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Senators in attendance:

Senator Ludwig, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Dr Conall O’Connell, Secretary

Dr Rhondda Dickson, Deputy Secretary

Ms Rona Mellor, Deputy Secretary, Biosecurity Services Group

Mr Phillip Glyde, Deputy Secretary and Executive Director ABARE-BRS

Ms Anne Hazell, Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Services

Ms Kate McRae, General Manager, Human Resources Branch

Ms Karen Nagle, General Manager, Audit and Evaluation Branch

Mr Steven Foley, General Manager, Information Services Branch

Mr Bill Withers, General Manager, Governance, Contracts and Services Branch

Mr Darren Schaeffer, Chief Finance Officer

Ms Vanessa Berry, Deputy Chief Finance Officer, Budget and Management Accounting

Ms Sue Knox, Acting Deputy Chief Finance Officer, Accounting and Operations

Ms Tanya Howitt, Director, External Budget Process and Reforms

Ms Nicole McLay, Director, Portfolio Budget Liaison and Coordination

Ms Lisa Hind, Acting General Manager, Levies Revenue Service

Ms Fran Freeman, Executive Manager, Corporate Policy

Ms Elizabeth Bie, General Manager, Ministerial and Parliamentary Branch

Ms Cathrine Stephenson, General Manager, Portfolio Strategy and Coordination Branch

Ms Natalie Larkins, Acting General Manager, Corporate Communications Branch

Mr David Mortimer, Executive Manager, Climate Change

Mr John Talbot, General Manager, Forestry Branch

Mr Stewart Noble, General Manager, Drought Policy Review Branch

Mr Andrew McDonald, General Manager, Farm Adjustment Programs Branch

Mr Mark Gibbs, General Manager, Climate Change Policy Branch

Mr Paul Morris, Deputy Executive Director

Dr Terry Sheales, Chief Economist

Dr Kim Ritman, Chief Scientist

Dr Jammie Penm, Chief Commodity Analyst

Dr Helal Ahammad, Chief Analyst

Mr Peter Gooday, General Manager, Productivity, Water and Social Sciences Branch

Mr Bruce Bowen, General Manager, Agriculture and Food Branch

Mr Alan Copeland, Acting General Manager, Resources, Energy and Trade Branch

Dr Gavin Begg, Acting General Manager, Fisheries and Risk Analysis Branch

Ms Annette Blyton, General Manager, Business Strategy and Systems

Mr Ian Thompson, Executive Manager Sustainable Resource Management

Ms Michelle Lauder, General Manager, Landcare and Sustainable Agriculture Branch

Mr Simon Veitch, Acting General Manager, Fisheries Branch

Ms Bernadette O’Neil, Acting General Manager, Business Systems and Grants, Australian Land and Coasts

Mr Barry Longstaff, Acting General Manager, Communications and Reporting Branch, Australian Land and Coasts

Dr James Findlay, Acting Chief Executive Officer

Mr John Bridge, General Manager Corporate Governance

Mr Peter Venslovas, General Manager Operations

Dr Sally Troy, Executive Manager Fisheries Management

Mr David Perrott, Chief Finance Officer

Ms Tanya Rattenbury, Acting Chief Information Officer

Mr John Andersen, Senior Manager Compliance Operations

Ms Trysh Stone, Senior Manager Tuna and International Fisheries

Ms Victoria Anderson, Acting Executive Manager, Trade and Market Access Division

Ms Sara Cowan, General Manager, Multilateral Trade Branch

Mr Paul Ross, General Manager, Bilateral Trade (Americas, South-East Asia, Subcontinent, NZ and the Pacific) Branch

Mr Andrew Pearson, Acting General Manager, Bilateral Trade (North Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa) Branch

Mr Russell Phillips, Acting Executive Manager, BSG, Strategic Projects Division

Ms Nicola Hinder, General Manager, Partnerships Branch

Ms Helen Banks, Acting General Manager, Legislation Branch

Ms Louise Clarke, General Manager, Sustainable Biosecurity Funding Branch

Mr Robert Murphy, General Manager, Biosecurity Risk Framework Branch

Mr Tim Chapman, Executive Manager, BSG, Quarantine Operations Division

Mr Peter Moore, Acting General Manager Operational Resourcing & Infrastructure Branch

Dr Chris Parker, General Manager Co-Regulation and Support Branch

Mr Jonathan Benyei, General Manager Cargo Branch

Ms Tina Hutchison, General Manager Passengers and Mail Branch

Ms Lynne O’Brien, Executive Manager BSG, Regional and Business Services Division

Ms Karen Schneider, Executive Manager, BSG, Animal Division

Dr Andy Carroll, Chief Veterinary Officer, BSG

Dr Mike Nunn, Principal Scientist, Animal Division

Dr Robyn Martin, General Manager, Animal Biosecurity Branch

Dr Bob Biddle, General Manager, Animal Health Programs Branch

Ms Lee Cale, Acting General Manager, Animal Quarantine and Export Operations Branch

Ms Jenny Cupit, General Manager, Biological Quarantine Operations and Marine Pests Branch

Dr Colin Grant, Executive Manager, BSG, Plant Division

Dr Mikael Hirsch, Principal Scientist, Plant Biosecurity

Dr Vanessa Findlay, General Manager, Plant Biosecurity (Horticulture) Branch

Mr Bill Magee, General Manager, Plant Biosecurity (Grains and Forestry) Branch

Mr Chris Adriaansen, Director, Australian Plague Locust Commission

Ms Lois Ransom, Chief Plant Protection Officer, Plant Division

Ms Louise van Meurs, General Manager, Plant Quarantine Operations Branch

Ms Kylie Calhoun, General Manager, Plant Export Operations Branch

Mr Greg Read, Executive Manager, BSG, Food Division

Mr Dean Merrilees, General Manager, Export Standards Branch

Mr Mark Schipp, General Manager, Food Exports Branch

Dr Narelle Clegg, General Manager, Residues and Food Safety Branch

Mrs Ann McDonald, General Manager, Export Reform Branch

Mr Allen Grant, Executive Manager, Agricultural Productivity Division

Mr Simon Murnane, General Manager, Livestock Industries and Animal Welfare Branch

Mr Peter Ottesen, General Manager, Crops, Horticulture, Irrigation and Wine Branch

Mr Greg Williamson, General Manager, Innovation, Productivity and Food Security Branch

Mr Richard Souness, General Manager, Food Branch

Mr Matthew Worrell, General Manager, Food Security and R&D Review Taskforce

Dr Eva Bennet-Jenkins, Chief Executive Officer

Ms Joanne Mitchell, Program Manager, Corporate Services Program

Dr Raj Bhula, Program Manager, Pesticides Program

Mr Dan Webb, Finance Manager

Mr Craig Burns, Managing Director

Mr Andrew Baker, General Manager, Corporate

Mr David Palmer, Managing Director

Dr Ian Johnson, Livestock Production Innovation, General Manager

Mr Andrew Cheesman, Chief Executive

Ms Andreas Clark, General Council

Mr Stuart McCullough, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Wal Merriman, Chair

Mr Keith Perrett, Chair

Mr Peter Reading, Managing Director

CHAIR (Senator Sterle) —I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Rural Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee. Today the committee will commence its examination of supplementary budget estimates with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The committee has fixed Friday, 10 December 2010 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 this Friday, 22 October 2010. Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. Officers and senators are familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings. If you need assistance, the secretariat has a copy of the rules.

