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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
25/02/2014
Estimates
IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION PORTFOLIO
Department of Immigration and Border Protection

Department of Immigration and Border Protection

[16:48]

CHAIR: We are, as I say, on to border protection, outcome 3.

Senator SINGH: Mr Bowles, I refer to articles in The Daily Telegraph on 8 February regarding security issues at Sydney airport and convicted terrorist Mr Khaled Sharrouf. Can you inform us of what surveillance Mr Sharrouf was under prior to his leaving Australia?

Mr Bowles : No, I cannot. That would be a matter for the Attorney-General's Department as far as any surveillance arrangements are concerned. I might just add that this is mainly an issue that relates to Customs and Border Protection. I am happy to do any high-level issues as the portfolio secretary, but the specifics are a matter for them.

Senator SINGH: I will leave the questions that relate to his leaving of Australia and that process that occurred there, but the immigration minister has ordered an internal review. Can you confirm that?

Mr Bowles : I have initiated a review.

Senator SINGH: You have initiated a review?

Mr Bowles : Sorry, Mr Pezzullo has ordered an internal review of what happened within the Customs and Border Protection agency and I have initiated a broader review, in conjunction with the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, to look at the broader issues of the relationships between agencies.

Senator SINGH: Okay. So, are there any other parameters to that review—like time frame, detail?

Mr Bowles : I would be looking at something by the end of March at this stage, from my perspective. I cannot talk to the internal review of Mr Pezzullo. It will cover much of the same territory but, because it is between the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department and myself, we will cover both the Customs and Border Protection and other Attorney-General's Department issues in relation to those things.

Senator SINGH: So they are the only two agencies involved in the review?

Mr Bowles : It might go to some issues with the AFP, but they are part of the Attorney-General's portfolio so it is largely across the two broader portfolios, if you like.

Senator SINGH: So who was appointed to the review and what was the process undertaken for their appointment?

Mr Bowles : For the external review that I have initiated I have used a Mr Ian Cousins, a former employee of the Commonwealth. I have initiated that and appointed him.

Senator SINGH: Was there any process around his appointment?

Mr Bowles : Through the normal government processes. I did not go out and advertise it or anything like that, if that is what you mean.

Senator SINGH: And will the report that comes from this review be made public?

Mr Bowles : Yes, unless there are any classified issues that come up in that. But, generally speaking, all of the reviews that I initiate are made public.

Senator SINGH: You may not be able to answer this—it may involve, as you say, other agencies—but have there been any changes to improve the system since Khaled Sharrouf evaded authorities?

Mr Bowles : It is largely a Customs issue, so we can sort of take it on notice from a portfolio perspective. But I might add that we constantly monitor the range of different systems that are used, both Customs and ourselves, and we will have a look at the issues through both Mr Pezzullo's internal review and my external or broader review across agencies to see if there is any further need to look at some of the systems involved in detection.

Senator SINGH: The article that was in the Sunday Telegraph said—and it has since confirmed that the Australian Federal Police were given the final say over whether the public record information should be released. Do you know what the reasons given for the denial of information were?

Mr Bowles : I have no idea about anything to do with the AFP or what might be reported in the Daily Telegraph.

Senator SINGH: Okay, so that might be up to us to ask them. I think that is all I had on that particular issue. I do have other issues, but my colleague here might want to step in for a minute.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Secretary, what is the breakdown of the $40.9 million to be spent over three years that is described, as I understand it, in the MYEFO statement, to 'enhance the ability of regional countries to detect and disrupt irregular movement of people to Australia'?

Mr Bowles : I don't have it to hand specifically. I will see if someone can get the information for us and I will read it into the record if we get that. But, largely, it is to do with the whole capacity-building and border management systems with Indonesia. We work quite closely with a range of countries in the region. That tries to strengthen our border management.

Senator KIM CARR: Will you take that on notice, please?

Mr Bowles : I will take that on notice, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. What is the amount that will be spent with Indonesia?

Mr Bowles : I think largely all of that was with Indonesia—but, again, I will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the money spent on?

Mr Bowles : Again, that is sort of what I have taken notice. As I said, it is things like training with the Indonesian immigration officials, looking at some of the systems issues, some of the biometrics issues and basically helping to strengthen borders. It assists in the broader issues of transnational crime that happen between countries.

Senator KIM CARR: I have made the assumption that what you have said to me is that the bulk of that money goes to Indonesia?

Mr Bowles : That is my recollection but as I said I will confirm that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: How much of that money goes to boost search and rescue?

Mr Bowles : Of that, in relation to our funding, none. That would be something that would come through the Customs portfolio or someone else.

Senator KIM CARR: None?

Mr Bowles : None. Not in that bucket of money.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, I was wondering if you could help me here. I understood there was a statement in the coalition's policy for a regional deterrence framework to combat people smuggling that there would be an allocation made to boost search and rescue responses in Indonesia. Where would I find that allocation?

Mr Bowles : The $40.9 million figure that you refer to relates to immigration. There will be a series of other allocations that fit underneath that broader policy document across other agencies like AFP, Customs and Border Protection and the like. Without knowing specifically whether they are that is effectively what —

Senator KIM CARR: But it is not this portfolio?

Mr Bowles : Some of it will be this portfolio. Now that I have customs—

Senator KIM CARR: Can you indicate to me what aspects of that money is appropriated to—

Mr Bowles : I can take that on notice because it goes across the multiple agencies under the joint agency task force but a large part of it will be us, Customs and Border Protection, and then there will be the other agencies.

Senator KIM CARR: You have indicated that the bulk of the money will go to Indonesia. Is it the case that there will be any money at all of this $40.9 million spent on Sri Lanka?

Mr Bowles : I do not believe there is any money in there for Sri Lanka. As I said, I will take your earlier question on notice which will clarify that.

Senator KIM CARR: Have a look at Sri Lanka. Is any money spent with Malaysia?

Mr Bowles : Possibly not in the $40.9 million but we do spend money on capacity building in a range of countries including Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Senator KIM CARR: Is there any money that is going to provide assistance for local villages to combat people smuggling?

Mr Bowles : It would either be through DFAT and their aid program or the strategic messaging that Mr Pezzullo was talking about before. There would be some money involved in that.

Senator KIM CARR: There was a specific reference in the coalition's policy for the regional deterrence framework to combat people smuggling that there would be money provided for villages. Is that occurring?

Mr Bowles : Again, I do not have personal knowledge. It would be something that would been done through other agencies like Customs.

Senator KIM CARR: Not in this portfolio?

Mr Bowles : It is not in immigration and the immigration border side. It may in fact be partly in Customs or, as I said, there could be other moneys involved through DFAT aid.

Senator KIM CARR: Is any of this $40.9 million going towards aerial surveillance capabilities?

Mr Bowles : No.

Senator KIM CARR: Is there any money going towards providing assistance with Indonesia in regard to the airport surveillance?

Mr Bowles : There would be money in dealing with immigration officials, border management systems and the like. I would not describe it as surveillance. There may be some money in there for the airport liaison programs that we run. Again, I would not describe it as surveillance.

Senator KIM CARR: Is there any support to establish transit ports close to airports for the purposes of transferring asylum seekers to offshore processing facilities?

Mr Bowles : No; not in that context.

Senator KIM CARR: In what context are there?

Mr Bowles : Again, it is not my portfolio to deal with a range of those issues.

Senator KIM CARR: Have there been any commercial vessels leased to supplement the border protection fleet?

Mr Bowles : Again, a question best placed with Customs and Border Protection. I do not have that information.

Senator KIM CARR: We will put that on notice if the officers are not here.

Mr Bowles : Yes, we can take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Again, I notice that this was a commitment made in the coalition's policy announcements. I would like to know, if that has been the case: how many, what was the cost involved, and what are they leased for—what is the period of any lease? You could also, presumably, given your undertaking to give us some additional information in regard to this $40.9 million, tell us: is this additional money to the $1.2 million already promised to Sri Lanka and Malaysia in regard to the donation of two retired Bay-class vessels?

Mr Bowles : They are two completely separate issues.

Senator KIM CARR: Entirely separate?

Mr Bowles : Yes.

CHAIR: There being no further questions on outcome 3—

Senator SINGH: Chair, I have one. I just wanted to go back to the Amnesty International report. I think you mentioned earlier, Mr Bowles, that this would be a time where I might be able to get more answers.

Mr Bowles : I am not sure it will be this—

Senator SINGH: This is the report that came out in December called This is Breaking People—the Amnesty International report.

Mr Bowles : I am not sure it will be in this outcome; I did not think I said '3'; it might be in outcome 4. It depends on what the issue is.

Senator SINGH: It is to do with the recommendations and whether the department is providing advice to the minister in relation to those recommendations, because, as I understand it, the minister committed to making improvements, where practical, based on the recommendations—

Mr Bowles : It will be in relation to outcome 4.

Senator SINGH: It will be in outcome 4? Then we will go back to it then.

Mr Bowles : Hopefully someone will be there.

Senator KIM CARR: While we are on the question of identifying outcomes, I asked some questions earlier this morning concerning the publication of over 10,000 asylum seekers' personal details. You were going to provide me with additional information. Where would that occur?

Mr Bowles : Effectively, it probably does not fit too much; it was probably in that opening bit, but—

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, but you did request to come back.

Mr Bowles : I did. If you can just remind me: was this the terms of reference?

Senator KIM CARR: There was a number of matters. There was the review and there was also this question of the penetration test.

Mr Bowles : Yes—the penetration test. I do not have all of the details at this stage but my understanding is that the last penetration test on our systems was about three months ago.

Senator KIM CARR: What were the vulnerabilities detected in that exercise?

Mr Bowles : I do not want to give the user guide to anyone trying to try again.

Senator KIM CARR: No, and I appreciate the point, but were you able to establish vulnerabilities? I will rephrase the question.

Mr Bowles : Our systems are in pretty good order, and I will leave it at that. There are always going to be recommendations about how we might do things better, from the odd occasion, but largely speaking our systems are in pretty good order, and I would not want to invite anyone to—

Senator KIM CARR: But it just sort of missed the possibility of 10,000 asylum seekers' records being placed on the website?

Mr Bowles : Again, that was an inadvertent error of how we placed it on the system as opposed to someone hacking the system in that sort of sense.

Senator KIM CARR: But I do not think this was a hacking case; this was where an officer—

Mr Bowles : That is what I have said. So a penetration test—

Senator KIM CARR: It would not pick up this particular—

Mr Bowles : The penetration test would not necessarily pick up something like this because this was about an embedded graph in the middle of a larger document about immigration statistics.

Senator KIM CARR: In regard to the review, are the terms of reference available yet?

Mr Bowles : I can provide them on notice for you. They are around.

Senator KIM CARR: There is also a KPMG audit being undertaken—is that correct?

Mr Bowles : That is the one.

Senator KIM CARR: So they are one and the same. Is there a Privacy Commissioner review being undertaken by Mr Timothy Pilgrim?

Mr Bowles : That is correct. They have said that they will do that.

Senator KIM CARR: And the KPMG audit?

Mr Bowles : I have initiated a review which is the KPMG one—they are one and the same.

Senator KIM CARR: Sorry—did you say 'one and the same'?

Mr Bowles : So there is a separate review by the Privacy Commissioner under the office of information communication, and there is my independent review being undertaken by KPMG. There is no other review. It is the privacy one and the independent review which is being undertaken by KPMG.

Senator KIM CARR: When will the Privacy Commissioner be reporting?

Mr Bowles : I have no knowledge of that. They have said they are going to do a review. That have not given me a time frame at this stage.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. So we need to ask them directly.

Mr Bowles : You need to ask them directly. I cannot help you with where they sit.

Senator KIM CARR: When do you anticipate the KPMG audit report to be available?

Mr Bowles : I have asked for an interim report by the end of this week. Once I see what the interim report says I can get a better understanding of how long it will take to get to a final outcome.

Senator KIM CARR: Is it your expectation that the final report will be made public?

Mr Bowles : With the caveats around the sensitivity to the how-to guide, I am happy to make most issues public.

Senator SINGH: Mr Bowles, I think you did direct me to come back at outcome 3 regarding age assessments.

Mr Bowles : No, that is, again, at 4. Apologies if I did that. I might have said 4.3, or something.

Senator SINGH: I wanted to ask about the government's cuts to legal services to asylum seekers. Can I ask that here?

Mr Bowles : That is at 4, again, I think. This is mainly just about our border management, as opposed to anything to do with irregular migration.

Senator SINGH: What about the Transfield contract?

Mr Bowles : That comes under the next one, 4.

Senator SINGH: Well, I think we had better move on to 4.

Mr Bowles : Sorry, I am just told that the legal service issue is probably outcome 2, not 4. That is this evening, after dinner.

CHAIR: We are delighted, Secretary, that you do not know where things are in this program, because the committee is always uncertain.

Mr Bowles : It is exceptionally complex. It drives me crazy. If it is the last thing I do, I am going to simplify it.

CHAIR: Please! I know the committee would be very grateful if we had a program where things meant what they said rather than program 2.4.2 and outcome 4.

Mr Bowles : I am with you there.

CHAIR: I have never known what an 'outcome' was.

Senator SINGH: I think we need to move to outcome 4.

CHAIR: My feeling is that we have plenty of time. I will not set time limits while it looks as if everyone will have the opportunity to—

Senator SINGH: I want to ask, again, about this issue of age assessment. What is the process of age assessment? This morning I asked about how minors were processed and whether it was quicker than for adults. I think, Mr Bowles, you said that not everyone is age assessed because it is obvious that some people are adults.

However, there are those that may look younger than they are, or older than they are, which has led to the Amnesty International report identifying three detainees on Manus Island and at least another three who have also given their ages as between 15 and 17. What is the process for unaccompanied minors being sent to Manus Island when they have been processed for their age as adults when they should not have been?

Mr Bowles : I think we can separate this a little bit. I will get Ms Pope to go through the process for age determination. That is the crux of your question. In relation to sending unaccompanied minors to Manus Island, I said earlier that that is not our practice or custom. It happens inadvertently from time to time, and that is when we then re-engage with the age determination people. Some people, for whatever reasons, give their age as being what older. I think the best bet is to get Ms Pope to talk a little bit about the age determination process.

Ms Pope : The arrangements that sit around age determination have been reviewed quite extensively over the last few years and the process that we have reached, with the endorsement of both the Ombudsman's office and the Human Rights Commission, is one of a detailed interview. It looks at a whole range of factors that somebody might bring to bear in discussing their age. They would respond to questions about their family composition, their education, the age of their parents and their siblings, where they fit in the family and so on. They provide any documentary evidence they might have of their age. It could be a birth certificate, a passport, a school document and so on.

We would assess those documents for veracity and make a determination as to whether we are satisfied those documents are genuine. We make observations about the demeanour and behaviour of the person and have an extensive look at all the circumstances which might go to age, and come to a view on balance and give the benefit of the doubt to the person being assessed. We would find that they are, most likely, over 18 or under 18.

In some cases that process is carried out in advance of transfer to an offshore processing centre, if someone claims to be a minor and we are not satisfied that they are or, conversely, they claim to be an adult and we are not satisfied that they are, given how important it is that we limit as much as possible the risk that we transfer somebody who is under 18 to a centre that is not designed for people under the age of 18.

Senator SINGH: Shouldn't all age estimates happen before transfer?

Ms Pope : Where someone is demonstrably an adult and does not raise issues of the age to us, and we have no reason to raise it with them, and they are transferred as an adult and that issue does not arise prior to transfer, there is no reason to conduct an age determination. The instances you referred to have, for the most part, been where people have transferred as adults and then later claimed to be minors after arriving on Manus.

Senator SINGH: That goes back to the process, on arrival—that it is really one of officials deciding whether or not they need to go further on an age assessment-kind of discretion.

Ms Pope : Yes.

Senator SINGH: There is no formal process.

Ms Pope : It is a very formal process, indeed, that sits around it, including review.

Senator SINGH: But as to whether you are age assessed—

Ms Pope : If you raise issues about your age and cannot prove your age and we are not satisfied around your age, then there will be a formal age assessment.

Senator SINGH: What is the criteria by which you are not satisfied? Just by going on the look of someone?

Ms Pope : Yes, the look of someone; whether they have a document that evidences that age, their behaviour and so on. It is most often where someone is claiming to be a minor but appears to be an adult. That is the usual circumstance. But we have had instances where people have claimed to be adults, for example, because they want to smoke, when in fact they are under 18. So we have to look at both sides of the coin. It is not just in the context of transfer to Manus or Nauru, it is also in the context of placement within the detention network and in appropriate accommodation.

Senator SINGH: The government made an announcement—which I think was a pre-election promise—to cut legal services for asylum seekers. I would like to know how much money will be saved by cutting legal services to asylum seekers.

CHAIR: Is that in your department?

Senator SINGH: It is, because I ask the question yesterday to the Attorney-General's Department and was directed to ask it today.

Mr Bowles : It is here; that is the one I mentioned was outcome 2, which is after dinner. I will have the right person around.

Senator SINGH: Okay. The Transfield conflict is my last question. During the tender process, what were the criteria for the company to be granted that contract? Did it include experience in providing security and welfare services?

Mr Bowles : When are you referring to—this current arrangement?

Senator SINGH: I am referring to the new contract on Manus, which includes welfare, education and the works.

Mr Bowles : The arrangements at the moment and during transition, we had Transfield with the overarching garrison of services on Nauru, and G4S there, and we had the Salvation Army on both islands doing the welfare.

We undertook our internal processes—I went through this a little bit before—where we looked at the two islands and tried to look at how we could better manage the two issues logistically, because they do largely the same things on both islands. We tried to work out from a logistical and efficiency perspective how we could actually do that. We already have a contract with Transfield, and the decision that was made was that we would engage Transfield to go over both islands and undertake a broader range of services. There was not a tender as such, because that happened before for their original appointment to Nauru. We asked them to—

Senator SINGH: So there was no tender process?

Mr Bowles : There was an original tender process, but in the expansion of their contract we asked them to put in—I am struggling for the right word—a quote for the services to be provided over both islands. Then we made an assessment of value for money across those.

Senator SINGH: Did the Salvation Army's contract expire?

Mr Bowles : The Salvation Army's contract expired last Friday.

Senator SINGH: They obviously were not given the opportunity to re-quote.

Mr Bowles : They were not given the opportunity to go further in a long-term arrangement. They were given the opportunity to transition out, similar to G4S, but they did not take that up.

Senator KIM CARR: Is it true the Salvation Army withdrew?

Mr Bowles : They finished their contract. Their contract was due to finish at the end of last week. I think it is right that it finished at the end of last week.

Mr Douglas : The contract expired at the end of January. Both companies, G4S and Salvation Army, were invited to continue to provide services in a transition period through to the end of March. G4S accepted that offer; Salvation Army did not. As a consequence, the contract naturally expired with a work-out provision as of last Friday.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the difference in the value of the contract now that Transfield is doing both centres?

Mr Bowles : Do you mean the improved value for money that we get by doing it with one contractor?

Senator KIM CARR: What was the contract for Nauru? What was that worth for Transfield?

Mr Bowles : Bear with me. I will not be a second.

Mr Douglas : It will be difficult to compare because, of course, we will be talking about two different time periods.

Senator KIM CARR: I am looking at something else. I would like to know the value of the contract for Nauru, and the value for the contract now for Transfield.

Mr Douglas : Bear with me, please.

Mr Bowles : If you want to ask something else while they are finding that, I am happy to keep going.

Senator KIM CARR: The trouble is, I am interested to know how it is that this is the second time this has happened with this portfolio. There is no tender for quite a substantial expansion in a service provision for a contractor.

Mr Bowles : I am not—

Senator KIM CARR: There is the lifeboats issue. That is a $2½ million expansion on an original contact which, presumably, was $200,000 for the provision of two lifeboats. That goes to $2½ million for the provision of 12 lifeboats. And we now have this one.

Mr Bowles : These arrangements are entirely consistent with the Commonwealth procurement guidelines.

Senator KIM CARR: I understand that. I understand that you will tell me there is an exemption here, won't you?

Mr Bowles : I am not talking about an exemption, I am talking about this being entirely consistent with the Commonwealth procurement guidelines.

Senator KIM CARR: There was no tender arrangement.

Mr Bowles : There was a tender for the original arrangement, not for the extension into both islands. Again, we took advice on this and it is entirely—

Senator KIM CARR: You indicate you took advice, where did you take advice from?

Mr Bowles : Through the Department of Finance.

Senator KIM CARR: From Finance.

Mr Bowles : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Did you take advice from the Auditor-General?

Mr Bowles : No, the Auditor-General does not provide advice on those sorts of issues, it is the Department of Finance.

Senator KIM CARR: Perhaps that may well be the case in the future.

Mr Bowles : If it is in the future, I will take advice from the Auditor-General.

Senator KIM CARR: Have we got the figures, please, Mr Douglas?

Mr Douglas : The contract value for Transfield Services as recorded on AusTender for the period 1 February 2013 to 28 March 2014 was $302.3 million.

Senator KIM CARR: Sorry, can you repeat that figure?

Mr Douglas : $302.3 million for garrison services. They have a separate contract for staff accommodation management services of $1 million.

Senator SINGH: This is just on Manus, is it?

Mr Douglas : No, this is for Nauru.

Senator KIM CARR: So we are talking about $303 million.

Mr Douglas : For a one-year period.

Senator KIM CARR: $303 million.

Mr Douglas : In Nauru.

