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Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee
12/06/2014
Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 to 18 February 2014

CORNALL, Mr Robert John Albert, AO, Private capacity

Committee met at 09:02

CHAIR ( Senator Wright ): We will get going. This public hearing is for the inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee into an incident at Manus Island detention centre from 16 to 18 February 2014. On 5 March 2014, the Senate referred the matter of an incident at the Manus Island detention centre from 16 to 18 February 2014 to the committee for inquiry and report. The full terms of reference are available from the secretariat. The reporting date for the inquiry is 16 July 2014.

I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee. The committee emphasises, however, that parliamentary privilege does not extend outside of Australia and that Australian law cannot protect individuals in another country, whether they are Australian nationals or not. For this reason and so as not to prejudice ongoing criminal investigations and legal proceedings the committee urges witnesses to exercise caution with regard to naming or otherwise identifying individuals located outside Australia, including Papua New Guinean nationals alleged to have been involved in the incident at the Manus Island detention centre during 16 to 18 February.

The committee prefers all evidence to be given in public, but under the Senate's resolutions witnesses have the right to request to be heard in private session. It is important that witnesses give the committee notice if they intend to ask to give evidence in camera. If you are a witness today and you intend to request to give evidence in camera please bring this to the attention of secretariat staff as soon as possible. If a witness objects to answering a question the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground which is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer a witness may request that the answer be given in camera. Such a request may of course also be made at any other time.

This public hearing is being televised within Parliament House and is also being broadcast live via the web. Recording of today's proceedings by members of the press is subject to the agreement of the committee. Members of the press authorised to record proceedings must follow the directions of the committee at all times. The committee may require that recording of proceedings cease at any time and any members of the press that do not comply with committees directions may be removed from the hearing.

I welcome our first witness, Mr Robert Cornall AO. The committee has not received a written submission from you, Mr Cornall. Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear?

Mr Cornall : I am the independent reviewer appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to review the incidents that occurred on Manus Island at the regional processing centre from 16 to 18 February 2014.

CHAIR: Would you like to make a short opening statement before we go to questions?

Mr Cornall : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you, Mr Cornall, for coming along today. We all have a copy of your report and have been through it. It is obviously helpful for our deliberations. I have some questions, first of all, about how you went about the review process. We have been given evidence in this committee and I am trying to work out whether you perhaps have the same evidence or we have more that you perhaps were not able to access. Could you give us an overview as to how you conducted the review from the beginning.

Mr Cornall : Section 4 of my report, headed 'Methodology', gives you an overview of the way I approached the review. I prepared a four-part investigation plan, which is set out there. I wrote to the key service providers and invited them to assist me by nominating people who I should interview. I interviewed a wide range of people from the service providers. I attended Manus Island and interviewed people there—I will come back to that point in a minute. I had discussions with a range of senior ministers and officials in PNG and Port Moresby. I also reviewed or had the assistance of the secretariat to review a great volume of material, being intelligence reports, incident reports, daily reports and a range of other material that was relevant to the terms of reference. On Manus Island I was able to interview a number of people who were present during the three days, 16 to 18 February, although some of the people I needed to interview in respect of that period had already been transferred off the island as part of, I think, their normal rotation process. Those people I was able to catch up with in Australia in telephone interviews.

I was particularly pleased that I was able to have a considerable interaction with transferees. There were four elements to that. First, there were a number of transferees who I wanted to interview based on information that I had received before I went to Manus Island. I conducted four interviews with those four transferees in the presence of an interpreter. The interviews were recorded and subsequently transcribed. I also conducted two-hour question-and-answer meetings with people who I was told were leaders of their communities in each compound. Those meetings were attended by between 18 and 24 people, when you count the interpreters. I also then invited transferees to provide me with a personal account, if they wished to do so, using what I understand was a Transfield Services feedback form. We received 270 feedback forms. Most of them were from individuals, but some of them were said to be from two or more people in a group, and, taken together, they represented input from over 300 transferees on those forms. Finally, at the transferee question and answer session for the Mike compound, they invited me to come to the compound so they could take me through the compound, both externally and internally, and show me bullet marks and so forth in the buildings which they said had occurred on the night of the 17th.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have a figure of how many people you directly interviewed as part of that process? I know you have just gone through the groups of people, but do you have a figure?

Mr Cornall : With the report that was given to the secretary there was an attachment which itemised all of these interviews, and it was not made public because of all the names and so forth in there. Madam Chair, I would be guided by you. If you feel that that can be maintained in some confidence, I can table it for the committee if you would like me to do so.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We could take it in camera, could we not?

CHAIR: Yes, we could.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you are happy to table it, we can keep it confidential.

Mr Cornall : Perhaps I should consult with the secretary, because it is part of this report.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Madam Chair, I think you should also advise the witness that, notwithstanding it is lodged in camera, it can, at the will of the committee, be made public, in which case, I think Mr Cornall would probably prefer not to do it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Perhaps we should ask Mr Cornall what he would like to do.

Mr Cornall : The reason why it was not made public was because of everybody's name, and that was thought to be inappropriate. I have not added them up, but I can just show you. It is spread over four pages, but that does include all of the meetings with officials in PNG in Port Moresby and all of the other meetings.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: All right. Let's move on. I think we will come back to this issue, if you are happy to take some advice about what you want to do with that attachment, and then we can discuss that as a committee.

Mr Cornall : Alternatively, I could just provide you with the numbers.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, okay. I am not interested in the names; I am interested in the numbers of asylum seekers and the numbers of workers—you know.

Mr Cornall : I can tell you the asylum seekers. There were between 18 and 24 people at each of the meetings and about eight of those people were interpreters. So you have got something in the order of close to 50 asylum seekers at those four two-hour meetings.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The interpreters are not asylum seekers.

Mr Cornall : No, that is what I am saying. So I am excluding them. I am saying if you take out the interpreters you have got something close to 50 transferees at those for meetings, and then you have got the 270 feedback forms from over 300 asylum seekers or transferees, and then you have got the four transferees I individually interviewed, and then there was my guided tour of Mike compound.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am interested in the feedback forms. Would you be happy to provide them in a redacted form in terms of taking away people's names and boat numbers?

Mr Cornall : For a start, I do not have them, of course. They are with the department. I can refer that requested to the department.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. Thank you. One of the concerns that has been raised with the committee thus far is that individual workers on the island were unaware of how to participate in the review or even if they could. We heard from a G4S guard yesterday who said he had no idea (a) if he could or (b) what the process would be. I note that you spoke to the service providers themselves. I imagined that was management within each of the service providers. Was there an attempt to reach out to those who were working in the centre at the time to be able to give feedback or put their account?

Mr Cornall : Not directly, but I did approach the service providers, and, as a result of that, for example, I spoke with the people from G4S who you spoke to on Tuesday.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Management.

Mr Cornall : I spoke to Mr Pye, I spoke to Mr McCaffery, I spoke to another senior person in G4S and I spoke to Mr Perera. Those last three people were all incident response team leaders on the night, so they were very much involved in what was happening. With IHMS, I spoke to the doctors who were treating people both on the night of the 16th and on the night of the 17th, although by the time I was at Manus they had come back to Australia. But I did speak to them and their personal records are set out at length in the report as to the treatment they gave to Mr Berati and the other people who were injured. I spoke to both the senior people in the Salvation Army but also to their contract manager, who was on site on the occasion of 16 to 18 February.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So is it right to interpret from this committee's perspective what we were told by an individual G4S guard that there was not a process for him per se?

