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STANDING COMMITTEE ON INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
29/04/2009
Impact of the global financial crisis on regional Australia

CHAIR —Welcome and thank you for appearing before us today. Whilst we are not requiring you to give evidence under oath, I do need to remind you that these are formal proceedings of the parliament and should be treated with the same respect as proceedings of the House. It is customary for me to remind witnesses that giving false or misleading evidence before the committee is considered a serious matter and may be considered a contempt of parliament. With that said, you are most welcome to give evidence before us today. Did you want to make any introductory remarks?

Mr Douglas —Following the last presentation, perhaps just a few very short remarks because it might be an opportunity for the committee to delve into some of those issues that you did not get a chance to do with the city and perhaps pick up on some of those even further. We have a good working relationship with the city and our other key stakeholders, the shires.

Firstly, welcome to the Mid West and to Geraldton. It is fantastic to see a federal committee coming here. This is one of a few to come here over the last few years, which is just fantastic.

I think you are aware of the size of our region: 470,000 square kilometres, which is twice the size of Victoria. There are 50,000 people, with 42,000 of those being on the coastline. Once you get off the coastline it is pretty sparse. We have a rapidly growing coastline, an ageing and declining population in our north-east agricultural belt, which is also suffering structural adjustment, and a very large what we call Murchison subregion, which is a mining pastoral area, whose population has declined very rapidly and consistently since fly-in fly-out really took off in the mid-nineties. That is our region. We have rapid growth on one side and declining elsewhere.

We have very much a primary commodity driven economy. Mining is by far the largest contributor—certainly by value—followed by agriculture, tourism and fishing. We have a very strong manufacturing and service industry sector servicing the primary industry component. We are also very strongly developing and building our education and training capacity within Geraldton as well in what we have called for 10 years now, from the commission’s point of view, a SMART Mid West policy. Part of that is establishing Geraldton as a learning hub, but I will come back to that a little later on.

In terms of the impacts of the financial crisis, the mid-west is generally handling it reasonably well, albeit that some sectors are suffering more than others—and we can talk about those later, particularly the resources sector. Thankfully, 2008 was a good agricultural season. We have come off a couple of years of bad drought. Three out of the last five years have been pretty poor, another one was average and last year was a particularly good one. That was just as well because there have been downturns in the other industry sectors. That is the value of not putting all your eggs in the one basket. However, having all your eggs in the primary commodity basket is not the position that we would like to be in. So diversification is certainly a key for us.

In terms of going forward for Geraldton and the Mid West, the key for us is really what is going to happen with some committed projects, such as the ASKAP project, the Australian SKA Pathfinder project. Hopefully that leads to the SKA project in this region. That has some significant benefits for us and synergies with other projects. Also, it is about what might happen with some proposed projects, and the key amongst those are in the resources sector, particularly Oakajee. Oakajee has been a longstanding vision, if you like, for this region and we are again at the crossroads of whether it is going to happen or not.

CHAIR —Thank you for those introductory remarks. I would like to ask you a little bit about the commission itself before we delve into some of the issues. We do not have a tradition of development commissions in Victoria. So I am interested in how you are structured, where the funding comes from and how you work within your region?

Mr Douglas —We are a state statutory authority. They all now report directly to the Minister for Regional Development, the Hon. Brendan Grylls. They have a board of management, which usually consists of three ministerial appointments, three local government appointments and three community appointments. The CEO, by virtue of his office, is an ex-officio member of the board. Our funding comes directly through the state budget—through a state government appropriation. Of course, we try to leverage that so we can to try to source some other income and other funding for specific projects as required.

CHAIR —Can you give me an idea as to the quantum of funding and other project funding, if you are able to do that, and also your staffing and so on?

Mr Douglas —I am just finishing the budget statement and I cannot remember what our appropriation is, strangely enough, because that is the least of your worries in the budget statement.

Mr RANDALL —You could take it on notice.

Mr Douglas —If I could. For the discussion this morning, it is around $1.3 million, which is our base appropriation, but I will take the question on notice.

CHAIR —Yes.

Mr Douglas —That enables us to employ around eight or nine project staff and an admin or corporate sector of about four people.

CHAIR —In terms of project funding that you have been attracting, what sorts of things do you do?

