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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
24/05/2017
Estimates
ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S PORTFOLIO

ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Brandis, Attorney-General

Attorney-General's Department

Mr Chris Moraitis PSM, Secretary

Mr Iain Anderson, Deputy Secretary, Civil Justice and Corporate Group

Ms Nicole Rose PSM, Deputy Secretary, Criminal Justice Group

Ms Katherine Jones, Deputy Secretary, National Security and Emergency Management Group

Auscheck

Mr Michael Pahlow, Assistant Secretary

Australian Government Solicitor

Mr Michael Kingston, Australian Government Solicitor

Civil Justice Policy and Program s Division

Ms Sara Samios, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Legal Services Coordination

Ms Kathleen Denley, Assistant Secretary, Legal Assistance Branch

Mr Nathan Rudder, Director, Legal Assistance

Dr Albin Smrdel, Assistant Secretary, Courts, Tribunals and Administrative Law Branch

Ms Ashleigh Saint, Acting Assistant Secretary, Family Law Branch

Mr Cameron Gifford, Assistant Secretary, Civil Justice Policy and Programs Branch

Ms Petra Gartmann, Assistant Secretary, Office of Legal Services Coordination

Ms Toni Pirani, Assistant Secretary, Royal Commission Commonwealth Representatives

Ms Kimberley Williams, Director, Family Law

Ms Sarah Teasey, Director, Family Law

Civil Law Unit

Mr Andrew Walter, Assistant Secretary, Civil Law Unit

Corporate Services Division

Mr Stephen Lutze, Chief Financial Officer

Human Resources

Ms Lauren Alcantara, Acting Assistant Secretary, Human Resources

Information Division

Mr Stephen Andrew, Chief Information Officer

Counter Terrorism and Intelligence Unit

Mr Anthony Coles, Assistant Secretary

Countering Violent Extremism Centre

Mr Pablo Carpay, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Samuel Grunhard, Assistant Director

Criminal Casework

Mr Stephen Bouwhuis, Assistant Secretary, International Law Enforcement Cooperation

Mr Mark Gray, Assistant Secretary, International Law Enforcement Cooperation

Criminal Justice Policy and Program s Division

Mr Owen Lodge, Acting Assistant Secretary, Criminal Law Policy Branch

Ms Catherine Hawkins, First Assistant Secretary, Criminal Justice Policy and Programs Division

Mr Daniel Mossop, Acting Assistant Secretary, Transnational Crime Branch

Mr Ryan Perry, Principal Legal Officer, Transnational Crime Branch

Emergency Management Australia

Mr Aaron Verlin, Acting Director General

Mr Rob Cameron, Assistant Secretary, Crisis Management Branch

Ms Elizabeth Quinn, Assistant Secretary, Disaster Resilience Strategy Branch

International Legal Assistance

Ms Frances Brown, Acting Assistant Secretary

National Security Division

Ms Sarah Chidgey, First Assistant Secretary, Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security Division

Ms Anna Harmer, First Assistant Secretary, Intelligence and Identity Security Executive

Mr Andrew Rice, Assistant Secretary, National Security Policy Branch

Ms Anne Sheehan, Assistant Secretary, Communications Security Executive

Office of Constitutional Law

Mr Jeff Murphy, Acting Special Adviser (Constitutional)

Office of International Law

Mr John Reid, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Jesse Clarke, Acting Assistant Secretary

Ms Sue Robertson, Assistant Secretary

Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse

Mr Philip Reed, Chief Executive Officer

Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory

Ms Kirsty Windeyer, Official Secretary

Strategy and Delivery Division

Ms Jamie Lowe, Assistant Secretary

Ms Leanne Loan, Acting Assistant Secretary

Ms Alexandra Mathews, Assistant Secretary

Committee met at 09:03

CHAIR ( Senator Ian Macdonald ): I declare open the continuation of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee's inquiry into the 2017-18 budget. The committee is examining the proposed expenditure for the budget of the Attorney-General's portfolio. The committee has set Friday, 7 July as the date by which answers to questions on notice are to be returned. The committee has also decided that written questions on notice should be provided to the secretariat no later than 2 June. All evidence is taken in public session. Witnesses know they are protected by parliamentary privilege.

I am sure everyone here is familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates. Any questions going to the operations or financial positions of departments and agencies which are seeking funds in estimates are relevant questions. There is no area of expenditure of public funds where any person has the discretion to withhold details or explanations, although that is providing they are relevant to the 2017-18 budget. I think officers are aware that they are not to be asked to give opinions on matters of policy, but they can be asked for explanations of policies and factual questions about how and when policies were adopted. Any claim of public interest immunity must be made to the committee and it is then for the committee to decide. I incorporate the public immunity statement.

   The extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

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

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

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

(1) If:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

( 13 May 2009 J.1941 )

(Extract, Senate Standing Orders)

We have agreed to allow the media to film today's proceedings, but that permission can be revoked at any time. Filming is not to occur during suspension or adjournment of proceedings and we also require any filming not to be of either witnesses' or committee members' papers. There are resolutions concerning broadcasting that are available should anyone want them.