Mr Cornall : That is correct. But I did read the submissions that were on your website as at 9 May, I think it was, coming to the end of the period of the review, and I read Mr Kilburn's submission to you. While he was speaking about different incidents, there did not seem to me to be any great inconsistency between his report of what was happening on the night and what I had found. There were, on the night of the 17th, events happening all over the centre.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. 'Chaotic' is how it has been described.

Mr Cornall : So it is quite to be expected that individual guards would have seen things that other people did not see. You just could not track all that to ground.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No.

Mr Cornall : My terms of reference were to determine what the facts were and I am quite confident that the process I went through, particularly based on all the documentation that we looked at and also taking account of the comments of the transferees, gives an accurate picture of what happened on the night, but not every incident.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Let me continue because I know other people are going to have questions for you as well. What kind of interaction did you have with the PNG police?

Mr Cornall : This task had some diplomatic elements to it because of the fact we are in another country and the centre is a PNG centre and it is administered by a PNG administrator who was also the Chief Migration Officer and reports to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration. It was made very clear to me at the beginning that there were sensitivities about this that needed to be observed.

If you just give me a second, I will give you the dates of these visits, if that helps. My first visit to Port Moresby was 12 to 13 March and on that visit I met with Deputy Commissioner Kauba. The main point I was making in those visits—which also included ministers, chief of staff to the Prime Minister and others—was that my role was to undertake an administrative inquiry to find out what happened within the centre on those three days. I was not going to intrude into any police inquiry and any information that I obtained that would be of assistance to the police I would provide to them.

The second visit was on 29 to 30 April, when we were coming to the end of the process. At that meeting I again saw firstly Deputy Commissioner Kauba and then, in a separate meeting, Commissioner Kulunga. I gave them an outline of the findings of my inquiry and I took them through the recommendations that were set out in the report. The third visit was on 6 to 8 May, and on 7 May I met again with Deputy Commissioner Kauba and at that meeting I handed over to him all of the material that was contemplated in recommendation 1 in the report. That was all of the transferee forms that would be of assistance in considering possible criminal offences, the interview forms or the interview transcripts from the four people I interviewed directly and the records of interview with the doctors who treated the injured people.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In that last meeting that you had, where did you believe the PNG police investigation itself was up to?

Mr Cornall : We were told that it was proceeding, and we knew that there had been a number of police interviews conducted on Manus Island and that they were looking to produce or to determine some charges. 'Soon' was the expression used. I cannot remember if it was the High Commissioner or the deputy high commissioner who was with me at that meeting—I think it was the High Commissioner. She asked how that was going and the answer was that they thought it would be soon.

I should make one last point, and that is I did seek to see the provincial commander on Manus Island, and all of these appointments were arranged through the High Commission. The High Commission asked Assistant Commissioner Alan Scott from the AFP, who is an adviser up there as part of the AFP advisory program, to see if he could make that appointment. He made an appointment with the police commander, Mr Alex N'Drasal, and came up to Manus Island to attend that appointment with me on Monday 17 March. Sorry, it might have been 17 April—I will get the date right in a minute. No, it was 17 March. We went from the centre to Lorengau and we waited around for several hours, but unfortunately the provincial commander was not available to see us.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. What is your response to the statement issued by the commissioner at the release of your report that suggests the police were not inside the centre?

Mr Cornall : By the deputy commissioner?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: By the deputy commissioner.

Mr Cornall : I have seen nothing to substantiate that. I have not seen any transcript of what he said exactly. I have just seen reports that he made that assertion. No-one else has made it and I have not seen anything to substantiate it, and it is contrary to all the other information we have obtained.

But even more than that: at the third two-by-two ministerial forum in Port Moresby on 8 May, we handed over a draft of the report as it stood at that point to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, to the Minister for Justice and Attorney General, and to the Chief Immigration Officer. The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection gave them until 23 May to comment on the report, with particular regard to any inaccuracies in the report. So that means they had the report for over 14 days, and there was no suggestion that anything in my report was inaccurate. It did say that the mobile squad went into the Mike Compound. There was no suggestion that that was inaccurate.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. It has been a constant public line by the PNG police that they were not inside the centre. They said that in the days following the incident.

Mr Cornall : Well, has anyone said it apart from Deputy Commissioner Kauba?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I do not believe so, Mr Cornall.

Mr Cornall : All I can do is repeat what I have just said, that I have no evidence that that is correct and a considerable amount of evidence that it is not.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. Can I ask: did you inquire into what happened with the power outage on the night? It has been put to us by G4S management, as well as by a number of whistle blowers, that it was at that point, when the generator effectively was turned off, that things really fired up.

Mr Cornall : This was a bit hard to get to the bottom of because the electricity came on and off in different parts of the centre at different times of the night. I did not get to the bottom of it because in the end it did not seem to me to be absolutely vital to fully understand that.

In some instances, it was to do with the services that were within the compounds and which could be damaged by the transferees. In another incident, I was told that a generator went down, but that was because the filter had been blocked due to poor-quality fuel and once that was unblocked the lights came back on. So I am sorry, I cannot give a lot of detail about that. But it did seem that the lights went on and off for a variety of reason during the course of the evening.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you look at the map of the centre over here. You see where Pugwash Road is?

Mr Cornall : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Those kind of grey boxes on the other side of the road are where the generator is. We have been told that were dozens of—if not over 100—locals standing on that road. It was a combination of the mobile police squad, local guards and locals in civilian clothing standing along there. It would have been very difficult for anybody else to have accessed the generator on the other side of the road from the detention centre. This is a question that, as you say, we have not got to the bottom of. G4S's own management have said that when the generator stopped working is when things blew up.

Mr Cornall : I certainly agree with the proposition that from everything I know they would not have been able to be accessed by people from within the compound.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Did you hear the Salvation Army's testimony yesterday?

Mr Cornall : No. I had a look at the transcript from Tuesday because that was available yesterday but no, I have not heard what happened yesterday. I did see a brief press clip but that is all.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The Salvation Army yesterday presented to us that they were disappointed with your report but even more so the way the minister prioritised elements of your report in his press conference. I know you are not responsible for what the minister does and says but it was said in the same breath, so I think that is fair to put to you. They are concerned that testimony from one of their workers who has been identified in your report was not included in your review. Could you speak to that, please?

Mr Cornall : When you say testimony from him, you mean that I did not interview him?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: He had apparently written a statement that was submitted to you and it was not referred to in your report.

Mr Cornall : That does ring a vague bell. I would have to take it on board because I just do not recall all the detail. We had 19 big ring binders of material by the time we finished and I just do not have it all at my fingertips.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You might have had those 19 ring binders by heart. That is a joke, for Hansard.

Mr Cornall : If there had been anything particularly significant that I thought relevant to put in I would have put it in. What I did was quote directly from the eye witness, who said this is what he saw. I did not pursue the matter any further because I was very conscious of not intruding into the responsibility of police to investigate any criminal matter and not by intruding into an area making it more complicated or difficult than I should. When you read what is said in the report, it basically says that the person you are referring to in the first instance hit him twice with a long stick and then a number of other people hit him afterwards and finally the last person dropped a rock on Mr Berati's head.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There was a number of people involved.

Mr Cornall : There was a number of people involved and that is quite clear. The person I interviewed also named another three people as other eyewitnesses who could support his story but I did not seek to interview them other than to identify them for the purposes of the police if they wanted to pursue it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You have said already that a number of the testimony that you did receive, and I imagine this eyewitness account also would have been handed over to the PNG police—

Mr Cornall : It was.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would you be able, for the sake of being able to clear this matter up, get back to us with confirmation as to whether that statement written by the accused was also handed to the PNG police?

