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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee


In Attendance

Senator Brandis, Attorney-General

Senator Cash, Minister for Employment, Minister for Women, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service

Senator Seselja, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Portfolio and Budget Overview

Ms Frances Adamson, Secretary

Mr Ewen McDonald, Deputy Secretary

Mr Justin Brown, Deputy Secretary

Ms Sally Mansfield, Chief People Officer, Corporate Management Group

Mr Paul Wood, Chief Financial Officer

Ms Kate Logan, Assistant Secretary, Executive Branch


Outcome 1

The advancement of Australia's international strategic, security and economic interests including through bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement on Australian Government foreign, trade and international development policy priorities.


Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Daniel Sloper, First Assistant Secretary, Pacific Division

Ms Alice Cawte, Assistant Secretary, Pacific Regional Branch

Dr Evanor Palac-McMiken, Director and Chief Negotiator, PACER Plus Negotiations Section

North Asia

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Graham Fletcher, First Assistant Secretary, North Asia Division

Southeast Asia

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Program 1.4: Official Development Assistance —E ast Asia Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development

Mr Allaster Cox, First Assistant Secretary, South-East Asia Maritime Division

Mr Philip Green, First Assistant Secretary, South-East Asia Mainland and Regional Division

South and West Asia

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Ms Kathy Klugman, First Assistant Secretary, South and West Asia Division

Middle East and Africa

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Matthew Neuhaus—Acting First Assistant Secretary, Middle East and Africa Division

Mr Lloyd Brodrick, Assistant Secretary, Middle East Branch


Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Ms Julie Heckscher, First Assistant Secretary, Americas Division


Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Ms Louise Hand, First Assistant Secretary, Europe Division

Multilateral Policy, Development, Legal and Environment

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Program 1.5: Payments to international organisations

Mr Michael Bliss, Acting Senior Legal Adviser, Legal Division

Mr Blair Exell, First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division

Ms Rebecca Bryant, Assistant Secretary, Foreign Policy Whitepaper Taskforce

Ms Natasha Smith, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Development and Finance Division

Dr Lachlan Strahan, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division

Mr Andrew Goledzinowski, Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues

Mr Patrick Suckling, Ambassador for the Environment, Investment and Economic Division

International security, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Richard Sadleir, First Assistant Secretary, International Security Division

Mr Paul Foley, Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism

Mr Tobias Feakin, Ambassador for Cyber Affairs

Dr John Kalish, Acting Director General, Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office

Services to other agencies in Australia and overseas

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Mr Andrew Byrne, First Assistant Secretary, Public Diplomacy, Communications and Scholarships Division

Ms Sally Mansfield, Chief People Officer, Corporate Management Group

Ms Robyn Mudie, Executive Director, Diplomacy Academy

Ms Kate Logan, Assistant Secretary, Executive Branch

Mr Greg Hammond, Acting Executive Director, Overseas Property Office

Mr Ken Pascoe, Assistant Secretary, Strategy and Property Services Branch, OPO

Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Ms Lyndall Sachs, Chief of Protocol

Public diplomacy and communication

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Program 1.6: New Colombo Plan—transforming regional relationships

Program 1.7: Public information services and public diplomacy

Mr Andrew Byrne, First Assistant Secretary, Public Diplomacy and Communications Division

Progress against Australia's development policy and performance framework

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Blair Exell, First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division

Mr Peter Versegi, First Assistant Secretary, Office of Development Effectiveness

Mr Chris Tinning, Chief Economist, Development

Mr James Gilling, First Assistant Secretary, Contracting and Aid Management Division

Ms Lisa Rauter, First Assistant Secretary, InnovationXchange

Cross-regional programs

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Blair Exell, First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division

Mr Peter Versegi, First Assistant Secretary, Office of Development Effectiveness

Dr Lachlan Strahan, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division

Emergency, h umanitarian and refugee program

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Blair Exell, First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division

Mr Jamie Isbister, First Assistant Secretary, Humanitarian, NGOs and Partnerships Division

Multilateral replenishments and global development partnerships

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Program 1.3: Official Development Assistance —m ultilateral replenishments

Ms Natasha Smith, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Development and Finance Division

NGO volunteer and community programs

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Jamie Isbister, First Assistant Secretary, Humanitarian, NGOs and Partnerships Division

Outcome 2

The protection and welfare of Australians abroad and access to secure international travel documentation through timely and responsive travel advice and consular and passport services in Australia and overseas.

Consular services

Program 2.1: Consular services

Mr Jon Philp, First Assistant Secretary, Consular and Crisis Management Division

Passport services

Program 2.2: Passport Services

Mr Bob Nash, Executive Director, Australian Passport Office

Outcome 3

A secure Australian Government presence overseas through the provision of security services and information and communications technology infrastructure, and the management of the Commonwealth's overseas property estate.

Security and ICT Services

Program 3.1: Foreign affairs and trade security and IT

Mr Luke Williams, Chief Security Officer

Mr Tim Spackman, Chief Information Officer, Information Management and Technology Division

Program 3.2: Overseas Property

Mr Greg Hammond, Acting Executive Director, Overseas Property Office

Committee met at 09:00

CHAIR ( Senator Back ): The Senate has referred to the committee for examination the particulars of the proposed expenditure for 2017-18 and related documents of the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolios. The committee is due to report to the Senate on 20 June 2017 and has set Friday 9 June 2017 as the date by which senators are to submit written questions on notice. The committee has set Friday 21 July as the date for return of responses. Under standing order 26 the committee must take all evidence in public. This includes answers to questions on notice. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee you are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence.

The Senate by resolution in 1999 endorsed the following test of relevance for questions at estimates hearings: 'Any questions going to the operations or financial positions of the departments and agencies which are seeking funds in the estimates are relevant questions for the purposes of the estimates hearings.' I remind officers that the Senate has resolved that there are no areas in connection with the expenditure of public funds where any person has a discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament or its committees unless the parliament has expressly provided otherwise. The Senate has resolved also that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunities to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officer officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted.

In particular, I draw the attention of 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's proceedings today will begin with an examination of the non-trade programs of the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Would you please note that there has been agreement that matters related to aid will be dealt with tomorrow, with the exception of matters relating to the budget as they relate to the aid portfolio. So there will be no discussion today of questions relating to aid. Minister, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Senator Cash: I do not, thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Secretary?

Ms Adamson : No, Chair.

Senator WONG: I will start on a very sad note, which is the news this morning that an Australian girl holidaying in Iraq has been murdered, Zynab Al Harbiya. I first express what I am sure is a collective expression of sorrow at this news. I express our deepest condolences to our fellow Australians in her family and broader relatives. It was obviously a despicable attack, targeting families. Can we start by seeking any further information from the department about this? What do we know now? I have seen that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has very recently made a brief statement on television, but if you are able to provide us with further information we would appreciate it.

Senator Cash: Senator Wong, thank you for that. Prior to deferring to the department—because obviously the department will provide the update—I thank you for your expression of condolences and I confirm the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs in terms of the condolences of the Australian government.

Ms Adamson : I know that the minister has just extended the sympathies of the government to the government and people of Iraq following this senseless vehicle-borne IED attack perpetrated by Daesh in the Karrada peninsula in Baghdad overnight, and obviously condolences also to the family of the 12-year-old girl who, as you say, was killed during that attack. The death toll is still rising but the latest reports that we have put it at over 30, with many dozens more injured. Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming it represents a Baghdad invasion to coincide with Ramadan. It has also claimed responsibility for a separate car bomb attack at the Martyrs Bridge in the Shawaka district. I know that the minister has confirmed the death of a 12-year-old girl from Thomastown who, we understand, was killed while visiting an ice cream shop with her family to break their Ramadan fast. Her family were visiting Iraq to see relatives for Ramadan, including her ailing grandfather, according to a family statement. Of course Australian consular officials at our embassy in Baghdad are providing consular assistance to the family. We also extend our sympathies to the schoolfriends in Broadmeadows of the little girl who died.

Senator WONG: Thank you for providing us with that update. That is very distressing. There is not much more that can be said, is there, other than—I am sure all of us express our very deep sorrow for the loss of this young girl but also to the people of Iraq who have suffered so much and are continuing to be targeted. Unless there is anything further, I will move to questions.

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: I will start with climate change: the Paris agreement. There is obviously public discussion about the US administration's new position. I do not wish to traverse domestic policy, but obviously of relevance to Australia is the approach of the administration to the climate change agreement which was entered into by many, many countries, including Australia, in Paris. Has the Australian government discussed the possible US withdrawal from the Paris agreement with the US government?

Mr Suckling : Those sorts of discussions are confidential discussions.

Senator WONG: Did you hear the statement at the start of the meeting? I did not go to the content of them. Have you discussed the potential withdrawal of the US government from the Paris agreement with the US government. That is an entirely reasonable question.

Mr Suckling : I am not aware of discussions in their entirety in terms of this matter. I have had discussions in the context of my interactions with US officials about this matter

Senator WONG: Have you been directed as ambassador to present the Australian government's views as to the potential US withdrawal?

Mr Suckling : As ambassador I have to present the Australian government's position on the Paris agreement and our environment policies more generally. I have expressed our commitment to the Paris agreement to US officials, yes.

Senator WONG: Have you expressed the hope that the administration will not withdraw the US from the agreement?

Mr Suckling : I have stressed the importance the government attaches to the Paris agreement and our commitments under the Paris agreement.

Senator WONG: What is the Australian government's position on the potential withdrawal of the US from the Paris agreement?

Mr Suckling : The government has very publicly and repeatedly, from the Prime Minister down, reaffirmed out commitment to the Paris agreement—

Senator WONG: That is not what I asked you.

Mr Suckling : and underlined the importance we attach to the Paris agreement and our commitments to that agreement.

Senator WONG: Let us not play word games. We all agree that Mr Turnbull, Mr Frydenberg and Ms Bishop, to their credit, have advocated for or articulated the importance of the Paris agreement. So let us not play word games about it. There has been a very public debate internationally, including in, I think, the most recent G7 meeting, about the action that the Trump administration may take. I think the President said last week he would deal with it this week—the final decision has not been made. I am not asking about whether we support the Paris agreement; I am asking you what you understand the Australian government position to be as to the possible withdrawal of the US from the agreement.

Mr Suckling : The Paris agreement, as you know, is a global agreement to act against climate change. It has been ratified by 147 countries. So our position is that, as a multilateral agreement, the more countries in it the better.

Senator WONG: Let us try another angle. Has anybody from the government expressed a view to the US administration—expressed a hope that they do not withdraw? Has anyone put that view.

Mr Suckling : I am not privy to all the discussions that the Prime Minister and ministers have on this subject, because they have so many different contacts with the US administration.

Senator WONG: Mr Suckling, you and I both know that you would be advised of ministerial-level contacts about an issue for which you have responsibility as ambassador. If a minister raised with a counterpart, if the ambassador raised, you would get an indication of that. So what have you been told about whether—I do not need to know all the content; I just want to know. Are you aware of, at ministerial level, this issue being raised with the US?

Mr Suckling : As I say, I am not aware of all the discussions.

Senator WONG: I appreciate that. You have said that three times. Given the imperfection of your knowledge, have you been advised of this issue being raised?

Ms Adamson : Senator Wong, can I perhaps—

Senator WONG: Answer the question?

Ms Adamson : add that of course there have been wide-ranging contacts between the Australian government and the incoming Trump administration on a whole range of issues. Ministers and senior officials, both in Washington and in a range of international fora have had discussions, as you would expect with a close ally, on a whole range of issues. When it comes to those countries which signed on to the Paris agreement, obviously that was a decision for individual governments to take. As Ambassador Suckling has said, 147 countries have ratified—

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, please do not recite the—

Ms Adamson : It was a decision for those governments to go in; equally a decision whether they stay in. The Australian government is very respectful of the views of other governments when it comes to these commitments. Naturally we think the more countries in the agreement having ratified and actively implementing it the better.

Senator WONG: Sure. They are statements of fact and principle. But I am asking a very clear question.

Ms Adamson : And I am saying—

Senator WONG: No—please let me finish. It is very simple. I think Australians would just like to know if we have told, at any level, the Americans that our hope would be that they would stay in Paris.

Ms Adamson : I cannot point to a particular conversation but, as I say, there have been wide-ranging discussions on all of the big issues of the day with the US administration, and I think it would be fair to say that the Australian government's views on that matter would be known to the Trump administration—along with the views, as you mentioned earlier, of the G7 nations made clear in the communiqué issued after their recent summit.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me, then—back to my earlier question, which I still have not got an answer on—do we have a position in relation to a potential US withdrawal from Paris? Do we say we would disagree, we hope it does not happen, or would we say it is a matter for them? What is the government's position?

Ms Adamson : It is a matter for any government whether they sign on or remain in. We happen to think that it is a good agreement to be part of. We maintain our own commitment to it and we would encourage, as a matter of principle, all countries which sign to ratify, and those which have ratified to continue to implement. But ultimately those matters are for decision by the governments involved.

Senator WONG: Have we expressed a view as to any implications for Australia should the United States withdraw from the agreement?

Ms Adamson : At this stage, Senator, what you are talking about it is a hypothetical situation. We would not get into a debate or discussion—

Senator WONG: Have you expressed a view on the hypothetical?

Ms Adamson : about a hypothetical situation.

Senator WONG: That is not right. In a multilateral context—I am not asking you for an opinion on a hypothetical. You are highly experienced practitioners. You know what the implications for a multilateral agreement are, or a plurilateral agreement are, should the US withdraw. One of the key achievements in the lead-up to Paris was an agreement between China and the United States on climate, which really is the foundation of the agreement. If the United States backs out of the agreement, that has substantial and negative implications for not only the coverage but also the strength of the Paris agreement. All I am asking is whether we have put a view about the consequences for Australia should our ally withdraw from this agreement.

Ms Adamson : We would wait to see what action, if any, were taken by the United States and on what basis they took that action. I am sure you would be aware there would be a range of possibilities around that.

Senator WONG: Around how such a withdrawal might be effected?

Ms Adamson : Correct.

Senator WONG: What are those?

Ms Adamson : They would be determined by the government of the United States. Until they make a decision, we could only speculate and, as I say, we are not in the business of speculating.

Senator WONG: No, but you are in the business of managing risk and exploring opportunities.

Ms Adamson : Of course—absolutely.

Senator WONG: So in terms of that work, what are the options that you have identified as to how a US withdrawal might operate?

Ms Adamson : Really, the number of options and their precise content are matters for the United States.

Senator WONG: No-one disagrees with that. Of course it is a matter for them. That is self-evident. That is like saying the sun is going to come up in the morning.

Ms Adamson : I hope so.

Senator WONG: The question remains. Do you want me to repeat a question?

Ms Adamson : No. There is really nothing that I can add to the detail.

Senator WONG: Why are people so worried about this?

Ms Adamson : I am not worried about this, Senator; this is—

Senator WONG: Are we timorous about—are we reluctant to put a view to them about withdrawal? Is that the issue?

Ms Adamson : I do not think there is any reluctance at all on Australia's part.

Senator WONG: So why won't you tell me that you have?

Ms Adamson : As Ambassador Suckling said, he is not aware of a specific conversation. As I have said, the government has had wide-ranging and broad discussions with the incoming administration, minister to minister, official to official, in a wide range of fora in which views on these matters are exchanged.

Senator WONG: If Ambassador Suckling is not aware, as secretary of DFAT are you aware of any conversations in which the Australian government has expressed a view to the US government about the possible withdrawal from the Paris agreement.

Ms Adamson : I am not aware of any specific discussion but I would not take that as conclusive on your part that there have been no discussions, because, as I say, there have been wide-ranging discussions on every conceivable subject between us as the new administration has come to power.

Senator WONG: What, as secretary, do you understand to be the government's direction to you—policy—as to how to engage with the US administration on this issue.

Ms Adamson : We engage through explaining Australia's national interests. We also make the point, as we have done in relation to the TPP, for example, that multilateral agreements are worthwhile endeavours. Ultimately, though, the extent to which they are engaged in by an administration which continues to emphasise the value of the bilateral over the multilateral, is a matter for the Trump administration.

Mr Suckling : I think it is also pertinent to add that the US has been very clear that it is reviewing its position and it has not yet made a determination on its position. So—

Senator WONG: Sure. Sorry—I thought I referenced that.

Mr Suckling : how we engage with them will be subject to the position that emerges, which is unknown at this stage.

Senator WONG: That is true, but surely you can engage with people before they make a final decision. In fact it is often useful, isn't it?

Mr Suckling : As I mentioned, they clearly understand the importance we attach to the Paris agreement. The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the foreign minister and the environment minister have been crystal clear on that publicly.

Senator WONG: Has the Deputy Prime Minister? I have missed that.

Mr Suckling : Yes, he has.

Senator WONG: Mr Joyce says he supports Paris?

Mr Suckling : He says we will stick to our commitments under the Paris agreement.

Senator WONG: It is a slightly different way of putting it, but we will take it.

Senator Cash: In terms of broad principles, as opposed to the detail that the department would be across—in terms of the Australian government's position we have consistently confirmed that Australia is committed to the Paris agreement and Australia's emissions reductions targets. We have also confirmed that Australia's national interests are best served by US participation in the Paris agreement, consistent with our support for a collective global response to climate change.

Senator WONG: It is a position with which I agree.

Senator Cash: I just was reaffirming that.

Senator WONG: Let me be clear, then. You are the first person at the table who has said that. If US participation in the agreement remains in Australia's national interests, has that view been put by the foreign minister to one of her counterparts—her counterpart or another senior official?

Senator Cash: I would need to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Can you also take on notice whether the view that you have described—that is, that US participation in the Paris agreement is in Australia's national interest—has been put by the Prime Minister or by any other minister to a member of the US administration? If it has, can I get some details about when that occurred?

Senator Cash: Thank you, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Taking the minister's point about US participation in the agreement being in Australia's national interest, has that point been put to any other governments? Have we expressed that view to other governments?

Mr Suckling : In my role as ambassador I deal with a lot other government representatives all the time, and they are very clear on Australia's commitment and the basis on which we made our commitment, which was that it is in our national interest to become a signatory to and to ratify the Paris agreement.

Senator WONG: Ambassador, that is not what I asked you. It is a very nice response but it is not what I asked. Yes, of course, we could—it is like a manual on how we engage in climate diplomacy. I asked you a specific question about whether the Australian government had put a view to other governments about potential US withdrawal and its implications. Actually, that is not quite what I asked. I asked whether the view the minister expressed, which is that US participation remains in Australia's national interest, has been put to other governments, and, if so, whom and when.

Mr Suckling : I am not aware of that exact formulation being put.

Ms Adamson : For the 147 countries that have ratified, it is in our collective interest that all of the countries that have ratified continue to implement their undertakings under the agreement. So, in the sense that any multilateral agreement is weakened by the departure of any signatory, I think it would be fair to say that all those who have signed would have a preference for all other parties continuing in the process.

Senator WONG: That is a reasonable answer. I accept that. I agree with that. And we have continued to articulate that view, have we?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Mr Suckling : On that basis, the Minister for the Environment and Energy has publicly made that comment: that we think it would be better for the United States to be in the Paris agreement.

Senator WONG: They have made that comment publicly in the domestic press. I am asking whether that has been reflected in the diplomatic engagement.

Ms Adamson : And we have taken on notice the question of ministerial engagement.

Senator WONG: Has that position been reflected in non-ministerial diplomatic engagement—i.e. you?

Ms Adamson : We have conversations with the Americans across a very wide range of activities—too many, actually, for me to have had records of every single conversation that had taken place. But I would be confident that discussions about the US role in the multilateral system in all its dimensions have been had by various Australian officials. I have been present for some conversations involving ministers where the broad principles have been outlined. I do not think that there is a gap here, but let us on notice take your question and see if we can come back and give you further detail of that.

Senator WONG: I want to go to the overseas allowance budget measure. Page 75 of budget paper no. 2 has the cross-portfolio—Mr McDonald gets every budget question. You need to give him a bit of a break sometimes, you know?

Mr McDonald : CFO should—

CHAIR: We will have none of this humour, thank you very much.

Senator WONG: Sorry. Do you want me to get grumpier? Has the overseas allowance efficiencies in cross-portfolio—we have had a number of discussions about this previously. Can I just confirm—I think I was told in March that DFAT was leading the review of overseas allowances. Is that right?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Can you remind me who undertook the review?

Ms Adamson : We led the review with all other agencies represented overseas. It was a measure that came out of the previous budget.

Senator WONG: I know that. But who actually wrote it? Did you get an external consultant to do it, or was it done in house?

Ms Adamson : It was done essentially using experience and expertise in house but involving a very experienced former DFAT official who had served as a senior administrative officer in a number of overseas posts.

Senator WONG: As a consultant?

Ms Adamson : Involved in helping write the review.

Senator WONG: I just want to understand the legal basis of the relationship. Were they contracted?

Ms Adamson : Contracted, yes.

Senator WONG: Who was the individual.

Ms Adamson : The individual was Lex Bartlem.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me the value of that contract?

Mr Wood : I do not have that information but hopefully we can get that for you.

Senator WONG: That would be useful. Over what period was that contract?

Ms Adamson : It was over a period of several months.

Senator WONG: Seven months?

Mr Wood : The report was completed just before Christmas, so maybe November. It may have been a period of three to four months—but we can confirm those details for you.

Senator WONG: Secretary, you said seven.

Ms Adamson : No—several.

Senator WONG: I am sorry. I misheard. So it was three to four months. He was engaged in September or thereabouts—is that right?

Ms Adamson : We will check for you.

Senator WONG: I thought you said it finished in November.

Mr Wood : Correct. But we will get those precise details for you.

Senator WONG: Okay. And did you meet—were those costs met only by DFAT or by others?

Mr Wood : Thank you for that question, Senator. The costs of this were met by DFAT. As you will note in the description in Budget Paper No. 2, there is reference to the cost being met from within the existing resources of the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. So DFAT met those costs. If I could just add further to what the secretary said, referring again to our evidence from the last estimates, there was a very broad interdepartmental committee that had representatives from all of the major portfolios and the central agencies, and that met several times to review the report.

Senator WONG: A broad IDC, which DFAT chaired?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: I think you gave me the membership last time, didn't you?

Mr Wood : Broadly, there are 28 agencies that have overseas representation. Pretty much all of them were represented. For some of the smaller ones, if they did not have a seat at the table, their portfolio department was represented.

Senator WONG: Okay. So within agencies and within portfolios it might be represented by the—okay.

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: Okay. Who commissioned Mr Bartlem? That was you?

Mr Wood : Not me personally—

Senator WONG: I am sorry—I was pointing at the secretary.

Ms Adamson : It was undertaken before I became secretary. That was in train when I started at the end of August.

Senator WONG: I am talking about the office, actually—the secretary of DFAT commissioned it or the IDC? How was that transacted?

Mr Wood : The department commissioned Mr Bartlem.

Senator WONG: I would like a copy of the review.

Mr Wood : The review formed part of the cabinet submission that went to ERC.

Senator WONG: The interesting thing about that is that it does not sound from your evidence that the document was actually prepared for the purpose of cabinet deliberations. It sounds like the document was prepared for the purposes of the departmental level considerations. Just chucking it into a cabinet submission does not make it a paper of cabinet. She is going to add to her evidence there.

Ms Adamson : No, I am going to leave it to the CFO, but it was very clearly part of a cabinet process.

Mr Wood : The report and the report's recommendations formed the cabinet submission and the information, evidence and advice that went into the budget process.

Senator WONG: Okay. I am asking for it. You are saying no. Is that correct?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator WONG: You should not be so worried about giving people stuff. Do the savings measures reflect the outcome of that review process?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: When was the minister provided with a copy?

Mr Wood : I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: You said, I think, it was finished in November or December. Was it shortly after that or—

Mr Wood : I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: When was the minister briefed on the outcomes of the review?

Mr Wood : We can provide that on notice. The foreign minister did receive briefing on this.

Senator WONG: Okay. I think you have answered this. I was going to ask was the consideration and the determination of the outcome of—was the decision as a consequence of the review on allowances a government decision or a ministerial decision. But I think you have told me that it went the ERC, so it was a government decision.

Mr Wood : It was a government decision and it was, as you know, announced in the budget. The impact on agencies is reflected in individual portfolio budget statements.

Senator WONG: So the 37 million is across all portfolios?

Mr Wood : Correct. That is a net figure. The largest contributor is DFAT, and that is represented in our portfolio budget statements.

Senator WONG: I am going to come to the detail of that shortly. But I do want to ask this: can someone tell me whether or not all recommendations of the report were adopted?

Ms Adamson : The outcome of the ERC deliberation was very much in line with the recommendations of the report.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Senator FAWCETT: Minister or secretary, the foreign minister made an announcement this morning about AUSMIN occurring here in Australia. Can you just talk to us a little bit about the arrangements for that?

Senator Cash: The secretary will provide advice.

Ms Adamson : The Minister for Foreign Affairs and, of course, the Minister for Defence, because they will be co-hosts of the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations this year, announced this morning that they would be held in Sydney on 5 June. The delegation on the US side will include, obviously, Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, and commander USPACOM—Commander, United States Pacific Command—Admiral Harris. I know that you are aware of the background of the consultations, but, for the benefit of the broader committee, they were established 30 years ago. It is the premier forum for Australia-US bilateral consultations on foreign affairs, defence and strategic matters. Naturally, in an environment where, in the context of the white paper, we have been identifying uncertainties and pathways forward for our own engagement with the region, it represents a very timely opportunity relatively early in the new US administration to engage in this way. Secretary Mattis will also be back in the region. He has already visited previously, and we welcome that, for the Shangri-La dialogue immediately beforehand. So, as you would expect, there is a wide range of matters that will be discussed. But, fundamentally, it is a major opportunity to share perspectives and approaches on major global and regional priorities and to further deepen security and defence cooperation under the alliance.

Senator FAWCETT: In terms of our broader engagement with the administration in the US, we are not quite six months into that administration yet. What other significant engagements have we had to date in that period?

Ms Adamson : There have been a considerable number of engagements, as you would expect, including, of course, visits by ministers. The foreign minister has made a number of visits to the United States. So, too, has the trade, tourism and investment minister. The Prime Minister made a very successful visit earlier this month to celebrate the centenary of the Battle of the Coral Sea and also had a well-publicised meeting with President Trump. But I think it is fair to say that, across the breadth of our engagement with the United States, there has been intensive interaction both in Washington and in other parts of the States; here in Australia, including Vice President Pence's successful visit; and also throughout the region as ministers engage with their counterparts in multilateral and regional fora.

Senator FAWCETT: Obviously from the Defence perspective we look at things like the force posture initiative and the troops rotating through Darwin. From the DFAT perspective, are there any, if you like, signature policy areas or areas of cooperation that you are expecting to be discussed next week?

Ms Adamson : In terms of the agenda from a DFAT perspective—and many of these perspectives obviously overlap between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defence—it is broadly about our cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues. In particular, as economic and strategic weight shifts to this region, there are obviously a number of particular issues which will be a focus of discussion. It has been a long-held objective of the Australian government for the US to continue its deep engagement in our region—it is what has underpinned peace and stability over the period since the end of World War II—and challenges which have always been there are very much to the fore at the moment in the South China Sea and elsewhere. It will be a very timely opportunity to talk about the breadth of our engagement and cooperation and our like-mindedness on many issues, not only in our own region but in the Middle East. I know in Defence estimates yesterday and the day before you will have heard from Senator Payne about some of the practical details that you have referred to.

Senator FAWCETT: Clearly one of the issues that is exercising the minds of many—and I met with my South Korean counterpart just this week to talk about regional security—is the issue of North Korea.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator FAWCETT: Could you outline briefly the steps that we are taking in terms of seeking to influence the key players in this issue around the escalation of tensions, the militarisation and the nuclear threat from North Korea—with our key partners, whether that be the US or particularly with China?

Ms Adamson : Certainly. Let me simply say that, as you would know, the government has been very active in publicly condemning North Korea's destabilising behaviour and calling on it to end its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development programs. We have obviously been active in the United Nations in co-sponsoring resolutions of the UN Security Council responding to missile testing and nuclear testing as well. We implement autonomous sanctions, and Mr Fletcher can provide more detail with those. We have also been very active in our engagement with China in particular. The Prime Minister has said publicly, as has the foreign minister, that China is uniquely placed to exercise leverage over North Korea. We have had a number of discussions with the Chinese about that at all levels as, indeed, have the Americans and others, including the Japanese and South Koreans, who are very close to this deeply worrying—very close indeed on the Korean Peninsula. Obviously, they have a very strong interest in the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and the maintenance of peace and stability.

Senator FAWCETT: I think there was a reference to you providing more details, Mr Fletcher.

Mr Fletcher : In relation to activity that the government is taking, there were two resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council last year. We are implementing those in our own legislation. In addition, the foreign minister announced in February that we would amend our own autonomous sanctions, which designate individuals, ships and entities involved in the WMD program in North Korea. We have flagged and opened a period of public consultations for additional measures which would address services to the extractive industry in North Korea—mining technology and activities—and also further designations of shipping and services to Air Koryo among other things. That consultation period has now ended and the government is now preparing new legislative measures which would implement those autonomous sanctions. We are also very active in the Indo-Pacific region in encouraging other governments to implement fully the UN sanctions. When there is evidence of ships or other activity which is potentially in contravention of the sanctions, we are ready to help to lobby those governments to take action against that. So there is a number of fields in which we are taking action.

Senator WONG: Mr Fletcher, I will come back to North Korea, but I would like to finish the section of questioning I was in first. But I do want to say on the record and through you, Minister, as well, that we thank the minister for the briefings that we have received on that, including from Mr Fletcher. We appreciate it.

Senator Cash: Thank you for the feedback, Senator Wong.

Senator GALLACHER: I just had one clarification on this budget saving. Is that an actual reduction in the amount people will get or is it a reduction in the amount of people that it will apply to?

Mr Wood : It is a reduction in the amount that people will get. It will be a reduction in their take-home pay in simple terms.

Senator GALLACHER: That is quite challenging. There is no reduction in the amount of people that it will apply to as a result of your recent changes?

Mr Wood : The allowance applies to all public servants. The only exceptions are members of the Australian Defence Force that are on operations and members of the Australian Federal Police that are part of a disciplined police contingent.

Senator WONG: They are exceptions?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: I missed the first—it was ADF and who?

Mr Wood : The Australian Federal Police.

Senator WONG: ADF and AFP are excluded?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Mr Wood : Certain members—those who are on operations.

Senator WONG: Yes. But, in so far as this applies to overseas remuneration and allowances, ADF and AFP personnel are excluded from the changes?

Mr Wood : Where they are on operations. They could be a member of the Australian Federal Police who is not part of a disciplined police contingent and it would apply to that individual.

Senator WONG: We are probably just using different nomenclature.

Senator Cash: Absolutely.

Senator WONG: Okay. For those in the ADF and AFP who receive overseas allowances for whatever reason, they are excluded from the changes that this saving reflects?

Ms Adamson : No, Senator. It depends whether they are—if they are on active service then yes. But if, for example, they are an AFP member serving in the Australian Embassy in Beijing or a Defence attache, these reductions in allowances or changes in allowances will affect them. One of the purposes that the government had in undertaking this review was to try to ensure that, across Australian officials serving overseas, there was a standard approach to allowances. Also, just on the point that Senator Gallacher just made, I just want to be clear that departments were given the opportunity to grandfather these arrangements—these reductions in allowances or these changes to the basis on which allowances are calculated. DFAT has chosen to exercise that option because we felt it was fairer to enable staff who were posted overseas in the expectation of receiving a certain amount of take-home pay each week and who had arranged their finances accordingly were able to conclude their postings on that basis. So we have grandfathered those arrangements and, as a result, there will be a lower level of savings in the early years and it will then come into full effect after the grandfather period has concluded.

Senator WONG: I will come back to standardising allowances. Just on the grandfathering issue, how many staff are within the grandfathered group?

Ms Adamson : All staff currently serving overseas.

Senator WONG: I know. I am trying to get a number.

Ms Adamson : About 890 staff.

Senator WONG: And the average period for which the grandfathering arrangements will subsist or the maximum period?

Ms Adamson : The maximum period—the new allowance regime comes into effect on 1 July, so anyone who has received advice of their posting before that period will either continue, if they are at post already or about to be posted, on the existing allowances. If someone were to be advised of a posting overseas on 1 July, they would undertake that posting on the basis of the new allowances. I suppose what I am saying is—

Senator WONG: So the post—I understand that. I am sorry—did you want to finish your sentence?

Ms Adamson : Anywhere between a day and three years is the answer.

Senator WONG: Three years—that is the maximum period. So are postings two or three years maximum?

Ms Adamson : Normally they are three years—in some instances with an option to serve for a fourth year. But the opportunity to continue on the existing allowances will not be made available to staff who are offered an extension and choose to undertake it.

Senator WONG: I understand that. Mr Wood, did you want to add to that?

Mr Wood : The grandfathering ceases on 30 June 2020.

Senator WONG: So you have done it by date, which then reflects the policy position you have just articulated. Have you changed the terms of postings at any time over these last years? You said three with an option to four for some. Was it previously shorter?

Ms Adamson : No. Going back in the very early years of my time in the department, there was some small number of posts where positions were for two years. In some posts with exceptional levels of hardship, staff will be offered an opportunity to serve for two years and be given then the option of serving a third year should they wish to do so. But for the vast majority of posts they are three-year postings and in most cases, because we want staff also to be familiar with the environment in Australia, three years is the norm.

Senator WONG: And that has been the norm for how long?

Ms Adamson : For a very long time.

Senator WONG: In terms of staff overseas, I want to get a sense of how that number has tracked over the years. You said 890 now, so the allowance is not a bad way of assessing the number of people we have. What was the equivalent number, say, five years ago?

Mr Wood : We would need to take that on notice. I guess, obviously, we would want to combine the former AusAID and—

Senator WONG: Correct. I want to try to compare like with like. I am just trying to get a sense of the overseas footprint. This is not a bad way to understand that.

Mr Wood : We disclose that in our annual report, so we could provide you with information from the annual reports.

Senator WONG: Yes, because you do not disaggregate with your ASL figure. That is both, isn't it, or is that only—

Mr Wood : Sure.

Senator WONG: Is that only A-based?

Mr Wood : The ASL figure that is in the portfolio budget statements combines A-based and locally engaged staff and combines Canberra and overseas. So it is the total amalgam of all of our operations.

Senator WONG: I figured that. And you only disaggregate in the annual report, do you?

Mr Wood : We disclose in the annual report the numbers of staff who are serving overseas and we obviously also disaggregate by levels. We would also identify locally engaged staff. So we could provide you with information based on previous annual reports.

Senator WONG: If you wouldn't mind—but will it be like with like? Often annual reports do headcount, not ASL. What I actually want to know is, of your ASL figure, how many of them are—I am happy for you to give me the annual reports. I am sorry I have not had the opportunity to go through the last few years and look at those figures. But what I would like to understand is, of the ASL figure in the PBS, how many are in each category.

Mr Wood : We could provide that.

Senator WONG: Yes, you might need to have a bit of time to do that. But you understand the question?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: I appreciate that. Thank you. Can I just go back to the grandfathering of allowances. Can you tell me what the additional budget cost to the portfolio was of that decision?

Mr Wood : Sure. The budget measure on page 20 of our portfolio budget statements totals a saving of $21.017 million over the forward estimates. As the secretary said earlier, that increases over the years as gradually people—

Senator WONG: Page 20, did you say?

Mr Wood : Correct—of the portfolio budget statements.

Senator WONG: Yellow—I have got it.

Mr Wood : That is the one.

Senator WONG: Which line item here?

Mr Wood : We have the right cover this time, which is good. It is halfway down: overseas allowances for Australian government employees—efficiencies.

