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Education and Employment Legislation Committee
06/05/2016
Estimates
EDUCATION AND TRAINING PORTFOLIO

EDUCATION AND TRAINING PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training

Senator Ryan, Minister for Vocational Education and Skills

Department of Education and Training

Dr Michele Bruniges AM, Secretary

Mr Tony Cook PSM, Associate Secretary, Schools and Youth

Ms Jackie Wilson, Deputy Secretary, Early Childhood

Ms Jessie Borthwick, Acting Deputy Secretary, Higher Education, Research and International

Dr Subho Banerjee, Deputy Secretary, Skills and Training

Corporate

Ms Susan Monkley, Chief Financial Officer, Finance, Parliamentary and Assurance

Ms Julie Birmingham, Branch Manager, Finance, Parliamentary and Assurance

Michelle Boundy, Acting Branch Manager, Finance, Parliamentary and Assurance

Mr Robert Latta, Branch Manager, Finance, Parliamentary and Assurance

Ms Julie Randall, Branch Manager, Finance, Parliamentary and Assurance

Mr Simon Gotzinger, Chief Lawyer, People, Communication and Legal

Ms Trish Bergin, Group Manager, People, Communication and Legal

Ms Fiona O'Brien, Branch Manager, People, Communication and Legal

Ms Jackie Gleeson, Branch Manager, Communications Branch, People Communication and Legal

Early Childhood and Child Care

Mr Bryan Palmer, Group Manager, Early Childhood Initiatives

Ms Gillian Mitchell, Group Manager, Early Childhood Strategy

Mr Jeff Willing, Branch Manager, Early Childhood Strategy

Mrs Margaret Pearce, Group Manager, Early Childhood Care Support

Mrs Sheree Harrison, Branch Manager, Early Childhood Initiatives

Schools and Youth

Mr Patrick Burford, Acting Group Manager, Improving Student Outcomes

Mr David Hardy, Acting Branch Manager, Improving Student Outcomes

Ms Renae Houston, Branch Manager, Improving Student Outcomes

Ms Alex Gordon, Group Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Ms Rhyan Bloor, Branch Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Ms Oon Ying Chin, Branch Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Dr Gabrielle Phillips, Branch Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Mr David Pattie, Acting Group Manager, Schooling

Mr John Baker, Acting Branch Manager, Schooling

Mr Michael Crowther, Acting Branch Manager, Schooling

Ms Dannie Edmonds, Acting Branch Manager, Schooling

Higher Education, Research and International

Dr James Hart, Group Manager, Higher Education

Ms Melissa Reardon, Branch Manager, Higher Education

Ms Di Weddell, Branch Manager, Higher Education

Mr Steve Erskine, Director, Higher Education

Ms Vicki Ratliff, Director, Higher Education

Mr Adam Luckhurst, Acting Group Manager, International

Dr Lyndal Groom, Branch Manager, International

Ms Lydia Ward, Acting Branch Manager, International

Ms Elizabeth Campbell-Dorning, Acting Branch Manager, International

Mr Vipan Mahajan, Director, International

Mr Dom English, Group Manager, Research and Economic

Ms Virginia Hart, Branch Manager, Research and Economic

Dr Andrew Taylor, Branch Manager, Research and Economic

Ms Ditta Zizi, Branch Manager, Research and Economic

Skills and Training

Ms Peta Furnell, Group Manager, Skills Market

Ms Tracy Feeney, Acting Branch Manager, Skills Market

Ms Susan Hewlett, Group Manager, Industry Skills and Quality

Mr Grant Lovelock, Branch Manager, Industry Skills and Quality

Ms Kathryn Shugg, Branch Manager, Industry Skills and Quality

Mrs Lee Katauskas, Acting Director, Industry Skills and Quality

Mr Brendan Morling, Group Manager, Skills Programmes

Dr Richard Chadwick, Branch Manager, Skills Programmes

Ms Fiona Lynch-Magor, Branch Manager, Skills Programmes

Ms Maryann Quagliata, Branch Manager, Skills Programmes

Mrs Linda White, Branch Manager, Skills Programmes

Mr Chris Alach, Director, Skills Programmes

Mr Jason Coutts, Branch Manager, USI Registrar

Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency

Mr Anthony McClaran, Chief Executive Officer

Prof Nicholas Saunders, Chief Commissioner

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority

Mr Robert Randall, Chief Executive Officer

Dr Stanley Rabinowitz, General Manager

Dr Fiona Mueller, Director

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Mr Craig Ritchie, Deputy Chief Executive Officer

Mr Russell Taylor, Chief Executive Officer

Australian Research Council

Prof Aidan Byrne, Chief Executive Officer

Ms Leanne Harvey, Executive General Manager

Australian Skills and Quality Authority

Mr Christopher Robinson, Chief Commissioner

Ms Elizabeth Stafford, General Manager

Ms Jonella Welsh, Chief Financial Officer

CHAIR: Welcome. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed expenditure for 2016-17 and certain other documents for the education and training and employment portfolios. The committee may also examine the annual reports of departments and agencies appearing before it. The Senate has ordered the estimates committee to report to the Senate by Wednesday, 11 May 2016, so answers to questions on notice will be required to be returned to the committee by 12 noon on Tuesday, 10 May. Witnesses should note that answers cannot be received if the Senate has been dissolved for an election. However, a motion may be passed at the commencement of the 45th Parliament requesting that answers be provided. 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 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.

I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to the order of the Senate on 13 May 2009, specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised.

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 (1) 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).

(d) requires the Procedure Committee to review the operation of this order and report to the Senate by 20 August 2009.

( 13 May 2009 J.1941 )

(Extract, Senate Standing Orders)

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.