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 and which I now incorporate in the  Hansard.

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)

CHAIR —I now welcome Senator Joe Ludwig, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Dr Conall O’Connell, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and officers of the department. Minister, do you or Dr O’Connell wish to make an opening statement?

Senator Ludwig —No. Thank you, Chair.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I have just been given indulgence from Senator Colbeck. Dr O’Connell, just for some guidance for later in the day, could you give an indication to the estimates committee of what input into the draft guide to the Murray-Darling Basin plan DAFF has had? Given that DAFF represents agriculture and a whole range of expertise, such as science, future crop opportunities, you oversee ABARE and a whole range of other things, what input have you actually had into the draft to the guide to this endless journey?

Dr O’Connell —The main contribution has been some work that ABARE-BRS have done on a consulting basis to the MDBA. The MDBA’s product, as you know, I am sure, is statutorily independent and it is its own product. It is not the product of the department. We have had the role of providing some modelling advice on economic issues and social issues, essentially on a consulting basis, according to a set of different assumptions that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority have provided. So it is not on a policy base and not on a sustainable diversion limits basis. It is really about trying to look at some impacts based upon—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Would it be possible for you to table that?

Dr O’Connell —Yes. It has been published, I think.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Your input?

Dr O’Connell —The overwhelming component of it, yes, has already been published in three volumes. When we come to ABARE-BRS, we can go through it in some detail, if you wish.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So, could you describe it to the committee, given that you have given input based on modelling? The one thing that seems to be seriously in error and has aggravated Australia’s farmers is the proposition that—DAFF represents agriculture—‘This is what we’re going to do about the problem of water in the Murray-Darling Basin’. But they have not actually told the farmers what the problem is. With the science for the assumptions, they put the cart before the horse, in other words. Have you got the assumptions that you could table to this committee upon which the sustainable limits draft to the guide to the endless journey have been based?

Dr O’Connell —We can, I think, certainly provide you with the assumptions that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority asked ABARE to undertake some modelling on, yes.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Can you do that today?

Dr O’Connell —Yes. As I said, I think this is actually published work, so I do not think there is any difficulty with it.

Senator HEFFERNAN —No-one has seen the assumptions yet.

Dr O’Connell —I am talking about those assumptions that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Were provided to you on which to base the model?

Dr O’Connell —Yes. Well, they provided us with certain assumptions.

Senator HEFFERNAN —You have this tremendous challenge—and it is a tremendous challenge regardless of who is in government—of the long-term impact of the science prediction of declining rainfall et cetera as well as rebalancing the environment. Do you think it is a bit incredible to put this proposition out and have all these emotional meetings, where people have gone home, some of them feeling suicidal, without actually putting out the science on which all these predictions are based? Is that not corny?

Dr O’Connell —Look, I think this is obviously a question that was managed in the environment estimates when the Senate was dealing with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the environment.

Senator HEFFERNAN —But it was not answered there. You are the secretary—

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan, you are asking Dr O’Connell questions. At least give him the chance to answer. You have the call.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Yes. Fair enough.

Dr O’Connell —What might be useful, Senator, if you want to move directly there—and that is obviously with the committee—

Senator HEFFERNAN —No. I just—

Dr O’Connell —Because we can have ABARE come up now and go through this if it is helpful.

Senator HEFFERNAN —No. This is just putting you all on notice to get the stuff ready so you do not get here and say, ‘Oh, no, it’s back at the office.’ We want to know today.

Dr O’Connell —No. As I say, three reports were provided: there was a report to the environment and water department and two reports to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, I think it is, and we certainly can provide those. As I say, they have been published.

Senator HEFFERNAN —But, as far as you know, there has not been any input from DAFF on what new crops might be grown, the new science and the future of non-paddy rice, for instance. Where we are up to with the science on that? I presume you understand paddy and the paddy rice arrangements?

Dr O’Connell —Yes. I suggest that Mr Paul Morris can add to that. I just reemphasise the point that it is clear that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has developed that guide to a draft plan or proposed plan under that statutorily independent right.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Thank you very much. Mr Morris and I have been acquainted over a number of years. The science is saying for the Murray-Darling Basin that we are going to lose a minimum of 3,500 gigs and a maximum of 11,000, which would be catastrophic, out of 23,400, and 38 per cent of that run-off comes from two per cent of the landscape which is most seriously affected. Based on my gathering of what has been said, they are saying, ‘We’re going to exchange 3,000 or 4,000 gigs back to the environment’. But the real referee in all of this is Mother Nature or Mother Earth. If she says, ‘But, hang on, boys, we’re going to take a minimum of 5,000 or 6,000 gigs out of the system’, at 5,000 or 6,000 gigs, 40 per cent of the science correction, you would actually have to reconstruct or reconfigure rural Australia. You would certainly have to come to terms with the fact that there is going to be increasing rainfall in the north-west of the catchment, declining rainfall in 38 per cent of the landscape and run-off coming to two per cent of the landscape.

CHAIR —I am sure there is a question, Senator Heffernan.

Senator HEFFERNAN —What I would like to know is: what was the prediction in declining rainfall that they gave to ABARE, because, until you do that, you are guessing?

Mr Morris —Can you run that question past us again? I missed the question, sorry.

Senator HEFFERNAN —All I want to know is: what is the assumption of the science that is available on which they built the predictions? Is it 3,500 gigs? We all know secretly they are saying under their breath it could be 7,000 gigs that we have got to play with here. That is a bit over 50 per cent of the science prediction.

Dr O’Connell —Senator, to be helpful here, you are asking for what underpins it in terms of the scientific input that went into the guide. You really, I think, will have to ask the Murray-Darling Basin Authority that.

Senator HEFFERNAN —But, to be fair—

Dr O’Connell —The job that ABARE-BRS was asked to do was, given certain assumptions about SDL, or sustainable diversion limit, changes, what would be the modelled effect.

Senator HEFFERNAN —But can I say with great respect to this great institution of the parliament and bureaucracy, ABARE has been expected to comment and feed back not knowing. They have been handed a set of, ‘Just presume this happens. What is the outcome?’ Why would it not be fairer to say, ‘Assume these are the assumptions of declining run-off for a number of reasons, including everything from the non-logging of plantation forestry, which at 35 inches of rainfall is 2½ megalitres per hectare per year and nine years to the growth cycle of a monoculture?’ Would it not have been fairer to say to ABARE, ‘Now, we think maybe the minimum decline is going to be X. Based on that, these are our sustainable extraction limits. Based on that, what are you going to say?’ The bit they have left out is the first bit—the assumption.

