: Which we had been talking about—the capital funding?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: It was reported, I think last month, that Australia and the US are also working on a proposal to build a domestic internet cable network in PNG. Can someone confirm whether in fact we are considering doing so and what the status of the proposal is?

Mr Kang : The context to this is that we are very committed to trying to work more closely with the United States and Japan to help co-finance infrastructure projects across the Indo-Pacific, including in the south-west Pacific and the north Pacific. To that effect, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs announced on 31 July our intent to enter into a trilateral partnership on infrastructure. She then referred to that in her discussions with her counterparts from Japan and the United States.

Senator WONG: Yes, I have read those press releases and those statements, and I've read the OPIC announcements in the US et cetera. I am actually just asking about this particular project.

Mr Kang : PNG telecommunications infrastructure, if it was managed appropriately, would be a project of interest in terms of the broader aims of that trilateral infrastructure partnership. As a result, we have had some informal initial discussions with our counterparts from both of those governments. It is fair to say that, as a sovereign state, at the end of the day, the Papua New Guinea government would make decisions that are in its national interest on how to proceed.

Senator WONG: What does that mean? Does that mean that there has not yet been a decision by the PNG government to progress it—that we would have to wait for them to do that?

Mr Kang : It means that there have been some initial discussions. But, at the end of the day, it is the prerogative of the PNG government to determine how to fund its domestic infrastructure requirements.

Senator WONG: As between whom, with these initial discussions?

Mr Kang : These are discussions that have been held with officials here in DFAT in Canberra and representatives of the embassies of the United States and Japan in Canberra and also through our overseas posts in both Tokyo and Washington with their counterparts.

Senator WONG: Have there been discussions with the PNG government?

Mr Kang : The Papua New Guinea government is aware that we've been having those discussions.

Senator WONG: Could you answer the question, please?

Mr Kang : Have there been discussions at a trilateral level?

Senator WONG: No. Have you had discussions with the PNG government—has DFAT or the trilateral partners?

Mr Kang : We are, of course, very active in terms of talking to Papua New Guinea about its domestic and broader telecommunications infrastructure needs, so—

Ms Adamson : The answer is yes.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Have they formally or informally asked for support for this project as yet?

Ms Adamson : They're very pleased indeed with the work that Mr Kang and his undersea cable taskforce are doing on the main cable links. They are wanting to talk about whether that work may be able to be extended for their domestic cable network. Those discussions are progressing. As you intimated in response to what Mr Kang said, the Papua New Guinea government has not made a final decision on that. We have conveyed quite a lot of information. They've asked for a bit more. We are in the process of pursuing those discussions.

Senator WONG: I'm trying to be sensible about how I ask this. Is the PNG government exploring the option of Australia providing some assistance for this capital expenditure—this is on the domestic project?

Ms Adamson : Yes, they are.

Senator WONG: If the government were minded to respond positively to such an approach, would it be the current intention of the government that the funding source would have to replicate the funding source we are seeing for the undersea cable, which is the ODA budget?

Ms Adamson : Yes, that would be the intention.

Senator WONG: Would that be the existing aid budget or is there going to be some sort of replenishment?

Ms Adamson : We are constantly looking at reprioritisation across the aid budget and within the aid budget, to ensure that we can make best use of it. It is possible—and I'm sure you will have already thought of this—depending on the nature of the opportunity, that Efic may come into play also.

Senator WONG: Would that require a change to the current mandate?

Ms Adamson : It would depend on the nature of the opportunity.

Senator WONG: Akin to what Secretary Pompeo announced in terms of US development financing? The sort of role that you're positing—

Ms Adamson : What we are positing at the moment is something within Efic's mandate. If there were things beyond that, then obviously that would be a matter for the government to consider.

Senator WONG: It's essentially a proportion of it off-budget?

Ms Adamson : It's not beyond the realms of possibility that the commercial account could come into play. In relation to infrastructure, there are a range of possible funding options and we're alert to all of those in examining their relative merits.

Senator WONG: As I understand it, this is in the context that the government's current policy of freezing indexation on the ODA budget is continuing—correct?

Ms Adamson : The ODA budget, as Mr Wood has said,—

Senator WONG: Frozen.

Ms Adamson : —has been set out in the budget papers through the forward estimates. So, we know what we're working with.

Senator WONG: Exactly. You are not anticipating there being a change of government policy in relation to the non-introduction of indexation until the dates that have previously been flagged?

Ms Adamson : We are working with what we've been given.

Mr Wood : If I could add, we did see in the last budget additional amounts going to the ODA budget in terms of Australia's investment in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the AIIB. That was added on top of that base of [inaudible].

Senator WONG: How much was that? This is a triennial referral?

Mr Wood : No, this was a commitment of roughly A$1 billion over that five years. Eighty-five per cent of it was ODA eligible. That resulted in $161 million being added to the ODA budget.

Senator WONG: Which is the on-budget component of that?

Mr Wood : 2018-19, and about 170 in the next financial year.

Senator WONG: That component would be low-cost or grant based funding?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: Beyond budget—

Mr Wood : It is ODA eligible, yes.

Proceedings suspended from 15:29 to 15:47

CHAIR: The committee is resumed. Yet again I have been extremely lax, and I will allow the call to go to Senator Wong until about three minutes past four.

Senator WONG: I appreciate the courtesy and I'll try and be very quick. Questions are in relation to aid to the Palestinian territories. That's the only component I'll be doing now. If people could come to the table for those, I'd appreciate that. I understand the total funding to the Palestinian territories for the current financial year is $43 million. Can someone confirm that?

Ms Yu : Yes, that's corrects—$43 million is the total amount to the Palestinian territories.

Senator WONG: Do you want me to call you 'Ms Yu' or 'Ms HK Yu'?

Ms Yu : 'Yu' is fine; that's my surname.

Senator WONG: I figured that.

CHAIR: Just not 'Hey you'.

Senator WONG: I'd be 'Senator YY Wong' if I followed that. That was quite funny, wasn't it. I didn't even mean to be self-deprecating.

CHAIR: A lot of people ask 'Why Penny?'

Senator WONG: And that's made up of $20 million to UNRWA, $10 million to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and $13 million through the Australia Middle East NGO Cooperation Agreement, correct?

Ms Yu : The figure that you're quoting is actually for 2017-18. We obviously have the amounts for 2018-19 as well.

Senator WONG: So the $43 million is the 2017-18 figure?

Ms Yu : That's correct.

Senator WONG: My apologies. And the 2018-19 figure?

Ms Yu : The total amount for 2018-19 is $43 million, as you said, with $15 million for UNRWA. The reason for that is that there's a four-year agreement of $20 million per year, but $5 million of that was brought forward to 2017-18; that's why for 2018-19 it's $15 million. We also have $2.5 million for what is known as AMENCA 3—that's the allocated amount for 2018-19.

Senator WONG: I want total amount and components for 2017-18 and 2018-19. Let's just do that.