Mr Douglas —That varies significantly, too. For instance, we deliver Austrade services through the commission—trade start services; that is our partnership with Austrade. So we get a base funding from Austrade to deliver those. Depending on our success rate, of course, we get bonus payments and so forth. That is a good partnership.

In the past we have also been able to attract funding to put on an Aboriginal economic development officer. That is additional to our appropriation. At the moment, we also have a broadband development officer, who was sourced through the state with the state sourcing funding through the federal—we have those three additional positions at the moment working on Aboriginal economic development opportunities, broadband and trade start services.

CHAIR —In terms of the new role for the area consultative committee in the area regarding Regional Development Australia, I am assuming that there is work being done in aligning some of that.

Mr Douglas —We are waiting to see what are the policy settings on that. It is not something that I am in a position to comment on. Should it progress the way it seems to be heading at the moment—and that is perhaps the Regional Development Commission absorbing the RDA network, which I understand is what has been discussed—then that is something that we would take on quite easily and we could deliver some really good benefits for the region.

CHAIR —Given that you are delivering Commonwealth services I am particularly interested. I did not realise that you had the Austrade function there.

Mr Douglas —Austrade and broadband. We have a couple of federal services that we are delivering at the moment. The other one that we have worked with the previous ACC on was Desert Knowledge. The ACC is actually the proponent for the Mid West Gascoyne area, but we have committed to the local ACC a certain amount of in-kind support to deliver that project to the benefit of our region as well. It is not as if those partnerships and relationships have not existed in the past. They still do.

CHAIR —I will open up questioning by the Deputy Chair. I have probably asked all of your questions about the commission.

Mr NEVILLE —I am interested in the local structure. I was a bit confused whether you were talking about the state. Are each of these commissions separate, or are they part of an overall commission?

Mr Douglas —No. They are standalone statutory authorities.

Mr NEVILLE —When you talk about the commission, you are not talking about the Mid West branch of a state commission? You are talking about—

Mr Douglas —No. I am talking about the statutory authority.

Mr NEVILLE —What was the figure for staff?

Mr Douglas —It is four admin and eight or nine project staff. That includes the funding that we have received from other sources as well.

Mr NEVILLE —Do you have an operational budget from the state government?

Mr Douglas —Yes. I think I have answered that question already.

Mr NEVILLE —What is the core funding grant from the state government?

Mr Douglas —Again, I think I have answered that question on notice. But for argument’s sake—

Mr NEVILLE —I heard you say that you would take that on notice. Is there not a set annual grant for each region?

Mr Douglas —Yes, there is, but I just cannot remember the precise figure.

Mr NEVILLE —I see. Sorry.

Mr Douglas —As I was explaining, we are just finalising our budget statements for the state budget right now. I cannot remember the actual specific figure.

Mr RANDALL —That is in Queensland.

CHAIR —We thought you might have been reluctant to say.

Mr Douglas —No. I just cannot remember the figure. I can give it to you in about two seconds once I remember.

CHAIR —I would like to ask about that. I am not privy to the act under which you are established.

Mr Douglas —The Regional Development Commission Act of 1993.

CHAIR —Thank you.

Mr Douglas —That established the nine development commissions and it also established the Regional Development Council. The Regional Development Council comprises the chairpersons of the nine commission boards plus—the names have changed now with DLGRD and various departments, but I think there is the opportunity for the minister to put on other people. For instance, there is local government representation on there outside the local development commissions as well. The Regional Development Council is the peak advisory body to the state government on regional issues.

CHAIR —In terms of your roles and functions, what is the stated purpose?

Mr Douglas —We do have objectives specified in the act. It is essentially about service delivery, infrastructure development, equitable access to services, employment generation and, broadly, the social and economic development of the region.

Mr NEVILLE —What is the chain of activity if someone comes to Geraldton looking for a business opportunity? Is there an industry officer at the council or a local development board first, or do they come straight to you?

Mr Douglas —They may go to a number of different sources—probably us, the city, perhaps the chamber and the port, depending on whether they are talking about trade opportunities as well. We have a pretty good relationship with those other organisations as they do with us. It depends on who they go to first, but we are all pretty good at providing the links to the other groups. Often they do come to us, yes.

Mr NEVILLE —Do you have a local development manager in the council?

Mr Douglas —Economic development, yes.

Mr NEVILLE —In your advisory role, there was evidence this morning about the necessity of upgrading both the rail to Perth and some of the feeder grain lines. What is your comment on that?