Senator KIM CARR: For Transfield in Nauru. Now, what is the contract for Transfield?

Mr Douglas : The letter of intent has been issued with Transfield last Friday, but a contract has not yet been executed. The approximate value of that letter of intent over a nearly two-year period I believe is reported in the media at $1.2 billion for the two islands, the two centres.

Senator KIM CARR: Does that include the floating hotel?

Mr Douglas : The barge Bibby Progress is not part of a Transfield Services contract.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. So there is an additional contract for the floating hotel?

Mr Douglas : I just want to be clear about whether there is a different contract or whether that has been managed initially through G4S—

Senator SINGH: I have another question on this.

CHAIR: Both of you have been going for more than half an hour, which is fine, but I have a couple of other senators. At a convenient time could you pause, and we will come back to you later. I'll leave it to you.

Senator KIM CARR: If we could just get the information, because I have got a series of questions on this contract.

Mr Douglas : The department has leased the Bibby Progress from a company called Bibby Maritime, so that is not part of the contract with either Transfield or G4S.

Senator KIM CARR: How much is that contract with Bibby Maritime?

Mr Douglas : The lease for six months is approximately $12.1 million.

Senator KIM CARR: Is it your intention to extend that lease, given that it is only for six months?

Mr Douglas : The contract with Bibby Maritime Ltd allowed for one three-month extension, and the department has recently extended the lease for that three months, and at a cost of approximately $5.1 million.

Senator KIM CARR: Is it your intention to seek to tender another vessel to provide that accommodation?

Mr Douglas : The existing construction program announced by the government makes provision for the construction of staff accommodation at the site at Lombrum, which would therefore negate the need for further provision of accommodation by the Bibby.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you confident that the buildings will be completed in time?

Mr Douglas : At this stage that is a difficult call to make. There are very significant weather issues in Manus, where it rains quite frequently. But also there are significant supply chain issues, with heavy reliance on shipping for getting stores and material. As best we can determine, we are hopeful that we will meet the time frame with the extension.

Senator KIM CARR: So the question that then arises, given the doubts that you have raised in regard to the weather and the supply chain issues, is: what happens if the buildings are not concluded in that nine-month period?

Mr Douglas : We will be closely monitoring that progress and having discussion with Bibby Maritime, or other potential providers if necessary, to secure additional accommodation. But that is a matter that we will obviously be very closely monitoring over that time frame, and we could not give any guarantees at this stage.

Senator KIM CARR: However, you will require to have some certainty about this given the importance of actually accommodating staff. At what point do you have to have additional accommodation leased?

Mr Douglas : Clearly, we will have to make that decision at an appropriate time to secure the availability. But I do not think that that point is now, and it is something that we will continue to monitor—and we do monitor—on a very regular basis.

Senator KIM CARR: Fair enough. Mr Douglas, at what point was it you originally anticipated that the new accommodation, the built accommodation, would be ready?

Mr Douglas : When we originally entered into the agreement with Bibby Maritime, that was for six months, and we expected that it would be completed then. That lease commenced on 25 October, so we had expected that by about March or April we would have that accommodation ready. For a whole range of reasons we are not going to meet that time frame.

Senator KIM CARR: How far behind are we as at February 25?

Mr Douglas : Given that we have extended the lease for three months, at this stage we estimate that we are at least three months behind.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. I will come back as I have got further questions.

Senator SINGH: How much of the contract payment, this $1.2 billion, will be spent on the training of welfare staff, and how much on the training of security staff?

Mr Bowles : We will not have that level of detail here. We can take that on notice, and see what we can determine. I just need to make it clear that the new arrangements cover not only the garrison operational and maintenance type services, they also cover the client welfare and engagement services. So it is not quite a like for like change.

Senator SINGH: They have not been doing welfare services on Nauru, have they?

Mr Bowles : No, they have not.

Senator SINGH: You are confident that they will be able to carry out welfare services?

Mr Bowles : Yes, Senator.

Senator SINGH: There are other examples of where they carry out such services, in other jurisdictions?

Mr Bowles : It is also their subcontractor network and arrangements they have in place. They are looking at a range of staff from the current Salvation Army contract. There are a range of different ways to gauge that. With the evaluation of the changes, all of those issues get factored into our decisions.

Senator SINGH: Right, but you do not have any other examples. You are saying they are potentially going to subcontract it out to the Salvation Army?

Mr Bowles : No.

Senator SINGH: So they are going to do it themselves, the welfare services?

Mr Bowles : They will be responsible.

Senator SINGH: It is a major contract, without a tender process, that is over and above security—it is welfare services, it is education. I am trying to understand why the department think they qualify.

Mr Bowles : It is not without process or tender arrangements; they happened. We are extending a contract to do other things, which we have a legitimate right to do under the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines.

Senator SINGH: I know but, correct me if I am wrong, the original tender process they went through was for security services, not for welfare.

Mr Bowles : No; security, garrison, operational, maintenance—a whole range of things get factored into that.

Senator SINGH: Is welfare in there?

Mr Bowles : No, I have already said welfare was not in there; that was the domain of the Salvation Army.

Senator KIM CARR: Then what led you to the view that Transfield had the necessary experience to deal with the question of managing offshore asylum seeker processing centres and welfare services?

Mr Bowles : We went through a process where we evaluated the offer that they put on the table through that process when we were having those conversations, and our view was that they have the technical competence, in the way they are proposing to do things, to undertake all of the activities we were asking within the arrangements.

Senator SINGH: But there was no other offer on the table.

Mr Bowles : Again, there was a tender process for an original set of services—

Senator KIM CARR: For an entirely different purpose.

Mr Bowles : Under the arrangements for the contract, we have the ability to extend it, and we have extended it.

Senator KIM CARR: It is for a different purpose, Mr Secretary, and I will repeat the question I have just asked you. Perhaps I should refine it: what past experience did Transfield have in managing offshore asylum seeker processing centres, or welfare services? What past experience did they have? Not a gentlemen's agreement across the table, a bit of a chat, for a single contractor.

Mr Bowles : I do not accept your characterisation of gentlemen's agreements. We went through appropriate processes to put these arrangements in place.

Senator SINGH: Security services are clear; I think we all know that Transfield have conducted security—they are doing the Sydney Biennale, which I think has led to artists boycotting it based on you awarding this contract.

Senator KIM CARR: For the provision of tents, which is a different question again.

Mr Bowles : I might ask Mr Douglas if he can talk a little bit about it.

Mr Douglas : Transfield Services provide a range of services. As part of the garrison contract they provide catering, they provide facilities maintenance and they provide security in conjunction with Wilson Security. Over the course of the time in which they have been providing those services on Nauru, they have undertaken engagement with transferees. It is clear during that process that they developed very good relationships with those transferees. They have not been required to provide welfare services. We approached them. They agreed that they would employ a large number of former Salvation Army employees as part of that process. They have also undertaken extensive development of their welfare services with very close involvement with organisations who provide such services onshore both in settlement and in related genres. Everything we have seen so far in what are the very early days, first week of major activities on Manus, is indicating that they have put proper models in place. We are seeing increased levels of programs and activities. We have seen successful engagement between staff and the transferees. We do not have any evidence to indicate that they are not capable of providing the services.

Senator KIM CARR: When was the decision made to award Transfield this additional contract to take their contract from $303 million to $1.2 billion? When was that decision made?

Mr Douglas : The secretary gave evidence earlier today that that process occurred late last year.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, I understand that because I went to this issue. When was the decision made? Not when was the announcement was made; when was the decision made?

Mr Bowles : Again, I made the decision in December last year and that culminated in a series of negotiations around this through the process Mr Douglas referred to, which culminated last week.

Senator KIM CARR: You made the decision, Mr Bowles?

Mr Bowles : I made the decision.

CHAIR: I hate to interrupt in the middle of a train of thought here but I am going to go to Senator Madigan, who assures me he only has a couple of questions and will not hang around. The rest of us are here for the duration.

Senator MADIGAN: My questions relate to the total cost of accommodation for asylum seekers. Could you tell us what is the average cost per asylum seeker per day in offshore detention on either Manus Island or Nauru?

Mr Bowles : It is not exactly an easy thing to come up with is averages because the people we look after are not average. It depends on the make-up of the particular groups that we look after, so single males are different to unaccompanied minors who are different to families. It is very difficult to come up with a meaningful figure for that. We provide different levels of services obviously for children in family groups and yet a different level of services for unaccompanied minors because they do not have family with them.

Senator SINGH: You could combine all of that to create an average.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Well give us the average case cost for Manus Island, which is the same group of people.

Mr Bowles : I would have to take on notice an average for the total group of people. Again, it is dependent on a range of factors like the cohorts, the make-ups—

Senator SINGH: If I could compare it to a prison, which I have some experience in as a former corrections minister, I was able to come up with an average cost per day per inmate of what it cost our budget at that time. There is not really that much difference here. We are talking about housing, clothing, feeding individuals in a confined setting. There are fixed costs there that you can apply to each individual and divide that over the breadth of unaccompanied minors, adults and the like to get an average of what it does cost per day per asylum seeker.

Mr Bowles : I understand that. Prisons do not open operate like we do. We are not a prison. That said, I am happy to take on notice to try and give you a better understanding—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Less scrutiny.

Mr Bowles : how we might construct that sort of scenario for you. Clearly it will be more expensive in the offshore environment than the onshore environment; I could give you that sort of understanding. Then if we look at community detention and our bridging visa process, again, it is much lower costs for these different levels. I can give you an indication like that. So if I was to look at the onshore network: community detention is about half of what it would cost to hold someone in a detention centre within Australia, and to keep someone on a bridging visa in the community is probably about 20 per cent of what it might cost for someone held in detention. How much then is it for someone in an offshore environment? You are looking at a premium because you are dealing with quite a difficult set of arrangements in an offshore arrangement.

Senator MADIGAN: I appreciate that, Mr Bowles. Could you take it on notice then to give us an average cost on offshore detention on, say, Manus Island and Nauru, and what the average cost is for onshore detention and community detention. So could you take that on notice?

Mr Bowles : I can take that on notice.

CHAIR: Could you also indicate whether your department gave an estimate of what it might cost to the former government when they made the decisions to have the offshore processing. I am just interested whether this information was sought from you before the decision was made to put them there.

Mr Bowles : We can take that on notice. I just might add: we deal with trying to understand the fixed and variable cost issues here. That is why just giving a bland number as an average is quite difficult because it depends on the numbers flowing through, who they are, but then the fixed costs—

Senator MADIGAN: Keeping in mind that there are different opinions out in the community where people tout figures as to what it costs to keep people in detention—onshore, community detention, offshore detention. Somewhere these figures are coming from, and there needs to be some clarity in the community. Would you also be able to take on notice—or you may be able to tell me: how much does the government pay Serco each year? What sort of figure are we looking at for the contract there?

Mr Bowles : I can take that on notice—we would have a contract value over multiple years, is probably the easiest way to explain that, but, again, it is a lot of money—unless someone can give it to me quickly.

CHAIR: I would be interested in this. Three years ago I put a question on notice to this effect and I am still waiting for the answer—three years ago.

Mr Bowles : I am sure we would have provided it.

Senator SINGH: That raises a good point, Chair, because questions on notice were supposed to come back to the committee at the end of January and we were still having answers to questions on notice come as late as this morning.

CHAIR: This was a question on notice through the Senate, not through the committee, and it was done to the then minister three years ago, I think, and I am still waiting.

Senator Cash: Senator Singh, for your information, under the previous government I did not even receive them when estimates had actually commenced.

CHAIR: Yes, that is right.

Mr Bowles : Senator Madigan, Mr Cormack might be able to help.

Mr Cormack : The Serco detention services contract from June 2009 to December 2014 is $2.46 billion and the services contract for the immigration housing arrangements over the period 11 December 2009 to 10 December 2014 is $195.4 million.

Senator MADIGAN: Would you be able to also tell me how much money the has government paid to G4S?

Mr Cormack : Yes, we can do that.

Mr Cahill : The current contract for G4S on 1 February 2013 to 28 March 2014 was $244.5 million.

Senator MADIGAN: Recently we have heard media reports that the former Sri Lankan military officer, Mr Dinesh Perera, being employed as an acting operations manager at Manus Island. Is that correct or not?

Mr Bowles : Mr Perera is employed by G4S. It is probably a question best asked of G4S about their employment arrangements but, clearly, because a person comes from Sri Lanka does not mean they should not be working in whatever environment.

Senator MADIGAN: That is not the question. I was just asking you if he is employed in that position.

Mr Bowles : He is employed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In what particular role at the moment?

Mr Bowles : I think he is one of the operations managers.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: He is the operations manager, or is he the acting general manager?

Mr Bowles : I can take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You do not know who was in charge on Monday night?

Mr Bowles : I do not know the titles of everybody who works on the island. Mr Perera is the operations manager over there. If he is acting general manager at time, I will put that on notice and let you know.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you.

Senator MADIGAN: Does the department acknowledge that there is concern in the community, with the hostilities between the two Sri Lankan parties, the Singhalese and the Tamils, that this could be seen in the community as being an imprudent employment decision?

Mr Bowles : I cannot accept that. I just cannot accept that. The issues that are in Sri Lanka between different parties, the civil war is over. Yes, there is are still a range of issues that keep getting raised through the media. I am not close enough to understand some of those issues, but because the media says someone is not very good I cannot accept that premise.

Senator MADIGAN: As far as the detention of people in offshore detention such as Manus Island is concerned, the Commonwealth is detaining these people and putting them offshore and then we wipe our hands of responsibility. We say, 'We have contracted this out, so it is not our responsibility.'

Mr Bowles : No, we have an arrangement with the sovereign governments of Nauru and PNG. We work very closely with them, and I could not leave it on the record that we wash our hands of anything. We work very hard with both governments to do this, but at the end of the day the sovereign governments of PNG and Nauru are their own people.

Senator MADIGAN: So we are sending them there, we are detaining them, but another government has got a finger in the pie. The Australian people are paying for this.

Mr Bowles : There is an arrangement that has been in place for quite a while now with PNG, for instance, for the regional resettlement arrangement. That is for us and the PNG government to work together to stop people smuggling and people dying on boats. That is what the arrangement has been about. As I said, I do not characterise it as us washing our hands. We are trying to deal with what is a very difficult set of circumstances where a range of people have died on boats, and the arrangements that have been put in place have largely agreed by both governments. The former government established the RRA and the arrangements in Nauru, this government has continued them.

Mr Douglas : Could I just clarify for the record that Mr Perera is one of four operations managers based on Manus for G4S.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In relation to the 3½ weeks between when the G4S contract officially expired on 31 January to Transfield Services taking over officially at the end of this week, what has been the arrangement in terms of the G4S senior management on the island?

Mr Bowles : Let me clarify, and my colleagues will help me at some stage. The arrangements for the transition between G4S and Transfield have not happened this week or last week.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No, I said this Friday.

Mr Bowles : They do not happen this Friday; they happen on 28 March. We have a process in place over the next number of weeks to transition. The service provider in charge today, as it was last week and the week before, is G4S.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So they will be in charge until 28 March?

Mr Bowles : Subject to a whole range of transition issues between them and Transfield, but Transfield do not take over until the contract formally finishes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Transfield are there in the capacity of the welfare officers, however?

Mr Bowles : They are there for welfare, yes, which is taking over from the Salvation Army.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In terms of the G4S staff, what is the make-up of their senior management on the island as required under the contract?

Mr Bowles : I would have to take that on notice. If it is to do with the Salvation Army, they are in place—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No, I am asking about G4S. What does the G4S contract stipulate in terms of senior management?

CHAIR: Are the G4S contracts public documents?

Mr Bowles : No, I do not believe so. The value of the contracts goes on AusTender but the details of contracts—because they are generally commercial-in-confidence—do not get released. Carry on, Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Douglas, the contract refers to the department having specific input into senior key positions, does it not—section 5 of the contract?

Mr Douglas : I do not hold the detail of that contract in my head and I certainly do not have a copy of it here. I would be very happy to take on notice and come back to you with what the senior officer structure is for G4S.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. Is the department aware of whether there was a full make-up of senior staff by G4S on the island on Monday?

Mr Bowles : We can take that on notice, but my dealings over the last little while would indicate that there were some quite senior people on the island. We were also dealing with the broader senior management of G4S in Australia.

Mr Douglas : My understanding is that the people occupying the two most senior positions on Manus for G4S were at Manus for the duration.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you tell us for the record who they are?

Mr Bowles : The positions.

Mr Douglas : The positions are a regional general manager and a deputy regional general manager.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can you tell us the names of those two individuals?

Mr Bowles : I would prefer not to.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why?

Mr Bowles : Because I would prefer not to put a person's private details into a public arena. They were the regional general—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They were in charge of what happened on Monday night, where they not?

Mr Bowles : And they will be subject to the normal processes through the independent review that I have commissioned on this issue.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Will those two individuals remain in their positions until 28 March?

Mr Bowles : I cannot determine what might happen between now and the end of 28 March specifically. My understanding would be that they would be there as long as they need to be there to transition the contract. If those specific individuals are not there, the position will be and someone will be filling those positions.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, can you be clear: who was in charge of the centre on Monday night?

Mr Bowles : Again, we go to the sovereignty of PNG. The PNG operation's manager is, if you like, in charge of the centre all the time. He is resident, obviously, in Manus.

CHAIR: He is an officer of the PNG government?

Mr Bowles : The PNG government through the immigration service.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, were staff at the centre asked to turn off their mobile phones on Monday night?

Mr Bowles : I do not have that level of detail.

Mr Douglas : Not that I am aware of, Senator. I am happy to take that on notice and confirm.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, when was the telephone and internet turned off, or restricted, for asylum-seekers in the camp?

Mr Bowles : I will take that on notice, Senator.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is it currently restricted?

Mr Bowles : I would imagine it probably still is a little bit restricted, until we actually get the systems back up—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it was restricted?

Mr Bowles : I understand it was. I do not know the extent. As I said, we will take it on notice and try and understand all of those issues. But in any incident like this that causes damage to our infrastructure there will inevitably be a problem with it in a business-as-usual sense.

CHAIR: That raises the question with me: who provides the mobile phones and the internet services?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you are talking about asylum-seekers, they do not have mobile phones.

CHAIR: Don't they?

Mr Bowles : No, they do not have mobile phones. But the staff and others do have mobile phones and it is through the normal PNG carrier system.

Mr Douglas : Transferees have access to internet and fixed-line services.

CHAIR: Okay. But the asylum-seekers do not have means of communications.

Mr Bowles : They can use fixed-to-wall phones and the internet, but we do not give them mobile phones.

CHAIR: Who provides the internet service?

Mr Bowles : We provide—'we' being G4S—

Mr Douglas : Through the garrison services provider.

Mr Bowles : Yes, through G4S we provide internet and phone services.

CHAIR: Not per person, individually: there is an internet cafe?

Mr Bowles : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you please get back to us before the evening is out as to when the phones and internet were turned off?

Mr Bowles : If at all possible, we will. Otherwise, it will be part of the internal review that will determine the accurate details of some of those things. I said earlier—I think it was in response to a question of yours about the power—that it will be in the same sort of context, because when the power goes down it knocks everything out. So there are all those sorts of issues. I am happy to take that on notice and I am happy to give you what information I can, but a lot of this will be determined through the independent review.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What directions have been given to G4S in relation to dealing with journalists and media who are on the island as a result of the incident on Monday night?

Mr Bowles : I, specifically, have not given any instructions to G4S in relation to media. PNG, again, being a sovereign government, have their own view on that and you would need to put the question to them. At the end of the day, no matter what I say, PNG have the right to say the complete opposite or they can agree or whatever.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you aware of reports that G4S staff have been confiscating journalists' equipment and deleting footage?

Mr Bowles : I am aware of some issues around journalists trying to take photos of probably inappropriate things at certain times. I am not aware of the full detail of anything else that might happen.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is not the PNG government that contracts G4S, is it?

Mr Bowles : No, the contract arrangements are through us. However, as I said, there is an operations manager who is an immigration official from PNG and the centre is under the sovereign rule, if you like, of the PNG government.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But your G4S staff who are outside the centre transporting people to and from the hospital per se report to you, as the departmental secretary of the Australian government who pays their wages.

Mr Bowles : I think it might be a bit of a stretch to say they report to me. They are a contract under the Australian arrangements—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They do not report to the PNG government.

Mr Bowles : No, the contract arrangements are with us.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Bowles : The operation of the centre is through PNG. So there are obviously issues around how the centre gets managed. We obviously assist PNG in a range of these issues but clearly G4S, as the contractor responsible for the broader garrison and security arrangements, are working with the PNG officials on the ground.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If G4S are going to be continuing to run the facility, provide security and other services up until 28 March, and yet are now seriously suspected of being involved in the activities on Monday night—

Mr Bowles : I don't think you can say that, Senator.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am just referring to the minister's own statement on Saturday.

Mr Bowles : No, what the minister said was that service providers will be part of the review and we will look at the safety and security of the facility.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you telling me that you know that no G4S staff were involved in that—

Mr Bowles : I am not saying anything of the sort. You have directly said that G4S have done something wrong. We do not know that yet. There is an independent review that will determine who and what happened on that particular night. If it does involve a service provider or members of a service provider unit doing something wrong, that will become part of the outcome of the review and will be given to an appropriate authority.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: G4S staff are suspected of being involved in the violence on Monday night. Is that correct?

