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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
28/09/2021

PRICE, Mr Cameron, General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer, Future Fund [by video link]

[14:30]

CHAIR: I welcome the representative from the Future Fund Management Agency. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses in giving evidence to Senate committees has been provided to you. I now invite you to make a short opening statement, and at the conclusion of your remarks I will invite members of committee to ask questions.

Mr Price : I'm happy not to make an opening statement. We made a contribution to the department's submission and our own submission, so I probably wouldn't be adding much.

CHAIR: That is good to know. I will give the call to Senator Ayres.

Senator AYRES: Welcome, Mr Price. I just want to get an understanding from the agency's perspective. Can you explain to me how the wage price index based bargaining policy applies to the Future Fund Management Agency now and whether that will be different if the bill is passed?

Mr Price : My understanding is that the Public Sector Workplace Relations Policy applies to us today and it would apply to us if the bill is passed, so my understanding is that we would continue to fall within the ambit of that policy.

Senator AYRES: The EM indicates that the new employment framework proposed in the bill would 'better align the framework with norms in the financial services industry'. Can you give me some examples of those norms?

Mr Price : Sure. We obviously compete for talent globally in the financial services and professional services industries. While things like the workplace relations policy—and also, as I think someone said in an earlier submission, the recent performance bonus guidelines—would continue to apply to us in relation to remuneration, what we're trying to do is to be as attractive as we possibly can to talent in our industry. Almost all, if not all, of our staff originally came from outside the APS. I'm not aware of any of our staff transferring within the APS. So what we're trying to do is provide a career path in our industry, and in our business in particular. So there are quite a few APS policies and processes that aren't really meaningful or useful to us. In fact, there can be a bit of friction, I suppose. For example, if we ever wanted to promote someone who's demonstrated that they're capable of doing a higher-level duty, we'd have to create a new role under the APS rules, then we would have to advertise it within the entire APS to see if there's anyone in the APS who wants to transfer into that role, and then we'd have to follow a process from there. That doesn't really provide transparency on a career path for people we're recruiting from the public sector, who don't really see themselves as joining the APS.

Senator AYRES: I understand. So you'll be freed of those requirements. So you can identify a position at a particular level and instead of wage increases through the bargaining framework you can and promote an employee through to a new level that, presumably, the chair approves. You are not restricted by the APS or the senior executive framework that the APS operates under, is that right?

Mr Price : If we were not in the APS—that is correct. For example, in the SES we are restricted—or SES positions, but that is not necessarily meaningful in our organisation because, as I say, we don't have people transferring within parts of the APS as part of their career plan here, and—

Senator AYRES: I see—

Mr Price : We want to provide a career plan, a career path and a career development for people, to make us attractive in our industry, to recruit and retain.

Senator AYRES: So performance bonuses, commissions—all that sort of stuff?

Mr Price : As I think someone mentioned earlier today, there are some recent government performance bonus guidelines, which we will obviously have to take into account in relation to the way we set our remuneration. Our remuneration has been explained in quite some detail in our annual report for many years, including the way that performance related pay operates in our industry and in our business.

Senator AYRES: Commissions?

Mr Price : I don't quite know what you mean. We don't receive commissions. I'm not quite sure what you mean by that.

Senator AYRES: I suppose there is a distinction between performance pay and payment by results.

Mr Price : It's all set out in our annual report. The way our performance related pay works is that in terms of the performance of the fund it's the fund as a whole. We have a single purpose to achieve our investment mandate for the entire fund. It is not just on a one-year return either. Because we're a long-term investor it's on a rolling three-year basis. We want to make sure that people are aligned with the overall performance of our role in the agency, not necessarily with some individual sector within the fund that did well.

Senator AYRES: How many direct APS staff and contractor staff are within the agency now?

Mr Price : As at today we would perhaps have 210 or so employees and we might have 70 or 80 contingent workers—something of that order.

Senator AYRES: I think the question on notice at additional estimates said around 30 per cent labour hire, so that is roughly right, isn't it?