Mr Douglas —Upgrading the rail to Perth is an interesting one. I am not sure it is a necessity from a commission perspective. It certainly would be desirable and would have some good outcomes. The enhancement of the existing rail network is a priority. Absolutely.

Mr NEVILLE —Do you know what the figure is to upgrade the line from here to Perth? What is the asking figure?

Mr Douglas —No, I do not know that figure because it is not something that we have delved into. In the first instance, you would need to very clearly articulate what would drive that sort of investment. It certainly would not be people, general cargo or general freight. It would have to be something a bit more significant. It would have to be containers or that sort of thing. That is the sort of discussion that we have had with the city and a few others, but that is still very much in the early days.

Mr NEVILLE —Is there not a commodity boom expected to the east of here?

Mr Douglas —Yes. That takes us away from Perth, not towards Perth. From our point of view, in looking at the strategic infrastructure development of the region, we would prefer to expand and upgrade the link that goes eastward and at some point veers north-east to pick up Jack Hills and Weld Range, the two hematite projects that were originally underpinning the case for Oakajee. But then we would need a link to the narrow gauge network further south to bring the two together to, firstly, Geraldton if required and then off to Oakajee.

CHAIR —Mr Randall?

Mr RANDALL —I am well aware of development commissions. We are going to meet with Maree De Lacey and the Peel Development Commission, which is in my electorate, as you know.

Mr Douglas —Yes, a good operator.

Mr RANDALL —They do a fantastic job. Just on your role, I was interested in your introductory comments casting some doubt on whether Oakajee would go ahead. Were you doing that?

Mr Douglas —No, I am not casting doubt, but it has not been committed yet—not at all. Geraldton has been through, if you like, the Oakajee scenario a few times now, most recently in the late nineties to 2000 when we had the now failed Mid West iron and steel project that was proposed by Kingstream.

Mr RANDALL —But has not Premier Barnett made this and the ore his two main projects?

Mr Douglas —Yes, absolutely, but the funding that the state government has put up is around $338 million and, as you know, he is seeking matching federal funding. That would go towards common user infrastructure of the Oakajee deepwater port, the turning basin, the breakwater and the channel. There is still another $2.5 billion to $3 billion of private sector investment still required to get the port and associated rail infrastructure up and running. At the end of the day, my understanding is that it will be a private sector decision.

Mr RANDALL —Are there already interested parties in that infrastructure?

Mr Douglas —Yes, absolutely.

Mr RANDALL —In fact, they are competing with each other to get involved.

Mr Douglas —No. At the moment Oakajee Port and Rail has signed a development agreement with the state government and that gives Oakajee Port and Rail the right to develop the port and the rail infrastructure to the port. They are the port and rail proponent. Now that the development agreement is signed, the proponent, Oakajee Port and Rail, has now commenced to undertake its due diligence. It is spending something in the order of $100 million, as we understand, over the next year to prove up the project. The due diligence and the report that it produces, a bankable feasibility study, will then be used to secure the finance which it has got sitting over the side, but that is conditional on a favourable bankable feasibility study. Hence, it is not there yet. After going through the Kingstream scenario many years ago, we just play it straight down the line in terms of where it is at. This is where it is. We do not get too heavily involved in saying it is definitely going ahead, get on board or it is not going ahead, because Geraldton and the Mid West had a very drastic downturn when the last project failed.

Mr RANDALL —I take your point. I will move on to two fairly brief questions. I make the point that Kingstream was a penny dreadful company; the current company we are dealing with is not. Just on the infrastructure in the Mid West region, particularly in the hinterland towards Murchison and Gascoyne, there are a lot of interested parties. We have already heard about hematite mines and the potential leases that are coming from there. What is the biggest impediment, other than money, to that being linked up so that the infrastructure is there to open up all these new mines? We know that it is not just iron ore. There is gold and other rare minerals in this region.

Mr Douglas —Approvals.

Mr RANDALL —Is it approvals?

Mr Douglas —Simply environmental approvals.

Mr RANDALL —Did you hear my point about a redevelopment authority?

Mr Douglas —Yes.

Mr RANDALL —Do you have any views on that?

Mr Douglas —I must admit a number of years ago we thought it would have been a very good idea. One of the things that we strongly encouraged the new government to take on board, without getting into any politics—and I do not think my comments will reflect that—was to establish a high level director-generals’ group of the key agencies involved in the approvals process that understands all the infrastructure needs and so forth. That has been taken on board and that group has been established. Their role will be very much to bring everything together to make sure the projects happen.

