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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
12/10/2015

NICHOLSON, Ms Donna-Jean, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office for Women, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

SLOAN, Mr Troy, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

[11:13]

CHAIR: Welcome. I remind senators that the Senate resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or of a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about how and when policies were adopted.

Officers of the department 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. It should be accompanied by a statement setting out the basis for the claim. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses in giving evidence at Senate committees has been provided to you. I will now invite you to make a short opening statement, should you wish to do so. At the conclusion of any remarks you make, I will invite members of the committee to ask questions.

Mr Sloan : We do not have an opening statement.

CHAIR: We will now go to questions.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you very much for being here. Whilst you cannot comment on matters of policy, you can comment on matters of substance and fact in terms of current policy and what is being proposed.

Mr Sloan : Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: That is a good opening position. Is it the position of the department that this bill actually imposes quotas on the number of women on government boards? Does it actually impose a quota per se?

Mr Sloan : I am sorry, I am not quite sure what you mean by that.

Senator XENOPHON: We heard evidence—you may not have heard the evidence from the Institute of Public Affairs. Dr Novak said that this was effectively a quota, or a transition to a quota system, for mandating 40 per cent of government boards to comprise women, consistent with the government's policy. Is that the view of or is it the analysis that has been done by either of you or by the department?

CHAIR: I want to go back to this, Senator Xenophon. Opinions of policy are off limits.

Senator XENOPHON: It is not an opinion of policy. It is a question of statutory interpretation.

CHAIR: No, you are asking the officers to give an opinion about a policy. It is a very fine line, I admit. But what I would suggest is that perhaps you could rephrase your question specifically to not be about asking the officers' opinion but to be about the legislation or the bill more specifically.

Senator XENOPHON: So I am not to ask about the bill—

CHAIR: You cannot ask for an opinion of the officers about the policy. That is, indeed, what you are doing.

Senator XENOPHON: I will take on board what you have said and I will rephrase my question.

CHAIR: That is all I ask you to do.

Senator XENOPHON: That is fine. I think Senator Smith has some issues.

Senator SMITH: I think it is a bit unfair to ask the witnesses to comment on something that they do not have accurately in front of them or that they have not heard for themselves. I do not doubt that your paraphrasing of the situation is not accurate. I am just saying it is a bit unfair to ask the witnesses to make a comment on someone's evidence if they do not actually have the transcript in front of them.

CHAIR: I take that point. Could you just bear that in mind. I am sure the officers are familiar with it and I know you prefaced your question by trying to establish what I established in my opening remarks—

Senator XENOPHON: My preface—

CHAIR: but your preface was not entirely—

Senator XENOPHON: How about I preface my preface? That might—

CHAIR: What about just getting on with it?

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you, Chair. He does not hate me that much really!

CHAIR: I do not hate you at all, Senator Xenophon.

Senator XENOPHON: That is good. The feeling is mutual. In terms of how the current government policy is implemented, there is a government policy that it is desirable to have 40 per cent of women on government boards.

Mr Sloan : The policy is 40-40-20—that is, 40 per cent male, 40 per cent female and 20 per cent either.

Senator SMITH: 'Unallocated', I think, is the word.

Senator XENOPHON: 'Unallocated'—Senator Smith is quite right. Could we go to the Gender balance on Australian government boards report 2014-15 and, in particular, the portfolio results at page 3. The Department of Human Services has 66.7 per cent of women on Department of Human Services boards, so they make up the majority. But if you look more closely, there is only one board with only six positions, so there are four out of six; therefore, the 66.7 per cent figure. The Department of Agriculture has 18 boards and 119 positions with 40 women. That is 33.6 per cent. The final reference I will make is to the Department of Veterans' Affairs with eight boards and 76 positions with 18 women. That is 23.7 per cent of women in the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Let us go to the Department of Veterans' Affairs in the first instance. This is a figure that is being reported currently, is that correct? It has to be reported.

Mr Sloan : Correct.

Senator XENOPHON: I am not asking you for the policy involved, but what work would be involved to seek an explanation as is proposed in this bill to establish why that 40 per cent figure has not been reached in particular in relation to, say, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, which has less than a quarter of the 76 board positions filled by women? I am not asking for your opinion on it. There is already a process of compiling statistical information. I am not asking whether you think it is a good or bad thing, I am just trying to establish that what is being requested is that there must be some further detail about trying to establish why that 40 per cent target, which is a bipartisan target of the government and the opposition, has not been achieved.

