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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee


In Attendance

Senator Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources


Mr Daryl Quinlivan, Secretary

Ms Jo Evans, Deputy Secretary

Ms Lyn O’Connell, Deputy Secretary

Mr Paul Morris, Acting Deputy Secretary

Mr David Parker, Deputy Secretary

Meat and Livestock Australia

Mr Richard Norton, Managing Director

Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation

Mr Craig Burns, Managing Director

Mrs Christine Quick, General Manager, Corporate Affairs

Cotton Research and Development Corporation

Ms Mary Corbett, Chair

Mr Bruce Finney, Executive Director

Mr Graeme Tolson, General Manager, Business and Finance

Grains Research and Development Corporation

Mr John Harvey, Managing Director

Ms Kate Lord, Executive Manager Communications

Ms Danielle Jakubowski, Section Head Finance and Audit

Fisheries Research and Development Corporation

Dr Patrick Hone, Executive Director

Mr John Wilson, Business Development Manager

Mr Crispian Ashby, Programs Manager

Australian Fisheries Management Authority

Dr James Findlay, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Robert Gehrig, Acting General Manager, Corporate Services Branch

Dr Nick Rayns, Executive Manager, Fisheries Management

Mr Peter Venslovas, General Manager, Fisheries Operations Branch

Australian Grape and Wine Authority

Mr Andreas Clark, Chief Executive Officer

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine

Ms Kareena Arthy, Chief Executive Officer

Dr Phil Reeves, Chief Scientist

Ms Cate Saunders, Acting Executive Director, Corporate Services

Dr Raj Bhula, Executive Director, Scientific Assessment and Chemical Review

Mr Alan Norden, Executive Director, Registration Management and Evaluation

Ms Elizabeth Carroll, Acting Executive Director, Legal and Compliance

Ms Helen Stokes, Director, Strategic Coordination and Legislation

Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited

Mr Warwick Scherf, General Manager, Stakeholder Engagement

Landcare Australia Limited

Ms Tessa Jakszewicz, Chief Executive Officer

Dr Shane Norrish, Projects Director

Plant Health Australia

Mr Greg Fraser, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer

Animal Health Australia

Ms Kathleen Plowman, Chief Executive Officer

Dr Peter Dagg, Manager, AUSVETPLAN and Acting Executive Manager, Emergency Animal Disease Preparedness and Response

Mr Tony Marks, Executive Manager

Australian Lives tock Export Corporation Limited

Mr David Galvin, Chairman

Mr Samuel Brown, Chief Executive Officer

Australian Meat Processor Corporation

Mr Peter Noble, Chairman

Ms Wendy Martin, Marketing Communications Manager

Mr Rui Yu, Finance and Administration Manager

Finance and Business Support, Corporate Strategy and Governance, Information Services, Service Delivery, Office of the General Counsel

Ms Emily Canning, Chief Finance Officer

Ms Vanessa Berry, Assistant Secretary, Financial Strategy Branch

Mr Matt Ryan, Assistant Secretary, Industry Support Branch

Ms Julie Gaglia, Acting Assistant Secretary, Cost Recovery Taskforce

Mr John Robertson, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Ms Melissa Brown, Acting Assistant Secretary, Governance Branch

Ms Victoria Anderson, Assistant Secretary, Business & Assurance Branch

Mr Troy Czabania, Assistant Secretary, Design and Change Branch

Mr Peter Bignell, Acting Assistant Secretary, People Services Branch

Mr Gary Jolly, Director, People Services Branch

Mr Travis Power, Assistant Secretary, People Capability Branch

Mr David Cunningham, Assistant Secretary, Work Health and Safety Taskforce

Mr Graham Gathercole, Chief Information Officer

Ms Debbie Lutter, Deputy Chief Information Officer,

Ms Kerri Russ, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Ms Heidi Young, Acting Assistant Secretary, Operations Integration Branch

Mr Peter Cook, Assistant Secretary, South Region

Mr Rick Hawe, Assistant Secretary, Central East Region

Mr Michael Kerr, Assistant Secretary, West Region

Mr Jonathan Benyei, Assistant Secretary, North Region

Mr Dennis Way, Assistant Secretary, Post Entry Quarantine and South East Region

Mr Paul Nixon, Acting Assistant Secretary, North East Region

Ms Kerrie-Anne Luscombe, General Counsel

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences

Ms Karen Schneider, Executive Director

Mr Peter Gooday, Assistant Secretary, Farm Analysis and Biosecurity Branch

Ms Lisa Elliston, Assistant Secretary Portfolio Strategies and Land

Dr Ilona Stobutzki, Assistant Secretary, Fisheries, Forestry and Quantitative Sciences

Mr Jammie Penm, Assistant Secretary, Agricultural Commodities and Trade Branch

Farm Support Division

Mr Nico Padovan, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Anna Willock, Assistant Secretary, Concessional Loans Branch

