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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
28/05/2015
Estimates
FINANCE PORTFOLIO

FINANCE PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Cormann, Minister for Finance

Senator Ronaldson, Special Minister of State

Department of Finance

Executive

Ms Jane Halton PSM, Secretary

Outcome 1—Support sustainable Australian Government finances through providing high quality policy advice and operational support to government and Commonwealth entities to maintain effective and efficient use of public resources.

Ms Rosemary Huxtable, Deputy Secretary, Budget Group

Ms Teena Blewitt, First Assistant Secretary, Budget Policy and Coordination Division

Mr Arthur Camilleri, Assistant Secretary, Long Term Budget Policy Branch

Mr David Mackay, Assistant Secretary, Budget Coordination Branch

Mr Murali Venugopal, Assistant Secretary, Budget Analysis Branch

Mr Stephen Clively, First Assistant Secretary, Government and Defence Division

Mr Mark Thomann, First Assistant Secretary, Social Policy Division

Mr David Weiss, First Assistant Secretary, Industry, Education and Infrastructure Division

Mr Alan Greenslade, First Assistant Secretary, Financial Analysis, Reporting and Management Division

Mr Nathan Smyth, First Assistant Secretary, Governance and Public Management

Ms Simone Pensko, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Efficiency, Assurance and Digital Government Division

Dr Stein Helgeby, Deputy Secretary, Governance and Resource Management Group

Outcome 2—Support an efficient and high-performing public sector through providing leadership to Commonwealth entities in ongoing improvements to public sector governance, including through systems, frameworks, policy, advice, and service delivery.

Mr John Edge, Acting Deputy Secretary, Business, Procurement and Asset Management Group

Mr Robin Renwick, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Commercial and Claims Division

Mr Robert Antich, Assistant Secretary, Risk, Insurance and Special Claims Branch (Comcover)

Ms Tooey Elliott, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Property and Construction Division

Mr John Sheridan, First Assistant Secretary, Technology and Procurement Division

Mr Nathan Smyth, First Assistant Secretary, Governance and Public Management

Ms Laurie Van Veen, Assistant Secretary, Communication Advice Branch

Ms Amanda Lee, Assistant Secretary, Funds and Superannuation Branch

Mr Lembit Suur, First Assistant Secretary, Governance and Public Management Reform Taskforce

Ms Simone Pensko, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Efficiency, Assurance and Digital Government Division

Ms Rina Bruinsma, Assistant Secretary, Digital Government, Investment and Assurance

Dr Stein Helgeby, Deputy Secretary, Governance and Resource Management Group

Outcome 3—Support for Parliamentarians and others as required by the Australian Government through the delivery of, and advice on, entitlements and targeted assistance

Mr Carl Murphy, Acting Deputy Secretary, Chief Operating Officer Group

Mr Steve O'Loughlin, Assistant Secretary, Enterprise Management Office Branch

Ms Cheryl-Anne Moy, First Assistant Secretary, Ministerial and Parliamentary Services Division

General

Ms Linda Powell, First Assistant Secretary, Finance Transformation

Ms Carolyn Driessen, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Corporate Services Division

Ms Rozanne Frost, First Assistant Secretary, Chief Information Officer

Australian Electoral Commission

Dr Stein Helgeby, Deputy Secretary, Governance and Resource Management Group

Mr Tom Rogers, Electoral Commissioner

Mr Kevin Kitson, Acting Deputy Commissioner

Mr Pablo Carpay, First Assistant Commissioner

Mr Tim Courtney, Acting First Assistant Commissioner

Mr Paul Pirani, Chief Legal Officer

Mr Stephen Blackburn, Chief Finance Officer

Ms Gabrielle Paten, Assistant Commissioner, Election Reform Programme Branch

Ms Anna Robinson, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Election Planning, Systems and Services Branch

Mr Andrew Gately, Assistant Commissioner, Roll Management Branch

Mr Stuart Oreo, Assistant Commissioner, Education and Communications Branch

Ms Emma Deutrom, Assistant Commissioner, People Services Branch

Ms Seema Srivastava, Assistant Commissioner, Funding and Disclosure Branch

Ms Lynn White, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Information Technology Branch

Mr Nathan Smyth, First Assistant Secretary, Governance and Public Management

ComSuper

Dr Jill Charker, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Richard Bridge, Branch Head, People and Governance Branch

MsVidoshi Jana, Acting Chief Financial Officer

Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation

Mr Peter Carrigy-Ryan, Chief Executive Officer

Ms Bronwyn McNaughton, General Counsel

ASC Pty Ltd

Mr Mark Lamarre, Interim Chief Executive Officer, ASC Shipbuilding

Mr Ashley Menadue, Chief Financial Officer

Ms Wendy Hoad, General Counsel and Company Secretary

Mr Martin Edwards, General Manager, Current Operations, AWD Alliance

Mr Stuart Whiley, Interim Chief Executive Officer, ASC Shipbuilding

Committee met at 09 :01

CHAIR ( Senator Bernardi ): I declare open this hearing of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee. Today the committee will continue examination of the budget estimates for the department and agencies of the Finance portfolio. The committee may also examine the annual reports of the departments and agencies appearing before it. The committee is due to report to the Senate on 23 June 2015, and has fixed 10 July 2015 as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice.

Under standing 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 the 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 of financial positions of the departments and agencies seeking funds in the estimates are relevant questions for the purpose of estimates hearings. I remind officers that the Senate has resolved that there are no areas in connection with the expenditure of public funds where any person has the discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament, or its committees, unless the parliament has 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 matters of policy and should be given a 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, pp 124-125)

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.