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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
28/02/2017
Estimates
ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S PORTFOLIO

ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Brandis QC, Attorney-General

Senator Scullion Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Attorney-General and representing the Minister for Justice

Mr Chris Moraitis PSM, Secretary

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

Mr Mark Crosweller AFSM, Acting Deputy Secretary, Criminal Justice Group

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

Auscheck

Mr Michael Pahlow, Assistant Secretary

Australian Government Solicitor

Mr Michael Kingston, Australian Government Solicitor

Civil Justice Policy and Programs Division

Ms Tamsyn Harvey, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Civil Justice Policy and Programs Division

Ms Toni Pirani, Assistant Secretary, Royal Commission Commonwealth Representatives

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

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

Ms Ashleigh Saint, Acting Assistant Secretary, Family Law Branch

Ms Kathleen Denley, Assistant Secretary, Legal Assistance Branch

Ms Esther Bogaart, Acting Assistant Secretary, Legal Assistance Branch

Ms Joan Jardine, Director, Financial Assistance Section, Legal Assistance Branch,

Ms Sarah Teasey, Director, Family Violence Response Implementation Taskforce

Civil Law Unit

Mr Andrew Walter, Assistant Secretary

Ms Carmen Miragaya, Principal Legal Officer, Native Title Unit

Ms Autumn O'Keefe, Principal Legal Officer, Private International and Commercial Law Unit

Corporate Services Division

Mr Stephen Lutze, Chief Financial Officer

Counter Terrorism and Intelligence Unit

Mr Anthony Coles, Assistant Secretary

Countering Violent Extremism Centre

Mr Pablo Carpay, Coordinator

Ms Elizabeth Brayshaw, Deputy Coordinator

Ms Anna Sherburn, Acting Deputy Coordinator

Criminal Casework

Mr Stephen Bouwhuis, Assistant Secretary

Mr Mark Gray, Assistant Secretary

Criminal Justice Policy and Programmes Division

Ms Kelly Williams, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Mr Chris Collett, Assistant Secretary, Transnational Crime Branch

Mr Michael Johnson, Acting Assistant Secretary, Criminal Law Policy Branch

Emergency Management Australia

Mr Mark Crosweller AFSM, Director General

Mr Rob Cameron, Assistant Secretary, Crisis Management Branch

Mr Aaron Verlin, Assistant Secretary, Disaster Recovery Branch

Ms Elizabeth Quinn, Assistant Secretary, Disaster Resilience Strategy Branch

Mr Mike Norris, Assistant Secretary, Protective Security Coordination Branch

Human Resources

Ms Helen Daniels PSM, Assistant Secretary

International Legal Assistance

Ms Karen Moore, Assistant Secretary

National Security Division

Ms Sarah Chidgey, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Sam Chard, Assistant Secretary, Critical Infrastructure and Protective Security Branch

Mr Andrew Rice, Assistant Secretary, National Security Policy Branch

Ms Anne Sheehan, Assistant Secretary, Communications Security Executive

Office of Constitutional Law

Mr James Faulkner SC, General Counsel (Constitutional)

Office of International Law

Mr John Reid, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Jesse Clarke, Acting Assistant Secretary

Ms Sue Robertson, Assistant Secretary

Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse

Mr Philip Reed, Chief Executive Officer

Strategy and Delivery Division

Ms Alex Mathews, Assistant Secretary

Ms Leanne Loan, Acting Assistant Secretary

Ms Luci Atkinson, Acting Assistant Secretary

Portfolio Agencies

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Ms Sian Leathem, Registrar

Mr Chris Matthies, Executive Director, Strategy and Policy

Ms Jacqueline Fredman, Executive Director, Corporate Services

Australian Federal Police

Mr Andrew Colvin APM OAM, Commissioner

Mr Andrew Wood, Chief Operating Officer

Mr Michael Phelan APM, Deputy Commissioner, National Security

Mr Neil Gaughan APM, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Operations

