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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
20/10/2014
Estimates
PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET PORTFOLIO
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

[20:56]

CHAIR: I welcome the Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz representing the Prime Minister, and officers of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. We will be examining the supplementary budget estimates for outcome 1 of the department. I note that outcome 2 of the department, relating to Indigenous affairs will be examined on Friday.

I particularly draw the attention of the witnesses to an order of the Senate of 13 May 2009 specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised. Witnesses are specifically reminded that a statement that information or a document is confidential, or consists of advice to government, is not a statement that meets the requirements of the 2009 order. Instead, witnesses are required to provide some specific indication of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or the document.

The committee has set 5 December 2014 as the date by which answers to questions on notice are to be returned.

I note that the committee wrote to the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on 25 September this year regarding the coordination of estimates questions on notice and responses. The committee requested a response to that correspondence prior to these hearings. As yet a response has not been provided. The committee would appreciate a response by the time the department completes its evidence.

Minister, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Senator Abetz: No, I do not. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Ms Cross, Ms Kelly, do you wish to make an opening statement.

Ms Cross : No thank you.

Senator MILNE: Just for the benefit of the department, my questions are, in particular, about the RET review. It may be appropriate that Mr Archer comes to the table.

Ms Cross : He is coming from the room next door.

Senator MILNE: Thank you for that. What has been the total cost of the RET review?

Mr Archer : The figure I have for the total cost of the review is $587,329. That figure does not include the salaries of the staff on the secretariat but it does include the majority of the other costs of the review. I guess other exceptions would be some overheads such as IT and accommodation and things like that that are provided by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator MILNE: Can you run through for me how much the members of the review team were paid, so Brian Fisher, Dick Warburton et cetera.

Mr Archer : Mr Warburton received fees in the order of $73,000; Dr Fisher $39,900; Ms In't Veld, $43,900; and Mr Zema, $29,700.

Senator MILNE: Can you tell me the total amount paid to ACIL Allen for their modelling?

Mr Archer : The figure for the modelling consultancy is $287,468.

Senator MILNE: What was the overall budget that was allocated for the RET review?

Mr Archer : We did not really have a fixed or predetermined budget. The first thing to note is that, leaving aside the salaries of the secretariat staff, it is actually the Department of the Environment which has funded the costs of the review. The department had done some planning around the possibility of a review and had, I guess, provisioned for that possibility. I do not have with me, and I am not sure we had, a fixed or predetermined budget to work to, although we had some idea of what the review might cost.

Senator MILNE: But it came out of the Department of the Environment's budget?

Mr Archer : Correct. There was no additional money provided to the department for the review.

Senator MILNE: In its terms of reference the government requested the review to put forward options that would reduce electricity prices. Has the department raised with the review panel the fact that they misled the government in answering the terms of reference? In particular, it is said that the review should provide advice on the extent of RET's impact on electricity prices and the range of options available to reduce any impact while managing sovereign risk. Then, of course, the review recommended the two most expensive options rather than the cheaper ones. Did you take it up with the review panel that they misled the government in their terms of reference?

Mr Archer : The short answer to that is no. I do not think it occurred to the government that it had been misled.

Senator MILNE: Given that they were asked to put forward the options to reduce any impact while managing sovereign risk, the two options that would drive down prices were ignored, and they were the options in figure ES5 of the ACIL modelling report. So why would that not have been taken up with the review panel?

Mr Archer : Ultimately the report looked at a range of considerations broader than simply the impact of the renewable energy target on electricity prices—which is an impact, but there are other impacts that the scheme has. The report looked at the impacts of the scheme more broadly than just its impacts on electricity prices.

Senator MILNE: But the term of reference said specifically that the review should provide advice on the extent of the RET’s impact on electricity prices, and the range of options available in relation to reducing them, and yet it did not. In terms of the secretariat, did you try and point out or inform the panel that the recommendations that they were making were the two in the reverse of what they were asked to do?

Mr Archer : I think the panel was well aware of the recommendations it was making. As I have explained, they were framed against the broader range of considerations in terms of the costs and benefits of the scheme.

Senator MILNE: Did the secretariat draft a report for the review members to sign off on?

Mr Archer : The secretariat did prepare draft material for the report, under the guidance of the panel.

Senator MILNE: When you drew up your draft report for them to consider, did you in fact point out that the cheaper options raising to 30 per cent or keeping the existing scheme would actually drive down prices more than the two that they recommended?

Mr Archer : I do not think we made a point of drawing that to the panel members' attention, but all the information about the various options was there for them to see in the modelling analysis and in the draft material for the report.

Senator MILNE: So the options that were put forward to the government from the review panel were the ones that would result in the most pollution, the least amount of investment and jobs, the highest electricity costs and a position that was opposed by 99.5 per cent of the submissions?

Mr Archer : The recommendations and the analysis behind them are spelt out in the report. I do not know that I can do more than direct you to the report for the analysis and the recommendations.

Senator MILNE: I have seen that, but I am interested in the secretariat's role in drawing up the analysis. Did the secretariat inform the review, the panellists, as to who would most benefit if their recommendations were adopted?

Mr Archer : Once again, the panel members had access to and did consider all of the information that was put forward from the modelling and through stakeholder submissions. So all that information was available to them. Again, I do not think it was a case of a secretariat pointing out any particular impacts or issues.

Senator MILNE: Is it true that page 48 of the ACIL report says:

The shift to the lower mandated LRET improves coal-fired generators values by around $9.3 billion present values terms ($6.6 billion for black coal; $2.7 billion for brown coal).

Is that what the report actually says?

Mr Archer : I could pull the report out and check that precise reference, but otherwise I am willing to take your word for it.

Senator MILNE: On that basis, here we have the people who would most benefit if the higher electricity costs were adopted—the recommendations that would provide the highest electricity costs were adopted—being the coal-fired generators.

Mr Archer : The two brief observations I will make are that the outcomes for electricity prices in the report reflect a certain set of assumptions, and there was sensitivity analysis done around those assumptions which did show that different outcomes were possible in terms of the impacts of the RET scheme on electricity prices, and I guess the other point I would note is that the fact that a certain sector of the economy benefits substantially from potentially winding back the scheme I think simply reflects the fact that the effect this scheme has when you introduce it on that sector.

Senator MILNE: So what we have is the beneficiaries of cutting back the RET are the coal generators and the losers are the community who will pay higher electricity prices.

Mr Archer : Again, at the risk of repeating myself, the panel looked at a broader range of considerations in terms of the impact of the scheme throughout the economy than just its impact on electricity prices.

Senator MILNE: Even though the terms of reference required them to specifically address that?

Mr Archer : I think the report does address the impacts of the scheme on electricity prices, but they were asked to look at the costs and benefits of the scheme, not just specifically in relation to electricity prices.

Senator MILNE: In terms of the role of the secretariat, who developed the assumptions that went into the modelling exercise?

Mr Archer : Ultimately, the assumptions were agreed by the panel and they were developed, I guess—not 'I guess'—through discussions between the modelling consultants, the secretariat and the panel.

Senator MILNE: So the modelling consultants and the panel. What input did the secretariat have to the assumptions?

Mr Archer : The secretariat does have some expertise in electricity market issues and so did review the assumptions. May I take a step back. For most of the major assumptions used in the review, the panel took the decision to draw on projections that were released through official agencies or entities. For example, the electricity demand projections or assumptions were literally taken from estimates that had been released by the Australian Energy Market Operator and by the Western Australian Independent Market Operator. Estimates of technology costs were taken from BREE's Australian Energy Technology Assessment. It was very much the case that the panel made a decision about the approach it would take with the assumptions. Rather than develop their own assumptions they would draw on assumptions that reflected projections or estimates that had been prepared by authoritative entities such as the entities that I have mentioned.

Senator MILNE: Did any of the panellists change those assumptions?

Mr Archer : No.

Senator MILNE: They just took them as they were?

Mr Archer : There were some minor technical amendments made to ensure that the assumptions, in a sense, fitted into the model and aligned with the concepts that were being used for the model. I could not repeat the details of those here. But they were very minor adjustments.

Senator MILNE: Thank you.

Proceedings suspended from 21:12 to 21:25

CHAIR: We will continue with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator WONG: I will start with the PM&C enterprise bargaining agreement. I think that is you, Ms Kelly; is that right?

Ms Kelly : Yes.

Senator WONG: I will try to whip through this fairly quickly. The agreement expired on 30 June. Correct?

Ms Kelly : Yes.

Senator WONG: So that is four months ago now. What about the other agreements? I think there are some 10 I have seen on the public record. Were there 10 agreements, in total, applicable to staff?

Ms Kelly : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Did they all expire four months as well?

Mr Neal : Yes. The nominal expiry dates of all enterprise agreements was 30 June.

Senator WONG: Sorry—you're very lucky, aren't you—my email has just crashed. Perhaps on notice you could give me the 10 different agreements.

Mr Neal : I can, Yes.

Senator WONG: Can you take that on notice, was the question.

Mr Neal : Yes.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I assume that there will be different conditions in each of those agreements. Correct?

Mr Neal : There currently are, yes.

Senator WONG: For example, the former FaHCSIA staff. There is a reference in some of the public discussion on things like remote-location allowance. Obviously that was not required for PM&C previously, because very few PM&C officers were in remote locations. But that would be a standard, I suppose is the way to describe it, condition for former FaHCSIA staff.