Mr Morris —The MDBA had a number of consultants that were looking at all aspects of consideration of the basin plan. What you have raised is certainly some of the aspects they were looking at from a scientific perspective. For ABARE-BRS, we were asked to look at a couple of very specific things. Earlier in the year we were asked to look at what communities in the basin were going to be vulnerable to a reduction in irrigation water. We did a study looking at, across the basin, what communities were most dependent on irrigated agriculture and, therefore, most vulnerable to a reduction in water availability.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I will just stop you there. That would be based on more of the same agriculture, would it not, doing what we are doing? Doing what grandpop did with paddy rice? We have gone to laser instead.

Mr Morris —It is based on historical information on what are the major drivers of viability of communities in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Senator HEFFERNAN —But that is based on the history of the past, not the science of the future.

CHAIR —Senator, just please let the official answer the question. I am not going to rush you, although 10 o’clock is the change of questioning.

Senator HEFFERNAN —He knows where I am going.

Mr Morris —Definitely, if you are looking more optimistically to the future as to what new developments may occur and how they may affect rural townships, there are a whole lot of factors out there that could very well result in towns growing or shrinking, depending on developments either in agriculture or outside of agriculture, for that matter.

Senator HEFFERNAN —But you have not built those into your predictions?

Dr O’Connell —Senator, you cannot build those into a model.

Senator HEFFERNAN —You actually can. Have you been to Carnarvon?

Dr O’Connell —No. If you just let me finish.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Have you been to Carnarvon?

Dr O’Connell —What Mr Morris was saying is that there are a range of variables which are completely unrelated to agriculture which may potentially impact upon the—

Senator HEFFERNAN —No. But I do not want to get to things that are not related to agriculture. That is why I am questioning DAFF. Obviously Carnarvon, with its Israeli-Spanish technology, is 40 times more efficient than the Ord. It is 20 times more efficient than the average across the Murray-Darling Basin.

Senator Ludwig —Is there a question there?

Senator HEFFERNAN —In BRS’s work, did you consider things like the challenge that the Ord faced up to, which has been a largesse of waste over many years and lost opportunity because it had no political significance? It is about to have some. They have developed chia. Chia is a wonderful new crop up there.

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan, is there a question?

Senator HEFFERNAN —Yes, there is.

Senator Ludwig —Chair, what I am concerned about is that the committee had the opportunity to speak to and ask questions of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority yesterday. I am happy for DAFF to be here and asked questions in relation to the work that it does and the work that it contributes to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, but I am not sure where this line of questioning is going. I want to discern a question amongst it.

Senator HEFFERNAN —With great respect, Minister, it is about production. DAFF is about agricultural production.

Senator Ludwig —I am happy if you want to ask a specific question about that.

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan, I will take you on that. Senator Colbeck.

Senator COLBECK —Thanks, Chair. Good morning, Dr O’Connell, good morning, Minister.

Senator Ludwig —Good morning.

Senator COLBECK —I trust I will be seeing you in Tassie in the next few weeks, by the sound of things after yesterday.

Senator Ludwig —I think we have already seen one another in Tasmania.

Senator COLBECK —We did have an encounter in Tasmania, yes, unsurprisingly. Dr O’Connell, has the department done any examination of the incoming government’s policies along the lines of the Treasury’s red book?

Dr O’Connell —I take it you mean did we do an incoming government brief for the government?

Senator COLBECK —Well, I expect that you would have done that. Have you done an analysis of the Treasury’s costings of the new government’s policies?

Dr O’Connell —If you are asking whether we have done an analysis of the Treasury’s red book—

Senator COLBECK —Yes.

Dr O’Connell —the answer is no.

Senator COLBECK —You have not?

Dr O’Connell —No.

Senator COLBECK —So you accept the Treasury’s costings in relation to the government’s policies?

Senator Ludwig —Sorry, I am sure we can get to the narrowness of the question. I am sure Dr O’Connell’s department would not have done an analysis of all of the Treasury’s costings in relation to areas outside of this portfolio.

Senator COLBECK —No. I am talking about in relation to this portfolio.

Senator Ludwig —It is not clear on the transcript. You could go through or point to an issue that you want and then ask them about that—whether they have done further work or any additional work.

Senator COLBECK —Well, I know it would have been difficult for the department to do an analysis of the government’s policy because they did not issue one. So I suppose I am actually asking a question that does not have an answer.

Senator Ludwig —I am sure there is a question.

Senator COLBECK —Because there was not a policy issued.

Senator Ludwig —I am sure there is a question there. If you would like to ask a question, I am sure the department will be able to answer it.

Senator COLBECK —Well, I have asked a question. I think Dr O’Connell understands what I asked.

Senator Ludwig —And what I answered you, in fact, was that the broadness of the question really provides a nonresponse by the department because, no, they did not do an analysis of the red book by Treasury. But if you have a specific question about a particular election commitment within this portfolio—if that is your question—you might care to rephrase it, and I am sure Dr O’Connell can provide you with a responsive answer.

Senator COLBECK —I think you have Senator Conroy’s disease, Minister Ludwig. I am clearly looking for an analysis of the government’s commitments with respect to agriculture. That is clearly what I am looking for. I would not be asking for engineering and science or something like that unless I were in that committee. I am clearly looking for an analysis done on the government’s policies for agriculture.

Senator Ludwig —Away you go, then.

Dr O’Connell —In terms of the costings, Senator, the Department of Finance and Deregulation manages costings, not the Treasury.

Senator COLBECK —Well, let us go to a specific one. The Treasury has suggested that the cost of implementing the illegal logging policy is $4.2 million over the forward estimates. Does the department agree with that? Where is the money coming from?

Dr O’Connell —Senator, my understanding is that the announcement in terms of the costing of that policy is $3.4 million over four years.

Senator COLBECK —Well, according to the documentation that I have here, and I am quoting from the Department of Finance and Deregulation document dated 18 August 2010:

Based on experience with comparable policies implementation in recent years, we estimate the cost of implementing this proposal would be $4.2 million over four years.

Senator Ludwig —Could we just identify the document that you are reading from? What I have done in other committees—and I am sure it happens here as well—is if you are going to quote from a document, it is only fair to the people at this table that you either table the document so people can see what it is—

Senator COLBECK —I am happy to identify the document.

Senator Ludwig —And you identify the document so that everyone can work off the same song sheet.

Senator COLBECK —As I said, it is the Department of Finance and Deregulation. There is a media release and attached documents dated 18 August 2010. It is reference number GOV57.

CHAIR —Senator Colbeck, can you table that document now for the committee?

Senator COLBECK —I could table that. I have a number of things.

Dr O’Connell —Senator, we will clarify that. But our understanding is that the costing is actually $3.4 million. We will clarify the difference and get back to you shortly.

CHAIR —I think there is a line of questions on that.

Senator COLBECK —There are a number of these. I just want to get—

CHAIR —Let us table it. We have photocopying machines in the parliament, so why don’t we get it out?

Senator COLBECK —Well, are we going to get anywhere, because I am going to have to give them my complete file, the way we are going? I have a number of questions.

Senator Ludwig —I am happy with that.

Senator COLBECK —I am sure you would be happy with that, Minister. I have a copy, Minister, if you want it.

Senator Ludwig —Senator Colbeck, I do understand that sometimes people put together notes and write on the sheets so they may not want to provide a copy of that. I accept that. We may want to go to somewhere else first.