Mr Price : I suppose that sounds about right.

Senator AYRES: So 70 or 80.

Mr Price : That's under review as well. It's a separate matter. The ASL cap for our agency was increased because of the increased size and complexity of our role.

Senator AYRES: Have you consulted with staff about the new arrangements?

Mr Price : They're fully aware of it. We are currently working through how we're going to actually appoint additional roles on an employee basis in our organisation. We want to do it thoughtfully and carefully.

Senator AYRES: The legislation will give you more latitude to do that, but you haven't set out exactly what the practical outcomes from staff are going to be yet?

Mr Price : No, not in detail. It's still a bill before parliament. We are obviously doing some initial planning behind the scenes. We don't have specific plans to present to our staff yet but obviously we would in due course.

Senator AYRES: The bill would allow for the fund to establish its own agency specific code of conduct. Which of the current APS code of conduct requirements conflict with the future needs of the Future Fund Management Agency? What are you proposing to alter?

Mr Price : First of all, our code of conduct is required to be consistent with the APS Code of Conduct, which we are currently subject to. So we'll obviously be taking all that into account when we put together our own code of conduct. I wouldn't be expecting our code of conduct to be materially different to the APS code of conduct, but there might be some minor changes that we make, or differences, just because of the different nature of our business.

Senator AYRES: It's spelt out in the bill that's it's going to be a different code. There must be a purpose for that. What is—

Mr Price : I think the purpose of it was to keep us within the general ambit of the APS Code of Conduct. We'd obviously need to come up with our own, because we wouldn't be part of the APS anymore. They'd just like us to make sure it's consistent with the existing APS Code of Conduct, so we'll take that into account when we put it together. We don't have specific objections to the APS Code of Conduct, of course, because we're subject to that today.

Senator AYRES: Yes. If the intention of the draft of the bill is consistency, that's very easy to achieve: just apply the code. But what the drafters have produced is the capacity to have a different code. I hear what you're saying—a consistent, but still different, code—but I just don't understand what the practical result of that would be.

Mr Price : It may not be material. We haven't been through that detailed process yet. It would have to be signed off by the chair and the board, but, as I mentioned, we're currently subject to it anyway, so we don't have any material objections to the code of conduct, because they're all noble things.

Senator AYRES: Would the FOI changes being sought reduce oversight of wages and salary packages inside the agency?

Mr Price : In terms of the FOI—because I heard there was a question earlier about our non-investment activities, or our core activities or something—actually, we run quite an operation here. We have, as I said, 210 staff, plus a number of contingent workers. We have to rent premises. We have quite a lot of IT equipment and procurement. It's not just purely investment activities; we have operational activities that would continue to be subject to FOI. In fact, we have received FOI requests in the past about our non-investment activities and disclosed against them.

Senator AYRES: So there's no change, in your view, in the requirement for the agency to disclose—we're talking about salaries and salary arrangements.

Mr Price : Our annual report, which responds to the PGPA regime, has to set out a detailed remuneration report, including our remuneration strategy, the key management personnel remuneration arrangements and other highly paid staff arrangements—it goes into quite some detail—and that wouldn't change.

Senator AYRES: But in terms of incoming requests for access to information, would the FOI changes set out in the bill alter the agency's requirement to disclose those arrangements? Would that be any different today than it might be should the bill be passed?

Mr Price : Do you mean if we got an FOI request in relation to our remuneration arrangements? I think that's a non-investment activity.

Senator AYRES: Okay. In your submission, in terms of the FOI partial exemption, I think you direct the committee to consider the administrative burden, but you also talk about the potential negative impact on investment outcomes, and I think that has been canvassed in some detail so far today. In terms of your investment activities, how many FOI applications has the agency received?

Mr Price : It depends on the year, but we might get between 10 and 20 a year. Of course, they vary in terms of the amount of work involved in processing them, but quite often it takes many, many hours to process them and properly consider them.