Ms Cassandra Kennedy, Assistant Secretary, Drought & Farmer Assistance Branch

Mr Simon Murnane, Assistant Secretary, Farm Business Branch

Sustainable Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Division

Mr Ian Thompson, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Michelle Lauder, Assistant Secretary, Forestry Branch

Mr Gordon Neil, Assistant Secretary, Fisheries Branch

Mr Peter Ottesen, Assistant Secretary, Sustainable Agriculture Branch

Mr Ian Ruscoe, Director, Forestry Branch

Agricultural Policy Division

Ms Fran Freeman, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Cathrine Stephenson, Assistant Secretary, Wool, Wine, Small and Emerging Industries Branch

Ms Sally Standen, Assistant Secretary, Crops, Meat and Horticulture Branch

Mr Andrew McDonald, Assistant Secretary, Food, Competition and Investment Branch

Mr Richard Webb, Acting Assistant Secretary, Rural Research and Innovation Branch

Trade and Market Access Division

Ms Louise Van Meurs, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Simon Smalley, Assistant Secretary, Trade and Market Access Strategy Branch

Ms Elizabeth Bie, Assistant Secretary, Bilateral Engagement and International Cooperation Branch

Mr Paul Pak Poy, Assistant Secretary Acting, Bilateral Engagement and Trade Policy Branch

Exports Division

Mrs Ann McDonald, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Dr Jenny Cupit, Assistant Secretary, Residues & Food Branch

Dr Clare Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary, Meat Exports Branch

Dr Narelle Clegg, Assistant Secretary, Live Animal Exports Branch

Biosecurity Animal Division (including Australian Chief Veterinary Officer)

Dr Mark Schipp, Chief Veterinary Officer, Australian Chief Veterinary Office

Mr Tim Chapman, First Assistant Secretary

Dr Andrew Cupit, Assistant Secretary, Animal Biosecurity Branch

Dr Robyn Martin, Assistant Secretary, Animal Health Policy Branch

Ms Jackie South, Assistant Secretary, Animal and Biological Imports Branch

Biosecurity Plant Division (including Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer)

Dr Marian Healy, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Louise van Meurs, First Assistant Secretary Trade and Market Access Division

Dr Kim Ritman, First Assistant Secretary, Australian Chief Plant Protection Office

Dr Sally Troy, Assistant Secretary, Plant Health Policy Branch

Ms Lois Ransom, Assistant Secretary, Plant Import Operations Branch

Dr Chris Parker, Assistant Secretary, Plant Export Operations Branch

Mr David Heinrich, Assistant Secretary, Plant Biosecurity Branch

Mr Andrew Sheargold, Acting Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Import Conditions and Permit Services Branch

Compliance Division

Ms Raelene Vivian, First Assistant Secretary, Compliance Division

Mr Wayne Terpstra, Assistant Secretary, Targeting and Enforcement Branch

Ms Tina Hutchison, Assistant Secretary, Pathway Compliance Branch

Mr David Ironside Acting Assistant Secretary, Compliance Arrangements Branch

Mr Mark Phythian, Director, Imported Food Section

Biosecurity Policy and Implementation Division

Mr Matthew Koval, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Debbie Langford, Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Policy and Response Branch

Ms Lee Cale, Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Implementation Branch

Water Division

Mr Tony Slatyer, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Richard McLoughlin, Assistant Secretary, Water Resources Branch

Ms Mary Colreavy, Assistant Secretary, Water Acquisition and Markets Branch

Ms Amy Fox, Assistant Secretary, Water Infrastructure Northern Branch

Mr Craig Bradley, Director, Sustainable Diversion Limits Adjustment Project Delivery Section

Murray-Darling Basin Authority

Mr Phillip Glyde, Chief Executive

Mr David Dreverman, Executive Director, River Management Division

Mr Russell James, Executive Director, Policy and Planning Division

Mr Colin Mues, Acting Executive Director, Environmental Management Division,

Ms Jo Schumann, Executive Director, Corporate Division

Dr Peta-Joanne Derham, Acting General Manager, Eco-hydrology Analysis Branch, Environmental Management Division

Mr David Galeano, General Manager, Social and Economic, Policy and Planning Division

Mr Andrew Reynolds, General Manager, Assets, River Management Division

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

Committee met at 08:59

CHAIR ( Senator Heffernan ): I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed additional expenditure for 2015-16 and related documents for the agriculture and water resources portfolio. The committee may also examine the annual reports of the departments and agencies appearing before it. The committee has before it a program listing agencies relating to matters for which senators have given notice. The proceedings today will begin with an examination of MLA.

The committee has fixed Friday, 1 April 2016 as the date for the return of questions on notice. Senators are reminded that any written questions on notice shall be provided to the committee no later than close of business Friday the 19th.

Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege and it is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee. 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 for questions at an 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 purpose 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 the discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament or its committees unless the parliament has previously expressly provided otherwise.

The Senate has resolved also that an officer of a 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 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 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)