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Senators in attendance:

Senator Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

Mr Mike Taylor, Secretary

Mr Mike Mrdak, Deputy Secretary

Ms Susan Page, Deputy Secretary

Mr Andrew Tongue, Deputy Secretary

Mr David Banham, Acting Chief Operating Officer

Mr Paul Wood, Chief Financial Officer

Mr Phil Potterton, Executive Director, Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics

Dr Gary Dolman, General Manager, Regional Research and Transport Statistics

Mr Robert Stewart, General Manager, Infrastructure and Transport Research

Ms Leslie Riggs, Executive Director, AusLink

Mr Robert Hogan, General Manager, NSW and Investment Coordination

Ms Heather White, Acting General Manager, Policy and QLD/NT

Ms Joan Armitage, General Manager, Victoria/Tasmania and Strategic Process

Mr Jim Wolfe, General Manager, Rail

Mr Simon Atkinson, Infrastructure Australia Coordination

Mr Ned Rokvic, Acting General Manager, WA/SA and Local Roads

Mr Andrew Wilson, Executive Director, Maritime and Land Transport

Mr Peter Robertson, General Manager, Vehicle Safety Standards

Mr Michael Sutton, General Manager, Maritime

Mr Stewart Jones, General Manager, Transport Integration and Reform

Mr Kym Bills, Executive Director, Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Mr Joe Motha, General Manager, Road Safety

Mr Alan Stray, Deputy Director, Information and Investigations

Mr Julian Walsh, Deputy Director, Aviation Safety Investigation

Mr Peter Foley, Deputy Director, Surface Safety Investigation

Ms Kerryn Macaulay, Deputy Director, Technical and Projects

Mr Graham Peachey, Chief Executive Officer

Mr David Baird, General Manager, Emergency Response Division

Mr Gary Prosser, General Manager, Maritime Standards Division

Mr Mick Kinley, General Manager, Maritime Operations Division

Mr Yew Weng Ho, General Manager, Corporate Services Division

Mr John Doherty, Executive Director, Aviation and Airports

Mr Mike Ford, General Manager, Aviation Regulation

Mr Neil Williams, General Manager, Airports

Mr Stephen Borthwick, General Manager, Aviation Markets

Mr Stuart Sargent, General Manager, Airspace Policy

Ms Maureen Ellis, General Manager, Aviation Services

Mr Bruce Byron, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Shane Carmody, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Strategy and Support

Mr Mick Quinn, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Operations

Mr Peter Boyd, Head, Planning and Governance Office

Ms Julie Fox, General Manager, Corporate Relations

Dr Jonathan Aleck, Head, Legal Services Group

Ms Betty Edwards, Chief Financial Officer

Mr Gary Harbor, Head, Human Resources

Mr Rob Wight, Air Transport Operations Group

Mr Greg Vaughan, Group General Manager, General Aviation Operations Group

Mr Greg Hood, Group General Manager, Personnel Licensing, Education and Training Group

Mr Jim Coyne, Head, Airworthiness Engineering Branch

Mr Chris Farrelley, Chief Information Officer

Dr Ian Hosegood, Principal Medical Officer

Mr Peter Cromarty, Manager, Office of Airspace Regulation

Mr Alastair Hodgson, Acting Chief Executive Officer

Mr Jason Harfield, General Manager, Air Traffic Control

Mr Ken McLean, General Manager, Safety Management

Mr Mick Palmer, Inspector of Transport Security

Mr Peter Pearsall, Director, Office of the Inspector of Transport Security

Mr Paul Retter, Executive Director, Office of Transport Security

Mr James Collett, Acting General Manager, Aviation Security Operations

Mr Richard Windeyer, General Manager, Aviation Security Policy and Legislation

Ms Patricia Georgee, Acting General Manager, Analysis and Operational Support

Ms Rhyan Bloor, General Manager, Governance and Operations

Ms Philippa Power, General Manager, Maritime and Surface Security

Ms Carolyn McNally, Executive Director, Regional Services

Mr Tony Carmichael, General Manager, Regional Partnerships Branch

Ms Karen Gosling, General Manager, Sustainable Regions and Networks Branch

Mr Marcus James, General Manager, Regional Policy Branch

Mr John Angley, Executive Director, Local Government

Mr Michael Pahlow, General Manager, Local Government Branch

CHAIR (Senator Sterle) —I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Rural, Regional Affairs and Transport. On Wednesday, 13 February 2008 the Senate referred to the committee for examination the particulars of proposed additional expenditure for 2007-08 and certain other documents for the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government portfolio. The committee will now further examine the particulars of proposed expenditure through these additional budget estimates hearings. The committee may also examine the annual reports of the departments and agencies appearing before it. The committee is due to report to the Senate on 18 March 2008 and has fixed Wednesday, 9 April 2008 as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice.

Under standing order 26 the committee must take all evidence in public session. The Senate by a resolution in 1999 endorsed the following test of relevance of 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 purpose of estimates hearings. The Senate has resolved also that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or of a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior 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.

If a witness objects to answering a question, the witness should state the grounds upon which the objection is taken and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground which is claimed. Any claim that it would be contrary to the public interest to answer a question must be made by the minister and should be accompanied by a statement setting out the basis for the claim.

I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they 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 to a committee.

[9.03 am]