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Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

CHAIR —I welcome Senator Hill and officers from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Senator Hill, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Senator Hill —No.

CHAIR —Are there any general questions?

Senator FAULKNER —I would like to ask a question about questions on notice. I have been very disappointed in the recent period of time about the performance in answering questions on notice from the last three sets of estimates hearings. I think Mr Henderson would appreciate that, at times, we have given the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet some bouquets for its efforts as the premier department in this area but I do notice that, from the additional estimates supplementary round in May 2000, there are seven questions still outstanding for the department; from the budget round in June 2000, there are 102 for the department, nine for ATSIC and four for ANAO; and, from the budget supplementary round of November 2000, there are 80 for the department and 12 for ATSIC. This appears to me to be an unfortunate and growing trend. I think my mathematics is right. You may have better figures, but certainly my maths is correct as of late last week. As I say, it seems to be a disappointing situation and I wondered if you could indicate to the committee when drafts of answers will be provided to ministers and why this trend appears to be developing in relation to Senate estimates questions on notice.

Mr Henderson —The figures you read out, going back earlier than the most recent hearings, are they figures in relation to answers outstanding? At one point, you mentioned a figure of 80.

Senator FAULKNER —That is right; for the supplementary round there were 12 in ATSIC and 80 for the department. Does that not agree with the figures you have?

Mr Henderson —I can check in a moment in respect of questions outstanding for the 22 May and 24 May budget hearings, and I can give you the state of play for questions taken on notice most recently on 22 November 2000.

Senator FAULKNER —I think you would acknowledge that at times the department has been congratulated for its efforts in this regard. Within this estimates committee, we have been able to compare favourably the performance of PM&C with, say, the Department of Finance and Administration. The recent trends show—and this does not go to the quality of the answers, I might say; that is another issue—there are few outstanding answers from DOFA and a very substantial number from PM&C. I wondered why this recent pattern has been developing. Are the drafts going to the minister's office and you find that the paperwork is lying around the offices? What is the situation?

Mr Henderson —I have not typically gone into the details. I take responsibility for getting the answers to you. I think it is for the Prime Minister's office and us to sort out the intermediate timetables. I will make a point about this most recent round. The situation with regard to questions taken on notice on 22 November is that we took 52 questions on notice at the hearings themselves and there were 18 placed directly on notice for OSW—a total of 70 for the department itself. There were another 30 placed directly on notice for the then Office of Indigenous Policy. Of course, you would be aware of the change in the administrative arrangements orders, so that last 30 will now be handled separately.

Senator ROBERT RAY —In terms of the deadline for answering these questions, that new department did not exist at the time you breached the date—that is, you were supposed to get them in by a certain date and that department may have been contemplated but certainly was not announced publicly until several weeks later.

Mr Henderson —I take your point, Senator Ray. It was all one department in November. With regard to the 70 that are now with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, we have now answered 52. I accept that 39 of those were delivered to the committee last Friday.

Senator FAULKNER —My figures do not take account of those, Mr Henderson. I make the point that we have the advantage of a very efficient committee secretariat which provides an ongoing status sheet, if you like, of unanswered questions on notice. I think that I qualified my question earlier by saying that if the answers came in last Friday I would not have received them. I have not had a chance to look at them. I make this point to you also: in estimates committees, if answers do come in late on a Friday, what opportunity does this give senators who might be travelling to Canberra on a Sunday evening or a Monday morning? Virtually none. My figures are accurate from the material provided to me by our secretariat. It is a worrying trend and I think it is one worthy of comment in the circumstances where, on previous occasions, you have been congratulated on your efforts.

Mr Henderson —I appreciate that. The state of play is that, of the 70 questions taken on notice by the department in November, we have now provided answers to 52. In the processes leading up to that situation the department aimed to get draft answers prepared before Christmas. That is fine for the department and we handed over most of them just before Christmas. But the Prime Minister's office and everyone else in Australia like to take a bit of a holiday from late December, so there was down time.

Senator FAULKNER —No-one is critical of that, Mr Henderson. Even senators like to take holidays. Some suggest that we take holidays that are too long.

Mr Henderson —So that is part of the explanation on this occasion.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Just to get it clear, they went in bulk—let us take these 39.

Mr Henderson —Most of them were finalised before Christmas but not all of them.

Senator ROBERT RAY —How many of the 39 that appeared on Friday were finalised before Christmas?

Mr Henderson —I do not have a precise answer to that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —What we are looking at is 52 days for these answers to be cleared. No-one takes holidays for 52 days. There seems to be an enormous bottleneck or inefficiency in the Prime Minister's office. We are not talking about a staggering number of questions. Other departments have had to handle and clear far more than that.

Senator FAULKNER —Naturally we try to deal with these things informally, Mr Henderson. As you can imagine, my office deals directly with Senator Hill's office and Senator Hill's operatives basically say, `These matters are waiting for the clearance of the Prime Minister's office.' It is pretty frustrating.

Mr Henderson —In respect of those 39, not all answers were finalised by the department before Christmas. I am just making the obvious point—and you have acknowledged it—that lots of us take a break during that time, so that accounts for part of the 52 days. We will try to lift our game. I accept the point that they should have been prepared earlier.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Are you aware that the Senate has abolished the supplementary additional estimates round? Will that help a bit?

Mr Henderson —No, I was not aware of that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I am glad I am conveying good news.

Mr Henderson —Yes. I am trying to look pleased, Senator; I am indeed.

Senator FAULKNER —You might even be surprised to learn, Mr Henderson, that it was an opposition initiative—to give credit where it is due.

Mr Henderson —Thank you. I am very pleased to hear that as well.

Senator ROBERT RAY —On the questions on notice, though, let us shift to the more formal ones that are placed on the Senate Notice Paper. On page 20 of your annual report you note the number of questions answered. You also say:

The average time taken to lodge responses to questions asked in 1999-2000, including ministerial clearance, was 59 days for Senate questions ...

Are you aware of the requirement of the Senate for a 30-day turnaround?

Mr Henderson —I am aware of that time line. I can also recall our exchange at the last hearings when you said that you were not actually a supporter of the 30-day rule.

Senator ROBERT RAY —No. The main supporter of this, when he was in opposition, has just left the chair and walked around the side of the room. Does this fundamentally say that the 30-day rule should really be a 60-day rule, in your view? I will not hold you to it. We need to get experienced officials to tell us what is realistic.

Mr Henderson —As I said at the last hearings, as far as I am concerned, the 60-day rule is a more practical time line.

Senator ROBERT RAY —That would be reinforced anyway by the fact that rarely does a senator exercise their rights under standing orders inside 60 days; they always leave it for a fair amount of time. With respect to the outstanding questions you now have on notice, which question has been outstanding for the longest time and, as of today, how long has it been outstanding?

Mr Henderson —Off the top of my head, I do not have that answer.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Does November 1998 ring a bell?

Mr Henderson —No, it does not.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You might refresh your memory at some stage. It is a question from Senator Ray to the Prime Minister. Let us for a moment go to the quality of answers of questions on notice. I want to return to this point in later questioning. I asked a question:

Is it necessary to provide the nature and date of hospitality received in declarations to the Prime Minister?

The answer was:

Ministers are required to provide a description of the hospitality received.

Do you think that is a high-quality answer that actually assists me? Or is just a smart-alec put-off?

Mr Henderson —What page was that in the Hansard?

Senator ROBERT RAY —This is an answer to a question on notice from the previous estimates hearing, Hansard page 51, outcome 2, output 4.2. This is an answer that you have supplied.

Mr Henderson —Ms Belcher might have a comment to make on that.

Ms Belcher —The only requirement given to ministers is that they show that information—there is no further detail of what they need to provide.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But I really need to know what a description is. That is what I was chasing. I thought that was blindingly obvious: should you put the nature of the event and the date of the event down, rather than just from whom the hospitality was received?

Ms Belcher —It is not an explicit requirement to give that detail.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I thought the sort of detail I was seeking was obvious. I think the answer could have said: you are not required to put the date or anything else. That is in the context of the discussion at the time the question was asked. I will come back to that hospitality question in a few minutes. Minister, there was a report in a newspaper—which of itself worries me; that it was in a newspaper—that a special security cabinet meeting or committee meeting had to be called either adjacent to or during the Olympics to ratify a decision that had already been made, apparently either illegally or without proper authority, to have Defence personnel do surveillance work during the Olympics. Who brought that to the attention of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet?

Senator Hill —I think the matter was brought to the Prime Minister's attention by officials.

Senator ROBERT RAY —By whom?

Mr Henderson —By a member of the Olympic task force.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I never trust newspaper articles on these matters, because obviously the basis is a leak somewhere, but I thought I read either directly or between the lines that it was an official of PM&C—

Mr Henderson —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Or a seconded member of PM&C who drew that to attention.

Mr Henderson —That is correct.

Senator ROBERT RAY —And do you know approximately when that person drew PM&C's attention?

Mr Henderson —No. It would have been in September, I suspect.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Was it in the course of the Olympics, or just preceding the Olympics?

Mr Henderson —Preceding the Olympics.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes; it would have been hard to get a cabinet meeting during the Olympics—I accept that. And was what was drawn to the attention of the department by that departmental official that there was insufficient authorisation? Or was in fact the advice that this action was illegal as it currently stood.

Mr Henderson —Senator, we are not able to go to the substance of the advice that that person was passing to senior executives in our department or to the government.

Senator ROBERT RAY —First of all, I am anxious not to transgress on security matters that should not be raised; but we also have a degree of surveillance necessary to make sure proper procedures occurred—without going to the substance of them. I am trying to get to the bottom of whether this was a breach of protocol or a breach of the law that required an authorisation from cabinet.

Mr Henderson —A seconded PM&C officer did draw this matter to the attention of the government. Beyond that, I think your questions are best directed to the hearings involving the Department of Defence.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Well, I am asking it here because you are the department in charge of the cabinet. According to your annual report, you had a pretty major coordinating role with the Olympics. It is not just a Department of Defence matter.

Mr Henderson —Yes, we do; but the train of your questions seems to be inevitably leading to the substance of the advice that was passed on, and we are not able to disclose that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I am not asking for the advice.

Mr Henderson —You asked me: was it a matter of protocol or what was the law in respect of this. I cannot answer those questions. But the PM&C official did draw this matter to the attention of the government.

Senator Hill —And the matter was then considered by the national security committee of cabinet and, I understand, subsequently the Chief of the Defence Force issued a statement. There was certainly an issue there. Whether it was one of practice or law, I do not know; but the matter was brought to the attention of the government and it would seem then that proper process was followed.

Senator ROBERT RAY —And you, of course, would not have any idea how this reached the newspapers?

Senator Hill —I would not want to speculate on that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Quite often, when these matters reach the newspapers, you ask for an investigation. Have you done that on this occasion?

Senator Hill —I do not know of any investigation having been carried out.

Mr Henderson —The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has not initiated an investigation into that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Is this a change of policy, the fact that you have never caught anyone, and that you are more reluctant to investigate leaks now, especially in the security area?

Mr Henderson —Whether you catch people or not does not alter the fact that these inquiries do have a significant deterrent effect.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But the last two or three I have raised at this committee you do not seem to have had an inquiry into. I just wondered if you had changed policy.

Mr Henderson —I am not aware of any conscious change of policy on those matters.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Or is Mr Shier bottling up too many resources to have anything available, I wonder? Again, as I say, I do not want to go into the detail of this; but I do not think we have an opportunity as parliamentarians to scrutinise this anywhere. If we cannot do it here, I do not think we have an opportunity anywhere to scrutinise it at all. I stress, Mr Chairman, that I am not trying to go to the substantive security issues but to the processes there.

Senator Hill —I do not think there is any quarrel with exploring the process. Clearly there was an issue—

Senator ROBERT RAY —And we cannot be told really what the issue was?

Senator HILL —And we basically acknowledge that. We are not going into exactly what the role of these people was, but there was an issue that led to a meeting of the national security committee of cabinet and then the issuing of a public statement.

Senator ROBERT RAY —When was the public statement made?

Senator Hill —I understand 21 September.

Mr Henderson —The Chief of the Defence Force issued a statement on 21 September 2000.

Senator FAULKNER —Did the department in late 1999 request advice from other departments as to whether they had a capacity to bring forward expenditure from financial year 2000-01 to the previous financial year—in other words, at the time the request was made? Are you aware of this?

Mr Henderson —I do not think we would be in a position to answer that question. I cannot recall whether that event occurred or not. I just see that as a matter of internal budget deliberations, frankly.

Senator FAULKNER —I thought it was absolutely appropriate that at a Senate estimates hearing we would discuss such a matter.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Distortion of the budget.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, it is cooking of the books if it occurred.

Senator Hill —No, it is not. The basic process is an internal matter. The outcomes, by all means, are public debate.

Senator FAULKNER —What I am asking is whether Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in the first half of the 1999-2000 financial year requested advice from other departments on a capacity to bring forward expenditure from 2000-01 to the previous financial year—that is all. I am surprised at your reaction to that, Senator Hill.

Senator Hill —If that occurred, that does seem to me to be part of the ongoing budget process.

Senator FAULKNER —If that occurred, we would like to know about it. I am now asking the process question of whether other departments were contacted.

Senator Hill —I think the answer was a correct answer: that that really is a legitimate matter of the internal business of government.

Senator FAULKNER —It is certainly internal business of government. Whether it is legitimate or not is another question. But be it an internal matter of government, it certainly is a matter appropriately dealt with at an estimates committee. In fact, these committees have traditionally dealt with these sorts of issues over very many years. It is one of their functions and tasks to do so.

Senator Hill —You might argue therefore that it is a question worth answering. The issue is whether it is one which the official or the government can be reasonably required to answer. I would argue no.

Senator ROBERT RAY —If this was done, there is nothing in the budget papers that indicated that it happened. Therefore, it is relevant to us because it would mean a distortion of the additional estimates without explanation. So it is a matter for us to look at it.

Senator Hill —If it happened, I do not think it represents a distortion at all.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It does if there is no acknowledgment. If there is no acknowledgment in the budget papers and the additional estimates that you are taking this action to bring expenditure forward to ease budgetary pressures the following year, it should be noted somewhere. It is not a question of internal processes.

Senator Hill —But the outcomes are public knowledge and that by all means is a legitimate public debate. But the issue as to whether the government, within the realms of normal accounting policy and practice, readjusts its expenditure priorities is, I would have thought, of its concern. If it then flows through that there is further expenditure in the previous year, then by all means that becomes a subject for public debate.

Senator ROBERT RAY —We are not talking about asking a department to fully expend its funds for budget management purposes. We are talking about bringing expenditure forward and then making no notation in the additional estimates process or the budget papers that you have done so. Then you will have an outcome the following financial year that you and others can boast about but it would be based on the fact that the budget deficit of the previous year had accidentally blown out by that extra expenditure.

Senator Hill —But the following year would be reduced, wouldn't it?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes. That is the point. We are not going through this exercise as a joke. You have to have a motive.

Senator FAULKNER —If it happened in any department it would have to be reflected, as Senator Ray says, in the additional estimates.

Senator Hill —The additional estimates—

Senator FAULKNER —I am going back a step.

Senator Hill —I do not know that it affects the additional estimates.

Senator FAULKNER —I am asking a process question in relation to Prime Minister and Cabinet. I am not suggesting that this happened in relation to the PM&C's own budget allocation. I am asking whether PM&C asked other departments for advice on such a process in relation to other departments.

Senator Hill —My answer to that is that I agree with the official. I do not think that it has been normal practice for governments to publicly disclose such internal communications between departments relating to accounting matters provided that they accord with normal accounting practice.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I would have thought that was more the duty of Treasury and the Department of Finance and Administration. That raises the other question: why would PM&C be doing this?

Senator Hill —That is an interesting question.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I know the answer but I thought you might.

Senator Hill —If PM&C did this I think it would presumably be because of its general oversight of the whole of the business of government.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Wrong. Do you want to have another stab?

Senator Hill —I beg your pardon?

Senator ROBERT RAY —That was wrong. Do you want to have another stab?

Senator Hill —Seeing that I have not admitted to the original claim—

Senator FAULKNER —But you will in time, Senator Hill. I promise you that you will in time.

Senator Hill —I do not think that I should stab too often.

Senator ROBERT RAY —The fact is that this request came from the Prime Minister's office to PM&C.

Senator FAULKNER —That is true, isn't it, Mr Henderson?

Senator Hill —Mr Henderson has already answered that it is inappropriate to provide detail on what are legitimate internal actions of government to accord with acceptable accounting practice.

Senator FAULKNER —Isn't it true, Senator Hill, that in late 1999, probably in October or November, the Prime Minister's office requested the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to seek advice from at least the Department of Defence—and possibly other departments—as to whether expenditure from 2000-01 financial year could be brought forward to the previous financial year? Isn't that a fact?

Senator Hill —Communications between the Prime Minister's office and his department are even more so regarded as privileged within an estimates committee process than communications between departments.

Senator FAULKNER —I am talking about the communications from Prime Minister and Cabinet acting on the Prime Minister's office request to the Department of Defence and/or any other government departments.

Senator Hill —And my answer is that, in my view, it is inappropriate for the officers to answer questions to this committee on their communications with the Prime Minister's office.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You see, looking at the roles and functions as described in the annual report, bodgying up budget figures has always been the preserve of the department of finance and Treasury. I am just wondering why PM&C are getting in the loop. I cannot read where you have got that right here. I know you have to act on every missive sent from the Prime Minister's office.

Senator FAULKNER —Weren't you required to do this, Mr Henderson, before a cabinet meeting on 23 November 1999?

Senator Hill —I think Mr Henderson has said that he regards it as inappropriate to answer these questions, and that is my view.

Senator FAULKNER —No, you have said you think it is inappropriate.

Senator Hill —I am sure if the roles were reversed, Senator Faulkner, you would say it was unduly and inappropriately intrusive.

Senator FAULKNER —Time will tell on that, Senator Hill, won't it?

Senator Hill —I can reflect upon a long past as well, Senator Faulkner.

Senator FAULKNER —The point that I am making is that there are, at a departmental level, communications flowing at least between the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Defence on this very issue. And it is true, isn't it, that the Department of Defence provided formal advice to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on this request. Surely someone can at least confirm that.

Senator Hill —You are just repeating the question and adding further alleged specifics. It does not change the tenor of the original question or our response.

Senator FAULKNER —If we keep going in this way, Senator Hill, we will be forced to release the leaked Department of Defence minute—and I am sure you would not want us to do that. So why don't we cut to the chase and get some answers to the questions?

Senator Hill —I certainly would not encourage you to be involved in improper behaviour.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But you can confirm that the Department of Defence was asked to bring forward $400 million in the very financial year, for the first time in history, where the defence department dipped into their capital equipment account for $400 million to pay recurrent expenditure? I just find that amazing that those two things would occur in the same year and that you would make that request.

Senator Hill —I do not know that there is much point in me just repeating the answer. You may well wish to question the Department of Defence about its financial affairs, but what you are questioning here is the communications, or alleged communications, between the departments and the Prime Minister's office. That is what I say is beyond the normal province of an estimates committee.

Senator FAULKNER —We are actually questioning you and Mr Henderson about the role of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in this particular scam.

Senator Hill —But I am responding by saying that I believe that the information you seek is beyond the normal scope of an estimates committee. And I think that that would certainly have been the view taken by successive governments.

Senator FAULKNER —Such a request would be unprecedented, wouldn't it, Mr Henderson?

Senator Hill —If the PM&C had asked the department, that is very speculative. I think Senator Ray has almost conceded that what seems to be occurring here is not unusual between the finance department and individual—

Senator ROBERT RAY —No, I haven't.

Senator Hill —That is the way I am interpreting what you said. What you are asking here is: would it be unusual for such a request to flow from PM&C?

Senator ROBERT RAY —No, what is unusual is that the Prime Minister's office requested the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to seek urgent advice from the Department of Defence to bring forward $400 million worth of expenditure from the following financial year. That is what is unusual. It is not unusual for the Department of Defence to bring forward expenditure to balance their budget or delay expenditure to budget what is a very hard to manage global budget. The Department of Defence acknowledge there is no benefit whatsoever in bringing forward this $400 million for their own processes that would create minor but not major difficulties, but basically they should go along with it because it is a good suck up process and will make them more immune in the next budget process. That is basically the story, but why is Prime Minister and Cabinet involved? I can understand Treasury and Finance being involved. I also think they should acknowledge they have done it.

Senator Hill —But I do not think it is historically unusual for Finance/Treasury to make such requests within the framework of the overall budget of government.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But the whole point is that it is not acknowledged anywhere. It is not acknowledged in the budget papers that they have made these requests. I am not even saying that eventually $400 million was brought forward in Defence. What I am saying is that it should be acknowledged that that is the game plan in the additional estimates.

Senator Hill —The next set of financial information for estimates in such a circumstance would have to incorporate any change that was made as a result of that, so the actuals in the forward estimates would reflect the circumstances that flowed therefrom. What you are saying is that it might be difficult to read the small print into such a set of accounts, but I do not know there is necessarily a great deal that flows from that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But you and I both know this is only done so that the headline rate of projected deficit that appears in the budget papers would look different. That is what this scam is about. No-one looks at the previous deficit. They look at the predicted deficit, and that is what this is all about.

Senator Hill —There is no issue of any scam. I think what I said is correct. What is being put here is what is unusual in the circumstance, and the only aspect being put as unusual is whether there was a PM&C involvement. I do not know whether it is unusual for PM&C to enter the realm of overall government accounts, but I actually would not have thought it was extraordinary.

Senator ROBERT RAY —They did it because the PM's office asked them to. That is what is unusual.

Senator Hill —But if that is the line of argument, the PM's office could have asked the Treasury to do it.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Precisely. They should have.

Senator Hill —Why should they? I do not see that that necessarily flows.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Because the administrative order is basically of Treasury and Finance and the overall control of the budget, not PM&C.

Senator Hill —I think Senator Faulkner gave PM&C a particular status a while ago in terms of the total public sector responsibility. They do take an overview of the actions of all portfolios.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, but given that the objective of this is to try to ease government budget pressures in 2000-01, it would seem quite extraordinary that this matter comes from Prime Minister and Cabinet, whether it has a coordinating role or not. I would be interested to know in fact whether the Treasurer or the Treasury was even aware of it.

Senator Hill —If it so occurred, it does not seem so extraordinary to me.

Senator FAULKNER —I think others will differ, but given that you seem—

Senator ROBERT RAY —Bent on covering up.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes. You seem very reticent about it.

Senator Hill —Ha, ha!

Senator FAULKNER —Absolutely. You are not even willing to confirm it took place, even though there is a cabinet minute in relation to it.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I think we can leave the Defence portfolio until Wednesday. There were a variety of articles in the newspaper, Minister—and you might like to get the officials to comment on this—and there seemed to be more than a strong hint from the finance minister that senior public servants' performance pay should be very closely looked at because of their failure to implement IT outsourcing as directed by government. Has it come on the screen in Prime Minister and Cabinet that you should be looking at cutting people's performance pay because they have failed to deliver the savings on IT outsourcing?

Mr Henderson —Ms Belcher can assist you on that issue. It is not retrospective. You are implying that they will be held to account for things in the past.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is only in the future?

Mr Henderson —There are new devolved arrangements in respect of the implementation of the government's IT outsourcing policies.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So you cannot get any of the money back from bungles by departmental heads and others who have failed to implement government policy or even go back to the designers of this brilliant scheme; that is just not possible?

Mr Henderson —That is not the purpose of performance appraisal.

Senator Hill —You are only involved in performance appraisal beyond your own department as secretaries, aren't you; is that right or wrong? Performance appraisals beyond PM&C: how far do you cast your net?

Ms Belcher —In relation to secretaries—

Senator FAULKNER —Not very far at all.

Senator Hill —It is only secretaries, isn't it?

Ms Belcher —Yes.

Senator Hill —So I presume the question is relating to secretaries?

Senator ROBERT RAY —For the purpose of discussion, we can put it there at the moment; we can move on later.

Senator FAULKNER —But let us be clear, Senator Hill: these questions are predicated on Mr Fahey's own comments, which of course were responded to in widely leaked comments from Mr Moore-Wilton, the secretary of the department.

Senator ROBERT RAY —No, I think we should correct that; they were not leaked. It says here, `Mr Moore-Wilton told the Age yesterday.' He told them directly, so it was not a leak. I am sorry to interrupt your flow.

Senator FAULKNER —So on this particular occasion Senator Ray is quite right; they were not leaked from a departmental secretaries meeting.

Senator Hill —Performance assessments obviously would take into account whether the relevant secretary is meeting the government's requirements in this regard.

