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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6438

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (18:05): I seek clarification from the minister, as he is representing another minister. It used to be the practice in this place as he may recall, some others may not, that questions would be asked and then answered backwards and forwards. Given that he is representing the other minister, I presume he will not be in a position to answer questions in that manner and would prefer for me to put them effectively on notice.

Mr Brendan O'Connor: May I assist the Chair. I am certainly happy to respond to the honourable member's questions. It is up to him, clearly, if he wishes to foreshadow a list of questions. I may respond to some immediately and for others I might want to come back to the honourable member.

Mr ANDREWS: I will give you the list of questions then at the outset. I would seek, as my first question, an undertaking from the minister that he would provide written answers to me for the questions that he is unable to answer tonight. Otherwise, this process is frankly a waste of time. I am not making that as a criticism of the minister but the same thing applies to whoever is in government.

Mr Brendan O'Connor: I have been where you are sitting now.

Mr ANDREWS: That is right. The questions are to the minister and the minister he is representing. Question 1: does he have a charter letter and what is the date of the charter letter? Question 2, and these are more detailed questions: how many temporary visa holders claim family tax benefit A? For each of the past four years, including the current financial year, how many of these recipients were overpaid or incurred a debt; what is the total amount of debt and overpayment that has been incurred by the Commonwealth in this way; and how much of this debt or overpayment has been recovered by the Commonwealth? Question 3: how many noncitizens receive the disability support pension? Question 4: how many noncitizens receive Newstart? Question 5: how many noncitizens have been prosecuted or had debt recovery action initiated for overpayment or for an incurred debt? Question 6: what is the status of the collocation program and when will the collocation program be completed? Question 7: how many DHS officers have been located to date? Question 8: can the minister confirm whether any Minister for Human Services since 2007 has directed or made a request to the department to monitor the social media of any opposition parliamentarian or opposition staff member? Question 9: at an estimates hearing last night, officials confirmed that the department was currently the subject of an investigation by the Australian Public Service Commissioner; in broad terms could he outline what this investigation relates to and when it will be completed and, as part of that question, has the department briefed Minister Carr about this issue? Question 10: it emerged at Senate estimates that the department is using the term 'citizen' instead of 'client'. Are you aware when this practice commenced and what are payment recipients who are not Australian citizens referred to as now, or are they referred to as citizens as well? Question 11: of the approximate 600 residents on the Cocos Islands, 151 are recipients of payments. Of these, how many have been overpaid or incurred a debt and, of these, how many overpayments or debts have been recovered by the Commonwealth? Question 12: how many international social security agreements has Australia entered into since 2007? Question 13: do department employees attend migration detention centres to carry out business on behalf of the department? Question 14: is the department replacing departing staff or is there any recruitment freeze at any level of the department? Question 15 is: do you agree with the findings of the ANAO and the Ombudsman that there are systemic issues relating to fraud in DHS, and why is more money from fraud prevention being cut from departmental appropriations?

I would reiterate that I appreciate that the minister is representing another minister; therefore, could I have an undertaking that these questions would be answered in writing? Otherwise, we can go through the charade of my putting them on notice, and that just duplicates things.