Mr Bowles : I am not going to go to anecdotal reports in the media or a range of issues. I have said constantly this afternoon and this morning that this is subject to the independent review.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You cannot be sure, though, can you Mr Bowles?

Mr Bowles : I am not sure about a lot of things on there because of the many and varied stories that are out there at the moment. I have said this clearly a number of times. The independent review will go over this, piece by piece.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How can you be certain that people inside the detention centre are safe if you are unaware of or unsure of who attacked them?

Mr Bowles : If there is any suspicion or evidence that comes to light, we will act immediately. When there is a lot of conjecture around issues we will deal with them in the context of the independent review.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The minister's statement on Saturday said that those employed by service providers were suspected of being involved. You cannot tell me who they are. You are telling me that you do not know who they are. So how do you know they are not still there in the centre, working?

Mr Bowles : I have answered this in a number of different ways. I am not quite sure when else I can add.

CHAIR: I would not try.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: After hearing about the events on Monday, learning of the death of Mr Berati, when did you determine that Manus Island detention centre was still a safe place to continue transferring asylum seekers?

Mr Bowles : There are a range of issues in that statement. We have not continued to transfer anybody there since the events. That is subject to a whole range of decisions that—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The minister has said that he will not be halting transfers.

Mr Bowles : That is correct in the broader sense of that—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Did you advise the minister that it was safe enough to continue transferring?

CHAIR: If you ask these questions you must let Mr Bowles answer before you cut him off and ask another question. Mr Bowles, please continue with your answer.

Mr Bowles : We have not transferred anyone since the incident.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Will you transfer people to Manus Island between now and 28 March?

Mr Bowles : That is still to be determined based on relevant advice that I have at the time, but 28 March is not necessarily a relevant time, other than it is the G4S expiry time. We are working with service providers—not only G4S. There are a range of service providers on the island. We are working with them all to determine what is the most appropriate arrangements for the island.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Let me ask this: after hearing of the incidents and the briefings that you have had, and becoming aware of the death of one person and the serious injuries of others, when did you first determine that Manus Island was still a safe place to detain the people who are currently there?

Mr Bowles : You are asking the same question. I have said—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You wanted to talk about transferees. I am talking about the people who are currently there.

CHAIR: Mr Bowles, with respect, you can answer these questions by saying, 'I've answered this,' and we can all move on. These are repeats of questions. I know Senator Seselja has some questions. I know Senator Singh has other questions. Senator Hanson-Young, if there are new questions you have—you have been going for 12 minutes—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am asking when he made the first determination. He has not answered that.

CHAIR: I thought he had. He had given an answer which you did not like.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It was a different question.

Mr Bowles : Senator, it goes to the point: we are working with service providers to ensure the safety and security of all people in the regional processing centre.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you concerned that G4S guards who may have been involved in the violent clashes, including carrying out the attack on Reza Barati, are the very same people who were guarding his body before it was transported to Port Moresby?

Senator Cash: Chair, if I could jump here. Mr Bowles has been exceptionally patient in relation to this line of questioning. Mr Bowles has maintained, throughout the day in his evidence, that there are a number of allegations—and I repeat the word 'allegations'—that have been made in relation to the incident on Manus Island. Mr Bowles has commissioned an independent review to look at these allegations and ascertain the veracity of them. I do not believe Mr Bowles can add anything further to this line of questioning.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. I so rule. You have summarised very quickly what Mr Bowles has been repeatedly saying over the last 13 minutes. Senator Seselja.

Senator SESELJA: Thank you, Chair. Minister, I am trying to get over the hypocrisy in the room. We have got the Greens asking about the investigation when they have already called these people 'murderers', and we have got the Labor Party asking about facilities, when they underfunded them by five-sixths. That is what I wanted to go to.

CHAIR: I need a question.

Senator SESELJA: That is the precursor to my question. Mr Bowles, I am interested in getting to the bottom of where we have come from, because we have had a lot of questions in relation to the contracts for services offshore, for offshore processing centres. We heard some evidence earlier that it had been underfunded to the tune of five-sixths. Only one in six had been funded for offshore processing. I am interested in how many people had been sent to offshore processing facilities as at 7 September 2013.

Mr Douglas : I think we would have to take that on notice, Senator. We can tell you how many are there as at Friday, but I do not believe I have the number on 7 September.

Mr Bowles : Needless to say, we have increased the number quite dramatically but I just do not have the specific numbers here.

Senator SESELJA: That can be taken on notice. I am interested, as at 7 September: were there any family facilities at offshore processing centres at that time?

Mr Bowles : There were no families on Nauru at that time and there were family facilities at Manus Island for a period of time, and I just cannot recall the exact date that they were brought back to Australia.

Mr Douglas : We had no families on Manus on 7 September.

Senator SESELJA: Were there any family facilities on Manus?

Mr Douglas : There were facilities that had previously been used to accommodate families—

Senator SESELJA: What kind of condition were they in then?

Mr Douglas : They were fixed-structure buildings with access to shared ablutions. There was a schoolhouse for education services, but there were certainly no families occupying tents. The tents were only occupied by single adult males, and there are now no longer any former army tents—green army tents—on Manus.

Senator SESELJA: What sort of medical facilities were there as at 7 September 2013 at the offshore processing centres?

Mr Douglas : Medical facilities are pretty much similar to what you would find today, albeit with fewer staff because there were fewer transferees present.

Senator SESELJA: Was there funding set aside by the previous government for family accommodation? If so, what capacity did this funding provide for?

Mr Douglas : My recollection is that funding had been set aside for the construction of a centre, which is now underway at East Lorengau, and that could possibly have been used for families.

Mr Bowles : At that early stage it was effectively multipurposed; it could have been used for families or single adult males; it was still to be determined how we managed that.

Senator SESELJA: So the facilities at that point were still very basic. Going back to Mr Douglas's answer, how much money was set aside? How much funding was set aside for those facilities at the time?

Mr Douglas : I would need to take that on notice, as to the estimated value for that centre, at that time.

Senator SESELJA: Okay; thank you. I think you were saying, in terms of what you took on notice earlier, that you do not know how many had been transferred as at 7 September, but you do know now?

Mr Douglas : Yes.

Senator SESELJA: But you did not provide us that number, did you?

Mr Douglas : That number is published weekly in the Operation Sovereign Borders, to an agency taskforce update, and the report that was released by the minister and the taskforce last Friday says that, as at 9 am on Friday, 21 February, there was a total of 1,332 people on Manus Island, and 1,089 people on Nauru.

Senator SESELJA: In relation to Christmas Island, are you able to outline for us whether the detention population of Christmas Island has increased or decreased since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders, and if so to what extent?

Mr Cormack : I can give you the precise details. The population on Christmas Island now is approximately 1,700, and it was over 2,500 prior to the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders.

Senator SESELJA: It has gone from 2,500 to 1,700—is that right?

Mr Cormack : That is correct. I will confirm the precise figures, but that is pretty close to it.

Senator SESELJA: In terms of the rapid transfers, is someone able to explain to the committee what the 48-hour rapid transfer under Operation Sovereign Borders entails?

Mr Cormack : I think you said 24 hours did you?

Senator SESELJA: I said 48 hours, yes.

Senator Cash: Yes, he said 48.

Mr Cormack : Sorry. I will actually hand over to Matt Cahill, who can probably give a more authoritative answer than I can.

Mr Cahill : I am the First Assistant Secretary, Status Resolution Services Division, which includes Christmas Island. The rapid transfer approach has three stages. We do arrival processing: that includes a collection of relevant data about the IMAs—nominal role biometrics, that triaging about age determination that Ms Pope talked about earlier—and then we start doing initial health assessments. In stage 2, we start to work with the sovereign nations to confirm the transfer operation, in terms of what time, the schedule, arriving there, and also submitting visa applications for the respective country, depending on whether it is Nauru or Manus. Then we will do an operation, where we will move the potential cohort or transferees, and then we will go through pre-transfer assessments—fit for travel; work out their property and make sure that travels with them; necessary medication checks, if they have to take medication with them—and then we take them to the aircraft and do the transfer operation from there. So that is the broad three elements of the 48-hour model. That said, that is a target; it is not necessarily what happens all the time. If we have to work out the right day to arrive, with a nation, then obviously on a Sunday we might think that through. And if we have certain matters presented to a particular cohort, or we need to do a bit more health checking, we will check them as fit for travel for a later date—but they will ultimately be transferred to an offshore processing centre.

Senator SESELJA: Okay. How many illegal maritime arrivals have been transferred to Manus and Nauru since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders?

Mr Cormack : 1,595 to Manus and 1,117 to Nauru.

Senator SESELJA: Thank you. Of those IMAs who arrived after 19 July 2013, when the regional resettlement arrangements were announced, how many had actually been transferred to an offshore processing centre by 7 September?

Mr Cormack : Senator, could I just correct my previous answer, please?

Senator SESELJA: Sure.

Mr Cormack : The figures since Operation Sovereign Borders commenced are 769 to Manus and 819 to Nauru. Sorry about that.

Senator SESELJA: That is okay. Is there a reason for the discrepancy? Did you just read the wrong chart?

Mr Cormack : I was just reading a set of figures for a different time. The ones I gave you before, for the record, were from 1 July—from the beginning of the financial year—to 21 February; and the ones I have just given you are since 18 September.

Senator SESELJA: Thank you. I think someone was about to answer the second question I asked in that area. I can repeat it if you would like. It was: of the illegal maritime arrivals who arrived after 19 July 2013, how many had actually been transferred to an offshore processing centre by 7 September last year?

Mr Cahill : I think we will take that on notice.

Senator SESELJA: Okay—so the number and then the number that had been transferred. That would be great.

Mr Bowles : Senator, I think you asked about 7 September capital figures or something?

Senator SESELJA: Yes.

Mr Bowles : Between, I think, the PEFO—so, pre the election—and MYEFO arrangements, there was an additional $382-odd million on capital in the 2013-14 to 2014-15 year for Manus and Nauru, and a small bit for the department to arrange the operations, out of a broader pool of $650 million beforehand, which goes back to 2012-13 and forward too, for the early development of both Manus and Nauru.

Senator SESELJA: You have that large figure of $382 million. Is there any breakdown available as to where that capital was directed?

Mr Bowles : Largely, in that $382 million, there was about $98 million for Nauru and $275-ish million for Manus.

Senator SESELJA: And that was between PEFO, you said, and—

Mr Bowles : I cannot remember the exact time, but it would be around that PEFO to MYEFO time frame, from memory. I think it would be MYEFO.

Senator SESELJA: Is it possible, on notice, to provide a more detailed breakdown of that capital spend?

Mr Bowles : Yes, we can.

Senator SESELJA: Thank you.

CHAIR: We were talking earlier about the issues relating to homosexuals on Manus Island, and I did ask you at the time whether this was looked at by the government that was in place when these arrangements were made. Did you give me an answer to that?

Mr Bowles : I said I was unaware of the specific conversation along those lines. I think it was an issue that was reversed at some point, but I could not remember when that was.

CHAIR: There have been a lot of questions raised about the current operators. They been in place since when?

Mr Bowles : Since the start of Manus, which I think was September 2012.

CHAIR: Okay. I do not want to relive history, but was that a similar process to the one you went through recently?

Mr Bowles : The broader tender arrangements for both Manus and Nauru happened back in the 2012 time frame. I think, specifically for Manus, we went to three specific companies who had the capacity to deliver that sort of activity in short time frames, which was what was required, and G4S were successful at that particular point in time.

CHAIR: Some questions have been asked of you, which I take to mean: 'Should we leave G4S there for the next 35 days or whatever, until Transfield takes over? If it was thought that for some reason G4S could not do it, what contingency plans do you have? Would we send in the Army?'

Mr Bowles : No.

CHAIR: Would we send in a police contingent? What is the alternative to leaving G4S there until Transfield takes over?

Mr Bowles : When you change over major contracts, you will always have this overlap. That is why we have this process in place. I cannot tell you the exact number of Transfield people now on the ground, but there are about 100 security people from Transfield already starting to integrate into the island, so they get to understand what is going on. We do not envisage any issues as far as that goes. Both companies are exceptionally professional at managing transitions. These companies do it all the time in different arrangements. So we are not envisaging any issues. Clearly, we will be doing our own thinking on all of those issues. And, frankly, that is why we have actually got a lot of Transfield people—or Wilson security, their subcontractor—there already.

CHAIR: So the contract with Transfield provides that they will get some money for the transition, which allows them to pay staff there now before they formally take over.

Mr Bowles : That is correct, yes. You have to always have this overlap. As you would appreciate, they are very large and complex arrangements and you need to make sure you get that overlap right. That is why we do it over a number of weeks.

CHAIR: I guess I have to be relevant to these estimates, but does the speed with which those arrangements were put in place by the then government of Australia mean that perhaps some of the care taken in the establishment of these centres did not happen? Or, in a better way of saying it, are you now seeing some difficulties emerging that perhaps would have been anticipated had there been a longer process initially?

Mr Bowles : I do not think that you can say that, Senator. They are large and complex arrangements. They were put in place and both Transfield in Nauru and G4S in Manus stood up pretty well in the set of circumstances that were in place at the time. Hindsight is always wonderful; you could always probably do things a little bit different or a little bit better, as we in the department do from time to time. We have made this decision based on the need to streamline the logistics and the arrangements between the islands, and that is largely where we have gone.

CHAIR: I can understand that the department would not have been terribly well prepared when this started because the then government had spent years saying that they would never do this and railing against yet another government, a previous government, when they had done it, so I guess you were taken a little bit off guard. Anyway, I think you have answered my question, so thank you Mr Bowles.

Senator KIM CARR: Whose decision was it to disband the Immigration Health Advisory Group?

Mr Bowles : That was mine.

Senator KIM CARR: And you made the final decision?

Mr Bowles : I made the decision; it was an advisory committee to me, and I made the decision without reference to anyone.

Senator KIM CARR: What reason did you have for making that decision?

Mr Bowles : It had been a group that was not nimble enough to deal with the advice that I was requiring, given the rapid increase in numbers of people and the rapid change in the network. We had gone from a relatively small number of people in detention to a very large number of people in detention and in the broader systems.

I made some early changes when I was appointed, moving away from the old Detention Health Advisory Group to an immigration health advisory committee and I appointed Dr Paul Alexander as the chair. It still was not doing what I needed it to do in that broader sense, and I have moved to separate arrangements with Dr Alexander as my principal adviser, if you like, in health related issues. I might add that I have a chief medical officer within the department and a whole range of people work in that space. A number of medical officers work in there for the visa world as well as the detention space.

Dr Alexander is in the process of developing a panel of expertise to put to the problems. I have used that already, since the new arrangements have been in place, to get some specific advice on certain things. The issues around tropical medicine, paediatrics, mental health and anti-post natal type issues are the sorts of things we really wanted. I know that there has been some criticism of my decision around this, and I will take that on the chin. I believe I needed a different set of advice or a different way of getting that advice and that is the decision I made.

Senator KIM CARR: The Australian of 13 February alleges that FOI documents show that you were concerned about a potential conflict of interest. Is that correct? Were you concerned about a potential conflict of interest?

Mr Bowles : I cannot remember exactly all of those issues. There are a range of issues. I think it was raised on the odd occasion: is there a conflict of interest? And there were a whole range of articles appearing in the media from time to time about these issues. I cannot specifically remember that, so I am happy to take that on notice, if you like.

Senator KIM CARR: The quotation is: 'Actual and potential conflict of interest arose as a result of the changes in government policy—that is, the creation of the Joint Agency Task Force, the introduction of rapid transfer arrangements and the expansion of the offshore processing.' Was there any concern that you had that the advisory committee would in fact provide advice contrary to government policy?

Mr Bowles : No. Again, this is an advisory committee to me on how to operate. The world was changing—that is clear. The new government had a different policy—that is clear. I wanted advice that was appropriate to the circumstances I was dealing with. That is not to denigrate the DHAG or IHAG—as it was affectionately known over time. They did a very, very good job for what they were there for. At the end of the day, as the secretary, I was looking for advice on a range of things and I made this decision.

Senator KIM CARR: So, essentially, circumstances had changed and you wanted another group of people?

Mr Bowles : I wanted a different model for getting advice that was more contemporaneous, that happened when I needed it and we did not have a process to go through.

Senator KIM CARR: Do you think they had outlived their usefulness?

Mr Bowles : You could probably say that, but I think that is probably a little bit harsh. I think they were a very good group for the time that they spent there. The advice that I was looking at was starting to be different and basically the decision I made was to go with a single person who looks at that from my perspective and then goes to relevant experts in specific areas when and if required.

Senator KIM CARR: You have referred a couple of times now to the single remaining adviser and that they would be able to draw on other specialists, professional clinical advisers, the chief medical officer and contracted detention health personnel. How will that be done? How will your remaining adviser draw upon these experts?

Mr Bowles : The adviser works quite well. If I am after a particular issue to be dealt with he will work with my chief medical officer if it is something in that space or, if I want some specific information around paediatrics he will go to a special paediatrician. With things like that, he will do that. Equally, he will work with IHMS, our medical providers if in fact there was something that I needed dealt with in that sort of context. It depends on the circumstance how we might use the—

Senator KIM CARR: So will these clinical professionals be on tap?

Mr Bowles : They will be basically responsive to Dr Alexander. He is looking at how he constructs that panel. As I said, he has already used a couple of people to give me advice on some issues.

Senator KIM CARR: Do you have any indicative costings for the new arrangements?

Mr Bowles : Not specifically. I can take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: In your view is there a need to have safeguards in place to ensure that the advice of your adviser is not in conflict with the duty of care owed by independent health advisers?

Mr Bowles : Anyone who works in the health space understands the boundaries in which the advice is given. Dr Alexander is someone who has been around the medical space for a long time. He was the Surgeon General in the Defence Force for a period of time as well. He understands very well how to look at different models of health care for different arrangements. We have a set of arrangements that are different to the normal public health system in Australia.

Senator KIM CARR: So apart from asylum seeker health advice, what other immigration health issue does your adviser consult on?

Mr Bowles : It is mainly in that space but it could go into other areas. I have also got the Chief Medical Officer, who does all of that work on the visa system, so people who come in always get health checked. We have quite a significant health relationship around processing visas because we obviously do not want to import problems.

Senator KIM CARR: I presume, given that the settlement services have now been moved out of the department, your adviser is not required to comment on migration settlement issues?

Mr Bowles : Not specifically on settlement issues. That has always been a slightly different issue to deal with. For people who are coming through the visa system to be settled in Australia, the Chief Medical Officer has always dealt with those sorts of issues. People coming through the system eventually are handed over to, now, the social services department.

Senator KIM CARR: But even if we just assume you are seeking advice on asylum seeker health issues, it is still a pretty big job for one person isn't it?

Mr Bowles : It is one person who is the conduit to the professionals required to deliver the advice.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you confident that one person can do the job?

Mr Bowles : Yes I am.

Senator KIM CARR: I understand Mr Douglas gave us some figures before about transfers. Can you confirm the government has leased two A319 aircraft from Airtraders to transfer asylum seekers between Christmas Island and Manus? Is that the case?

Mr Bowles : While Mr Cahill is coming up, we can confirm that we have a leasing arrangement.

Senator KIM CARR: Perhaps it was Mr Cahill who gave the answer before.

Mr M Cahill : We have two A319 aircraft that we use a charter operator to run for us. One of those aircraft we have an MoU with the Antarctic division and the other aircraft we have put a direct leasing arrangement in with Skytraders.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the cost of that?

Mr M Cahill : For the aircraft, for the period 1 July 2013 to 31 January 2014, the Skytraders Airbus A319 which we have with the Antarctic division has cost $13.4 million. And the Skytraders Airbus A319 which we lease directly has been at a cost of $23.9 million. That is made up and is influenced by the frequency with which we used those aircraft. And the A319 MoU with the Antarctic division is obviously used by regional Australia and Antarctic operations and that is why it is the lesser amount. We also have a third aircraft, contracted through Adagold, being a Boeing 737-300.

Senator KIM CARR: How much is that?

Mr M Cahill : For that same period, $19.6 million. Those three aircraft are used for not only supporting transfer operations and bridging visa releases throughout the network on the onshore network but transfer operations to Nauru and Manus as well as any return operations to, for example, Sri Lanka or Vietnam.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. Is it the case that the aircraft's movements are tracked by the global flight tracking organisation FlightAware?

Mr M Cahill : I am not aware of the detail of that, sorry. I would have to take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. Can you also advise the committee as to whether or not the government, either the department or ministers, have requested that these aircraft movements not be tracked?

Mr M Cahill : I am unaware of any request to have the aircraft not tracked, but I will check with the logistics area that manages that and take it on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Would you provide a breakdown on notice of the flights made between 7 September 2013—where the flights have originated from; the destinations of flights; what refuelling occurred; the passenger capacity of each aircraft; how many flight staff—DIBP staff and others that are on each flight, and from which agency; the flight schedule; and how many flights per week, day or month have been undertaken since.

Mr M Cahill : I will, Senator, just noting that details such as refuelling are details that I may not have. But in the main, in terms of flight movements and the passenger loads, I should be able to get those answers for you.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you very much.

CHAIR: We will break there. We will then finish outcome 4 and do outcome 5.1.

Proceedings suspended from 18:32 to 19:37

CHAIR: I call the committee back to order. We are dealing with the additional estimates for the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection outcomes 4 and 5. We just had a brief private meeting with the committee about a non-related matter. We apologise for that.