Mr Cornall : I can tell you that it was not. It says very clearly in the recommendations what we were handing over and I remember handing them over.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it would not have been. All right. A number of submissions that this committee has received have referred to posters being pasted up in the centre and even at the Bibby, from my recollection of reading a number of the testimonies, that said that this person was not allowed in the centre. Do you recall seeing those?

Mr Cornall : Yes, and it is in the report. When I was there, there is a stop where you wait for the little 10-seater bus to take you from the centre back to the Bibby if you do not want to walk. There was a photograph hanging there and underneath it was a statement to the effect that under no circumstances should this man be allowed to enter the centre. That is referred to in my report.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who created that?

Mr Cornall : I do not know; I just saw it at the bus stop.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was it a handwritten sign or something that looked like it came from the admin of the centre?

Mr Cornall : It was probably A4 or a little bigger. It had a photograph of the person and then a statement underneath and it looked like it had been plastic coated to protect it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Laminated?

Mr Cornall : Laminated.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it was done properly, effectively. It was not done in someone's room?

Mr Cornall : No.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Who was that person? Without naming them, what was he or she?

Mr Cornall : That was the person who I understood to be the Salvation Army worker, who was the first person seen by the eyewitness account to hit Reza Berati.

CHAIR: I indicate for the clarity of the committee, we have about 30 minutes for each of the parties, so how that is divided up between members is up to you. Senator Hanson-Young and I will share out our 30 minutes; I expect the same from other members. Who would like to go next?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Can I raise a point of order on that?

CHAIR: Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: What you are saying is that the Senate party that represents 35 per cent of Australians is going to get the same time as the Senate party that represents 25 per cent of Australians or eight per cent of Australians.

CHAIR: Yes, I am. This was an inquiry that was actually initiated by the Greens—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It is a Senate inquiry, Chair.

CHAIR: So I agree with you and that is how I am proposing to do it. I am not going to argue about that. That is what I have been doing up to now and I am not going to argue about it.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Can I record my unhappiness and contradiction to that.

CHAIR: Yes, you can record that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: These are inquiries of the Senate and you must understand that those senators who represent the majority should get a little extra time.

CHAIR: Actually, my understanding of the previous experience on this committee is that Independents sometimes have longer questions and we share them out in a way—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: That is not very fair.

CHAIR: It may not be; that is the way I am going to do it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Senator Macdonald, I personally note your unhappiness at only 9.30 this morning, and we expect it will continue for the rest of the day.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Sorry?

CHAIR: I am going to proceed on that basis. That seems to me the fairest way to go. Mr Cornall, did you—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Chair, I recognise that the Labor Party and the Greens have set this up and have control of the committee under the arrangements that it was formed under.

Senator SINGH: I reject that. This committee has been working fine for the last three days. This is the first day—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It would be if you give people undue—

Senator SINGH: Senator Seselja has been here and he has not made any complaint as to the way this committee chair has been operating the inquiry.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am sorry, that is up to Senator Seselja.

Senator SINGH: It has been going completely fine. For the record, Senator Macdonald, with the way you conduct estimates, I would be very happy to go through and collate the amount of time—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Please do, I have them all recorded.

Senator SINGH: that government senators have for estimates. It makes your argument go out the window.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Clearly it does not because we do not give the government as much time as the Labor Party.

CHAIR: I propose that we go ahead; otherwise we have a private meeting. I think it is unseemly to be having this discussion here. My view is that this is a fair way to do it.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It needs to be recorded, Madam Chair, I have to say.

CHAIR: It has been recorded, I am sure.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It is just a farce.

CHAIR: You have never been happy about this inquiry, right from the start. You have made that very clear. I am not interested in having you spoil the opportunity to hear from witnesses that we have invited along and who have come along in good faith. Mr Cornall, did you want to add something further?

Mr Cornall : I wanted to go back to that last point about the statement. My recollection is that it was a copy of a statement, so it was not originally prepared for us or given to us in that sense. It was not as if other people did not have other copies of it.

CHAIR: I am happy to go to Senator Singh or Senator Seselja. Who would like to go next? Senator Singh? All right, thank you for that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I would like to, Madam Chair.

CHAIR: I have actually given Senator Singh the call—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Of course.

CHAIR: You were a bit slow to speak up there. You can share the time with Senator Seselja, as I indicated earlier.

Senator SINGH: Mr Cornall, in relation to the way you conducted this particular review, how did you go about choosing who you would interview and who you would not interview? It was obviously quite an extensive number of individuals, stakeholders and so forth. Your terms of reference were very broad and all-encompassing. I am just trying to determine how you went about making those choices as to who you would actually interview and make a participant in your review.

Mr Cornall : When you look at the structure of the regional processing centre, you have basically got the PNG officials, then you have got department people and then you have got the service providers, which were G4S, the Salvation Army and IHMS. So they are the people that we wrote to in the first instance, the three service providers. We invited them to nominate people who would have firsthand information about the events of the 16th to the 18th who we could interview and to facilitate those interviews with them. As I said, we endeavoured to speak with the provincial police commander without success. I also contacted an organisation called the coalition for refugees or something of that nature—I have not quite got it in front of me here—because I thought that that might be an avenue to obtain the names of transferees that they knew would be of particular assistance to me. But that did not turn out to be successful. Obviously then we worked on a way to deal with the transferees directly on the island, which I have already explained. While we were on the island, I met up with the representatives of the organisation called STTARS, which is Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service, and I interviewed them. Of course, we had access to a huge range of written reports and so forth. To me, that gave me a very firm basis for determining my principal term of reference, which was what happened.

Senator SINGH: So those key stakeholders that you have outlined that you wrote to initially then wrote back, I presume, and nominated people for you to interview in the reply? Is that how it worked?

Mr Cornall : I wrote to them, but the secretariat people dealt with them on the phone and so forth. So I do not know the exact mechanics of it. But that is how we got to identify, for example, the doctor and the paramedic who were on duty on the night and who were able to talk to me about all of the significant medical treatments. By the time we got there, they had already transited off the island and we had to chase them by phone back in Australia. They were very helpful in identifying the people to talk to. Similarly, the Salvation Army nominated their contract manager on duty on the night and I spoke with her. Again, she was not on the island when I was there; I had to speak to her afterwards by phone. So that is how we did it.

Senator SINGH: Other than writing to particular stakeholders, did you open up a submission process?

Mr Cornall : No.

Senator SINGH: Or invite people to put themselves forward to be interviewed?

Mr Cornall : No.

Senator SINGH: You just chose who you should write to and waited for their response?

Mr Cornall : I chose in the sense that they were the key people who would have anything to say about what happened in the centre.

Senator SINGH: Did anyone write to you seeking an interview with you, or seeking to give evidence, that you did not take up?

Mr Cornall : Not that I recall.

Senator SINGH: Not that you recall?

Mr Cornall : There was a doctor, who had been engaged by IHMS and had subsequently become disengaged from IHMS, who expressed some views about the quality of the medical service provided on the night. It was not really possible to go into the medical details of what he was suggesting, particularly as he suggested that it had to be maintained in confidence from IHMS. So there was really not much I could do about that.

Senator SINGH: Other than this particular doctor, was there anyone else who sought for you to take up interviewing them or participating at least in this review?

Mr Cornall : Not that I recall. If there had been someone who wanted to tell us something, we would have listened to them.

Senator SINGH: You said G4S were one of the stakeholders you wrote to.

Mr Cornall : Of course, because they were basically the only people left in the centre on the 17th.

Senator SINGH: Regarding G4S, who did you meet with?

