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Regional Processing Centre in Nauru
09/06/2015
Commonwealth government's responsibilities relating to the management and operation of the Nauru Regional Processing Centre

BRISCOE, Ms Cindy, Deputy Secretary, Immigration Status Resolution Group, Department of Immigration and Border Protection

DORRINGTON, Ms Jan, PSM, First Assistant Secretary, Integrity Security and Assurance Division, Department of Immigration and Border Protection

PEZZULLO, Mr Michael, Secretary, Department of Immigration and Border Protection

SCHOLTEN, Mrs Kylie, Acting Assistant Secretary, Offshore Operations Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection

SKILL, Mr Neil, First Assistant Secretary, Infrastructure and Services Division, Department of Immigration and Border Protection

WINDSOR, Mr Paul, Assistant Secretary, Detention Health Services Support Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection

[15:35]

CHAIR: I welcome representatives from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you. We have received your submission, which we have numbered as submission 31. I remind committee members that the Senate has resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or of a state or territory shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions to a superior officer or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions seeking opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted or implemented. Officers of departments are also reminded that any claim that it would be contrary to the public interest to answer a question must be made by a minister and must be accompanied by a statement setting out the basis for the claim.

I now invite you to make a short opening statement and then, after you have spoken, I will invite members of the committee to put questions to you.

Mr Pezzullo : Thank you, Chair. I do wish to make an opening statement. The regional processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru are central elements of the government's border protection strategy. It is imperative, therefore, that they function as intended and that they are places of good order, safety and security.

The Australian government does not run the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, or RPC. It is managed by the government of Nauru, under Nauruan law, with support from the Australian government. The government of Nauru operates the RPC, assesses asylum claims and, where persons are found to be in need of protection, arranges settlement. The government of Nauru is specifically responsible for security and good order and the care and welfare of persons residing in the centre. On behalf of the Commonwealth, my department provides support services and advice, pursuant to an agreement between our two governments.

A joint working group, which is chaired by the government of Nauru, meets on a weekly basis to discuss operational issues regarding regional processing operations and refugee resettlement. A joint advisory committee, the JAC, oversees operational matters at a more strategic level. This body is in turn overseen by a joint ministerial forum.

As the committee would be aware, regional processing was reinstituted by the former Gillard government in August of 2012. That government signed agreements with Nauru and Papua New Guinea in August and September of 2012, respectively. The first transfer of illegal maritime arrivals—IMAs from here on—to the Nauru RPC occurred shortly thereafter, on 14 September 2012. Since that time, there have been a total of 2,238 IMAs transferred to the Nauru RPC.

The Australian Defence Force arrived on Nauru in August of 2012 to establish temporary accommodation comprised of military tents and stretchers. This work was completed a month later, in September of 2012, along with some other works, such as the modification of some hard-walled buildings for use as ablution blocks, the set-up of an air-conditioned marquee as a kitchen, and the provision of dining and recreational spaces utilising military tents.

Service providers were also first contracted in September 2012. These included Transfield Services, the Salvation Army and Wilson Security, who were engaged at that time to provide garrison support services, welfare support and security services respectively. In November 2012, construction service provider Canstruct was engaged to construct the RPC and staff accommodation village. Construction commenced on RPC 1, or compound 1, in December 2012. In January 2013 the completion of the first accommodation building occurred, followed by the commencement of construction on staff accommodation. In March 2013 civil works for RPC compound 2 were commenced, and in April 2013 the last military accommodation tent at RPC 1 was removed.

In July 2013 there was a major disturbance at compound 1, RPC 1, and all buildings were destroyed in the accompanying fires that resulted. As a result, transferees were moved to RPC 2 and accommodated in military tents once more, before being transitioned to marquee accommodation, as it is described and labelled. The reconstruction of RPC compound 1 was not completed until October of 2014.

There are a number of other pertinent facts that relate to infrastructure. In August 2013 construction commenced on RCP compound 3, as an accommodation facility for family groups. This construction was completed in October 2013. A month later, in November 2013, approval was given for an expansion of compounds 2 and 3 to accommodate more transferees. This work was completed in December 2013.

The infrastructure works and service delivery arrangements that I have described were undertaken and implemented under considerable operational pressure, from August 2012. The major disturbance that occurred in July 2013, which resulted in the destruction of the accommodation facilities that had been constructed by April 2013, was a major setback. I have no doubt that this has created a challenging working environment for all concerned, including the asylum seekers themselves, centre workers and officials of both governments.

I wish to stress the department takes any allegation of assault, or illegal conduct more generally, very seriously. Any such allegations, of which the department is made aware, are reported to the appropriate authorities for investigation—in this case, the Nauru Police Force. Where the Nauru Police Force believes that the allegations are substantiated, charges are laid and the offenders prosecuted. There is no explicit or implied strategy of 'brutalisation', which is designed to break the will of asylum seekers and serve as a deterrent to others. This is a fictional narrative which serves the purposes of those who are opposed to regional processing, which is the policy of the government of the day.

I should like to take this opportunity to briefly discuss the time line of events that led to the commissioning of the Moss review. Between 26 September 2014 and 10 October 2014, the then minister received correspondence containing allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct at the RPC. On 3 October 2014, he announced that the Acting Secretary of the department,. Mr Cormack, had commissioned Mr Philip Moss, the former head of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, to conduct an independent review into the allegations. Mr Moss provided his final report to me on 9 February 2015, after he had requested an extension of time and was granted one. Following receipt of the report, the department consulted with relevant stakeholders, including the government of Nauru, in the development of a plan to implement all of Mr Moss's recommendations. The full report, with minimal redactions, was released on 20 March 2015.

As the minister and I made clear when the report was released, we will not tolerate illegal conduct in a facility which is being run with Australian support, especially where that conduct pertains to sexual assault and other crimes against vulnerable people. My department has accepted all of Mr Moss's recommendations, which have been completed or are substantially in progress.

My department also continues to work with the Nauruan operational managers, service delivery staff and the Nauru Police Force to strengthen capabilities in relation to the handling of any incidents that might occur in the centre, including allegations of sexual and physical assault. Since the bringing down of the Moss report, strengthened incident management arrangements have been put in place to review incidents and management protocols. In addition to this, the department has formally communicated to all service providers its expectations in relation to compliance with contractual obligations; the personal safety and privacy of transferees; information security and the handling of personal information; the management of the behaviour of company personnel; and strengthened child protection standards. Policing presence has been strengthened at the RPC, and the Australian Federal Police has assisted by deploying advisors to provide mentoring for the Nauru Police Force in areas such as incident coordination and response, investigation training, and specialised First Response Sexual Assault Investigations training.

Given recent media commentary, I would like to take a moment to briefly discuss the medical care that is available for transferees in the RPC. General practitioner, nursing and mental healthcare clinics are available at the RPC seven days per week. All transferees at the RPC receive health care broadly consistent with rural and remote Australian community health standards. There is also an emergency physician and after-hours medical staffing to respond to any after-hours medical emergencies. These services are supplemented by visiting specialists, other health practitioners, a tele-health service and medical transfers when required. Mental health is managed by a team which includes mental health nurses, psychologists and visiting consultant psychiatrists.

Health services on Nauru are being currently further expanded to reduce the number of medical transfers to Australia. The priority services to be provided are MRI and CT scanning capabilities, a full-time obstetrician and a strengthened multidisciplinary mental health team able to provide in-patient care. It is intended that all of these services will be provided at the Republic of Nauru Hospital.

In terms of the organisational arrangements within the department, since becoming secretary I have instituted the following functional changes to better coordinate the delivery of the support services for which the department is directly responsible.

The Detention Assurance Team was established in December 2014 within the department's Integrity, Security and Assurance, or ISA, Division to strengthen assurance and integrity in the management of detention services. This team operates separately from the relevant line management which oversees the provision of those services. This team is playing a key role in assuring me that the recommendations made in the Moss review are being implemented.

I have also established a Child Protection Panel comprising three people drawn from the Australian community and selected because their skills, experience and standing are relevant and appropriate to such work. The panel provides independent advice on child protection in immigration detention generally and in relation to Australia's involvement in supporting regional processing.

As part of larger functional changes to do with the establishment of the Australian Border Force, which will occur on 1 July, a single Regional Processing and Settlement Branch will be established within the department as at that date, 1 July 2015. This new function will be responsible for the management and coordination of all regional processing support, settlement and returns operations in support of the MOUs that exist with the governments of Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia.

Ahead of these arrangements, on 29 May this year, the position of Australian Border Force Attache South Pacific was created within the department, and an officer has been appointed at what will be the ADF one-star—or SES band 1 equivalent—rank of commander. The ABF attache will provide an important link between the department and our international partners in the South Pacific, including, of course, Nauru.

I am very confident that these changes will materially assist the department in meeting the recommendations laid down by Mr Moss and, in general, improving our support to regional processing in Nauru. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Pezzullo. Is it possible that that opening statement be tabled?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes.

CHAIR: Thank you. I propose to rotate the call among committee members at about 10-minute intervals. Senator Reynolds, you had the call last. Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sure. Thank you, Secretary. We gave you a number of questions on notice previously, and requests for documentation; and I note that, while we have some, we are still waiting for quite a few of those to come back. So, as I go through my questions today, there may be some overlap. We only got this stack of answers to questions on notice this morning, so we might just have to be a little respectful with each other in terms of whether or not the responses are in here. Firstly, I want to establish some of the raw information. Since families were put in that facility at the end of 2013, how many incidents of assault within the detention centre has the department being notified of?

Mr Pezzullo : Going back to September 2012, when the first IMA groups were transferred to Nauru, our data informs me that we have made 50 referrals to the Nauru Police Force, a number of which were within, if you like, the terms of reference and scope of Mr Moss's review and a number of which potentially fall outside that. As for how many incidents have occurred, the answer is I do not know, other than what my data tells me. So, my departmental reporting systems have revealed that 50 incidents were referable to the Nauru Police Force and they have been referred.

CHAIR: Just on that point, how many have then proceeded to prosecution, to court?

Mr Pezzullo : Quite a number are still under active investigation. We know that because the Nauru Police Force have told us that. When the Australian Federal Police team recently deployed, they assisted them with the case management. Perhaps Ms Briscoe or one of her officers can speak to how many matters have been discharged, but I know for a fact that a number of those matters are still under active investigation. Perhaps Ms Briscoe would care to take up the evidence at that point.

CHAIR: If you have it here now, but otherwise on notice: how many have actually—

Ms Briscoe : Of those cases referred, five charges have been laid, two convictions recorded and two sentences handed down.

CHAIR: And the other 45 are under investigation?

Ms Briscoe : That is the information we have from the Nauruan police—that those cases are still under investigation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Out of those 50 cases—that is from the reopening of the facility?