Senator SINGH: Mr Bowles, I think this is the area where I can ask about the Amnesty International report?

Mr Bowles : Yes, that is right, and I will see if there is somebody here who can help now.

Senator SINGH: Thank you.

Mr Bowles : I have a lot of support, by the looks of things, coming up.

Senator SINGH: I understand that, upon receiving Amnesty International's report, which detailed a range of concerns at Manus Island detention centre, the minister committed to making improvements where they were practicable. Some of those were as practicable as ensuring detainees had enough water. Has the government done anything in relation to the recommendations in that report? There are a number of recommendations—some of them apply to the government in Australia and some of the apply to the government in Papua New Guinea. Obviously, I am only asking about the recommendations that apply to the government in Australia.

Mr Cormack : I can confirm that transferees have unrestricted access to bottled water, which was obviously one of the concerns that were raised. There has been a lot of attention to ensuring that the toilet facilities, shoes and all of those things are attended to. In fact, I visited Manus in November, again in January and again last week. There were quite significant and noticeable improvements in the supplies of hygiene items, and also the level of cleanliness in relation to the ablution blocks, which have all been significantly improved. Some additional shade structures have also been provided. As we move into the next phase of infrastructure at Manus I think many of the issues that have been raised there will be covered.

Senator SINGH: Is there a kind of detailed approach by which all of these recommendations are going to be addressed by the department? Is there a process by which they are going to be address or is it just on an ad hoc basis?

Mr Cormack : We have reviewed the report and attended to some of the immediate issues and will be having a look at other issues that can be addressed in the context of further infrastructure development. Also, as we discussed, there has been a change in service provider, which gives us an opportunity to look at the overall amenity and level of service provided on Manus. The Amnesty International report is just one of the sources of information we could use to improve service delivery.

Senator SINGH: A lot of the things are not just about infrastructure and amenity, though. Some of the recommendations are actually about access to information and contact with the outside world. Some of them are about health including mental health, malaria prevention measures, ensuring that asylum-seekers are informed of the results of medical tests. I am just trying to understand how serious the government is in addressing all of the recommendations that have been provided in the Amnesty report. It is a report that is really detailed. They have been able to have access and complete this report. I think the government should see that as a valuable thing to improve the situation on Manus Island, considering especially what has recently occurred since this report has been handed down. And the minister, I understand, has said that he is committed to making these improvements where practicable. So I am just interested to know how serious the government are taking their responsibilities under international conventions and under the fact that they have a very large budget that is focused—as the committee has obviously heard in evidence earlier, in relation to Manus and Nauru—on ensuring that they carry out the policy objective as best and as practicably as they can. I am sure they want to, but that is what I am trying to get to the bottom of: how serious is the government taking some of these recommendations in this report?

Mr Bowles : The government and the department take all of those issues very seriously. Amnesty is not the only group who have actually looked at that. We constantly are looking at issues on both Manus and Nauru. As Mr Cormack said, he has been up there a number of times, on both islands, trying to make sure that we can actually improve the facilities and other functioning of the centre around things like information provided and the like. All of these issues actually go into our future planning anyhow, so the understanding of future facilities development, they all play a role in that. The particular issues of concern were the immediate ones that we have really just jumped on straight away. For instance, there is no excuse for the ablutions issues that were raised in that report. We have dealt with that and we have made sure we get on top of that as soon as soon as we can.

Senator SINGH: You say that there was no excuse for the ablution issues raised in that report, but you also say that this report is not the only source of information that you used to determine how things need to be improved. Other than Mr Cormack's scrutiny, what other scrutiny is there?

Mr Bowles : Well, not so much scrutiny—

Senator SINGH: Is there any independent scrutiny, other than this Amnesty report?

Mr Bowles : The International Red Cross go through on the odd occasion, and we have a range of other things that we do ourselves. We have done a force protection review through General Campbell's arrangement, to try and understand all those issues, and we have made progressive changes to all of those issues as we go forward.

Senator Cash: For the benefit of the committee, in relation to the Amnesty International report, Senator Hanson-Young and Senator Singh would probably recall this—I was asked about this in question time, in relation to a number of the alleged findings in the report. I want to make it very clear to the committee that a number of the findings by Amnesty international were found to be untrue by the department. I just want to take the committee through them. The first is: it was reported that drinking water was restricted to 500ml of water per day—and certainly Senator Singh has raised the issue of water—and I want to confirm for the committee, as Mr Cormack has, that that was never the case. At all times transferees have had unrestricted access to water.

Senator SINGH: Including those in the Oscar compound? The Oscar compound was the one that was raised in the Amnesty report. We do not want to generalise here, Minister. We want to ensure that these recommendations are not taken out of context.

Senator Cash: If you get something wrong, then it is important to ensure that the evidence correctly reflects the actual situation. So in relation to the report that drinking water was restricted, that was incorrect. That was not the case. It was not the case in relation to the Oscar compound, as the secretary has also verified for the record, and transferees have access to unlimited water. There were also reports of inadequate soap in the toilet facilities, inadequate supply of shoes available for transferees, and outbreaks of illnesses and gastroenteritis. In relation to those reports I advised the Senate, when Senator Hanson-Young posed the question to me, that toiletries, clothing and shoes supplied for each transferee are replenished as required. In relation to additional hygiene items, transferees have access to those items, through the canteen and through the points system—and Mr Bowles would obviously elaborate on the points system if the Senate committee required that. In relation to the allegations surrounding gastroenteritis, in the event a transferee displays symptoms of gastroenteritis, the person is immediately isolated and receives ongoing treatment and monitoring by IHMS—and more severe cases are admitted to hospital. IHMS also conducts health education activities on various health matters, including hygiene. In relation to the reports of excessive waiting, and insufficient number of toilet and/or shower facilities, there were certainly those facilities provided on both Manus and Nauru?

Mr Bowles : Yes.

Senator Cash: As the secretary said. The department took those complaints on board and did have a look at them. In relation to the reports of no shade or shelter being available outside, again, that was not true. Facilities include, at the Mike compound, a large open-walled covered structure; at the Oscar compound, a large open-walled covered structure; at Foxtrot, a large open-walled covered structure; and at Delta, large breezeways in between accommodation blocks. So I just think it is very important that when you look at the Amnesty International report, you also need to recognise that, whilst recommendations were made, a number of those recommendations were based on reports that were untrue at the time. That does not mean the government does not take seriously issues raised, but I think it is important that the committee understand that a number of the issues raised by Amnesty International were not true.

Senator SINGH: Minister, have you been to Manus Island?

Senator Cash: I have not yet been to Manus Island.

Senator SINGH: Do you plan to go to Manus Island?

Senator Cash: I would certainly like to go to Manus Island. However, I am not the minister responsible; that is Minister Morrison, and, as you would know, he regularly travels to Manus Island.

Senator SINGH: But you are the junior minister responsible.

Senator Cash: That is correct, but he is the senior minister.

Senator SINGH: Do you plan to go to Manus Island?

CHAIR: I think the minister has answered that.

Senator SINGH: No, the minister is about to answer the question, chair.

CHAIR: She has answered it already and I have questions to ask if you are going to keep asking questions she has already answered. She said she would like to but she is not the minister.

Senator Cash: I am not the minister. Minister Morrison, goes to—

Senator SINGH: As the junior minister, do you plan to go to Manus Island?

Senator Cash: As I said, I would certainly like to but, subject to the fiscal constraints that this government is currently under, and the fact that we are trying to spend taxpayers' money wisely, at this point in time, Minister Morrison, as the senior minister, goes to Manus Island.

Senator SINGH: Mr Bowles, in light of the new contract with Transfield and some of the recommendations in the Amnesty International report and the fact that Transfield will now be conducting welfare services, is the department ensuring that the contractor is aware of some of these issues that have been raised through the Amnesty International report, and any other issues that Mr Cormack might have raised through the department?

Mr Bowles : With respect to the new arrangements with Transfield, first of all, they will bring the experience that they have within the Nauru context, and they will use the experience that G4S has had in Manus. And whatever other experiences that we have had, we will feed that into the arrangements for the new contract. I think Mr Cormack has already mentioned that it is an opportunity to have a look at a range of issues as well. We will do that. And that is not saying anything about G4S, it is just that when you change contracts you have opportunities. We will continue to do that. It will not only be about the Amnesty report. As the minister said, some of those issues were not exactly as it was. The fact that it would be believed that we would restrict one compound's water supply is a little bit interesting. We do not operate that way. That is not how the department operates. It is not how the centres operate.

CHAIR: It is not how Australians operate.

Senator Cash: No.

Senator SINGH: So what is the answer to my question? Are the recommendations in the Amnesty report going to be part of the training of welfare staff by Transfield in their new contractual obligations?

Mr Bowles : I just went through that. It will be part of—

Senator SINGH: Yes or no? It will be part of that. Okay.

Mr Bowles : Senator, it will be a part. All of these issues are part of the normal contractual arrangements that we have in place. And that is not specific to an Amnesty report; it is how we operate the facilities.

Senator SINGH: That is good then.

CHAIR: Are you finished with the Amnesty report?

Senator SINGH: I am finished with the Amnesty report.

CHAIR: Can I just ask a follow-up question. Minister, are you intending to write, or is Minister Morrison intending to write or communicate with Amnesty International, to point out the gross inaccuracies of their report and the seriousness of what was formerly an august body, like Amnesty International, making outrageously wrong claims and distributing those wrong claims to the world?

Senator Cash: Certainly, I raised that in the Senate in response to the question I was given—

Senator SINGH: While you just want to completely bag out Amnesty International, you might want to talk to Philip Ruddock about that.

Senator Cash: I would take it on notice in relation to Minister Morrison.

CHAIR: Sorry, there was someone else talking?

Senator Cash: In relation to the allegations, I did have the opportunity to address some of them in the Senate in response to a question from Senator Hanson-Young. In relation to Minister Morrison, I will take that question on notice for you.

CHAIR: I used to be a member of the parliamentary amnesty, but this is one of the reasons why I have let my membership lapse. At times they tend to run a political agenda, rather than a freedom agenda.

Senator Cash: I think it is well known that Amnesty International have always been opposed to offshore processing.

Senator SINGH: Point of order, Chair! This is Senate estimates. This is about us questioning the government on accountability, transparency, budget and policy. This is not a forum to start bagging out a civil society that some Liberal senators choose to dislike for certain reasons, based on certain findings that they have concluded.

CHAIR: Okay. You are probably right, Senator Singh. I would have liked to have heard what Senator Cash actually said but, again you have interrupted and spoken over the top of her.

Minister—and I am not asking the officials this, I am just asking you—you mentioned that there are allegations of no footwear, no proper clothing and no proper shade. Do you have any information on how the situation with food, clothing, health care and general wellbeing compares with the situations which, regrettably, many of these people have come from? Do you have a broad comment in relation to that?

Senator Cash: In relation to health care the position always has been, under the former government and under the current government, that the health care provided to transferees on Manus Island and Nauru is of an equivalent standard to that provided to the Australian public. In relation to—

CHAIR: No, my question was really—

Senator Cash: No, I cannot give a comparison because I have not been to those countries. But in relation to the health care that is provided, it is the intention of the government to provide health care that is equivalent to that that an Australian person would receive.

CHAIR: But do people turn up with shoes, with clothing and in good physical health?

Senator Cash: I would need to defer to Mr Bowles for that.

CHAIR: That is really what I am asking. When they first come in contact with Australian officials, do they have shoes, clothing, food, health and water? Is someone caring for them?

Mr Bowles : It will depend on different groups. Some come with a reasonable amount of gear, if you like. Some come with very little. When they arrive at Christmas Island, for instance, we do look after them. We make sure that they have appropriate clothes and that. Generally, they come off the boats after a number of days and it has been pretty difficult for them. So they go through the processes that we have, and we make sure that they are looked after and have their health checked and all that sort of stuff—

CHAIR: Look, I am in no doubt that once they hit Australian jurisdiction they are looked after. I have no doubt about that—that is the Australian way. But there are these complaints—wrong complaints—about how they are treated when they get to Australia. I just sometimes wonder, by comparison, how are these people treated, clothed, fed and 'health cared' when they first come? My guess would have been that what they get at a detention centre is about a thousand times better than what they have had in recent weeks, if not recent years.

Mr Bowles : I think that is true for a large number of people who come into the country that way. If they have been through a tortuous boat journey it is usually pretty difficult and you need to deal with things, obviously. Some people to arrive in reasonably good shape and with reasonably good clothing, footwear and the like. So it is a bit variable, but as you have rightly pointed out we take responsibility once they are here and we deal with them appropriately.

Senator SINGH: I will go down this question and then pass to Senator Hanson-Young. I just wanted to get an update on Baby Ferouz, the stateless asylum-seeker baby.

Mr Bowles : Sorry?

Senator SINGH: A Rohingya asylum seeker was separated from her newborn son, Ferouz, in November last year and afforded only restricted visitation after giving birth by caesarean section only four days prior.

Mr Bowles : Can I just not agree with the characterisation you have just given us there, Senator. That is a lot of media reporting; that is not necessarily the way we deal with people. We can talk about that but—

Senator SINGH: Which part did you refer to—the statelessness—

Mr Bowles : Just about everything you said then, which was a reflection of the media; the separation issue and how we have deliberately done something in this case. We can talk about the issue—

Senator SINGH: That is good. That is what estimates is for: correcting the record, or enlightening us. So, could you provide us with an update on the review of that case in general, I suppose.

Mr Bowles : I might start off and then look to my colleagues to help. Basically, Mrs Latifar and her baby are being cared for in line with Australian standards, as we speak. At the request of the minister, I commissioned a review by Dr Alexander, my independent health adviser, who contracted an appropriately qualified person to assist with that review. Basically, the key findings of that review were that Mrs Latifar was not denied access to her baby. Access to her baby while she was in a special care nursery at the Mater Mothers Hospital was commensurate with community standards. And the level of care Mrs Latifar received was appropriate, of high standard and no different to the care provided to other mothers at the hospital.

Mrs Latifar herself has confirmed that she was well looked after and her access to her baby, while he remained in the hospital after her discharge, was not limited. That is why I sought to clarify the characterisation, which I know was a media report—so I understand where that comes from. But, after that appropriate review, that was what was determined.

That does not mean that Dr Alexander did not make some recommendations. He made five recommendations which we accepted. Four related to the ways to improve communication and liaison between the department, the IHMS and the hospital staff. One recommendation relates to providing detainees with more information about what they can expect. We have accepted those and we are trying to improve those sorts of issues if we are in situations like that. We will continue to progress those recommendations with the appropriate providers and health systems when required.

Senator SINGH: Have those recommendations—or the findings at least of that review—been made public, other than just now.

Mr Bowles : Just now. Again, these are individuals, and these are private details of individuals. I have only really done this today because of the inaccurate reporting on this particular case.

Senator SINGH: No, you have done this today because I questioned you on it.

Mr Bowles : Yes, because of the inaccurate characterisation of what had actually happened. Generally speaking, it is not the view of most people, I would suggest—that would think that we would treat people that way. Once those questions are raised in an inappropriate context, I want to put the right context out there. But we do not publicise all of the good things that we do in this place because we respect people's privacy.

Senator SINGH: I will pass back to the chair.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Thank you, Mr Bowles. In your account of what occurred last week on Manus Island you mentioned that the body of the deceased has today been moved to Port Moresby for autopsy, is that correct?

Mr Bowles : No, I do not think it was. It arrived at Port Moresby I think sometime over the weekend; I do not know the specific time. I believe the autopsy was due today. Because I have been here I do not know what has happened.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why was the autopsy due today, eight days after the incident?

Mr Bowles : It is the processes. I do not have any control over that. It is part of PNG's arrangements.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have any concerns about the state of the body after that amount of time? Autopsies generally need to happen quite quickly to have the most accurate information.

Mr Bowles : I am not an expert in autopsies so I cannot really comment other than to say we appropriately handled these issues.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Eight days. The department does not have a concern that the autopsy—

Mr Bowles : That is not what I said.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am asking you: does the department have any concerns about an autopsy happening eight days after the incident?

Mr Bowles : It is not a question that we necessarily have a lot of control over, as to time. The question was going to: that we seem to have inappropriately dealt with it over that period of time, and that is not the case. It is PNG's responsibility and, again, it is an issue that they are looking after, and the Australian government will provide assistance—not necessarily on the immigration issue, but we will provide assistance.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When do you expect a result from the autopsy?

Mr Bowles : I do not have a date from anywhere at this stage.

Mr Cormack : If I could just add something: this is actually a police matter in PNG, so our role has been to support the PNG police in the investigation of a crime, and any matters that follow in relation to an autopsy or a coronial inquest are matters for the PNG government, and we have provided all the support that has been required for that. It is not a matter that is within our control.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, as to the Cornall inquiry, you have said that the terms of reference will be released sometime by the end of this week?

Mr Bowles : Yes, that is right.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have a specific day?

Mr Bowles : I am trying to do it sooner rather than later, but I have been a little tied up today. So hopefully tomorrow I can turn my mind to it. I can have another look after my conversation with Mr Cornall last evening, and hopefully can finalise something tomorrow. At the latest I have said it will be released later this week.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: On the previous inquiry that Mr Cornall conducted and the recommendations of that: the department and the government have not acted on all of those recommendations, have you?

Mr Bowles : We are implementing those recommendations. Mr Cormack might be able to help me here. Again, we have accepted those recommendations and are working our way through a number of them.

Mr Cormack : I will just go through a couple of the points. One of the recommendations was that a separate area be established for vulnerable transferees, and that has happened. Another was: a clear and well-understood policy for dealing with future allegations of sexual assault and appropriate operational procedures to implement that. All of these matters are taken very seriously and referred to local law enforcement. Incident response procedures are now in place, followed by all service providers, and they include reporting requirements. Infrastructure at the centre can accommodate those transferees who may need to be separated from the main transferee population, including persons who are vulnerable and may require increased support from service providers. In relation to making the centre more open, there are not any plans to move to an open centre arrangement at this time. In relation to increasing media access to the centres, that is a matter for sovereign governments. In relation to ensuring that service providers engage PNG nationals with training and support, these matters are all built in to the contracts of our service providers. There are further questions there in relation to processing of claims, and 55 persons transferred to Manus Island have commenced a PNG assessment of their protection claim. They are just some of the key points from Cornall's investigations last time, and they are well in hand.

Mr Bowles : I might just add to that that Mr Cornall also found that some of the allegations were accurate but others were distorted or exaggerated or were false. That was part of the reporting. The report is on the department's website.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A redacted report. It is not the full report.

Mr Bowles : It protects the privacy of individuals, as we always do.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What type of report will be released following this inquiry?

Mr Bowles : Something similar, I suppose, to what we released the other day about Nauru. Again we will protect privacy.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it will not be a full report.

Mr Bowles : It will be a report that will detail what has happened and, if there are any really adverse issues, they will all be in the report. The issue of what may be withheld or redacted will largely relate to personal information and information that is of a classified nature that should not be released.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who makes the decision as to which information is redacted and which is not?

Mr Bowles : Generally there will be an officer of my department who will make some decisions from a privacy or legal perspective, but ultimately I make the decision on what goes up on the website.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you will be signing off on the report that is released publicly.

Mr Bowles : I have initiated the report and I will sign off on the report. That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And you still stand by the fact that you think it is external enough, then.

Mr Bowles : Yes. Mr Cornall has no connection with me or the department other than that he did a previous review on Manus, so he has some understanding of the arrangements, which I think is very helpful in this case. He is a former Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department and has an outstanding record in that space. I think he is the right person for this job.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yet you sign off on the report that is released to the public.

Mr Bowles : I am the secretary responsible for this activity. I am a professional public servant and, if there were any view that I would put out something that was anything but a professional, responsible and ethical account of what happened, I would reject that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would the minister see the report before it is made public?

Mr Bowles : Yes, he would.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Despite the fact that, as the minister confirmed yesterday in the House, he would be subject to the review?

Mr Bowles : He is still the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. I have worked for a number of ministers in a number of portfolios, and I have to say I have never had a problem with any issues in relation to reports of a nature like this.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This has never occurred before, though, has it? You have never had a—

Mr Bowles : This particular case has not, but there are many cases. Nauru was a very difficult report. The previous Manus one was a difficult report. Other things that I have dealt with in my career as a professional public servant have been difficult.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But what the minister knew and did not know during the aftermath was not the subject of both parliamentary and public debate in the way it is this time.

Mr Bowles : I would not necessarily agree with that over my Public Service career. At the end of the day, this is about the incident on Manus Island. What comes out—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And who is responsible for it?

Mr Bowles : It will go through all of the events and all of those issues, and hopefully we will be able to discern enough information that we can categorically say what happened.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could I move on. We might need Mr Douglas back if he is around. He is the expert on the contract with G4S, isn't he?

Mr Bowles : Unfortunately he has a function he has to attend to at the moment but, if you ask the questions, we will see if we can help you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. The G4S contract was signed on 1 February 2013, just over a year ago. On page 57 of the contract there is the section that relates to access to the centre. I am not sure if anyone has the—

Mr Bowles : I do not have a copy of the contract, but keep going.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I will just read out 12.5, 'Access to the site', because this is where my question goes. Paragraph 12.5.1 says:

The Service Provider must at all times, with or without notice, provide access to any part of the Site to Department Personnel, the Commonwealth and Immigration Ombudsman, the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Auditor-General and the Privacy Commissioner and members of the Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution.