Mr Neal : That is partly correct. The PM&C agreement did have some provisions for remote-locality assistance due to the previous composition of the department with arts and sport. The agreement was not designed to facilitate regional and remote operations. The agreements of FaHCSIA and DEWR, for example, have much more detailed arrangements for remote localities allowance and assistance.

Senator WONG: What is the government's policy with respect to the differential conditions? Is it to bring it back to a standard set of conditions across the department?

Mr Neal : With respect to agency bargaining, we have been applying the bargaining policy, as you would be aware. It is pretty clear about enhancements to conditions and we are careful to test those, line by line, for negotiation.

Senator WONG: Can we be clear what 'enhancement' means? Is enhancement the retention of existing conditions by a group of employees who comprise a minority of the department?

Mr Neal : There are a couple of things that are taken into consideration and the Australian Public Service Commission is clearly working with us to ensure that we interpret the bargaining policy correctly. We have been advised that the PM&C agreement, as the only extant agreement for the department and technically the only agreement therefore applying, is the baseline by which all terms and conditions will be assessed as an enhancement.

Senator WONG: Have you received that advice from the APSC, in writing?

Mr Neal : Yes, we have.

Senator WONG: Could I have a copy of that, please?

Mr Neal : Yes, Senator.

Senator WONG: Do you have that here?

Mr Neal : I do not, Senator.

Senator WONG: Are we able to get it?

Mr Neal : Yes, I will get it for you.

Senator WONG: As I understand that, PM&C, pre-existing the agreement, is the baseline and the government policy does not allow any improvement to conditions from that baseline?

Mr Neal : Unless in exceptional circumstances.

Senator WONG: That in effect means, does it not, that for someone who was formerly in FaHCSIA who had a pre-existing condition—let's use remote allowances as an example—government policy precludes them maintaining that?

Mr Neal : Where it is more generous than the current PM&C agreement, then, yes, it would have to be negotiated.

Senator WONG: Is the remote allowance more generous than the current agreement?

Mr Neal : There is some similarity with remote localities assistance across the 10 agreements. They are not completely different because over time there has been some change, but generally they all started off in the same position. The rates of allowances have changed over time as they have been indexed to across-the-board pay rises, but the general provision of assistance, whether it be the allowance itself, the locations that would be considered to be regional and remote, and other things like leave fare assistance and reunion fares are generally the same across the agreements.

Senator WONG: Presumably, for the purposes of standardising the conditions across the agreement, you, on the basis of the APSC advice, have undertaken an audit of your existing agreements and worked out which of the conditions would be regarded as in excess of or more advantageous than the baseline?

Mr Neal : We have certainly done the analysis of each and every term and condition across each of the 10 agreements to work out which ones would be enhancements compared with the PM&C baseline—yes.

Senator WONG: How many are enhancements?

Mr Neal : I would have to take that on notice. There are hundreds of lines in the agreement.

Senator WONG: So there are many conditions which would be regarded as enhancements that are currently enjoyed by PM&C staff?

Mr Neal : Yes, Senator. There are also some that are currently enjoyed by people who are preserved under the section 24(3) determination who, in coming onto a single PM&C agreement, would have to have some of those conditions pulled back in order to reach that baseline—that is correct.

Senator WONG: I am trying to get some quantitative or qualitative analysis here. Tell me: what is the best way to get that? I am trying to get a sense of how many employees would be in the position of, under government policy, losing what you have described as enhancements, which are the existing conditions, and I am also trying to get a sense of how many conditions there are and what they are. What information do you have that I can ask you to give me on notice?

Mr Neal : That latter is easiest in that it would be able to tell you which conditions across the nine other agreements would be considered to be more generous than the current PM&C provisions. The first part of your question, which relates to usage or take-up, will depend on the number of employees currently preserved under the 24(3) determination. For example, about 50 or 60 staff came across from the Attorney-General's Department and 1,050 came from FaHCSIA. So, clearly, there are more people under the FaHCSIA agreement who would be affected. Pulling together that information would necessarily be far more difficult.

Senator WONG: You can give me the former at least, or what was the latter in my first question?

Mr Neal : Yes.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Ms Kelly, are you responsible for negotiating the new agreement?

Ms Kelly : It is my responsibility. It is within my responsibilities to negotiate the new agreement. There is a negotiating team of which Mr Neal is a member, and there are two other members of the senior executive.

Senator WONG: Who are they?

Ms Kelly : Ms Connick and Mr Crowther.

Senator WONG: You will recall an article by Mr Towell in The Canberra Times in which it was indicated that PM&C pay talks were off and that it was all too hard? Are you familiar with that?

Ms Kelly : Yes, Senator.

Senator WONG: Did you respond to that in any way?

Ms Kelly : Yes, we did provide some clarifying information to staff.

Senator WONG: In what form was that clarifying information?

Ms Kelly : It was in the form of an email to staff as part of my corporate update that I provide regularly to staff. It is a weekly email.

Senator WONG: Could I have a copy of that?

Ms Kelly : I do not have it with me; Mr Neal might have it.

Mr Neal : I do not have it.

Ms Kelly : We can get that for you, but we do not have it with us.

Senator WONG: Thank you. My previous question was: are remote-area allowances permitted under the current framework? Is your answer: 'It depends'?

Mr Neal : No, I do not think so.

Senator WONG: What is your answer?

Mr Neal : If I remember the question correctly, you asked if PM&C has remote-localities allowance in its agreement, and I confirmed that it does. But we would need to look at those arrangements given that the department has fundamentally changed over the past 12 months. The current PM&C provisions would not be sufficient, in our view, to operate the department in the way necessary. So we would need to recognise that there would be further locations that would have to then be regional and remote, for example.

Senator WONG: With the policy framework we have been discussing, does that permit or not permit remote-area allowances for PM&C staff?

Mr Neal : It does permit them.

Senator WONG: Have you sought any special exemption or what you describe as exceptional circumstances?

Mr Neal : No, we have not conceived of anything yet that we would deem exceptional circumstances.

Senator WONG: What about staff in the Indigenous Affairs group?

Mr Neal : Sorry, I do not understand what you mean. Staffing?

Senator WONG: What about staff? I understood from previous evidence for this committee and from some of what is on the public record that former FaHCSIA staff had different sets of conditions. I am asking now if they have been absorbed into PM&C as a result of MoG changes. I am asking if there has been any consideration given to 'exceptional circumstances'—is that the phrase?—

Mr Neal : That is the phrase, yes.

Senator WONG: under the government's bargaining policy—is that what you called it?—

Mr Neal : Yes.

Senator WONG: to enable those conditions to be retained.

Mr Neal : We do not believe, at this stage, that remote localities or the ability to include such provisions in our agreement will require us to seek an exemption policy. What will be required is that we work through how the remote-localities allowance is written into the agreement and how it is applied and implemented on the ground. We think that we have sufficient scope to put in place something that works for PM&C and for staff.

Senator WONG: Has any pay offer been put to staff?

Mr Neal : No.

Senator WONG: Why not?

Mr Neal : We have a very big job ahead of us in trying to synthesise 10 agreements. The costings associated with finding the productivity offsets required have taken some time, and we have been working iteratively with the Public Service Commission to have those costings approved. We are currently working through the final part of that and I would suggest that we would have those costings approved imminently.

Senator WONG: So there has been no approval by APSC for an offer to be put.

Mr Neal : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Have staff been advised of that fact?

Mr Neal : Yes.

Senator WONG: Was that included in one of your 'corporate updates', I think you called them.

Ms Kelly : That has certainly been included in my corporate update, and at the end of each bargaining session Mr Neal provides an update about what has occurred. I think it has been mentioned in the course of those updates.

Senator WONG: For former FaHCSIA staff, is it the case that under their arrangements conditions such as NAIDOC leave, cultural and ceremonial leave were included?

Mr Neal : All of the agreements include some form of cultural or ceremonial leave. But there is very little consistency in whether or not cultural and ceremonial leave are included together or separately, or whether NAIDOC leave is included as its own leave type. Bringing those together into a single leave type or just a single approach is the challenge before us.

Senator WONG: Are they enhancements or not, under the government's framework?

Mr Neal : We will be using PM&C's agreement as the baseline, at this stage. I have to point out that we have not yet reached an agreement with the bargaining reps about NAIDOC leave or cultural leave.

Senator WONG: I understand that. I am asking: what is your understanding of your position? You cannot agree to anything that is an enhancement; correct?

Mr Neal : That is correct.

Senator WONG: So it is not even a matter of negotiation. That is a matter of policy. I am simply asking: are NAIDOC leave or cultural leave enhancements under the government's policy or not?

Mr Neal : For some, they will be. For others, they will not be.

Senator WONG: But at this stage you cannot tell me what is in and what is out?

Mr Neal : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Is it a number of days of NAIDOC leave? I do not understand.

Mr Neal : There are 10 different provisions, whether it be five days of cultural leave and five days of ceremonial leave or NAIDOC leave applying only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff or to non-Indigenous staff as well. There is no consistency, so we—

Senator WONG: It sounds like there is a fair way to go, Mr Neal.

Mr Neal : I think that is fair.

Senator WONG: What is the time frame for the conclusion of the negotiation?

Mr Neal : At the start of the negotiation, we programmed 15 negotiation sessions. As at 30 October, we will have reached 15 negotiation sessions.