Ms Yu : For 2017-18, the total amount was $43.8 million: $26.5 million was provided to UNRWA; $2.2 million to AMENCA 3; $10 million to UN humanitarian fund for the PTs; and $1 million to the Palestinian Authority—that was because it was suspended halfway, so $1 million had gone by the time it was suspended, through the World Bank trust fund. And then we have other smaller amounts, which I'm very happy to go through if you'd like.

Senator WONG: Do you want to just provide them on notice to me? Is that okay?

Ms Yu : Sure, will do.

Senator WONG: And then equivalent figures for 2018-19?

Ms Yu : Yes, of course. For UNRWA, $15 million and for AMENCA 3, $2.5 million, bearing in mind, obviously, that the amount to APHEDA has been suspended; that $2.5 million includes that for now, but it will be adjusted as a result. The amount to the UN humanitarian fund for the PTs is to be confirmed; we will allocate that throughout the year. There is no longer any funding allocated to the Palestinian Authority via the World Bank trust fund. Once again, the smaller amounts will be determined, and we can also provide the amounts that are already determined to you on notice.

Senator WONG: I'd appreciate that. And the 2018-19 total figure was?

Ms Yu : It was $43 million.

Senator WONG: So pretty much the same, but more of that is currently unallocated.

Ms Yu : That's correct.

Senator WONG: On 2 July, Ms Bishop announced the government was discontinuing funding to the multi-donor trust fund for the Palestinian Recovery and Development Program and allocating that money to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as you and I have been discussing. Just to be clear, was that decision made by the minister at the cabinet level or by the department?

Ms Yu : That decision was made by the foreign minister.

Senator WONG: Were ministers consulted with prior to that decision being made?

Ms Yu : I don't recall, unless of course the foreign minister's office consulted other ministers.

Senator WONG: What about other MPs or senators—are you aware of any?

Ms Yu : I'm not aware of any.

Senator WONG: Did DFAT consult with other departments or agencies prior to the decision?

Ms Yu : No, I don't recall consulting other departments.

Senator WONG: Were any other governments or multilateral organisations consulted prior to this decision being made?

Ms Yu : No. I guess, with regard to other governments, we engage in conversations about how we provide aid to PT with our like-mindeds. I'll have to take on notice exactly who we may have spoken to, but these things happen on a business-as-usual basis.

Senator WONG: Perhaps on notice: which governments or multilateral organisations were consulted? Who did that consultation? And what position was expressed, if any, by these governments or multilateral organisations? Can you tell me what DFAT's assessment is of the impact this decision has had on those living in the Palestinian territories?

Ms Yu : The decision to suspend funding to APHEDA in particular or the impact of our full program for the PTs?

Senator WONG: Your full set of changes to the funding for the Palestinian territories?

Ms Yu : As you know, AMENCA 3 is continuing. We do still have $2.5 million allocated to that. The only change that's been made is to redirect funding for the Palestinian Authority to the UN humanitarian fund for PT. Given that the size of our program to PT hasn't changed significantly, our view is that Australia is still contributing significantly to the stability of Israel and PT through our aid program.

Senator WONG: Can I turn now to UNRWA, please?

Ms Yu : Sure.

Senator WONG: In August of this year, the US indicated it would no longer provide funding to UNRWA. The US provided, I think, $360 million-plus in 2017. That was reduced to, I think, under $70 million in 2018—$60 million, I'm told. Is that right?

Ms Yu : The US actually recently cut its full funding to UNRWA—

Senator WONG: Sorry, this is prior to the decision. It was $364 million in 2017, then it was reduced to $60 million in 2018 and then we had an August decision that says nothing; correct.

Ms Yu : Yes, that's correct.

Senator WONG: Are you able to give me any assessment of the impact of this decision on Palestinian refugees?

Ms Yu : It has certainly had some impact on UNRWA's ability to fund basic quality services to Palestinians, so they have been seeking extra funds from other donors. To some extent they have been successful in filling some of the gaps.

Senator WONG: Just remind me of the total shortfall, what was sought and where they are up to in seeking to fill the gap?

Ms Yu : I do have that information but not on me, so I'll have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Has Australia expressed any concern to the United States in relation to this decision?

Ms Yu : I'll have to take that on notice. I'm not sure whether there has been any formal representation made.

Senator WONG: I always love that word 'formal'! Has there been any communication at a political or an office level to the US about the impact of this decision?

Ms Yu : I'll come back to you on that.

Senator WONG: That's a 'I'll take it on notice'?

Ms Yu : Yes.

Senator WONG: Has Australia been approached to provide additional funding?

Ms Yu : Yes, we were, but this was prior to the US announcing its total cut. I explained to you previously that we brought forward the $5 million from this year to the previous year. That was at the request of UNRWA.

Senator WONG: But have we been approached for additional funding subsequent to the US decision to cut funding?

Ms Yu : Not to my knowledge.

Senator WONG: Secretary?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: Is the government considering making an additional contribution over and above what has been made to date to make up this funding shortfall?

Ms Yu : That will be the decision of the government. We certainly have not provided advice to date.

Senator WONG: You'll provide me on notice with the shortfall and what is being sought internationally?

Ms Yu : Yes.

Senator WONG: Senator Payne, is the government considering making any additional contribution to UNRWA?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator WONG: Do you have any concerns about the effect of the US decision on Palestinian refugees and the services provided by UNRWA?

Senator Payne: The government makes its contribution to support some of the most disadvantaged communities in the region, but decisions of other governments are a matter for them.

Senator WONG: The decision was made to move money forward in recognition of the effect of the earlier decision, so we're not unaware of the humanitarian effect.

Senator Payne: I understand that.

Senator WONG: We're now providing less than last year because there was a bring-forward. Do you have any concerns, as foreign minister, about the implications of the loss in funding for UNRWA for this particular cohort of refugees?

Senator Payne: I would still reiterate that I believe each nation makes its own decisions about the amount of funding it provides to various parts of the United Nations and where that funding is directed. Australia, however, is making a significant contribution and observes its own obligations in that way.

Senator WONG: What do you regard as a significant contribution? The $15 million to UNRWA—is that what you're referencing?

Senator Payne: That and more broadly, yes.

Senator WONG: But in relation to this particular cohort, for want of a better term?

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator WONG: I've managed to do it, Chair, thanks to Ms Yu.

CHAIR: Thank you. We don't have Senator Storer here—

Senator WONG: Oh, I could have kept going!

CHAIR: but I've got a bracket of questions as well. Can anybody give us an update on Mr Ken Elliott?

Ms Adamson : As I think I mentioned to you earlier, it would be our preference to provide that information to the committee in camera, if I can put it that way.

CHAIR: Of course.

Senator Payne: But not in the context of estimates.

CHAIR: I did not catch up with that; my apologies. Thank you. Who can tell me about the UNHCR?

Ms Adamson : Which elements of the UNHCR?

