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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee


In Attendance

Senator Birmingham, Assistant Minister for Education and Training


Dr Gordon de Brouwer, Secretary

Mr Malcolm Thompson, Deputy Secretary

Dr Kimberley Dripps, Deputy Secretary

Mr David Parker, Deputy Secretary

Dr Steven Kennedy, Deputy Secretary

Corporate Strategies

Ms Mary Wiley-Smith, Chief Operating Officer

Ms Lily Viertmann, Chief Financial Officer

General Counsel

Mr Simon Writer, General Counsel

Policy Analysis and Implementation

Ms Benedikte Jensen, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Matthew Whitfort, Assistant Secretary, Strategic Policy and International Branch

Ms Perdi Mitchell, Acting Assistant Secretary, Economics and Deregulation Branch

Ms Lara Musgrave, Assistant Secretary, Engagement and Evaluation Branch

Outcome 1

Biodiversity and Conservation

Mr Sean Sullivan, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Rachel Parry, Assistant Secretary, Green Army and Reef

Ms Emma Campbell, Acting Assistant Secretary, Landcare and Biodiversity Policy

Mr James Barker, Assistant Secretary, Programme Support

Ms Ami McGrath, Acting Assistant Secretary, Programme Delivery

Mr Gregory Andrews, Threatened Species Commissioner

Environment Assessment and Compliance

Mr Dean Knudson, First Assistant Secretary

Mr James Tregurtha, Assistant Secretary, Policy and Reform Branch

Ms Paula Stagg, Acting Assistant Secretary, South-Eastern Australia Assessment Branch

Ms Deb Callister, Assistant Secretary, Queensland and Sea Dumping Assessment Branch

Dr Simon Banks, Assistant Secretary, West Assessment Branch

Mr Shane Gaddes, Assistant Secretary, Compliance and Enforcement Branch

Environment Quality

Mr Andrew McNee, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Mr Chris Videroni, Acting Assistant Secretary, Environment Protection Branch

Mr Matthew Dadswell, Assistant Secretary, Environment Standards Branch

Mr Bruce Edwards, Assistant Secretary, Waste Policy Branch

Wildlife, Heritage and Marine

Mr Stephen Oxley, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Paul Murphy, Assistant Secretary, Wildlife Trade and Biosecurity Branch

Ms Chris Schweizer, Assistant Secretary, Marine and International Heritage Branch

Mr Geoff Richardson, Assistant Secretary, Species and Ecological Communities Branch

Mr Chris Johnston, Assistant Secretary, Heritage Branch

Outcome 2

Emissions Reduction Fund Taskforce

Mr Hilton Taylor, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Mr James White, Assistant Secretary, Policy Frameworks Branch

Ms Kristin Tilley, Assistant Secretary, Methodology Branch

Ms Felicity Ryan, Acting Assistant Secretary, Land Sector Abatement Branch

Climate Change and Renewable Energy

Mr Brad Archer, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Lyndall Hoitink, Assistant Secretary, Renewables, Projections and Analysis Branch

Mr Rob Sturgiss, Assistant Secretary, National Inventory Systems and International Reporting Branch

Ms Beth Brunoro, Assistant Secretary, Adaptation and International Climate Change Policy Branch

Mr Ross Lum, Director Renewables, Projections and Analysis Branch

Outcome 3

Australian Antarctic

Dr Tony Fleming, Director

Dr Rob Wooding, General Manager, Support Centre

Dr Nick Gales, Chief Scientist

Mr Matthew Sutton, Finance Manager

Outcome 4

Commonwealth Environmental Water Office

Mr David Papps, Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder

Mr Steve Costello, Assistant Secretary, Policy, Community Engagement and Portfolio Management Branch

Mr John Foster, Acting Assistant Secretary, Environmental Water Delivery Branch

Mr Greg Manning, Assistant Secretary, Wetlands Policy and Project Branch


Mr Tony Slatyer, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Tim Fisher, Assistant Secretary, Water Policy Branch

Ms Mary Colreavy, Assistant Secretary, Water Recovery Branch

Ms Lucy Vincent, Assistant Secretary, Water Infrastructure Northern Branch

Mr John Robertson, Assistant Secretary, Water Infrastructure Southern Branch


Dr Diana Wright, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Gayle Milnes, Assistant Secretary, Office of Water Science

Ms Kerry Olsson, Assistant Secretary, Environmental Resources Information Network

Mr Richard McAllister, Supervising Scientist

Dr Rick van Dam, Director, Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist

Agencies and Statutory Authorities

Bureau of Meteorology

Dr Rob Vertessy, Director of Meteorology

Dr Ray Canterford, Deputy Director, Hazards, Warnings and Forecasts

Ms Vicki Middleton, Deputy Director, Corporate Services

Dr Lesley Seebeck, Deputy Director, Information Systems and Services

Clean Energy Regulator

Ms Chloe Munro, Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Dr Lesley Dowling, General Manager Emissions Reduction Fund Implementation