Senator WONG: So the total over the forwards of that—and thank you for giving it to us over the forwards—is $21.017?

Mr Wood : Correct, Senator.

Senator WONG: And you were saying?

Mr Wood : As you can see from the numbers, that increases as the grandfathering arrangements gradually cease.

Senator WONG: No, but that is a saving. I want to know what the cost of the grandfathering was. So what is the difference between—and I am not advocating this; I am just trying to understand the quantum—the option of implementing from 1 July, which is when the measure is implemented, and the policy position that you have—and I understand the merits of that, Secretary—

Mr Wood : I will have to come back with that, Senator. It was several million dollars.

Senator WONG: And that is only within the portfolio?

Mr Wood : For DFAT—correct, Senator.

Senator WONG: On the grandfathering decision and the option the GRC permitted portfolios to take, the difference between the 1 July saving and the grandfathered saving is to be met from your own resources? Do you see what I am saying? Was your appropriation reduced by the amount of the saving or was your appropriation only reduced by whichever policy option you chose?

Mr Wood : It was whichever policy option was chosen, which is reflected in those budget statements.

Senator WONG: That is very generous of the finance minister.

Mr Wood : From my memory, most departments accepted the option to grandfather.

Senator WONG: Sure—that makes sense.

Mr Wood : Particularly because of the impact on staff currently serving overseas.

Senator WONG: No, that makes sense. People took it on the basis of these arrangements. So there is no-one in DFAT who is not grandfathered under the arrangements the secretary has outlined?

Mr Wood : It applies to all DFAT employees.

Senator WONG: Okay. Let us go back to one of the answers that the secretary gave, which was about standardising allowances. I think, Mr Wood, you and I previously have had a conversation about that. Is it now government policy that overseas allowances are standardised, with the particular exceptions you have articulated? Is that now the government's position?

Ms Adamson : Before the chief finance officer goes into the detail that I know you will want, can I just say—

Senator WONG: I might not—you never know.

Ms Adamson : He is always ready to provide it, as you know.

Senator WONG: He is a very good officer.

Ms Adamson : The new package will ensure that allowances are more consistent across government agencies, but because there are differences in salary arrangements—salaries at certain levels, and some of the calculations that Mr Wood can explain are based on salary levels—then it will not be absolutely standard. It will be more consistent.

Senator WONG: You used the word 'standardise' though.

Ms Adamson : In terms of the way that the cost of living, cost of posting et cetera are calculated.

Mr Wood : Can I provide one example, Senator. We have an allowance called the cost of posting allowance. The government has agreed that there is now a standard percentage applied—that is calculated based on a standard percentage applied—to individual salaries. Prior to this decision, every agency applied a different percentage. Those percentages could range from 15 per cent to 30 per cent and in some cases 33 per cent if officers were accompanied. So there was a wide variety of percentage proportions applied to allowances.

Senator WONG: I do have detailed questions about this. Is there anything you could give me that I could then look at and ask questions from or not need to go into detail? I need to understand what they were getting before—not necessarily quantum; we can go to that, but how it has been changed. We can go through it bit by bit if you want. I am happy to do it orally.

Mr Wood : The secretary advised staff through internal communications on the outcomes of the review, which was based on the main allowances and what the agreement was on the percentages. It also identified certain allowances that would cease.

Senator WONG: Secretary, do you want to have a think about whether you could just table that and then I can—

Ms Adamson : I think it might be as helpful to you if we were to extract from my message to staff—

Senator WONG: You do not want me to read all of it?

Ms Adamson : which covered a wide range of budget outcomes—

Senator WONG: I am quite trustworthy, you know. You could let me read it. What am I going to do—put it in the papers?

Ms Adamson : I know you are trustworthy, Senator. But, as with all of my predecessors, I prefer to be able to communicate with my own staff and keep that communication between us. But we would—

Senator WONG: You and how many thousand people?

Ms Adamson : We would be happy—well, I have a—

Senator WONG: Fair enough. If you do not trust me to read all of your message—

Ms Adamson : No, it is not a question of trust—

Senator WONG: If you do not trust me to read all of your message, I am happy for you to give me a redacted version.

Ms Adamson : Can we offer to extract from my message the part which I think will be of greatest interest to you.

Senator WONG: Why don't I just go through it. I was hoping to save you time, but I will just go through it. How long will that take? I am happy to just go through. What is the current policy? Can you give me all of the current allowances—which is a much more laborious way of doing it—and can we talk about what has happened with each of them. Mr Wood, do you want to start?

Mr Wood : Sure. I would probably categorise the allowances into four main categories. We start with the cost of living adjustment—cost of living allowance. We covered a bit of this in the last estimates.

Senator WONG: I have forgotten it all.

Mr Wood : That is okay. This is essentially an allowance that provides officers with a similar level of purchasing parity. Senator Gallacher, I know you asked a question on this last time. So it is based on—

Senator WONG: He lives in Adelaide, so—

Mr Wood : It takes Canberra as 100—the cost of living index is 100. We then from an independent provider receive information around all the cities where staff are located. In some cases that index is less than 100—examples being Kiev, Kuala Lumpur and Bali. It also gives cities where the cost of living is more than 100. In some cases this can be a developing country where it is just quite expensive—Port Moresby; Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati—but also some other more developed cities, like Tokyo or Seoul. They are just salaries to give purchasing parity.

Senator WONG: Who is the independent provider who does the index?

Mr Wood : We use a company called Employment Conditions Abroad.

Senator WONG: Is that an ongoing contract?

Mr Wood : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Can you give me some details of the contract—cost, et cetera? But I assume we just keep rolling it over unless they do something bad.

Mr Wood : We also, related to that, pay a location again. Again, the provider—

Senator WONG: Is this another category—the second category?

Mr Wood : Correct. The second category is the location allowance. That categorises posts from A to F. Allowances are paid based on those categorisations. Category A is Dublin, Washington, Wellington. Category F is Abuja and Kabul, for example.

Senator WONG: What we are going through now is the existing structure prior to the changes—yes?

Mr Wood : I was going to give you details of what the new decisions were.

Senator WONG: Yes. I just wanted to do it in order, because I may not keep up. I would like to get the current architecture and then I want to understand how that is being altered. Is it all right if we do it sequentially?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: What does the location allowance remunerate for?

Mr Wood : Essentially hardship.

Senator WONG: Is F more than A?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: So someone who gets posted to one of the most dangerous places on earth will—

Senator MOORE: Dublin.

Senator WONG: Dublin! Her name is Moore, I just want to say; I am Wong, so—

Mr Wood : Dublin on a Friday night can be—

Senator WONG: Let us get off this topic.

Mr Wood : Places like Abuja, Baghdad and Kabul are category F; Cairo and Harare are category E; and it gradually goes up.

Senator WONG: Category three?

Mr Wood : The third category is an allowance called the cost of posting allowance, which is to compensate officers for quite a few non-financial aspects—dislocation. In some cases spouses cannot work. There was a decision made in the context of the review around standardising those percentages. The fourth category is a child supplement allowance, which is based on the ages of children. The age ranges are children under three, children three to 12 and children 12 and over. Those are the four main allowance categories. The decision for the review then agreed to abolish a range of other allowances.

Senator WONG: Which are pre-existing?

Mr Wood : Which pre-existed.

Senator WONG: What were they? These four were already there and have been retained but might have been altered.

Mr Wood : Correct—have been retained and standardised.

Senator WONG: We will come back to those changes. What are the ones that were there which are now being removed.

Mr Wood : The child reunion supplement, household maintenance and assistance allowance, pre-posting financial counselling assistance, financial assistance for cable and satellite television, an outfit allowance for senior executive staff—

Senator WONG: Outfit?

Mr Wood : Outfit.

Senator WONG: We had an outfit allowance?

Mr Wood : Now abolished.

Senator WONG: What was the second?

Mr Wood : It was household maintenance and assistance, which had an acronym of HMA.

Senator WONG: That is like cleaning and so forth?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: What was the sixth—outfit allowance? That was the last one?

Mr Wood : Outfit allowance for senior executive staff—and then there were some minor ones called additional household allowance and additional payments made to children in certain hardship categories.

Senator WONG: All of those have been abolished?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Had they been in place for some time?

Ms Adamson : Yes, they were.

Senator GALLACHER: Was it mandatory to have pre-posting financial advice? Did everybody take that up?

Ms Adamson : No, it was optional, but under the previous regime it was felt that, because there were complexities around people's financial affairs it was not unreasonable—it was thought back quite some ago—

Senator GALLACHER: Is this a paper saving or is it an actual saving?

Ms Adamson : It is an actual saving. Some staff availed themselves of that opportunity. But when we started this discussion I mentioned that one of the aims of the new package was to make these allowances more consistent across government. There are a couple of other objectives as well. One is, obviously from my point of view and from the government's, for us to be able to continue to deploy a diverse range of employees overseas and to operate effectively in the pursuit of our national interests, but also to better meet community expectations. That is something that I have spoken about at previous estimates and something that was very much in the government's mind.

Senator GALLACHER: So if you had 870 people and they all spent $1,000 on financial advice—is that the saving?

Ms Adamson : It would not have been the case that they would all have spent that amount; it would have been a contribution towards financial advice for those who wanted to avail themselves of that option.

Senator FAWCETT: How many people in the department did take up offers of either financial advice or, for example, briefings? I assume the CPSU would have been involved in offering briefings to people.

Ms Adamson : We can get back to you, I think probably during the course of day, on that rather than taking it on notice. Certainly I feel we have a responsibility to staff to encourage them to be financially responsible, and there are complexities. But henceforth those arrangements, at least for private financial advice, will need to be undertaken as a personal matter. As I said, part of that goes to broad community expectations.

Senator FAWCETT: Sure. But beyond the financial advice I am assuming that, for example, the CPSU would have consulted with their members and provided briefings.

Ms Adamson : There is a wide range of sources of information available to staff before they proceed on posting. As a former CPSU member of long standing, I think your supposition is correct.

Senator FAWCETT: I am just trying to establish how many people out of your workforce felt engaged enough with this change to seek either briefings from the union or financial advice. This is not the first time we have had reviews. You might want to clarify, but my recollection is that certainly under the Howard government there were reviews.

Ms Adamson : There was a review in 2001. Just to clarify, though, the allowance that CFO was just talking about was in fact an allowance that was able to be drawn on by people who were proceeding on overseas posting. Financial advice in relation to the changes that have been introduced in this budget will need to be undertaken obviously on a personal and individual basis. But you are correct to say that there have been a number of changes, some of them quite substantial—going back, I recall, to 1986-87. There was another significant one in 2001. From time to time governments have recognised a need to examine allowances and to adjust them for a range of reasons. But the allowance system that Mr Wood has been outlining has been in place really since the early 2000s.

Senator FAWCETT: When was the last whole-of-government review—not just of DFAT but looking at all departments?

Ms Adamson : I would need to check on that. I am not aware that there has been a whole-of-government review in the last—certainly not since 2001, and I suspect we might need to go back to the 1980s. But if we could confirm that—

Senator FAWCETT: I seem to recall one under Howard but I am not sure of the date.

Ms Adamson : That would have been the 2001 review. But there has also been over the years an increase in the number of Australian departments and agencies represented overseas, partly as a result of the fact that our interests are engaged across a very broad spectrum of activity, and our embassies have grown. Our footprint has gradually grown through an expansion of the number of overseas posts, particularly under this government, and of the numbers of posted officers from a range of agencies. As Mr Wood said, we should be able to get that data for you. It has been a gradual increase but it is one that I hope to see continue.

Senator WONG: Mr Wood, we have done what has been abolished. Now we were going to go back and you were going to explain to me how the four categories that are retained have been altered. Can we do it that way?

Mr Wood : Yes. Cost of living allowance will be based on spendable salary, using the independent provider's methodology.

Senator WONG: As opposed to?

Mr Wood : There was a practice of some agencies to apply a different salary calculation, which was based on a disposable salary amount.

Senator WONG: What is the difference between spendable and disposable?

Mr Wood : Spendable is a lower amount. Disposable was essential your gross minus income tax, PAYG withholding.

Senator WONG: What does spendable deduct?

Mr Wood : Spendable deducted some other compulsory payments, contributions and levies. It is a slightly lower amount.

Senator WONG: How much?

Mr Wood : I do not have the dollars saved.

Senator WONG: You do not have how the $21 million is disaggregated into those four categories?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: You could get that on notice though?

Mr Wood : We can take that on notice. We provided information to the Department of Finance. Finance did all the costs and then—

Senator WONG: They do all the costings.

Mr Wood : They are the experts.

Senator WONG: But you can tell me how much of the $21 million is in each of the four categories, can't you?

Mr Wood : Yes, correct.

Senator WONG: What it gives us a sense of is which is the greatest contribution to the savings.

Mr Wood : I am happy to identify that.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Second?

Mr Wood : The location allowance—the decision was that all agencies adopt common post categories based on the independent provider. Again, some agencies used a different category. It also stipulated that location allowance would not be payable for category A and category B posts. The location allowance would only be paid for posts that are in the categories C to F.

Senator WONG: Is the independent provider to whom you refer the same one who did the index?

Mr Wood : Employment Conditions Abroad—ECA—yes.

Senator WONG: Apart from the abolition of A and B, do the changes to location allowance result in a reduced location allowance for the remaining categories, C to F, for DFAT employees?

Mr Wood : The post categories remain the same. We will not be paying for category B.

Senator WONG: Apart from the abolition of A and B, does the utilisation of the independent provider's common post categories—apart from A and B disappearing, are the location allowances the same?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: So for DFAT employees for C to F there is no change.

Mr Wood : The posts will remain in those categories, yes. It also clarified for some posts which category they were in.

Senator WONG: So there might have been changes to which posts were in which category. You abolished A and B. But the quantum attached to each category remains the same?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: What is category F—what is the quantum of that?

Mr Wood : I do not have it in dollar terms. I have just got the posts.

Senator WONG: But it is a nominal figure, isn't it?

Mr Wood : It will be a nominal figure, correct.

Senator WONG: It is not associated with someone's salary?

Mr Wood : It will be a dollar figure.

Senator WONG: It is just X dollars for Kabul, X dollars for wherever—not X proportion of your salary. Is that correct? Can you just say yes or no?

Mr Wood : I would need to confirm that.

Senator WONG: I am not trying to badger you; I am just trying to understand how it is calculated. You will come back with that—that would be great. You were moving on to cost of posting allowance.

Mr Wood : The decision was that cost of posting allowance would be paid at 18 per cent of actual gross salary for unaccompanied staff and 28 per cent for accompanied staff.

Senator WONG: Meaning partnered?

Mr Wood : With a spouse, yes. There was also a decision to apply a floor and a ceiling to those allowances, the floor being the agency's equivalent APS6 salary and the ceiling being the EL2 salary. In dollar terms that was one of the largest areas of saving, because previously senior executive service staff obviously have a high salary and they now come down to that lower ceiling. The child supplement allowance is paid at the rate of the agency's average annual overseas salary. It is paid at a rate of 6.5 per cent for children under three, 5 per cent for children three to 12, and 6 per cent for children 12 and over—hence in some cases a different dollar amount can result.

Senator WONG: What is the rate of annual average salary? You said it is paid at that rate.

Mr Wood : It is the agency's average annual overseas salary.

Senator WONG: Yes—what is yours?

Mr Wood : I would need to take that on notice. It would be over $100,000.

Senator WONG: Can someone explain to me why you have got the dip? You get more for kids under three, you get less for kids three to 12, which includes a preschool period—I see the argument for primary school—but then more for kids over 12. I just want to understand the logic of that.

Ms Adamson : Children over 12 tend to be—

Senator WONG: More expensive, yes, but—

Ms Adamson : You will discover that.

Senator WONG: Thank you. We are having a discussion about pocket money actually, already. And the 6.5 per cent and 5 per cent—why is that?

CHAIR: It does not stop at age 40, I can assure you.

Senator WONG: I am sure your daughter or son will be very happy you put that on the estimates transcript.

CHAIR: They are already tweeting it.

Senator WONG: 'Dad, be quiet!' Sorry.

Ms Adamson : Sorry, Senator. The different rates reflect the experience at post of different costs and the difference between having younger children at school versus very young children at home, and also older children, who tend to be engaged in a wider range of sometimes more expensive activities.

Senator WONG: Sure. It was actually more the difference between the under threes and the three to 12s, given that three-year-olds are not at school either—anyway, it does not matter. When were staff informed?

Ms Adamson : Staff were informed on budget night.

Senator WONG: Did you do it by email, by your circular?

Ms Adamson : I did.

Senator WONG: Before or after the speech?

Ms Adamson : After the speech.

Senator WONG: Was it discussed at the heads of mission meeting held in March?

Ms Adamson : It was not discussed at the heads of mission meeting but the department has been quite open with staff since the budget last year that an allowances review was underway. But I do not recall—there was certainly no structured discussion about it.

Senator WONG: Were heads of mission consulted during the course of the review?

Ms Adamson : Staff were consulted throughout the process.

Mr Wood : As were staff at the other agencies, so it was a very broad, collaborative process.

Senator WONG: So the majority of the cross-portfolio savings measure of $21 million is about—between 55 per cent and 60 per cent of the total save?

Mr Wood : Correct. The three major contributors to the save are DFAT at $21 million, the Department of Defence at $13.5 million and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, which is about $5.3 million. Those saves are reflected in their individual portfolio budget statements. Those saves add up to slightly more because some agencies receive supplementation, because in some cases their allowances were below—

Senator WONG: Below what you have come to.

Mr Wood : Correct. So in the case I gave of cost of posting allowance—one agency paid it at 15 per cent flat rate.

Senator WONG: Are you able to tell me the gross save and then what—do you see what I am saying?

Mr Wood : I understand. I would consult with the Department of Finance but we could provide that on notice. The $37.0 million that is in budget paper no. 2—

Senator WONG: Is a net figure.

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: Okay. I want to know what the gross save was and what the cost of supplementation was. Which agencies were supplemented—do you know?

Mr Wood : No.

Ms Adamson : Austrade was one of them. There were a very small number, as I recall, of quite small agencies.

Senator WONG: I think you said at the last hearing that 28 agencies were—you gave me a different figure this time maybe.

Mr Wood : No, it is still 28. A large majority of those just have one or two officers posted overseas.

Senator WONG: I think you have told me the total number of employees affected by the review of overseas allowances at that point in time was 860. Is that the number you gave me?

Ms Adamson : That was the number for DFAT.

Mr Wood : I think it was around two and a half thousand in total.

Senator WONG: Across government?

Mr Wood : Across government.

Senator WONG: And DFAT 860—was that the number?

Mr Wood : It was around that number.

Ms Adamson : I think I said 890—off the top of my head. But we will check.

Senator WONG: I am sure you will. In terms of proportion, if it is 890 or 860 and it is two and half thousand, your savings measure reflects significantly more than the proportion of the number of employees overseas across government.

Mr Wood : Correct. The second largest in terms of staff numbers was the Department of Defence. There were also a sizeable number of AFP officers. As we said earlier, elements of those two agencies are not covered by this review. The number that I gave was, again, the gross.

Senator WONG: Yes. I am making a slightly different point. You are contributing about 57 per cent of the savings for a much smaller percentage of staff overseas. So DFAT staff are contributing more across government than their numbers.

Mr Wood : Yes. DFAT are contributing a higher proportion to the saving, yes.

Senator WONG: Is that saving—you cannot reallocate it, can you, because you have not been given it to spend; it has gone to—

Mr Wood : Correct. The money has gone. As budget paper no. 2 said—

Senator WONG: Yes, I saw the brackets.

Mr Wood : it has gone to repair the budget.

Senator WONG: I have finished on this component.

Senator LUDLAM: Can I speak to someone on the UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons?

Mr Sadleir : Yes, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM: It is good that you are here, Mr Sadleir, because I want to ask a couple of questions about a meeting that occurred between 4 and 8 July 2016 that I understand you were present at. You and Ms Jane Hardy travelled to Washington, DC to meet with a range of, I understand, quite senior State Department and National Security Council people to discuss what was then referred to as the UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament. Can you confirm for us on the record that that meeting occurred and that you were in attendance?

Mr Sadleir : We engage US interlocutors quite regularly on arms control and disarmament issues—

Senator LUDLAM: No—do not start on that one with me. Were you at the meeting on 4 to 8 July 2016 with that agenda item on the table? I know you discuss a range of matters with a range of people, so we can set that aside.

Mr Sadleir : Things that we discuss with US officials in private meetings are confidential bilateral communications.

Senator LUDLAM: I have not asked what you discussed yet. Were you in attendance at that meeting?

Mr Sadleir : I was certainly in Washington. I would need to check my diary to get the precise dates but I was certainly there around that time.

Senator LUDLAM: I think that what will happen when you check the dates is that you will come back and confirm that you were in fact there. I will let you check the record. I would appreciate that. What was the purpose of those meetings? If you want to contest the date range that I have given you and come back with different rates, that is fine. But what was the purpose of those meetings in particular?

Mr Sadleir : Senator, as I said to you before, we engage US interlocutors on a whole range of issues relevant to my portfolio, and of course the precise details of what we discuss in bilateral meetings of that sort with counterparts is confidential.

Senator LUDLAM: I do not know if you have noticed, but I have not asked you for precise details; I have asked you what the purpose of the meeting was. It is about as general a phrase as I could come up with.

Mr Sadleir : We discussed international security issues.

Senator LUDLAM: Did you discuss the open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament as an international security issue? It is probably the largest international security issue that there is.

Mr Sadleir : I will not be drawn on communications—the details of our discussions of that sort.

Senator LUDLAM: Chair, could I get your advice? The witness is being remarkably evasive. I am not after matters of state security.

Senator Brandis: He is not being evasive; he is just declining to answer for reasons that he has explained.

Senator LUDLAM: What is the point of us showing up at these committees if witnesses just decline to answer? This is fairly basic stuff.

Senator Brandis: Senator, as you know, there are some questions that ought not to be asked and may not be answered. The witness has merely indicated that the questions that you have asked him are questions that he does not consider he is at liberty to answer. He is not being evasive.

Senator LUDLAM: That is the very definition of evasion. Chair, could I get your advice? I have engaged on this matter with senior DFAT people over the previous nine years, and it is not out of bounds of an estimates committee to ask as to the broad topic of a meeting for which taxpayers paid for your airfare.

CHAIR: You are correct. It is not outside your remit to ask the questions. But it is also within the capacity of the witness—in this case he is making the claim that the subject matter of discussions in this case with his US counterparts is not a matter which he can canvass in the public arena. That is where that stands. Would you continue with your questions. If he is able to respond to them I will direct him to do so; if he is not able to he will avail himself of that opportunity.

Senator LUDLAM: Understood. Thank you, Chair. Mr Sadleir, I will ask you to take a couple of questions on notice. My understanding—which is why all this seems a bit silly—is that you and Ms Hardy were discussing the UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament, which was shortly to meet. You cannot tell me whether that is the case. You will not, I presume, be able to tell me the outcomes. Could you provide us on notice with the public interest immunity ground on which you are declining to respond to a perfectly reasonable question—whether it is national security or commercial in confidence, or whether cabinet matters were discussed—rather than just coming back with, 'No, I'm not going to answer your question'. And, if you do decide that you are able to disclose just the very broad parameters of purpose of that meeting, did the United States government instruct or encourage Australia to take any particular position at the UN working group or subsequent negotiations. That is where I would have taken this conversation if you had been forthcoming.

CHAIR: That will give the officer an opportunity to consider the response.

Senator LUDLAM: Can we hear from the officer, just to close that loop?

Mr Sadleir : Thank you, Senator. I am very happy to take those questions on notice.

CHAIR: We now break for morning tea.

Proceedings suspended from 10:30 to 10 : 44

CHAIR: We will resume.

Senator HINCH: I have a question for the Secretary Adamson. Have you ever heard of a group called Media Manoeuvres?

Ms Adamson : No, I have not.

Senator HINCH: They are a consulting firm, apparently, that gives coaching for staff of various departments for when they approach estimates committees. I find that the defence department has paid $2 million in fees to Media Manoeuvres. I am wondering if your department actually has any consulting firm that you pay to prepare people for estimates.

Ms Adamson : DFAT does indeed undertake Senate estimates training, really principally to ensure that our staff are familiar with estimates rules and are able to prepare to meet the needs of the committee. We use Laurie Wilson & Associates.

Senator HINCH: The former Channel 10 reporter Laurie Wilson, I presume.

Ms Adamson : The same Laurie Wilson. We also occasionally use him for media training, actually. The costs, if you are interested in our relative costs for 2016-17, were $28,740.

Senator HINCH: Is that for this year or total?

Ms Adamson : That is for 2016-17.

Senator HINCH: Can you find out to me on notice how much has been spent by DFAT over the years on training? Is it more than the $2 million that Defence has spent?

Ms Adamson : No, my expectation—as in all things, DFAT is a much smaller department. The costs that I have just given you for the current financial year I would expect to have been probably reasonably consistent across previous years when we have undertaken training. Some years we do and some years we do not. As incoming secretary I was keen that my colleagues and, indeed, that I would be as prepared as we could be to be able to understand the rules around these things and also to meet your interests.

Senator HINCH: That is admirable about the rules and the way that the committee works, but according to Media Manoeuvres—and I think Laurie Wilson is probably the same. They have a website that says, 'Senate estimates performance and presentation skills'—for middle to senior personnel who will be required to answer questions at hearings. It is for Senate estimates theory, performance skills for answering questions, protocols, delivery and impression, simulations and role plays. I am just wondering if you—

Ms Adamson : As I said—

Senator HINCH: Who plays Bronwyn Bishop? Who plays John Faulkner?

Ms Adamson : I assure you that our Senate estimates training is much tamer than what you are referring to, which relates to the Department of Defence and about which I can offer no comment.

Senator HINCH: I cannot believe it. Being a newcomer here, I thought estimates committees were to find out with a lot of transparency how taxpayers' money was being spent. Now I have found that $2 million has been spent by the defence department to show how you do not have to answer questions.

Ms Adamson : I cannot comment on the defence department's approach to estimates, but I can assure you that my own department is as keen as we can be to be helpful to members of the committee in the way you describe.

Senator Brandis: Senator, I did not know about that, but this is a Defence issue, so that is for the Defence estimates.

Senator HINCH: No, but I can pass it over—

CHAIR: The minister and the secretary have answered that the department cannot—

Senator HINCH: to the Attorney-General. I am allowed to raise it. Defence spent $2 million and the secretary has told me that you spent $28,000 with Laurie Wilson this year. Can anyone put their hand up who has actually had training at this table at the moment? It is a nice little lurk. I have no further questions, Chair.

CHAIR: It could be a post-senatorial role for you.

Senator WONG: I want to know if anybody plays me.

Senator HINCH: Two million bucks—

Ms Adamson : I can assure you, Senator—

Senator WONG: I know it is not all about me, but I just want to know who gets that job.

Ms Adamson : that there is no role playing involved for us.

Senator Brandis: I have never had any training, Senator and Chair.

Senator HINCH: You needed some, Senator.

Senator WONG: Senator Hinch!

Senator HINCH: Maybe I do.

CHAIR: Neither have I, Minister.

Senator Brandis: I am hurt, Senator Hinch!

Ms Adamson : Chair, if you do not mind, Mr Sadleir I would like to clarify an answer he gave immediately before the break. Is it something he can do now?

Senator WONG: He can do so. We are coming back to nuclear after I have done this batch. It is entirely up to you. We will not say you committed contempt in the interim. I am only joking.

CHAIR: Before you start, Senator Wong: Mr Sadleir, can you make your explanation and then we will go to you, Senator Wong.

Mr Sadleir : I just wanted to advise that I can confirm that Jane Hardy and I were in Washington between 4 and 8 July and that we discussed with a range of senior State Department and National Security Council officials the open-ended working group.

Senator LUDLAM: That was not so hard, was it. Thank you.

Senator WONG: Can I start with a question about the process by which diplomatic appointments are made and the decision-making process and so forth. I assume, as has been the practice, these are cabinet level appointments. Correct?

Ms Adamson : How do you mean cabinet level appointments?

Senator WONG: They go to cabinet.

Ms Adamson : The appointments are made through the Governor-General in Council and they do not separately go to cabinet.

Senator WONG: They do not go to cabinet?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: That is interesting. I know they are made by the Governor-General as a matter of technicality, but I am just asking for the sequence of events and how the process is undertaken. Head of mission comes up and we know that the end of three years or whatever is approaching. What then happens? Does DFAT provide a brief to the minister saying there are these posts which are going to become available over the next six months? Just talk me through how that works. There is no need to be so nervous, Ms Adamson. I am not going to get—

Ms Adamson : I am not remotely nervous. I always enjoy my discussions with you. You will know, I am sure, from your long experience that the department does not comment on the processes surrounding—

Senator WONG: I am not asking you—that is not true.

Ms Adamson : head of mission and head of post appointments, nor do we provide details of those appointments—

Senator WONG: I will refer you—I will get clerk advice then. That is not appropriate. I have not asked about a person. I have not asked about an individual. I am simply asking a very legitimate question in Senate estimates—and I would refer you to the statement of the chair made at the outset—about how the process is generated. I will come to questions about specific posts, which I am sure you will then refer to the minister, as is legitimate. But it is not legitimate to say, 'We are not going to talk at all about any process associated with a publicly funded position'.

Ms Adamson : Senator, it has been long-standing bipartisan practice not to do so. These are decisions for government—

Senator WONG: That is not true.

Ms Adamson : and they are made by the Governor-General in Council on advice—

Senator WONG: Sure. And you are entitled to say that they are decisions of government. You are not entitled to say, 'We are not going to discuss the process at all'. That is a ridiculous proposition. There has not been a bipartisan position on that.

Ms Adamson : My understanding is that we have not previously gone into details about the process. These are decisions for government ultimately culminating in an executive council appointment.

Senator WONG: It would be most unfortunate if we had to refer this matter to the full Senate given DFAT's very good reputation in terms of its performance at these committees. I would invite you to consider the chair's statement and reflect upon it, and I will come back to this. All I want to know is—and you are entitled to say that the process varies—if X number of posts are coming up, how is the government advised of that fact? Is the minister—

Ms Adamson : The government is advised—typically, as we have discussed previously, heads of mission appointments are three years. In some instances, heads of mission are extended for a fourth year. We keep track of, obviously, which posts are coming up and which posts require heads of mission to have language training. They are factored in then to decisions about how soon a successor needs to be identified.

Senator WONG: Fine—thank you. How is that information provided to government? Do you do a regular brief that says over the next number of months these posts are coming up? Does it vary from post to post? Do some posts—are they advised separately? How does government become aware, because I am sure the minister's office does not sit there with a spreadsheet—or maybe they do, but I do not know about that. How are they advised about impending or forthcoming vacancies?

Ms Adamson : I raise those impending and forthcoming vacancies in the normal course of business with the foreign minister.

Senator WONG: So you brief the foreign minister, whether it is orally or in writing, that this is the range of posts which are coming up. Is that how it works?

Ms Adamson : I have an ongoing discussion with the foreign minister about heads of mission appointments.

Senator WONG: You said it is not—I should not have said cabinet level. I think that confused you because it has a certain meaning.

Ms Adamson : It does.

Senator WONG: I apologise. I meant are they—generally there are appointments which are communicated to cabinet. The minister will say—there will be a paper trail that X, Y and Z are appointed to a range of positions, and the Prime Minister usually indicates which positions are required to go to cabinet. Is that process retained under this government—that heads of mission decisions are matters for cabinet?

Ms Adamson : Heads of mission decisions are as I have described them. As I said in answer to your earlier question, they are not appointments made through cabinet.

Senator WONG: I just do not want us to get into a word game here. As a matter of courtesy, I am going to be asking some questions of the minister, so I am wondering when Senator Brandis—I know he is in and out today. Is he proposing—

Ms Adamson : I think he is on his way back now, Senator.

Senator WONG: to return? They are not questions that Ms Adamson can answer. How are they then advised to the Governor-General?

Ms Adamson : They are advised to the Governor-General in the form of a submission that goes to ExCo.

Senator WONG: From whom?

Ms Adamson : It is prepared by the protocol area of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade once the government has made a decision.

Senator WONG: Who is 'the government' in that sentence? You said 'once the government has made a decision'. Is that the foreign minister, the Prime Minister or the cabinet? Who is 'the government'?

Ms Adamson : It is the foreign minister, normally in consultation with the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: Senator Brandis, I am about to ask some questions of the minister. Do you want me to wait? I just said to the chair that, as a matter of courtesy, I have some questions of the minister and I thought it would be better to wait until you got back.

Senator Brandis: That is fine.

Senator WONG: You said that the ExCo minute is prepared by DFAT protocol upon the instructions or at the direction of the foreign minister. What was the phrasing you used?

Ms Adamson : I said that, once a decision has been made by the government, DFAT will prepare the necessary paperwork for ExCo.

Senator WONG: And 'the government' in that sentence you said was generally the foreign minister, but she may consult with the Prime Minister?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: I am going to provide both you and Senator Brandis—he has seen this transcript—with transcript of the foreign minister on Sky News Sunday Agenda on 26 March. I think, Senator Brandis, I provided a copy of this to you in Prime Minister and Cabinet estimates, so you have seen it. It is page 4 of 6—I think I have marked it. It says, 'I think people who write these articles or their sources don't understand the process'—to be fair, Senator Brandis does not like it when I summarise:

… can I ask, as Foreign Minister, have you had much of a dialogue with Senator Brandis about going to London?

Julie Bishop: No, I haven't. I haven't had a dialogue with Senator Brandis about going to London.

… But you have obviously discussed it with him, have you?

Julie Bishop: No, I've read the reports, but I think people who write these articles or their sources don't understand the process of appointments to overseas positions, and they are totally within the discretion of the Prime Minister. If he chooses to exercise that discretion, the Prime Minister would say to me, Foreign Minister I would like to appoint x, y, z to a position, well then of course I'd have my views, but at the end of the day the Prime Minister has the call.

Is that an accurate description of the process—that the Prime Minister says, 'I would like X, Y, Z', and that is it?

Ms Adamson : As you said, Senator, a decision of government conveyed to DFAT is normally a decision made by the foreign minister often as a result of a discussion that she and I have had and, where there is an interest, also involving discussions between the foreign minister and the Prime Minister, who, as the foreign minister says, has discretion in relation to these matters or the ability certainly to make decisions in relation to a wide range of ambassadorial appointments should he choose to exercise that.

Senator WONG: Senator Brandis, do you understand that, in relation to the London appointment, it is the Prime Minister's call, as Ms Bishop suggests in this interview?

Senator Brandis: I read what Ms Bishop said. She is the foreign minister, so I would be instructed by her as to the process by which appointments are made. I have never been either the Prime Minister or the foreign minister, and, therefore, I have never participated in one of these discussions.

Senator WONG: I am simply asking you, as a representative of the foreign minister here today, if the Prime Minister saying, 'I would like to appoint X, Y and Z' is an indication of how the London appointment is to be approached?

Senator Brandis: I do not know anything about it, because I do not know either about any such conversation or whether any such conversation has taken place. Ms Bishop, as I read the transcript, does not appear to say that any such discussion has taken place.

Senator WONG: Have you had a discussion with Ms Bishop about the appointment of yourself to London?

Senator Brandis: No.

Senator WONG: Have you had a discussion with the Prime Minister regarding a possible appointment to London?

Senator Brandis: I have answered these questions before. The answer is no, but because there has been gossip about this in the media—

Senator WONG: Not from us.

Senator Brandis: of course, politicians talk about what is being gossiped about in the media. That is the end of the matter.

Senator Brandis: Are you seeking an appointment to London?

Senator Brandis: No.

Senator WONG: How about Wellington? That was in the paper.

Senator Brandis: No.

