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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


Mr Tongue : Just while my colleagues are coming to the table, can I just advise the committee that since last estimates Deputy Secretary Richard Eccles has transferred to the Department of Communications. Ms Hefren-Webb is acting in his role. Professor Ian Anderson from the University of Melbourne will join the department as the deputy secretary next Monday. Our organisational chart will be updated when that occurs and we will provide that to the secretary.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator SMITH: I have some questions of the department, but I will wait my turn.

CHAIR: Thank you. We will come to you next. We will start with Senator McCarthy.

Senator McCARTHY: I would like to put a question to the minister. Is the minister aware that the appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court against the MJD Foundation was dismissed today?

Senator Scullion: About 15 minutes ago. I understand it was a vote of two to one against the government's position. That is correct.

Senator McCARTHY: What does this now mean?

Senator Scullion: I am sitting here. I just have a short note that tells me that it was two to one and so obviously I have not considered the matter.

Senator McCARTHY: Given this is the second occasion that you have been unsuccessful, are you going to accept the umpire's decision and implement the court's ruling?

Senator Scullion: I have not seen the court's ruling, but I think it is useful to say that we are unlikely to appeal it, if that is what you are saying. It is unlikely that this will be appealed to the High Court.

Senator McCARTHY: What have been the legal costs to the government in pursuing this case?

Senator Scullion: Somebody may be able to assist but, if not, we can take it on notice.

Ms Hefren-Webb : We will have to take that on notice.

Senator McCARTHY: I will just ask this question. Is there anything that you would like to say to MJD?

Senator Scullion: No, not at all. We will obviously be speaking to MJD, but I would like to have a look at the findings. This is, of course, part of the legacy issue where the previous government was able to initiate their own interests, whether it was the $90 million for staff housing for governments out of the ABA or this MJD, which was a second tranche. This was a $10 million tranche. The first was $6 million. We have made a number of changes, and we will have to consider ensuring that the legacy from the changes we have made is a more permanent legacy. I will be considering having some legislative changes to ensure that all governments do not see the Aboriginal Benefit Trusts Account as being an account that they can actually make decisions on rather than the committee.

As I said, I will be considering the judgment. I had already decided that this is not something that needs to be further appealed. We were looking for some certainty around the capacity for ministers to effectively make decisions that were not necessarily supported fully by the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account Committee, and we have made a number of those changes. So, government no longer makes unsolicited use of those funds. The only way that those funds can be used is by recommendation of the committee, and the only role that government plays in that is a veto power. We do not put anything up, but we can say or I can say, 'No, we don't want that to happen.' It is usually in the case where I think that the government should be paying for this particular initiative rather than the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account, because I do not really believe that they should be providing their own services.

As I have indicated, the health services should be provided by the Department of Health and not by the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account, which was the fundamental of this. As you would be aware, I have ensured in the interim that the funds that would be the equivalent of the interest made has been paid to the Machado-Joseph Disease Foundation. So, in the interim there has been no loss at all to MJD whilst this process has taken place. We will be looking very carefully at the determination. I knew only moments before you when someone came and handed me that piece of paper. We will have a closer look at the determination. I hope that is helpful.

Senator DODSON: Can I express our appreciation for the knowledge in terms of the deputy secretary's change and wish the new professor all the best in his new role. He has had a very good career at Melbourne University. We look forward to his influence upon the policy and strategy emanating from the department.

I would like to refer to some of the answers given to questions on notice last time. I presume you have those there. In relation to answers 4 and 6, can you explain to me what the discrepancy is in the figures pertaining to that? In 4, you say that 146,654 penalties were applied to 20,409.

Senator Scullion: We are struggling a little bit. So, it was question number?

Senator DODSON: It was question No. 4.

Ms Hefren-Webb : One-two-four?

Senator DODSON: On my page, it says four. It is the answer to four.

Senator Scullion: We have found it.

Senator DODSON: It is a correlation between your answer to 4 and 6. Can you just explain to me the discrepancy in the numbers there?

Ms Williams : In looking at the answer here, question 4 clearly applies to the CDP caseload and the number of penalties applied to CDP participants in 2015 to 2016. Just from what I have got here, it appears that question 6 deals with the penalties that were applied to the jobactive caseload—so the caseload in mainstream Australia as opposed to remote.

Senator DODSON: So, a job seeker is different to a jobactive seeker?

Ms Williams : That is right.

Senator Scullion: Just as a point of clarification, the community development program is in a particular post code, as you would be aware, but the name of the engagement program in mainstream Australia is called jobactive. That is just the name of the program.

Senator DODSON: So you are talking about—

Senator Scullion: Yes. So, there is the CDP and there is the jobactive. Jobactive is the entire footprint, whereas CDP is not.

Ms Williams : So, different jobseekers.

Senator DODSON: Are there that many jobs out there?

Ms Williams : I am sorry?

Senator DODSON: If there are this number of active jobseekers, are there that many jobs in these locations to accommodate that?

Ms Williams : Generally, obviously, in remote Australia, no, there is not a large number of jobs. I think the figures in this QON refer specifically to those jobseekers who have attracted penalties. Not all jobseekers obviously would receive penalties in that period. But certainly the labour markets in remote communities are much weaker than in the jobactive areas, which are in the major cities and the like.

Senator DODSON: Can I go to your answer No. 5 which, again, is dealing with jobseekers. How active is the capacity to appeal to DHS to review a decision on a financial penalty? How actively are people coming back?

Ms Williams : That is formally triggered. I think that question refers to the comprehensive compliance assessment. That is automatically triggered whenever a jobseeker has three no show, no pay penalties. That is automatically triggered in the system. DHS is required to conduct an assessment of why that non-compliance is occurring and whether there are any factors that they need to take into account when it comes to applying the penalties. So, where there are specific things that are occurring in that jobseeker's life that means they are not able to actually attend activities and that is the reason that they are incurring those penalties. That happens as a matter of course when a jobseeker gets three no show, no pay penalties.

Senator DODSON: What I was trying to get at is, how many of those people, as opposed to the departmental officers, exercise that facility in calling to lodge a complaint or register their concern?

Ms Williams : That tends to happen automatically. I can certainly investigate the number of times that a jobseeker actually made a complaint around the process, which is perhaps a piece of information that we do not have on us at the moment.

Senator DODSON: I know there is a fair degree of frustration both on the officers' side and on the recipients' side in relation to the use of technology in trying to respond and deal with concerns that people have. I am really trying to get to, what is the incidence of all of this and whether there is a way to remedy it.

Ms Williams : It is important to note that DHS investigates every penalty. That is the role of DHS as opposed to the provider, to make a decision around the penalty, essentially, and then they also obviously run that CCA process, that comprehensive compliance assessment process. I understand the point that you are making and I will look to provide further information on that.

Senator DODSON: Thank you. Can I go to your answer to question 14. Basically, I am looking for an understanding of what this is because, again, there is difficulty sometimes in the community as to what the good intentions are and how it is actually being delivered. Can you explain to me the question of underperforming and how that is dealt with? How is an individual dealt with if they are deemed to be underperforming? They might be underperforming for a number of reasons.

Ms Williams : Yes.

Senator DODSON: My reading of this is that there is an assumption that this is an able-bodied person capable of doing what has been required and they are just malingering or they are not doing the job. That may not be the case. There might be a range of other reasons. I just want to understand it.

Ms Hefren-Webb : Underperforming is in relation to the service providers; that is what that response relates to. It is not about individuals. We would not refer to an individual underperforming.

Senator DODSON: What is the incidence of that?

Ms Williams : The question there relates, obviously, as Ms Hefren-Webb said, to the way in which we manage the performance of the service providers. It has a reasonably rigorous approach applied to it. I might ask Mr Denny to provide some further detail on the approach that we use to actually ensure that the services delivered by the providers that we contract are of a very high quality and the jobseekers are getting the sort of services that government would expect. Mr Denny, if you could.