Going back to your point about Oakajee, it is fantastic that the state government and the Premier, in particular, has really taken that on board and made that an absolute key project for Western Australia. That is fantastic and it provides a lot of optimism and a lot of leadership, which is very much recognised in this region. But a whole lot of work needs to be done to bring Oakajee together. Oakajee, at the end of the day, is about a logistics chain and it is about tonnages through a port. The tonnages through the port will not happen unless you get the tonnages. You are not going to get the tonnages unless the projects get up. The projects will not get up unless we have the power and the approvals in place, and we have a rail system that can get it to the port in the first place and so on. There is a lot of work still to be done. I remember Mr Neville was here three or four years ago—

Mr NEVILLE —Four years ago.

Mr Douglas —on an infrastructure inquiry. I am hoping that perhaps some of the things that you are hearing today are not a mirror image of what you heard four years ago when we were at the beginning of a lot of this sort of stuff and we were really struggling to get a lot of that planning and coordination happening. That partly reflected that the whole state was going through a very strong growth period.

Mr RANDALL —There seems to be some general comment that tourism here is well below what it could be. Do you have a view on why that is the case?

Mr Douglas —I think Geraldton and the Mid West—but Geraldton more so—has been a very fortunate community. It has been well positioned. It has had the rock lobster to fall back on. It is a very strong and viable agricultural community. It has a lot of natural assets in terms of resources. It has not really looked to tourism to sustain its future as a viable industry.

The other thing about Geraldton and the Mid West is that the Mid West is the most stable. I do not mean that from a mental point of view, but in terms of transition—people moving. It is one of the most stable regions in the state, if not the nation. People tend to stay here and live here in one place longer than certainly anywhere else in Western Australia. That was reflected in a study a few years ago. People get perhaps used to a certain culture and a certain level of activity. One of the comments that some of you will often hear in Geraldton is that when people put up new projects, particularly tourism projects, they do not necessarily want them because they came here for the quieter lifestyle or to enjoy the beach on their own. They do not want that development. You hear that sort of comment. This is a mindset thing. Over the last 10 years, particularly the last five years, that has changed. People realise that tourism gives us another asset and another opportunity.

CHAIR —I have a couple of question with one around the Austrade role, but I just want to follow up on that point. Certainly, at the start of your evidence you highlighted how dependent the economy in this region is on primary commodities, and obviously all regions are looking to diversify as much as they can. What role does the development commission play alongside local government in encouraging that diversity? What do you actually do and what assistance do you need?

Mr Douglas —There are a couple of things. Let us stay, for instance, on the tourism front. We have initiated, funded and led the development of a tourism strategy for Geraldton-Greenough because there is not one—certainly not in recent times. We will be putting out a draft plan for public comment very shortly. We have strongly supported individual and specific tourism initiatives, including the proposed Abrolhos Islands resort that a local developer has been pursuing now for about 10 or 11 years. We have been involved with that developer for 10 or 11 years. That will be a fantastic venture because that will really highlight one of the assets of the region.

There is one other thing I would like to mention on the tourism side. We have invested significant amounts of resources—funding and human capital—and a lot of that came from the federal government by the way, to develop our three self-drive trails in the Gascoyne Murchison called the Gascoyne Murchison Outback Pathways. There is 3,000 kilometres of self-drive trails, 60 interpretative panels and so forth.

CHAIR —Did that come through regional partnerships or through tourism?

Mr Douglas —A fair bit of that money actually came from the Australian Tourism grants as it was then—

CHAIR —Yes, development grants.

Mr Douglas —Yes, those sorts of grants—and obviously, matching funds from the state and ourselves, together with working with the local shires and communities. That was across two regions, the Gascoyne and the Murchison. We subsequently produced a book, promotional material and so forth. That is the tourism side and I will just leave that one for a while.

In the fishing sector there is a major restructuring situation happening at the moment with the lobsters, pots and all the rest of it, which has probably been explained to you. We have been trying to look at opportunities to further develop our aquaculture assets, if you like. We are well placed to further develop that aquaculture here. We are only an hour from Perth by plane, four hours by truck or car. We have pristine waters. We have the Abrolhos Islands and so forth.