Mr Cornall : On the island I met with Mr Chris Manning, John McCaffery, Dinesh Perera and another man who was a senior officer who asked, for various personal reasons, that he not been named. Back in Australia I met with Mr Darren Boyd, the managing director for the South Pacific region, or whatever his exact title is, and Andrew Dewsnap, who is the general counsel and corporate secretary. I had an informal discussion on the island with Kevin Pye, but Kevin was based in the emergency control organisation on the night of the 17th and the 18th, and from the emergency control organisation you did not have any view of what was happening. Based on the fact that I had interviewed three incident response team leaders and had all of their incident reports and their chronology, I did not think there was anything after that informal discussion with Mr Pye that was going to add any particular detail that I had not already obtained from the others.

Senator SINGH: In determining exactly what the facts were, which is obviously part of the terms of reference, you met with a lot of the managerial staff of G4S. Did you at all consider meeting with one of the workers at the facility who was perhaps in Mike compound or its surrounding areas on the night?

Mr Cornall : No, I did not, but there was, for example, in the information I was given, quite a bit of detail about what had happened on the night. I thought of the purposes of the terms of reference that that was sufficient to answer the terms of reference.

Senator SINGH: What was the detail you were given?

Mr Cornall : For example, Mr Dewsnap, and this is in the report, gave me a detailed description of how the incident response team, led by a leader called Amy, entered Foxtrot compound during the course of the night of the 17th and pushed their way progressively, in three stages, to where the fence line had been between Foxtrot and Mike compounds. As they reached each of those forward points, the transferees who wanted to be taken away from the chaotic situation were taken out behind them. Then they moved forward to the next point and more transferees were taking out. Finally, when they got to the fence line, there were shots fired, and at that point IRT disbanded in the sense that the PNG nationals who were part of it dispersed into the area and entered Mike compound without any instructions or authority to do so.

Senator SINGH: I understand. I asked the question because clearly you have met with management of G4S and interviewed them in depth, but we had a witness yesterday, Mr Steven Kilburn, who was there on the night—one of the workers from G4S, evidently traumatised by what occurred—and he was able to provide the committee, in person and through his submission, a lot of detail as to what occurred from where he was situated. It was obviously your prerogative to decide who you would choose to interview and have participate in this review, but I am just trying to understand why you would not have chosen someone like Steven Kilburn or his colleagues who were actually there working on the ground and dealing with the crisis and could have provided that bold information.

Mr Cornall : Because I had dealt with three incident response team leaders who were doing exactly that throughout the night. Mr Perera, for example, was also the person who assisted removing Mr Berati from Mike compound down to the emergency triage centre at the Bibby. So they had a lot of very direct information about exactly what was happening. I thought that was perfectly appropriate. I did read Mr Kilburn's submission and I also saw him on television. I did not detect anything in there that was at odds with the information I had received; it was very much in the same direction but from his own personal perspective. When you think about it, you had events occurring in three compounds. Even in Delta compound at different times they were concerned that they were going to be attacked by Oscar compound for not taking part in what was going on. So there were people who would have personal recollections of events occurring throughout that night, and I wonder what would be the advantage of capturing all of those. I felt I had enough information from key players, who were on site heading up the IRTs, to answer the terms of reference quite fully. That was also supported by detailed incident reports, intelligence reports and so forth which came from officers at all levels of G4S.

Senator SINGH: I have read your report, but could you tell us what you consider to be the contributing factors to the incident?

Mr Cornall : The first people transferred under the new policy arrived at the processing centre on 1 August 2013 and so by the end of January they had been there six months. They did not want to be in PNG and a lot of them were very cross about that in the two-hour question-and-answer sessions that we had with them. They were concerned that the processing of their claims had been going in a very patchy way—it had stopped and started. They were concerned that they did not know what the future held for them and they were getting limited information. There was general frustration that they really did not know what was happening to them or why.

Senator SINGH: Were any instructions provided to you by the Department of Immigration about who should or should not participate in this review?

Mr Cornall : In terms of people I interviewed?

Senator SINGH: Did the department at any time provide you with any kind of instruction about who you should or should not interview?

Mr Cornall : No, they did not, except, as I have already indicated, that they made it very clear that I had to be a participant in a considerable amount of interaction with senior ministers and officials in PNG for the reasons I have already gone into. That was not something I had originally anticipated when I was asked to take on the job—I had not really anticipated I would have that much involvement with ministers in PNG.

Senator SINGH: What did you anticipate?

Mr Cornall : I did not anticipate I would need to meet so often with senior ministers in PNG about this report.

Senator SINGH: Did they instruct you to meet with senior ministers?

Mr Cornall : They did. They made it clear that to do the report properly that was part of it—to work in conjunction with PNG. In fact, this was flagged by Minister Morrison in his Sunday interview on 2 March, where he said:

With respect to the independent administrative inquiry to be conducted by Mr Cornall, Ministers agreed this review should be conducted in partnership and with the participation of the PNG Government and that arrangements would be made to incorporate this into the conduct of the review.

Senator SINGH: How soon after the incident were you there? What was the timeframe there?

Mr Cornall : Let me see.

Senator SINGH: I know that, in the terms of reference, it says that the review is to commence immediately.

Mr Cornall : No, the minister announced the review on 21 February.

Senator SINGH: And when did you commence?

Mr Cornall : That was a Friday, and I went to Canberra on the Monday.

Senator SINGH: You started on the Monday, 24 February?

Mr Cornall : Yes.

Senator SINGH: In those few months that it took to do the review, did you provide the department with any interim report?

Mr Cornall : Yes, I did. The terms of reference required an interim report by 31 March, and I prepared a report for the secretary on 24 March. I did that at home in Victoria; then I had a meeting with him on 26 March, when I handed that report over to him.

Senator SINGH: So the interim report was provided on 26 March?

Mr Cornall : That is correct.

Senator SINGH: To the minister?

Mr Cornall : No, sorry—to the secretary.

Senator SINGH: To the secretary?

Mr Cornall : It was the secretary's review.

Senator SINGH: After the secretary received that interim report, were you provided with any instructions about changing the report into the future?

Mr Cornall : No.

Senator SINGH: It was purely accepting the interim report from the department, from you?

Mr Cornall : Correct.

Senator SINGH: Then there was no further correspondence with the department until the final report—is that correct?

Mr Cornall : I was based in the department, because that is where we had all of the material. There was far too much of it to take out of the office and, because of the sensitivity of a lot of it, it would not have been desirable under any circumstances. I had occasional meetings with the secretary, or interaction with the secretary, over the period of review, but it was quite limited. The secretary was very busy with many issues on his plate, and he was just happy that I was getting on with the review.

Senator SESELJA: I wanted to examine a few parts of the report, if that is okay, and get you to expand on some areas. On pages 3 and 4 of the report you talk about the rapid growth of a number of transferees from around 350 to 400, to 1,340 single adult male transferees in four compounds and you say:

This was a very significant change in the nature of, and risk associated with, the Centre.

You give some commentary in the following paragraph about how:

Before August 2013, the transferees … were largely compliant, as they knew it was only a matter of time before they were brought to Australia if their refugee claims were accepted. Now, a much larger number of them were to be accommodated at the Centre on the basis that they would never come to Australia.

Are you able to describe to us what you saw in terms of that particular fairly rapid policy change; what impact that had on the centre, on the operations of the centre, and on the day-to-day management of the centre?

Mr Cornall : Firstly, the centre was not big enough to accommodate the people who were now coming there. I had occasion to go to the regional processing centre for another purpose towards the end of August 2013, and at that point Oscar compound had just been completed, but was not occupied. That was what is called marquee style accommodation and hard-walled accommodation, with the facilities, toilet block, washing area and so on built into containers. That was going to accommodate quite a few people. We have the figures somewhere for the people in Oscar at the time of the incident. It was several hundred people. The Mike compound did not exist. It was basically just cleared ground waiting for Mike compound to be built. That was put together between September and December. I am not sure of the exact date that it was available for occupation, but I understand that it was before Christmas.