Senator WONG: It is very windy. Is, 'I would like to appoint X, Y and Z', as enunciated by Ms Bishop, a departure from past practice?

Ms Adamson : No, I do not believe it to be a departure from past practices. Prime ministers have always had the ability to put forward or decide on candidates for head of mission appointments.

Senator WONG: I understand from public reports, in relation to the high commissioner of the UK, Mr Downer's appointment has been extended. Can you tell me when does his appointment now expire?

Ms Adamson : Mr Downer's appointment as High Commissioner to London commenced on May 2014. Ordinarily, three years would have been up this month.

Senator WONG: Finished now.

Ms Adamson : But, in London, as for a number of other head of mission appointments, the head of mission is sometimes asked if they are willing to stay on longer. Mr Downer has been asked and is, indeed, willing to stay on longer. The precise length of time that he stays will be determined in part by, I am sure, the government's decision of a successor, but it need not be absolutely timed for that.

Senator WONG: So the length of extension at this point is indeterminate.

Ms Adamson : I think it would be reasonable for him to assume that he will continue to serve in that role well into the second half of this year, or as long or as short as is required. That is no different for him, really, than it is for career heads of mission in that respect, while the government is considering a successor.

Senator WONG: Why is it reasonable for him to assume that he would serve at least the second half of this year?

Ms Adamson : Because we are already in May. He has been asked if he is willing to stay longer, and he is willing to stay on longer.

Senator WONG: Has the foreign minister discussed with you the length of his extension?

Ms Adamson : I have discussed, with Mr Downer, his willingness to stay on as required into the second half of this year.

Senator WONG: That was not actually the question I asked.

Ms Adamson : I can only speak from my own conversations.

Senator WONG: Have you discussed with the Foreign Minister the length of Mr Downer's extension?

Ms Adamson : I have, yes—into the second half of this year.

Senator WONG: So he has not been given a date to which the appointment has been extended to?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: But he has been given a general indeterminate extension, with an indication that, when the government decides on the successor, his appointment will come to an end?

Ms Adamson : Mr Downer was asked if he would be willing to serve into the second half of this year, and he said he would be.

Senator WONG: I am just trying to understand how long the extension is for. I think you have said to me that there is no date specified. Correct?

Ms Adamson : That is correct, as is normal in these sorts of cases.

Senator WONG: That is not necessarily true, because people—

Ms Adamson : From my own experience, I can tell you—

Senator WONG: Sorry, can I just finish. As I understand it, it may be that the department indicates to someone at a post—it does not have to be head of mission, but at different levels—'We would like to you stay another year'. It is not generally, 'We can't give you a date'. That is not the norm.

Ms Adamson : In these sorts of situations—and I speak from my own experience, having been deputy head of mission in London in 1998 and having been asked if I would act as high commissioner—sorry, in 2008—act as high commissioner until the then government was in a position to appoint a high commissioner. That was not a fixed period. I have also been, as head of mission, in a position where I have been asked if I would be willing to stay an extra six months or so until a successor was chosen, and I have been willing. So in fact the situation as it applies to London, while not common, is also not unusual.

Senator WONG: Fine. But that is not what you told me. When I put to you that he has been extended pending the appointment of a successor, you gave me back a different kind of word formulation. Can we agree then that he has been extended, with no date specified, pending the appointment of a successor?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Did you want to add anything? I noticed you came to the table.

Ms Sachs : No.

Senator WONG: If there is a fabulous nugget of information, I would like it. No?

Ms Adamson : There is nothing that Ms Sachs knows about this which I do not also know.

Senator WONG: Why are you so knowledgeable about this particular post?

Ms Adamson : I am knowledgeable about all our posts.

CHAIR: She is the secretary of the department.

Senator WONG: There are many posts.

Ms Adamson : There are indeed many posts, and I take an equal interest in all of them.

Senator WONG: How many times has this been discussed with the Foreign Minister?

Ms Adamson : How many times has what been discussed with the Foreign Minister?

Senator WONG: The thing we have been discussing, which is the appointment of the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Ms Adamson : I have ongoing discussions with the Foreign Minister about a range of appointments coming up over the next six months to two years. We have had a range of conversations about this. I could not put a number on it.

Senator WONG: I am going to ask this and you are going to say no. Is the department aware of who is being considered for appointment as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom?

Ms Adamson : I would imagine there would be a range of candidates.

Senator WONG: Are you aware of those candidates?

Ms Adamson : I am not.

Senator WONG: Is there a list of candidates that the department has provided?

Ms Adamson : If I were to say that I was not aware of the candidates.

Senator WONG: I am sorry? Are you suggesting I am asking you a trick question?

Ms Adamson : No, I would never make such an allegation.

Senator WONG: Has the minister advised you about who is being considered for the position of High Commissioner to the United Kingdom?

Ms Adamson : This is a matter for the government. Decisions will be made in due course. There are a range of candidates who could be considered. Some of them are from the department. I have ensured that the minister is aware of those names but I would certainly accept, as is traditional with London, that there are a wide range of sources from which a future high commissioner could be drawn.

Senator Brandis: It could be you, Senator Wong.

CHAIR: Following the South Australian tradition.

Senator WONG: I can be very clear that Ms Bishop has not offered me the high commissioner's to London.

Ms Adamson : You would be the first female high commissioner.

CHAIR: There are links to South Australia, Senator Wong. I can see where the pattern is here.

Senator WONG: That was pretty funny. That was a good attempt, Senator Brandis, to get something else up, other than speculation about yourself. I do not think you appoint Labor people, do you?—other than extending Mr Beazley.

Senator Brandis: That is not right, actually. I myself in my own portfolio have appointed several Labor people.

Senator WONG: Yes, and then they have been attacked by your colleagues, I gather. But that is a whole nother estimates. We are not going to go back to that.

Senator Brandis: I do not recall Justice McClellan being attacked.

Senator WONG: I was going to mention New Zealand now, but I am happy to—I can see Senator Fawcett waving at me.

CHAIR: I think Senator Fawcett has a couple of questions in this space. Thank you. I will go to you, Senator Fawcett.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you. I will ask some very straightforward, non-trick questions.

CHAIR: Another South Australian. You could be on the list.

Senator FAWCETT: Absolutely. Has anything changed in terms of the appointment of non-career heads of missions over the last decade, in terms of how governments approach that?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator FAWCETT: Under Prime Minister Abbott, my understanding is, Mr Beazley was extended in his post in Washington?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator FAWCETT: And those extensions are not uncommon?

Ms Adamson : That is also correct.

Senator FAWCETT: In terms of the amount of discussion you are having at the moment with the minister about appointment—I met with our new Ambassador to Israel recently, for example—how many new appointments are coming up in the next 12 to 18 months, either replacing our existing missions or an expansion of our footprint? How many new consulates or heads of missions?

Senator WONG: I am going to watch if you answer this, because this goes to process.

Ms Adamson : Actually it goes to maths, because—

Senator WONG: The maths is part of the process—how many are coming up.

Ms Adamson : Most appointments, as you know, are for three years. We have just over 100 heads of mission in post. In the next 18 months I would expect to need to make about 50 appointments. It might be slightly less than that, because a number of heads of mission are indeed extended for a fourth year. Often there is a benefit in terms of continuity and skill and ability to prosecute Australia's interests. So, if they are performing well, they will often be extended for a further year. But, roughly, the maths works as it should, in terms of the number of appointments and the length of the appointment.

Senator FAWCETT: The other part of my question was: how many new appointments have been announced over the last year or so? My understanding is there are quite a number of new consulates and other posts that have been established by the government.

Ms Adamson : That is correct and I will invite my colleague to take you through those particular posts.

Ms Mansfield : That is right. We have had five new posts that have opened. One was Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. That replaced the Austrade presence there. We have also opened in Makassar, Phuket, Doha and Lae. So all of those are new posts that have opened since the end of 2015. There are a couple more posts that have been announced that will be opened but are not yet operational.

Senator FAWCETT: Most of those are at the consulate level? For example, Phuket, I am imagining, would be consular? We are remaining in Bangkok for our main mission?

Ms Mansfield : That is right. And Phuket, as you can imagine, has a very clear focus on the consular remit. Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia is an embassy. Makassar is a consulate. Doha is an embassy. Lae is a consulate, operating with support from our mission in Port Moresby, of course.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you. How many in diplomatic posts do we have in total? I think you said 300. Is that right?

Ms Adamson : Just over 100.

Senator FAWCETT: Okay. Can I move to a different area?

CHAIR: Just before you do, I do not want to add to this paranoia about South Australia, Secretary, but I noticed that the incoming—

Ms Adamson : It is pride, Senator.

CHAIR: Ambassador to Israel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Australia and a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Asian studies from Flinders University. We are going to have to watch this a bit more carefully. It is not just submarines, Attorney-General, that we are losing.

Senator WONG: We punch above our weight, particularly in the foreign policy area.

Ms Adamson : Senator, I can assure you that all states are well represented in the foreign service, including amongst our heads of mission—

Senator WONG: Bishop, Adamson, Wong—all South Australians.

Senator Brandis: I think I may add, Senator Back, that, if I am not mistaken, South Australian has contributed more presidents of the Senate than any other state.

Senator WONG: Correct.

CHAIR: There we go. The Tasmanians have got a—Senator Fawcett.

Senator Brandis: The Tasmanians have had a Prime Minister.

CHAIR: And some presidents of the Senate.

Senator FAWCETT: I note my predecessor in the seat of Wakefield was the Speaker in the house of assembly as well.

On a far more serious note, given in the last week we have seen terrorist incidents in the UK, in Egypt, in Baghdad, Iraq, overnight and in Indonesia, clearly the spread of Islamist terrorism around the world continues to be a significant issue. In March the foreign minister announced a new framework to look at how we could use ODA to assist in countering violent extremism. Can you give us an update on where we are at with that initiative?

Ms Adamson : We are very happy to do that—Mr McDonald in the first instance, but our Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism may also be able to assist.

Mr McDonald : On 1 March the foreign minister released a new framework to guide delivery of the development assistance to counter violent extremism. One of the reasons for that is, as you have alluded to, that violent extremism does have a big impact on our security. It also underlines our efforts to support growth stability and poverty reduction in those developing countries. It also disproportionately affects developing countries and produces serious economic consequences as a result of that. We have seen that in a number of countries recently.

In terms of that as well, the foreign minister supported our contribution to the revision of the OECD guidelines around the rules for counting ODA in relation to non-coercive countering of violent extremism, and of course we have provided some funding, as a result of that, to undertake some action in accordance with this policy that was released, including $3 million to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund and $2.5 million to establish a Commonwealth Secretariat CVE Unit.

Senator FAWCETT: Can I just clarify: with the OECD change of policy, Australia was engaged with them to broaden their definition of ODA?

Mr McDonald : Yes. As part of the Development Assistance Committee, I was at that discussion with the other 40-odd countries that are involved in that. It was about ensuring that the definitions of ODA reflected the current circumstances. These are about things like education and the impact of education in relation to countering violent extremism so it is very clear what counts and what does not count. That occurred about 12 months ago or so. It was agreed by all—it is a consensus body—and we are counting that contribution now into ODA. So, over the next few years, I think you will see that.

In addition, the committee is looking at what is the total contribution, beyond ODA, that we make within countries around development, called TOSSD. I will give you the exact words for that—I cannot remember the acronym—but it is basically looking at our contribution around development within those countries that goes broader than specific ODA activity. This has been an area of focus not only here in Australia but obviously with our partners. Our other donor partners have similar concerns around this. The development program can play a real role through education but also through the livelihoods it has created there, the economic growth et cetera. That is the focus—to try and get at it at a much earlier point, to try and counter the violent extremism. That is a rough summary.

Senator FAWCETT: You have given two examples there: economic development and education. Between yourself and Mr Foley, are there other examples you can give where, through DFAT and its initiatives, Australia is working to counter violent extremism, whether or not it is linked to ODA?

Mr Foley : We are active in international CVE in fields outside of ODA and have traditionally been so as part of Australia's comprehensive approach to counterterrorism. We have done that through departmental funds and with partners. We do so bilaterally to work with local partners, governments and civil society to understand the local drivers of violent extremism, including through research to help build community resilience against extremism, tackling extremist narratives including online and working with local partners in targeted interventions. Given the nature of the work, it is an activity where government does not always seek to advertise what it does in supporting others. But, as was indicated by Mr McDonald, we also do some work in multilateral contexts. We support the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, which is a multilateral CVE funding mechanism. We are also very active in the Global Counterterrorism Forum, which has a strong stream of work in CVE. In particular in recent years, Australia has been very active with Indonesia as the co-chair of the Detention and Reintegration Working Group to address that.

Mr McDonald : If I could just add to that, in terms of that definition change and what was covered it covers: education, as I said earlier; activities that support the rule of law; work with civil society groups, as Mr Foley just referred to, to prevent radicalisation support reintegration or promote community engagement, which is really important; building the capacity of security and justice systems in the specific skills required to prevent terrorism—so, for example, the collection of and correct use of evidence is an important, or to conduct a fair trial, and those sorts of things; and research into positive alternatives to address the causes—so to get more evidence and underpinnings to the strategies that we use. All of those are now captured within this new definition.

Senator FAWCETT: So when you say 'cause' there, I am assuming you are referring to economic causes or other things like that. Would that be correct? Or are you looking more broadly?

Mr McDonald : Yes, I am think about the reasons, if you like, why people end up in this area of activity. Why has that occurred? Is there some work that we can do? We are doing work already, but is that the best intervention? So it is about evidence underpinning what the actual cause of that is. People talk about what they think that cause is, but when you look at the people who are involved in this it is not associated with things that people in the past have necessarily thought were the causes. So this is about continuing to gather evidence and to gather, I suppose, more information in order to put our focus, as collective donors, where we should be putting our efforts in relation to countering this violent extremism.

Senator FAWCETT: Mr Lewis made some very good clarify remarks this morning about the root cause of much of the violent extremism we see in Australia about adherence to particular interpretations of Islam. We see in the Middle East, even, that Muslims are actually the victims of much terrorism, particularly where it is sectarian—between different streams. What steps are we taking, from a DFAT perspective, either in Australia or in our region to try and identify and counter funding from sources, whether it be private or nation states, that seek to propagate some of those streams of teaching that are causing people to adopt violence?

Mr Foley : The counterterrorist funding is a matter handled by AUSTRAC. They are very active in the region in building up the capacity of their partner agencies. The Attorney has certainly been very active in that, with ministerial meetings. It is something they have given a lot of attention to. It is part of a whole-of-government efforts. DFAT has assisted AUSTRAC with some funding for particular meetings offshore, but, domestically, it is obviously not a matter that we are involved in.

Senator Brandis: Can I add to what Mr Foley has said, Senator Fawcett. He refers to the role of AUSTRAC. As you know, and as others in the committee know, tracking and interrupting flows of money is a very important element in the full suite of counterterrorism activities the government takes. What I think Mr Foley may have particularly had in mind in that connection was the international conference in Bali last year on counterterrorism financing that was co-hosted by the Minister of Justice, Mr Keenan, and his Indonesian counterpart. That is one of a number of engagements that we have had. This is probably not the estimates committee to talk about it, but just for completeness. It is part of—

Senator Gallacher interjecting

Senator Brandis: I thought you might have been taking this matter seriously, Senator Gallacher. A number of the activities that have been undertaken by my department, as well as by DFAT, and by other departments as well—Defence is another, of course, and PM&C, naturally—with other countries for a full spectrum approach to counterterrorism. We have been particularly active in the region, for obvious reasons.

Senator WONG: Just on this, Mr McDonald, I was going to come to this in the aid section tomorrow. Obviously, Senator Fawcett is entitled to ask it today. I just want to confirm two things. The OECD DAC high-level meeting communique which altered the definitions of ODA was in February last year—correct?

Mr Wood : Correct—19 February 2016.

Senator WONG: But the announcement of the government's alteration to how it reports against that was February this year? Ms Bishop made the announcement, I think, publicly at the ANU Australasian Aid Conference.

Mr McDonald : I would have to check that, but it is applied—

Senator WONG: I thought what I would do is just get a couple of things and then come back to it tomorrow. What I was going to try and get is a sense of the programs, if any, within DFAT which were then affected as part of the ODA definitional change—you brought into the remit of the new definition. And, if possible—and I appreciate it will be other portfolios, but you are the reporting entity—what programs in other portfolios have been brought into the remit of the new definition? We can come back to this tomorrow. I am just flagging this with you. Is that possible?

Mr McDonald : Yes, it is. We can certainly do that. It would be easier to do that to be clear on the list of things that are affected by that. You are right in that it comes across portfolios and that it is reported to us. We do not expect initially that reporting of this would be large in terms of it staring. The second bit I would say is: I will check the announcement one that you mentioned, but I actually think it—well, it did apply from the time it was decided by the DAC. I think what is different is the reporting lag of that, but I will check for you and I will clarify it.

Senator WONG: Okay. That makes sense. So it may have applied for the 1916-17 budget year. If we can come back with that detail tomorrow. I just thought it would be good to flag that and give you some notice.

Mr McDonald : Thanks for letting us know.

Mr Wood : And, also, a lot of their reporting is based on calendar years.

Senator WONG: Reports on calendar year? Is that right?

Mr Wood : Generally, with the reporting of the OECD, DAC is calendar years.

Senator LUDLAM: Could we get Mr Sadleir back. Thank you for the answer you provided us just now at the meetings at which you were in attendance. Did the United States government—and you do not have to go into particular detail—instruct or encourage Australia to take any position in particular at the UN working group meetings that occurred shortly after you were in DC?

Mr Sadleir : We consulted with many states regarding our position on the OEWG. We were lobbied by a large number of states across the membership—

Senator LUDLAM: I can imagine.

Mr Sadleir : —of a whole range of international meetings and activities. You could say that all of our positions—we exchanged views with a great many countries but at the end of the day Australia's decision to participate was very much a matter of determining our own national interests, and we have articulated in this forum before the reasons that we decided not to participate in the ban treaty negotiations and also why we called a vote in the OEWG.

Senator LUDLAM: I would like to come to the ban treaty negotiations soon. Is it fair to say—and I know you have to choose your words a little bit carefully—that the US government lobbied us to take a particular position in the OEWG, and Australia took that on board and then formed our own view?

Mr Sadleir : It is fair to say that we were aware of the views of United States and a whole diversity of members on all sides of the debate. You are well aware of the position of the United States on the ban treaty.

Senator LUDLAM: They want it to just go away. They are not interested in disarmament.

Mr Sadleir : I can speak only about Australia's position.

Senator LUDLAM: That is okay. Is it your view that Australia participated in that open-ended working group in good faith, because we were treated and saboteurs? There is a particular word for it that will come to me. But I do not think Australia did a great deal to enhance its international standing. Do you consider that our negotiators played in good faith?

Mr Sadleir : Clearly we have to prepare for all eventualities, but right up to the wire we were acting in good faith trying to get the right outcome for Australia.

Senator LUDLAM: Which was to crash the working group so that it did not come up with a resolution?

Mr Sadleir : It was not to crash the working group. It was to try to get a balanced text that reflected both the progressive approach to nuclear disarmament and the ban treaty approach. The purpose of the OEWG was to find ways forward across a whole range of multilateral activity in the area of nuclear disarmament, and we wanted to have a balanced text that in constructive ways reflected the views of all the players. Regrettably, the final text was not one that supporters of a progressive, or building-blocks, approach could accept.

Senator LUDLAM: When you say 'balanced' do you mean an outcome in which no disarmament negotiations would take place?

Mr Sadleir : No, I mean a text in which the views of proponents of a ban treaty were balance with the views of proponents of the building-blocks, progressive approach, so that you could look at the text and see that it was a balanced text reflecting all of those views.

Senator LUDLAM: This is hilarious: I remember the word by which we were referred to. It is 'weasels'. They call us weasels. I guess I am not asking you to comment—

CHAIR: You would not expect the witness to comment on that.

Senator LUDLAM: But in your experience have you come across that phrase before? I am not certain how close to the OEWG you were—whether or not you participated, so forgive me for that. But I presume you have been around these talks for a while.

Mr Sadleir : I did not participate in the OEWG activity and I—

Senator LUDLAM: Are you aware that other delegates referred to the Australian delegation as weasels?

Mr Sadleir : I cannot comment on that.

Senator LUDLAM: That is just a simple yes or no. Before I put it to you at the table here, had you heard that phrase, in reference specifically to Australia's negotiators?

Mr Sadleir : I had certainly seen the term used in material.

Senator LUDLAM: I will call that a yes. This is all a bit retrospective. Let's come to what is actually happening now. I want to quote some talking points relating to these negotiations, which I understand originated from the department:

So long as the threat of nuclear attack exists, US extended nuclear deterrence will serve Australia's fundamental national security interests.

My question to you is whether Australia's adherence to the doctrine of extended nuclear deterrence was a factor in our decision to boycott the UN negotiations that are taking place.

Mr Sadleir : We would not characterise it as a boycott. We made a national decision not to participate on the basis that it was not in our national interests. But, yes, I can confirm that one factor in that was the importance, in a very, very insecure environment where security considerations have to be taken into account—and I think we see that every day with the behaviour of the DPRK—of extended nuclear deterrence.

Senator LUDLAM: I was going to come to them but, seeing as you have raised North Korea: are you of the view that legitimising the threat and use of nuclear weapons, and that being the official and formal policy of the Australian government, is precisely the wrong signal to send to rogue states, such as North Korea, that are progressing towards their own nuclear capability? You have just legitimised the threat of the use of nuclear weapons right here at this table.

Mr Sadleir : I think I was just making the point that a ban treaty is not going to deter the DPRK in terms of its acquisition of nuclear weapons. Indeed, I note that the DPRK voted for a ban treaty in First Committee.

Senator LUDLAM: And I believe the Iranian government did as well. Anyway, that is a statement rather than a question. So Australia does believe that use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is a legitimate international public policy instrument, as it were?

Mr Sadleir : My point was that we have a very strong alliance relationship with the United States, and, as part of that alliance relationship, the conventional and nuclear forces of the United States are a vital source of stability and security in our region and in the world, and, so long as the world contains nuclear weapon states that threaten other states, you need to have the ability to rely on US extended deterrence.

Senator LUDLAM: It is a remarkably circular line of logic, isn't it: the existence of nuclear weapons invokes the need for the continued existence of nuclear weapons?

CHAIR: Perhaps we might take that also as a statement.

Senator LUDLAM: You can, if you like. I will come back to some questions. I want to turn to the opening day of the nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations, 27 March this year. Having failed to prevent these negotiations occurring, the Trump administration's ambassador to the UN held a protest outside the UN General Assembly Hall. Did Australia participate in the protest?

Mr Sadleir : It was not a protest. It was a press conference in which the views of a group of countries with respect to the ban treaty were expressed.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. It has been written up everywhere from The New York Times down as a protest, but let's not quibble. I have participated in any number of protests in my life, Mr Sadleir. I am not down on it as a mode of expression. But did Australia participate in that, if you will, press conference?

Mr Sadleir : Yes. We were represented there.

Senator LUDLAM: What did Australia hope to achieve by participating in this protest—press conference?

Mr Sadleir : It was an opportunity to have the views of a number of countries that did not support ban negotiations registered and heard.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand Australia did not speak. There is no transcript record that indicates the Australian representative spoke at that press conference—is that right?

Mr Sadleir : That is correct.

Senator LUDLAM: So we just stood there in mute solidarity with the Trump administration? As 130 UN member states started serious work on negotiating a nuclear weapons ban treaty, we were outside the room in a protest?

Mr Sadleir : We were standing there aligning with the remarks that were made. I should point out that, because our head of mission was here in Australia, we were represented by a deputy head of mission. It would have been unlikely that we would have spoken anyway in those circumstances, because it was a more junior representative because of the need for our head of mission to be in Australia—for the GHOMM, I believe it was.

Senator LUDLAM: Understood. The US ambassador, who obviously did speak at the press conference, claimed that nearly 40 nations were boycotting the negotiations. I guess we can just take that as read. We assume that that should not count. Are any of those nations from South-East Asia or the Pacific?

Mr Sadleir : Certainly, in terms of the Pacific, Japan and the Republic of Korea are not participating.

Senator LUDLAM: They are two other nuclear weapons umbrella states, by a stunning coincidence.

Mr Sadleir : If I can just go through the list, I am quite happy to say that—

Senator LUDLAM: No; countries in our region—South-East Asia or the Pacific, if you like.

Mr Sadleir : There are a number of Pacific countries, beyond Japan and the ROK. But I think it is best that I take that on notice for you, so I can give you an accurate answer, given the numbers involved.

Senator LUDLAM: It only covers half the surface area of the planet, so that is fair enough. Are countries such as Indonesia and New Zealand, two of our closest and most important neighbours, participating in the negotiations?

Mr Sadleir : Indonesia and New Zealand are participating, yes.

Senator LUDLAM: They are. Is it your understanding—and maybe this would need to go on notice as well, because you will need to probably do some correlation—that all of the boycotting nations claim protection from nuclear weapons in the way that it is expressed in our defence white paper and in the way that you have just put to us this morning?

Mr Sadleir : I will take that on notice for you. I am quite happy to look at those statistics and get back to you.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you. Did Canada and Germany participate in the protest?

Mr Sadleir : I do not believe they did. By the way, it was not a protest but a press conference. I do not believe they did, but I had better take that on notice to make sure that you get an accurate answer.

Senator LUDLAM: I am getting the wind-up here. It is a shame that there will be no Australian representatives at the UN because these talks are scheduled to conclude at the end of June or early July. My question, firstly, is: will Australia have anybody in the room claiming even observer status? I am planning on attending. I think it is an enormous shame that we will not be formally represented there. What will be the policy of the Australian government when, it is hoped, a formal, binding, legal, international agreement to ban nuclear weapons comes into force? Is it the intention of the Australian government to stay outside the tent, or are we actually going to constructively engage at some point?

Mr Sadleir : In terms of your first query about representation, I suspect we will have no-one present. But, as you know, it is a transparent process. You are able to follow a lot of it through web streaming and other activities, and, of course, all the states involved in the negotiations actually do speak to us regularly and lobby us and engage with us, so we get a pretty good feel for what is going on, and—

Senator LUDLAM: So we will have eyes on it, even if we are not formally or informally in the room.

Mr Sadleir : In the case of a great many meetings where we cannot be everywhere at once, quite apart from the ban treaty negotiations, we have open and transparent ways of managing that. As to your second question, Australia's position on this is clear. Obviously, those are issues which ultimately rest with ministers and governments, but our position has been clearly enunciated.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you for your time.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Ludlam. I appreciate that.

Senator GALLACHER: I would like to go to costs for the prebudget function in Minister Bishop's office. I have a number of procedural questions. Who set the office up in readiness for the function?

Ms Adamson : That is a question that would need to be answered by the foreign minister and her office.

Senator WONG: Unless departmental officials were involved.

Ms Adamson : There were no departmental officials involved.

Senator WONG: The question goes to your role.

Ms Adamson : I am happy to answer those questions as best I can.

Senator GALLACHER: We are following on from Secretary Varghese's prompt correction of the record when he provided interns, I think, to set it up.

Ms Adamson : There were no departmental officers involved in setting up the function.

Senator GALLACHER: You did not provide any staff in any shape or form to set up the office in readiness for the function?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator GALLACHER: That was the answer Secretary Varghese gave but then had to correct on the Friday, as I recollect.

Ms Adamson : There will be no correction required this time, I assure you.

Senator GALLACHER: Is anybody able to go to the food, the caterer and that sort of thing?

Ms Adamson : Again, they are all questions that will need to be directed to the foreign minister and her office.

Senator GALLACHER: Why is that? Isn't this the Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Defence portfolios? Wasn't there expenditure of taxpayers' money?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator GALLACHER: There was no expenditure of taxpayers' money? Okay.

CHAIR: Can you clarify, Secretary, that there were no costs associated other than those the foreign minister may have met himself?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator GALLACHER: You did not even have any input into the RSVPs?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator GALLACHER: It was a totally separate function—was it a political function?

Ms Adamson : You would have to ask the foreign minister.

Senator GALLACHER: Did you get an invite?

Ms Adamson : I did indeed receive an invite, and I attended.

Senator GALLACHER: At least that is one question we can ask you.

CHAIR: You did better than me this year, Secretary. I did not even get an invite.

Senator GALLACHER: Did you attend?

Ms Adamson : I did attend.

Senator GALLACHER: What capacity did you attend if it had nothing to do with your department?

Ms Adamson : I attended in my capacity as secretary.

Senator GALLACHER: I am just trying to get this straight. It is not an official function of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, so it has nothing to do it. You were just a guest because you hold the position of secretary?

Ms Adamson : That is correct. I receive a very wide range of invitations to attend events in my capacity as secretary.

Senator GALLACHER: We get lots too. We do not go to them all.

Ms Adamson : I try to go to as many as I can.

Senator GALLACHER: You have really stymied my line of questioning.

Ms Adamson : I am sorry about that.

Senator GALLACHER: Would DFAT have had other representatives there, apart from the secretary?

Ms Adamson : The deputy secretaries were also invited and several of them attended.

Senator GALLACHER: Can we get a list of those?

Ms Adamson : I can tell you who attended. I can tell you that Mr McDonald attended; Mr Quinlan attended; Ms Penny Williams attended. Ms Rawson did not and neither did Mr Brown. There were three deputy secretaries in attendance.

Senator GALLACHER: You are saying that is just run of the mill, that you get an invitation to what looks like a political function?

Ms Adamson : You will need to direct those questions to the foreign minister. Certainly, there were a number of ambassadors—

Senator GALLACHER: Was it, in your consideration, a political function or not?

Ms Adamson : It was an event to mark the budget, and we had considerable input into the budget. In fact—was Mr Wood invited? Mr Wood was not invited.

Senator WONG: Mr Wood wasn't invited! I would have invited you, Mr Wood.

Mr Wood : I was in the budget lock-up. It was not as quite as enjoyable.

Ms Adamson : There were a number of foreign ambassadors in Canberra invited, and, where foreign ambassadors in Australia are invited to events, I will always look for opportunities to engage them.

Senator GALLACHER: Unlike the previous year, it was a function that had nothing to do with your department in terms of organisation, supplying interns and the like?

Ms Adamson : The way you have just characterised it is an accurate characterisation of the function.

Ms Adamson : Was the shadow foreign minister there?

Senator Seselja: Why don't you ask her?

Senator GALLACHER: I am asking you, Senator Seselja.

Senator Seselja: I was not there.

Senator GALLACHER: We may live in the same state but—

Senator WONG: Didn't you get an invitation either!

Senator Seselja: I may have, but I was not there. You could ask Senator Wong if she was there. I do not see the relevance.

Senator GALLACHER: This function appears to have been a political or, at least, a partisan function, which three dep secs and you attended.

Ms Adamson : It was a budget night function.

Senator GALLACHER: Were there, in your knowledge, lobbyists?

Ms Adamson : I do not typically deal with lobbyists, so—

Senator GALLACHER: Were there other notable Liberal politicians and former politicians present?

Ms Adamson : Look, I am a public servant. I cannot comment on that. I spoke to foreign ambassadors. There were business people there. But, if you want a list of those invited or if you want to know who was invited, I think you would have to ask the foreign minister. I do not recall particularly seeing any of the people you have referred to.

Senator GALLACHER: But I suppose the main point in the line of questioning is that it is completely different from 2015, when Secretary Varghese confirmed in written correspondence to Senator Back that DFAT graduates had served food and drinks at Ms Bishop's budget party and the like—so, totally different from 2015.

Ms Adamson : And the function this year was as I have described it.

Senator GALLACHER: Was it just a private function?

Ms Adamson : You will have to ask the foreign minister. The foreign minister hosted a function in her office. I was invited to attend, and I did so with pleasure.

Senator GALLACHER: Okay. Perhaps I could move on—while I gather my thoughts, seeing as you have stymied my whole line of questioning!—to the diplomatic corps visit to North Queensland.

Ms Adamson : I am very happy to talk about that.

Senator FAWCETT: Just while you are conferring, perhaps I could just ask, Ms Adamson: would the function that you attended be any different in nature to the function Pat Conroy held in Parliament House in 2014? According to his statement of register of interests, he received a gift from the ACTU, being a donation of refreshments from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, for a budget night event at Parliament House on 13 May 2014. So, there is a precedent, clearly, of budget night functions being held.

Ms Adamson : I was in Beijing at the time. I cannot comment, but I am sure that this building is alive with budget night functions on budget night.

Senator FAWCETT: Shock, horror—some are funded by unions and some are funded by individual ministers, by the looks of it.

Senator WONG: Yes, but public servants going to partisan fundraisers is a different thing.

Senator GALLACHER: Perhaps I could just return to this issue and put some questions to Senator Seselja, the minister, and maybe they go on notice—who knows. So, who did set up Minister Bishop's office for this function?

Senator Seselja: I do not know.

Senator GALLACHER: Will you take that on notice?

Senator Seselja: Sure.

Ms Adamson : It really does not have a relationship to the department, so if we are to take it on notice we cannot reply to it on notice unless you are asking Senator Seselja to do that separately. But the department has no ability to answer that question on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: Okay, but does the minister have the ability to take it on notice and ask the other minister?

Senator Seselja: Well, these questions can certainly be put to the foreign minister's office, given that the foreign minister—

Senator GALLACHER: Through you?

Senator Seselja: Well, the foreign minister hosted the function, so there was no departmental expenditure; there were no departmental staff. It was a private function. It was no different, as Senator Fawcett has pointed out, to what Mr Conroy would have had in his office, except that the unions funded his drinks.

Senator GALLACHER: So, do I hear that this is outside the remit of estimates? Is that what you are telling me?

Senator Seselja: Well, it would appear to be, because it does not go to any departmental expenditure or otherwise.

Senator WONG: Well, why don't you take on notice Senator Gallacher's questions for the foreign minister, as the minister at the table?

Senator GALLACHER: Will you do that?

Senator Seselja: I have agreed to inquire with the foreign minister's office in relation to questions.

Senator GALLACHER: Are you happy with that, Ms Adamson?

Ms Adamson : Yes, as long as you are not expecting the department to come back in our questions on notice and answer these questions.

Senator GALLACHER: Fine. All right—let's rip through these. So, we want to know who set the office up in readiness for the function, whether food was served, whether a caterer was engaged to prepare it, what type of food it was and who paid the caterer's account.

Senator Seselja: As I said, these are all questions for the foreign minister's office, so I am happy to put those questions to the foreign minister.

Senator GALLACHER: Now, we have a vested interest here, we South Australians. We want to know what label the wine was—the red, white and champagne.

CHAIR: The foreign minister is a Western Australian. I would certainly think that, paying for this out of her own pocket, Western Australian wines would have been—

Senator GALLACHER: The questions go to the brand of red, white and champagne served; cost per bottle; and who paid for it.

CHAIR: Well, you know the answer to who paid for it. You have had that answer. The taxpayer did not pay for it; Ms Bishop paid for it.

Senator GALLACHER: When was the invitation list drafted? I gather that you are not going to attempt to answer it. I will just put them on notice. So, when was the invitation list drafted? Who drafted it? Were the invitations printed externally? If so, how much did that cost? Who managed the RSVPs? And how many of the attendees were Liberal or National Party donors? How many lobbyists were in attendance? Given that the 38th foreign minister is probably the only female in the list of Australian foreign ministers, were there decorations, including flowers?

Senator Seselja: Why is that relevant?

Ms Adamson : Senator—

CHAIR: Minister and Secretary, I will thank you both just to remain quiet for a moment. I do remind everybody in this place that the purpose of this estimates session is to quiz the department. I have no doubt at all, Senator Gallacher, that the foreign minister will be very happy to accept any questions. They should be directed to the foreign minister. But I do go back to my statement about the resolution made by the Senate in 1999 that endorsed the following test of relevance: questions going to the operations or financial positions of departments and agencies which are seeking funds are relevant questions for the purposes of estimates hearings. So, can I direct and request that any questions you have in relation to that function are directed to the foreign minister and her office? Thank you.

