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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee


In A ttendance

Senator Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

Senator Fifield, Minister for Communications and the Arts

Department of Communications and the Arts

Program 1.1

Mr Mike Mrdak, Secretary

Mr Richard Windeyer, Deputy Secretary

Mr Richard Eccles, Deputy Secretary

Ms Vicki Middleton, First Assistant Secretary, Strategy and Research

Ms Pauline Sullivan, First Assistant Secretary, Market Reforms

Dr Carolyn Patteson, First Assistant Secretary, Content

Mrs Jennifer McNeill, First Assistant Secretary, Infrastructure and Consumer

Ms Jo Talbot, Chief Operating Officer, Corporate

Ms Maria Loyman, Acting Chief Financial Officer, Financial Services

Ms Leonie Holloway, Chief Economist, Bureau of Communications and Arts Research

Ms Sarah Godden, General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel

Mr Richard Bullock, Assistant Secretary, Strategy

Mr Andrew Madsen, Assistant Secretary, Broadband Implementation

Ms Kathleen Silleri, Assistant Secretary, Consumer Safeguards

Mr Mike Makin, Assistant Secretary, Media Policy

Mr Aaron O’Neill, Assistant Secretary, Classification

Mr James Penprase, Assistant Secretary, Digital Media and Copyright

Mr Tristan Kathage, Assistant Secretary, Competition

Mr Philip Mason, Assistant Secretary, Future Connectivity

Mr Lachlann Paterson, Assistant Secretary, Regional Deployment

Dr Jason Ashurst, Assistant Secretary, Consumer Broadband Services

Ms Cathy Rainsford, Assistant Secretary, Spectrum

Mr Ben Galdys, Assistant Secretary, Communications

Program 2.1

Dr Stephen Arnott, First Assistant Secretary, Arts

Ms Caroline Fulton, Assistant Secretary, Creative Industries

Ms Justine Curnow, Assistant Secretary, Access and Participation

Ms Ann Campton, Assistant Secretary, Collections and Cultural Heritage

Mr Simon Kelly, Acting Assistant Secretary, Collections and Cultural Heritage

Ms Jacqui Uhlmann, Acting Assistant Secretary, Arts Development and Investment

Australian Communications and Media Authority

Ms Nerida O'Loughlin, Chair

Ms Creina Chapman, Deputy Chair, and Chief Executive Officer

Ms Helen Owens, General Manager, Corporate and Research

Ms Jonquil Ritter, Acting General Manager, Content, Consumer and Citizen

Ms Linda Caruso, General Manager, Communications Infrastructure

Mr Christopher Hose, Executive Manager, Spectrum Engineering and Planning

Mr Vince Humphries, Executive Manager, Communications Safeguards and Networks

Mr Jeremy Fenton, Executive Manager, Unsolicited Communications and Numbering

Ms Rochelle Zurnamer, Acting Executive Manager, Content Safeguards

Mr Allan Major, Executive Manager, Operations Services and Technologies

Mr Dominic Byrne, Acting Executive Manager, Spectrum Allocations

Mr Matthew Geysen, Executive Manager, Procurement and Finance

Mr Nils van Boxsel, Chief Information and Digital Officer

Office of the eSafety Commissioner

Ms Julie Inman Grant, Commissioner

Ms Maria Vassiliadis, Executive Manager

Ms Tarina Mather, Executive Manager

Australian Br oadcasting Corporation

Mr David Anderson, Acting Managing Director

Mr Alan Sunderland, Editorial Director

Sp ecial Broadcasting Service

Mr James Taylor, Managing Director

Ms Clare O'Neil, Director, Corporate Affairs

Mr Nitsa Niarchos, Acting Chief Financial Officer

Mr Jim Carroll, Director, News and Current Affairs

Australian Postal Corporation

Ms Christine Holgate, Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director

Mr Rod Barnes, General Manager, Deliveries

Mr David McNamara, General Manager, Post Office Network

Mr Nick Macdonald, General Counsel and Acting Corporate Secretary

Ms Janelle Hopkins, Group Chief Financial Officer

NBN Co Limited

Mr Steven Rue, Chief Executive Officer

Screen Australia

Mr Graeme Mason, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Michael Brealey, Chief Operating Officer

Australia Council

Mr Adrian Collette, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Tim Blackwell, Executive Director, Corporate Resources

Dr Wendy Were, Executive Director, Strategic Development and Advocacy

National Library of Australia

Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, Director-General

Ms Maureen Dupree, Assistant Director-General, Corporate Services

National Gallery of Australia

Mr Nick Mitzevich, Director

Ms Kym Partington, Chief Finance Officer

National Portrait Gallery of Australia

Ms Karen Quinlan, Director

National Museum of Australia

Dr Mathew Trinca, Director

CHAIR: Welcome back, everyone. The committee will now commence its examination of the Communications and the Arts portfolio. As noted earlier today, the committee is due to report to the Senate on Tuesday, 14 May 2019 and has fixed Friday, 24 May 2019 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, and this includes answers to the questions on notice. Officers and senators are familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings. If you need assistance, please see the secretariat. It has copies of the rules. The Senate has resolved also that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given all reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to the 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 to the attention of the witnesses an order of the Senate dated 13 May 2009, specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised, which will be incorporated in the Hansard:

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)

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

As I have clarified with witnesses earlier today, if the Prime Minister announces the election this weekend and advises the Governor-General to prorogue the parliament then chances are that estimates hearings set to take place from 8 April will not take place. I welcome the minister, Senator Fifield. Thanks for being with us tonight.

Senator Fifield: It's a pleasure.

CHAIR: I'm sure it is. Do you have an opening statement you'd like to make?

Senator Fifield: I don't, thank you.