The reason why I am bringing this to your attention, Mr Bowles, is that we had the Human Rights Commissioner before this committee yesterday who was asked about accessing the Manus Island detention centre and has been told several times that she is not able to go. I am wondering why the right to access is in the contract with G4S, yet the commissioner has been told she has no rights to access the facility.

Mr Bowles : Purely and simply, it is a point-in-time issue. The contract with G4S is similar to the arrangements that were on the Australian mainland at the time. The Australian Human Rights Commissioner subsequently asked the Attorney-General's Department to look into her jurisdiction in this area. The Attorney-General's Department have said that the Australian Human Rights Commissioner does not have jurisdiction in this area; therefore, that is where we stand with this issue. As we go forward with contracts, that would be a different scenario.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So, obviously, at some stage, it was recognised that that was an important thing—

Mr Bowles : In the context of the Australian onshore network, the Australian—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is not—

Mr Bowles : I understand that, but that is the context: that that was written well before this was an issue raised by the Human Rights Commissioner. That was subsequently tested with the Attorney-General's Department, and if you have any other issues you should raise those with the Attorney-General's Department in relation to the Human Rights Commissioner.

CHAIR: How long has this been in place?

Mr Bowles : That contract—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Since 1 February last year—a year.

Mr Bowles : That is correct.

CHAIR: So this was done, obviously, in the time of the previous government. I wonder why it has not been raised as an issue before this.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have raised this issue at every estimates.

Mr Bowles : The Australian Human Rights Commissioner had not raised issues on this issue at that particular point. It went to the Attorney-General's Department, and the questions are better raised with the Attorney-General's Department.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why hasn't their department sought to find a resolution to this so that the Human Rights Commission could visit in some capacity?

Mr Bowles : It is not a call, again, that I make. There was a process through the Attorney-General's Department. You need to ask that question of them.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What has your department done, Mr Bowles? Your department signed off on this contract. At some stage you obviously thought it was important. It is important enough for Australian detention centres.

Mr Bowles : It is a different country. It is the sovereign responsibility of Papua New Guinea.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is the contract covering PNG. That is what it says at the front of it: 'Contracts and provision of services on Manus Island, PNG'.

Mr Bowles : I have just explained how we got to that point. Point-in-time issues, yes—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you just copied the same contract? Is that what has happened?

Mr Bowles : Sorry?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You have just copied a contract from somewhere else?

Mr Bowles : No. I can go over it again. A point in time; the Human Rights Commissioner then asked for access to offshore processing centres. The Attorney-General's Department had a look at that issue, and adjudicated on it and said that the Human Rights Commissioner did not have jurisdiction; therefore, there has been no access to date.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has the department done anything to try and remedy this? Given the fact that the commission has asked consistently—I understand what the Attorney-General's Department said at the time—has your department sought to find a way through, to ensure that the commissioner could visit in some capacity?

Mr Bowles : It is not up to me to find a solution for the Human Rights Commissioner when there is an outcome from the Attorney-General's Department that says: the Human Rights Commissioner does not have jurisdiction in an offshore environment. That said, I have had a number of meetings with the Human Rights Commissioner on a range of issues including onshore and offshore arrangements.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I go to some questions on Nauru. Could you tell me how many pregnant women are currently held in detention on Nauru?

Mr Cormack : Thirteen.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many pregnant women are held in detention on Christmas Island?

Mr Cormack : I will have to check that one.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would also like to know how many pregnant women are held in detention in mainland detention centres as well.

CHAIR: Do privacy constraints stop you from telling us at what stage in the pregnancy these people are? Are they early or—

Mr Cormack : It is not the normal sort of personal detail that we would be going into in this sort of forum.

Mr Bowles : We can talk about the broad numbers. I am relatively comfortable with the broad numbers that we know. If we do not know them, we will take them on notice. But we will not go to individual cases.

CHAIR: No, no. This may be an inappropriate question, but I am just curious if the pregnancies started whilst people were in detention.

Mr Bowles : Again, I probably could not comment, but you would probably say that that does happen. But, again, it is very hard to comment on those issues.

Senator BOYCE: But you would be able to tell us how many pregnant irregular maritime arrivals there are.

Mr Bowles : Yes. The number of people who are pregnant in our centres at a point in time—yes, we could.

Senator BOYCE: No—who arrived pregnant, so to speak.

Mr Bowles : Yes, we should be able to determine that. But we would not necessarily be able to give you that now—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sorry, but I thought this was my time, Chair, to ask questions.

CHAIR: Well, Senator, we will not get too precious. We are all having a little go and we are going along fine, thanks. There is plenty of time for you. But, while you are on this subject, I thought that was a legitimate question. And, if you know how many were pregnant when they arrived and how many are pregnant now, some simple arithmetic might give the answer to what I asked. Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, when I visited Nauru in December, there were 14 pregnant women at that stage, and I was informed by Scott Matheson, the assistant secretary, at the time that, by the end of the week I was there, there was going to be a decision about what would happen in relation to whether those women would be able to have their children off-island, on the mainland, or have to stay. Can you tell me whether that decision has been made, considering it is months down the track now and some of those women were six months pregnant at that stage?

Mr Cormack : There is quite significant new infrastructure available on Nauru and, in fact, in December the government announced some significant additional funding for health services, including some antenatal, postnatal and maternity services. One of the key pieces of physical infrastructure that is required on Nauru is access to a blood bank, and we are advised that that should be available towards the end of March. Our contracted medical providers, IHMS, are also in the final stages of assessing the level of procedural or delivery services available at the Republic of Nauru Hospital. So the intention is to take the advice of IHMS, who are our contracted medical providers, who will determine in an overall sense the extent to which birthing can take place in Nauru. Obviously, the individual decisions about individual women will be made on a case-by-case basis, depending upon the nature of their pregnancy and the extent to which they may have complications that are known in advance.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you tell me how any pregnant women have been transferred to the mainland for medical assistance?

Mr Cormack : I could do that, but I will have to flick through my folder to find that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. I am happy for you to do that.

Mr Bowles : While Mr Cormack is doing that, Senator: there are a large number of births in Nauru, so there are some very good services in Nauru—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you know what the infant mortality rate is on Nauru?

Mr Bowles : Mr Cormack has just gone through a whole range of additional things we are putting in place for the people that we deal with. Needless to say, there are a range of facilities that are already in Nauru.

Senator Cash: Chair, just in case there are people listening in, could I briefly enlighten the committee as to the facilities for pregnant women that actually are on Nauru?

CHAIR: I think that would help Senator Hanson Young on her question too.

Senator Cash: The Republic of Nauru Hospital delivers approximately 360—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you visited the hospital?

Senator Cash: babies per year.

CHAIR: Sorry, Minister; you were interrupted. I did not hear.

Senator Cash: The Republic of Nauru Hospital delivers approximately 360 babies per year. The Republic of Nauru Hospital has ultrasound capability for anomaly and dating scans performed during the course of pregnancies. The hospital has two delivery beds, six postnatal beds and a special-care baby unit with a neonatal incubator, infant warmer, oxygen, standard neonatal resuscitation equipment and nasogastric feeding capability. The hospital has the capacity to perform caesarean sections and other surgical interventions and has pain relief options. There are currently, I am advised, nine midwives, who are supported by a senior medical officer. A general paediatrician also supports neonatal care. In relation to IHMS resources, specialist IHMS staff currently include a dedicated midwife, two general nurses with midwifery qualifications, and a medical officer and senior medical officer, both with paediatric and emergency experience. Again, I want to impress upon the committee, so that people understand, that the level of care that is provided is broadly comparable with health services available in the Australian community.

CHAIR: I am not sure if you are aware but I have been to a number of hospitals in PNG and from what you describe I would say that hospital is well in excess of what is available in most PNG hospitals.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Minister, have you been to Nauru?

Senator Cash: I have not been to Nauru, but I have to say—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you visited the hospital in Nauru?

Senator Cash: like Senator McDonald, I have also been to hospitals in PNG—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We are talking about the Nauru hospital. I would like to know—

Senator Cash: and I have seen the facilities there. Whether or not I have or I have not—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Well, I have. I have seen facilities myself.

Senator Cash: does not change the facts—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you want to have an argument about the quality of the hospital, why don’t you wait till you go there and see it for yourself?

Senator Cash: and those facts are those which I have read out to the committee.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, can you please show some manners and let the minister finish?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I asked her a question and you have interrupted, Chair.

CHAIR: She is giving you an answer and you, rudely, are talking over her. Minister, would you please continue. We will go back to Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator Cash: In relation to Senator Hanson-Young's question, I have not been to Nauru. But, like you, Senator Macdonald, I have been to PNG and I have visited hospitals in PNG where children are born. Regardless of whether I have or I have not visited Nauru, it does not change the facts which I have put on the table for the committee.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do know that there are no sheets in the labour rooms or the maternity wards in the hospital? Were you were aware of that?

CHAIR: I would make my own enquiries, Minister, and check whether that is accurate or not.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Minister, do you know that, in the maternity ward in the hospital, the waiting room is a park bench? That is the quality of the maternity ward at the hospital.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, do you have a question? You have asked the minister a question. Now do have another question?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Bowles, are you aware that the infant mortality rate in Nauru is double the Australian infant mortality rate?

Mr Bowles : I know it is higher.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is double. Has the department received any advice from IHMS about the appropriateness of women in the detention centre having to have their babies on the island and to have newborns in the detention facilities?

Mr Bowles : We work with IHMS—and Mr Cormack can go into more detail—before we actually do anything with anybody in those sorts of circumstances.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has IHMS given any advice to the department that women should be able to have their babies on the mainland?

Mr Bowles : I have just answered that question.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am not talking about individual cases. I am speaking generally.

Mr Bowles : And I have just answered that question. I said we work with IHMS on all issues that relate to the health of the people we look after.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have IHMS given you a recommendation that newborns should not be kept in the detention centre?

Mr Bowles : We work with—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I realise that. I am asking you whether they have given you a recommendation.

Mr Cormack : Senator, if I could just respond—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Either they have or they have not.

Mr Cormack : They have given us specific advice in relation to the health and accommodation infrastructure that would be required to look after both pregnant women and women who have recently given birth. That includes breastfeeding chairs, baby change tables and air-conditioned quarters, all of which are now in place. And, to go back to your earlier question, there were seven pregnancy related transfers back to Australia from Nauru.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Are there records that the department keeps of the number of miscarriages that have happened for women who have been in detention on either Manus Island, when families were kept there, or indeed Nauru?

Mr Bowles : IHMS are responsible for keeping medical records on all patients. I am not going to go into what the outcomes of any of those might be, but, needless to say, IHMS are a professional medical operation and they keep records.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But you are saying, Mr Bowles, that the department has not considered keeping track of the number of miscarriages?

Mr Bowles : That is not what I said.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am asking you if the department—

Mr Bowles : I have just answered you, Senator.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You said IHMS keep those records.

Mr Bowles : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am asking whether the department has a number or is aware of the number of women who have had miscarriages while they were in detention.

Mr Bowles : What I said is that IHMS keep those records. We have access to whatever information we require to make decisions about—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you please take it on notice. I would like to know how many miscarriages have occurred in both Manus Island and Nauru and on Christmas Island, please.

Mr Bowles : I will take that on notice, and I will consider it in the context of privacy issues of transferees.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am not asking for individuals.

Mr Bowles : It is not hard to come down with an answer when we are talking about a small group of people, so I am not going to commit to something that I think will breach the privacy of those individuals. I will take it on notice and I will have a look at it in that context, and I want to make that very clear.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many newborns are currently held in immigration detention?

Mr Bowles : I can take that question on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How do you not have that here? You have the ages of people that are in detention. We know you have it because there is a database that was leaked only last week. It is obviously not very hard to find it.

Senator Cash: Chair, just while Mr Cormack is looking for the information in response to Senator Hanson-Young's question, I think we just need to be reminded of one thing which Senator Hanson-Young, in her questioning, appears to have overlooked. That, Chair, is that the most dangerous place for a child, for a woman and indeed for a woman who is pregnant is actually on a boat risking her life coming to Australia. That is what this government is trying to stop. Had the Greens and Senator Hanson-Young not supported the previous government's policies that destroyed our borders and led to over 50,000 people coming to Australia, over 1,000 confirmed deaths at sea and over 8,000 children in detention, these questions would not have to be asked. So, Senator Hanson-Young, when you are putting these questions to the committee as you are entitled to do, please remember that the most dangerous place for a pregnant woman is on a boat, risking her life.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why don't you increase the humanitarian intake and allow family reunion if that is the case, Minister? Your government is overseeing an entire policy that forces women and children onto boats.

CHAIR: Do you have an answer to the question?

Mr Bowles : In relation to the question, we will take it on notice. We have the number of children in detention. I could not, hand on heart, give you the number of newborns. We will take it on notice.

CHAIR: Before I pass back to Senator Singh—Senator Hanson-Young has had a fair go, and we really do need to move on to program 1.1, but I did tell Senator Singh we would come back to here—just in relation to the questions I asked previously, are contraceptive aids available to illegal maritime arrivals when they first reach Australia, should they seek them? Are they available?

Mr Bowles : Yes.

CHAIR: They are?

Mr Bowles : Yes.

Senator SINGH: But not on Manus Island?

Mr Bowles : I will take that on notice specifically, but generally our policy is yes. But, again, I will take it on notice specifically for Manus.

CHAIR: Senator Singh, do you have any more questions in outcome 4 or 5?

Senator SINGH: Yes.

CHAIR: Do you have some more on outcome 4 or 5, Senator Hanson-Young?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No, I think I am done.

CHAIR: We might go to, say, a quarter to nine on outcome 4 and 5 and then move on, somewhat late, to outcome 1.

Senator SINGH: Okay. I could keep going, but if you want to do it that way, Chair, that is your decision.

CHAIR: No, it is not my thing. This is a committee decision that at 8.10 we go to outcomes 1, 2 and 6.

Senator SINGH: No, that is an indicative time frame that was decided. It is indicative. As the estimates hearing goes on, senators at the table put forward their requests to extend time frames. I am saying that I could extend my time frame beyond a quarter to nine in this particular outcome.

CHAIR: I am aware of at least two senators who have burning questions on outcomes 1, 2 and 6.

Senator SINGH: Enough to last till 11 pm?

CHAIR: Probably.

Senator SINGH: Okay. I have a lot that I could ask.

CHAIR: Senator Singh, you are a member of the committee. You are now deputy chair. Next time we get to doing the program, you tell me what you want. I am very relaxed, but, once you have a program, other senators rely on it. Other senators have questions and are entitled to expect that the program that we issue might be closely followed.

Senator SINGH: No, I beg to differ, Chair. I think other senators understand my approach, which is to be flexible and to have indicative time frames that can be moved back and forth according to those particular senators' requests.

CHAIR: Well, we have lots of questions about outcome 1, so we will move there now. Senator Boyce, do you have some questions?

Senator SINGH: No, I am sorry; we are not running a dictatorship of the chair just deciding that unilaterally.

CHAIR: I am sorry; we have a program.

Senator SINGH: No, you just told me that I could go till a quarter to, and now you have unilaterally decided that you will cut me off because you do not like me arguing against your ruling.

CHAIR: You are complaining about not having enough opportunities for programs 4 and 5.

Senator SINGH: So you are going to pick up your bat and ball and not allow me to continue on. I am sorry; you cannot run a committee that way, Chair.

CHAIR: Senator Singh, you have to be fair to other senators. You are not the only senator in the building, and there are others who have questions.

Senator SINGH: I understand that, and I never said that I was. But you agreed for me to go on with this particular outcome till a quarter to nine, and now you have changed your mind, as you have done throughout this entire day when you have not liked one of the senators arguing against your ruling. You simply cannot run a committee like that as a chair. It is like a dictatorship.

CHAIR: I will run the committee how I like, thank you.

Senator SINGH: It is like a dictatorship, and that is simply not on.

CHAIR: Well, you would know all about dictatorships. We saw how your government operated.

Senator SINGH: That is out of order.

CHAIR: Because I did say it, as you rightly point out, I will allow you to go until a quarter to nine, as I indicated.

Senator SINGH: Thank you, Chair. Mr Bowles, how many detainees are currently in onshore detention?

Mr Bowles : I will ask Mr Cahill to answer that.

CHAIR: Senator Seselja, we are still on outcomes 4 and 5, which we were due to finish at 8.10, but I have been lenient to a couple of senators in allowing them to continue to ask questions. We are going now until 8.45 on outcomes 4 and 5, and we are then moving to outcome 1.

Mr Bowles : Just for Hansard's benefit, I would just like to point out that there are two Mr Cahills now, so we might need to indicate which particular one we are talking to.

Mr J Cahill : Which one would you like to be?

Mr M Cahill : I do not know. I do not want to get to be good or evil! We are not related.

Mr Bowles : Mr Cormack is going to change his name to Mr Cahill shortly!

CHAIR: We are looking for the ugly one! There is the good and the bad!

Mr J Cahill : For the record, I am the good one!

Mr M Cahill : As of 21 February, we had 4,993 detainees in the onshore network, including Christmas Island, of which 443 were non-IMA detainees.

Senator SINGH: You might need to take this on notice: can you provide a breakdown of the capacity and surge capacity of each of the offshore detention centres, including ones that may be earmarked for proposed closure.

Mr M Cahill : Onshore?

Senator SINGH: Yes, onshore.

Mr M Cahill : I can.

Senator SINGH: And how many are not operational?

Mr M Cahill : Yes, I can give you those points.

Senator SINGH: Obviously we know that in my home state Pontville is not operational.

Mr M Cahill : Currently we have 19 sites that comprise the onshore detention network. On top of that there are four in the last stages of closure, which the secretary referred to in his opening remarks this morning. Officially, while they have no detainees in them, they are in the last moment of closure, so there are another 19 left. I can either go through every facility of those 19 line by line or put that on notice for you.

Senator SINGH: On notice, I think, because of time. On notice would be fine.

Mr M Cahill : The important thing is that we have broadly an operating capacity of over 8,000 for the network across Australia, and then the contingency capacity can take us up to 11,000 in the broad. That is configurable, so that is a published contingency capacity but we can operate above that subject to a range of factors that influence that. Risk profile is one thing. There are the cohorts we have, so obviously certain compounds and certain facilities—APODs or IRHs—will influence that. I am very conscious that we manage the network quite carefully, and we were quite comfortable with being able to close those four facilities, which we expect to be out of in the next couple of weeks.

Senator SINGH: Thank you, Mr Cahill. Sorry to cut you off, but the chair is cutting me off in three minutes, so I need to get to translating and interpreting services, which is in outcome 5. Who is currently providing the translating and interpreting services—that is, those that are contracted services provided by the department—or does the department employ translators and interpreters directly?

Mr Williams : Are you referring to the telephone interpreter service operated by the department?

Senator SINGH: I am referring to all translating and interpreting services for onshore and offshore facilities.

Mr Williams : Generally the services are provided through the telephone interpreter service, which is a service that accesses contract interpreters for deployment and on call.

Senator SINGH: So they are not physically there?

Mr Williams : Some are deployed and some are on call, but generally, if you are talking about facilities, there are contract interpreters deployed.

Senator SINGH: So the department contracts the interpreters?

Mr Williams : Yes.

Senator SINGH: They do not work in the department; they are contracted.

Mr Bowles : Through the TIS arrangement. There will be some that will go to facilities and there will be some cases where we would do it by telephone.

Senator SINGH: How many are currently engaged by the department?

Mr Williams : The department has some 2,600 potential contract employees to operate as interpreters. As far as the number operating in facilities at any given time—

Mr Bowles : We would not necessarily know that. Basically it depends on the language required. We will ask for different people to be located, depending on the cohorts that we have. It works like that. It is what is called TIS—telephone interpreter service.

Senator SINGH: So the telephone interpreter service—

Mr Bowles : Through that arrangement, who go out to facilities—

Senator SINGH: interpreters at facilities. Is that both onshore and offshore?

Mr Bowles : That is correct.

Senator SINGH: So it is on a 'needs be' basis, one would think.

Mr Bowles : Yes.

Senator SINGH: But that need would be at all facilities at some point in time?

Mr Bowles : Yes.

Senator SINGH: Is the demand met?

Mr Bowles : There are certain languages, I would suggest, that are tighter than others. But it is not only in the detention network that we use translators and interpreters. As I mentioned, there are a lot of phone-type arrangements, the VisaWorld and a whole range of different ways. Our compliance world will require some sort of interpreter at some stage, so that is when we possibly use the telephone, and you get telephone access to a particular interpreter.

Senator SINGH: Are you just using one contracting provider or a various number?

Mr Williams : The department manages a large group of contractors who are available for deployment and for telephone work.

Senator SINGH: So it could be individuals—

Mr Bowles : The telephone interpreter service is part of the department. So we manage that contracted group of individuals. They are contracted to TIS and then we use that. But we manage that telephone interpreter service as a part of the department.

Senator SINGH: So TIS contracts them.

Mr Bowles : They contract them, yes. But TIS is sort of owned, if you like, by the department.

Senator SINGH: So what is TIS's budget?

Mr Williams : I do not have that here with me, Senator. I would need to take that on notice.

Senator SINGH: That is all right. I am over time anyway.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Singh. Senator Boyce has been waiting patiently. I will allow a couple of questions.

Senator BOYCE: Just a couple of questions in this area. I think they are directed more to you, Mr Bowles, than anybody else. What is the future scope that you have got for clawback of funding in the area of irregular maritime arrivals? Because the numbers have dropped significantly.