Mr Denny : We have a program management framework which sets out how we measure provider performance. Part of that framework involves ongoing regular maintenance and monitoring by our contract managers that are distributed right across the country, but we also conduct a formal performance review every six months. What we do through that process is collect data from our IT system. We ask the provider to provide evidence and we also go on site and do a thorough review of what is happening on the ground. So, we look at the activities. We look at the quality of services that they are providing to jobseekers.

If we identify underperformance through that process, our first step really is to work with the provider and be open and honest about what we are finding. That conversation happens throughout that process, and so hopefully there will be no surprises when a provider comes to that process because our contract managers will have done that work in the first instance and worked with them to address issues that we have picked up.

If we do pick up formal performance issues, our first response is to work with the provider. In many cases, we place them on what we call a performance improvement plan, where we give them specific targets. We might say, 'You are doing this really well over here, but you're not doing this so well here, so here's a target you need to reach', and then we will assess that every month. We will continue to monitor that performance on that plan every month. It is almost like a service improvement plan. If they continue to fail through that process, depending on the unique circumstances, because every region is different and every provider is different—there might be extenuating circumstances—but if they continue to fail through that performance improvement process we have other remedies under the funding agreement, and so we can also breach that provider for underperformance. If necessary, that can involve just rectifying the breach, so addressing the performance issue or the compliance issue, or it may involve in the most serious case termination.

CHAIR: It is right on time for a break. Do you mind if we return to this in 15 minutes after the break?

Senator DODSON: I do not mind at all.

Proceedings suspended from 10:31 to 10:44

CHAIR: The committee will now resume. Just for the information of all committee members, we are proceeding through general questions for the department now and when all committee members are satisfied that we have exhausted those issues we will call the ANAO to the table and we will discuss those issues. Senator Dodson, would you like to continue?

Senator DODSON: Thank you. Mr Denny, two other questions in relation to the matter we were talking about before. Are these providers within Australia or are they Australian companies? Some difficulties that people have is that they cannot understand the provider.

Mr Denny : Yes. They are almost all Australian based companies. Twenty-six of them are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations. So, there are 40 providers in total covering 60 regions. As I said, 26 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and 14 non-Aboriginal. There might be one or two providers that are multinational but has a large presence here in Australia.

Senator DODSON: There is an assumption that the Indigenous providers have competencies to deal with the cultural context here. What is provided to those who are not Indigenous in terms of cultural competence?

Mr Denny : All the providers are required to deliver services that are appropriate to the needs of the jobseeker as part of our funding agreement. There are requirements in our funding agreement about tailoring services to the needs of Indigenous clients, but remembering that CDP is not an Indigenous specific program either. It is a remote program. In some cases, the caseload is fifty-fifty Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and so providers need to be able to deliver services to the needs of the individual and the community.

Senator DODSON: And a sensitivity to the diversity of the cultures?

Mr Denny : Absolutely. So, things like use of interpreters and those sorts of things we require as part of the funding agreement.

Senator Scullion: The assertion that you make behind the question is that Indigenous organisations are going to be more successful and that is why the numbers are 21 against 14. We do not have any evidence, but I suppose in the observations that we make all the time there is no doubt that that is in fact the case. We always keep a watchful eye out for opportunities to ensure that we have more Indigenous organisations doing this work and, of course, that is fundamentally based on service delivery. Whilst there are some places that are fifty-fifty, that is certainly at the very thin end of the spectrum. So, we keep a weather eye on any changes that we have to make about performance. We will be moving towards wherever it is possible to an Indigenous organisation and certainly organisations with more Indigenous employees.

Senator DODSON: Can I just move to the question of legislative reform. I am not sure, Minister, whether these are questions for you or to the head of the department. Probably to you; I would imagine they are political questions.

Senator Scullion: I will flick it away if I have no idea.

Senator DODSON: Are you still committed to the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Community Development Program) Bill 2015?

Senator Scullion: Broadly, we are. As you would be aware, this is a matter of negotiation through government and across parliament to ensure that we land on the right space. Yes, we certainly are committed to the improvements that that process can bring.

Senator DODSON: Can you provide an outline of what further consultations have taken place since the introduction of the bill?

Ms Williams : There was quite significant consultation as part of the introduction of the bill and following the introduction of the bill. Over the last couple of months, we have continued to undertake discussions, particularly with current CDP providers and those Aboriginal organisations that have a particular interest in being involved in the design and the delivery of any new model.

Senator DODSON: Is it possible to get a list of those consulted post lodgement of the bill?

Ms Williams : Yes, certainly. I can provide you with that.

Senator DODSON: Minister, can you outline any proposed changes that may be contemplated in the bill; that is, changes to what you have actually got?

Senator Scullion: Yes. I just want to be absolutely sure that I am talking about the same legislation. I will check on that.

Senator DODSON: Am I in doubt or are you?

Senator Scullion: No. Neither of us are in doubt anymore. Some of the principal changes that we are proposing are all to ameliorate a particular challenge. For example, at the moment the no work, no pay, the currency of turning up is about a day. You have a day. You lose a day if you do not turn up. So, if someone turns up for part of that day or for an hour of that day or even five minutes of that day, then there is some issue, 'Did I turn up for the day or not?' The legislative change that we would look for would be that you can turn up for an hour or any part of that hour, because it resolves that particular issue. That was one of the issues. I can get my first assistant secretary to go through all of them, but each one of them was to ameliorate a particular challenge that was happening in the system. It was to make this work better.

Ms Williams : I can briefly run through that. The legislation essentially set out a framework to allow for weekly payments to ensure that individuals are better able to manage their finances and connected to those weekly payments, as the minister mentioned, an hourly penalty for every hour of activity that a jobseeker missed—that sort of no show, no pay requirement.

It also introduced or put on the table the potential for jobseekers to be able to earn up to the minimum wage under an increased income threshold. That was the other core component of it. There were a number of other elements to the reform, including arrangements to allow for any penalties to be returned back to community via some form of fund process, and it also essentially preserved the protections that are currently available under social security legislation around things such as people having a reasonable excuse for not turning up to an activity, appeal rights and rights for review, et cetera, which are fundamentally to ensure that individuals' rights are protected. It was placed on the table as a phased in package, essentially, so with the potential to start in a couple of regions and then to be phased in.

Senator Scullion: Also, there is an acknowledgement of the need for cultural leave. There will be 10 days specific cultural leave included within this package to ensure that people can go about their cultural business in a way that does not have an impact necessarily on their financial circumstances.

Ms Williams : I should also add that probably the most critical element of it was that it essentially devolved decision making to local organisations. It would provide local organisations, who know jobseekers personally and intimately, with the ability to make those compliance decisions which essentially sit with DHS at present.

Senator McCARTHY: With that cultural leave, what payment would they receive for that day or those 10 days?

Senator Scullion: Basically, it is an additional day. There are 10 days under which you can attend to your cultural responsibilities and you will still receive a pay. There is no no work no, pay provision for 10 days of the year under which you can meet your cultural obligations and you are not penalised for not being at work during that time. In much the same way we have used some of the models in the Northern Territory. West MacDonnell Shire, for example, has a whole range of specificity. They spent a long time working out who would approve that and who would do those sorts of things. It is basically worked on a model of some of the shires who provide cultural leave.

Senator McCARTHY: Will you need an explanation of cultural leave as part of that following up?

Senator Scullion: In the minutiae, no. It is basically that you have a quantum of two weeks, effectively, under which you can just simply say, 'Listen, this is not anybody else's business. This is the cultural leave that I am taking.' So that allocation is being made. It is as flexible as possible. It is not the sort of matter that anyone else, certainly government, can start looking into as to what is appropriate and what is not. We are just giving a blanket. I know people will use that appropriately. We know in places like some of the shires that use it that, it works well. That is the amount that they think is effective.