One of the initial focuses was getting the centre big enough to accommodate the people who were being sent there. I think G4S, both to my review and also to you, described how they had to crank up their numbers in proportion to the number of people they were guarding and obviously all the other services had to be increased as well. Those were the main obvious changes. In terms of the look of the centre, the fencing and so on, that was pretty much the same as it had been in August last year.

Senator SESELJA: You said you had cause to visit there in August 2013. Can I ask for what purpose?

Mr Cornall : It was an inquiry I did last year into allegations of assault and so on at the centre.

Senator SESELJA: You talked about the physical changes and the fact that it was not big enough et cetera. What about the atmosphere within? You say that not only are we talking about a larger number of people but we are also talking about changed circumstances for those individuals. With that sudden policy change over the previous government, did you detect in your investigation that there was a change of atmosphere and the nature of operations at the centre changed?

Mr Cornall : No. I was not able to detect that just by being there in March, no. I should say, though, that there are daily reports as to the situation in the centre, and they all have a classification as to whether it is amber or green. They start out about what the sense is in the centre—is it calm or is it tense? You could look through all of the daily reports to get some sense of that. One of the interesting things is that prior to Christmas there was a suggestion floating around that there might be an amnesty, by which people thought that the rules might change and they might actually be brought to Australia. That did not occur on Christmas Day. You might have expected that then would have caused some disruption but from then until Australia Day things were recorded as calm. It was only from Australia Day on that the protests started to build up.

Senator SESELJA: We heard from G4S, I think, and also from the Salvos that there was not any consultation when that policy change was taken and so there was a bit of a lag. I think the Salvos talked yesterday about the fact that there is a bit of a lag in getting the necessary staff as you see that ramped up. Did you see any evidence in terms of any impact in that transitional period and in, I guess, playing catch-up, as the policy was rapidly changing?

Mr Cornall : I did not because, in one sense, it was not directly relevant to what was happening between 16 and 18 February. There is some record of that in the report, where G4S say that they were not consulted about these changes and they were given requests to crank up to be managing a certain number of people within five weeks and then a larger number within a certain number of weeks. I do not have the exact details fixed in my mind, but there are points raised by G4S along those lines in the report.

Senator SESELJA: You also say on page 4 that no significant progress on policy and financial issues was made until after the election on 7 September 2013. Did you detect a reason that we did not see any progress on those issues made during that period?

Mr Cornall : The announcement of the new policy was made by Prime Minister Rudd and Prime Minister O'Neill on 19 July. As I understand it the writs for the September election were issued on 5 August. So we were very rapidly into caretaker mode and then the new government had to get in place. So it was really only until the end of September that the government was back in operation. In addition, the funding for the centre at the start of 2013-14 was on a temporary basis. It was not until the MYEFO process in December last year, as Mr Bowles explained on Tuesday, that the financing for the centre was put onto a longer term basis.

Senator SESELJA: I get back to that, but I would like to go to part of your answer there. You mentioned the caretaker period. So I guess it was that last-minute nature of the announcement so close to caretaker which impacted on the ability of service providers and the department to bring things up to speed in terms of processes.

Mr Cornall : At that point the Oscar compound was being built, so there must have been some funding for that. So some things were happening but putting it on to a more secure financial basis for the long term did not happen until later.

Senator SESELJA: So do you think that that lack of secure financial footing, as you put it, had an impact on the ability to actually respond and upgrade the centre to the standard that it needed to be upgraded to?

Mr Cornall : Obviously, when you are going to do significant capital expenditure you have to go through the normal processes of procurement and also obtaining the necessary funding. In addition to that, it is more difficult to do these things on Manus Island than it is in, say, Sydney or Melbourne. Obviously, there was a time factor involved in all of that.

Senator SESELJA: But what about if the money is not there—and it seems to be implicit in the report, at the bottom of page 10, where you refer to the fact: 'In December 2013, the new government regularised the previous short term financial arrangements through MYEFO.' Are you saying it is difficult to make significant capital investments, capital upgrades if the money simply has not been allocated in the first place?

Mr Cornall : Yes, I am. But, in fairness, the announcement was made on 19 July, which was during the first part of the new financial year but after the budget had been settled for that year. It is understandable that the budget for 2013-14 at that point did not have funding for expenditure that was not contemplated when the budget was determined.

Senator SESELJA: Also on page 10 you say:

Departmental officers have been mentoring and assisting PNG officials in processing refugee claims and the first initial assessment applications were handed down in the week commencing 28 April.

Is that progressing well in what you have seen in your investigation? Or was it not part of—

Mr Cornall : I missed the first part of your question.

Senator SESELJA: Is that progressing well? Are we seeing good progress there? Do you want to expand at all on that conclusion that, obviously, the mentoring is there and that things are progressing. Is that what you are saying?

Mr Cornall : They are progressing, but there is a lot to do. There is more detail of that—I will have to find the section for you. There is a section where I go through the whole process that has to be followed in terms of dealing with refugee claims and where it is up to. It is dealt with on page 88 through to page 91 of the report. The detail of the situation as it existed at 6 May is on page 89.

It is fair to say, though, that the initial determination or the initial decision about refugee status is one that has to be made by PNG officials and that has only recently commenced. Some of those have been a finding that a person does qualify as a refugee and some of them have been to the contrary. Ultimately, those decisions will be made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration in PNG. That has not yet occurred.

Senator SESELJA: You also make mention on page 11—you just mentioned in passing that in March the government consulted over accountability for and management of key garrison security and welfare services under a single integrated service provider, Transfield, for both Manus and Nauru. Do you see that as a positive? Do you want to make a comment on whether that is a positive development, to have one provider looking after the lot?

Mr Cornall : It seems to me that it is a positive. The way it was explained to me was that if you have different providers, you can have people looking from different perspectives. Anyone who has worked in government will know that if you listen to only security people they sometimes push demands for security to a level which is from another point of view, and you say, 'We just can't go that far.' The set-up with Transfield is that they have an overall centre manager and underneath the centre manager they have a security manager and a welfare manager. I have not necessarily got those titles exactly right, but that is the gist of it.

The operational manager can sort of balance those sometimes competing suggestions as to how you should go forward. They argued to me that that gives you a better balance in terms of how you deal with people. They said to me—and I do not say this is correct—their view was that G4S had maintained the centre at an amber rating for too long, it was still an amber rating when they took over on 28 March at 5 pm and that, at one minute past five, they brought it back to green.

I also spoke with the security manager and the welfare manager and both of them seemed to me to have very positive ideas about how they were going to work together in the course of this project at the Manus centre, that they had already worked together or that Transfield and Wilson Security had already worked together elsewhere.

Senator SESELJA: I might cede the rest of the time over to Senator Macdonald.

CHAIR: Senator Macdonald, you have until 10.20.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I will have to be brief and I would ask that you be brief because of the way the committee is being run. My time is very limited. First of all, can I thank you for what you have done.

Mr Cornall : Thank you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You have taken on a difficult job, you have been subjected to all sorts of slurs and innuendos about bias and taking instructions to the government which I, who have known your distinguished service career, realise are just farcical. But thank you for doing what you have done. Did you in your investigations come to any conclusion as to why Mr Berati was being targeted?