CHAIR: Is it correct that the UNHCR's condemnations between 2006 and 2016 have seen Israel condemned 68 times, whereas Algeria, China, Iraq, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Somalia, Turkey, Venezuela and Zimbabwe each have a big duck egg next to them—in other words, zero condemnations?

Ms Adamson : Can I just check: are you referring to the UN Human Rights Council, not the UNHCR?

CHAIR: Sorry; you are absolutely correct.

Ms Adamson : In that case, we will have colleagues responsible for the UN Human Rights Council come forward.

CHAIR: And can somebody tell us the current membership of these wonderful, thriving democracies that are on this body?

Mr Lee : In terms of the resolutions that have been passed by the UN Human Rights Council and the specific countries that have been raised over that period of time, I will need to take that on notice. That is a large period of time and we will need to look carefully at it.

CHAIR: If that is a convenient—

Ms Adamson : I expect that you're right, but we would like to confirm the accuracy of the information that you have or have been given.

CHAIR: It is something that somebody tweeted or blogged or something. It would just be interesting to know if that is correct. Can somebody tell me the current 2018 membership of the UN Human Rights Council?

Mr Lee : There are 47 members of the Human Rights Council. If you will allow me a moment, I will find that list for you and I'll table it.

CHAIR: If there are 47 of them, please don't bother taking up time reading them all out. Just take it on notice.

Ms Adamson : We will table that list.

CHAIR: If you could, that would be very helpful.

Ms Adamson : It's widely and readily available.

CHAIR: Can I ask what our approach is in Pakistan in relation to issues there generally, but particularly in relation to Asia Bibi. What representations have we made, given that, in recent times, an appeal has failed?

Mr Merrifield : You asked about Asia Bibi, the woman in Pakistan on death row over blasphemy charges?


Mr Merrifield : There was a welcome move earlier this month, on 8 October, where the Supreme Court met to consider her last legal appeal. There's been no announcement yet of the court's decision or any clarity, in fact, on whether there has been a decision. We continue to advocate for her release.

CHAIR: How do we do that?

Mr Merrifield : Over the last five weeks, there have been two instances of Australian advocacy in relation to this case.

CHAIR: Are you at liberty to tell us what that advocacy was?

Mr Merrifield : Yes, absolutely. On 17 September, Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls, in the company of our high commissioner to Pakistan, raised this case with Pakistan's newly-appointed Minister for Human Rights. This month I personally raised it with the Pakistan high commission here in Canberra.

CHAIR: Well done. Do you think it would impact or strengthen our representations if we were to mention—you might want to answer this, Minister—the relatively generous aid that we provide them; that we provide them aid and yet they behave in this manner? Is it possible to say to them that Australia feels that strongly, especially in the context of the welcome announcement about the death penalty that you gave—was it last week?

Senator Payne: Last Wednesday morning, I think, yes, or the Tuesday.

CHAIR: Which I had the great honour of attending. I feel very pleased that Australia is proactive in this area. But, when a country seems to be so recalcitrant, I'm wondering whether financial matters might assist them to mend their ways.

Senator Payne: I think it's important to note that there are certain matters before the Supreme Court of Pakistan at the moment. I'm very conscious of that.

CHAIR: Right. But have we given any thought to making representations to Pakistan about the generosity of our aid to them and the discomfort felt by the Australian people of providing aid to a regime that treats a woman in this particular way?

Senator Payne: There is an appeal under way before the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Ms Adamson : One of the reasons that we do provide aid is an attempt to build institutions and build capability to deal with these sorts of things. It's often a chicken-and-egg discussion, but we are particularly focused in terms of what we are doing on precisely what you're discussing.

CHAIR: Ms Adamson, if I'm correct, at the time of the subcontinent's partition in 1947, some 23 per cent of the territory that became Pakistan was other than Muslims. Today it's a scant 3.72 per cent, because the other minority religions have been dealt with in such a horrid way for decade after decade now. That 23 per cent has shrunk to three per cent. I'll leave it at that; I shouldn't be editorialising.

Senator STORER: I have some quick questions for the department about the overseas aid program. I want to understand the policy of the department in terms of our aid spending as a percentage of our gross national income, its current level versus UN suggested levels and where we are versus other OECD countries.

Mr Wood : The accepted official measure of official development assistance is as a ratio of gross national income. For the 2018-19 financial year, the ratio, which I'll call the ODA-GNI ratio—official development assistance to gross national income—is 0.22 per cent. It was 0.23 per cent in 2017-18 and it is forecast to be 0.21 per cent in 2019-20.

Senator STORER: So what is the official target?

Mr Wood : There is no official target. The Australian aid program does not have an official target here. It has a budget envelope. As mentioned earlier, that is $4.16 billion for 2018-19.

Senator STORER: You quoted a figure of 0.22 per cent. How is that compared to other OECD countries?

Mr Wood : That rates Australia as equal 17th amongst the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development—the OECD.

Senator STORER: Were we in single digits at one stage and are now 17th? How have we been moving in the last five years, let's say?

Mr Wood : I only have the data from 2015. In 2015 we were 16th; in 2016 we were 17th; in 2017 we were 17th; and in 2018 we were 17th. So it stayed at that level. I don't have the information going back prior to that.

Senator STORER: What is the Australian government's involvement in finance entities such as the International Finance Corporation and other multilateral entities? What's our role in the financing of those institutions that promote the private sector in other developing countries?

Mr Wood : The Australian aid program provides funding to entities such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and, as I mentioned earlier, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Our aid budget reports that in 2018-19 we will spend a total of $768 million on infrastructure, trade facilitation and competitiveness. The Australian aid program also has a target for Aid for Trade in terms of that being 20 per cent of the aid program. We expect, in 2018-19, that that will be 24.5 per cent. My colleague Mr Tinning will have more specific details.

Senator STORER: Thank you. Perhaps I'll continue while we wait. I'm very interested in the Australian government's position with regard to specialist development finance institutes. Was there not a recommendation from the joint standing committee in 2015 regarding this? Can you explain the government's position with regard to development finance institutions, as they occur in many other OECD countries?

Mr Tinning : Yes, there was a recommendation in the Senate inquiry about this issue. We currently have a feasibility study underway to look at the potential for use of non-grant financing instruments in the aid program. That study is due to conclude in January next year, and we'll consider the report's recommendations after that.

Senator STORER: We don't have one, so that report is specifically focused on the issue of a development finance institute—is that correct?

Mr Tinning : No, it's looking at the full range of potential options when it comes to non-grant instruments, so it won't just consider the option of a financial institution. The findings will inform further consideration by government.

Senator STORER: Could you explain the existence and the status of the Emerging Markets Impact Investment Fund?

Mr Tinning : Yes, that's been the subject of a tender process, and negotiations are still underway with the preferred tenderer.

Senator STORER: But applications were due in February this year? We're now shortly into November. Is there a delay or is there an issue there?

Mr Tinning : It's currently the subject of negotiations that are subject to commercial-in-confidence issues, so we hope to conclude the process in the next couple of months.