Senator GALLACHER: We will put them on notice.

Senator Seselja: Thank you, Chair, and I would just like to add to my earlier answer: I am not really sure what the relevance was of Senator Gallacher's question just then—that because it is a female foreign minister we have to know about decorations and flowers. I am not really sure about that. I would have thought that if a coalition senator had asked that then perhaps Senator Wong would be up in arms right now, but I do not see the relevance.

CHAIR: Okay, well I have given the directive now in terms of how those questions are to be dealt with—

Senator Seselja: Why is that relevant?

Senator WONG: Seriously: I am supposed to comment on everything, always, am I—anything to do with gender or race—

CHAIR: Colleagues—Minister, Senator Wong, thank you. Now, would you continue, Senator Gallacher, please. I think you were going to move to the diplomatic corps to Cairns?

Senator GALLACHER: We will move to the diplomatic corps visit to North Queensland, which properly sits within the portfolio, I think. Could we have a list of the delegation to Cairns, which includes ambassadors, high commissioners, other dignitaries, parliamentarians, departmental staff and spouses that the delegation comprised?

Ms Adamson : I can tell you that 74 members of the diplomatic corps at ambassador or charge level attended, as did the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on 14 and 15 May. The Minister for International Development in the Pacific, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, attended on 15 and 16 May. I attended for the duration. And Lyndall Sachs, the chief of protocol, to my right, also attended, as did Ms Alison Carrington, the director of the Queensland state office. There were four ministerial staff in attendance, and the total number of DFAT staff, including myself, the chief of protocol and the state director Queensland for DFAT, was nine.

Senator GALLACHER: And perhaps on notice we could have that list?

Ms Adamson : Yes, we can provide that list. We can probably give it to you during the course of the day, actually.

Senator GALLACHER: In relation to parliamentarians, can we have a breakdown of their respective staff that accompanied them?

Ms Adamson : Sorry, Senator—if I could just make a correction: I said four ministerial staff; in fact, it was three. And would you mind repeating your last question?

Senator GALLACHER: Was your answer four ministers? Or four ministerial staff?

Ms Adamson : Three ministerial staff; I have just corrected it. Senator Fierravanti-Wells was there for 15 and 16 May. The foreign minister needed to leave early on the morning of 16 May to go overseas, so she was there for 14 and 15 May and there was a small overlap of a few hours in the evening of the 15th.

Senator GALLACHER: Okay, well perhaps you can give us, in relation to parliamentarians, a breakdown of their respective staff who accompanied them?

Ms Adamson : We can give you the number of staff, certainly, for each of them. Actually, I can confirm now that it was one staff member with Senator Fierravanti-Wells and three with the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Senator GALLACHER: Okay, four in total. I think this is building on like delegations, so how many delegations are planned for other regions in Australia to showcase our trade and investment opportunities?

Ms Adamson : It has been a longstanding approach of foreign ministers—not absolutely all of them but a number of them over the years—to host the diplomatic corps on visits to parts of Australia where there are particular things that we want to showcase, as it were. This goes back, I think, to 2002—no, earlier than that; to 2000—with Alexander Downer, again, wanting to showcase South Australia, which he did on a number of occasions. Then Mr Rudd also hosted. Mr Downer did that almost every year. Mr Rudd hosted in 2011, and Ms Bishop, since becoming foreign minister—since 2014—has led a visit by the diplomatic corps annually. So the normal rhythm is once a year, and this year it was to Far North Queensland.

ACTING CHAIR: So in future you would be doing one a year in another region of interest?

Ms Adamson : That is up to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

ACTING CHAIR: But that has been the practice?

Ms Adamson : That has been her practice so far.

ACTING CHAIR: One a year?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

ACTING CHAIR: This is 2017, so next year it will be selected. Is it always at the same time?

Ms Adamson : The time varies, but typically the foreign minister has led them in March, April or May.

ACTING CHAIR: So it is to showcase the regions, but what do you leave behind? How do you actually get local business involvement in promoting products and services?

Ms Adamson : There are a range of different ways of doing that, obviously, but on this occasion there was a showcase event on the Sunday afternoon which brought together an impressive range, actually, of Queensland companies who were able to showcase their products. Many of those were food and agribusiness products, but quite a number of them were also in the high-tech area—tracking devices to track turtles; drones; and other technology—as well as fashion designers, rainforest products and Study Cairns. There was a very well done showcase, from my point of view. I see a lot of these things, and the Far North Queensland showcase was done particularly well, with a lot of local businesses out in force on Mother's Day.

Senator GALLACHER: Just to be really hard nosed about this, how do you test what you are leaving behind? Does an ambassador go away and say, 'Oh, Cairns was a good place to go; I'll encourage my tourism minister to promote tourism in my country'?

Ms Adamson : Again, that varies.

Senator GALLACHER: How do we actually measure what is happening here?

Ms Adamson : That is a good question, and we are always, obviously—

Senator GALLACHER: Well, we have been doing it for a while, so you should be well advanced.

Ms Adamson : Yes. We are very mindful of the need to be able to demonstrate the benefits of these things. I can say to you, having been present with the ambassadors and high commissioners, that a number of them were very taken with what they saw there and quite impressed with the technology. Several of them arranged follow-up meetings with the businesses involved, or said they intended to do that. It is certainly my sense and the department's sense that that particular aspect of this was very well done, and I would have had close to a dozen ambassadors or high commissioners approach me and say they were interested in following up.

Senator GALLACHER: Okay. So how do you structure it? Who sits down in Cairns—if this is where it was—and says, 'These are the sectors we need to get in front of these foreign dignitaries'?

Ms Adamson : That was a decision that was made locally, with strong buy-in from the Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, who attended that event and hosted a dinner immediately afterwards. What was quite impressive was that there were a very large number of local businesspeople and local councillors. I think from my observation every ambassador sat next to a local person, if not from Cairns then from Townsville or elsewhere in Far North Queensland, giving them all an opportunity to talk about the benefits of their products or services. As you mentioned, Senator, tourism is an important element of the economy in that part of Australia, and tourism was prominent in the discussions that ambassadors had.

Senator GALLACHER: How many businesses were invited?

Senator Seselja: Sorry, Senator; I did not mean to cut you off. I just want to add to Ms Adamson's answer that I think it is fair to say that Premier Palaszczuk saw the opportunities in terms of tourism. She addressed the dinner and said:

This visit is also an opportunity to share what Queensland has to offer abroad, including our World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, stunning beaches and beautiful rainforest hinterland.

So obviously the Queensland government appeared to see significant value in the exercise.

Senator GALLACHER: I am sure the attractions of Cairns please everybody. What I want to know is: how many local business operators were invited to participate in organised events and how many local business operators were invited to attend events per se? What real interaction happened? If, on notice, you can provide a success story or two out of these adventures of showcasing various parts of Australia, I would much appreciate that.

Ms Adamson : Certainly. From my account, there were 26 exhibitors at the showcase, and I am sure that we will be able to provide an example or two of specific follow-up. But I know, from my own participation, that heads of mission were genuinely impressed with this and there will have been a range of follow-up. One of the particular areas of interest from heads of mission was from those from tropical regions themselves. They instantly recognised the quality of the services that were on offer and the products also. They focused on particular areas of specialisation. We visited a fish company, The Company One, and there was considerable interest in the work that they are doing breeding tropical fish for export. That was really across the board, you know, to the Middle East and to Asia. We also visited James Cook University and had a look at their work on public health systems, health capacity, sustainable development in sensitive land and sea environments, and state-of-the art research on tropical infectious diseases, including malaria and zika virus. Several heads of mission, again, advised me, Ms Sachs and the Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University, Sandra Harding, that they intended to follow up with researchers on fieldwork opportunities as well as institutional collaboration. We were at James Cook University for a couple of hours. They did a really outstanding job on presenting their research and its application.

Senator GALLACHER: I have no doubt that the activity you organise is wide-ranging. My question is: what comes out of it all? I am going to ask questions about the investment that the taxpayer makes in these sorts of things. What I really want to know is: is anybody concentrating on tying an economic return before we go down and detail the cost of buses, the cost of airfares? Particularly in the visit to Kangaroo Island, the most the media got was that it was a charter flight and the bus was chartered. If you cannot defend yourself about having economic pointers in the right direction—

Ms Adamson : With respect, I have just given you what I would regard as a pretty good list of the very specific engagement that these heads of mission had with local businesses. That was warmly received on both sides. I have said to you that there was strong interest in follow-up. We are aware of some specific follow-up. Some of that I expect the parties would want to keep commercial-in-confidence, but I am in absolutely no doubt myself about the value of this, both in terms of being able to demonstrate the diversity of the Far North Queensland economy—and not just the diversity but specific business opportunities, including investment opportunities, local expertise in tropical health, energy and food production—and, quite separately of course, Australia's commitment to protecting the Great Barrier Reef, which was another reason for the choice of Far North Queensland, and the continuing attractions of the reef as a tourist destination.

Senator GALLACHER: The 'with respect' is not necessary when you are addressing your points to me. What were the total costs of this exercise?

Ms Adamson : I will ask Lyndall Sachs, Chief of Protocol, to take you through those.

Ms Sachs : The total costs were $73,386.90. That covered venues—

Senator GALLACHER: Obviously a lot of attendees paid their costs. These are just the costs that you incurred with the departmental—

Ms Sachs : Yes, you are right: participants had to pay for their own airfares and their own accommodation and for any meals that were not provided as a part of the trip. It included venue and catering for the welcome briefing, the ground transport, a dinner which was hosted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, there was a musician, and for the meal itself there was the boat charter out to the reef, our paramedic escort, our photographer, and some DFAT expenditure on—

Senator GALLACHER: We might go to the detail of that. What was the cost of commercial airfares?

Ms Sachs : I do not know what the cost of commercial airfares were, because that was picked up by the ambassadors and the high commissioners.

Senator GALLACHER: So Minister Fierravanti-Wells would have been separate?

Ms Sachs : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: So there was no cost incurred by the department on commercial airfares, other than—

Ms Sachs : For DFAT staff who were supporting the delegation.

Senator GALLACHER: There were nine of those, were there?

Ms Sachs : That included the secretary, myself, five of my staff and Alison Carrington, who was the state—

Senator GALLACHER: Are they in or out of that $73,000?

Ms Sachs : They are included in that 73,000.

Senator GALLACHER: Can we get that separated out, just to see how much the cost of airfares were for the DFAT staff.

Ms Adamson : We have a figure that separates the expenditure for DFAT staff, including administrative and travel costs, and some small items like name cards for some of them, and that was $20,894.67.

Senator GALLACHER: So we are looking at a $53,000 cost for the rest of the venue?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator GALLACHER: What was the total cost of any charter aircraft or airfares?

Ms Adamson : There were no charter aircraft.

Senator GALLACHER: What was the ground transport component?

Ms Adamson : The ground transport component—buses—was $4,479.07.

Senator GALLACHER: I gather you did a boat trip. What was the sea transport?

Ms Adamson : The boat charter, including catering, was the largest cost element—$26,890.91.

Senator GALLACHER: Was that an all-day charter, or a four-hour charter?

Ms Adamson : The best part of the day, yes.

Senator GALLACHER: $26,000 for 73 people?

Ms Adamson : We also had marine scientist with this and members of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. I am not sure whether Ms Sachs has the total number of people, but that would have been the boat charter cost to take us out to Moore Reef and to provide a fairly basic lunch.

Senator GALLACHER: I would have expected more than a basic lunch if I was chartering a boat for $26,000. What business opportunities were discussed out on the water? Or were you looking at environmental outcomes, or—

Ms Adamson : The focus was on the tourism opportunities and attractions of the Great Barrier Reef, as well as some quite detailed briefings about coral reefs in general, which were provided by marine scientists, who were also there specifically to take members of the diplomatic corps onto the reef. Not all of them have had the experience of snorkelling before, and, while they were very pleased to do it, we needed to make sure from a safety point of view that there were people around to help them and to explain what they were seeing. I am advised that there were in total 108 people on board.

Senator GALLACHER: What was the capacity of the boat? Was it a boutique charter or was it—

Ms Adamson : The capacity was 250.

Senator GALLACHER: Okay, so you hired a 250-passenger boat for 108 people, for how many hours?

Ms Adamson : We left at 8 o'clock and came back at about 4 o'clock. That is the standard cost of these sorts of things. I must say there were a large number of people on board—it certainly did not feel to me as if there were any spare room, particularly.

Senator XENOPHON: Ms Adamson, could you go to the issue of East Timor. What is the status of the mediation with East Timor over the maritime boundary?

Ms Adamson : Of the conciliation with East Timor?

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

Ms Adamson : I need to make clear it is a conciliation rather than a mediation.

Senator XENOPHON: Sorry. It was a mediation. It has turned into a conciliation, hasn't it?

Ms Adamson : I will invite my colleagues Mr Cox, who is the First Assistant Secretary of the South-East Asia Maritime Division and Michael Bliss, who is the Acting Senior Legal Adviser of the Legal Division, to answer that.

Mr Bliss : Yes, we are engaged in a conciliation process. This is a process that is set out as one of the available processes for dispute resolution in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Senator XENOPHON: What is the status of it? Where are you at? When is it likely to be concluded or is there some time frame for initial hearings or conciliation meetings in respect of it?

Mr Bliss : We have had a number of conciliation meetings.

Senator XENOPHON: Where have they taken place?

Mr Bliss : There have taken place in a number of locations—Singapore, Washington and Copenhagen.

Senator XENOPHON: Why Washington and Copenhagen?

Mr Bliss : This has been the preference of the commission members themselves. As you would appreciate, finding locations which are available to the conciliators and the council concerned, as well as the parties, is—

Senator XENOPHON: Who are the conciliators? Can you tell us who they are?

Mr Bliss : Yes. The Chair of the Conciliation Commission is Peter Taksoe-Jensen. Another is—sorry, I do not have the list with me. I will take that on notice. I just do not want to give you inaccurate—

Senator XENOPHON: That is fine. If you get back to me, that will be fine. Can I just ask: what is the total amount of money that Australia has spent to date on dispute resolution, litigation, arbitration, mediation and conciliation in relation to this maritime boundary dispute?

Mr Bliss : I do not have that figure with me, but I can get that figure to you.

Senator XENOPHON: Can you give me a ballpark figure at this stage?

Mr Bliss : I would prefer to give you an accurate figure on notice or during this session.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you. But, can I ask you: whatever that figure is, where does the budget come from? Does it come from the aid budget or some other budget outcome?

Mr Bliss : No, it does not come from the budget outcome. I might pass to—

Senator XENOPHON: Which bucket of money does it come from?

Mr Wood : Our operating costs come from DFAT. So it is from the operating budget and definitely not the aid budget.

Senator XENOPHON: In the context of our relationship with East Timor since independence, Ms Adamson, do you have a view as to what damage the maritime boundary dispute has on East Timor's perception of Australia and what some might call a soft power advance by China? I had some research done which indicates that there are still very strong views by Timorese leaders about Australia in the context of this dispute. It is not a criticism of China as such, but they have built the presidential palace and provided patrol boats and a whole range of measures—quite a few in terms of the bilateral relationship between China and East Timor. But, in terms of Australia, there were 10,000 protesters who attended a rally opposite the Australian embassy on 22 to 23 March this year. The leader of FRETILIN in their parliament and Aniceto Guterres proposed that the national parliament pass a parliamentary resolution to support the demonstrations that they were carrying outside the Australian embassy. How do we repair or build that relationship given that the contrast has been that China seems to have been doing very well in the bilateral relationship with East Timor in recent years?

Ms Adamson : I will ask Mr Cox, in whose division responsibility for the conduct of Australia's relations with Timor-Leste lies. Relations between any two countries, particularly close neighbours, always have a number of dimensions to them. In many cases around the world, history is part of that. But I think we have a very good story to tell currently on our relations with Timor-Leste. I will invite Mr Cox to speak more about that.

Mr Cox : Our relationship with Timor-Leste is much broader than just maritime boundaries.

Senator XENOPHON: It is an important issue, though, is it not? It is a very important issue that has consumed the relationship.

Mr Cox : Yes, it is an important issue but our relationship is much broader. We remain Timor-Leste's major security partner. We are its major development partner, with an aid program of around $100 million working in livelihoods, education, health and governance, all of which is valued very highly. Our political leaders continue to maintain a dialogue while we have this maritime boundary dispute, including contact between Prime Minister Araujo and Mr Turnbull and between Ms Bishop and her counterparts and others, including at international meetings. So, as with other countries with whom we have disputes on other issues, we are capable of maintaining good, positive relations in a range of areas, as well as having this dispute over maritime boundary location.

Senator XENOPHON: In terms of relations, Jose Ramos-Horta, a former president, was discussing a travel advice for Timor-Leste on his Facebook page on 24 May of last year. He wrote:

My comment on the stupidity of Australia's DFAT Travel Advice for Timor-Leste: 80% of the assertions are erroneous and … malicious, put out with obvious intent to discourage Australian visitors to Timor-Leste in a mean retaliation for TL challenges on the Maritime Boundary saga.

He went on to say:

Common criminality in Timor-Leste is very low and we have one of the lowest homicide rates in the world.

And then he goes on to have a go at the AFP, which I do not want to repeat, which I thought was quite unfair. Is that travel advisory still in place? The travel advisory that Ramos-Horta—

Mr Cox : There is no link between travel advisories and the relationship between Timor-Leste on maritime boundaries.

Senator XENOPHON: I am just pointing out what a former president said in terms of the tone of the relationship.

Mr Cox : Jose Ramos-Horta is quite entitled to his own view, but there is no link between travel advisories and the maritime boundary issues.

Senator XENOPHON: You do not see any link between that?

Mr Cox : No. There is no link.

Senator XENOPHON: Notwithstanding what Ramos-Horta said and what has been said in the parliament on Timor-Leste.

Mr Cox : Those are the views of Jose Ramos-Horta—

Senator XENOPHON: And in the parliament.

Mr Cox : I can assure you that there are no links.

Senator XENOPHON: Would it be fair to say that when this dispute is resolved it would at least mean a new chapter in our relationship with Timor-Leste?

Mr Cox : When the dispute is resolved, the relationship will continue on in its many other facets, and we will have, ideally, an agreed maritime boundary, yes.

Senator XENOPHON: Can I go to the issue of Witness K. No disrespect to you, Minister, but it is something that always seems to exercise the Attorney whenever I mention Witness K. On a related matter, noting that there are no longer proceedings on foot, is the department now inclined to grant Witness K a passport or to advise that he should receive a passport because there is no longer a tribunal for him to be a witness at?

Mr Cox : On the matter involving Witness K, the arbitration has now been concluded as a result of one of the confidence building measures between Australia and Timor-Leste.

Senator XENOPHON: Sure. The reason why Witness K has not got a passport is that there was a concern that he would give evidence at the International Court of Arbitration that could be damaging to Australia's national interests. That is why his passport has been withheld for a number years. Since there is no longer a matter for him to give evidence in, why is it that Witness K still has his passport declined. My understanding is that there is a case in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal involving the department, where Witness K is fighting to get his passport back. He is now a witness without a tribunal to give evidence to. In other words, there is nothing for him to be a witness for, given it is now conciliation. I do not understand why Witness K is still being dealt with in this way.

Mr Bliss : I can answer this.

CHAIR: A brief answer, if you would, Mr Bliss.

Mr Bliss : The passport was not refused to prevent Witness K from giving evidence in the CMATS arbitration. The passport refusal is based upon a request from a competent authority on security grounds in accordance with section 14 of the Passports Act.

Senator XENOPHON: Which competent authority was that?

Mr Bliss : I am not sure I am able to provide that information.

Senator XENOPHON: So you will not tell me which competent authority it was?

Mr Bliss : I am not sure it would be appropriate to do so.

Senator XENOPHON: Given there is the issue of time, I will give you advance notice that we will revisit the issue of Witness K a bit later on.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Does the department know how many Venezuelan-Australians, for want of a better term, there are at the moment, and whether you have had representations from them on the issue of the civil disobedience in Venezuela.

Ms Heckscher : I do not believe I have information about the size of the Venezuelan community in Australia. I can say that there are very few Australians in Venezuela—I know that was not the question—but I am not aware that we have received any specific representations from the Venezuelan community here. I can take that on notice and check.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Understandably they are very concerned about what is going on in Venezuela—the violence and the civil obedience and the crackdown on protesters. Has the government or the department made any statements about the political situation in Venezuela?

Ms Adamson : We will check that for you, but typically the way the Department of Affairs and Trade conducts its relations, its role in all of this is through ambassadors or through formal representation. Members of a community tend not to deal with us direct on those sorts of issues, on community issues, but the formal diplomatic process will sometimes pick them up. We will check it over the lunch break if you like and see if we can give you more information on that.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: If you could. I know you put out travel advisory alerts and those kinds of things for certain countries. I suppose the question that they ask me when they come to me is what can we do about it, and my answer is that I am not sure and that I will ask you guys. Are there things we can do as a country, because obviously they still have very close family connections with people in that country.

Ms Heckscher : As the secretary has said, we will check the details over the lunch break. I can say that there is ongoing action within the UN system in relation to Venezuela, and we are certainly participating in those discussions. This has been quite a long-running process of escalating civil unrest and difficulties inside Venezuela. In November 2016 we expressed concern during the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review process about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela. In September 2016 we joined 28 nations in making a joint statement on Venezuela at the Human Rights Council. In October 2016 our then ambassador to Venezuela made representations directly to the Venezuelan ministry of foreign affairs outlining those concerns, and officials here have reiterated our concerns directly with the Venezuelan embassy here.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: And we share intelligence with the US. Are they providing any information to the department about the situation officially or unofficially as to whether it is expected to deteriorate?

Ms Adamson : In terms of formal intelligence, we obviously do not comment on intelligence matters.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: If you could let me know after lunch, that would be great.

Ms Adamson : We will certainly do that.

Pro ceedings suspended from 12:29 to 13:31

CHAIR: Secretary, I offered the time to Senator Smith, who is not here. We can resume, if the minister and secretary are ready. I would like to start, if I may, on RAMSI and ask for your update on the conclusion of that project, on the rider that when Senator Smith comes in I will be deferring to him. In particular, I understand that the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands is due to conclude. Firstly, can you tell us when? Secondly, can you give the committee some understanding of what will be in place post RAMSI?

Ms Adamson : Thank you very much for the question. RAMSI will conclude on 30 June this year, at the end of next month. For some time now work has been underway to prepare for the post RAMSI period. Indeed, we have already been in something of a transition. I will invite my colleague Mr Sloper, head of the Pacific Division, to provide in the sort of detail that I think you are looking for the answer to that particular question.

CHAIR: Mr Sloper, good afternoon. How are you?

Mr Sloper : Good afternoon. The secretary was right that RAMSI will formally conclude at the end of June. We are now working with very closely with the Solomon Islands government on arrangements subsequent to that. If you permit me, I might outline some of those initiatives. Firstly, we have been closely talking to Prime Minister Sogavare of the Solomon Islands government and their local police force, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, on how it will now take on responsibility for security arrangements. You are probably familiar with the existing arrangements where we had policemen across the region supporting the local police force. Formally that will cease from June and the Solomon Islands government will take on full responsibility.

For some time, we have been negotiating the development of a package of law and justice support that will be implemented both by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Federal Police. That has now been agreed and will roll forward. That will include ongoing training and capacity building both for the local police but also for justice officials. Our broader support will also continue.

In addition, just to mark the passing of this point, if you like, the Solomon Islands government is organising a range of activities now to celebrate what can only be described as a successful stabilisation mission. Of course, the issues remain but we judge, as do others in the region along with the Solomon Islands government, that it now has the capacity to take on the responsibilities other sovereign governments in the region do in terms of its own security. But we wish to be in a position to assist in the future should that be required. We are having ongoing discussions now about how, should in extremis support be required, we might do that.

CHAIR: Can you give us some indicator at all as to what the cost to the Australian government has been of the whole RAMSI exercise from its inception? Is that possible?

Mr Sloper : Yes. We judge—and I have to say that it is an estimate—that the cost would be in the order of about $2.8 billion over 14 years. While that is a large number, the cost of a failed state on our doorstep would have obviously been far greater. In that period we have seen RAMSI re-establish law and order very quickly. We have destroyed over 3,700 firearms, made 6,300 arrests and, as I outlined before, strengthened the institutions of the Solomon Islands government itself to take forward those responsibilities.

CHAIR: With transnational security issues of the type you mention, regional instability—where are the risks to Australia and to the region of such instability? If we had not made the investment of time and effort in the Solomons at that time, what is the nature of the risks that the region and indeed Australia would have been likely to suffer or, from an experience of the past, how have we suffered and how has the region suffered?

Mr Sloper : Given the Pacific is our immediate neighbour, it obviously holds some strategic importance to us. At the broad, you could think about the trade that comes off the eastern seaboard and the sea-lanes. Most of that does not go to the far east of the Pacific, if you like, but it does pass through the waters on the east of Papua New Guinea before going northwards where a lot of our trade goes.

In terms of threats in the region, that could include transhipment of illegal drugs. It can include transhipment of arms. Where we have seen local conflicts erupt, or in the case of RAMSI, there was a proliferation of weapons and destabilisation of that state that flows on to others. We have also seen in some countries in the region when governance has been at risk the sale of passports and the processing of financial transactions associated with organised crime internationally. They are all real risks. Now there is a great deal of cooperation in the region. In fact, building on some of the lessons learnt from RAMSI, police forces across the region now have mechanisms to cooperate more closely to address some of those challenges.

CHAIR: I was going to Senator Abetz after Senator Smith, who appears to have forsaken his role. Recognising there are plenty of people wanting to ask questions, Senator Abetz, I will go to you.

Senator ABETZ: All right.

Ms Adamson : Chair, with your agreement, there were a couple of matters raised immediately before the lunchbreak on which I can provide further information, as we indicated we would. One is in relation to Senator Whish-Wilson's question about the approximate size of the Venezuelan community in Australia. That is around 4,000 people.

In relation to Senator Gallacher's question about the diplomatic core visit to Far North Queensland, we are now able to table, and will be doing so I think as I speak, the names of those who participated in the visit, both the diplomats based here in Canberra, members of ministerial staff and officials who attended. We have the names, which we are just tabling right now.

Senator ABETZ: Senator Smith has arrived and, as indicated, I am here for the duration. If it assists Senator Smith's itinerary for the day, I am willing to wait my turn.

CHAIR: Certainly. Before you do, Senator Smith, Senator Gallacher has a follow-up.

Senator GALLACHER: Before lunch there were imputations taken from a line of questioning that I put in respect of the foreign minister which were clearly not my intention. There is no intention in any way, shape or form to assign motives aligning to the sex or otherwise of the foreign minister. Whether I asked about flowers or not is not a question that was relevant in that way. If anybody took offence, I sincerely apologise for that.

CHAIR: Thank you. I will go to you now, Senator Smith.

Senator SMITH: I am keen to get to the Productivity Commission and Commonwealth Grants Commission to talk about GST distribution reform this afternoon.

Senator ABETZ: Can I review that?

Senator SMITH: If I could get an update on the work to date on Australia's bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council at the United Nations? My apologies if this has been traversed.

Ms Adamson : No, not at all. I will invite Dr Strahan, who is the head of the relevant division, the Multilateral Policy Division, to join me at the table.

Dr Strahan : The vote for our Human Rights Council candidacy takes place in the middle of October. We are into the last five months of the campaign. As I said at previous estimates sessions, we are running for one of two seats in the WEOG Group against France and Spain. I would stress that France and Spain, of course, are opponents and competitors not to be taken lightly. They are major EU countries with large foreign services and naturally they are taking the campaign seriously. But what I would very much stress is that we have a very rigorous and well run campaign, which we have now been conducting for several years. Can I say that the campaign is led by the foreign minister. She is very much our point person, the spearhead for this campaign. She has raised the campaign in multilateral, regional and bilateral contexts now for several years.

Can I also say that she wrote to her ministerial counterparts last year and asked for their support. It is very pleasing that we now have a very big team effort and that has been the case for quite some months. Senator Fierravanti-Wells, in our own portfolio, has been raising our candidacy in multilateral, regional and bilateral contexts, as has the trade minister and other ministers in the cabinet, including the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Defence to give you just a couple of examples.

As is also well known, we have a special envoy, Philip Ruddock, who has been working on the campaign now for almost a year. He has conducted seven trips overseas for the campaign. He is doing an eighth right now. We have a second envoy who is French speaking, William Fisher, Bill Fisher, who is a former member of the department, a very senior, experienced former ambassador who speaks French beautifully. He is supporting the campaign in French speaking countries.

We also, of course, have the senior executive service of this department very much behind the campaign, including of course the secretary, the deputy secretary and myself. We would anticipate that this vote in October is going to be quite close. We are not anticipating that it will be a big margin one way or the other. What that means is that we have to run this campaign, frankly, at full tilt right up until the vote and we are not going to leave any stone unturned. Another thing that I would like to mention is that we have five campaign themes for our bid, and it is very important to us that we fill out these campaign themes.

Senator SMITH: And the themes are?

Dr Strahan : The rights of Indigenous people, good governance, gender equality, national human rights institutions and freedom of expression. To just give you one example of what we do with, say, the national human rights institution campaign pillar, we are making sure that that pillar has real substance. Australia has been long a supporter of national human rights institutions. We lead on this resolution in the Human Rights Council, even when we have not been a member of the council. That resolution has 90 co-sponsors. We also do a lot of work with countries like Laos and Vietnam, where we do capacity building. We also fund a group called the Asia-Pacific Forum of Human Rights Institutions which is based in Sydney and it does work with national human rights institutions throughout our region. What we are doing there is making sure that, of course, our credentials are strong and intact.

Senator SMITH: How does our campaign differentiate itself from that of the French and the Spanish?

Dr Strahan : The campaigns inevitably have some similarities. To be frank, in the end these campaigns follow some pretty well-worn practices and tactics. Each campaign will put forward campaign themes. What we are doing is very much stressing that we would bring particular value to the council. We would make, frankly, a different kind of council member. We come from the Asia-Pacific region. We would be the first country to serve on the council from the Pacific region. So, we would give the Pacific a voice. We would also bring a Commonwealth perspective to the council's work. Frankly, we have earnt a very good reputation in being a bridge builder. We have demonstrated, as we did when we were on the UN Security Council for two years, that we are able to straddle differences and we bring a very practical approach to taking forward the work of the UNSC and, in this case if we get elected, the HRC.

We very much feel that we can bring something different to the council's work, because we come from a different part of the world. Europe is customarily well represented on the council. Australia would be able to bring that Asia-Pacific perspective, and a very practical perspective.

Senator SMITH: When we are in this campaign period and as we are approaching election day or voting day do we temper our public statements or attitudes around particular foreign policy issues?

Dr Strahan : No. In fact, we have taken some very strong stands in the last year while we have been running this campaign. One I would mention is that we have joined with 11 other countries in a joint statement on China, where we express our concerns about particular human rights issues in China. I thought that was a very good test of our willingness to strike the right balance between saying something authentic on human rights, not resiling from where we stand, but also not to go overboard. We have been very careful to make sure that our credentials on key human rights issues are intact. Even though we are not a member of the council at this point, we are actually one of the most active non-members and we are constructively engaged in the current workings of the council.

Senator SMITH: I want to turn to the issue of human rights abuses in Chechnya.

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator SMITH: Perhaps someone could step me through where Australia got its evidence from, how reliable that evidence was, what led to the framing of the foreign minister's statement and, in particular, the use of the words 'concerned' and 'mass arrests' and then to talk to us about what the approach to the Russian government involved.

Dr Strahan : The evidence that has come to light has come from a variety of sources, especially major reputable human rights organisations like Amnesty International. That information indicates that in all likelihood some very serious abuses have taken place. On the basis of that credible information we have, on five separate occasions, raised our concerns with the Russian government, both in Moscow and here in Canberra, and the foreign minister has also articulated her point of view. So, from our point of view it is clear to us that there is credible evidence of abuses having taken place. We take note of the fact that President Putin has said to his human rights ombudsman that she should investigate this situation and report back to him. We would welcome that and we look forward to the results of that investigation.

Senator SMITH: Can you detail what the five separate representations to the Russian government have been? You mentioned that some had taken place in Moscow and some had taken place here in Australia. I am keen to properly understand this. When we say 'representation', does it mean, like the Kimberley process, for example, where the ambassador is called into the Foreign Affairs Department? Or does it mean the writing of a letter or the sending of an email? I am keen to understand what it is.

Dr Strahan : I can run through each of the five occasions. Our ambassador in Moscow, Peter Tesch, raised our concern to the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow on 10 April. Our concerns were then formally communicated by diplomatic note sent by our embassy in Moscow on 13 April. This note sought information on the arrests and whether any Australians were affected, which appears not to be the case. Thirdly, the matter was the focus of discussions in the 27 April meeting between the embassy and, again, the foreign ministry.

In Australia, the head of our Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe Branch, Mr Kevin Magee, raised our concerns with the ambassador here in Canberra. That was on 28 April. Then most recently—

Senator SMITH: Was that a telephone call or a formal meeting?

Dr Strahan : I think that was in person, but I will check on that. I am fairly certain it was in person. The last occasion was when the FAS, First Assistant Secretary, of our Europe Division, Louise Hand, raised our concerns at the Senior Officials Talks, which were held in Moscow on 15 May.

Senator SMITH: Thank you for that. That is most enlightening. A lot of that would be new to Australians. Finally—because you have been very generous, Chair, with your time—I just want to go to the issue of the use of words. For example, countries similar to Australia—the United States and Britain, for example—have used much stronger language. We use the words 'mass arrest', for example, whereas the Americans have talked about kidnapping, torture and murder. The British Deputy Foreign Secretary has talked about the word 'tortured', described them as despicable and cited four deaths. I am wondering whether or not our language has been strong enough or whether or not our language has been consistent with the approach that we have taken in perhaps similar situations previously.

Dr Strahan : I note that we in fact in our discussions with the Russians have referred to apparent evidence of assault, torture and killings. So, we have not just said 'arrests'. We have been fairly frank in describing what appears to be the dimensions of some very serious abuses.

Senator SMITH: Please correct me if I am wrong. The government statement has not referred to those words, has it? I do not think it has, but if it has I am happy to stand corrected.

Dr Strahan : I would have to look at the language which was used in the diplomatic note—that is, the formal piece of paper that we have handed across—and check that for you.

Senator SMITH: If that could be made available, I would be most appreciative of that. Thank you for your time and can I just compliment officials on what appears to be a very thorough representation of Australian concerns.

CHAIR: Senator Moore on the same topic and then back to Senator Gallacher.

Senator MOORE: I am mostly going to put a little bit more detail on notice, but two are on exactly the same issues that Senator Smith raised. It was around Envoy Ruddock's role. We would like to get more detail on that in terms of each of the trips, the purpose and a breakdown of costs. We will put that all on notice for you about the trips that he has done. Also, whether he travels with personal staff or departmental staff in his role and the responsibilities of those staff if they are travelling with him. That was around his role, both as an envoy and—

Dr Strahan : I am happy to answer some of those questions now.

Senator MOORE: You can take the time if you like. That would be fine.

Dr Strahan : Mr Ruddock does not travel with any personal staff. He only travels with departmental staff, and usually that is only one officer who accompanies him. At some points in fact he has travelled on his own and he has been met by our ambassadors and they have looked after him on the ground. As I have previously mentioned, he has had seven and now his eighth visit for us is currently taking place.

Senator MOORE: I took those notes from Senator Smith's questions.

Dr Strahan : In each case he is squarely focusing on securing support for our candidacy. He has the one mission statement, to get a pledge of support.