Mr Sloan : Just to be clear, we are talking about the reason why a portfolio may not be meeting its target?

Senator XENOPHON: Yes. The bill sets out some processes to ask for an explanation. It provides for a reason given of 'extraordinary circumstances' or where it is 'not reasonably practicable', but it does actually say that it needs details, essentially, of why that 40 per cent target has not been reached.

Mr Sloan : Certainly my understanding, and I will ask Ms Nicholson to add to this if she feels it is necessary, is that at this point in time there is no requirement for that to occur—so that would be new.

Senator XENOPHON: Has the department, has your division, considered what would be required from a resources point of view from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to request that additional information?

Mr Sloan : No.

Senator XENOPHON: Could it possibly be as simple as sending a letter to them saying in the event that you are below 40 per cent can you tell us why, following the words of the legislation?

Mr Sloan : I would not want to speculate on internal procedures if there is a change in policy.

Senator XENOPHON: I am just asking about resources, though. Are you not in a position to comment about whether any additional resources will be required—what steps will be required, what the processes may or may not be?

CHAIR: It may not be fair to ask officers about hypothetical circumstances.

Senator XENOPHON: Insofar as the government's position is to oppose this on the basis that it means more red tape or more resources, it would be good to hear from the public servants involved as to what in practical terms would be required.

CHAIR: As I said, I do not think it is fair to ask the officers to speculate. Perhaps you could rephrase your question.

Senator XENOPHON: Currently what is required in obtaining the details required to prepare the report that is published on an annual basis?

Ms Nicholson : The department prepares the report annually. We write to portfolios to seek advice on where they are at that point in time, at 30 June, and we run a quality assurance process to confirm that the information that we have provided is true and accurate at that point in time.

Senator XENOPHON: So data is being collected now for the purpose of this annual report?

Ms Nicholson : To present this information, yes data is collected.

Senator GALLAGHER: So developing this report is essentially a letterbox process—you seek information, that information comes back and you report the information. There is not any more dialogue that goes on between the agencies?

Mr Sloan : As Ms Nicholson said, there is quality checking—

Senator GALLAGHER: That is on factual things. If Vets' Affairs says, for example, they are 23 per cent, or whatever they are—I presume that is linked a little bit to the domination of male veterans being appointed; that is one potential explanation—if they come back to you and say it is 23.7, that is where it ends?

Mr Sloan : I will let Ms Nicholson add to this if she wishes, but what I will say is: I would not want anyone taking the impression that it is not resource intensive already. The Office for Women invest a lot of effort in quality assuring the numbers we are providing and in going back and checking with departments to ensure that the report is of a high enough quality to be released. So I would not want to downplay the investment of resources in that process.

Senator GALLAGHER: Sorry, I was not trying to cast any cloud over the work that goes into it. It is more the role that the Office for Women have. So, when someone comes back and says, 'Well, we have missed the target by 17 per cent,' there is no role for the Office for Women to say: 'Well, that is not really tracking very well. Do you have any information for us?' You do not collect that kind of information?

Ms Nicholson : The Office for Women do play a coordination role, and we do support portfolios in their work to meet the gender diversity target.

Mr Sloan : This is a backward-looking document. It is important, in this context, to realise—and you will see this in the cabinet handbook—that gender balance is one of the things that ministers must consider when making appointments. It is a backward-looking document, and, when we are talking about giving the 40-40-20 target, the time of the appointments is when the rubber hits the road—for lack of a better set of words.

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Sloan and Ms Nicholson, is the report accurate? How many portfolios actually exceeded the target? Is it eight or nine? It says that eight portfolios did not meet the target. Isn't it in fact nine? I am just trying to understand whether I have misread it. You do not count the number of men in Human Services as not meeting the 40 per cent target, do you? I am just trying to see whether, in the context of the policy, it accurately reflects what is required under the bipartisan policy position. Have I misread it?