Mr Pezzullo : In September 2012.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many of those cases relate to children and minors?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not have a breakdown. Unless Ms Briscoe or one of her officers can assist, I will not be able to assist you directly today, but I know that they relate to a variety of what in shorthand are termed transferee-on-transferee incidents or assault; and service provider workers, both assaulting and in some cases being the victims of assaults. There have been a number of cases of that nature. But how many fall into the adult category and how many fall into the minor category I do not know.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Ms Briscoe, you do not have those figures?

Ms Briscoe : Mrs Scholten can provide those.

Mrs Scholten : Of those 50 that have been referred to the Nauruan police force, they include matters concerning children and adults.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But you cannot tell me how many of those concern children?

Mrs Scholten : No. I will take that on notice and provide that information.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. So they are cases that have been referred. We have been told by service providers that we have had in front of us, both today and in our previous hearing, that, every time there is an incident, there is an incident report written and lodged and that that incident report makes its way through to the various different management groups of service providers, including to the department, so you would have your own filing system of those incident reports that relate to assault or abuse of children, would you not?

Ms Briscoe : That is correct. We do. Incidents that occur in the RPC get reported through to Transfield Services—their control team. The initial response to all those incidents is coordinated and managed by Transfield. That can then involve case management, engagement, referral to IHMS or engagement with the behavioural management team, for instance. And, if required for the victim or the alleged offender then, action may be taken to move them. They are immediate actions, and Transfield report all those incidents to the government of Nauru operations manager and the department in accordance with the incident-reporting framework and guidelines. And we record all of those incidents in our operational system.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the various different cases that have been put to us through submissions and in verbal evidence, where individual staff have said that they lodged incident reports, would at some point reach the department?

Mr Pezzullo : I will commence because I have asked that question myself internally. Where it is evident from either what has been described to this inquiry or what was described to the Moss inquiry, directly to Mr Moss—we had support staff assisting him, but he considered all the matters independently and in his own right—we were able to reconcile the matters as they have been described, because not all persons seek to identify themselves. Some of the evidence that we have in our internal reporting system is sometimes anonymous itself. Where it is evident by date, time, place, venue or a particular part of the site, we try as best we can to reconcile all the matters that are coming up, including matters that you have raised in your correspondence with the minister; matters that have been raised, say, at estimates; and matters that have been raised before this inquiry. We try wherever possible to reconcile everything that we come across, including matters referred by parliamentarians and others, with the incidents that we have on file. I might ask Ms Scholten to take up the evidence at that point.

It is never a 100 per cent fit. There are some matters where we you look at it and think, 'We think that relates to this matter', and we dig back into the case manager's notes or we speak to relevant persons or to the Transfield officers who might have logged the incident. I must say, sometimes with matters that are being brought forward on what appear, on the surface, for the first time are, in fact, not first-time reports, because we have some evidence, we think, of the matter and how it has been handled. In other cases we are uncertain, to tell you the truth, and there is not a complete alignment between the evidence coming, say, to this inquiry and what we have on our records. But I might just ask either Ms Briscoe or Mrs Scholten to amplify that answer.

Mrs Scholten : When incidents are reported, incidents can involve multiple people. They are recorded in our system as one incident but also as individuals as well. As you can appreciate, when certain things happen it can involve more than one person at a time. We have reports in our system that are aligned with the information that has been brought to this inquiry, as well as to what has been in the press. We have been able to align that with our reporting.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A list of documents that this committee has requested from you is a list of incident reports that relate to the assault, abuse or harassment of children in terms of one category and then also of women. It seems to me that, if you do get those incident reports, there should not be a problem in getting us that information. It is probably a matter of collating it.

Mrs Scholten : Yes, we are currently doing that, as we have had the request from the committee for that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Great. Thank you. Mr Pezzullo, is there a categorisation of incidents? When a staff member in the detention centre comes across something, they lodge an incident report, it goes to the control room, as we have heard from Transfield and Wilson Security, and that report is logged. Is there a particular characterisation that your department uses to determine, 'This is pretty much a red flag—the abuse of a child or the sexual harassment of a woman or the dismissal of a staff member.' Do you categorise so that those that are more serious are brought to the top of the pile for your departmental staff to be made aware of?

Mr Pezzullo : Other officers can speak to the detail, but I do know that the reporting system was reformed and improved in about August 2014. That is what I have been familiar with since becoming secretary. That certainly does contain different categories—serious assault, assault of a sexual nature and the like. And that is pretty much a standard reporting protocol across the entire detention network. We use it separately for onshore matters, but I know that is not within the province of this committee. As to whether the same categories and the same topology were in existence prior to August 2014, I might ask Ms Scholten or Ms Briscoe to respond. The short answer to your question is: yes, there are flags, categories of types of reports and flags as to criticality attached to those reports.

Ms Briscoe : We have three categories, if you like, which particularly give sight to how quickly that gets escalated and how. The 'critical' category includes, as you have mentioned, things like serious accident, injury, death, sexual assault, self-harm, escape and other things like that. The verbal report needs to be provided immediately and up to 30 minutes, and a written report within three hours. The next category is 'major', which, again, is as soon as possible but no later than one hour for a verbal report and a written report within six hours or by the end of shift. Then for the 'minor' category, a verbal report is not required but a written report is within 24 hours. They are all part of our incident reporting framework and guidelines.

CHAIR: I want to make the point that we probably want to rotate. If you are close to concluding that line of questioning, and we will be coming back to you, obviously, but we would like to rotate—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I will come back to it. But for the next question, I do not think it was picked up on in that response was. Does that include incidents of dismissal of staff—of contracted service providers?

Mr Pezzullo : I stand to be corrected, but I think the incidents that Ms Briscoe was referring to relate to operational matters in the centre—death, injury, assault and so on. She read out a number of headings. Mrs Scholten and others can correct this, but I think the dismissal of staff would not be treated as an incident as such; it would be dealt with both immediately by the company under performance management and conduct management procedures and then advised to us. I will need some advice on the question of whether that is logged as an incident report as such.

Mrs Scholten : With regard to the dismissal, when an incident is reported to the department, it is recorded in our systems. We subsequently capture the detail post that event. You can imagine that, when an incident occurs, there is information that is gathered at that point in time, and it is recorded and reported to us. Over time and as further information and investigations do happen, more information comes to light such as more information to verify if a dismissal is required. It is logged in our systems as one of those actions taken or resolved as part of the incident. With regard to it being reported separately as an incident: no, because it is obviously in relation to an actual event.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: To a particular incident. So that would be both disciplinary action, I would imagine, as well as dismissal in terms of action taken as a result of a particular event.

Mrs Scholten : Absolutely. That could be a whole range of things, depending on how the individual service provider wants to handle that arrangement.

Senator REYNOLDS: Good afternoon, Secretary. It is good to see you here today. This morning, no doubt your staff were listening to or watching some of the evidence, and we heard some quite disturbing allegations about your department, so I want to run through some of them now and give you an opportunity to respond to some of those if possible.

The first one by the first witness, a Dr Young, claimed that, as you said, you were responsible for support services and advice with the contract, but he claimed that DIPB is not meeting its contractual arrangements with Nauru. There were no specific incidents, but have you got any comment back on that or any evidence that that has been the case?

Mr Pezzullo : I must say I have seen a summary of Dr Young's evidence. I have had other matters that I had to attend to. I have seen earlier submissions or responses from Dr Young, including in the media. I must say on the general question, as you have paraphrased it, that we are not meeting our contractual obligations to the government—we, of course, have a memorandum of understanding with the government—we have regular meetings with the government of Nauru. There is always room to address particular issues which they raise. We have a joint advisory committee that I have referred to. We have a joint ministerial forum. We have weekly operational working groups. Through the course of those proceedings, any matters around physical support, infrastructure facilities and lighting are always attended to. I am not quite sure what the doctor has in mind.

CHAIR: For clarification: who actually meets on Nauru?

Mr Pezzullo : Starting from the top down: obviously the joint ministerial forum is for the ministers. On the Nauruan side it is the one minister; on the Australian side there are two ministers who are members. The joint advisory committee is co-chaired by the relevant Nauruan senior official. I think sometimes the minister himself attends; otherwise it is the secretary of his department. On the Australian side—

CHAIR: But you said a weekly meeting, so there is someone in Nauru who is in charge and meets weekly. Who is that person?

Mr Pezzullo : There is an operations manager. I might ask Ms Briscoe and her staff to speak to the hierarchy, but there is a centre manager appointed by the Nauruan government.

CHAIR: I think it is appropriate to get the title of the official who is responsible if there is a weekly meeting in Nauru.

Senator REYNOLDS: I fully support the question.

Mr Pezzullo : The centre itself is appointed by the government of Nauru. They have operations managers who, obviously, work through a shift arrangement depending on who is on shift.

CHAIR: Sorry, who is the Australian representative in Nauru that meets with the Nauruan people?

Mr Pezzullo : We have a senior Australian officer who is co-located there from Mrs Scholten's branch. If you are looking for a name, I do not have the name with me, but I can describe the level of the officer and who that officer represents if you wish. I might hand to Ms Briscoe.

Ms Briscoe : The weekly meetings of the joint working group, which is chaired by the Nauru minister of justice but usually delegated to the secretary of justice, discusses strategic issues managing the RPC and refugee settlement. It is a weekly meeting that has in attendance representatives from DIBP, the government of Nauru, RPC and other settlement stakeholders, including service providers. That is the meeting which our senior officer on island attends.

CHAIR: What is the title of your senior officer?

Mrs Scholten : It is called director program lead.

CHAIR: Thank you. That is all I needed. Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: In relation to some of the other allegations from Dr Young, he said that your department rewrote IHMS clinical recommendations that detainees be moved off Nauru to Australia for medical treatment. I think the allegation was that you had rewritten somehow inappropriately or rewritten their recommendations. Are you aware of that claim?

Mr Pezzullo : I am aware of those claims because I think I have seen them before and I think I have seen Dr Young prosecute those claims before. We are joined by a number of officers from Ms Briscoe's group, including the head of our detention health services, and perhaps Mr Windsor can add to this answer. We have a contractual arrangement with the company known as IHMS. We do not have clinical doctors or clinicians who oversee or override their recommendations. I have not seen what Dr Young said this morning, but I have seen him in the media quite often. I have seen him prosecute this claim and I have seen my predecessor deal with it as best he could. If the view of the clinical adviser—and I think at one stage Dr Young himself fit such a category—was that the only intervention that is permissible or desirable in these circumstances was to remove such and such a person from, in effect, regional processing, that immediately comes up against the requirement to wherever possible maintain illegal maritime arrivals in a circumstance of regional processing. In some cases people are transferred medically either to Australia or to other places, and generally speaking the clinical advice is taken. We certainly have quite a number of family groups, children and adults here in Australia. Evidence was given in other proceedings at the estimates recently about the numbers, so I do not understand how it is that the claim can be made that we do not accept advice around transferring people from Nauru.

