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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee


In Attendance

Senator Seselja, Minister for International Development and the Pacific

Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources


Mr David Fredericks, Secretary

Mr Sean Sullivan, Deputy Secretary

Ms Jo Evans, Deputy Secretary

Ms Luise McCulloch, Deputy Secretary

Analysis and Insights

Mr Russ Campbell, Head of Division

Mr Jeewantha Karunarathna, General Manager, Resources and Energy Insights


Ms Sue Cattermole, General Manager, Portfolio Program Delivery

Corporate and Digital

Ms Kylie Bryant, Chief Operating Officer

Mr Rob Hanlon, Chief Finance Officer

Ms Deborah Miliszewski, General Counsel

Ms Jennifer Kay, General Manager, Business Grants Hub

Ms Erin Cockram, Acting General Manager, Financial Management Branch


Ms Rachel Parry, Head of Division

Mr James White, General Manager, Transition

Mr Geoff Whelan, General Manager, Electricity Markets

Mr Paul Johnson, General Manager, Transmission

Mr Adam Sutherland, Acting General Manager, Energy Governance

Energy Efficiency

Mr Duncan McIntyre, Head of Division

Gas Taskforce

Ms Michelle Croker, Head of Division

Dr Lesley Dowling, General Manager, Gas

Mr Chris Videroni, Principal Adviser

Mr Bruce Murphy, Manager, Industry Skills

Liquid Fuels and Northern Endeavour

Mr Shane Gaddes, Head of Division

Dr Tim Wyndham, General Manager, Liquid Fuels

Ms Miranda Lello, Principal Adviser


Mr Paul Trotman, Head of Division

Mr David Lawrence, General Manager, Onshore Minerals and Energy

Mr Dan Quinn, General Manager, Resources Strategy Branch

Committee met at 09:00

CHAIR ( Senator Fawcett ): I declare open this meeting of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed additional expenditure for 2021 for the portfolios of agriculture, water and environment; industry, science energy and resources; and infrastructure transport, regional development and communications. The committee may also examine the annual reports of the departments and agencies appearing before it, even if no additional appropriations have been sought. The committee is due to report to the Senate by Tuesday 25 May 2021 and has set Tuesday 15 June 2021 as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice during today's spillover hearing.

Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session, and this includes answers to questions on notice. Officers and senators are familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings, but if you need assistance, the secretariat has copies of the rules. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee, they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee.

The Senate by resolution in 1999 endorsed the following test of relevance of questions at estimates hearings. Any questions going to the operations or financial positions of the departments and agencies which are seeking funds in the estimates are relevant questions for the purposes of estimates hearings. I remind officers that the Senate has resolved that there are no areas in connection with the expenditure of public funds where a person has the discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament or its committees, unless the parliament has expressly provided otherwise. The Senate has resolved also that an officer of the department of the Commonwealth 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 when and how policies were adopted. I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to an order of the Senate of 13 May 2009 specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised. Witnesses are specifically reminded that a statement that information or a document is confidential or consists of advice to government is not a statement that meets the requirements of the 2009 order. Instead, witnesses are required to provide some specific indication of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or the document.