Senator STORER: Would that review that's due in January be considering expansion of that fund from the current $40 million proposed amount?

Mr Tinning : The two things are independent.

Senator STORER: I look forward to the outcome of the January review. Thank you very much.

CHAIR: I should indicate to officials that now we'll have quite a bracket in relation to matters on Israel, the Middle East and Palestine. As officials come forward, I want to talk about question on notice No. 7 from myself. I asked for a copy of the letter that the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Bishop, had written in relation to her concerns about moneys being diverted. I was rightly told that it's not the practice to publish the letters. I accept that; I raise the white flag on that. But can I ask: have we had a response to Minister Bishop's letter?

Ms Adamson : While my colleagues are preparing to answer, could I just indicate to the committee that we will now table—in fact, we've just given it to the secretariat—the list of the 47 member states on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

CHAIR: Thank you very much.

Ms Yu : Yes, there was a response to the former foreign minister's letter.

CHAIR: Are you at liberty to disclose its content?

Ms Yu : I would probably suggest the same applies to the extent that this is a diplomatic exchange.

CHAIR: Right. We were told as much that Ms Bishop's letter was an expression of concern. Without telling me the exact response, was it just a complete denial or a middle-finger salute? What was the response in general terms?

Ms Yu : I think it's fair to say that, given the former foreign minister's decision, there wasn't enough assurance provided in the letter that—

CHAIR: Sorry to interrupt, but, to truncate this, in other words: the minister sent a letter, and we got a response, after which the minister made the decision? So that response came before the minister made her decision in relation to funding?

Ms Yu : That's correct.

CHAIR: All right. That's all I need to know—thank you for that. Budget estimates question on notice No. 8—I'd asked, in relation to the fund for the families of martyrs: to the best of our understanding of that fund, would the families that lost family members during the demonstrations of which I was talking about be able to draw on the fund? Then I was told that the Palestinian National Authority has advised that the Palestine Liberation Organization provides financial support to convicted prisoners, detainees and their families without reference to the motivation behind the alleged or proven crimes. Do we just accept what the Palestinian National Authority tells us? I ask that because one assumes that, if there are Palestinians in prison in the area controlled by the Palestinian National Authority, convicted prisoners would not be benefitting from such a fund. Further, if a Palestinian was in jail, let's say in Israel, for fraud, they wouldn't be the beneficiary of such a fund, would they?

Ms Yu : We will have to clarify that with the Palestinian National Authority.

CHAIR: Yes, if you could, because the assertion that they provide financial support to convicted prisoners, without reference to the motivation, I find a bit hard to believe, especially when in their budget they have a specific, as I understand it, martyr fund which suggests that there has to be a motivation behind their death or imprisonment. So if you could provide further details in relation to that, that would be helpful. I also asked, in that same question in relation to Egypt, that they also severely restrict entry to and from Gaza, and the answer that was provided was that Egypt manages its border-crossing point in accordance with its own assessment of its security concerns. That's fine. But would it be fair to say that they share similar security concerns to Israel, and therefore they have quite severe restrictions as well as on movements—is that correct?

Ms Yu : Yes, I think that's fair to say. But it also notes that recent reporting indicates that the border crossing was kept open between Egypt and Gaza.

CHAIR: What are the details of DFAT's recent efforts to solve problems in terrorism-financing risk-management in its Palestinian aid program? Where are we at with everything? We've got UNRWA and we've got the APHEDA. What else? Who can take me through them one by one, starting with UNRWA? Ms Yu, are you able to help in another area?

Ms Yu : I can perhaps go through the steps that we take with regard to our program to the PT more generally. As you know, APHEDA cases are actually under order, so I'll ask my colleague Ms Anderson to go through that. With regard to our programs to the PT, we recognise that this is an area where we are subject to greater risks. The program that we have in place and the framework that we have in place ensures that there is real rigorous risk management and due diligence. If I run you through the steps that we take in delivering these aid programs, would that be useful to you?

CHAIR: Is there actual local oversight in relation to it? For example, in the past we have been told about how wonderful things are with our provision of funding for education, only to find out that the books that the young children are given are telling them to hate Jews, basically from a very early primary-school age. When you tell me and the Australian taxpayer that we're giving money for education, people would say, 'Big tick, that is great,' only to be severely disappointed that nobody checked on what was actually produced under the 'education' heading which allowed for books that I think Senator Leyonhjelm has canvassed in some detail in previous estimates.

Ms Yu : I can certainly confirm that there is an on-the-ground check. In fact, I myself was actually in the Palestinian territories recently, engaging in some of these conversations with the director of the UNRWA operations. There, for example, I specifically raised questions around textbooks. As you know, Senator, UNRWA is required to adopt the textbook of the country in which they operate, because the students are subject to the country's educational system and testing. This particular director, Scott Anderson, himself spoke to me quite frankly about how, for some of the textbooks that they are using, they recognise that around two per cent of the content could be regarded as quite controversial. In order to address—

CHAIR: Could be?

Ms Yu : Well, it is controversial.

CHAIR: Thank you—it is controversial.

Ms Yu : In order to address that, UNRWA puts in place complementary material to try and neutralise that content and takes their teachers through rigorous training to talk about how these things should be delivered in the most neutral way.

CHAIR: How successful is that?

Ms Yu : I think students are being educated, and a lot of these Palestinians are in great need of quality basic services, including education. As we all know, UNRWA—

CHAIR: How do these books slip through if there are people on the ground vetting everything? I ask that because, irrespective of where the money comes from—be it Europe, England or wherever—one imagines that that sort of content in textbooks would not be acceptable.

Ms Yu : As I indicated, these textbooks are textbooks of the country that they are actually operating in, thereby being developed by the Palestinian Authority in this case.

CHAIR: Yes, but with whose money? Sure, the books are being developed in the Palestinian territories by the Palestinians for the Palestinians, but the fundamental question is: with whose money is this happening? If it's with our money, I think the Australian taxpayer wants an assurance that that money is not being put to the sort of use that has been exposed previously by my colleague, Senator Leyonhjelm.

Ms Yu : As to whose money, I'll have to take that on notice, because I'm not sure whether it's the PA that prints them or whether it's UNRWA. Coming back to UNRWA's use of these textbooks, you might be pleased to hear that in April 2018 the UK announced it would be conducting a review of Palestinian textbooks. We have indicated to the UK our interest in taking part in that, so those discussions are underway. Previously I mentioned—

CHAIR: When do we anticipate that review to be completed? I would have thought it wouldn't take too long to grab a textbook or half a dozen and go through them. We were told about this review, if I recall correctly, at last estimates. Here we are—what, about five months later? I reckon even I could read five textbooks within that time.

Ms Yu : We have been chasing up this particular issue with our UK colleagues, so hopefully I'll be able to provide a more concrete response to you this time.