Senator FAULKNER —But isn't it true that Mr Fahey was reported as warning departmental secretaries, senior public servants, that they would be held personally responsible? These are Mr Fahey's own words; let me quote directly:

... If they fail to apply those policies properly, they do so at their own peril,” he said two weeks ago, adding that recalcitrant bureaucrats would lose performance bonuses.

Ms Belcher —In the response to the Humphry report, it was indicated that as part of the annual performance appraisal cycle of secretaries the success of implementing the government's outsourcing objectives would be part of the appraisal; that secretaries would be judged on that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Can we confirm that Mr Max Moore-Wilton indicated to the Age that at a meeting `next week'—on 25 January, so this meeting is long and truly over—he would reassure department heads that the performance payments process would remain unbiased and would not be slated towards outsourcing. That is basically the government's view, is it?

Senator Hill —But there is no inconsistency between both the statements there and Mr Fahey—

Senator ROBERT RAY —No tricks. It is just a straight question. I am saying: is that the view?

Senator Hill —The answer is: yes, it would not be unfairly biased towards outsourcing.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Do not look for hidden hooks that are not there. That was just a straight question: is this the government policy on this?

Senator Hill —My answer would be yes.

Senator FAULKNER —So did Mr Moore-Wilton reassure department heads at a secretaries meeting the subsequent week?

Ms Belcher —I am not aware of that. The appraisal though is to be part of the general appraisal; there is not any separate appraisal system in relation to IT.

Mr Henderson —So secretaries have been advised by Mr Moore-Wilton and the Public Service Commissioner, Ms Williams, of the new arrangements to apply.

Senator FAULKNER —But when was that advice?

Mr Henderson —It was quite recent. But it makes it clear that their performance in respect of implementing IT outsourcing consistent with the government's response to the Humphry review is just one element of the assessment of their performance—but it is an explicit element.

Ms Belcher —The secretary and Public Service Commissioner advised secretaries at the end of January.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, at the meeting that was referred to in the Age article of 23 January 2001. I assume these are the self same meetings. You do not have them that regularly, do you, Mr Henderson?

Ms Belcher —The commissioner and secretary advised secretaries in writing in January.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Was every departmental secretary or representative invited to this meeting, or were a few excluded like at a previous meeting?

Mr Henderson —Ms Belcher has just said that Mr Moore-Wilton and Ms Williams wrote to all portfolio secretaries, spelling the arrangements out quite clearly.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But I am asking about the meeting that presumably occurred some time after 25 January, when Mr Moore-Wilton has given a preview to the Age that he was going to assure department heads. Were all department heads invited to that?

Mr Henderson —All portfolio secretaries are invited to those meetings.

Senator ROBERT RAY —None were excluded at the meeting, like at a previous meeting?

Mr Henderson —Nobody was excluded from the previous meeting that you are referring to. The previous meeting was postponed by a week. As a result of that, it clashed with some longstanding leave arrangements that Dr Boxall had in place. That is the explanation as to why he was not present at that meeting.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I accept that.

Mr Henderson —I am sorry, I misinterpreted your comment. I thought you were saying that somebody had been excluded from a meeting.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I thought when the meeting concerned was under way, they dealt with one item, let two or three disappear off and then reconvened. That didn't happen this year?

Ms Belcher —Sometimes when acting secretaries are present, they leave for particular items. There were no acting secretaries present at the meeting at the beginning of February.

Senator FAULKNER —Senator Hill, do you accept Mr Fahey's comments in that:

“... it is widely accepted that agencies' inertia and resistance to change contributed significantly to these delays,” he said.

Do you accept Mr Fahey's criticism of agencies and departments in relation to the IT outsourcing issue, or have we moved on since then?

Senator Hill —I would not have thought there was overwhelming enthusiasm from agencies regarding the policy.

Senator FAULKNER —So there has been some revisionism, has there? So you do not accept it?

Senator Hill —I think for many agencies it has been quite a traumatic process.

Senator FAULKNER —He was wrong there, was he?

Senator Hill —No, I did not say that at all.

Senator ROBERT RAY —He was just having a bit of biffo after humiliation, wasn't he?

Senator Hill —I think there has been more success in the policy than some others probably do.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So you will not want any of those savings clipped off your own department? That is good.

Senator Hill —I am sorry?

Senator ROBERT RAY —You will not want any of the savings already clipped off your own department back, it has been such a success. I hope someone from Finance notes that down.

Senator FAULKNER —The situation is that you have had criticism from Mr Fahey about certain agencies. I think Centrelink, Health, and the CSIRO are on a go-slow for outsourcing, and have been criticised by Mr Fahey. But, given the subsequent criticisms of the program by the Auditor-General and Mr Humphry, surely the caution of those agency and departmental heads is something that you would now acknowledge should be rewarded. In fact, maybe you could give them a performance bonus for actually realising that Mr Fahey's IT outsourcing scheme was a dog's breakfast.

Senator Hill —It would not be uncommon for senior public servants to believe that the political judgments under which they are acting are in error. Nevertheless, part of the job is to implement them—

Senator FAULKNER —The question here is the application of the performance pay system, is it not? Mr Fahey is saying clip the secretaries for their performance pay for being cautious, having a go-slow, when others might well say that their caution was totally appropriate given the debacle and fiasco that the IT outsourcing proposal has become.

Senator Hill —Firstly, I do not think it has become a debacle and a fiasco. I think significant—

Senator FAULKNER —Haven't you read the ANAO's report and Mr Humphry's report?

Senator Hill —I have read the report. I am happy to have the debate. You could have asked me elsewhere what I think. I think significant benefits have flowed from the outsourcing. I think it was a highly ambitious project in the way that it was tackled. In retrospect, given the time frames within which we sought to achieve the outcomes, it may have been somewhat overambitious. I think there were significant issues, particularly easy to judge in retrospect, in relation to the grouping of particular agencies and trying to provide a common solution for what were different issues. I thought that was the most marked outcome of the process. Out of the years of experience, the way in which we intend to go forward, where the responsibility is a more devolved responsibility, is sensible.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But you have always been noted for your graciousness.

Senator Hill —When you come down to the question of judging the secretaries—which is what you asked me about—yes, secretaries get judged on their performance under government policy at the time in which that policy was in existence.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You say a lot of these things are unforeseen—and I know you are a very gracious person—but a couple of senators pointed out from day one that it was overambitious, that it would not work, et cetera. There was no chance of them getting any performance pay. I speak without any self-interest because I was not one of them. But it was pointed out very strongly. In fact, one of our senators sat at this table with the previous director of OASITO trying to humiliate the senator all the way through the proceedings as she raised questions on this outsourcing stuff. He is back in Canada and she has been proven right.

Senator Hill —This is an interesting discussion. If we had gone down her path nothing would have happened. If there has been a net benefit that has flowed from the experience we have gone through, my assessment is that we would have been worse off. Even if we had started with a more devolved process, would we be better off now than we are? I suspect not. In some ways, I think it needed a significant push in the early stages.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But it did not need a massive five-year plan, centrally directed, and useless advisers brought in from the US to do it. No-one here is disputing that outsourcing IT quite often is a sensible idea—it is how it was implemented.

Senator Hill —I think there were people disputing—

Senator ROBERT RAY —People were critical about it at the time. Twenty-three departments or whatever—I am sorry; I can't remember the figure—were critical about it.

Senator Hill —But you are asking us to pick winners—those who were smart in the first place. I think some of those who now claim to have been a winner were opposed to outsourcing; it was not that they wanted outsourcing done in a slightly different way.

Senator FAULKNER —You seem to miss the fundamental point, which is that the Minister for Finance and Administration argued that the recalcitrant secretaries—particularly those in Centrelink and CSIRO—should lose their performance bonuses because of their attitude to IT outsourcing, whereas some might say `Why not clip the performance bonuses of the only two departmental secretaries that put their shoulder to the wheel and supported this fiasco?' If I remember correctly, they are the secretaries of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Finance and Administration.

Senator Hill —I think that government should accept the consequences of decisions of government but I then expect—

Senator FAULKNER —But what happens to the bull in the china shop supporters?

Senator Hill —I then expect the Public Service to implement the decisions of the government of the day and if you are advocating—and it sounds as if you are—that, if public servants think the government's political judgment is unwise, then they should move in a different direction and be rewarded for it, I respectfully suggest that would be a very dangerous guidance for even you, Senator Faulkner, to give to the public sector.

Senator FAULKNER —What we are doing, Senator Hill, is demonstrating what a complete fiasco performance pay for secretaries is proving to be when you have a senior minister in the government, the Minister for Finance and Administration, saying, `Take the performance bonuses off secretaries and departmental and agency heads who were concerned about what has turned out to be a debacle,' yet having no worries at all about the performance bonuses for the only two secretaries who signed up.

Senator Hill —I think that when your government introduced performance bonuses, I was one who actually had significant reservations that I expressed in estimates committees, so perhaps I should get some reward for that.

Senator FAULKNER —When are we going to publish the criteria for performance pay? When your government joins with the opposition's call to publish the criteria, we will—

Senator Hill —I have always thought performance bonuses for public servants is a difficult concept.

Senator ROBERT RAY —That is precisely why Mr Fahey should butt out of it. I am not in much disagreement with the views that you have just put forward in the last three or four minutes but Mr Fahey should butt out of it.

Senator Hill —What it boils down to is not Mr Fahey saying any more than what I have just said. If you are going to have a performance reward then it has got to be on the basis of the policy of the government, not on the basis of some other policy that the public servant thinks is in the better interests of the community.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I hope he is better at shifting to Hume than he is at shifting blame. This is an issue that we are going to have to follow through twice today in your presence, Senator Hill. Where are we up to in shifting resources out of PM&C to the Department of Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs?

Mr Henderson —Where are we at?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes.

Mr Henderson —We have reached an understanding. For starters, the new department, for the foreseeable future, will remain physically located in the PM&C departmental offices.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I will just stop you there, then. Who will be secretary of that department?

Mr Henderson —Mr Bill Farmer.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Who is located elsewhere.

Mr Henderson —Who is located elsewhere.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Okay. Can you tell us any more?

Mr Henderson —We have reached understandings as to the funding allocation. It is a combination of cash resources being transferred to the new department, plus a lot of in-kind support arising from the fact that they are physically in our building.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So the secretary of it is going to be Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, shorthanding that.

Mr Henderson —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But they are going to be located in your building. Who is providing them with their corporate services or is that part of the transfer of resources?

Mr Henderson —There is no simple answer to that. For example, for the present time they will be relying on IT support from the Advantra company.

Senator FAULKNER —What about the transfer of workplace agreements, certified agreements and the like? How does that work? I imagine it is quite complex.

Mr Henderson —They would continue under the existing PM&C certified agreement until such time as they negotiate a separate one.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is a curious arrangement.

Mr Henderson —I do not think it is a curious arrangement.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Minister, even though Mr Ruddock is minister for both immigration and this new department, I cannot understand why, in locating it where it is—and with so much commonality of history with PM&C—you would not have the PM&C secretary doing this rather than someone who is another building, with the only commonality seeming to be a minister.

Senator Hill —That is the element of commonality that registered with me as well. I think that is probably the case.

Mr Henderson —You need a secretary who reports directly to, and is responsible to, the minister.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I would not like to be a secretary where everyone was in another building and basically being nurtured by another department, but we will see how that sorts out.

Mr Henderson —Until recently, Senator Hill's portfolio had people scattered all around the town.

Senator ROBERT RAY —The defence rests!

Mr Henderson —Now that they are in the John Gorton building it is different.

Senator ROBERT RAY —That proves my point.

Mr Henderson —The physical location is not a unique issue here.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is not solely the physical location. I am asking for a simple answer even though I know this is a complex question: how do you calculate the transfer of resources fairly? We have had examples where, for instance, the Office of Multicultural Affairs went over to Immigration and was not transferred at 100 per cent resources. In fact, in the history of this government the only 100 per cent transfers of resources have tended to be when Treasury has absorbed things. Most of the others have been discounted down a bit when they have moved. Is this going at 100 per cent resources? I know it is a complex formula that you will be looking at.

Mr Henderson —In recent weeks Mr Peter Vaughan, other staff and I have spent a long time negotiating a fair funding arrangement.

Senator FAULKNER —Can I ask Senator Ray's very eloquent question more crudely: how much have you skimmed off for PM&C in the transfer?

Mr Henderson —We have not skimmed off anything.

Senator FAULKNER —That should please everyone. What about Mr Vaughan? We had that position created under section 67 of the Constitution, as I recall—it is ancient history now. You would recall that issue, wouldn't you, Mr Henderson?

Mr Henderson —It is ancient history and it is basically irrelevant now.

Senator FAULKNER —Why is it irrelevant now? This was the creation of the head of the OIP as a statutory officer of the Commonwealth, wasn't it? Is my recollection correct; it was OIP?

Mr Henderson —It is not relevant to the new arrangements. We have a secretary who is also the secretary to DIMA, and Mr Peter Vaughan.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, but what has happened to the position that was established under section 67? Has that just lapsed?

Mr Henderson —I am not sure that it was ever established; it was certainly never filled.

Senator FAULKNER —It was established, wasn't it?

Senator Hill —They are all done differently now, aren't they?

Senator FAULKNER —I thought it was technically established, but you are telling me it was not.

Ms Belcher —No. My understanding is that section 67 positions under the Constitution are really nothing more than the appointment of a person under section 67. There is not an office created.

Senator FAULKNER —I thought it was created but not filled. But you are telling me that it was not created.

Ms Belcher —That is my understanding, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —Really? I am surprised to hear that. Mr Henderson, given the arrangements you have indicated about the Secretary to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, are there any plans as to whether that will be a long-term or a short-term arrangement?

Mr Henderson —Nobody ever says, when there is a change to the administrative arrangement orders, whether something is going to be long term or short term. It is the arrangements that are applied from the day that they were set in place.

Senator FAULKNER —I appreciate that, but I am just wondering if there had been any consideration given to whether there might be in the future a separate secretary or whatever.

Mr Henderson —I am not aware of any consideration being given to that issue.

Senator FAULKNER —There was a consultancy in relation to the establishment of this department. I found in the Gazette contract identification 608755—consultancy services to assist in establishing a Department of Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. I just wondered what that was all about, because I thought the government division would normally do this sort of thing.

Mr Henderson —It would be best to direct that question to Mr Vaughan later today.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Is it a contract let when he was a member of PM&C?

Senator FAULKNER —No, the agency is the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Mr Henderson —Clearly, there is a transitional period.

Senator FAULKNER —This is about assisting in establishing; it is before its establishment. Hence, it seems perfectly reasonable to ask you about it here, I would have thought, Mr Henderson.

Mr Henderson —As to the number you read out, I am not sure precisely what contract that is. But Mr Vaughan has employed some additional staff—consultants—to establish the department, and certainly at least one of those persons had accounting expertise. For example, as with the establishment of the Department of Tourism, we are creating a stand-alone department here, so they need a little more accounting firepower than they did as simply a division of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. So it is possible that that contract there related to the financial adviser consultant that he employed.

Senator FAULKNER —It is possible?

Mr Henderson —We can confirm, or Mr Vaughan can confirm, later in the day—

Senator FAULKNER —Okay. But this was a PM&C contract under OIP, and the contract date was 17 January 2001. So I think there is no doubt that it was a contract let by PM&C, prior to the establishment of the new department. Anyway, if you cannot help us, we will chase it up with Mr Vaughan, but I do hope Mr Vaughan does not say to us, `You should have asked those questions of Prime Minister and Cabinet.'

Mr Henderson —As you would appreciate, on the one day they are established as a separate department, you cannot create everything overnight to establish a new department. They are basically supported wholly by our agency on day one, and they still will be for a number of services, but come the 2001-02 budget, I would imagine that their portfolio budget statement will have a retrospective element in respect of this year to—

Senator FAULKNER —But day one is 30 January, isn't it? I think it is, anyway. That is my recollection; I am going from memory here. Senator Hill passed this across the table to me in the chamber.

Mr Henderson —Yes.

Senator FAULKNER —This contract was let on 17 January; the contract date is 17 January, two weeks prior to the establishment of the department?

Mr Henderson —Let's take that on notice. We will check it.

Senator FAULKNER —But the government division itself, wouldn't it, Ms Belcher, would be very involved in the establishment of a new department? It is core business, effectively, for your division, isn't it?

Ms Belcher —Certainly. We looked after the recommendations, the instrument and the actual establishment, so this consultancy was obviously not related to that issue of the actual establishment. It was to do, presumably, with the administrative arrangements that go to managing the finances, as Mr Henderson said.

Senator ROBERT RAY —As Ms Belcher is at the table, I will ask a question I have raised on one or two occasions before. The ability of government, via a cabinet decision, to indemnify an Executive Council member in legal proceedings in the course of their duties: does that only apply to members of the Executive Council as a general policy?

Ms Belcher —Yes, I believe so: ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Would that date from the day they are sworn in, or can it be retrospective?

Ms Belcher —I would have thought it was from the time they were sworn in—from the time they were part of the executive government.

Senator ROBERT RAY —The reason I ask, Minister, is that this is a sensitive area in defamation cases. Your newest minister, therefore—I take it from that—would not be indemnified for his comments in relation to Mr Swan, because they were made before he was a member of the Executive Council. Is that your view?

Senator Hill —I can answer by saying I have always understood the indemnity to relate to one's actions as a minister and, I presume, as a parliamentary secretary.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Okay. While we are on Mr Brough, he was cleared by the Federal Police—and I never had any doubt that he would be—but has anyone in government gone to the second, and more important, issue where a staff member of Mr Brough's claims that she informed Mr Brough of potential offences and that he did nothing about it? Where is the investigation of that particular issue—not related to whether he knew about electoral roll fraud, which clearly he did not or had no part in instigating? Who has investigated that particular allegation before he became a minister?

Senator Hill —Beyond the legal issues, the type and level of investigation to satisfy the Prime Minister as to the good character of a prospective minister is in the hands of the Prime Minister. I assume that the Prime Minister accepted what Mr Brough said to him.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Would it be a standard procedure or recommendation to ministers, where an illegality has been brought to their attention, that they would automatically refer it to the police or advise the person who has brought it to their attention to refer it to the police?

Senator Hill —Where an illegality—

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes. Say someone bowls up to your office and says, `I have got evidence of illegal activity.'

Senator Hill —You would have to make a judgment as to whether there was any. I do not know that you would just automatically send to the police any accusation of illegal activity. You would have to make some sort of value judgment as to whether you believe it is an allegation that should be treated seriously.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I think you have the secondary defence. I agree with you: I do not think you have to send every allegation off, but you should at least advise the person that if they believe illegality was occurring—even if you are not convinced of it—they should take it up with the police. I think that is the secondary defence you always have. Anyway, in the case of Mr Brough, it looks like we will never know who is telling the truth, his staff or him—other than by using your own judgment.

Senator Hill —Obviously, the Prime Minister accepts the good character of Mr Brough, or else he would not have accepted him as one of his ministers.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Sure.

Senator FAULKNER —At what stage in the process of the tabling of an Auditor-General's report is the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or the office of the Prime Minister brought into the loop? Or is it brought into the loop?

Senator Hill —Can you generalise?

Senator FAULKNER —Any ANAO report. I am just trying to understand the internal processes about whether you would ordinarily—

Senator Hill —Presumably not relating to a PM&C matter?

Senator FAULKNER —That is right. Let us say it is another agency or department.

Senator ROBERT RAY —There is no reward for guessing which one he has in mind.

Ms Belcher —There is no automatic provision, to the Prime Minister or the department, of information about Auditor-General's reports.

Senator FAULKNER —There is no automatic provision; I think I understand that. Are they generally provided?

Ms Belcher —No, I could not say they are generally provided.

Senator FAULKNER —Are some of them provided?

Ms Belcher —It is quite likely that in the past some might have been provided. As you would know, the Auditor-General has to agree to draft reports being handed over. I really cannot say whether there have been cases in the past where that agreement has been sought and obtained. It is possible that that has happened. I just do not know of those cases.

Senator FAULKNER —It is a case by case situation; is that fair?

Ms Belcher —That is right.

Senator FAULKNER —We would have to go through each and every Auditor-General's report to establish a pattern. So let us cut to the chase and go to the roads funding inquiry report.

Ms Belcher —My understanding is that that draft report was not provided to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or to the Prime Minister.

Senator FAULKNER —Has that been checked?

Ms Belcher —Yes, I can confirm that the draft was not provided.

Senator FAULKNER —What about any formal or informal advice from the department of transport itself to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet about the matters canvassed in the Auditor-General's report?

Dr Watt —The department was advised at the desk officer level, on 31 January, of the existence of the performance audit. That was the first time we became aware of that performance audit. That advice came in the context of a proposed meeting between Treasury, Transport, Finance and us.

Senator FAULKNER —Did the proposed meeting take place?

Dr Watt —I believe the meeting took place. The officer who was advised was in the event unable to attend and advised the convening department, which I think was Finance, of that 20 minutes before the meeting.

Senator FAULKNER —Do I read correctly into your evidence that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was unrepresented at the meeting?

Dr Watt —That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —But given that the officer advised that they were not able to attend, we could at least receive from you the date of that meeting.

Dr Watt —The meeting was held, I believe, on 2 February.

Senator FAULKNER —And that could have involved PM&C, but you were unrepresented—it was the departments of finance, transport and Treasury, I think you said?

Dr Watt —That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —Your desk officer was informed of this on 31 January and there was a meeting on 2 February that PM&C did not attend. What happened between 31 January and 2 February? How do you pass this up the line?

Dr Watt —The issue was not advised to senior management at PM&C.

Senator FAULKNER —So when did you become aware?

Dr Watt —I became aware of it when I saw the Sydney Morning Herald on the morning of the 9th. And that is the case with PM&C senior management.

Senator ROBERT RAY —We know you did not get the draft report. When did you get the actual report in PM&C from other departments? It probably wasn't even there on the 9th, was it?

Dr Watt —I got mine out of the government bookshop.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Just after reading the Sydney Morning Herald.

Dr Watt —As I understand the process, and I think Ms Belcher has summed it up, the Auditor-General deals bilaterally with departments that are involved, as a key part of the report. I think the Auditor-General deals only with departments that are directly involved in the report. So no other department would normally expect to see a draft.

Senator ROBERT RAY —If there were some very adverse findings or problems, is there anything to stop a department, having received that draft, informing others, `We are in dispute and there are problems coming up'? Can they do that? I think they can, but I'm not sure.

Ms Belcher —No, I do not think there is anything to stop that—with careful use of material that might be confidential or touch on other parties.

Dr Watt —I think there is nothing to stop an interdepartmental consultation process, but I emphasise small `i' and small `d'.

Senator FAULKNER —Having heard what you have said about the department of transport and its interface with Prime Minister and Cabinet commencing—and almost ending, it sounds to me—on 31 January, are you aware of any interface with the Prime Minister's office as opposed to the department?

Dr Watt —Senator, I can only speak for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. We did not brief the Prime Minister or his office on this issue. I can say it is my understanding that the Prime Minister's office was not consulted, and you would have seen from the Prime Minister's transcripts on the morning of—

Senator FAULKNER —That disastrous interview on 3AW, yes.

Dr Watt —He had not been advised.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Could I ask this question, Mr Henderson, because I think we can then dismiss the international division at some stage. Have we got a firm date for CHOGM? If so, could I have it?

Mr Henderson —It is 6-9 October. Can we also dismiss Dr Watt?

Senator ROBERT RAY —No, not yet. Do not dismiss anyone yet. I thought I had read somewhere—maybe this newspaper has referred to it—about CHOGM in November. So I just wanted to confirm.

Mr Henderson —It is from the 6th to the 9th.

Senator ROBERT RAY —From that we can usually speculate on two or three election dates, you see. My colleagues here also want to know; we all want to know. I am not sure we have got any more on International Division, but seeing we are making such fabulous progress, don't fret about it.

Senator FAULKNER —Was the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet involved in the government response to the House of Representatives committee report called, I think, Planning not patching? I think it was tabled in April last year, from memory. It went also to this roads funding inquiry. Do you know, Mr Henderson, if there was any involvement of the department?

Mr Henderson —No, I am not aware.

Dr Watt —In response to your question, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was involved to the extent of a normal cabinet process, no more. That is my understanding.

Senator Hill —I presume in terms of the coordination of responses and the development of the whole-of-government response.

Senator FAULKNER —So the department was well aware of the issue that was contained in the report that was the subject of the 3AW interview—

Dr Watt —No. Planning not patching did not touch on that particular issue.