Senator COLBECK —It is a public document, Minister. Let us do something else for a moment.

Senator Ludwig —Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Can we just find out, Dr O’Connell, when you provided the answers to the minister? There were 158 questions taken and not one of them has yet even been attempted to be answered.

Senator Ludwig —That is not true. That is not true, Senator Macdonald. I hope you catch up with where you are at, but that is not true.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Well, when they were answered? When were they given to the committee secretariat, Minister?

Senator Ludwig —My recollection, and the department might be able to help me, but—

Ms Freeman —Senator, 129 of the 158 questions have been provided to the committee.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —When?

Ms Freeman —I will check the date for you now.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Today? Yesterday?

Ms Freeman —No. I will get back to you on that, Senator. But 129 have gone.

Senator Ludwig —My recollection is last week.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Well, while we are doing that, I will go back to my question to Dr O’Connell. We tend to blame the public servants for this when we have all been around long enough to know that the public servants do try to answer them within the time constraints set by an order of the Senate. Dr O’Connell, or whoever is responsible, when did you send the drafts to the minister’s office?

Ms Freeman —It was 14 October 2010 that 129 questions were provided to the committee.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Well, I will just check with the committee secretariat, not that I would doubt you for a minute.

Senator Ludwig —I say, Chair, that it is not good enough. The import of the question is that in terms of answering questions on notice—in previous portfolios my record stands as being diligent in being able to provide responsive answers to questions that are asked by committees. And that is a fair question. In taking over this portfolio, I have worked very hard to attempt to answer all of the questions that have been put on notice in a timely way. There was an election which intervened and, of course, a change in ministers in this portfolio. In the turnaround time that has been available and the work that has had to be undertaken in this new ministry, I have provided a substantive number of responses to questions because I think it is important to be responsive to the committee and provide answers to questions that are asked before estimates.

There are still a number of questions outstanding. My recollection is that they were provided by the department as late as yesterday to my office. I am unfortunately here today, otherwise I would have worked through those today. So I do apologise for not being able to provide all of the responses to the questions. But, given the circumstances, I think if the committee can give me some latitude at this time, I will certainly ensure that next time we do provide all of the responses so that this committee has them available at the next estimates and so that they can follow up questions to them.

CHAIR —Thank you, Minister. The committee will take that further after this committee stage.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Well, you might, Mr Chairman. I do not.

CHAIR —You heard Senator Ludwig, Senator Macdonald. In fact, you are not even on the committee, so you do not speak for the committee.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Well, I am a member of the committee, I am sorry.

CHAIR —You are now, are you? I apologise.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am a participating member of the committee.

CHAIR —Oh, sorry, participating, yes. So you are not at every hearing and every meeting, because I do not recall seeing you at the committee’s meetings.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —What is the relevance of that?

CHAIR —The minister has explained he has been minister of the portfolio for less than 28 days. I would say he has given a fair explanation.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Can I ask my questions without interruption? The minister has now had a five-minute mea culpa. Minister, I have heard exactly the same from three other ministers.

CHAIR —I have heard it the past two days. You were a minister too, if I remember rightly.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Three ministers. You have obviously got a script that you write out—‘Oh, look, we want to do the right thing here.’

CHAIR —You can correct that. He would not have said that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —But tell me, Dr O’Connell, what day did the Senate set for the answers to be delivered?

Dr O’Connell —I will have to pass that over.

Ms Freeman —I think, Senator, obviously as the minister has indicated with the new government—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —No. Can you answer the question, please? We will get along a lot faster if you answer the question rather than make excuses for the minister.

Ms Freeman —It was 21 July 2010.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Okay, 21 July. In all cases, we have heard the election as the excuse. This was a month before the election. Dr O’Connell, how many of the answers did you send up by the required date?

Dr O’Connell —I would have to take that on notice, I am afraid, and provide you with a—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Well, was it most of them?

Dr O’Connell —We could probably provide you with the answer later today.

Ms Freeman —Yes, we can provide that to you today.

Dr O’Connell —I would like to make the point, though, that it is not a direct process, obviously, where the department provides draft answers to the minister and the minister simply signs them off. There is often iteration between the minister and the department to ensure that the answers meet a minister’s requirements. So when we put—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Look, Conall, I am well aware of this. I think most of us just—

Dr O’Connell —I just want to make it clear that it is not a case of having a point at which something stops being the responsibility of the department.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —But do you accept that it is not part of the caretaker conventions that the minister may submit the answers during the election period?

Dr O’Connell —I think it is—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Well, let me help you. Another secretary said that it is not a breach of the caretaker conventions for the minister to do that.

Senator COLBECK —Are you right, Senator?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Yes. That is right. Well, in fact, all secretaries confirm that. Clearly, the ministers were not prepared to submit answers because it might have impacted upon the election. I hate to think that the department is brought into that sort of political chicanery. That is why I want to know—

Dr O’Connell —Senator, the calling of the election made no difference to the timing and production of the questions on notice.

Senator COLBECK —I want to make a point. We contacted the department earlier this week to make sure that all the information in relation to this was going to be available. Because we saw what was happening in other estimates hearings, we contacted the department to ensure that all the statistical information would be available. We were told that it would be available. Rather than going around with great dissertations of what the process might be, I think it would be easier if we could just get the answers to the question that Senator Macdonald is asking.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Which is: how many were not supplied by 21 July?

Ms Freeman —Sorry, how many were not supplied?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —By 21 July to the minister.

Ms Freeman —To the minister? There were 129 out of 158 provided to the minister.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —By 21 July?

Ms Freeman —Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —And so one can take their own counsel on why the minister might not have bothered to tell the parliament, obviously embarrassing stuff. But tell me, Dr O’Connell, you said that there were some you just sent to the minister yesterday or recently.

Ms Freeman —Yes. I can answer that.

Dr O’Connell —After the election and the change of minister, of course, we had to resubmit them all and go through them all again and update them and bring them up to the current state.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Just tell me how long Senator Ludwig has been the minister.

Ms Freeman —Since 14 September, Senator. The responses have been provided progressively starting up to the minister’s office from 24 September staggered throughout that period. There are 156 that have now been provided to the minister’s office.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So why did they have to be updated subsequent to the election?

Ms Freeman —I would have to check; I guess, on a case-by-case basis, to be honest, Senator.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Could you give me an example of information that would have changed?

Dr Dickson —Many of the earlier questions had referred to forthcoming releases of information occurring in August or September. Clearly, when those dates had passed, some of that had to be updated to reflect the fact that the information had either been released or that the date for the release had changed. So there were those very minor updates to make sure it was current.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So if it is that sort of information—stuff that has been publicly released—why couldn’t the secretary, under the caretaker conventions, have released those questions?

Dr O’Connell —As you know, it is the role of the minister to approve the tabling.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —But in a caretaker period, you have that role, do you not, Dr O’Connell?

Dr O’Connell —I do not think I do, no.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So we have two separate ministers who deliberately withhold information until 21 July.

Senator Ludwig —No. I object to that. Very good try, Senator Macdonald. Do you have a question, because there is no deliberate—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Is that correct, Minister?