Senator MOORE: Can we get with whom he met and where he went on those trips on notice? Rather than going through each of his seven trips, can we get where he went and with whom he spoke—that would be useful—and the costs?

Dr Strahan : Could I just say on that I have been a little—

Senator MOORE: Careful?

Dr Strahan : —careful about revealing specifically who he is meeting, because that information becomes public and it arms our competitors, unfortunately, with useful—

Senator MOORE: Is the location possible?

Dr Strahan : Yes. I can give you the region.

Ms Adamson : But, again, our competitors will take note.

Dr Strahan : At this stage of our campaign we are watching each other very carefully and everything we do—

Senator MOORE: So it is like tactics. Is it a tactic thing?

Dr Strahan : Yes. It is not to give information to our competitors.

Senator WONG: You could take it on notice and tell us in detail when you can.

CHAIR: That would be the best idea.

Ms Adamson : We can do that.

Dr Strahan : Yes, we can do that.

Senator WONG: Can you give us a general answer upfront?

Ms Adamson : Yes, we can do that.

Senator MOORE: Could we ask for a briefing to discuss the process with you rather than actually having anything in writing?

Dr Strahan : I would be very happy to do that. The campaign was launched in the middle of 2013.

Senator MOORE: We will leave it at that. We have detailed questions about the areas, the costings and those things. So, in the nature of the discussion that we have had about this being in the middle of a campaign, with very competitive countries involved, we are seeking a briefing through the minister's office in terms of getting the information that we are seeking. Has the mechanism for monitoring Australia's performance against the voluntary pledges been determined as yet?

Dr Strahan : No, it has not.

Senator MOORE: When would they be expected to be set in this process?

Dr Strahan : I am sorry?

Senator MOORE: The mechanism for monitoring the pledges is going to have to be worked out and also how that is going to be implemented. When would that decision need to be done? The vote is in October.

Dr Strahan : We would have to make some decisions about that over the next six months, but we will not count any chickens. We will wait until we are on the council before we go down that path.

Senator MOORE: Chickens should never be counted.

Dr Strahan : As I said before, frankly the campaign is in the balance. It could go either way. We are giving it a good shot, but it could go either way.

Senator MOORE: Absolutely. At that briefing we would also like to get a little bit more detail. You told us the number of areas that Minister Bishop has spoken about and talked at multilateral occasions and so on. We would like to get a little bit more detail about that in the briefing. Also, in terms of the process, understandably the political process is important, but in fact there is a special envoy, and you told us today there is a second senior officer with French proficiency who is involved. Will there be a process of evaluating how that particular strategy operated? I understand you will not be able to do that until after it is over, to look at the whole process, but would it be an expected process, after the election has been held, for there to be an evaluation of how the campaign went and the various values of the different strategies used?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator MOORE: And also how the particular envoy role worked?

Dr Strahan : After our UNSC campaign we did a very big analysis of how that campaign had been conducted and where it worked. Of course, it did overall. It was very successful. That analysis has informed the way in which we are doing this campaign. For the UNSC campaign we used a number of special envoys, including Bill Fisher. He has previously done this kind of work for us, because he is very effective at it.

Senator MOORE: I did not realise he was there. After that process, we will ask you about getting a briefing on how the evaluation was done. With respect the Chechnya issue—again, as asked by Senator Smith—has there been any indication of whether any Australians have been involved?

Dr Strahan : So far we have no evidence of that.

Senator MOORE: So, our consular process has not had to be called into process at this stage?

Dr Strahan : No.

Senator MOORE: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Gallacher.

Senator GALLACHER: Ms Adamson, you mentioned earlier in your evidence that the foreign minister was accompanied by three staff. From what you supplied on notice, it indicated that there were four staff. Which is correct?

Ms Adamson : Yes, that is correct. I said four. I was then advised three, and I now need to correct that to four. The confusion arose because not all of them were there for the full duration. But the four names you have in front of you were all there for some of the time. Only two were there, as I recall it, for the whole time.

Senator GALLACHER: So, four is the correct number. Just in order to—

Ms Adamson : I am sorry to test your patience on this, but in fact one of the four was a departmental liaison officer. The way we count these things, foreign minister's staff are one category. But it was three staff and one departmental liaison officer, making a total of four. The names you have in front of you are accurate.

Senator GALLACHER: One of those was also part of the nine that you gave us in the other, because that is a department officer?

Ms Adamson : No. The departmental liaison officer is assigned to a ministerial office, so they come in under that category, albeit that they are—

Senator GALLACHER: Is it 10 departmental people?

Ms Adamson : Yes, 10.

Senator GALLACHER: Thank you for that. Just in terms of what you leave behind after the diplomatic corps visits, was the $26,000 for the eight-hour charter of the boat a competitive tender?

Ms Sachs : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: I would appreciate on notice if you could advise how these things come about, whether local businesses get an opportunity to bid and presumably showcase their wares by winning a successful tender for a boat trip or whatever.

Ms Sachs : We also took the advice of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which has extensive experience of the services out there.

Senator GALLACHER: If you could provide perhaps on notice the outstanding component that this brief goes to—entertainment that may have been provided at venues either for lunch or in the evening for all of the participants, what the cost of those meals would have been, any alcohol that was consumed, and if there was any additional expenditure with respect to equipment hire, water sports, wetsuits, tickets, tours and the like.

Ms Sachs : I can give that information to you now for the dinner that was hosted by the foreign minister at a restaurant called Nu Nu, which is in Palm Cove.

Senator GALLACHER: Yes.

Ms Sachs : The total cost for that, which included venue hire, bar tab, table sides, a three-course dinner and pre-dinner canapes, was $14,191.00.

Senator GALLACHER: That was for the 108 participants or the 73?

Ms Sachs : No, that was a smaller number. That was just for the dinner. I would have to count up the dinner guests for you. I can provide that to you shortly. That will include the heads of mission and a number of invited guests, who included Mark Sowerby, the Chief Entrepreneur for Queensland; Mr John Gunn, the chief executive officer of the Australian Institute of Marine Science; the Hon. Penny Wensley; the Mayor of Cairns; Professor Sandra Harding, the Vice-Chancellor and President of James Cook University, the chair and appointed director of Tourism Northern Queensland, the Chief Executive of Advance Cairns, the Committee for North Queensland; Mick Lucas, who is the president of the Cairns Chamber of Commerce; the chief executive officer of Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility; the Director of Reef Recovery at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Foundation. Those were the key ones. We can certainly provide you with that list if you would like.

Senator GALLACHER: If you could break down the total expenditure into the respective categories that we have discussed and provide that on notice.

Ms Sachs : Just for the dinner or for the—

Senator GALLACHER: You have given us the $73,000 headline figure.

Ms Sachs : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: Then you have given us additional information. Could we see a complete breakdown of that expenditure?

Ms Adamson : We can do that.

Senator GALLACHER: Thank you.

Senator MOORE: I would like to ask one more question about Chechnya, appointments for the Consul-General in New York and a question about the High Commission in New Zealand which we started earlier.

Ms Adamson : For Chechnya I will invite Dr Strahan to come back.

Senator MOORE: Yes. I do apologise. I just wanted to ask a further question about working with other governments. Dr Strahan, we talked about the fact that there were no Australians involved as yet, but your answer was that our government had been in contact with the Russian government five times and we are keeping it on the agenda and keeping up with what is happening. I have two questions. Firstly, has Australia been involved with other governments in a more international response to what is happening? It is very hard in the Australian media to get any information. What is our role in an international response to what is happening in Chechnya? Also, what is your assessment about whether there is satisfaction with the response so far from the Russian government about what is happening in Chechnya?

Dr Strahan : Australia is very active on LGBTI issues internationally. We see the rights of LGBTI people as being a particularly sensitive human rights topic. You see in a number of countries that LGBTI people are persecuted, in particular, and that is what appears to be happening in Chechnya. Last year Australia joined what is called the Equal Rights Coalition.

Senator MOORE: That was what I was trying to find out about, how that is working.

Dr Strahan : We are a member of that coalition with 32 other countries. On 26 April, we joined a joint statement issued by the Equal Rights Coalition which called on the Russian government to take steps to release anyone who had been wrongfully detained and to hold accountable those responsible. It also called on Russia to act in line with international human rights obligations and commitments.

Going forward we will continue to work with likeminded governments and the Equal Rights Coalition—which as I say has a membership of 33 countries—to continue to push the Russian government to do a thorough investigation. Now what we have to do is wait and see what comes of the investigation that President Putin has asked his human rights ombudsman to undertake. We would then assess whether or not that is credible and if there is real follow through.

Senator MOORE: Was there a formal response from the Russian government to that Equal Rights Coalition's statement?

Dr Strahan : Not that I am aware of, but I could check on notice to see if they did respond at all.

Senator MOORE: Yes, just to see.

Dr Strahan : I suspect they probably did not.

Senator MOORE: So, basically at this stage, in terms of what we could do, the government is pursuing every option there is to put pressure?

Dr Strahan : Yes. We are both working at a bilateral level.

Senator MOORE: And internationally.

Dr Strahan : In Russia and here. We are working through multilateral channels speaking with one voice with likeminded countries.

Senator MOORE: Is Australia's deep engagement in this process acknowledged?

Dr Strahan : On LGBTI issues?

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Dr Strahan : Possibly not. We do a number of other things that reinforce our commitment to genuine equality and respect for all; for instance, we provide some support to an entity called the Global Equality Fund.

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Dr Strahan : That fund provides support, for instance, to people who might be lynched. That is a US fund which draws upon support from corporate sectors and other countries. We continue to do this work both at a bilateral level and at a multilateral level.

Senator MOORE: Are there any plans for what the next step will be?

Dr Strahan : We will have to wait and see if this investigation takes place, whether or not it is credible and then how the Russian government responds to whatever the results of the investigation are.

Senator MOORE: Thank you. I do apologise for calling you back. I have two questions. Ms Adamson, we talked earlier about the process for appointment of ambassadors. There are two areas I want to cover. One is New Zealand. As to the High Commissioner position in New Zealand, Mr Woolcott, can you tell us when his term is expected to end?

Ms Adamson : Mr Woolcott only commenced his term in February last year. The answer to that is, not for some time yet.

Senator MOORE: There is no indication of him not finishing his term?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator MOORE: In relation to the consul-general in New York, is Mr Minchin's term scheduled to end at any time soon?

Ms Adamson : Today, in fact.

Senator MOORE: That is very soon.

Ms Adamson : It is. It will be tomorrow our time when it actually ends.

Senator MOORE: Has a decision been made on who will be appointed for the next term in this role?

Ms Adamson : I would expect the government to make an announcement shortly on that.

Senator MOORE: How long does it normally take? Was Mr Minchin's term at the exact date of when it was going to end?

Ms Adamson : Yes, it was.

Senator MOORE: I know everything is different and different circumstances occur, but when we know a term is going to end—I was going to say particularly in such a high appointment but I would imagine in any of our international positions—is there a time that positions are left vacant?

Ms Adamson : That can vary considerably. As I mentioned this morning, I acted in charge of the London Mission for six months. That is at the long end normally of the length of time that a government would leave a senior position unfilled, but it is quite common for there to be a month or a couple of months during which time the deputy consul-general in this case would act as consul-general.

Senator MOORE: He just steps up?

Ms Adamson : That is one of the reasons why we always ensure we have capable deputies in post.

Senator MOORE: Are you aware of whether Mr Minchin is being considered for reappointment to the role?

Ms Adamson : Mr Minchin is not. These appointments traditionally are for one appointment or one term.

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Ms Adamson : I spoke to him yesterday to wish him good luck in his future endeavours.

Senator MOORE: Did he indicate that he wished to stay?

Ms Adamson : He gave me no indication that he was going to be doing anything other than going on to other things.

Senator Brandis: I saw Mr Minchin in New York in March. He was not seeking and did not want to have his term extended. Kerrie, his wife, is looking forward to resettling in Australia and coming home.

Senator MOORE: Is the department aware of discussions about the possible appointment of Alastair Walton as the consul-general in New York?

Ms Adamson : I am aware of reports to that effect.

Senator MOORE: We talked earlier about the process, but has there been any recommendation by the department for Mr Walton or someone else to be placed in the position?

Ms Adamson : A I said, I expect the government to make an announcement shortly on the next consul-general in New York.

Senator MOORE: You said it could be very soon?

Ms Adamson : I did not say very soon. I think I said shortly.

Senator MOORE: Shortlist?

Ms Adamson : Shortly.

Senator MOORE: That is what I thought.

Senator WONG: You answered the question, 'Has a decision been made on who will be appointed for the next term?' You simply said, 'I expect the government will make an announcement soon.'

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: So, has a decision been made?

Ms Adamson : I explained earlier that the formal decision-making process is through ExCo. Perhaps I can answer it best by saying preparations for the appointment of the next consul-general in New York are well advanced.

Senator MOORE: Thank you.

Senator WATERS: I wanted to hark back to some of the questions about the foreign minister's trip to the reef with those diplomats. We might need Ms Sachs at the table as well. Can you just confirm this for me, because I missed some of the earlier questioning. I have your information now that there were 73 diplomats with two ministers and 15 staff. Can you tell us how much the total trip cost and whether that also included the cost of the flights for those diplomats? Who bore that cost?

CHAIR: We have canvassed that.

Senator WATERS: Can you give me that one figure and I promise you my other questions will be fresh?

Ms Sachs : The total figure is $73,386.90.

Senator WATERS: Did that include flight costs as well?

Ms Adamson : Can I just add that all of the diplomatic representatives, the ambassadors and high commissioners, paid for their own flights and accommodation.

Senator WATERS: Thank you for clarifying that. Of the 73 nations that were represented by their respective diplomats, how many will have a vote on the World Heritage Committee's decision about whether to list the reef as in danger or not?

Ms Sachs : A number of them do. I would have to give that information to you separately, because I do not have it with me at hand.

Senator WATERS: Thank you. I will await that. Do you have any idea of the ballpark? Is it most of them or only a handful?

Ms Sachs : From memory—and, again, I am guessing—it was less than half.

Ms Adamson : I think there are, from memory, 47 or thereabouts members on the World Heritage Committee. I have a colleague here who can answer that definitively, but it is of that order. There are 107 heads of mission here in Canberra; 74 of them went. It is, again, just the maths of how many members there are of the committee and the numbers of heads of mission that we have in Canberra.

Senator WATERS: Thank you for that. Can you tell me whether or not there were any countries that sent folk on that trip that had previously received a visit from then Environment Minister Hunt in the lead-up to the 2015 World Heritage Committee decision?

Senator Brandis: You would have to ask that in Mr Hunt's estimates.

Senator WATERS: It was taken under the auspices of the foreign affairs department, if I remember rightly.

Senator Brandis: Mr Hunt represents a different portfolio, as you know. Questions about which governments he may have engaged with in his former capacity as the Minister for the Environment perhaps should have been asked in the environment committee.

Senator WATERS: I know which countries he visited and I was hoping to confirm which countries were now on the trip.

Senator Brandis: You could ask whether the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had any engagement in facilitating a visit from Mr Hunt. Beyond that it is really a question for his former department.

Senator WATERS: Perhaps I need to rephrase it. What I am interested in is, of the countries that went on this trip that your department organised and participated in, which of those were the countries that Mr Hunt had also visited on his lobbying trip to try to say the reef was fine in the lead-up to the decision?

Ms Adamson : If I understood correctly what you just said, you said you had a list of the countries that he had visited?

Senator WATERS: I have a partial report. I do not have a list of all of the 24.

Ms Adamson : We have tabled a list of the heads of mission who visited, if it is helpful for you to have a look at that.

Senator WATERS: Yes, I have that.

Ms Adamson : You have that?

Senator WATERS: I have that. It sounds like I will have to take that up elsewhere. Moving now to the substance of the visit, was the trip related to the World Heritage Committee meeting due in July in Poland where the decision on the reef's listing future will be made?

Ms Adamson : The visit was conducted as part of what has become an annual program of visits to parts of Australia hosted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs typically at this time of year. It has been in March, April or May. We had a number of objectives for the visit and they included showcasing the diversity of the Far North Queensland economy. This morning we went through various ways in which that had been done. It is also demonstrating local expertise in tropical health, energy and food production, and demonstrating Australia's commitment to protecting the Great Barrier Reef and the reef's continuing attractiveness as a tourist destination.

Senator WATERS: Was the issue of the World Heritage Committee meeting in July and the decision that will be made on the reef's future at that meeting raised at any time during the course of the trip?

Ms Adamson : Not in any conversations that I was involved in and not in general discussion.

Senator WATERS: Are you aware whether the minister raised that or was involved in discussions?

Ms Adamson : I was with the minister for much of the visit. With the conversations around the reef scientists from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority were on hand to explain the value of the reef and the issues that it faces, including through bleaching events. Patrick Suckling, the Ambassador for the Environment, is here and could perhaps provide more detail.

The focus of it was as I have explained, emphasising the government's commitment to protecting the reef and also enabling the visitors themselves to see the reef with their own eyes, which was for all of them a very special part of the visit and something that they greatly appreciated. And also from the scientists and other experts who were there, to understand some of the issues that the reef faces, whether it is crown-of-thorns starfish, whether it is as a result of cyclone damage or bleaching and all of the other various factors that come into play. One of the elements that came up very strongly—and this was drawn out by Penny Wensley in her role as chair—was the various stakeholders in Queensland who all have an interest in preserving the reef and ensuring, as much as is possible for us to do, its continued health.

Senator WATERS: On that issue of stakeholders, can you provide me on notice perhaps with a list of the stakeholders that accompanied the delegates on the trip?

Ms Adamson : Yes, we can do that. Some of them came for a dinner, for example, that the Queensland Premier hosted. Others were there on the boat. There was a wide range of them. I can list for you the groups from which they came.

Senator WATERS: Yes, thank you.

Ms Adamson : The 2050 Reef Advisory Committee; the Queensland Tourism Industry Council; two people from the targeted crown-of-thorns starfish control program; two from AIMS, the Australian Institute of Marine Science; the Office of the Great Barrier Reef; the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection; the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, with quite a number of experts in particular areas there including the Director of Reef Recovery; the manager of Tourism and Stewardship; the project manager of Eye on the Reef; the citizens of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation; and some local Indigenous representatives, one of whom performed a welcome to country, and others, another of whom was a land and sea country ranger. We also had with us the chief executive officer of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Senator WATERS: Can you tell us what locations were visited on the actual on-water part of the trip?

Ms Adamson : On water we visited from Cairns Moore Reef.

Senator WATERS: Forgive me, but I do not recall that being one of the reefs that had suffered extensive bleaching. What was there?

Ms Adamson : It has suffered extensive bleaching.

Senator WATERS: In which year was that? This one or the last one?

Ms Adamson : Very recently, over the last 12 months in particular.

Senator WATERS: Was it in this year's event or last year's event?

Ms Adamson : The technical specialists who were there all commented on the change over the last 12 months.

Senator WATERS: Thank you. I might put some questions on notice about that. The minister was quoted as saying, 'Marine biologists from James Cook University and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority were optimistic that the bleached coral can recover and rejuvenate without any mass die-off.' What advice was that statement based on?

Ms Adamson : There were a number of briefings given by experts. They were on the boat as we were on our way out to the reef. There is, naturally enough, a range of views, including amongst technical experts, on this, but that was certainly a view that was put.

Senator WATERS: By the minister or by the experts?

Ms Adamson : There were some experts who felt that that was possible.

Senator WATERS: Which ones were they? Which ones said that there would not be mass die-off and it could recover?

Ms Adamson : I do not recall their names. What was very clear to everyone there was that the bleaching events have had a very significant impact on the reef.

Senator WATERS: Could you take on notice for me exactly which experts apparently said that, because that is the first time I have heard any scientist say that there will not be mass die-off after we have just had a mass die-off? The minister was also reported as having said, 'As long as we lift the local pressures on the reef and as long as there is concerted global effort, then coral reefs around the world can survive and thrive.' In last week's estimates we spoke with the head of GBRMPA, Dr Reichelt, who confirmed that approximately 50 per cent of the reef's corals have died in the last two years. He said that there would be a relatively small fraction of the reef left at its current size and that that is the consensus among the reef scientists that he knows. That really does not sit well with the minister's comments about the reef being able to rejuvenate and there not being a mass die-off. Was the minister deliberately misleading her colleagues or did she simply misunderstand?

Ms Adamson : Perhaps if I could just add, before Mr Suckling comes in, because I was on the visit that the head of GBRMPA was indeed on the visit himself. He provided briefing to everyone who was there. Whether or not the foreign minister has been accurately reported in relation to that comment, I cannot be certain, because I did not hear her say that.

CHAIR: If you could finalise that. We will have to move on. Did you have any comment to add?

Mr Suckling : Just to concur with what the secretary said; we have not seen the transcript of what the minister said, but we certainly know that the foreign minister is deeply committed to and leading Australian efforts in terms of highlighting the stressors on the reef, not only through that visit. She very deliberately took the diplomats and the heads of mission to a reef which was showing signs of stress to show them and provided briefings from some of our leading experts in a very frank and candid way in terms of what is happening to the reef. The foreign minister was very clearly wanting to give a sense of our concern about what is happening on the reef but also how well Australia is managing the stressors of that reef as recognised by the World Heritage Committee.

Senator WATERS: May I have one final question, if possible?

CHAIR: Time is against us. During the course of the discussion you can, but if I can ask you just to halt at the moment.

Senator WONG: She only has one question.

CHAIR: Have you?

Senator WATERS: I will put the rest on notice, but if I could just have one that would be great and I can finish up.

Senator WONG: That is fine.

Senator WATERS: Thank you very much. I am interested in the trip that US Senator John McCain has just made to our parliament. He was quoted in the Guardian as saying, 'I think that climate change is real. I think that one of the greatest tragedies of our lives is the Great Barrier Reef dying and the environmental consequences of that.' I am interested in whether the foreign minister discussed these views with Senator McCain and whether the minister agrees with Senator McCain that the reef is at risk of dying.

Mr Suckling : The government has put in place the most comprehensive plan in terms of the reef ever envisaged for a marine park authority anywhere in the world.

Senator WATERS: Not according to the scientists.

Mr Suckling : According to the World Heritage Commission that is the judgment.

Senator WATERS: Not really according to them either, if you read it closely.

Mr Suckling : That is the judgment that we have been told, that we are world's best/leading practice in reef management. In that context I think the government, including the foreign minister, recognise the threats, challenges and stressors to the reef and, as is evident in the 2050 Reef Plan, are taking whatever action is necessary, including in terms of the impacts of climate change. The ministers have been very clear about that on the public record and also off.

Senator WATERS: Not in the reef plan, though. Thank you.

CHAIR: As I go to Senator Wong, Secretary, it seems to me that North Queensland has been advantaged by foreign ministers having tours of this nature. In 2011 Foreign Minister Rudd hosted a function.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

CHAIR: Was that equally as successful as the one that has just been conducted?

Ms Adamson : I can say that these visits are very popular indeed with the diplomatic corps. They very much welcome the opportunity to be shown a part of Australia that they would not necessarily visit by the foreign minister of the day, and that has been a number of foreign ministers over the years. They also welcome the access that that provides to raise issues of bilateral interest. It seemed to me to have been a very successful visit all around, both in terms of the Queenslanders we met—who are very warm hosts, I must say—but also in terms of the responses of the heads of mission. In this day and age, texting and emailing is much more common than handwritten or typewritten thankyou notes, but we have received, as has the minister, a lot of thankyou letters.

CHAIR: Perhaps you might be able to tell me on notice whether there was a cost comparison between 2011 and 2017 to make sure that taxpayer funds were wisely expended. If you can provide that information either now or on notice I would be appreciative.

Ms Adamson : We will do that.

Senator WONG: I would like to go to the meeting of the Prime Minister with the President of the United States in early May in New York. When did this department first become aware that the Prime Minister would be invited to attend a meeting with President Trump?

Ms Adamson : I beg your pardon? Did you say with the foreign minister?

Senator WONG: When did this department—I am not asking about the government—when did DFAT first become aware that the Prime Minister would be invited to attend a meeting with President Trump?

Ms Adamson : I do not think we were aware before he was invited that he would be invited. We became aware after he had been invited that he had been invited.

Senator WONG: When was that?

Ms Adamson : I will need to check that, but I think it was—

Senator WONG: Somebody very efficient is next to you flicking through their folder.

Ms Adamson : I can see that. There is always someone very efficient sitting next to me.

Senator WONG: That is true. Not necessarily on your left.

Ms Adamson : On both sides.

Senator Brandis: I thought you were referring to me.

Senator WONG: I was not.

Ms Adamson : I will need to check.

Senator WONG: You are not flicking through a folder.

Ms Adamson : We know that the Prime Minister announced his intention to visit on 26 April. It was, therefore, around that time. I would have said that it was about 10 days before. It would not have been long before that.

Senator WONG: Before the announcement?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: So, shortly before the announcement. Did you become aware because PM&C communicated to you or because the post or some other channel indicated that?

Ms Adamson : We had known in advance that the centenary of the Battle of the Coral Sea was going to be on 4 May. Obviously, that was well known. One always looks for opportunities for high-level visits in both directions. It was thought that that might be a suitable opportunity for a visit by the Prime Minister. Typically, these things at that level do not come together until shortly beforehand, but there were many people in the Australian-US community, including the American Australian Association, because they were the lead on this commemoration, who had hoped that the Prime Minister and the President may attend such an event. They were running it and they were very open from a long way out about their hope that it would happen that way.

Senator WONG: There are two things. There is the face-to-face meeting and then there is attendance at the event.

Ms Adamson : There is.

Senator WONG: I am going to ask questions about both. In respect of the latter, was it at our suggestion that this be something that the Prime Minister be invited to and that that would be an opportunity for him to attend? How did that work?

Ms Adamson : This is properly a question for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I do know, because the president of the American Australian Association, former US Ambassador John Berry, was visiting Australia earlier in the year and he mentioned to me, and I think everyone else he saw during that visit, that the association was arranging this and that they very much hoped that there would be high-level representation from Australia. My sense, certainly from a DFAT perspective, was that this was their initiative and that they were working on both sides, Australia and the United States, to bring it together in the way that they hoped it would in a way that would befit the centenary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Senator WONG: Was the foreign minister or to your knowledge the defence minister arranged to attend if the Prime Minister were not invited? So, the Prime Ministerial invitation does not arrive until late April. You have known for some time the Battle of the Coral Sea commemoration is in place. Was it intended that Minister Bishop attend in the event that the Prime Minister was not able to do so?

Ms Adamson : John Berry was very active in his advocacy.

Senator WONG: No. I am asking about you. Had the department advised the minister and had she agreed to attend in the event that the Prime Minister would not?

Ms Adamson : Not to my knowledge. The association wanted high-level representation. The foreign minister does not normally, as you know, travel with the Prime Minister. This was being handled through the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Prime Minister's office.

Senator Brandis: I discussed with Mr Berry as well, whom I saw when I was in New York, that in the event that the Prime Minister and the President would not meet on the deck of the Intrepid there was an expectation that Australia would be represented by the defence minister.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Was the face-to-face meeting scheduled after the invitation was accepted?

Ms Adamson : Can I just correct an egregious error I have just made. It was, of course, not the centenary.

Senator WONG: No. That is why I said the 'commemoration'.

Ms Adamson : It was the 75th anniversary. Thank you very much. I am sorry, I was thinking ahead to another important anniversary which we will be celebrating the centenary.

Senator WONG: What do I need to ask you about that is a centenary?

Ms Adamson : The next year, the Battle of Hamel.

Senator WONG: I do not know that I can ask estimates about that.

CHAIR: The Armistice.

Ms Adamson : I am sorry, but I just felt the need to correct that instantly.

Senator WONG: Yes. When was the face-to-face meeting scheduled?

Ms Adamson : Again, that is really a matter for Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator WONG: Did DFAT have any involvement? I am asking about DFAT's role.

Ms Adamson : In the scheduling of the meeting?

Senator WONG: In the scheduling/arrangement of the face-to-face meeting between the Prime Minister and the President.

Ms Adamson : As you know, when the Prime Minister visits our embassies in whatever country—

Senator WONG: Correct.

Ms Adamson : we are deeply involved in all of the arrangements that are made.

Senator WONG: Given your deep involvement, can you please tell me when that was scheduled? There is no conspiracy. I just want to know, was it always envisaged that the commemoration would also entail a face-to-face meeting or not?

Ms Adamson : Yes. I think that would be a fair characterisation.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Who was in the meeting?

Ms Adamson : Who was in the meeting?

Senator WONG: Who was in the meeting?

Ms Adamson : I think it was, for the most part, a one-on-one meeting between the Prime Minister and President.

Senator WONG: No note takers?

Ms Adamson : That is a question for the Department of—

Senator WONG: No note takers of which you are aware?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: Can we not do this dance around every time? I am asking what you can tell me.

Ms Adamson : I know there was no embassy note taker in the one-on-one meeting between the President and the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: Have you seen a readout of the meeting?

Ms Adamson : Yes, I have seen a readout of the meeting, and while the President and Prime Minister were meeting senior accompanying officials were also meeting. And then afterwards the leaders joined and there was a wider discussion.

Senator WONG: The readout of the one-on-one was prepared by whom?

Ms Adamson : Not by the department. Normally where there are one-on-one meetings the Prime Minister, after the meeting, informs his staff of the content and they write it up.

Senator WONG: I think we have discussed in estimates, and it has certainly been public, that President Trump and Mr Turnbull spoke by phone following the President's inauguration on 29 January. There has obviously been a lot of commentary about the assertion that the President terminated the call early. I do not want to re-traverse all of that, but I do want to know between Sunday, 29 January and the meeting in person on 5 May whether, to your knowledge, there have been any interactions as between the President and the Prime Minister?

Ms Adamson : Not to my knowledge. But, again, that is a question really for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator WONG: So, 95 days without any contact after the call was terminated early?

Ms Adamson : Of course, Vice President Pence made a visit to Australia and there has been, as I mentioned this morning, intensive contact across the administration. The Australian government and, indeed, Senator Brandis has played a role in all of that. I think that would not be an entirely accurate characterisation.

Senator Brandis: I do not think that is what Ms Adamson said. She did not say there was no contact. She said that—

Senator WONG: Between the President and the Prime Minister.

Senator Brandis: She did not say that.

Senator WONG: Not to her knowledge.

Senator Brandis: She said whether there had been would be a matter for you to ask PM&C.

Senator WONG: I will ask them. If DFAT does not know of a presidential contact with the Prime Minister then there is a problem. In I think it was the press conference after the meeting on 5 May—

Ms Adamson : On 4 May.

Senator WONG: On 4 May. I am sorry, 5 May our time. Maybe this is a question I will have to put to you, Minister. The President talked about there being 'fake news' in reporting of the call. The Prime Minister agreed with the President, saying, 'Exactly right.' Can you tell me what he meant by reflecting that it was fake news?

Senator Brandis: I think the Prime Minister meant what he said.

Senator WONG: Perhaps I do not understand.

Senator Brandis: It is not for me or indeed for that matter—

Senator WONG: That is why I am asking you.

Senator Brandis: for you to interpret what the Prime Minister said. The Prime Minister said what he said.

Senator WONG: So, you cannot cast any light on what he meant—

Senator Brandis: I am not going to editorialise.

Senator WONG: I have not finished. You cannot cast any light on what the Prime Minister meant when he said 'exactly right' to the President's comment that the reporting about the call was fake news?

Senator Brandis: I am not going to editorialise or speculate about the reason the Prime Minister chose to use the words he used. The words speak for themselves.

Senator WONG: I have a question about the pronunciation of names. I know that DFAT works quite hard to make sure that ministers and Prime Ministers do not mispronounce names of visiting officials or visiting ministers or leaders. It has been well documented that the White House Press Secretary has variously referred to the Prime Minister as Prime Minister Trumbull and Prime Minister Trunbull. Has someone engaged on this sort of apparent difficulty in remembering who the Prime Minister of Australia is? It is a genuine question. Have we said, 'Actually, this is his name', so that it does not keep happening? It is a genuine question.

Senator Brandis: It may be a genuine question—

Senator WONG: It is not a vanity project; it is a courtesy.

Senator Brandis: This mispronunciation was made by Mr Spicer.

Senator WONG: Correct; I said the White House Press Secretary.

Senator Brandis: He is the White House spokesman.

Senator WONG: I did say that. I thought I said that.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: I am asking about the White House Press Secretary's comments.

Senator Brandis: It is more important that the President get it right, which he of course always does. His spokesman has fallen into human error.

Senator WONG: I am simply asking if we followed it up.

Ms Adamson : The spokesman has been unique on that occasion in—

Senator WONG: Occasions. It is more than one.

Ms Adamson : mispronouncing the name. We, as you know, put effort into pronunciation of foreign names.

Senator WONG: You do.

Ms Adamson : But I am sure under pressure in the White House briefing room, a press secretary could easily mispronounce or misremember a foreign leader's name.

Senator WONG: I had some questions about the white paper, but I understand Senator Abetz has an appointment that he has to go to. I am happy if you want to flick to him.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you very much, Senator Wong. Hopefully I will get through my bracket of questions in the time, but if not I shall return. If I may start with the Equal Rights Coalition and the Equal Rights Fund on which some questions were asked earlier. Can I be told how much funding has been provided to the Equal Rights Coalition and the Equal Rights Trust? If you need to take that on notice, that is fine.

Dr Strahan : Thank you for your question. We do not provide any funding to the Equal Rights Coalition. It does not involve funding a commitment. We have provided $200,000 for the Global Equality Fund over the last two years, or $100,000 in each year.

Senator ABETZ: And the Equal Rights Trust, does that mean anything to you?

Dr Strahan : I am familiar with the Equal Rights Coalition but not the Equal Rights Trust.

Senator ABETZ: Is this the same equal rights body that criticised Mr Rudd's 'retrogressive and inhumane refugee policy' in 2013?

Dr Strahan : No. The Equal Rights Coalition was only created about 18 months ago and it focuses specifically on LGBTI rights.

Senator ABETZ: So, this must be another equal rights trust that I am being advised about. In terms of DFAT's work in this space, what is your actual focus? Is the focus to stop the beheadings, the stonings and the roof throwing that has sadly been occasioned or witnessed in certain countries around the world?

Dr Strahan : The focus of our work is very much on violence against LGBTI people and discrimination.

Senator ABETZ: Yes, but do we actively promote this issue or our distain/condemnation of those behaviours to those countries through this body?

Dr Strahan : This body is active on LGBTI rights around the world and we are committed to the basic concept that every human being is entitled to dignity and basic human rights.

Senator ABETZ: Do we take a stronger stance or a more aggressive stance in our advocacy in those countries where the human rights abuse is so much stronger, as in being beheaded—and as I will get onto this later—or in a country like Indonesia where you can be caned for that behaviour and so on? I am just wondering whether we spread the one message to all countries and say, 'We've done our task' or do we actually actively engage and condemn those fundamental human right abuses?

Dr Strahan : We will respond case by case and where there are particularly egregious examples of violence then our response will be commensurately stronger. Discrimination is bad, but different levels of violence going through to beheadings and lynchings, of course, are worse.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you. Just for the record—and I may have mistaken the wording used—I understand the termination 'Equal Rights Trust' may have been used before, not the Global Equality Fund. Just take that on notice.

Dr Strahan : I can confirm I have not used the term 'Global Equality Trust'.

Senator ABETZ: Nothing much hinges on it.

Dr Strahan : I have never heard of that group.

Senator ABETZ: That is what the people who watch these estimates advise me. I would like to move on to another area, and that is the number of councils, foundations, boards and institutes that the foreign affairs department has or supports. Do we have a complete number?

Ms Adamson : We do.

Mr Byrne : We have eight foundations, councils and institutes that we support.