Mr Sloan : Yes, I think I understand where you are coming from. If you read page 1, the first paragraph says:

… reports against the Government's commitment of women holding 40 per cent …

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

Mr Sloan : So there are 10 boards where women hold at least 40 per cent of board positions.

Senator XENOPHON: So you are saying that the report accurately reflects what the position is in terms of the reporting requirement?

Mr Sloan : Yes: what is in the report as set out on that first page.

Senator XENOPHON: Yes. But, in the context of the 40-40-20 target, is what you are required to report just those boards that have a minimum of 40 per cent of women or is it to reflect the 40-40-20? The Department of Human Services does not comply with that 40-40-20 target.

Mr Sloan : You are correct that Human Services does not comply with that target, but—in the context of what this report says it does, in the front of page 1—it meets the target of at least 40 per cent of women on boards.

Senator XENOPHON: But, if I can go to the cover of the report, it is the Gender Balance on Australian Government Boards Report. The gender balance target is not being met in half of the boards reported, is that right? In other words, the 40-40-20 is part of it; so that there is a minimum of 40 per cent women, a minimum 40 per cent men and 20 per cent unallocated, as Senator Smith eloquently put it. Can you see my point?

Mr Sloan : I can see your point. Without having gone back through the report, I can see where you are coming from.

But what I would say, again, is it is consistent with what the report says it does. I take your point, Senator.

Senator XENOPHON: There is an argument that it is not consistent with the policy, that if you have the Department of Human Services with a very small base of two-thirds women you do not fulfil the target of having, at least, 40 per cent men.

Mr Sloan : Correct. I am agreeing with that.

Senator XENOPHON: A number of the submissions have made comment on the overall percentage of women on government boards falling from 41.7 per cent, as at 30 June 2013, to 39.7 per cent, as at 30 June 2014. What is the current percentage?

Ms Nicholson : At the end of this last period, it is 39.1 per cent.

Senator XENOPHON: So we have an incremental sliding down. Can either of you comment as to whether there are any particular reasons for this decrease, in the representation of women, on government boards?

Mr Sloan : Consistent with the government's smaller-government agenda, there has been a significant decrease in the number of boards and board positions and that has, in my understanding, contributed somewhat to that decline.

Senator XENOPHON: That would explain it, rather than any other policy position; is that what you are saying?

Mr Sloan : The policy position has stayed the same.

Senator XENOPHON: I heard what the chair suggested to me earlier but are there any steps being taken, in the context of the current government policy—that bipartisan policy of the 40-40-20 approach—to address the number of women being appointed to boards, to ensure that the representation of women can continuously meet the 40 per cent target? In other words, it has slipped below 40 per cent, overall. Is it your brief to look at the overall number of board positions or to look at board positions within a particular agency or department?

Mr Sloan : The appointments reported in this report are the responsibility of the ministers in question.

CHAIR: Senator Xenophon, Senator Waters has informed me she needs to attend to something in the chamber, so we might go to Senator Waters and we can come back to you.

Senator WATERS: Thank you, Chair and thank you, Senator Xenophon. I have to head off, shortly, before we finish so my apologies for butting in. Just to pick up on some of those previous questions, can you clarify for me, again, what analysis has been done to ascertain why the proportion of women on boards has fallen in the past two years, including the proportion of women as chairs and deputy chairs?

Ms Nicholson : In the report that was published last week you may note the information on new appointments as well, that over that period the new appointments have improved the performance by two per cent, which is a step forward. In addition to that we looked carefully at issues around chair and deputy roles but, as we have worked closely with our portfolios, the portfolios take forward their specialised processes around the appointments, in terms of ensuring gender balance.

Senator WATERS: To clarify, the Office for Women does not, effectively, do anything if the 40 per cent target is not met. It is the responsibility of each of the departments and ministers to look at their own processes. Is that what you are saying?

Ms Nicholson : We are involved in the process, but the ultimate responsibility is for the portfolios to meet the government's gender-diversity target.

Senator WATERS: In what manner are they seeking to meet that target? Are there any policy approaches that the departments are taking?

Mr Sloan : You would have to ask individual departments and ministers. As I said earlier, when appointments are made, ministers have to take account of gender balance and we brief on appointments. I think that is all I can go to on that.