Senator FAULKNER —Didn't it?

Dr Watt —No. It touched on the broader issue of hypothecation. I think the government is on record as announcing in response to Planning not patching that it proposed to remove at some future date the hypothecation provisions, but it did not touch on the things that were the subject of the Auditor-General's report.

Senator FAULKNER —Is there an IDC on this issue now, or has there been?

Dr Watt —There has been some work done by a number of departments.

Senator Hill —But when you say `on this issue', this is subsequent to the Auditor-General's report.

Senator FAULKNER —I think Dr Watt is referring to subsequent to the Auditor-General's report.

Senator Hill —Well, we are ducking back to April of last year.

Senator FAULKNER —That is just the nature of these hearings, as you know. You move around the targets before you home in.

Senator Hill —I am just seeking clarification. In responding to the particular issue that the Auditor-General has raised, what are the departmental processes? Are you involved in those?

Dr Watt —PM&C is involved in those departmental processes.

Senator Hill —There has been further legal advice taken and the like?

Dr Watt —That is right.

Senator FAULKNER —You are asking the questions now, are you, Senator Hill?

Senator Hill —I am trying to help you.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You are being very helpful.

Senator FAULKNER —You are. Do you mind if I ask Dr Watt a question? Have you finished with your questions? I didn't want to interrupt your flow.

Senator Hill —I was just trying to make it clear.

Senator FAULKNER —Thank you. Can you let us know of PM&C's involvement in the IDC and other activities?

Dr Watt —We have been responsible for helping prepare advice for ministers.

Senator FAULKNER —But there is an IDC?

Dr Watt —`IDC' would be putting it far too formally.

Senator FAULKNER —So there is not an IDC?

Dr Watt —It is a group of departments working on an issue.

Senator FAULKNER —A group of departments? What other departments are working with PM&C on this? Who is the coordinating department?

Dr Watt —I do not think there is one assigned role to coordinate departments.

Senator FAULKNER —Really? There is no lead department?

Senator Hill —It sounds like a more informal relationship, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —It is hard to get to the bottom of it, isn't it, Senator Hill?

Senator Hill —That is because it is an informal relationship.

Senator ROBERT RAY —The question is: which departments are meeting informally?

Dr Watt —The departments involved are PM&C, DTRS, finance and Treasury, with advice from the Australian Government Solicitor.

Senator ROBERT RAY —That last part worries me.

Senator FAULKNER —When did this new process which we are talking about—which is not a formal IDC, but an informal departmental consultative process—kick off?

Dr Watt —There have been a number of discussions since Friday of last week.

Senator FAULKNER —I bet there have. And you cannot tell me what the lead department is?

Dr Watt —I do not think it is, again, as formal as that. No-one is formally in the chair. We have certainly been involved in helping pull some things together.

Senator FAULKNER —So who is chairing it?

Dr Watt —PM&C has certainly been involved in helping pull some things together, but the department of transport has also done quite a lot of work.

Senator FAULKNER —But who is chairing the informal discussions?

Dr Watt —I do not think we have ever had a formal chair.

Senator FAULKNER —I see. Whose idea was it to get this group of friends together?

Senator Hill —I do not think he said they were friends.

Senator FAULKNER —I am just assuming that is the case, Senator Hill. They might start off as friends. I do not know whether they will finish that way.

Senator ROBERT RAY —We are not talking about the Department of the PM&C and finance.

Senator FAULKNER —It is terribly informal and friendly; that is the impression I got.

Dr Watt —We have very good relationships with all those departments.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Stick around until the next estimates hearing.

Senator FAULKNER —But whose idea was it to get this group of people together?

Dr Watt —I think it came out of developments on Friday morning. I do not know whose specific idea it was. A meeting was certainly called by PM&C, and representatives attended in the PM&C building.

Senator FAULKNER —Right. So it was called by PM&C and held in the PM&C building. This is at the departmental level only?

Dr Watt —Yes, although there has been office participation in various forms, in meetings.

Senator FAULKNER —And who does this informal group report to?

Dr Watt —We would each report to our ministers and to cabinet.

Senator FAULKNER —I see. We will look forward to hearing more about it as time moves on.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Could I go back to the Auditor-General's reports. I am not sure each department approaches these things in the same way. In your experience, Dr Watt, if there is an Auditor-General's report that affects PM&C you would receive the draft report, would you not?

Dr Watt —The department or departments if there was more than one substantially affected.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I think it would be rare that there would be one directly into PM&C. Your department would then make comments back to the Auditor-General both in writing and by way of negotiation, as I understand it?

Dr Watt —My handling of these things has been rare. My understanding is the Auditor-General allows a process on a draft report of comments from a department, I assume both in writing and by way of meetings across a table, and that process goes on for a period.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Where you very strongly disagree you can even request, can't you, that the Auditor-General include your own comments within his report?

Mr Henderson —That is at the final stage. But the initial document that you see is called a discussion paper.

Senator ROBERT RAY —At that point, when the discussion paper comes in and has adverse comment or there is a problem there, the normal process would be for you to advise your minister that there are problems there and you are negotiating around them, wouldn't it?

Mr Henderson —It depends entirely on the nature of the audit. We are often included in audits, such as this recent one on financial matters, which might be multidepartmental. I doubt if we provided advice to the Prime Minister on the processes leading to the preparation of that report.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You are not a line department; you are a bad department to ask on this because you do not get many audits—you are not running those sorts of programs. But my experience has always been that if there is a problem in an Auditor-General's report the minister is told.

Senator Hill —This was a bit different in that it was the Auditor responding critically to a process that had been longstanding and that obviously the line department had regarded as legitimate. It had crossed governments. There was no suggestion that any particular minister had sought in any way to take advantage of it. It was complicated by a number of changes in the law during this period. It just seemed that, provided that the amount to be spent on roads exceeded the amount—the four point whatever per cent—then these declarations were not necessary. It may well be that the alarm therefore did not go off in the way one would sense in retrospect it should have gone off.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I think if it was you or me, we both would rather have known in advance. If you do not know in advance it is very hard to put the counterargument, and once you have not put the counterargument it runs like a firestorm; it is very hard to pull back in.

Senator Hill —That is true.

Senator ROBERT RAY —At the last estimates I asked for an updated version of the chief executive's instructions relating to official hospitality, and I think you very kindly provided me with pages 81 to 84. It was not what I was asking for, but that may have been my fault in the way that I asked for it. I had received at least a summary sheet of the guidelines applying in the Department of Health and Aged Care, and I was wondering about the commonality. Therefore, I wonder about the guidelines in PM&C. Again, this may not be the best department to ask because the Prime Minister is in a separate category, but other ministers also sometimes work in there. So that is what I was looking for, and I do not know even if they exist. Senator Herron worked in there at one point—a very abstemious person in terms of the use of public resources, I might say. But suppose I were Minister Herron working in the department of the Prime Minister and I believed that I should take eight representatives out for lunch. I am looking for the guidelines that apply there. I think the ones provided to me—and they are very good guidelines, I might add—are for officials: they are very explicit, they are detailed, they are appropriate. But that is what I am looking for. So could you again have a look whether you have any of those guidelines and provide them to me, on notice?

Ms Belcher —Yes, I understand what you mean.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I am campaigning—be it for a Labor or Liberal-National Party government—for there to be at some stage common guidelines for every department and every minister. That is a protection device that I think is necessary in an area that is currently vulnerable. While I am on that subject, could I ask: is it the practice of Prime Minister and Cabinet to pay for any club memberships and professional fees for ministers within their ambit, including the Prime Minister?

Mr Henderson —We will check on that. I am not aware of us doing so, but I will confirm that we have not.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Thank you. Senator Hill, I raise the question that I said I would come back to: the nature and dates of hospitality declared to the Prime Minister. We went through all the Olympic declarations in the Senate. Senator Alston, for instance, attended on nine occasions, Senator Faulkner attended twice and I attended once, I think, although ours was not corporate. Virtually every declaration had the date of the event and the nature of the event. Yours did not; Senator Vanstone's did not. You simply had who provided it—and people have absolutely no idea. Do you provide a more detailed declaration that you give to the Prime Minister than you give to the Senate?

Senator Hill —I do not think so, no.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Do you want to have a think about your declaration to the Senate and whether it should be more detailed? Without answering now, do you want to take that on board: that, looking at everyone else's, they have put the date and the nature of the event, and you have not?

Senator Hill —Yes. I must say that I think I read something in a newspaper where someone had said that some were more explicit on detail than others.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Senator Forshaw also did not but subsequently went back and did—admittedly, hints were given to him by other people. It does not occur to them to do so. But if the date is not down, people do not know whether it is within the 30 days or the 28 days. Even though the corporations reveal the nature or extent of the events, it is just a relevant thing so that people can be absolutely sure there is no conflict of interest. I will just leave that with you to have a look at.

Senator Hill —I think the judgment that the public have to make is whether there is a conflict in taking hospitality from AMP, for example, or not. I can see your point, that the quantum could be relevant if it were extreme—

Senator ROBERT RAY —There is no way you will be able to overtake our friend Senator Alston. Not only did he go to nine corporate functions; the official one is pretty high too. But we are not condemning that at all. As I think we said in the chamber—Mr Abbott totally misinterpreted it—it is appropriate for ministers to accept those invitations.

Senator Hill —Yes, but I do not think I would have responded to the Prime Minister with any greater detail than I did to the Senate.

Senator FAULKNER —Ms Belcher would probably be best to answer this. We appreciate the background of an incoming minister's or Prime Minister's brief. These would be prepared as a matter of course. We understand the circumstances that surround that. In relation to a department like the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, would there be any preparation for an incoming secretary's brief?

Ms Belcher —I think that, if there were to be a new secretary, the department would provide a folder of general briefing, yes.

Senator FAULKNER —So that is done as a matter of course in PM&C?

Ms Belcher —Yes, I can certainly recall one occasion, so I would think that it would be a standard thing to do, yes.

Mr Henderson —When Mr Moore-Wilton was appointed, he was actually in the building for at least a week—it may have been a couple of weeks—prior to formally becoming the secretary of the department. I know successively divisions and senior staff met with Mr Moore-Wilton and explained a bit of background as to their functions and the hot topics of the month—that sort of thing. In that way, he was briefed. But Dr Keating was still formally in the chair at that point.

Senator FAULKNER —That sounds like a sensible arrangement to have those sorts of face-to-face briefings and so forth. I just wondered whether there was also a written brief prepared, and I think Ms Belcher said there is.

Ms Belcher —That is right.

Senator FAULKNER —Who takes the initiative to determine whether you actually prepare a written incoming secretary's brief?

Ms Belcher —I am really talking from what I think would be sensible practice rather than having been closely involved, but I think government division would talk to the other members of the executive, the executive coordinators, and determine that a brief was a good idea and we would then seek contributions from throughout the department.

Senator FAULKNER —So it would be an initiative taken by government division?

Ms Belcher —Yes, in conjunction with the executive of the department.

Senator FAULKNER —Has that initiative been undertaken of late?

Ms Belcher —I have not set anything in train to prepare a brief, no.

Senator FAULKNER —Minister, you would have seen the press coverage of the meeting between Mr Howard and the so-called Bennelong group. That is a group, if you like, of large pharmaceutical firms that are based in Mr Howard's electorate, hence it is called the Bennelong group—or that is my understanding. There has been quite a lot of press reportage of a meeting taking place in Mr Howard's electorate office in Gladesville last November, where he met pharmaceutical manufacturers. My only question from the department's perspective is whether there was any departmental involvement in terms of briefing, attendance or in any other way for preparation or outcomes from that meeting.

Mr Webster —My recollection in regard to that meeting is that a brief was prepared in the department for the meeting but that there was no other participation that I am aware of of the department in regard to that meeting. There was not, for example, a note taker from the department, to my knowledge, present.

Senator FAULKNER —So that is done in your section, is it? What part of the department is responsible for that?

Mr Henderson —Social policy division, Mr Webster's branch. But it would be a pretty standard responsibility of the department to prepare briefs for the Prime Minister when he has meetings with people.

Senator FAULKNER —It would depend on their nature, wouldn't it—whether it was a constituency issue or whether it was in relation to Mr Howard's prime ministerial responsibilities? I think you would probably quickly make the point to me that sometimes it is hard to draw a distinction between the two, and I would accept that that is the case. Can you tell us the background of this particular brief being generated, Mr Webster?

Mr Webster —My recollection of it, as Mr Henderson said, is that it was regarded as a very standard request that came down—I am pretty sure—through our briefing area in the department. As I recollect, it was a standard request for a standard meeting brief between the Prime Minister and people relevant to the work done in my branch. In this case we cover pharmaceutical matters.

Senator FAULKNER —So the request for a brief is generated within the department?

Mr Webster —No; if the original request came down from briefing—and my recollection is that that one did—then it would have been a request that came across from the Prime Minister's office.

Senator FAULKNER —Having such a request from the Prime Minister's office for the meeting between Mr Howard and the Bennelong Group, do you engage or consult with other departments—in this case the department of health, obviously, which has responsibility for policy direction in this particular area?

Mr Webster —That would certainly be the normal way we would go with something like that. In some cases we might not need to do that; we might be sufficiently across issues ourselves not to need that. But normally for something like this we would seek advice.

Senator FAULKNER —Did you in this case?

Mr Webster —I cannot recollect that for certain, but I would imagine that we would have.

Senator FAULKNER —Would there be someone that could help us on that?

Mr Henderson —We can check whether Mr Webster's staff did consult on this particular issue.

Senator FAULKNER —With the department of health and the office of the minister for health.

Mr Webster —I would be reasonably confident but I cannot say unequivocally.

Senator FAULKNER —I appreciate that.

Senator Hill —You would like to know whether PM&C consulted the department of health in the preparation of a brief for the Prime Minister?

Senator FAULKNER —I would like to know that, Senator Hill, and that is helpful. I would also like to know whether there had been an involvement with the office of the minister for health, Dr Wooldridge.

Senator Hill —Whether PM&C had direct involvement with them?

Senator FAULKNER —In the preparation of the brief, yes. In the case of this particular brief from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for Mr Howard's meeting with the Bennelong Group, I would like to know everyone the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet consulted in the preparation of the brief.

Mr Henderson —We have undertaken to check on that. Mr Webster and I have been referring to what are pretty standard sorts of arrangements, but let me say it would not be common practice for departmental officials to be approaching other minister's offices to assist them in preparing a brief of this sort. The norm would be to go to other departmental officials.

Senator FAULKNER —I am just making sure that Senator Hill's very clever, but limited, interpretation of my question is not the interpretation you have. I would like to know everyone the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet consulted in the preparation of this particular brief; that is all.

Senator Hill —We will be as helpful as we reasonably can.

Senator FAULKNER —That is what I was worried about, Senator Hill; that is why I thought we would just get it clear. Could I ask now about the department's involvement in the question of contracts for secretaries of other departments and agencies. You may direct me elsewhere to ask these questions, but this is pretty brief. I just want to be clear on one thing—you might be able to help me, Ms Belcher; I hope you can. Do secretaries actually sign a formal contract now?

Ms Belcher —No, Senator, they are appointed for a term, but there is no contract.

Senator FAULKNER —Let me explain the reason I asked this. The new Public Service Act provides for appointment for periods up to five years, specified in the instrument of appointment. I just was not sure what the instrument of appointment was here. Could you explain that to me?

Ms Belcher —It is an instrument under the Public Service Act 1999 signed by the Prime Minister.

Senator FAULKNER —All right. Are those instruments of appointment public or gazetted? I cannot recall seeing one, but that may be because I have not looked close enough or hard enough.

Ms Belcher —I do not believe they are required to be gazetted. Do you mind if I check on that? I am not certain, but I do not believe they are gazetted.

Senator FAULKNER —I am just interested in the general form of it—this is why I am asking the question—what the instrument is like.

Ms Belcher —Basically it refers to the section of the act and appoints the person.

Senator FAULKNER —Could they be made public?

Ms Belcher —I will check on that.

Senator FAULKNER —So there is no contract. There is an instrument of appointment. Can you say whether all the current secretaries are on five-year contracts or not?

Ms Belcher —No, they are not, Senator. There is quite a variation.

Senator FAULKNER —Is it possible to get a list of department and agency heads, with an indication of length of contract and when terms of office expire? I do not think this is secret information, but I have never seen it organised in a very accessible way.

Ms Belcher —I cannot see a problem with that, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —What about the process of renewal of contract? Is there any work being done in establishing procedures, assessments, consultations and the like, of contracts to be renewed?

Ms Belcher —As you know, there are the annual assessments now. Under the act, the Secretary to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is required to consult the portfolio minister before making a report to the Prime Minister. So if it were to be a reappointment or a new term appointment, or if it were to be a totally new appointment, the secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet would talk to the relevant minister before putting a report to the Prime Minister.

Senator FAULKNER —I understand that. I have understood that process for some time, but are there any other processes that need to be gone through that are recorded anywhere or elsewhere? Or is this reasonably flexible, given the circumstances?

Ms Belcher —I do not know. I think it would be up to the secretary of the department—

Senator FAULKNER —But does the secretary of the department have any guidance here to fall back on? I suppose that is my question—apart from, if you like, precedent and experience.

Ms Belcher —There are no formal rules on what he must do. I would have thought that, to some extent, he would be doing what the Prime Minister was looking for in a particular report. He would provide the Prime Minister with whatever information was needed. But I cannot point to any rules—either statutory or less formal—that apply.

Senator FAULKNER —Are the contracts affected by changes to administrative arrangements?

Ms Belcher —If the department does not change and just functions within the department change, there would be no automatic change to the term of appointment.

Senator FAULKNER —What if a new department is created or if departments are changed?

Ms Belcher —If a new department is created, there has to be a whole new appointment process.

Senator FAULKNER —So contracts may be renegotiated with significant changes to secretaries' responsibilities?

Ms Belcher —Yes; again, we get back to that word `contract'. It is just a simple appointment.

Senator FAULKNER —`Appointment': yes.

Ms Belcher —If you are talking about a situation where there might be major changes in administrative arrangements, if the secretaries still stay head of a department named in the same way, then there might be no action at all. Or, if for some reason the Prime Minister wished to make a new appointment, again the appointment process would commence.

Senator FAULKNER —Okay. I will have a look at the material that you might be able to provide for us and see what else arises out of it. Thanks, Ms Belcher. I appreciate that. A quick question on the VIP fleet: has there been any movement since we last met about the so-called little luxuries for the possible VIP jets—the special beds, spas and these sorts of things? Has there been any development there?

Mr Henderson —We can confirm that there are no luxuries. I think we tried to make that point clear at the last hearings.

Senator FAULKNER —You said that, but it all comes down to the definition of `luxury', I suppose. But I am not arguing with you. What is luxurious to some may not be luxurious to others.

Mr Henderson —All the upgrades relate to work responsibilities—improved communications in-flight, and things like that.

Senator FAULKNER —What sort of things are they? Telephones and the like?

Mr Henderson —Mr Potts can help you, Senator.

Mr Potts —The main differences between the old and the new fleets relate, as Mr Henderson commented, to work facilities in-flight—particularly to improved electronics, with the installation of a satellite phone capability in each aircraft, new extra power outlets for use of laptops and things like that, and the inclusion of the usual sorts of office facilities: a fax, and so on. There will also be a central meeting area in the two Boeing aircraft, so they will be better configured in terms of efficient working space.

Senator FAULKNER —Has that been finalised now, Mr Potts?

Mr Potts —The finalisation is really a matter for the Department of Defence—

Senator FAULKNER —As far as the PM&C engagement with Defence is concerned on this?

Mr Potts —We are more the facilitator: I think that is probably the best way to describe our role between PMO, the Prime Minister's Office—

Senator FAULKNER —I thought you would say that.

Senator Hill —We said that we are here to help.

Mr Potts —But I think the process is largely finalised now.

Senator FAULKNER —I bet anything you like, Mr Henderson, that you have in front of you one or two sheets that explain all this in detail, and I wondered if you could provide that to the committee.

Mr Henderson —Explain what in detail?

Senator FAULKNER —The fit-out.

Mr Henderson —Mr Potts has given you a perfectly adequate summary.

Senator FAULKNER —It is a summary; but I am not after a summary. I would like a more complete answer.

Senator Hill —What do you want to know?

Senator FAULKNER —I am asking Mr Henderson whether he has a document he would care to table that goes into this in some detail, to save us some time.

Mr Henderson —No, Senator: we are not in the habit of tabling our talking points. Come on!

Senator Hill —They are for talking.

Senator FAULKNER —I just wanted to save some time. What program does this come under?

Mr Henderson —Department of Defence, if you want the nitty-gritty of the communications facilities in the new VIP aircraft.

Senator FAULKNER —No. Good try, Mr Henderson! Which output group of PM&C does it come under?

Mr Henderson —International—sorry: output group 3.1.

Senator FAULKNER —We will deal with that a bit later then.

Senator Hill —What are you wanting to know that you have not got?

Senator FAULKNER —We will come back to it, Senator Hill. I wanted to see if we could move it along a bit. Senator Mason is getting hungry, and I want to make sure he gets a reasonable time for his lunch; so we will come back to that. I did read in the Canberra Times that Mr Howard—or possibly Mrs Howard; I am not sure—had received a gift of jewellery worth thousands of dollars to mark the visit to Brunei. What happened to those?

Mr Henderson —Those are declared in the normal way. Ms Yeend can put you in the picture in more detail.

Ms Yeend —The Prime Minister did receive a number of official gifts. Those relating to the report that you had that were over the permitted limit have been surrendered to the department.

Senator FAULKNER —You say it is over the official limit: that means they would have been valued, I suppose?

Ms Yeend —I understand that is the case, yes.

Senator FAULKNER —The Canberra Times—and this is neither here nor there—said that they were worth thousands of dollars. I think the Sultan of Brunei was very generous, in this case to the Australian government. I want to ask about Mr Cousins' contract. I asked the department question No. 54 on 22 November:

Was Geoffrey Cousins employed as a consultant from 6/1/2000 to 30/6/2000?

That question still awaits a reply—unless it is in your replies that came late on Friday evening, Mr Henderson. Fortunately, I did not have to wait for the department, because the Sunday Telegraph were able to fill me in with all the details.

Senator Hill —And?

Senator FAULKNER —I am waiting to get Mr Henderson's attention; he is being briefed.

Mr Henderson —I beg your pardon, Senator. I thought your question was related to Ms Belcher's responsibilities.

Senator FAULKNER —It may be. It is about Mr Cousins' contract. I was saying that I did not get an answer to my question on notice, but the Sunday Telegraph fortunately had an article this weekend on this very issue. Apparently, according to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cousins is still on contract. Would that be right?

Ms Belcher —Yes, that is right. He has a contract to 30 June 2001.

Senator FAULKNER —According to the Sunday Telegraph, he is being employed to `rid Mr Costello of his smirk'. This is on page 42 of the Sunday Telegraph yesterday.

Senator Hill —I missed it.

Senator FAULKNER —See, I have nothing to do, because I am in opposition. I can afford to get to page 42 of the Sunday Telegraph, and I got there with some interest yesterday. I wondered why the Sunday Telegraph—this is a serious question, Mr Henderson—gets priority over a Senate estimates committee in terms of getting answers to questions. They know that Mr Cousins is employed, but we cannot get an answer to a serious question that I placed on notice.

Mr Henderson —This is an estimates question that you placed on notice?

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, budget supplementary estimates question 54. It is a pretty poor situation: you can read about these in the popular press, but we do not get the courtesy of an answer to the committee.

Mr Henderson —We will try and get that answer for you.

Senator FAULKNER —Is Mr Cousins employed to do some sort of image makeover for Mr Costello?

Ms Belcher —His role is in relation to the formulation of communication strategies.

Senator FAULKNER —In this article, headed `Costello tries to lose that smirk', it is insinuated that Mr Cousins is working on Mr Costello's smirk and trying to get Mr Costello to portray a genuine smile. I wondered if we were paying someone $45,000 a year to do that.

Senator Hill —We are obviously not.

Senator FAULKNER —So you can assure me that that is wrong?

Senator Hill —I can be confident in assuring you that it is wrong.

Senator FAULKNER —Whenever you use the word `confident', Senator Hill, I know that you are guessing, that it is a big punt.

Senator Hill —But I reckon it is a good guess.

Senator FAULKNER —I know you have taken a big punt there. From what I have seen of Mr Costello lately, all I can say is that you had better pay Mr Cousins some more money—it is not working.

CHAIR —I think that is the end of general questions. We will resume after lunch with output 1. I should also note that Senator Faulkner has, and the committee has accepted, questions on notice relating to IT outsourcing.