Senator AYRES: When you say 10 or 20, is that 10 or 20 for the agency in total or 10 or 20 that go to the investment related activities of the agency?

Mr Price : It would be 10 or 20 in total.

Senator AYRES: How many exemptions received last year and the year before that would now be the subject of the partial exemption?

Mr Price : Three-quarters roughly of the requests we receive would be about investment activities.

Senator AYRES: So seven to 15?

Mr Price : Yes.

Senator AYRES: Would you be able to provide on notice a schedule for the last four years of the FOI applications and how many in the agency's assessment would fall under the terms of the exemption?

Mr Price : You mean the numbers. Yes, we can do that.

Senator AYRES: It would certainly assist the committee.

Mr Price : I'd have to check these numbers, but I think in FY 21, for example, we had 13 requests and nine of them were investment related.

Senator AYRES: We had Industry Super Australia here earlier. They pointed out the distinction between the approach the government is taking to you and the approach the government is taking to unlisted asset valuations for industry superannuation. Just because a freedom of information request is investment related doesn't mean it goes to valuations, does it? Some of those might be from Senator McKim asking you about investment in a mining industry thing or, as he raised earlier, investment in activities that might engage with the military regime in Myanmar. Those don't go to the commercially sensitive valuation issues. Would you be able to tell me on notice over the last four years how many of those were asset valuation type issues, how many were investment related and how many applied generally to the activities of the agency? Does that make sense?

Mr Price : I think so. Senator McKim referred to Adani. We gave a valuation there. That was a publicly listed equity holding. Is that what you're talking about?

Senator AYRES: I'm most interested in that category of FOI application that would require the fund to disclose its valuation of an unlisted asset.

Mr Price : Of an unlisted asset, okay.

Senator AYRES: Then there's the second category that the FOI exemption goes to, which is anything investment related. I want to see those two because it seems to me that that is the issue that has engaged the superannuation industry. The government is trying to shield the Future Fund from the commercial implications of being forced to reveal unlisted [inaudible]. I think I just managed to mute myself. Did all of that come through?

Mr Price : I didn't hear those last few words.

Senator AYRES: That's the government's intention here. I want to know how many of those kinds of applications there were. Have you quantified the potential negative impact of being required to disclose?

Mr Price : It's very difficult to quantify the negative impact. I should point out that I think none of our peers in the public sector, state or federal, are subject to FOI, and certainly the private sector is not. So we are the only ones. As I think was mentioned, this has been talked about since at least 2009.

Senator AYRES: When you say 'talked about', do you mean the agency has been raising it with government since 2009?

Mr Price : The earliest I remember was our Future Fund chair at the time liaising with Minister Tanner in 2009 about the FOI and no doubt with the ministry as well, which ultimately led to the minister making that policy speech in 2009. So this has been an ongoing issue for a long time. To put that in context, we are required by our legislation to invest through investment managers. So given that we are now investing $250 billion around the world and given what our chair and our CEO have been saying publicly how about difficult forward-looking returns are, we have to be really, really good at being attractive to the best investment managers around the world. So when you ask, 'What is the cost of FOI?' if we are seen to be uncompetitive in terms of our FOI exposure with the best investment managers around the world it doesn't matter whether we have an argument with them about whether an exemption might or might not apply because FOI applies to anyone, including foreign people. They can ask us for information. In fact, we get foreigners asking for it. They can ask at any time, every single day. They can ask for any documents on any topic, which is very different to what others might be disclosing. So that doesn't look very attractive to investment managers around the world.

Senator AYRES: It is a serious risk, isn't it? So it's difficult to quantify the negative impact in terms of the portfolio that you hold. There are investment opportunities that you cannot engage with or that will not become known to you because investment managers will approach the Future Fund in a different kind of way because of the FOI risk; is that what you're saying?

Mr Price : It might be the known unknowns and we cannot say what it is. But we do know that we get access to information.