Senator LEYONHJELM: On that, are you aware of recent media reports that indicate that the City of Jerusalem is proposing to take over the educational functions previously undertaken by UNRWA within Jerusalem for the reasons I raised at last estimates, which Senator Abetz has referred to?

Ms Yu : I'm not. Once again, it would be useful if I could have a look at what you are referring to.

Senator LEYONHJELM: As we have discussed, there is an article in the Israel National News, which contains quite a lengthy quote from a person by the name of Bassem Eid, who is said to be a human rights activist who has been studying UNRWA's schools and institutions for years:

I worked in several UNRWA schools in the territories and in Jordan, and children aged 9-10 want to be killed and kill Jews and to release their people. "Who taught you that?" I asked. They said that was what they were learning in schools, and I asked teachers at UNRWA schools in Jordan if children were taught to blow themselves up and be killed. They said "of course. How else will they liberate the land from the Israeli occupation?" UNRWA is aware of this, and the international community knows that all UNRWA studies are full of hate and incitement. The international community continues to inject funds because it is against Israel.

This was written in the context of this media article reporting that the mayor of Jerusalem has joined with several other organisations in raising concerns about this. They are doing something practical about it by taking over all the education within the Jerusalem area. In light of that, assuming that that goes ahead and that media report is accurate, if UNRWA is required to do less education, because the municipality of Jerusalem is doing more, I wonder whether in fact we may review our own contribution to UNRWA.

Ms Yu : I wasn't aware of that report, so thank you for bringing that to my attention. With regard to UNRWA's role, as you know, they are providing services for 5.4 million Palestinian refugees in both the PT area and Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. They're providing, as I said previously, basic quality services for Palestinians in need.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Yes, they are. We have discussed that. As a result of the previous foreign minister's decision in relation to funding, I wasn't quite sure when you were answering Senator Wong's questions whether there has actually been a net reduction in funding to go to the PT or it's just been reallocated since the MA'AN Development Center or APHEDA are no longer being funded?

Ms Yu : There's been a slight reduction, from $43.8 million to $43 million.

Senator LEYONHJELM: So $0.8 million. That still leaves a four-year agreement with UNRWA of $10 million, but $5 million of that was brought forward to the current financial year, so that makes it $15 million—is that right?

Ms Yu : That's correct.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I want to draw to your attention some information and ask if you are aware of it. The mayor of Jerusalem was again reported in Israeli media briefing a committee of the Knesset, in which he showed a school textbook used by UNRWA in East Jerusalem. It refers specifically to Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian terrorist who murdered 35 civilians in a bus attack in Herzliya. This is being distributed in UNRWA schools. This is one of the pieces of information that he presented to this Knesset committee and is one of the reasons why the Jerusalem municipality is taking over the education of Palestinian children in the municipality area. Are you familiar with that claim?

Ms Yu : Sorry, I was not familiar with that claim.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Clearly I think that Australian taxpayers would be worried if their funds were being used to publish textbooks which promote the glorification of suicide bombers and terrorists like that. Do you agree?

Ms Yu : Yes, of course.

Senator LEYONHJELM: If you made inquiries and confirmed that what the mayor of Jerusalem has told the Knesset committee is accurate, would I be safe in assuming that there would be a review of the funding that goes towards that?

Ms Yu : That's a matter for government, but, as I explained previously, Australia wants to actively get involved in reviewing the textbooks with the UK colleagues, so we have been pursuing that with the UK. And there have been other reviews done around textbooks, as I think I stated previously, carried out by an independent group and funded by the US. I think Senator Abetz asked who actually carried out the review, and we provided that response on notice. And, as I said, my own discussions with UNRWA service providers indicate that they are extremely aware of these sensitivities and that neutrality is a principle that they very, very closely and strongly adhere to. They have systems in place where they talk to the teachers about how some of this material provided by the Palestinian Authority can be neutralised in their teachings.

Senator LEYONHJELM: The American administration has now withdrawn funding from UNRWA, as you confirmed recently. I understand a parliamentary committee of the EU is also reviewing the funding of UNRWA. Are you familiar with that?

Ms Yu : No, I wasn't aware of that. The EU has certainly been a very strong sponsor of UNRWA in the past.

Senator LEYONHJELM: You're quite right. They have indeed. But I understand there is some growing sensitivity around what the funds are being used for. I am informed that there is a review underway as to the use of the EU's funds by UNRWA. We now have the mayor of Jerusalem raising quite specific accusations in relation to what the money is being used for in UNRWA schools. Minister, I'm wondering if this is a matter of interest to the government in terms of what's being done with Australian taxpayers' money?

Senator Payne: As you would be aware, the government has taken a number of decisions recently in relation to concerns, preceding my taking up this role. That's across a range of issues, but, broadly speaking, of the nature that you've raised. Yes, we would continue to want to monitor those sorts of issues. You've raised a number of matters today that officials have not been aware of. They will now be examined.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Can I confirm then that I'm more than happy to feed information to the most useful place in this issue—is that you, Ms Yu, or is there somebody else?

Ms Yu : It's me.

Senator Payne: But through my office. We will facilitate that.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Okay, as you wish.

Senator Payne: Thank you.

CHAIR: Do we have Australian officials actually on the ground ensuring that the funding we provide either directly or through NGOs is being used appropriately? We've had the World Vision situation and we had the APHEDA situation; do we actually have, on the ground, people who we employ so that we don't have to rely on the Palestinian Authority or a UN official telling us something—or an NGO, which, sadly, now we know are not as reliable as we might want them to be?

Ms Yu : Yes, we do.

CHAIR: Good. Ms Anderson, do you want to take me through what we are doing with APHEDA, please?

Ms Anderson : I should clarify that we have a range of activities, as you said, in that part of the world, and we take the issues around countering terrorism financing extremely seriously. That is clearly outlined in all of our contracts and grants, including with NGOs but not limited to NGOs. I should also take this opportunity to note for the record that there have been allegations with regard to employees of one of APHEDA's downstream partners, but those allegations have not related to the transfer of Australian aid funds.

Ms Yu has mentioned specific arrangements in place on the ground. Under the AMENCA 3 program, which is part of our bilateral aid activity, we do have very regular checks. Clearly, this is an environment that is more of a high-risk environment than perhaps some others. We have a six-monthly process where our partners are required to report against their assessments. They do checks against consolidated lists and against our sanctions list. In addition, our post on the ground does spot checks on a two-weekly basis in the case of AMENCA 3. In the case of our broader NGO activities as well, members of my team visit the field and do monitoring visits against a range of different checks. That's not limited only to counterterrorism but includes those kinds of aspects.

From time to time as well we also have a process—and I believe that Ms Yu may be able to speak more about this—where we have engaged local auditors to go in and do additional checks on the flow of our finances. As you are aware, there is a current investigation underway—a very detailed investigation with regard to the allegations made.

CHAIR: How long do we think that will continue, before we have some finality?

Ms Anderson : As you know, it's a very complicated process. We have engaged an independent auditor to undertake that process—an experienced organisation which does have a field presence as well—

CHAIR: From Australia? Are you able to name the independent auditor?