Senator Ludwig —No. It is not correct.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Why did your predecessor deliberately withhold that when he received most of the answers on 21 July?

Senator Ludwig —I am sure you can ask my predecessor that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I cannot because he is not here.

Senator Ludwig —I am happy to respond to questions that you can ask me.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Why did you not release them?

Senator Ludwig —I did. Since I have been in this ministry, the questions have come up progressively. I am sure the department can run through the times that I have diligently worked through them and provided them to this committee. You did not even know, unfortunately, that they were already provided, but I have been providing them to this committee because I do respect the committee’s role to be able to look at these questions and the answers to the questions.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —These were delivered to the committee on 14 October.

Senator Ludwig —That is right.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So you were in office for a month and you could not be bothered dealing with these things in that month and getting them to the committee so that we have some chance of having a look at the answers between then—

Senator Ludwig —No. Let us go through the facts here.


Senator Ludwig —The officer can take you through the dates the questions have come up to my office and the dates that they were returned out of my office. But you will mind that over the period—it is a busy time—I took the time to ensure that the committee had the answers to the questions, at least the majority that I had available to me, in sufficient time for you to look at them and ask questions in respect to them. If you have not availed yourself of that, I cannot help you any further in respect of that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —The department may have something to answer for, then. As I understand it, the questions were delivered to the committee on 14 August. Is that not correct?

Ms Freeman —No, 14 October.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —October, I am sorry.

Ms Freeman —What was the question, sorry, Senator?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Were they all delivered to—

Ms Freeman —No, 129—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —On 14 October?

Ms Freeman —Yes. That is correct.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Yet the minister is telling us he was doing them progressively, sending them back to you. Clearly, then, the department was holding on to them and not delivering them to the committee. Is that correct?

Ms Freeman —Senator, what has happened is they have progressively gone up to the minister’s office for checking and clearance. There has been an iterative process, as Dr O’Connell referred to. As they have been cleared by the minister, they have been provided to the committee.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So they were not just given to the committee on 14 October? They were done in dribs and drabs over the period of time, as Senator Ludwig says that he dealt with them?

Senator Ludwig —No.

Ms Freeman —No.

Senator Ludwig —Clearly, what has happened is that the department and my office have been working diligently in the iterative process—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am sure of that, Minister.

Senator Ludwig —to provide a response in a timely manner. We have provided them in a timely manner.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —‘Timely manner’ is not a week before the estimates and two months after they were due by order of the Senate to be given, Minister. I do not know what part of the English language you do not understand. Minister, you were saying to us that you dealt with them and handed them back as they came up, giving the impression that you were dealing with them, they were going back to the department and they were coming to the committee. They were not.

Senator Ludwig —No.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —They were coming to the committee on 14 October, perhaps the 13th.

CHAIR —It was the same deal for you, and you know that, so do not try to protect him. Not even Howard protected him. He took him out. So do not worry about that.

Senator Ludwig —What you heard, Senator Macdonald, was that I was dealing with them in an iterative fashion. They were provided to the committee on the 14th, but not all of them were provided.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Let me get this clear. Minister: were you delivering them back to the department not in one batch but as you dealt with them? Is that correct? Is that what you said before?

Senator Ludwig —My office was dealing with them in an iterative way with the department. And of the total—there are still some outstanding—25 of the 29 were delivered, I think, this morning and so four are still outstanding.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Well, of the 129 that were delivered on 14 October, did you hold on to them until 14 October, Minister?

Senator Ludwig —They were delivered on the 24th.

Ms Freeman —Yes, 129 went up on 24 September and then a range of other responses—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —To where? To the minister?

Ms Freeman —To the minister.

Senator Ludwig —To my office.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —And came back to you when?

Ms Freeman —Well, a fair bit of toing and froing goes on about various responses. Then they were provided and then forwarded on to the committee.

Senator Ludwig —And they were then provided in a bundle back on the—

Ms Freeman —Yes. On 14 October.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So all of the questions that have been answers to date were delivered to the committee six days ago. Do you consider that timely, Minister?

Senator Ludwig —Well, given the circumstances—

Ms Freeman —Yes.

Senator Ludwig —and if you had listened to what I said earlier—although you seemed not to want to—I did indicate clearly that it is not good enough. I do agree with you in part.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Thank you, Minister. You are the fourth minister, I think, to say that—‘Oh, we’re sorry.’ Have you learnt from Peter Beattie?

Senator Ludwig —Is there a question there?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Peter Beattie was a past master—‘Oh, look, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.’

Senator Ludwig —Is there a question?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Well, you are saying that six days is—

Senator CROSSIN —He was a very successful premier, Peter Beattie.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —He was a great spin merchant. That is why they kicked him out of town.

Senator Ludwig —Is there a question?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —That is why they kicked him out of town. He was very successful.

CHAIR —Order! Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Protect me from those interjections, Chair.

CHAIR —Senator Macdonald, ignore the interjections. The minister was actually answering your question until you started—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —He has indicated he thinks six days is appropriate.

CHAIR —Well, it is not the first time you have said that.

Senator Ludwig —No, I said in a timely manner.

CHAIR —Do you have further questions, Senator Macdonald?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Not on that particular aspect.

CHAIR —We will be finished with this line of questioning and corporate services by 10 o’clock, unless I am told otherwise by Senator Colbeck, where we may change a few things. Otherwise at 10 o’clock we move on.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I think Senator Colbeck was having to go through and pull his file to bits to hand it to someone, which seems most unusual.

Dr O’Connell —Chair, if it is helpful, we can clarify the issue around the costings for the illegal—

Senator COLBECK —Can you do that?

Dr O’Connell —Yes, we can.

Senator COLBECK —I do not actually have my notes at the moment.

Dr O’Connell —It is the difference between the costings over two portfolios and the costings for ours. So the overall costing for the illegal timber imports, including both DAFF and Customs, is $4.2 million. A component of that goes to DAFF, which is $3.4 million. The other goes to Customs.

Senator COLBECK —It is $3.4 million to DAFF and $800,000 to Customs. I want to go back to the analysis. Is the department’s analysis or incoming brief for the government available to the committee?

Dr O’Connell —Certainly at the moment it is not. It is subject to an FOI request at the moment, and we are going through the normal processes on FOI. This is the incoming government brief?

Senator COLBECK —Yes. I understand that. What about the blue book?

Dr O’Connell —The same on that.

Senator COLBECK —So that is subject to an FOI as well?

Dr O’Connell —That is subject to an FOI request, yes.

Senator COLBECK —With the costings on the illegal logging policy, what resources within DAFF will be used to implement the policy?

Mr Mortimer —Senator, essentially those resources will be staff resources and potentially the purchase of relevant services for the implementation of that policy. I think it is going to be profiled over three years.

Senator COLBECK —What is the budget for staff versus services?

Mr Mortimer —I will have to take that on notice, Senator. I do not have that level of detail with me, I am afraid.

Senator COLBECK —And the staff will come from existing resources?

Mr Mortimer —That is right, Senator.

Senator COLBECK —And has DAFF agreed on the break-up of the costing with Customs, or is it something that has effectively been given to the each of the departments to implement?