Senator AYRES: So the impact of this bill will be to shield you, appropriately, from that because it protects the return for the fund and the return for taxpayers. But, in the same year, the government is seeking to impose those disclosure requirements on the not-for-profit funds who invest workers' retirement incomes. That's incongruous to say the least, isn't it?

Mr Price : I can't comment on government policy about the superannuation sector. I can talk to you about FOI. With FOI, we get requests for information. I can give you an example. A foreign investment data service provider has sent several requests to us over the years asking for details of every single private markets fund we've invested in—how much commitment we made, how much was drawn down, what the internal rate of return on the investment was, what fees we paid on it to various specific investments and what our forward strategy for the next 12 months is in relation to private equity investment. It talks about every transaction we have done in the secondary market on secondary equity investments. They can ask those questions, and they do ask that regularly. Those sorts of things don't help us when we have to go and consult with our managers and ask: 'Under the FOI regime is that okay? Do you have any objections to that?' We of course know their answer. That affects us—

Senator AYRES: It really impedes your capacity to operate effectively.

Mr Price : But our exposure is far more extensive than just a historical portfolio holding. It's far more extensive than that.

Senator AYRES: It's about what you might or might not be able to do in the future; it's not just about—

Mr Price : Correct. Our strategies are our assessments of our investment managers—whether we want to sack an investment manager—and what our strategies are for the portfolio over the coming three years. All of those things are investment activities.

Senator AYRES: I don't have any further questions, Chair. Thank you, Mr Price.

Mr Price : Thank you.

CHAIR: Great. Senator McKim?

Senator McKIM: Thank you, Chair. Good afternoon, Mr Price. Can you please provide the committee with an example of the Future Fund having had to, under FOI laws, disclose highly sensitive commercial and proprietary material information?

Mr Price : The way I would answer that is, in my time and to my knowledge, we've managed to not do that yet. It's one of the reasons why it's hard to quantify the risk, but, touch wood, these things haven't actually been appealed yet to the Information Commissioner or a court. The exemptions in the legislation are actually general and uncertain, and we are potentially subject to FOI on thousands of different types of documents and correspondence, and so you cannot give a foreign investment manager the assurance that the exemptions that are currently in the act would always apply. You just cannot do that.

Senator McKIM: Okay. You've been in existence for 15 years. You haven't yet had to disclose highly sensitive commercial and proprietary material information. The problem is that there are some investment managers who are saying that they're worried that FOI laws might lead to the disclosure of that kind of information, even though it has never happened because the laws actually exempt you from having to disclose it. Is that right?

Mr Price : That is correct. We have had several recently, for example, where we've had to spend hours and hours and hours talking to a US manager, explaining why we have these exemptions, but we cannot guarantee it. These are managers who may be managing billions of dollars on our behalf, and they—sometimes we would like to see underlying information underneath these private markets funds to actually understand the investment risks that we have in our portfolio. Some managers are actually turning it off and not letting us see the underlying information because of the spectre of FOI.

Senator McKIM: Even though there's an exemption in section 47 of the FOI Act that exempts information that has a commercial value that would be diminished if the information were disclosed? It's a pretty watertight exemption, Mr Price.

Mr Price : Certainly, Senator McKim, that's the argument that we raise on those calls, but, if you can picture talking to an American investment manager, it's a different conversation.

Senator McKIM: Alright, let's talk about that for a minute. You're Australia's sovereign wealth fund. I think you said you've got about $250 billion worth of public money—I want to stress that, public money—invested around the world, and you're letting the paranoia of a handful of investment managers dictate what's in Commonwealth law. Is that right?

Mr Price : No, they don't dictate what's in Commonwealth law.

Senator McKIM: In fact they are, aren't they, because that's the only argument you are mounting for this change.

Mr Price : No.

Senator McKIM: No?

Mr Price : No, and I think the FOI—

Senator McKIM: Sorry, is that not an argument you're mounting for this change, Mr Price? Have I misunderstood you?