Equally, where it is possible to augment or increase medical capability on Nauru—and, as I said in my opening statement, we are looking to do that—to provide closer support in terms of MRI, CT, an obstetrician, enhanced psychiatric assistance including such assistance as could provide inpatient care, we will. In the end, the question of providing medical support is an important one but the answer cannot always be in the mind of the relevant clinician: 'There's nothing that can be done in these circumstances. You have to move the person to another place.' The answer could well be that in those circumstances we will actually provide the support on island. Indeed, we recently did that with the rather well-publicised case of the young boy who broke his arm. It has been repaired. He underwent surgery on island in recent days.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. We also had testimony today and in our first hearing about the conditions under which detainees live. We have had things variously described as mouldy tents and that people are not given shoes or sanitary products. There was some suggestion today that in fact, by not having access to water, shoes or sanitary products, that led to some of the detainees very bad behaviour. There was one allegation today that detainees did not have beds. Could you go through these?

Mr Pezzullo : Without specifics, all I can say—and Ms Briscoe and her officers can speak to the detail—we will this year spend hundreds of millions of dollars. Mr Skill can speak to the level of support—

CHAIR: Perhaps on notice you can tell us exactly how much you spend in the 2014-15 calendar year.

Mr Pezzullo : If I recall my budget papers accurately, it is somewhere in the order of $580 million.

CHAIR: The budget papers provided to senators do not allow us to deduce how much is spent on Nauru.

Mr Pezzullo : Perhaps Mr Skill can advise. Would you like us to deal with that question now and come back to Senator Reynolds?

Senator REYNOLDS: I would prefer to come back to my question if we could. In terms of the specific allegations—

Mr Pezzullo : We provide, effectively, a hospital that would do very well in a small Australian country town. The sort of 24/7 medical care would be, frankly, well regarded in any remote rural location. As to allegations that people are without shoes or beds: unless I can be presented with the specifics, my instinct is that that cannot be right, because the centre is well provided for and well provisioned.

Senator REYNOLDS: So your understanding is that all detainees would have access to toilets, showers, toilet paper, sanitary products.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: There was one allegation—I think we have had this before—that there have been water shortages for detainees. It would be very alarming that they have not had access to drinking water or other water. Can you talk about the provision of water?

Mr Pezzullo : Ms Briscoe has information on that.

Ms Briscoe : As part of the construction of the facilities, reverse osmosis water units are in place. There is adequate water supply, and the water quality is good. There are occasions where restrictions are placed on the water when maintenance is happening with those machines. At all times, there is ample bottled water made available. The restrictions mentioned—I am not sure exactly when they are referring to—could be where restrictions are put in place when maintenance of the units is happening.

Senator REYNOLDS: But plentiful bottled water is always available, so you are not aware of anybody going thirsty.

Ms Briscoe : That is right. We have recently upgraded the water capacity from 300 kilolitres to 2.2 megalitres per day.

CHAIR: We did receive evidence that people were required to use a 20-litre water container and drink from cups as bottles were deemed to be perhaps used as weapon. Is that incorrect?

Ms Briscoe : I am not aware of that.

CHAIR: So you are confirming that bottled water is supplied every day to those who need it?

Mr Pezzullo : I think the evidence from the officer was that, when the machines are undergoing maintenance, bottled water is used as an alternative.

CHAIR: So bottled water is not available every day.

Mr Pezzullo : Because water is.

CHAIR: A 20-litre container at the top of a marquee.

Mr Pezzullo : No. I think that, if we ask Ms Briscoe to repeat her evidence, plant machinery was put in. Was it reverse osmosis?

Ms Briscoe : That is right.

Mr Pezzullo : Mr Skill or other officers could speak to further detail if you wish. Machinery was put in to create clean water through reverse osmosis; but, like all machinery, you have to maintain it. As I heard the evidence, when the machinery is offline, alternative clean water is provided. Whether it is provided in bottles or cups, I do not personally know.

Senator KIM CARR: So there is running water available at the tents. Is that what you are saying?

Mr Pezzullo : There is water available in the compound.

Senator KIM CARR: No, but in the tents?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know where the taps are.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The evidence we have is that there is no running water in the tents. That is what the medical report to IHMS suggests.

Mr Pezzullo : If you have to step outside the marquee to go get some water, I just do not know. Perhaps Mr Skill knows.

Senator KIM CARR: We are told that, at night, people do not have access to water in the vicinity of their accommodation.

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure if Ms Briscoe or others could add to that.

Mrs Scholten : Transferees do have access to water at all times. They do have access to bottled water. They have access to toilets and showers where running water can be claimed as well.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So they drink it out of the showers.

Mrs Scholten : I do not think that is what we have said.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The evidence that we have is that all families have access to a 10-litre bottled water station in the canteen which is filled regularly and again for night; however, there is no place near tents where families can access bottled water after dark. Water is not unlimited if it cannot be accessed easily. Do you reject that finding?

Mrs Scholten : Bottled water is available.

CHAIR: Perhaps Senator Reynolds could continue.

Senator REYNOLDS: That would be nice. My colleagues have just raised the issue of the physical accommodation. We had testimony at the previous hearing in particular. There was some discussion about when a tent is a tent and when it is a marquee. There was also some suggestion that they were mould filled, which may have led people to adverse behaviour. I wonder if you have any photos or can clarify for us on the record exactly what facilities are provided at the three regional processing centres. We have also had some photos presented that are quite disgusting. I wonder if you have any information you can provide us on the facilities.

Mr Pezzullo : I will ask Ms Briscoe or Mr Skill to answer that question.

Mr Skill : To start with the question about what are tents and what are marquees, the marquees that are on the ground currently—and I would have to confirm the size—are around a 12-person capacity. The marquees have delineation to allow some privacy for the family areas. There are a range of other support facilities and recreational facilities on the ground for transferees at each of the centres.

Senator REYNOLDS: Just to give us an idea of these marquees: do they have hard standing?

Mr Skill : Yes. They are on a concrete base, or, where a concrete base could not be laid, they are on a wooden floor so the people are not walking on the ground.

Senator REYNOLDS: So, they are not, as perhaps it may have been represented, as you said in your testimony, in army tents, that they were in originally?

Mr Skill : That is correct; originally there were canvas army tents, as you would see in some of the footage that is recycled on the television.

Senator REYNOLDS: So, there is hard standing. Is there any ventilation or any air-conditioning in them?

Mr Skill : In some of the marquees there is air-conditioning. That was put in place on medical advice for families with small children—children under four. We installed air-conditioning for those occupants on the basis of medical advice that that would assist in—

Senator KIM CARR: How many people is that? How many people have access to air-conditioning?

Mr Skill : I will take that on notice and confirm the breakdown between the two.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the average temperature in summer on Nauru?

Mr Pezzullo : It is humid. But as to the temperature ranges and the humidity, we will take that on notice. I am sure we can get some more accurate information than what we could guess at. But it is a humid place.

Senator REYNOLDS: We had evidence previously that detainees were not provided with beds. What do detainees sleep in?

Mr Skill : Initially there were stretcher beds, as were provided to military people.

Senator REYNOLDS: That was in 2012, when the centre was established?

Mr Skill : And during the rapid ramp-up in August 2013.

Senator REYNOLDS: So, before the facilities were actually built?

Mr Skill : Correct.

Senator REYNOLDS: So, what do they sleep in today?

Mrs Scholten : They sleep in beds today.

Senator REYNOLDS: So, every detainee there sleeps in a bed?

Mrs Scholten : Yes, that is correct.

Senator REYNOLDS: Is there any other furniture in the marquees?

Mrs Scholten : Yes, in some marquees, depending on the requests from the transferees. There may be fans available to them. There also may be chairs and other furniture as requested by the transferees.

Senator REYNOLDS: So, you have a stock of furniture there and they can request what they need—a table, chairs and all those sorts of things?

Mrs Scholten : Yes, and our service provider under our maintenance program makes sure that they check the furniture regularly to ensure that it is also of good service use for the individuals.

Ms Briscoe : You were asking about some of the facilities. It is probably useful to note that Mr Moss made some recommendations about the accommodation and as a result a range of work has been done, including putting additional privacy screens in the family accommodation. Also, as the hand-downs are provided and people are moving out into settlement, it is giving us the opportunity to spread people out to provide greater amounts of space and also privacy.

Senator REYNOLDS: So, as people are moving out and being resettled they get more space as well.

Ms Briscoe : Yes—reducing the number of transferees per accommodation marquee. There has also been quite a lot of work done in relation to the mould. We had a standard program whereby they would come in and remove the mould. That was seen not to be adequate, so it is now a constant program, and we currently have some investigative work underway to determine whether we could put in some further air-conditioning, which will also assist with the mould. That assessment is being done on the basis of the ability of the power supply to cope, but we are confident that we will be able to increase the amount of air-conditioning as well, which would help with the mould.

Senator REYNOLDS: Just coming back to my question, do you have photos of the various facilities so that the committee and possibly the public can actually see what we are talking about? We have these discussions, and I think it would be helpful to actually see what the school looks like, what the health facility looks like, what the sporting facilities look like—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like to see what the people have to live with.

Senator REYNOLDS: Exactly; wouldn't it be good if we could see some of these photos!

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A virtual tour.

Mr Skill : I am not sure we could go to a virtual tour—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why would that be?

Mr Skill : but we could certainly provide photographs. I have a limited number that were sourced in the last 24 hours from the island for my edification, so I am happy to provide those. They talk to the sporting facilities and they talk to the various infrastructure that has been put in place over the last few months. And I am happy to source additional photographs if that would aid the committee; we can do that.

Senator REYNOLDS: I think that would be good. As you have seen, there is a range of evidence that we have had—that they are in tents with no hard standing; that there are substandard toilet facilities. If you could go through some of those, and if you have photos from the last 24 hours, I think that would be very instructive—so that we can see what the facilities are like now, and we can test some of the evidence.

Mr Pezzullo : Just to Senator Hanson-Young's point, we might be able to—through discussion with the centre management and subject to respecting privacy; obviously, we do not want to provide imagery of lived-in spaces because there will be personal items laid about but, if it is the committee's desire, we can arrange to get into a currently unused space inside a marquee. I am sure that we can get some imagery sorted out for the committee.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. I think that would be very helpful for us to make some determination about that evidence. In relation to Senator Hanson-Young's question about being followed, Dr Young made some further allegations. I think you are aware of some of these allegations, but he said that it was more systemic than that, and there was a culture of—I do not think he used the word 'spying', but checking on and monitoring anybody from off-island. I am just wondering, have you got any further advice? Is this policy? What was the story?

Mr Pezzullo : I will deal with the specifics first and then perhaps, more broadly, go to this question of some kind of implied policy in this regard. Senator, when I saw those references to how your visit was handled, I myself asked questions, as you would expect me to, in terms of Wilson Security. I have seen the advice, which I think Wilson has now provided—and I stand to be corrected here—directly in response to the submission that came in to the committee. Wilson has provided its response. I have no reason at all to question that. They have indicated that on the occasion of your visit, Senator, someone within their company took it upon themselves—as I recall it, Mr Skill—to monitor your vehicle overnight, such as they thought was required in the circumstances. I do not know why they would have done that. I do not know whether this matter was discussed with you, Senator. Clearly, from your public comments, I suspect it was not. Wilson have otherwise dismissed those allegations and said that, in that case, the officer involved—the officer of their company—acted without authority and has been dealt with.