Ms Anderson : Deloittes is undertaking the audit.

CHAIR: Oh, Deloittes. Thank you.

Ms Anderson : Obviously, they have a presence in Australia. They also have a presence in the Middle East. They are continuing to undertake that process, which has included fieldwork in the Middle East. They are preparing their response at the moment.

CHAIR: Is somebody able to assist me as to why the Palestinian population seems to attract one of the highest amounts of aid per capita in the world, if not the highest, as I understand it, at the very top level? That is in comparison to other populations that, some might say, might be in need of greater assistance. Do you want to take that on notice?

Ms Adamson : Sure. Obviously, it goes to some of the issues that we've been talking about in the committee for some time, including history obviously playing a role. You are very well informed about the history of it and the particular circumstances of the Palestinian people at the moment. There is also a desire, I think, on the part of donors to ensure that when it comes to this elusive Middle East peace process contributions are able to be made towards that end. But these things are much debated; there are a wide variety of views and, from all accounts, the situation that many of those recipients are in continues to be quite dire.

CHAIR: Does the department seek to align its support with the Palestinian Authority's objectives? With the support we give to them, do we say that we do that because we support the Palestinian Authority's objectives?

Ms Yu : Of course not, Senator: our program is based on our own objectives that we want to achieve. We have a program investment plan in place that clearly states the objectives that we want to achieve with regard to our aid.

CHAIR: Can you confirm that the Palestinian Authority announced on 5 March that it would increase payments under these programs for terrorism—if I can use that term—from $350 million in 2017 to $403 million in 2018?

Ms Yu : I'll have to take that on notice.

CHAIR: That is a substantial increase. Is the word—fungibility? It just seems that the Palestinian Authority, whilst always crying poor to the world, always seems able to up the amount of money that it makes available to its martyr funds. That is a matter that has exercised my mind for a while, and that's why I've been raising it at these estimates for a while—and previously as well, while we were in opposition. Minister Carr at the time high-handedly sought to dismiss these concerns, which, sadly, are now all coming to light. But if you could take that on notice, that would be good.

Can you advise whether the amount being paid to terrorists and their families—the martyr fund et cetera—in 2017 equated to about 50 per cent of the foreign aid that the Palestinian Authority receives? Please take that on notice and let me know. I assume you don't have that figure on you?

Ms Yu : No, I do not.

CHAIR: And I understand that a convicted terrorist in prison can receive 12,000 shekels per month, plus bonuses of 300 shekels per wife, 50 shekels per child and extra for being resident in Israel and Jerusalem. This can amount to about $3½ thousand per month. By contrast, coming back to education, a teacher employed by the Palestinian Authority receives roughly $615 per month. I think we can see how the Palestinian Authority has priorities; we give them money to pay their teachers a pittance and they just shovel their money elsewhere.

Are you aware of a recent poll of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip which found that 95.5 per cent of people believe that there is corruption within the government of the Palestinian Authority?

Ms Yu : I wasn't aware.

CHAIR: Are you aware that a survey of 1,200 people conducted by the independent Palestinian firm AWRAD, also found that 82 per cent of Gazans believe the same about Hamas? If you could have a look at that for me I would be much obliged.

Ms Yu : Will do, Senator.

CHAIR: Can I get onto the issue of the Palestinian question and the support that is provided. Is it correct that:

… the UN High Commissioner for Refugees … which helps more than 65 million "forcibly displaced people" in myriad conflict zones from Congo to Myanmar, employs 10,966 workers--

which is—

less than one third of UNRWA's workforce.

Which means that the UN's personnel commitment for Palestinian refugees is about 30 times higher than its level for the rest of the world's refugees.

Ms Yu : I'll have to check that.

CHAIR: If you could, and not only check those figures—they may well be wrong, but they're from a reputable publication—but if you could check that for me and then how the United Nations justifies this. If you could then take on notice: if this is the case, what representations will we make to the United Nations about its lopsidedness in support of the plight of refugees around the world?

I think I canvassed this last time: once a refugee comes to Australia and gains citizenship, they're no longer deemed to be a refugee, is that correct?

Ms Yu : Once they're a citizen, yes. That's correct under Australian law.

CHAIR: We do have—do we not?—a number of Palestinians who are citizens, as I understand it, in Israel, in Syria and in Jordan, and, yet, they are deemed like no other refugee population as refugees. Even if they are citizens—let's say in Jordan—they're seen as refugees and, if they have children, their children and offspring are seen as refugees. Therefore, the Palestinian refugee population is continually growing. This is a rort, I would have thought, that needs to be brought into line with standards, or otherwise we're saying there are people who are refugees and then there are Palestinians who are refugees, who are deserving of a lot better treatment.

Ms Yu : Chair, as you said, the government of Jordan does enable Palestinian refugees to secure Jordanian citizenship while retaining their Palestinian refugee status, according to their law. As you know, the definition of refugees under UNRWA's operation was put in place by the UN General Assembly.

CHAIR: Is this definition by the United Nations something that Australia's supports, minister? Do you know?

Senator Payne: Senator, it's not previously been drawn to my attention.

CHAIR: Sorry? It hasn't been?

Senator Payne: No.

CHAIR: I don't want to embarrass you or anybody else.

Senator Payne: I'm not embarrassed. I'll just seek some advice on it.

CHAIR: It just seems, one assumes, that this has been going on under Liberal-Labor governments for—what?—the last five, six, something decades.

Ms Adamson : Seven decades, yes.

CHAIR: Sorry?

Ms Adamson : Yes, that's correct, Senator.

CHAIR: So some sort of justification and whether it is worthy potentially of review, given the situation of the disproportionate amount of support that seems to be going in the Palestinian way in relation to funds per capita and also the staff made available, would be very helpful. Ms Anderson, I think you've answered all my questions on the APHEDA that I had. The good thing is I know that the chair will abide with me as I quickly go through the notes and won't hurry me up.

Senator WONG: Have a long conversation with yourself.

Senator Payne: The chair will agree with the senator.

CHAIR: Thank you very much to you, Ms Yu and Ms Anderson. I do have a few other questions in another area—namely Iran. Minister, you made a speech to the UN General Assembly about the JCPOA and said that we support it as long as Iran abides by its commitments. What's our current view? Do we believe that Iran is abiding by its commitments?

Ms Adamson : I can say that the International Atomic Energy Agency's view is that Iran continues to abide by its commitments under the JCPOA.

CHAIR: So we have no concerns about Iran's behaviour?

Ms Adamson : That's a separate question, because the JCPOA goes to the nuclear deal as it is called. That is a separate question.

CHAIR: Sorry, I meant its behaviour in relation to the nuclear deal—I should have finished the sentence.