Mr Cornall : No. We did try to do that. We understood that because of his height he was a very noticeable person in the compound. His friends in Mike compound described him to me as a very gentle person and that is in my report. We did look through as many documents as we could find to see whether there was any suggestion that he had been a troublemaker or a stirrer and there was nothing that we found to suggest that. So the answer to your question is no.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: As far as you were able to discern, he was not one of those who was calling the PNG people 'niggers' or—

Mr Cornall : There was nothing that we saw that would suggest anything like that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You did come to the view, though, that some of the anger of the PNG nationals was the fact that they were being subjected to some fairly vile racial, sexual, national abuse by people in the compounds, who clearly did not want to be there.

Mr Cornall : That was the information given to me.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Were you able to authenticate that?

Mr Cornall : Only that it was reported by many people. They were not all people from G4S or the department. But that was a view that was expressed by a range of people.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: One of my colleagues asked for the causes, the contributing factors, which I see you have clearly laid out on pages 8 and 9 of your summary. Frankly, the basic cause was that people smugglers were bringing people illegally to Australia—you do not mention that, but that is the root of all evil—and then you say 'anger at being brought to PNG'. Obviously, these detainees had been spun a line that they were going to the promised land, Australia, and that was a fairly big factor in the anger that was welling up. Was that the biggest factor, do you think?

Mr Cornall : It was certainly a big factor. On page 28 of the report I quote from one transferee, who told us: 'The Australian government brought us to a country who has more than 70 per cent HIV, 65 per cent TB, malaria and other diseases. They are still letting in tribes and its capital is the second unsafe city in all the world.' That was the way one transferee expressed it to me.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: And it is probably true.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is what the department's own information session showed them and told them. That is what we heard yesterday.

Senator SESELJA: You have probably had enough of a go, Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sorry. I am just bringing Senator Macdonald up to speed.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you, Senator Seselja, for keeping Senator Hanson-Young in place.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Like a good dob, I guess.

CHAIR: Thank you. We will come back to the question.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Your report does not say this as such—being yourself, you would not say this—but clearly the original arrangements were not thought through at all. None of these problems that should have been anticipated were anticipated when Mr Rudd made the grandiose announcement a few weeks before the election was called.

Mr Cornall : I understand there was some consideration given to the issues, but it was done quickly and then the decision was announced and everybody had to move very quickly after that. That is my understanding.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: In your investigation, were you able to see what work the department had done after the announcement and prior to the first transferee—

Mr Cornall : No, I was not.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Okay. If your recommendations are followed, that will go a fair way to preventing the same sort of happening again?

Mr Cornall : Yes. The terms of reference included:

[To] make recommendations to strengthen relevant arrangements … and prevent recurrence of any similar incident in the future.

It is actually put two ways:

To ensure that the department is provided with clear recommendations on any improvements that can be made to assist with the management of future incidents.

I have addressed that as best I can, having regard to what I found were the contributing causes to the incident.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Just as an aside, Mr Cornall, are you on an ongoing consultancy basis? Are you likely to go back and have a look and see how things are improving? That is not part of your—

Mr Cornall : No, this project is now finished.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You indicated that you were asked to consult with the PNG ministers and officials, and you were not aware of that when you first accepted the job. Did your consultations with PNG ministers and officials in any way change your view? Were you in any way imposed upon by the PNG ministers or officials not to report this, or to report that, or to emphasise this or emphasise that?

Mr Cornall : No, not at all. The first meeting was really just to introduce myself and to explain the limits of what I was seeking to do. The second meeting was to brief them on where I had got to. Then the third meeting was participation in the two-by-two forum with Minister Morrison and Minister Bishop. At that forum, I was asked to give the PNG ministers a briefing on my report, which I think would have taken 20 or 25 minutes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: In asking that question I am in no way suggesting that would have happened, but the implication was there in previous questions.

Mr Cornall : No, there was no suggestion whatsoever.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Clearly PNG is not Australia when it comes to civil administration, but there was no pressure in any way put upon you by any PNG official as to what your report might say?

Mr Cornall : No, none at all.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Were PNG officials interested in what you were doing? Did they think, 'Here's a distinguished Australian doing this work, perhaps we won't have to bother so much'?

Mr Cornall : No. The work was divided up in the sense that mine was an administrative review on what happened within the centre. The chief migration officer was doing his own review about what happened outside the centre. Then there were the police, the coronial inquiry and Justice Canning's inquiries all going on as well—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: And now you have a Senate inquiry, which will—

Mr Cornall : and this inquiry. I was just explaining to them the limits of what I was seeking to do and that I was not going to cross the boundary and do anything else that was being done by others.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You may not want to answer this, but do you have confidence in the PNG justice system to get to the root of criminal activity that occurred? Of course, the criminal activity involved more than the unfortunate death of Mr Berati.

Mr Cornall : I do not have any basis to make that sort of assessment.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Did you have much interaction with the PNG constabulary or justice system?

Mr Cornall : As I said, I had three meetings with Deputy Commissioner Kauba and one meeting with Commissioner Kulunga. I sought a meeting, which I thought we had arranged, with Provincial Commander N'Drasal. In the end, it did not take place. They were not down in the detail of what we were doing.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: They are a country that I love, I might say, but 150 years ago, they were still eating each other. That is a saying. I am sorry my PNG friends, I am not casting any aspersions, but it is a country that has modernised to western standards very rapidly. Do you find the police forces are subject to centralised control or are they more under the command of the local—

Mr Cornall : My understanding was that the mobile squad that was stationed at the centre whilst it there was under the command of the provincial commander from Lorengau, but exactly how that works I would not know. There was no explanation given to me and I did not need one.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It is always easy to be wise in retrospect, but in retrospect do you think the requirement that a certain percentage of staff—50 per cent of security officers and 75 per cent of catering, cleaning and garden staff—having to be PNG locals was a good or a bad idea? Or would you prefer not to—

Mr Cornall : I do not know fully what the origin of that was. I am assuming it was part of the discussions between the two governments when the centre was established.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I suspect it may have been, 'Look, you put it here and we'll give you something, we'll give you jobs for your locals.' That would have been the arrangement between—

Mr Cornall : I am really not in a position to comment on that. It makes sense to use workers from the local area, particularly when you are in a remote place like Manus Island. Obviously it means that you bring some economic activity to that part of PNG and obviously it keeps costs down because you are not flying people in and out, or not flying as many people in and out and rotating them on and off the island. The last recommendation is that—I will just get the recommendation in front of me.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Is it that Transfield implement a comprehensive ongoing training program?

Mr Cornall : Yes, 'for PNG national staff to develop their professional skills and improve their future employment prospects'. One of the things that I was told was that a number of the people who are employed at the centre in various capacities had not had jobs before. Manus does not have a private thriving economy. This is actually seen as a significant legacy that Australia can leave behind on Manus Island, that it has assisted people to learn work skills and so forth and to obtain some work experience. I think in that sense you can see some benefit in that requirement.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Clearly, there had to be something in it for PNG when Prime Minister Rudd was talking to Mr O'Neill. It had to be a two-way deal, so to speak, and that was clearly part of it. Just finally Mr Cornall, we have heard at estimates that G4S, or whatever its name is, has done other work around the world in this field. Did you get the impression that they did not have time to properly train people when they first went in? Or did that not come through in—

Mr Cornall : I did not have any information one way or another to that effect.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you for your evidence and thank you again for what you have done.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Cornall, what interaction did you have with the minister in relation to your report?

Mr Cornall : I spoke for the first time with the minister on 2 May. That was a phone conversation that lasted four or five minutes. The principal information that the minister wanted me to be aware of were his actions on becoming minister and he wanted to know whether I had access to the classified documents concerning the forced security review undertaken by Lieutenant General Campbell as part of Operation Sovereign Borders in October 2013.