Mr Ramzi Jabbour, Deputy Commissioner, Capability

Mr Ray Johnson, National Manager

Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity

Mr Michael Griffin AM, Integrity Commissioner

Mr Nicholas Sellars, Executive Director Secretariat

Ms Sarah Marshall, Executive Director Operations

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

Ms Nicole Rose PSM, Acting Chief Executive Officer

Mr Col Blanch, Executive Director, Intelligence

Mr Richard Grant, National Manager Operational Strategy

Ms Sabeena Oberoi, Acting Executive Director Technology and Innovation

Mr Paul Williams, Executive Director Capability

Dr Rick Brown, Director Research

Australian Financial Security Authority

Ms Veronique Ingram PSM, Chief Executive and Inspector General in Bankruptcy

Mr Peter Edwards, Acting Chief Operating Officer and Acting Registrar of Personal Property Securities

Mr Mark Organ, Acting Chief Finance Officer

Mr Andrew Sellars, General Counsel

Australian Human Rights Commission

Professor Gillian Triggs, President

Mr Alastair McEwin, Disability Discrimination Commissioner

Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Race Discrimination Commissioner

Ms Padma Raman, Executive Director

Mr Graeme Edgerton, Acting Deputy Director, Legal Section

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation

Mr Duncan Lewis AO DSC CSC, Director-General

Ms Heather Cook, Deputy Director-General

Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre

Mr Paul Jevtovic APM, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Peter Clark, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Operations

Mr Gavin McCairns, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Corporate

Mr Alf Mazzitelli, National Manager, Finance and Infrastructure (Chief Finance Officer)

Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Ms Sarah McNaughton SC, Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Ms Andrea Pavleka, Acting Commonwealth Solicitor for Public Prosecutions

Ms Gaby Medley-Brown, Chief Corporate Officer

Family Court of Australia

Ms Patricia Christie, Chief Executive Officer and Acting Principal Registrar

Federal Circuit Court of Australia

Dr Stewart Fenwick, Acting Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar

Mr Steve Agnew, Executive Director, Operations

Federal Court of Australia

Mr Warwick Soden OAM, Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar

Mr John Mathieson, Deputy Principal Registrar

Mr Rob Powrie, Acting Registrar, National Native Title Tribunal

Ms Catherine Sullivan, Executive Director

Ms Kathryn Hunter, Chief Finance Officer

High Court of Australia

Mr Andrew Phelan, Chief Executive and Principal Registrar

Ms Carolyn Rogers, Senior Registrar

Mr Jeff Smart, Manager Corporate Services

National Archives of Australia

Mr David Fricker, Director-General

Ms Cheryl Watson, Assistant Director-General, Corporate Services

Office of Parliamentary Counsel

Mr Peter Quiggin PSM, First Parliamentary Counsel

Ms Susan Roberts, General Manager and Chief Finance Officer

Ms Aasha Swift, General Manager Publishing

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

Mr Timothy Pilgrim PSM, Australian Information Commissioner

Ms Angelene Falk, Deputy Commissioner

Mr Andrew Solomon, Assistant Commissioner, Dispute Resolution

Mr Brenton Attard, Executive Officer

Australian Law Reform Commission

Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, President

Ms Sabina Wynn, Executive Director

Committee met at 09:01

CHAIR ( Senator Ian Macdonald ): I declare open the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee inquiry into the 2016-17 estimates hearings. The committee has particulars of proposed expenditure for 2016-17 for the portfolio of Attorney-General's today. I welcome the Minister, Mr Moraitis and Professor Triggs, and their cohorts. The committee has set Friday, 28 April as the day by which answers to questions on notice are to be returned. The committee has also decided that questions on notice should be provided to the secretariat no later than Friday 10 March. I think everyone has been at these hearings before, and you know that all evidence has to be taken in public. You are aware of parliamentary privilege and you are aware of the rules regarding claims for public interest immunity—they are matters for the committee and the Senate to decide, not the claimer, but the claimer should of course claim where they are needed.

The extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

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

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

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

(1) If:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(13 May 2009 J.1941)

(Extract, Senate Standing Orders, pp 124-125)

The committee has agreed to have the media here today. This permission to film can be revoked at any time, and filming may not occur during suspensions or after adjournment of proceedings. If any witness objects to the media being present during proceedings, they should raise that with the committee, and the committee will talk about that and come to some conclusion.

Welcome. Senator Brandis and Mr Moraitis, would either of you like to make an opening statement?

Senator Brandis: I do not want to make an opening statement, but I should say that I have received a letter from some senators asking me to make a statement to the committee today to clarify certain remarks I have made about the Bell matter. I am very happy to do that, but subject to your guidance as to when you want to take that item of business.

CHAIR: Which senators wrote to you?

Senator Brandis: Senators Wong, Di Natale, Hinch and Xenophon.

CHAIR: Sorry, I know nothing about that. You can make the statement at the time appropriate for the Bell matters, which is later in the program, but today we have a program and we are dealing with the Human Rights Commission.

Senator WATT: Point of order: you may not be aware of this, chair, but there has been extensive—

CHAIR: Sorry, what is your point of order?

Senator WATT: Senators representing a majority of parties in the Senate yesterday afternoon wrote to Senator Brandis asking him to provide a statement at the very beginning of estimates today to explain the inconsistencies between what he has repeatedly told the Senate and what has now been revealed in the media about his involvement in the Bell Group matter. I think it is appropriate for that matter to be dealt with first. It appears that the Attorney-General is willing to make that statement as well.

CHAIR: What is the point of order?

Senator WATT: The point of order is that the committee should hear from Senator Brandis on the Bell Group matter, as it appears that he wants to do.

CHAIR: There is no point of order.

Senator PRATT: I would like to move to change our order of business.

CHAIR: Are you asking to suspend this hearing and have a private meeting of the committee? Is that what you are doing?

Senator WONG: If I may, we do not need to have a private meeting—

CHAIR: Senator Wong—

Senator WONG: I am proposing something here.

CHAIR: If you have a point of order, raise it please. This is a hearing of the Senate, not a general chatter and not part of the political debate. There may be a letter from some senators to Senator Brandis; that is a matter between the senators and Senator Brandis. The committee has made a decision on the order of proceedings and the committee intends to stick by that order. We have a lot of witnesses down from Sydney—

Senator WATT: Are you going to hear the point of order?

CHAIR: What is the point of order?

Senator WONG: The point of order is this: a letter from senators representing a majority of the chamber—

CHAIR: I have already said that is not a point of order.

Senator WONG: May I finish? A little courtesy would be appropriate.

CHAIR: That is not a point of order. Get to your point of order. What is the point of order?

Senator WONG: My point of order is this: the Attorney has indicated he is willing to explain why he appears to have misled the Senate. I think there is a public interest—

Senator Brandis: Don't put words in my mouth!

Senator WONG: in allowing him to air his—

Senator Brandis: Point of order, Mr Chairman: that was an unparliamentary statement that Senator Wong made.

Senator WONG: Well, your behaviour has been unparliamentary.

Senator Brandis: I received a letter yesterday asking me to do something, which I am happy to do, but I am in the hands of the committee.

CHAIR: Senator Brandis, this is not a matter of you and some Labor senators—

Senator WONG: And the crossbench, actually.

CHAIR: This is a matter of a committee hearing of the Senate, and there is no point of order.

Senator WONG: Chair, a motion has been moved.

Senator PRATT: There is a question before the chair, which is to change our order of business—

Senator WONG: To enable the Attorney to make a statement.

CHAIR: I do not think we can do that in a public hearing. The hearing of the committee is suspended at the request of Senator Pratt. The committee will have a private meeting to consider the agenda today, which has already been considered by the committee, but we can have—

Senator WATT: Why are you trying to hide Senator Brandis?

CHAIR: The committee is suspended.