Proceedings suspended from 12.55 p.m. to 2.04 p.m.

CHAIR —I call the committee to order. We will commence with questions relating to output 1. I should inform you, Mr Henderson, that the committee would like to look at output 1 first, and then we will move on to output 3 and output 4. We will then go back to output 2, particularly in relation to the Office of the Status of Women. It is likely that questions relating to outputs 1, 3 and 4 will take at least an hour.

Mr Henderson —Thank you, Mr Chairman. I will quickly provide some information following on from issues addressed earlier this morning. First of all, Senator Faulkner was asking about a contract for consultants issued by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I said that I thought that that would be in relation to financial advisers and consultants associated with the establishment of a separate department. That is correct. They were engaged on 17 January. That was in advance of the formal establishment of that department but what was going to happen was public knowledge. I think the company involved was Acumen. The second point that I wanted to raise was that Senator Ray was asking questions in relation to ADF personnel and to Olympic security. I think I said to you that it came to the attention of a departmental officer on secondment to us from Defence ahead of the Olympics.

Senator ROBERT RAY —What a surprise!

Mr Henderson —Yes, you were right. It was in fact on the first Sunday of the Olympics. It was during the Olympics, not in advance.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Just on that first question, governments always refer to departments by acronyms. What is the new department?

Mr Henderson —DORATSIA.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I just wanted to get the acronym right. We had a bit of trouble with DOFA for a while and DOPIE and all the others. I like to get it right.

Senator FAULKNER —Just on economic policy, is there is an IDC on the BAS? If so, is PM&C part of it? This, I think, is in output group one.

Mr Henderson —Yes, that is correct, Senator.

Mr Murray —On the BAS, there have been some interdepartmental consultations and discussions but there have been no formal IDC arrangements as such.

Senator FAULKNER —How does the interdepartmental consultation process work?

Mr Murray —I am sorry, Senator?

Senator FAULKNER —How is PM&C engaged in the interdepartmental consultative process?

Mr Murray —It has really been departments exchanging views so that we can adequately advise our individual ministers. It has mainly been consultations between ourselves, the tax office and the Treasury.

Senator FAULKNER —But is any particular agency or department coordinating that?

Mr Murray —No, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —It is pretty ad hoc, is it?

Mr Murray —It has been normal consultation processes that have gone on, Senator, in relation to a particular issue.

Senator FAULKNER —Apart from that process to advise the Prime Minister in the case of PM&C, is there any other activity with other departments or internally within PM&C on that BAS issue at all?

Mr Murray —Not that I am aware of, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —But there have been claims, have there not, from the Prime Minister that there has been a thoughtful development of proper policy solutions on this issue over recent times? I am sure I have seen that propaganda out and about, haven't I, Senator Hill?

Senator Hill —Sorry?

Senator FAULKNER —You did not hear that?

Senator Hill —You dropped my name at the end of your statement. Did you want to ask me something?

Senator FAULKNER —It was actually at the end of a question that I dropped your name. But if you did not hear it—

Senator Hill —You were talking to somebody else but then decided at the last moment to redirect it.

Senator FAULKNER —I will take that as a no.

Senator Hill —Take it as neither.

Senator FAULKNER —I will take it as a no, if your answer is a no.

Senator Hill —That is how you like.

Senator FAULKNER —What about a similar situation with petrol policy advice?

Mr Murray —Again, in normal processes, we have had some discussions with the Treasury. It is just a matter of informing ourselves so that we can give deep, thoughtful analysis to the issue in advising the Prime Minister.

Senator FAULKNER —How many hours have been spent on providing this deep, thoughtful analysis?

Mr Murray —I would not like to guess, but probably—

Senator ROBERT RAY —Not as long as it takes to fill out a BAS.

Mr Murray —Probably much longer than it takes to fill out a BAS, I would have thought.

Senator FAULKNER —Could you hazard a guess?

Mr Murray —I would not know.

Senator FAULKNER —What sort of staff resources are involved with these two issues—BAS and petrol?

Mr Murray —We do not have a lot of resources to start with. We run a fairly lean machine, if you like, and cover a whole lot of issues—a lot of them all at the same time. We have devoted what I would say are pretty reasonable resources to two important issues.

Senator FAULKNER —I am struggling to understand what this might mean. Could you quantify this for us?

Senator Hill —For what? They do not clock themselves. They do not run entire units.

Senator FAULKNER —The sorts of resources in personnel and time that have been put into it. But if you can help, Senator Hill, fine—that would be appreciated.

Senator Hill —No, I am just suggesting that your questions are unreasonable.

Senator FAULKNER —Why is it unreasonable to ask the Economic Policy Branch of PM&C what sort of resources are going to this issue?

Senator Hill —Because they did not keep account of the number of hours. I heard the answer; you heard the answer. Did you clock your time?

Mr Murray —No.

Senator Hill —Did you keep account of how many officials?

Senator FAULKNER —I heard the answer, too: more time than it would take to fill out a BAS.

Senator Hill —That was a response to Senator Ray's helpful interjection.

Senator FAULKNER —That could be 100 hours or 200 hours. That could be 1,000 staff hours for all I know.

Senator Hill —The answer is, as I heard it, that they have not kept account of the hours.

Senator FAULKNER —How many staff in PM&C, if any, are dedicated to BAS and petrol?

Mr Murray —I would not say that they are completely dedicated. That particular area, the Taxation and Superannuation Policy Branch, has five or six people and two or three of those would have been involved from time to time on BAS and not the same two or three involved in petrol.

Senator FAULKNER —Who do they report to with the outcome of their involvement?

Mr Murray —They report directly to me.

Senator FAULKNER —What do you do once you get the benefit of the wisdom of these officers of the department?

Mr Murray —It is not just a matter of reporting directly to me; I have been involved as well in the work going on. It has been a team effort. Advice has been given after further consultations.

Senator FAULKNER —But are you generating briefs to the Prime Minister and things like that?

Mr Murray —Yes, of course.

Senator FAULKNER —How many briefs to the Prime Minister would you have generated on the BAS?

Mr Murray —I cannot recall.

Senator FAULKNER —Do you recall how many briefs on petrol policy advice or petrol price advice you would have generated to the Prime Minister?

Mr Murray —Petrol has been an issue for quite a while. We are keeping regularly updated on petrol issues. It would be impossible. I would have to sort through the files to answer that sort of—

Senator FAULKNER —Would you mind doing that for me?

Mr Murray —I could do that.

Senator FAULKNER —I would like to know how many briefs on BAS and petrol have been passed to the Prime Minister this year. I do not want to make it too onerous for you—just this calendar year.

Senator Hill —Are we talking about a dedicated brief on BAS, not a tax implementation brief that makes reference to—

Senator FAULKNER —I will leave it to the good sense of Mr Murray to be able to interpret the spirit of the question that I have asked.

Senator Hill —I think it would be quite a challenge to interpret the spirit of that question.

Senator FAULKNER —It may be beyond your ken, Senator Hill, but I have every confidence that Mr Murray will be able to cope with the request.

Senator Hill —He will cope with the request, but I am not sure how helpful the answer will be.

Senator FAULKNER —Let us be the judge of that, Senator Hill.

Senator Hill —I think it will be difficult for you to be the judge of that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is a big task, but we are up to it. I have a couple of final questions, though not many, on the role of PM&C in the Olympics. Is Mr Cook joining us?

Mr Henderson —No, Dr Horne and Mr Perry will assist us on the Olympics.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Firstly, I think you informed us, in an answer to a question on notice, that there is a review of the effectiveness or operation of the Olympic media unit.

Dr Horne —Yes. At the last hearing, I think Grahame Cook said to you that there was a review in progress at the time on the role and the effectiveness of the media unit. That review is near finalisation and will be made public when it is completed.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I knew this one would be made public. What is the cost of that review? Is it just the internal resources of the department?

Mr Perry —It is just internal resources.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You often cost those, though, don't you?

Dr Horne —The sports function has moved to my division with the winding up of the task force at the end of the last calendar year, so I am just picking up the pieces at the moment.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Who made the decision to do this review?

Dr Horne —This is just a part of completing a process. When you are undertaking a major activity, at the end of that activity you go through and see how you have performed undertaking it.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I acknowledge that you have provided me with attendance by ministerial parliamentary secretaries and members of parliament attending the government boxes at the Olympics. Is it still the government's position that it will not release the names of other guests?

Dr Horne —I do not have information about who the other guests were here.

Mr Henderson —But we are looking into that question. That is one of the issues. You have a question outstanding on that, and it has not been resolved yet.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes. I asked Austrade whether they would release guest numbers. They pointed out to me that there were 16,000, so obviously I did not pursue that. But I asked whether they would release their VIP guest list. Were you there, Senator Hill? You may not have been.

Senator Hill —No, I do not think I was.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I do not know who was in the chair, but I am sure I was given the indication that that would be released. These boxes were supposed to entertain guests for government business, which I do not challenge, but I notice that on the opening night there were 10 ministers present. I would like to know how many other guests we were wining and dining that night, or was there solely ministerial representation on the opening night?

Dr Horne —I am not aware of the names of other people who were present, if there were others present.

Senator ROBERT RAY —How many did the boxes at the main stadium hold?

Dr Horne —I understand they hold 20.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I am not presuming this because I know in at least one case it does not apply, but if everyone was to take a partner or a guest, there would be no room for anyone else at the opening ceremony.

Dr Horne —That seems to be a fair assumption.

Senator Hill —The box was only one of the government facilities; there was also the department of trade and other specific seats that we have referred to on previous occasions. I think on two occasions it was decided that the box would in effect be open to government ministers per se, which was the opening night and the closing night—you can tell me if I am wrong, Mr Henderson—and on other occasions throughout the whole games I think a minister was only present if that minister was there in terms of inviting guests rather than being there.

Senator FAULKNER —Who made that decision about the opening and closing ceremonies? You said `it was decided'.

Senator Hill —That is my understanding, and I presume the decision was made with the authority of the Prime Minister.

Senator FAULKNER —I am asking who made the decision.

Senator Hill —I do not know. I do not know whether there was a brief generated, a minute returned or whatever.

Senator FAULKNER —I am not asking that. I am asking who decided—

Senator Hill —I think it was the decision that ministers would be invited on the opening night and the closing night but not for the rest of the games, unless they were there as hosts.

Senator FAULKNER —And that was the Prime Minister's decision?

Senator Hill —Whether he made the decision himself, I am sure it was with his authority.

Senator FAULKNER —Is that right, Mr Henderson?

Mr Henderson —That is consistent with my understanding of the arrangement. The information we have already provided confirms what Senator Hill was saying—that for the closing ceremony, I think there were six ministers present, and for all other occasions, there was frequently only one minister or parliamentary secretary present. On a couple of occasions, there might have been more—I can see a few here.

Senator Hill —There would be the odd exception, but basically that was the approach to it.

Senator FAULKNER —I am pleased to see, Senator Hill, that your concern about not being present in the Commonwealth boxes for the Olympics turned out to be unwarranted.

Senator Hill —I beg your pardon.

Senator FAULKNER —You made it. You were concerned at a previous estimates hearing that you would not be there, but you made it. I was just delighted to see that you got a place in the sun.

Senator Hill —A small place, yes.

Senator FAULKNER —But nevertheless a place.

Senator Hill —I could not coincide with an Australian gold medal, I regret to say.

Senator ROBERT RAY —The policy for putting people in the boxes changed between the Olympics and the Paralympics, didn't it?

Mr Henderson —No.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You did not have a backbench member of parliament going to the Olympics but you did to the Paralympics.

Mr Perry —The general policy did not change but, as I think Grahame Cook indicated to you late last year, a number of things came into the Paralympics, such as additional sessions, that we had not anticipated. We needed to cover the ground at that point, so backbenchers were involved.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I think there were about eight, were there not?

Mr Perry —I think that is correct.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Were there any Democrat backbenchers invited to attend in the box?

Mr Perry —Not that I am aware of.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Were there any Labor Party backbenchers invited to attend in the box?

Mr Perry —Not that I am aware of.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Were there any National Party members invited to attend in the box?

Mr Perry —That would be specified in the list.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I could be very forensic and go through all of this, but I will not.

Senator FAULKNER —Was the Leader of the Opposition invited to attend?

Mr Perry —I do not have any knowledge of that.

Senator FAULKNER —Was the shadow minister for the Olympics invited to attend?

Senator ROBERT RAY —You had better draw the line somewhere.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, I know. Do you have any knowledge of that?

Mr Perry —No. I was not involved directly in all of that.

Senator FAULKNER —I know he was not.

Senator Hill —The Leader of the Opposition got a gold pass.

Senator ROBERT RAY —He was offered one.

Senator Hill —Yes. He was offered one and he refused it.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes. That is his choice.

Senator Hill —I do not know. I have not done a forensic examination either.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Was the final cost for the Olympics media unit $536,000? Have there been any additional bills come in?

Mr Perry —Yes, there have been a few additional bills.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Would you update us on that?

Dr Horne —As of last Friday, the figure was $544,615.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You mentioned that the evaluation of the media unit would be a public document.

Dr Horne —Yes.

Mr Henderson —It is not just confined to the media unit. It is a review of the whole coordination activity that PM&C were involved with in relation to the Commonwealth's contribution to the Olympics. One of the most practical purposes of these is not just to review the outcomes. Clearly the Olympics is not a regular event, but we have made great use of our experience on the Olympics security front in our planning for the staging of CHOGM later this year. It is often just to draw lessons for people who are undertaking these sorts of tasks in the future.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I would have thought that, in the current possibilities climate, that would be a very wise review to do, given the fact that—I do not want to put the mockers on them—there is still a chance that Athens will fall over and we will be approached at the last minute, along with Seoul, to pick up the pieces. If you do your evaluation now and know your strengths and weaknesses, it might help.

[2.14 p.m.]

CHAIR —As there are no further questions on output 1, we will move to output 3, International policy advice and coordination.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I have one question on CHOGM. I noticed in the consultancies, on page 150 of the annual report, a selected consultancy for Project Coordination (Australia) Pty Ltd, at a cost of $12,500. The report states:

Consultancy services relating to the design and construction costs for the proposed Canberra CHOGM venue

Do we know when that consultancy was let? Was it ever completed?

Mr Craft —I do not have the precise dates with me, but I would be glad to provide those to you. It was certainly completed. It was a consultancy undertaken to examine the viability of the National Convention Centre at the particular time when we were looking at Canberra as the venue for the CHOGM meeting.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But it was completed before the decision was made to switch across to Canberra.

Mr Craft —Yes, it was.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Have you got any estimate of how much money was spent, in total, when Canberra was the preferred venue? Were there any other expenses before the arbitrary switch was made to Brisbane?

Mr Craft —Not really, only in terms of staff time devoted to preparing, examining and assessing the potential sites for the venue and accommodation in Canberra. This was the only direct expenditure undertaken, certainly in terms of consultancies.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Have you considered or undertaken any other consultancies now in relation to Brisbane?

Mr Craft —There are a number of potential tenders which are in the pipeline. For example, negotiations are currently taking place with all the hotels, with the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre as the venue, with the Hyatt Coolum for the retreat—

Senator ROBERT RAY —That has been decided, has it? The last time we were talking you were talking about some island.

Mr Craft —No. The Coolum resort has been identified as the retreat venue. A number of expressions of interest documents have been sent out on matters such as a professional conference organiser for registration, accreditation, design and fitout costs and facilities in the convention centre, sponsorship of motor vehicles and the like.

Senator FAULKNER —Are you going to supply Commonwealth heads of government with a special shirt?

Mr Craft —That is not in the current plan, no.

Senator FAULKNER —It sometimes happens.

Senator ROBERT RAY —What is going to happen to the dopey photo shoot?

Senator FAULKNER —So we are not going to have one of those.

Mr Craft —They have not been a feature of CHOGM meetings to date.

Senator FAULKNER —No, of course. APEC particularly has made an absolute science of it. I was just wondering.

Mr Craft —We have no plans currently for such attire.

Senator FAULKNER —That will come as a relief to everyone.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So in fact the retreat really meets that criterion we have discussed previously of not involving a very long journey, doesn't it?

Mr Craft —Yes, it does. It is within an hour or an hour and a quarter's drive—

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is about a 20-minute flight up to Maroochydore, I assume. Have you got exclusive use of the Coolum resort for that period?

Mr Craft —Yes, we have.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It would only be a day or two though, wouldn't it?

Mr Craft —It will be a little more than that. The retreat on this occasion is to be two nights rather than the traditional one, and we will be taking the total use of the resorts for three days altogether, I think. We are expecting the heads of government to be there for two.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So we will get more use out of this than out of the Brighton-le-Sands hotel. That is good. I've got nothing else on CHOGM.

Senator FAULKNER —I have nothing else on CHOGM.

Senator FAULKNER —Mr Potts, I read with interest a couple of newspaper clippings recently about the latest detail of the arrangements for the fit out of the VIP fleet. What engagement have you had with the Department of Defence on this and what are the current understandings in relation to the fit out?

Mr Potts —As I mentioned this morning, the role of the department has been one of facilitator, so it has been more a question of ensuring that Defence and the Prime Minister's office keep in close touch.

Senator FAULKNER —PM&C have a lot of experience in this, obviously. The Prime Minister, as is only appropriate, uses the aircraft, and it seems to me utterly appropriate for PM&C to be making some suggestions about the utility of the fit out, surely. You say `facilitator', but I am sure you have been able to make some recommendations to Defence, haven't you?

Mr Potts —Certainly. In fact the comments Mr Henderson made this morning I think are very appropriate in that connection. The department has been at pains to ensure that the fit out would be appropriate to providing a supportive working environment for the Prime Minister and his officials when they travel. That has been, if you like, a guiding principle. A second one has been one of avoiding suggestions of extravagance or inappropriate furnishings. Those principles have helped to inform the approach of not just the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet but also the Department of Defence.

Senator FAULKNER —So it is a non-extravagant outcome, is it?

Mr Potts —Yes.

Senator FAULKNER —Good. What is the non-extravagant outcome?

Mr Potts —As we mentioned this morning, first of all, there is a focus on improving the working environment, so better communications facilities—

Senator FAULKNER —Let's go through them. What are they?

Mr Potts —As I understand it, the inclusion of a satellite phone capability in each aircraft; extra power outlets to enable the use of laptops at most seats; and the inclusion in the aircraft of office equipment, such as facsimiles and, I presume, photocopiers and the like. The two Boeing aircraft will each have a central meeting area—

Senator FAULKNER —Before we go off communications, what about video and television?

Mr Potts —I have no information on that. The exact details are being handled by the Department of Defence. They have much more precise information—

Senator FAULKNER —So you know about the satellite phones but not about whether there is a video and television?

Mr Potts —That is correct; that is the extent of my knowledge.

Senator FAULKNER —Okay. So we have better communications; what else have we got?

Mr Potts —A central meeting area in the two Boeing aircraft will include a main table seating four and a separate table seating two. The Boeing aircraft will include a shower in the VIP bathroom but no bath or spa. The four VIP seats in each aircraft will be equivalent to first-class seats; the remaining seats in the aircraft will be equivalent to business class seats. So the aircraft do not have double beds, spas or luxurious fittings, as the media may have suggested.

Senator FAULKNER —I talked to Air Vice Marshal Conroy about fabrics and fit out and so forth. Have all those sorts of issues been decided, or are they entirely a matter for Defence?

Mr Potts —They are essentially a matter for the Department of Defence.

Senator FAULKNER —I see.

Senator ROBERT RAY —When will the two Boeings be on line and ready to roll?

Mr Potts —It will be next year—probably about the middle of the year.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So we are looking at about June or July 2002?

Mr Potts —My information is May or June.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is anticipated that these will then be used by the Prime Minister for going overseas, without all the complications that the 707s have in terms of noise, and so on?

Mr Potts —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY ——I do not go to Defence estimates, but you may know this: what is the range? Have you worked that out? Is it the same range?

Mr Potts —I cannot tell you that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —All right. One of my colleagues will probably follow it up.

Senator FAULKNER —I read in a newspaper that there were gold plated taps, for example. Is that right?

Mr Potts —That is incorrect.

Senator CONROY —What plating is on the taps?

Mr Potts —I do not know, but I am told that it is not gold.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Do you think it would be a good idea, Minister, when they come on stream, to invite a representative section of the fourth estate to fully inspect the planes and go for a little trip around Lake George and surrounding areas with a bit of bonhomie and hospitality, just show everyone what is on them?

Senator Hill —I think we would still read that they were gold plated!

Senator ROBERT RAY —You do not think that would change the view?

Senator Hill —I do not think that will change. I do not think that would be allowed to spoil a good story.

Senator CONROY —They would not be getting into the PM's bedroom. There is a bed: they are not going to let them in there.

Senator FAULKNER —No, but the fourth estate spends a bit of time on these planes anyway, travelling with the Prime Minister—which is appropriate.

Senator Hill —Business class seats in the future, too.

Senator FAULKNER —Not necessarily where they are sitting.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes, that is the evidence.

Senator Hill —That is what was said.

Senator FAULKNER —What? All the seats are business class?

Senator Hill —Yes, it seems so.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Nothing is too good for the politicians—

Senator FAULKNER —All the remaining seats?

Senator ROBERT RAY —or their friends.

Senator FAULKNER —What about the suede lined walls?

Mr Potts —I think you have reached the extent of my detailed knowledge on this, Senator.

Senator Hill —You need to speak to a military man now.

Senator CONROY —Hopefully not the extent of your taste!

Senator FAULKNER —What about the parquetry dining tables?

Mr Potts —I have no further information. I am not aware that there is a specific provision for dining tables as such.

Senator FAULKNER —We can find out at a later stage; I just thought you might know, given the report in the newspaper in early January about these issues. We can check that out. How did you engage the Prime Minister's office in this—a sensible thing to do, I might add, given that they are users of the thing? Did you try and draw on the experience of recent years, in terms of the utility of the aircraft, et cetera?

Mr Potts —It was before my time in Prime Minister and Cabinet, unfortunately, but I presume that it was done essentially by direct contact between appropriate advisers in the office and officers in my division.

Senator FAULKNER —How did you get Prime Minister and Cabinet's requirements across to Defence and work this out in a mutually agreeable way? What was the process?

Mr Potts —By direct contact.

Senator FAULKNER —Just on the telephone? Or was there a flow of emails and correspondence and views on paper et cetera?

Mr Potts —I cannot add to my answer, because I do not know.

Senator FAULKNER —Do you know, Mr Henderson?

Mr Henderson —No, I am not aware of the details.

Senator FAULKNER —It would not be by osmosis, I assume.

Mr Henderson —No, it certainly would not. You have raised a number of questions about the process in relation to roads, BAS. We spend a lot of our life consulting other departments—that is the essence of our business: preparing advice for the Prime Minister—and we would have been consulting the Department of Defence and we may have been inspecting these aircraft. I have not got the detailed processes. As Mr Potts mentioned, he has only just come on board.

Senator FAULKNER —I understand what you spend a lot of your life doing, but I am merely saying that you would not want something to go astray: you would not want velvet lined walls and end up with suede lined walls, would you? That is the point. How did you get this across? Did Defence come over? You did not have gold plated taps, but you might have ended up with platinum plated taps, for all I know. I am not suggesting that that has happened, but I just wonder how this all gets done. Don't you think that is a reasonable question to ask?

Mr Henderson —It is a reasonable question to ask. Mr Potts has indicated that direct consultations and discussions, canvassing—

Senator FAULKNER —And I am just asking of what nature.

Mr Henderson —I cannot help you.

Senator FAULKNER —Could someone find out, perhaps?

Mr Henderson —Yes, we can.

Senator FAULKNER —I am not going to worry any more today about the VIP aircraft.

[2.45 p.m.]

CHAIR —We are all relieved, Senator Faulkner. As there are no further questions on output 3, we will now move to output 4, `Support services for government operations'.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I have a question for the Government Communications Unit. Mr Williams could probably help us. Mr Williams, the reference on page 63 of PM&C's annual report talks about papers from departments not meeting the seven-day rule and that waivers had to be obtained. How many waivers were obtained in 1999-2000 for failure to meet the seven-day rule?

Mr Williams —I cannot really answer that. I do not have statistics on that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You do not know?

Mr Williams —No.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Does it happen that often?

Mr Williams —It happens at times for campaigns where there are short lead times. We ask departments to meet the seven-day rule. If they are not in a position to, we clear it with the committee that they will accept distribution of papers in less time than the seven-day rule.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Most of these campaigns are planned months in advance. Are departments just treating the ministerial committee and your unit with contempt, are they?