CHAIR: Did anybody ask him why he took that action?

Mr Pezzullo : I have got no idea why.

CHAIR: So have you not asked Wilsons whether they asked him?

Mr Pezzullo : No; we have been in dialogue—Chair, when you ask me, I think you are asking me personally—but I will ask Mr Skill, who has been discussing these matters with the company, and see if he has anything to add.

Mr Skill : I have spoken with Transfield, who are our key contractor, and they subcontract Wilson to provide this service for us. We have received assurances from Transfield and Wilson that the activities that were undertaken were not authorised—not official—and that the officer involved was disciplined as soon as it came to light at the morning handover, following the evening of monitoring Senator Hanson-Young's car.

CHAIR: Does that indicate that you have no control over your subcontractors down the line?

Mr Pezzullo : No, it does not.

Mr Skill : No, absolutely not.

Mr Pezzullo : In any large, complex organisation you have all sorts of people making decisions about all sorts of things. In my very lengthy experience—and I do not wish to in any way imply otherwise, but normally, if a person is the subject of protection, there is a dialogue with them.

CHAIR: You would be familiar with the legislation that senators can move unimpeded throughout the Commonwealth in their—

Senator REYNOLDS: We are in Nauru.

Mr Pezzullo : There is the question of both the privileges act—

CHAIR: We are in Nauru: I am asking you, did anybody ask the person who took the action of surveillance—or following, or spying—why he did it? You are all saying: 'We don't know. It was nothing to do with us.'

Mr Pezzullo : That is precisely not what the officer said. Mr Skill said that he has had a discussion with the prime contractor, Transfield, who has had a discussion with Wilson. They have advised us that the officer undertook that action without authority and has been disciplined.

CHAIR: Why did the officer take that action without authority?

Mr Pezzullo : Well, if the question from the committee is—we can ask it through the contractual chain—why did that officer—

Senator KIM CARR: The question goes broader than that, because the report we have here is that more than one officer is involved and it was more than just surveillance on a motor car. I am very concerned that there is accuracy in the evidence that is presented.

Mr Pezzullo : Indeed, and so am I. And that is why we have asked the question: what do you know of this matter? Transfield is our prime contractor. They have spoken to Wilson, their subordinate contractor, and they have said, 'Yes, we accept that on one occasion.' This is what Wilson has told us through—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is different to the information Wilson has provided to us—

Senator REYNOLDS: Let the secretary finish, please.

Mr Pezzullo : I have read the response to submission No. 62 and they have conceded on one occasion a matter of discipline arose and they have undertaken discipline in relation to that officer. The chair has asked, 'Why did that particular employee undertake the actions that he took?' We could ask the question and we will see what we can come back with on notice.

CHAIR: I think the question needs to be asked why someone took it upon themselves to institute—

Mr Pezzullo : Quite, Chair, and I do not know. I do not wish to impugn the person in question at all. He might have had a brain explosion. He might have thought that he was operating under what was diligent action—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I want clarification. The Wilsons' response says:

Wilson Security is aware of individuals—

plural—

who attended the Menen Hotel at the same time as Senator Hanson-Young. We understand that their primary motivation was the security of the Senator.

This activity was not authorised by Wilson security, and is not a part of our scope of works in providing security at the Regional Processing Centre.

The matter was immediately investigated … and the individuals—

plural—

involved were subject to disciplinary action for acting beyond their brief.

You keep referring to one person. Wilsons' response to me here, and to this committee, is that it was individuals. I would like clarification as to whether you have been told something different.

Mr Pezzullo : They have obviously dealt with all the persons associated with that and presumably there would have been someone who organised that activity. Mr Skill has some further information.

Mr Skill : I was speaking as an individual. There was a shift supervisor who arranged for your vehicle to be monitored overnight. That was the individual that I am advised was disciplined by Wilsons. If there was flow-on effect for more junior officers within Wilson then I have not been provided that information—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So that is not the person who is part of the people who came to my hotel? That is a separate incident?

Mr Skill : I do not have that information. I am advised by Wilsons, via Transfield, that nothing unusual in relation to provision of safety and security to visitors to the island was provided with the exception of this one incident where a shift supervisor authorised or requested—I would have to clarify the wording there—for your vehicle to be monitored overnight at the hotel for security purposes.

Senator REYNOLDS: I asked a question about seven minutes ago and I have not had the opportunity to hear the response from the department, so if I could continue. I am sure Senator Hanson-Young will have plenty of opportunities.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You did reference the—

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes, but I think there have been five questions in my time, and I would like the department to answer my question about any policy of monitoring, or security in a more general sense, from the department initially. That was my question to start with.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, Senator, I have lost the thread of that.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is all right. It is no wonder. We have had individual allegations raised. The question is: is there anything in terms of departmental policy, for Transfield or Wilson, to monitor if they have concerns about the security of people from off island? Is there any official policy or—

Mr Pezzullo : No.

Senator REYNOLDS: There is none at all?

Mr Pezzullo : In terms of the mandate that we exercise, it is to support the government of Nauru. The government of Nauru is responsible for the good order of the centre—

Senator REYNOLDS: And they are responsible for security—

Mr Pezzullo : We provide, through the contractual arrangement we have—as referred to several times—with Wilson Security, which is a contractual flow that comes through Transfield. We provide support services. As far as I am concerned, and to reassure the chair and others, there is absolutely no policy implied or otherwise that visiting Australian parliamentarians will be put under any form of scrutiny or surveillance or be monitored otherwise.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But it has happened.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you very much. I would like to move on to—

Mr Pezzullo : It did happen once. Wilson—I am sorry, Senator, but I cannot let the—

Senator REYNOLDS: I know you have got these interjections and it is a bit hard to know—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is actually important because it has—

Senator REYNOLDS: Senator Hanson-Young will have an opportunity shortly to ask all her questions—

CHAIR: Senator Reynolds, the secretary made the point. It was not an interjection from this side. The secretary took that interjection and wanted to respond. Do you want to let the secretary respond or do we tell him not to?

Senator REYNOLDS: My point is that my colleagues keep interjecting and I would actually like to—

CHAIR: Interjections are disorderly and I ask everybody to desist.

Senator REYNOLDS: I asked this question at least 10 if not 12 minutes ago and I am still trying to work through the answer to my question of 10 minutes ago. As you well know, I have to leave, and there are continual interjections.

CHAIR: You have until five o'clock you told me and it is now half past four.

Senator REYNOLDS: If I could actually, please Chair, be allowed to at least go through my questions.

CHAIR: I am asking you whether you wish the secretary to complete his explanation.

Senator REYNOLDS: I would actually like him to answer my question, not the interjection.

Mr Pezzullo : My apologies, Senator, I will go to your question. Leaving aside the one incident, which involves, as you heard from Mr Skill, a shift supervisor taking it upon themselves to undertake certain actions, and clearly some subordinates complied with that direction, the supervisor, as Mr Skill has been advised, has been disciplined. I am not aware of any other case where a visiting parliamentarian or indeed any other dignitary has been dealt with in that way.

Senator REYNOLDS: It certainly would not be sanctioned by the department or encouraged.

Mr Pezzullo : Absolutely not.

Senator REYNOLDS: Okay. I would like to move on to other allegations from Dr Young today. He made some very serious allegations. Firstly, not all of the IHMS complaints to the department were addressed, were actioned or were reported back. Do you have a process of dealing with the allegations?

Mr Pezzullo : In this case Ms Briscoe might be supported by other officers. It is difficult to deal with some of these allegations because they tend to be generalised. The allegation that certain matters were not attended to by the department is abstract and general, so which allegations were not attended to? You need to know which date, which piece of IHMS advice was set aside, tampered with, or dealt with in a particular way according to Dr Young's perception of these matters. I am sure he absolutely believes in good faith in what he is saying. We are trying to reconcile that with the facts.

Senator REYNOLDS: In terms of any specific allegations, issues or incidents that have been passed through to the department, you are not aware of any that have not been action?

Mr Pezzullo : I will refer that question to Ms Briscoe and her officers, but we have another contractual arrangement through IHMS, which is the medical services provider who provides a whole range of medical services that I described in my opening statement. They have their own internal protocols, first of all, with how they treat people who present, some of whom might have physical ailments and others who might be exhibiting mental health issues that I touched upon. In the same way as we deal with particular incidents, as Ms Briscoe described earlier around assault, perhaps the best course here is for her to describe 'supported by others as required' and how we deal with medical issues as they arrived arise from IHMS.

Senator REYNOLDS: I think that would be very helpful, thank you.

Ms Briscoe : The incident reporting framework, which I talked about before, applies to all of the service providers. If IHMS became aware of an incident or wanted to make a complaint of any sort would do so through the same process incident reporting process. That is not the only mechanism. They of course can raise issues directly with the department, or directly with the lead island, or directly through to Canberra. So there is a range of ways that they could report an incident us.

Senator REYNOLDS: You obviously would track that and then keep record to see what has been received and what has been action. You would know, if things had been reported and recorded, that things had not been actioned or finished.

Ms Briscoe : That is right. If there were more specific details of incidents that Dr Young was referring to, we could follow up.

Senator REYNOLDS: There was one. I do not know whether you referred to it and I do not know what the case relates to. He said there was an example of the department instructing IHMS not to report a botched surgery in Nauru. Does that ring any bells?

Mr Pezzullo : I would want further and better particulars. I do not know if Mr Briscoe has more information.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is the only particulars, I think, we were provided with this morning about some botched surgery.

Ms Briscoe : We did discuss it this morning, and I think we know which case it refers to, and Mr Skill can provide some background.

Mr Skill : The case, as Ms Briscoe said, we think the one being referred to is the case of a service provider staff member who underwent some surgery on Nauru, and a small piece of surgical glove was left in the wound and became infected. That officer was evacuated using commercial flight from the island and underwent corrective surgery in Australia. It is the only case that we are aware of.

Senator REYNOLDS: So, it was not a detainee, it was a service provider staff member who was evacuated back to Australia for treatment. There was also another matter in relation to—

CHAIR: If you are struggling for questions, Senator Reynolds, I can give Senator Siewert the call.

Senator REYNOLDS: Also, people were intimidated and threatened regarding making any complaints or going to the Human Rights Commission. They were directly intimidated by your staff not to make any report.

Mr Pezzullo : Absent any evidence, I would reject—

Senator REYNOLDS: In fact, the expression was that they would be 'hunted down' if they participated in the inquiry. I think those were the words.

Mr Pezzullo : Absent specifics, how do I begin to even look into that and investigate that matter? Unless the witness to this inquiry is willing to provide further and better particulars, there is nothing I can do to even begin to track that allegation.

Senator REYNOLDS: Without any substantive evidence?