Senator ABETZ: Eight councils, foundations, institutes, and particular boards or not?

Mr Byrne : Each of those has their own board.

Senator ABETZ: I am with you. So, we have eight of these. In rough terms, how many people serve on each one of these foundations, councils or institutes?

Mr Byrne : I have a full list, obviously, of all the current members of the boards.

Senator ABETZ: If you can provide that on notice, just to keep it going.

Ms Adamson : We can answer. It is typically five, six or seven members.

Senator ABETZ: Yes, five, six or seven.

Ms Adamson : It is of that order.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you. On notice, can you provide me with the names of all of the councils, foundations and so on, the number of people on them and their names, if that would be possible.

Mr Byrne : We can table that today.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you very much. To the corporate recollection of the department, has any such council member, foundation member or institute member ever had to have been mentored?

Mr Byrne : No to my knowledge.

Senator ABETZ: What about being counselled?

Mr Byrne : I think we would have to check that.

Senator ABETZ: If you could, please.

Ms Adamson : It is probably very difficult to know. Some of these councils, foundations and institutes have been going for decades and we simply would not have the records to provide you with that sort of answer. I know that when younger members join boards, particularly those who do not have perhaps as much experience as the chair or others in the board, then board members will typically take that person under their wing until they develop the skills and the detailed knowledge. If I can explain it in that sense, because we would not have—

Senator ABETZ: Yes, but not in an official way.

Ms Adamson : No. These are important positions. People make contributions and typically there is a very strong sense of mission, if you like, and camaraderie on the boards.

Senator ABETZ: What I want to put to you is the appointment of a mentor, Mr Abiad—I hope I have pronounced his name correctly—for Ms Yassmin Abdel-Magied is quite unprecedented.

Ms Adamson : I am not aware of that. It is not so much the formal appointment. As I understand it, the acting chair offered to mentor Ms Abdel-Magied and that offer was accepted.

Senator ABETZ: But one assumes the offer would not be made unless it was deemed necessary.

Ms Adamson : It would be hard for me to speculate.

Senator ABETZ: I was advised by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in correspondence which she made public about Ms Abdel-Magied's role being continued that she apologised profusely. She was mortified. She acknowledged that her Anzac Day post was inappropriate and had caused deep offence to many in our community and that she did not seek to defend her words. Sadly, on 23 May, some time after this, we had a media report where Ms Abdel-Magied, in front of 60 school students in a public forum, attacked a senior cabinet minister and amongst other things said, 'Why is he'—namely, this senior cabinet minister—'allowed to say what he thinks and I am not? I don't know.' She said that in the context of her Anzac Day Facebook post. Has the department undertaken any follow-up action in relation to what seems to be a reversal of her assurances to the minister?

Ms Adamson : I am not aware. I will look to my colleagues.

Mr Neuhaus : I am currently also the ex-officio member of the Council on Arab-Australian Relations for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We had a meeting last Friday and Ms Abdel-Magied was there. I can say at that point she apologised to the CAAR board about any comments she had made, which were in a private capacity. There was also discussion between her and the acting chair of the board who is acting as a mentor.

Senator ABETZ: Was this private comment referencing her Facebook post?

Mr Neuhaus : Indeed.

Senator ABETZ: So, we move on from that to the clearly public comment on 23 May at a forum of 60 school students at the Sydney Writers Festival workshop, which is hardly a private forum. Was that discussed?

Mr Neuhaus : She also was referring to that as well in terms of any embarrassment caused.

Senator ABETZ: Has Ms Abdel-Magied, to your knowledge, issued any apology publicly for those comments? She has apologised for it privately to the council, and I welcome that.

Mr Neuhaus : Yes.

Senator ABETZ: I am just wondering whether she has put that apology into the public domain, to your knowledge.

Mr Neuhaus : On the Facebook post, I believe that was in the public domain.

Senator ABETZ: Yes. You know what I am talking about, 23 May.

Senator WONG: Point of order! This is—

Senator ABETZ: Has she, to your knowledge—

CHAIR: Senator Abetz, there is a point of order. Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: I am unclear. Is this a question whether or not she has apologised for talking about freedom of speech? Is that what the question is?

CHAIR: I am not sure. I will allow Senator Abetz to develop the question.

Senator ABETZ: Mr Neuhaus and I were getting on just fine, Senator Wong, and we will continue to do so without your intervention, as helpful as though I am sure it is meant to be.

Mr Neuhaus : On that particular issue, I think her apology to the CAAR Board was in a general term. She may not resile from some of her opinions. As is indicated, there are freedom of speech issues here.

Senator ABETZ: Yes, and we all believe in freedom of speech, but certain responsibilities attach when you are on the taxpayer's dollar representing the Australian community and especially when you are also on the taxpayer's dollar representing Australia to the rest of the world. I am wondering whether any specific apology was given for this attack on a senior cabinet minister.

Ms Adamson : That would be a question that only Ms Abdel-Magied could answer, because on the basis of what you have said it was not—

Senator ABETZ: Mr Neuhaus said he was aware of the private apology on the Facebook page.

Ms Adamson : He was present.

Senator ABETZ: No, on the Facebook post. He was clearly not present. Then he was at the council meeting where she apologised, one assumes, generically. I have now asked specifically about the event on the 23rd or one assumes the day before, 22 May. I am wondering whether at that meeting she specifically referred to her unfortunate—yet again unfortunate—commentary, this time about a senior cabinet minister, and what seems to be a reversal of her apology? Because if she actually did believe that her comments did cause deep offence to many in the community, that they were inappropriate, that she was mortified by them, that she did not seek to defend her words in any way, all matters that the minister has put to me, one wonders how that is consistent with her saying, in relation to the Anzac Day Facebook post, 'Why is he'—the senior cabinet minister—'allowed to say what he thinks and I am not?' That seems to be a reversal and an affirmation of the Facebook post rather than telling these young schoolchildren, 'Look, I mucked up. We all muck up in life and one of the lessons is when you do muck up in life to acknowledge it and move on. ' Rather, what she has done here, despite the mentoring—and I understand counselling from the ABC as well—she has nevertheless in effect retracted her apology.

Mr Neuhaus : I would not characterise it as that, certainly in the context of the CAAR board. She was of course speaking in a personal capacity. Her apology to the CAAR board about any, shall we say, embarrassment caused by her comments was subsequent to that second comment that you have mentioned.

Senator ABETZ: But were you aware of that second comment before then?

Mr Neuhaus : I was.

Senator ABETZ: To your knowledge, she has not made that apology public?

Mr Neuhaus : To my knowledge, she has not made that apology public.

Senator ABETZ: Did the chair give any report about his role in mentoring Ms Abdel-Magied?

Mr Neuhaus : The chair had a discussion with Ms Abdel-Magied privately in my presence and the presence of the Assistant Secretary for the Middle East Branch, Mr Lloyd Brodrick, who is here. We had a discussion about his ongoing mentoring role in that context. It was a private context.

Senator ABETZ: I understand that. Thank you, Chair. I will revisit this topic, if I may, next time around.

CHAIR: Certainly. Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Can I go to question on notice 2. Ms Adamson, I am going to be asking you quite a few questions so do you want to get the question on notice in front of you?

Ms Adamson : I am sorry. We have just received news of a very large vehicle-borne improvised explosive device having gone off in Kabul, and our embassy is in lockdown. I apologise. I was just checking on that.

Senator WONG: Do you need to excuse yourself?

Ms Adamson : I have colleagues who are attending to it, but I believe that all of our staff are safe and have been accounted for. This does happen from time to time and underscores the need, in the budget papers as you will have seen, for continued funding for our embassy in Kabul. I am sorry. I can now concentrate on your questions.

Senator WONG: I am very happy for you to deal with this first. I can ask plenty of other questions.

Ms Adamson : All right. If I could just absent myself for two minutes.

Senator WONG: That is fine.

Senator SINGH: I wanted to ask some questions relating to nuclear disarmament, following on from Senator Ludlam's questions earlier but of a slightly different nature. We all know that there was no-one in attendance at the recent UN conference on negotiating a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, but it was webcast. Was anyone from DFAT tasked with monitoring the debates and, if so, whom?

Mr Sadleir : Yes, as you say, it was webcast. There was a sustained effort to try and follow proceedings and events. I cannot guarantee that everything was seen, but there was an effort to follow it closely.

Senator SINGH: Who followed it?

Mr Sadleir : If I could take that on notice. It was done through our mission, but I would like to provide you with some more detail there.

Senator SINGH: Can you provide me what the government's impressions were of the March session?

Mr Sadleir : I can only make some general comments. There was a sense that there was a range of views amongst the participants. Obviously, there was discussion about rules of procedure and so forth. There was a range of views between, say, a treaty-like group and a group that wanted a sort of simple declaratory approach. I do not want to use the word 'simple' in the wrong way, but a straightforward declaratory approach and those who wanted something more comprehensive. That is probably a couple of impressions. I am happy to consider that further to see if there is anything I can add by way of a more detailed response taken on notice, because I want to do justice to your question.

Senator SINGH: All right. Thank you. I will take that. Has the government engaged with any other nations regarding progress made at the first session of the conference?

Mr Sadleir : There is a lively discussion about all of these issues in places like Geneva, New York, Vienna, in the margins of things like the NPT Review Conference and so forth. So, what I could say is that there is a very detailed discussion that goes on which captures not just likeminded views but differing views. One of the features of the nuclear disarmament landscape is that everyone is talking to everyone all the time and there are some areas where we agree furiously and some areas where we disagree. There is constant dialogue.

Senator SINGH: Can you list those nations that there is constant dialogue with?

Mr Sadleir : There are so many challenges with the different coalitions including, as you know, Australia is part of cross-cutting coalitions like the NPDI, which includes banned treaty proponents and progressive paper states as well. The NPDI has met quite regularly. If I were to give you an answer to that, it would be a very lengthy one.

Senator SINGH: I can take it on notice.

Mr Sadleir : That would be fine. I will try to do some justice to that as well.

Senator SINGH: Thank you. Has the government reconsidered its decision to not participate in the treaty negotiations?

Mr Sadleir : The government position on that is settled. We are not going to participate.

Senator SINGH: Will Australia be represented at the second session on 15 June and 7 July?

Mr Sadleir : No, we will not be.

Senator SINGH: If you will not be present, will you monitor the June-July sessions through the webcast?

Mr Sadleir : As I said earlier, yes, we will make a point of monitoring it using the webcast facility to see how the negotiations unfold. But also as I mentioned earlier, we will talk to participants in the process as well and get their impressions as they go forward. That is the normal thing to do.

Senator SINGH: How much more useful would it be to attend the sessions instead of just watching them on the webcast, especially if Australia, as you say, wanted to talk to other nations and put its views forward in the room?

Mr Sadleir : Participating would be quite significant in terms of the messages that are sent. From Australia's point of view, as you know, we do not support a ban treaty. Although we share a goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and we are determined to pursue that in an effective, determined and pragmatic way, we do not wish to attend a set of negotiations which are contrary to so many of our established positions. Also, in circumstances where the way the negotiations operate is not based on consensus, it is effectively based on a majority vote approach, our ability to influence and shape the negotiations is very limited.

Senator SINGH: You say it is significant but to not even turn up; in November last year we turned up. Even though we voted against that particular resolution to bring forth the negotiations for a new nuclear ban treaty we still turned up and now we are not even turning up.

Mr Sadleir : In a way what happened at the OEWG showed how polarising this set of issues is and the fact that there are real limits to where you could achieve consensus or agreement on issues. Our basic conclusion was that this was a set of negotiations which did not serve Australia's national interest and which we would not be able to influence from within.

Senator SINGH: I am not talking about the OEWG.

Mr Sadleir : No, I am talking about the ban treaty process. Our experience in the OEWG helped to inform our approach to—

Senator SINGH: But we still turned up to that November committee where Australia voted against that part of the process, that resolution to start the negotiation process. We turned up. I know because I was there and I saw Australia there. So to not turn up now, and this gets to my next question, because I refer you to the additional estimates question on notice No. 47 where I asked you if Australia had ever failed to participate in a multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiation and the answer that I received back is, 'No, Australia has never failed to participate.' So why has Australia chosen, for the first time, to not even participate, whether or not we are voting for, against or abstaining? We are not even participating in this treaty negotiation. Why not?

Mr Sadleir : If I could just respond, firstly, by saying that the response was no, but as noted, however, the Australian government has not been part of every multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiation from the commencement of the negotiations and the NPT is an example of that. Just to make sure I captured that for you.

As I have said before, when we approach a multilateral negotiation we have to make judgments about whether it is in Australia's national interest to participate, whether we think we can actually influence or shape events within the negotiation. You might recall that one of the features of the ban treaty negotiation is that it reflects the very polarised environment for nuclear disarmament negotiation and, in fact, actually our like-mindeds are not participating, whereas in contrast they did participate in the OEWG process. So really, in many ways, the ban negotiations are sort of a negotiation which largely includes a group who are committed to the ban treaty.

Senator SINGH: Which is the majority.

Mr Sadleir : That is contestable.

Senator SINGH: We will see.

Mr Sadleir : We have made some very hard-headed decisions about it, as we always do in these sorts of negotiations.

Senator SINGH: So is New Zealand a like-minded country?

Mr Sadleir : That is interesting. We work very—

Senator SINGH: And is New Zealand participating?

CHAIR: We dealt with that earlier.

Senator SINGH: I was just asking that question.

CHAIR: The answer is yes, they are, but I need to go back to Senator Wong.

Senator SINGH: I will just conclude with this.

CHAIR: You can conclude your question.

Mr Sadleir : I can quickly respond.

CHAIR: Yes, go on.

Mr Sadleir : New Zealand is participating. We work very closely with New Zealand in some areas and, given their approach in other areas, we have different but respectfully different views.

Senator SINGH: Assuming that the nuclear weapons ban treaty is concluded by 7 July, will Australia then make an assessment of whether to sign it or has Australia already decided it will not sign it?

Mr Sadleir : Firstly, it will be interesting to see whether it is concluded by 7 July, going back to some of the issues that I mentioned earlier. Secondly, those are, of course, matters for ministers and governments but I suspect our position is very clear against the backdrop. I think the Australian government's position is very clear.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, would you like to give us an update? Is everything all right?

Ms Adamson : Everything is all right with our embassy. As they are in lockdown it is very hard for them to get information. I think the media is reporting a number of casualties but we will try to give the committee an update a little bit later on when we have more information.

Senator WONG: Do you want me to continue?

Ms Adamson : Please do.

Senator WONG: On other matters?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: I will come back to the white paper and question on notice No. 2 just to give you a chance to consider that unless you want me to do it now. I can do Timor-Leste. I have a couple of questions on Timor-Leste.

Ms Adamson : If you would not mind. Thank you.

Senator WONG: I know this was touched upon by Senator Xenophon but he went down a different track. I just want to make sure I am very clear about the reconciliation process. First, the joint statement; we have discussed the decision to terminate the CMATS Treaty previously. Can you just outline what effect that decision will have?

Mr Bliss : That was, as you would be aware, one of the measures that was taken as a good faith measure, recommended by the commission and taken by the two parties. The consequence of that was to revert to the previous situation which was, of course, to the Timor Sea Treaty.

Senator WONG: And it is a different position to the one the Australian government has previously held?

Mr Bliss : If I could explain, Australia amended its treaty obligations because of Timor-Leste's notification on 10 January under article 12.2 of that treaty, that CMATS ceased to be in force after three months. So in order to fulfil Australia's undertakings—I am sorry this is a different point. Let me go back to the clarification. This was a confidence building measure, the consequence of which was to go back to the situation prior to the CMATS Treaty being in place, which is that the Timor Sea Treaty prevail.

Senator Brandis: It might be helpful, since I have given the instructions on this through the Office of International Law and my department, to expand on that. The termination of CMATS was a unilateral act to which Timor-Leste was entitled. The CMATS importantly contained a 50-year moratorium on boundary negotiations. It had been Australia's position that that 50-year moratorium and the CMATS Treaty was exclusive, or shall we say exhaustive of the issue.

Senator WONG: Exhaustive, yes.

Senator Brandis: In proceedings last year Australia lost the argument that it was open to Timor-Leste outside the CMATS Treaty to reopen the question of boundaries and, in view of the fact that the arbitration commission decided under UNCLOS, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, that the moratorium under CMATS was not exhaustive of the rights of the parties in relation to maritime boundary negotiations, but could be raised now and has been, then there was little utility for Australia in the CMATS Treaty in any event. As I said at the start of these observations, the termination of CMATS was something that Timor-Leste was entitled, unilaterally, to do and it has done, meanwhile we are now embarked on the conciliation proceedings which are the only operative proceedings on foot at the moment.

Senator WONG: If you go to the joint statement by the governments of Timor-Leste and Australia and the Conciliation Commission in which essentially a summary of those facts as you outlined them are outlined, there appears this paragraph, which is essentially the indication of continued negotiations:

For the further conduct of the conciliation process, the governments of Timor-Leste and Australia have each confirmed to the other their commitment to negotiate permanent maritime boundaries under the auspices of the Commission as part of an integrated package of measures agreed by both countries. The governments of Timor-Leste and Australia look forward to continuing to engage with the Conciliation Commission and to the eventual conclusion of an agreement on maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea. The Commission will hold a number of meetings …

So given that background, can you tell me what steps we have taken to create the conditions that are conducive to achieving an agreement on permanent maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea?

Senator Brandis: We have taken the good faith measures that have been asked of us. We have engaged constructively in the process and I think I am at liberty to tell you that as recently as last week the chair of the Conciliation Commission, Mr Taksoe-Jensen, was in Canberra and he met with the foreign minister and me. In the course of that meeting I think I am at liberty to say that Mr Taksoe-Jensen complimented Australia on the constructive manner in which we had engaged in the conciliation.

Senator WONG: Mr Bliss, in October I asked some questions about this. This is at page 83 of those estimates. This point is now being resolved. I was asking you about the jurisdictional point. I asked:

Senator Wong: Will the Australian government continue or not continue to pursue the jurisdictional point?

Mr Bliss: No, that has been decided by the Conciliation Commission.

That has happened. Then I said:

Senator Wong: As I understand it, the role of the commission is to seek to assist the parties to reach a settlement. Whether or not a settlement is reached the commission can produce a report. Is that right?

Mr Bliss: That is right.

Senator Wong: It is not legally binding?

Mr Bliss: That is right.

Senator Wong: Has Australia given any indication whether or not it will accept the commission's report?

Mr Bliss: No.

I want to understand, in light of what has been said, both today and in the January 2017 statement, whether that answer remains the case or whether that answer needs now to be added to.

Mr Bliss : Perhaps I could have been clearer in the last estimates when responding to the question about the report. Of course if an agreement is not reached in the context of the commission, itself, between the two parties, then the commission will produce a report. In that report would be recommendations and, of course, those recommendations would be exactly that, so while the report of the commission is something that we accept is a process and an outcome of the commission in circumstances where there is not a prior agreement, the recommendations contained within that report are the subject of further consideration, I would say by both parties.

Senator WONG: So the jurisdictional point is now moot, effectively. Is that correct?

Mr Bliss : Yes.

Senator WONG: We accept that the commission can prepare, make or produce a report?

Mr Bliss : Produce.

Senator WONG: We have not indicated whether we are prepared yet to accept those recommendations?

Mr Bliss : No, and, in fact, we have not seen those recommendations.

Senator WONG: No. I just want to be clear.

Senator Brandis: Would it be helpful if I were to run you through the events that have happened since January because I can give you a chronology?

Senator WONG: I am just conscious of time. You are entitled to. If you feel you need to give an answer, I cannot stop you.

Senator Brandis: Can I just say this because it will help. We have had a meeting in the Conciliation Commission in Washington in the last four days of March. There will be another meeting of the Conciliation Commission in Copenhagen next week and intermediately, as I said, Ms Bishop and I have met with Mr Taksoe-Jensen and we have obviously discussed the matter with those who advise us within my department and within DFAT's legal section.

Senator WONG: I am not so much asking for a hypothetical but I am asking to understand what the various steps in the process might be. If we get to the point where the commission produces the report and recommendations are made, but for whatever reason the parties cannot accept those or do not accept those in full or in part, what are the next procedural steps open to the parties?

Senator Brandis: I know that you are only asking about procedural steps but, given that it is hypothetical and given that this is a conciliation that is on foot, I think it would be unwise to respond to that for fear of in some way constraining or limiting the position of those who represent us.

Senator WONG: Yes. I would like the matter resolved, so I am not keen to do anything which might disrupt that. I am genuine. I do not understand the jurisdiction. I do not understand whether or not it is this or another matter. If the Conciliation Commission formed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration—that is the technical title—produce a report with recommendations that parties do not agree with, what options are then open to the parties?

Senator Brandis: Can I direct you to what I am advised is set out in annexure 5.

Senator WONG: Of what?

Senator Brandis: I was just going to tell you. It is UNCLOS Convention. I should also make you aware that the report is due by the end of September, so it is not all that long away and obviously there is a lot to happen in the meantime.

Senator WONG: Can someone tell me what is appendix 5?

Senator Brandis: Annexure 5 of the UNCLOS Treaty.

Senator WONG: It says what?

Senator Brandis: I really do not want either myself or the officers to go on the record talking about options post the report for the reason I just outlined, but if it is helpful to you that is where you will find the procedural—

Senator WONG: I will seek a briefing on it. All I want to understand is in that event what options are available to both governments. I actually do not think it will be as prejudicial as the Attorney says but I appreciate his sensitivity so instead we will seek a briefing from the department.

Senator Brandis: I am not saying it would be prejudicial but for reasons, I am sure you will understand, I do not want to run any risk at all that it could be.

Senator WONG: That is fine. We will try to do it privately. Did you want to say something, secretary?

Ms Adamson : Simply to perhaps restate, in different words, that both parties have entered into this process in good faith. So far it has been working well and I think that will remain the sole focus of the government's attention, certainly the Australian government's attention, right through until it is finished.

Senator WONG: I was not asking you to maintain a lack of focus or to detract from your focus. I just wanted to know what the next steps might be. Question on notice 2. This is our lengthy discussion about the white paper.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: You have got it. There is a bit of Hansard and then there is the answer at page 3.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: In that answer it says, 'In the months following the election and in line with this commitment Minister Bishop instructed the department to produce a foreign policy strategy or white paper.'

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me when this instruction was first given to the department and how was the instruction given?

Ms Adamson : Could you please repeat that?

Senator WONG: When was the instruction first given? Let us just do that first.

Ms Adamson : This is now the third estimates in which we have discussed this.

Senator WONG: And I received answers from PM&C that you would not give me so we will come to that. If you would answer that as frankly as I think you should have the first time I would not be coming back to it.

Ms Adamson : I have read the Hansard of PM&C, your estimates hearing with them, and the answers I have given have been completely accurate. I think PM&C noted that cabinet had met on 13 December—

Senator WONG: Correct.

Ms Adamson : after which the foreign minister launched the white paper but that was not the—

Senator WONG: We will come back to that. I am not asking that question. I am asking you another question and I am entitled to ask these questions.

Ms Adamson : Of course.

Senator WONG: We can do it at the next estimates again if you would like. I just asked you when was the instruction first given?

Ms Adamson : And as I have said, when I became secretary on 25 August I had a discussion with the minister. I knew, because I had read in the coalition election platform, that if elected the government would prepare a contemporary and comprehensive foreign policy strategy for the 21st century. When I became secretary I was very well aware of that. It was a challenge that I welcomed. The foreign minister and I had a discussion about it in which she indicated she wanted me to lead on this, on the production of a foreign policy strategy or white paper, and on my second day in the job I started to bring together a team to do that. I think by estimates in October—

Senator WONG: I did not ask you about that.

Ms Adamson : That is the answer.

Senator WONG: In the response that I have read out the answer is, 'The minister asked the department to produce a foreign policy strategy or white paper.' That is the department's answer?

Ms Adamson : That is correct. We use those terms interchangeably.

Senator WONG: But you did not use the term in your evidence.

Ms Adamson : I beg your pardon. I referred, in that evidence, to—

Senator WONG: I am sorry.

Ms Adamson: My instructions were to produce a foreign policy white paper.

Senator Wong: When did you become aware it would be a white paper?

Ms Adamson: I became aware when I became secretary. The foreign minister told me we were producing a foreign policy white paper.

Now, I just do not quite understand why that is the term that you use in the hearing and then the question and answer comes back with the interchangeable terms.

Ms Adamson : That is because in my previous evidence I had referred to foreign policy strategy on the first time around.

Senator WONG: So is it your evidence that the minister instructed you, when you became secretary, to produce a strategy or a white paper?

Ms Adamson : As I said, we have used those terms interchangeably. I saw no distinction between them. I recognise the point you have previously made about a white paper being a formal annunciation of government policy. The strategy was used as a shorthand for that but I had always envisaged that we would be producing a foreign policy white paper.

Senator WONG: When did the department or when did you stop using the terms interchangeably?

Ms Adamson : I still use them occasionally interchangeably but the fact is we established, quite shortly after I started, a foreign policy white paper task force.

Senator WONG: You said you have read Mr McKinnon's evidence of PM&C.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: He answered the question I have asked you previously which is: when did cabinet make the decision? He told us it was on 13 December 2016. I asked you on a number of occasions when the government had made a decision. Why was it Mr McKinnon from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was willing to answer that and you were not?

Ms Adamson : With respect, the answer that Mr McKinnon gave relates to the cabinet's consideration of the terms of reference for the foreign policy white paper, after which the foreign minister announced the consultation period, so Mr McKinnon gave an answer which, when I read your question, I think seemed to make sense but did not, in fact, cover the earlier conversations or, indeed, the government's commitment to produce a foreign policy strategy or white paper. So in October—

Senator WONG: Did it go to cabinet prior to December 2016?

Ms Adamson : I am not able to say at what point the government made the decision to produce a foreign policy white paper because it seems to have been made before I became secretary, but the process was well underway through the establishment of a task force and a cabinet meeting which settled the terms of reference for a white paper which had already been agreed the government would produce.

Senator WONG: PM&C has told me that cabinet considered the terms of reference for the white paper in December 2016. You are saying that was not when they decided to have a white paper; that is only when they decided to have terms of reference but no-one can tell me when government actually decided to do a white paper, which, as you know as an experienced public servant, has a particular meaning. Is that your evidence?

Ms Adamson : The idea for it, the commitment to produce it, came out of last year's election and the campaign that preceded that, so it was known. The coalition chose to describe that in that document as a foreign policy strategy and that was why I used that term. One does not just produce a foreign policy strategy and go through the most intensive consultation process the department ever has unless one is producing a white paper.

Senator WONG: Chair, I have to leave for a short period. I know that my colleagues down that end of the table have questions and I am sure other senators may.

CHAIR: We are about to go to afternoon tea at 3.30 and at 3.45 Senator Xenophon will be asking questions. We will now suspend until 3.45.

Proceedings suspended from 15:29 to 15:45

CHAIR: We are resumed. Senator Xenophon.

Senator XENOPHON: Several hours ago I asked questions about who was the competent authority who requested the minister to cancel Witness K's passport. I think your officers could not tell me at the time but I have since been able to establish, by looking at old estimates, just to save time, that—

Ms Adamson : I think we did, too.

Senator XENOPHON: Yes. I am sorry.

Ms Adamson : We are sorry, too.

Senator XENOPHON: It was not a trick question. Mr Varghese, your predecessor, told me on 11 February 2016 at Senate estimates that the competent authority in Witness K's case who requested the passport be cancelled on the grounds that he might engage in harmful conduct was ASIS. My question is: how can ASIS be a competent authority and how can the minister rely on their advice when it is the allegedly improper conduct of that same authority, ASIS, that Witness K is prepared to give evidence about? So, in other words, Witness K's complaints were about ASIS. I am disappointed the Attorney is not here because he usually gets agitated when I ask these questions about Witness K.

Ms Adamson : He might want to contribute but I think the answer is in the legislation or the regulations. I will invite my colleague from legal division to confirm that for you.

Mr Bliss : Yes, that is right. If it is useful, you asked a number of other questions. I now have answers to some of those.

Senator XENOPHON: You could give me those. I thought we would wait for the Attorney to come back for the contentious bits. Please do.

Mr Bliss : The five members of the Conciliation Commission are Peter Taksoe-Jensen, the chair, of Danish nationality; Professor Rudiger Wolfrum of Germany; Judge Abdul Koroma of Sierra Leone; Professor Don McRae of Canada; and, Dr Rosalie Balkin of Australia. You asked about the cost for all aspects of Timor Sea issues.

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

Mr Bliss : We will have to take that on notice as, of course, it extends beyond this department. You asked about locations. Meetings of the conciliation have been held twice in Singapore, twice in The Hague and once in Washington, and those locations have been because that is where the commission has decided they should have them in order to facilitate them.

Senator XENOPHON: They are welcome to Adelaide any time.

Mr Bliss : In relation to Witness K, you have already answered that question. We were going to answer that.

Senator XENOPHON: I am asking a question that I should have known the answer to a few hours ago but the question still remains: how can ASIS be a competent authority when it is the allegedly improper conduct of that same authority, ASIS, that Witness K has made allegations about and is prepared to give evidence about?

Mr Bliss : That is a matter of the legislation. There is a number of competent authorities who can—

Senator XENOPHON: Perhaps I might ask the Attorney that question. Attorney, on the issue of Witness K—

Senator Brandis: Yes. It is nice to see you.

Senator XENOPHON: The feeling is mutual and I know that the issue of Witness K always seems to raise your interest or your blood pressure, I am not sure which.

Senator Brandis: No, it does not do the latter.

Senator XENOPHON: I will try. In relation to Witness K the issue is Witness K was prepared to give evidence about the allegedly improper conduct of ASIS yet it is ASIS that has been the competent authority that has given advice to the foreign minister to cancel Witness K's passport. It is my understanding that ASIO does not have any security concerns about Witness K having his passport and I understand that there is advice from Director-General Lewis to that effect that ASIO does not have concerns about Witness K having a passport.

Senator Brandis: I am not sure that that is right. I think, particularly given the sensitivity of the matter, the only thing I can do is take the question on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: How is there sensitivity in this matter because the reason, as I understand it, that Witness K was denied a passport was so that he could not give evidence at the International Court of Arbitration. That matter has now been resolved insofar as there now is a conciliation so there is nothing for Witness K to give evidence about.

Senator Brandis: That is not the only legal dimension concerning Witness K. Most immediately, the decision to refuse him a passport is currently the subject of an AAT review, so I cannot comment on that.

Senator XENOPHON: In terms of general legal principles, ordinarily where there is an apparent or clear conflict of interest a party would recuse themselves, for instance, in being the body that is the competent authority to give advice as to whether someone should have their passport cancelled or not. Does that trouble you, as a general legal principle, that if the body that has made recommendations to cancel, to make a recommendation against an individual's interests, is the very body that is the subject of complaint by the individual?

Senator Brandis: You are asking these questions at a very high level of generality. I want to acquaint myself—

Senator XENOPHON: You are saying a very high level of—

Senator Brandis: Generality. I want to acquaint myself with the particular events. I am not sure which, if any, of the premises of your question are acknowledged or a matter of public record so I want to satisfy myself about that as well.

Senator XENOPHON: I cannot win. I am criticised for being too general or too—

Senator Brandis: I am not criticising you. Senator Xenophon, do not be hurt. I am not criticising you. I am merely explaining to you that, given the currency of one set of legal proceedings and certain other matters that I am aware of that I am not prepared to go into, I do not feel at liberty to answer these questions. I said I would take the primary question on notice so I or the minister can give careful consideration to what information, if any, can be provided to you.

Senator XENOPHON: The question I am asking you as Attorney, as a general legal principle, if there is, for instance, in the issue of competent authority in respect of the—

Senator Brandis: Under the Passports Act?

Senator XENOPHON: Under the Passports Act. If the competent authority involved is the very authority that has been the subject of allegations in respect of the person whose passport is in question, and there are other competent authorities that can give advice, such as ASIO, do you have any reservations? Leaving aside the issue of Witness K, do you have concerns about issues of potential conflict of interest or whether it is appropriate for that competent authority to recuse itself from being the authority involved and that there ought to be an alternative authority involved?

Senator Brandis: In order to do justice to your question I would need to know a lot more than I actually do about the way in which ASIS arrives at recommendations where it is making those recommendations in its capacity as a competent authority under the Passports Act. I am not in a position to give you that, even though you ask your question as a general proposition. It is not as simple as that because it depends on the mechanical workings of the act and the way in which ASIS exercises its decision-making process in making any such recommendation. I just do not know. I honestly do not know and, therefore, I think it is best for you, as well as for the process, if we take these questions on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: I have been asking questions about Witness K for a number of years now.

Senator Brandis: I know you have but that is my answer to this question. I want to give you as much information as I am at liberty to but I do not know how much information I am at liberty to give you and there are certain aspects of this matter, which I have just explained, that I simply do not know about so in those circumstances I think my only course is to take the questions on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: All right. I will go from Timor-Leste to Ramallah.

Senator Brandis: You look crest-fallen.

Senator XENOPHON: I was born crest-fallen.

Senator Brandis: You are usually a very happy and buoyant person, if I may say so.

Senator XENOPHON: It is the torture of asking you questions of Witness K, hence the reason. Thank you for your concern about my welfare.

On 2 December 2015 Military Court Watch wrote to Australia's diplomatic representative in Ramallah concerning Israel's policy of unlawfully transferring Palestinian child detainees out of the West Bank to prisons inside Israel in violation of article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Will DFAT undertake to provide a detailed response to this letter as soon as possible given that I understand the letter was written some time ago. I understand that Military Court Watch has not received a response. It has been some 18 months since that letter was written to the Australian representative office in Ramallah. Would you like me to repeat that for you?

Mr Neuhaus : Clearly it is an important issue. I have not personally—

Senator XENOPHON: It cannot be that important. It has taken 18 months to get a response to the representative.

Mr Neuhaus : I have only taken over the division in the last month. I have not personally sighted that letter.

Senator XENOPHON: Ms Adamson, can I ask you. Do you think it is acceptable that if a letter is written by a body such as Military Court Watch and signed by a number of eminent lawyers including Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC, Danny Friedman QC, Gerard Horton and Ms Saimo Chahal QC, that since December 2015 it is yet to be responded to, apparently, by Australia's representative?

Ms Adamson : I think Mr Neuhaus was about to say that he had very recently taking over acting in this role. I am sure he would be happy to check on that and get back to you as quickly as he can.

Senator XENOPHON: Yes, but my question to you is: do you consider a letter that is clearly a considered letter by some very eminent lawyers on an issue involving the Fourth Geneva Convention ought to be responded to in under 18 months?

Ms Adamson : I always make it a personal practice to reply to correspondence as promptly as possible but I would need to have a look at the facts of the issue that you have raised.

Senator XENOPHON: I will not take it any further other than to ask will DFAT undertake to provide a detailed response within a reasonable time frame?

Ms Adamson : We can certainly look at the issue that you have raised. We will look at the issue that you have raised and come back to you once we have done so.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you. If you could take that on notice as to when a response is likely. Chair, do not look at me like that. I still have three minutes.

In March 2013 UNICEF recommended that every child detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank must have access to a lawyer of their choice prior to interrogations required under Israeli military law. Recent evidence indicates that more than four years on 90 per cent of children continue to report being interrogated without prior access to a lawyer. Will DFAT take that issue up with the Israeli authorities and report back? Is that something that DFAT will look into given the concerns of UNICEF and also the concerns, as I mentioned earlier, in relation to the Fourth Geneva Convention?

Ms Adamson : Yes, we will do that.