Senator WONG: And you have not agreed what is an enhancement or not and you do not have approval to provide a pay offer. It does not sound like there has been a lot of progress, with respect.

Mr Neal : To the contrary. We have negotiated almost all non-remuneration matters. There is a vast amount of detail in the enterprise agreement that we have continued to work through with the negotiation group. The remuneration matters, including allowances, which we have started negotiating on, and remote localities allowances, as you have pointed out, are things which we have held over until the end and until we could work out how much the rest of the agreement would cost us. The cost of those things which we negotiated in the rest of the agreement were critical to the ultimate pay offer, so we could not do the pay offer early in the process.

Senator WONG: It is not early; it is after the agreement has expired. It is October and nearly November. I am not sure anybody would suggest it is early.

Mr Neal : In terms of formal negotiations.

Senator WONG: Sorry?

Mr Neal : We have done 15 negotiation sessions. We could not have discussed remuneration before the progress that we have currently made.

Senator WONG: I want to turn now to appointments. I want to ask some general questions about appointment processes. On the range of appointments which are undertaken by the Prime Minister's office or the secretary, can you tell me, Ms Cross or Ms Kelly, who prepares appointment briefs for the Prime Minister's consideration?

Ms Kelly : It depends upon the type of appointment and whose responsibility it is to bring that appointment forward.

Senator WONG: Sure, but is there one part of the department that finalises the brief and brings information together in relation to the appointment?

Ms Kelly : If it is an appointment within the PM&C portfolio it is dealt with by the relevant shadow area within the department.

Senator WONG: There are appointments in other portfolios which are submitted to the Prime Minister for approval; correct?

Ms Kelly : That is correct.

Senator WONG: What is the process there?

Ms Kelly : Those appointments also generally go to the shadow area within the department for advice because they are the ones with the information in relation to—

Senator WONG: Sure. Does it then go to a deputy secretary? Who signs off on those?

Ms Kelly : They could be signed off at a number of levels within the department.

Ms Cross : It depends on the nature of the appointment. On some we get correspondence and we respond to the correspondence. Others we take to cabinet. It really depends on the nature of the appointment.

Senator WONG: Let's discuss a non-portfolio appointment for the moment. These are appointments in other portfolios that the PM has to approve. Is there a set of information that is expected of every shadow area in terms of what information is included or at least considered as part of the brief to the Prime Minister? For example, CVs, declarations of interest—

Ms Cross : Certainly for appointments going to cabinet there is a standard set of information—declarations of interest and so on—that would be provided.

Senator WONG: As part of this, do you do any assessment of political affiliations—for example, whether someone has been a former minister or MP? Is that something you identify?

Ms Kelly : I expect that would be on the person's CV.

Senator WONG: Whether or not it is on the CV, is that something PM&C interrogates?

Ms Kelly : Not particularly. We would rely on the material that was provided by the agency who was putting the appointment forward.

Senator WONG: So you do not as a matter of course within the department look at whether or not someone who is known, for example, to be a former MP or to have former associations with one side of politics or the other has identified that on their CV? You do not independently consider that?

Ms Cross : We do check that they have provided a declaration of their interest. It would be up to them to disclose anything that was a potential conflict.

Senator WONG: But this is not necessarily a potential conflict; it is a disclosure. It may be an apparent one. You rely on the prospective appointee indicating in their CV or their declaration any relevant political affiliation; would that be right?

Ms Cross : Yes. We also look at the recommendation from the minister putting the proposal forward. The minister normally nominates someone and indicates their suitability for a position.

Senator WONG: But if the minister does not say, 'By the way, this person used to be an MP,' you do not actually make sure that information is included in any brief to the Prime Minister?

Ms Cross : If we are aware that they were an MP then that is something that would normally be noted, but normally that would be raised by the minister, in any case. We do not actively google these people and search their histories.

Senator WONG: On the appointment of Mr Nehal Gupta, who is co-chair of Liberal Friends of India, did the department identify him as the co-chair of this political organisation at any point prior to the appointment being made?

Ms Cross : I would have to take that on notice to check that.

Senator WONG: Are you aware that he was the co-chair of Liberal Friends of India?

Ms Cross : I am aware of that. I know, as I said before, that we did ensure appropriate processes such as declarations of interest were provided. I would have to check for further information.

Senator WONG: I am happy with that. I appreciate that. You will check whether that was declared or on the CV or otherwise disclosed; is that what you are saying?

Ms Cross : Yes, we will check that.

Senator WONG: You have just given evidence, though, that you are aware of it. When did you become aware of it?

Ms Cross : Me, personally?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Ms Cross : Just recently.

Senator WONG: As a result of what?

Ms Cross : I think there were press reports.

Senator WONG: I am asking you how you became aware of it.

Ms Cross : I am saying that I think it was through the press reports.

Senator WONG: It has been reported that the Prime Minister's office overturned the recommendation from Mr Turnbull that the former SBS chair be reappointed for a second term. Is that correct?

Senator Abetz: That is not for the department. That would be for the PMO. There would be for me. I am happy to take that on notice, but discussions between minister and Prime Minister on these matters are on a confidential basis. I would doubt that any definitive answer would be given on that, but I will take it on notice.

Senator DASTYARI: So is what you are saying, Ms Cross, that if someone makes an application with a CV you do not do any independent checking of the CV? It is based on information that is presented to you. If you happen to know some information that is not in the CV that goes up the chain. But there is no independent checking of what information is presented to you in the paperwork that comes to your office.

Ms Cross : In general, we would rely on the CV, the declaration of interest and the process the person putting them forward has gone through.

Senator Abetz: And it depends, does it not, whether it is an appointment within the purview of PM&C of whether it is an appointment being nominated or suggested by a portfolio minister? If it is by a portfolio minister, you would then expect the portfolio department to—

Ms Cross : Yes, and they were the appointments we were talking about where another minister has put a name forward. We were talking about the process for those—

Senator Abetz: Yes, communication. They then undertake the due diligence and satisfy themselves for the name to go forward.

Senator WONG: Can I just indicate to Ms Kelly and Mr Neal, who are still in the room, that I would appreciate, if possible, getting a copy this evening of that APSC advice which you have agreed to provide. Are you able to get that? Thank you. You were taking some things on notice.

I also note that there was a report in the media as to Mr Gupta's appointment. I think that was some 12 days prior to its announcement. That is a cabinet level appointment. Has the secretary initiated an investigation, or have you been asked by the Prime Minister's office to investigate how a cabinet appointment was provided to the media ahead of the announcement?

Ms Cross : Not to my knowledge.

Senator WONG: When did it go to cabinet?

Ms Cross : I would have to check the date it went to the cabinet.

Senator WONG: On how many occasions did this go to cabinet?

Senator Abetz: How often a matter goes or does not go to cabinet—

Senator WONG: This has been asked and answered many times.

Senator Abetz: No, it has not. Do not try that trick on me.

Senator WONG: It is absolutely true.

Senator Abetz: You know better than that, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: That is not correct, Minister.

Senator Abetz: The discussions at cabinet—

Senator WONG: Would you like to read the opening statement again?

Senator Abetz: The discussions of cabinet—

Senator Abetz: Would you like to read the advice from the chair again?

CHAIR: Order!

Senator Abetz: Can I finish? Discussions of cabinet are confidential.

CHAIR: Order! Senator Abetz has been asked a question.

Senator WONG: I am not asking what was discussed. It would be most interesting to find out how it is that Mr Turnbull got rolled.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, would you allow Senator Abetz to answer the question.

Senator WONG: I am not asking—Chair, this may end up being another argument where I would ask you to actually apply and enforce the rules of the Senate, the standing orders of the Senate.

CHAIR: The rules of the—

Senator WONG: I am not asking—

CHAIR: Senator Wong, the rules of the Senate are that you have asked a question; the minister is entitled to now answer it.

Senator WONG: I have not actually asked the question. I am making clear again that I did not ask what was discussed. It was a cabinet appointment. I am asking how many times the appointment was before cabinet.

CHAIR: So you did ask a question—

Senator Abetz: Yes, and I answered it.

CHAIR: and he was in the process of answering it. Had you finished your answer, Senator Abetz?

Senator Abetz: Yes.

CHAIR: Right.

Senator WONG: I refer you to the resolution of the Senate that the chair read out at the beginning. It is not correct that this question has not been asked and answered.

Senator Abetz: Well, if the question has been answered, you will be happy.

Senator WONG: Exactly. I would like you to at least take on notice if you cannot recall—can you remember this? Did the SBS chair appointment go to cabinet more than once?

Senator Abetz: Of course I know, but I am not going to disclose the discussions and workings of cabinet.

Senator WONG: I am not asking about the discussion. I am not asking about the working of the cabinet. I am asking—I remember Senator Minchin sitting there when he was Leader of the Government in the Senate. He told me that the national water plan had not even gone to cabinet. He disclosed very clearly what had and had not gone. It is absolutely the case that these sorts of questions have been asked and answered. If you cannot remember, that is fine.

Senator Abetz: No, no.

Senator WONG: If it were once, you would answer. If it was more than once, it is obviously embarrassing.

Senator Abetz: I can remember. It has gone to cabinet.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Senator Abetz: I think you have already been given advice that it went through cabinet and was approved by cabinet. I even sat at Executive Council, where His Excellency agreed to the appointment of Mr Gupta.