Mr Price : It isn't a fact that we're raising in terms of why this is appropriate. Every other state based fund that's a peer of ours has this full exemption in almost the same terms, if not broader, and all of the commercial entities in the Commonwealth sphere also have a very general exemption from these terms. It seems to be a consistent approach that is taken to commercial entities.

Senator McKIM: Well commercial entities are not public sovereign wealth funds, Mr Price, are they?

Mr Price : Not all of them, but there are some state based sovereign funds who have full exemptions as well.

Senator McKIM: Understood, but they're not commercial activities; they are sovereign wealth funds. There is a difference between a sovereign wealth fund and a commercial entity, is there not?

Mr Price : Was that a question?

Senator McKIM: No, that's okay; take it as a comment. You have mounted, as I understand, two arguments. One is the argument in relation to investment managers and the other one is a workload argument, which I'll come to in a minute. In regards to investment managers, why don't you, the sovereign wealth fund that has $250 billion of Australian public money invested around the world, simply just lay out your expectation of how investment managers need to behave and sack the ones who fail to comply? Or are you having trouble finding investment managers who want a slice of $250 billion worth of public Australian money? I wouldn't imagine that there's a shortage of them out there. Why don't you just lay out your expectations and demand that they accede to them?

Mr Price : History has shown that, despites this, we have actually performed pretty well over the last 15 years. We have some good relationships with investment managers and we do engage with them on our expectations. What we are trying to do is to continuously improve our ability to do that, because there's a number of other disclosure and transparency mechanisms that apply to us, in any event.

Senator McKIM: Again, I'm not sure that you have responded to my question. My question is: why don't you simply lay out your expectations of investment managers and then disengage with those who won't meet them?

Mr Price : What expectation are you suggesting that we lay out?

Senator McKIM: The expectation that they fully disclose to you the information that you ask of them, and that they stop coming up with pathetic excuses like, 'We're not going to disclose it because it might be discoverable under FOI.'

Mr Price : We have to weigh that up. Given that our investment mandate is to achieve a very challenging long-term investment return, weigh that up amongst a number of factors as to which investment managers we choose around the world.

Senator McKIM: Exactly what kind of information are fund managers worried that you might have to disclose under FOI laws that is highly sensitive, commercial and proprietary material information that is not covered by the current section 47 exemption? Give me a specific example of the kind of information that fund managers or investment managers are worried about.

Mr Price : You are asking a very narrow question. I think the issue is that, as I said earlier, there are potentially thousands of different documents that could be FOIed. You can't give a single answer to that question in the context of section 47. Even if section 47 did apply, it might only apply to parts of documents, not all of documents. There might be redactions. You can't say what parts will or won't be redacted. That is my point. You can't provide complete certainty in this area, and that is the risk that we are talking about.

Senator McKIM: But I am just asking for an example of a specific type of information that would be outside the current exemption but caught within the provisions of this bill for exemption. What kind of information could we possibly be talking about here, Mr Price?

Mr Price : The thing that they worry most about is their own investment strategies in relation to how they invest their funds or their portfolios and individual, say, investee entities that sit underneath that—what their financial performance might be, what their plans might be and what funding rounds they are doing.

Senator McKIM: That would be information that has a commercial value that could reasonably be expected to be diminished if the information were disclosed. That would clearly be caught under section 47 of the current act, would it not?

Mr Price : It might be in many cases, but not necessarily all. So this is my point—it is the risk.

Senator McKIM: I have given you a chance to provide the committee with a specific type of information, and I'm disappointed that you couldn't. In any event, we will go to the administrative burden now. You say in your submission that the current requirements of the FOI Act are administratively burdensome for a relatively small agency. In your answers to Senator Ayres you said that you get between 10 and 20 requests under the FOI Act a year and about three quarters of those are in regards to investment activities—so somewhere between seven and 15, on the evidence you have provided today. How many more resources would you need to be able to process between seven and 15 FOI Act requests per year?