Ms Adamson : The nuclear deal took a number of years to negotiate, as you know. There would be some who would argue it is not perfect. The signatories to it I think argue that it was the best deal available and is effective in limiting Iran's ability to develop a nuclear capability that could be used for nuclear weapons. I know I have expert colleagues in the room, if they want to come forward. If you want to engage them in more detailed discussion we can certainly do that, but that has been the IAEA's consistent assessment conveyed to us relatively recently in relation to the specific provisions of the agreement.

CHAIR: But this is currently being reviewed and assessed by us?

Ms Adamson : That is correct. Australia's approach to that is currently being reviewed.

CHAIR: I just wanted to confirm that. Are we aware that on the 31st anniversary of the massacre of 30,000 Iranian political prisoners in the summer of 1988, the Iranian dictatorship regime began demolishing the mass graves of the victims. Is that known?

Ms Yu : I wasn't aware, Senator.

CHAIR: Could you please take that on notice and make some investigations, because I was going to ask whether we had made any representations. First of all, let's establish whether it's true but then whether we've made any representations about the desecration, which is quite horrific. Do we accept that Tehran is one of the top three state sponsors of cyberthreats in the world?

Ms Adamson : I'll ask our Ambassador for Cyber Affairs to answer that question.

CHAIR: Thank you. I must say, it surprised me when I was reading that it seems to be China, Russia and—

Ms Adamson : Think there is some competition for that placement, if you like. There is—

CHAIR: China and Russia seem to be 1 and 2, and they can fight it out between themselves, but I was surprised to see Tehran, or Iran, be listed as number 3.

Mr Feakin : Sorry, Senator, I wasn't actually in the room for the question. Could you repeat it?

CHAIR: It has been suggested that Tehran or Iran is one of the top three state sponsors of cyberthreats in the world. Is that an assessment with which we would agree?

Mr Feakin : Iran is certainly a country that we know has fairly active cyberoperations. The previous Prime Minister actually attributed a certain level of activity in Australia against Australian universities to Iran. We know that they are part of a threat basis that we're more broadly concerned about, which is the blurring of state and non-state activity—guns for hire, essentially, third-party actors who can be paid to act, potentially, on a state's behalf. So Iran would certainly fall into that category.

Yes, we have named them as being responsible for a certain level of activity. Actually, that course of behaviour of naming a particular country is something that we, as a government, have decided is an incredibly important part of our approach to cyberthreats. So, in recent months, we've attributed various activities to the Russian government, and the most recent attributions were towards the Russian military intelligence agencies, the GRU, and we attributed that set of issues to a group of like-minded countries. So the activities we're increasingly seeing in the international arena are these joint attributions of various levels of malicious cyberactivity—to ensure that we can highlight the malicious content itself, the kinds of activities the states are perpetrating in the international arena, and highlighting that there is this challenge to the rules based international order that some countries now are willing to take forward. Certainly, it fits into that category.

CHAIR: Without necessarily saying they're number 3 in the world, Iran are at the top of those that are engaging in this activity?

Mr Feakin : I can't comment on the issue of the hierarchy of nations and where they sit. That necessarily sits within the national security discussion at a classified level. But, certainly, they're a country we do think about quite prominently, yes.

CHAIR: Thank you. Have we made any representations to Iran about the 20-year prison sentence, I think, that has been allocated to a 42-year-old lady who removed her hijab and was then charged with advocating prostitution or something as a result?

Ms Yu : Yes, we have.

CHAIR: What were those representations?

Ms Yu : We recently held the second annual Human Rights Dialogue in Tehran. My colleague, Justin Lee, might like to join me, as he led the dialogue. But, during that discussion, yes, that particular issue of detention of protesters demonstrating against hijab, was raised by Australia, yes.

CHAIR: Good.

Ms Yu : Along with other human rights issues.

CHAIR: Yes. But, with this particular case, I trust the Iran officials didn't say, 'But your ABC provided six segments on how good the hijab is as a fashion item?' That's an aside. Dr Lee, what did we do?

Mr Lee : We held the second annual Human Rights Dialogue with Iran in Tehran on 19 August. We raised a number of issues of human rights concern for us. They ranged across a broad range of issues, including the death penalty, which is a very high priority issue for the Australian government. There was a range of our priority human rights issues, including treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians—Assyrian Christians and Christian converts. But there was a broad range of issues of concern and particular cases that we raised in those discussions.

CHAIR: We raised them, and what happens thereafter? The Iranians tell us it's interesting and keep on doing what they do?

Mr Lee : It is a difficult conversation, raising and discussing human rights issues. The Iranian side also is interested in the Australian experience. We had a member of the Australian Human Rights Commission with us. We try and explain what's expected in terms of international obligations, what the practices are that we have in Australia and the benefits that we see in adhering to human rights. Iran registered our concerns but, yes, I appreciate that it takes time, and these discussions are ongoing—and seeing improvements on the ground. If I may also, while I have the floor, in response to your earlier inquiry around the Human Rights Council and representations on Israel, the data that we have—and I can't recall your exact data—supports your proposition that between June 2006 and February 2018, which is when we have data, so it excludes some of the most recent human rights sessions, there were 69 resolutions on Israel related issues and 187 resolutions passed on human rights situations in other countries. The anti-Israel bias, which we have seen in the Human Rights Council, has been of concern to Australia. The issue of the separate agenda item on Israel has been something that Australia has taken a position against, and a principled position against in that we do not engage in that, and we, as a matter of principle, vote no to those resolutions under that specific item, item 7 on Israel. So—

CHAIR: So we're 69 in relation to Israel. And?

Mr Lee : 187. That was between June—

CHAIR: There were 187?

Mr Lee : For other countries.

CHAIR: For other countries. And 69. So what—

Mr Lee : But there have been some sessions subsequent to that and so we need to—but obviously the trend—

CHAIR: But this gives us a good trend; the only liberal democracy in the Middle East is singled out for all these interesting investigations and findings or recommendations.

Mr Lee : Separately, on the membership of the Human Rights Council, we have tabled two documents, the first document which the secretary mentioned contains all 107 UN member states that have served on the Human Rights Council, and the second document contains the current 47 members of the Human Rights Council, so I just wanted to clarify those documents.

CHAIR: Thank you. Can you confirm that, out of the 187 other—what do I call them—decisions?

Mr Lee : Resolutions.

CHAIR: Thank you. Of the 187 resolutions, were there any in relation to Iraq?

Mr Lee : Iraq or Iran?

CHAIR: Iraq? Do you have a list—

Mr Lee : I will take that on notice.

CHAIR: I don't want to just test your memory. The information I have matches that which you have indicated, and that tells me that countries like Iraq, Cuba, China, Qatar, Pakistan, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia don't seem to require resolutions. And I simply ask, rhetorically: where would one rather live, in relation to one's freedom and human rights, Iraq, Cuba, China et cetera or Israel?

I think we all know what the answer is. Minister, I am pleased that Australia is taking a stronger stance in relation to some of these quite horrid anti-Semitic stands, which are quite horrifying. Thank you for that, Mr Lee. Who can take me to China—and not with a one-way ticket!