Senator WONG: Do you know Mr Gupta?

Senator Abetz: There is a chance I may have met him, but I am not sure I could identify him.

Senator WONG: Are you able to tell us the quantum of his donations to the Liberal Party?

Senator Abetz: No, that I could not.

Senator WONG: Are you aware, Ms Cross, how much this man has donated to the Liberal Party?

Ms Cross : No.

Senator WONG: I am asking when this appointment was determined by cabinet. I understand you are taking that on notice, Ms Cross; is that right?

Ms Cross : I indicated that, yes.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I am also asking: on how many occasions prior to that was the matter before cabinet?

Senator Abetz: We will take that on notice, but—

Senator WONG: Thank you. I appreciate that. Can I just be clear about something. On this appointment, the secretary approves the appointment of Ms Albrechtsen and Mr Brown to the nomination panel—correct?

Ms Cross : He makes the appointments. That is correct.

Senator WONG: Then the nomination panel appoint Mr Gupta?

Ms Cross : No, the nomination panel conducts a merit-based process and they make recommendations of at least three people, as I understand it, to the minister.

Senator WONG: Did the three people include Mr Gupta?

Ms Cross : The legislation, as I understand it, says that, if the minister selects a person not recommended by the panel, he needs to take that to the parliament.

Senator WONG: In other words, he was on there.

Ms Cross : That would be my interpretation of that—

Senator WONG: As was Mr Greiner?

Ms Cross : I am sorry, Senator?

Senator WONG: Was Mr Greiner on the shortlist?

Ms Cross : I do not believe I have indicated anything about the shortlist. I have indicated—

Senator WONG: No, I know that. I am asking you.

Senator Abetz: We do not disclose—

Senator WONG: Somebody has disclosed it. It is in the paper.

Senator Abetz: No—

Senator WONG: It is in the newspaper.

Senator Abetz: Somebody is speculating in the media that other people may have been on the shortlist. We are not going to confirm or deny in circumstances where such confirmation or denial could have consequences for potential people who were willing to have their names put forward for certain positions but then, for whatever reason, were not selected for that position. In fairness to them, that has been the approach previously taken by other governments.

Senator WONG: So the secretary made the appointments of Ms Albrechtsen and Mr Brown on 30 June 2014. Can you tell me who handled that process of consideration? Were you involved in that, Ms Cross?

Ms Cross : The process was undertaken by the secretary with support from within PM&C.

Senator WONG: Support from whom?

Ms Cross : That would fall within the II&E Division.

Senator WONG: Is that under you?

Ms Cross : It is part of domestic policy, yes.

Senator WONG: What were the II&E Division asked to provide to the secretary?

Ms Cross : The division would provide—

Senator WONG: Is anyone here who was involved in that? Is the II&E Division here?

Ms Cross : That is part of my responsibility.

Senator WONG: Are they here, the people who were actually involved in providing information to the secretary? Are those officers here? I would ask them to come to the table.

Senator Abetz: This officer is here and she can answer.

Senator WONG: Did you prepare the information for the secretary?

Ms Cross : I am aware of the information to the secretary.

Senator WONG: What was it?

Ms Cross : I was about to answer your question. They would brief the secretary on the process. The process is set out in the legislation. They would brief the secretary on the process, and—

Senator WONG: You keep talking in the conditional: 'they would'. Did they?

Ms Cross : Yes, they did.

Senator WONG: Were you there?

Ms Cross : These were written briefs as well as discussions.

Senator WONG: Were you there in those discussions?

Ms Cross : I may have been present for some of those discussions.

Senator WONG: Can I have the officers to the table, because I would like to know the nature of those discussions. It is a fair—

Senator Abetz: No.

Senator WONG: It is a reasonable request, Ms Cross.

Ms Cross : I am happy to take—

Senator WONG: We have already had the secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet decline to attend this committee, which is an extraordinary thing for the most senior public servant—

CHAIR: Senator Wong—

Senator WONG: and now the department is declining to have officers attend the table—

CHAIR: you have repeatedly asked the question—

Senator Abetz: This is ridiculous.

CHAIR: You repeatedly ask questions and while Ms Cross is—

Senator WONG: and PM&C sets the standard across—

CHAIR: Order! You are making this very difficult for yourself.

Senator WONG: The standard of accountability tonight is woeful. It is woeful.

CHAIR: You are asking questions and repeatedly—

Senator WONG: I am asking for officers to come to the table.

CHAIR: You are repeatedly interrupting Ms Cross in her response.

Senator WONG: I am asking for the officers—

Senator Abetz: And you are interrupting the chair.

Senator WONG: to come to the table.

CHAIR: Ms Cross is perfectly entitled to answer the questions to the best of her ability, or the minister is entitled to answer them as well.

Senator WONG: Ms Cross, why do you not want the officers to come to the table?

Ms Cross : I am here to answer your questions.

Senator WONG: Yes, why do you not want the officers to come to the table?

Ms Cross : I am at the table and I am happy to answer your questions—

Senator WONG: You are not the officers. You are not the peak person who was in the meeting—

Senator Abetz: If you like, I will answer all the questions, as the minister.

CHAIR: That is your prerogative, Minister.

Senator WONG: So you do not want the officers to come to the table, Ms Cross?

Senator Abetz: There is no need at this stage for that to occur.

Senator WONG: Let us go through the briefs. How many briefs were provided to the secretary on this matter?

Ms Cross : On this particular appointment process?

Senator WONG: No, sorry: the appointment of the nomination panel.

Ms Cross : So the nomination panel has been in place since, I think, 2008.

Senator WONG: Sorry, this particular appointment about which I am asking questions. You can obfuscate all you like and we can come back. But it is obvious which one I am talking—

Senator Abetz: No. There has been a nomination panel. I think it was first talked about but, ultimately, legislated in 2012—is that correct?

Ms Cross : The legislation was 2012.

Senator WONG: I am asking questions about the appointment that I have referenced.

Senator Abetz: And then the panel—

Senator WONG: I am asking questions about the appointment that I have referenced—

CHAIR: Order! Senator Wong, allow the minister to answer.

Senator Abetz: And then the panel was appointed and these two most recent appointments did not—did that constitute the full panel?

Senator WONG: July 2014, we have already established that.

Ms Cross : Yes. So there—

Senator WONG: July 2014, I have spoken about that.

Senator Abetz: No. And these two people, of whom we are speaking, replaced two others. Because the actual panel is a panel of four, is that correct?

Ms Cross : That is correct.

Senator Abetz: Right. And so, we have to be very clear as to what we are asking questions about—you might be clear, but we need to be clear as to what we are responding to.

Senator WONG: As I think anybody who was listening would know, I am talking about the appointment. As I have said on three or four occasions, that the appointment of Ms Albrechtsen and Mr Brown in July 2014, okay. That is the question—those are the appointments I am asking about.

Ms Cross : Sorry, Senator. You asked about the nominations panel—

Senator Abetz: That is right.

Ms Cross : I was just clarifying. My recollection is the secretary was briefed on the process at the beginning to replace two members of the panel and he was briefed at the end of the process.

Senator WONG: So there was a written brief?

Ms Cross : These are both written briefs, yes.

Senator WONG: Were they the only two written briefs?

Ms Cross : That I can recall, yes.

Senator WONG: And who prepared those briefs?

Ms Cross : They were prepared in the department.

Senator WONG: I am asking the officer.

Ms Cross : In the II and E division. And sorry, I have forgotten what the two I's stand for, but II—industry and infrastructure.

Senator WONG: Right. So, you still maintain you do not want them to come to the table even though you cannot recall the name of their division?

Ms Cross : I was just forgetting whether it was innovation or infrastructure, so Industry, Infrastructure and Environment Division. So the first assistant secretary of that division—sorry about using acronyms.

Senator WONG: And who was that?

Ms Cross : Marie Taylor.

Senator WONG: Ms Taylor?

Ms Cross : Yes.

Senator WONG: So, is she able to come to the table?

Ms Cross : I am at the table to answer your questions.

Senator WONG: I am really interested, Ms Cross, why it is—because it is quite commonplace for senators to request the particular officer come to answer questions. We have had in the Department of Parliamentary Services requests for a particular level of officers to come to the table. Why does the PM&C—not only has the secretary declined to attend, despite my request, on an appointment he makes which has been of some controversy. I would have thought the secretary would have wanted to clear up the controversy which has been reported in the media. So not only with that backdrop, but you are so anxious about your departmental officers appearing at the estimates?

CHAIR: I think we should clear this up, just before you continue. The committee did not invite the secretary to attend.

Senator WONG: Incorrect. The committee did not request, which is compulsion; I did invite.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, you are not the committee.

Senator WONG: No, that is true.

CHAIR: The committee has the power to do it—

Senator WONG: I gave him the courtesy of a noncompulsion. He has declined.

CHAIR: I do not like the way you are twisting the circumstances. The officer is here to answer your questions. In the absence of the officer, the minister can respond to your questions.

Senator WONG: Well, the officer is here.

CHAIR: It is highly within her right.

Ms Cross : And, Senator I would, for the record, the secretary did write to you saying—

Senator WONG: He did.

Ms Cross : that the appropriate course of action was for the committee to request his attendance, and that if the committee so resolved—

Senator WONG: Sure, and so the government used its numbers on the committee, as the secretary no doubt knew they would, to decline the request that he attend.