Mr Price : I haven't done that analysis, but it would be several, I suppose. It's hundreds of hours a year, roughly. I think we had a few hundred hours of work which ultimately added no value whatsoever to the Australian public, because many of the ones that I just talked about were foreign data service providers, which were rejected, but we had to go through a detailed process to process the application.

Senator McKIM: So you don't think that the disclosure of the information that the Future Fund has invested Australian public money into Adani Ports, which has a direct relationship to the Myanmar military, is in the public interest?

Mr Price : I didn't refer to that example.

Senator McKIM: That was dragged out of you last year through an FOI request, Mr Price, and you just gave evidence to the committee that there was no public benefit.

Mr Price : No, I didn't refer to that example.

Senator McKIM: No, you gave a general comment that processing your FOI act applications was of no public benefit. I'm asking you: does that mean you think—

Mr Price : No. With respect, I was referring to the foreign data service provider. I think I specifically said that.

Senator McKIM: Was the fact that the Future Fund had invested millions of dollars of Australian taxpayers' money in Adani Ports proactively disclosed anywhere by the Future Fund, or did we find out through your response to an FOI Act request?

Mr Price : To my knowledge, that was disclosed under an FOI request.

Senator McKIM: Yes. In other words it wasn't proactively published anywhere, was it?

Mr Price : Not that specific holding.

Senator McKIM: No. Do you think there is a public interest in that information being made public?

Mr Price : I think that's a policy matter. Obviously, when we processed that specific request, a decision was made that it wasn't considered commercially sensitive information, so we published it.

Senator McKIM: That's right. You've just said that you think you dedicate hundreds of hours per year—I think that was your evidence—to responding to FOI requests, and your submission says that the current requirements of the act are administratively burdensome. Hundreds of hours per year is maybe two or three months worth of one person, so it's 0.5 FTE or something like that—would that be about right?

Mr Price : It might be. I haven't worked that out. But I think it's fair to say that the administrative side of it is not the core proposition of the exemption.

Senator McKIM: No, but nevertheless you've made a claim in your submission that the current requirements of the act are administratively burdensome for a small agency. I'm challenging you about that. I'm saying that I don't regard 0.5 FTE or less, which is what a few hundred hours a year would mean, as that. I can't see how you can, with a straight face, claim that that's administratively burdensome for an agency that has $250 billion worth of public funds invested. How do you make that claim?

Mr Price : Because you have to spend a number of hours on a number of applications which ultimately get rejected, as they should be, because they fall within an exemption.

Senator McKIM: Even though you could deal with it by putting on a half-time person, 0.5 FTE or less, for a few hundred hours a year? It's hardly administratively burdensome, is it? You can take that as a comment. Do you think these committee hearings are administratively burdensome?

Mr Price : No, I think they're a necessary part of what we do

Senator McKIM: That's right.

Mr Price : I think it's part of the accountability and transparency regime that we're subject to.

Senator McKIM: Excellent. I couldn't agree more. So, if these committees are a necessary part of the transparency and accountability regime, why isn't the agency dedicating less than half a full-time employee to meeting your FOI Act requirements? Why isn't that a necessary part of the transparency and accountability provisions that you're subject to as a public agency?

Mr Price : As I mentioned, the administrative burden side of it is not a core part of the proposition for the exemption.

CHAIR: Senator McKim, you've been going for about 15 minutes. We were due to wrap up at three o'clock, so, if we can try and get the rest of your questions asked as quickly as possible, that would be great.

Senator McKIM: Thanks, Chair. I'm nearly done. Mr Price, it seems from the outside that the Future Fund wants the privilege of managing large amounts of public money—$250 billion worth of public money—but it's not so keen on the flip side of the coin, which is the responsibilities that you have to be part of an accountability and transparency framework. Would that be a fair comment, do you think?

Mr Price : No, I do not think that is a fair comment. We have annual reports, which include detailed information on our portfolio and our portfolio strategy. We have a detailed statement of investment policies on our website, including our ESG policy, which you'll be aware of. We have the corporate plan. We have to publish a performance statement. We have to appear at Senate estimates. We have parliamentary questions on notice. A minister can ask us to provide any information he wishes. We publish our top hundred stocks. We published a Year in review just recently, and we've been doing that for several years. We publish our ASX voting record. We publish position papers from time to time, including one recently about the new investment order.