CHAIR —What sort of work are you doing to transition that industry?

Mr Douglas —One of the things that we are looking at is providing funding for the industry to develop. We are looking at what the industry needs. One example is fin fish. There are one or two proponents very keen on fish farming. Rather than trying to support perhaps an individual proponent, we are looking at how we can work with the local TAFE, for instance, other local organisations and the Department of Fisheries to see what we can put together to provide that support locally for that industry to develop. We are doing that.

We spent probably six or seven years progressing lupin processing in the region. The Mid West is probably the main source of lupins in the world. We thought there was an opportunity there to process that into lupin flour, which has all sorts of health advantages. We were working with Irwin Valley and the Mingenew-Irwin group, a farmer group. We took that to the point where we provided them with a fair bit of assistance to get it to the point where they are now pretty close to taking it to the next step. That is probably a little bit commercially sensitive.

CHAIR —It is on Hansard now unfortunately.

Mr Douglas —Yes. I do not want to go too far into that one.

CHAIR —That is fine. Just in terms of Austrade, obviously as we are going around the regions, different regions are affected differently. The role that Commonwealth programs are playing is certainly appearing to be quite an important one. We have heard quite a bit of evidence about AusIndustry and how thinly stretched they are in helping particularly the manufacturing sector. Are there any comments that you want to make about the Austrade role and how that is helping? Obviously, you have a fishing industry that has lost a major market. Is Austrade assisting them at all in finding other markets?

Mr Douglas —I do not think markets are the problem with our fishing industry. It is more the sustainability of the fishery itself that is causing a lot of restructuring and structural adjustment in the industry. I do not think markets is necessarily the problem. We have provided that sort of assistance in the past. You could argue that marketing is another story, but we will leave that to the processors involved.

Austrade provides a very good service and a very valuable service to the regions, particularly those as remote as the Mid West, otherwise people are just too far away from talking to someone face to face. It is good to get the online stuff and that always fills in a lot of gaps, but a lot of people like to actually talk to someone about what they are doing, whether that is markets or just providing advice on the process of exporting and so forth. You develop a relationship then with a particular industry person.

CHAIR —What about in terms of access to export development grants and things like that? How is that going?

Mr Douglas —We have been successful in a few. We have sent people over to Japan and I think some to South Africa in the past, but I would have to double check that one. There have been a few, and there is one or two that we are working with at the moment.

CHAIR —Thank you.

Ms PARKE —I wanted to return to the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder project. Obviously, it has enormous implications for the state and nationally. I know that there are a lot of universities, scientific institutions and high tech industries involved in this. What are the implications locally for this project getting off the ground?

Mr Douglas —It is fairly strong from a number of different fronts. Perhaps I can reaffirm my earlier comment that we have been pursuing what we call a SMART Mid West policy now for about 10 years. We set ourselves off with about three pillars to that particular policy. One was to see if we could establish a Geraldton university of some sort—and there is a Geraldton Universities Centre now, but I will come back to that later because I think that is where we do need some significant federal support. That opened in 2006 and yesterday we had a Victorian parliamentary delegation looking into higher education actually visiting Geraldton. In fact, they are still here today.

The second pillar of our SMART Mid West policy was the Separation Point in the marine precinct. That was to develop an education, training and research facility around our marine sector—fishing, aquaculture and so forth. That was also opened in 2006. It took 10 years to get up.

Our third pillar, which we started 10 years ago, was the SKA project. Subsequent to that, we have had the smaller demonstrator project, ASKAP project, with about $100 million, which should start construction in the second part of this year.

The reason behind what we call that SMART Mid West is to try to get away from that dependency on primary commodities, to try to diversify the economy. The other thing behind our SMART Mid West policy is to try to encourage a culture of innovation and creativity—look at value adding to what we have in primary commodities and even strengthen the value of our primary commodities as well by pouring in more R&D. If we are going to be primary commodity based then we need to be competitive on the world global scale. They were the underpinning principles, if you like, behind our SMART Mid West policy.

The other strength to it is setting up SMART industries—education and training—another industry sector. That sector has quite a high multiplier and it is fairly stable. It does not have your variations as does the primary commodity sector.