Mr Pezzullo : No, of course not.

Senator KIM CARR: On the matter of the mean temperature, I am told that the average monthly temperature is 28.1 degrees, that the maximum recorded temperature in December was 36.4 degrees and the minimum was 21.6 degrees in March, so it is a pretty hot place, isn't it?

Mr Pezzullo : It is hot and humid. Do I take it that you do not require a response on notice as to the temperature variation?

Senator KIM CARR: I am just making the point to you that the tenting material—

Mr Pezzullo : It is a warm, tropical climate.

Senator KIM CARR: You call them marquees; I call them tents. They were supposed to be temporary accommodation, weren't they?

Mr Pezzullo : As Mr Skill said, there were military tents initially, which were canvas—

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, I understand that. There were the green ones and now there are these new vinyl tents.

Mr Pezzullo : They are vinyl. As to what colour they are, I am not quite sure.

Senator KIM CARR: They were regarded as temporary accommodation, weren't they?

Mr Pezzullo : How long is temporary? They certainly are—

Senator KIM CARR: We will get to that point in a minute.

Mr Pezzullo : I am sure we will.

Senator KIM CARR: Were they regarded as temporary accommodation?

Mr Pezzullo : At what point in the cycle?

Senator KIM CARR: When they were put up?

Mr Pezzullo : No, not necessarily. Mr Skill has looked at some of the record—

Senator KIM CARR: They have always been regarded as permanent accommodation, have they?

Mr Pezzullo : Neither permanent or temporary, because it is not as though we have an end view of how long these structures are going to be in place.

Senator KIM CARR: Why did the minister decide to halt construction of the hard walled buildings for 2 and 3?

Mr Pezzullo : I will get some advice from Mr Skill on that.

Mr Skill : My understanding of the situation as it stood back in mid- to late 2013 is that there was an urgent need to accommodate a significant number of IMAs in the Nauru facilities. A range of options were put to government as to how that could be achieved within the time frame and a decision was made by government as to how we might approach that.

Senator KIM CARR: Was the construction of a hard walled facility actually started?

Mr Pezzullo : I think it is the case, Mr Skill—

Senator REYNOLDS: They were burnt down, weren't they, by the detainees?

Mr Pezzullo : I think it was started. It was concluded and then there was an incident that I referred to in my statement in July 13 where everything was burnt down. I was the chief executive of Customs at that time, so I do not have direct recollection; I was generally aware and other officers can substantiate this. We then almost had to go back to the start. I think military tents were put back in, were they not, to deal with the repercussions of the fires which had burnt down the accommodation—

Senator KIM CARR: So, Mr Pezzullo, it is your evidence that there were no contracts let to hard walled facilities; that it was the product of a fire that led to the—

Mr Pezzullo : There were contracts for the hard walled facilities that were built and then burnt down.

Senator KIM CARR: But for the actual sleeping accommodation for the detainees.

Mr Pezzullo : Mr Skill can answer the detail.

Mr Skill : There was a contract in place for the provision of hard walled accommodation. At that point in time, it was proposed to be for RPC2. As and when the events occurred in July 2013, it presented us with a particularly nasty situation where we had to accommodate the transferees somewhere in relative safety in a very short period of time.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Skill, I want to be clear about this. You are saying to me that construction had started and that was destroyed. Is that what you are saying?

Mr Skill : No, Senator. Construction had started and been completed on RPC1 and was destroyed as part of the fire.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, I understand. With regard to the—

Mr Skill : I did not say that construction had started on RPC2—

Senator REYNOLDS: And that was $60 million worth of damage.

Mr Skill : I have the figure. It was around $75 million.

Senator REYNOLDS: So $75 million of taxpayers' money was burnt down in that riot?

Senator KIM CARR: I want to know about the construction of the hard walled facilities for detainees to sleep in. Did that ever start?

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes, and it was burnt down.

Senator KIM CARR: I am waiting for the officers to answer. If I wanted an excuse for a presentation I would go to you, but I am now asking the officer here. Did that construction start?

Mr Skill : No, the construction of hard walled accommodation did not commence at the RPC 2, Senator.

Senator KIM CARR: That is right. Given that it did not burn down, contrary to what we have just been told, why was that contract stopped?

CHAIR: Point of order, Senator Reynolds?

Senator REYNOLDS: I am pretty robust, but I am not quite sure that the language Senator Carr just used to refer to me is really parliamentary or appropriate.

Senator KIM CARR: What language? You kept interjecting when the officers clearly contradicted you. What language did I use that you find so offensive?

Senator REYNOLDS: So it is okay for you to do it to me, Senator Carr, several times, but if I have got a point of clarification you can clarify but I cannot?

CHAIR: Is there a point of order? You are complaining about—

Senator REYNOLDS: We can go back to the record but he was very rude. But we will just move on.

Senator KIM CARR: Why did the minister halt that contract?

Mr Skill : The contract was not stopped.

Senator KIM CARR: Not stopped. Was there any compensation paid?

Mr Skill : Not to my knowledge.

Senator KIM CARR: Was the contract actually let?

Mr Skill : It was already let at the time, Senator—

Senator KIM CARR: So with the sleeping accommodation there was no construction work undertaken and then there was a decision made not to proceed with hard walled accommodation for RPC 2?

Mr Pezzullo : Senator, to avoid any confusion and to make the Hansard very clear, I might just ask the officers to identify which compound is being discussed. Otherwise we get into this confusion about what was burnt down and what was not burnt down.

Mr Skill : Senator, you are asking about RPC 2 and whether a contract that was let—

Senator KIM CARR: This is the sleeping accommodation for the detainees. That is the bit I am worried about—

Mr Skill : Right. So it is 2.

Senator KIM CARR: The contract was let for it; I think you have agreed with that—

Mr Skill : Yes—

Senator KIM CARR: And the contract was subsequently halted.

Mr Skill : No, Senator, I have not said that.

Senator KIM CARR: So why weren't the buildings put up?

Mr Skill : The buildings were repurposed.

Senator KIM CARR: Repurposed? What does 'repurposed' mean in this context?

Mr Skill : The majority of them were directed to rebuild the centre that had been burnt down.

Senator KIM CARR: So instead of hard walled they were soft walled. Is that what you mean by 'repurposed'?

Mr Skill : Senator, just for clarity for you, RPC 2 was the site of marquee construction following the emergency military tents that we used following the fire. The marquees are still in place and the accommodation blocks and the various ablution blocks, et cetera, that had been contracted prior to the disturbance in July 2013 were not in a position to be installed or on island at the time that they were necessary to accommodate the emergency requirement. My advice is that those blocks were repurposed for RPC 1. I would have to confirm for you what the configurations were.

Senator KIM CARR: If you would not mind, please—

Mr Pezzullo : We will take it on notice because I am not across some of the detail of the evidence that I am hearing, I am perfectly happy to concede. The contract or elements of it seem to have been discharged but for a different purpose—that is, to, if you like, backfill or infill some of the destroyed—

Senator KIM CARR: Could I have the date on which the minister repurposed the buildings?

Mr Skill : We will take that on notice.

Senator REYNOLDS: Can you also clarify which minister it was? At that time it would have been Minister Burke.

Senator KIM CARR: No, it was Morrison.

Senator REYNOLDS: No, at the time of the riot it was Minister Burke.

Senator KIM CARR: That is the point. I am talking about the actions taken by Minister Morrison.

Mr Pezzullo : There were a series of decisions taken in the October-November time frame. I think that is what you are referring to, Senator. We will come back on notice with that. From Mr Skill's evidence, the works that had originally been contracted—contracts let, as you have heard—had to be diverted to deal with the consequences of the July 2013 event. As a result of that repurposing—I know that is a bureaucratic term but that is the term that is known in the contract and in the other proceedings—the marquees were settled for 2. There is a nexus of sorts back to the events of July 2013.

Senator KIM CARR: You talk about vagueness of evidence; I am just wondering what the 'nexus of sorts' is.

Mr Pezzullo : You let a contract on the basis of your master plan, if you like, for what you are going to do with compounds 1, 2 and 3. If someone comes along and burns down 1, you have got to change tack. You have got to change your arrangements. It is not bottomless pit of funds. Some funds were put back to RPC 1 because the collective capability and amenities that are RPC 1—kitchens, the community centre and the like—are just as important as sleeping arrangements, so compromises had to be made. We will explain that, with a careful chronology, on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: We have heard today that departmental officials warned off staff on Nauru from making contact with the Human Rights Commission. Are you saying that did not happen?

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, who?

Senator KIM CARR: Departmental staff warned off contractors on Nauru from making submissions to or making contact with the human rights inquiry. Are you saying that did not happen?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not aware of any intimidation or any kind of suggestions of that sort.

Senator KIM CARR: Did the minister refer—

Mr Pezzullo : Which minister?

Senator KIM CARR: Your minister, Minister Morrison, refer a contractor to the Australian Federal Police for contacting the Human Rights Commission?

Mr Pezzullo : From my knowledge of it, the minister has not referred anyone to the Federal Police. But I do know that the department has referred a number of people to the Federal Police—absolutely.

Senator KIM CARR: So has the department referred anyone to the Federal Police who has contacted the Human Rights Commission?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not aware of referrals pertaining to the Human Rights Commission inquiry; I am certainly aware, and perhaps other officers here might be able to assist in this without necessarily breaching ongoing AFP investigations, that a number of service providers have been referred to the Australian Federal Police for unauthorised disclosure of information

Senator KIM CARR: Does an unauthorised disclosure include contacting the Human Rights Commission?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure to what extent Ms Dorrington, the head of our Integrity Security and Assurance Division, can answer that question. She may or may not be able to assist you.

Ms Dorrington : I am not aware of an AFP referral specifically in relation to the matter you have suggested.

Senator KIM CARR: Did any of the unauthorised disclosures have any involvement at all with the Human Rights Commission?

Mr Pezzullo : Not as far as I am aware.

Senator KIM CARR: We have had evidence to the contrary, so I would ask you to take that on notice and check the records.

Mr Pezzullo : We will check them, and possibly it is the case that the AFP may not be in a position to describe all the referrals that they have received, from whom they have received them—

Senator KIM CARR: No, I am asking in terms of the department. You should know who you have referred and for what reason.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes, indeed.

Senator KIM CARR: If you are telling me it had nothing to do with the Human Rights Commission, then I am all ears. Is that the proposition you are putting to me?

Mr Pezzullo : We have made a number of referrals, and Ms Dorrington has taken on notice what those referrals pertain to.

Senator KIM CARR: And there was no involvement with the minister's office?

Mr Pezzullo : Not as far as I am aware. It would be not usual in terms of practice for a minister to directly concern themselves with such a referral. They might well raise the matter with the department, they might well refer the matter to the department, but as far as I am concerned, in my knowledge of these matters, it is normally the department that makes such referrals. But we will check that.