Senator McKIM: But you didn't publish that you'd invested millions of dollars of public funds into the Adani corporation last year. That had to be dragged out of the under an FOI request. You confirmed that previously in your evidence.

Mr Price : I am just commenting on all the other accountability and transparency we do, which I think is quite extensive.

Senator McKIM: This act would constitute your transparency, would it not?

Mr Price : That's a matter of opinion, I think.

Senator McKIM: I don't think it is, with respect. At the moment, you've had dragged out of you that you'd invested millions of public dollars into Adani Ports, and we've just heard evidence from the department that, if this bill passes, information relating to how much you have invested in particular companies would be exempt from the FOI Act. It is a diminution of your transparency obligations, is it not?

Mr Price : It is true that for our investment activities would be exempt from FOI in that particular case. That is correct.

Senator McKIM: Is it the fund's understanding, or is it your understanding in policy terms that investment activities would include the amounts of money that you had invested in particular companies or particular sectors of the economy?

Mr Price : As I think I heard the Department of Finance say, technically that would be correct, but that is not to say that we aren't required to publish individual things like that voluntarily or under some other requirement. I think I'm talking more generally about FOI and the breadth of it as it applies to us.

Senator McKIM: Nevertheless, you didn't voluntarily disclose that you had investments in Adani ports, as you've previously confirmed. Can I also confirm that there have been a range of other FOI requests that you've responded to, under which you revealed other investments that you have in companies like Chevron, which also have ties with the Myanmar military, and which you had also not voluntarily disclosed until you responded to those FOI requests.

Mr Price : There are some other FOI request we've responded to on specific listed-company holdings, that is correct. They're on our FOI disclosure log.

Senator McKIM: That's right. They include, for example, Chevron, PTT Public Company Ltd, GAIL Ltd, ONGC Ltd—those last two are Indian companies—which are in joint ventures with and make revenue payments to the Myanmar military controlled Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. That's correct, isn't it?

Mr Price : I haven't got that in front of me.

Senator McKIM: All right. FOI found that more than $82 million of Australian public money is invested in those companies, which in turn are invested in the human-rights-abusing Myanmar military. That's what those FOI requests showed, isn't it?

Mr Price : I don't have it in front of me. I can't comment on that.

Senator McKIM: That's the kind of information, though, that you've agreed would, if this legislation was passed, be exempt from disclosure under the FOI act.

Mr Price : Under the FOI regime, yes.

Senator McKIM: How does the fund square this bill with its investment mandate, which says that the fund must act in a way that is unlikely to cause any diminution of the Australian government's reputation in Australian and international financial markets?

If people aren't aware that you're investing in particular companies, how are we, the Australian public, to know whether the Future Fund is in fact causing any diminution of the Australian government's reputation?

Mr Price : I pointed out earlier all the other forms of accountability, transparency and disclosure which are set by the government, and the investment mandate you just referred to is set by the government. If the government thought that there was any other information they would like us to disclose, consistent with that, then we would obviously disclose what they asked.

Senator McKIM: So I just trust the government that it'll all be fine?

Mr Price : Well, they issued the investment mandate.

Senator McKIM: All right. Thanks, Chair, and thanks, Mr Price.

CHAIR: Unless there are other senators seeking the call for this witness—I don't think there are—I will finish up. Thank you very much to the representatives from the Future Fund for coming along today. The committee has set Friday 1 October as the due date for answers to questions taken on notice.

That concludes today's hearing. On behalf of the committee, I'd also like to thank all of those who made submissions to the enquiry and those who came along today to provide their testimony and answer our questions. I'd also like to thank broadcasting, Hansard and the secretariat for their assistance today. The committee now stands adjourned. Thanks very much, all.

Committee adjourned at 15:16