Senator Abetz: Just for the record, the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet last appeared before Senate estimates when? Under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments when, Senator Wong? Never. So let's not—

Senator WONG: I am not sure he was asked.

Senator Abetz: So let's not pretend that this is some breach of principle, protocol or convention; it is the exact opposite.

Senator WONG: Yes. It is the case that you are correct, Minister, that it is not usual for the secretary to attend. However, the decision about which there has been some public controversy is not a decision of the governments; it is a decision of the secretary. So he is the only person who can answer decisions. I did seek to invite the secretary. A request of the committee is in fact a compulsion, which is the next step. I did not seek that.

CHAIR: We can invite him.

Senator Abetz: The committee can invite as well.

Senator WONG: But that is a request.

Senator Abetz: No, it is not.

CHAIR: We can compel him, but we do not need to.

Senator WONG: The secretary has chosen not to respond other than to say, 'Well, it is up to the committee,' and the government has used its numbers to indicate—

Senator Abetz: Look, ask your questions and let us see if we can help.

Senator WONG: I am responding to you.

Senator Abetz: You made the allegation.

Senator WONG: All I am saying is this: I would have thought that the most senior public servant in the government would have wanted to clarify a controversial matter. He has chosen not to, and that is his prerogative. I now have Ms Cross refusing to allow officers to come to the table, and I indicate again that I think for Prime Minister and Cabinet to demonstrate this sort of accountability to Senate estimates is less than ideal.

Ms Cross : I am happy to answer all your questions.

Senator WONG: I did not actually ask a question then; I was making a point. I am happy to go to asking questions.

CHAIR: This is for questions.

Senator WONG: Ms Cross, you have had two written briefs you said were from a part of the department whose name you cannot recall—

Senator Abetz: That is incorrect. She has put it on the record, and it is correctly on the record.

Senator WONG: I am pleased. There are two written briefs?

Ms Cross : There was a brief early in the process, and there was a brief at the end of the process.

Senator WONG: And what did those briefs go to?

Ms Cross : The first went to the process that the secretary would go through, and the final one was to formalise the appointments of the two candidates.

Senator WONG: What was the process gone to to garner names for the nomination panel?

Ms Cross : Names were put forward from a range of sources. The department itself came up with a list of names. Other sources included the Department of Communications, and I understand there were conversations with the chair of the appointments panel. A range of sources.

Senator WONG: Can I have the dates on those briefs?

Ms Cross : I will have to take that on notice, but I can do that.

Senator WONG: What do 'early' and 'late' mean?

Ms Cross : Late would have been if the appointments were on 30 June—then late in June. I believe the process began earlier in the year. It might have been earlier in the year—

Senator Abetz: Look, we will take it on notice.

Ms Cross : I will have to take it on notice.

Senator WONG: And how many names through this range of sources were put into the process?

Ms Cross : A large number of names.

Senator WONG: Approximately five, 10 or 20?

Ms Cross : Over 20.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me who put forward Ms Albrechtsen's and Mr Brown's names?

Ms Cross : We would not reveal that level of information.

Senator WONG: Was that the department?

Ms Cross : We would not normally reveal where the nominations came from.

Senator WONG: Well, I am asking you: were those names put forward by the department?

Senator Abetz: The names were ultimately put forward by the secretary.

Senator WONG: You really do not want to answer that?

Senator Abetz: The names were ultimately put forward by the secretary.

Senator WONG: You really do not want to answer whether the people that the secretary agreed to were even recommended to be on the list by the department? You want to decline to answer that, Ms Cross? It is up to you.

Ms Cross : I am indicating that the names came from a variety of sources, and we are not going to reveal where individual names came from.

Senator WONG: Fascinating. You will not even confirm? I would have thought that, if these people—who are obviously seen as not uncontroversial appointments—are determined by the secretary in his own decision to be appointed to the nomination panel, you would at least be clear with us about how those names came to be on the list, but you do not want to be? Is that right?

Senator Abetz: It is normal practice for that not to occur. There is a selection process that takes place, and ultimately the secretary is responsible for the names that go forward. It stands to reason that a secretary doing a good job will get information or suggestions gratuitously in conversation, in formal correspondence et cetera. Then it is up to the secretary to make a determination as to the two that he thought would be the best to fill the two vacancies.

Senator WONG: Ms Cross, picking up the minister's point, was there any gratuitous advice in formal conversation or suggestions made by the Prime Minister's office?

Senator Abetz: Once again, we are not going to disclose who and what the sources are, but can I tell you quite frankly it would be unsurprising if these matters were canvassed. But whether they were or were not I am not going to comment on, and nor should it be disclosed.

Senator WONG: Ms Cross, did you discuss these appointments with the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Cross : We do not, given the nature of our discussions—

Senator WONG: I did not ask what advice had been given. I did not ask what the advice was. I said: were these appointments discussed with the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Cross : We kept the Prime Minister's office informed as the process progressed further.

Senator WONG: Did you receive any correspondence, email or written suggestions from the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Cross : As I said, we kept the Prime Minister's office informed as the process progressed.

Senator WONG: That was not my question. That is a non-responsive answer.

Ms Cross : Could you repeat the question.

Senator WONG: Did you receive any correspondence, emails or other written suggestions from the Prime Minister's office in relation to these points?

Ms Cross : I would prefer not to reveal the nature of the correspondence, emails and so on that we had with the office, but we certainly were in touch with them, including in writing, keeping them informed of the progress.

Senator WONG: Were you aware the Prime Minister's office was seeking to have Ms Albrechtsen and Mr Brown appointed?

Senator Abetz: That is conjecture.

Senator WONG: Were you aware?

Ms Cross : The appointments process is for the secretary, not for the Prime Minister's office.

Senator WONG: Which is why it would be good for him to be here.

Ms Cross : The secretary followed the legislative procedures.

Senator WONG: He came up with these names all by himself, did he? No one suggested them to him? Is that what the evidence is?

Senator Abetz: No, that is not what the evidence is, and I have been very clear that a good secretary would canvass and ask and indeed people might even, as I think I said before, gratuitously recommend and suggest names in written form, verbal form et cetera, and then ultimately it is for the secretary to make the determination.

Senator WONG: All right, let us be clear. You do not want to tell me whether the names of Ms Albrechtsen and Mr Brown were ever recommended by the department?

Senator Abetz: No, what we are not prepared to tell you is the source of advice or suggestion in relation to any nomination, so let us not try to make a cause celebre about two names out of the up to 20 that Ms Cross has indicated to us.

Senator WONG: But the evidence to date—I am giving you the opportunity to clarify. You are not prepared to answer whether or not Ms Albrechtsen or Mr Brown were recommended by the department—correct?

Ms Cross : We are not indicating the source of any of the—

Senator WONG: Sure. You are not prepared to tell us who in fact suggested Ms Albrechtsen or Mr Brown—correct?

Ms Cross : That is the same answer as the previous question.

Senator Abetz: Or the other 18 names.

Senator WONG: I have not asked about the other 18.

Senator Abetz: Yes, but I am putting that on record so it cannot be misconstrued.

Senator WONG: I am not asking about the other 18.

Senator Abetz: Yes, but I am clearing it up.

Senator WONG: You are not prepared to indicate what communication or discussions occurred between the Prime Minister's Office and Dr Watt or other officers of PM&C in relation to Ms Albrechtsen and Mr Brown.

CHAIR: The officers and the minister have answered these questions repeatedly.

Senator WONG: I am just clarifying that that is the case.

CHAIR: They have answered them repeatedly.

Senator WONG: That was my last question on this point.

CHAIR: Good.

Senator WONG: I just want to make sure we are clear. You are also not prepared—I will repeat it, because the chair interrupted me—to give any evidence about what communication there was as between the Prime Minister's Office and Dr Watt or other PM&C officers in relation to Ms Albrechtsen or Mr Brown.

Senator Abetz: Or anybody else.

Senator WONG: Sure, or anybody else.

Ms Cross : As I indicated, we do not reveal the nature of our discussions with the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister's office, but I have indicated that we did keep the office informed as the process progressed.

Senator WONG: You said you kept the Prime Minister's office 'regularly informed'? Was that the phrase you used, Ms Cross?

Ms Cross : I said 'informed as the process progressed'.

Senator Abetz: Just for the record, of these two people who were put forward, one was a former communications minister, as I understand it, and the other was a former board member of the ABC—so highly unqualified, one assumes!

Senator WONG: You can argue that in the public arena.

Senator Abetz: I am more than happy to. I think the secretary did a great job.

Senator WONG: I am sure that the government thinks he did.

Senator Abetz: We do.

Senator WONG: On that point, that is the most important evidence tonight. I am sure that the government thinks he did a great job in appointing Janet Albrechtsen and Mr Brown to the nominations panel.

Senator Abetz: So you are critical of the secretary.

Senator WONG: I am critical that he has not appeared, but that is ultimately a matter for him and for the committee.

Senator Abetz: It is the decision I was asking about. That is a non-response.

Senator WONG: I do not think these are reasonable appointments. We have made that clear. These are partisan appointments.

Senator Abetz: She is a former ABC board member—the shadow minister for communications has no idea.

Senator WONG: I do not think anybody except Ms Albrechtsen would think she—I quite like her. On Q&A she is certainly more fun than some other people, but she is fairly clear about which side of politics she supports or preferences.