Senator XENOPHON: Further, in March 2013 UNICEF recommended that every child detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank must be informed of their right to silence under Israeli military law at the time of arrest and again prior to interrogation. Recent evidence indicates that more than four years on no child is being informed of their right to silence at the time of arrest and 88 per cent report not being informed of this right prior to interrogation. I ask could you take that up with the Israeli authorities?

Ms Adamson : We will certainly look into that and take it up.

Senator XENOPHON: Finally for now—and I will put some other questions on notice about the whole issue of children in detention—in March 2013 UNICEF recommended that no child held in custody should ever be blindfolded. Recent evidence suggests that more than four years on 80 per cent of children detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank continue to report being blindfolded on arrest. I ask that you take that up with the Israeli authorities in respect of that. Chair, it seems that my 15 minutes of being crest-fallen has been taken up so I just wonder whether I should come back later to you on this.

CHAIR: You will be back?

Senator XENOPHON: I will be back.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Ludlam.

Senator LUDLAM: I put a couple of questions last week to the Attorney-General's Department on the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. They seemed a bit perplexed because I did not give them much notice and they also suggested that I bring some of those questions here. If we could have some expertise in that area?

Mr Bliss : Thank you for stating at the Attorney-General's estimates that you would bring these forward. It did give us a heads up.

Senator LUDLAM: I was essentially going to run through the same line of questioning that I put to AGD last week. Do you have an opening statement or anything, just high level, that might dispense with some of the to-and-fro or do you want me to just fire away?

Mr Bliss : No.

Senator LUDLAM: Could you, firstly, describe for us the amendments that were adopted by consensus? These are amendments that would effectively create a process of criminalising the illegal use of force in international affairs and I would argue that is a very positive development. The amendments were adopted by consensus. Is it the case that Australia supported their adoption in 2010?

Mr Bliss : Yes, it is the case that we supported that consensus decision. We also, as you would be aware, supported the inclusion of aggression into the Rome Statute in 1998 and, of course, at Rome in 1998 the crime of aggression was unable to be defined at that point so it was left for a future decision by the Assembly of States Parties. That decision, of course, was taken in Kampala and we joined it.

Senator LUDLAM: It took another 12 years but we got there and Australia was a part of that process in both instances?

Mr Bliss : That is right.

Senator LUDLAM: In that case, just to be clear, Australia does unambiguously support the prohibition of the illegal use of force, thus creating an international crime of aggression?

Mr Bliss : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Unless my reading of this is wrong, more than 30 countries have thus far ratified those amendments. Is there any reason why Australia has not yet? That is my information.

Mr Bliss : The government has not taken a decision on its position on that issue.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you describe what the decision-making process is and if there is anything you can tell us about why it has taken this long?

Mr Bliss : Certainly. As you noted, 34 countries have become parties to those amendments and, as you would also be aware, that was one of the two criteria for enlivenment of the crime of aggression, the other being that a decision would need to be taken at some point after 1 January 2017. We expect that later this year a decision will be taken by the Assembly of States Parties. It is not a given, but it is possible.

We have been carefully considering the outcome of Kampala. We have thought very carefully about that. Those discussions are ongoing at officials level. We are having regular meetings between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Attorney-General's Department and the Department of Defence on those issues.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you describe that for us? Is that some kind of ad hoc working group?

Mr Bliss : Yes, it is, effectively.

Senator LUDLAM: Does it have a name and does it have a secretariat structure?

Mr Bliss : No. It is a coming together of representatives from the various departments with the necessary expertise in these issues to discuss the issues and obviously we have done so more frequently as we come more closely to the Assembly of States Parties in December this year.

Senator LUDLAM: Is it the case—because the folks at AGD last week were not certain that we really had a grip on this—that the amendments, when they come into force, will be binding on Australia whether we have ratified them or not?

Mr Bliss : One of the challenges at Kampala was exactly this question: what would be the effect of the coming into force, generally, of the crime of aggression on those states which were states parties to the Rome Statute but had not yet taken a decision as to whether to become, themselves, a party to the crime of aggression? It was not particularly clear where countries came out on that question so there has been some discussion since Kampala as to what the answer to your question would be. Australia took to Kampala what is characterised as a negative view, which is consistent with the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and normal treaty practice, that a treaty would not come into force for a particular state, in our case Australia as a non-state party to the crime of aggression, until such time as we took a treaty action and brought ourselves within that jurisdiction. There are other views.

Senator LUDLAM: There are other views within the Australian government or that is currently—

Mr Bliss : No. There are other views.

Senator LUDLAM: Internationally?

Mr Bliss : Internationally. That was the position we took to Kampala.

Senator LUDLAM: A negative view?

Mr Bliss : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: It should not be binding on Australia unless we have enacted it in domestic law?

Mr Bliss : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you. The last one for me or two quick ones on this, if I may, and then I am going to change the subject. Can you confirm that Australia is not planning on opting out of the amendments, having played such a productive role in the lead-up?

Mr Bliss : I cannot pre-empt a decision of government.

Senator LUDLAM: Who has the lead? Is this an AGD lead or Foreign Affairs or Defence?

Mr Bliss : Traditionally Foreign Affairs has the lead on this issue, as we have on all International Criminal Court issues internationally. The Attorney-General's Department has the lead on the domestic implementation process of—

Senator LUDLAM: Let us come to that then. It is handy that we have got the Attorney at the table. Can you talk us through the process of ensuring that Australia's laws align with the Kampala amendment when they come into force? I do not know if it is too soon to ask you this, Senator Brandis, but is it intended that you will introduce a bill to bring Australia in line with our obligations?

Senator Brandis: I would have to familiarise myself with the Kampala amendment. I will not waste the time of the committee. You are perfectly familiar with the process whereby treaties are ratified through the parliament's own processes as well as the executive government. Were the amendment to be ratified and were its terms to oblige the states parties to give effect to some or all its terms by domestic legislation then ordinarily one would expect that the act of ratification, assuming no reservations, would include the assumption of the obligation to present an implementing bill to the parliament.

Senator LUDLAM: That is my understanding. Thank you. You said you would like to familiarise yourself with these particular amendments. I might just ask you—my understanding is the ratification would require amendments to our domestic criminal code—whether you could take on notice whether it is the government's intention to introduce a bill at some appropriate time?

Senator Brandis: Assuming ratification.

Senator LUDLAM: Assuming ratification, that is right, that would bring that into effect.

Senator Brandis: I suspect the answer will be that that will depend upon the happening of future contingencies and, therefore, the government will not be in a position to respond in terms. Nevertheless, I will take it on notice and think about it.

Senator LUDLAM: I appreciate that. I have a couple of quick questions on a different subject. Thank you, Mr Bliss, for coming forward. I have a couple of very brief questions about the situation of Mr Julian Assange, who is an Australian citizen known to probably everyone in this committee. We examined, late last year, the fact that Mr Assange was found by the UN after a 16-month investigation to be arbitrarily detained and obviously Australia has supported decisions of the UN working group in the past. Who can speak to this issue? It is complicated.

Mr Philp : It is complicated.

Senator LUDLAM: My first question to you is whether the department has noted that the UN working group reaffirmed the validity of its decision in December 2016 that Mr Assange had been illegally and arbitrarily detained under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment? I am just wondering whether the Australian government has a formal policy or a formal view on that finding?

Mr Philp : Perhaps the starting point is that the arbitrary working group expresses an opinion in its report. It does not make a decision or a finding, as you know, and as I think we discussed before, it is not binding on states. That is the Australian position.

Senator LUDLAM: That it is not binding so it should be set aside or it is not binding so, therefore, what?

Mr Philp : I think that is where it sits, that it is not binding. That is an opinion that has been expressed by that committee.

Senator LUDLAM: Does the Australian government support or dissent from that opinion?

Mr Bliss : We routinely take on board reports of human rights repertoires, committees and so on. We do not necessarily make a statement as to whether or not we fully endorse them or, indeed, disagree with their statements.

Senator LUDLAM: Has the department noted that the working group found that Mr Assange was not breaching bail but was exercising a fundamental right to seek asylum and that the UN had confirmed that he had a right to do so and that any further deprivation of his liberty would, in fact, be illegal? You may characterise it as an opinion but it is an important opinion by a UN working group that is respected, I would have thought, by the Australian government and that this is an Australian citizen that they are referring to. He is being illegally detained according to this UN working group.

Mr Philp : From a consular perspective, to start with, where an Australian citizen has been caught up in legitimate legal processes of any country we accept that it is the right of that country to pursue them under their courts and in their laws. The UK acted under what we recognise as a legal and appropriate European arrest warrant and subjected Mr Assange to UK legal proceedings which we recognise as legitimate, but I am aware, of course, of what the working group had said.

Senator LUDLAM: It means you are effectively setting aside the working group's opinion. They have found that his deprivation of liberty has been illegal.

Mr Philp : We observe that the UK is respecting a binding decision to issue a European arrest warrant which is binding on states.

Senator LUDLAM: Which has since lapsed.

Mr Philp : It has now lapsed.

Senator LUDLAM: You would understand that?

Mr Philp : Yes. It has not even lapsed; it has been withdrawn.

Senator LUDLAM: Withdrawal; I beg your pardon. That is right. We heard a little bit earlier from those leading the Australian government's bid for the UN Human Rights Council. I am wondering whether you believe that Australia's, I would argue, dereliction of duty in supporting Mr Assange in the legal situation that he has found himself in might have bearing on our campaign to win a seat back on the Human Rights Council?

Mr Philp : From the consular perspective I am purely in the business of offering Mr Assange consular assistance, which he has been offered on a number of occasions, and ensuring that he has access to legal assistance, which we all know he does have, and due process under local laws, which he does have. That is where my mandate stops but Mr Bliss may have some further comments.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand that. I can take that up with the folks running the bid. Has the department communicated with the UK authorities regarding Scotland Yard's intention to arrest him should he leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London?

Mr Philp : I am not aware of any formal communications, no.

Senator LUDLAM: What about informal communications?

Mr Philp : I am allowing for the fact that our High Commission in the United Kingdom may well have had some informal communication but I am not aware of any discussions. I do not know what the UK intends, if that is your question, but I note that the UK have said in the media that he remains subject to UK law, including on his breach of his bail conditions.

Senator LUDLAM: This effectively disregards the finding of that UN working group. They found precisely the opposite to be the case. I will leave that there as a comment. You do not have to respond.

Senator Brandis: I think that is an opinion expressed by one body of lawyers which plainly is not joined by the British legal authorities. This is not, as I understand it, a body with any jurisdictional competence that is, in any way, dispositive of the matter. It has just expressed an opinion.

Senator LUDLAM: That is remarkable. It is basically an entirely selective interpretation and selective respect and regard for important UN working groups.

Senator Brandis: That is not right. You have quoted a UN working group which contains a number of lawyers who have delivered themselves of an opinion which is evidently not agreed to by the British authorities. Now, I have not read the UN working group's opinion so I am not in a position to have any view of my own about it but it is just an opinion by one group of lawyers.

Senator LUDLAM: Here is another lawyer who has expressed an opinion. United States Attorney-General Jeff Sessions has said, 'The arrest of this Australian citizen is a priority.' The CIA director has also characterised, 'The activities of this Australian publisher ends now.' Has the department, or even potentially the minister, been in contact with US authorities regarding their intentions around this Australian citizen?

Mr Philp : I am not aware of any US proceedings against Mr Assange, although I note the comments by Mr Sessions.

Senator LUDLAM: You are not aware of any proceedings. They have been afoot since at least 2010. That is a matter of record.

Mr Philp : I beg your pardon; proceedings in the sense that Mr Sessions suggested an attempt to lay charges against him or to extradite him.

Senator LUDLAM: Are we just going to sit back and let this unfold or does the government plan any form of intervention whatsoever?

Senator Brandis: Apart from providing or offering to provide the consular services, which Mr Philp has explained, Australia's position is to respect international legal processes. Those include, if relevant, the international legal processes of the United States of America.

CHAIR: I will get you to halt it at that.

Senator LUDLAM: That is chilling. Thank you, Chair. You have been very patient. I appreciate that.

CHAIR: Ms Adamson, I was wondering if I could please go to some questions on the foreign policy white paper and ask you initially what is the white paper trying to achieve and, secondly, can you advise the committee of any progress to date in that series of objectives?

Ms Adamson : Certainly. The foreign policy white paper is intended to detail for the Australian people the broad trends which we expect to observe in the international environment over the next decade and to propose a way through all of that, a strategy if you like, to ensure that Australia's many interests engaged in the international domain are protected and enhanced.

Since we last met at estimates the intensive process of consultation undertaken by the department, the public consultation, has continued through a public submissions process. There were something like 600 individual submissions received and a very large number of what one might call campaign submissions, all of which have been given serious consideration. In addition, the white paper team conducted 24 roundtable discussions across the country, 60 one-on-one meetings and, of course, all of our heads of mission overseas were brought back for what we called a global heads of mission meeting to enable them to have direct input into the white paper process. The point of all of that was to enable us to test the analytical underpinnings of the white paper to hear perspectives from the field, from our ambassadors all across the world, and to hear their perspectives on policy, priorities and framing and how we might communicate that. That has all been a substantial body of work that has fed into the drafting process. The drafting process is now well advanced and the team expects to have a first draft ready within the next week or so.

CHAIR: You mentioned 600 submissions. I take it that they would have been from external parties or were they across the board?

Ms Adamson : Yes, they were from external parties and, of course, that was an enormous input but it is the government's intention to summarise those submissions—in fact, a number of them have been put up on the website—and to then publish a document which draws together the very valuable input that we have received from a wide range of individuals and groups in Australia.

CHAIR: I understand with the global heads of mission that it is the first time that we have brought all of our ambassadors and high commissioners back to Australia at the one time?

Ms Adamson : Yes, that is right.

CHAIR: Could you tell me where the value was in that process over and above the team sending out, for example, a draft to each of our missions around the world and simply asking our ambassadors and high commissioners to respond to the draft and in the same way, provide their input with the benefit, in fact, of their own teams around their tables prior to doing that? Where was the benefit, if at all, of the global heads coming together in Canberra?

Ms Adamson : Just to reassure you that we certainly did both of those things in addition to bringing the heads of mission back. I will answer your direct question in a minute, but they also with, as you say, the benefit of their teams, provided written input into the process earlier in the year. That enabled us to discern the main themes and the main likely priorities, but the additional benefit of bringing them back—and they met for two days or close on two days in this room—that enabled, of course, the group to be addressed by the Prime Minister, by the Foreign Minister, by the shadow foreign minister, by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and also to engage in a range of discussions with stakeholders, with the primary purpose of most of those sessions being input into the white paper process.

From our perspective—and I have next to me Ms Bryant, Assistant Secretary, from the white paper task force—but from my perspective as secretary, given my overarching responsibility for it, the meeting elicited useful insights on key white paper themes, for example the regional and international trade outlook, ways the aid program can help us pursue our international priorities, and the changing strategic power dynamics in our region and beyond. The value of having everyone together, of course, is you could have conversations with our heads of mission from all relevant countries as part of the same conversation in a dynamic way. That, of course, included Richard Maude as head of the task force.

So there were some particular insights from those meetings—I would be willing to share them with you in more detail—and also some specific ideas including through an ideas challenge, which was something that the foreign minister had specifically asked that we conclude the sessions with, and they brought forward practical ideas in a range of areas which I would expect to see picked up either directly in the white paper or through the department's ongoing work.

CHAIR: Can you tell us when it is likely that the white paper will be made available in the public arena?

Ms Adamson : Yes. Obviously the precise publication date will be a decision for government but I would expect it to be released in the last quarter of this year.

CHAIR: Is it expected, as a result of that process, that the government will be seeking feedback from stakeholders and other interested parties, both within Australia and externally, to get a reaction to what becomes the final white paper statement?

Ms Adamson : It is fair to say that the fact that Australia is undertaking a white paper is something that has attracted a certain amount of attention internationally. A number of our close partners, who we have, of course, consulted in the process of developing our thinking on this, will be interested in the conclusions that we reach. I would not want to overstate the numbers of copies that might be read across Australia in hard copy, but we are certainly going to some effort to ensure that the white paper is on a website which is accessible to and of interest to a wide range of Australians because the government is naturally very firmly of the view that the quality of Australia's international engagement has a material impact on the prosperity of Australians, on the security of Australians and the stability of the region in which we live.

I think there is a degree of interest which goes beyond foreign policy think tanks and others so ministers and others would expect to have a deep engagement with the public once it has been published, but I would envisage that that work will be taken forward by the department probably over the year following the publication of the white paper. Those precise details are still to be settled but we very much want the narrative around the white paper, the way our interests are engaged and the specific policies that the government sets by way of direction over the next decade, to be a subject of ongoing conversation with the Australian people.

CHAIR: Finally, before I go to Senator Kitching, can you tell me where, if at all, the diplomatic corp here in Canberra have had the opportunity to have input or to be consulted on the development of the white paper?

Ms Adamson : I will check with Ms Bryant but a number of heads of mission have had input through discussions with their relevant areas of the department. The team has visited a number of partner countries overseas for input. Let me just confirm with Ms Bryant whether there is anything more specific than that.

Ms Bryant : Yes, the secretary is correct. We have been out to a number of countries and embassies here were informed of those visits and, in some cases, helped facilitate those visits. Other embassies have approached us and so come into the department for consultations about the project that we have been undertaking. I cannot tell you exactly how many embassies we have consulted, but it is a large number of them.

CHAIR: Thank you for that. I appreciate that. Senator Kitching.

Senator KITCHING: Can I ask about Papua New Guinea?

Ms Adamson : Of course. If you ask the question I will do my best to answer it, but I suspect that Mr Sloper will not be far away.

Senator KITCHING: I would like to ask about the Prime Minister's visit to Papua New Guinea. He visited there in April of this year?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator KITCHING: Is that his only visit to Papua New Guinea in his capacity as Prime Minister?

Ms Adamson : That was the Prime Minister's first visit to Papua New Guinea since becoming the Prime Minister in September 2015, yes.

Senator KITCHING: Could I ask, as a general question, when someone becomes Prime Minister does DFAT provide a briefing to say these are priority places to visit?

Ms Adamson : Normally when a Prime Minister becomes the Prime Minister very careful consideration is given by his or her office, his or her department, and in consultation with DFAT on a program for overseas travel. That will take into account not only the strength of our relationships with various countries but also opportunities that might be in play for meetings otherwise including inbound visits from that country and including opportunities to meet in what we call the margins of summits. So, for example, shortly after the Prime Minister became Prime Minister he travelled to a series of summits which are typically held in October-November each year and, of course, he had an opportunity during the course of the G20 Summit in Antalya in November 2015, the APEC economic leaders meeting back in our region and the East Asia Summit that were held respectively in Manila in Kuala Lumpur, to meet a very wide range of counterparts, so within a couple of months of becoming Prime Minister he had met a very large proportion and held productive bilateral consultations with a very large number of leaders who would have been on a list if he had come to office earlier in the year.

Senator KITCHING: Specifically on Papua New Guinea, was he advised that he should visit there earlier than he did?

Ms Adamson : We would have advised that developing a relationship with his counterpart, Prime Minister O'Neill, would have been a priority and that, in fact, was undertaken, not only through Prime Minister O'Neill's visits to Australia but through correspondence and telephone conversations. So there was quick engagement. There was ongoing discussion about what is called in the business of diplomacy sort of mutually convenient time for a visit. That went through several iterations and the visit then took place, as you said, in April this year.

Senator KITCHING: What advice did the department, and perhaps the foreign minister as well, provide to the Prime Minister with regard to the timing of his first visit?

Ms Adamson : As I have explained, it is not so much in relation to specific timing, it is more developing a relationship with a counterpart through a range of means that are open including through, as I said, multilateral meetings. In fact, I think the first meeting that took place between them was within two months of the Prime Minister becoming Prime Minister at the APEC economic leaders meeting in November 2015.

Senator KITCHING: The Prime Minister's visit to Papua New Guinea was on the eve of elections, or the start of the elections.

Ms Adamson : It was before elections.

Senator KITCHING: That is right, but it was at the start of an electoral period.

Ms Adamson : It was before the writs were issued for an election.

Senator KITCHING: Yes, but there was some concern that the timing of his visit was perhaps not ideal because, in fact, I think former Prime Minister Morauta indicated that it could be viewed as interference in the election. Did the department receive any formal complaints with regard to the Prime Minister's visit or the timing of it?

Ms Adamson : I am aware of the media report referring to comments which the media reported were made by Sir Mekere Morauta but, to my knowledge—and I travelled with the Prime Minister on that visit—there were no complaints made and certainly I suppose the comparable period for Australia would be the period before an election is called but before the government goes into caretaker mode and we certainly, always in our own system, continue to receive foreign visitors right up until an election is called, and very occasionally shortly into an election period if the circumstances dictate that it is difficult to turn off at short notice.

Senator KITCHING: Something else that was seen as a problem on that trip was local media was excluded from certain events. Did the department provide any advice as to how the Prime Minister should engage with local media?

Ms Adamson : As I say, I was accompanying the Prime Minister. Local media certainly had access to the Prime Minister during our press conferences and other activities. The precise arrangements for that were made in close consultation with our High Commission in Port Moresby, but there was certainly a full press conference involving both Prime Ministers after their bilateral visit and there was a further press conference which the Prime Minister gave at the end of the visit, shortly before his departure, at which local media were also present and, from my recollection, during which they also asked questions.

Mr Sloper : Just to add to the secretary's comment, along with the Australian counterparts the PNG media were invited to participate in all elements of the Prime Minister's program. He did some door stops along the way, which is normal in terms of a visit, that were focused on Australian issues.

Senator KITCHING: I saw that in the departmental response but local journalists were excluded from attending a press conference when the Prime Minister visited a war memorial. They were excluded. Four senior journalists from the Post Courier were excluded from a breakfast.

Mr Sloper : I can only repeat that the PNG media were invited to all events as part of the Prime Minister's program; whether individual media organisations attended that or not is a different question.

Senator KITCHING: No. It was not a matter of their attending or not attending or having the choice to do that, but rather that they were excluded.

Mr Sloper : What I would say is I am aware of that media reporting but I can confirm my advice to you that, as with their Australian counterparts, the PNG media were invited to participate in all elements of the PNG program.

Senator KITCHING: I would like to move to PNG voter education. I refer to question on notice No. 79. Can the department outline the work undertaken by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems to develop PNG EC's election awareness strategy?

Mr Sloper : Can you just repeat the question?

Senator KITCHING: Yes. Can the department outline the work undertaken by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems to develop PNG EC's election awareness strategy?

Mr Sloper : I can outline a range of activities that we are providing. If I could just start at the top, I can outline all of our assistance including that. That might be more useful in terms of the context.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you.

Mr Sloper : We have a longstanding relationship with the PNG Electoral Commission. That is conducted primarily through the Australian Electoral Commission itself, but we do provide long-term capacity building and short-term assistance, similar to what you are outlining for the forthcoming election. At the moment we expect approximately $8 million will be provided in terms of support across a number of organisations and initiatives. The Australian Electoral Commission, itself, is providing four advisers to train temporary election workers and improve systems in response to election incidents and operations. The Australian civilian—

Senator KITCHING: Just on the $8 million, is that from DFAT's operating—

Mr Sloper : Out of the Development Assistance program and implemented through both, as I mentioned, the Australian Electoral Commission but also a range of other partners, some of whom have ongoing activities, so it covers that longer term capacity building as well as specific activities associated with the forthcoming election.

Senator KITCHING: Are the four advisers from the department or are they from AEC?

Mr Sloper : The AEC.

Senator KITCHING: I am sorry, I interrupted you.

Mr Sloper : We also have support provided through the Australian Civilian Corps; that is, seven ACC officers at present. They are supporting logistics planning, including flight scheduling, training of electoral workers and managing the PNG Electoral Commission warehouse where the information comes through. I think you mentioned the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Mr Sloper : We have five advisers there assisting with election operations: the voter roll update, voter awareness and strengthening ICT systems. That is approximately $4 million. In addition, the PNG Governance Facility, which is a facility we have contracted to an aid company to manage a range of our governance programs, but within that they have provided a financial management adviser to support election budgeting, again an ICT systems expert to enhance results transmission and some short-term communications advisers. We are also looking at some mobile phone technology to improve coordination between polling, counting teams and headquarters. We have some separate support that we are providing to the PNG government through our Defence Force, as well, focused on logistics and transport and also some training with police in terms of basic security.

Senator KITCHING: I would like to ask about particular voters. Is there a program to engage female voters?

Mr Sloper : There is a program to support female participation within the political system. I would have to take on notice in terms of the female voters themselves. The form of the program, in terms of encouraging female participation in the political process, is not just specific to Papua New Guinea; it is one across the region.

Senator KITCHING: Yes. Do we try to ensure that people have suitable access to polling locations?

Mr Sloper : The decision on polling locations is one for the PNG government or, rather, their Electoral Commission and we support them in terms of providing logistics and advice on running the election itself. Ultimately, it will be a decision for the PNG authorities as to where the polling stations are, but, of course, they are set up ideally to allow most people to access them during the election period. The geography of PNG and some of the infrastructure, of course, makes that difficult so there are some locations where polling booths will be flown in, for example, and people will walk for two days or more to get there. That is partly why the electoral period is actually running for two weeks.

Senator KITCHING: People here complain about having to go to vote.

Mr Sloper : The queues can be long.

Senator KITCHING: Has the department been involved or are you aware of training for journalists who assist with the coverage of the election?

Mr Sloper : I would have to take on notice specific training for journalists around the election. Across the Pacific we have a number of programs that support journalists and media awareness and training, but I am afraid I do not have those details here.

Senator KITCHING: On notice as well if you could look at how many journalists have participated or will participate and those journalists who participated, if they have as yet or will, do they represent a cross-section of PNG media?

Mr Sloper : If I could just confirm the question and then I will take it on notice if you wish. I think what you are asking is do we support journalists and are they across a breadth of PNG media organisations?

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Mr Sloper : If I may, I could just jump back to your question on gender, to provide a little bit more detail. We talked about the low rate of women elected in parliament, and if I am telling you what you already know please let me know.

Senator KITCHING: I always like to learn.

Mr Sloper : In the last election in 2012 I think we had three MPs out of 111. There was one in 2007. At the moment we have only 165 of the 3,324 candidates in the field.

Senator KITCHING: Could you just repeat that?

Mr Sloper : Yes. They are extraordinary numbers. It is 165 of the 3,324 candidates in the current field that are women. That represents five per cent. It is a slight increase on last time, which is 3.9 per cent, but clearly a dramatically small proportion of the total candidates and of which, of course, not all will succeed. That just reflects, I think, part of the broader issues of gender equality in Papua New Guinea.

You asked about preparing women to contest elections. We undertake training for both the electoral processes campaigning and fundraising. That is provided through the regional program I mentioned before. Its formal name is the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program. In this particular activity we are providing $3 million over five years from 2016 through to 2021, so it is not just focused on this particular election but on the political process at all levels within Papua New Guinea.

I should note, also, that the Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr Sharman Stone, spent two days meeting with the women leaders recently, in February, up in the PNG Highlands and that included seminars with prospective candidates as well as existing candidates or declared candidates at that time.

Senator KITCHING: That is good. Can I move to communication with voters and particularly around shortwave radio. I want to ask about the transmission towers that required repairs. When and how were they identified?

Mr Sloper : I am sorry, I might need a bit more information in terms of which shortwave towers and identified by whom.

Senator MOORE: In previous evidence one of the things we were told at that time was that there would be a focus on getting upgraded transmission locally and that towers were going to be built. I am sure those are the towers to which these questions refer.

Mr Sloper : I beg your pardon. Certainly there is a challenge with parts of towers being taken away and stolen. I would have to take on notice which ones but I am aware of one tower, in particular—I think it was in Bougainville—that was completely removed in one night. Normally it is of a lesser scale and usually parts, metal and so on, are taken away. It is not deliberately designed to disrupt shortwave radio broadcasts or other broadcasts, FM or others; it is actually designed to acquire material or assets associated with the towers.

Senator KITCHING: So it is similar to people in Australia that sometimes they think—

Mr Sloper : Copper wire.

Senator KITCHING: Copper wire, yes. So you know that there is one in Bougainville?

Mr Sloper : Yes. I do not know the status of that tower at present but I know, anecdotally, about the tower disappearing.

Senator KITCHING: Perhaps if you could take on notice where these transmission towers are located, how many transmission towers required repair, of those transmission towers requiring repairs what is the status of the work being undertaken and what was the cost or the expected cost to repair each?

Mr Sloper : I just note that none of that information is information we would normally collect or monitor because it is not actually managed by the Australian government. It is the responsibility of the Papua New Guinea government or the broadcasters that have the commercial responsibility or own those towers, hence my previous answer being anecdotal.

Senator KITCHING: Yes. With the shortwave radio being cut will radio transmission, or what is remaining, reach voters in all 111 electorate?

Mr Sloper : I cannot comment on whether shortwave will reach all of the electorates but I can note that Radio Australia frequencies are rebroadcast through many different areas of Papua New Guinea and, in fact, throughout the Pacific. I have some information, for example, in both English and Tok Pisin for Papua New Guinea. The number of stations broadcasting are in the 10s. We could determine or seek some further information but I would be fairly confident that there are radio broadcasts occurring in many parts of Papua New Guinea. Whether they are FM, ABC or Radio Australia is a different question, but certainly there are communications.

Senator KITCHING: In a previous set of questions and responses you talked about DFAT staff and election observations and the AEC, but can I ask you some particular questions about that?

Mr Sloper : Sure.

Senator KITCHING: How many DFAT staff will participate in election observations?

Mr Sloper : If you could just bear with me. I will see if I have those specific figures. We may not yet know the final figures as we are still working through the logistics for it. I would note it will not only be DFAT staff. Just bear with me for a minute.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you.

Senator MOORE: Mr Sloper, just while you are doing that, could I just put something that is probably going to have to be on notice. One of the issues about the election process was looking at ensuring that people were able to participate in the whole process and the focus of Senator Kitching's questions about the radio communication was that that was one of the areas raised with us about effective communication, particularly in more remote parts of the country. So, we will be doing some work, I would imagine after the election is over, doing some review with people about how effectively it operated.

Mr Sloper : We do a review of how effective our support for the PNG election operates. We do not do a review of the PNG election.

Senator MOORE: It would just be in terms of seeing whether the communication issues are picked up, whether, in discussion with our PNG counterparts, and particularly at the post, this issue of people being engaged and whether, in fact, there were any problems with communication. We had a long discussion at previous estimates about the expectation that the loss of the shortwave service was not going to cause a major problem and confidence that there would be alternative mechanisms to ensure that people could communicate.

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator MOORE: There was continuing scepticism, I think is a fair enough comment, in some areas about whether that was true or not. Can we be assured that in discussions around the election the issue of communication is on the list?

Mr Sloper : I can say that we will review our support but I do not think we can give you confirmation that will go into issues that are really the responsibility of the PNG electoral process.

Senator MOORE: Surely there are discussions between—

Mr Sloper : I was going to say that I am aware that there will be academic assessments of the election that are available, both at the ANU and elsewhere, partly because some of the observation teams include academics from those particular institutions, but we do not normally go to issues of whether an election involves particular communications or not, be it in PNG or anywhere else, through our aid program.

Ms Adamson : If I could just add—and I suspect you probably know this even better than I do—of course one of the features of Papua New Guinea elections is the election rallies.

Senator MOORE: Absolutely.

Ms Adamson : Campaigning is extremely vigorous and I think most of your counterparts in PNG would say, and perhaps you might agree yourselves, that there is no more effective engagement with electors than that which happens face to face.

Senator MOORE: The reason I am asking was around that ongoing discussion about the change in the mechanism of reliance on shortwave the elections were mentioned. In some of the discussions around that part people were saying that the timing of the decision with elections coming up could be something to consider. We were just trying to ensure that in any discussion in that process this issue was not overlooked.

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator KITCHING: Mr Sloper, the chair is cracking the whip so I am going to come back to PNG.

CHAIR: We were just wondering, here on this side of the table, whether that tower in Bougainville could be best described as a mobile tower. Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: Good afternoon, Attorney and secretary. Lovely to see you again. I think you know what I am going to ask. It is about the Africa program. I have a number of questions here but I will only ask a couple in each area and put the rest on notice.

Ms Adamson : We are very happy to talk about Africa in terms of our relations with Africa but if it is issues which go to the aid program I think the chair has ruled, or everyone has agreed, that they will be put and answered tomorrow. So if it is Africa, I can have a colleague come up and answer that and if it goes to our aid program I regret, as a result of the agreement reached this morning, that we would need to take those tomorrow.

Senator REYNOLDS: It is not just in aid but it certainly does touch on aid. If I could perhaps have yours and the chair's advice on whether to leave it all until then, it is really following up from a line of questions that I asked post Mining Indaba in terms of the engagement with DFAT, Austrade and also Australian aid with Australian extractive companies in terms of what they are now doing in Africa, some of the lessons learnt that can be applied and considered in the white paper, but also now getting into some more of the detail of our engagement and some of the facts and figures surrounding that. Some of it definitely is—

Ms Adamson : We do have an Africa expert here, Mr Neuhaus, if he is happy to come to the table and do his best, but if we could perhaps reserve the right to fill in any gaps tomorrow.

Senator REYNOLDS: Absolutely.

Ms Adamson : We will do our best.

Senator REYNOLDS: Because it is across the portfolio it could sit. Otherwise I can go through a couple of areas and put the rest on notice because some of them are a little detailed. Good afternoon, Mr Neuhaus.

Mr Neuhaus : Good afternoon.

Senator REYNOLDS: It is good to see you again.

Mr Neuhaus : Thank you.

Senator REYNOLDS: I also understand—and I am sorry, I have been in a different committee—you discussed the white paper in terms of being out sometime later this year so I will try not to go into anything that hopefully might be in there in terms of an evolution of our relationship and engagement with the continent more generally.

I have a couple of specific questions to start. We had talked about the Africa Down Under conference this year in Perth and there was some discussion with DFAT and also the mining sector that we might have a special Women in Mining forum. Do you know if that is going ahead as part of that program?

Mr Neuhaus : Thank you for that question. In fact last week we had the meeting of the Advisory Group on Australia-Africa Relations here in Canberra. They had a meeting with the foreign minister. One of the key things on their agenda is the expansion of the Africa Down Under mining event in Perth in early September every year--it is a well-established even--into this broad Australia-Africa Week. Indeed, the idea of having a Women in Mining event is very much on the agenda, you will be pleased to know. There is already an existing and broader Women in Mining event which this year should be on Friday, 8 September, and we want to link up with that. The new Assistant Secretary for Africa is, in fact, going over to Perth tomorrow for further discussions on that so it is very much on our minds and in our planning.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is very good to hear because after hearing the Women in Mining in Africa there is obviously great advantage in having that exchange. That is very good news. Thank you. Secondly, in relation to the government's Australia Awards in Africa program 2016-2020 they provide for a public-private partnership component of that. Are you able to update us? Are there now public-private partnerships or is that something that the department is looking at in future or to expand?

Mr Neuhaus : To be honest, we are still more in the planning stage. Obviously the Australia Awards program is very well established and we are, in fact, engaged with various mining companies around issues where we could work in common. We are also engaged in some studies together. Part of the issue for the private sector is being able to provide the sort of support, including financial support, that we might need for a genuine public-private partnership, so it is still an evolving matter.

Senator REYNOLDS: Can I ask you to take that on notice and perhaps provide us with a bit more information in terms of where the discussions are up to or if there are any barriers that we could perhaps look at working with industry on.

Mr Neuhaus : I would be very happy to do that.

Senator REYNOLDS: I will go through a couple of questions here which I am happy for you to take on notice because they are a bit more factual, but I will be coming back more regularly and asking them. The first one is: what is the footprint of Australian companies now in Africa and how many ASX listed companies, based in Australia, is the department aware of that are operating on the African continent? If you could also provide the value of industry and country breakdown of Australian investment and resources in the extractive sector. I know some of this information is available but I am not sure that all of it is. I do not think that all of it is publicly available. I am particularly interested—also being a senator for Western Australia and I understand most of the companies are based in WA—on a state breakdown of those companies as well.