Mr Bowles : As I think I alluded to in my opening statement, there is a significant potential savings in the detention network. We will close four facilities that I mentioned earlier, and Mr Cormack mentioned. That will generate further savings. That will mean that not only are we not paying a rental arrangement, a lease arrangement or a whole range of things around keeping those facilities open; it means we do not need the contractors, the Serco, the IHMS or anybody else involved in those centres, and also any of our staff who operate in those centres. That is the real opportunity.

Senator BOYCE: Even down to things like the translation service that you were just talking about the staffing of something like that.

Mr Bowles : That is correct. And it will be about flights to centres. It goes right across the breadth of the activities we do in this space. Now, as numbers reduce, we will obviously look to the broader network. As either Mr Cormack or Mr Cahill said, we are down to 19 centres at the moment. There might be three or four in a location, but there are 19; there were 23. We will constantly look at that and we will match that to the numbers that we have, understanding what arrival patterns might be. At the moment they are very good so we will look to divest ourselves, where possible, of any high cost—high fixed cost in particular—infrastructure we have which will allow the department to meet its broader objectives around staffing and budget.

Mr Cormack : Senator , if I could just add a detail there, it is $1.76 billion over four years in administered expenses and $342 million in departmental expenses over four years.

Senator BOYCE: I suppose I am asking you to gaze into a crystal ball here, but can you attempt to put some sort of structure around what you perceive to be the advantages of the current falls, perceiving that that will continue?

Mr Bowles : As you say, it is difficult and I am definitely not going to claim victory on anything. I want to make sure. So the balance we have to get is understanding what we require in the longer term with and without arrivals and trying to work out where we can actually place ourselves. If we have no arrivals, we still need a detention network that covers the country because we will have anywhere between 500 and 1,000, possibly, non-illegal maritime arrivals who we manage for character reasons and visa overstaying. There are a whole range of reasons that we will do that. We will be particularly interested in our high-value places for that sort of activity, like Villawood in Sydney, the immigration detention centre in Melbourne and the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation. There will be Yongah Hill in Western Australia and the Perth IDC and then, of course, there are the Darwin arrangements around Wickham Point, Blaydin and the like. Apart from that, we will obviously look at the high fixed-cost issues across the states—so, places that are far away. You will notice, of the four we have closed, one was Scherger. It is very hard to maintain a fly-in fly-out workforce for some of these places. Leonora was very difficult because it is not too far from Kalgoorlie, I think. In places that are a long way away it is very hard to maintain staffing, so they are the ones we will look at and we still have a few of those.

Senator BOYCE: Okay. Thank you.

Mr Bowles : Chair, can I just make one correction. I made a mistake when I talked about the telephone interpreting service. It is actually called the Translating and Interpreting Service.

[20:52]

CHAIR: We now move on to outcome 1, program 1.1—visa and migration. Who wants to start on this?

Senator SINGH: I am happy to start. I just want to seek some advice from committee members, though. In this section, we have got 1, 2 and 6. Do we want to do it in that order or do we just want to do it like we did with the last section, where we just go between the different outcomes?

CHAIR: I would like to try and do outcome 1, get rid of that and then proceed. It is almost nine o'clock. Let us try to confine ourselves to, say, eight minutes each on this lot and see how we go.

Senator BOYCE: That is more than all right for me.

CHAIR: Well, up to eight minutes; you do not have to take eight minutes. It is just to try and impose some discipline. Senator Singh.

Senator SINGH: Mr Bowles, what is the current process undertaken by the department once a request for ministerial intervention has been made?

Mr Bowles : I might hand over to my colleague to go through the proper process; otherwise, I might be just guessing a little bit too much.

Dr Southern : I might have to refer to other colleagues as well. The normal process for ministerial intervention is that an application or a request is made for the minister to intervene. We have a couple of ministerial intervention units who deal with all of those requests. All first requests are put to the minister either on a schedule or, if they raise significant issues, individually to the minister, and then subsequent requests are only put to the minister if they raise significant additional issues that have not been considered by the department any further—then those go to the minister for consideration.

Senator SINGH: Are there guidelines for the assessment of applications?

Dr Southern : Yes.

Senator SINGH: Have the guidelines been altered since the change of government?

Dr Southern : I am not sure about that. I will take that on notice. There would be a number of guidelines for the different intervention powers and one or more of those may have been amended since the change of government. I will take that on notice.

Senator SINGH: Okay. Is it the case that all ministerial interventions are being conducted by the assistant minister?

Dr Southern : No.

Senator SINGH: Has there been any progress on the significant investor visa since last September?

Dr Southern : Progress in terms of the number of visas granted?

Senator SINGH: I noticed that Senator Cash put out a press release in November entitled 'Greater Investments and Flexibility as Government Reboots Significant Investor Visa'.

Dr Southern : Up until 31 January, 116 primary visas had been granted under the program.

Senator SINGH: Can you please detail the new investment options under this scheme for these 116 individuals?

Dr Southern : Not for those particular visa grants, no.

Senator SINGH: Minister?

Senator Cash: Certainly not in relation to each individual one, but we can give you the broad categories into which a person may make a significant investment.

Senator SINGH: But what are these new investment options?

Senator Cash: You want the general options that are available?

Senator SINGH: Yes.

Dr Southern : Complying investments include Commonwealth, state or territory government bonds, direct investment into unlisted Australian proprietary companies and eligible managed funds which invest in a number of things—infrastructure projects in Australia; cash held by Australian deposit-taking institutions; bonds issued by the Commonwealth government or a state or territory government; bonds, equity, hybrids or other corporate debt in companies and trusts listed or expected to listed within 12 months on an Australian Stock Exchange; bonds or term deposits issued by Australian financial institutions; real estate in Australia; Australian agribusiness; annuities issued by an Australian registered life insurance company; derivatives used for portfolio management and non-speculative purposes; loans secured by mortgages over the investments listed in an instrument signed by the minister; and other managed funds that invest in investments which are also listed in an instrument issued by the minister.

Senator SINGH: What is the current threshold to be considered for such a visa?

Dr Southern : It is $5 million in complying investments.

Senator SINGH: Have any significant investment visas been granted since the announcement of the minister's press release?

Dr Southern : Certainly some of those primary visas granted would have been granted since the minister's press release, but I do not have that number?

Senator SINGH: How many have been granted?

Dr Southern : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator SINGH: Why wouldn't you have that number?

Dr Southern : The number of visas issued since the minister's press release? I simply have the total number granted.

Mr Bowles : We manage the program as a program, not on press releases. I think that is the real answer. We can take it on notice if you have a specific date you would like us to do.

Senator SINGH: Let us take that on notice. Can you give me some kind of figure, though, of the number from the date that you can give it from?

Dr Southern : I have the number for those granted this financial year, to 31 January. That number was the 116 that I have you earlier.

Senator SINGH: Okay, and you will take it on notice from the date of the press release?

Dr Southern : That is correct.

Mr Bowles : Do you have a date on the press release?

Senator SINGH: It is 29 November. You could ask the minister, but it is 29 November. I am sure someone signed it off over there.

Mr Bowles : Sorry to be ignorant of the minister's press releases, but we do not operate that way I'm afraid.

Senator SINGH: What is the value of those investments? Obviously you have given me the value since the beginning of the financial year.

Dr Southern : Certainly, each of them would have had to have invested at least $5 million. I do not have the total sum here.

Senator SINGH: Can you take that on notice.

Dr Southern : Yes, I can take it on notice.

Senator SINGH: How many 457 primary visa holders were in Australia at 31 January this year compared to 31 January 2013? It would be useful to have a table that actually showed it first by industry of sponsor and second by skill level of nominated occupation.

Dr Southern : The number of 457 primary visa holders in Australia at 31 January 2014 is 109,610 and the equivalent figure for 31 January 2013 was 105,325. The top ten nominated occupations for primary visas granted—I have the period from July 2013 to January 2014—were cook, program or project administrator, cafe or restaurant manager, developer/programmer, marketing specialist, university lecturer, general medical practitioner, accountant, ICT business analyst and mechanical engineering technician.

Senator SINGH: There are obviously more this January than last January.

Dr Southern : Correct.

Senator SINGH: Given the job losses in Australian industry, and obviously the fact that there was negative full-time employment growth in Australia recently, shouldn't the total number of 457 visa holders in Australia be declining rather than growing?

Dr Southern : It is a demand driven program. The—

Senator SINGH: But the demand is what I am talking about.

Dr Southern : Demand in Australia is patchy. There are areas where there is a reducing labour market and in other areas there are still skills shortages that are being filled by 457 visa holders.

Senator SINGH: I want to ask about working-holiday visas. Could I have the number of working-holiday visas granted from 1 July last year until now?

Dr Southern : I have figures for the six-month period of July to January this year. We have two classes of working holidaymaker visas: there is the work and holidaymaker visa and the working holidaymaker visa. Together, the total number of visas granted over that six-month period was 153,840.

Senator SINGH: Do you have the corresponding figure for the previous six months?

Dr Southern : I do. It is actually seven months. It is July to the end of January. For the previous year, July 2012 to January 2013, the number was 160,657.

CHAIR: We will suspend for 10 minutes and then start on outcome one.

Proceedings suspended from 21 : 05 to 21 : 15

CHAIR: We are on program 1.1 in outcome 1.

Senator BOYCE: I wanted to ask a somewhat arcane question on the labour market testing requirements for prospective visa sponsors. In the 2012-13the Office of Best Practice Regulation report they note an exceptional circumstances claim that was made for not doing a regulatory impact statement regarding labour market testing for 457 visa sponsors. That was the introduction of labour market testing requirements for prospective sponsors. Can you tell me why an RIS was not done?

Dr Southern : I am casting my mind back a bit here.

Senator Cash: Senator, I actually addressed that in the dissenting report of the coalition senators for this legislation committee. I did address it in my dissenting report in relation to the failure of the former government to conduct a regulatory impact statement.

Senator BOYCE: Was this when you were the shadow minister?

Senator Cash: That is correct. It was outlined clearly in that report that Minister O'Connor specifically phoned the Prime Minister at the time, Ms Gillard, and asked for an exemption in relation to having to provide a regulatory impact statement. The Prime Minister granted that exemption, giving no reasons as to why. If I am incorrect, I am more than happy for the department to correct me, but that was certainly our understanding.

Senator BOYCE: The department cannot now advise why that would have been?

Dr Southern : No. We can certainly go back over the records and provide a response to you on notice, but off the top of my head I do not recall what the reasons were at the time.

Senator BOYCE: What I am interested in is whether the reasoning was that there was a tight time schedule.

Mr Bowles : That is the normal way those things happen.

Senator BOYCE: I know, but is it the case here?

Dr Southern : My recollection is that we were working—

Senator BOYCE: An RIS does not seem to be something that would have required a lot of effort to produce. That is what I am thinking.

Dr Southern : They usually require quite a bit of effort—

Senator BOYCE: I beg your pardon.

Dr Southern : as is appropriate.

Senator BOYCE: So in fact you have not really examined what the—

Dr Southern : I just do not have a recollection of the reasons and the process at the time. As I said, we can certainly revisit the records and provide an answer to you on notice.

Senator BOYCE: I presume receiving an exceptional circumstances mention, so to speak, in the Office of Best Practice Regulation report is something that you would set out to avoid.

Mr Bowles : In the normal course of events we would do an RIS on all things like that, but there are from time to time exceptional circumstances where you can do that, if you get the permission, obviously, of government to do that. Usually it is because of the expedient nature of things happening that you would do that. Again, I cannot recall the specific circumstances in this case, but we are happy to have a look at that.

Senator BOYCE: Have a look at it and let me know, if there are genuine time pressures involved in doing it, what difference it might have made if it had waited.

Mr Bowles : Yes. The RIS is a very important process—there is no doubt about that. And they do take some time. But then, from time to time, different pieces of legislation and the like will mean that you just have to move a little bit faster than you would normally like to.

Senator BOYCE: And they would normally be a decision of government rather than of the Prime Minister, for example, which the minister has just mentioned.

Dr Southern : It is an exemption by the Prime Minister.

Senator BOYCE: Thank you for that, and yes I would appreciate it if you would take that on notice.

Senator Cash: Could I also, just for your own benefit, refer you to the dissenting report at paragraphs 1.101 onwards, which actually do cite the evidence given by the department at the time of the hearing in relation to the exemption that was asked for in relation to the regulatory impact statement. It clearly sets out the event.

Senator BOYCE: So we are really talking about political pressures here rather than regulatory pressures?

Senator Cash: Certainly that was my analysis.

Senator SESELJA: I understand that there was a review of the 457 visa program announced?

Senator Cash: Yes. I announced that it would be an independent review of the 457 program—and, in particular, the recent changes to the program—undertaken by an independent panel.

Senator SESELJA: Are you able to give us a little more detail in terms of what it will involve, how long the review will take and who the members of the independent panel will be?

Senator Cash: There are four members of the panel: Mr John Azarius, Professor Peter McDonald, Ms Katie Malyon and Ms Jenny Lambert. It is an independent review into the subclass 457 visa program. The reason that I announced the review is that it is in line with a number of statements that both the minister for immigration and I made, prior to the election, that we would undertake a review of the program if we were elected to government. In particular, the review will aim to provide recommendations on how to maintain the integrity of the 457 visa program whilst not placing unnecessary administrative burdens on business.

Senator SESELJA: I think there was some questioning earlier about where the 457s are up to, in terms of how many 457 visas have been issued. I am not sure if this question was answered, and forgive me if it was: on the trends in the 457 visa application rate, are you able to tell us where that is going? Obviously that will be responding to various market pressures and will give an indicator as to roughly how many 457 visas there might be in six or 12 months time.

Dr Southern : We had some figures that we used earlier which compared the number of visa holders in the country as at 31 January this year, which was 109,610 compared to 105,325 at the same date last year.

Senator SESELJA: Yes. Just by the by, while you are answering that, did you, in response to Senator Singh's question, give a month-by-month breakdown of those?

Dr Southern : No, I did not. I could certainly take that on notice for you. I do not believe I have those figures with me.

Senator SESELJA: I would appreciate that.

Dr Southern : Is that the number granted or applications?

Senator SESELJA: Both. So, obviously, on the previous question, on those granted. And are you able to give us a broad trend in terms of where the applications are at the moment?

Dr Southern : Sure. Mr Fleming, do you have details?

Mr Fleming : Probably the best broad indicator is if we compare July to end of January this financial year with the previous financial year—

Senator SESELJA: Is this applications?

Mr Fleming : This is grants. So, for the previous financial year, for that seven-month period there were 41,761 granted; for this program-year for the same period, there have been 31,525—so, about 25 per cent fewer.

Senator BOYCE: So they are, in fact, down.

Senator SESELJA: So as the labour market has got a bit tighter the market has responded, and there are fewer of them being granted at the back end of the year?

Mr Fleming : That is correct.

Senator SESELJA: So, as at January, there were more 457 visa holders than there were the January before, but, in terms of those that are being granted, there are fewer being granted?

Mr Fleming : That is right. That is because so many of them are multi-year visas that it can take a while to flow through the changing flow to then affect the stock number.

Senator SESELJA: I guess the review will look at this, but is the department satisfied that it is broadly tracking in the way that the broader labour market is tracking?

Mr Fleming : In general terms, yes.

Senator SESELJA: I suppose that is a good thing. Being new to this place, I am not familiar with the process around 457 visas in terms of what an employer needs to go through. Are you able to briefly explain? I apologise to other senators; I am just not aware of what is the rigmarole and the process for an employer to go through at the moment.

Mr Fleming : Essentially, in the standard process there are three steps. First of all, the employer would be approved as a sponsor for 457 purposes, which requires them, in broad terms, to show that they are a reputable employer that has a commitment to training Australians either through demonstrating their training records or demonstrating that they put a certain amount of money into a training fund. They are the key elements of being a sponsor. They then nominate particular positions to be filled by individual 457 visa holders, and the primary issue there is to assess that the position being nominated meets the appropriate skill levels, but there is also a genuineness test to check that it is a genuine vacancy and that it is not being manufactured for the purposes of bringing in a foreign worker. Then the third step is that the non-citizen applies for a visa and we assess that the individual meets the relevant requirements for skill. On the nomination as well, there is a salary threshold and certain English language requirements et cetera. That is the standard process. There are also things called labour agreements that employers can enter into where we can look at some concessions to the standard requirements around skill and English levels et cetera.

Senator SESELJA: Were all those processes followed in the case of the former staffer to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Mr McTernan, and his 457 visa?

Mr Fleming : I do not personally know the circumstances other than from public reporting of that case. The standard steps would have had to be followed.

Senator SESELJA: It was pretty high profile and it was reported a lot. Do we know when that visa expired?

Mr Fleming : I do not have that with me. I can take that on notice if you like.

Senator SESELJA: Yes, thank you. Do we know whether he left Australia before his visa expired?

Mr Fleming : Again I will have to take it on notice, unless you know, Ms Southern.

Dr Southern : No, I do not know. I would be cautious about talking about the individual circumstances of a visa holder, even a high-profile one.

Senator SESELJA: Yes. I guess in this case it was certainly made public and acknowledged by the Prime Minister's office, so in terms of that we see it as a different public interest from any ordinary 457 visa holder.

Dr Southern : Sure, in terms of him being a 457 visa holder. As Mr Fleming said, we can certainly take on notice the surety around the process. But I do not know when he left, or if he has left. I think we would not go into that.

CHAIR: We may have to get clearance from Ms Gillard's office—or Mr Shorten's office, perhaps.

Dr Southern : No, it would just be an issue around the privacy of an individual.

CHAIR: Yes, sure.

Senator SESELJA: Indeed. He was obviously brought in to work in the Prime Minister's office, but then he was also writing for newspapers, for instance. That is all on the public record. Would it be within the scope of a 457 visa to work in different types of employment, or would it have to be separately sponsored? Obviously there is a sponsoring employer, and that is how you get the visa. If you then go and work for another employer—I do not know whether he was paid; he may have been doing it on a volunteer basis, but if he was paid for writing newspaper columns—is there a separate process? Would a separate visa have to be issued, or can you work on the same visa for a different employer?

Dr Southern : You can. Any 457 visa holder, if for some reason their employment with the employer that they were sponsored to come and work for ceases, has a period of time in which he or she can look for further work in Australia and, in effect, find another employment sponsor.

Senator SESELJA: Was that only in the case of the position coming to an end or termination, or if the person resigns can they then look for another under that same visa?

Mr Fleming : Without being able to comment on the particular case, there are essentially two ways that that can be effected. The actual condition on the visa is that the person is to do the work that they were sponsored to do, but there is capacity for that to change with the written permission of the department, or they can get a fresh employer and sponsorship and a fresh 457 visa, which is a more normal course of events.

Senator SESELJA: So that fresh employer would have to go through the same sort of process that the first employer went through?

Mr Fleming : That is correct.

Senator SESELJA: So in this case, if it were a newspaper, that newspaper would have to go through that process as well, unless permission were given by the department.

Mr Fleming : That is correct.

Senator SESELJA: Was permission given by the department in this case?

Mr Fleming : I am not aware of the circumstances in that case.

Senator SESELJA: Are you able to take that on notice?

Mr Fleming : I can, but with Dr Southern's earlier caveat about personal privacy.

Senator SESELJA: Thank you. How many labour agreements have been approved since the federal election on 7 September?

Mr Fleming : I can tell you the number of labour agreements approved for 2013-14 to 31 January 2014.

Senator SESELJA: What was that period?

Mr Fleming : That is this financial year, 2013-14, so from 1 July 2013 to 31 January 2014. There were 50 labour agreements approved in that period, and almost all, if not all, of them were since the election.

Senator SESELJA: Almost all of them, so you do not know the number, but could you let us know on notice what that breakdown is between pre 7 September and post 7 September.

Mr Fleming : Yes.

Senator SESELJA: That is for that financial year. How long have these labour agreements been around? Were they around in the previous financial year?

Mr Fleming : Some of the requests for labour agreements? Yes.

Senator SESELJA: Sorry. Did these exist as a category before?

Mr Fleming : Yes, we have had labour agreements for years.

Senator SESELJA: Do you have the figures for the previous financial year?

Mr Fleming : There were 49 labour agreements approved in the financial year 2012-13.

Senator SESELJA: Could you, on notice, give us a breakdown, for this financial year, between pre 7 September and post 7 September.

Mr Fleming : We can do that.

Senator SESELJA: Thank you very much.

Senator SINGH: I have one more question on outcome 1. This is to Senator Cash—at least, I think it is in outcome 1. Minister, you put out a statement today about an independent review of the 457 visa program.

Senator Cash: That is correct, and Senator Seselja—I think you were out of the room—asked me a series of questions in relation to that.

Senator SINGH: I will just ask these just in case they have not been answered.

CHAIR: If they have been answered, just say so.

Senator SINGH: What are the terms of reference, and will they be released publicly?

Senator Cash: I can have the terms of reference provided to the committee for you.

Senator SINGH: You do not have them on you?

Senator Cash: No, not on me actually here and now.

Senator SINGH: They were not part of the press release?

Senator Cash: They were—or, if they were not part of the press release, they have certainly been provided to people.

CHAIR: They are on the web, are they?

Senator Cash: They should be. If they are not, I will absolutely provide you with a copy. They are on the web; they have been uploaded.

Senator SINGH: Who else is on the panel?