Senator KIM CARR: There are clearly contracts in place regarding confidentiality. Does that contractual obligation—

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, there are provisions in those contracts that pertain to that.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, in the contracts. I am not trying to be cute here; I think I am clear in my meaning that there are provisions that are designed for people not to breach the confidences of information that they gather doing their job. Is that contractual obligation superseded by legal obligations for mandatory reporting of crimes?

Mr Pezzullo : Depending on the jurisdiction, because some jurisdictions have such schemes and others do not. There is no contract that in a particular jurisdiction can ever void mandatory reporting.

Senator KIM CARR: That is right. So with an unauthorised disclosure, where it involves sexual crimes, for instance, a contractor cannot be prosecuted for reporting—

Mr Pezzullo : Is the suggestion where there are mandatory reporting schemes in place?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : If you are asking in general, yes that is the case. Public servants, and I will have to check with Ms Dorrington as contracted workers might well be covered by this, do have an avenue of disclosing matters that are of serious concern, either under public interest disclosure or indeed if there is a statutory scheme for mandatory reporting, in this case of child sexual assault, of course they are obliged under that scheme to provide such reports to the competent reporting authority—that is to say, the police, normally.

Senator KIM CARR: Isn't that duty of care also extended to the department, where you are advised of a crime?

Mr Pezzullo : Absolutely. If we are advised of a crime, as we have made clear all through the afternoon and in our submission, we have a process for referring to the competent legal authority, which in this case is the Nauru police force. I said in my evidence, I think, at the very start, that we had made a number of such referrals.

Senator KIM CARR: It has been put to us by Ms Vibhakar that the department knew of sexual assault allegations in November of 2013, a year before you reported that matter in evidence to this committee.

Mr Pezzullo : I think it goes largely to the questions that Senator Hanson-Young asked at the very start about incident reports and what is on our file pertaining to serious sexual assault and the like. I have said that, going back to September of 2012, we have incident reports that are germane to that topic and that is why the number of referrals that we have made to the Nauru police force over the time since—what is that: 2½ years—amounts to some 50.

Senator KIM CARR: The chief magistrate, who was dismissed in Nauru and was deported, has indicated that all charges with regard to the riot, which we referred to in evidence just now, have been dropped by the Nauruan authorities. Have you been given an explanation for why that is the case?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not personally familiar with it. I know that the charges have been dismissed. I am not sure of—

Senator KIM CARR: Not dismissed; dropped.

Mr Pezzullo : Indeed. I do not know what the legal reasoning or the prosecutor's reasoning is but—

Senator KIM CARR: Do you have any explanation for it?

Mr Pezzullo : We could ask the Nauruan authorities and provide you with the information.

CHAIR: Mr Secretary, $75 million worth of taxpayer funded infrastructure was disassembled—

Mr Pezzullo : Destroyed, I think.

CHAIR: when charges are not proceeded and we do not ask the question?

Mr Pezzullo : We might well have asked the question, Chair, and officers might be able to assist. The point is: it might have been advice to us, for instance, that there is a lack of evidence in relation to the charged people. You might have a—

CHAIR: Can you answer the question then: you asked the question or your department asked the question—what was the answer? We would like to—

Mr Pezzullo : I said that I do not personally know and I am saying that perhaps other officers do. If we do not, we will take it on notice and come back to you.

CHAIR: Does anybody in the room know?

Mr Pezzullo : We will check.

Mrs Scholten : With regard to your question and the fires, there were a number of people charged in relation to the destruction—

CHAIR: We understand that from evidence we took this morning. The question is directly to the fact that they were not prosecuted. The case has been dropped. That is the question we want answered: did you ask why the—

Mrs Scholten : That question will need to be asked of the Nauruan justice system, because those charges were brought before the Nauruan courts.

CHAIR: So we just keep paying and ask the Nauruan justice system.

Mrs Scholten : The jurisdiction is the government of Nauru, the Republic of Nauru, and that is where charges were laid. So if charges were dropped, we will need to check with our partners, the government of Nauru, and ask for an explanation.

CHAIR: That is my question: did you ask your partners why they dropped the charges? Thank you—take it on notice.

Senator REYNOLDS: Could you also take on notice in relation to that that the minister at the time, Tony Burke, made comments that that behaviour was unacceptable. Clearly, if people have burnt down $75 million worth of Australian taxpayers' property—and I understand he said at the time that it would not be acceptable—

CHAIR: Is this a question, Senator Reynolds?

Senator REYNOLDS: He said at the time that they would not accept—

CHAIR: Is this a question?

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes, it is. If you would actually allow me to ask the question—

CHAIR: Well, ask the question.

Senator REYNOLDS: I am.

CHAIR: You haven't got the call. If you are going to interject, ask a quick question.

Senator REYNOLDS: If I could actually finish asking: just to put this on notice with that is that the timing indicated that people of that character would not be allowed either if they had been granted asylum or that they would not be—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No-one has been charged.

Senator REYNOLDS: It has got nothing to do with the Nauruan charges, Senator Hanson-Young. I am asking: the minister at the time said that there might be some adverse character considerations and that the people involved in the riots, or those charged, would be considered not suitable and either stripped of a visa or not given one. My question is: would you be able to take on notice—with the other question—what action, if any, was taken by the Australian authorities?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In the absence of any charges being laid.

Mr Pezzullo : In relation to the persons who had been charged?

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes.

Mrs Scholten : Can I also correct that not all charges were dropped by the government of Nauru. There were people who were charged, convicted and who served community service.

CHAIR: That is the information we are seeking.

Mrs Scholten : Yes.

CHAIR: On notice, can you provide it the committee.

Mrs Scholten : We will provide you with those details.

Senator KIM CARR: You have advised the committee today that there are weekly meetings with the Nauruan justice authorities. We have had advice today from Mr Peter Law, the former chief magistrate, that despite charges being initiated against 15 people in the first riot and 154 in the second all charges have been withdrawn. You are saying that is inaccurate, are you?

Mrs Scholten : That is inaccurate. We have a number of people who have been charged and have served community service orders in Nauru in relation to the riots.

Senator REYNOLDS: Is that detainees?

Mrs Scholten : That is transferees.

Senator KIM CARR: Further evidence that was provided is that the circumstances surrounding this incident involved general texts, a general broadcast text, being sent out on island that they should attend the centre and assist the police in putting down the riot. Where any charges laid against—

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, Senator—some persons sent a broadcast; I am just trying to get clear—

Senator KIM CARR: The government of Nauru sent a broadcast text to all telephone subscribers inviting them to attend the detention centre to assist the police put down the riot. And it has been advised to us today that civilians turned up with various instruments—shovels and other tools—to assist the police put down the riot.

Mr Pezzullo : I am not familiar with how the government authorities at that time dealt with the riot.

Senator KIM CARR: So, you are not familiar with this incident?

Mr Pezzullo : I am familiar with the incident, because I am—

Senator KIM CARR: Is it the case that outsiders—civilians—assisted the police by either entering the facilities or assaulting detainees in pursuit of quelling this riot?

Mr Pezzullo : As to the first part of your question—whether the government of Nauru issued any such broadcast—we will ask them, and if there is anything they wish to add to these proceedings we will take that on notice on their behalf.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. Now, the second part of the question is: is there any evidence that civilians entered the centre or in any way assaulted detainees in the course of suppression of the riot?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not personally aware of any such incidents occurring, but unless officers can deal with it at the table I am happy to ask the government of Nauru whether they have anything to add.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. And I take it you will be able to review the evidence that is being presented by—

Mr Pezzullo : Well, we will pass it on to the Ministry of Justice and the Nauru police force, knowing that they are not covered by these proceedings, but they might be willing to provide information if it is acceptable to them.

Senator KIM CARR: I want to come back to the evidence presented by Dr Young. I understood you to be saying, Mr Pezzullo, that medical practitioners may well make recommendations about moving detainees but the department takes the view that there may be alternative courses of action.

Mr Pezzullo : Including by increasing capacity on the island, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: In the incidents that Dr Young has referred to during the time in which Dr Young was actually on the island and/or undertaking his responsibilities, was that the basis on which departmental officials chose to seek alternatives to the recommendations that he made as the qualified psychiatrist?

Mr Pezzullo : It might well have been. I do not recall to mind the period that he was in attendance on the island, but it might well have been that the same outcome could have been achieved by, for instance, flying in support. I just do not know what the time period in question was.

Senator KIM CARR: Perhaps you could review his evidence, and I would like to know what the qualifications were for the departmental officials who chose to alter his recommendations.

Ms Briscoe : Perhaps I could just provide some response to part of the evidence I heard this morning. Dr Young seemed to be referring, from what I could gather, to occasions when health reports made a general statement along the lines that a detainee may benefit from a less-restrictive environment, for instance. It is my understanding that departmental officers did not ask for a different recommendation but asked for further information in terms of clinical observations and facts and details of treatment that would be appropriate for that, because we did not want that line to be inserted as a standard without detailed clinical observations, which we could then act on in providing our recommendations.

Senator KIM CARR: And that was assessed by appropriately qualified medical staff within the Department of Immigration, was it?

Ms Briscoe : Our staff were not suggesting an alternative recommendation or action; they were seeking further clinical observations and information.

Senator KIM CARR: Is it correct that the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 does not apply to Commonwealth officials or on Nauru?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure. I do not think my officers are not covered in terms of their own personal employment in the department.

Senator KIM CARR: Departmental officials.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes. It has general application. All of my officials, all around the world, wherever they are—

Senator KIM CARR: No matter where they are they are covered by Commonwealth—

Mr Pezzullo : The officials are.

Senator KIM CARR: Now, the act does not apply to the contractors.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry: I should, just for the sake of absolute abundance of caution and clarity, say that we have had evidence of course in another Senate committee pertaining to Operation Sovereign Borders, in relation to a particular carve-out for WHS purposes pertaining to on-water tactical maritime operations. Otherwise, my evidence potentially is inconsistent with what I have said in another committee. Pursuant to declarations made by the Chief of the Defence Force, certain maritime operations operate in such a way that the full application of that act is not applied as would otherwise be the situation.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. Is it the case that contractors—for Transfield and Wilson, for instance—on Nauru are not covered by that act because neither of them are self-insured through Comcare?

Mr Pezzullo : I would have to get some advice on the technical issues here. First of all, their operations on Nauru are covered by Nauruan domestic law, so I am not quite sure what—

Senator KIM CARR: That is right. So, there is no Australian workers comp—

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure, because the companies themselves, if they or their subsidiaries are incorporated here, might well have as part of employment conditions—

Senator KIM CARR: Could you take that on notice?

Mr Pezzullo : We will take that on notice, because I presume that they cover their workers in some way, shape or form, but we will have to ask them.

Senator KIM CARR: And is it equally true that the locally engaged non-Australian citizens are not covered by—

Mr Pezzullo : I would not jump to that conclusion, because—

Senator KIM CARR: Could you take that on notice?

Mr Pezzullo : We will, because it depends on the employment arrangement.

