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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
15/02/2022
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS PORTFOLIO

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Duniam, Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries, Assistant Minister for Industry Development

Senator Hume, Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy, Minister for Women's Economic Security

Senator McKenzie, Minister for Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience, Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Program 5.1

Mr Simon Atkinson, Secretary

Mr Richard Windeyer, Deputy Secretary

Dr Stephen Arnott PSM, Deputy Secretary

Ms Maree Bridger, Acting Deputy Secretary

Mr Matthew Brine, First Assistant Secretary, Communications Infrastructure

Ms Rachel Blackwood, Assistant Secretary, Spectrum

Mr Andrew Madsen, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Surface Transport Policy

Mrs Nicolle Power, Acting Assistant Secretary, NBN

Mr Tristan Kathage, Assistant Secretary, Telecommunications Market Policy

Ms Pauline Sullivan, First Assistant Secretary, Online Safety, Media and Platforms

Ms Bridget Gannon, Assistant Secretary, Online Safety

Mr Andrew Hyles, Assistant Secretary, Classification

Mr James Penprase, Assistant Secretary, Broadcasters and Content Reform Taskforce

Mr Adam Carlon, Assistant Secretary, Media Industry and Sustainability

Ms Kerstin Wijeywardene, Assistant Secretary, Platforms and News

Mr Lachlann Paterson, First Assistant Secretary, Communications Services and Consumer

Mr Phil Smurthwaite, Assistant Secretary, Regional Communications

Mr Philip Mason, Assistant Secretary, Universal Services Guarantee Taskforce

Mr Daniel Caruso, Assistant Secretary, Post, International Telecommunications and Australian Communications and Media Authority

Ms Kathleen Silleri, Assistant Secretary, Consumer Safeguards

Mr Brad Medland, Chief Finance Officer

Ms Ruth Wall, First Assistant Secretary, People, Governance, Parliamentary and Communication

Ms Susan Charles, Assistant Secretary, Communication

Ms Stephanie Bourke, Assistant Secretary, Human Resources and Property

Dr Louise Rawlings, First Assistant Secretary, Data, Analytics and Policy, and Head of Bureau, Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics

Dr Justin Iu, Head of Bureau, Bureau of Communications, Arts and Regional Research

Program 6.1

Mr Greg Cox, First Assistant Secretary, Office for the Arts

Ms Alison Todd, Assistant Secretary, Arts Development and Investment

Ms Leonie Holloway, Assistant Secretary, Arts Recovery and Response

Ms Ann Campton, Assistant Secretary, Collections and Cultural Heritage

Ms Jenna Priestly, Assistant Secretary, Content and Copyright

Ms Anne-Louise Daws, Assistant Secretary, Creative Industries

Ms Marie Gunnell, Assistant Secretary, Access and Participation

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Mr David Anderson, Managing Director

Mr Craig McMurtrie, Editorial Director

Ms Melanie Kleyn, Chief Financial Officer

Australia Council

Mr Adrian Collette, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Tim Blackwell, Executive Director, Corporate Resources

Dr Georgie McClean, Executive Director, Development and Strategic Partnership

Austra lian Communications and Media Authority

Ms Nerida O'Loughlin, Chair and Agency Head

Ms Creina Chapman, Deputy Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Ms Helen Owens, General Manager, Corporate and Research

Ms Linda Caruso, General Manager, Communications Infrastructure

Ms Cathy Rainsford, General Manager, Content and Consumer Division

Mr Jeremy Fenton, Executive Manager, Consumer Consent and Numbers

Ms Rochelle Zurnamer, Executive Manager, Content Safeguards

Mr Matthew Geysen, Executive Manager, Finance, Reporting and Operations

Mr Christopher Hose, Executive Manager, Spectrum Planning and Engineering

Mr Craig Riviere, Executive Manager, Telecommunications Safeguards

Australia n Post al Corporation

Mr Lucio Di Bartolomeo, Chair [by video link]

Mr Paul Graham, Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director

Mr Nick Macdonald, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary

Ms Tanny Mangos, Executive General Manager, Community, Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement

NBN Co Limited

Mr Stephen Rue, Chief Executive Officer

Ms Kathrine Dyer, Chief Operating Officer

Mr Gavin Williams, Chief Development Officer, Regional and Remote

Office of the eSafety Commissioner

Ms Julie Inman Grant, Commissioner

Ms Rebecca Razavi, Chief Operating Officer/General Manager

Mr Toby Dagg, Executive Manager, Investigations Branch

Ms Maria Vassiliadis, Executive Manager, Legal, Marcoms and Research

Ms Sharon Trotter, Head of Education, Prevention and Inclusion Branch

Mr Stuart Wise, Head of Corporate

Ms Lauren Monks, Executive Manager, International, Strategy and Futures

Screen Australia

Mr Graeme Mason, Chief Executive Officer [by video link]

Mr Michael Brealey, Chief Operating Officer [by video link]

Special Broadcasting Service Corporation

Mr James Taylor, Managing Director [by video link]

Ms Clare O'Neil, Director, Corporate Affairs [by video link]

Ms Nitsa Niarchos, Chief Financial Officer [by video link]

Committee met at 09:00

CHAIR ( Senator Bragg ): I declare open this meeting of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners. The Senate has referred to this committee the particulars of the proposed additional expenditure for 2021-22 for portfolios including Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. The committee is due to report to the Senate on 29 March and has fixed 22 March for the date of the return of answers to questions on notice. The committee's proceedings today will examine the Communications and Arts outcomes of the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications portfolios. I remind senators and witnesses that we are operating in a COVID-safe environment, which limits the amount of people that can be here in person. The committee will be conducting today's hearing via videoconference. People who are coming in remotely, please mute your device if you are not speaking or don't have the call. Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. I remind all witnesses that, in giving evidence to a parliamentary committee, they are protected by privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or to 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.

By resolution in 1999 the Senate endorsed the following test of relevance for 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 any person has a 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 a 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. The 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 specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity shall be raised. I incorporate that public immunity statement.

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)

CHAIR: I now welcome Senator the Hon. Jane Hume, Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Digital Economy, representing the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, and the portfolio officers. Minister, do you have an opening statement?

Senator Hume: No, I don't.

CHAIR: That is the first time I have ever been able to get through that without descending into giggles. I find that to be a very lengthy statement, but I wanted to now place on record my thanks to the secretary for making the statement shorter so that I didn't collapse into fits of laughter at the beginning of these proceedings this morning.