Senator Cash: I answered that in response to Senator Seselja's question. However, I will repeat it. You were not here; that is fine. Mr John Azarias, Professor Peter McDonald, Ms Katie Malyon and Ms Jenny Lambert.

Senator SINGH: How was John Azarias chosen? How were they appointed?

Senator Cash: They were appointed by me.

Senator SINGH: So you just chose them?

Senator Cash: I have initiated an independent review.

Senator SINGH: Are you one of those people?

Senator Cash: That is correct.

Senator SINGH: How was John Azarias chosen?

Senator Cash: He is a pre-eminent person whom I believed would bring great value to the panel.

Senator SINGH: Have they all filled out any conflict-of-interest statements?

Senator Cash: I would have to refer that to the department.

Mr Fleming : Yes, I believe they have.

Senator SINGH: On the date for reporting, I think it said mid-2014. What does that mean?

Senator Cash: It means I would like the report from them in mid-2014.

Senator SINGH: Is that 15 June? Is it 30 June?

Senator Cash: Mid-2014.

Senator SINGH: So you do not mind, as long as it is somewhere in the middle of June.

Senator Cash: Mid-2014; that is exactly right.

Senator SINGH: I am asking for a date.

Senator Cash: And I have stated mid-2014. I have not given them a specific date—mid-2014.

Senator SINGH: All right. We will move on to outcome 2, Chair. I may as well keep going.

CHAIR: That is fine. We will try and confine ourselves to eight minutes.

Senator SINGH: I want to ask about our humanitarian intake. Firstly, what is the current allocation for our humanitarian intake? Is it still 13,750?

Dr Southern : That is correct, yes.

Senator SINGH: Does the department still anticipate the program will be around that number this financial year?

Dr Southern : Yes. That is the planned level.

Senator SINGH: Are there any plans to expand, increase or decrease?

Dr Southern : Not that I am aware of, no.

Senator SINGH: Minister, are you able to answer that?

Senator Cash: The minister for immigration stated that the humanitarian intake would be 13,750.

Senator SINGH: So no change. What is that 13,750 made up of?

Ms Larkins : At the broad level, it is split between 11,000 offshore places and 2,750 onshore places.

Senator SINGH: Does it include complementary protection?

Ms Larkins : Yes.

Mr Bowles : Just recognising that complementary protection is not a visa per se; it is a set of criteria from which things are measured.

Senator SINGH: A protection visa is a visa.

Mr Bowles : A protection visa is. It is just that this morning there was some confusion about whether we had a separate visa called a complementary protection visa, and we do not. It is about the criteria which we would measure people against in the grant of a protection visa.

Senator SINGH: Given that no asylum seekers arriving by boat will be resettled in Australia, how is the department determining the 13,750 allocation going forward?

Dr Southern : As Ms Larkins said, 11,000 will be offshore places coming from refugee referrals from UNHCR in the Special Humanitarian Program. The remaining 2,750 will be onshore visa grants, which will go to people who have arrived lawfully in Australia by air and have subsequently sought protection in the country.

Senator SINGH: What is the role of the UNHCR and other international associations in this process?

Dr Southern : The UNHCR operates in a number of countries overseas and makes refugee status determinations overseas and then refers those determined to be refugees where it also believes that resettlement is the best durable solution for those people. The UNHCR refers those cases to countries which do have resettlement programs.

Senator SINGH: Can you outline where the allocations will be coming from? What are the countries of origin?

Ms Larkins : We tend not to do that. At the end of the program year we report on where people have come from and I can give you a broad allocation between regions, but, while we do discuss notional planning levels with ministers at the beginning of the year, because it is a complex program and we operate with a number of different partners in a changing and complex environment, we tend not to announce our intention about intake from every country, because it changes through the year. So we do report and I can tell you where we took people from last year if that is of interest.

Senator SINGH: When you say 'last'—

Ms Larkins : I can tell you the outcome from last year.

Senator SINGH: The last financial year?

Ms Larkins : Yes.

Senator SINGH: But we already got that at the last estimates.

Ms Larkins : We tend not to announce our notional planning allocations in advance because they change and we do not want to set expectations. The program changes because our need changes and also because of the complexity of operating in some of the environments where we are operating.

Senator SINGH: There would be quotas, wouldn’t there, per continent, country, region or whatever you want to call it?

Ms Larkins : No. There are notional planning allocations. There are not quotas. We do not actually set targets; we agree on a broad series of allocations. As I have said, we do not like to announce them, because we do not want to set an expectation.

Senator BOYCE: A disaster, a war or something else might change the allocation.

Ms Larkins : That is exactly right. We do not want to have a situation where we have said our intention is to bring X number of people in and then, for some reason, we cannot make that. So we tend to report at the end of the financial year. That has been our practice for some time.

Senator SINGH: Unless of course the minister gives some direction.

Ms Larkins : There are some circumstances where the minister will make an announcement. The obvious example of that in this program year is the 500 places that he has announced for Syrian refugees. We are just cautious about, more broadly, going into—

Senator Cash: Can I jump in there. We have certainly made another election commitment—to put on my Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women hat—in relation to no fewer than 1,000 woman at risk visas. In relation to a broad direction, that is an election commitment we have made as well.

Senator SINGH: Let's talk about that. Have they been granted—the 1,000 out of 11,000 being quarantined for women at risk?

Dr Southern : We are well on the way to that. We have granted 759 so far, so we are ahead of pro rata through the program year, if you like.

Senator SINGH: What is the process for this? I think we asked Secretary Bowles in November about this, and he said the make-up of the program at that point was yet to be determined. What is the process now for determining women at risk?

Dr Southern : They are cases that are referred to us. They are basically vulnerable women who do not have the protection of male relatives. They become a priority for us going forward.

Senator SINGH: They are referred to you by UNHCR?

Dr Southern : They are referred to us by UNHCR but we also take some through the Special Humanitarian Program, where they are sponsored by relatives or other sponsors here in Australia.

Senator SINGH: Are there any plans to change that number beyond 1,000? You said it is already at 700—

Senator Cash: The election commitment is for no less than 1,000.

Senator SINGH: and it is only January.

Senator Cash: It is no less than 1,000.

Senator SINGH: I am saying that the demand is obviously there. you are already at 700. Are there any plans to increase the number beyond 1,000?

Senator Cash: The election commitment was no less than 1,000.

Senator SINGH: So there is no limit?

Senator Cash: The election commitment was no less than 1,000. But, certainly, as Dr Southern has outlined, there are 13,750 places and people all over the world compete for those places. My election commitment, as the minister for women, was for no less than 1,000 places. If we can grant that, that will be sensational.

Senator SINGH: So, once you get to 1,000, it stops for that financial year.

Senator Cash: You do not understand the process. I will get Dr Southern to explain the process to you again.

Dr Southern : We will undoubtedly get to 1,000 places this year, given where we are in the program at the moment. If that does happen, we will continue to grant visas for cases which come forward which involve vulnerable women or women at risk—who are still the highest priorities in terms of the UNHCR referrals, or indeed come out as the highest priority for those that are being sponsored for the Special Humanitarian Program onshore. There is certainly no cap at 1,000. It would depend on the sorts of cases that are coming through towards the end of the year.

Senator SINGH: Does the government have any intention of increasing the humanitarian intake above—

CHAIR: Excuse me, Senator Singh. We might have to make this your last question. You are in nine minutes, and we are trying to confine it to eight minutes. We can come back later.

Senator SINGH: Nine minutes—and we started at a quarter past nine, which means the government senators have had more time since a quarter past nine than an opposition senator.

CHAIR: Sorry, we did not start at a quarter past nine.

Senator BOYCE: Not on this topic, we didn't. You moved straight from outcome 1 to outcome 2, you might remember.

CHAIR: And you have had nine minutes on outcome 2, and there is the clock.

Senator SINGH: I am sorry. We had a tea break at nine; we came back at a quarter past nine.

CHAIR: And we still kept going.

Senator SINGH: And we started with Senator Boyce and Senator Seselja.

CHAIR: On outcome 1.

Senator SINGH: And I have been going for nine minutes.

CHAIR: On outcome 1, on which you had had a lot of time before dinner and which Senator Seselja and Senator Boyce had after dinner, as we indicated.

Senator SINGH: No, I am sorry, Chair. You cut me off before the tea break. I had to rush to get through outcome 1 before the tea break—

Senator Seselja interjecting

Senator SINGH: I am sorry, Senator Seselja. I know you are new to estimates, but estimates is about the opposition asking questions of the government. You are part of the government.

CHAIR: Senator Singh, you are fairly new to this building. Can I tell you that estimates is about senators asking questions of the government. It is nothing to do with opposition—

Senator SINGH: It is primarily for opposition senators.

CHAIR: It is not primarily for anyone.

Senator SINGH: Yes, it is.

CHAIR: It is for senators to ask questions—

Senator SINGH: I beg to differ with you on that point, Chair, respectfully.

CHAIR: Senator, you have been here five minutes; I have been here 24 years, and I can tell you what the rules are. And you have now used up 10½ minutes; this will be your last question before I pass on to the next senator who wants to ask questions on this, and we have another program—6.1—to go yet.

Senator SINGH: We did not have to waste that time, if you had not interrupted me when I was asking the minister a question.

CHAIR: I certainly did not.

Senator SINGH: That is all right. It is all part of your tactics. I understand. It is getting late in the night.

CHAIR: We are terribly worried about the penetrating way of your questions, Senator!

Senator SINGH: I am so glad that I am worrying you, Chair. My ambition in life is to worry you.

CHAIR: I mean, the government is about to fall as a result of what you have been asking! But we will just struggle on.

CHAIR: We will just struggle on.

Senator BOYCE: Thank goodness we have some tactics, eh, Senator Macdonald?

CHAIR: Come on.

Senator SINGH: Minister, back to things that matter.

CHAIR: Last question. Did you get the question, minister?

Senator Cash: I have not got the question yet, Chair.

CHAIR: Senator Singh, please repeat it.

Senator SINGH: I will, thank you, Chair, now that you have allowed me to do so. Minister, based on what we talked about with the demand for women at risk—humanitarian entrants—and obviously, the demand in general for refugees wanting to come to Australia, has the government got any intention of increasing our humanitarian intake beyond 13,750?

Senator Cash: The government clearly stated before the election, when it was the opposition—

Senator SINGH: I am asking now.

Senator Cash: that if we were elected—

Senator SINGH: The government was not a government before the election; it is a government now.

CHAIR: Will you let the minister finish? You have asked the question. Please let the minister finish.

Senator Cash: We stated that, if elected, we would reduce the refugee intake from 20,000 and restore it to 13,750. I would point out that in relation to the former government's increase of the refugee intake to 20,000, based on the complete loss of control of our borders, the increase was basically to be taken up by those people coming here illegally. It was not necessarily going to be taken up by people from refugee camps.

Senator SINGH: So I assume the answer is no.

Senator Cash: We have made a very clear commitment in relation to our 13,750. Unlike the practice of the former government, which gave priority to the people smugglers in determining who would be given asylum in this country—

Senator SINGH: That is not true, Minister, and you are not answering the question.

Senator Cash: we have made a very clear commitment to the Australian people—

Senator SESELJA: It is absolutely true. What part of the question?

Senator SINGH: That is not answering my question. That is not true.

Senator Cash: that the 13,750 refugees that we take into Australia will come from either refugee camps or those who have arrived here with a legal visa onshore. We will not be giving preference, as the former government did, to IMAs.

Senator SINGH: I am asking: will you increase the intake? I did not ask for a diatribe.

Senator Cash: I gave a very clear answer to that. The intake is 13,750. We could not have been clearer.

Senator SINGH: So the answer is no. Thank you, Minister.

Senator BOYCE: I wanted to go back to an advertising campaign of the previous government, just before the election: the 'By boat, no visa' campaign. Was that advertising campaign exempted from compliance with the Commonwealth's advertising guidelines in the 2013 calendar year?

Mr Bowles : I am not quite sure which one you are referring to now.

Senator BOYCE: It was a campaign that was run primarily in Australia—'By boat, no visa', I think.

Mr Bowles : From memory, the original program went through the normal process through the committee that deals with it. I think you are probably referring to a subsequent arrangement that happened later, during caretaker period, where—

Senator BOYCE: Yes.

Mr Bowles : I have answered questions on that before. I think that was in November or some time. Anyhow, I have answered questions on this one before. The then government exempted the campaign through this process and the campaign went ahead on that basis, after consultation with the then opposition.

Senator BOYCE: During the caretaker period?

Mr Bowles : That is correct.

Senator BOYCE: Are you saying that it had bipartisan support?

Mr Bowles : No, I did not. I said it was done after consultation. I did not say there was agreement.

Senator BOYCE: Good. On what basis can that happen? How could it be permitted to proceed?

Mr Bowles : I am not an expert in the caretaker conventions by any stretch of the imagination. That is probably best answered by Prime Minister and Cabinet. But it is a convention, and the convention is that you ask the opposition at the time for support—

Senator BOYCE: And they say no and you do it anyway.

Mr Bowles : Again, it is about consultation. It is not necessarily about support. But I stress that I am not the expert in that. The then government chose to move ahead and did.

Senator BOYCE: Are you able to give me the breakdown on how much of the advertising budget was spent on that campaign being advertised locally and how much was spent on advertising outside Australia?

Mr Bowles : The outside Australia bit was done by Customs. That was agreed because it was in the context of the source and transit country, particularly the source country issues. The onshore component was the issue in contention at the time. I do not have the figure; Mr Manthorpe will.

Mr Manthorpe : I will give you a round figure: $6.7 million on advertising.

Senator BOYCE: Is that all up?

Mr Manthorpe : In fact, here is a correction. It was $6.5 million for onshore advertising out of a budget of around $6.7 million all up on the 'By boat, no visa' campaign. The onshore component was $6.5 million.

Senator BOYCE: That is out of $6.7 million.

Mr Manthorpe : Out of $6.7 million. It was just a couple of hundred thousand.

Mr Bowles : There was a separate allocation to Customs and Border Protection—

Senator BOYCE: What was the allocation to Customs and Border Protection?

Mr Bowles : It was before they were part of my portfolio, so I cannot recall exactly.

Mr Manthorpe : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator BOYCE: If you could take that on notice that would be very good, thank you.

Mr Bowles : They were done as two separate things at that point.

Senator BOYCE: I am going back to the term I used. It was TARPs, which is a way of ascertaining the viewing success of advertisements. Do you have the TARPs for the advertising campaign within Australia?

Mr Manthorpe : I do not have that with me.

Senator BOYCE: Are you able to comment on it at all?

Mr Bowles : I can take it on notice.

Mr Manthorpe : I am not sure whether we have that information but we will take it on notice and see what we have.

Senator BOYCE: Would you have done an assessment at the time as to whether you thought the campaign was succeeding?

Mr Bowles : We would have done some work at that time. I can take that on notice.

Senator BOYCE: The next question, of course, is: what was it succeeding in doing, if it was aimed at a domestic market?

Mr Bowles : It was aimed at the diaspora. There is a clear link between arrivals and the local diasporas, and it was clearly targeted at those. The more controversial part was advertising in mainstream media, but a significant amount of that was actually in language media and really targeting the diaspora. I think that component is always quite successful. I cannot comment on the rest.

Senator BOYCE: How do you know it was successful?

Mr Bowles : Again, we will check. We will check what evaluation was done at the time. From memory, there was evaluation done. I just cannot remember all of the issues. It is one of those things I have tried to burn out of the brain!

Senator SESELJA: Of that $6.5 million, you said some was in the mainstream, the dailies and the like, and some was targeted at language newspapers and stuff. Are you able to give a split of that?

Mr Manthorpe : We could give you the breakdown. The bulk of it would have been on the mainstream.

Senator BOYCE: What was?

Mr Manthorpe : The mainstream media buy would have been the most expensive piece—

Senator SESELJA: So that breakdown is available now, or is it on notice?

Mr Manthorpe : We will take it on notice.

Senator BOYCE: But, if you were aiming at the diaspora, one assumes that the advertising in the NESB market would have been the more effective, would it not?

Mr Bowles : It depends. It depends on what you are looking at, and cost is not always a good indicator, because sometimes the cheapest ways of doing things actually make the biggest difference. We will take all of that on notice and see if we can give you some clarity on that.

Mr Manthorpe : Just to build on something that the secretary mentioned a minute ago: my recollection is that the campaign was exempted from the Independent Communications Committee—or whatever it was called at the time—guidelines because of the urgency of its production.

Senator BOYCE: So it was exempted from compliance with the Commonwealth's advertising guidelines?

Mr Manthorpe : From the process that we went through in that period.

Mr Bowles : And the department did go through an internal process to get to that outcome, so we still did go through a formal process. We are talking specifically about the one that happened through the caretaker period, because there was an earlier campaign on this issue that did go through—what was it?—the ICC or whatever the committee was.

Senator BOYCE: It has been suggested to me that the premise of the campaign 'By boat, no visa' was in fact misleading, if not untruthful, given that at the time the government was working on the basis that only one in six maritime arrivals would go offshore for processing. Can I have a response to that, please.

Mr Bowles : I prefer not to get into that. It is a political question at a point in time. As a professional public servant, I deliver on the policy of a government of the day. I will leave it at that.

Senator BOYCE: But wouldn't your department form a view about whether an advertisement was an ethical advertisement and comment on that?

Mr Bowles : We will provide advice to the government and the minister on a range of things. I am not going to go into what advice may or may not have been given at that particular point in time. But I think it is probably a little unfair to try and get me to talk about a particular government's response to an issue. I have already said—

CHAIR: I agree with you, Mr Bowles. I ask Senator Boyce not to pursue that.

Senator BOYCE: Thank you, Chair. I will just ask Mr Bowles, though, whether advice was provided. I do not want to know what it was, but was advice provided?

Mr Bowles : From recollection, I think I did provide advice. I think it was probably verbal advice at the time, but I just cannot remember the exact context. But it is highly likely that I would have provided some form of advice.

Senator BOYCE: I have also been told that some advertising agencies were concerned by the design of the campaign and the process for the campaign. Can any of you comment on that?

Mr Bowles : Not to my knowledge. It was managed through our normal processes. Nobody has told me that there was a problem with agencies. There was an agency appointed to do the work, and it was done.

CHAIR: Who appointed the agency?

Mr Bowles : It would have been through the department.

Senator BOYCE: Could you just tell us—on notice, I am presuming—who the agency was.

Mr Bowles : We can take that on notice. I just cannot remember who it was. We used one of the normal agents who do this sort of stuff. I cannot recall any commentary from other agents who were critical. At the end of the day, one gets the job and five do not. That sometimes raises issues as well.

Senator BOYCE: And the advertisements and the campaign were not altered in any way? What the government had sought as the campaign and as the advertising was not altered in any way because of advertising agency concerns?

Mr Bowles : Not to my knowledge. Advertising campaigns change based on feedback from a range of different sources over a period of time. What might start as an X might end up as an X plus Y because, as you go through the process, you might see a better way of doing things. So it is highly likely that the campaign would have changed from its initial inception to its final outcome, but not because of any advertising agency, from my knowledge.

Senator BOYCE: No-one would have any concerns whatsoever about an advertising campaign that changed in response to trying to improve the outcome, but there could be some serious concerns if changes were made to meet what were perceived to be ethical concerns.

Mr Bowles : There is none of that from my perspective. I was not involved in any conversation where anybody around an advertising agency talked about any ethical concerns about what was actually happening. There was much more controversy over why we would do a program in the caretaker period than there was on any other issue.

CHAIR: Senator Boyce, in fairness, I pulled the previous senator up. Senator Seselja has a couple of questions and I have a couple of questions. We will move on.

Senator SESELJA: This question is probably to the minister. Minister, this flows on from your earlier answer in relation to Labor's loss of control of the borders and some of the implications of that. I think it was something like over 20,000 arrivals in the 2012-13 financial year. I am interested, if you could, just to drill down a little more on what the implications of that were for people who did not arrive unlawfully who were seeking protection, particularly in things like the Special Humanitarian Program. Are you able to tell us what happened with that in the 2012-13 financial year?

Senator Cash: Certainly that was the point I was making in my answer to Senator Singh. Under Labor, the fact of the matter is that, in losing control of our borders, the end result was that over 14,500 people from refugee camps were denied a place in our offshore humanitarian program—14,500 people who should have come to Australia did not come to Australia because the previous government lost control of our borders. When the previous government referred to an increase in the humanitarian intake to 20,000, what they forgot to tell the Australian people was that, in that same year that they increased the humanitarian intake to 20,000, there were in excess of 25,000 boat arrivals. So, even though you may have had an increase in the humanitarian intake, that all went to people who were coming here illegally by boat.

In relation to the Special Humanitarian Program, again, when you lose control of your borders, there are consequences. Certainly one of the consequences under the former government was that the Special Humanitarian Program fell to just 503 places in 2012-13. That was the lowest number ever in the program since the 1990s. Certainly under the Howard government we had an average of 5,000 special humanitarian places that were provided each year. As I stated to Senator Singh, one of the fundamental differences between this government's commitment to a refugee intake of 13,750 and the previous government's rhetoric around the fact that it increased the refugee intake to 20,000 is that a minimum of 11,000 of the 13,750 places available in 2013-14 will be reserved for people settling in Australia through the offshore component of our program. In other words, we will look to resettle those people through the UNHCR who are currently in camps and who were denied a place under our program by the former government.