In relation to his actions on becoming minister, subsequently that day his chief of staff sent me an email just setting out his various visits to PNG and so forth, following his appointment as minister. In relation to the force security review documents, I told him that I had not seen the classified documents but that they were immediately made available to me and I was able to take them into account in finalising the report. Subsequently I met the minister for the first time, on the evening of 7 May, when he arrived about 10 o'clock in PNG, at Port Moresby, for the 2+ 2 ministerial conference. There was a meeting with the people who were there, which was myself, Angus Campbell, Mark Cormack and I think there was someone else there. Basically, they gave him a briefing about what they had seen when they had been at Manus Island that day and he just told me what he expected of me at the meeting the following day with the PNG ministers.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I just clarify: had he seen the copy of your report by that stage?

Mr Cornall : Yes, he had. Then at the meeting the next day the PNG ministers had the report as well and I gave them a detailed briefing on the report. I did not time it but it probably would have taken 20 or 25 minutes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. So the first time you spoke to him was on 2 May in a four- or five-minute phone call. I am interested in this because on 24 February Mr Morrison told the parliament in answer to a question during question time that the review:

… will go into my conduct and the conduct of those on this side and our handling of these issues since we took over responsibility for these centres.

That is what he told the chamber. And throughout the various public statements he made about the review that you were to head, he gave further comment that part of your review would look at the questions that were being asked about what Mr Morrison knew when, because there was a lot of confusion in the days following the event. Did you inquire into his conduct in the days following the event?

Mr Cornall : No, I did not. I certainly looked at what he did as minister from his appointment in September, his commissioning of the force security review and his endorsement of various recommendations that came out that review, and his meetings with PNG officials and so forth, and then establishing the ministerial forum in March. So I looked at all those aspects of his conduct. But, in terms of what happened on the night, my terms of reference were to determine what the facts were. His commentary on the night was not a relevant fact, as far as I was concerned.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: After the initial effective break-in of the centre on the Sunday night, when PNG nationals scaled the fence of the Oscar compound, 48 hours later the minister was refusing to accept that there was any intrusion into the centre and said that asylum seekers were safe if they stayed inside. Did anybody raise that with you throughout your investigation?

Mr Cornall : No. I saw all that in the media anyway.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But did anybody raise it with you in the discussions that you had?

Mr Cornall : No, they did not. I am not quite sure—when you talked about people from Oscar scaling the fence, when do you think that happened?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No, PNG nationals. This is the evidence we heard from the department and from G4S yesterday. On the Sunday evening after the asylum seekers got through the gate, when the food van was in, they were going back inside and then nationals jumped the fence.

Mr Cornall : Okay, now I am with you. I just was not quite sure which incident you were referring to.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: My point being that on the first night that occurred as well, not just the second. So there was no interrogation or investigation or review into how the minister handled the event from the 16th?

Mr Cornall : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And there was no direction from the minister or the department for you to look at those matters?

Mr Cornall : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Or to avoid those matters?

Mr Cornall : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was there any consideration throughout your review into the information that the department had throughout that 48-hour period and the decisions that were being made by the department officials?

Mr Cornall : Well, I interviewed the senior person on the ground in the department at the time and had his input.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Andrew Kneipp.

Mr Cornall : Anthony Kneipp. When you look at what the facts were, particularly on the 17th everybody except the security people were cleared out of the centre by about 5 o'clock or 5.30 and the remaining people who were not G4S people were the few people who were in the emergency control organisation where they basically did not have any view of what was going on in the various compounds.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They did have a radio, didn't they? They were hearing what was going on.

Mr Cornall : Yes, they did.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And they were giving directions.

Mr Cornall : Yes, and there were telephone calls and people linked in from Canberra and Melbourne and so forth. That is true. But no, all of that was encompassed in the chronology that G4S gave us and also in various incident reports and so forth that we looked at.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. How many government contracts have you been given to do these types of investigations, including this most recent one?

Mr Cornall : I have not kept count. I ceased full-time work as the secretary of the Attorney-General's Department on 31 August 2008 and since then I have had a range of projects from different departments and different agencies for different purposes. They have included things in the national security area which had various security classifications, including the review of the intelligence agencies in 2011. As you know, I did the review into the Manus Island allegations last year in August-September. I have done a number of things at APS level for allegations of senior officers who might have breached the code of conduct. I have done various inquiries into allegations of conflict of interest and I am the deputy chair of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce at the present time. I have never added them up. I mean, I could go back and work it all out but I have never added them up. It has been a steady line of work, though obviously with any consultancy work—for example, with this project it was basically flat out for three months, which included Anzac Day, some parts of Easter, Saturdays and Sundays, and then you may have some time when you do not have anything particularly pressing to do.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What was the value of the contract you are given to run this inquiry or this review?

Mr Cornall : I am happy to tell you but I am not quite sure whether or not it is a particularly relevant matter.

Senator SESELJA: Senator Hanson-Young is not happy that the report did not say what she hoped perhaps and is now trying to attack the independent person who delivered the report. That seems to be the tone here.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I do not think it is relevant.

CHAIR: I am going to ask Senator Hanson-Young to explain why she is asking the question.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Why didn't she ask it at estimates?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The reason I am asking is because there has obviously been this review and the previous review that you did last year and there are suggestions, including evidence that has been given to this committee, that neither that review nor your previous review did cover all of the available evidence or indeed come to conclusions. I have listened to what you said about your discussions with the minister. The minister made it very clear that to alleviate concerns of his what had been perceived misconduct in relation to this incident that your review would investigate that as well, and it clearly has not. For the sake of public transparency, how much taxpayer money has been spent on this I think is absolutely legitimate.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Can I raise a point of order, Madam Chair, please?

CHAIR: What is your point of order?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: This is an outrageous attack on a very distinguished Australian. It is beneath the dignity of this committee to participate in the sort of slur that Senator Hanson-Young has embarked upon. Madam Chair—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: All I have asked is the value, for the sake of public transparency.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Can I finish my point of order? I would ask, Madam Chair, that you as chairman rule the question—particularly since the reason for the question is given—out of order. This is an insult to the committee as well as to the person at whom Senator Hanson-Young's cowardly attack is directed.

CHAIR: I am not going to rule the question out of order. There has been a question raised about why the question was asked. I asked Senator Hanson-Young to explain the basis of the question.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You are satisfied with that?

CHAIR: She is in the process of doing that. I am sure Mr Cornall is big enough to be able to respond to that, whether or not he wants to answer the question, and then we can take it from there.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: We should ask Senator Hanson-Young what her salary is.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Less than yours, Senator Macdonald, because I do not get paid for being a committee chair.

Mr Cornall : In view of your ruling, Madam Chair, I will answer the question. I do not have any—

CHAIR: I am not saying that you need to. I am saying that I wanted to be clear that Senator Hanson-Young had finished her explanation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The reason I am asking—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It is an outrageous question that should be treated with the contempt that it deserves.

Senator SESELJA: It is the last resort.

CHAIR: You queried the question, Senator Macdonald. I put it to Senator Hanson-Young to explain the relevance of the question. She was in the process of doing that. You interrupted with a point of order. I have heard your point of order. I have said that there is not a point of order. Senator Hanson-Young, have you finished explaining the basis of your question?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In the context that Mr Cornall has a current, ongoing arrangement with the government—you are engaged in a contract currently. Is that correct?

Mr Cornall : For the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, that is correct. I am also—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There is an arrangement with the government currently. This was one review that was asked to be conducted. There is evidence before this committee that suggests it was not thorough enough; it does not come to conclusions. In the interests of fairness and transparency, the public funding that has been spent on this review should be known.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Madam Chair, can I take another point of order? If the question is an attack on Mr Cornall's conduct of the inquiry, then that can be put to him, as Senator Hanson-Young has just done, and Mr Cornall should be invited to respond to that allegation.