Mr Mortimer —The costings have been agreed between the portfolios, Senator.

Senator COLBECK —We will move on to the $20 million for forest contractors. Is it the government’s intention that that be distributed this year?

Dr O’Connell —Senator—

Senator COLBECK —There will be some more detailed questioning on this when we get to climate change, because I know that that is—

Dr O’Connell —We are off corporate.

Senator Ludwig —We are on corporate at the moment.

Senator COLBECK —I understand that. I am asking a question about whether it will be distributed in this financial year. It is clearly a corporate question.

Senator Ludwig —Well, it is a matter for government.

Senator COLBECK —It is a matter for government.

Senator Ludwig —What we have indicated is that—

Senator COLBECK —The financials indicate that it is going to be distributed this year. So are you saying that you are not going to comply with your own financials?

Senator Ludwig —No. What I have said is that in terms of the timing it certainly has to be dealt with according to the processes that government has.

Senator COLBECK —So you cannot say that you will actually expend the money that you have said you will expend within that 12-month period despite the dire need of the contractors. Can you indicate to me whether the funding is new funding to the department or is coming out of departmental resources?

Mr Mortimer —The election commitment is for new funding, Senator.

Senator COLBECK —The national food plan, according to the documentation released by the department of finance, is to be funded out of the Regional Food Producers program and costs $1.5 million over five years. Is that correct?

Dr O’Connell —That is correct.

Senator COLBECK —So this is a five-year plan, but the Regional Food Producers program funding finishes in 2011-12.

Dr O’Connell —At the moment it is over the estimates. It is $1.5 million, I think, over the estimates. And the distribution of that is yet to be settled.

Senator COLBECK —By ‘over the estimates’, you mean by four years?

Dr O’Connell —That is correct, yes.

Senator COLBECK —How is the program funded beyond 2011-12 when the Regional Food Producers program finishes in 2011-12? Are you just going to take money out of that and rephase it over four years?

Dr O’Connell —Senator, what we are talking about here are the election commitments of the government. Obviously, all these in the future will have to be reconfirmed in the budgetary processes. So, for example—

Senator COLBECK —Look, I understand that.

Dr O’Connell —We have the MYEFO process. That is underway now. You would expect that to settle those things that have come out of the election commitments. We are talking about what have been the commitments of the government coming in from the election. Those will need to be confirmed.

Senator COLBECK —I understand that. I am just asking a question as to how, when the funding program from which you are taking the money for the national food plan finishes at the end of this financial year, you can fund it beyond the end of this financial year out of that program.

Dr O’Connell —Obviously, that could then be just rephased, potentially.

Senator COLBECK —I actually did put that proposition on the table.

Dr O’Connell —But I am saying that at the moment that has not yet been settled. That will go—

Senator COLBECK —There still has to be a decision as to how you are going to—

Dr O’Connell —Decisions will come out, you would expect, in the MYEFO process.

Senator COLBECK —What will be the involvement of DAFF in the government’s election commitment for the carbon fund?

Dr Dickson —I will just quickly find the figures. DAFF will be involved jointly in working with the department of climate change on the methods and the technical and practical ways in which some of those methods could be applied. It will be undertaking the research into biochar and it will be commissioning the research on biochar and overseeing that. It will also be involved in the communication activities, primarily through Landcare groups, in line with the commitment.

Senator COLBECK —So the $2 million, for example, for the biochar study will be appropriated to your budget?

Dr Dickson —Again, at the moment these are just agreements we have been discussing with the department of climate change. This has to go through the MYEFO and budget processes.

Senator COLBECK —So you do not know what resources you will be given to actually deal with those particular projects? It might be that, as in Caring for Our Country, it is regarded as a joint amount of funding, or is it jointly administered but resting with one of the departments?

Dr O’Connell —We probably should not be getting ahead of the MYEFO decisions or we will be speculating about how the government settles these issues. There is what was stated in the commitments coming in, and that is probably the limit of what can most usefully be said. Otherwise, we might end up misleading you and giving you some estimates about what will happen in MYEFO, and those decisions have yet to be made by government.

Senator COLBECK —Let us move on, then. I want some information regarding ministerial responsibilities. Minister, you may be able to help me there. Can you give us some information on the split in responsibilities between yourself and your parliamentary secretary? I have to say I am pleased to see that there are additional resources as far as people in the portfolio is concerned from the last government to this one. I think one person at least is welcome.

Senator Ludwig —Thank you. Chair, what we have done is settled a split between some of the responsibilities. I will get the department to take you through what the parliamentary secretary will undertake and what responsibilities he will then assume.

Dr O’Connell —At the moment, the clear understanding is that the parliamentary secretary, Dr Kelly, will focus on fisheries and sustainable resource management. Predominantly his focus will be there. It is matching with the minister in terms of the ministerial role quite clearly, but supporting most clearly on those areas, plus a range of administrative support, such as correspondence and other related matters. The main focus will be in that area of fisheries and then the sustainable resource management, the Caring for Our Country sort of area.

Senator COLBECK —So by SRM do you mean Caring for Our Country?

Dr O’Connell —Caring for Our Country would be included in that, yes, and broader sustainable resource management issues like, for example, weeds and matters that he is likely to take a close interest in as well.

Senator COLBECK —When you mean ministerial support, correspondence and things of that nature, which I think is what you said—I am not trying to verbal you—does that mean that if someone writes to the minister, they might get a response from the parliamentary secretary?

Dr O’Connell —It is normal practice, I think, in most portfolios with parliamentary secretaries that the bulk of correspondence is shared between those relevant ministers in a portfolio plus the senior minister, junior ministers and parliamentary secretary. That is what you would expect to see. Of course, some correspondence gets referred to the department for departmental responses as well. That is all the normal practice.

Senator COLBECK —It was not when I was in the portfolio. We had responsibilities and we dealt with the things that we dealt with and corresponded accordingly.

Dr O’Connell —I think the practice would not have changed significantly, Senator. There would still be some areas such as fisheries, as you are saying, on which you would expect the parliamentary secretary to take the lead and respond directly.

Senator COLBECK —And I would expect Dr Kelly to respond to people regarding fisheries because he has been given effectively ministerial responsibility for that area, as I would understand the division of responsibilities within the department. But I have to say that my experience is that if I were a constituent and I wrote a letter to the minister, I would not expect to get a letter from the parliamentary secretary.

Senator Ludwig —I want to correct something. He is a parliamentary secretary. He has been given the role of looking after one of the areas of fishery as a parliamentary secretary. I will still continue to exercise ministerial oversight in terms of my responsibilities.

Senator COLBECK —Actually, I am not trying to diminish that, Minister.

Senator Ludwig —I accept that. But, if there are matters that fall within fisheries that he can adequately deal with, he will deal with them and then respond to them accordingly. The department will obviously continue to deal with matters that it has always dealt with. Of course, I will continue to exercise the appropriate ministerial oversight of the portfolio.

Senator COLBECK —And I was not trying to diminish that in any sense. I get the fact that different governments have different ways of dealing with that. I do understand that. If I were a constituent writing to a minister, I would not expect to get a letter back from somebody else. That is just a point I am making. What ministerial staff are assigned to each office?