Senator REYNOLDS: I have a question, which I am happy to put on notice, but I would just like to get it on the record now, because I have to leave. I wanted to ask you a few questions in relation to the Moss review. First of all, I want to congratulate you and the department. In all the evidence we have had, people have been very complimentary about the process—the transparency and how Mr Moss went about it. And I think from the evidence we have had it is safe to say that people have been happy with the recommendations and that they are being implemented. The one issue that has come out today, again, that I have some concern on and that I would like you to take on notice, if I could, is that with a lot of the allegations the committee has received, some in confidence and some public, it is very difficult for us to work out which ones haves already been referred through your incident management process through the Moss review and are being reviewed and assessed by the AFP and the Nauruan police at the moment. I do not know whether it is advice, or whether it is possible to come up with some way that you can review even the things that are on the public record, because I think if there are people in Nauru who do need justice, who have not gone through this process yet, then it would be a travesty if it sits here in our Senate evidence and is not actioned in some way. I do not expect you to necessarily have an answer straightaway, but I think it is critical for us to know what to do.

Mr Pezzullo : It is clearly the case that any confidential submissions are with the committee and are subject to privilege. I do not know what is in those submissions, and unless they are somehow disclosed there is nothing we can do about them.

As I said earlier—I think in relation to Senator Hanson-Young's line of questioning—following the public submissions, public reports and media interviews—because a number of people have undertaken media interviews and the like—we have tried wherever possible, as Mrs Scholten said, to align what we have on our files, what we have referred, what we understand to be active in terms of the Nauruan police force's investigative case load, and what we think is on the public record. I think it is fair to say, as Mrs Scholten said earlier, that we believe there is an alignment but from an abundance of caution we are working very hard to ensure that two different events that we confuse in our mind to be one are not treated as one if in fact they are separate incidents, because what could happen subsequently is that it could emerge that we conflated two matters. One person has been the victim of an assault. That has been dealt with. Another person perhaps has not been. Two different perpetrators; one gets caught and the other one does not.

Unless Mrs Scholten wishes to add to her previous answer, I think the evidence earlier was, to the extent that we are aware of allegations, we are working between Mrs Scholten's area and our detention assurance team and our liaison with the Nauruan police to try to align everything. It is sometimes difficult because you get generalised descriptions of what happened and unless you have a detailed witness statement either from someone who observed the matter or indeed, regrettably, from the victim themselves you can never be 100 per cent sure that you are dealing with different or conflated incidents.

Senator REYNOLDS: The challenge for us is to work out from these which ones are anecdotal—you know, 'I have heard from, I have heard, I have heard'—to something that has actually been reported. If you could take that on notice and if there is anything else you can come back with that might assist our deliberations on these cases, and possibly even if there are things we can refer—I think there can be no reason the committee could not refer cases to the AFP or to you.

Mr Pezzullo : We are in the hands of the committee. Through you, Chair, the matters that would concern me are matters that have not come up in public evidence and are not contained in public submissions. It is really a question of how the committee wishes to deal with confidential submissions.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like to go back and finish this questioning in relation to the Wilson Security response in relation to the surveillance allegation when I was on the island in December 2013. I want to know whether there is anything specific in the government's contract with Transfield Services, who are the primary contract holder of course, regarding the reporting of out-of-scope activities.

Mr Pezzullo : Regarding their obligation to report them undertaking such activities?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : That is a question of fact, so I will ask Mr Skill.

Mr Skill : Senator, I will have to take that on notice because it goes to the detail within the contract. We can certainly get back to you very quickly on that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Would the department expect to be told if indeed one of your contractors were acting outside what they were contracted to do?

Mr Pezzullo : As a general principle, yes, because that goes to good contract management. It goes to whether invoices and payments are being appropriately made and whether abatement is required. Like any contractual arrangement in the private or public sector, if works are being delivered or things are being done that are outside of scope you want to know about it simply from the point of view of paying the invoice. The general answer to your proposition is yes, of course, for that reason.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you.

Mr Pezzullo : If I may say specifically, yes, I would expect that reporting on the monitoring of the activities or monitoring from a security point of view of the movement of an Australian senator should have been escalated to various senior levels of management.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This goes to my next questions—

Mr Pezzullo : I think some pretty clear counselling—it is hard to go back in time, but knowing as I do the leadership that was in place then, I think they would have very quickly jumped on any such suggestion had senior levels of the department been consulted about such a foolish action.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like to know when the department was first made aware that this surveillance had occurred and that staff were disciplined as a result of it.

Mr Pezzullo : I will need to take that on notice because I have now read the Wilson response, which, as you rightly say, does refer to a number of persons but there was a single person—I think he was described as a supervisor—who was dealt with. I will need to just trace back, because it might well have been that either that person—and look, I do not want to particularise it to the supervisor but, clearly, someone has taken it upon themselves to engage in this sort of behaviour. Either the supervisor or some of their subordinates might well have engaged with our people at junior levels. I do not want to give you a blanket answer as to when we first became aware of it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When did you first become aware of it, Mr Pezzullo?

Mr Pezzullo : When it became prominent in the media a few days ago.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. I would like you to take on notice when the department or any of your officers first became aware of it.

Mr Pezzullo : I will do that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And you have said that you believe that where there has been an incident such as this, involving a federal member of parliament, you would have expected to have been told.

Mr Pezzullo : More than that, Senator; I said I would have expected to have been consulted. And knowing the leadership that was in place—I think you said 13 December was when you went to the island?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : Knowing that person and their professionalism and their integrity, I think I can speak for them—it is a bit difficult in a Senate inquiry, but I think I can speak for them—to say that they would have quashed the idea instantly. It would have taken no more than a nanosecond to think about it. And if there was any serious concern about your personal safety and security, Senator, I can tell you right now my advice would be always be: 'Well, work it through with the senator. Let her know so that she is fully informed about the decisions that she is taking. And in any event, let us know what those security concerns are'—because it seems very far-fetched, if I may say.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When we started this inquiry, I did not think for a moment that we would be discussing the surveillance of my activities on the island.

Mr Pezzullo : That makes two of us, Senator.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: As a matter of record, I just want it to be very clear that nobody consulted me about this. Nobody asked whether I needed security when I was outside of the facility—I think that is very important. There has been some misrepresentation that somehow this was all inside the facility. As you would know, Mr Pezzullo, whenever somebody visits the facility, we get our own security briefing, we are escorted through the facility—there is an almost 40-minute security briefing before you go in. These allegations relate to me outside the facility on my own time. I would like to know whether the department has asked for any written explanation of this since it has been reported. Has anything been asked in the department?

Mr Pezzullo : Certainly, I know Mr Skill has been in discussions with Wilsons through Transfield, as he gave evidence before. I know because he briefed me on it. Whether it was in writing or by email or in what form—he can speak for himself.

Mr Skill : Senator, I have spoken to and corresponded with Transfield Services in relation to this matter. I have sought assurances from them that the standard dignitary protection measures and processes were put in place in anticipation for your visit. They have confirmed that that was the case, and that the incident for which they have disciplined an officer was an isolated occurrence—and, indeed, Wilsons were quite fast to pick up on the fact that it was actually identified at the shift changeover the following morning as being an inappropriate action, and action was taken very quickly by Wilsons.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was there an explanation as to why it was not raised with me?

Mr Skill : I did not ask that question, Senator, but I certainly can do.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It seems quite strange that somebody would be disciplined in this way, and yet nobody bothered to tell me.

Mr Skill : As the secretary has said, Senator, there are some questions around the escalation protocols of this matter, and who was told when. We have taken that on notice and we will provide you with that information.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Pezzullo, you are taking on notice the question as to when any of your officers were first made aware. I would also like to ask whether there was any written report in relation to this. If staff were disciplined—

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, a report internal to the department?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : We will take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. And I would also like to ask: if staff were disciplined, there must be some kind of documentation in relation to that.

Mr Pezzullo : It is quite probable. We will check this on the record. As Mr Skill just advised, internal company protocols in a sense kicked in, because at the change of shift, this matter was picked up—'why did you do that—that is not appropriate'. And it sounds like—on the evidence that I have heard, and from what I have been briefed about over the weekend—the company took action. What was then reported to the department, at what level, whether it was escalated, and why it was not discussed with you or subsequently advised to you—I do not know. We will just have to check people's recollections and check records.

CHAIR: Could we have the department's spend on Nauru for the budget years 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15—

Mr Pezzullo : I will see if Mr Skill can break that out.

CHAIR: I am happy to take it on notice.

Mr Pezzullo : We might take it on notice, because the funding is both administered and departmental, operating and capital; and sometimes in the budget papers—I think you made a comment earlier, Chair—it is generic to regional processing and sometimes it is specific as to particular sites.

CHAIR: If you could take that on notice. The other question is: since you have been the secretary, have you subjected contracted works in the definition of the public works area to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure how the PWC procedures work in this space. I might ask Mr Skill—

CHAIR: You mentioned the construction of Canstruct, which I think was $46 million.

Mr Pezzullo : There certainly was a sizeable procurement—

CHAIR: Was that referred to the Public Works Committee?

Mr Skill : The initial builds for the RPCs were provided with an exemption, I understand, from the PWC process due to the urgency associated with the works. We have also received further legal advice quite recently with regard to some of the additional works that we are doing on Nauru now that they can be considered to be aid to a foreign government, and therefore they are not captured by the PWC process. Notwithstanding that, however, we have been engaging with the PWC secretariat and the Department of Finance on an ongoing basis since December 2013—providing briefings to PWC about what is going on.

Senator KIM CARR: Aid for a foreign government—is that then the designation?

Mr Skill : I do not think that is the exact wording, but that is my understanding. It is treated as an aid project.

CHAIR: I will go back to my original question. As the secretary of the department, are you aware of the requirements of the public works act, and have you referred appropriate projects to the Public Works Committee?

Mr Pezzullo : The answer to your question is yes, I am certainly aware of how the relevant public works legislation works, both from this portfolio and from previous incarnations. In my time as secretary, since October 13 last year, we have made no referrals. Whether we have let contracts, or whether construction has been on foot over that time, most of the construction thus far has been largely completed, although there are some ongoing works. Whether they are within the scope of the PWC, we will take as part of the question on notice that Mr Skill has taken.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like to ask about the location of the facilities. Remembering that there are three, and you have to drive between them, as you and I both know, are you aware that the RPC3 facility land is owned by David Adeang and his family?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not personally aware of the ownership status of the land. I know physically where it is, but in terms of the land ownership, I would have to take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Does the Australian government pay to occupy that land? How does the contract work with the Nauru government?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure that we lease the land as such; I will check with Mr Skill. We certainly provide the services and provide the construction of the accommodation and the infrastructure.

Mr Skill : We do not lease the land. What occurs is that the government of Nauru leases the land off the varying land owners. As you may know, RPC3 has a large number of land owners who have an interest in the area. The government of Nauru leases that land, and we pay a per square metre amount to the government of Nauru to facilitate their leasing of that land.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Let me get it clear—we do not hold the lease, but we pay because we cover all costs in relation to—

Mr Skill : As I understand it, non-Nauruans are not allowed to own land on Nauru. The government of Nauru leases the land.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How much does that cost—the per square metre payment?

