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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
17/10/2016
Estimates
INFRASTRUCTURE AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO

INFRASTRUCTURE AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Nash, Minister for Local Government and Territories, Minister for Regional Communications and Minister for Regional Development

Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

Executive

Mr Mike Mrdak, Secretary

Ms Pip Spence, Acting Deputy Secretary

Ms Judith Zielke, Deputy Secretary

Corporate Services Division

Mr Carl Murphy, Chief Operating Officer

Ms Justine Potter, Chief Financial Officer

Ms Vanessa Goodspeed, General Manager, Communications and Parliamentary

Infrastructure Investment Division

Mr Mark Thomann, Executive Director

Mr Andrew Danks, General Manager, Major Infrastructure Projects Office

Ms Jessica Hall, General Manager, Infrastructure Policy

Mr Roland Pittar, General Manager, North West Roads

Ms Sarah Leeming, General Manager, South East Roads

Mr Richard Wood, General Manager, Inland Rail Taskforce

Mr James Collett, General Manager, Rail and Intermodal

Ms Ruth Wall, General Manager, Regional Programmes

Infrastructure Australia

Mr Philip Davies, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Adrian Dwyer, Executive Director, Policy and Research

Mr Jeremy Parkinson, Director, Project Advisory

Surface Transport Policy Division

Mr Alex Foulds, Executive Director

Ms Stephanie Werner, General Manager, Maritime and Shipping

Mr Marcus James, General Manager, Road Safety and Productivity

Ms Sharon Nyakuengama, General Manager, Vehicle Safety Standards

Ms Donna Wieland, General Manager, Strategic Policy

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Mr Shane Carmody, Acting Chief Executive Officer

Mr Graeme Crawford, Aviation Group Manager

Mr Rob Walker, Stakeholder Engagement Group Manager

Ms Tracey Frey, Sustainability Group Manager

Mr Simon Frawley, Chief Finance Officer

Mr Roger Weeks, Collaboration Branch Manager

Dr Jonathan Aleck, General Manager, Legal Affairs, Regulatory Policy and International Strategy branch

Dr Michael Drane, Principal Medical Officer

Mr Andrew Tiede, Manager, Air Navigation, Airspace and Aerodromes Branch

Aviation and Airports Division

Mr Stephen Borthwick, Acting Executive Director

Mr Jim Wolfe, General Manager, Air Traffic Policy

Mrs Shona Rosengren, General Manager, Aviation Environment

Ms Leonie Horrocks, General Manager, Airports

Ms Ann Redmond, Acting General Manager, Aviation Industry Policy

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Mr Greg Hood, Chief Commissioner

Captain Chris Manning, Commissioner

Mr Ian Sangston, General Manager, Aviation Safety Investigations

Mr Colin McNamara, Acting General Manager, Strategic Capability

Mr Peter Foley, Program Director, Operational Search for MH370

Mr Peter Robertson, General Manager, Surface Safety Investigations and Technical Analysis

Mr Julian Walsh, General Manager, Norfolk Island Investigation

Mr Mike Walker, Manager, Australian Transport Safety Bureau Brisbane Office

Dr Stuart Godley, Assistant General Manager, Strategic Capability

Mr Jason McGuire, Acting Chief Financial Officer

Mr Patrick Hornby, Legal Services Manager, Strategic Capability

Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Mr Mick Kinley, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Toby Stone, General Manager, Marine Environment

Mr Allan Schwartz, General Manager, Domestic Vessels

Office of Transport Security

Ms Sachi Wimmer, Executive Director

Mr Richard Farmer, General Manager, Maritime, Identity and Surface Security

Mr Angus Kirkwood, General Manager, Aviation Security

Ms Nicole Pearson, General Manager, Risk and International

Mr Greg Cox, General Manager, Transport Security Operations Reform

Mr Peter White, General Manager, Transport Security Operations

Mr Scott Stone, General Manager, Air Cargo Security Taskforce

Airservices Australia

Mr Jason Harfield, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Paul Logan, Chief Finance Officer

Ms Michelle Bennetts, Executive General Manager, Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting

Policy and Research Division

Ms Philippa Power, Executive Director

Ms Nicole Spencer, General Manager, Land Transport Market Reform

Mr Andrew Johnson, General Manager, Policy Development Unit and Regulatory Reform Unit

Dr Gary Dolman, Head of Bureau, Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport and Regional Economics

Ms Cathryn Geiger, General Manager, Regional Economic Policy

Mr Scott Mashford, Acting General Manager, Regional Jobs and Investment Taskforce

Australian Rail Track Corporation

Mr John Fullerton, Chief Executive Officer

Local Government and Territories Division

Ms Robyn Fleming, Executive Director, Local Government and Territories Division

Ms Karly Pidgeon, General Manager, Indian Ocean Territories Branch

Mr Steve Dreezer, General Manager, Local Government, Mainland Territories and Regional Development Australia Branch

Ms Glenda Kidman, General Manager, Norfolk Island Branch

Western Sydney Unit

Mr Brendan McRandle, Executive Director, Western Sydney Unit

Mr Garth Taylor, General Manager, Communications, Environment and Legal

Mr Greg Whalen, General Manager, Financial, Commercial and Operations

National Transport Commission

Mr Mike Mrdak, Commissioner

Ms Judith Zielke, Deputy Secretary

Ms Donna Wieland, General Manager, Strategic Policy

Committee met at 09:00

CHAIR ( Senator O'Sullivan ): Before we start, I would just like to recognise the decade of contribution made by ex-senator Bill Heffernan, retired. He is going to be a hard act to follow and proceedings will be nowhere near as exciting—hopefully—as they were under him. I wanted to get that on the record. Secretary Mrdak believes he is sitting on his chair on the veranda of the Junee meatworks watching proceedings. I call out to you there, Bill. If anyone else wants to make a comment before we start, you are welcome to.

Senator STERLE: I worked diligently and closely with ex-Senator Heffernan for 11 years—he had been around here for about 19 or so. We will miss him, but I am sure when we are questioning we will get a shiver up our spine as he trots past us. I have no doubt he will still be in the room.

CHAIR: Secretary, you might want to write to Bill and pass on that little passage from Hansard.

Senator FARRELL: I would also like to pass on my best wishes. I worked closely with ex-Senator Heffernan for a very long period of time. He was a terrific bloke and I would like to extend my best wishes to him.

Senator BACK: As would I. I do not know whether the committee is going to be the poorer for his absence, but certainly events such as the beef trim and raw prawns do come to mind.

CHAIR: Do not mention the trim!

Senator BACK: Senator Nash probably remembers, and I suspect the secretary, Mr Mrdak, is also breathing a sigh of relief, but ex-Senator Heffernan was nothing if not a very colourful character. I join with you in sending him and Margaret our best wishes—and hoping like hell that Margaret can entertain him far better than we could.

Senator Nash: Having spent most of the last decade on this committee in one form or another with ex-Senator Heffernan, I can say he will be very much missed, I am sure. But we are also now in very good hands with you, Senator O'Sullivan. We are looking forward to working with you. Our very best wishes to Bill and Margy. I also welcome back Senator Farrell.

CHAIR: You are going to have to bear with me. I have a substantial statement to read and apparently there is no way to abbreviate it. I thank the secretary and her team, as always, for the preparations they undertake for us for estimates.

I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed expenditure for 2016-17 and related documents for the Infrastructure and Regional Development portfolio. The committee may also examine the annual reports of the departments and agencies appearing before it. The committee has before it a program listing agencies relating to matters for which senators have given notice, and the proceedings today will begin with an examination of the Corporate Services Division of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

The committee has fixed Friday, 2 December 2016, as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice. Senators are reminded that any written questions on notice should be provided to the committee secretariat by close of business on Friday, 28 October 2016. Under standing order 26 the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. 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.

The Senate, by 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.

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 opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or 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.

I particularly 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 extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

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

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

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

(1)      If:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An officer called to answer a question for the first time should state their full name and the capacity in which they appear, and witnesses should speak clearly and into the microphones to assist Hansard to record proceedings. I remind everyone present to switch off their mobile phones or render them inaudible.