Senator GALLAGHER: Appointments go to cabinet through the relevant minister, but is there a check-off by the Office for Women in that process? Is it mandatory, if you are appointing people, to consult with the Office for Women prior to going to cabinet?

Mr Sloan : As with all briefing that is provided by PM&C, it is a whole-of-department brief. It is necessary for the briefing officers to consult all relevant areas.

Senator GALLAGHER: On every appointment?

Mr Sloan : On all advice that goes up.

Senator WATERS: Forgive me—I have less experience with the public service than some others. Are you saying that the Office for Women does have an input into that selection process? Can you just walk me through the process of how somebody gets appointed to a board? Who has input?

Mr Sloan : I cannot comment on processes outside of PM&C—how ministers and departments come to their nominations. I cannot speak on that. What I can say is that the usual practice is that the ministers will write, as per the handbook, seeking agreement.

Senator WATERS: Seeking agreement from whom?

Mr Sloan : They will write to the Prime Minister asking that the person they are nominating be appointed to the board. There is then a decision about whether it is significant enough to go to cabinet or if it is just to be agreed to. As I said, standard practice in PM&C is that briefing is provided to the Prime Minister. In that briefing, the area responsible will consult all relevant areas.

Senator WATERS: Including the Office for Women?

Mr Sloan : Correct. The Office for Women is part of PM&C.

Senator WATERS: Given that we only have one day of hearings and we do not have the benefit of having all the other departments appear before us, although estimates is coming up next week, would it be an unfair ask for you to collate for us the practices that other departments go through—how they are seeking to meet that 40 per cent target?

CHAIR: I do not think it is appropriate to ask these officers to produce the processes that other departments undergo. They can only respond about what PM&C do, which they have done.

Senator WATERS: The Office for Women cannot assist us in that regard?

Mr Sloan : We can take that on notice. I think it may be problematic, but we can take it on notice.

Senator WATERS: It would be great if the Office for Women had the personnel to do that sort of work, but we have had that debate for a long time now. Are you saying it is simply a matter for individual departments to fix it if they are not meeting their 40 per cent? The Office for Women does not give any input about how that might be fixed? Do you make any policy suggestions? Is it literally not your problem?

Mr Sloan : I do not think it is usual practice for us to discuss what we may be advising and what we may not be advising.

Senator WATERS: I am not asking for the content of the advice, merely whether you provide it.

Mr Sloan : My understanding is that usual practice is that we do not provide that detail either.

Senator WATERS: What a shame. There is some work done on pipeline initiatives—to help women be trained up so they are board ready, effectively. Does the Office for Women do anything in that space?

Ms Nicholson : Last week the minister announced some efforts to strengthen the BoardLinks program. You would be aware that the BoardLinks program includes a database of board ready women candidates. The minister also announced several new champions to support portfolios in their work to achieve the gender diversity target.

Mr Sloan : There have been a number of initiatives funded to support women into leadership positions—Australian Institute of Company Directors scholarships, for example. There are a number of them. The minister also last week announced the Chief Executive Women scholarships and some fellowships.

Senator WATERS: I am sorry—what was that last one?

Ms Nicholson : The Chief Executive Women Scholarships and Fellowships for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Mr Sloan : There is a range of programs that have been funded and they are available on our website.

Senator WATERS: I will look that up myself then, thank you. Senator Xenophon was asking, effectively, what you do when you get this information and was told that was hypothetical. In relation to last year's report—not the one that was issued last week—what role does the Office for Women play between that report and the production of this report, if any?

Mr Sloan : Sorry, Senator, in relation to what?

Senator WATERS: The issues identified in the report.

Mr Sloan : As I said earlier, when each appointment comes up, briefing will be provided.

Senator WATERS: As to the calibre of the candidates? I am not trying to trick you—I just have not worked in the public service, so I do not understand you.

Mr Sloan : I understand where you are coming from but I think that is to the nature of our advice.

Senator WATERS: Okay. It is just hard to work out what the Office of Women is even responsible for doing in this space. I am genuinely seeking to understand the role of the office so that we can try to help you do it better.

Mr Sloan : What I can say is: the Office for Women does a variety of things from administering the grants and the scholarship that we talked about. In general, it also provides policy advice on gender issues.

Senator WATERS: But in relation to this report, it is largely an administrative one. Can you confirm that?