Ms Adamson : Mr Fletcher, I think, Senator.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. I have in the past asked questions about human rights in China. I think it was agreed last time that, out of the recorded or known death penalties, China has about half of the world's death penalties that are actually administered, if I'm correct. I'm wondering: how is our human rights dialogue going with China? How long has that been suspended?

Mr Fletcher : Chair, in relation to the number of death penalties, that's an estimate that Amnesty International has made. We don't have any separate information of our own to either challenge it or corroborate it. In the absence of any other information, we recognise that that is an estimate out there. The human rights dialogue was last held in 2014 with China.

CHAIR: Right. The reason it hasn't been held since 2014 has not been any laxness on our part?

Mr Fletcher : Well, we've been eager or interested in holding the dialogue again.

CHAIR: So, then, what has been stopping it? Our friends in China?

Mr Fletcher : Well, yes and no.

CHAIR: Tell my why yes and tell me why no?

Mr Fletcher : China would be prepared to have the dialogue with us at a lower level than it had been established at. It was established at vice-ministerial level back in 1997. At the moment, no other country has a dialogue at that level with China. They would like to drop it down to—they have a special person who's kind of a deputy director-general level in their system. They have said to us, 'This person can lead the talks.' We said, 'No, we have a dialogue at vice-minister level and we would like to keep it at that level.' There has been a bit of a—

CHAIR: We have insisted on that because we do treat these issues with a degree of seriousness?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Ms Adamson : That's correct, Senator. For the avoidance of any ambiguity, Australia was one of only a very small number of countries—there may have been one other—which held the dialogue at that level from the outset right through until 2014. The Chinese held it at that level, and we've been advocating for it to be maintained at that level. Mr Fletcher has just advised me that the one other country which did conduct it at vice-minister level was Norway.

CHAIR: I asked some questions some time ago in relation to the allegation of organ harvesting from prisoners to whom the death penalty had been administered. Do we have any update on the information which was provided, which was basically that we had no knowledge of it, because we didn't really inquire into it that much? I hope I'm not verballing the department too much.

Ms Adamson : I think you might be, Senator.

CHAIR: Given the expression on the secretary's face, which won't be recorded in Hansard, I fear I have. Please, correct the record, Secretary or Mr Fletcher, and let us know where we're at with our assessment.

Mr Fletcher : This issue is a bit complicated. People who are executed in China through the judicial system apparently, we believe, have had their organs used for transplants. China is tightening up that issue. It is now a voluntary process. There is a structure in place to deal with that.

CHAIR: How confident are we that this is a voluntary process, because one assumes one is not having the death penalty administered to them through a voluntary process? So, these people have just kindly said to the communist regime in China, 'Well, when you're going to kill me, make sure that my organs are used for the benefit of humanity'?

Mr Fletcher : Well, we share your scepticism about how voluntary that donation process would be. China is attempting to regulate that system and establish a voluntary donor system among the society at large for organ transplants.

CHAIR: Right.

Mr Fletcher : There is a separate issue, which I think you—

CHAIR: Sorry, just to correct the record: I may have misinterpreted you. Was the voluntary system to which you referred voluntary amongst the population at large or those hapless individuals that are in jail awaiting the death penalty?

Mr Fletcher : Both.

CHAIR: All right. Thank you for that clarification.

Mr Fletcher : China is now seeking to establish a community-wide system of voluntary organ donations. They have a large population and their transplant industry needs donors. There is a separate issue, which I think you're also referring to, of forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong and other people. That is the issue on which we have said we have insufficient credible evidence to accept that those allegations are well founded. We have endeavoured, on a number of occasions with—we have conducted our own inquiries and consulted like-minded governments, and our position remains as I stated. Since our last estimates when I went through the issue at some length there has been no change.

CHAIR: Thank you. What about the Christian community in China? There are disturbing reports that churches are being destroyed and Christians are being persecuted and imprisoned. Do we have any information in relation to that?

Mr Fletcher : Yes, we do. Over the course of particularly the last year, but beginning slightly earlier in some parts of China, there has been a campaign to bring within the orbit of the formally recognised churches, whether Catholic or Protestant, those groups which were formerly or still are largely outside that structure. That, in some cases, has consisted of buildings being taken over or destroyed, people being arrested et cetera.

CHAIR: So, the churches that are tolerated are those that are authorised by the communist regime of China?

Mr Fletcher : I think the situation still is that there are probably more believers outside the official structure than in it. It's a very big place, as you know, and there is a lot of different regional variation.

CHAIR: And a lot of people.

Mr Fletcher : The trend is to establish more rigorous controls over the exercise of faith of any kind, whether it's Muslim, Christian or other religions, in China.

CHAIR: What representations, if any, have we made in relation to the escalation of that which you have described over the past 12 months?

Mr Fletcher : Although we don't have a formal human rights dialogue, that doesn't mean we don't discuss these issues with China. On a number of occasions this year we have had discussions in Beijing and Canberra, as we are able, on our range of concerns, and that has included this issue.

CHAIR: I've got my geography sort of wrong, I think, but, moving a bit south, is it, who can assist me with the Philippines?

Very quickly, what representations, if any, have we made to the Philippines about the President's sort of authorisation of these extrajudicial killings? Whilst the drug problem is a scourge and we want to see it got rid of in any country, the methodology leaves a lot to be desired. So have we made any representations?

Ms Heckscher : Australia regularly raises concerns about specific human rights issues in the ways that are most useful and most likely to be effective. I can say that there are some specific instances where we have done that at senior levels. Our embassy in the Philippines also makes representations on an ongoing basis. However, I can cite some specific examples—for example, the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit earlier this year, which was attended by then Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Cayetano, was an opportunity for a human rights discussion by the then Prime Minister Turnbull with the then Philippines foreign secretary. Our own secretary had discussions as well in the framework of a senior officials level discussion.

Former Minister for Foreign Affairs Ms Bishop had also directly raised concerns several times about extrajudicial killings and the importance we attach to human rights and the rule of law, during visits to the Philippines in March and in August 2017, and that included representations made to President Duterte as well. Also, during the March 2017 visit here, the foreign minister met the Philippine Human Rights Commissioner as well. Ms Bishop has also referred publicly to our concerns on a number of occasions—in various media interviews and in a speech to the Lowy Institute in December 2016. As I mentioned, the Australian ambassador has raised this issue on a number of occasions, just throughout the course of normal engagement.

We have also used our seat on the Human Rights Council to raise specific concerns about the Philippines. For example, in a statement to the 39th session of the Human Rights Council on 11 September, Australia called on the Philippines to respect the right to life, liberty and security of person in its war against drugs. We had expressed deep concern at the extent and nature of the extrajudicial killings on 8 March 2018 in a statement to the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, and we supported a joint statement on human rights in the Philippines on two occasions—in September 2017 and again in June 2018.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for that. I assume you might have a few other occasions as well on that list. So it's clear that we have made numerous and constant representation. So thank you for that.