CHAIR: And I was going to do that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It has nothing to do with what he or anyone else might be paid for this, because the implication of Senator Hanson-Young's question is outrageous and any witness before this committee—

CHAIR: I have heard your point of order. I am going to rule on that, Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: would think twice about coming here in the future.

CHAIR: I have heard your point of order. I was going to suggest that there are two aspects of what has been put to you, Mr Cornall, so if you would like to you can have an opportunity to respond to the first aspect, which is the rationale for the question. Then I will ask Senator Hanson-Young if she wishes to put the question about your remuneration. Would you like to respond to that, first of all?

Mr Cornall : Firstly, I reject any suggestion that this is not a thorough review. I think anyone reading it will see the scope of the material that we considered. The attachments, which are not part of the public report, list all the documentation that we did look at, although some of that is listed in section 11. We talked extensively with transferees and with people who had direct evidence of what happened which was relevant to the terms of reference—in other words, what occurred on those days. The report responds to the terms of reference and explains how and why these incidents occurred and, in my view, answers the terms of reference quite clearly. In relation to the conduct of the minister, I note that your terms of reference include:

g. the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection’s conduct before, during and after the incident.

There was nothing like that term of reference in my terms of reference. It would have been going outside the terms of reference, because it was simply irrelevant for me in determining what the facts were on the night. The minister had nothing to do with those facts.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The minister misled the parliament then.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: That is not Mr Cornall's responsibility.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is not his responsibility; I am just stating it as a fact. That is what we have established here today.

CHAIR: Did you want to put a further question then to Mr Cornall?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Cornall, if you are not comfortable putting what you were paid for this review on the public record, that is your decision. I have asked for it. I cannot force you to do that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Why didn't you ask at estimates when you wouldn't be trying to bully the witness?

CHAIR: Senator Macdonald, I would like to give the witness an opportunity to respond to that. Mr Cornall, do you want to respond to that?

Mr Cornall : This review was basically three months work and I was paid $82,000—not quite $83,000. That was calculated at the rate of $1,500 a day for eight hours or more, and there were quite a few days when there was more than eight hours work; or, for days when there was less than eight hours work, it was one-eighth of $1,500 for each hour, which was $187.60 or something like that—I have forgotten the exact figure. Of course, there was GST on top of that, but GST just comes in and goes out, so it is nothing to do with my remuneration.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You have undersold yourself, Mr Cornall.

Mr Cornall : Let me just say that it is significantly less than was common charging—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Absolutely.

Mr Cornall : for the sort of work that the government normally engages. It is at the rate of about a second-year solicitor and it is, I would say, less than half of what a secretary currently gets paid for three months work.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am flabbergasted.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I want to go to the issue of the criticisms raised as evidence before us in relation to your review.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Chair, can I raise a point of order?

CHAIR: Can you make it brief? I am happy to hear it, but make it brief.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You indicated earlier that everyone was being given half an hour. Senator Hanson-Young and the Greens have now had 40 minutes.

CHAIR: That is not a point of order, but I will respond. I actually indicated that I would come back to other senators. You had finished your questions.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It is—

CHAIR: Just let me finish. I asked Senator Seselja and Senator Singh if they had any more questions and they indicated no. I am happy to give you five minutes now—I am happy to do that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you.

Senator SESELJA: Can I respond to that briefly. I did not have any questions, but, in response to what Senator Hanson-Young has been doing, I do have some questions.

CHAIR: I am happy to do that. I am happy for you to indicate as you go how we will proceed. I am at pains to do this fairly; I do not think anyone would suggest otherwise. Senator Hanson-Young, please ask this question and then we will move to other members.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Mr Cornall, in your report you identify a number of underlying causes. There is no conclusion as to whether those underlying causes can actually be addressed. You do say on page 10 that, if they were to be addressed, this could avoid things happening again in the future, but you draw no conclusion as to whether they can be addressed.

Mr Cornall : It is impossible to predict the future. One of the major difficulties—and we have all recognised this—is that the people on Manus Island had hoped to come to Australia and the policy is that they will never come to Australia. That is something that I think is going to be a constant issue for some of them, though not all of them. As the review points out, only about 30 per cent of the transferees actually engaged in the disruption on the 17th and 18th. The remaining 70 per cent did not and some of those people will be very happy, as I understand it—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It was not the asylum seekers who had guns and machetes.

Mr Cornall : I understand that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How do you stop that from happening?

Mr Cornall : One of the things in the recommendations is the same point brought up by G4S on Tuesday: increased physical security will go some distance towards that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When G4S, or Transfield, and the department confirm that the only option they have, if they cannot control things inside themselves, is to allow the PNG police into the centre, how do you manage that over-the-top, extreme response that we saw on that night? There is no conclusion in your report about whether that can be done.

CHAIR: That is your last question.

Mr Cornall : Who could draw that conclusion? You have had disruption in all sorts of detention centres, not just in Manus. There are issues there, but to say that it was part of this review to guarantee the future is just an impossibility.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I put on record that I am surprised, knowing what you received as secretary of the department, about the fee you have charged to this. It is clearly a community service and I thank you again for that. I know you will hate my question because you are a professional public servant, but the appointments you have been given since you have left the role of secretary have been from the current government, which is, as we all know, of Liberal-National persuasion. You were also appointed by the previous government, which was of Labor persuasion, kept in power by the Greens political party. So the suggestion that somehow you are open to political or other influences or biases—

CHAIR: I actually—

Senator SINGH: Chair, is he going to get to the question here?

Senator SESELJA: He is entitled to ask the question. Senator Hanson-Young has been making statements.

Senator SINGH: We are waiting for the questions.

CHAIR: But we have not—

Senator SINGH: It sounded more like a statement.

Senator SESELJA: Senator Hanson-Young has been making long statements.

CHAIR: Yes, I know.

Senator SESELJA: She has been making claims about the minister and all sorts of things.

CHAIR: She actually put a question to—

Senator SESELJA: Just let Senator Macdonald go.

CHAIR: She put a question to Mr Cornall. Do you have a question, Senator Macdonald?

Senator SESELJA: Eventually she put a question.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No, I had a question upfront, actually.

CHAIR: Do you have a question, Senator Macdonald, apart from making political slurs against your colleagues? Just ask the question.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I was not making any political slurs against colleagues.

CHAIR: Yes, you were.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Which slur did I make against which colleagues?

CHAIR: Against the Greens. Just go ahead.

Senator SESELJA: What was the slur?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Chair, it would be helpful if you chaired independently.

Senator SINGH: Like you do!

CHAIR: Just get on with it, please.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Mr Cornall, my question is: is it a fact that you have been appointed to different things since your retirement by governments of all political persuasions?

Mr Cornall : Yes, from 2008 to 2013, obviously all of those appointments were made either by ministers or, more likely, by secretaries or agency heads during the time when Prime Minister Rudd and Prime Minister Gillard were the leaders of the government.

Senator SESELJA: And that included when the former Prime Minister, I think, appointed you to review the Australian intelligence community with Associate Professor Rufus Black in 2011. There were a number of appointments during that time. So I share Senator Macdonald's concerns around the slurs. It seems to me that in a long Public Service career you have served governments of both persuasions in various capacities.

Mr Cornall : I also worked very closely with Robert McClelland when he was Attorney-General. It was one regret I had that there is a limit as to how long you should stay in positions. After 8½ years that position had been reached and I was unable to work with Mr McClelland as long as I would have liked, and I think as he would have liked as well.

Senator SESELJA: Thank you for clarifying.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Cornall, for your evidence today.

Proceedings suspended from 10 : 41 to 11 : 02