Ms Freeman —Currently, for Minister Ludwig’s office we understand that he has been allocated 12 ministerial staff, Senator, and two departmental liaison officers.

Senator COLBECK —Two DLOs?

Ms Freeman —Yes, correct. And Parliamentary Secretary Kelly has been allocated three ministerial staff and one departmental liaison officer.

Senator COLBECK —Gee, he is lucky. Can you tell me how that varies from the last parliament?

Ms Freeman —Minister Burke was allocated 11 ministerial staff and two departmental liaison officers.

Senator COLBECK —So we have had an increase of four staff and one DLO in gross terms?

Ms Freeman —Well, we have had 15 versus 11, I think, and three versus two DLOs.

Senator COLBECK —I do not know whether to complain or not because I know that there is a relationship between how many staff the government get to what we get. I get the ratio stuff.

Senator Ludwig —Just so that you have an accurate picture: because I continue to be the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, I have one staffer who does that role, who is assigned for that purpose. So on my analysis, although you can make your own analysis, I have 11 effectively as the minister and one as the manager.

Senator COLBECK —Okay. So who is providing that one? Is the department providing that one?

Senator Ludwig —No. It is the ministerial allocation.

Senator COLBECK —So one of the staff is coming to you—

Senator Ludwig —No. Continues on as—

Senator COLBECK —As?

Senator Ludwig —As the person who supports my role as Manager of Government Business in the Senate. I am sure if you had been—

Senator COLBECK —I understand.

Senator Ludwig —engaged in the procedures, you would have spoken to the person.

Senator COLBECK —Look, I understand that. Effectively, it is an increase in that context of three ministerial staff in the agency.

Senator Ludwig —No. There were, I think, 11—

Ms Freeman —Yes. Eleven ministerial staff in Minister Burke’s office.

Senator Ludwig —Yes. And there continue to be 11.

Senator COLBECK —Yes. That is correct.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —In addition.

Senator COLBECK —Yes. That is right. So with the additional person come additional people. Okay, fine. Are all those positions filled?

Ms Freeman —I think they are currently being finalised, Senator.

Senator Ludwig —I can take that on notice and get back to you. I know that they are not all filled at this point in time. But I cannot recall the exact number.

Senator COLBECK —Are there any positions being filled from departmental resources?

Ms Freeman —Currently there are a number of staff who are up there providing relief while the positions are being settled in the minister’s office.

Senator COLBECK —Do you know how many there are?

Ms Freeman —I will take that on notice, but I think it is two. But I will clarify that, to be certain. Yes, it is two.

Senator COLBECK —Thanks, Ms Freeman. Are any former DAFF staff amongst those that are in permanent roles?

Ms Freeman —I would have to take that on notice just to clarify it.

Ms Bie —We have two staff on the MOP system at the moment, Senator.

Senator COLBECK —Two staff on the MOP system?

Ms Bie —Yes.

Senator COLBECK —So they are effectively departmental officers who have taken leave of absence to go and work within the minister’s office?

Ms Bie —Yes. Within ministers’ offices. One is with Senator Ludwig.

Senator COLBECK —Okay. Where is the other one? Can you tell me?

Ms Bie —With Minister Burke.

Senator COLBECK —So Minister Burke has retained one former staffer. That takes me back in the other direction. Have any of Minister Burke’s staff left his office to go back into DAFF?

Ms Bie —No.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —While you are talking about staffing, the secretary of Mr Crean’s department, which I will not even attempt to remember the name of, indicated to us that they were borrowing staff from other departments to fill in what is a new and complex and different department. Is this department lending staff to that new department?

Dr O’Connell —We have lent one person to help out, yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —And you expect that person back?

Dr O’Connell —Yes. It is scheduled until the end of the year. We have seconded somebody there until the end of December to help.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —What level of person?

Dr O’Connell —Assistant secretary, so SES band 1.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Thank you.

Senator COLBECK —With respect to ministerial officers outside the parliament, what additional resources are being provided to the minister and the parliamentary secretary in their electorate regions?

Ms Bie —Additional resources? We are not providing anything in the electorate office. But in the ministerial offices in states we have provided a range of IT and communications facilities.

Senator COLBECK —So does Dr Kelly, for example, have an additional ministerial office in his electorate?

Ms Bie —In Brisbane, yes.

Senator COLBECK —Dr Kelly?

Ms Bie —Sorry, Dr Kelly, no. In Queanbeyan—

Senator COLBECK —I do not think he would want to spend too much time in Brisbane. It is a little bit out of area.

Senator Ludwig —He is most welcome there, but I think he prefers his electorate.

Ms Bie —Minister Ludwig is in Brisbane. Dr Kelly has an office in Queanbeyan.

Senator COLBECK —So you would be putting the usual IT services into that office?

Ms Bie —Yes.

Senator COLBECK —As a part of engaging him in the portfolio?

Ms Bie —Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Is it a separate office or just his electorate office that has been expanded for his portfolio duties?

Ms Bie —I have not actually been to the office.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —What I meant is: are you fronting a separate office in Queanbeyan so Dr Kelly has two offices in Queanbeyan?

Ms Bie —As far as I know, they have one office.

Senator COLBECK —Has any additional space been allocated as a result of his appointment to the portfolio, do you know?

Ms Bie —I would have to get back to you and take that on notice.

Senator COLBECK —If you take that on notice, that is fine. Minister, you have an electorate office and a separate ministerial office in Brisbane?

Senator Ludwig —I have the same Brisbane office and it is combined. Many of these questions you can ask the department of finance, who would have all of the details for you.

Senator COLBECK —Yes. I understand—although some of the resources to those offices are actually provided by the department.

Senator Ludwig —That is why, in respect of those questions, DAFF is ably able to provide that response.

Senator COLBECK —So, likewise, there have been IT resources installed in your office in Brisbane to allow your easy interaction with the department?

Senator Ludwig —Well, they do need to install DAFF computers.

Senator COLBECK —Are there any staff allocated to those?

Senator Ludwig —Not out of DAFF.

Senator COLBECK —But some of your ministerial staff may be based, understandably, in the region and travel with you on the relevant entitlement.

Senator Ludwig —They have been placed to ensure that the ministerial offices both in Brisbane and here are operational.

Senator COLBECK —Okay, fine. I want to go to approvals given by the former minister in the lead-up to caretaker. Can you advise me what approvals were made by the minister on the day before caretaker began?

Dr O’Connell —I think we would have to take that on notice, Senator. We assume you mean things like grants appointments and those sorts of things?

Senator COLBECK —Yes. That is what I mean.

Dr O’Connell —No. We would have to take that on notice.

Senator COLBECK —I have a list here of something like 50 Caring for our Country grants that were signed off on the day before caretaker. I do not begrudge any of them getting their money. But, just in the context of the conversation that Senator Macdonald was having earlier, there were a large number of grant programs signed off on the day before caretaker, yet the issue of questions on notice, which I will skip over in my file now that we have done it, does demonstrate a bit of a contrast. It is easy to announce and sign off things that can make people happy and can be announced during an election campaign, but it is not necessarily easy to do questions on notice. Can you give me the total travel costs for the minister for 2009-10, please?