Mr Sloan : This report is, yes.

Senator WATERS: It is getting data and reporting that data but not necessarily testing or arguing around why that data is why it is. It is just an administrative—

Mr Sloan : It is a historical report; correct.

Senator WATERS: Thank you, we have clearly established that now. My final question: we have had some discussion about unconscious bias and that folk on selection panels subconsciously select applicants that reflect themselves—obviously, there is a lot of literature about that. Given that you have described the process of appointing people to boards as one where, effectively, the minister makes a recommendation to the PM and either those two agree or it is a broader cabinet decision, how can we address that unconscious bias given that we still do not have gender equality in the cabinet?

Mr Sloan : I think that is asking for an opinion, Senator.

Senator WATERS: Has the Office of Women been asked to advise on methodologies that could assist to remove that unconscious bias in the selection process?

Mr Sloan : That would go to nature of advice, Senator, and I understand we do not normally provide that information.

Senator WATERS: It does not sound like you provide much information at all—no offence intended; certainly, not today.

Mr Sloan : We advise the minister.

Senator WATERS: Right, but you can't tell me about what. Thank you very much for your time.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Waters. Senator Gallagher did you have any questions?

Senator GALLAGHER: Yes, I have a couple.

CHAIR: Senator Xenophon does, but we will go to you.

Senator GALLAGHER: Just in relation to the report, whilst part of the issue for the reduction in the percentage of overall women can be explained by the smaller government agenda, I think it is also important to acknowledge that the reduction of women has been more than the reduction of men—that is my reading of the data that has been provided. It is small, but the male appointments have been maintained to a greater degree than the women even though there was a reduction.

But the other question that I have is that the format of this report has changed slightly—the percentage of men in tables 1, 1 and 4 has dropped off. Is there a reason for that considering this is a gender balance on government board report rather than a women balance on board report? When you compare it to the previous year, that whole column has disappeared.

Mr Sloan : What I would say is that I do not think there is any particular reason. That might be the best way of saying it.

Senator GALLAGHER: It was just a question I had. Again, I think it probably goes to the point that this is about gender balance, not necessarily just about women. Could someone have a look at that, maybe for next year?

Mr Sloan : Certainly.

Senator GALLAGHER: I have a question on table 4: the gender balance of chair and deputy chair roles. I went back and had a look, and the data for 2012 and 2013 is there. But then the footnote says: 'did not collect comparable statistics' for 2012-13. You might need to take it on notice, but what would the difference in comparable statistics be when that data is provided in the previous year?

Ms Nicholson : Yes, we will take that on notice. We can provide an answer to that.

Senator GALLAGHER: Over that four years from 2012 to 2015, from my reading, and at least from 2013, 2014 and 2015, there is a continued decline in the percentage of women holding those roles. Further to that, do you collect data on the gender breakdown of paid versus unpaid roles on government boards?

Ms Nicholson : I am not aware that we do, but I can take that on notice too.

Senator GALLAGHER: That would be interesting because that is something that usually shows a gender inequality as well. I do accept that there are a number of agencies that have improved their performance against the 40 per cent target. But when you look closely at table 2—and this again goes to the issue of how seriously some of the agencies are taking the 40-40-20 policy—my reading of it is that some of those achievements have come through the non-appointment of people rather than the proactive appointment of women. I guess this goes to the smaller government agenda. They are reducing the number of positions; it is not necessarily that they are appointing women. It is that basically the number of men has dropped off through that process. Again, that goes to the issue that some of those improvements may not be a concerted effort to recruit women to those positions. Is that something that you have looked at?

Mr Sloan : What I would say is that it is the balance that is important. If we are improving the balance, that is a good thing.

Senator XENOPHON: The bill also asks for a breakdown of new appointments by chair and deputy chair. Is that something that is done under the current policy framework?

Ms Nicholson : It currently is. On page 5 of the current report we have that information for the last two years.

Senator XENOPHON: But it does not actually break it down by each department, does it?

Ms Nicholson : No, it does not.

Senator XENOPHON: You would have that information anyway, wouldn't you?

Ms Nicholson : To get to this point, I assume we do have that information.

Senator XENOPHON: Is that also the case for new appointments for chairs and deputy chairs? Board members are only measured by new appointments, is that right?