Senator DODSON: There is some criticism about the amount of discretion that the minister has in that particular bill. Are you proposing to make some changes to put some limits on that discretion or to multiply it?

Senator Scullion: We are, because we have moved ahead a little bit. I suppose it is not with the consultation where they were thinking and working across parliament in this area, but we certainly are considering some changes. One of the challenges was this is a significantly new program. When I say a new program, the individuals will no longer effectively work for Centrelink, which is an important part of what they wish. They actually will work for the provider. Because they are being paid by the provider, in those first six months or whatever period there is a higher level of risk that things may go wrong in terms of IT, computers or whatever. So, what we wanted to do is to ensure, in that period of time, that we could change back to another system to ensure that there was absolutely no impact on those people who were receiving those payments.

It was about trying to offset our nervousness around the IT program, which is why we intended to start the rollout with six organisations who had put their hand up and said, 'We would like to actually do this process', and to offset that we were actually having people from Centrelink immersed in that organisation. We will have our own staff immersed in that organisation. Because what we did not want to happen in this transition period was to have an issue where somebody actually did not get paid because of the transition process rather than any actions of their own. So, the broad discretions that were to be given to the minister under the act were simply to ameliorate that. That was our motivation. There is no other motivation. But it seemed to be a particular sticking point that I have got these enormous powers to turn the world upside down. We would be more prescriptive about the actual processes that we wanted to put in place, which is effectively a safety net, because we are having quite significant changes to the capacity required by those providers.

Senator DODSON: Minister, you would be aware of the Northern Territory organisation APO NT. In their recent report on some of these matters they have suggested that there might be some interim measures that could be taken rather than just waiting for the legislation to eventuate. Have you been appraised of those?

Senator Scullion: In broad terms. Again, legislation in this area can be done a number of ways. As I have indicated to a number of people on this committee, one of the ways I would like it done is to ensure that it insulates against further democratic process; in other words, if the Greens are elected to government at the next election, there will not be a sudden change about that. So, rather than just put it forward in the normal process of parliament, we really wanted to get some consensus. This is too important to have it subject to the vagaries of democracy.

That is why it has taken a little longer. But as you would be aware, I am actively involved in engaging all of the stakeholders. I think we are very close to a resolution. There is an issue outside of the proposed changes that we have in the legislation that people would like to prosecute, but the actual legislative changes that we are proposing are universally supported across Indigenous Australia. It is those matters that are not proposed in our changes that people would like to introduce, for example, some of the matters around the hours which are not part of this legislation change. I think it is reasonable to say that we have to try to deal with some of those matters concurrently to keep the goodwill of all the players in the space.

Senator DODSON: Thank you.

Senator McCARTHY: Under the CDP guidelines, Work for the Dole participants are entitled to up to six weeks off each year. Over the last year, how many participants have had the full six weeks off? Are you able to provide numbers on that?

Ms Williams : You are right, of course; there is a six-week break from activities that jobseekers are eligible for. I will have to provide those sorts of details on notice.

Senator Scullion: They are normally concurrent with an agreement in each community to actually have a closure. So, the provider closes down for a particular period. We are encouraging that. Because this is now based on each local community having a say. We obviously would like to have some consistency between a holiday and the school holidays, because the community having a holiday at a time when the schools are not having holidays has some negative outcomes in terms of school attendance. Again, this is a matter for each community and they provide us the advice when that happens.

Senator McCARTHY: If I can just get some statistics. You are welcome to take these questions on notice as well. If we can get some stats on how many participants have had the full six weeks time off, how many have had less than four weeks time off and how many have had two weeks or less off.

Ms Williams : We will provide what we can on that.

Senator McCARTHY: How many CDP participants have been placed in breach this financial year?

Ms Williams : The penalties data is pulled together quarterly. We provided advice on the previous quarter at the last estimates. The data for 1 July 2016 to 30 September 2016 is the most recent data that we have available. That was released last week. There have been 54,997 penalties applied in that quarter.

Senator McCARTHY: Fifty-four thousand?

Ms Williams : Nine hundred and ninety-seven in that quarter. That is the quarter from 1 July 2016 to 30 September 2016.

Senator SIEWERT: Is that the total overall?

Ms Williams : That is right. It is the total of no show, no pay penalties and also the serious failure eight-week penalties, which are the primary penalties that we tend to record. Similar to the last quarter, where we provided evidence, it is 82 per cent that were no show, no pay and the remainder were those serious failure eight-week penalties. As we said last time, those serious failure eight-week penalties—a large proportion of those tend to be waived as people re-engage. The proportion of those waived was roughly similar with the last quarter at around 94 per cent.

Senator McCARTHY: What was that percentage?

Ms Williams : It is around 94 per cent.

Senator McCARTHY: So, 94 per cent are waived?

Ms Williams : Yes. Those are the eight-week non-payment penalties. Those are the serious penalties for people who have not engaged for a period.

Ms Hefren-Webb : I think you might have asked how many people. That number of around 54,000 is the number of penalties. An individual may have incurred more than one, and some individuals will have incurred no penalties at all.

Senator McCARTHY: That is included in that 54,000?

Ms Hefren-Webb : The 54,000 is the number of penalties. It is not the number of people.

Senator SIEWERT: Somebody could have had four or five.

Senator McCARTHY: Can you give us the number of people?

Ms Williams : Ms Field may be able to assist you with that question.

Ms Field : For that quarter, 12,105 jobseekers received penalties.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you break that down to how many of those were no show and failures?

Ms Field : Yes, we can. For that quarter, 11,662 jobseekers received no show, no pay penalties. For the more serious non-compliance, it was 5,738 jobseekers. Just to explain—you cannot add those two together.

Senator SIEWERT: Somebody may have had both?

Ms Field : That is right. That is why it is 12,000 in total.

Senator McCARTHY: What is the average length of time spent in breach for participants?

Ms Field : I can talk you through the averages of how many no show penalties applied.

Senator McCARTHY: I feel we have had this conversation before, but let us go into it a little bit more.

Ms Field : Yes. So, for the no show, no pay penalties in that quarter around 62 per cent of the jobseekers received three or less penalties and around 3.4 per cent of the jobseekers had 10 or more penalties.

Senator McCARTHY: The question was around the average length of time. So, for example, the concerns I hear as I travel around are that people are left without any access to funds for well over eight weeks to two months. What is your average length of time?

Ms Field : I do not have that with me at the moment.

Senator McCARTHY: Are you able to—

Ms Williams : The important point around no show, no pay penalties is that they are a single day penalty. For the figures that Ms Field was just providing you with, it is roughly equivalent to a day, essentially, so one penalty equals one day without income support. Generally, an individual can only accrue three no show, no pay penalties, or three days without income support, before we trigger that comprehensive compliance assessment by DHS where DHS looks into all of the reasons why they have not been able to attend activities, et cetera.

Senator McCARTHY: Does that result in the non-compliance category? What are your days, then? Because if the jobseekers are about a day penalty—

Ms Williams : That is right.

Senator McCARTHY: Clearly once you have elevated the concerns around that particular participant—

Ms Williams : To DHS, yes.

Senator McCARTHY: What are the days, then, of those penalties and the impacts on them?

Ms Williams : So, they have had those three penalties. They have lost three days of income. While they are being assessed by DHS, they receive their income support. There is a range of other reasons why people can lose their income support, such as not reporting income, et cetera. There are multiple reasons why an individual may not receive that income support for a period.

Senator McCARTHY: What I am trying to understand is how the department differentiates between someone who might be in breach in a fairly comprehensive way for a significant amount of time. And how do you monitor if a particular participant is experiencing that kind of loss more often than anyone else, which can result in serious financial hardship, poverty, no food and no home?