Mr Williams —No, generally the seven-day issue comes up where you are developing creative, and you need to have that creative researched before it is presented to the committee. Sometimes there will be a delay in the advertising agency developing the piece of creative or a delay with the research company undertaking the market research and you might slip a day or two, but the committee would want to see it on a particular day. In those circumstances, they give a waiver.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But the reason you have a seven-day rule is that people can make a mature judgment rather than—

Mr Williams —Certainly that is the intent, but sometimes it is not always possible to achieve that.

Senator FAULKNER —I noticed in the annual report quite an extensive special report on the official establishments program. I thought you would be keen, Mr Henderson, to explain to the committee why we benefited from this special report, given that the Official Establishments Trust makes its own report to parliament.

Mr Henderson —I thought it would be a good idea to provide a bit more comprehensive information about the official establishments than the partial information that gets out via the tabloids and via some of my and my colleagues' responses in the Senate estimates. I also thought it would be a good idea to make the point that, in fact, the program has been managed in a very similar way for a very long time. The expenditure involved has been very steady for at least about 10 years. We have comparable data available.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Who wrote this?

Mr Henderson —The initial draft of it was prepared by an officer in the Government Division, but that was drawing on material that was mainly in Mr Oliver's and Mr Crane's areas—the official establishments area.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I was worried that it was in Mr Crane's area. I understand he spends all his time answering questions. I wondered where he could possibly have got the time to contribute to this.

Mr Henderson —You have hit on one of the reasons why the initial draft was prepared by an officer in another area.

Senator FAULKNER —Why doesn't the report actually outline—if it has this historical benefit that you mention—the cabinet endorsed regulations for the use of Kirribilli? That would have been useful to include.

Mr Henderson —The cabinet endorsed?

Senator FAULKNER —Yes.

Mr Henderson —The cabinet decision?

Senator FAULKNER —Regulations for the use of Kirribilli House.

Mr Henderson —There was a decision taken in 1956. I see you are referring to the material on page 70.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, I am aware of that.

Mr Henderson —That was a straightforward decision. There is not an extensive rule book going beyond the fact that it would be available for use by the Prime Minister.

Senator FAULKNER —You see the historical value of all this, but no-one has ever followed these issues closely. I do not pretend to follow it closely, but I have a cursory interest in it. There has not been any mention of what cabinet or regulatory mechanism was agreed to which would allow Kirribilli to be used as Mr Howard's family home. We have all this history down here. I would like that piece of recent history. It seems to be a rather selective run over the target.

Mr Henderson —Why is it selective?

Senator FAULKNER —All these crucial pieces of information do not appear. We start back in 1923, which is very interesting, but I mentioned a couple of things that do not get a mention. Actually, I am sorry, we start in 1854; I apologise.

CHAIR —Senator Brandis has just reminded me, Senator Faulkner, that it does not mention the Kirribilli agreement either.

Senator FAULKNER —No. It is funny you should mention that. It does say that Mr Hawke used Kirribilli in summer months, doesn't it, Mr Henderson?

Mr Henderson —It says:

... the Hon RJ Hawke used Kirribilli House during the summer months.

Senator FAULKNER —Did he use it in the spring, autumn and winter months as well?

Senator Hill —It would seem less so.

Senator ROBERT RAY —He did not even use it all the summer, either. I think it was only January when he used it.

Senator Hill —There have been differing practices over the years, haven't there?

Senator FAULKNER —Which summer months?

Mr Henderson —Well, we have three.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Take one out of three and you will be right: `month', not `months'.

Senator FAULKNER —The feeling that you get from reading this is that it is rather defensive. I think that is as fair as I can be; I do try to be fair, as you know.

Senator ROBERT RAY —That is a compliment to you, Senator Faulkner, that we have a special report in response to your project.

Senator FAULKNER —It is rather defensive.

Senator Hill —We will call it the `Faulkner Addendum'.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I think so. How many more special reports are we going to get in the annual report? On sinecures for Pru Goward—are you going to have a special report on that?

Mr Henderson —No, but perhaps we will have one on the fit-out of the Boeing VIP.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I look forward to it; that will be a bestseller. Although with Defence involved, I know it will be a very modest fit-out, seeing as they have to pay, and they should not have to.

Senator FAULKNER —There is something that did surprise me in this report. On page 73, according to the Australian Valuation Office, as of 30 June 2000 the depreciated replacement cost of the Kirribilli House buildings is $1.82 million. I was a bit surprised at that. That is the cost of the buildings. Is there a cost of the property as a whole, what this thing would fetch on the open market? I am not suggesting, by the way, that we place it on the open market.

Mr Henderson —We do not have with us the separate valuation of the land.

Senator FAULKNER —You do not have it?

Mr Henderson —No.

Senator FAULKNER —If I could take you to page 76, I notice that the Lodge and Kirribilli are lumped in together. Would it be possible to get that table disaggregated for the Lodge and Kirribilli House? That should not be too hard to do, should it?

Mr Henderson —We probably can. In fact, lots of it we have already made available to you.

Senator ROBERT RAY —The table is in constant dollars, isn't it?

Mr Henderson —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —This is a proper concept of comparison, isn't it?

Mr Henderson —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I might add that that is not often used by politicians. But I think you are setting a good example because I always believe in comparing things in constant dollars. I hope the practice spreads.

Mr Henderson —Thank you, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —The Lodge is still the official home of the Prime Minister, isn't it, or has there been a change that I have missed out on?

Mr Henderson —Both residences are available for the use of the Prime Minister.

Senator FAULKNER —But is there an official home of the Prime Minister of Australia?

Mr Henderson —I am not familiar with that term, as such.

Senator FAULKNER —What status does the Lodge have? I describe the Lodge as the official residence of the Australian Prime Minister, and Kirribilli House as `party central'. That is how I tend to describe the residences. Is the Lodge still the official residence of the Prime Minister of Australia?

Mr Henderson —It is one of the official establishments that is available for the use of the Prime Minister and their family.

Senator FAULKNER —So there is not `an official residence' or `the official residence'. Is that right?

Mr Crane —No. Both residences are referred to as the official residences of the Prime Minister.

Senator FAULKNER —Since when?

Mr Crane —I do not have that information. That has always been my understanding of the case. Neither of the houses is particularly designated as the principal residence, in my experience.

Senator ROBERT RAY —When was the last time Kirribilli was used for an official guest other than the Prime Minister? I am not asking for the exact date.

Mr Henderson —It was during the period of Prime Minister Keating's term in office.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Would I be right in saying—and this is going off memory—that quite a few overseas guests express the preference for staying in a city hotel rather than staying at Kirribilli, given the new hotel developments up around The Rocks and all that sort of area? I just have some sort of memory that several guests from overseas have said that they would prefer to stay in a hotel rather than Kirribilli.

Mr Henderson —I think you have mentioned that point to us before. Clearly, as they usually travel with a large entourage and they want close proximity to their colleagues and staff, then obviously they are much better off in a hotel.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Any closer to that?

Mr Crane —That is my understanding as well—that because of the size of —

Senator ROBERT RAY —No, this is getting back to the last time an official guest stayed at Kirribilli.

Mr Crane —I do not have that information with me at the table, but we can certainly provide it.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I would appreciate it if you could provide me just a rough description of the guest—something like `the president of X stayed there then', without going into any more details.

Senator FAULKNER —In the Official Establishments Trust annual report, on the last page there is an appropriation for expenditure, maintenance and capital works, et cetera, for the Prime Minister's official residences. Would it be possible to get that table disaggregated as well as the previous one I mentioned? You are probably right to say, Mr Henderson, most of that work has been done.

Mr Henderson —We can take that on notice.

Senator FAULKNER —I gather none of this $422,000 capital works program was spent—is that right? That is how I read the table, but I might be missing something there.

Mr Crane —No, that is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —Why is that the case?

Mr Crane —The works that were undertaken at the residences during 1999-2000 were not considered to be capital works.

Senator FAULKNER —Are the renovations run through the maintenance and conservation part?

Mr Crane —Maintenance and conservation is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —They are not capital works?

Mr Crane —No; they are within that figure for maintenance and conservation.

Senator FAULKNER —Is the $600,000 or so that is spent included in the aggregate of $1.45 million in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet annual report?

Mr Crane —That is correct. The $1.45 billion is the total program expenditure.

Senator FAULKNER —In relation to the wine consultant at Kirribilli House, Mr Bourne, does he actually buy the wine himself?

Mr Crane —No; he recommends the wine and we purchase the wine directly.

Senator FAULKNER —It is bought by Official Establishments on his recommendation or advice?

Mr Crane —That is correct.

Senator ROBERT RAY —To confirm the evidence from last time, the wine consultant now has no interest in selling wine anywhere, does he? I am pretty certain that was evidence given last time.

Mr Crane —That is correct. We purchase the wine directly from the wineries.

Senator Hill —That was not the question.

Mr Henderson —No; that is correct. He is not a wine producer.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Producer or retailer?

Mr Henderson —No.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Have you done necessary company searches to satisfy yourself of that, or do you just take it off the declaration?

Mr Crane —My recollection is that that issue was covered off in the tender evaluation process.

Senator FAULKNER —We heard at the last estimates round about the wine in storage in Canberra. Is that still the case? Have we still got this storage facility in Canberra?

Mr Crane —That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —How much wine have you got in storage in Canberra?

Mr Crane —We currently have 17[half ] dozen bottles of wine stored at the cellar.

Senator FAULKNER —What is the cost of the storage on an annual basis?

Mr Crane —The cost of storage is $1.60 per case per month.

Senator FAULKNER —Do you want me to multiply that out?

Mr Crane —It varies depending on how much stock we have on hand at any given time.

Senator FAULKNER —Why is it stored in Canberra?

Mr Crane —The majority of the wine is used in Canberra, so it makes sense to store it here in the first place.

Senator FAULKNER —Is some of it used in Sydney?

Mr Crane —Yes, it is.

Senator FAULKNER —How do you courier that down to Sydney?

Mr Crane —I think it has happened with commercial transport. That is my understanding of it.

Senator FAULKNER —What is the cost of that?

Mr Crane —I do not have that figure here.

Senator FAULKNER —Who fronts up with the bill for that—the official establishment?

Mr Crane —Yes.

Senator FAULKNER —How many transshipments are there a year?

Mr Crane —I do not have that information either. We would need to go back through our records to ascertain that.

Senator FAULKNER —Who decides when you need a shipment of wine? When the cellars at `party central' are running low, who decides they had better get on to the mob in Canberra and get another few dozen sent?

Mr Crane —Discussions take place between the manager at the house and my people within the official establishments unit.

Senator FAULKNER —So you cannot tell me this happens once a week or once a fortnight?

Mr Crane —No, I cannot. It would be on an irregular basis, depending on what the requirements were at the house.

Senator FAULKNER —It must be a drain on the budget, though, to have all this wine shipped from Canberra to Sydney.

Mr Crane —No. In fact, in the longer term we will achieve savings in this operation.

Senator FAULKNER —They always say that. Is it transported by courier? Isn't it a good idea for it to be bought and stored in Sydney? Has any thought been given to that?

Mr Crane —There would be some additional costs there. If we split the storage, there would be additional transport costs from the wineries when we first purchased the orders. At the moment, we purchase them from the winery and they come to one central location where they are stored. We take them out of storage as required.

Senator FAULKNER —How long has this arrangement been in place?

Mr Crane —Mr Bourne was engaged in October 1999.

Senator FAULKNER —How many bottles of wine have been consumed since October 1999? You will be delighted, Mr Henderson, that I am not going into the vintages. I will leave those to Mrs Crosio.

Mr Crane —I do not actually have a figure on consumption.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You must have a rough figure. Let us put it up-front, Mr Crane.

Mr Crane —There were 58 dozen bottles of wine purchased, as recommended by Mr Bourne.

Senator ROBERT RAY —And there are 17 in storage.

Mr Crane —That is correct.

Senator ROBERT RAY —But we do not know how many are currently sitting at the Lodge or at Kirribilli?

Mr Crane —That is right; there would be some on hand at each of the official residences. I do not have the information at the moment.

Senator ROBERT RAY —My working assumption is that there would be a couple of dozen. So, working on that assumption, I would imagine that 33 dozen bottles of wine have been drunk. What are the total costs paid to the consultant so far?

Mr Crane —The total payment so far to Mr Bourne is $9,760.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I am interested in how much per bottle it works out so far. We have been interested in how much it costs to store—that is pretty trivial—and how much it costs to send down to Sydney—that is nothing really dramatic. But, if there are 396 bottles of wine that have been drunk so far at a cost of $9,700 for the consultants—

Mr Crane —Senator, that cost of $9,760 is made up of an initial payment of $8,000 which was for developing—

Senator ROBERT RAY —I understand that. But you still amortise this out: the cost of bottles so far but, to be fair, you know that will be a declining amount over time.

Mr Crane —That is correct. For the rest of the consultancy the ongoing cellar assessments are $800, and there are three of those per year.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Let us get this clear: is it $800 per go or $800 per year?

Mr Crane —It is $800 per cellar assessment, and there are three a year.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So that is $2,400—even I can work that out. Basically, at a minimum, the consultant adds $6 dollars a bottle to each bottle of wine that has been drunk so far. That is with all the favourable assumptions running.

Mr Crane —I will take your word on the figures, Senator, but the issue is that we are now buying premium quality wines at their release price as opposed to what we previously did, which was to buy the wines at the market price at the time. The wines we are purchasing now, which will be used in future years, will be much cheaper than under the old regime when we purchased them at market price when they were required for use.

Senator ROBERT RAY —This seems to be a complex system to cover, maybe, 400 bottles of wine consumed over a year and four months or something like that.

Senator Hill —The trouble is that if we had taken a glass from a mate or whatever that would only have led to criticism. The wine industry has been remarkably successful. This is a great opportunity to promote a successful industry and for the department to take some independent advice at a relatively modest price which, in the end, may well be more than covered by the fact that they are buying younger wines now rather than buying them at the time of drinking, which apparently was the process of the past. It would not seem to be unwarranted.

Senator ROBERT RAY —You could have got people from the wine board or elsewhere to provide this advice for absolutely nothing, Minister.

Senator Hill —I think we could have, but there are a lot of rivalries in this industry. There is regional rivalry, state rivalry and winery rivalry and there are thorough, in-depth examinations in estimates committees and the like, so I can understand why it was decided to take some independent advice at reasonably modest cost.

Senator ROBERT RAY —That calculation at $6 a bottle is only on the basis of the inspection fee over a year. If we take the original consultancy cost and the fact that the bottle may be there a lot longer, it just goes up four, five or sixfold per bottle. It seems to me that it is not even at break-even point, although I accept Mr Crane's view that savings can be made by getting in on the ground floor, if you pick the right wines, of course—hopefully we are. There are plenty of experts around who have set things up, but we will take that on trust. But it is adding per bottle, or we could do it per case, if you like.

Mr Henderson —It certainly is but the issue is that we have got to compare it with the old system and you are saying that we have isolated the storage costs and the temperature controlled storage here in Canberra and asking why we did not send some to Sydney. We went into all of those issues. It was decided that—

Senator ROBERT RAY —You spent a lot of time on it. That is my complaint.

Mr Henderson —Yes, and it is directed at economising on the purchase of quality products.

Senator Hill —We could have just bought Coonawarra reds.

Mr Henderson —It is all directed at value for money.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is hard for two Racobites here to understand the passion and the time of the bureaucracy in hiring consultants, putting it in here and organising the transport down for a few hundred bottles of wine. Forget it. It should be someone's job there to go ahead and do it and I do not think it would be more expensive. But anyway, I think I will draw stumps on that issue.

Senator FAULKNER —Are there any guidelines about when this taxpayer funded alcohol can be used?

Mr Henderson —Guidelines about what?

Senator FAULKNER —Guidelines about the use of the particular wines that we are talking about—the ones chosen by Mr Bourne and housed in Canberra and Sydney and trucked up when they are needed. Are there any particular guidelines about their use?

Mr Crane —No, Senator. They are used for official entertainment at both of the residences.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, but it is for official entertainment?

Mr Crane —Yes.

Senator FAULKNER —That is a guideline, isn't it? Are there any similar arrangements in relation to tobacco?

Mr Crane —No, Senator. There are no arrangements at all in relation to tobacco.

Mr Henderson —Are you allowed to smoke in the official establishments?

Senator FAULKNER —That is a good question, Mr Henderson.

Mr Henderson —Probably not, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —Is there a regulation about smoking at Kirribilli House, the Lodge and other official Commonwealth residences, such as Yarralumla, et cetera? I am glad you raise that, Mr Henderson. It is a most interesting question.

Mr Crane —I cannot answer that at the moment. I would have to check. I would almost guarantee that there is no smoking within the Lodge.

Senator FAULKNER —Anyway, there are no taxpayer funded cigars?

Mr Crane —Not that I am aware of, Senator.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Cabinet funding used to pay for those. I noticed that in one of the answers that came back about the Kirribilli pool there was an elegant description in there that it had been decided to leave it as a ruin. Who came up with that? I thought it was very good.

Mr Crane —That proposal was put forward by the Official Establishments Trust. I should explain that the trust has a number of architects involved and some of them have quite an extensive background in the preservation and conservation of historical sites, and after considering all the options it was agreed that preservation as a ruin was the most appropriate measure in this case.

Senator FAULKNER —What was that consultancy worth?

Mr Crane —The Official Establishments Trust provided that information.

Senator FAULKNER —I thought that you had a consultancy on the swimming pool—or the ruin—or did I misunderstand that?

Mr Crane —No, Senator. Initially, we had an engineering firm give us an indicative cost of full restoration of the swimming pool, which they did. I think I have provided evidence at previous estimates hearings on the cost of that, which I recall to be around $5,000.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Cheaper than a wine consultant.

Mr Crane —The Official Establishments Trust then produced a report on the various options for the structure and, as I said before, decided that preservation as a ruin was the most appropriate.

Senator FAULKNER —Were there any costs involved in that latter assessment?

Mr Crane —In the assessment by the trust?

Senator FAULKNER —Yes.

Mr Crane —No, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —So you get two swimming pool ruins for the price of one wine consultant and save $1,600 on the way through. Are there any plans for using the $422,000 of the capital works program expenditure at this stage? This is on page 14 of your annual report.

Mr Crane —Yes, Senator. Those figures are for 1999-2000 and during the current financial year there are no plans to do any capital works.

Senator FAULKNER —What about major works in the maintenance and conservation program?

Mr Crane —It depends on your interpretation of `major works', but there have been some works undertaken at the houses during the financial year which would fit into that category of maintenance and conservation.

Senator FAULKNER —Are there any works either under way or planned that you have not previously reported to this committee?

Mr Crane —I do not think so. There are no works currently under way at either of the residences. The ongoing scheduled and obviously unscheduled maintenance as it arises is all that is planned for the remainder of this year.

Senator ROBERT RAY —With no major works and very few questions taken on notice, I suppose a bit of the pressure is coming off the unit now?

Mr Crane —There is always plenty for us to do, Senator.

Mr Henderson —But we are appreciative of this decline in demand.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Don't fall in too early.

Senator FAULKNER —Have you worked out the cost per bottle of Mr Bourne?

Mr Crane —No, I have not.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I have, but I would not trust the figures.

Senator FAULKNER —What did you come down to?

Senator ROBERT RAY —For his inspection, it is $6 a bottle for a year, but amortised out it is probably more like $30 per bottle, maybe $35, which is not a bad little earner if you can get it.

Senator FAULKNER —$24.64 is my mathematics. One of us has to be right.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I will back you because I only did it roughly.

Mr Henderson —We do not accept that arithmetic.

Senator Hill —Over how many years?

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is bottles consumed that you have to work it out on at the moment. It will amortise out less as you go presumably, except you are going to have another round of buying.

Senator FAULKNER —Is it because there has been such a furious pace of building work at Kirribilli House and the Lodge over recent years that there appears to be nothing that we have not heard of previously being planned at the moment?

Senator ROBERT RAY —I suppose it is an election year.

Senator FAULKNER —I do not know. The staircases at Kirribilli have now been relocated, haven't they? That is finished?

Mr Crane —That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —The extensive refurbishing of the Lodge dining and reception rooms has finished, hasn't it?

Mr Crane —That is finished, and it was only the dining room.

Senator FAULKNER —Were any consultancies applied to the dining room?

Mr Crane —Yes, there was.

Senator FAULKNER —Can you let me know what they were please?

Mr Crane —The cost of the interior design services was $27,200.

Senator FAULKNER —And the actual building work?

Mr Crane —The works cost $74,072.

Senator FAULKNER —Is that the total cost then—approximately a little over $100,000—for that refurbishment?

Mr Crane —That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —I notice there is a gazettal for $17,206 worth of curtains for the Lodge. Is that for the dining room?

Mr Crane —That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —Is that included in the figures you gave me?

Mr Crane —Yes, it is.

Senator ROBERT RAY —There were no offcuts left that we could use elsewhere?

Mr Crane —Not that I am aware of.

Senator FAULKNER —I read the gazettal for stage 2 of the upgrade of the airconditioning for the Lodge. That was $132,492, wasn't it? So that is finished?

Mr Crane —For stage 2, the cost was considerably less than that; $80,500 is my recollection for stage 2 of the airconditioning.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, but the total for stage 1 and 2?

Mr Crane —It was double that. It was equally split, so it was $161,000 for the total project.

Senator FAULKNER —So was it precisely double that?

Mr Crane —Yes.

Senator FAULKNER —So the airconditioning for the barely used Lodge was—what was the precise figure?

Mr Crane —$161,000.

Mr Henderson —It is not barely used; it is—

Senator ROBERT RAY —If you are going to come in, come in earlier. It was outside your leg stump for half an hour!

Senator FAULKNER —What about the purchase of a commercial refrigerator at Kirribilli House? Was that a bargain at $6,050?

Mr Crane —Yes, that was an appropriate purchase at that price.

Senator FAULKNER —Is this because the coolroom has been put on ice?

Mr Crane —It was decided not to proceed with the coolroom.

Senator FAULKNER —So someone went out and bought a whopping great fridge instead?

Mr Crane —It is a commercial grade refrigerator.

Senator FAULKNER —How big is it?

Mr Crane —It is over 1,000 litres. To put that in perspective, it would be approximately the size of 2[half ] domestic refrigerators.

Senator FAULKNER —It is a 1,000 litre fridge and it came about because of all the negative publicity about the coolroom at party central. So it is just a coolroom in disguise, isn't it? You just get a whopping great fridge with a 1,000 litre capacity, wack it in and say, `We haven't got a coolroom; we've got an ginormous fridge.'

Mr Crane —It is nothing like a coolroom. To be honest, in commercial terms, it is not even a large refrigeration unit.

Senator ROBERT RAY —And it is 2[half ] times the average domestic fridge?

Mr Crane —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —For a family of six.

Senator FAULKNER —How many litres is an ordinary old domestic fridge?

Mr Crane —I think they are about 400.

Senator FAULKNER —When did that get plonked in Kirribilli?

Mr Crane —I do not have a precise date for that.

Senator FAULKNER —You say it is 2[half ] times the size of a normal fridge. It is about six times the cost of a normal fridge, isn't it? It is a while since I bought a fridge, but I did buy one not so long ago. It is pretty expensive. It would have been cheaper to buy three normal fridges. Did anyone ever think of that? No, of course not.

Mr Crane —The commercial refrigerator has a number of additional capacities compared to a normal domestic fridge.

Senator FAULKNER —What are they?

Mr Crane —They recool much quicker. When there is preparation for functions at Kirribilli House and you are—

Senator FAULKNER —Parties.

Mr Crane —For official functions at Kirribilli House, if you are continually going to and from a domestic refrigerator, they are very inefficient. Those of us who have lots of little kids realise that, if a fridge is continually opened and shut, it does not cool efficiently. These commercial refrigerators have an additional capacity to recool very quickly after being opened. Therefore, there is less chance—

Senator FAULKNER —But if you had six of them, you could keep a few of them shut.

Mr Crane —When preparing for functions at the official residences, there is a lot of movement to and from the refrigerators.

Senator FAULKNER —I know—everyone is going to the grog cabinet.

Senator ROBERT RAY —How many other refrigerators are at Kirribilli? Does this do the whole thing?

Mr Crane —No, we are still using some of the old refrigerators.

Senator ROBERT RAY —When you say `some of', you have got rid of some, have you?

Mr Crane —We got rid of two.

Senator ROBERT RAY —How many others are there now?

Mr Crane —There is another three.

Senator ROBERT RAY —And they would have been $400 each a few years ago.