Mr Sloan : I would assume that, given this is a snapshot, you would take last year's and see how many have been added or taken away from that, and then you get this year's. I am not 100 per cent sure, but I would suspect that portfolios would have that information.

Senator XENOPHON: So there is no breakdown of member, chair and deputy chair?

Mr Sloan : In the report? No, not in the report.

Senator XENOPHON: But you would have that raw data, wouldn't you?

Mr Sloan : I would believe so.

Senator XENOPHON: I have a question which I think is a key issue in the context of this as a policy framework—

Mr Sloan : Can I clarify that? I believe the portfolios would have it. I do not know if they provide that to us. I would have to check that.

Senator XENOPHON: Would you please take that on notice.

Mr Sloan : We can take that on notice, yes.

Senator XENOPHON: Just in terms of Senator Waters' line of questioning, to your knowledge are there any guidelines ministers should follow, either generally or within each department, to engage in a transparent recruiting process?

Mr Sloan : That is set out in the cabinet handbook that is available on the PM&C website.

Senator XENOPHON: It is in the cabinet handbook—it sets out the level of transparency required?

Mr Sloan : I have it here in front of me. It is on page 22 of the cabinet handbook.

Senator XENOPHON: So page 22 has the relevant criteria, and that applies to all departments?

Mr Sloan : Correct. All portfolios.

Senator XENOPHON: Can you tell us—I am concerned about time constraints—what it actually says?

Mr Sloan : The minister needs to confirm several things, including the appropriateness of the expertise that the person brings; the qualifications; the experience; whether it is consistent with any applicable legislation; and whether due regard to gender balance been paid—that is part of it.

Senator XENOPHON: Is there any definition of 'due regard'? Is that the wording—'due regard'?

Mr Sloan : 'Due regard' is the wording. I do not know if there is a definition. I am not sure if there is. 'I do not think so' is the answer.

Senator XENOPHON: I am happy for you to take that on notice. In terms of how that broad policy framework operates in its practical effect—its implementation and the processes involved—is there anything behind it that references the policy in the cabinet handbook? In other words, the cabinet handbook sets out the issue of due regard and the policy of 40-40-20. Are there any other documents that portfolios refer to, individually or as a whole, to guide them as to how 'due regard' should be considered?

Mr Sloan : I would say that is a question for portfolios. More generally, there are no such documents that we are aware of.

Senator XENOPHON: There is no guidance given to portfolios from PM&C?

Mr Sloan : The cabinet handbook is PM&C's—

Senator XENOPHON: That is the guideline?

Ms Nicholson : In the appendix to the handbook, we do provide guidelines on how we prepare the report, but it does not go to the issues that you have asked about.

Senator XENOPHON: So there are guidelines as to how to prepare the report, but it does not go to issues of the selection process and the transparency of that process?

Mr Sloan : Now I understand your question. I believe that the APSC has a whole set of guidelines underpinning the cabinet handbook, but we would need to take that on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: If you could provide that, that would be very helpful.

Mr Sloan : Yes.

CHAIR: Mr Sloan, you are being very helpful, and there are any number of things that you are speculating about. It would be easier for the committee if you took what you are not 100 per cent sure of on notice, because that way it prevents you from having to come back and correct any evidence or anything else, and it would provide the specific information that Senator Xenophon or other senators require.

Senator XENOPHON: I am happy with that. If there are some documents that are being referred to—

Mr Sloan : We will take that on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: I just want to get an idea, in terms of the material that we have requested, whether that would—

CHAIR: We would like it in a timely manner, if it is possible, because we do have a reporting date of—quite soon. If we could receive the material by 21 October, that would be appreciated.

Senator XENOPHON: Was that the reporting date?

CHAIR: No, the reporting date is after that. November.

Senator XENOPHON: Just so that there is no ambiguity, I am just trying to work out whether there are actually guidelines about what considerations the minister must take into account—what actually exists.

Mr Sloan : We will set that out.

CHAIR: With that, I thank Mr Sloan and Ms Nicholson for their attendance here today. I would also like to thank all the witnesses for giving evidence to the committee today. I thank Hansard and the secretaries.

Committee adjourned at 11:54