Ms Williams : Absolutely. That is the purpose of that comprehensive compliance assessment process, so that an individual just cannot be breached time after time after time after time without someone from DHS going in and taking a look at the circumstances behind that. While that investigation occurs, no further penalties can be accrued and the individual has access to their income support. So, that is incredibly important.

Senator McCARTHY: Do you have figures for that? That is what I am trying to get from you.

Ms Williams : Yes, certainly.

Senator McCARTHY: How do you monitor that? Can we see it? Can the committee receive your monitoring report on those participants who fall in that category?

Ms Williams : DHS is responsible for that component of the income support system. It might be best if we were able to provide, on notice perhaps, some further detail around how that monitoring occurs.

Senator McCARTHY: Yes, certainly.

Senator Scullion: We might ask a question on notice. I will make sure that it is included in this. Just because it has passed, I will make sure that DHS get that question so they can provide all of that information as it was a question for here. I am sure we will be able to do that.

Senator McCARTHY: Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Senator McKenzie has some quick related questions and then I will come to you, Senator Siewert.

Senator McKENZIE: I wanted to get an idea of the attendance in the community development program, job outcomes and some actual evidence of changes to income that are occurring in remote stores since the CDP commenced.

Senator Scullion: I will just start out with some broad information. I know there has been media about some of the negativities around this. When this program started and changed in July of 2015, we had seven per cent of people who were actually attending or, in fact, had an excuse not to attend—so still only seven per cent. We are now at 62 per cent. That was in November 2016. And it remains on that trajectory. For the first time—and perhaps it is because we did not keep very good data in the past—the community development program has supported 12,446 people moving from welfare into a job.

Senator McKENZIE: That is fantastic.

Senator Scullion: That has happened since July of 2015. One of the great challenges—and I know there are plenty of people on the committee who would have followed this process for some time—is with the original CDEP it was always an end space. It was a model fundamentally about work, but it was also a model that was about training and there was an expectation that you would move from there. But over time those processes did not happen. We are really focused on ensuring that individuals can move from there.

Can I just say a brief response in terms of the hardship process. Less than one per cent of the amount that is paid out that was actually incurred as a penalty. I have heard of conversations about hardship and food. I share those concerns. When someone says something in the media about people not being able to feed their kids or being thrown out or getting evicted it is a significant concern. I can say, I think with some comfort, that each one of those that I have seen that has been brought to my attention I have investigated. Whether it is a specific community who claims that their store, for example, has had a decrease in the amount of food sold and, therefore, it has happened since CDP. I have investigated those on a place-by-place basis and I have satisfied myself that that thus far has not been the circumstances at all.

In the broad, the allegations about food being critical and stores going down—for example, we have some 36 stores across our remote communities—a large amount of the stores are outback stores. They have actually increased their sales of food by $4 million in the first year of the community development program.

We have also increased, because we can measure these things—and this only talks about outback stores because I have no way of measuring the other stores—the volume of fruit and vegetables being sold from 398 tonne in 2014-15, the last year of the RJCP, to 418 tonne, which is an increase of some five per cent. I am not asserting that people are eating more fruit and vegetables because of the increase in that, but it shows there is not an appreciable diminishing of that.

On a store by store basis, somebody has written and said, 'Look, in this particular store we can demonstrate that it's gone down.' We had a close look at that and it had in fact gone down. But the custom had in fact gone to two other stores in that community to exactly the same extent. It is really important that people bring those to our attention and we do investigate them, because it is an economic and a market signal that something may not be working. I have looked very carefully and examined each one of those. Thus far those indicators that have been claimed to have been a consequence of the community development program are in fact incorrect.

Senator McKENZIE: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Siewert.

Senator SIEWERT: Could I firstly go to answers to questions on notice 202, where you gave some written answers but you also gave the table, which I must admit I am having trouble correlating with the written answers. In question 3 you talk about 18,961 serious participation failures. When you are talking about those, where do they line up to the table? The serious failures on the table account for 12. I cannot see that we are comparing like with like. I am at a loss to work out what those serious participation failures were and what the 18,961 amount to. Do you see what I am getting that?

Ms Williams : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: I am finding it impossible to actually have any clarity around what is, in that case, being classed as a serious failure.

Ms Williams : I think it would probably be best if we provided you with an update of that table. We do have new data that we can use to do that. And in doing that what we will do is we will provide an explanation of what that breakdown around serious failure is comprised of.

Senator SIEWERT: The one, for example—and if you could do it for all of them—where they do not correlate.

Ms Williams : Yes, absolutely.

Senator SIEWERT: Because, quite frankly, it is useless. I do not know what to believe.

Senator Scullion: Can we take that on notice. Perhaps for later today on the chunky bits. I appreciate if that is not—

Senator SIEWERT: I asked for this five months ago.

Senator Scullion: Indeed. So, if that is still confusing we will try to get that responded to today.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. You say that the serious participation failures have been fully waived. Now, when we are talking about—

Senator Scullion: Ninety-four per cent of the eight-week.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Senator Scullion: When we say the serious participation failure, which is the eight-week.

Senator SIEWERT: That is what I wanted to clarify. That is the eight-week?

Senator Scullion: That is the eight-week and 94 per cent are waived.

Senator SIEWERT: That has gone up, in fact, from the 77.9 that you quote here?

Senator Scullion: Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: So, I presume that is for the latest quarter.

Ms Williams : Yes, that is correct.

Senator SIEWERT: How many days do they serve? You say it is either fully waived or straightaway. Of that 94 per cent, do they serve some days off? It says fully or partly.

Ms Williams : So, yes, some would have been served. That is correct.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you tell me how many days people are serving? Out of all of those participation failures of nearly 19,000, how many days have people have served for serious participation failures?

Ms Williams : I will see whether we have got that information. If we do not, we will have to provide it to you on notice.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated. You also say in question 1—and I would appreciate an update on these figures—that 1,765 people receiving activity days and so on have had their income support cancelled without returning to another income support payment within 12 months. Could you update those figures and explain why they have had their income support cancelled? If it is for a job is it actually cancelled or have they come off?

Ms Williams : That would be people who have come off income support for a range of reasons. It may well be that they have found work or that their circumstances have changed in some way.

Senator SIEWERT: I think you said 12,105 jobseekers have found placements.

Ms Williams : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: So, obviously, a lot of those are part time, because that does not correlate with the figure that has come off income support.

Ms Williams : For us to count a full-time employment outcome, the individual has to have come fully off income support, but we also—

Senator SIEWERT: How many of those are there?

Ms Williams : We will need to check that. Ms Field may have that data with her. We also obviously count part-time employment outcomes, where a person is working part time, but they may still be receiving a proportion of income support.

Senator SIEWERT: This leads me to my next set of questions. Of those placements, of the 12,000—and I have got it correct; that it is 12,105 placements?

Ms Field : Yes, job placements. It is 12,400 job placements.

Senator SIEWERT: Where did I get 12,100? I beg your pardon.

Ms Williams : So, 12,461.

Senator SIEWERT: I am confusing the figure I wrote down for no show, which I will come back to. Of those, how many are part time—and when we say 'part-time', one day, two days or whatever—and is this accumulative like current status or is this just the number of placements over that period of time since July 2015?

Senator Scullion: Another important piece of information is that some are more reliable than others. The 12,446 is just those people who start in a job. That does not necessarily mean anything, because we do not know what happens further on. But I am delighted to report that 4,198 were still in work in those jobs after the six-month period, which is really important for us to measure. The data or the evidence is that is about 80 per cent. You have those people who remain for more than six months. Eighty-two per cent of them remain in full-time work. That is really a critical point for us.

Senator SIEWERT: Four thousand one hundred and ninety eight of 12,446 is not 80-odd per cent or whatever you just said.