Mr Geoff Purvis-Smith, General Counsel

Mr Christopher Ramsden, Operations Division

Ms Jackie Raynor, Acting General Manager, Registrations and Reporting Branch

Ms Jody Swirepik, Executive General Manager, Reporting and Carbon Market Division

Mr Mark Williamson, Executive General Manager, Renewables and Carbon Farming Division

Ms Mary-Anne Wilson, General Manager, Carbon Farming Branch

Climate Change Authority

Mr Bernie Fraser, Chair

Ms Shayleen Thompson, Acting Chief Executive Officer

Ms Kath Rowley, General Manager

Mr Hamish Millikan, Acting Director Corporate Services

Director of National Parks

Ms Sally Barnes, Director of National Parks

Mr Charlton Clark, Assistant Secretary, Parks Business and Policy Branch

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Dr Russell Reichelt, Chairman

Mr Bruce Elliot, General Manager, Biodiversity, Conservation and Sustainable Use

Ms Margaret Johnson, General Manager Policy and Stewardship

Mr John Barrett, Chief Finance Officer

Murray-Darling Basin Authority

Dr Rhondda Dickson, Chief Executive

Mr David Dreverman, Executive Director, River Management Division

Mr Tony McLeod, Acting Executive Director, Policy and Planning

Mr Colin Mues, Acting Executive Director, Environmental Management

Ms Jo Schumann, Executive Director, Corporate and Business Services Division

Mr Brent Williams, General Manager, Constraints Management Taskforce, River Management

National Water Commission

Mr Richard McLoughlin, Acting Chief Executive

Committee met at 0 9:02

CHAIR ( Senator Ruston ): I declare open this meeting of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed expenditure for 2015-16 for the Environment and Communications portfolios and certain other documents. The committee may also examine the annual reports of the departments and agencies appearing before it. The committee is due to report to the Senate on Tuesday, 23 June 2015, and it has fixed Friday, 10 July 2015, as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice.

The committee's proceedings today will begin with general questions to the Department of the Environment and will then follow the order as set out in the program. Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session, including answers to questions on notice. Officers and senators are familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings. If you need assistance, the secretary has copies of the rules.

The Senate has resolved also that an officer of the department of the Commonwealth shall not be asked to give opinion on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to senior 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 public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document.

The extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

(a) notes that ministers and officers have continued to refuse to provide information to Senate committees without properly raising claims of public interest immunity as required by past resolutions of the Senate;

(b) reaffirms the principles of past resolutions of the Senate by this order, to provide ministers and officers with guidance as to the proper process for raising public interest immunity claims and to consolidate those past resolutions of the Senate;

(c) orders that the following operate as an order of continuing effect:

(1) If:

   (a) a Senate committee, or a senator in the course of proceedings of a committee, requests information or a document from a Commonwealth department or agency; and

   (b) an officer of the department or agency to whom the request is directed believes that it may not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, the officer shall state to the committee the ground on which the officer believes that it may not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, and specify the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document.

(2) If, after receiving the officer’s statement under paragraph (1), the committee or the senator requests the officer to refer the question of the disclosure of the information or document to a responsible minister, the officer shall refer that question to the minister.

(3) If a minister, on a reference by an officer under paragraph (2), concludes that it would not be in the public interest to disclose the information or document to the committee, the minister shall provide to the committee a statement of the ground for that conclusion, specifying the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document.

(4) A minister, in a statement under paragraph (3), shall indicate whether the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document to the committee could result only from the publication of the information or document by the committee, or could result, equally or in part, from the disclosure of the information or document to the committee as in camera evidence.

(5) If, after considering a statement by a minister provided under paragraph (3), the committee concludes that the statement does not sufficiently justify the withholding of the information or document from the committee, the committee shall report the matter to the Senate.

(6) A decision by a committee not to report a matter to the Senate under paragraph (5) does not prevent a senator from raising the matter in the Senate in accordance with other procedures of the Senate.

(7) A statement that information or a document is not published, or is confidential, or consists of advice to, or internal deliberations of, government, in the absence of specification of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document, is not a statement that meets the requirements of paragraph (1) or (4).

(8) If a minister concludes that a statement under paragraph (3) should more appropriately be made by the head of an agency, by reason of the independence of that agency from ministerial direction or control, the minister shall inform the committee of that conclusion and the reason for that conclusion, and shall refer the matter to the head of the agency, who shall then be required to provide a statement in accordance with paragraph (3).

(d) requires the Procedure Committee to review the operation of this order and report to the Senate by 20 August 2009.

(13 May 2009 J.1941)

(Extract, Senate Standing Orders, pp 124-125)