The next question would be: what actions or programs are taking place through the department, or possibly Austrade, on what we can do to increase this footprint of Australian companies operating and doing other work, a lot of the development work in Africa, and if you have any figures on how many Australians are working in these 200 to 300 companies now in Africa, if we have got some idea of what the Australian workforce is in those countries. So if you could take those on notice because I suspect—

Mr Neuhaus : I could answer a couple of them.

Senator REYNOLDS: If you can answer a couple of them, thank you.

Mr Neuhaus : On the footprint what we traditionally say, and backed up by our statistics, is around 200 companies in 35 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are worth around $30 billion worth of investment in the mining industry. We do not have a state breakdown of those companies. As you say, the majority, over 50 per cent, would be out of Western Australia but there are companies in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane that I am aware of. We could look into that.

We are working with Austrade and recently worked on a commercial opportunities strategy which we will unveil more publicly at Australia-Africa Week. That is looking beyond mining into broader commercial engagement, which is something that is a priority for us.

We do not have figures on the Australians in the companies. I would definitely have to take that on notice and explore as much as we can. Whether we can get precise numbers would be a bit doubtful. There are sometimes privacy considerations there and even our consular figures—we keep consular lists at our posts in Africa—do not necessarily break those down into companies, so that may be a difficult one.

Senator REYNOLDS: I will just explain the intent because I certainly do not want to put the department to any unnecessary work effort. The reason is to have a look at—from a Western Australian perspective to put the case—what Western Australian and Australian companies are doing across the African continent in terms of industry and development, not just mining but all the environmental and agricultural work that goes around that, because to actually explain it you need to have these facts and figures.

Mr Neuhaus : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: So how many people are employed there and how many study in Australia; if we want to increase it we have to be able to define it and sell it locally to say, 'This is something that we are doing.' Again, I do not necessarily want to put the department through unnecessary work but if we have got that general information that we can package up more effectively, I think that would be very helpful.

Ms Adamson : We have some information which I think will be helpful to you for your purposes and we would be very happy to draw that together for you, rather than perhaps doing something completely ab initio. We can help you with the challenge that you have laid down. I think we can certainly, and we would be very willing to help you or, indeed, other members of the committee, to demonstrate locally or simply in your own states, the benefits of our international engagement in particular parts of the world.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. Again, just as one question on notice rather than sending you off doing many more.

Mr Neuhaus : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: That would be very helpful. The second group, which, again, might be able to be answered as one, relates to corporate social responsibility. We have touched on that previously but with the 200-plus Australian companies working across Africa I am aware that a lot of them are doing wonderful work, quite often with the assistance of DFAT staff, but, again, it is largely uncaptured. The lessons are there to be learnt, not only for other companies working in the African continent, but also in South-East Asia, South America and so on. I will perhaps put these questions on notice for you to make it a bit easier. In terms of the sustainable development goals, which I understand will be discussed tomorrow, I suspect that there are a lot of things that these companies are doing that would assist the countries in Africa to demonstrate progress against sustainable development goals, but, again, it has got to be captured to be able to be identified and then the lessons learnt from that. Is that something that the department has looked at?

Mr Neuhaus : I understand Mr McDonald is here to say something.

Mr McDonald : Yes. So, it is something. In terms of the sustainable development goals, we can talk more about that tomorrow but in terms of shared value with the private sector, the delivery of the outcomes or the business that they are delivering, I think that is something we are trying to capture and do in partnership and that is becoming more and more prevalent. I was at a shared value forum in Melbourne where I spoke and the Minister for International Development spoke as well. That was about how we can work together, collectively, to provide benefit in terms of what the private sector is delivering in terms of their profit and so on, but equally in terms of development outcomes, so that shared value. It is very topical. It has been talked about a lot by donors and the like so we are capturing that information and wanting to build on it.

In addition, we are working through the business partnership platform to jointly work with private sector on co-financing particular projects, so one-for-one financing, for example, to develop projects that otherwise would not be, from a business point of view, something the business would be prepared to go into.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is very encouraging because in just doing a bit of a desktop activity on it myself, and having a look at the sorts of things that they are now doing, there are very few of the sustainable development goals that could not be captured in these activities if it was looked at within that framework.

Mr McDonald : Absolutely.

Senator REYNOLDS: Can you take that on notice to give us a bit more information about the conference and where that is headed?

Mr McDonald : Yes. With the sustainable development goals the reality is without private sector finance—and that is why we talked about the sustainable development goals as agenda 2030—the development for finance outcome in Addis Ababa in 2015 was about the financing of the sustainable development goals. Now, financing of the sustainable development goals is trillions of dollars each year to achieve what we want to achieve by 2030. Our current official development assistance is about $135 billion. It is well short of what we need so this is a real focus across the development sector and donors across that.

Senator REYNOLDS: I will put the rest of these questions on notice but they do relate to that, so if you can look at this in the framework of specifically against sustainable development goals I think myself and Senator Moore would be very happy. Thank you.

Mr McDonald : Yes.

CHAIR: Before I go to Senator Rice, just to advise this references committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Gallacher, we will hopefully have a motion before the chamber next sitting period for this committee to have a look at our trade and investment relationships with Africa.

Senator RICE: My questions are regarding the prosecution of Palestinian children by the Israelis in Israeli military courts. I heard the questions that Senator Xenophon asked earlier on this afternoon, so it is not going over that ground but following up on some of the issues that he raised and that I also wanted to raise. Firstly, does the Australian government have a position on the trial and detention of Palestinian children under Israeli military law in their military courts?

Mr Neuhaus : From a human rights point of view we have made regular human rights representations around some of those issues that were raised by Senator Xenophon and have been mentioned by you now.

Senator RICE: What representations have been made?

Mr Neuhaus : We have those here. I will ask my colleague, Mr Brodrick, with your permission, to read out some of those representations that have been made.

Mr Brodrick : The government has publicly expressed its concerns about allegations of mistreatment of Palestinian minors in detention. I can give you some of the recent representations. The Australian Embassy in Israel reiterated our interests in and concerns over security and judicial practices towards Palestinian minors, most recently on 23 May 2017, so very recently, with Israel's Ministry of Defence.

Senator RICE: That is very recently.

Mr Brodrick : Earlier representations had been made on 14 February this year with the Ministry of Justice and previously on 29 September last year, 3 May 2016 and 21 January 2016 with the MFA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel. On 15 January this year the Australian Embassy in Israel also attended a meeting on this issue chaired by UNICEF and then we have had other representations that we have made going back to 2015 that I could repeat. During representations on 14 February this year post raised a number of specific issues around the use of restraints, the mandatory use of audiovisual equipment and the notification of legal rights.

Senator RICE: That is good to hear.

Mr Brodrick : So very active.

Senator RICE: Excellent. I now want to follow up on the issues that myself and Senator Ludlam raised in some questions on notice about former foreign minister Kevin Rudd's directive from 2011 about Australian officials observing the military trial of minors in the military courts. My first response to that, in asking whether that directive was still in place, was that there did not seem to be much knowledge about it and that, in fact, there had not been any Australian officials that had attended trials of minors in military courts but then in the most recent response, in response to Senator Ludlam's question on notice No. 410, we were told that Australian officials had, in fact, observed two cases at the Ofer Military Court on 1 February 2012, so now five years ago, and that there had not been a counter directive to not attend them. So, what I was wanting to know was whether, essentially, that directive will be refreshed and whether getting Australian officials to attend and observe the trials in the military courts will be something that will now be asked of our officials there?

Mr Neuhaus : We have nothing to add to the question on notice at this point in time.

Senator RICE: Will you take on notice whether there could be consideration given to asking our officials to attend to observe the military court hearings, given that directive? So, is the directive still in place?

Mr Neuhaus : There has been a change of government since then but we will certainly take that on notice and we can explore that further.

Senator RICE: Thank you. I expect I will follow it up at later estimates.

Mr Neuhaus : Yes, indeed.

Senator RICE: Senator Xenophon asked some questions about the letter from Military Court Watch of December 2015 to which they had not received a response. It asked what specific steps the Australian government would take as a signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention, with the allegations that the convention was being violated. Can I just confirm whether Australia has taken any steps on the issues raised in that letter?

Mr Neuhaus : As I mentioned to Senator Xenophon I, myself, have not seen that letter. We have only recently taken over the role in the division. We are looking into that matter and we will respond.

Senator RICE: Thank you. There are other issues and I just wanted to know whether the government has raised them. One is what is our current situation with representation to Israel over the Gaza blockade? The information coming out of Gaza, at the moment, is that life is becoming very dire with breakdown in health systems, water, sewerage and potentially very severe consequences for people's wellbeing in Gaza.

Mr Neuhaus : We remain concerned about the Gaza situation and have also provided support over the years, not into Gaza itself, but with NGOs into the Palestinian territories. I am not aware of any recent representations that we have made on that specific issue.

Senator RICE: Given Australia's representations on other issues would it be an appropriate issue for Australia to make representations to the Israeli government?

Mr Neuhaus : We could certainly consider that and explore it further, including with the minister.

Senator RICE: The next issue is the issue of the court and the military courts with the use of administrative detention. Have there been representations made to the Israeli government over administrative detention, which is essentially people being detained without charge for indefinite periods?

Mr Neuhaus : Our representations, as we have mentioned, have focused on the situations with regard to minors. I do not know if Mr Brodrick wants to add anything to that. He is indicating that he has got nothing further to add.

Senator RICE: Mr Brodrick?

Mr Brodrick : No, nothing further.

Senator RICE: Nothing further to add?

Mr Brodrick : No.

Senator RICE: So, again, if that could be taken as something to consider making representations on.

Mr Neuhaus : We will take that into account.

Senator RICE: The last area is the ongoing program of house demolitions by the Israeli government in the occupied Palestinian territories. I am informed by Israeli human rights organisation, B'Tselem, that over the last decade, up to June of last year, that Israel demolished over 1,000 homes of Palestinians in the West Bank and 684 buildings in 2016 alone just up to August. Both the US and EU officials have spoken out about these demolitions, so has the Australian government made any representations to Israel about the house demolitions?

Mr Neuhaus : My understanding is that we have expressed concern consistent with our approach to a two-state solution that we support.

Senator RICE: Can you give me some more details of what concerns have been expressed?

Mr Neuhaus : I am unable to do that myself at the moment, unless Mr Brodrick can add to it.

Mr Brodrick : I do not have specific details. We would have to take that one on notice and get back to you.

Senator RICE: Thank you.

CHAIR: Before I go Senator Kitching, Senator Fawcett has some questions in the same space but, Mr McDonald, you wanted to make a comment?

Mr McDonald : Just for Senator Rice. It was one of the questions on our support within the Palestinian territories in relation to the aid program. I think it is important to note the support we give to UNRWA, in particular, which we have been doing, so the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which we have been doing for a number of years in terms of our global funding of over $20 million which actually provides support for those refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. So that is in addition to the additional country program funding we provide. We provide support of around $40 million or so overall. I just think it is important to make that point.

Senator RICE: Absolutely. In fact, my colleague, Senator Ludlam, was going to ask some more questions about the aid program, which I could do now if I have time.

Mr McDonald : We can do that tomorrow. As you asked I thought I would advise that.

CHAIR: Aid is tomorrow. Senator Fawcett and then Senator Kitching.

Senator FAWCETT: I would like to follow on with the issue of advocacy in the Israel and West Bank area. Could you detail what advocacy our officials there have been making to the Palestinian Authority about their payments to convicted terrorists and their families? You may be aware that that was an issue that was expected to be raised by the US in a meeting with the Palestinian Authority in Washington earlier this month. It is to the tune of some hundreds of millions of dollars which is an incentive to young people to commit crimes, including murder, in Israel. I am just wondering what advocacy our officials have been making to the Palestinian Authority for them to cease that practice.

Mr Neuhaus : I am not aware that we have actually engaged on those sorts of issues with the Palestinian Authority. Our relationship is not a close one, if I might say so. It is a very cordial and proper relationship but it is not something that we have engaged closely on.

Senator FAWCETT: If we look at the root cause of the concerns that have been raised by my colleagues around the detention and trial of minors, one also has to look at what is part of the rationale for them to take these actions and, if the authority in the West Bank is paying money to convicted terrorists and their families and, in fact, celebrating attacks against innocent civilians in Israel, then one of the ways to address concerns raised by my colleagues is to also address the things that might provide incentive for those youth to take that action. Could you take it on notice, if you have not already, what plans you will commit to to engage the Palestinian Authority over that?

Ms Adamson : Can I suggest that we check with our embassy overnight on the number of issues that have been raised in this area because I am sure that there have been representations made on some of the issues that have been raised. Let us get back to you in the morning with more detail on that.

Senator FAWCETT: If I could also put on notice for tomorrow's discussion, because that will also go to ADA, I would be seeking an assurance as to what measures we have put in place to make sure that no Australian taxpayer's money which is being paid to the Palestinian authority is being used for those payments to convicted terrorists and their families.

Mr Neuhaus : We will be able to address that tomorrow.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you very much.

CHAIR: I will go to Senator Kitching and then Senator Abetz.

Senator KITCHING: I have some more questions on PNG. I would like to go back to the PNG election and the election observations. How many DFAT or AEC staff will participate in the election observation?

Mr Sloper : I am unable to give you, today, the detail on all of the staff that were there.

Senator KITCHING: Because you are still doing the logistics?

Mr Sloper : That is right, but I can give you an outline. I mentioned the AEC staff that would be deployed and we have civilian staff there. The civilian corp are not DFAT staff but they work to us, as you might be aware. There will be four AEC advisers at this stage. There are seven ACC, the Australian Civilian Corps. Do you want just Australian government staff?

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Mr Sloper : These are all participating in the election process, not formally observing. In terms of the observers, themselves, if you would just bear with me. I have a summary. It is likely there will be four members of parliament and, in addition to that, the local civil society organisation's academics will monitor 28 electorates and they will be partnered with ANU. I cannot give you the exact details so I will have to take that on notice and I am happy to do so.

Senator KITCHING: Can you advise the number of DFAT staff who will travel from Australia to PNG to participate in the election observations and what role will those observers have during the election process? So there are going to be four MPs. Is there any need to provide additional security support? Does the AFP do that?

Mr Sloper : We are not responsible for the security within Papua New Guinea and at this stage we are not expecting to be providing security support. The AFP, as part of its capacity building, will be training, as it does on an ongoing basis, with the PNG police on how to maintain security during the election period. While I cannot give you the exact figures now, it would be a very small number coming from Canberra; from DFAT, that is. The support is primarily delivered through the post and there will be staff from the high commission going to different locations. Their role is largely one of observer. They do not have a formal status. They are part of support for say parliamentary representatives or international organisations that may be playing a formal role in terms of observation of the elections. There will be a large logistical support provided and that may involve a range of people from other agencies, including the Australian Defence Force.

Senator KITCHING: I was going to ask you about the ADF. So they may be there as well?

Mr Sloper : They will definitely be there; in fact, I expect there is already a forward deployment of ADF staff there now. It is just a massive logistical exercise, given the geography.

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Mr Sloper : Can I just confirm, just in term of your question, so that we can take it on notice and come back with the right information, you are looking for the number of DFAT staff from Canberra that will be deployed and a summary of what their roles are?

Senator KITCHING: Yes. That would be fantastic. You may need to take this on notice because it has not happened yet. What is the level of support compared with Australia's support in previous elections?

Mr Sloper : I can give you some advice on that now. It is significantly less this time. That is partly because the PNG government has not requested support of the same magnitude as in 2012. I outlined earlier some of the support we provided, an estimate of the cost which is up to $8 million. If you like I can describe what we provided in 2012 as a means of contrasting the two.

Senator KITCHING: Yes, that would be good.

Mr Sloper : I will try to keep it brief and at a high level. In 2012 we provided approximately $50.6 million. That was $15.8 million from the aid program, $2.5 million from the AFP and $32.3 million from Defence in terms of provision of services in kind, so that would not have all been actual investments; it is activities. In 2007 we provided $6.8 million. That was largely through the electoral support program funded through the ODA, the bilateral program. In 2002 we provided $5.4 million, again through the electoral support program. So that gives you a sense of the figures. Of course in that period we have experienced inflation so they are nominal figures but most significant was the last election in which there were a range of areas where the PNG government explicitly asked us to provide more support than we would normally do, whereas this time I expect it will be more on a par with previous activities.

Mr McDonald : Just on that, one the major contributions of that previous one was around our Australian Civilian Corps. I think there was around 30-odd at the time and that was a request from the PNG government leading into that election. It was a contingent requested quite late that contributed to that.

Mr Sloper : In contrast this time we are very focused on the Electoral Commission and that is the area that we have been asked to provide assistance to. It is actually about the capacity of the Electoral Commission—that is the PNG Electoral Commission—to run the process.

Senator KITCHING: What did the Civilian Corps do last time?

Mr Sloper : There would have been a range of roles. It would include logistic planning, ranging from flight scheduling through to training of electoral workers, managing the central warehouse where logistics comes in and out and then at actual polling stations providing support and advice there.

Senator KITCHING: Do they not need that this time because they learnt from the last time?

Mr Sloper : Partly that is the case and partly we have not been asked for that assistance. In the end this will be a PNG-led process, of course.

Senator KITCHING: Will DFAT staff be feeding into the UNDP, the election observation program? Is the work independent to that or does it liaise with that program?

Mr Sloper : Our work is independent but complements, if you like. Again, both of us would be working to Papua New Guinea as a lead on this and looking to where we can provide a response to the request that they have given us. There could be other partners as well. A key part of our program is we would work with our PNG partners to identify what we think might be gaps but in the end we will be guided by their direction.

Senator KITCHING: Can I move to PNG APEC?

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator KITCHING: What is the total funding Australia is providing to PNG in order to deliver APEC?

Mr Sloper : Firstly, let me just note that we are not providing the funding so they can deliver APEC as a whole. What I am trying to say is that we are providing funding in support of specific activities in which we have been asked to provide assistance because the PNG government, itself, is responsible for the overall arrangements. PNG government, itself, has budgeted 800 million Kina for APEC in the 2017 budget and will fund some additional items including infrastructure through tax offsets. That is approximately A$330 million.

They are also engaging a range of local and international companies to support their logistics and security. That is not unusual for an APEC economy. In our case, our support is focused on security. We are aware that other APEC economies, including New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Indonesia and China are providing a range of support to Papua New Guinea. Our support, as I said, is focused on security. It is largely driven by the Australian Federal Police cooperation with the Papua New Guinean government and their counterparts, the police force there. It is $48.2 million in value and there is also a component of support being provided by Defence.

Senator KITCHING: Do you know how much that is?

Mr Sloper : I do not have the details on the extent of support provided by Defence. That is really an issue for their portfolio, in terms of the actual funds, but my understanding is that is coming from within existing budgets.

Senator KITCHING: What proportion of the funding is allocated to the ODA?

Mr Sloper : I can add one more point.

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Mr Sloper : That other support is provided through existing programs that have brought development benefits that will extend beyond APEC and that is largely where DFAT has a role. I can detail them but, broadly speaking, we are talking about Defence support; in extremis, policy support; capacity around the organisational skills and so on; aviation and infrastructure. Those are existing areas of cooperation we have through a range of Australian agencies with their counterparts. You may be talking, for example, about security at airports or the processing of passengers and so on.

Senator KITCHING: Just going back to the ODA, what proportion of the funding is allocated to that?

Mr Sloper : It is estimated to be in the order of $25 million from existing programs within the PNG program. I do not know what portion of the funding that is managed by the AFP is ODA eligible or not. That will have to be a question for that portfolio.

Senator KITCHING: What would the focus of that funding be?

Mr Sloper : That being the AFP's contribution or our own contribution?

Senator KITCHING: Your contribution.

Mr Sloper : If you can just bear with me, across the government our funding from within us goes towards support for policy, including regarding the base funding for some of the APEC agencies within the PNG system, and technical support through their Treasury department.

Senator KITCHING: Does that meet the expense of the coordinating authority?

Mr Sloper : The which?

Senator KITCHING: The APEC Coordinating Authority.

Mr Sloper : No. Our support is not directly provided. PNG has its APEC Coordinating Authority, as you have outlined. Some of our support will be provided to them but it will also go to a range of other agencies which have operational roles, in line with the example I provided before around aviation security. On the policy side it will also include other areas, although policy lead has now been shifted towards that task force within the PNG system.

Senator KITCHING: Australia is supporting PNG to establish an APEC study centre. It has been reported as a 4.1 million Kina investment. What is the allocation in Australia's budget?

Mr Sloper : I will have to take that on notice. I am not aware that we are supporting an APEC study centre in itself. We may be supporting it in part. I will have to take that on notice and return to you.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you. I am also interested in whether the funding of the establishment of the study centre falls within the ODA?

Mr Sloper : I will come back to you in the same question.

Senator KITCHING: So, of the funding allocated, what is the amount that will be used to upgrade the National Research Institute facilities? Do you want to take that on notice?

Mr Sloper : Yes. I am not sure if some of the activity you outline is specifically related to APEC. It may relate to investments within the ODA program, for example, the National Research Institute, which I think is the organisation that you might be referring to.

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Mr Sloper : We have a partnership with that but that precedes the Papua New Guinea government's decision to host APEC. It is an ongoing relationship. They may do some analysis on APEC issues.

Senator KITCHING: Are there going to be any additional staffing positions at the National Research Institute?

Mr Sloper : Not that I am aware of. I can check that. It might be useful, given the detail, that we return with a bit more on the NRI at the hearing tomorrow given their focus on the aid program.

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Mr Wood : I can just add, in relation to our funding from the aid program, DFAT's portfolio budget statements in the major table on page 20 includes some financial information regarding ODA funding to the Australian Federal Police.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you.

Senator MOORE: Is that specifically for PNG or generally to the AFP?

Mr Wood : The major title is, 'APEC 2018: Support for meetings in Papua New Guinea.'

Senator MOORE: So it is specifically for this one event?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Ms Adamson : There is a whole series of events associated with APEC.

Senator MOORE: That would be with all the ministerial meetings around it?

Ms Adamson : Exactly. The leaders meeting gets all of the attention but, in fact, there are possibly hundreds of other meetings in the lead-up.

Senator MOORE: We survived a little bit of that in Brisbane with the G20.

Ms Adamson : Exactly.

Senator MOORE: It is the same at the G20.

Ms Adamson : The same model.

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Senator KITCHING: Just one final question which you might want to take on notice or for tomorrow. With the amount of funding that is going towards the twinning program between the National Research Institute and Australia's APEC study centre, which is at RMIT, I am wondering if there has been any progress on the establishment of that twinning program.

Mr Sloper : I will need to come back to you. Can I come back with more detail tomorrow in terms of the NRI's relationship with the APEC study centre?

Senator KITCHING: Lovely.

Mr Sloper : We have ongoing funding for the NRI, as I mentioned before, and part of that base funding now may be oriented towards a relationship with the APEC study centre. RMIT has particular expertise in terms of its support for APEC but I do not think that is additional funding. I should note that is from existing investments within the NRI. I can consult with the High Commission in Port Moresby and see if we can provide you with more information.

Senator KITCHING: That would be great. RMIT is very enthusiastic.

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator MOORE: Can I follow up with one question?

CHAIR: One question and then I will go to Senator Abetz.

Senator MOORE: Can we go back to the support for the elections?

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator MOORE: You did some comparators of previous elections. Is it possible to get that information, on notice, in some kind of diagram so we can actually see the difference?

Mr Sloper : I have it in prose but not in diagram. If it suits I can arrange for that to be provided to you.

Senator MOORE: We can get it from the prose and create our own diagram.

Mr Sloper : Indeed.

Senator MOORE: It is a visual of seeing exactly, over those periods of time, particularly what was covered and what was not. That would be really useful. Thank you.

Mr McDonald : It is also important to just be clear that this is responding to a request from PNG, which is one of the reasons you will see the difference.

Senator MOORE: Absolutely. I think that is really clear all the way through that this is not just imposed. This is a request.

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator MOORE: It is interesting in itself that the request this time has been so much lower.

Mr McDonald : That is right.

Senator MOORE: As a point, that is interesting.

Mr McDonald : Absolutely.

Senator ABETZ: If I might continue on from where I left off, Mr Neuhaus gave us the helpful information earlier that there was an official meeting of CAAR in recent times and I was just wondering whether you could take on notice the provision of the minutes of that board meeting and also advise us as to the payment or daily rate that I understand board members or council members get for sitting on the CAAR. I hope Hansard has recorded that and they will be taken on notice.

Ms Adamson : We can answer the Remuneration Tribunal daily rate if you like.

Senator ABETZ: If it is not immediately available you can put it on notice. Can I ask about the tour on which Ms Abdel-Magied went. Was that partially to help promote her book?

Ms Adamson : No. As we explained last time, that was at the request and funded by a number of our posts in the Middle East as part of the public diplomacy program that our posts run.

Senator ABETZ: Was it an adjunct to this tour that her book was promoted?

Ms Adamson : No. As I think we explained last time, it was not a book promotion tour.

Senator ABETZ: Is anybody able to assist me with how Australia's reputation as a freedom-loving country and a safe country is enhanced or, indeed, damaged when the world gets to hear that we are unable to provide security for—and I hope I get the name right—Hirsi Ali, who was hoping to come here on a lecture tour and she then did not come because of concerns for her safety and security?

Senator Brandis: That is not really a DFAT question.

Senator ABETZ: I think it is because I am asking about Australia's reputation overseas and one would imagine that our posts would hopefully get some feedback in relation to this.

Senator Brandis: Perhaps you could ask if there has been some feedback.

Ms Adamson : Not that I am aware of. It is not something for which we have particular responsibility, but I am happy to check overnight if it has been raised in any way, particularly if you think there are grounds that we should think so.

Senator ABETZ: With great respect, I was under the apprehension that the posts that we have around the world were to glean information and gain information to work out Australia's reputation and how Australia is seen by various peoples around the world and, as part of that role, I would have hoped or thought that this may have been part of foreign affair's endeavours, but it seems not.

Ms Adamson : It seems not in the specific case that you raise but, of course, in a general sense Australia is of good standing with our diplomatic partners and that feeds into the quality of our relationships, so there is certainly a point there and occasionally events in Australia, even as they relate to particular individuals, can indeed flow through to Australia's reputation and all sorts of elements of our national life, including the way our parliament runs, is a matter of overseas interest from time to time.

Senator ABETZ: In that case, not being able to guarantee the safety of an overseas visitor who was going to be on a lecture tour, if people overseas are excited about the way our parliament works one assumes they might get excited about these matters as well. Clearly, it is not something to which much time has been devoted or concern expressed about that. If I might say, I think it is a great shame that Australia was unable to host her in those circumstances. Let us hope that she is able to come back.

Now, I would like to go around the world in about 15 minutes or so, asking a whole lot of questions about various countries. Is that permissible?

Mr Neuhaus : If you wish. I would like to give you now the actual sitting fee for the three annual board meetings of the CAAR. Would you like me to present that to you?

Senator ABETZ: Yes, but I think we are under time pressure and that is why I said to take it on notice. Can I ask some questions about China?

Ms Adamson : Of course.

Senator ABETZ: To the best of our knowledge and information that we glean from around the world, would it be fair to say that China has the greatest number of executions of any country in the world?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator ABETZ: Would it be fair to say that from the knowledge that we have of executions around the world, the executions in China are, in fact, more than the rest of the world put together?

Mr Fletcher : I am not certain about that.

Senator ABETZ: If you could take that on notice.

Ms Adamson : I am not sure that we will be able to confirm it because the Chinese do not publish data on the number of executions. They have made it public that the number of executions is falling but I am not sure that we would be able to do that calculation for you of the precise numbers.

Senator ABETZ: I was told that one of the alleged reforms in the Chinese judicial system is that the Supreme Court has an online database where it documents death penalty cases. Is that correct or not?

Mr Fletcher : I am not aware of an online database but I do know that China has not revealed the total of its executions every year and it regards that information as a secret.

Senator ABETZ: Yes, but does it have an online database where it documents death penalty cases? That does not mean, as of necessity, that a death penalty is actually undertaken but would that be a pretty good start to glean some information?

Mr Fletcher : We can take that on notice.

Senator ABETZ: If you could. Then my next question is—and I think that we would share a view on this—how robust we believe this list actually is.

Mr Fletcher : How robust is the list?

Senator ABETZ: Yes. So if that list exists of an online database where it documents death penalty cases, if it is determined that such a list exists, and I am informed from a very dubious source, the Sydney Morning Herald, that such an online database exists which was, as I quote the article, 'Initially touted as a "crucial step towards openness".' 'Crucial step towards openness' is in inverted commas. If I might refer your attention to an article on 11 April 2017 at 12.11 pm entitled, 'China hides "grotesque" level of capital punishment: Amnesty' and just see whether the information in that article is reliable. In that article we are told that until 2015 China admits it used organs from executed prisoners as the mainstay of its organ transplant industry but now says it relies exclusively on a voluntary donation system. I was wondering if somebody could verify that to be the case as well. You can take that on notice. This is information gleaned from this Sydney Morning Herald article.

Can we move to Indonesia please? I understand that Indonesia is the recipient of the largest foreign aid contribution to any country. Is that correct?

Mr Cox : From Australia?

Senator ABETZ: Yes. Here in Australia from our government, yes.

Mr Cox : No, Papua New Guinea is.

Senator ABETZ: If I have to clarify it I will.

Mr McDonald : No, it is not.

Senator ABETZ: It is not. Which one is?

Mr Cox : PNG.

Mr Wood : Papua New Guinea.

Mr McDonald : Papua New Guinea.

Senator ABETZ: Indonesia fits in where?

Mr McDonald : It is our second.

Senator ABETZ: Our second biggest?

Mr McDonald : Second biggest country program.

Senator ABETZ: Do we require or place any conditions on those funds and, in particular, about individual rights and freedoms?

Mr Cox : We place a range of conditions on the aid that we provide. We have a range of mutual obligations to implement policies and to undertake actions in agreement with the Australian government, so yes, we do.

Senator ABETZ: If that could be provided on notice, the details of that agreement in relation to Indonesia I would be much obliged.

Mr Cox : Those are set out in our aid investment plan which is a public document on the website.

Senator ABETZ: So this is a generic requirement or are these the individual, specific—

Mr Cox : No, these are mutual obligations between ourselves—

Senator ABETZ: Individual specific requirements of Indonesia?

Mr Cox : and Indonesia which are set out on the website. They are specific to Indonesia. Each aid investment plan has a range of mutual obligations between us and the partner country.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you for that. What protests, if any, have we made at the two-year sentence imposed on the former governor of Jakarta?

Mr Cox : We are aware of the sentence that has been passed on the governor. It has been something that our embassy has been discussing with a range of interlocutors in Indonesia.

Senator ABETZ: So we are aware and we have discussed. Have we expressed our disgust?

Mr Cox : No, we have not.

Senator ABETZ: Have we protested the sentence which I understand was imposed for blasphemy. Is that correct?

Mr Cox : That is right.

Senator ABETZ: And the blasphemy was that a Christian man thought that it was appropriate to say that Muslims could vote for a Christian?

Mr Cox : No. It is within the legal system of Indonesia and we do not comment on the cases that are duly undertaken within the legal system of Indonesia.

Senator ABETZ: But you know that he was charged with blasphemy?

Mr Cox : He was charged with blasphemy, correct.

Senator ABETZ: Can you tell me what the details of that charge of blasphemy were?

Mr Cox : The charge was that he used a sentence in the Qur'an or a verse in the Qur'an, Al-Ma'idah 51, and that he misused that particular verse in such a way that was alleged to be blaspheming.

Senator ABETZ: How did he use that verse?

Mr Cox : I am not an expert on Islamic law and I could not comment.

Senator ABETZ: What did he say in using that verse? Is that known to us?

Mr Cox : It was ruled by the court that he blasphemed by the use of that particular verse.

Senator ABETZ: To your knowledge or to the department's knowledge at all, was the blasphemy that he said Muslims could vote for Christians?

Mr Cox : No. I think that is an overly simplistic interpretation.

Senator ABETZ: Always oversimplistic; so what actually was it? Tell me what it was?

Mr Cox : I think it was alleged that he used the verse, Al-Ma'idah 51.

CHAIR: One moment, if you would.

Senator ABETZ: Which says?

CHAIR: Senator Abetz, one moment.

Mr Cox : I do not have the verse with me.

Senator ABETZ: You can take that on notice.

CHAIR: Are you raising a point of order, Mr McDonald, or not?

Mr McDonald : No.

CHAIR: I am sorry, Senator Wong, on a point of order.

Senator WONG: I think it is whether these are properly questions for this officer. I understand the issues that Senator Abetz is raising but the officer, who has been very cooperative and sought to assist, is hardly going to be able to give a chapter and verse explanation of a judgment of a foreign court, whatever people's views are about that. I just wonder if we are getting to the end point of the capacity of the officer to answer questions.

CHAIR: Thank you. I have heard your point of order and I am sure the officer has heard also and needless to say he can either seek to take the answer on notice or seek counsel from the minister or the secretary. Senator Abetz, in asking you to return to the topic and taking that into consideration, you have about one minute left.

Senator ABETZ: Could you take it on notice to get the officials in Indonesia to provide the details of the case?

Mr Cox : Yes.

Senator ABETZ: Similarly, can I ask if we made protests about the sentencing which resulted in the caning of the two homosexuals in Indonesia?

Mr Cox : Ms Bishop, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, relayed our concerns about that case to her counterpart.

Senator ABETZ: Given these two cases, do we believe that Indonesia is a moderate Muslim majority country?

Mr Cox : Yes, we do.

Senator ABETZ: So this is moderate?

Mr Cox : You have to distinguish the fact that this caning took place in the province of Aceh, which is a special Muslim province on the north-westerly tip of Indonesia where they have introduced sharia law and sharia punishments which do not apply to the rest of Indonesia. In fact, in Indonesia, homosexuality is not a crime at all, in the whole of Indonesia, so if you compare Indonesia to many Muslim countries and other countries where homosexuality is illegal, I think you can say that Indonesia is a moderate Muslim country, yes.

Senator ABETZ: And also the imprisonment of a former mayor of Jakarta is also indicative of their moderate policies?

Mr Cox : Yes. He was—

Senator ABETZ: That is right in the centre, in the heart of Indonesia.

Mr Cox : He was convicted of blasphemy under the blasphemy law and a number of people in Indonesia have been convicted under the blasphemy law, including other Muslims. I must say that the majority of cases on the blasphemy law are brought against Muslims, not against Christians.

Senator ABETZ: That hardly makes it moderate, surely. Thank you for that.

Mr Cox : I think moderation is a question of comparison.

Senator ABETZ: I did not get around the world in the 15 minutes so I will come back later. Thank you.

Mr Cox : It is, I think, a moderate Muslim country.

CHAIR: I will go to you now, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Can I go to ASEAN. I want to get some sense of what engagement we have had on the code of conduct for the South China Sea.

Ms Adamson : I can deal with some of it, I am sure, but Mr Green, who is head of the South-East Asia Mainland and Regional Division, should be given an opportunity to engage on this subject also.

Senator WONG: Can you give me your assessment of the progress to date within ASEAN on the draft frameworks—the South China Sea code of conduct.

Mr Green : Yes, I can. It has been reported in the media—and I have no question about the reality—that officials amongst ASEAN countries have agreed upon a draft framework code of conduct and, indeed, the finalisation of that framework code of conduct was a matter of discussion at last week's East Asia Summit senior officials meeting.

Senator WONG: Have we seen the draft framework?