Senator Scullion: No, I said the 82 per cent of people who are in a job for more than six months go on to maintain their position in that job. You cannot say that if they have been in the job for two days, but after six months we have a high level of confidence that they will actually remain in that job.

Senator SIEWERT: So, the bottom line is 4,198 in placements. Can you provide information on how many of those are full time, part time? And when we are talking part time, are we talking a day a week?

Ms Field : We will have to take that on notice.

Senator SIEWERT: I take it from the fact that we have 1,765 that many of those 4,198 are still part time?

Ms Williams : A good proportion of people would be in part-time work; yes, that is right.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you tell us where those job placements are? Are they in major regional centres or are they in remote communities? Are you able to provide that information?

Ms Williams : We can look to see what we can provide on that. The majority will be in remote communities themselves, because we tend to find that people find work in the places that they live in. What we will do is we will look to see whether we can disaggregate that information.

Senator Scullion: We could certainly do it quite quickly for remote and others. If that is the nature of your question, we can probably do that.

Senator SIEWERT: Remote and others for the time.

Senator Scullion: For the time, yes.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated. I would like to go back to this issue of the penalties and no show, no pay. The 38 per cent of participants who are getting no show, no pay who have had three or more—because that is what I take from the figures that you gave us—have they now had comprehensive compliance assessments?

Ms Williams : The comprehensive compliance assessment will be triggered for each of those individuals, yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Do we have information about what has happened since then? Have the assessments resulted in their not having any more no show, no pay? In other words, I want to know the effectiveness of this process.

Ms Williams : Yes. The assessments will result in a couple of things. A number of those assessments will result in a person moving into the more serious failure category. That is essentially where DHS will assess that each of the breaches have been valid and that there are no good reasons or mitigating circumstances for why that individual would not have attended their activities. So, a proportion would have moved into the more serious breaching phase.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you take on notice how many?

Ms Williams : Certainly I can take that on notice and we will provide you with that information to the extent that we can. In some instances, it may result in a revision to an individual's hours. DHS may come to the view that the individual's hours need to be adjusted to suit their circumstances or it may result in changes to the individual's job plan and the activities that they are doing as part of that job plan.

Senator SIEWERT: It would be appreciate it if you could take on notice where they have ended up. I am now going off this table; no, actually, I will go off the latest figures you provided, which was the 12,105 jobseekers that have had no show over the last quarter, and add that in fact to where we were in the last lot of figures that you provided. So, we are upwards then, on a rough calculation, of 137,000-odd. Is that correct? Do you see where I am going with this? You have given me to the end of the financial year. Yes, it is to the end of the financial year. We need more up-to-date figures. Can you tell me the total number from July 2015 to now of no show, no pay? Do you have that?

Ms Field : Yes, I can. It is 201,651.

Senator SIEWERT: And the serious failures?

Ms Field : Yes. The serious is 27,775.

Senator SIEWERT: Serious is 27,700?

Ms Field : And 75.

Senator SIEWERT: Of which not all that 94—it is only the most recent. Could you take on notice to provide me in the quarters how many of those have either been waived or are serving their eight weeks?

Ms Field : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Have you done an assessment of the value of the 201,651 no show payments? How much is that in terms of financial loss to communities?

Ms Williams : We have not done an assessment in detail, no. Each no show, no pay is approximately one-tenth of an individual's income support. It will vary from person to person depending on the amount of income support that they receive. So, the amount of each no show, no pay is going to be different for each individual. That makes it quite complex, obviously, to calculate. We have, as the minister noted, done a broad assessment that it is approximately one per cent of the amount of income support that is going into communities each quarter.

Senator SIEWERT: How did you do that?

Ms Williams : As you would appreciate, it is difficult. You have to make some assumptions, essentially, around that.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you tell us the basis of those assumptions?

Ms Hefren-Webb : It would look at people's payments across the spectrum. So, age pension, disability pension, parenting payment, any family tax benefit that they are entitled to, et cetera. You would add the full quantum of income support and then you look at the assumed quantum around the no show, no pay penalties. That is where the one per cent figure is derived from.

Senator SIEWERT: Is it fair to say that you have not done that assessment per se other than saying one per cent?

Ms Hefren-Webb : We have done a broad calculation. We think it is in the vicinity of one per cent, but to calculate it absolutely precisely you would have to go into every individual's record and assess their payment rate, et cetera.

Senator SIEWERT: Or I can multiply it out, which I will do. It is one-tenth on average. At least we will come to an on average figure.

Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes.

Senator Scullion: We are confident that one per cent is correct. That is a broad indicator. It will be around about or less than one per cent.

Senator SIEWERT: The personal impact is quite significant, of course.

Senator Scullion: As we have indicated, if you do three days and you do not turn up for three days and where you have no reasonable excuse, effectively you then go back on to the payment whilst the DHS examines an eight-week process. That eight-week process of a breach in fact in 94 per cent of the time is waived. So, again, all of the evidence that we have indicates that, yes, nobody wants to have a penalty, but we used the language of seven per cent of engagement. As you would know well, the sit-down circumstance and the complete disengagement, the misery and the illness that comes with that needs to be ameliorated. As a consequence of these, we have had less than one per cent compliance and we have had sixty per cent increase in people attending these activities and the benefits that go with that.

Senator SIEWERT: Have you done any assessment, rather than just the monetary assessment, of the impact of these sorts of sanctions on people's broader wellbeing in remote communities? I ask this because there has been a report from the Audit Office in the UK that talks about the impact of sanctions. I am wondering whether you have looked at that report and/or done any assessments?

Ms Williams : We take this matter very seriously. It is a question that we are exploring. We have talked to this committee previously about the evaluation that we are currently undertaking of the community development program. That evaluation is looking specifically at this question in terms of the broader social impacts on the community and/or the individual's functioning and wellbeing. It is an area where we are placing particular focus as part of the evaluation.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you provide further details on notice about the nature of the work on the social wellbeing side of things?

Ms Williams : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: And who is undertaking that particular work?

Ms Williams : Yes. We would certainly be more than happy to provide you with detail on the evaluation, the terms of reference and the consultants that are undertaking it for us et cetera.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I am just double checking. I have a lot of questions that I will put on notice. The key one that I wanted to ask is when you are providing those figures that I have asked for in terms of the update and then working out where the confusion lies over those figures, could you also provide a comparison with the broader jobactive that we were talking about earlier? You have given some other figures on that. Could you provide updated figures over the same period of time for jobactive?

Ms Williams : Certainly. We can provide those figures. That may take us a little longer to obtain.

Senator SIEWERT: Maybe if we could get the other figures sooner and then provide the comparison when you can.

Ms Williams : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated. I know I will be getting daggers soon so I will wind up in a minute. I will let you know that I will be putting further questions on notice.

Ms Williams : Yes, of course.

Senator SIEWERT: When we are talking about the 4,198 for six months is that over the same period of time from 2015 or does that also include figures from RJCP?

Ms Williams : The 4,277 are 26-week outcomes that occurred from 1 July to 4 January 2017.

Senator SIEWERT: So from 1 July 2016?

Ms Williams : That is right, to 4 January.

CHAIR: We will go to Senator Kakoschke-Moore and then Senator Smith.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Turning to a different subject now, that of Indigenous incarceration rates—

Senator SIEWERT: Are we doing CDP?

CHAIR: We can do anything in this outcome.

Senator SIEWERT: We are now going to anything in outcome 2?


Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: I just wanted to go back to the opening statement you made to the committee during estimates in October last year. During that statement you highlighted some measures that the government was already undertaking in order to address the rates of Indigenous incarceration and you said that you had written to state ministers seeking their support to better use the welfare system to assist with the collection of fines, particularly where non-payment of fines might result in incarceration. Have you heard back from the ministers that you wrote to?