To finish your question about benefits, in terms of numbers of people, ASKAP will not employ a huge number of people—probably 10, 15 or 20 directly—but it will provide us with another SMART facility in Geraldton. It provides an opportunity to expand our Geraldton Universities Centre to perhaps provide additional undergraduate courses but certainly post-graduate courses. It also highlights Geraldton as a strong learning hub. We are looking at other ways of developing other projects, if you like, off things like ASKAP, the university and Separation Point. For instance, with the city of Geraldton, we are looking at the possibility of a technology park or precinct being established in Geraldton, looking at perhaps a data processing facility. There are a couple of other things we are looking at as well.

At the moment we are at the stage of further exploring what other opportunities we can capture from the SMART projects. We would certainly support the national broadband network rollout to come to Western Australia and certainly the Mid West sooner rather than later. As you heard from the city of Geraldton, having a backhaul route from Perth to Geraldton would significantly enhance Australia’s bid for the SKA. I also attended that conference in Cape Town in February this year and the South African case is quite strong. The only way we can beat the South African case is to win on the scientific aspect of it. We definitely have the best site in the world—I do not think that is questioned—but we need to make sure that all the necessary infrastructure is in place as we go or the approvals are in place and we are ready to take on the project when it is announced.

Ms PARKE —When is that announcement expected to be?

Mr Douglas —It is meant to be 2010-11, but it has already slipped back a number of years. We are talking about a $2 billion to $3 billion project as well.

Ms PARKE —In relation to the Geraldton Universities Centre, is that where the Central West College of TAFE is located?

Mr Douglas —It is adjacent to it.

Ms PARKE —What other tertiary institutions are there?

Mr Douglas —The Geraldton Universities Centre is a consortium of three universities. It is UWA, Edith Cowan and Curtin University. At the moment, Curtin probably offers most of the courses in nursing, teaching and so forth, but we are going through some difficult times. There was an agreement struck a number of years ago for the universities to deliver the courses on a certain fee basis, based on a cut of the EFTS, or equivalent full-time student number, but the universities are now saying that that original agreement is making it very hard for them to deliver those services for that price. We are now finding that, where we used to have face-to-face lectures and even some face-to-face tutorials, we are now getting increasingly blended learning; we are getting online lectures and some face-to-face tutorials. We have even reached the stage now where the whole course is delivered online. For our students, particularly female mature aged students who would otherwise not attend university at all—there is no way they would be going to Perth—we would lose that whole access to university for that particular cohort.

CHAIR —Who funded the actual Universities Centre? Do the universities do that?

Mr Douglas —No. I might have to take that question on notice as well. There was some quite strong federal involvement in that. In relation to the actual building itself, the state certainly provided a significant amount of funding as well and the land is state owned land which it has invested in and so forth.

CHAIR —We have certainly been getting evidence about that.

Mr Douglas —The unique model is that originally 20 places were provided by the federal government to Geraldton—not to Geraldton Universities Centre, but to Geraldton.

CHAIR —To the town?

Mr Douglas —Yes, to the town. That has been a unique model. As I said, in more recent times, the cost of delivery has caused us some problems. We are in the process of reviewing the governance and financial model for the Geraldton Universities Centre to go forward.

One of the things that we would really like to get some support on from the federal government, as outlined in the Bradley report that came out relatively recently, is regional loading. It is totally inadequate for regional areas like the Mid West and in a community like Geraldton where we have only 30,000 to 35,000 people.

CHAIR —Thank you. We have certainly had evidence from Deakin University in Victoria on exactly that point, so thank you for reiterating that. I think that comes to the end of our formal questions. Did you have any concluding remarks that you wish to make?

Mr Douglas —There is a whole stack of other things that we could have talked about.

CHAIR —I just noticed that you have a large amount of information. I do not think that you made a formal written submission to the committee, so if you would like to provide a formal written submission to the committee we would be most grateful to receive that. When you review the proof Hansard that you will receive from this hearing, you may note that there are things that you wanted to have the opportunity to talk about and did not. I certainly would encourage you to do that if there are other additional matters you may wish to raise. There are a couple of things that you have taken on notice, so we would appreciate your evidence on those and the secretariat might write to you if there are any further questions that we have as well. Thank you for what has been a very interesting session.

I know that our next witness is here, but I am going to call a 15-minute break. I apologise for doing that. We do not have a break scheduled. I am conscious that lunch is there and I have a personal matter that I need to attend to, so the Deputy Chair might start the next session for me.

Proceedings suspended from 12.24 pm to 12.42 pm