Senator Abetz: Unlike you, Senator.

Senator WONG: I am a Labor politician. Could you clarify this, Ms Cross? Was not the intent of the National Broadcasting Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 to establish an independent nomination panel at arm's length from government?

Ms Cross : Yes. I think the intent of independence is expressed in the legislation—

Senator WONG: Correct.

Ms Cross : in a number of ways. One would be that the nominations panel conduct a merit based process and provide advice to the minister. The legislation also specifies that the panel cannot be directed. As I mentioned earlier, the legislation also specifies that if the minister does not accept one of the nominations of the panel the minister must inform the House of Representatives. Those three features ensure it operates at arm's length from government.

Senator WONG: Given that, I am intrigued as to why you felt it necessary to keep the PMO so informed about the progress of the process.

Ms Cross : That is the normal and usual thing to do. We would have done that on every occasion when these sorts of appointments were underway.

Senator WONG: I have some questions on the legal agreement in Iraq and the Prime Minister's previous statements about that. Is that you, Ms Kelly, or is that Dr McCarthy?

Ms Kelly : Dr McCarthy.

Senator Abetz: She is the relevant person in charge of that area.

Senator WONG: I will first go to the Prime Minister's statement of 14 September. Did you help draft that statement, Dr McCarthy?

Dr McCarthy : Which statement are you referring to?

Senator WONG: The public statement, media release, put out on 14 September: 'Australian Defence Force contribution to international coalition against ISIL'.

Ms McCormack : PM&C is usually involved in preparing such statements, in consultation with other departments, in this case Defence. I would need to check exactly who was—

Senator WONG: Do you have a copy of the statement?

Ms McCormack : No, I do not.

Senator WONG: Could somebody pick it up? It is on the Prime Minister's website of 10 September—

Ms McCormack : Tenth or fourteenth?

Senator WONG: Sorry, 14 September. Mine is marked. Is one of your staff able to assist?

Ms McCormack : I think that may be happening.

Senator WONG: Do you want to wait for that, Dr McCarthy?

Ms McCormack : I am happy for you to ask questions.

Senator WONG: I will put this to you and if you feel you need to look at the statement please do so. This is the statement in which the Prime Minister announces Australia's contribution to the international coalition against ISIL. In that statement, the Prime Minister says:

The Government’s decision responds to a formal request from the Government of the United States to contribute specific Australian Defence Force capabilities to the international coalition.

I want first to ask about that formal request. When was that formal request received and in what form?

Dr McCarthy : The request was in the form of a letter. I do not think I have the date with me. Let me check.

Senator FAULKNER: That was a letter from the President, Dr McCarthy?

Dr McCarthy : Could I take that on notice?

Senator FAULKNER: Sure. If you are not certain, that is fine.

Dr McCarthy : I do not think I have that information in front of me.

Senator WONG: Is there anyone from the department who could perhaps answer? I did ask Senator Abetz this.

Senator Abetz: Didn't I answer that?

Dr McCarthy : The minister did answer a question on this in the Senate, I recall. This is the statement you are referring to.

Senator WONG: Does anybody know when the letter from—

Dr McCarthy : I can ask colleagues who are here with me to check.

Senator WONG: Was it from the President or the Secretary of State? Who was it from?

Dr McCarthy : I believe it was from the Secretary of Defence. I will ask my colleagues to check that.

Senator WONG: And we do not have the date?

Dr McCarthy : I do not have the date with me.

Senator FAULKNER: And the letter?

Dr McCarthy : My colleague has just confirmed that it was Secretary Hagel, the Secretary of Defence. We are just trying to find out the date for you.

Senator FAULKNER: Addressed to the Prime Minister?

Dr McCarthy : I believe it was to the Minister for Defence. I will need to take the question of the date on notice.

Senator FAULKNER: Just for the fullness of the record, was the letter from the Secretary of Defence addressed to the Minister for Defence—

Dr McCarthy : I believe it was addressed to the Minister for Defence. I am just checking with my colleague.

Senator WONG: Is the letter classified? I do not want to ask for it if it is—that is all.

Dr McCarthy : I would need to check the classification of the letter. We do not have it with us, sorry.

Senator FAULKNER: Would you mind taking that on notice as well as the date? Perhaps you could provide as much information as you can about the letter, including the addressee and so forth.

Dr McCarthy : Yes, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER: Understanding that there might be a security classification issue, you might take on notice to check with the Prime Minister as to whether that letter could be tabled. That might be a sensible way of us saving a little time.

Senator Abetz: I have just been advised that I advised the Senate, that I provided the date of 13 September on the Hansard when I answered Senator Wong's question. I recall that I came back into the Senate after question time and provided that information—that is, 13 September, on the advice we have been given thus far. If that needs to be corrected, of course we will come back as a matter of urgency.

Senator FAULKNER: Minister, you might take on notice the other elements that I mentioned to Ms McCarthy.

Senator Abetz: Yes, absolutely.

Senator FAULKNER: Thank you very much.

Senator WONG: So we think it was from the Secretary of Defence to the Minister for Defence—correct?

Dr McCarthy : That is my recollection.

Senator WONG: That is the formal request that the Prime Minister is referring to.

Dr McCarthy : I believe so.

Senator WONG: You will take on notice whether or not there is a security classification associated with this and, if not, I am asking that it be tabled.

Dr McCarthy : Yes, Senator.

Senator WONG: Does the letter go to specific capabilities that are requested?

Dr McCarthy : I do not have it in front of me.

Senator WONG: Were you present—that is, in the room—when the Prime Minister spoke to new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi?

Dr McCarthy : Which conversation are you referring to?

Senator WONG: The one that is referenced in the press release—

Senator FAULKNER: Statement.

Senator WONG: In the statement. The paragraph:

In recent days, I have discussed the situation with President Barack Obama, with Iraq’s new Prime Minister—

—whose name I am not pronouncing correctly—

Haider al-Abadi and with Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates.

Dr McCarthy : I believe that refers to a telephone call and I was not in the room.

Senator WONG: Is there a file note from that telephone call?

Dr McCarthy : That was a telephone call and I was not present.

Senator WONG: When did that conversation take place?

Dr McCarthy : I am advised that was on 12 September.

Senator WONG: Was there a request for assistance in that phone call?

D r Strahan : In that conversation the Prime Minister spoke to the new Iraqi Prime Minister about assistance being given.

Senator WONG: That was not the question. It was: what was requested of us?

D r Strahan : In the conversation with Mr al-Abadi?

Senator WONG: Correct.

D r Strahan : Some assistance of a general nature.

Senator WONG: What does that mean?

D r Strahan : He said he would appreciate the military assistance of Australia but he did not specify.

Senator WONG: We have now had an announcement of the confirmation of the legal framework. How long was it after these two events—the discussion on 12 September with Prime Minister al-Abadi and the receipt of the letter from the Secretary of Defence—before we commenced discussions with the Iraqi government on the legal framework for deployment?

Dr McCarthy : Those discussions would have begun almost straight away and have been ongoing. As you are aware, the foreign minister announced this morning that Iraq and Australia have reached agreement on a legal framework. There is administrative and logistical work still to be done in coming days in relation to that.

Senator FAULKNER: Which agency is now the lead agency for determining of such a legal framework? Is it Foreign Affairs or PM&C?

Senator WONG: Or Defence?

Dr McCarthy : The work on the legal framework is being conducted jointly by the Department of Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Attorney-General's Department.

Senator FAULKNER: Is there a lead agency?

Dr McCarthy : They are working together. I do not think there is one particular lead agency. It is collaborative.

Senator FAULKNER: Fair enough. Is there an IDC or some process that enables that to take place? It is fair to say, in agencies, it is a senior level engagement on such an important issue.

Dr McCarthy : Yes. The agencies have been meeting regularly. I am not sure there is a formal IDC on this particular issue, but I know they have been meeting regularly.

Senator FAULKNER: I thought PM&C might have been the lead agency for something like that.

Dr McCarthy : We are in very close consultation with those agencies in relation to how that work is progressing but we are not the lead agency in relation to the legal framework.

Senator FAULKNER: But you are also not formally engaged in the process. The other three—you have mentioned AGD, Defence and DFAT—

Dr McCarthy : We are formally engaged in the process in the way PM&C would be in relation to any major decision relating to the deployment of the ADF, but we are not involved in the detailed legal and diplomatic work that is going on.

CHAIR: With that pause in proceedings—

Senator FAULKNER: I am sorry?

CHAIR: I am looking for an indication of whether your line of questioning of Prime Minister and Cabinet is going to take us through to 11 o'clock. There are still three agencies on the Notice Paper. If you are going to take it through to then, I might release them.

Senator WONG: Yes, because there is this issue and the G20. I do not think we will finish before 11.

CHAIR: In that case, I will release the three other agencies and the committee will question them tomorrow. The Australian Public Service Commission, the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor will not be required this evening—except for you, Dr McCarthy. You should stay where you are for the moment! My apologies to those agencies, but I am constrained by the current standing orders of the Senate, which somehow limit courtesies. Senators Wong and Faulkner.

Senator WONG: I am not sure where we got to then.

Senator FAULKNER: We were speaking about the process of the development of the legal framework.

Senator WONG: Are you involved in it, Dr McCarthy? I am not sure if Senator Faulkner asked you this. Are PM&C involved in the creation or establishment of the legal framework?