Senator Scullion: Yes, we have. I am not able to report a particular conclusion either on whether it is rental or whether it is fine payments or anything, but we are well advanced in the Commonwealth assisting the jurisdictions in the use of the Centrepay system. Just for clarity, the Centrepay system is available to the states and territories. If it is a debt to the state or territory it is a voluntary system, so after signing up, for example, for your house payments to be compulsorily deducted from your Centrelink, hours later you can unsign that, but if it is a debt to the Commonwealth then that is impossible. It stops people from getting into debt and it gives some surety for the states and territories. We are advanced in that and we think that will be of a deal of assistance.

We have also had the release of the Prison to Work report. Given that 84 per cent of prisoners who are Indigenous and incarcerated are recidivist offenders, we felt that that was the largest demographic that we could practically deal with. So the implementation of the Prison to Work program and our response to that was a commissioned report. We will be targeting those inmates. We have that period of time to ensure that we can remove those recidivist behaviours, so utilising all of that period of time that you are incarcerated to rehabilitate and to reconcile, in some circumstances, and to ensure that you have those skills and capability to avoid recidivist behaviour that will have you re-entering the justice system. So they are the principal tranches that we are embarking on.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Just returning to the discussions that you are having around the use of the Centrepay system for payment of fines, you said the discussions are quite well advanced. Would there be some sort of announcement forthcoming from the government about these discussions? When will I know that there is more information available about this?

Senator Scullion: Perhaps the department can give an update on the details of that.

Ms Saastamoinen : As the minister said, there have been discussions happening with a number of the jurisdictions including New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. They are fairly well advanced. Western Australia, being in caretaker government at the moment, obviously we will need to wait until after the government is settled there. The Department of Social Services, because of its responsibility broadly for the welfare system, has been working with us on the discussions on how to particularly include consideration of Indigenous issues. So the discussions they are having are focused on the whole population; they do not just focus on Indigenous, but we are working with them to make sure that Indigenous Australians are very much front and centre of the discussions.

I would have to go back to DSS to work out the latest in terms of how close we are to being able to talk about progress much more specifically. I am happy to go back to DSS and talk to them.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: That would be good. Were the states that you mentioned New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia?

Ms Saastamoinen : Yes. So in response to the minister's letters I can let you know that all jurisdictions, except for the ACT, have responded. We are following up with the ACT. New South Wales, Northern Territory, Victorian and Western Australian governments have provided support for the proposal. The South Australian government has provided in principle support for the proposal. So, again, with DSS we are working through any caveats or concerns that they have. We are following up with the Queensland and Tasmanian governments because we have not received a response to the minister's letter as at this stage.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: When was the letter sent?

Ms Saastamoinen : It was late last year. I believe it was towards the end of September.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Is that unusual for ministers to take some four or five months or even more to respond?

Ms Hefren-Webb : It can depend sometimes. It would have to go through a number of processes within departments but we have been in active contact with each jurisdiction.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Minister, you mentioned two of the three measures that you spoke about in your opening statement last time. The first was the use of the welfare system to facilitate repayment of fines and the second being the pathway for those that have been imprisoned into work to stop the cycle of imprisonment. The second issue that you raised last year was the mandatory custody notification scheme. You said that the federal government had been offering funding support to the states to help the states and territories take this up. How many states and territories have taken up this funding offer.

Ms Saastamoinen : I can provide a response to that question. At this stage, as you will know, we are already funding New South Wales to deliver a custody notification service in New South Wales and the ACT. None of the other states have taken up the funding offer but we have progressed discussions with South Australia this week. They are keen to work with the Commonwealth on that. We are following up with Victoria. I am hoping to be able to meet with them in the next couple of weeks, both about the custody notification service but also some issues around youth detention, the juvenile justice system.

Victoria, at the moment, is going through a series of machinery of government changes which has proved to be just a little bit of a challenge in terms of connecting with them. We are following up with the Tasmanian officials. Again, they have expressed their interest in working with the Commonwealth government, so hopefully in the next week we can set up an actual meeting with them.

We have heard from all of the states and territories except for Queensland in terms of a response to the offer from the minister. Most of the states and territories have provided either in-principle support or support. The exception is probably Western Australia who felt that their current mechanisms are adequate. Again, because they are in caretaker mode we will not be able to follow up with them until after the government is settled.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: In terms of the quantity of funding that could be provided, are you able to provide some guidance about how much that might be, jurisdiction by jurisdiction?

Ms Saastamoinen : Each jurisdiction system is quite different. There are already some arrangements in place in each jurisdiction, not necessarily mandatory notification but some arrangements. It would depend, also, on the population size. Because we are focused, obviously, on Indigenous prisoners we will have to work with them in terms of what that means for likely flow-through of Indigenous people through to the prison system. Perhaps a baseline would be the New South Wales system. We are paying about half a million dollars a year. Some states will be potentially a little bit more than that; some states will be less. Again, it is dependent on what their systems are currently and the population size. As I said, that $500,000 per year is probably a reasonable benchmark in terms of a median point.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: In terms of the funding that you mentioned in your statement of $105 million over three years being provided to the Northern Territory to reduce young people's contact with the criminal justice system, both as offenders and as victims, has any similar funding been provided to other states?

Ms Hefren-Webb : We would provide funding to a range of jurisdictions to run youth diversion activities and to support young people coming out of juvenile justice. It would vary from state to state. It would depend on the nature of their system and so on. That might be something that would be useful for us to provide to you on notice.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Yes, that would be helpful.

Senator Scullion: It might also be useful to advise that the Northern Territory number seems like a large number because this was done under Stronger Futures this is a 10-year figure and not the normal three-year figure that would be applied to the other states and territories. It is just the way that the funding is provided to the territory.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: It says here the government is providing nearly $105 million over three years. That is for 2015 to 2018.

Ms Hefren-Webb : We will try to get you some comparable figures.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: If we could get some clarification that would be good.

Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Also, some of the programs that are being used through this funding include drug and alcohol rehabilitation services. Do you have any statistics around how many young Indigenous Australians are accessing these services as a result of their interaction with the criminal justice system or even just in general?

Ms Hefren-Webb : Mr Gibson may have some figures around use of our drug and alcohol services. He is looking at me like I have just dropped him in it. I am not sure that it would go to breaking it down by juvenile justice versus adults.

Mr Gibson : We might be able to provide that on notice or at least we will look into that. We collect data that are collected nationally on participation in drug and alcohol services around the country. We would need to look at whether or not that is broken down by age to a sufficient level of disaggregation to be able to answer your question. We probably will not be able to connect the data about participation in drug and alcohol services with participation in say the criminal justice system. I doubt the data would be linked that way automatically but we could see whether there are any studies in that area that make the connection.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: It would be helpful. I am thinking about perhaps diversionary programs or if young people are coming into contact with the justice system, and it is obvious that there are some drug and alcohol problems there, if there is a formal record of perhaps referral to these services as part of the process of them going through the justice system.

Mr Gibson : We will see if we can find some information about referrals.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: I am just wondering whether there has been any thought that has been given to programs in Ceduna. We know that with the cashless debit card trial that is happening there at the moment there are a number of wraparound services that are operating but there was quite a concerning report from The Guardian not too long ago about, in particular, the amount of youths that are in the justice system in Ceduna in particular. Is that something the department is looking at?

Ms Hefren-Webb : That is something that we are very aware of and concerned about. We are in discussion with the leaders in Ceduna about what might be the most useful approach. As you know, the states and territories have the main responsibility for justice and for drug and alcohol services et cetera, but what we usually do is, where we think there are particular gaps or the Commonwealth can leverage some extra investment, we are certainly in discussions.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Could you provide, if it is available, information about some of those gaps or levers that you would be looking to address as part of those discussions?

Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes, we could certainly look into that.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: That was all. Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Smith.

Senator SMITH: I just want to get an update on the funding of Indigenous recognition campaigns in the Constitution.

Senator Scullion: While we are waiting can I correct the record. When I was speaking to the senator in terms of the recidivism—


Senator Scullion: My apologies. I did say 84 per cent. It is just a tad under 80 per cent, so I correct the record.

Senator SMITH: Let us just begin by getting an idea of the quantum of funding that has been committed already. Can you confirm for me what quantum of funding has been provided to Reconciliation Australia to support the RECOGNISE campaign?

Ms Anderson : Over the five-year period from July 2012 to 30 June 2017 a total of $30.73 million had been provided to RECOGNISE.

Senator SMITH: Can you break that down in terms of there would have been an initial contribution and I think there have been subsequent contributions to get to $30 million?

Ms Anderson : Yes. In 2012-13 it was $5 million; in 2013-14 it was $5.73 million; in 2014-15 it was $10 million; in 2015-16 it was $5 million; and 2016-17 it was $5 million.

Senator SMITH: I am assuming there is a funding agreement that is attached to each of those additional commitments, or is it a funding agreement that has had funds added to it?

Ms Anderson : No. Each time the funding is renewed there are updates. There is a new agreement that is put in place for that quantum of money.

Senator SMITH: Thus far there have been five funding agreements to support the RECOGNISE campaign?

Ms Anderson : That is right.

Senator SMITH: I am assuming that those funding agreements are monitored and reported.

Ms Anderson : Yes, they are.

Senator SMITH: So if we start with the first one, were all the elements of the funding agreement met?

Ms Anderson : Yes. For each of the time periods that the funding has been provided the performance indicators have been met.

Senator SMITH: What were the performance indicators?

Ms Anderson : I can give you the performance indicators for the current funding agreement. I will need to take the previous ones on notice. The first performance indicator is a report on how well the outcomes or objectives were met as set out in the specific activity schedule. The second one is recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution, constitutional recognition activity participation and support for constitutional recognition. The third one is the number and proportion of Indigenous people employed in or volunteered in the delivery of a funded project. Each of those have targets associated with them, which I can also go through.

Senator SMITH: Are the funding agreements available to be made public?

Ms Hefren-Webb : That would not normally be our practice. The funding agreement is an agreement between us and the relevant organisation. We would not normally make that public.

Ms Anderson : No, it is commercial-in-confidence.

Senator SMITH: I will come back to the funding agreements a little bit later but, to repeat, there is $30.73 million that has been provided to the RECOGNISE campaign since 1 July 2012?

Ms Anderson : That is right.

Senator SMITH: And I understand in addition to that the Commonwealth is funding the Referendum Council.

Ms Anderson : That is correct.

Senator SMITH: So the Referendum Council is not a subset of the $30.73 million; it is in addition to that?

Ms Anderson : No. The $30.73 million was provided to RECOGNISE. The government has provided $9.5 million to the Referendum Council over the two financial years, 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Senator SMITH: Can you break that up for me for those two years?

Ms Anderson : Yes. There was expenditure of $1.4 million in 2015-16 and $8.1 million in 2016-17, the current financial year.

Senator SMITH: So, of the $9.5 million, can you break that down for me?

Ms Anderson : As at 30 December 2016, the known Referendum Council expenditure and commitments, so far there has been $525,214 to support the council including sitting fees, meeting expenses and attendance at events. There is $5.668 million for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies to deliver a series of forums. That was to deliver three Indigenous leadership forums, a key leaders forum, a trial regional dialogue, 12 First Nations regional dialogues that are currently in progress and for the National Indigenous Constitutional Convention coming up in May. There is $1.636 million to Cox Inall Ridgeway for the development and strategy to support the council's digital platform.

Senator SMITH: Is that Ridgeway as in the former New South Wales senator, Aden Ridgeway?

Ms Anderson : I understand that he is part of that company, yes. There is $250,000 to the Cape York Institute to undertake research development and design work to refine the Indigenous representative body proposal. There is $234,234 to the Australian Human Rights Commission to engage an executive officer to the Referendum Council's Indigenous Steering Committee.

Senator SMITH: Is that one executive officer?

Ms Anderson : That is right.

Senator SMITH: At $234,000?

Ms Anderson : That is with the ongoing costs as well.

Senator SMITH: The travel.

Ms Anderson : And $30,000 for the development and interpretation of the Referendum Council's community discussion paper.

Senator SMITH: Is that discussion paper the one here dated October 2016?

Ms Anderson : If that is the one that was on the website then that is the discussion paper.

Senator SMITH: Who wrote the discussion paper?

Ms Anderson : The discussion paper was written. There was a subgroup that was formed.

Senator SMITH: A subgroup?

Ms Anderson : Formed from within the Referendum Council members. They came together to look to put the discussion paper together. There was some support also provided and we also had a copywriter involved in that process. We are also looking to have the paper interpreted in a number of Indigenous languages as well.

Senator SMITH: For the total cost of $30,000?

Ms Anderson : That is right.

Senator SMITH: Have you read the paper?

Ms Anderson : Yes, I have.

Senator SMITH: Would you call it creative? Is there any new work in it?

Ms Anderson : The paper is factual.

Senator SMITH: Very factual.

Ms Anderson : That is right.

Senator SMITH: There is nothing new in it: nine pages of written text and two pages of questions. That works out to about $3,300 a page. Let us just turn briefly to, if we could, the $525,214 which is the first quantum that you gave me. You said that that is for the Referendum Council costs. Would that include sitting fees, accommodation, et cetera?

Ms Anderson : That includes sitting fees, accommodation, flight costs and other meeting expenses.

Senator SMITH: How many meetings have been held that accounts for that? Has that been totally acquitted?

Ms Anderson : Yes, it has.

Senator SMITH: So how many meetings does that represent?

Ms Anderson : That is eight meetings.

Senator SMITH: Are the council members given a sitting fee?

Ms Anderson : The co-chairs are remunerated and council members are paid a daily sitting fee, with the exception of two of the council members who are not entitled to sitting fees because of other work that they are involved with with the Commonwealth.

Senator SMITH: Are there any limitations or rules that are put around members that are on the Referendum Council being given work associated with the Referendum Council or funded from the Referendum Council?

Ms Anderson : No, not that I am aware of.

Senator SMITH: Would the normal Commonwealth procurement rules exist; would they be applied in this situation?

Ms Anderson : I understand that they could be applied. It is also a matter for the Referendum Council itself in the way that they are managing their budget.

Senator SMITH: So the Referendum Council itself determines how it will spend the money absent of the normal guidelines that might exist across the Commonwealth around procurement rules or tendering processes; they are not obliged to follow those rules or arrangements?

Ms Anderson : No, they are obliged to follow the normal rules that would apply to Commonwealth funding and certainly there have been a number of examples where we have gone to the Department of Finance to work around costings to ensure that the council is following the particular rules that apply.

Senator SMITH: So you have gone to finance to get a level of comfort that that is actually being followed?

Ms Anderson : Yes.

Senator SMITH: What has finance said to you?

Ms Anderson : The discussions that we have had with finance have proceeded along the lines of, where the expenditure has been agreed by finance, that it is appropriate.

Senator SMITH: Who is monitoring the work of the Referendum Council and the outcomes that it is working towards?

Ms Anderson : Ultimately the Referendum Council reports to the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition, so both of those individuals have the ultimate oversight. On a day-to-day basis it is the responsibility of an area within my division, the secretariat, to maintain financial oversight to ensure that the council remains within its budget.

Senator SMITH: But the council makes its own decisions?

Ms Anderson : That is right.