Ms Bie —Much of the travel for the minister is funded through the Department of Finance and Deregulation, Senator, so we would not be able to.

Senator Ludwig —We may be able to provide you with the total, so you could ask what DAFF provides. I am not sure when the department of finance is appearing, but you could ask them in respect of the—

Senator COLBECK —It would have been easier for me to attend now that you have changed the dates. I will be back to talk to you about that later, because it was earlier in the week.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Can we get that on notice?

Senator COLBECK —We can ask that on notice anyway.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I have questions about departmental travel. Do you have that with you now? What sort of travel does the department support as opposed to Finance?

Ms Bie —The department pays for components of the minister’s travel. It is mostly in relation to car costs and meeting rooms for portfolio related meetings and that kind of thing. We pay for the DAFF officers who accompany him.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —And international travel is paid for by this department?

Ms Bie —By the department of finance. It is the same situation. We would pay for meeting rooms for portfolio related meetings and a number of miscellaneous costs, but not the actual travel costs.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Thanks.

Senator COLBECK —And that would be the same for staff?

Ms Bie —For advisers? The minister’s staff?

Senator COLBECK —Yes.

Ms Bie —Yes.

Senator COLBECK —So that is all paid for by the department of finance?

Ms Bie —Yes.

Senator COLBECK —Can you give us a quick travelogue, Minister, of your visits since your appointment? I know one place you have been.

CHAIR —I know a heap where he has been.

Senator COLBECK —I think he went fishing with you, did he not?

Senator Ludwig —Just broadly—

CHAIR —Good to see you in WA, Minister.

Senator Ludwig —Thank you.

Senator COLBECK —Did he go fishing with you? Is that right?

Senator Ludwig —I have been to Tasmania, as you are aware, and WA as well, where I caught up with a range of stakeholders, including a trip into Mukinbudin, Lake Grace and Wagin, particularly around the drought issue, to get a firsthand experience there. As you know, I was in Tasmania talking with a range of forestry stakeholders. I will not go through all of them in the time available. I also spent time in Melbourne catching up with a range of stakeholders. I have also been in Brisbane, Queensland, talking to a range of stakeholders. I went to the AgForce conference in Rockhampton very soon after my appointment. I have also travelled, in the short time available, to Brewarrina, particularly around the Australian plague locust issues. In addition—I think that is probably a small snapshot. How many days have I been—

Ms Bie —Since 14 September.

Senator Ludwig —Since 14 September.

Senator COLBECK —Thanks, Minister. Perhaps you could provide on notice a list of those visits so far. This is probably one you will have to take on notice for me. Can you provide me with a breakdown for the past four years of total DAFF appropriations and DAFF appropriations as a proportion or a percentage of total government appropriations? That is a question of the numbers.

Dr O’Connell —The overall portfolio or just the department?

Senator COLBECK —The overall portfolio.

Dr O’Connell —The overall portfolio.

Senator COLBECK —Could you also extend that out, as it stands, for the forward estimates too, please? So what I am looking for is looking four years back and four years forward, please. I want a list of all the DAFF lapsing programs over the forward estimates, please.

Dr Dickson —Senator, can I just confirm whether that is lapsing or lapsing and terminating programs?

Senator COLBECK —I had better have lapsing and terminating, please, and I would like them differentiated, please. There are some where the decision has been made to terminate already. I know that we will inevitably have some discussion over the definition of lapsing as time goes on and as we discuss these things further. But I am interested to know where that is all heading to. Rather than fight about it now, prior to MYEFO, we will deal with it in February. Can you give me an indication of how many staff are involved in communications and media advisory roles?

Ms Freeman —The communications branch has a total staff of 51. They are broken up into a range of roles involving internal and external communication roles.

Senator COLBECK —How many of those are currently assigned to MDB consultations?

Ms Freeman —MDB? I beg your pardon?


Ms Freeman —Yes. I will have to take that on notice. I am just trying to clarify what you are actually asking. Do you mean are assigned to the MDBA? I am just trying to clarify the question.

Senator COLBECK —Well, I would like to know how many are assigned to that process. Whether they are doing work for the department on that process or whether they are doing work for the authority on that process, either way, I would like to know how many of the communications people are involved in that process.

Ms Freeman —Okay. I understand the question.

Dr Dickson —I think I can answer it. We do not have anyone assigned. It is not our portfolio’s responsibility. The communications branch certainly is working with the issues that are our responsibility, just as they always move from issues as they appear. But we do not have anyone assigned to any particular role on that.

Senator COLBECK —So there is no-one specifically looking at it, but there would be some who would have a general sense of that and would be the ones that would deal with those issues as they crop up?

Dr Dickson —That is right. They deal with those issues as any other issues that come forward.

Senator COLBECK —Can you give us the cost of the communications media for DAFF in 2009-10 and the expected cost for this financial year?

Ms Freeman —Just to be clear, when you are saying media—I am not trying to be difficult, Senator—are you talking advertising, marketing or media monitoring?

Senator COLBECK —I would like to know the total cost of communications/media, so I am trying to be as all-encompassing as I possibly can. If that means that you need to give me different categories, that means you need to give me different categories.

Ms Freeman —Okay. I will take that on notice, Senator.

Senator COLBECK —And that would include the total budget for the corporate communications branch of those 51 people.

Ms Freeman —Yes. Certainly.

Senator COLBECK —And those figures for 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Ms Freeman —Certainly.

Senator COLBECK —What campaigns or other forms of advertising are scheduled for 2010-11?

Ms Freeman —There are currently no official advertising campaigns that DAFF is running. We do currently have two ongoing information campaigns for the WA drought pilot and Australia’s farming future.

Senator COLBECK —There is nothing running for quarantine, or is that—

Ms Freeman —There is a range of activities that do go on for biosecurity. There is no official campaign per se, but there obviously is a range of work that is going on, for example, on marketing activities to support compliance for biosecurity activities in terms of signage and travel. There are activities making people aware of risks around the Autumn Moon Festival, for example, in terms of importing material. So there is a range of those activities currently going on.

Senator COLBECK —If you include those in those figures that you have been asked for—

Ms Freeman —Certainly.

Senator COLBECK —the specific ones around those cycles, I would be interested in information on those too.

Ms Freeman —Certainly.

Senator COLBECK —Okay, Chair. We have questions on standard staffing stuff. We will put those on notice.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Do you know when they are due back?

CHAIR —I will help you out, Senator Heffernan. That is a fair question.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Because I notice the regional Australia questions are two years in arrears.

CHAIR —Friday, 22 October the committee has decided.

Senator HEFFERNAN —See if you can do better than regional Australia.

Senator Nash interjecting—

CHAIR —I am sorry. It is 10 December 2010. Senator Nash’s little cheap shot threw me off.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —What is the date?

CHAIR —It is 10 December, Senator Macdonald.

CHAIR —I thank the officers. We will now call the Department of Climate Change, including forestry, drought and exceptional circumstances.

[10.15 am]