Mr Crane —I think a couple of them are of varying sizes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —We will use that as the average size. So, presumably, there is over 2,000 litres worth of capacity there now.

Mr Crane —It would be close to it. I cannot be absolutely sure.

Senator FAULKNER —But this really is a coolroom by sleight of hand, isn't it?

Mr Crane —No, it is nothing like the size of a coolroom.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Was the decision to buy this commercial refrigerator made before or after the decision to scrap the coolroom?

Mr Crane —It was made in conjunction, to be honest.

Senator ROBERT RAY —So, in some ways, Senator Faulkner was not that far wrong when he said the two issues are related. You dispute that it is in substitution of, because they are different concepts.

Mr Crane —No, I am not disputing that. I am saying that we went to a commercial unit because it was decided not to proceed with the coolroom and the refrigeration capacity at Kirribilli House was inadequate, so we had to come up with some sort of solution.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Who released to the press the fact that the coolroom was off? Was there a press release on that, or has that emerged through answers to estimates?

Mr Crane —I do not know, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —Did this commercial refrigerator require any building or installation work, considering it is so big?

Mr Crane —No.

Senator FAULKNER —It just got plonked down where the old ones were or whatever?

Mr Crane —I have not seen the unit, but I know that there was no building work required for the installation of it.

Senator FAULKNER —When was that in place? I just want to be assured that it was there in time to keep the champers cool for New Year's Eve.

Mr Crane —I think it was in place last calendar year.

Senator FAULKNER —That is a relief. Do you keep floor plans for Kirribilli House and The Lodge?

Mr Crane —Yes, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —At some stage, if I can get interested, I might ask for floor plans—not at the moment—as at 1990 and as at 2000, but I will not worry about that at the moment. I will see how we go. I am aware that Mr Henderson is concerned about the number of questions on notice you have to answer, so I don't want to keep the work up to you too much. We might come back to that at a later stage. I do not have anything else on official establishments. I did want to ask about the sports medal. I think we are in the right output for the sports medal, aren't we?

Mr Henderson —Yes, you are.

Senator FAULKNER —As I understand it, the nominations for the sports medal were originally scheduled to close on 31 July 2000. I think that is right, isn't it?

Mr O'Neill —That was what we tried to use to persuade the nominators. The official date or the closing date to get them approved is 31 December 2000.

Senator FAULKNER —So during July, 5,000 awards were sent out by PM&C, but you forgot to include any explanatory information with the medals. Is that correct?

Mr O'Neill —That is not correct, Senator. Government House sent out a statement about the purpose of it. It was just a straight statement on letterhead.

Senator FAULKNER —The medals validation unit in the department got inundated with calls from people who had received this medal in the mail but did not know what it was for, who had nominated them, or anything about it. They were happy enough to get the medal but it was a bit of a bolt from the blue for them.

Mr O'Neill —Certainly the last part was that people were very pleased to get the medal. They were quite excited. The majority of nominations were made by the peak sports bodies. They did not always communicate with individuals. The first time that people did realise they had received it was when it arrived in the mail—which is consistent with similar awards, such as the National Medal.

Senator FAULKNER —I do not think that is right at all. Didn't you post out an information flier to 35,000 medal recipients at additional expense later on?

Mr O'Neill —No, that is not correct. The official secretary to the Governor-General wrote a letter, and the subsequent ones were perhaps a bit more fulsome about the medal.

Senator FAULKNER —Didn't Miss Kelly, the sports minister, claim that 30,000 sports medals would be handed out in the year 2000?

Mr O'Neill —No, that is not correct. The number available was `up to 30,000'; that figure was used. Government House arranged for 20,000 medals to be produced, and that is about the figure that we have met.

Senator FAULKNER —But Miss Kelly used the number 30,000, didn't she?

Mr O'Neill —Up to 30,000 is the figure I have used and that others have used: up to 30,000, yes.

Senator FAULKNER —At the close of nominations, 12,000 nominations had been received?

Mr O'Neill —At the close of nominations, close on 20,000 nominations had been processed and awarded.

Senator FAULKNER —Were you aware that Miss Kelly's office sent out to MPs and senators lists of sports medal award winners and recipients? I certainly got one.

Mr O'Neill —I am not aware that being done, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —You are not aware of that?

Mr O'Neill —No, I am not aware of that.

Senator FAULKNER —This is just a complete foul-up from beginning to end. I am sure the other senators here received one; I certainly did. Members and senators got lists of sports medal award winners, and I think included were draft media releases and letters. Some of my colleagues actually sent congratulatory letters out to the people who were on the list, based on the information they had received from Miss Kelly, only to find out—and it was quite embarrassing for them—that some of these people did not even receive a sports medal.

Mr O'Neill —I am not aware of that, Senator. You need to ask that of the minister.

Senator FAULKNER —How would Miss Kelly get a list of the sports medal award winners?

Mr O'Neill —That is something you would have to address to her. The medals—

Senator FAULKNER —You would know, surely, Mr O'Neill?

Mr Henderson —Senator, have you got a copy of the message that you received?

Senator FAULKNER —I do not have it with me, but I certainly could get you a copy, if it would be of interest. But all members and senators received similar things.

Senator Hill —But if there was a mistake in the lists, then that is something you can probably ask the minister.

Senator FAULKNER —Anyway, people were sending back letters saying, `The first we have heard of such a sports medal was when you wrote to congratulate us.' I have to say to you, Mr Henderson, that I did not take much notice of Miss Kelly's communication, I just ignored it. But others took it all at face value—which they are entitled to do—and were severely embarrassed by her incompetence.

Senator Hill —That is a statement—

Senator FAULKNER —It is a statement—

Senator Hill —but is it well founded? Was it a timing problem? I do not know anything of the issue that is now being raised.

Mr O'Neill —I am not aware of the letter that you refer to, Senator. The official secretary of the Governor-General wrote to all recipients, notifying them of the award and its nature, and there was also an arrangement for how it was to be worn. That is the only correspondence that I am aware of. There is a warrant signed by the Governor-General and by the Prime Minister—

Senator Hill —It sounds as if Minister Kelly encouraged parliamentarians to write and congratulate these people also, which seems to be—

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, she did—including the people who never received the medal. That is terrific!

Senator Hill —a pretty reasonable thing to do.

Senator FAULKNER —Except if you had not received a medal.

Senator Hill —Yes, but give us the instances: where are the mistakes?

Senator FAULKNER —There are certain names and I am happy to provide them to you in private. I do not want to publicly embarrass even further the people who have been so severely embarrassed by Miss Kelly already.

Senator Hill —You are not seeking to embarrass them; you are seeking to attack Miss Kelly. If you are going to do that—

Senator FAULKNER —That is true, too. She deserves to be criticised for a very incompetent performance.

Senator Hill —But you ought to give her the chance to respond to what you are saying.

Senator FAULKNER —She doesn't appear before committees. She has a very good record of never fronting up—to, for example, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters—and you know I cannot address it directly to Miss Kelly.

Senator Hill —She is represented before estimates committees. The official that we have in this meeting says that he does not know of the issues you raise. The Governor-General—

Senator FAULKNER —The chairman can confirm it. He would have got a letter from her.

CHAIR —I may well have; I cannot remember.

Senator FAULKNER —You were so busy in the election campaign that you forgot.

CHAIR —I am sure you are right.

Senator FAULKNER —Senator Brandis can confirm it.

Senator BRANDIS —I am not sure either.

Senator Hill —Maybe you were the only one who got the letter.

Senator FAULKNER —I doubt it. I do not think I am high on Miss Kelly's Christmas card list, but you never know. Anyway, how many sports medals were issued, Mr O'Neill?

Mr O'Neill —There were 18,100 medals awarded by the Governor-General.

Senator FAULKNER —What was the reason for the continued extension of the deadline for nominations?

Mr O'Neill —There was no continued extension. When we communicated with sports bodies and others, we said that the aim was to get them all in by 31 July. There was obviously processing time, but the scheme allowed for nominations, provided they were approved, right up until 31 December 2000.

Senator FAULKNER —Would you be able to assist us with the total cost of the manufacturing and sending out of the sports medal, or is that better directed elsewhere?

Mr O'Neill —That really is an issue for Government House. Provision was made for about $700,000.

Senator FAULKNER —I appreciate that. They are not coming before us today. How many medals were sent out without the appropriate letter of explanation and what was the cost of resending the material?

Mr O'Neill —As I answered before—and you used a figure of about 5,000, and I am not going to object to that—the first tranche went out with the rather straight note. After that—and there was not a case of resending—the official secretary to the Governor-General wrote a personal letter to each individual, addressing them by name and explaining about the medal in terms that were a little bit more `fulsome', was the word I think I used.

Senator FAULKNER —It does seem to have been a bit of a foul-up, I have to say.

Senator Hill —I have not heard of any case of a foul-up at all. Apart from Senator Faulkner saying that he believes, from a letter he received, that somebody unknown may have been incorrectly advised that they were a recipient, I have not heard of any error in this exchange at all.

Senator FAULKNER —I am surprised that it has not been drawn to the attention of any officers that people have received letters congratulating them on the award of a medal but never having received the medal.

Senator Hill —That is surprising, isn't it?

Senator FAULKNER —Not if you had the same view as I do about the competence of the minister concerned.

Senator Hill —No. It queries the case that you are making. If Senator Faulkner is to give us the details, preferably not before this committee but before the one where Minister Kelly is represented, we can explore the issues and then he can draw his conclusions on merit.

Senator FAULKNER —I am happy to supply Mr O'Neill with these names privately. We have heard the sad old story: 5,000 letters going out; Ms Kelly announces 30,000 medals. In the end, you are pushing 20,000 medals; 5,000 of them had to be resent with an explanation.

Senator Hill —We did not hear that. That is not correct.

Senator FAULKNER —It is.

Senator Hill —You have heard from the official five minutes ago that Miss Kelly said that there would be up to 30,000—

Senator FAULKNER —It has been a foul-up from beginning to end.

Senator Hill —not that there were 30,000. We have not heard therefore any basis of a foul-up today at all.

Senator FAULKNER —It has been a foul-up, Minister, from beginning to end.

Senator Hill —You want to define it as a foul-up, but you are not making a case for it.

Senator FAULKNER —I might ask a couple of questions about the Government Communications Unit.

Senator FAULKNER —Mr Williams, are you able to assist us with the cost of the more recent BAS information and the advertising on BAS?

Mr Williams —It is of the order of about $9.4 million.

Senator FAULKNER —What period does that run over, please?

Mr Williams —That is in the period January to December 2000. That covers BAS advisory visits, BAS help week and business activity statements.

Senator FAULKNER —What about the latest information or campaign about getting assistance to fill in the BAS form? It ran fairly heavily through sporting events in January and early February and so forth.

Mr Williams —I do not have the January-February figures with me, but I can take that on notice, if you like. I would not have the bills in for them at this point in time.

Senator FAULKNER —Do you have an idea of the budget for that?

Mr Williams —Not here, no.

Senator FAULKNER —Really?

Mr Williams —Really.

Senator FAULKNER —When would you be able to provide that, do you think?

Mr Williams —The spend—

Senator FAULKNER —Is it concluded now or is it still ongoing?

Mr Williams —There was a burst of advertising associated with BAS 1, if you will recall, last year. There was a burst of advertising associated with BAS 2, which has just come and gone. I assume that there will be some advertising for BAS 3, but I am not aware of the detail of that at this stage.

Senator FAULKNER —So there is more to come?

Mr Williams —I would only be assuming here, because I have not seen a formal proposal.

Senator FAULKNER —I assume there may well be more to come too. Is BAS 2 what has happened in early 2001, is it?

Mr Williams —BAS 2 was due on 22 January. But with the two-week extension, I think it was due ultimately two weeks after that, which I think was 4 February.

Senator FAULKNER —No, but I mean the advertising around BAS—the BAS 2 advertising.

Mr Williams —BAS 2 advertising, to my recollection, commenced early in January.

Senator FAULKNER —Isn't there a budget for BAS 2 advertising?

Mr Williams —There probably is, but I do not have that with me at the moment.

Senator FAULKNER —Would you be able to get that reasonably quickly? I appreciate that you have made the point that the bills aren't in, but surely the budget would be—

Mr Williams —We would have a media plan for that particular burst of advertising, yes.

Senator FAULKNER —I would appreciate getting that figure from you quickly, and the latter figure.

Mr Williams —I assume that my people are watching this telecast at the office and they may well phone it through, if possible.

Senator FAULKNER —I hear what you say about BAS 3, and there may well be a further campaign if Mr Costello can ever get his changes to the BAS form through—if he wants to get them through; I am not sure who it is he is struggling with. But what is the planning for BAS 3 at this stage; where are we up to there?

Mr Williams —The lodgment date for BAS 3 would be 22 April. I would imagine that the tax office are working on—

Senator FAULKNER —But do you have an advertising budget for BAS 3?

Mr Williams —At this stage, no, as I mentioned before, I have not seen a proposal for advertising associated with that.

Senator FAULKNER —Who was the agency for BAS 2?

Mr Williams —Whybin TBWA and Partners.

Senator FAULKNER —Was there research?

Mr Williams —Yes, there was.

Senator FAULKNER —Could you indicate who it was?

Mr Williams —The researcher was Worthington Di Marzio.

Senator FAULKNER —You would be pleased, Senator Hill, with the very significant NHT advertising campaign that took place in January to early February as well, I suppose.

Senator Hill —I think it has been reasonably successful in giving recognition to those in the community that have made such a major contribution.

Senator FAULKNER —I am not surprised you thought that. Can you give me either a budget or a cost for that, Mr Williams?

Mr Williams —As I say, I cannot give you a cost. The budget I have here for the Natural Heritage trust campaign is $3 million for advertising, so I would imagine the actual would come in at around that amount.

Senator Hill —As I recall it, we announced publicly at the time of the commencement of the campaign its objectives and the cost.

Senator FAULKNER —What was the cost, do you recall?

Senator Hill —I have not brought the press release today because I thought it would probably come up at an estimates committee later in the week, but I thought the total budget was around the $3 million mark.

Mr Williams —If I can just add to my earlier answer, expenditure on BAS 2 in January and February was $5,052,821.

Senator FAULKNER —Is that an actual amount?

Mr Williams —I am advised that that is expenditure, so I assume that is an actual.

Senator FAULKNER —As I understand it, there was not any advertising in 2000 for the NHT. I think that is correct, isn't it? Senator Hill would probably know this; it is in his portfolio area.

Senator Hill —There may well have been. There were certainly advertisements in newspapers at the time of new rounds calling for submissions and that sort of thing, but in terms of television communication I do not think there was any last year.

Senator FAULKNER —NHT in fact was underspent in 2000, wasn't it?

Senator Hill —On media, it may be that—

Senator FAULKNER —So there is a carryover to this year, the election year?

Senator Hill —It may be a bit deceptive: because it is money in a trust it allows for it to be rolled over. I think we determine a communication campaign over a period of three years, and therefore it is better to look at it in terms of the three years rather than year by year.

Senator FAULKNER —I had seen your press release, Senator Hill, so I am aware of what happened. I think you announced that J. Walter Thompson was the creative agency there.

Mr Williams —That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER —What about research for that area?

Mr Williams —Research was undertaken by Wirthlin Worldwide.

Senator FAULKNER —Is Jane Seaborn still employed by the NHT, or is she a consultant or out of the loop now?

Senator Hill —She is still a consultant dealing with the communication of the NHT. She technically comes under the AFFA umbrella but she basically deals with a program that is administered by both Environment Australia and AFFA.

Senator FAULKNER —Have you got costs for Wirthlin on NHT and Jane Seaborn? Mr Williams, I am not sure whether Seaborn falls into your area.

Mr Williams —No, as I have explained at previous committee meetings, the research consultant is engaged by the department and as such the contract details, including costs, are held by the department. I am not sure what Ms Seaborn's arrangements are, but the department would be aware of them.

Senator FAULKNER —No doubt someone will chase it up with Senator Hill at a later stage. I saw an extraordinary thing on innovation in local government in the Australian newspaper's weekend magazine. Are you aware of that?

Mr Williams —It is not something I am directly familiar with.

Senator FAULKNER —It is an insert in the Australian's weekend magazine—a special report promoting Senator Macdonald. Do we know anything about the cost of this?

Mr Williams —As I said, I am not personally aware of it. It may be that some of my staff are, but it is not something that I am familiar with.

Senator FAULKNER —I would be very interested to know what this cost.

Mr Williams —As I said, presumably my staff are watching and will get something up to me. I do not think it has been to our unit, but I could stand corrected.

Senator FAULKNER —This was an advertorial in the weekend magazine of the Australian newspaper of 15 December. As I understand it—and I know you are an expert in these things, Mr Williams—advertorials are built on promised advertising revenue.

Mr Williams —Advertorials can take the form of a paid advertisement. In the public sector, you will often see the word `advertisement', which is an indicator that someone has paid for it. I am not sure what happens in the private sector. They may have contra arrangements, but generally speaking if the Commonwealth places an advertorial it pays for its space.

Senator FAULKNER —It appears that the revenue raised for this advertorial was purely from government departments, plus one from Kendall Airlines in the private sector. Effectively, haven't we got government departments just shelling out to try to make Senator Macdonald look good?

Mr Williams —Senator, I cannot really comment on the particular issue that you have raised.

Senator FAULKNER —Is this done in-house by the Australian newspaper, or does an advertising company do it for the department? You would know that, wouldn't you?

Mr Williams —It varies.

Senator FAULKNER —Do we know about this case?

Mr Williams —As I said, I do not know personally about that, but I assume someone is watching this broadcast and I might get something about it. It can take the form of a newspaper wishing to promote a particular issue, and it will go to potential advertisers, both private sector and public sector, and say, `In return for paid advertising, you can put a column in.' Alternatively, as an advertiser you might pay for the lot. It really depends on the nature of the issue and the arrangements entered into for the particular event.

Senator FAULKNER —I would like to try to nail this down, if we can. I do not know whether you can find an official who might be able to assist us a bit later in the day. If you could, that would be helpful.

Mr Henderson —The Department of Transport and Regional Services would probably be able to help you as well.

Senator FAULKNER —I am aware of that, but I am just asking for the perspective of the Government Communications Unit.

Senator Hill —Why don't we see if it went through your processes? You do not think it did?

Mr Williams —I do not think it did, but we can confirm that.

Senator Hill —It sounds like a local government promotion, actually.

Senator FAULKNER —It is true that regional services and local government are involved. To what extent I do not know. I am interested in the involvement of Mr Williams's unit.

Senator Hill —Mr Williams says that he does not believe he has been involved.

Senator FAULKNER —No, that is not how I understand it. Mr Williams is saying that he is not sure, but there may be people who are listening to this who—

Senator Hill —Yes, and he has invited them to confirm his memory of the fact.

Mr Williams —They are clearly watching the broadcast, because I got the information on BAS.

Senator FAULKNER —Isn't there anything better on television?

Senator Hill —That did cross my mind. Rather than draw all these conclusions on the basis of best guess, it would be better to follow it down—

Senator FAULKNER —I am interested in costs to government.

Senator Hill —the correct burrow, which would be the Department of Transport and Regional Services if it was their project or, if it has been through Mr Williams, he could give us some assistance on costs. My guess would be—and I have not seen the document to which you are referring—that it is a local government promotion to which the Commonwealth government made a contribution, because the Commonwealth government is trying to encourage local government to be more innovative.

Senator FAULKNER —Thank you for that guess.

Senator Hill —It is as good a guess as any other I have heard this afternoon.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes, I am sure it is. As guesses go, no doubt it is a terrific one, but I am interested in trying to establish how much it cost the government, and if Mr Williams and his unit can assist me, that is fine, and I would appreciate their assistance.

Mr Williams —The costs would be available from the departments who were involved in placing the material.

Senator FAULKNER —I know, but there is a range of government agencies and departments involved here. In your coordinating role, I wondered if you might be able to assist me. We will see what your officers can come up with. I am aware that I can talk to other departments if necessary, but I do not really want to do that unless I have to. Could you give me a breakdown for the cost of ads for the Australian government business entry point—the budget for that campaign?

Mr Williams —I will have to take that on notice. That is a completed campaign, I think.

Senator FAULKNER —Is it?

Mr Williams —I have a list here, but it does not appear on my list, so I can only assume it is a completed campaign.

Senator FAULKNER —There are a couple of advertising campaigns that I wish to ask about. I might just provide a list on notice, and if you can assist I would appreciate it. I want either the budget or the actual cost of the completed campaign. That can be done quickly on notice to save time. Do we have any plans that you are aware of, Mr Williams, for an advertising campaign about welfare fraud—which has been speculated about?

Mr Williams —No, I have no details. Nothing has come to my unit or to MCGC that I am aware of.

Senator FAULKNER —Tough on Drugs?

Mr Williams —Yes, there is a campaign being developed on illicit drugs.

Senator FAULKNER —What is the budget for that?

Mr Williams —The advice I have here is that it is $17.5 million over three years, of which advertising is about $16 million.

Senator FAULKNER —It was a big campaign. Is there anything in the immigration area?

Senator Hill —Mr Chairman, should we stop for afternoon tea?

CHAIR —You are quite right. We will finish after Senator Faulkner's questions. We are just about there, I think.

Senator FAULKNER —I just placed the rest of those questions on notice. I will not be long. I am sorry to detain you.

Mr Williams —With Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, there is some developmental research being done by an appointed research consultant on a possible campaign for citizenship promotion.

Senator FAULKNER —What about road funding?

Mr Williams —There is nothing that I am aware of in the area of road funding, no.

Senator FAULKNER —I will deal with the rest of these issues briefly on notice, Mr Chairman.

Mr Williams —Senator, I might be able to give you some advice on the particular ads that you have there. Without seeing them, I can say that they were placed in the Australian as non-campaign advertisements following an approach by the Australian to the particular departments. The advertorial we believe was done by the Australian for the departments. In terms of costs, we are not aware of the cost, and that is something that would be available from the particular departments.

Senator FAULKNER —Thank you. I will chase it down there.

Mr Williams —If I could recap, Senator Faulkner: you want some information on the business entry point. I think we have covered the rest.

Senator FAULKNER —I am going to deal with those questions more specifically for you on notice.

Mr Williams —Thanks.

Senator FAULKNER —Senator Hill wants an afternoon tea break, and that seems perfectly reasonable in the circumstances. It is one of the few things we can agree on.

CHAIR —That concludes output 4. We will resume, after our break, with output 2, `Social policy advice and coordination'.

Proceedings suspended from 4.08 p.m. to 4.31 p.m.

Mr Henderson —Mr Chairman, could I essentially confirm some information on an issue we were addressing this morning. The question was raised by Senator Faulkner and it related to the processes for preparing a brief for the Prime Minister when he met a number of pharmaceutical manufacturers that are based in his electorate. The area in the department responsible for preparing that brief consulted two other departments, the Department of Health and Aged Care and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources—both portfolios with responsibilities in regard to pharmaceutical manufacturing. There was no contact with other people in the preparation of that brief.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Henderson. We will commence with output 2, Social Policy Advice and Coordination. I think we have a few general questions before we move into the Office of the Status of Women.

Senator FAULKNER —I just have a couple of questions, Mr Chairman, before Senator Crowley comes in to take over the batting. I do not know, Mr Henderson, if you saw an article in the Canberra Times on 12 February this year, `PM steps in to demand action on Aboriginal welfare.' I do not know if you recall it or not but, amongst other things, it says this:

Senior bureaucrats at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet told other department heads earlier this month that the McClure report into welfare reform was too light on solutions to long-term indigenous unemployment, and it was weak in many other areas.

Then it went on to say:

At a meeting of secretaries this month, the Secretary of the Department of Workplace Relations, Peter Shergold, and the Secretary of the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Steve Sedgwick, were asked to come up with some broad solutions that went beyond the McClure report.

I wondered if you would be in a position to be able to confirm the accuracy of this particular report in relation to the involvement of `senior bureaucrats at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet'.

Mr Henderson —Am I able to confirm whether there were PM&C officials involved in what specifically? I am struggling to think how we can answer the issues as you have raised them without going into the opinions and the statements of certain officials, whether they be of our department or others, in terms of confirming the accuracy of that. In other words, I do not think that we are in a position to answer that question unless—

Senator FAULKNER —Let me put it another way then. Was there a meeting of secretaries to departments this month, which is February, that discussed the question of the McClure report?

Mr Henderson —There are people that can confirm the processes associated with that.

Ms Bryant —Your first question was whether there had been a meeting of secretaries this month. The answer to that question is yes. As to whether the issue of Aboriginal or indigenous welfare had been canvassed at that meeting, I am not in a position to answer; I do not know the answer.