Dr McCarthy : Yes. We are regularly consulted by the agencies that are doing the detailed legal work.

Senator WONG: I think it was close to six weeks from when the deployment was announced until the legal framework was finalised. Are you able to tell us the cause of the delay?

Dr McCarthy : As you are aware, the Iraqi government has only just appointed, in recent days, a defence minister. That is one of the factors.

Senator WONG: But that was known at the time the Prime Minister announced the pre-deployment.

Dr McCarthy : Yes. It is always the case that these legal arrangements need to be negotiated.

Senator WONG: Was it envisaged at the time that the pre-deployment was announced that it would take six weeks to settle the legal arrangements?

Dr McCarthy : I think it was hoped that those arrangements could be settled as soon as possible.

Senator WONG: Has the United States, to your knowledge, negotiated a legal framework?

Dr McCarthy : Yes, the United States has a legal framework.

Senator WONG: When was their framework in place?

Dr McCarthy : I do not have that information. I do not know whether Dr Strahan is aware. In June, I understand, the United States negotiated its framework.

Senator WONG: Prior to the appointment of a defence minister, presumably.

Dr McCarthy : I think that was under the previous government in Iraq.

Senator FAULKNER: But there is a benefit to such arrangements—not necessarily for use as a template, but those legal frameworks of a partner nation of ours such as the United States of America can be useful guidance, can't they?

Dr McCarthy : That is right.

Senator FAULKNER: It is certainly a useful and helpful element of our own negotiating or iterative process in relation to the legal framework—I think that is fair to say, isn't it?

Dr McCarthy : Certainly the United States is one of the countries with whom we have been consulting on the issues of legal frameworks.

Senator FAULKNER: Just for the information of the committee, it might be useful for you to say, obviously apart from negotiations with Iraq itself, whether any other countries are involved in the process.

Dr McCarthy : A range of other countries are seeking to negotiate similar arrangements.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but in terms of Australia's negotiating process, does that involve an engagement as that process works its way through nations such as the US?

Dr McCarthy : Yes. We have consulted with coalition partners throughout.

Senator FAULKNER: How many countries are there now in the coalition?

Dr McCarthy : There are 60 countries that have offered assistance of varying kinds.

Senator FAULKNER: Your negotiating or consultative processes, I assume, do not go to all those nations, but obviously they involve key nations in that coalition?

Dr McCarthy : That is right. Some nations are offering non-military support, for example. But nations who are seeking to participate, for example, in the advise-and-assist mission, for which the legal framework is so important, are nations with whom we would be consulting.

Senator FAULKNER: I am not clear on this, but the legal framework has now been finalised?

Dr McCarthy : With some technical administrative details to be worked through in coming days.

Senator FAULKNER: Once it is finalised and those technical details have been worked through, as you suggest, is that provided to other nations beyond Australia and Iraq? It might be helpful for the committee to understand the level of transparency there is with other nations in the coalition.

Dr McCarthy : I do not believe that it has yet been shared with any other nation, and that would be a matter for the government, I think.

Senator FAULKNER: That would be a matter for ministers here in Australia?

Dr McCarthy : A matter for ministers.

Senator WONG: Can I turn now to the role, if any, that PM&C plays in supporting our role as a member of the UNSC?

Dr McCarthy : Sorry, Senator; could you repeat that?

Senator WONG: I have questions about resolutions of the UN Security Council. Does PM&C play a role in supporting our involvement as a member of the UNSC?

Dr McCarthy : DFAT would consult us on the matter of UN resolutions.

Senator WONG: Were you consulted on UN Security Council Resolution 2177 on Ebola?

Dr McCarthy : We were.

Senator WONG: It is a lengthy resolution, which includes—and we voted for this:

Calls on Member States to provide urgent resources and assistance, including deployable medical capabilities such as field hospitals with qualified and sufficient expertise, staff and supplies … Urges Member States … to mobilize and provide immediately technical expertise and additional medical capacity …

It goes on and on. Was the department aware of what was included in this resolution before Australia voted for it?

Dr McCarthy : My colleague advises me that we would have been consulted on the draft. Whether we would have been consulted on the final text—these things can be negotiated right up until the last moment. We would have been consulted on the draft, but I would need to take on notice whether we were consulted on the final text, and it is not necessarily the case that we would have been.

Senator WONG: Did we vote for it?

Dr McCarthy : Yes.

Senator WONG: Can you explain to me why we voted for a resolution which we are—the hard way of saying it would be 'repudiating'; a softer way would be 'not implementing'?

Dr McCarthy : I do not have the resolution in front of me, but I believe what you read out referred to assistance and it referred to the kinds of assistance—

Senator WONG: Correct.

Dr McCarthy : that countries might provide. As you are aware, Australia has to date provided some $18 million to the international response to the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa—and that is in addition to more than $40 million provided to the World Health Organization over the last year to support global health activities. That has been welcomed by the United Nations. The UN Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr David Nabarro, in relation to our recent announcement and rapid payment of $10 million to the UN Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund, said it was exactly the kind of quick and effective response the UN is asking of member states given the complexity and scale of the crisis.

Senator WONG: I am happy for you to get a copy of it, but paragraphs 6 and 7—I cannot remember if 'paragraph' is the right term; it may be item, article or whatever—are significantly more than asking for financial resources. They are calling on member states and urging member states to provide assistance such as deployable medical capabilities, staff, supplies, laboratory services, logistics, logistical transport, construction support capabilities et cetera et cetera. What I am putting to you is that we are not providing any of the sorts of assistance that we voted to call for the provision of.

Senator Abetz: But we are providing a substantial financial support and, given our distance from the area, we are concerned about the provision of personnel.

Senator WONG: Dr McCarthy, have you—you or anyone in the department—provided any briefings to the Prime Minister in relation to the Ebola outbreak?

Dr McCarthy : The lead area in the department is the social policy area, and briefs have been provided, in consultation with the National Security Division and International Policy Division, on Ebola.

Senator WONG: Which is you?

Dr McCarthy : I am in National Security and International Policy Group, and Domestic Policy has the lead in relation to briefing.

Senator WONG: That is interesting. Why is that the case?

Dr McCarthy : Because the Department of Health is the lead agency.

Senator WONG: Much of what we are concerned about is the international arrangements for providing resources.

Dr McCarthy : We are consulted on those international arrangements by the Domestic Policy Group.

Senator WONG: Can someone tell me on how many occasions a written brief in relation to Ebola has been provided to the Prime Minister?

Ms Cross : I would need to check the number of briefs because we have briefed the Prime Minister quite regularly since the outbreak began.

Senator WONG: Dr McCarthy, there is no brief from you, but you are consulted in relation to at least some of the briefs provided? Is that—

Dr McCarthy : That is correct. I think all the briefs have been provided by the domestic policy area, and we have been consulted—that is right.

Senator WONG: On all of them or some of them?

Dr McCarthy : To be absolutely certain I would need to take it on notice.

Senator WONG: Sure. Take it on notice; that is fine. Has the Chief Medical Officer been involved in the preparation of any briefs to the Prime Minister?

Dr McCarthy : We have certainly drawn on advice from the Chief Medical Officer. Ms Cross?

Ms Cross : Yes, I can confirm that we have drawn on his advice.

Senator WONG: You have drawn on his advice. There is not an independent brief prepared by the CMO for the Prime Minister's consideration?

Ms Cross : Again I would have to check. We may have attached briefs from him, so there may have been advice direct, but I will check that for you.

Senator WONG: If you could—and just give me the dates, if that is possible. Has the government received any request for assistance from any government seeking that the Australian government do more than simply provide money?

Ms Cross : Correspondence from some overseas countries was received by the Prime Minister. As to the exact nature of the request—whether it was just a general request for assistance or whether it went to specifics—we would need to check on the correspondence. But he certainly did receive letters.

Senator WONG: Is your colleague able to assist us?

Ms Cross : Hopefully, we have the letters with us, but they were from the President of Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Ms McDevitt : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Sorry, Ms McDevitt. Was that Sierra Leone and Liberia?

Ms McDevitt : Yes, I believe so.

Senator WONG: You will get dates for me—you do not have dates now?

Ms McDevitt : No, I would have to get those for you.

Senator WONG: But you provided advice in relation to those letters, or someone in your division, Ms McDevitt? Is that right?

Ms McDevitt : They would have been responded to as we respond to correspondence to the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: Did those requests for assistance go beyond financial resources? Did they ask for more than money?

Ms Cross : I think we would have to check through the correspondence.

Senator WONG: Do you not remember, Ms McDevitt?

Ms McDevitt : Just a moment. I am not sure whether they were of a general nature or more specific than that, but I can take that on notice.

Senator WONG: What about NGOs or organisations? So this is nations—and you will check whether or not there are any others—but we have two nation states at some point requesting assistance. Are there any NGOs or other organisations who have sought a greater level of commitment from Australia than simply the provision of the financial assistance?

Ms McDevitt : Not that I am aware of, but I can check that for you.

Senator WONG: No-one from the UN?

Ms McDevitt : Sorry, the World Health Organization has—

Senator WONG: Sorry? The World Health Organization?

Ms McDevitt : WHO has been in touch with the government. I am not aware of the details of those discussions but I am aware that there has been some contact between the WHO and the government.

Senator WONG: At which level?