Senator SMITH: With the $525,214, could you provide me with a breakdown of the costs for each of those eight meetings that you referred to? I am sure you can do it for Referendum Council member, airfare, accommodation and sitting fee so we can see the participation of Referendum Council members at each of those meetings.

Ms Anderson : Certainly.

Senator SMITH: I want to turn to the Leaders' Forum, I think it was called, in Sydney on 6 July. Can you explain to me what the program was for that Leaders' Forum. I am assuming they arrived at a certain time. There would have been a program. It would have finished at a scheduled time. Was there a breakfast meeting? Was there an afternoon or evening event?

Ms Anderson : I am not quite sure of the meeting that you are referring to.

Senator SMITH: It was 6 July 2015, which is the subject of this RECOGNISE media statement.

Ms Anderson : That was the Prime Minister's Kirribilli meeting.

Senator SMITH: That is right. Was it the current or it must have been the former?

Ms Anderson : The former Prime Minister's Kirribilli meeting. I would need to take that one on notice if I can.

Senator SMITH: Again, could you let me know what the program was for the day, if there were pre or afternoon official events and who attended? Of course, some Referendum Council members would reside in Sydney; others would have had to travel to Sydney. If they travelled to Sydney what were the airfares and also where they were accommodated and what the accommodation and hotel expenses were for each of those council members that were accommodated at the hotel. Do you remember what hotel they were accommodated at?

Ms Anderson : The meeting that you are referring to was held before the Referendum Council members were appointed.

Senator SMITH: So the people that attended the Kirribilli event were not necessarily Referendum Council members. Could I have the names of each of the people that participated in the Kirribilli event?

CHAIR: I am sorry to interrupt you. It might be better if the officer behind you who is assisting sat at the table. It might be a bit more comfortable and easier.

Ms Anderson : I was oblivious. I did not quite see that.

Senator SMITH: Let us call it the Kirribilli event. Is it accounted for in any of those figures that you have detailed for me already?

Ms Anderson : No, it is not in those figures that I just mentioned to you. The figures that I mentioned to you are part of the $9.5 million that was allocated to the council.

Senator SMITH: That is right. It was 30 point something million for RECOGNISE Australia. We have got $9.5 million for the Referendum Council. We have the costs of the Kirribilli event.

Ms Anderson : That is correct. We can get those details for each participant at that particular meeting.

Senator SMITH: So the $5.6 million that is provided to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies I think is being used to support the 18 meetings, which is the three Indigenous leaders meetings, the one trial regional dialogue, the 12 regional dialogues and the national convention, can you give me a breakdown of the costs that have been incurred thus far because, of course, we have not had the national convention yet?

Ms Anderson : That is right.

Senator SMITH: The costs thus far for each of those forums that have been held?

Ms Anderson : Would you like me to give you those figures now or I can take that on notice?

Senator SMITH: Yes, if you could. You can give them now. We are talking about the subset which is the $5.6 million that has been provided to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

Ms Anderson : There were the three Indigenous leadership meetings. One was held in Broome in June 2016. There were 34 attendees and the total cost was $159,984.01.

Senator SMITH: How many attendees?

Ms Anderson : Thirty-four attendees. They were traditional owners to that particular leadership meeting. The second of the three leadership meetings was held on Thursday Island from 12 to 13 July last year. There were 29 attendees and there was a total cost of $95,197.95. The third of the Indigenous leadership meetings was held in Melbourne on 18 and 19 July last year. There were 65 attendees at a cost of $126,751.43.

Senator McKENZIE: Was that 19? How many attendees?

Ms Anderson : Sixty-five.

Senator SMITH: Just in the limited time that is available to me—and I am disappointed that I cannot find the document—I will deal with the participation in the meetings. This participation in the 18 meetings is what I would call heavily restricted in terms of who can participate. I am reading now from the Referendum Council document. It says, 'Meetings are capped at 100 participants. Sixty per cent of places are reserved for First Nations traditional owner groups.' I understand that. 'Twenty per cent for community organisations.' Is that strictly Indigenous community organisations or community organisations generally?

Ms Anderson : The 12 First Nations regional dialogues are restricted to Indigenous community organisations.

Senator SMITH: And then 20 per cent for key individuals. Who is a key individual?

Ms Anderson : It could be a variety of people. It could be local leaders. It could be local elders who do not necessarily—

Senator SMITH: Do they nominate or are they selected?

Ms Anderson : The way that the invitee list is organised is a discussion between the Referendum Council members and the local facilitators who have been engaged to assist with the meeting preparation and, in fact, the delivery of those discussions as well.

Senator SMITH: So they are not really public discussions. They are not really open forums, are they?

Ms Anderson : No, they are not open forums. The locations have been selected by, in particular, the Indigenous members of the Referendum Council and in conjunction with community members the attendee list is put together, so they are quite specific forums that really focus in on a discussion with the First Nations people within those particular locations.

Senator SMITH: Do you think that the work so far and the public commentary and reporting that has been coming out of many of those meetings is assisting the cause of Indigenous recognition?

Ms Anderson : It is probably—

Senator SMITH: That is an unfair question of me to ask you. I understand that. I am conscious that treaties are definitely off the table if a constitutional referendum is to be successful in our country. The history of successful constitutional referendums is that they are modest by nature, so a treaty would definitely be off the table. Discussions around Indigenous advisory bodies are highly contentious but we have considerable sums of public money being spent on what I would call closed meetings—others may disagree—talking about ideas that will not pass a constitutional referendum test. I am curious to know how much more public money is going to be spent on a proposition where we have no clear form of words.

Ms Hefren-Webb : That is a decision for ministers and the government.

Senator SMITH: To round off—because I know that time is now against me—I would like an idea of the total cost that was incurred by government for the 1988 referendum, the 1999 referendum and what was the total cost if the 2013 local government recognition and the constitutional referendum had been held because already we know that money has been reserved in the consolidated revenue account to hold a referendum which is money in addition to the almost $50 million that we have heard about here today. Minister, have there been propositions? Are there currently propositions or proposals before government to provide more money to Recognise Australia or the Referendum Council?

Senator Scullion: There is an expectation that as we move to a referendum—and, of course, the date about the referendum is entirely a matter for the Referendum Council—I would expect that we need to anticipate that there would be further funds needed to ensure (a) that the public have a good understanding of the words but at this stage—

Senator SMITH: But there are no words.

Senator Scullion: At this stage there is some contemplation around further funds for RA but not necessarily for RECOGNISE. I think we should take that question on notice of exactly where that is up to. The last few questions I think went to me but an answer was able to be provided. I am sure they will be able to take that on notice.

Ms Hefren-Webb : We would have to take on notice the question around the cost of previous referendums.

Senator SMITH: Of course. Thank you. I would argue—and others will have a different view—that for $50 million we have actually moved further away from a consensus on how to approach Indigenous recognition, not closer to one.

Senator Scullion: This is a sensitive matter. I am somebody who would love to have—

Senator SMITH: It is an expensive matter.

Senator Scullion: Indeed, but a very important matter to the first Australians. It is a matter on which there has been a bipartisan approach in terms of the approach to that, about getting the words. There has been, I think it would be reasonably described, an exhaustive process. It started with my colleague, Senator Dodson, who was part of the expert panel.

Senator SMITH: Agreed.

Senator Scullion: So it is not only those sums. It is a very complex process. This is the end of that process. I note your observations but I think that we have a process in place. That process has not come to completion yet and we hope that we have the set of words. I would always wish for the recognition of our first Australians in our Constitution to be a very important thing for all Australians. This is not only about Indigenous Australia.

Senator SMITH: It is now very clear though that the constitutional referendum will not be held to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1960 referendum. I think we can safely say that that is not going to happen.

Senator Scullion: I agree.

Senator SMITH: Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you. We will now pause on outcome 2 and move to the ANAO. There may be further questions on outcome 2 depending on how much time we spend on ANAO.