Senator FAULKNER —Thank you for confirming that a meeting took place, but this seems to be a quite detailed story in the Canberra Times. One of the interesting elements about these views expressed about the McClure report is that they are from the mouths of senior officers in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet—that is, the McClure report was `too light on solutions to long-term indigenous unemployment, and it was weak in many other areas'. I wondered if this was a fair reflection of the department's view and whether the view had been passed on to other secretaries.

Mr Henderson —We are not in a position to confirm or deny whether that is the view of the officials involved in that meeting.

Senator FAULKNER —Why would that be the case, Mr Henderson?

Mr Henderson —Presumably that group is working towards developing material for the government to make decisions on. It is a deliberative process and, in relation to opinions expressed in such processes, it is standard procedure that we are not able to disclose what those opinions are.

Senator Hill —The government basically accepted the McClure report and the issue is now the detailed implementation of it.

Senator FAULKNER —You said that the government accepts the McClure report?

Senator Hill —Yes.

Senator FAULKNER —What action has been taken by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to try to address this story in the Canberra Times saying that it was `light on solutions to long-term indigenous unemployment, and it was weak in many other areas'? But you tell me that the government accepts it.

Senator Hill —It is the first time that it has been suggested to me that that could be a view of senior officers in the bureaucracy. In discussions that I have been involved in, I have not heard that view expressed.

Senator FAULKNER —I have not been in any discussions; I merely read it in the newspaper.

Senator Hill —Yes. The internal issue is what advice the department gives to the Prime Minister and others; the public issue is the position the government then takes. But if officials are saying that the McClure report is not the total answer to the issue of indigenous unemployment, I do not think that anybody would dispute that.

Senator FAULKNER —Senator Hill, is it the view of the government that the McClure report into welfare reform is `light on solutions to long-term indigenous unemployment'?

Senator Hill —I have tried to express the position—that is, the McClure report, as it has been endorsed, we think is a very useful document for ongoing reform in relation to social community welfare, but it was never intended to be the total answer. There are particular areas of entrenched unemployment that are going to be with us for a long time and are going to require continual and evolving policy responses, and I suspect that indigenous unemployment is one of those areas. So, if officials are saying that they do not see the total solution in the McClure report, I can quite understand that. I do not think that is inconsistent with anything that the government has said to date.

Senator FAULKNER —Fair enough. But does the government take the view that the McClure report is weak in many areas?

Senator Hill —No.

Senator FAULKNER —So what on earth are senior bureaucrats in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet doing telling other departmental heads that that is the case?

Senator Hill —We do not know whether that is the case.

Senator FAULKNER —You can confirm that that did not occur?

Senator Hill —Sorry?

Senator FAULKNER —If it had occurred, it would have been absolutely out of step with what the government's view is.

Senator Hill —Yes, that would be correct.

Senator FAULKNER —So you would not want the secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet off on another—

Senator Hill —We would want them to give us fearless advice, but if that is their view we would have liked—

Senator FAULKNER —You do not want frank and fearless advice communicated to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Senator Hill —If that was their view we would have liked that advice quite a few months ago.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes.

Senator Hill —I do not recall that advice and therefore I doubt at least the detail of the story.

Senator FAULKNER —Fair enough. I appreciate that. In these circumstances, Mr Henderson, now that we have had such a categorical assurance from Senator Hill that this article does not embrace the views of the government, what has the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and its secretary done to correct the record in relation to this very misleading article—we have now established it is a very misleading article—in the Canberra Times?

Mr Henderson —I am not aware of us having done anything to correct the record but, as I have said to you before, if every time we thought we were not totally accurately reported in the press we wrote a letter to the editor we would be spending too much time.

Senator FAULKNER —But this is a pretty bad one, isn't it? This pings senior bureaucrats of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for spreading a malicious untruth about the position of the government.

Senator Hill —But particularly in Canberra, which is a government town, as they say, articles that seem to delve into internal bureaucratic processes are common. If a different view is held of the outcome of such meetings, there would no point at all in going back and, to use your expression, trying to correct the record. It is the daily story from the Canberra news round of the bureaucracy.

Senator FAULKNER —But this is not about outcomes. This is a statement that senior bureaucrats at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet told other department heads earlier this month that that McClure report into welfare reform was too light on solutions to long-term indigenous unemployment and it was weak in many other areas. But you have confirmed that that is not the view of the government.

Senator Hill —Certainly, in terms of what the McClure report was seeking to achieve. But I have just said to you that the McClure report is not the total answer to every community welfare issue in Australia.

Senator FAULKNER —You can confirm it is not the view of the government but Mr Henderson cannot confirm or deny whether this happened or not.

Senator Hill —But it is not proper for Mr Henderson to come here and share with us in this communal atmosphere what the advice he might give to the Prime Minister would be.

Senator FAULKNER —I am terribly worried that this has been printed in a newspaper and this vicious slur on these senior bureaucrats of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has gone through to the keeper and no-one has corrected the record.

Senator Hill —It is commendable that you are terribly worried about it, because I do not think anybody else is.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Except the discipline that Mr Henderson has shown was patently obviously not shown by other public servants that leaked the story.

Senator Hill —That is another issue. At least it does not seem to have been referred to the Federal Police.

Senator FAULKNER —Mr Henderson, you might draw this article to the attention of Mr Moore-Wilton, because his name is mentioned in this article as having intervened in the debate over welfare reform. Anyway, I am glad that Senator Hill has put my mind at rest, and it did not happen. That will be a relief to all of us.

Before I hand the baton over to Senator Crowley, who I know is keen to interrogate officers of the department on other matters, could I ask whether, in relation to appointments to the Board of General Practice Education and Training, that is a cabinet appointment?

Mr Henderson —Mr Doherty may be able to help us on that specific question.

Senator FAULKNER —I believe it is, because Ms Carnell, who was recently appointed, said it was.

Senator Hill —Let's find out. I cannot recall it.

Mr Henderson —Senator, can I just go back to the previous discussion—

Senator FAULKNER —Which one?

Mr Henderson —In relation to the statements about the McClure report and whether it was light-on on certain things.

Senator FAULKNER —You can if you like, but I think Senator Hill cleared that up for us, didn't he?

Mr Henderson —I will add some further clarification and inform you that the PM&C officers at that meeting made no such observations.

Senator FAULKNER —All right. You can confirm what Senator Hill said, then. That is useful.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Which, of course, raises the worry that there is obviously some fairly malicious person feeding that out. I do not think you would accuse even us of creating that story.

Mr Henderson —No, we would not.

Senator ROBERT RAY —It is almost certainly an insider somewhere—not necessarily in your department, I might add.

Senator FAULKNER —But no attempt has been made to correct the record.

Mr Henderson —We have just corrected it: no such statements were made.

Senator FAULKNER —We can only hope that all the readers of that article are going to read the Hansard record of this hearing. It is unlikely, but you never know your luck in a big city, I suppose.

Senator Hill —The Carnell appointment was agreed by cabinet.

Senator FAULKNER —It was?

Senator Hill —Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Senator Faulkner again diligently reads his sources.

Senator FAULKNER —This one is the Herald Sun.

Senator ROBERT RAY —If you made an appointment of an existing member of the federal parliament to such a position—or, indeed, an ex-member—their superannuation would be deducted because it is an appointment at the discretion of the Crown, if you like. Is a similar deduction encouraged at a state or territory level, do we know? There are no real traps in this; I am just interested.

Senator Hill —I do not think so. I can remember the issue being raised in relation to the appointment of Stephen Baker, who was a former Treasurer in South Australia when he was appointed to the Asian Development Bank, although that may have been not a government appointment. It certainly was without approval, but perhaps that was not a government appointment. I remember the discussion, and I think the answer is, technically, no.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I remember Senator Short, who was not, in fact, holder of an office of profit under the Crown, between the asking of a question and the asking of a supplementary, gave his up for that period of time. It may relate more to each superannuation scheme, but there may be a potential inequity here, which is not a partisan issue.

Senator Hill —I think there is a potential inequity. I think that was the basis of a discussion I was involved in several years ago. There is no easy way to rectify it. It is not easy to get even a voluntary solution, because of the nature of the superannuation funds.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Except with federal parliamentarians, it is controlled at the superannuation level, so you have got no choice. I just wondered if any thought had been given. You have obviously given it some, but there is no easy solution.

Mr Henderson —Senator, I think you may have raised that previously, and Ms Belcher may have given you advice. My recollection is that there were no arrangements in place in respect of state officials going on to Commonwealth boards or things. But, if we provided information before, we can recycle it to you.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I do not think I have asked on that aspect before.

Mr Henderson —Okay. We will check whether there is any information on it.

Senator FAULKNER —We have established that this particular appointment to the Board of General Practice Education and Training is a cabinet appointment, so thanks for that, Mr Henderson. In that instance, if a minister felt there was a conflict of interest in relation to such a cabinet appointment, he or she would be required to declare such a conflict of interest: that would be right, wouldn't it?

Senator Hill —Well, that is an odd one.

Senator FAULKNER —It is not an odd one at all.

Senator Hill —Okay. I withdraw that. Yes, there has been the odd occasion where somebody has been a relative, for example, or has had some association with a minister; and it has been the usual practice for that minister to disclose that connection.

Senator FAULKNER —Yes. Thank you. That is what I thought you might say. Now, in this case, are we aware of whether any minister declared a conflict of interest in relation to this cabinet appointment?

Senator Hill —A conflict of interest?

Senator FAULKNER —An interest, or a conflict of interest, or the perception of a conflict of interest, or the possibility of a perception of a conflict of interest.

Senator Hill —I do not recall the approval by cabinet, to be frank; so whether I was otherwise engaged or not I do not know.

Senator FAULKNER —That is handy!

Senator Hill —Oh no; it is just one of those things.

Senator FAULKNER —You weren't there?

Senator Hill —I was probably engaged on other business.

Senator FAULKNER —Not concentrating again.

Senator Hill —I concentrate.

Senator FAULKNER —All right. I do not want to be accused of being—

Senator Hill —The answer is I do not know.

Senator FAULKNER —You do not know. Let me put the question quite directly. Did Dr Wooldridge declare a conflict of interest, a possible conflict of interest, a possible perception of a conflict of interest, in relation to this particular issue when Ms Carnell's appointment was brought before cabinet?

Senator Hill —It logically follows that I do not know; but in this instance it was Dr Wooldridge who brought the nomination.

Senator FAULKNER —Oh yes; but it is the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet who have oversight of these questions about conflict and the need for declaration of these sorts of matters before the cabinet by any cabinet minister. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has responsibility for the operations of cabinet still, doesn't it? They haven't handed that over to Environment Australia or anything thing else, have they?

Mr Henderson —No, Senator.

Senator Hill —Unfortunately!

Senator FAULKNER —Unfortunately, Senator Hill and I probably both think; but, you know.

Senator Hill —I hesitate on the use of the expression `conflict of interest' in this instance.

Senator FAULKNER —I said `or perceived conflict of interest, or possible conflict of interest'.

Senator Hill —This was a recommendation from Dr Wooldridge to the Prime Minister—

Senator FAULKNER —I know—for his landlady to be appointed to this particular board.

Senator Hill —The Prime Minister, as is his practice more often than not, takes such appointments to cabinet, and cabinet agreed the appointment.

Senator FAULKNER —But the question here, Senator Hill, is a simple one: should a minister making a recommendation to cabinet in relation to an appointment within his or her own portfolio responsibility declare a possible conflict? My question in relation to this one is: should Dr Wooldridge have declared the fact that his proposed nominee for cabinet appointment was in fact his landlady?

Senator Hill —The answer to the first question is yes, a minister who is participating in the decision making process should declare a possible conflict of interest. The answer to the second part of the question is that I cannot see how being the tenant of a person could be a perceived conflict of interest.

Senator FAULKNER —Was any advice sought on this? You cannot see it but I can. And I have to say to you, Senator Hill, that, by reading the popular press, it seems a lot of other people can see it too. So perhaps the officers at the table can assist us to establish whether any advice was sought about whether there was a possible conflict or a perception of a conflict of interest. Do we know that?

Mr Doherty —I can certainly confirm that we do look at proposed appointments in the context of potential conflicts, but the examination focuses on whether the proposed appointee has a conflict of interest in relation to the particular appointment that is proposed. I am not conscious of our looking at a conflict of interest from the point of view of the person proposing the appointment. If that declaration were to take place, it would take place in the cabinet room.

Senator FAULKNER —I know that, but you would not know in this case unless Dr Wooldridge fronted up and said, `Let me indicate in relation to—'

Senator Hill —You would not; that is part of the responsibility of the minister concerned.

Senator FAULKNER —The question is: did he indicate that?

Senator Hill —I do not think it is a bureaucratic task. I have said that I do not know whether he did, but I have also said that I cannot imagine how it could be a perceived conflict of interest.

Senator FAULKNER —So we do not know whether there was any declaration of this financial relationship that exists between the tenant and—

Senator Hill —But it is not a financial relationship from which Dr Wooldridge can get any benefit.

Senator FAULKNER —What do you mean?

Senator Hill —He is the tenant.

Senator FAULKNER —You are suggesting that it would not be appropriate for Dr Wooldridge to declare this, are you?

Senator Hill —My reaction is that I do not think it is a perceived conflict, and you are obviously trying to build a case that it is.

Senator FAULKNER —I am not trying to do anything; I am merely trying to establish the proper process and whether it should be declared or not.

Senator Hill —We have agreed that the proper process is that a potential conflict of interest should be disclosed. It is basically the responsibility of the minister to make that judgment. But, if you are asking me to try to make it for the minister, it does not seem to me to be a potential conflict of interest.

Senator FAULKNER —But someone's landlady—I do not want to make it specific to this issue; I was thinking more in the general—or landlord, for example, would set a tenant's rent, wouldn't they?

Senator Hill —I think you are stretching a very long bow.

Senator FAULKNER —I am not stretching anything; I am just saying that that is the way it works, hence it might be appropriate in these sorts of circumstances for someone to make—Dr Wooldridge may well have declared this. You cannot help us; you were not listening at the beginning.

Senator Hill —There are two points, I think. Firstly, the individual concerned seems to me to be well qualified for the job, both in public administration and in health knowledge—

Senator FAULKNER —That is not the point I am raising and you know it. I am not being critical of Ms Carnell at all. I do not know whether she is qualified for this position or not. I am making no judgment about that. It might yet be another job for the girls; I do not know. Maybe she is highly qualified; I simply do not know. That is not the point.

Senator Hill —I think it is a point. She seems to me to be well qualified for the job. If you were trying to develop this case in relation to an appointment where there was a serious question mark over the qualifications of the person, you would be entitled to put in a little more effort than you are today.

Senator FAULKNER —My question goes to the accountability process.

Senator Hill —But for somebody who is well qualified and where the only relationship is a contractual relationship of landlord and tenant, I think that to try to argue that out of those circumstances there is a potential conflict of interest is drawing a very long bow. I guess from your perspective it is worth a try, but to me it is a very long bow.

Senator FAULKNER —I am not attempting to draw any bow at this stage. I am trying to establish the facts. The facts of the matter are that you cannot assist us because either you were not there or, if you were there, you were not listening. I suspect the latter is likely.

Senator FAULKNER —If you cannot assist us, I hope someone else might—someone a little more on the ball.

Senator Hill —As I said, it is not the responsibility of the bureaucrats in this instance; it is the minister concerned.

Senator FAULKNER —There are processes in relation to the declaration of interests and conflict of interests. These are outlined in the Cabinet Handbook, aren't they?

Senator Hill —But the responsibility rests with the individual concerned.

Senator FAULKNER —Even though most of these obligations have been tossed out the window during the life of this government, I assume that one still is vaguely in place.

Mr Doherty —That is correct. The requirement is still in the Cabinet Handbook. It is a matter for declaration in the cabinet room, and it is recorded in the notebooks.

Senator FAULKNER —Could you take this on notice, Senator Hill, so we can find out whether in fact Dr Wooldridge did declare this?

[5.02 p.m.]

Senator CROWLEY —I have a few questions of the Office of the Status of Women. I would like to ask about the criteria provided by the department for the receipt of OSW funding, particularly vis-a-vis the three women's organisations that received secretariat funding from OSW.

Ms Calder —I believe the criteria would have been provided. The criteria was that the applicant is a national women's NGO, which is an incorporated body or other legal entity; has established branches in the majority of states and territories or has nationwide membership; deals predominantly with issues relevant to the status of women; promotes the interests of its constituency and works towards broadening its membership base; and is not a political party registered under the Electoral Act. There is then criteria about holding an Australian business number or having applied for one. The third area is the capacity of the project to contribute positively to current or emerging policy issues affecting women. The fourth is the relevance of the project and the following policy priorities: women's economic security, including retirement incomes; labour force issues for women; women in leadership and decision making; international issues for women; or legal issues for women and protection of the law. The fifth is value for money and the sixth is the capacity of the applicant to deliver the proposal.

Senator CROWLEY —Would I be able to have a copy of that?

Ms Calder —Yes.

Senator CROWLEY —Under that criteria, what distinguished the three successful recipients from those that were not successful?

Ms Calder —I am sorry, I gave you the criteria for the project round of funding. Are you asking about the criteria for the national secretariats to be established as national secretariats? Is that the nature of the question?

Senator CROWLEY —My question was about expenditure to the three women's organisations that received secretariat funding from OSW. What criteria have you given me?

Ms Calder —The general criteria for the project funding round—I apologise.

Senator CROWLEY —Okay, let's start again. I will accept those, too. A copy of those would be very useful.

Ms Calder —I do not have the detail of the criteria, and I am sorry. It was before my time in the office. I am aware that there was a tender process and that a number—my recollection is 10—of applications were received. Three were selected against the criteria on the basis of the manner in which they demonstrated their ability to deliver on those criteria. I do not have them with me, though; I apologise for that.

Senator CROWLEY —Would you be able to provide me those criteria on notice?

Ms Calder —I believe so.

Senator CROWLEY —Thank you. It is a tender process, and I guess I cannot have the detail, but I would be very pleased if you could give me some reason for why the successful applicants were successful, or, importantly, why the unsuccessful ones were deemed not up to scratch against the criteria.

Ms Calder —There were a total of 15 applications received. I do not have information about how they performed in that process, but the applications were assessed by a selection panel that included a community representative.

Senator CROWLEY —Would I be able to have some more detail about the selection panel?

Ms Calder —I believe so, yes.

Senator CROWLEY —On notice?

Ms Calder —Yes.

Senator CROWLEY —Could I have names of people who were on that panel and the category in which they were appearing?

Ms Calder —We will provide that.

Senator CROWLEY —That would be useful, thank you. When three were judged to be successful, what was the process by which that funding was provided?

Ms Calder —The payment arrangements?

Senator CROWLEY —Yes.

Ms Calder —There is annual funding of $100,000 to each secretariat. I am advised that the first year was $75,000 because it was not a full year.

Senator CROWLEY —So it was $75,000 and then $100,000 for how long?

Ms Calder —It is a three-year arrangement.

Senator CROWLEY —That means $2,750?

Ms Calder —No, $275,000.

Senator CROWLEY —That was a neat little saving! Did the successful organisations enter a contract with the OSW?

Ms Calder —Yes, we have a contract with them and we have an annual work planning process and agreements process with them.

Senator CROWLEY —Would I be able to have a copy of the contract?

Ms Bentley —We would have to examine the commercial-in-confidence under that, but we could give you the standard type contract. They would be similar with the three organisations. They would have different schedules about what they had to do and what their objectives were, but we could certainly give you a contract very close to the nature of the contract.

Senator CROWLEY —What is the meaning of commercial-in-confidence in a contract between the government and an NGO?

Ms Calder —I would seek to give you the contract to the fullest extent possible. I am not confident that I could comment on whether or not we would have any commercial-in-confidence issues.

Ms Bentley —I mean that we would have to clear with the organisations that they would be happy for us to provide you with the contract.

Senator CROWLEY —So that is what you mean here by commercial-in-confidence? It is not the standard meaning of commercial-in-confidence, is it?

Ms Bentley —Sorry, I may have slipped into using the term inadvertently.

Ms Calder —We would obviously want the organisations to be apprised of your request, and I would endeavour to table the contracts as completely as possible.

Senator CROWLEY —I appreciate that. I would be interested to know whether `commercial-in-confidence' is the appropriate term that you should be using. If it were, I would particularly be interested to know what on earth it refers to.

Ms Bentley —I retract the remark.

Senator CROWLEY —I appreciate that. We are not going to hunt you down and shoot you out of the water, but I think we need to be clear about the terms of this money. I should indicate that if it is commercial-in-confidence—and it is not—or if it is something the terms of which you feel you cannot fully disclose to me as a senator, then I will certainly be asking on notice for a comprehensive explanation of why you feel it cannot be made public, which I believe is an appropriate thing to insist on when it comes to the allocation of public money and which is a bit hard sometimes to insist on. I indicate ever so gently that I shall be very insistent.

Ms Calder —Thank you, Senator. As I said, I will endeavour to provide you with the fullest available material.

Senator CROWLEY —Do women's organisations which receive funding from OSW need to sign a contract which stipulates that they may not discuss their contract with anyone?

Ms Calder —I have signed a number of contracts with women's organisations under project funding and have not read any clause to that effect, but I would have to refresh my memory on that. I would be happy to provide you with that information.

Senator CROWLEY —I would be appreciative of that. If it were the case that the contract stipulated that they may not discuss the terms of the contract with anyone, could I have an explanation of why that would be so?

Ms Calder —Yes.

Senator CROWLEY —Thank you. In signing contracts, do women's organisations sign to stipulate that certain intellectual property gained as a result of the funding belongs to OSW?

Ms Calder —There is a standard clause as to intellectual property which is managed in the context of each project. Normal practice—and I cannot speak for any of the variations, because I do not have the details in my mind—is that the product required under the contract is the property of government. The intellectual property in the development of that product lies with the project. That is the normal practice.

Senator CROWLEY —So the product is the property of the Commonwealth?

Ms Calder —If the product is a report, government has copyright of that report, but the material developed or the work done which might give rise to some academic papers or to some public speaking is the property of the project applicants.

Senator CROWLEY —This is a hypothetical. NGO Smithsonian Institute has accepted a contract. It has signed off for some moneys from the OSW and is going to produce a report. The report contains good research stuff—somebody has come up with some creative research. The report belongs to the Commonwealth, but the intellectual property belongs to the Smithsonian Institute.

Ms Calder —That is usual practice. They may then undertake a number of academic papers on the basis of the work that was done to produce the product.

Senator CROWLEY —Do you know whether it belongs to the organisation or to the individual who does the work?

Ms Calder —I would have to take that on notice.

Senator CROWLEY —Could you? That would be very useful. Can you give me any sense of how many projects the OSW has taken possession of on behalf of the Commonwealth in the last 12 months?

Ms Calder —If `taken possession of in the last 12 months' effectively refers to the 1999-2000 funding round, though I am not fully apprised of all of the projects that have been completed I think almost all have produced the outcomes. There have been a number of launches in recent times. Twelve projects were funded in 1999-2000.

Senator CROWLEY —I would appreciate a list of those on notice. I guess I can chase up the organisations once I have seen the list to find out what intellectual property—

Ms Calder —I can read it into the record if you like.

Senator CROWLEY —Go ahead. That would be great.

Ms Calder —The National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children had $25,000 for a project called Sole Parent Proud. The Older Women's Network Australia had $25,000 for research and retirement income planning for older women. The publication was launched in August 2000. The first one, the resource directory, was launched in November 2000 by me. Women With Disabilities Australia had $25,000 for a `train the trainer' leadership program for women with disabilities. The leadership workshop was held in July 2000. The National Association of Services Against Sexual Violence had $25,000 for the expansion of data collection on sexual assault and underreporting. The database has been developed based on 4,000 service users and encompasses service delivery demographics and victim assault information. Guides Australia had $25,000 for the production of a national leadership kit for school students. The leadership kit was produced in July 2000.

The Foundation for Australian Agricultural Women—leadership training for women, including indigenous women in regional and rural areas—had $20,000. One national workshop and two regional workshops were held in May-June 2000. The Women's Action Alliance—research education advocacy, et cetera on women's economic security, particularly the needs of women in unpaid work in the home—had $20,000. Those were the three main issues addressed. I do not have the details on the completion of that project, but it focused on superannuation and the inclusion of unpaid work and housing assistance to low-income families. The Australian Council of Women in Policing—the production of a booklet to attract and support and retain women in policing—had $15,000. The booklet was launched in August 2000. The Association of Women Educators—research into challenges facing pregnant and parenting young mothers in completing their education—had $15,000. The publication was launched in October 2000. The Catholic Women's League of Australia—to address women's participation in non-clerical decision making and consultative forums in the Catholic Church—had $15,000. The publication was launched in October 2000.