Ms Cross : I think they would normally contact the health minister.

Senator WONG: Does that accord with what you understand, Ms McDevitt?

Ms McDevitt : Yes, I think that is correct.

Senator WONG: Were you advised—or how did you become aware of this contact?

Ms McDevitt : It depends. We participate in weekly teleconferences with the Department of Health—which is the lead on the Ebola issue—and the department of foreign affairs and other relevant agencies participate in that. We share information so that we are abreast of what is going on and what those departments are doing.

Senator WONG: So it came through that weekly briefing?

Ms McDevitt : I am trying to recall: we were certainly advised that there had been some contact between the health minister and WHO.

Senator WONG: Are you able to tell me what you understand—

Ms McDevitt : The Chief Medical Officer actually is—I cannot remember the exact name—a member of the relevant WHO subcommittees and is in regular conversations as the lead person in Australia working on behalf of the Department of Health. He has been sharing a lot of information.

Senator WONG: On how many occasions do you understand—and I appreciate you are hearing this through an interdepartmental process, but is it your understanding that there have been a number of contacts with the WHO?

Ms McDevitt : I am aware that the Chief Medical Officer is part of committees or subcommittees—I am not quite sure of the name; I will have to take that on notice—with the WHO.

Senator WONG: Why don't you take that on notice, and also the nature of the request—so is the World Health Organization requesting more assistance, or other assistance, in addition to the $18 million? And can you also take on notice whether there has been any contact from Red Cross or Doctors without Borders?

Ms McDevitt : Yes. I am not aware that there have been any requests.

Senator WONG: I think Senator Milne was keen, Chair.

CHAIR: Have you completed your questions?

Senator WONG: I have heaps more, but I think Senator Milne was asking to follow.

CHAIR: Senator Milne, I am happy for you go to through till 11 o'clock.

Senator MILNE: In relation to that—

Senator WONG: Or if you have only got a couple of things, we can come back.

Senator MILNE: I would like the call. Medicins Sans Frontieres said that they told the government prior to the government announcing more money that they did not want money; they wanted equipment. You have just said you cannot recall that, so I am asking in relation to Senator Wong specifically mentioning that organisation.

Ms Cross : We will take that on notice and check it, but a lot of the direct contact is with the health department and the health minister, rather than with PM&C, so we will have to take that on notice.

Dr McCarthy : I have some information on MSF. They did indicate to the government on 16 September that additional funding would be welcome but subsequently changed their position.

Senator MILNE: When they changed their position, did they inform the government that what they wanted was equipment and personnel rather than money?

Dr McCarthy : I do not have that in front of me.

Senator Abetz : You would think you could buy equipment with money.

Senator MILNE: They wanted personnel; they wanted capacity.

Senator Abetz : Then the personnel issue is the difficulty with the distance.

Senator MILNE: The question was just simply: did Medecins Sans Frontieres inform the government that that is what they wanted?

Dr McCarthy : I do not have that information in front of me.

Senator MILNE: Can I ask my questions now, because I have interrupted you?

Senator WONG: I have many more questions but not many more on Ebola, so I would have to move to a new topic. What are you on?

Senator MILNE: I am on a different topic; that is what I am saying.

CHAIR: We have got eight minutes. Senator Milne.

Senator MILNE: I am interested in the department's response to MH370 and the role that the Prime Minister's department has played. On 11 April, the Prime Minister said when he was in China:

We have very much narrowed down the search area and we are very confident the signals are from the black box.

And:

We are confident that we know the position of the black box flight recorder to within some kilometres …

Did the Department provide a brief to the Prime Minister to that effect? Prime Minister and Cabinet did not provide any notes or information or basis on which he would have made that remark?

D r Strahan : No, we did not.

Senator MILNE: Thank you. In relation to his earlier statement to the House of Representatives on 20 March 2014, he went into the House of Representatives and said he was informing the House that new and credible information has come to light in relation to the search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370—and he went on to quote AMSA—was that on the basis of the information that you had coordinated and provided to him?

D r Strahan : Yes.

Senator MILNE: Just to be clear: AMSA went through your department in terms of providing information that you then made available to the Prime Minister? You did not provide information in relation to his statements on the black box. Is that unusual, given that there was someone in your department who was supposed to be coordinating the effort?

D r Strahan : It was in fact coordinated at two levels. One was the high policy level, which was performed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. By that point, we had established the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, which is based in Perth, and it did a lot of the hands-on coordination, including for AMSA, which was dealing with the day to day issues.

Senator MILNE: Yes, but later in the same day, only a little time later, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, led by Mr Houston, came out and said there was no breakthrough in the search for MH370. Who provided the Prime Minister with that information, if it was not the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, that gave him the confidence to make that statement in China?

D r Strahan : All that I can say is that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet did not convey any such advice.

Dr McCarthy : The Prime Minister's statements on each occasion were made on the best advice available to him, and of course the Prime Minister was in discussions not only with the department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which as Dr Strahan has indicated, was dealing at the policy coordination level, but also with his Chief Coordinator Angus Houston, and a range of experts involved in the process.

Senator MILNE: Well, as I have just said—

Dr McCarthy : So it was not the case that, on every occasion that the Prime Minister spoke, there was a brief from the department.

Senator MILNE: That is what I am hearing—that there was no brief from the department. But I am asking where it came from, since his chief envoy clearly said later in the day there was no breakthrough. AMSA said they did not provide information to the Prime Minister. The Transport and Safety Bureau says it did not provide the advice to the Prime Minister. So I am just trying to find out where the Prime Minister got this from; and, secondly, what critical, detailed analysis of the signal was conducted before the Prime Minister went public with such a statement in China?

D r Strahan : The process of searching for this aircraft has been inherently difficult. It has been based upon very small fragments of information over a very, very large area; and, in that context, occasionally information came to light which appeared at first to be encouraging, suggesting the plane's black box might have been located. But, given the inherent difficulties and uncertainties of the information at hand, sometimes, unfortunately, as the Prime Minister said, those leads did not prove to be what they were initially thought to be.

Senator MILNE: Yes, but it turned out that the signal was not consistent with that which would have come from a black box. Surely there would be detailed analysis before the Prime Minister went public with something like that, when so many lives and families were involved—especially in China, where a large number of the people who died came from. It was pretty reckless, surely, to go and make a statement like that if there was no detailed analysis at all of the substance.

Dr McCarthy : I think the Prime Minister was concerned throughout this process to ensure that, to the fullest extent possible, he kept the Australian public up-to-date with information as it came to hand and of course his international counterparts.

Senator MILNE: Yes, but wouldn't you agree it is reckless to 'keep people informed' when there is no basis for the claims that are being made? Could you take it on notice, then, to tell me on whose advice the Prime Minister made his statement in China:

We are confident that we know the position of the black box flight recorder to within some kilometres …

Somebody must take responsibility for providing that information to the Prime Minister

Dr McCarthy : I can take that question on notice.

Senator MILNE: Thank you.

CHAIR: Would you like two more minutes there, Senator Wong?

Senator WONG: Sure. I actually have a number of questions on FOI for Ms Kelly. Ms Kelly, these are some of the various answers I have been getting to freedom-of-information requests. One was that the department stopped the clock to ask whether 'transmitted from the department to the PM's office' included providing the document to the DLO. That is how documents get transmitted. It took the department nearly five months to make a decision, when the statutory time frame is 30 days. I did get a statement saying, 'I regret the delay.' It took three months to make a decision in relation to an FOI regarding the appointment of Ms Mirabella to the board of the ASC. The department has refused to provide the order of precedence on privacy grounds, on the basis that this would reveal the names of ministers—I thought that was a novel response!—and refused to agree to an order for the production of documents on the basis that there had been an FOI request lodged. Perhaps I will leave that. But, just on the first four, what is the issue? Why is the department being so difficult in relation to freedom-of-information requests? Honestly, to say to me: does 'transmitted from the Department of the PM&C to the PM's office' include the DLO? Anyone who has worked in a minister's office knows, frankly, that is a ridiculous suggestion.

Ms Kelly : I am not able to deal with those four requests in globo. In relation to each individual request, I would need to have the documents in front of me to refresh my memory in relation to the details of that specific request. The department does take its responsibilities under the act—

Senator WONG: You keep telling me that—

Ms Kelly : seriously.

Senator WONG: You keep telling me that, and I keep saying accountability is serious. But my observation—and you can correct it if it is wrong—is that as many barriers as possible are put up in relation to FOI requests. I am happy to discuss this on another occasion. But that is my observation as somebody who has made a number of requests. Some of these do not meet the laugh test: you do not want to release the names of ministers? They are released; they are public!

CHAIR: It being after 11 o'clock—

Senator WONG: Chair, there is one document to be tabled. I think the department was requesting a minute to do that. That is what the secretary advised me previously.

Ms Kelly : You asked for the advice from the APSC. All we have been able to produce for you tonight is the relevant part of the advice extracted from a broader email. You also asked for a copy of my message to staff following the article by Mr Towell in TheCanberra Times. I am happy to table both those documents.

Senator WONG: Okay. So the explanation in relation to the APSC document is you have extracted the relevant bits?

Ms Kelly : The section that deals with using the PM&C agreement as the baseline.

Senator WONG: Thank you; I appreciate that.

CHAIR: If you could table those, thank you, Ms Kelly. The committee will now adjourn.

Committee adjourned at 23:01