Senator SESELJA: I think it is a good point. Obviously, when you do lose control of the borders, it effectively becomes a question of who can arrive here—that is the test. Quite aside from the deaths at sea, which is the great tragedy associated with these policies, it often effectively becomes those with the least means who suffer as a result. I think it is a point well made.

There has been some commentary. In another role, we are looking at the complementary protection bill. I think some people have been suggesting that, if the complementary protection bill before the Senate at the moment were passed, it would mean somehow a resiling from our non-refoulement obligations. I wanted to get you to comment on that.

Senator Cash: Thank you. There was certainly some questioning this morning in relation to complementary protection, and we return to it, of course, later this evening. We just need to clarify for the committee that, firstly, as the secretary has said, there is no complementary protection visa as such. There is a humanitarian visa, but there is no complementary protection visa. In relation to what this government proposes to do in repealing the complementary protection provisions, can I be very, very clear that this bill in no way causes the government, whether it is our government or a future government, should the bill pass and they choose to keep this legislation, to resile from its obligations under varying treaties, and in particular Australia's non-refoulement obligations under the convention against torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The bill does not alter the content of Australia's obligations. All the bill does is alter the process by which these obligations are assessed. That is very, very important. Our obligations in relation to the principle of non-refoulement remain the same. It is merely the process by which these obligations are assessed that changes. In fact, they are changing back to what they were. The bill does not invent something new; the bill merely returns consideration as part of ministerial intervention and pre-removal clearance processes.

CHAIR: Minister, do you or the department have or can you get me on notice the number of refugees around the world assessed by the UNHCR to be genuine refugees who are eligible for Australia's intake program? Do we have that figure? I often use a figure of 10½ million, but I read it somewhere or the Refugee Council told me once. I am just wondering what figures you have.

Dr Southern : There are certainly a very large number of persons of interest to the UNHCR globally, but it is a subset of that group which the UNHCR considers should be referred to countries like Australia, the US and Canada that have resettlement programs. We can certainly take it on notice and get those numbers for you.

CHAIR: Do you think you do have the quantity of that subset?

Dr Southern : Yes. The UNHCR annually publishes its expectation of the number of people that it believes should be offered for resettlement each year. That number is always greater than the number of resettlement places available.

CHAIR: This is something that has distressed me for years with what has been happening with the illegal maritime arrivals. Minister, you mentioned that in the last financial year, I think, that only 500 came out of this program.

Senator Cash: That was the special humanitarian program. Dr Southern might be able to explain the difference between the two programs.

Dr Southern : The special humanitarian program is a program of visas which are available to people offshore who are sponsored by either family members or community members in Australia. They are not cases that are referred to us by the UNHCR. It is the part of the program which allows people who hold protection visas, refugee visas, in Australia to sponsor and reunite with family members.

CHAIR: I do not want to put your department to any unreasonable effort, but would you be able to tell me how many have come in through the UNHCR process over the past five years who are not illegal maritime arrivals? I take it from what you say that last year it would have been zero.

Dr Southern : No, Senator. The special humanitarian program is visas for people who have been sponsored by people in Australia. That is separate to the cases referred to us by the UNHCR offshore. We can give you that breakdown for UNHCR places and special humanitarian places over the five years.

CHAIR: Do you have any idea what it might be for last year?

Ms Larkins : Yes, I could tell you the breakdown of the program.

Senator Cash: I assume you are specifically referring to those who have come from the UNHCR versus people who have arrived by boat.

CHAIR: Yes.

Ms Larkins : Last year, the 2012-13 program, there were 20,019 grants in total, 12,515 were offshore resettlement grants, of which 12,012 were refugee grants and 503 were special humanitarian program grants. There were 7,504 onshore protection grants, of which 2,555 were permanent protection visas granted to non-IMAs and 4,949 were permanent protection visas granted to IMAs.

CHAIR: Thank you. You live and breathe with all of these things; I do not. How many came last year? Our limit last year was 20,000-odd.

Ms Larkins : Of that, 12½ thousand were offshore.

CHAIR: From the UNHCR?

Ms Larkins : Yes, 12,000 of that were UNHCR referred.

CHAIR: What about the previous year?

Ms Larkins : I am just trying to find the previous year figures.

CHAIR: I am really more interested in when the limit was 13,000.

Dr Southern : The year before it was 13,750. My recollection is—but we will confirm it for you either shortly or on notice—that there were around 6,000 places from offshore and around 7,000 places onshore and, obviously, that does not add up to 13,750.

CHAIR: Does the onshore equate exactly to illegal maritime arrivals?

Dr Southern : No. There is always a component of that number, which is usually 2,000 to 3,000 places, for people who have usually arrived by air in Australia on a valid visa and have later sought protection at some point.

CHAIR: If you could do those, but for the simple people like me, could you qualify it, if it is possible as I know you have to be precise. This is not a new interest and something I have long been concerned about are the numbers of those, in what I often call 'squalid refugee camps' around the world, waiting for the chance to get into Australia but being prevented by other circumstances.

Senator SINGH: I want to follow on from Senator Boyce regarding advertising. I want to ask Mr Bowles about the department's latest advertising, which is the cartoon that I am sure you are familiar with. I think it is on Immigration's website, it is on Customs' website, and it shows people depressed and suffering mental illness in detention. Can you tell me the budget for this advertising?

Mr Bowles : It is something that is managed by Customs and Border Protection. I do not have the figures here. We can take on notice how much it cost. My understanding, and Mr Pezzullo can talk more expansively on it than I, is that it is about trying to get to a group of people who are largely illiterate. The best way to do that, according to some of the experts that they deal with, is through cartoons. I cannot make any further commentary on it. It was, as I said, through the Joint Agency Taskforce, and the Customs area deal with that issue.

Senator SINGH: The Joint Agency Taskforce has department of immigration people on it, though, doesn't it?

CHAIR: Excuse me, Senator Singh—for the Hansard, can you briefly describe the advertisement that we are talking about?

Mr Bowles : Senator Singh was highlighting a cartoon style advertisement around trying to stop illegal maritime arrivals. It goes through, effectively, a series of cartoon type activities trying to describe why they should not do that. As I said, it is largely targeted at a significantly large literate group who come to Australia. Apart from that, I cannot really comment any further. If you want more detail and costings, I can take it on notice and we can ask Customs, as part of my portfolio, to come up with an answer for you.

CHAIR: Do you know if this advertisement is shown in Australia or overseas? In your inquiry of Customs, can you find that out too?

Mr Bowles : We can. It is on the internet, so it is everywhere, but it is targeted overseas.

Senator SINGH: You are saying that the task force, which has Immigration officials on it—

Mr Bowles : There are about 16 agencies on the task force.

Senator SINGH: Yes, but you are saying this was not produced out of the department of immigration's budget. Is that what you are saying?

Mr Bowles : I would take that on notice. It came out of the Joint Agency Taskforce. My understanding—and I will be corrected and I will come back to you on notice—is that this was part of the Customs offshore strategic communications to the group.

Senator SINGH: I am sorry—it is unclear. Has the department contributed to the budget of creating this comic book of advertising?

Mr Bowles : No, I do not believe so.

Mr Manthorpe : No, we have not.

Senator SINGH: Which government agency has paid for this?

Mr Bowles : As I said, my understanding is that it was Customs, but I will take it on notice and we will get you an answer as to who and how much.

Senator SINGH: That is great. You are part of the task force; you are not part of the budget of it, but you are aware of the content of the advertising?

Mr Bowles : I am broadly aware of the content.

Senator SINGH: It has boats being turned back?

Mr Bowles : As I said, I am broadly aware, but I am not involved in any of it, so I cannot really add much to the conversation.

Senator SINGH: It is on the Immigration site. You are the secretary of the department. One would think you would know about the content of the ad.

CHAIR: Mr Bowles, you have answered that you do not know.

Senator SINGH: I know.

CHAIR: I think most of us understand that means you do not know.

Mr Bowles : I am broadly aware.

CHAIR: Does that clarify it for you, Senator Singh? While you are pondering that, I ask the minister, in case I have missed something about advertising: we are not in an election period at the moment, are we? I have not missed something overnight?

Senator Cash: Not a federal election period for the whole country, no.

[22:19]

CHAIR: We might pass on to outcome 6; program 6.1—Multicultural and citizenship services. Senator Singh, you might start.

Senator SINGH: Firstly, just a broad question: how is the department ensuring that migrants and people seeking to come to Australia are getting access to all the assistance and services that they require, since many important aspects have now been relocated to other departments?

Mr Bowles : You refer to the machinery of government arrangements where the multicultural part of our organisation—

Senator SINGH: Settlement, multicultural path—that is right.

Mr Bowles : That moved to the Department of Social Services.

Senator SINGH: AMES.

Mr Bowles : Clearly there is a relationship with departments on these issues. Social policy issues have always been discussed across portfolios; this will be no different. Dr Southern can probably add a little bit more to that.

Dr Southern : There is a comprehensive MOU which we are finalising with the Department of Social Services at the moment, which goes into quite a high level of detail about information sharing and coordination of exactly the sorts of things you are talking about. In the past, when those functions were in the department, they were a separate division in the department, and we had the sort of communication connections between divisions then to ensure that the processes were as seamless as possible for people who were coming to Australia. We have to maintain those connections and that communication now that those functions have moved to another department, but it will be underpinned by an MOU.

Senator SINGH: When will that MOU be finalised?

Dr Southern : It is getting very close to finalisation, I understand. Yes, it is. It is close to finalisation.

Senator SINGH: Will the department maintain some kind of oversight over the programs that have moved out from it?

Dr Southern : No. They will be run by the DSS portfolio.

Senator SINGH: What is the detail of the MOU? It is not to have any kind of oversight, and—

Dr Southern : It is not about oversight; it is more so that, as we are running the humanitarian program, we are aware of visa grants, where people are coming from, the time frames for their arrival, preparation for their arrival et cetera. We need to make sure that the settlement services providers are ready to meet the people, that they are expecting particular arrivals et cetera. So it will be at the broad program level, if you like: exchanging information about what the program will broadly look like over a period of a program year so that DSS can manage its contracts with the service providers and then at a very individual case level, as we prepare for visa grant and arrival, so that that information flows to DSS so that they are ready to greet particular visa holders when they arrive in Australia.

Senator SINGH: As a number of these programs were part of this department until the new government took them out, from the experience of having those programs in this department, what would be the effect on successful settlement of newly arrived migrants should these programs cease to exist?

Mr Bowles : I think that is speculation that they would cease to exist. I am not sure that that is the case; it would be a question for DSS if that were the case. We are not expecting that; our programs exist—

Senator SINGH: You are not expecting any programs to cease existing that were once in the purview of this department?

Mr Bowles : I am not aware of anything. It is not a question for us; it is a question for DSS. We do not manage the programs.

Senator SINGH: But Ms Southern said that you are in a relation with the other departments and you are about to sign an MOU. You would be very aware if there were programs ceasing to exist, wouldn't you?

Mr Bowles : And I have said I am not aware of anything ceasing to exist.

Senator SINGH: Let us talk about the Building Multicultural Communities Program.

Mr Bowles : Again you will have to talk with Social Services.

Senator SINGH: That is a program that was cut in MYEFO, wasn't it?

Mr Bowles : Again you will have to talk to Social Services.

Senator SINGH: Minister?

Senator Cash: Again I refer to what the secretary is saying: you will need to refer to Social Services. It is no longer part of this department.

Senator SINGH: You know very well that $11.5 million was cut in MYEFO.

CHAIR: Senator, you cannot keep asking this department questions when the secretary has clearly said to you that it is—

Senator BOYCE: If she waits long enough, the Department of Social Services will be on.

Senator SINGH: Thank you, Chair. Calm down.

CHAIR: But you cannot keep asking when the secretary said it is not his area.

Senator SINGH: Calm down, Chair. This is where it clearly is an issue, because if we are talking about—

CHAIR: We are not after issues; we are after questions of this department in estimates.

Senator SINGH: Excuse me, Chair.

CHAIR: This is an estimates hearing where you ask questions.

Senator SINGH: I do not need you to tell me that. I am very aware of where I am at 10.25 at night.

CHAIR: It is not an issue area where you can make a statement and a political point. If you have a question, ask it. Otherwise, we will suspend.

Senator BOYCE: They are worried they will run out of questions, I think.

CHAIR: A question, please, Senator Singh.

Senator SINGH: Are you finished, you lot?

CHAIR: A question, Senator Singh, please.

Senator SINGH: A bit of a rabble. As I said in my opening question, how is this department, which is where it all starts for migrants and those seeking refugee status, going to ensure that there is a holistic approach to migrants and people seeking to come and settle in this country and that they are getting access to all the assistance and services they require if some of those assistances or programs are now located in different departments and some are now on the chopping block, like the $11.5 million that, in MYEFO, has been taken out of the Building Multicultural Communities Program, which I acknowledge is now in another department?

Mr Bowles : We will go over it again: the MOU that we have with Social Services is how we will manage the relationship between all of those factors that you talked about. The fact that we ran programs in a particular way does not mean Social Services have to run them in exactly the same way. It is a matter for Social Services. If they have changed the way they run their programs and their services, we would be interested, through the MOU, to work with them on how to provide the level of service that, at the end of the day, is government policy.

Senator SINGH: Okay. So there is no-one in the department anymore responsible for the Building Multicultural Communities Program.

Mr Bowles : Again, they have transferred through the machinery of government arrangements to the Department of Social Services.

Senator SINGH: I want to ask some questions around English language.

Dr Southern : That is not us anymore. That has transferred to the Department of Industry.

Senator SINGH: The Department of Industry?

Dr Southern : Correct.

Senator SINGH: Could you provide information on which programs that were located in this department are in which departments now.

Dr Southern : Certainly. The English as a second language program, the Adult Migrant English Program, has transferred to the Department of Industry, and the settlement services programs and multicultural affairs programs have all moved to the Department of Social Services.

Senator SINGH: Does this department have any grants programs?

Mr Bowles : Some minor ones, I think, but nothing significant.

Dr Southern : We have the displaced persons program.

Ms Cosson : We have retained three grant programs: the illegal migration research program, illegal migration policy and the Refugee Council of Australia.

Senator SINGH: Maybe this is more for the minister: what was the reason behind sending the Adult Migrant English Program to the Department of Industry?

Senator Cash: I will take that on notice for you.

Senator SINGH: You know a lot about that program because you were part of an inquiry in the last parliament.

Senator Cash: I said that I would take it on notice.

Senator SINGH: We looked deeply at the lack of hours on that program, the 500 hours that were offered. I thought you would have some interest in that as a minister.

Senator Cash: It is part of the machinery-of-government changes, and I can take the question on notice for you.

Senator SINGH: No-one here can tell me why AMEP was sent to the Department of Industry.

Mr Bowles : As part of the machinery-of-government after the election those issues were dealt with. We do not have any particular knowledge on all of those issues.

Senator SINGH: I am trying to work out where advice came from and whether it came to you or from you to the minister. Where was the decision made?

Mr Bowles : It is the decision of the new government to make decisions around their machinery of government. They have done that in a range of agencies like Employment and Education, which are separate now. There are those sorts of arrangements. The only extra piece of information that I could probably offer on the AMEP program and why it has gone to Industry is that there is a similar program for adult migrant English in the industry portfolio as it stands. That is my understanding but better clarity would be achieved by asking the industry department or portfolio.

Senator SINGH: Thank you, Mr Bowles, that was more information than the minister was able to give me. Have any stakeholders raised their concerns with you about this fragmentation of these programs into the other departments? That question is for you, too, Minister.

Senator Cash: No.

Senator SINGH: No stakeholders have raised any concerns at all?

Senator Cash: No, because I understand that the programs have merely moved.

Senator SINGH: You cannot answer questions around English language classes?

Mr Bowles : No.

Senator Cash: Industry for that one.

Senator SINGH: That makes it very difficult for pursuing things that are still in line with migrants and refugees, which should be part of this committee.

Mr Bowles : Senator, we had the same issue at the last estimates and I referred then to Industry and to Social Services. I understand there is a difference now but we cannot help in those areas anymore.

Senator SINGH: I guess the issue is that immigration is an end-to-end service. You are no longer able to provide that end service because of the fragmentation of these programs into different departments, particularly settlement being the main one of that. I understand that you did not make the move, Mr Bowles.

Mr Bowles : Maybe I can help you with some of that, Senator. Most services to migrants have been mainstream for a long while. Having sat on social policy secretary level committees in the past there has always been the significant crossover of issues between the social services world, if you like, and some of the services here, and it does make some sense if you stand back and look at that. It does not necessarily fragment, I think. That is a view from one perspective, but I can equally see a view from the other perspective that says if you have mainstream services happening this way, by adding that it actually strengthens the case about how you deal with the individuals. Once they are here they are living in our communities and living with the rest of the people who are in that service. I can see it from both perspectives.

Senator BOYCE: Socially inclusive services.

Senator SINGH: There was obviously funding for the Building Multicultural Communities Program which did come out of this department. Where has that funding now gone?

Mr Bowles : The money and the staff transferred to Social Services for that particular group and then to Industry for the Adult Migrant English Program.

Senator SINGH: So that was $14.2 million, was it, or —

Mr Bowles : Again I do not have the details anymore, because it is there. The entire programs around settlement and multicultural affairs were transferred to Social Services, and the Adult Migrant English Program was transferred to Industry, so the staffing and funding related to those programs moved. So part of those transfers will be this program that you are talking about, around $14 million.

Senator SINGH: I am interested because it is $14.2 million—or at least it is $11.5 million, I should say—that has now been chopped out and not provided to those multicultural communities that were expecting the grants. I know of many in my own home state, and I know that they are across the country. Under the previous government, they were contracted grant funds, which would have been under this department. Now that money has not been delivered to those multicultural communities, to the detriment of so many people who will miss out on the benefit of that money that your department would have provided, but obviously that has now been cut—

Senator Cash: It is administered by DSS.

Senator SINGH: No, it has not been administered; it has been cut. It has been cut in the MYEFO—the $11.5 million is gone. It is not in this department; it is not in another department. It is gone.

CHAIR: If it is not in this department then we should not be asking questions at this estimates.

Senator SINGH: It was.

CHAIR: I am sorry, but it is —

Senator SINGH: If you had some knowledge, you would know that.

CHAIR: We are looking at the expenditure in this department now. If there is a question you have, ask it; otherwise, let's go home.

Ms Cosson : If I can just correct the record, technically the secretary is right—that funding will transfer to the Department of Social Services—but at this stage we have given an interim transfer and the remaining funds have actually been earmarked for transfer. So we are just finalising the MOU issue you talked about earlier, Senator. So that is just a technicality that the funding has not been transferred yet, but it will.

Senator SINGH: Right. That is interesting. So the funding has not been transferred to all of these different programs that we have already canvassed this evening.

Ms Cosson : We have given the undertaking to the Department of Social Services and reached an agreement on what that funding transfer will be. This is included in that funding transfer and—

CHAIR: Are you able to spend it?

Ms Cosson : No, it is actually earmarked for the Department of Social Services, because they have the function and the staff to perform that work, but it was just a technicality in relation to the actual section 32 transfer.

CHAIR: You are not able to spend it.

Senator SINGH: In the earmarked funding that will be transferred to those departments, for those programs that are no longer in this department, are you providing $11.5 million less out of the $ 14.2 million that was part of the Building Multicultural Communities Program as listed in the MYEFO?

Ms Cosson : Yes, that is correct. We are giving them that funding as part of the transfer. At the moment we have transferred $41 million for all the functions that DSS will deliver, but it is going to be, over the forward estimates, about $492 million in administered and $175 million in departments. That is the funding that we have agreed to transfer to Social Services, once we have completed the MOU. That covers off all the programs which were previously delivered in our department.

Senator SINGH: Can you confirm that you were taking into account that the MYEFO had $11.5 million cut out of one particular program Building Multicultural Communities?

Ms Cosson : That is correct.

Senator SINGH: So you will be providing that $14.2 million less the $11.5 million?

Ms Cosson : The advice that I have received indicates that that is correct, but what I will do is take it on notice and give a complete breakdown of what is being transferred to the Department of Social Services and the Department of Industry, because we have a comprehensive breakdown of all that.

Senator SINGH: Is the delay in money being transferred actually delaying some of those grant programs being rolled out?

Ms Cosson : No, there is no delay.

Senator SINGH: Settlement grants?

Ms Cosson : No.

Mr Bowles : No.

Ms Cosson : As we have transferred that initial $41 million, it has allowed DSS to continue that work and honour those grant programs.

Senator SINGH: Is the delay in the money being transferred delaying some of the grant programs being rolled out?

Ms Cosson : No.

Senator SINGH: Settlement grants?

Ms Cosson : No. Because we have transferred the initial $41 million, that has allowed DSS to continue that work and honour those grant programs.

Senator SINGH: You were saying that the settlement program is still on its usual target of providing to those settlement service providers.

Ms Cosson : Yes, that is my understanding. That is correct.

Senator SINGH: Are you sure about that?

Ms Cosson : From what I understand, that is correct—yes.

Senator SINGH: Maybe all will be revealed once the MOU is provided. Is the committee able to have a copy of that MOU once it is drafted?

Mr Bowles : It would not be a normal thing, but I am happy to take that on notice.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Singh. Minister, I thank you and your officers for your assistance and information today.

Senator Cash: Thank you very much, Chair.

CHAIR: It has been well received. I also thank Hansard, as always, as well as Broadcasting and Ms Dunstan and her staff, who have done a wonderful job as always.

Committee adjourned at 22 : 40