Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee


In Attendance

Senator Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Outcome 2


Mr Andrew Tongue, Associate Secretary, Indigenous Affairs

Mr Richard Eccles, Deputy Secretary, Indigenous Affairs

Ms Elizabeth Kelly, Deputy Secretary, Governance

Indigenous Affairs Group

Ms Marie Taylor, First Assistant Secretary, Housing, Land and Culture Division

Ms Belinda Campbell, Assistant Secretary, Housing Branch

Ms Paul Denny, Assistant Secretary, Remote Strategies Branch

Mr Daniel Owen, Assistant Secretary, Land Reform Branch

Mr Wayne Beswick, Assistant Secretary, Land Management Branch

Ms Susan Black, First Assistant Secretary, Program Integrity and Engagement Division

Ms Fiona Andrew, Assistant Secretary, Program Office Strategy , Policy Branch

Mr Stuart Turnbull, Assistant Secretary, I ndigenous A ffairs G roup Risk, Compliance and Integrity Branch

Ms Maxine Ewens, Assistant Secretary, Grant Systems Development Branch

Ms Brenda Campe, Acting Assistant Secretary, Program Office Implementation Branch

Mr Geoff Richardson, Assistant Secretary, Indigenous Engagement Branch

Mr Matt Stafford, First Assistant Secretary, Community Safety and Policy Division

Ms Rachel O’Connor, Assistant Secretary, Strategy Policy and Coordination Branch

Mr Gavin Matthews, Assistant Secretary, Community Safety Branch

Mr Robert Ryan, Assistant Secretary, Program Innovation Branch

Mr Brendan Gibson, Assistant Secretary, Health Branch

Ms Liz Hefren-Webb, First Assistant Secretary, Schools, Information and Evaluation Division

Ms Fiona Sawyers, Assistant Secretary, Education Policy and Coordination Branch

Mr Neil Harwood, Assistant Secretary, Early Childhood and Higher Education Branch

Mr Mike Fordham, Assistant Secretary, Program Delivery and Support Branch

Mr Matthew James, Assistant Secretary, I ndigenous A ffairs G roup Information, Evaluation Branch

Mr Bronwyn Field, Assistant Secretary, Intergovernmental and Whole of Government Policy and Strategy Branch

Ms Kerrie Tim, Principal Adviser, Indigenous Affairs

Mr Matt Cahill, National Director, Regional Network

Ms Nadine Williams, First Assistant Secretary, Community and Economic Division

Mr Ryan Bulman, Assistant Secretary, Policy and Engagement Branch

Ms Maya Stuart-Fox, Assistant Secretary, Economic Development Branch

Ms Gayle Anderson, Assistant Secretary, Operations and Performance Branch

Ms Ngaire Hosking, First Assistant Secretary, Indigenous Employment and Recognition Division

Ms Marion Moss, Legal Services Branch

Mr Robert McMahon, Strategic Priorities Branch

Mr Will Story, Constitutional Recognition Branch

Mr Brant Smith, Environment Branch

Ms Ingrid Kemp, Employment Policy and Program s Branch

Mr Ben Neal, First Assistant Secretary , Corporate Services Division

Ms Amanda McIntyre, Chief Financial Officer

Indigenous Business Australia

Mr Chris Fry, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Colin Clements, General Manager, Homes

Mr Wally Tallis, General Manager, Enterprises

Office of the Regis trar of Indigenous Corporations

Mr Anthony Beven, Registrar

Outback Stores Pty Ltd

Mr Steve Moore, Chief Executive Officer

Office of Township Leasing

Mr Greg Roche, Executive Director

Department of Health

Dr Wendy Southern, Deputy Secretary

Ms Bobbi Campbell, First Assistant Secret ary, Indigenous Health Division

Ms Tania Rishniw, Assistant Secretary, Strategy and Evidence Branch

Ms Bridget Carrick, A cting Assistant Secretary, Health Programs and Sector Development Branch

Ms Meredeth Taylor, Assistant Secretary, Program , Ser vices and Access Support Branch

Ms Natasha Cole, First Assistant Secretary, Health Services Division

Mr Chris Bedford, Assistant Secretary, Primary Health Networks Establishment

Mr Paul McCormack, Assistant Secretary, Regional Services Grants Branch, Grant Services Division

Ms Lisa McGlynn, Assistant Secretary, Drug Strategy Branch, Population Health and Sport Division

Committee met at 09:01

CHAIR ( Senator Bernardi ): I declare open this meeting of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee. Today the committee will continue examination of additional estimates with a cross-portfolio hearing on Indigenous matters. The committee may also examine the annual reports of the departments and agencies appearing before it. The committee has fixed 1 April 2016 as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice. The committee will begin with examination of portfolio agencies as listed on the program, and then proceed to outcome 2 of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, followed by Indigenous health issues where the Department of Health will join officers of PM&C.

Understanding order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee, they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee.

The Senate, by resolution in 1999, endorsed the following test of relevance of questions at estimates hearings: any questions going to the operations or financial positions of the departments and agencies which are seeking funds in the estimates are relevant questions for the purposes of estimates hearings. I remind officers that the Senate has resolved there are no areas in connection with the expenditure of public funds where any person has the discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament or its committees unless the parliament has expressly provided otherwise.

The Senate has resolved also that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth should not be asked to give opinions on matter of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to an order of the Senate of 13 May 2009 specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised.

The extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

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

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

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

(1) If:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

( 13 May 2009 J.1941 )

(Extract, Senate Standing Orders)

Witnesses are specifically reminded that a statement that information or a document is confidential or consists of advice to government is not a statement that meets the requirements of the 2009 order. Instead, witnesses are required to provide some specific indication of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or the document.

Officers are requested to keep opening statements brief, or seek to incorporate longer statements into the Hansard.