Mr Pezzullo : I suspect that we will need to take that on notice in terms of the detail.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It sounds like you have some figures, Mr Skill?

Mr Skill : I have a figure in mind, but I would have to check the recency of the figure. It was in the vicinity of $8.50 a square metre per annum.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do we know how big RPC3 is?

Mr Skill : I would have to confirm that on notice. I am sorry, I do not have that detail.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you please just double-check for us what the total cost of paying for that lease is. Is it department aware of a number of Nauruan members of parliament who have been given $140,000 each for community renovation projects in relation to regional processing on the island?

Mr Pezzullo : Given by whom?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: By the Nauruan government.

Mr Pezzullo : That is a matter for the Nauruan government.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you aware though that the Australian government is paying for this?

Mr Pezzullo : I am personally not aware of those payments. But unless Ms Briscoe or her officers can assist, we would have to take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is the department aware of a community renovation program that the Australian government is funding through the Nauruan government?

Mr Pezzullo : If we are paying for it, we would be aware of the program. So what is the question?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I want to know whether the department is aware of the program or is it something that we are being billed for unbeknown.

Ms Briscoe : It could be a matter of terminology that we have not understood. There is a range of projects going on on Nauru that we are providing support to. I am not sure if it is covered under that but it is not by that name that we know it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there anything that we are currently paying for that relates to the renovation of buildings on the island?

Ms Briscoe : There is a project with the Republic of Nauru Hospital to provide a surgical ward. That is an example of one. There are a couple of others.

Mr Pezzullo : To ensure both consistency and accuracy, we would also want to consult our colleagues in foreign affairs and trade because it is potentially the case that some of these programs or projects within programs are delivered through overseas development assistance. So what is labelled community renovation or remediation—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have here community renovation projects related to the regional processing centre.

Ms Briscoe : These are not related to the hospital example.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay, sorry, the regional processing of refugees and the resettlement of refugees. If your department is renovating the hospital, that is because we have got an interest in making sure the hospital is renovated, right?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, they will have access to that.

Mr Pezzullo : I think the best way to handle this is for us to consult with our colleagues and work out what we are funding directly connected to the RPC or associated works, what the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the aid budget is funding and just make sure that we do not have any crossed wires in terms of nomenclature or titles of projects.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: My understanding is that some of these renovation projects are going towards accommodation and renovation of particular housing, which is then rented out to departmental staff or contracted fly-in fly-out staff—that type of renovation of facilities.

Mr Pezzullo : If such a thing is happening, it is more likely that that would be funded through our program but I suspect we are going to have to take the detail on notice.

Mr Skill : It would depend on the arrangements that were being put in place. The department is working with the government of Nauru in relation to a range of projects. They are discreetly identified and we can provide those to you on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If we could have a list of projects, the names of the projects and the values of them, that would be great.

Mr Skill : As Ms Briscoe said, additional facilities at the hospital and so on goes to things like settlement sites for people that are found to be refugees. With regards to specifics like the renovation of an accommodation block, I am not aware of that. But as the secretary said, we will take that on notice and confirm whether that is something we are aware of or not.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like to go back to this question of reported incidents. You have said that 50 cases since the detention centre opened in 2012—

Mr Pezzullo : Fifty matters have been referred.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have been referred to police for investigation, five of which have been dealt with in some manner and 45 remain outstanding.

Mr Pezzullo : Or possibly have been closed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why did it take until October last year for the Australian government to launch the Moss review?

Mr Pezzullo : I will have to give you somewhat of a second-hand account because I was not the secretary until 13 October but I have certainly seen the chronology and the matters that were in the mind of the then secretary. For a period of time after he vacated the office, there was an acting secretary between Mr Bowles and myself of roughly a month or so—I would have to check the detail. There was a concerted period from mid-September to mid-October whereby written allegations were coming in, some directly to the minister, some directly to department, some to a combination of both. The then minister, Mr Morrison, and the then acting secretary, Mr Cormack, thought it prudent to ask me as the incoming secretary: how do you think it should be handled? You are going to be the secretary.

It was certainly the acting secretary's call. He was the person in office, but I must say with my very strong support and endorsement, to commission someone with Mr Moss's background, reputation and series of accomplishments to look into these allegations that had come forward in that concerted period. I do not have the date in my mind. It was from early to mid-September 2014 to early October 2014. You asked the question why was that not done before? The answer is: I do not know. I can ask some questions and speak to people but I just do not know. Perhaps the concentrated nature of the allegations or perhaps the fact that they all came in a short period of time might have focused people's minds; I just do not know.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In response to questions on notice, Wilson Security told us that seven of their staff have been dismissed as a result of child abuse, specifically child abuse. They say another five have been terminated for sexual assault. Those numbers seem extremely high to me. I want to know when the department was made aware. I assume you will have to take this on notice, Mr Pezzullo, when the department was made aware of each of those and what follow-up the department made. Obviously once somebody is dismissed, they are dismissed. But we are talking about seven individuals in relation to child abuse, five in relation to sexual assault. You can see why somebody would be arguing that there is a systematic problem.

Mr Pezzullo : I do not want to be cute here but the word 'systemic' means systems level. There are 2,200 IMAs or thereabouts—2,238 from memory from my statement. I do not know how many contractors. And I am in no way seeking to diminish any of these issues—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And I am saying they are just Wilson Security staff. You would imagine there must be others as well.

Mr Pezzullo : There is Transfield as the head contractor, there is Wilson and there are other providers like IHMS. We have heard in these proceedings the number of staff who have been employed could number perhaps not in the thousands but certainly in the hundreds. Whether this reflects a systemic issue, whether it is chronic or whether it is an acute set of episodes that has now been dissipated through stronger management attention, I do not offer an analytical opinion about. You have heard the department talk about strengthening protocols post Moss and you have heard, I think, some evidence from Transfield and Wilson to that effect. I know they are coming back to you on quite a number of matters that they have taken on notice.

In terms of the numbers that you have quoted, I cannot recall to mind the specific submission they have put to you that has those numbers. I am sure they are as you have described. How they align with the referrals that we are already aware of, because we made those referrals or required them to make those referrals, whether they are a subset of that number I quoted earlier or whether they pertain to new matters to Senator Reynolds's point, we are really going to have to segment. The committee itself is faced with this challenge of: you have got five here, seven there, the department has talked about 50 referrals and there have been five charges laid. How many unique events do these matters all relate to? Frankly, until you get down to actual names either of the witness or the victim—where you start to get into some very sensitive ground in terms of privacy and other considerations—and until you then align across all of those reporting lines: what the Nauruan police are dealing with, what we are dealing with, what Wilson is dealing with—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I accept that.

Mr Pezzullo : You asked a question when we were made aware of it. It really depends literally on each and every case, because in some cases the answer might be never. In other cases, yes, it was known at that time, late 13, early 14, mid-14and reported at that time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Please correct me. I am making an assumption but I would like to know whether it is correct. If a Wilson Security guard has been disciplined to a point of dismissal for child abuse, I imagine that is one of those big red flags of your department.

Mr Pezzullo : As secretary, I can absolutely give this assurance: since October last year, and I assume the expectation would have been the same prior to that, my expectation is that Wilson, either directly or through Transfield or by whatever means of communication they see fit to utilise, would tell us about it, tell us why, what they did with it and give you some assurance that not only had employment action taken been taken but relevant criminal and civil matters action were also under way as appropriate.

Senator KIM CARR: Given we are now at the time, there was evidence presented to us today by Kirsty Diallo who stated in her submission Minister Morrison was aware of an incident of child sexual abuse by a local staff member in November 2013.

I ask you on notice: on what date did the department notify the minister of this incident? When did the minister acknowledge receipt of this information? How did the minister respond? What action did he take? If the minister was made aware of the incident of child sexual abuse in 2013—and it comes back to the previous question I asked—why did the government claimed that they first became aware of allegations of sexual assault on Nauru about a year later? How do you account for the discrepancy?

Mr Pezzullo : Can I just clarify two parts there. The first part was what the department did in terms of advising against Mr Morrison. We will come back to you on notice with what we did and through the minister I will reach out to the former minister and see if there is anything he might wish to add. That is his decision, not mine.

Senator KIM CARR: There will be records of ministerial correspondence—

Mr Pezzullo : Of what we did.

Senator KIM CARR: or briefing papers or notes for file that go specifically to this matter.

Mr Pezzullo : Which will relate to our briefing of the then minister.

Senator KIM CARR: They will be matters held within the department.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: You do not require to go to a former minister as to what action you took.

Mr Pezzullo : This is why I asked for clarification because you read a number of sub parts. Were you asking about what he then did?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes I am asking what he did because there will be instructions to the department.

Mr Pezzullo : I am now clear on that. As to the second part, the so-called discrepancy, you will need to illuminate for me what contention have we made that you now feel is in contradiction? We have said what when?

Senator KIM CARR: The advice that we have is that department does not acknowledge that the sexual abuse reports occurred until a year later. You say that is not true?

Mr Pezzullo : On whose evidence? Not on the department's evidence. I said today that we have received reports from the initial creation of the centre in the mid- to latter part of 2012. Ms Briscoe talked about it.

Senator KIM CARR: In submission No. 31, Department of Immigration and Border Protection:

In the month of September 2014, a number of information reports were submitted by service providers …

This is your own submission on page 22 and uses the date of September 2014. We have got advice here that is November 2013.

Mr Pezzullo : I understand that. Are you reading that evidence? Because it goes to Senator Hanson-Young's question about why we felt the need to engage Mr Moss. Are you suggesting—I want to be very clear about this—that our submission seeks to deny that any reports were received before September 2014?

Senator KIM CARR: I am seeking to clarify why your submission says one date when we have had evidence that you—

Mr Pezzullo : Why are they mutually exclusive? Our submission—

Senator KIM CARR: Is that what you will present to me?

Mr Pezzullo : I will, because, as I have just said to Senator Hanson-Young, a concerted series of allegations—I think I talked about it in a compressed time frame, from September 2014 through to October 2014—was the basis for, genesis of and impetus behind the creation of the Moss review. I am not sure that that submission you have under either your right or left hand at all seeks to indicate that no reports—

Senator KIM CARR: Page 22 of your submission.

Mr Pezzullo : I am familiar with the submission. I just think that it is an erroneous reading of it to think that it says that no reports were ever received prior.

CHAIR: We have obviously run over time again, and we do apologise to the department both for today's tardiness and also for the previous hearing. But there is a lot of evidence to go through and a lot of submissions to examine. We thank you for your evidence today. Should there have been any questions taken on notice, we have set 15 June for the answers to those questions. If you need more time, obviously let the secretariat know. That concludes today's proceedings. I thank Hansard and Broadcasting for their assistance today.

Committee adjourned at 17:36