Senator CROWLEY —What is the meaning of `clerical' in that sentence? Please do not hold up on that one, Ms Calder.

Ms Calder —It would be the traditional one. National Women in Engineering Committee—the production of resource materials to attract and retain women in engineering—had $10,000. The publication was launched in December 2000. Unifem Australia—the extension of International Women's Day activities in additional locations, including regional and rural locations—had $16,000. Breakfasts were held in 12 new locations, including seven regional and rural areas. Those were the products of the 1999-2000 funding round.

Senator CROWLEY —I appreciate that information. I have written it down here as `anti-DV', but I think it was the services that are working together. It was No. 4 project.

Ms Calder —That is the National Association of Services against Sexual Violence.

Senator CROWLEY —And they were producing a database?

Ms Calder —Yes.

Senator CROWLEY —And that database is in the report?

Ms Calder —It is not a report; it is a database that collates and provides access to information on best practice services projects.

Senator CROWLEY —Who has access to that database? Who owns it?

Ms Calder —It is available through the national association, so it would be available. You could access information on request. It has essentially reinforced their capacity to be a support service.

Senator CROWLEY —But people in the community could look it up?

Ms Calder —I presume so.

Senator CROWLEY —That is very interesting. One of the concerns that has been raised often with me is that three organisations received a large amount of money and lots of other organisations received little or none. What kind of processes are in place to ensure that other women's organisations are benefiting from the secretariat funding?

Ms Calder —We have run an extensive process with the national secretariats in the last six months, which has included bringing them together to plan on the manner in which they will work with each other and, very broadly, with the women's sector.

Senator CROWLEY —This is bringing the three peak organisations—

Ms Calder —It brings the three national secretariats together. Our work planning process with them has identified, and helped them to develop, strategies for working both collaboratively and on an extensive outreach basis with a wide range of organisations for and of women, to the extent that we have broadened the traditional definition of the women's sector. We are seeking that secretariats be available to women in organisations that may not be defined as solely or specifically women's organisations, but it may well be women in an industry organisation with women's issues. We are endeavouring to ensure that their reach is wide, and perhaps even wider than has been traditional. We have also established a mentoring relationship between each of the secretariats and one organisation that had been identified as being able to benefit from further developmental support from the office and the office's funding arrangements.

Senator CROWLEY —Can you give us those names?

Ms Calder —I was worried you would ask that. I am going to have to test my memory. The arrangement is that the Australian Federation of Business and Professional Women Inc. is working with, and providing support to, the Women's Action Alliance; the YWCA national secretariat is working with, and providing support to, Guides Australia; and the National Council of Women is working with, and providing support to, the Catholic Women's League Australia. That is a trial for 12 months to see if it works and if it works to the benefit of both parties. If it does, we will seek to continue it, as there are a range of women's organisations that are finding it very difficult to work effectively for their constituencies.

Senator CROWLEY —Are those processes stipulated in the contract that was agreed to between OSW and those women's organisations?

Ms Calder —They are being placed in a work plan, which is an annual arrangement under the auspices of the contract that we have established with each secretariat. The consultancy process that I talked about, or the workshop process, led to the development of agreed outcomes under those work plans with each secretariat.

Senator CROWLEY —I do not want to be picky, but what does `under the auspices of the contract' mean?

Ms Calder —It is not stipulated in the contract, because the contract covered effectively three years. Work plans are for each year, and I started this process after my appointment.

Senator CROWLEY —Words like `and all other things as may be judged appropriate', for example?

Ms Calder —Sorry, I do not understand your meaning.

Senator CROWLEY —I am just trying to think under the auspices of the contract what words would mean: `Well, let's have a work plan with three organisations this year.' It is a bit of a shift. I am trying to follow one line of questioning and keep another I want to come back to, which is called, `Hey, what kind of contract did you sign with women's organisations when you have actually got to now, well after the event, have a planning process to work out strategies of what it actually means?'

Ms Calder —No, it was not well after the event. It was as we moved into the next full year of operation. It was a formal process to ensure that the contractual obligations that they have were made relevant to this year to expand on the work that they had done in their first part year of operation. It is a normal review and planning process under any contract. The contract did not stipulate the outputs for each year. It stipulated the general output over three years, and this is the specific detail within each year.

Senator CROWLEY —So we could anticipate that there could be another strategy meeting and planning session in 12 months time?

Ms Calder —Yes. We planned at the end of the last calendar year for this calendar year, and we will do the same.

Senator CROWLEY —Did you require an annual report from those three organisations, either as part of the contract or as part of keeping an eye on them, from which you then decided to have this sort of planning and strategy meeting?

Ms Calder —The national secretariats do not provide annual reports; they provide quarterly reports. It is a quarterly reporting arrangement and not a consolidated end of year report, and we provided those in response to a question on notice earlier.

Senator CROWLEY —So you provide quarterly reports?

Ms Calder —No. The national secretariats provide us with quarterly reports on their activities. I am sorry if I was not clear.

Senator CROWLEY —No, that is fine. Was anything in what they were doing of concern for OSW?

Ms Calder —Not a concern. It is a developmental process. We were able to use the quarterly reports to identify some of the next phase of activities and the extension of their work program, if you will. It was in that context that the support arrangements were proposed.

Senator CROWLEY —Did you agree that other women's organisations have been disgruntled by this new process and concerned about their lack of funding?

Ms Calder —I certainly did not agree. I believe—and this predates my involvement—there was concern as to the purpose of the arrangement, and it has been important that we—

Senator CROWLEY —Concern about the—

Ms Calder —The new arrangements—the arrangement that has in place three national secretariats, and a very specifically framed project funding round was obviously something that was new and, as with all change, brought concern and questioning.

Senator CROWLEY —Who was concerned?

Ms Calder —I have just been advised that that was put in place in October 1999. I could not tell you who was concerned. I think it was general. I think it was expressed in a variety of ways. But we have worked to ensure that the purpose and the product is well communicated and, as I said, we have worked with the national secretariats themselves to ensure that they are undertaking the role that has been proposed.

Senator CROWLEY —How did the OSW get sense of that concern?

Ms Calder —I am sorry; I would not be able to answer that question.

Ms Bentley —It was not my area at the time but there were some media reports and I believe that there were also some direct representations—phone calls—to OSW at the time.

Senator CROWLEY —Did you get any letters?

Ms Bentley —I would have to check.

Senator CROWLEY —Emails?

Ms Bentley —Possibly.

Senator CROWLEY —Could you let me know if you did; that would be useful. So, as a result of that concern, taking that into account and moving right along, it was then decided to look at these three organisations' mentoring? That mentoring process, as I understand it, has emerged after the planning process and strategies for year 2 of this funding? It was not in the original?

Ms Calder —No. It is part of year 2. It certainly was not identified as a specific activity in either the contract or the early months of work. It emerged as they settled into their new roles, because that obviously took some developmental work on their part.

Senator CROWLEY —If there is anything further you can provide me with I would be pleased to get it. Maybe I have misheard you again, so can I check this: you seemed to say that these three organisations—Guides, Women's Action Alliance and the Catholic Women's League—were perhaps struggling to try and fulfil their obligations to their constituency? They are not quite your words, but I understood it was something like that.

Ms Calder —They are not quite my words, and I won't endeavour to recall my words. Essentially, they were three organisations that were funded in the 2000-01 project funding round for developmental assistance, and it was agreed, essentially as a suggestion of mine, that there could be benefits from a partnering or mentoring or support arrangement between each of the national secretariats and one of these organisations.

They were the only organisations that received project funding in the prior year's project funding that were not recommended when they sought further funding in last year's funding round, and it was of concern to us that they had not indicated a capacity to attract other sources of funding or to become effective in their representation of their constituents' concerns and issues to other mainstream organisations and portfolios.

Senator CROWLEY —What of the other women's organisations who are not those three newly mentored? What of the other women's organisations who, according to information coming to me, are also concerned that they are not getting access to the secretariat funding through those three main organisations?

Ms Calder —Senator, I think you are indicating that you are hearing from women's organisations that they do not have access. I am not in receipt of that information. I have worked very hard to ensure that I am meeting with as many women's organisations as possible and I have not had that information specifically provided to me, so I am unable to comment any further.

Senator CROWLEY —If you did have it, would it make a difference?

Ms Calder —If I did have that information, I would seek to redress it.

Senator CROWLEY —So it might be very reasonable for me to say to women's organisations when they raise it with me: you should write a letter to—

Ms Calder —To me.

Senator CROWLEY —Not to the minister but to you?

Ms Calder —To me.

Senator CROWLEY —To the minister as well?

Ms Calder —As they wish.

Senator CROWLEY —Thank you for that. I will certainly pass that on. What processes are in place to ensure that the women's NGOs that do receive funding expend that money in accordance with the criteria that come with the allocation of that particular money?

Ms Calder —There is the standardised contract, which we discussed, which is developed often at considerable length with each project's auspice organisation to ensure that both parties are comfortable with a full understanding of the contractual agreement and obligations. Then it depends on the nature of the project. It may be that we require reports on work in progress. It may be that the project itself, the product of the project, is full and complete delivery of our expectations. The office has maintained close contact with all projects over at least a number of years and I think is apprised of the progress of each project virtually continuously.

Senator CROWLEY —How much of the office's work is devoted to supervising non[hyphen]government organisations and their projects, and how much might be advice? What else do you do besides that?

Ms Calder —There is a very small team which undertakes direct work with the NGOs and the projects, so it is a portion of OSW's work. Do you want me to run through the list of everything we do?

Senator CROWLEY —I would like to know, for example, what advice you provide to government departments.

Ms Calder —The advice provided to government departments varies. There are different types of roles. We are involved in a range of interdepartmental committees on matters as they arise, some of which come and go from time to time. We work with the women's policy officers network with all government departments to keep abreast of issues that are relevant to women and to apprise them of issues that we are working on that may be relevant to their portfolios. We obviously comment on legislation as it comes through the Prime Minister and Cabinet process. We seek the engagement of officers of other portfolios on work in which we are engaged—and there are currently several examples of that, one in the area of health where we are developing a conference in conjunction with the Department of Health and Aged Care. I can keep going, but I think that is a broad brush.

Senator CROWLEY —If there were anything further to add to that list, I suppose you could say to me—if you were not as polite as you are, Ms Calder—`Why don't you read it in the annual report?' and I could. I think what you have given there is a very useful list and, if anything further can be added to that, I would be pleased to accept it.

Ms Calder —I am sure we could.

Senator CROWLEY —When you say that you comment on legislation, do you comment before the event or after the event? Do you get the opportunity to contribute to the deliberations about the drafting of legislation?

Ms Calder —It varies; I think that would be a fair comment. In my limited tenure, I have had experience where we have been asked to comment in the early stages of policy formulation as well as at the final drafting stage. So I would have to say it varies.

I now have a bit more information. This was provided in answer to a question on notice on 23 November. It gives me a full list and I do not have to rely on my memory. These are the major areas of work that we had undertaken in the six months to the end of last year, and they included the following. Labour force and income security matters: OSW was engaged in comment on legislation on superannuation following marital breakdown—indeed, we had been significant in working towards that end. Then there was input to the government response to the human rights commission pregnancy review and input to other government policies affecting women, and we had undertaken the drafting of an annual statistical report, Women in Australia 2000. In the area of domestic and family violence, we chair a Commonwealth, state and territories task force on the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence program, and we have a range of working groups under that which include a variety of people from other portfolios, such as family and community services, the department of health and other state and territory departments.

In international and legal matters, we provided input to the government's review of the United Nations treaty committee system and all the associated conventions. We undertook preparation for the implementation of outcomes of the United Nations special session on women, which is known as Beijing Plus Five. We have attended, and been elected to the chair of, the APEC ad hoc group on gender integration and we are engaged in preparations for Australia's report under CEDAW. In the leadership area, we worked closely with other portfolios in providing nominations for women to positions on Commonwealth boards. In the area of communications and liaison, we had a wide range of involvement with other government agencies to ensure that we in the Office of the Status of Women were providing good information about their services to women through our various communication channels and, equally, that we were providing information to them as appropriate in their communication channels.

Senator CROWLEY —I will read that more fully. I had not appreciated that there was that answer to a question on notice. With respect to advice to women on Commonwealth boards, were you asked to nominate Ms Kate Carnell?

Ms Calder —I do not believe that is a board for which we are contacted. I cannot give you complete advice on that at the moment.

Senator CROWLEY —There are some boards you are contacted for and some you are not?

Ms Calder —We provide support for nominations to Commonwealth controlled boards where the Commonwealth makes all the appointments.

Senator CROWLEY —I will think on that. What role did the office have in the changes being proposed to the Sex Discrimination Act?

Ms Calder —In the usual manner, I believe. We were consulted by the portfolio with responsibility for developing the amendments. We made comments as appropriate at the time.

Senator CROWLEY —Comments as appropriate. I am not sure that I would be able to get them, but should you be minded to table them I would be very pleased to get them, Ms Calder.

Ms Calder —As you are aware, Senator, that is not possible.

Senator CROWLEY —Were you able to contribute to the drafting of this legislation or did you comment after the event?

Ms Calder —I am relying on memory, but I believe we were asked for comment in the process of the drafting.

Senator CROWLEY —I do not know exactly what the mission statement of the Office of the Status of Women is these days, but I would have thought that it probably had to do a lot with the elimination of discrimination against women. Would I be within the ballpark?

Ms Calder —We do have a mission statement. We have a vision, and that is to achieve optimal status for women in all aspects of their lives and in their diversity and choices.

Senator CROWLEY —From some perspective, one could see introducing a discriminatory clause or an option for discrimination into an antidiscrimination bill, particularly as it affects women, would be counter to that mission statement.

Ms Calder —As you know, we provide advice as we are required to do so. The nature of that advice is not something I am able to comment on.

Senator CROWLEY —No, you do not need to tell me about the advice, but you can tell me whether or not the final product is in conflict with the mission statement of the office.

Senator Hill —Women have varying views on that proposed legislative change.

Senator CROWLEY —Women do?

Senator Hill —In fact, the community does.

Senator CROWLEY —So I would have thought.

Senator Hill —And it has been subject to continuous and continuing vigorous public debate.

Senator CROWLEY —Minister, it may not be an appropriate question for Ms Calder, but a question for you might be their notion of introducing the option for discrimination into antidiscrimination legislation.

Senator Hill —I think the role of this body would be to ensure that government understood the full consequences, and the various arguments that women might mount, in relation to that proposed change. I hope that that advice was sought.

Senator CROWLEY —The women's policy office has a policy to provide `research and advice to government and assistance in coordination, communication and consultation on a range of issues affecting women'. It raises the very interesting question of, as you have just proposed, Minister, what you do when the advice might be, `We are for it,' or `We are against it.'

Senator Hill —That is a difficult dilemma for the office. Certainly, they should ensure that the government is aware of the various views of women on the issue. Whether they want to come down on one side or the other in their advice is really up to them. But a big part of that debate, which you may not choose to accept, was an issue to do with the rights of children, not just adult women. I think it becomes quite a complex issue for an office of this type, which is, as you have just heard the mission statement say, challenged with advancing the interests of all women.

Senator CROWLEY —I think it is a very big challenge and I would have thought that it should cause considerable difficulty for the office. I would have thought that it might have caused exactly the same difficulty for the Attorney-General's Department.

Senator Hill —It is a difficult community debate. Nobody argues to the contrary. But the government wants to be able to make decisions notwithstanding the difficulty, and we made a political judgment and that is what we are seeking to implement. You would accept, I think, that it is unfair for you to ask the office what advice they did give to government on that.

Senator CROWLEY —I think that is quite right. I apologise for that. They are not supposed to answer that.

Senator Hill —It is fair for you to ask, and I am not sure what the answer would be—whether their was advice was sought.

Senator CROWLEY —I am not sure I did ask for the advice.

Senator Hill —I am not inviting you to do that.

Senator CROWLEY —I am not sure that I did ask for the advice. I guess I know that that is not an appropriate question.

Senator Hill —No, you did not ask for it.

Senator CROWLEY —Did you give advice? This is a question you can answer yes or no to, I presume. And the answer is yes, you did. They were involved in the policy.

Ms Calder —OSW both provided background information to the minister and was consulted by the Attorney-General's Department.

Mr Henderson —Senator, it is not a unique situation, really, is it? The Department of Finance and Administration and the Treasury might prefer larger surpluses than governments decide to implement. The real issue here is: are the relevant advisers' views, and those of their ministers, taken into account in finally determining a government position on a particular issue? In this case, we have heard that they did take account of OSW's views on this issue.

Senator Hill —We would like to think that. We certainly heard that they gave advice.

Senator CROWLEY —We know they gave advice. Thank you very much, Minister. That is a great help. I actually also think, Mr Henderson, that in the middle of the night you will meditate on this and see that what you said is not a good analogy. While people may like to have a bigger surplus or whatever, they are not actually legislating to run counter to the intention of an act. That is what is so contradictory here: this is to introduce the potential for discrimination into an antidiscrimination bill.

Senator Hill —That is your political spin.

Senator CROWLEY —No, it is not. It is the cold hard fact, is it not?

Senator Hill —That is the debate. You are now wishing to have your opinion recorded as a fact.

Senator CROWLEY —We can now ask, `What is a fact?' and wax eloquent and philosophical for quite some time. There is an extraordinary—

Senator Hill —It sounds as if the office did its job; that is the important thing.

Senator CROWLEY —Yes, it is; and you are doing well in keeping me on the track, Minister. That would be one way of saying it. In a letter from Kathy Leigh, First Assistant Secretary, Civil Justice Division of the Attorney-General's Department to Dr Pauline Moore, secretary of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, Parliament House, Canberra, there is a paragraph—and I would like you to know that I am not trying to get this out of context; I am reading just a bit of the letter—that says:

The effect of the Bill would be to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA) to provide that any State or Territory laws which restricted access to assisted reproductive technology (ART) services to those who are married or in a de facto relationship would not breach section 22 of the SDA.

The Prime Minister stated in his press release of 1 August 2000 that the Government's view is that the SDA was never intended to prevent States legislating to restrict IVF procedures to married women or those in a de facto relationship.

I am very interested to know that that is the government's view, and I would be very interested to know how the Prime Minister broadly consulted to arrive at that view. You might like to assist me with that in one minute, Minister. It continues:

The Government does not believe that the Bill is inconsistent with Australia's non-discrimination obligations. A distinction or differentiation in treatment will not amount to discrimination if it is based on reasonable and objective criteria and is for a legitimate purpose not inconsistent with other provisions of the relevant treaty.

As you say, there has been lively discussion about this. Do you accept that paragraph, Minister?

Senator Hill —I certainly do, if that is the Prime Minister's view.

Senator CROWLEY —It is over the signature of Kathy Leigh, First Assistant Secretary, Civil Justice Division of the Attorney-General's Department.

Senator Hill —Yes, but she says she is expressing the Prime Minister's view.

Senator CROWLEY —`The government does not believe': I would allow that there is possibly a distinction between the Prime Minister and the government but, if you are allowing it, then that is excellent. All right. I know when the time is up. One last point on that: as far as the advice goes, have you also provided advice to the government vis-[agrave]-vis Australia's international antidiscrimination obligations?

Ms Calder —We were consulted in the process of the development of the draft legislation. That is the advice we were asked for and provided.

Senator CROWLEY —I am not asking what you concluded, but was your advice also asked for in terms of Australia's international obligations?

Ms Calder —We would not be in a position to provide advice on any international law. We have had questioning to this effect previously.

Senator CROWLEY —You are not able to provide advice on international law?

Ms Calder —We do not provide legal advice. That would be provided by the Attorney-General's Department.

Senator CROWLEY —Were you asked to provide advice vis-[agrave]-vis Australia's international obligations, other than legal?

Ms Calder —They would be legal questions that would go to our obligations under any international provisions.

Senator CROWLEY —In other times I understood that the office had done a lot of work to prepare a paper for the optional protocol for the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women—which this government has decided not to sign.

Senator Hill —Certainly the office has played an important role in relation to the treaty matters, but what you are asking is: is the office equipped to advise the correct technical interpretation of the treaty to a particular issue of fact? That is obviously not only a legal issue but an issue that requires specialist legal knowledge.

Senator CROWLEY —I did not know I asked that, Minister. If I did, that is interesting. I just asked whether or not advice had been sought from the office, or whether you provided advice vis-[agrave]-vis Australia's international obligations.

Senator Hill —Yes, whether this legislation was in breach of Australia's treaty obligations, and that is a legal question.

Senator CROWLEY —Actually, you are going much further than I am. You have told me I cannot even do that. I am not asking what the substance of the advice was but whether or not advice was sought vis-[agrave]-vis international obligations—not plus, minus or what it was.

Senator Hill —Clearly, international obligations would have been considered in the preparation of this bill. What I am saying is: that advice needs to come from someone who has specialist legal knowledge in relation to international law and treaties, and that has not traditionally been the role of this office. You do not have specialist international lawyers, as I understand it.

Ms Calder —That is correct. Perhaps I should repeat what I previously said. In the drafting of the legislation, OSW were consulted on the matters on which OSW are competent. As we have just discussed, the nature of that advice is not available. But in respect of any international legal matters, it is the international law office in the Attorney-General's Department that is the authority on those matters. We would not seek to provide any advice that was in their purview.

Senator CROWLEY —Do you ever speak to that person?

Ms Calder —I personally do not, but my staff who work on these matters will from time to time. I could not speak on the specifics of this matter.

Senator CROWLEY —At the last Senate estimates, the office—you—confirmed that you were coming to the end of a process to develop a new work plan within OSW.

Ms Calder —That is correct.

Senator CROWLEY —When will that work plan be available?

Ms Calder —It is in the printing process now.

Senator CROWLEY —Are you able to provide me with a copy?

Ms Calder —Yes, it will be a public document. We will be seeking to circulate it quite widely.

Senator CROWLEY —Good. On the web site for OSW, there is a calendar of events and functions organised by women's organisations.

Ms Calder —Yes, that is correct.

Senator CROWLEY —Do you fund any or all of those?

Ms Calder —There is probably included in that list various projects that have activities that are funded under the office's project funding program. But, having said that, it is a calendar for other women's organisations to use to broadcast information about their own activities.

Senator CROWLEY —For Thursday, 8 February to Sunday, 11 February the calendar lists the Women Wise Women symposium, in support of women's human rights, at the University of New South Wales. Has the office put any financial assistance into that?

Ms Calder —I do not believe so, Senator.

Senator CROWLEY —Would you be able to provide me with a list of which ones have been receiving money, or support in kind, from the office?

Ms Calder —Yes, we can do that.

Senator CROWLEY —Thank you very much. I think that concludes my questions to the office.

ACTING CHAIR (Senator Brandis) —I thank officers from the Office of the Status of Women. We might adjourn for about five minutes while the officers from the ANAO come to the table.

Mr Henderson —Could I make an observation in regard to questions placed directly on notice?

ACTING CHAIR —Yes, Mr Henderson.

Mr Henderson —At the beginning of our hearing, Senator Ray made some observations expressing concern about the timeliness of our responses. At the November hearings, we took on a total of 100 questions; 48 of those were placed directly on notice. Today, my impressions are that, in terms of the actual hearings themselves, we have not taken a lot of questions on notice, but there has been placed directly on notice 66 questions in relation to IT outsourcing. No. 28 of those 66 has 10 parts; question 66 has seven parts. There is clearly going to be a very substantial workload associated with answering those questions placed directly on notice.

I hope this is taken in the constructive spirit in which this observation is intended, but I would ask the committee to consider how we are meant to handle this increasing tendency to place very substantial numbers of questions directly on notice. Clearly, there are people all around the department who will be preparing these responses, but the reality is that in the last round the total number was doubled as a result of questions placed directly on notice. The clearance processes do take a lot longer. People confronted with a folder the size of War and Peace are less inclined to get into it, compared to if it is much smaller. I am assuming that questions coming on notice in the context of the actual hearings are likely to be higher priority, and that perhaps we are slowing down the timeliness of our responses by placing very large numbers directly on notice. I am not asking you to respond to that immediately, but I would like the committee to consider how we should be handling that.

ACTING CHAIR —We will note that and I will raise it with the Chair when he returns. It may be that the opposition and government members of the committee can have a short discussion about it before the end of this estimates round.

Mr Henderson —Thank you.

[6.01 p.m.]